I ended up performing poorly at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx, but fortunately I’m still in a forgiving position on the year. I have four US Grand Prix to get
a Top 16 or one Pro Tour to get a Top 50 to remain Gold. I don’t doubt my ability to do this, but I’m always looking for more. The Grand Prix should get me
the three points I need for Gold, but the Pro Tour is how I would get to the real goal: thirteen extra points for Platinum, if not more for the World
I learned plenty of things from this event that should help towards this stretch goal.
I ended up going 4-2 in Limited at this Pro Tour, my first winning record in a while.
My first deck was a very mediocre W/G deck. I had the creatures, and importantly had four 3/x two-drops between double Swordwise Centaur and double Oreskos
Swiftclaw, but I didn’t have the combat tricks to force them through larger creatures. My high end was also light, meaning that trading off my 3/x’s
profitably early didn’t really lead me anywhere.
I ended up with a 2-1 record, but that was largely on the backs of my second and third round opponents not having great decks either. Or maybe they just
didn’t draw great while I beat them to death with Nemesis of Mortals. Drawing Nemesis of Mortals was also huge, as my Time to Feeds sure weren’t getting
anywhere targeting my 3/1s. My loss was the eventual pod winner playing Sigiled Starfish, it living, and him eventually drawing all the good cards while I
spent my one card a turn hoping to find a Hydra Broodmaster that never showed up.
Either way, the lesson was learned. I was tending to overvalue creatures in draft, which is correct in the dark, but I didn’t think about when it was right
to turn the corner and fill out with generic combat tricks.
The second draft went much better. I ended up in U/G, and while I didn’t get the hook up I was looking for in Pack 3, I’m pretty sure it was the right
colors to be in. I could have taken white cards early, but every time I saw a white card it was an expensive one and the only one in the pack. Given
white’s depth in Journey into Nyx, I took that as a signal someone on my right was taking the cheap white cards and I should stay away. I made a single
mispick of Karametra’s Acolyte over Nylea’s Presence that cost me the ability to splash my Banishing Light in Game 1 of each match, but I was OK living
with “just” an Hour of Need to fill my “nutty Pack 1 uncommon” quota.
My match loss in this pod was also to the player who won the pod, Grand Prix Richmond champion Brian Liu. He was fielding a very well-sculpted U/B Control
deck, featuring none other than Phenax himself. I definitely made a mistake and could have won Game 2 of the match, so that one is on me. In my other two
matches, a combination of Hour of Need and three-power fliers was enough to take the games home.
Overall, I think my lesson with this format was that my approach to pre-PT drafting was wrong.
I did a lot of things right. I learned a lot about what commons were and weren’t good based on playing with and against them. I first-picked rares to try
things and learned Soldier of the Pantheon into Spirit of the Labyrinth into Hall of Triumph is really hard to beat. I went in on oddball uncommons,
learning that two Sigiled Starfish and a Sigiled Skink is enough to start moving in on Knowledge and Power and really valuing Temples.
What did I do wrong? I tried to read the table, move into the perfect open colors, and end up with the best deck possible.
Those are all great things to do, but they can lead to repeating patterns. It was ten drafts in that I realized I hadn’t played a single green deck. I
noticed in time to make the decision to force one or two, but I never got around to trying G/W. If I had merely tried a draft or two with that color
combination I might have known not to make the mistakes I was making in my first draft, instead of having to figure it out on the fly and realizing a
little too late that I was short a piece or two.
This Pro Tour, the format didn’t punish me. I had extensive knowledge of the first two sets, and the more aggressive nature of Journey into Nyx placed it
right in my Limited comfort zone. Next Pro Tour that won’t necessarily be the case, and my draft testing will continue to be more trial and error-based.
I ended up going 4-5 (plus a last-round scoop from Max Williams) in Constructed at this Pro Tour, and it is entirely on me. At least two of my losses, if
not three, were directly related to me not playing correctly and losing a game to it.
Simply put, I’ve been spoiled the last few Pro Tours.
I’ve done well in Constructed events with a fair number of decks. Among those, there is a lot of combo (Infect, Storm, Pod), a solid amount of aggro
(Tempered Steel, Mono-Red), aggro-control when possible (Faeries, Caw-Blade), and even control (Esper Control in Return to Ravnica Block and
There is exactly one midrange deck on this list: Standard Jund. I’ve come close to playing other Monsters-style midrange decks recently, but always decided
on something else.
If you look closely there’s a trend: I play decks that close when they get ahead. My control decks always have some source of massive advantage that
virtually ends the game instead of being all two-for-ones. My midrange decks have oversized attackers like Putrid Leech and Polukranos that play the
aggressive and defensive game.
I don’t play decks based on grinding small advantages. I don’t play decks with fragile engines that are just there to get in a free card or two.
That’s exactly what we decided to play at this Pro Tour.
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Eidolon of Blossoms
- 4 Doomwake Giant
- 2 Pharika, God of Affliction
- 4 Brain Maggot
This is a Conley Woods brew through and through. Black, green, draws a bunch of cards, and durdles until it wins. Eventually your opponent runs out of
relevant cards through attrition or through you triggering Doomwake Giant five times on demand and dies.
For the record, this Block format is going to look really strange to anyone who didn’t play it. Just remember the following: there is no Supreme Verdict in
this format. Board sweepers only hit small things or massive amounts of mana or are also Elspeth. There is no Sphinx’s Revelation, so control never pulls
away on real card advantage and has to rely on Divination, Temples, and Prognostic Sphinx to draw a few more spells per game than its opponents. There is
no Pack Rat and all the two-drops lose to Courser of Kruphix. There are basically no double-colored two drops, so Thassa, God of the Sea is never a
creature and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx can’t go crazy until much later in the game.
I feel like we were definitely correct with our call on this one. Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid was clearly the duo that bricked any attempts to
attack in the format. Doomwake Giant was a legitimate trump to Elspeth, Sun’s Champion to the point that we didn’t even consider Elspeth a relevant threat
out of opposing decks. Eidolon of Blossoms was clearly the biggest engine in the format, allowing you to go bigger than the opposing midrange deck. Unlike
the Mono-Green Dredge-style lists featuring Strength from the Fallen, this list allowed you to play removal to protect against Polis Crusher, opposing
Eidolon of Blossoms, Stormbreath Dragons, and Heroic creatures. We even got to play Extinguish All Hope to Wrath people and kill Prognostic Sphinx when no
one else could.
The issue was that this deck was all about positioning. Eidolon of Blossoms has a huge target on its head, so you have to time it to get maximum value out
of it. Same goes for Doomwake Giant. Play it before Elspeth and they can -3 to kill it, but play it after and you have to take out a five-counter Elspeth
immediately. How many of certain cards are left in your library can matter, especially when considering how far you go each game with Kruphix’s Insight and
Most of the time, you aren’t supposed to be attacking to end the game unless your have already won it, and that just doesn’t make sense to me.
Nothing this deck did was something I am currently comfortable doing in a game of Magic, but I played it because I felt (and still feel) like it was the
best deck for the event.
The fact that this isn’t the case is on me to fix. I definitely could have gotten in a few more games, but in general I need to be more prepared to play
these kinds of decks. If this block is any indication, Courser of Kruphix mirror matches are going to be going on for a while longer.
This also applies to other archetypes. Every time I play a format there are decks I describe as unplayable, miserable, or garbage that people really like
but I hate. Given the option, I know what kinds of things are typically powerful and what things are typically worse than the fundamentally good things.
Playing decks that close is just one facet of this issue.
Sometimes, trying to find the perfect gem is not possible. The cards don’t exist, the mana doesn’t exist, or the cards for the deck that should be
fundamentally good just pair up poorly against the most powerful cards of the format (the last one being this block).
Most of the times, I can follow my instincts. But that one time I’m trying to make fetch happen I need to be able to change gears and play the best bad
option as well as I would a good one.
Expect to see more of this from me in the near future. I plan to play Deathblade, Modern UWR, Melira Pod (over Kiki-Pod), Black-splash Devotion, and R/W
Burn until they no longer make me sick. Or at least until I can feel sick while winning with them.
On the Arche-pig
One sign we did something right: our final-night update was actually dead on.
We wanted some kind of huge mirror trump. We assumed that post-board mirror matches would degenerate into everyone trading cards and jumping through tons
of hoops to make sure their trades are less profitable than yours. We wanted to break this parity, so someone suggested an Archetype of Endurance. The
other option was Worst Fears, but that was not findable with Kruphix’s Insight, making a single copy a much lower-impact card. We paired the eight-drop
with a Market Festival, which also helped, as often, doing more things in a turn would be how you got a definitive advantage in these matchups.
The card was even more unbeatable in practice than in theory. Against the BUG Control decks it turned off Prognostic Sphinx’s discard a card ability and
Kiora, the Crashing Wave while killing Planeswalkers. The Korean build of this deck leaned on Reaper of the Wilds and Fleecemane Lions post-board, which
are laughable when you can target them. The only way to stop the Pig was Elspeth, but you could easily play around that card and force them to find another
copy in one, maybe two, draws or die.
You played the Pig and they would often concede on the spot. If they Thoughtseized you with it in your hand, they had to take it.
If I could go back in time and run this even again, there might even be two Archetype of Endurance in the sideboard.
The Spicy Brews
The deck I really wanted to work was our Mono-Blue Aggro deck.
Yes, those are twelve one mana 1/1 creatures. The idea was that evasion was very powerful in the format and that between your Anthem (Hall of Triumph),
Hour of Need, and your various tempo effects, you would non-interactively race everything.
For the record, Daring Thief was not very good. The idea was that if it attacked, it created a situation where your opponent couldn’t make any good plays
on their next turn, but since all of your other guys were unblockable, a 2/3 for three was too slow to get in.
Owling Mine 2014. This was literally the first deck that we tried. The idea here is to use Dictate of Kruphix and Kiora to make up for the card
disadvantage of Whelming Wave and Hubris, which in turn gives you time to get to Scourge of Fleets and Upheaval them to death.
The deck was sweet, but could never beat a faster deck like Mono-Black Aggro. It’s possible the correct build involves cutting Scourge of Fleets and using
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver as the big finish despite the nonbo between Ashiok’s –X ability and Whelming Wave (the creature returns to their hand).
Yet again, I could not be happier with the group of people I was able to work with for this event. The full list for those wondering: Basil Nabib, Brennan
Decandio, Chris Fennell, Christian Calcano, Conley Woods, Craig Wescoe, David Sharfman, Gabe Carleton-Barnes, Jon Hickerson, Marc Lalague, Seth Manfield,
Shaheen Soorani, and Steve Mann.
We had a blast and everyone really liked how things went.
We had a deck that we all felt was good.
Most importantly, we all helped each other learn and get better.
A lot of the things I realized here would have been much harder to pick up on without their help.
The real takeaways here are really the same as last time.
Working with a group helps in all kinds of ways.
Work with people you can trust and want to be around.
Work with people who will be open and talk with you because their input is what makes your life easier.