Levelling Up – A Draft At Pro Tour: Kuala Lumpur

Read Tiago Chan every Friday... at StarCityGames.com!
Friday, February 22nd – Tiago Chan visited Malaysia on the way to his new home in mainland China. While there, he decided to sling a few spells at Pro Tour: Kuala Lumpur. Unfortunately, the tournament didn’t go too well… and neither did his night on the town. Tiago takes us through the stories, and draft 1, from Pro Tour: Finkel…

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’m currently in a state of transition. I’ve finally made it to China, and I’ll settle for now. On the way to China, I made a small detour in order to play the Pro Tour in Kuala Lumpur. I booked a one-way ticket through accumulated air miles from Lisbon to Kuala Lumpur, and then I bought a one-way flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on Sunday night, since my presence was required in China on Monday morning.

Most of the Portuguese players decided to go to Malaysia a few days in advance, and so I joined them. Interestingly, we never once thought of drafting before the tournament. Usually, when Magic players plan to stay some extra days at a PT site ahead of the tournament for sightseeing purposes, it doesn’t work so well… usually they end up playtesting Constructed or Drafting for hours on end, depending on the format of course. This time, we only numbered 4 or 5. Sure, we could have joined some other players at the hotel lobby, but if the truth to be told, no Portuguese really cared that much about drafting, including myself, for a variety of reasons. I had done approximately one hundred triple-Lorwyn drafts online, and a few more in reality. I’d also joined every possible LLM draft at my local store, which meant about 4 or 5 since the day of the prerelease until the day of our departure. It wasn’t much practice with Morningtide, but it was the best I could get.

For me, the major gains with the arrival of Morningtide were:

1) Strenghtning White aggro strategies, thanks to effective White creatures and reinforce. Burrenton Bombardiers is an example of both. This one was simple for me… ever since the multiple Cloudgoat Ranger awkwardnesses in “Drafting with Tiago,” I decided I wouldn’t draft White aggro decks anymore in this Block.

2) Prowl. I’m never excited with abilities that encourage attacking, and Prowl is clearly one of them. My biggest problem with it was the lack of defensive power these cards have. Take a look at Nightshade Stinger, a Prowl enabler in these decks. It can’t chump block, thus it can’t trade with a 2/1 when on defense.

3) Warriors. I mean… how aggressive is Magic becoming? Barring Merfolk, all tribes seem very agressive regardless of colors. Why not remove the toughness number from creatures, making new rules that creatures can’t block and they’re forced to attack every turn? Actually, I liked Warriors with cards like Bramblewood Paragon, Winnower Patrol, and Ambassador Oak.

Other than that, as strange as it might sound, I did not like Merfolk. instead I liked Blue/Black control decks [no surprises there… — Craig, amused]. I also liked Treefolk, since they’re a little underdrafted and they usually have a bigger toughnesses than power, and by the time I suspended the Drafting with Tiago series Red aggro decks were underdrafted too. Overall, I wasn’t in love with any plan going in, which was a good thing… it pays to be reactive. Even when you end up in White.

My favorite story from Kuala Lumpur doesn’t involve a topdeck, a sequence of plays, nor even Magical cards. Two nights before the Pro Tour, Márcio Carvalho, Nuno Costa, and I decided to go out for the night, and we paid a relatively expensive admission fee for entrance into a nightclub. The inside was quite nice… there were some fine looking women, and a live band were performing (and they sounded pretty cool). After a while, the band announce they would be calling it a night, but the music would continue provided by a DJ. One of the band pointed in the direction of the DJ cabin, where a a middle aged man wearing a plain polo shirt – who looked absolutely nothing like a DJ – was standing.

Our suspicious concerning his falsehood grew thanks to the lame sentences he spewed every time a new record came on. There was another thing we found suspicious… while this was going on, many of the girls left the place via the back door.

Suddenly, elements of the Police and the Army invaded the club and blocked all the exits. The DJ pulled out a police badge and started barking orders through the DJ mic… Locals to one side, Foreigners to the other, women to the left, men to the right.

After a very long wait, it was finally our turn to get our passports checked. Marcio had left his passport at the hotel, so the troopers confiscated Nuno’s passport and made him go to the hotel to fetch Marcio’s passport. After this, the troopers split ups up. I was taken by the arm into another room. I was then manhandled from pillar to post by a variety of guys until I wound up in some back alley surrounded by guys who didn’t look like cops at all… at least, they didn’t have uniforms our arm bands or any other identifying marks.

Apparently, I was there for a drugs test. I’ve heard that drugs equals to death in Malaysia… while I’m sure I’m clean, I do hope they don’t mix or swap those urine pots. No matter how crappy my life is at the moment, I do not relish the alternative.

Nice city… who’s to blame for Pro Tour in Malaysia?

Fast forward to my first Draft Pod…

I recognized Helmut Summersberger and Melissa de Tora of the seven others at the table. I probably recognized more players, but I don’t have internet access at the moment to confirm things, and in all honesty I probably only remember Helmut and Melissa because I played against them later.

My first pick was between Cryptic Command, Final Revels, and Lys Alana Huntmaster. While on Magic Online this would’ve been an easy pick of Command, at a Pro Tour things should be considered besided the price in tickets.

I like Final Reveals less and less each day, and I rarely first pick it nowadays. In truth, I only like it in Treefolk decks. Cryptic Command is very powerful for sure, but I choose Lys Alana Huntmaster over it for three very small reasons that, combined, were strong enough for me.

1) Cryptic Command costs three Blue mana. It’s unreasonable to assume you can cast it if you’re deck is not heavy Blue.

2) Blue is overdrafted and very unlikely that it will be passed, unlike Green.

3) Green’s Warriors in Morningtide were good and abundant.

I ended with this deck:

1 Woodland Changeling
1 Nath’s Elite
2 Winnower Patrol
1 Dauntless Dourbark
2 Ambassador Oak
1 Lignify
1 Lace with Moonglove
2 Gilt-Leaf Ambush
1 Game-Trail Changeling
1 Lys Alana Huntmaster
1 Fertile Ground
1 Reins of the Vinesteed

1 Eyeblight’s Ending
2 Blightsoil Druid
1 Dreamspoiler Witches
1 Moonglove Changeling
1 Peppersmoke

1 Runed Stalactite

1 Lash Out

9 Forest
7 Swamp
1 Mountain

Two things catch our eyes here. First, we notice the Green gamble for the Morningtide commons was kind of successful, as I got two Ambassador Oak and two Winnower Patrol. The other thing you might notice is the two suboptimal cards I’m playing: Lace with Moonglove and Reins of the Vinesteed. I had more playables in my sideboard, cards that I usually play (and have defended on multiple ocasions), such as Thieving Sprite, Gilt-Leaf Seer, a second Lignify, and Festercreep, but since this deck produced many 1/1 tokens, cards like Lace with Moonglove and Reins of the Vinesteed were better suited.

Round 1 I played against Helmut Summersberger with Red/Black Elementals.

Game 1 I kept with two lands on the draw, played a Woodland Changeling that was killed with Nameless Inversion, and then I simply discarded cards at the end of my turn until the game was over. I ended the game with zero permanents in play. He destroyed both the lands I kept with a Red creature that costs 3R, comes into play with two +1/+1 counters, and you can pay four and remove a counter to destroy a land… I don’t even remember its name. [That’ll be Stingmoggie. — Craig.]

Such Pro Tours starts!

In game 2 he stalled a little on three lands, and I won. In game 3 I had a better ratio of spells, and I drew just the lands I needed to operate, while he drew few spells.

Summing it up, I was very unlucky in one game, while he was slightly unlucky in the next two… I definitely got the better deal. Three games decided mostly by the mana… nothing that surprises me after 62 episodes of “Drafting with Tiago.”

1 – 0

Round 2 I played against a Black / White Prowl deck.

Game 1 he got a good draw with Prickly Boggart, Oona’s Blackguard, followed by some rogues and Cloak and Dagger. I played a Runed Stalactite and a Moonglove Changeling, then I looked at my hand and it contained Huntmaster, Game-Trail Changeling, Dauntless Doubark, and Lash Out, while I had four Swamps and one Forest in play. I shrugged, and played the 2/2 Dourbark, but I lost shortly after.

I sided out:
– 2 Gilt-Leaf Ambush
– 1 Reins of the Vinesteed
– 1 Lace with Moonglove

I sided in:
– 1 Thieving Sprite
– 1 Festercreep
– 1 Lignify
– 1 Black Poplar-Shaman

I had only seen evasive creatures, so I took out some cards which are only good when blocking occurs, and ways to stop his low toughness evasive creatures. I brought in my Black creatures to take up the slack.

Game 2 he mulliganed to five. He still had a decent draw, but as predicted he ran out of gas.

Game 3 I managed to Lignify one of his most dangerous creatures – Oona’s Blackguard on turn 2 – but I found no solution to a fear creature equipped with Cloak and Dagger, and racing was almost impossible.

1 – 1

Round 3 I played against Melissa de Tora with Red/Green.

Game 1… did she mulligan and have a weak draw? The mulligan, I’m not so sure about, but the weak draw I can definitely confirm. On my side I had a Runed Stalactite (MVP) growing my Winnower Patrol, and also allowing my Game-Trail Changeling to out-muscle the gelatinous moose on her side of the table.

Game 2 I mulliganed to five. I could’ve blamed that for my loss, as it obviously plays a huge role playing down two cards in a game that lasts a long time, but I think things could’ve been different if I had played differently. I had a Guardian of Cloverdell I sided in, enchanted with Reins of the Vinesteed. It was a 6/7, and it was by far the largest creature in play. I attacked, and even though it traded it with at least three creatures, when the dust settled Melissa had the biggest creatures in play and I had very little defensive presence. I should’ve left that 6/7 on defense, since the Guardian, plus my other creatures, plus the advantage of blocking were probably good enough to avoid losing, as Red Green has a hard time dealing with a 6/7. With a stalled board situation, she should be the one making the first move because she was down 0-1. I shouldn’t go on the offensive, as the board was slightly down on my side. Yes, I had the biggest creature, but it was just one creature… it ccould be handled by multiple guys when it attacked.

We were concerned that the seven or eight remaining minutes wouldn’t be enough to finish game 3, but it turned out to be plenty. I knew from around turn 4 that I wasn’t winning, and I died shortly after to random creatures enhanced by Bramblewood Paragon.

1 – 2

My score at this table was quite disappointing, but when all was said and done it was a 1-2 and nothing more. A 1-2 from the first pod puts too much pressure on the second draft; everything has to be perfect for a 3-0 to happen, including the cards opened, your draws, your luck, and of course your decisions. You have no room for mistakes or misfortunes.

In this “3-0 or nothing” situation, I was faced with a very challenging table, featuring no less than five Pro Tour Players who sit at Level 4 or higher. Besides me, there was Jelger Wiegersma, Roel van Heeswijk, Jan Ruess, and Terry Soh. We were the centre of attention, constantly mocking any surrounding fellow Pro Players also sat in 1-2 pods.

I did manage to improve my 1-2 score from the first draft, and you can read about it next week, as well as the following days and the aftermath of Pro Tour: Kuala Lumpur, a tournament that set the beginning of a new era of Magic: the Gathering on mainland China…

Thank you for reading!