Levelling Up – Kuala Lumpur and Aftermath

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Friday, February 29th – In the last Levelling Up article for the forseeable future, Portugal’s Tiago Chan walks us through his second draft from Pro Tour: Kuala Lumpur. He also tells us how he views his future, and his standing in the Pro Tour and Magical communities, before hanging up his hat and strolling into the sunset. Thanks for the articles, Tiago. Good luck in all your future endeavors!

After my first draft at Pro Tour: Kuala Lumpur, I had my back against the wall. I was seated at a tough pod for the second draft, considering that I had to post a 3-0 record and my current score was 1-2. It featured no less than five Pro Players, including Jelger Wiegersma, Roel van Heesjiwk, Jan Ruess, and Terry Soh. In my previous article I already explained my view on the impact Morningtide had on Lorwyn Block for Limited, so I’ll jump straight to the action.

I started the draft with a very unspectacular Fertile Ground. It’s not that I was looking forward to drafting Green or Four-Color Good Stuff, but the pack didn’t have anything else. Then I was passed a Mulldrifter, which is half of my dream scenario at the Limited Pro Tour… the missing half of the dream sees me opening my own Mulldrifter too. There was an uncommon missing from the pack, and according to my personal card rankings means it’s a Shriekmaw, although some players pick Cloudgoat Ranger and Briarhorn over it. I was right… it was indeed a Shriekmaw, as I discovered when I played against it.

I was being passed decent Red cards in quantity, most notably for the Elemental deck. I did manage to grab some, but I had passed many more as I might have jumped into Red a little too late. I finished the first booster with Fertile Ground, Mulldrifter, Sentinels of Glen Elendra, and some Blue and Red cards, so I was most likely Blue/Red.

In the second booster there was a Nameless Inversion and pretty much nothing else, so I picked it hoping to splash it, something I try my best to avoid at all costs. As an example, in the first draft of this PT I was splashing a Lash Out in my Green/Black deck, and I drew it in 80% of the games and was never able to cast it. From here I was just shipped lots and lots of Green which made me end up almost Mono-Green, when I had finished pack 1 in Blue/Red. Of course, I was running some filler, and splashing some not-so-powerful cards. This made me a little sad as I knew I had no chance of making Day 2 with this deck, if my progress depended on my deck quality and my playskill. My fate was now in the hands of Lady Luck.

1 Rhys the Exiled
1 Changeling Titan
1 Bramblewood Paragon
1 Kithkin Daggerdare
2 Fertile Ground
1 Earthbrawn
1 Gilt-Leaf Seer
1 Gilt-Leaf Ambush
1 Fertilid
1 Elvish Warrior
1 Cloudthresher
1 Lys Alana Bowmaster
1 Reins of the Vinesteed
1 Leaf Gilder
1 Ambassador Oak
2 Nath’s Elite

1 Disperse
1 Sentinels of Glen Elendra
1 Mulldrifter
1 Stonybrook Angler

1 Nameless Inversion

12 Forest
4 Island
1 Swamp

In round 4 of the Pro Tour, the first one played with this awful draft deck,I faced Pedro Alvarado (a guy I’d met the previous day). He was running with Blue/White Merfolk, splashing for the aforementioned Shriekmaw. He was the person passing to me.

I lost 0-2, and none of the games was that close. One of the reasons for this loss was that Green decks with no removal have a very hard time against Blue/White Merfolk. I drew my Nameless Inversion in both games, but I did not have the mana to cast it. In truth, it seemed like my deck simply didn’t deliver… and it wasn’t that good a deck to begin with. Sometimes you just play the cards and you lose.

In the first game I had no way to kill his creatures, so his Stonybrook Schoolmaster plus Springleaf Drum was healthily containing my Changeling Titan, while his two Inkfathom Divers were getting there. In the second game he had a much more aggressive start, with some non-Merfolk aggro creatures topped by a Shriekmaw.

So, where was the point at which I realized my Pro Tour had come to an end?

I was holding Nameless Inversion and I had Fertilid to play to fetch the Swamp, but my single Swamp got milled by the 2/1 milling Kinship Merfolk, Ink Dissolver. It was a telegram from destiny with a very clear message, and it was addressed to me.

Even though my chances of making Day 2 were mathematically gone, I still had a reason to play. A 3-3 score could be good enough for a Top 200 finish, netting me an extra Pro Point. At Pro Tour: Valencia I dropped before the last round when my opponent, playing Zoo, beat me in game 3 despite a mulligan to three cards (two lands and Lightining Helix), and had I won the next round I would’ve picked up an extra Pro Point. I thought it wasn’t that relevant, and I ended the season with 24 Pro Points. Indeed, that Pro Point didn’t matter until suddenly Wizards killed the old Level 3 and made a virtual Level 3.5, starting at 25 Points, so that point meant money and benfits after all. With this reason in mind, I didn’t drop from PT: Kuala Lumpur, as I was hoping to get as many points as I could and then see what can I trade them for when the season ends.

I had a bye In the second round of this draft, as other people had probably dropped from the event, so I was just a mere win away from an even record.

In the last round, playing for the extra point, I faced Malaysia’s own Terry Soh, also playing for the same goals as me. Terry had a very similar deck to mine – his was Green/Black splashing for Mulldrifter.

Game 1 my deck – or rather my draw – was better than his, with turn 2 Fertile Ground, turn 3 Sentinels of Glen Elendra (he didn’t attack into it, sadly. I followed this up with decent creatures,like Mulldrifter and Changeling Titan.

Game 2 I had another good draw, but he played first and had lots of tempo. He even played Warren Pilferers as a five mana 3/3 just for the pressure, and managed me to put me so low on life that his Nath’s Elite served as a perfect Lure into Alpha Strike guy.

Game 3 I had another explosive draw with turn 2 Fertile Ground, turn 3 pressure, and turn 4 Lys Alana Bowmaster and Nameless Inversion, killing two of his creatures.

I ended up 2-1 in this draft… not enough to continue playing the Pro Tour, but it is a generous score if we look at the decklist. The bye probably made the difference, as it could’ve easily been a 1-2 or even worse.

So what now?

On the Sunday of Pro Tour: Kuala Lumpur, I boarded my flight to Beijing and started wondering how this tournament could possibly have changed my outlook on playing Magic in China, and Chinese Magic in general. When the Pro Tour started, China was very far from having real Pro Players. When it ended, not only had I moved here, as a gravy trainer, but mainland China had conquered his first Pro Tour Top 8, and it won’t be long before Xu Ming will officially be on the train. I haven’t seen him play in detail, but from what I saw I certainly think he has the skills, the attitude, and the composure of a champion. If this acts as a catapult for competitive Magic in China, I can certainly see it becoming the second country of Asian Magic after Japan.

In Kuala Lumpur I met a Chinese Magic player, Jia Bin from Beijing, as we had a friend in common. He gave me his telephone number, telling me he was due to fly back to Beijing on Wednesday after a little sightseeing excursion accross Malaysia. When I called him on my return, he told me that on the following Saturday, right after the Pro Tour, there would be a PTQ for PT: Hollywood in town. If I wanted to play, I should just get a cab on Friday to the local Magic store, as people gathered there for FNM and he could lend me a deck for the PTQ.

However, on Friday, I made a decision that’s going to change my Magic career.

I put all my Magic-related stuff, including my remaining Draft sets, deck boxes, and rares from the Pro Tour drafts, into a plastic bag. I haven’t opened that bag since, except to fetch cards and decks so I could write this article. On that Friday, I had just moved into my dorm room in my Chinese college. I spent the Friday shopping with my college friends for random utility goods for our rooms, and for cleaning products. On Saturday, instead of going to the PTQ, I spent all day, from 8am to well into the night, cleaning my room, as I couldn’t do it during the week due to my classes.

I am still going to pass by the local card shop eventually, though I don’t know when, to see Jia Bin and maybe play some games. But I’m happy with my new life.I’m attending classes and studying hard, since the Chinese language is difficult. I’m also doing stuff in my free time that I haven’t had the chance to do for a long while… stuff I’ve not done while traveling the world to play Magic.

Hello, my life… how I’ve missed you!

As for my Magic future on the Pro Tour, I’m skipping Pro Tour: Hollywood for sure. I’ll most likely skip Pro Tour: Berlin too, unless I happen to be nearby in Europe and manage to burgle a decklist from someone. I will consider attending some Asian Grand Prix tournaments, if they have a direct flight from Beijing and they’re timed so I won’t miss classes. I’ll try my best to be at the 2008 Magic Invitational, if I’m invited. It’s the only tournament this year that I really want to attend. I’d also like to play Chinese Nationals, but I didn’t act to become “nationalized” in time, so maybe next year. Of course, I still intend to play Magic Online whenever I can.

Even though I’m an ordinary college student now, when I picked up my draft decks from the Pro Tour to write this article, I subconsciously started shuffling the cards… and I felt a strong rush coming. Since last summer I’ve been playing without the fire, but I know that it will be back, and I’ll be back to Magic competition eventually. It’s a part of me that’s too large to ignore. The saddest thing is that I’m leaving the train of my own accord, with full knowledge that eventually I’ll want to hop on in again. When that day comes, will I be good enough?

So, this is my last Levelling Up article. I hope I’ve entertained you during my stint here, and I hope you’ve learnt a few things too. Who knows, I may be back soon. Until then…

Thank you for reading!