Limited Lessons at Pro Tour: Kobe

Nick jetted to Japan with a clear vision in mind. His preparation for the event was successful, and his confidence was high. With fair fortune and tight play, maybe he could crack the Top 8… Today he presents the first part of his report, dealing with the first day of play. He shares each of his draft decks, perfect timing for the online Time Spiral release week…

I really felt ready and confident in the weeks building up to this Pro Tour. I believe I did around 25-30 drafts before the event, and I felt I had a good grasp on the format and was also playing tight in the practice drafts.

My flight out was on a Wednesday and was made better only by the fact that Chris Ripple was flying with me, and we’d therefore be able to spend the time doing one-on-one drafts or playing Constructed when we weren’t sleeping. The flight to Japan sucked hardcore because we had to share a row with an old Japanese lady who spoke absolutely zero English. The problem was compounded because she had the aisle seat and was a royal pain every time I wanted to go to the bathroom, or even just get up to stretch. The in-flight movies also came equipped with no sound, which further limited our options. When we got to Japan we had to take an eighty-minute shuttle from Osaka to Kobe… luckily, when we got there, Tim Aten was waiting near the station with BDM and some others. This was awesome because we were both tired, and Tim was staying with us. Because we luckily ran into Tim, we could now search for the hotel instead of spending the next hour trying to find the way to the site and looking for him there. We ended up getting lost a couple of times on the way to the hotel, and even had some taxi drivers attempt to draw us a map, which failed miserably. Eventually we got them to take us to the hotel by cab since we had apparently walked past it, but they took us to the wrong hotel and we had to walk a little more before finally finding ours. The room was pretty crappy overall, and the hard beds made sleeping difficult. I ended up only sleeping for about four hours before waking up at 4:45am and deciding to just stay up and get a shower. We found our way to the site pretty easily, and soon we began play.

Day 1
I expected around 250-280 players to attend this PT, and was absolutely shocked to hear that the actual number in attendance was 380!

My plan going into the tournament was to draft U/R whenever I was given the chance, as I believe it is far and away the best archetype when you can get it. Since lots of players at this tournament hadn’t practiced much, I assumed that U/R would be extra good since you could get late Coal Stokers or Viscerid Deepwalkers, which are very strong in the archetype. I must also say that while I always considered the Deepwalker playable, it was Raphael Levy who really convinced me that having lots of them was really strong in U/R.

I was very happy with this deck and sure I could 2-1, and likely even 3-0. My first two picks of the draft were Fledgling Mawcor, and then I took Coral Trickster third over Coal Stoker because I wasn’t sure Red was open yet and the Trickster also combos well with the two pingers. The Lightning Axe came third in pack three, which showed just how weak the pod was with the exception of a few players. While it’s true that Ophidian Eye is great on a Fledgling Mawcor, my deck was just far too good for an Eye to make the cut.

Round 1 against Geoffrey Siron
Geoffrey was one of two people I didn’t want to play in round 1, the other being Mattias Kettil.

Game 1 he cast an early Looter, while I morphed a Mawcor to ambush it on turn 4. On his third turn he hard cast Psychotic Episode, which I’m sure made him feel safe since he didn’t know I had the Mawcor morphed. I flipped it up and killed the Looter, and my hand was also still pretty strong even after the Episode. The Mawcor, in combination with some other dorks, was good enough to take this game down pretty easily.

Game 2 was a long and drawn-out affair. He suspended Mindstab on turn 1 and then cast Episode again. On the turn the Mindstab resolved, I was completely wrecked, and he also took out one of my morphs by flipping up Fathom Seer. So I was down a million cards and back against the wall with only my Flowstone Channeler in play. Somehow this was good enough to kill his next few creatures with the lands I drew, and I crawled back into the game when I drew Firemaw Kavu a turn or two later. My memory is a little fuzzy after that, but I know I took the driver’s seat by sitting back on Firemaw and then eventually Snapping it Back after damage was on the stack and wrecking his side. I felt very relieved to win this game, as I got absolutely destroyed on the Mindstab turn and was already thinking about sideboarding changes for game 3.


Round 2 against Owen Pauling
Game 1 started out as a damage race and he has tons of 2/2s including two Primal Forcemages. We traded a bit and then he ended up drawing land for a few turns. I took the advantage and finished him by burning out one of his guys on the last turn.

Game 2, my draw was amazing. I played Firemaw on turn 6 with a Fathom Seer waiting in play. My next turn involved casting Careful Consideration, along with flipping Seer to completely reload my hand. This one was not too difficult, as he didn’t even put up much resistance.


Round 3 against Mattias Kettil
The guy who lost to Mattias in the last round had come up and introduced himself in the Player’s Lounge between rounds, though I can’t for the life of me remember his name. Anyway, he was talking about how Mattias destroyed him and in doing so told me that Mattias had Sudden Spoiling in his deck. I’ve found that when you know someone has that card, it gets a lot worse as you can usually play around it enough to turn it into a simple one-for-one.

Game 1 we traded my creatures for his removal until I cast Careful Consideration and reloaded. We both played Firemaw Kavu at some point in this game, but the Consideration in combination with my Fathom Seer proved to be too much card advantage for him to overcome. He also had to use Sudden Spoiling as a Fog this game.

Game 2 he got stuck on two lands on the draw and I had turn 2 Trickster, turn 3 morphed Seer, turn 4 morph another Trickster and then tap one of his lands on upkeep with it. He tried to overcome this start, but I only had more gas in hand.


My second draft was covered in the Draft Viewer on MagicTheGathering.com.

I was pretty happy with this deck overall, especially with the two copies of Tromp the Domain in combination with all of the creatures with high power, and the Two-Headed Sliver plus Bonesplitter combination. I have no idea how I got the second Tromp fourth pick, as I looked in the Viewer and thought it was the best card in that pack. One thing I don’t think people have totally realized yet is that it’s not hard to splash in this format with Terramorphic Expanse, Chromatic Star, Prismatic Lens, and plenty of other common fixers, and Tromp the Domains is definitely a card that you want to splash. Some people have argued against this theory, saying that if they are playing it off of a Lens or Star, it will only be +2/+2 and that is not good enough. My response to this is that if you think that +2/+2 is not enough, you simply haven’t played enough with the card! Overrun was one of the best cards in Limited whenever it was around, and personally I think getting GGG is a lot harder than splashing for a simple Tromp.

At any rate, I heard from some of the guys covering the draft that everyone’s deck was insane at the table, so I had no clue what to expect.

Round 4 against Nigel Higdon
Nigel attends many of the same PTQs and other lower level tournaments that I do, and I actually had played him in round 1 of the PTQ that I won to qualify for this Pro Tour. Things are friendly as we’re shuffling up, and soon I realize we’re engaged in a Sliver mirror match.

Game 1, and my deck comes out very strong with Two-Headed, Firewake, and Bonesplitter on consecutive turns. He plays two Opaline Slivers, but when I topdeck Might Sliver we are quickly shuffling up for game 2. In between games I was thinking about what I’d passed, and I knew that he had at least one Telekinetic Sliver and a Gemhide or two. Honestly though, I wasn’t too worried as I think the aggressive Sliver deck has the advantage in this matchup, and since I was the one with all of the Two-Headed and Bonesplitters, I get to decide when we will start attacking for tons of damage. The other thing I had going for me here was that I had two copies of what is probably the best card ever in the Sliver mirror, Tromp the Domains. I boarded in Krosan Grip and another Strength in Numbers, since I wanted more tricks and I knew he had at least one Temporal Isolation and probably some Venser’s Slivers as well.

My opening hand was Greenseeker, Desolation Giant, and five lands on the draw. The lands also included a Plains and Saltcrusted Steppe, so I decided to keep and let him overextend into my Giant while I Greenseeked for a while and appeared flooded. Everything went according to plan, with me casting Giant on turn 6 killing four of his guys and just my Greenseeker. There was one problem however, as while I was Greenseeking every turn, the only actual spell I’d drawn in those six draw steps was one Two-Headed Sliver and the rest were all lands! He played a second Telekinetic after the Giant, and a Spinneret Sliver, and while I eventually drew Weatherseed Totem, I had simply drawn too many lands to ever be in the game.

Game 3 was just depressing, as I mulliganed into a mediocre hand that I couldn’t throw back and go down to five cards. His draw was insane, as he played out Spinneret, Opaline, Watcher, and both Telekinetics before slowly grinding out the win. I was very frustrated after losing this match, as there was simply nothing I could do (short of possibly mulling to five, though I’d have to draw the actual nuts to win, and at least my six were playable).

I felt like I was a big favorite in the matchup, especially after you win game 1, and it hurts when you lose those matches.


Round 5 against Helmut Summersberger
This round was interesting for a number of reasons.

First of all, I knew this guy had won at least one Grand Prix and possibly multiples (yep, I’m too lazy to actually go check), so I expected a tough match from the beginning. What actually happened was anything but a tough match.

Game 1 he used Rift Bolt and then Strangling Soot to kill my first two guys, and then played out Basal Sliver and Keldon Halberdier. I decide to use Desolation Giant on my turn to clear his side, with the help of Saltcrusted Steppe, and pass the turn completely tapped out. Now here is the first situation that makes no sense to me.

He untapped and plays his sixth land, giving him four Swamps and two Mountains. All I have in play is Desolation Giant, and I’m completely tapped out and playing G/R/W. Clearly then, if he doesn’t have a better play in hand, the correct play is to Flashback Strangling Soot on his turn killing the Giant, amiright? Easy play, right?

So what did he do?

He passed the turn, which was mistake number one since I could stop the Soot with a pump spell in response. Second, after I attacked with the Giant he hardcast a Dark Withering on it from his hand!! Need I remind you that I’m G/R/w and Dark Withering is as good as gold in this matchup.

Thankfully, there is some justice in the world as I’d drawn Might Sliver for my turn which would’ve been a perfect fit for the Withering, but managed to evade the Strangling Soot.

On his next turn, he drew his card and had a disgusted look on his face before passing the turn and doing nothing with a few cards in hand. I drew Firewake Sliver, cast it, and attacked with both of my guys. At this point, things got shady on his side of the table as far as I’m concerned.

He thought for a good minute before looking at me, saying “Okay,” and picking up his pen. I still didn’t do anything right away before finally saying “No Effects.” At this point he said “Okay,” again, and went to write down that he had taken seven damage. For some reason he now tried to flashback Soot on my Firewake Sliver. I have no clue if he was just feeling me out to see if I had a trick first, or what he was doing, but I called a judge and as I figured they just made us back up to the point before the discrepancy had happened. While this may not have been a huge deal, I didn’t like how he handled the situation at all.

He ended up taking six that turn, since I sacced Firewake to pump Might Sliver. As for the next few turns, I drew lands off of the top but it didn’t matter since all he did was cast a chump blocker for Might Sliver, and then die to it two turns later! Had he just used Soot on Desolation Giant and then Withering on Might Sliver, I would’ve been left with only Firewake and he would’ve still been in the game. This was all very surprising to me as I was expecting a much higher level of play in this match and these plays were not even that hard.

Game 2 was humorous from my perspective, because I was still annoyed about the Strangling Soot thing in game 1, and I really just wanted to bash him this game. I played out turn 3 Germinator and turn 4 Bonesplitter Sliver while we traded beats. He refused to trade some crappy guy for my Germinator, which again confused me, but I was soon very happy about this as I already had Tromp in hand and drew the second copy a turn afterwards. I played out Weatherseed Totem to get up on mana, and he just played another guy and said done. On my turn I Tromped and attacked. He had a confused look on his face as he was trying to figure out what my plan was, as my attack would only get him down to four life even if he didn’t block with the two guys that were untapped. After a moment he examined the board and I’m guessing he thought I was planning to win with Weatherseed Totem and just wanted to cast Tromp while he was tapped out to ensure maximum value on it. On his next turn, he tapped low and shipped it back. I did some final thinking about anything he could have to stop me before deciding that it was very unlikely that he could, and even so I had the Totem to fall back on. So I Tromped again, and he just chuckled and lost.

I now was guaranteed to make Day 2, though I wasn’t too worried about that as I started 3-0 and felt my second deck was solid as well.


Round 6 against Masaya Kitayama
Despite never hearing of this guy before in online coverage, he played a very solid game against me.

Game 1 I mulliganed to five and he started with Magus of the Scroll. Not exactly what I was hoping for, as if you scroll up you’ll see that I had little removal in my deck and certainly none in hand. The plan was either now to draw Grapeshot or just swarm him before he could start blowing up my side. Despite the mull to five I came out strong with a bunch of Slivers, including a Two-Headed and Might, and actually felt like I was in the game until he played out his hand and killed two of my guys with Grapeshot. Then he started using Magus every turn. I managed to get him down to four life with two chances to draw Tromp for the win, but I missed and was down a game.

This game I had a slower draw, and he beat me down to twelve before I could stabilize the board. From that point on I added two Bonesplitters and Might Sliver to my side before casting Tromp for about 42 points of Trample.

Game 3 was a nail-biter. We both started out with mulligans and he played turn 2 Benalish Cavalry, turn 3 Blazing Blade Askari, turn 4 something else. Even though I was on the draw, my hand was equipped to outrace this draw as long as he didn’t have any removal. I started with both Two-Headed Slivers and had all three Bonesplitters waiting in hand which worked out to be exactly enough to kill him one turn before his guys would kill me. On the crucial turn before I was going to win, he had no cards in hand and peeled Rift Bolt right off of the top to send my hopes sinking. I still had one draw step to rip Tromp, but I came up empty.

While it sucked to lose such a close game to a topdeck, I didn’t feel that bad about it because Masaya played very tight against me and also had a good deck.


While I was expecting to be 5-1 at this point, there are things over which you have no control. I was glad that I’d at least locked up Day 2 and was ready to focus and draft again.

Like I said at the beginning of this report, I’ve drafted quite a bit of U/R in my practice drafts. While this deck looks solid, it’s actually on the lower end of the power curve as far as my average UR deck goes. I wasn’t unhappy with the draft, but I wasn’t ecstatic either. One thing about Orcish Cannonade is that I really like it in W/R or B/R, since W/R just needs removal desperately and in B/R you can basically kill everything so the three life loss isn’t such a big deal. In U/R, I will play the card, but I also don’t like it so much since you are usually behind on board with most U/R decks, and you are looking to claw your way back into the game. There are plenty of better commons in Blue and Red, and I would rather not have Cannonade if I had other removal and something to take over it. This deck features two Cannonades so maybe that’s why I didn’t feel nearly as confident with it as I did with my first deck.

The last thing I want to say about this deck is that the build was more difficult than most, as I desperately wanted Dream Stalker in there somewhere to help block since I was going to be Cannoning myself. Also, I didn’t do enough hate-drafting in this pod, and you can see that I ended up with way too many Askaris.

Round 7 against Wessell Oomens
Let me start out by saying that Wess is a very cool guy. The thing I like most about him is that you can tell that he really just loves the game and enjoys playing, which I think is far too rare a thing in the competitive Magic scene nowadays. We could never have enough high level players that shared Mr. Oomens attitude about Magic.

Since I was feeding Wess in the draft, I knew a lot about what he probably had in his deck, and we chatted a bit about what had happened while we waited to start. One of the early packs had something like four really strong Blue cards in it, and I just bit the bullet and took Fathom Seer anyway which I knew would send a bad signal. The reason I did this was because I figured Wess was smart enough to figure out that I was cutting Blue after that and hopefully would switch into something else, which he ended up doing in pack 2.

Game 1 I suspended Deepwalker on turn 1 and then did absolutely nothing until turn 5. In the meantime he had cast a couple of dork Slivers, including Two-Headed and Sidewinder. On turn 5 my Deepwalker came into play, I cast Coal Stoker, then Snapback on his Watcher Sliver, then Grapeshot killing the other three guys he had in play. After that, I drew some more threats and won the game pretty easily after such a huge tempo swing.

Game 2 was a very close game and I really wish I could do it justice here in this report. Unfortunately, too many things happened too fast and it was too hard for me to remember or write down. What I do know is that he got stuck on three lands for a turn or two and played out Jaya Ballard and Uthden Troll along with his turn 1 Sidewinder Sliver. I eventually Grapeshotted Jaya and played some guys. A bunch of stuff happened in between, which led to me being down to four and back against the wall with him at seven life. This time though it was me who got to topdeck, as I drew Snapback and was able to sneak through lethal damage. It was a lucky break for sure, but the opposite had happened to me already in the previous round.


At the end of the first day I was pretty happy with how I finished, though I did expect better than a 1-2 with my second deck. Ripple was also doing very well after starting out 6-0 and then losing the last round to Amiel Tenenbaum.

The rest of the night consisted of searching the streets of Kobe for some actual food and eventually giving up and just getting McDonalds when we couldn’t find a restaurant with English menus [Shame on you! — Craig]. I was completely exhausted and managed to get a full night’s sleep despite the rock-hard mattress.

See you next time, when I cover Day 2 and the rest of my trip.

Nick Eisel
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