Magic Jerk Dominated at Pro Tour: Atlanta!

Today the Magic Jerk dips into his recent Pro Tour experience to illustrate just how good the Japanese really are, riffs on the skill factor in Sealed Deck vs. Draft, and delivers a few helpful suggestions to improve your Limited game. Tomohiro Kaji, this one’s for you!

Wow. That trailer for Episode III is actually the coolest thing I have ever seen. It’s sad how much of a geek I actually admit to being now. Ah well.

So the Pro Tour was this past weekend. I got to read Zvi’s article when I got into work on Monday and figured out that I couldn’t do a PT report nearly as well as he could. Plus Aten hasn’t even done his yet. Awesome.

We got 12th out of some large number of teams that were better than us, which I think speaks highly of the problem that is Sealed Deck. Not to look a gift horse in the mouth here (after all, I needed that $1,200 to make rent) but Sealed Decks sucks for the Pros. First and foremost, I ain’t no pro. You know who a pro is? Tomohiro Kaji, of team One Spin. I was unfortunate enough to play Kaji twice in the PT last weekend, first in the Sealed Deck portion, and then later in the Draft. Let me try to explain just how bad the Sealed Deck format is, by explaining what happened in these two matches.

In the Sealed Deck match, our decks were fairly evenly matched. This match went to 3 games. Game 1 I lost to a Blind with Anger and just got overpowered by his better draw. In Game 2, I had lost the game but was able to draw just enough chump blockers to survive long enough to kill him with a first striking flyer. In Game 3, I won because he mana flooded. Now in the Draft, I was fairly certain that I just had the better deck. It was the G/B mirror, so of course it consists of all these soulshift cards, but where he had spirits and soulshift, I had the whole snake family. Seshiro, Sosuke, Decoy, two Springcallers, mana elves, my deck was just stocked. His removal? A Rend Flesh. I lost this match horribly. Why? Because Tomohiro Kaji is a master.

Even Myojins love flowers.

Not only was Kaji playing a deck that was able to effectively answer each of my threats, but he was also playing two Petalmane Bakus in order to power his Devouring Greed as well as his splashed Myojin of Cleansing Fire! When he picked this up in the draft late, I assumed it was just a hate draft, but as it turned out it was his backup plan in case the Devouring Greed didn’t work, or if he needed more time to make it lethal. Instead of walking into a match where I thought I had everything figured out, I lost the match 0-2 to two cards that I didn’t think meant anything in the match. Kaji was able to use his mastery of the format to not only outplay me during the match, but more importantly, to snatch the draft right from under my nose! He took cards that I either thought didn’t mean that much (Greed in a matchup that has no way to break through) or cards that I didn’t think he could play at all (jee jee White Myojin) and use them to trump my plan of beatdown with huge snakes. Because of my misunderstanding of the matchup, I played cards like Blessing of Leeches and Serpent Skin in order to counteract his removal, because I assumed he was going to fall behind my huge attackers.

This matchup was actually covered by Flores, though our names weren’t mentioned. The misplay (I think Flores said it but I’ll just reiterate) was all mine. I should’ve stacked damage, he would trample, and then I play Serpent Skin. I lose my board to the White Myojin but then untap play a Moss Kami to his White Myojin and go on to win the game theoretically.

The reason why I don’t like Sealed Deck is because all the intricacies of our Draft Match, all of my misunderstanding, is not allowed to take place in Sealed. I overheard someone say that Sealed is like Wizards giving you a draft deck except they did the draft for you. So now all your knowledge is relevant in that you have to find the right deck out of the bunch of cards they gave you, but the most important aspects of the highest levels of the game are missing. Valuation, outdrafting your opponent, capitalizing on your opponent’s inability to understand his matchup … all of the heads-up abilities that you learn in every other format in Magic are missing from Sealed Deck. This may be all right for the PTQ level, but at the game’s highest levels it’s a tragedy that I get to be on equal footing with the Kajis and Jeroens of the world.

Speaking of Team Draft, what an interesting format. I guess the fact that it’s over makes this sort of irrelevant, but we did learn a lot during Day 2. First of all as Zvi mentioned in his article, Green has to be matched with the Green deck. Green actually doesn’t have a good matchup in Team Rochester unless it’s paired against itself, so you want to make sure your Green deck is against theirs, and has the tools to win. This means fatties, large bombs (Kuro for instance is almost unbeatable in the G/B mirror), strong mana accelerants (Kodoma’s Reach is actually way better than the Elves in the G/x matchup because it gets two land, thins your deck and accelerates you at the same time) and soulshift. Scuttling Death is the main reason why most people go G/B in the G/x mirror, just because Soulshift in this matchup is your card drawing, and a strong Soulshift chain can overwhelm the attrition inherent in the matchup. Kami of Lunacy for instance, is also a solid card for this reason.

Other color pairings that we tried in our pools had varying degrees of success. B/W is the most innocuous of decks, it is seemingly a pile of cards every time you build it, and yet ends up being favorable in almost every matchup. There isn’t a color pairing that I am unhappy playing against with W/B, it has the tools to beat every other color. U/R and U/W, both maligned color combos (as are most color combos that involve Blue really), varied in their success for us. Steve Sadin is a master of U/R so we usually just hand him that deck when it looks like no one can win with it and he goes 2-0. Otherwise, I prefer U/W if you’re forced out of Red for whatever reason, but obviously Red is better in the U/x matchup that is the trademark of the B seat.

Our color arrangements for most of the day were R/W, U/B and G/B. This was one of the TOGIT plans, with whom we did the majority of our testing. Just in case anyone out there reading this has to do a Team Rochester draft in the next few weeks, do not try that at home. It actually is the nut low and probably is the reason that no one that placed in Day 2 on TOGIT made money but us. U/B is a really boring color combination that gets demolished by Red (thanks Yamabushi’s Storm and First Volley) and being forced to split the two Black decks when they are next to each other can be difficult. R/W is also the color combination that I think is the weakest in Team Roch. It relies on efficient beaters and tricks, but the tricks are all very transparent when you are doing a Team Roch, so a lot of its strengths are lost.

If I had to do it again, I would do what we did in Draft 4 of the day, our first actual win of Day 2. We had a U/W deck, a R/G deck and a B/W deck. This is a very highly reactive strategy as the seating has to be fluid in order to find the correct matchups (R/G against their U or W deck, U/W against their B/x deck and B/W against their Red deck for instance). The other plan I would use is B/W, U/R and G/B. This is a rather vanilla plan but I believe some sort of variant on this was used by Sherman’s March (Kate Sullivan, Craig Krempels and Jon Sonne) during Day 2. Kate is a master of B/W on B/W, and was the first to devastate that mirror using Psychic Spear and Kami of the Painted Road that I saw during team practice. Discard is really important in this matchup, but the discard ninja actually shines in other matchups usually.

The funniest part of understanding the last seat (U/R) was that Murray the Mauler was so right. Battle-Mad Ronin, Psychic Puppetry, Frostwielder and Initiate of Blood (+ Frostling!) and the usual smattering of Ninjas and flyers seem to be the best way to build U/R. I strongly prefer Puppetry to Toils of Night and Day because of its splice cost and regular mana cost. As Murray would say, “You use Battle-Mad Ronin in the aggro U/R deck and I use it in the control version, BDM.”

bzzt transition bzzt

So about that Extended season… I now officially hate it. Do you know how annoying it is to go away on a Limited sojourn for two weeks and get back to find out the happy format you left was now hopelessly fubared? Macey Rock? Is it just me or is that the biggest pile you have ever seen win a PTQ with an 0-1 -> 10-0 record. Good job Bryn by the way, good to see you winning in the finals instead of scooping. Psychatog has finally come to the format and probably invalidates my beloved Aluren. Counterspells are not my friend it seems. I’m fairly convinced Fujita’s deck is the deck to play, just because it has to be hysterical to swing with a Dragon Tyrant and pump it with Blazing Shoal and the last card in your hand on Turn 2. Good times. Cephalife is probably the best deck of the format, but even Oiso can’t beat Tog with it so maybe we should all just play Tog.

Like I said, I hate this format. It sucks it sucks and it’s never going to score!

Some random tidbits:

Orochi Hatchery single handedly beats B/W, in basically any deck (except maybe the 16-land special).

Strange Inversion + Soul of Magma is a good way to beat team Frostwielder, no matter how many people make fun of you for it.

Mono-Black decks really like reusable sources of damage that prevent Soulshift like a Nine-Ringed Bo.

This week's Pro Tip.

Open Glacial Rays.

Gabe Walls is the funniest human being on the planet.

Just to return the favor, I think Adam Chambers is the Next Big Thing™ in American Magic.

Vote for Gerard Fabiano for the Invitation Fan Vote, because there’s no one else that wants to go as much as he does.

And finally, don’t try to mise alcohol from retired Southern guys in your hotel, cause they’ll think you’re hitting on their women and give you a lot of dirty looks. Brr.

-Michael L. Clair

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