Narrowly Missed By A Wide Margin

Brian laments missed opportunities only briefly, but sub-optimal, last-minute Pro Tour maindeck changes stay with you all sixteen rounds. Read how he’d fix his PT Dublin Standard deck, and why he’d still play it this weekend!

Hello and welcome back. I just finished up at PT Theros with a final record of 8-8 (tied for dead last) and am left with a lot of things to think about as my week in Ireland draws to an end.

Dublin was an absolute blast, and getting to play on the Pro Tour is always a terrific experience, but on the other hand not achieving the result that I had hoped for is disappointing. Ultimately, I learned (or was forced to continue learning) two very important lessons.

#1: Don’t ever dismiss things without trying them.

#2: Trust your instincts.

I finished with a 4-2 Limited record and a very disappointing 4-6 Constructed record.

The biggest problem that plagued myself and my teammates was that we outright dismissed one of the best strategies in the tournament. On our team forum we had a thread titled: “Mono U Devotion (probably bad).” More like, “probably insane.”

Probably bad eh?

The real gut-puncher of the whole experience is that the list that was posted in the thread that we collectively disregarded was two cards off from the list that Team SCG crushed with at the PT! In our testing for the event the deck was scrapped because of the assumption made from early testing that it folded to a Supreme Verdict and the deck didn’t make it into our final gauntlet of testing! Big mistake.

By the time that I made it to testing in Ireland, I was fairly convinced that I wanted to play either Esper or GR Midrange, and felt really good about the lists that I had built for both of those decks.

I liked Esper and wanted to play it.

Can’t go wrong with Rev, right?

Here’s the Esper list that I should have played at the tournament:

I had split the Top Eight of a large local tournament just prior to leaving for Dublin, and felt really good about this list heading into the event.

Once I got to Dublin, I felt like our team really lacked a very good aggressive strategy in our gauntlet. My intuition told me that Mono Red Aggro was basically not a very strong deck, so I wanted to build a deck that essentially was a playable “attack you” deck.

Throughout most of our deckbuilding processes, I focused upon making the best aggressive deck that I could. I started off with a “burn your face” Boros deck that I eventually tuned into a Naya Aggro deck. Here’s what I played at the Pro Tour:

This deck has some problems, and a big part of the problems has to do with allowing myself to be persuaded by other players to mess with the deck right before the tournament, i.e., lesson number two.

Going into the Pro Tour, a large percentage of my teammates were set on playing a very aggressive black-red aggro deck that got brewed up at the last second. The night before and the morning of, some players decided to jump ship onto my deck which resulted in a hasty brew session about the Naya deck.

One would think that multiple minds discussing ideas would have led to well-reasoned decisions and improvements. Unfortunately, well-reasoned discussions led to multiple changes to my list that made the deck worse than what I had started with and cost me multiple matches of Magic.

Which brings us to lesson number two – always trust what you know.

It feels super good to agree with other players when they are all agreeing with each other. For instance, there are three players (one of which is you) and one player says; “We should change card A to card B” and gives a reasonable explanation for why this is correct. The next player agrees, and it feels so good to say “OK, I’m in,” because you don’t want to be the odd person out. Especially when you really respect the opinions and ideas of the individuals in question.

Every single thing that was suggested and ultimately changed to my list ended up being extremely wrong, and I was punished for that repeatedly over the course of the tournament.

What a dagger.

My Scavenging Oozes became Dryad Militants to help out with the Esper matchup.

I didn’t play against Esper once, and for the ultimate rub-in, I had a Domri in play, played a Scry land, saw a Dryad Militant (when Ooze would have won me the game) and had to scry away the Militant because my opponent had Chandra, Pyromaster in play!

I also drew a Gift of the Orzhova that I couldn’t cast against Mono Red Aggro when Unflinching Courage would have won me the game.

I don’t have any spite toward my teammates for suggesting changes (with legitimate reasons for the changes), and the worst part is that not fighting harder for my point of view ultimately cost my teammates (as well as myself) possible wins. If I had stuck to my guns, we all might have played a better version of the deck.

Here is what I would have played and will probably play if I end up being able to go to Grand Prix Louisville next weekend:

I was really happy with how my Standard deck performed in the tournament (despite going 4-6) for a couple of reasons. I acknowledge that a losing record with a constructed deck is basically unacceptable, however given the circumstances I think there are a lot of positives.

First of all, my Pro Tour deck didn’t take into consideration any of the devotion decks at all. I played against Mono Blue Devotion several times and lost to it every time. The problem was that that possibility simply wasn’t considered or addressed at all, because I didn’t really know I needed to be prepared for that strategy.

Halfway through Day One of the tournament, once I realized what was going on and how we had failed to identify blue-based Devotion as a real deck, I accepted that I was likely going to lose to those decks.

The positive was that I felt my deck performed very well against the portions of the field that I did prepare for. I crushed all of the green decks I played against, and was good against the Esper decks that I might have played against as well.

While I didn’t do as well as I could have in the Constructed portion of the event, I feel I really crushed at Limited.

My draft decks were both completely insane:

My first deck was an absolute masterpiece, and that fact that it didn’t 3-0 reflects the absolute lack of justice in the universe.

The match I lost, I mulliganed to five and would have easily won if my five lands were not four islands and one swamp (prohibiting me from casting the three double-black spells in my hand), and the other game involved a good keep on seven in which I drew only one spell the rest of the game and flooded out.

That’s Magic for you.

Aside from those two bizarre games, none of my other games were even close.

With the second draft deck, I lost to David Ochoa in a very hard-fought battle in which our first game lasted almost 45 minutes! We played a truly epic game that could easily have gone either way at multiple points. No shame in losing to a future Hall of Famer in a hard-fought battle.

One of the other big positives of this Pro Tour is that I finally beat my teammate and longtime friend Ari Lax in a game of tournament Magic with that second draft deck. I’m pretty sure I haven’t beaten him in a sanctioned match in roughly seven years!

These two decks are among my favorite archetypes for Theros Limited – UB Control and UW Bestow. The other archetype I don’t mind ending up in is RB Minotaurs.

In Limited I will play anything – basically whatever is open – but I’m always happy when the stars align and I get to be in the archetypes that are good.

Theros really rewards a player for being in whatever is actually open. Each of the ‘good’ decks are not really deep enough to support two players who are fighting each other over the same card, so figuring out what is being passed to you and what you ought to be taking is pretty important.

The biggest tip I can offer drafters is to look at what cards are getting passed to you and look for the clues. Which cards would never get passed if somebody was specifically trying to draft one of the best archtypes?

A heavy black drafter will never pass Gray Merchant of Asphodel.

A white Heroic drafter will never pass Wingsteed Rider.

A green ramp drafter will never pass Voyaging Satyr.

A red aggro drafter will never pass Lightning Strike.

Obviously there are situations where somebody took a rare or better uncommon in the same color, but most of the time seeing these cards past the second or third pick is a really good indication that moving in and changing colors if you have to will likely yield big rewards.

So, another Pro Tour has come and gone and the lessons are to stick with what you know, trust your instincts, and never write something off with out trying it first. We should all know better than to make these mistakes and fall into these traps, and for good reason.

See you at the PTQs.


Brian DeMars

Follow me @briandemars1 on Twitter