In which our hero travels to Prague for Magic, beers and… er… other things, and ends up drafting a few more Magic cards than he originally anticipated.
I said I’d write a report on Prague. I also said it would be around 13 rounds shorter than Honolulu. Rather surprisingly that turned out to be a wee bit of an understatement, although at one point it did look like I might actually have been a little generous in my predictions.
At the start of the year I’d set myself a goal on a Mox Radio podcast (check it out here for more details): to make Day 2 of a Limited Pro Tour. It’s something I’ve never done. In the past I was never able to get enough practice, but nowadays we have Magic Online. Unfortunately I wasn’t exactly crushing the online hordes (and this is in the 4322 queues!) and had resigned myself to the trip being more of a holiday than a money earner. But hey, Prague is a city full of… um… distractions.
One of the interesting features of PT Prague is that it included Dissension, a set that, at the time, hadn’t even been released in the shops. As a result I wanted to get out a couple of days before the tournament and do some practice drafts.
I was staying with a bunch of Scots, including GP Cardiff semi-finalist Julian Jardine. This is good as the Scots are great fun, but would also put me in risk of severe alcohol poisoning. I’m not joking. Jules drank three Japanese bars out of beer at Worlds last year. After one heavy session, the Welsh team captain came in for the team portion of Worlds and loudly said: “The Japanese. How the f*** can we be paired against the f***ing Japanese?!”
I feared for my liver.
My flight was a day earlier than the others, so I had to find some alternative accommodation on the Tuesday night. I ended up spending the night in a brothel in the center of town.
Yeah, you did hear correctly, although it’s not how it sounds, honest. Basically the owner had taken a building and had converted it for a number of businesses including a restaurant, pension (B & B) and nightclub (translation: brothel). Usually they catered for stag parties, and after I booked the room I received some literature that was very… um… educational.
Fortunately it was Tuesday, and the B & B section was lacking in the S & M, and so I got a quiet night’s sleep.
Beer Count: 2.
Just breaking myself in.
For some reason I decided to walk from the pension (in the center of Prague) to my hotel (next to the venue and most definitely not in the center of Prague). Two hours of walking with a 10kg rucksack on my back, and this didn’t seem like such a good idea. When I finally arrived at the hotel, I found out the Scots had already been and gone. Rats!
Finally I hooked up with the other UK guys, and it was off to the tables in a charming back patio for drinks and drafting. Later we found a pub with some decent grub. I think my personal favorite for the weekend was something called Bataliontransport. The description of this is fairly simple. Basically imagine someone taking a foot-long spear and running through a barnyard skewering everything in sight. That’s pretty much what a Bataliontransport is.
The Czechs also know the meaning of service. The second pint hit the table just as I was downing the first. Now that’s what I call telepathy.
Beer count: 9.
Picking up steam.
The infamous Jules showed up some time in the morning. When I finally dragged my carcass out of bed, it was time to head off to a small bar just around the corner. This place sort of ended up being our base for the weekend, but not for food. As the menu was only in Czech, we ended up ordering a very odd selection of dishes. I think someone might have ordered Bradley Barclay a dessert by mistake. It had cranberries and cream. I just couldn’t figure out what the gravy was for.
I suppose at this point I should talk a little about draft strategy.
Yes, despite appearances to the contrary, I did actually have a draft strategy.
Prior to Dissension, Blue-Black-Red was straight up nuts in RRG drafts. I believed it would still be strong, as Rakdos would give it some nice removal in the last pack. The other strategy I’d liked in RRG was the fatty Green-Black-Red strategy that used signets to accelerate into various flavors of very large Wurms. Again, this would be looking to pick up Rakdos removal in pack three. While brainstorming some of these strategies the Monday before, as part of a Mox Radio recording, another strategy that had hit me was to take both Green and Blue mono-colored cards from Ravnica, Izzet and Gruul from Guildpact, and then finish up with Simic. While I was quite chuffed with what seemed like some lateral thinking on the fly, it turned out just about everyone else had the same idea. The Blue-Green-Red deck, Blood-Graft as it was termed in the coverage, was a popular archetype amongst the UK players in our practice drafts.
The color left out in the cold was White. This was a shame, as my favorite strategy from triple Ravnica was Green-White Convoke with a splash of Black. Selesnya Evangel used to be a first pick card, now it barely rates 7th. It was interesting, as in the first practice draft I opened a Selesnya Guildmage and was given a very late Oathsworn Giant. I took Green-White-Black with the aim of rounding out with mono-colored cards (Aquastrand Spider, etc) from the final booster. Basically I wanted to see if it was viable. It seemed like it was, but then I lost the first two rounds. This seemed to be the theme for White decks over the next few days. While they looked good on paper, they seemed to have this unfortunate habit of, well, not winning.
Anyway, back to the beers. Rather obligingly, Wizards was kind enough to give out beer tickets. This made up for the fact that registration was being held back in the center of Prague and absolutely nowhere near the venue. I wasn’t entirely sure a restaurant could hold around 400 players, but it turned out the place was a second cousin to the Tardis (I’m guessing I’m probably safe with a Dr Who reference, as the BBC has eventually got round to making the series again. Probably safer than conkers anyway, which I have been informed stumped a few of you last time round — ah, those crazy Britishisms). Nominally we were only given three beer tickets, but Antoine Ruel managed to sneak a few extra from people who were foolish enough to leave them lying around. We couldn’t very well let beer go to waste, right?
Beer count: 12
Pro Tour, what Pro Tour? I think at least one of those might have gone down in one as well. It’s the Jules effect, I tell you. No way am I coming out of this with my liver intact.
Okay, so without much further ado, it’s time to finally get to the Pro Tour action. My first pod looked scary as it included both Neil Reeves and Masashiro Kuroda. Reeves’s draft was covered by roving reporter Tim Willoughby, and you might have heard about my deck for reasons that are about to become clear.
While White is weak, everyone knows that White is weak, so there is an argument that if you can grab it aggressively enough you might get some goodies late. My first booster was relatively uninspiring, and gave me a choice of Fetters or Compulsive Research. I took the Fetters and then followed up with a pair of Screeching Griffin. I mispicked an Auratouched Mage early (this card is much worse with only one Ravnica booster), but was handed a gift in a very late Viashino Fangtail. After the first booster I was White-Red with a Black splash, but my cards were not particularly exciting.
Guildpact was odd. My booster had a Skeletal Vampire, and I didn’t waste much time in slamming him into my pile. In the next pack I was overjoyed to see Debtors’ Knell. Two bomb rares from Guildpact, nice! Then it got a little weird, as the next pack I was passed also had Debtors’ Knell. Second and third pick Knell? Was I missing something? I’d thought this card was an absolute bomb, one of the best rares in the set. Then things got farcical, as I was passed the next booster and saw another Debtors’ Knell.
Unfortunately, this is where I was struck with a rush of blood to the head. Knell is a late game card, and there isn’t really room for more than two in a 40-card deck. I think there was another decent Orzhov pick in the booster (either Blind Hunter or Shrieking Grotesque) I should have taken, but three Debtor’s Knell? Man… hard to resist that tug.
Guildpact coughed up a few more goodies, and Dissension gave me a couple of Ickspitters. Unfortunately, a couple of early mispicks left me having to prop up the deck with filler. The manabase was a little too much of the dreaded 666 for my liking. If I drew the bombs or pingers, my deck would look pretty good (2-1, 3-0). If I drew the filler, I was staring down a 1-2 or worse.
- 1 Mortipede
- 2 Screeching Griffin
- 1 Stinkweed Imp
- 1 Viashino Fangtail
- 1 Viashino Slasher
- 1 Blind Hunter
- 1 Bloodscale Prowler
- 1 Orzhov Euthanist
- 1 Ostiary Thrull
- 1 Skeletal Vampire
- 1 Freewind Equenaut
- 1 Gobhobbler Rats
- 1 Minister of Impediments
- 1 Ogre Gatecrasher
- 2 Rakdos Ickspitter
- 1 Vesper Ghoul
Round 1: Masashiro Kuroda
Yipes, a feature match in the first round. All my first round mistakes would be laid horribly bare to the watching audience. Incidentally, this was the first time I’d played Kuroda since we’d played twice at Worlds way back in 1999. Kuroda was also playing White-Red-Black, and I felt I had a good shot at this.
The first game I drew filler and then ran out of monsters. The second I drew all my pingers and stranded most of Kuroda’s monsters in his hand. The decider was interesting, as I chose to try and race from a position from where Kuroda already had the lead. I couldn’t sit back and risk blocking, as I already knew Kuroda had a number of combat tricks including Carom. I did have a Fetters to haul back some life, but Kuroda wasn’t about to run out of monsters. I was also missing a second black source for the Skeletal Vampire in my hand. Unfortunately, the game came down to a couple of key turns where I made some misplays. A Rakdos Carnarium gave me a second Black source. It allowed me to finally block a Sewerdreg as I bounced my Swamp. Unfortunately I chose to only block the Sewerdreg with a Gatecrasher, when I should have also blocked with Restless Bones (sideboarded) as well. Carom wrecked me, and to further compound my mistakes I missed I could sac Blind Hunter to the Vampire and then use the haunt effect to at least give me another draw step.
Round 2: Jeffery Zandi
Zandi wasn’t too happy to lose the first round, and I wasn’t too happy to be paired against him, as his deck seemed pretty good. The four-color manabase looked to be the only weakness.
He didn’t even need Green in the first game, as Last Gasp plus a couple of Chronarchs were too much for me. Game 2 was when the warning bells started ringing. I got both Debtors’ Knell and Skeletal Vampire going, and it was still a real effort to win. Even with two broken rares in concert, Zandi could still have beaten me with a topdecked Infiltrator’s Magemark. Game 3 I got smashed to pieces. I could have cast Debtors’ Knell, but it really wouldn’t have helped my empty board against his twelve power’s worth of monsters.
Hmm, this didn’t look good. Perhaps this report was going to be a lot shorter than I intended.
Round 3: Kazuya Hirabayashi
It wasn’t looking too healthy at this point. Both Paul Lim and Martin Dingler joined me down on the bottom tables. No surprises, the Brits getting bashed at draft, again. Sigh.
No way was I going 0-3 with this deck. Not after the rares I’d been given from Guildpact. Game 1 and my pinger army took Hirabayashi to pieces. I never even needed to cast the Skeletal Vampire stranded in my hand. Game 2 and the alarm bells went off again, as I managed to do something that I wasn’t even sure was possible — lose with a Debtors’ Knell in play. I had to be cautious with attacking as I was on low life, and I knew he had Pyromatics. Unfortunately I made a move too soon, and Gigadrowse gave him the game. Game 3 and my deck finally showed what it was capable of, as Hirabayashi went down in a hail of fliers including Skeletal Vampire.
There’s still a glimmer of life, even if it is just the faintest glimmer. I can’t see myself getting the 3-0, but I can hope.
I sit at the table knowing only one player is going through. In this situation you have to go for pure naked power.
A Firemane Angel as a first pick qualifies as power. I don’t want to go White, but it is the best card in the booster by some degree. The next two picks see me taking Stinkweed Imps over a Siege Wurm and (I think) a Root-Kin Ally. My argument is it’s easier to run Black with Red-White for the Rakdos hookup in Dissension than with Green. Finally I can’t ignore the signals any more, as Rotwurm, Drooling Groodion, and Selesnya Evangel finally nudge me into Green. The power continues in Guildpact, as I open Graven Dominator and get passed Streetbreaker Wurms. I’m not getting the bounce lands, and have to take a Gruul Signet over a Ghor-Clan Savage to try and fix the mana. Dissension provides unlikely aid in the form of Vesper Ghoul, one of which I get 14th pick. I’d previously regarded the card as junk, but in this deck it turned out to be fantastic as all of a sudden I’m four-color, but with base Black instead of Green. The deck has a lot of mana sources, but it also has a lot of very powerful creatures. I’d just have to cross my fingers and hope.
- 1 Drooling Groodion
- 1 Firemane Angel
- 1 Golgari Rotwurm
- 1 Selesnya Evangel
- 1 Selesnya Sagittars
- 2 Stinkweed Imp
- 1 Droning Bureaucrats
- 1 Ghor-Clan Savage
- 1 Graven Dominator
- 1 Mourning Thrull
- 2 Streetbreaker Wurm
- 1 Aquastrand Spider
- 1 Guardian of the Guildpact
- 1 Sporeback Troll
- 2 Vesper Ghoul
Round 4: Aniol Alcaraz
My hopes of survival took a rapid downturn as Alcaraz played both Twinstrike and Savage Twister, and I realized his deck is also extremely powerful. I think I won game 2 on the back of Wurm pressure and his poor draw. Then it came down to a real knockdown, drag-them-out decider. It looked very grim when I saw Tolsimir Wolfblood. Alcaraz had a very good deck. Oh well, I’d put up a fight, couldn’t argue about going out to a deck with Twister and Tolsimir. I wasn’t quite dead yet though as Sporeback Troll and Sagittars kept the red zone free of creatures.
This ended up being incredibly close. I was still making little mistakes. I made a Guardian I didn’t need to, which meant the inevitable Savage Twister caused a lot of damage. I also didn’t leave a Green open for regeneration at a later point, keeping open triple Black for a Rotwurm instead. As we went into extra turns, a massive push into the red zone from Alcaraz, combined with Rally the Righteous, cleared the board. Alcaraz followed with a Siege Wurm, and it all looked a little grim. Then I finally found one of my big fliers as the Dominator appeared. Turning the Siege Wurm into a 1/1 allowed me to kill it with Douse in Gloom. I couldn’t win before turns ran out, but I was clearly in control of the game with a 4/4 flier. A draw would put both of us out, so Alcaraz did the nice thing and conceded.
Round 5: Joshua Martinez
So, two more pressure matches to go, or so I thought. Martinez was swept away by a judge before the game even started and came back to inform me I was 1-0 up. I think it was Martinez’s first Pro Tour, and I think he was mad with himself at making a deck registration error. His woes continued as he mulliganed to six, and a fast blood-thirsted Ghor-Clan Savage took him down in short order. He revealed afterwards his deck had Glare and plenty of token generators, so it was a fairly lucky escape on my part.
Wow, I was still kicking. I never ever win bubble matches, so I still didn’t think I was going through to the third draft. It was nice to still be in contention for the last round of the day though, especially after starting 0-2.
Round 6: Soo Han Yoon
The high-pressure bubble match never materialized. Somehow I’d managed to get paired down. Yoon couldn’t make Day 2, and so he didn’t even bother getting his deck out. Obligingly, he conceded to put me in Day 2.
Wow. My first Day 2 at a Limited Pro Tour. I went off to do a little dance. I couldn’t believe I’d made it, after the 0-2 start. Admittedly it was more than a little fortuitous. Somehow I’d 3-0’ed the pod, despite only winning two games.
Okay, I can sense the bitterness out there. I’ll stop the little happy dances now.
Magic is all about persistence. I’ve taken my knocks in the past. It’s nice to have a smooth run for a change.
I really should stop putting Plains in my decks.
It turned out to be a fairly good last round for the Brits. Usually, most of us fall off the cliff in the last couple of rounds, but this time more than a few actually survived their bubble matches. This included everyone in my hotel room.
Damnit, I thought I told myself to stop putting Plains in my deck.
Yep, I well and truly cocked this one up. I didn’t want White, and so shipped Devouring Light and Faith’s Fetters. I drafted two Carven Caryatid too highly, and then finally moved into White when a Pollenbright Wings showed up. Two Congregation of Dawn tabled, as I’d planned, and I also got Chord of Calling. I was set up to tutor out my best monsters, but had only really picked up a Siege Wurm worth tutoring for. I knew fellow Brit Ali McClare, on my right, liked the Blue-Green archetype, and my plan was to guillotine the Green and reap the benefits in Streetbreaker Wurms and Savages from Guildpact.
Unfortunately, Guildpact utterly garroted me. My only criticism of this format is that the distribution of cards in the boosters seems a little too guild affiliated. It started well with a Graven Dominator (again!), but then collapsed horribly as I saw four monstrous Izzet packs in a row go by with barely a pick for me. Dissension didn’t help much either, and I knew I was in real trouble. There just wasn’t anything to the deck.
- 2 Carven Caryatid
- 1 Siege Wurm
- 1 Absolver Thrull
- 1 Graven Dominator
- 1 Orzhov Guildmage
- 1 Ostiary Thrull
- 1 Poisonbelly Ogre
- 2 Shrieking Grotesque
- 1 Aquastrand Spider
- 1 Aurora Eidolon
- 1 Cytospawn Shambler
- 1 Demon's Jester
- 1 Freewind Equenaut
- 1 Rakdos Guildmage
Round 7: Mathias Wigge
My fears were quickly realized, as a pair of Helium Squirters and an Azorius First-Wing exposed a pathetic deficiency against fliers. Game 2 was humiliating, as Wigge mulliganed to five and still thrashed me. A Wojek Embermage kept a Graven Dominator stranded in my hand, along with a Pollenbright Wings (he had a Minister of Impediments) and a Rakdos Guildmage (I couldn’t cast it). A very sorry game was summed up when I cast Congregation. The forbidden peek revealed I’d just shuffled away the only card that might have saved me — Douse in Gloom.
Afterwards, it was off to the pub for a quiet night and a farmyard skewer.
Beer count: 4.
Rather shockingly, I actually had to play tomorrow, so an early night for me.
So I was still in there, but I was way down the standings (I think I was second from bottom, going into Saturday). I had a horrible deck, but it was from a seven-man pod so at least I would pick up a bye at some point rather than going 0-3. I really needed the bye first thing, and then hope I could somehow scrape through round 9.
My aims for the day were not to finish in the bottom 12 players. 140 players survived the cut. Assuming I attend all the remaining Pro Tours, I need just two extra Pro Points to hit Level 4. Top 128 would give me one of those points today.
Round 8: BYE
Yes, I got the bye.
Round 9: Luis Bonilla
Bonilla had been on my left, and now I realized why my draft had crumbled. I thought I’d guillotined Green hard, but not hard enough, as he was also Black-Green-White. Basically, those colors had been over-drafted on the table, and we’d all gone home in an ambulance.
I was the one in critical condition. I thought I was doing okay as I cracked in with fliers. I was hoping to save a Demon’s Jester with an Aurora Eidolon, only for Gaze to completely wreck me. He added a second Jester, and then went Hellbent to end the game fairly swiftly. Game 2 I drew too much land and not enough creatures, and fell over in fairly swift fashion again.
I needed to really buck up both my drafting and play. Officially the record said 5-4. But in real terms I was in fact 2-4-1. On the drafting side, I’d been too reactive. Waiting to grab cues from later picks in Ravnica inevitably puts you in Green-Black-White, as these are the deepest colors in Ravnica. Unfortunately there are only lean pickings for this combination outside of the first booster. I had to be more pro-active in my drafting.
Most of all, I had to stop drafting White. The White decks just don’t win.
That’s it. No more drafting White cards.
I opened Glare of Subdual.
I’m drafting White cards.
Glare was sick before, but now it’s even more vicious as nobody else wants cards in the same color combination. My next pick was a choice between Primordial Sage and Vitu-Ghazi, the City Tree. I took the Sage because I knew the Tree would come back, which it did. The same happened with Seeds of Strength. Wojek Embermage moved me into Red and Skarrgan Firebird was waiting for me in the second pack. The deck quickly shaped up into something monstrous, as I was passed Belfry Spirit and was also able to grab the Signets as fixers. Dissension gave me an interesting dilemma over going into Blue as well, for Pride of the Clouds. I went for it and was rewarded with three appropriate Karoo lands. The deck had double White, Green, and Red, and even splashed for Blue, but had pretty good mana despite this. The breakdown is something like 8-8-6-3 for Green-Red-White-Blue.
- 1 Caregiver
- 1 Primordial Sage
- 1 Root-Kin Ally
- 1 Sandsower
- 1 Sell-Sword Brute
- 1 Wojek Embermage
- 1 Belfry Spirit
- 1 Dryad Sophisticate
- 1 Gruul Scrapper
- 1 Silhana Ledgewalker
- 1 Skarrgan Firebird
- 1 Skarrgan Skybreaker
- 1 Tin Street Hooligan
- 1 Wild Cantor
- 1 Aquastrand Spider
- 1 Beacon Hawk
- 1 Pride of the Clouds
Round 11: Yuuta Takahashi
In the first game I got a Belfry Spirit on the table, and then started to get Pride of the Clouds. On his side of the table, Takahashi had a Sinstriker’s Will on a Torch Drake and an enchanted Equenaut to make attacking tricky. My impatience did me in this game. I always worry that I lose games by not pushing an advantage when I’ve got it. I had a Root-Kin Ally, and a lot of allies for him. I knew I should start trying to put Takahashi under pressure. I should have waited for a second Forest to cast the Fertile Imagination in my hand. It would have revealed he was holding a Boros Fury-Shield, and I would have avoided being wrecked by it. Glare could still have pulled me out, but it wasn’t in any mood to show up, and Takahashi’s auras dominated the board.
Game 2 was taken by the fat squad of Root-Kin Ally and Primordial Sage. I was worried that time might be an issue, but Takahashi scooped quickly in game 3 when I made Glare and then started forecasting Pride of the Clouds. Sick rares are some good, I’ve heard.
Round 12: Adam Fajkus
The first game was really tight. He was playing a fast Red-White-Black deck. Just when I started to get control, he found a Ghost Council and started picking off my last few points of life. Errors crept into my game again, as I missed a viable attack when Fajkus was tapped out, but fortunately I wasn’t punished and was able to alpha-strike for the win.
For the second game I had a slow start. The only play after Glare was to make Primordial Sage. He Pilloried that, but the card advantage it gave me started to give me a stranglehold on the game as I brought more creatures into play. I made another slight error and tapped a Trumpeter rather than just shooting it with an Embermage. The Pillory was a problem, but I had a Caregiver in hand. As soon as that hit the board I’d be able to sac the Sage and finish Fajkus in quick order with my blood-thirsted Skarrgan Skybreaker. Unfortunately Fajkus topdecked a Hellhole Rats at absolutely the worst possible time. I was able to survive the discard and the extra attacker, but now I was at two life with a Pillory on my creature. Still, I had the Caregiver. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize I needed a second White to sacrifice the creature. I made sure I couldn’t take Fajkus down with one attack (I could do 15 damage, Fajkus was at 18) and then conceded.
Did you miss it too? I was so focused on the Caregiver and doing damage to Fajkus with the Skybreaker I missed the play that might have saved me. The Giant could have taken down my Pilloried Sage. It would have still been tight, but alive with a Glare in play is infinitely better than losing the game and then not having enough time for a third game.
It’s the little misses like this that hold back my Limited game.
Round 12: Petr Nahodil
Nahodil was 2-0 for the pod and had a really useful looking Blue-Red-Black deck. I’d passed him most of it while looking for Glare-friendly cards. A Thunderheads caught me completely off guard, but after that he drew land rather than creatures and that stupid Glare card put in an appearance.
While sideboarding, I noticed a little card that I probably should have played main. Blockbuster fell into my pile around 13th pick, but it’s actually not bad at all when the focus of your deck is to tap things. Nahodil had a number of creatures with tap effects (Lurking Informant, Minister of Impediments) and I thought it might be fairly good against him. It was, as I picked up a three for one. From there, the Skarrgan team of Firebird and Skybreaker took the game and match.
After the game Nahodil had said he thought he couldn’t possibly lose with his deck. On a normal table he was probably right, but I’d been blessed with some exceptional rares and the right synergistic cards to go with them. Against that, solid just doesn’t cut it. The real crime was I’d gone two and a draw with the deck instead of 3-0. I did have a nagging feeling that a better player might have been pushing for top 8 now if they’d had access to the same boosters I’d been given over the two days.
It was time for the fifth and final draft. I’d managed to pull myself up to somewhere in the middle of the table. I had secured myself the extra point for top 128. The next step was to push on. 2-1 would give me both top 64 and money. 3-0 might put me top 32.
The last pod was fairly scary. Justin Gary had fallen prey to the curse, and had failed to win a single match today after going 7-0 yesterday. Also in the pod were Ben Goodman, Chris McDaniel, and Yuri Kolomeyko.
The draft was actually one of the funniest ever, as the poor announcer, obviously frazzled from two days of judging, couldn’t keep track of the number of cards on the table. This gave rather bizarre sequences as:
I finally got to draft Blue, yippee! Cerulean Sphinx (yeah, I have been opening good rares this PT) was sitting in my first booster, and after being passed Mark of Eviction I went straight for the Blue-Green-Red strategy. I like this strategy, as it’s virtually impossible to get hosed by the dodgy Guildpact print runs. You either get the Izzet boosters with Steamcore Weirds and Ogre Savants, or some tasty Gruul like a Streetbreaker Wurm or Ghor-Clan Savage. In Dissension you take the Simic cards, and they run very deep. The list below is a fairly textbook version of the strategy (or at least, so I was told afterwards by people who knew — It was the first time I’d actually drafted this archetype). I was happy with it, anyway.
- 1 Carven Caryatid
- 1 Cerulean Sphinx
- 1 Drift of Phantasms
- 1 Elvish Skysweeper
- 1 Viashino Fangtail
- 1 Izzet Chronarch
- 1 Ogre Savant
- 1 Petrahydrox
- 1 Steamcore Weird
- 1 Streetbreaker Wurm
- 1 Wild Cantor
- 1 Assault Zeppelid
- 1 Coiling Oracle
- 1 Cytospawn Shambler
- 1 Enigma Eidolon
- 1 Plaxcaster Frogling
- 1 Silkwing Scout
Round 13: Chris McDaniel (a.k.a. StarWarsKid)
I’d bumped into both Ben Goodman and Chris McDaniel over the weekend, and had been very impressed with their attitude to the game. While other random American players were randomly trying to screw each other over, these guys seemed to be playing because it was fun and enjoying it all the more.
This match was great fun (for me anyway). McDaniel got me to 1 life with fliers as I tried to stave off his beats with Mark of Eviction. I saw possibly the most innovative way to get rid of a Mark, as McDaniel attacked and then Condemned his own Marked Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi. Nice. Unfortunately for him, I managed to topdeck Drift of Phantasms the turn before a Shrieking Grotesque was about to kill me.
“I hate trying to do that last point of damage. It never happens,” Chris said.
He turned out to be correct, as he failed to hit any of (I think) three or four outs, and I bashed him down with a Wild Cantor, Coiling Oracle and Viashino Fangtail. It was a weird game, and one I was surprised to win.
McDaniel leveled after winning the Wurm wars, and then in game 3 I pulled off possibly the sickest Vigean Intuition ever. I named creatures, and then turned over Cerulean Sphinx, Coiling Oracle, Elvish Skysweeper, and Cytospawn Shambler. Good skills.
Round 14: Yuri Kolomeyko
Kolomeyko was the player I feared most on the table. Yes, he’s that good. I remember when he knocked Stewart Shinkins out of top 8 contention at PT Barcelona. I was thinking I might have a chance, as I was happy with my deck and he wasn’t. Nope, I got drubbed. He utterly wiped the floor with me. Basically he was playing straight Black-White. He had a lot of high toughness walls and other defensive monsters to hold the ground, fliers to win through the air, and removal to deal with anything that looked threatening. It completely negated my deck, and was all the worse because the cards he was beating me with weren’t even his first picks. He showed me afterwards how he’d gone for Blue-Green with cards like Snapping Drake, but had been forced to give it up. I think that is the mark of a very good draft player in that he recognized the draft was going badly and was able to shift colors and still come out with a deck capable of fighting.
Round 15: Marco Pancini
It was fairly straightforward. I needed to win this to both make money and the extra pro point I needed. Thankfully, my deck obliged.
We both topdecked key removal in game 1, as our decks cancelled each other out. After the game went into topdeck mode I came out clear winner, as a Cerulean Sphinx was sitting on top of my deck.
Game 2 finally demonstrated to me just how brutal an early Mark of Eviction is. I knew it was good, but this was the first time I really got to see just how good it was. It didn’t help matters for Pancini that he missed some early land drops. Basically, the hapless Italian ended up replaying the same Veteran Armorer and Benevolent Ancestor over and over, as I developed a board that included Plaxcaster Frogling and then a 4/4 Assault Zeppelid. I didn’t even need the Sphinx in hand.
So in the end I was fairly pleased with my result. I made my first ever Day 2 of a Limited Pro Tour and finished in the money in 55th place. Crucially, I finished top 64 and got the extra two Pro Points. All I need to do is make sure I attend all the remaining Pro Tours to lock myself at level 4. All in all, a fairly good weekend’s work.
I definitely still need to improve my Limited skills, both draft and playing. From this report it’s fairly obvious that I was very lucky, both in byes and concessions, and also the strength of the packs I opened. There are a fair few tasty rares in those deck lists, and maybe I should probably have done better with the cards I received.
The evening turned out to be very cool as we all piled into the center of town. I think at one point we terrified the coverage staff, as they turned round and suddenly realized they’d picked up a mob of around 30 players. They ran off for a draft while I decided food was a far more pressing concern. After a few false starts we found somewhere that was still open, and then wandered off in search of more beer.
I hadn’t really intended to stay out too late. As an old git, Magic tournaments tend to wipe me out. Instead we ended up at the Karlovy Prazne (I think, I suspect I’ve completely mangled the name) music club. It seemed fairly popular with Magic players as we bumped into the Dutchies and some of the Americans. Unfortunately, it was also a bit of a “sausage fest,” as one player put it. With a ratio of around fifteen blokes to a girl, the odds of achieving that Holy Grail of “going home with a chick” were a little on the long side.
Rather foolishly, AJ Meaney tried to take on Jules in the drinking stakes. A bad idea. The poor Irishman was just human wreckage at the end of it. I think we left him in the toilets of a KFC somewhere. It was dawn when the bouncers finally kicked us out. Rather conveniently in time to catch the underground back to the hotel.
Beer count: 7 and something dodgy AJ insisted I try.
Yes, that is rather feeble considering I was in a club until five in the morning. Give me a break, I’m getting old.
I turned up for the top 8 and triumphantly slammed Lightning Helix in the deciding game of the semi-final to make it into …
Oh wait, that was the last one.
I crawled out of bed somewhere around midday, and then stumbled to the venue to watch the end of the quarterfinals. I think just about every Pro Tour I go to I always tell myself I’m going to go sightseeing on the Sunday, and just about every Pro Tour I go to I always end up being sucked back to the venue, never to escape. It’s like a black hole. I… just… can’t… pull… away…
Beer count: 6
Bit of a quiet night surprisingly (and I can assure you that those scurrilous rumors you might have heard are completely without any substantiating evidence)
All the Scots had to fly back early in the morning. My flight wasn’t until the evening. I headed in to do some sightseeing, and fortunately ran into Billy Moreno and some friends. I tagged along and spent a fairly chilled day looking around the castle. Prague is a very attractive city. The Charles Bridge in particular is well worth seeing.
Beer count: 2
Just a couple with a meal to round off a good trip.
So you’ve read all this way. Now what pearls of wisdom can I impart to make it worth the effort of reading this far?
Go find an article from someone who is actually good at Limited…
Actually, I might as well go back to the strategies I talked about at the start. I thought Blue-Black-Red would continue to remain strong. In reality, I’m not sure this is the case. Rakdos has some tasty removal, but it tends to get nabbed quickly and then all that’s left are some fairly lean pickings.
The strength of the Green-Black-Red strategy is fairly obvious, as Takuya Osawa won the Pro Tour with it, but for different reasons than I anticipated. I again overestimated the ease of getting Rakdos removal in the Dissension pack. Instead, the important cards turned out to be the later picks of Aquastrand Spider, Sporeback Troll, and Utopia Sprawl. Unfortunately it might not always be viable. Martin Dingler won Grand Prix Cardiff with a similar strategy pre-Dissension, but had a rotten time at the Pro Tour as he never got a sniff of one of his beloved Siege Wurms.
Green-Blue-Red is very robust. Ravnica has strong mono-colored cards in those colors, and the later boosters provide a lot of depth. The ability-sharing Graft cards also work very nicely with the bloodthirst Gruul cards. It does have a weakness in dealing with very large monsters though, so you might want to grab a Fiery Conclusion from the first booster if possible.
I don’t like White. Sometimes it looks quite good, but then it just fails to win. Justin Gary ran into problems in Day Two when he was pushed into this color, and fellow Brit Ali McClare also stuttered out of the money when he was forced out of Green-Blue-Red and into White.
However, draft is fairly self-balancing in that benefits can be gained by moving into a color that is perceived by the majority of other players as bad. To make this work you have to make a decision very early on to go after White. The biggest danger is to shun it early and then waver as the later picks go round. Chances are one of your neighbors has the same idea, and then you both go home in an ambulance while the Blue player gorges on the Izzet packs.
I hope you enjoyed reading this, and I imagine there’ll be further fun in the forums as one of the pros who can actually play Limited publicly eviscerates me for my many strategic flaws.