Reflecting Ruel – Pro Tour: Amsterdam (87th Place)

Thursday, September 9th – Olivier was so excited about going into Amsterdam that he couldn’t sleep. Yet his deck disappointed. What was wrong with his deck choice?

For the last twelve months, I have not been doing nearly as well as Magic as I would have liked. For Amsterdam, though, I was feeling particularly
confident. I’d been testing pretty seriously, and as I’d had the chance to find a pretty good deck in the early testing.

The idea was to build a Blue control deck which would be able to make a good use of the Grove of the Burnwillows/Punishing Fire combo. My first version
was a Grixis deck using Think Twice and Mystical Teachings to support the card advantage combo. That build just didn’t work out. Even though the
counter base (Mana Leak, Negate, Cryptic Command) and the removal spells (Lightning Bolt, Volcanic Fallout, Doom Blade, Cruel Ultimatum) were
satisfying, the card advantage cards were extremely disappointing (with the exception, of course, of Cruel Ultimatum and Punishing Fire).

In game one I was very happy with Think Twice – but post-sideboarding, the card made the deck even more vulnerable to Relic of Progenitus and
Leyline of the Void. That last problem also applied to Mystical Teachings… but most importantly, the card was simply too slow. I went down from three
copies to one, and replaced the other two with Careful Consideration.

I decided to add some Vivid lands to the deck, replacing my precious Dreadship Reef so I could incorporate Esper Charm into the deck. Also, the fact
that I had adapted my mana to add the new card drawer meant I could now afford to run Great Sable Stag in the sideboard. As I expected Faeries to be
one of the dominant decks in the format, this was pretty good news.

Manu B liked my deck list and started playtesting it as well – but the moment I added the Charm, our decks went in different directions, as he decided
to try Shadowmage Infiltrator instead. As I was pretty satisfied with my new cards, I didn’t feel a real need for testing the 1/3.

Here is the version of the 5CC I built for the Pro Tour:

Twelve Vivid lands don’t cost that much when you run twenty-eight, as you still have sixteen that come into play untapped. Six lands that can’t cast
Esper Charm seemed like the maximum to me ­­- but I liked charge lands so much that I confess I cut an Island for a Dreadship Reef. That could have
been better.

I like the Grove/Fire combo to be a four-of for each. I understand Pat Chapin’s version runs only three and three, as he thinks he’ll have time to
stabilize before he gets the removal and the land, and as it makes the mana base simply better. However, the combo is for me the best way for the deck
to stabilize in the early game — and it’s also very dependable kill in the late game. Also, Punishing Fire is a great card to be discarded with Careful

On the other hand, Wafo’s decision not to run any Punishing Fire seems nonsensical to me. It seems like he decided to win only against combo (which was
actually not that bad in the Pro Tour metagame), but he ended losing to what should be the deck’s best matchup: Merfolk.

Then comes the question of Cruel Ultimatum. The card is bad against half the field, but it’s between good and excellent against the rest. I hesitated
between running two maindeck or one maindecked and one sideboarded – but the card still wins games on its own even against its bad matchups.

Two days before the Pro Tour, I cut my last Teaching, as well as most of the tool box (Spell Burst, Extirpate) because they weren’t consistent enough.
Since it’s really hard to point the decks you’ll be facing in such an open environment, you can either try to have cards that are good against
everyone, or have cards that are great in some matchups and bad in others. The interest of having a tool box is that you end up drawing key cards a lot
more often. But Mystical Teachings is still awfully slow, and the cards you want to fetch aren’t decisive enough.

Even though I cut the box, I left one Teferi and one Doom Blade as singletons. The 3/4 is useful in any matchup; you can play it when a suspend card is
removed, at the end of turn before you cast an Ultimatum, when you’re being attacked by Treetop Village or Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender, and so on. However,
it is a card you usually don’t want in your opening hand – and drawing two of them would be pointless.

About Doom Blade: I had four slots for removal to split between Lightning Bolt and Doom Blade. I liked the cheaper Bolt better, but still wanted an answer
to Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender, Mistbind Clique, and Tarmogoyf (when I don’t draw Relic), so three and one seemed like a good balance.

Negate is a must-have in the format when even White Weenie’s running several annoying non-creature spells like Honor the Pure, Brave the Elements and,
of course, Spectral Possession.

Running Volcanic Fallout seemed obvious, since I thought Faeries would be about 15% of the metagame. That was my biggest mistake, as I made my metagame
predictions based on what people were playing on Magic Online. Even though I knew Faerie was excessively popular in the queues I was playing (over
35%), I still thought the deck would be very popular.

I was so excited the night before the tournament that I had a very hard time falling asleep for the first time in quite a while. I was so convinced I’d
rock this tournament that I couldn’t wait for it to start. Eventually, six hours of sleep later, it eventually started.

Round 1: Ryouchi Tamada (RDW)

I take a mulligan in the first game, but still open with Lightning Bolt on Goblin Guide and Mana Leak on Hellspark Elemental. He still sends more guys
and blasts to my face, but I eventually reach the precious seventh mana on turn 7 in order to play Cruel Ultimatum.

He has four lands and three cards in hand, I’m at six. He plays Incinerate in response, putting me down to six. Luckily he doesn’t have any more burn
spells. From then on, we just stop doing anything. I’m only drawing lands and Mana Leaks when he only draws a blast spell every once in a while. At
some point, after he put me back to three, he decides to cast Shard Volley – which I counter with triple Mana Leak!

I eventually draw Punishing Fire on the next turn, he draws lands and guys for three turns until I find a Cryptic Command backup. A few turns later, I
eventually manage to burn him to death and take my first game on this Pro Tour.



+2 Leyline of Sanctity

+1 Negate

-3 Volcanic Fallout

Game two is super close as well, but once again I have a turn 7 Ultimatum when I was at one life! This time, though, I do draw spells from the
Ultimatum and win pretty easily.



Round 2: Brand Scheel (U/G Scapeshift)

He managed to get his fire combo out super-fast, but an Ultimatum allowed me to turn the table and to find my own combo with more life. In the
meantime, I just didn’t allow him to resolve a Scapeshift.


+2 Negate

+2 Extirpate

-3 Volcanic Fallout

-1 Lightning Bolt

In game 2, I counter Scapeshift and play Esper Charm on Prismatic Omen. On turn 9, I have nine mana and manage to cast both Cruel Ultimatum and a couple of Extirpates on Scapeshift and Prismatic Omen in response. He concedes.



Round 3 Davy Loeb (Merfolk Mono-Blue)

This is the easiest matchup for the deck, as he has to cast Relic of Progenitus or Spreading Seas to stand a chance if I have the combo. By the time he
finds one of the cantrip enchantments I have already drawn my second Grove, and the game is over.


+3 Damnation

+1 Krosan Grip

-3 Relic of Progenitus

-1 Esper Charm

The second game is extremely close, as I absolutely don’t draw a thing, while he has triple Mutavault. Luckily, he’s scared of Fallout and never
attacks with more than one. When I’m at three life I manage to make him counter a Careful Consideration at end of turn, which lets me play Ultimatum
with a Negate backup on the following turn. I found my combo at this point and won the game despite having three Damnations in hand since turn 4.
Surprisingly I never cast any.



Round 4: Sami Haggkvist (R/G Scapeshift)

Game one takes about thirty-five minutes, as he we both have the combo – but he has triple Fire and I have Relic of Progenitus. I manage to resolve
Ultimatum before he gets a second Grove, winning the game by a bit.


+2 Leyline of Sanctity

+2 Extirpate

+2 Negate

-3 Volcanic Fallout

-1 Lightning Bolt

-1 Punishing Fire
-1 Careful Consideration

He starts out on the offensive in game two with a “Tarmogoyf, Kitchen Finks, Bloodbraid Elf, Lodestone Golem” start that I can’t stop.
On the other hand, I took a mulligan, drew nothing, and don’t have enough removal to overcome that kind of start. I realized I’d have to change fast
if I want to win before the clock shows 0:00.

+3 Damnation

+1 Krosan Grip (I played Extirpate right before dying and saw both the Lodestone Golem and Thorn of Amethyst)

+1 Lightning Bolt

-1 Negate

-2 Extirpate

-1 Punishing Fire

-1 Esper Charm

That sideboard plan probably wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t have much time. In game three he had the same kind of draw – and while a Damnation would have
had good chance of taking the match, I didn’t see one.



Round 5: Anthony Justice (Ad Nauseam)

I use Esper Charm to reduce his hand, and then Teferi right before Lotus Bloom resolves. With my 3/4 on the board, things are a lot more difficult for
him, and I can resolve a pair of Ultimatums for the win.


+1 Krosan Grip

+2 Extirpate

+2 Negate

+2 Great Sable Stag

-3 Volcanic Fallout

-1 Doom Blade

-2 Punishing Fire

-1 Lightning Bolt

I keep a few removal spells in case he has a creature-based sideboard plan (a Pestermite/Splinter Twin Combo, most likely), but the game looks a lot
like the first. I get no Teferi here, but I do draw a lot of counters and Esper Charms to attack his hand, and an Extirpate after he has played
Teaching on Teaching. Then again, my first Ultimatum resolves, quickly followed up by Great Sable Stag, and a second Ultimatum for the win.



After the first five rounds I’ve lost only two games despite facing various decks, making me pretty confident for day 2. But in order to reach that
second day, I still have to win at least one of the next three rounds.

49 Ruel, Olivier [FRA] 12 58.66%

50 Lunau, Anton [DNK] 12 58.66%

51 Bartuska, Arved [AUT] 12 58.66%

52 Vidugiris, Gaudenis [USA] 12 58.66%

53 Matignon, Guillaume [FRA] 12 58.66%

54 Rietzl, Paul [USA] 12 58.66%

55 Gottlieb, Bryan [USA] 12 57.33%

56 Barnett, Adam [ENG] 12 57.33%

Guillaume Matignon loves to draft Blue control decks, and he is seated to my left. So do I! I’d better send him a quick signal if I want the two of us
to cooperate efficiently.

My first pack shows me three good cards: Mitotic Slime, Cudgel Troll, and Aether Adept. I’d pick the Slime if the Troll wasn’t here, but Green is the
color I like the least – and if Guillaume picks the Troll, we’re both screwed. I think he’d go with the Adept, but I can’t take the risk. Also, Blue is
my favorite color and Aether Adept possibly its best common, so I go with the 2/2.

Pick 2 Blinding Mage and pick 3 Sleep makes the orientation of my draft easier: I’ll be UW Aggro. The second pack is pretty nice to me, with Serra
Angel, Clone, and a second Sleep – but I still can’t get the Silvercoat Lions and the other cheap cards I’d want.

In pack three, though, I have the good surprise to discover a Baneslayer Angel in my pack. On pick two there is not much but a third Sleep. This will
do; now, I only need cheap guys. Pick 3 Blinding Mage or a second Serra Angel? I’ll go with the Mage. Still, I can’t get the few two- and three-drops
to make the deck unreal good, and wind up with a deck that is “only” pretty good.

1 Baneslayer Angel

2 Blinding Mage

1 Excommunicate

3 Infantry Veteran

1 Inspired Charge

1 Serra Angel

1 Squadron Hawk

1 Augury Owl

2 Aether Adept

1 Clone

2 Preordain

1 Unsummon

3 Sleep

1 Wall of Frost

2 Juggernaut

9 Island

8 Plains

I had to make a decision between running eighteen lands, or seventeen and Wall of Frost. After all, the 0/7 was not as anti-synergistic as it seemed,
since it would save time for Sleeps and bombs. Then the problem with the deck is that, no matter how great the cards are composing it are, it will
produce some low-synergy draws. A 2-1 objective seems pretty reasonable, though.

Round 6: Bryan Gottlieb (B/u)

He chooses to draw first and doesn’t play a spell until he has Howling Banshee, which I can bounce and then copy with Clone. Corrupt and Elixir get him
back to a higher life total, and he manages to kill Baneslayer Angel. Still, his choice to draw first and the nine life lost from Banshees make him
impossible for him to come back.


On game two he plays first and reveals a Blue land, which he uses to play a couple of Foresees. I’m having a real hard time but still have three guys
on the board when I topdeck Inspired Charge for the win. It was pretty lucky – but if he hadn’t slow rolled the Corrupt (for seven) that he was holding
with a Liliana in backup, Bryan would probably have won that one easily no matter what.



Round 7: Anton Lunau (W/R)

My deck is better than Anton’s, but he has a card which is an instant game breaker: Destructive Force. He’s built his deck around it, with two
Sorcerer’s Strongbox, Earth Servant, and many cards to slow the game down.

In the first one he finds his big sorcery and wins pretty easily, and in the next two, despite a pretty good 4/5 with the Box, he can’t find it and my
flyers beat him down. (I had a Safe Passage in back up in the last one anyway.)



Round 8: Paul Rietzl (R/G/B)

Paul opens with Fauna Shaman and reveals Royal Assassin and a couple of Black Knights – but thanks to double Sleep and Inspired Charge, I manage to
barely take the first one.

In game two he opens with double Black Knight and wins the race despite having a few mana issues. In the third one, I quickly put him down to seven
(despite an early Garruk Wildspeaker) and manage to arrive at a situation when I have until turn 9 to find any of my three Sleeps (with two Preordains
also left in the deck). I don’t, and neither do I draw Baneslayer Angel. Too bad; the 7-1 was very close.



32nd after day two, I need a 2-1 in my second draft pod in order to keep my fate in my hands.

25 Scott-Vargas, Luis [USA] 18 63.54%

26 Cipolleschi, Francesco [ITA] 18 63.54%

27 Van Nieuwenhove, Jan [BEL] 18 63.54%

28 Sperling, Matt [USA] 18 63.16%

29 Caillaba, Germain [FRA] 18 63.16%

30 Vidugiris, Gaudenis [USA] 18 61.97%

31 Yasooka, Shouta [JPN] 18 61.60%

32 Ruel, Olivier [FRA] 18 60.41%

My draft goes pretty badly, though. In the first pick I have no choice but to pick Blinding Mage, the only good card here. Pick two is clearly
Preordain, as there is no relevant White card. In pack three Armored Ascension, a card I don’t like that much (White has fliers anyway, and the card is
not too hard to deal with in M11), is the only option. Pack four has nothing relevant but Inspired Charge. Pack five shows nothing good for me but a
Black Knight, and the first pack ends poorly.

In pack two I’m open for any color, but the only white card is Celestial Purge and the best card I could play is… a second Preordain.

Clone pick 2 and Lightning Bolt pick 3 help a bit, but overall the second doesn’t bring much.

In pack 3, I get my first good news of the draft as I open Triskelion. Condemn, a couple of Preordains, and a pick 7 Chandra’s Outrage later, I’m left
desperately trying to give form to a deck.

8 Island

6 Plains

4 Mountain

1 Blinding Mage

1 Condemn

1 Palace Guard

1 Siege Mastodon

1 Silvercoat Lion

1 Wild Griffin

1 Cancel

1 Clone

1 Ice Cage

2 Mana Leak

4 Preordain

1 Wall of Frost

1 Water Servant

1 Berserkers of Blood Ridge

1 Chandra’s Outrage

1 Lightning Bolt

1 Sorcerer’s Strongbox

1 Triskelion

I’m pretty glad the deck ended up looking like — well, a deck. Even though this looks like a 1-2’s in my future, a 2-1 should be manageable.

Round 9 Gaudenis Vidugiris (W/R)

In game one I open with my Triskelion/Clone combo – and still can’t deal the twentieth damage I need. If my deck can’t win with such a good
draw, I have to worry.

Well, I did draw only lands in the end – but a better deck would have won that one with a draw of this quality anyway.


In game two we both take a mulligan and start racing. While he only has a Silvercoat Lion equipped with a Whispersilk Cloak, my team starts getting
bigger. But since he’d dealt the first blows, the race is pretty tight. When I’m at five life (and one attack from winning), he casts Lightning Bolt
with five lands untapped at end of turn. I have double Mana Leak, and we go to game three.


In game 3, Gau just draws really badly while I open with turn 6 Triskelion. I counter his second Lava Axe when I was at 4, and as such he scoops the
game and the match.



Round 10 Jan Van Nieuwenhove (U/B)

I’m pretty sure I have game one until he casts a third Corrupt to my face. In game two he has triple Corrupt again – but my post-board Elixir,
which I decided to play only after I saw simply his first Corrupt, keeps him from casting the next one on me. My army ends up finishing him.

The third game, though, is a slaughter, as I don’t draw much. There’s not much to say anyway, as his deck is a billion times better than mine.



Round 11 Germain Caillabas (W/B/r)

After I talked with his previous opponent, I know Germain’s deck has triple Roc Egg, Day of Judgment, Fireball, and Jinxed Idol. Wrath of God and
Fireball are way less annoying when you see them coming, but Jinxed Idol is still be a pain.

In the first one I keep mana open for Cancel instead of overextending, and win quietly. This kind of deck is a lot easier to beat when you know what to
expect, and I even take in Demolish for game 2.

Still, I don’t find lands and die. I guess it’s meant to happen with my deck anyway.

In game three, though, I do find lands (as well as Demolish for his Idol) and win without too much trouble, reaching my 2-1 goal.



Round 12 Shi Tian Lee (Hive Mind)

I’m a bit concerned that Shi Tian could be playing Ad Nauseam, as my hand post-mulligan is a super slow – but luckily, he’s playing Hive Mind, which is
the perfect matchup for me.

Game one is pretty long – not because anything happens, but because he takes a minute a turn and asks me three times a turn how many cards I have in
hand. At some point he casts Hive Mind, I counter and draw four at end of turn. Two turns later he casts another Hive Mind, protected by Pact of
Negation (and another two Pacts), then passes with no cards in hand. Too bad I only have nine lands.


+2 Extirpate

+2 Negate

-1 Doom Blade

-3 Relic of Progenitus

The matchup is so bad for him that he has to have some kind of an aggro sideboard plan, or at least the Pestermite/Splinter Twin combo, so I
don’t bother and keep my removal spells in.

He goes Vendilion Clique at the end of my third turn, which seems to be bait – but I can’t really let it resolve. Then he plays Kiln Fiend on his
turn. Well, if Kiln Fiend is his sideboard “tech,” I guess I don’t have to worry much.

He attacks for four, then for four, one, one again… and I still can’t find removal despite an Esper Charm and a Careful Consideration. At some
point he decides to counter my end-of-turn drawers, and we come to a point when he has only one card in hand, I’m at six, and I eventually draw a
Cryptic Command.

He draws and casts Hive Mind; I play Command, he has Pact to protect it. He puts me at two, I untap, and eventually draw Lightning Bolt. Heh. Only
took me twenty cards to find removal.

“Punishing Fire?”


“You drew Punishing Fire?”

“Yeah, yeah, I got it – I’m just not exactly in a mood to find this funny right now.”

30 seconds later

“You drew… Punishing Fire??”

I don’t like it when my opponents should get a slow play warning on each turn, when they are very lucky, or when they make fun of me. But that all
happens; it’s part of the game. However, when they do all three simultaneously, it’s a little irritating.

More importantly, I have to give up my goal of making the top 8.



Round 13: Daniele Canavesi (U/W aggro)

I’ll go straight to the end of the ten-minute match:

“So what was it you were playing – some kind of control deck?”

“In theory? Yes.”

“Seems like a bad matchup for me.”


I’m not sure the matchup was that good, but when you play twenty-eight lands and card-drawers in order not to miss land drops, it’s annoying to feel
like you’re not even playing for the second round in a row.



Round 14: Matt Sperling (WW)

He is playing the same version as Antoine, who I’ve been testing with, so I know I’m slightly behind in the main deck, but a favorite post-board.

In the first game, I have control over the game. His board is Ethersworn Canonist and I’m at seven life. He has no cards in hand, while I’m one turn
from casting Ultimatum. He sacrifices Horizon Canopy at the end of turn and attacks with the 2/2, putting me down to five, and adds more pressure with
a Spectral Procession. With potential lethal damage in front of me, I can’t afford to pass and make him discard two with Charm. So I just tap out to
play Ultimatum, and the last card he just drew was… Mana Tithe.


+4 Damnation

-1 Volcanic Fallout

-3 Relic of Progenitus

I don’t have much trouble dealing with the first wave, and I manage to stabilize the game at seven to fifteen – but I’m facing Honor of the Pure. On
the same turn as my first Damnation, I play my backup spell. We’re now entering top deck mode. He has lots of stuff I must deal with, but I have
Careful Consideration backup. I play it, find nothing; he draws Ranger of Eos and kicks my ass with my own bro. Ouch.



I needed to lose five of the last six in order not to make money. That’s already four in a row; let’s see if I can stop that streak.

Round 15: Kazuaki Kimura (Faeries)

It took me fifteen rounds to eventually face my first Faerie mage of the tournament!

Game 1 is as good as every other game I’ve played today, as I can’t find a third land nor a counter for his Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Brainstorm? Sure,
I don’t have Bolt, either.


+4 Great Sable Stag

+1 Krosan Grip

+1 Negate

-3 Relic of Progenitus

-2 Cruel Ultimatum

-1 Careful Consideration

Turn 3 Stag, turn 4 Stag.


Game three is pretty ridiculous, as he is still stuck on two lands on turn 6. He did open with Bitterblossom, but I had Esper Charm…. And he did draw
his third land on turn 5, but it was a Tectonic Edge he had to destroy in order to stop my combo. The moment he did, I drew Great Sable Stag and then,
despite consecutive land draws from turn 7 to 10, it was just too late for him to come back.



Kai Budde is drawing into the Top 8? Guess I’ll have to take back my first place on lifetime Pro Points another time. For now on, I should focus on
winning that last match for money.

Unfortunately, we can’t ID despite or good breakers. Too bad it was a 460-players Grand Prix. I actually mistyped Grand Prix instead of Pro Tour, but
the mistake is understandable; this was just too big to be an actual PT. We’re probably gonna break the 500 mark in Paris next year, and we’ll still find some players to applaud the moment the new record is announced…

Round 16: Ludvig Londos (WW)

Game one is pretty cool. On turn 6, when I play Careful Consideration, I have no less than eight lands in hand. I discard two and pass. Luckily, I
still have a chance as he overextends, probably assuming I’m not running any mass removal. Come on, deck – one time! Esper Charm? Cast it. Land, land?
Let’s go to game two.


+4 Damnation

-1 Volcanic Fallout

-3 Relic of Progenitus

Game two looks like game one. I draw, and draw, and dig, and dig again – but can’t find a Damnation ever and end up losing.


9-7, 87th place.

From “in good shape to make Top 8” to “out of the money in just a few hours,” that Saturday afternoon was surely painful. However, even though I’ve
been pretty unlucky this weekend, a series of 0-2s like that can’t only be explained by bad luck.

Why had I gone only 4-4, when Wafo was top 8 with a list that seemed pretty bad to me? The problem was not really a problem of the deck’s quality, but of the

In a new format you can’t really target every single deck, as the metagame is pretty hard to read. It may be possible to think of every single deck in
Block Constructed and in Standard – but in a new Extended, it’s just impossible. Even though we didn’t miss any of the decks that were played, we
couldn’t aim at every one of them. A toolbox could have helped, but Teaching was pretty slow and the cards to fetch (with the exception of Extirpate),
were rarely good enough to justify being played.

This is why my mistake going into that event was not necessarily the exact version I’ve played (even though I overestimated Faerie which made me play
Fallout and not play Coalition Relic), but the simple fact I went with that kind of deck. However, now that the Pro Tour Top 8 has determined a new
metagame, I’m pretty sure this is exactly the kind of deck to play. This is why, until next week, I will play test a new version of the deck and write
about it next week if it is as good as I think.

Until then, thanks for reading, and have a nice week!