Rise of Aintrazi – The Story Of Worlds

Ali has returned from Worlds with tales and a tournament report, including a Solar Flare deck for this weekend’s Standard Open. As a bonus, he’s got a sneak peek at the green member of the “Power 5” in his new custom cube!

Third—that’s what we placed in the team portion of Worlds. We ended being two points short of the finals. So if anyone on the team had won any match that they lost, we would’ve been in the finals. It was bittersweet, and a little frustrating. I ended up getting 43rd, and I was pretty disappointed since I had started out so strong. I went in 8-3-1 on Day 3 and ended up 11-6-1 overall. How unfortunate!

How it all started

After winning Nationals, I started a thread on Facebook with all the team members. I wanted to see which formats people would be most comfortable in. I ended up with Modern, David Ochoa played Legacy, and Haibing Hu played Standard. Haibing tried to get a feel on when we could get together and test, but that was shot down by Ochoa. Ochoa was going to test with the Fireball team and would keep lists to himself. I understood this, but it left us in the dark and took away the whole feel of “a team.” I think we could’ve done better in the team portion if we had communicated more, but the past is the past.


As the tournament approached, I was able to test pretty much any deck online thanks to Gregory Respet, and play any deck thanks to James Francis. I can’t thank them enough—I seriously appreciate everything you did! I got to play whatever I wanted online and achieved a decent feel for the Modern metagame.

Unfortunately, this was about a week before the tournament. I figured the majority of decks would be Zoo, then combo decks like Splinter Twin and Storm, and lastly some decks that would try to abuse Punishing Fires with Grove of the Burnwillows. I decided to play U/W Tron. My reasoning behind this was that I would build it to beat the Zoo decks and have game against Splinter Twin/Empty the Warrens decks, with the help of Ghostly Prison. Tron also didn’t really care about Punishing Fires. If your opponents want to try and beat you in the late game…LOL! I had the endgame lock of Mindslaver or just recurring Batterskulls, so I wasn’t too worried about my opponents tapping five mana every turn to burn me when I could tap ten and take their turn or eight and send their manabase back to the stone age with Sundering Titan.

I felt like the deck was a good choice; unfortunately, I didn’t play against many Zoo strategies. Instead, I played against Teachings Control. I play Condescend, Ghostly Prisons, and Batterskulls. They are playing Cryptic Commands, Mystical Teachings, and Snapcaster Mage. Guess who’s favored? I just couldn’t see their deck beating aggressive strategies.

San Francisco

I decided to skip San Diego and just go to Worlds. I wasn’t very confident in my Limited skills, and I wanted to test more for Worlds. When I got to San Francisco I tried to meet up with Haibing to jam some Standard games. He was on G/W Tokens, and I was playing Solar Flare. We played about ten or so games, and I never dropped a game. This convinced Haibing to build the deck, which in hindsight may have been wrong since he didn’t have much practice with Flare. I let him familiarize himself with the deck as I jammed G/W Tokens against him. I also couldn’t win a game to save my life. He was running Overrun though, which I didn’t think was too hot. I felt pretty confident with my deck, and thought I had made the right choice for Standard.

That night I joined up with Jonathan Suarez, David Wise, and Travis Gibson. David was rambling on about how Ben Bleiweiss is insane at picking out good restaurants. We asked David what he suggested, and they were two Chinese restaurants, so we decided to go to the one that was closer. This place looked like a hole in the wall, but I wasn’t gonna complain—sometimes these places surprise you. The waitress came to take our order and we each ordered a plate and a couple of appetizers. As David tried to order another plate the waitress said, “No, no, that’s enough. Plates are big!” Suarez gave him hell afterwards saying, “You know you’ve ordered too much when your waitress tells you stop.”

The food slowly came out, so our table was never really cramped. We had some amazing fat noodles that were cooked in delicious sauce. I wish I could tell you what this was called, but I was too hungry to take notes. We got some fish, some dumplings, some soup, and rice. We had it all gone within 20 minutes. David wanted to order some more food, and Suarez agreed with him. That’s when David called him out on what he said earlier about too much food, and Suarez just shrugged his shoulders. Yeah, we’re a bunch of fat kids!

Afterwards, we watched Immortals and lost like ten dollars each to the claw game. That thing always gets me! I was ready to crash after the movie. So I got my deck together and that’s what I did.

Worlds Day 1

I had to get to the site a little earlier because, you know, I’m the National Champion and stuff. I was told I would be the last one to come out, since we were the hosting country. I was a bit nervous at first, but when they called me out I waved the flag enthusiastically. I was excited and I was playing for the United States—I didn’t want to let anyone down. I felt like this was more than me.

I decided to play a Solar Flare variant, which Rich Hagon Deck Teched with me here. I ran Rune-Scarred Demon, which was insane. He let me tutor my Image to get another 6/6 flyer and another card, get my one-of Elesh Norn, grab an Unburial Rites for more fuel, or a counterspell if I had enough mana to cast it. I didn’t run Sun Titan, but I wish I had run one now. Being able to Demon into Image and grab a Sun Titan in case they Wrath the board would have been devastating. I ran Wring Flesh for the aggressive matchups like Illusions, Mono Red, Tempered Steel, and G/W Tokens. I should’ve had one more Wring Flesh for that tournament. The field was so aggressive—I never saw a ramp deck the whole day. I ended up 4-1-1 on Day 1. I lost a close game against Mono Red and drew with the mirror match. Not the greatest of starts, but I was content.

After the Standard rounds were over, we had to play the team portion. I was on U/W Tron, David was playing U/W Stoneforge Mystic, and Haibing was playing Solar Flare. Our first match was against South Africa, and I had to play against Rubin piloting U/B Faeries.

The Drama

He crushed me in game 1 and I rolled over him in game 2. During game 3, the game started dragging on. He was also having a hard time separating Gifts piles. I urged him to hurry, and he replied with, “These are hard decisions.” So I backed off and gave him time, since I was about to lock him out of the game. A couple turns went by, and I assembled the Mindslaver lock with Academy Ruins. I Mindslavered him, wrecked his hand, and planned to use his Liliana of the Veil to leave him with zero permanents.

Rubin had a hard time understanding what the Mindslaver lock meant. So I explained to him that on every turn I will be drawing Mindslaver and casting it on him. I will make him sacrifice all his permanents to Liliana, discard any relevant card, and tap him out every turn. He will lose to decking since I will draw no new cards because I am drawing Mindslaver every turn. As I am explaining this, time gets called. I couldn’t kill him via damage in five turns, so I asked him for the concession seeing as he literally couldn’t do anything and he had played pretty slow. He thought about it for a while, and asked me how I was going to kill him. At this point I was a little hot, but I explained to him again what was going to happen. He replied with, “Yes, but my life is at 18. You have to kill me.” Ochoa stepped in and said there was nothing I could do about it, and to just let it go. I did so reluctantly, since I knew he was right.

Rubin later came up to me and tried to explain how he would’ve had an out if he had drawn Pact of Negation. I asked him if he even had Pact of Negation in his deck. He didn’t say anything, and I told him that it didn’t matter, since he had Liliana in play, and I explained the seven-card limit. He said that he was sorry, and I replied with, “If you were truly sorry, you would’ve conceded.” Yay drama! :D

Round 2 of Worlds was much more enjoyable. We played against the Croatian team, and I couldn’t stop laughing. Even David Ochoa cracked a smile. Nikola Fercek, Grgu Maretic, and Dinko Sulicic would always just say, “Sooo lucky,” no matter what you did. I played my first land for the turn, and apparently I was very lucky for doing so. I played against Affinity here, and it was pretty easy—I was just that lucky! I had a blast playing against these guys, thanks for turning my day around.

Later that day I met up with Simon Bertiou, who is an amazing person. I love that guy! We talked and played some games. He asked me to go eat with him, but I declined and went out with the Star City crew again. Next time Simon, I promise! I forgot where we ate, but afterwards we jammed some Ascension with the third set, which I hadn’t even known existed. The new set was really fun, and afterwards I ate some of David’s chocolate and slept like a baby.

Worlds Day 2

What can I say? I didn’t do much drafting and hoped to 4-2 the day and catch back up on Day 3. I drafted an abomination in my first pod, but had Invisible Stalker and Butcher’s Cleaver. They carried me to a 2-1 finish. Whoda thunk those two cards were so good?

My second pod had some big names like Patrick Chapin and Martin Juza. I ended up taking Murder of Crows pack one pick one and never looked back. I had a pretty sick U/W/b flier deck with two Feeling of Dread, Think Twice, Forbidden Alchemy, and two Silent Departure. I thought I would 3-0 the pod, but unfortunately I went 2-1. In my last round I played against Phillip Lorren. We had a very close match that I ended up winning. Phillip and I did some bonding, and we ended up enrolling in a Two-Headed Giant event later that night!

I was having a great time until AJ Sacher came up to us and berated me for playing Two-Headed Giant. He said that I should be testing more for the third day instead. AJ obviously had a more insulting way to say all this; I’ve just summed it up. What he said was on my backburner the whole night. I knew he was right on some points, but the way he got them across was so…frustrating. I like to relax and loosen up before an exam, not cram until it’s about to start. Regardless, I probably should’ve tested a few more matches of Modern.

After Two-Headed Giant, I met up with the Star City crew yet again and got some grub before getting my beauty sleep.

Worlds Day 3

The team had to be at the site a little earlier, since we had team matches to play. We got swept by Hong Kong. I had to play against a Zoo variant, and couldn’t pull it through unfortunately.  We ended up winning our next match. I played against Past in Flames combo and was able to lock him out in games 2 and 3 thanks to Rule of Law, Ethersworn Canonist, Thorn of Amethyst, and Trinisphere. They were all one-ofs for Gifts targets, and they did the job pretty well. The team ended up 2-1-1 but I believe we should’ve been 3-1.

I decided to play U/W Tron again for the Modern portion, and sat down with GerryT to discuss some card changes. He wanted a Wurmcoil Engine over the second Batterskull, and I thought that would be fine. We also ended up cutting the second Mindslaver to make room for Ghostly Prison, since that card was amazing in this metagame. He suggested running two Baneslayer Angels in the sideboard and some Leyline of Sanctity. I loved the Baneslayers all day since most of my opponents brought in Ancient Grudge or Shattering Spree. However, I learned during the Swiss rounds that Batterskull is better than Wurmcoil Engine against every deck except Jund. I hated it when my bomb was answered by Path to Exile.

I went 3-3 on the day after my last opponent, Jörg Unfried, scooped to me. I was a little depressed, but had my hopes up because I knew we were very close to getting second in the team portion, which would mean we played in the finals! As you already know, the team was two points short and it was disheartening to say the least. I was a little torn, but I had made Level 5 so that was an upside.

Worlds Day 4

I decided to just hang out with friends and play in side events during the last day. I played in a couple of Modern events and just hung out with Phillip. I saw a kid playing 4-Color Control in the Modern side event, and I told him I liked his deck. Later, I learned that his name was Stephen Wilson when he approached me and asked to play. I agreed, and we played some casual matches and bonded a bit. I had to find a ride to the airport that night and was going to bum a ride along with Orrin Beasley until Stephen jumped in and said he would drive us to the airport and show us around town. I quickly agreed, and we decided to meet in front of the store outside the convention center around 10 pm.

Stephen went to get his car, and Orrin and I hung out as we waited. After getting our bags from the hotel, we talked about life and caught up on things. I started realizing how much I’ve gained from Magic. I’m little late for Thanksgiving, but I’m truly thankful for my friends, family, and fans. I don’t think Magic is all about competition and what you place you finish; it’s about the friends you meet and the experiences along the way. Now don’t get me wrong, winning a Pro Tour would be super sweet, but I’m thankful for everything I have gained through this addictive game we love.

We finally met up with Stephen, and he took us around town and to a nice pizza shop. We had some delicious pizza and chatted the whole way to the airport. Even after arriving at the airport, we decided to park and continuing chatting for awhile.

After saying our goodbyes, I headed for my departure gate only to be stopped by Christian Calcano and Brandon Nelson. Apparently, we were on the same flight. Yeah, my life is pretty amazing!

The Power 5

All right, enough Worlds talk—let’s move on to the Power 5, shall we? We’ve seen the white, blue, and black Power. You guys voted, and green barely pulled it out. Before I spoil it, I have to spoil one of the ten new mechanics. This mechanic happens to be “abundance.” This mechanic gives the spell an additional effect if there are five of a certain card type in a specific zone. This one happens to care about lands. Here you go!


First thing to note is that this card gets any two lands. I know you don’t know what the lands are in this cube, but I promise that they are all good…and we have some insane ones. You can choose to ramp a little early and be two turns ahead of your opponent, or you can save it to tutor up a couple of manlands or lands with abilities later in the game and get a ton of Saprolings. Either way, you’ll be far ahead. If I had to pick one, this would be my favorite of the five. Next up, we’ll have the red Power!

As always, thanks for reading everyone <3

Ali, Child of Alara