June was a crazy month for me. I found myself dashing from one place to another. I had the idea of writing an article about my experiences playing Magic in four different countries, but eventually I realized that writing a series would be better, because of both the size and content of the article. Of course, this series is strategy-light, making it free of charge. I would also like to reach as many Portuguese readers as possible, for as usually I write for Portuguese websites about my experiences on the Pro Tours and Grand Prixes.
Right now, my main occupation is being a Pro Player. I’ve already graduated, but I realized journalism is not what I want to do for the rest of my life. Not having a job makes it a lot easier to travel to all the Pro Tours and Grand Prixes, since (other than my girlfriend) I don’t have any other priorities. Despite having convinced myself that I was now a Pro Player, I don’t play much Magic apart from the occasional drafts on MTGO. I draft on average once per week at a friend’s house, and I play the prereleases – the only thing I’m allowed to play in Portugal except for the 10-15 player Constructed tournaments on a weekend.
However, with a Team Constructed Pro Tour and a pair of GPs scheduled for June, I decided to take the month off for playing Magic, giving me a chance to hang out with some players who share the same passion. My goal was to achieve Pro Level 4 (or at least mathematically – such as having 26 points with 2 PTs remaining).
The agenda for the month of June was like this:
1st to 5th – GP: Torino
7th to 14th – Playtest in Belgium
15th to 19th – PT: Charleston
21st and 22nd – World Cup in Germany (Portugal- Mexico)
23rd to 26th – GP: Toulouse
Today, I’m going to talk about Italy and GP Torino.
Over the years I’ve grown very fond of Italy and Italians. Every time I’m in Spain, Italy, or France I feel like I’m my own country. I love the food (unfortunately I’m reluctant about eating in USA or Japan) and I can understand what the people are saying. Sometimes I even try to engage locals in conversation, because the Latin descendant languages sound a lot the same. The main factor is culture. In Latin Europe, people tend to be very emotional and expressive. Italy is the perfect example of Latin culture. They display such attributes in a very intense manner, much more than the Portuguese. We used to say that Italians have the same good things as we have, but amplified… as well as the bad things. At first I found it very annoying, every time some random Italian in the street tried to trick me to get my money… but now I find it very amusing, because it’s part of our culture too.
The way you play Magic reflects much of your personality, and usually when I play against a Spanish or Italian player I have a good time. They’re usually nice and friendly in a genuine way. It’s in the culture, being communicative and expressive. For GP: Torino I was invited to do Gunslinging on the Friday before; the site was open, hosting a huge PTQ. Wizards Europe promoted this Mega GP doing some advertising of the features of this GP. Having my name and face on gazetteers of the GP really helped promoting my image, and during my stay I felt that the Italian crowd recognized me. Thanks for the push, Wizards Europe!
I don’t have the entire card pool by now, but I kept the deck I played on the first day of the Grand Prix. Even tough I think I built it correctly, some of you could make some changes. The core of the deck is untouchable: Green and White. They’re the two colors with the most playables. I remember there wasn’t a single good Red card to splash, and when I checked the manabase (with all those bounce lands and Dimir Signet), I went for the double splash of Blue and Black. It took me the full half hour to scratch these 24 playables. Despite the deck being very powerful, I don’t think there was anything else that could be in.
Seal of Doom
I was splashing seven cards, which is a little too much. Fortunately I had the correct Signet and bounce lands, as well as Farseek, Civic Wayfinder, and Silhana Starfletcher. Belltower Sphinx, Azorius Herald, and Lurking Informant aren’t great splashes, but among the cards available in those colors they were probably the only options. Lurking Informant also has the advantage of being played with any of the splash colors, and it’s better in Sealed Deck now that Dimir Mill is not drafted anymore. With the games being longer in Sealed, most of the times you can lock your opponent’s draw with the Informant.
In my first round – after the three byes – I win easily, making one mistake in each game. In the first, I Seal of Doomed his blocker and attack with everything. He says he takes, and I immediately wrote his life total down to two. The problem was this: I was holding Gather Courage, and he was all tapped out. On the next turn he draws Vedalken Dismisser. The game lasts a few turns… but I still managed to win. In game 2 I wasn’t still very focused, and I missed returning a Verdant Eidolon to my hand (that happens a lot).
Fortunately, I didn’t make more stupid plays for the rest of the day – or if I did, I didn’t notice. I ended 5-1 with this deck, together with my 3 byes, ensuring that I was in a good position for the draft day. Unfortunately, RGD is clearly not my best draft format. I find it funny I can’t seem to win, having done countless RGD drafts. I’ve never X-0’ed a single one, and more often than not I finish with negative scores. Call me old fashioned, but I like my manabases solid. It doesn’t matter that my manabase of a draft deck has 8 White sources, 9 Green sources and 7 Red when you add the basic lands, bouncelands and Signets. When playing, it’s not the same thing as having 9 Plains and 8 Islands, or 10 Swamps and 7 Mountains. I know it’s a good thing when players have to adapt – morphs and Mirrodin Block spring to mind – but scratching manabases is not my thing.
In my first draft I drafted Blue/Black until the end of Guildpact. A Twinstrike and a passed Rakdos Ickspitter decided my splash would be Red. In the second draft I started with first pick Peel from Reality, second pick Vedalken Dismisser, and third pick Viashino Fangtail. I was Blue/Red from the beginning until the end, splashing only for a Seal of Doom and Orzhov Euthanist (that was really good, since I had multiple pingers, like the mentioned Fangtail, Niv-Mizzet, Hypervolt Grasp, and Sparkmage Apprentice).
The second day didn’t go very well for me. With two rounds remaining I still had a shot at Top 8 – if I won them both. Stefan Benedikt had his revenge from the previous day, and that was that. I checked the standings and I figured that I should be able to draw into Top 32. My last opponent, Italy’s most successful player (probably) Raffaelle Lo Moro had one more point, so he was in the Top 16 for sure with a win.
Like I said, Raffaelle is one of Italy’s top players, and with me doing Gunslinging and having four Feature Matches, this round attracted a very huge crowd even though our match didn’t matter for Top 8 purposes. Some players asked if they could grab chairs and sit to watch. We played three interesting games that kept the audience gripped, but the GP had a sad end. In game 3 I’m falling behind in board position, and I spent my extra turns just playing for not losing, which meant blocking and doing Peel from Reality and Izzet Chronarch tricks. If we played beyond the extra turns, I’m sure Raffaele would win. I consider throwing away the match, which was the nice thing to do as a Top 16 would qualify him for Kobe. I’ve done nice things like this in the past, and some (but not all) of my opponents were also gracious enough to give me the match when they were clearly in a losing situation after the turns. In the end, I knew that the extra Pro Tour point for me making Top 32 was precious enough for me not to scoop. Unfortunately, I lost.
After the match I was surprised by the reactions of some Italians who watched the round. It turned out that some of them were actually rooting for me, and understood how important the extra point could be. As for me, after a very pleasant weekend, that’s not how I wanted to end.
After the GP, we did a draft and had dinner. The three Portuguese (myself included) decided not to book a hotel for the last night, and instead just wander around the city until 6am before catching a train to Milan (where our flight departed at noon). Obviously we spent the night seated on the street floor, because the train station was closed. After some very exhausting hours that seemed like days, I was back to Lisbon. I rested for two days before leaving to Brussels, where a group of Magic players was already playtesting Ravnica Block Constructed for the upcoming Pro Tour: Charleston.
We’ll get to that tomorrow.