Spoiler Season Story Time

Brad Nelson wanted to review the incredible time he’s spent with his Pro Tour team. The Magic world just wants to hear his analysis of the recent Shadows over Innistrad spoilers. Fortunately, there’s time for both!

SCG Tour <sup>®</sup>Indianapolis: March 11-13!” border=”1″></a></div>
<p>Today’s story begins in the wake of the Swiss portion of #PTFRF. I, like many others, wouldn’t be participating in the single elimination portion held on Sunday, so instead I partook in twilight degeneracy with many of my Pro Tour peers. Stories filled with humor and heartache were shared over countless hours until rumors of potential campfire shenanigans might be taking place. This was not your ordinary outdoor adventure. Instead, it was a group of intellectual <a href=Doomed Travelers trying to once and for all rid their village of evil before said evil eats them.

It’s been a while since a planeswalker flipped into another planeswalker. Arlinn Kord might seem slightly weak on paper, but being able to flip on command gives this card a much stronger range of battlefield positions to take over than, say, Garruk Relentless did the first time we set foot on Innistrad. This ability to transform on command gives this card the feel of having four different usable abilities as long as you are pushing a game in a certain direction. I’m also under the impression that three damage is going to go a lot further than we have previously been used to.

My biggest concern for this card is finding an appropriate home. The first place I would look is at some sort of token based strategy with Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, since other G/R decks will most likely be ramp-based, leaving no room for Arlinn Kord on your curve.

Among the villagers was Pro Tour Top 8 competitor Chris Fennell. By sheer chance we were seated beside each other in our quest to fend off the bloodthirsty Werewolves, but we found ourselves both victims of slaughter and mass hysteria within the first full moon. We spent our time discussing our frustrations with our current testing situations and the fact that both of us were lacking in the one department the other seemed to have mastered.

I would help him in Standard and he would show me my way around 40-card decks. We decided right then and there that we should look into forming a new team and begin to learn from each other so that we could both potentially succeed at Magic’s main event. Within a week the t’s were crossed and the i’s dotted. A new team had been formed and we were ready to take over professional Magic!

Declaration in Stone isn’t on the same level as Path to Exile, but this card still will see play in Standard. You won’t want to go overboard on the numbers, since too much of this removal spell will prolong a game, making the card disadvantage this card provides more severe. That said, this is a clean answer for white to answer just about anything and gives the color the potential to pair quite nicely with Battle for Zendikar’s Processors.

The team’s first event would be #GPMemphis. I worked most of the week alongside Steve Rubin since I wanted to play Abzan and knew he was the guy that knew his way around a Siege Rhino. I was content with the week’s worth of work, but something was missing from the deck. It wasn’t until Jacob Van Lunen suggested we put Fleecemane Lion into the sideboard that I knew we had a good chance to crushing the event.

Many of us decided to play Abzan with this spicy piece of tech and hope that our surprise sideboard plans would carry us all the way to the finals. What I didn’t know was that the deck was so good that it would carry four of the seven of us who played it all the way to the Top 8. In fact, the Limited master himself, Chris Fennell, found himself drawing with me at Table 1 in Round 15. I signed the slip, handed it to him, and said, “your turn.” I’d held up my end of the bargain, and it was time for him to teach me how to Limited.

We honestly did do a happy dance when we drew in together. You think that’s weird? You try not dancing with your friend when you draw into the first and second seeds with him at a Grand Prix playing the exact same deck. I bet you will do more than just dance!

As time went on, this ragtag group we called a team began to become much more than just that. Each and every time we tested together, we saw that there were problems that must be worked on, but we also saw a stronger and stronger connection to each other. It started with a working relationship, but many of us took on stronger and stronger friendships with one another. Our team had become much more than that, and our initial results put three more players into Worlds after Ari Lax won #PTKTK with Steve Rubin’s beautiful Abzan Control list. Once there, we watched Seth Manfield destroy the entire field.

Ghostway was a card that never really saw any play, but it also wasn’t part of a time with so many “enters the battlefield” triggers. Right now those are flush in Standard and I would be shocked that a card that can be used so proactively and reactively won’t find a home. Just thinking about this card with Reflector Mage and Archangel Avacyn is making me want to go out and buy a set! You also get to pick and choose which creatures get “flickered,” which is great when using tokens along with other strategies.

It’s difficult to write this portion of the story because I don’t really know what exactly happened. The team’s life spanned over the course of four Pro Tours and many good things came from it, but it seemed as if a group of good friends wasn’t the model you wanted to have for a Pro Tour team.

That sounds stupid, I know, but order and structure were lacking and it was difficult to create when everyone was so casual with each other due to what good friends everyone had become. Everyone knew that there were problems within the ranks, but nobody stood up to try to fix them. Maybe it was due to how poorly the team had performed over the past two Pro Tours, and especially the embarrassing finish at #PTOGW when we showed up expecting Eldrazi to not be a real thing.

I don’t actually think this card is that good. I mean it sure is nice to clean up a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar with just one card, but we still have Silumgar’s Command. I just couldn’t write an article with this weird “randomly talk about cards loosely related to the story and ruin the flow” article and not bring up the joke that Eldrazi embarrassed us all.

Sadly, the members of our team that spoke up decided it was in their best interests to join other teams. Nobody tried to stop them, which screamed that the creation we made only a short year ago would become dismantled. We all loved each other in our own separate ways, but we understood that what was in each individual’s best interests was not staying together as a unit. Our overall chances as the Pro Tour would most likely be better spread out on different teams.

A card that makes you lose life is rarely good enough for modern-day Magic. That said, this card is heavily pushed and will see a ton of play. Any deck that plays it is either going to want to be very aggressive and in need of high-impact removal, or else have a decent amount of permanent-based controlling elements alongside some lifegain. Good thing the creature-land that shares these colors gains life! I predict this card as a two-of in most of the black and white decks that should become much better once Standard rotates.

One thing that didn’t change was our prearranged team for #GPDC. Both Seth Manfield and Chris Fennell told me they would carry me through a vicious Team Sealed Grand Prix to show their appreciation for helping them in their Constructed endeavors. I’m not really sure if helping Seth all day test for his Worlds Top 4 matchups actually helped him or not, since he didn’t really need it during the Swiss, but I was still grateful to play alongside two of the greatest Limited players in the game. I just hoped that I would be able to help in some way.

Just for the lols.

The Grand Prix started off amazing. Star City Games revolutionized the Sealed registration process by having some kind of scanner that allowed for us to receive a registration sheet with only the cards specifically in our pool. This not only made registration a breeze, but insured that it would be almost impossible to add cards to a pool, completely eliminating the fear of cheating.

With the removal of swapping pools, I feel that this is the next step in the player experience that should become mandatory for large Limited events. It sure is a lot of work for any tournament organizer to try to accomplish, but it just shows how invested Star City Games is when it comes to their players’ experience at their events.

The deckbuilding on Saturday went fairly well for us. We had what looked like a strong W/R Shoulder to Shoulder deck alongside an even stronger U/R Devoid strategy. Our last deck went from B/G Midrange to a five-color concoction that Seth Manfield was poised to play due to how awesome and complex it looked.

The card hiding behind the Mire’s Malice is Oblivion Strike. The deck was pretty out there.

I gladly picked up our easiest-to-pilot deck and was ready to put counters on my tiny white and red creatures. Seth and Chris showed me exactly how great they were at Limited in the first couple of rounds. Chris sat in the middle, which was who I got to watch play the most Magic. I can’t say if what he was doing was good or not, simply because what he was doing was nothing like the way I play Limited Magic.

He would take lines that made no sense to me in the abstract but then all come together three turns down the line. Once I was caught up, I realized that he not only played around many of the possible cards his opponents would have, but eliminated potential draws in the process while also making the top of his deck stronger and stronger — everything I am accustomed to doing in Constructed, but rarely understand well enough to execute in Limited.

Seth, on the other hand, was too far away for me to fully grasp what was happening, but watching Seth and Chris pilot through complex board positions and almost always come out on top just proved to me what a privilege it was for me to participate in this event with them. They were the savior I needed if I would ever have a chance to get to the single-elimination portion of what must be the least-variance format Magic has to offer.

Just buy it. I don’t know what I have to say about this card to convince you that it will be absurd if you don’t already believe it. Sure, it might have the stats of a Serra Angel, but the ability to be cast at any time and protect things from removal spells is amazing. I’m pretty sure I will be playing four of this card at #SCGBAL on release weekend and gladly show you exactly why you should have picked up this card before it hits $40.

Flash forward seven rounds, and we find ourselves with five wins and two loses. Both Seth and Chris have only dropped a match each with games that felt very winnable if they didn’t get mana screwed multiple times. I, on the other hand, have yet to win a single match. My draws were abysmal, but the construction of the deck didn’t help any. We overestimated the strength of our RW Ally deck immensely, but it was still absurd that I had yet to win a single match. The joke had become that our team wanted to make it to 7-2 at the end of the day without me winning a single match! It seemed that my team had turned against me.

Just look at this card! Even if you have creatures on the battlefield that Avacyn, the Purifier would kill, you can simply just cast another Archangel Avacyn to protect them. Now you have ten power of flying damage to crash in with next turn and your opponent might not even have creatures to defend with thanks to the three damage. This is the closest we’ve been to having Bonfire of the Damned back in Standard and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to play with it this time right out of the gates. In fact, I just purchased my set of Archangel Avacyn right after writing about the card only minutes ago!

I ended up winning both my last two matches on Saturday, but both of my comrades finished theirs as well to make my results “irrelevant.” We finished out Saturday with a 7-2 record, but laughed about the fact that our record would have still been the same if I hadn’t shown up. We’d talked about how they would carry me through a Team Grand Prix, but I never believed how frightfully true it would be.

Sunday was slightly different. Our second Sealed pool was great. It had a U/B Devoid deck as well as a G/R Landfall deck that built themselves. The G/R deck even had World Breaker and Kozilek’s Return, which was something I became very familiar with at #GPDET when I played G/R Eldrazi. Our third deck was a B/W Allies deck with a small splash for green to give it a late game. They gave me the G/R deck since it was our easiest to pilot, just like Saturday’s pool, but this time I would have to power behind me to smash face instead of constantly getting dunked on.

Smash face was exactly what I did. My deck was so much more powerful and far more aggressive than the decks that I was playing against that I smashed almost everyone I played. I had the ability to beat almost everything that players threw at me thanks to the powerful early and late game my deck was capable of. Saturday might have been practice, but a good finish today might have put us into the Top 4. I was lusting for blood and ready to help carry my team the way they carried me on Day 1.

Shadows over Innistrad has a deep Vampire theme and a Standard-playable deck is coming practically pre-constructed from this set. Just go over to Tom Ross’s recent article and take a look at how good his R/B Vampire deck looks! This won’t be my speed, but I know a ton of players who love beating down with Mountains and Swamps. I can’t guarantee this deck is going to be the best deck in the format, but I’m pretty sure it will be one of them.

Sadly, both Seth and Chris fell victim in the second-to-last round of Swiss. This gave us our third loss which would keep us from making the team drafts we so desperately wanted to participate in. Oddly enough, we looked back and realized that my participation in the event still hadn’t changed the outcome of the team event. With one round left to go, it was on me to make sure that my participation as a member of this team would yield a positive outcome on our overall finish. I needed to win this next match. I needed to be relevant. It was my time to win one for the good guys and vanquish evil so that we could win much-needed Pro Points and end with an 11-3 finish.

I felt my heart skip a beat when I read this card. There are already enough ways for the format to beat up on my precious Deathmist Raptors, but this is just egregious. Playing with Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector has made me the happiest I’ve been in a long time, and I just don’t understand why a card like this is needed! Anyway, I don’t feel that this will define the format, but I am interested in seeing players work on it. It’s obviously Standard-playable and will see some play. I’m just unsure on how to consistently get delirium online before turn 6.

I won my Round 14 match before either of the other Games 1 finished up. My opponent tried to muster up a defense, but the power of green and red monsters was too much for his puny Sky Spawners. I packed up my bag and watched intently as Chris and Seth did their best to pick up just one more match win for us.

Sadly, Seth had mana issues and had fallen victim in a B/W Ally mirror match. It wasn’t looking too good for Chris, either, being down a game and on a mulligan to five. Tensions were high, but Seth and Chris stayed even-keeled as they worked together to try and come back from such a large deficit. I found myself losing control of my emotions and trying to chime in on the game. This was a mistake, since anything I would say could potentially give away information, and both of my teammates would have already thought about whatever I was thinking.

Knowing I was no longer in control of my actions, I quietly walked away and let them do what they do best. I distracted myself with conversations with friends and how their tournaments finished up. Some time had passed and I had still yet to hear from my teammates. I started the trek back to where our match was being played out, but Seth and Chris were nowhere to be found.

Instead our opponents were still there, but I couldn’t figure out if we had won or not by their body language. I called Chris and found out he had gone to look for me, but in the opposite direction I was in. Impatiently I asked if we had won the match before Chris could fill me in. I then heard what I was dreading. Chris’s tone was frustrated and I soon was filled in with the story of our opponent curving out on the play with his overpowered G/R deck. It was tough to be mad, since ours was just as busted and did the same thing to their team piloting a similar deck to Chris’s.

I met up with Seth and Chris to talk about how much the weekend met to me. Not every day can I say I was carried as far as we could go by two of the best Limited minds in the game. Hopefully they pick up someone much stronger than me in the format next time so I can watch them take on the best in the world in this highly skill=intensive format and hopefully walk away with a trophy themselves. Even if we had lost the last two rounds to end up not placing, I still would consider this one of the best Magic experiences of my life. Team events are just so much fun and I encourage anyone who hasn’t had the opportunity to try it out to do so.

Are you flipping kidding me?!?1

Not only does this card have to compete with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy right now, but it is so similar to Ob Nixilis Reignited that it will have to compete with him as well. That said, it’s a damn Jace, so odds are it will be good. My prediction is that it will take some time for this card to make an impact in Standard, but it will have eighteen months to make a run for center stage.

It’s sad to say goodbye to my testing team that I’ve worked so hard with over the past year. Not to say that I’m not looking forward to working with the European team EUreka, but it is always harder to say goodbye than it is to say hello. I hope the best for everyone I worked with over the past year, but can’t wait to see what it’s like to be a part of one of the most dominant teams there today. I’m just glad I got to have my Swan Song with Chris Fennell and Seth Manfield this past weekend. Again, it was an amazing experience and I’m so happy they took me in!

Star City Games put on one hell of a tournament this past weekend and I am constantly amazed at just how hard they work for us to enjoy our experience. It might sound like I’m being a loyal company man when I say this, but they constantly raise the bar at the competitive level. I always love participating at their events and it’s not just because their logo is across my chest. It’s because they put their heart and soul into making sure we enjoyed the show, and I for one can say I truly loved #GPDC. I can’t wait until #GPChar!

SCG Tour <sup>®</sup>Indianapolis: March 11-13!” border=”1″></a></div></p>
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