When I missed worlds by one Pro Tour point, I decided that if I were to miss another PT involuntarily, it’d be the end of my Magic career – at least for a while. I don’t know why exactly this was, but at least it would keep me focused on my goals and I wasn’t enjoying the game very much anyway. However, it seemed like it would be easy not to miss a PT, since I had GPs coming up in New Jersey and Austin as well as Pro Tour: Columbus and Nagoya PTQs. I only needed to accumulate five pro points from the GPs and the PT, but after I got consistently dominated, destroyed, and just generally outskilled in both GP’s as well as some early PTQs, I suddenly needed a Top 48 finish in Columbus in order to play at the next Pro Tour stop.
This required a great deal of preparation, and obviously I was on top of things. Not only did I look at about half the decklists of the Japanese Extended GP (I got bored halfway through), but I also even took the time to like, ask people what they thought about the format. I received many gems of information: Tim Aten recommended Rend Flesh in all decks, Kyle Goodman swore magic-league.com was the secret to coming up with true powerhouse decks, and Satoshi Nakamura was extremely close to tricking me into running Crush of Wurms.
Out of all these masters though, the one I ended up listening to was one Duke12-Lucas H.C. Duchow VII. He told me Reanimator was really consistent and after goldfishing it, he turned out to be right. Then came States. I attended with a bunch of Extended decks, and played pickup games against whoever was willing. I didn’t end up getting that many games, because people were too busy vying for the title of Illinois state champion, but what I did play were enough to solidify my decision to play Reanimator. My list was very similar to the ones played in the Japanese GP at the end of last season, at least at first. The ride to Columbus changed all that.
My friend Conrad Duncker (yes, he can dunk) picked me up and we discussed our thoughts on the Extended format while we were stuck in traffic. He really wanted to run a Scepter-Chant control deck and his backup plan was The Rock. I didn’t like either deck, but I guess as it turns out Scepter would have been a good choice. In the end, he didn’t have the courage to run it. I don’t blame him; I wouldn’t have had it either.
Speaking of courage, I had to build some myself to cut the standard land beast that is Phantom Nishoba for the unconventional but definitely better Rorix Bladewing. Well, it was really just because I have a bunch of Rorixes in my binder, and I figured if I got lucky and won the PT, I could sell them for a little more during the Extended PTQ season. My cover-up reason is that turn 2 Nishoba does not really beat… anything. Basically, you usually can get them to about five and yourself to about 25 or 30 by the time Nishoba dies, but that is useless, since you have no resources left and they can kill you at their leisure. Haste and evasion were the important qualities of Akroma, and in this format Rorix is basically just as good. The only difference that actually matters sometimes is that Rorix taps to attack. A shame really, but nothing you can do.
When we finally got to Columbus at 11:30, I met up with Pro Tour Superstar Gerry Thompson, cartoon character extraordinaire Brian Ziegler, MODO master John Pelcak, and judgemaster Brian McCall. This crew would be in my room for the first night in Columbus. Gerry and Brian were running Rock and John was running RDW. I got about ten games in against both decks. I won literally every game, sacking out of every possible bad position. At this point, they declared I’d win the Pro Tour, but I had to make a sideboard first, since the one from the GP lists was terrible. At about 3 am, I asked for thoughts on Energy Field and everyone thought it would be gas. It became the last addition to my sideboard. By the time I played against RDW in the top 8, it wasn’t even coming in for that match up, which it is meant for. Anyway, here is my final deck list:
4 Careful Study
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Vampiric Tutor
4 Putrid Imp
4 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
3 Rorix Bladewing
1 Show and Tell
1 Sickening Dreams
4 Chrome Mox
4 Polluted Delta
4 Underground River
3 Phyrexian Negator
2 Gilded Drake
2 Show and Tell
1 Energy Field (vomit)
1 Cranial Extraction (A four-mana Coercion)
1 Echoing Truth
1 Energy Flux
So with a good main deck and a 13-card sideboard in tow, I sat down for my first match.
Before discussing the rounds, I want to mention a few things about the deck and the report. Many games are not covered in much detail, because, frankly, nothing happened. A lot of my matches were just over in five minutes, but the good games that went long I do try to cover in detail. Another thing is this: Of course I had some luck; you have to have some of it to do well at an event like this. However, try to keep in mind that to get “as lucky as possible” you have to maximize your luck, and I think I did that as much as possible. Yes, it is not hard to win when you get those turn 1 Akroma hands, but also think about the hands with two Underground Rivers, Brainstorm, Putrid Imp, Chrome Mox, Careful Study, and Vampiric Tutor…or something. If someone can honestly play that hand perfectly, then they can go ahead and say I am the luckiest ever, and I will just agree and tip my hat to them.
Round 1 vs. Raphael Levy w/ Rock
Game 1 I played first and Duressed him. I was definitely not happy to see multiple main deck Scrabbling Claws in his hand. I took a Cabal Therapy of his though, since my draw was good enough that the Claws were irrelevant. I Therapied myself and Reanimated Akroma on turn 2. At this point, all I had to worry about was Edict, which he turned out not to be playing, so Akroma took it down.
I was glad I had the Show and Tells to bring in against his deck that obviously was quite prepared for Reanimator with maindeck Claws and all.
Game 2 he Therapies on turn 1 and hits, but I still have a turn 2 Akroma draw with Show and Tell. However, I am still fearful of Edict, so I just play a second land on turn 2 and pass. My Brainstorm hides the goods from another discard spell, but on turn three I just say go again. On turn 4 I finally spring to life, Duressing him and casting Show and Tell. He almost forgets he gets to put something in play as well, but remembers just in time. He does have a pair of Living Deaths in his hand this time, so if he hit five lands, my Akroma would have been in trouble. If I hadn’t had a Cabal Therapy in hand, that is. As it happened, the hottie mchotterson that is Akroma went all the way, since Raphael was actually drawing to a one-outer, his last Living Death.
Round 2 vs. Gregory Vincent w/ Red Deck Wins
Gregory was a nice guy, and also an expert on magic trivia. The guys next to us got up for a feature match, and I had noooo clue who they were, so I asked if I was supposed to know them. Gregory quickly filled me in on their exploits in the PT and GP scene. The players nodded in agreement before heading to the feature match area.
Game 1 I played first and had turn 3 Akroma thanks to Show and Tell. I even Therapied him for Tangle Wire, but he only had a bunch of Seals of Fire and conceded quickly.
Game 2 he had an early assault on my mana but not a lot of pressure, so when I finally had enough to bring Rorix into play on turn a lot, it was still enough to finish him off.
Round 3 vs. Tomas Kresja w/ Rock
Game 1 I played first but mulliganed. I don’t remember what happened, but I think I got a guy into play and it got Edicted and I lost many turns later to like a Treetop Village while drawing nothing.
Games 2 and 3 I get turn 2 Akroma with discard backup and he really can’t deal, commenting how it would have been nice to play one of the two magicians sitting next to us, with cards like Mystic Snake and Vedalken Mastermind on the board.
It was at about this point that I had my first run-in with the event staff. It would not be the last. When leaving my match, I stopped for about a minute to look in on how a friend was doing. A very agitated Andy Heckt impolitely informed me that if I mingled in the playing area again, he would disqualify me from the Pro Tour. I almost went berserk, but walking away seemed like the correct play, so I selected it instead.
Round 4 vs. Tomohiro Kaji w/ Goblins
All the Japanese players look the same to me, but for some reason Tomohiro looked familiar. Then I remembered that he had money drafted with some of my friends at PT San Diego, and asked him about it. “Yes, I am Sushi,” he said.
Game 1 I get turn 2 Akroma on the play. However, I heard about the Pattern Goblin deck that some Japanese players were running so I was worried, but it was in vain.
Game 2 he mulligans and is stuck on two land while a turn 3 Akroma does him in. On the last turn, he draws and goes “noooo” and shows me a pair of Ensnaring Bridges in the grip.
Round 5 vs. Olivier Ruel w/Goblins
This was a feature match, which I cannot win. Being a nobody, I don’t exactly have an abundance of them, but the closest I had ever come before was winning my personal match in my team’s PT Seattle feature match, but having our team lose anyway.
Game 1 I went first, but mulliganed. Turn 1 Rorix seemed like a good mulligan, but his draw could have beat it if I didn’t follow up with a Therapy for Goblin Warchief.
Game 2 is where my feature match curse comes into play. After many turns of us trading discard, the situation is as follows: he has three land, including a Rishadan Port, and one card in hand that is obviously a blank, because it’s been doing nothing all game. (It turned out to be Living Death.) I have a Swamp and an Island in play and a Vampiric Tutor in hand, as well as an Akroma in my graveyard. During my upkeep, he taps down a Swamp and I float it into my draw step. I draw and it is a Swamp, so I Tutor for Exhume. The reason I Tutor after my draw is so my Exhume is safely on top of my deck, untouchable by any Duresses or Therapies my opponent might peel. Unfortunately, he peeled the one and only card that was good enough in this situation: Burning Wish. He fetched a Reanimate and got my Akroma on his side the turn before it would have been winning the game on mine.
Game 3 I take the calculated risk of keeping a hand with multiple discard outlets, multiple reanimation spells, and Brainstorm, but with no creatures. Basically, if my first draw step or Brainstorm yields a creature or Vampiric Tutor, I will win the game. If not, I am likely to lose. That gives me four draws to find one of eleven cards. My very rough math says I have about a 70% chance to hit, but I didn’t. If I am way off on this, feel free to correct me. Also, if I am way off, then I should have mulliganed, but I think I am right and just got kind of shafted.
Round 6 vs. Steve Downing w/ Red Deck Wins
Game 1 I am on the play and get turn 2 Akroma with Therapy hitting two Tangle Wires.
Game 2 I get turn 2 Rorix, and when Therapy for Ensnaring Bridge misses, I sacrifice my Imp to hit a pair of Tangle Wires instead. Steve told me after that he actually didn’t even have Bridge, but I still had to take the precaution, since I had no Vampiric Tutor or Echoing Truth.
Round 7 vs. Alfred Dominguez Roldan w/ UG
Game 1 I play first. At this point, you may have noticed a pattern. Yes, I did in fact win seven die rolls in a row. Sure, call me a lucksack. However, flashback to PT New Orleans last year, and you can see that I deserve it, since I went 3-13 in die rolls at that tournament in which going first was perhaps more important than in this one. Anyway, I had turn 2 Rorix and it went all the way since he didn’t have Wonder and I Duressed an Intuition that could have fetched it.
Game 2 an early Waterfront Bouncer is Smothered, and my Akroma starts hitting on like turn 4. He is racing to find Gilded Drake, but is unable to do so in time. I was happy to win that game, since he had a lot of outs and probably would have won if he found one of them, since I had nothing left.
Round 8 vs. David Carvajal Blanco w/ Cephalid Breakfast
First I was paired to someone else, and quickly won the die roll for an 8-0 record in that category. When the round was repaired and I lost the die roll, I thought I was going down for sure. Anyway, David was playing the Spanish-designed combo deck, which I happen to think is very good after playing against it twice.
Game 1 he goes first and starts with some guys. I am not exactly sure what to do against his rogue deck, but when he gets an En-Kor with Worldly Tutor in response to Therapy, it was pretty easy to name the Cephalid Illusionist and hit. I eventually Reanimate an Akroma which, along with Forbidden Orchard Tokens, kill him in two turns thanks to the pain from his lands and my Putrid Imp.
I am unsure of how to sideboard, but I bring in Smothers, Gilded Drakes, and Echoing Truths, taking out a little of everything, which I knew was wrong. However, if I took out four of something and I was wrong, it would probably be a disaster.
Game 2 I mulligan to five and lose to some random creatures while stuck on one land, including the winner of winners, Kami of the Ancient Law.
Game 3 was one of the better ones of the weekend. He responds to my Cabal Therapy with Worldly Tutor for Gilded Drake. I name Illusionist and hit, seeing a Reanimate in his hand as well. The next turn I play Putrid Imp. He plays a land, and thinks for a long time before Draking my Imp. I honestly did not understand why he could possibly want to do that, but I wasn’t complaining.
Since he had no Black open, I discarded my Akroma in response, but had no way to Reanimate it the next turn. I did however flashback the Therapy, sacrificing a newly drawn Putrid Imp to take the Reanimate out of his hand. Meanwhile, this whole time I’ve been beating with a fleet of Orchard tokens and the Drake. When my opponent draws, my friends standing behind him all roll their eyes and my opponents’ friends are visibly excited. He simply showcased his expertise in the Extended format by plucking a Reanimate to take my Akroma.
I shook my head in disbelief, but not all was lost because I had my one Echoing Truth waiting in the wings. However, I needed a Blue source and had three turns to draw it. The first two draws were blanks; I simply bashed all of my Orchard tokens and Drake into his Akroma, and brought his life total down. Before my last draw, he was at exactly three and I had exactly three Orchard tokens in play. It was intense, and I just felt the Blue source on top of my deck. The Underground River was there, and everyone watching seems shocked when I slammed it down and showed the Truth to end the game.
At 7-1, I was extremely happy with my day 1 performance. My goal had been 6-2 in order to stay on track with the top 48 I needed. As it stood, top 48 was all but guaranteed, and I was now shooting for greater things. Thanks to the fact that my opponents tore it up after losing to me, I was in second place with ridiculous tiebreaks that were best out of the 7-1s. As I was checking this out on the standings, I kind of accidentally took them down and started walking away. I really didn’t try to steal them; I was just kind of walking. Scott Larabee literally ran to me and asked my name. Surprised, I told him. He asked where I was in the standings, and told me that if I wanted to stay there I better not steal the standings ever again.
After maxing on some Arby’s, I caught some Z’s early to get ready for the long day of gaming ahead. In a few days, I will bring to you the second half of the weekend, or “how I got lucky and lucked out.”
As always you can reach me on MODO (Gadiel), or aim (Hoopguy7).