Another year, another win short of making Top Four at Worlds.
Of course I appreciate that I get the chance to play in such an amazing tournament at all. Taking a step back and looking at the big picture, it’s surreal and amazing having a chance to compete at the highest level, and that is certainly an achievement in itself. But… I really wanted to win this year!
Yet again, I find myself falling short.
Today I’d like to share the preparation I put in, the experience of playing in Worlds, the decks I played, and my thoughts and feelings about coming so close once again.
First, lets take a look into my testing process.
I take competing in Worlds very seriously and my preparation reflected that. I owe it to be the best I can, and to play the best I can. I want to prove myself and put up a good performance, as a personal challenge, and because Magic is a game that is worth the dedication.
Which means I prepared like a hamster preparing to power a ferris wheel.
Preparation is the main ingredient for success.
Learning From Last Year
My experiences from competing in Worlds the previous year were a strong resource.
Just knowing the ropes of how a tournament feels can be a big help.
This can actually be a big obstacle to overcome, even at lower levels. It can be intimidating or nerve wracking going to FNM and jumping into a draft if you never have before, let alone going to a Pro Tour or Worlds. It always turns out to be not such a big deal once we actually start doing things, but it’s easy to imagine situations as being more complicated than they actually are. Most fears are just things we build up in our heads and have no actual grounding in reality.
The first thing I did was recheck the coverage from last year to spark my memory of some of my biggest mistakes and things that I did right.
One mistake I made last year was playing a weak deck for the Modern field. I played Jeskai Control and it was not well-positioned to deal with any of the combo decks. I told myself “Play good decks” and that may seem like obvious advice, but it’s easy to just play a bad deck. You want to be solid across all four formats and not have an anchor weighing you down in case you go undefeated in other formats.
This year Standard would be different since the tournament is close to the Pro Tour and still in its infancy. Still, the format ended up being fairly solved without too many surprises. I think the right move was to pick something solid and don’t fall too far down the metagaming-against-the-field rabbit hole. This general rule also applied to Modern and the draft formats as well, but mostly to Standard for me.
Modern Masters 2015 Draft
This is a complicated format that would benefit from lots of drafting because there are many intricate interactions and playable cards.
Here is a general guideline for what I liked drafting in this format. This only skims the surface of the major archetypes, since you can get real weird with it and end up drafting some odd decks in Modern Masters 2015.
G/B Tokens and G/W Tokens
Five-Color Control and Temur-Based Ramp
Mono-Black Aggro, Mono-Red Aggro, and B/R Bloodthirst
W/R Double Strike
With Modern Masters 2015, you want to settle into a wide-open archetype as soon as possible and slurp up all the goodies. You want synergistic decks instead of merely powerful cards.
I’m willing to take a more aggressive stance to draft a 3-0 deck. If the God Of Tournament Magic appeared before me and offered me a 50% chance of starting Worlds 3-0 and a 50% chance of starting 0-3, I don’t think I’d take a coin flip, but skew the odds to 55% for a 3-0 draft and then I probably would. I’m willing to take risks in draft to finish in the top four here.
If, for example, two players decide they fancy forcing Mono-Red, you’re both going to be fighting over Goblin Fireslingers while the rest of the table merrily gets to take more powerful cards. But if no one else is interested in the archetype, you might have a good chance of ending up with a powerful deck.
Magic Origins Draft
Pro Tour Magic Origins had just happened and this was the easiest format so I could dedicate the least of my focus here. I really liked drafting very aggressive decks, so I would just keep the format fresh with a bunch of drafts and be good to go.
Testing for Modern at Worlds started with the last B&R announcement. Griselshoalbrand and Amulet Bloom didn’t take any hits and would certainly be on everyone’s mind going into the event. This is probably a large part of why the decks were not played at all, since I think most competitors were making sure they had a favorable matchup against those decks.
I settled on a deck fairly quickly that performed very well for me during testing against pretty much the entire Modern field, and I essentially just never looked back.
Just my style. This deck is kind of a mixture between U/R Delver, Grixis Control, and Jeskai Control. I wanted to have the option to get a little more aggressive than Jeskai Control and keep the manabase nice and clean.
The cost of splashing isn’t incredibly high in a world with fetchlands, but the cards you gain access to aren’t actually that much more powerful, if they’re even more powerful at all.
Grim Lavamancer and Young Pyromancer are incredibly powerful cards, enough so that splashing another color isn’t required. They are both capable of single-handedly taking over games when left unchecked against creature decks, and they both still provide reasonable clocks against non-interactive decks when backed up by your disruption.
The deck has a lot of play against most of the field but it fears G/W Hexproof and G/R Tron and it doesn’t really do too well against Jund or Abzan either, but it is still fine against them, just not great. U/R Pyromancer Control will also probably suffer if it becomes a bit more of a known entity since it becomes easier to play around its many counters.
Standard was probably the toughest nut to crack because the format kept shifting from week to week since Pro Tour Magic Origins. I had pretty much tried everything the format had to offer, and I was waffling from deck to deck based on the weekend.
As Worlds drew close, I was leaning towards Abzan Control or Abzan Aggro, but finally I settled on Jeskai with the hope of beating up on Abzan decks.
- 1 Stormbreath Dragon
- 4 Goblin Rabblemaster
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 2 Soulfire Grand Master
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
- 2 Hangarback Walker
I was very happy with the deck and wouldn’t change much if I could do it again, despite only posting a 2-2 record.
Hangarback Walker is a solid addition against blue control decks and Mono-Red Aggro, both of which were matchups I wanted to shore up since I was confident against Abzan decks. Hangarback Walker isn’t overly powerful but it does a lot in the early game by being resistant to removal while still being a capable late-game threat as well. This is what Jeskai wants, creatures that are huge threats when not dealt with properly, and Hangarback Walker lives up to this aspiration with aplomb. It is not very aggressive or good in multiples though, so I like the split between it and Soulfire Grand Master. Soulfire Grand Master is also usually a disappointing turn-two play against Mono-Red when it just gets Searing Blooded, whereas Hangarback Walker is more appealing.
Ojutai’s Command also fills a big role against Mono-Red and blue control decks. It gives you plenty of room to gain an advantage if you don’t end the game early, and it is often much better than Cryptic Command when you counter a creature and return a Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy to the battlefield. That line is just not very beatable.
Magma Spray is excellent in a world of Hangarback Walkers and Ojutai’s Commands, and it even gets plenty of targets in Abzan Control like Nissa, Vastwood Seer or Den Protector. It’s rare you’re ever beating a deck like Esper Dragons by just barely burning them with Wild Slash anyways, you either ride a Mantis or Goblin for a bunch of turns to victory or you get nowhere near killing them.
3-0 Modern Masters 2015 Draft.
I sat down relaxed. Breathing, running potential first picks, colors pairs, and archetypes through my head. Drafts go by fast. You have to trust your gut.
I ended up drafting a double Overwhelming Stampede, Wilt-Leaf Liege, Ant Queen tokens deck that was bonkers. It seemed like green was completely dry pack one and then just completely flowed the rest of the draft when I received and Overwhelming Stampede something like pick five in pack two.
My losses to Yuuya Watanabe’s U/W Control and Seth Manfield’s G/W Hexproof were to be expected as they both seem like poor matchups for me. I feel good about a 5-2 record though.
1-2 Magic Orgins Draft.
This is where things started to go wrong. It seemed like I was in a rough seat and did the best I could to scrape together a decent G/B Elves deck. Unfortunately, in the matches I lost I just mulliganed and had poor hands. Seth Manfield destroyed me yet again.
Once again, the matches I lost just felt like I never really had a chance. Paul Rietzl’s Abzan just rolled over me, as did Magnus Lanto’s Atarka Red. It feels like there wasn’t much I could’ve done in every single match I lost in the entire tournament. On the bright side, I got very lucky to beat PV and his Esper Dragons deck in the last match of the day, beating him for the third time in the tournament.
And with that, I ended up in seventh place. So close, yet so far.
I gave it my all and I fell short. Sometimes right after a tournament, it feels like the loss sticks to you and begins to weigh you down, summoning the memories of previous failures. After a loss, it can feel like the failure begins to slowly creep into your chest and begin eating away at who you are.
Steadily chipping away.
Chip. Chip. Chip. Chip. Chip.
It can feel like that for a time. Fortunately I am a human, and we are basically designed to get over it. It takes maybe a day to realign my priorities back to what matters, all the good things in life. Seriously, a loss is not a big deal and you can just drop it and fully restore your health bar. It’s just that easy. Of course it helps if you focus on something better than losing a Magic tournament, like (for example) exploring all the sweet PAX exhibits and checking out some museums in Seattle with your girlfriend. Then you are no longer a person who is a loser that has just lost, you just go back to being a normal dude.
Don’t let the losses attach themselves to you for too long. They really aren’t as important as the good bits of life. There’s always another tournament, and it’s always better to care about the wins and not care about the losses.
Get ‘Em Next Time
I gave it my all and still came up a little short.
I was good but certainly not flawless. Although this wasn’t a tournament where I can point to one big specific glaring error I made, there is still plenty of little things I could have done to be better. Let’s face it as well, sometimes you just don’t win, the cards just don’t cooperate. Sometimes they very much do. And sometimes you’re Seth Manfield. (Congrats Seth!)
The future is uncertain. That very well could have been my last shot at Worlds.
Competing at the highest levels is a great honor, and Worlds was a blast this year. I know I enjoyed every minute of it, even the stress, even the losses. I hope I’m lucky enough to get another chance.