Amsterdam was a city I’ve never traveled to in my life, and I probably won’t return to in the future… Or I could just plan my trip better next time. I failed to realize that you need to get something that allows your cell phone to operate in Europe. It didn’t really matter, since nobody else did, either. It was like I was living in the 20
century. I will
take cell phones for granted again.
Internet was rarely a free commodity, as it is in the United States… But that also doesn’t matter when your laptop charger doesn’t work because Europe has different outlets. The converter I took from home didn’t work, so I lived like a caveman for a week.
I arrived in the city a couple days before the tournament so that I could get some sleep. I came prepared with a few Five-Hour Energy shots, but not enough for the entire weekend. My plane ride had Ari Lax on board, so I actually knew someone. I didn’t have any euros on me, so it would have been difficult if he wasn’t there.
I also had no clue how to get to the hotel room I was supposed to stay at for the week. My plan changed, and I ended up staying at the Stayokay Hostel with Ari and Zohar Baghat. Hostels are strange because you share a room with strangers. I bought a bed and breakfast for 27 euro a night. It was a pretty sick deal since you could just sit and playtest with free food for three hours a day.
My first day I was in Amsterdam was exhausting, since I left at 5:40 p.m. Eastern time and arrived at 7:35 a.m. Amsterdam time. I stayed up that entire day so I could get on the right schedule. Mat Marr hosted a mock tournament that had a bunch of players from the hostel. I decided to play Pyromancer Ascension because I thought it was the most powerful deck in the format. I was quickly dismantled by a 5-Color mana denial/bounce deck. I decided that there would be too much hate for the deck, and I wanted to play something else.
I spent a lot of time deciding what deck I should play in the tournament. I asked Ari for RDW cards, since that was my plan B deck. Red decks are fast and resilient, so it was probably a good choice. I then decided that it was just not my style, so I was on board with Ari’s Hive Mind deck; he always talks up the decks he plays. It was fast and relatively underground. Then I remembered that combo decks are also not my style, so I went back into the tank.
I went to sleep at 8:00 p.m. and was awaken about an hour later by a fire alarm. At first I thought it was just a really loud cell phone alarm, since I was delirious, but eventually I realized what was going on. I tried to quickly go back to sleep, but I was too worried because I didn’t have a deck I wanted to play. An idea went off in my head: maybe I should play Scapeshift with maindeck Thought Hemorrhage because the combo matchups were bad.
I’d played a similar list because Mat Marr had a copy put together. There was two Thought Hemorrhages in the maindeck, as well Primeval Titans and Explores. It wasn’t your grandmother’s Scapeshift deck and I liked it. The Primeval Titans seemed pretty loose, but the idea itself was something that struck my fancy.
I talked to some people about my new deck choice on Thursday, and there was a lot of positive feedback. There were a few people who were interested in playing it as well, but in the end nobody did. It still had a bad combo matchup even with maindecked Hemorrhage, but I knew I was going to do well with it.
I tested some games with Owen Turtenwald, since he was playing the Doran deck that was advocated by the ChannelFireball crew. We were going to play a game, then go eat lunch. I won that game, and played another. I won that game, and then we played another. We probably did this about five or six times before we actually got to eat, because my deck was
the Doran deck. I was very confident in my deck choice if I could beat a deck some of the best players in the tournament were piloting.
I wanted to up the maindeck Thought Hemorrhage count to three, because those were the only games I could beat Ari’s Hive Mind deck. The matchup against Doran was still very good, even though I had some blanks in game one. I could still just name “Thoughtseize” with it, because their plan was to make me discard my Scapeshift the turn before I could combo out.
I tried my best to practice against as many people as possible to give me a well-rounded view of the format. My best testing came a few days before the event itself: I played Mike Jacob (congrats on the top 4!), who was playing Pat Chapin’s Grixis deck. My Hemorrhages were shining in the matchup because I could take out the Cryptic Commands to resolve my Scapeshift. The matchup was pretty even, but I was happy to see my list was specifically doing well. Everyone pretty much reached the same conclusion as I did when I said that the Magic Online stock decks were all pretty bad.
Here is the list I ultimately came used for the Pro Tour.
My biggest advice is to not get too comfortable with the stock versions of decks, because you can always do something different. No card should be safe in a decklist â€” not even Tarmogoyf. That card was the reason that so many of my hands were bad with the deck.
I put it in the sideboard, because it
very good against Red Deck Wins and Faeries â€” decks where I needed to have a beatdown plan. Maelstrom Pulse was in the sideboard over Krosan Grip because it kills Doran’s creatures as well as Leyline of Sanctity. The White Weenie deck was only a myth at the time, but I knew it was going to be good. They had cards like Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender and other problematic permanents that couldn’t be killed by Krosan Grip.
Relic of Progenitus is a very basic sideboard card that was normally just thrown into every deck. They didn’t usually serve a good purpose, and were often not even synergistic deck. I chose to play them because there was a dredge deck that I heard about a couple days before the event. I tested against it, and the matchup was pretty bad. It would also be good against Living End, so it wasn’t a bad card to play.
It is important to scout out the new possible decks you will play against, because they are often not exposed until the event itself. Nobody wrote about Dredge, Doran, or White Weenie because they were secrets. There are a lot of secret decks that you won’t know about unless you get to the tournament early and talk to people.
I did a team draft before going to the convention center with some people from the hostel. My deck was an insane U/B control deck. I won all of the matches with it, because blue is the best color if you can get it. It helped solidify my choice of forcing blue in the Pro Tour.
The convention center was very interesting, because it was basically a giant factory. It looked like the inside of the building from the end of Terminator 2. The Feature Match area was in a private room that was hidden from the main area; I wasn’t ever actually in it, but you had to go through doors that had a sign that said not to enter. It didn’t seem like a good idea to have the Feature Match area in a secluded room, since that defeats the purpose. You even had to report to the judges so they could take you to the secret Feature Match room, because it was hard to find.
There wasn’t a player party before the Pro Tour â€” instead, there was some kind of rave/preview party on Saturday. It seemed like a gigantic waste of money to me, because there was a light show and annoyingly loud music. The biggest complaint everyone had about the San Juan player party was that the music was too loud… so apparently, they just knocked it up a notch. There was free food there, but it was like watching a pack of animals eating. It was way too crowded because when you promise Magic players free food, it’s sure to be wild.
The actual player party from the old days was one of the reasons I wanted to qualify for the Pro Tour. It was a very special feeling to be at a party with the best minds in the game. The food used to be great, and there was never deafeningly loud music. It was restricted to those who qualified for the tournament, so it was nicer for a select few who put the work in to earn it. There was a private lounge where there were pool tables, computers, and other cool things. I remember my brother telling me that the player lounge at Pro Tour Charleston was his favorite part of the tournament and it was true. Hopefully, Wizards will bring these back in the future tournaments.
On Thursday night, I wasn’t where I would be sleeping, since I still had accommodations in my original hotel room. It was hard to make plans since nobody had any cell phones;
, I’m not sure how we lived before. I tried to get back into the Stayokay Hostel, but the room I wanted was booked. I remember there being an extra bed, so I decided to go there again and see what happened.
I went to bed at around 11:00, and was awoken at about 2:00 a.m. There was this guy who asked me if I was sleeping in the right bed. I explained that I wanted to be in a room with Magic players because my phone was dead, and I needed an alarm so I could wake up for the tournament. I suggested that he could get another room, because everyone else would be up at 6:00 a.m. â€” but the guy was drunk, and not having any of it. I told him that I would pay him if he just went to the front desk and requested a room without Magic players so he could get more sleep. All he said was that he just wanted to sleep.
I gave up my bed, since it was actually his, but then he said that I had to get some sleep for my tournament and gave it back. It was funny to hear, since he didn’t even know anything about the game. There were hard floors and only enough pillows and blankets for those in the room. The guy proceeded to go to sleep on the hard floor with a backpack as a pillow, while I slept in the bed that he bought. I wasn’t sure if that was a sign of good things to come or not.
I woke up at about 5:00 a.m. and gave the guy his bed back, since I felt bad about it. I got the remaining cards for my deck and headed downstairs for free breakfast. We assembled a crew and walked to the convention center for a day of grinding.
We had a player meeting at our round 1 tables, so that was a little bit confusing. I thought it was strange that we handed in our decklists while sitting across from our opponents. It wasn’t a disadvantage, but I just wasn’t aware it would be happening. I took a Five-Hour Energy Shot and battling was underway.
In the first round, I played against Living End and won the first game pretty quickly with an early Scapeshift. The second game, I was light on lands because of Fulminator Mage and Avalanche Riders, and eventually lost. The third game I kept his Living Ends under control with Relic of Progenitus, and Thought Hemorrhaged his Thought Hemorrhages. I won with a Scapeshift a turn later. 1-0
I played against Faeries in the second round and won the first game with a turn 6 Thought Hemorrhage, followed by a lethal Scapeshift. I won the second game because the guy discarded a Bitterblossom to his Razormane Masticore, forgetting that it would make my Tarmogoyf was a 5/6. I did the last two points of damage with a Volcanic Fallout. 2-0
The third match was against Angel’s Grace combo. The guy mulled down to five cards, and I didn’t know what he was playing. I kept a slow hand of double-Bloodbraid Elf, Lightning Bolt, and lands. He killed me very quickly while I drew more lands. The second game I had a swamp, a Thought Hemorrhage, and a ramp spell… But I never made it to four lands to cast the Thought Hemorrhage. 2-1
The last round of Extended for the day was against the mirror. I played a game 1 Thought Hemorrhage on Scapeshift, and his two-card hand was two Scapeshifts. I played a Scapeshift of my own the following turn. I won the next game with a mid-game Scapeshift, since he did not draw any relevant cards.
I entered the draft feeling pretty good about my chances in the tournament. I had never done badly in an M11 draft before.
My first pick involved me taking a Cudgel Troll over Doom Blade, Blinding Mage, and Crystal Ball. I was passed another Cudgel Troll and was feeling pretty good about how the draft would turn out. I opened an Overwhelming Stampede in the third pack and was a mostly-green deck with Serra Angel, Blinding Mage, and Pacifism.
My deck was pretty good and I was in a pod with no named players. I ended up going 2-1 because I lost to a deck with Baneslayer Angel and black removal spells. My deck was pretty much all big creatures, so that was a pretty bad matchup for me. I beat a U/G midrange deck as well as a U/W skies deck.
After the draft I was 6-2 and feeling good about my chances, because I liked my deck. I went to a Middle Eastern restaurant before going back to the hostel for some sleep.
I started the next draft with a Sun Titan and thought it would go well… But then I saw no more good white cards, and the deck was looking pretty bad. I opened a Chandra Nalaar in the second pack, putting me in R/G. There was not a single piece of actual removal that I saw except for one Assassinate.
I was hoping that I could win a match with the deck, but I was skeptical because my pod was so good: this pod featured Billy Postlethwait, David Sharfman, Sam Black, Julien Nuijten, and Guillaume Matignon. I was predicting an easy 0-3.
My first round was against Julien Nuijten with a U/W Skies deck. I managed to win two games, even though my Juggernaut got blocked by his Wall of Frost for the entire game. Nobody pointed out that this was impossible until the final turn of the match.
I lost my next two rounds to Sam Black and David Sharfman. Both of their decks were way better than mine. Sam’s deck was also R/G, but he had Overwhelming Stampede and real removal spells. David’s deck was probably the best Bloodthrone Vampire deck I had ever seen.
I could not wait to begin the Extended rounds of the event, because I thought I could go 5-0 if I got the right pairings.
I played against Living end in the twelfth round. My opening hand of six could cast Thought Hemorrhage on turn 3 if I drew a green source in one of two draws, so I kept. Of course, I only drew Mountains so I ended the game with three of them in play.
The second game, I saw cards like Shriekmaw and Kitchen Finks. There was also no land destruction in sight, because the guy thought I was playing Mono-Red. I’m not sure how that was possible, because I went three turns without casting a spell in the first game. It seemed way more likely that I was just color-screwed because I conceded before he even won the game. I won the second game easily, based on his mistaken sideboarding.
The third game was very strange. I had an early Relic of Progenitus, and cast a Thought Hemorrhage naming Living End, so I could sacrifice my Relic for a card and not worry about it. He plays a Thought Hemorrhage, naming Bloodbraid Elf, and he misses.
I’m unsure why he named that instead of Scapeshift. A couple turns go by, and I Thought Hemorrhage him again, naming Thought Hemorrhage. This was the turn after he cast a Bloodbraid Elf and missed by revealing a cascade spell. I see a hand that contains Thought Hemorrhage, and wonder why he didn’t just cast it and name Scapeshift. One turn goes by, I draw a Scapeshift, and kill him. 8-4
Round 13 was against Doran for the first time in the tournament. I was happy to finally play against it, since I was crushing it. The round was uneventful, because I just played a Scapeshift early in both games and he died. 9-4
Round 14 was against U/G Shapeshift, and I was a little worried since I’d never played against it. He killed me on turn 5 by casting Prismatic Omen and Scapeshift. I won the next two games because he had land-light draws. 10-4
Round 15 and 16 were both against combo decks, and I just got smashed in four games. I played against Kenny Oberg and Yuuya Watanabe, who were no slouches. It’s pretty disheartening to play against two of your worst matchups against some of the best players in the world. 10-6
I ended up in 59
place, so I was pleased with the result. I won $570 and five Pro points. My next tournament is Grand Prix Portland, so feel free to say hi. Tell me what you thought about the report in the forums!
Thanks for reading,