Triple Up

A wild gambit sent Brian Braun-Duin to Minnesota in search of Pro Points when only a Grand Prix Top 8 would do. Get his tournament report and his opinion on whether his successful ploy was madness or genius.

Spring 2014 State Championships

In his now-classic 1992 treatise “Baby Got Back,” knighted musician Sir Mix-A-Lot spends a brief moment enlightening us about the term doubling up. He
states, and I quote, “Ugh, Double Up, Ugh, Ugh.”

I would like to propose what might amount to anathema. I suggest that Sir Mix-A-Lot was not correct, and “I ain’t talking ’bout play/draw.” No, Mr. Lot,
it’s not about doubling up. It’s about tripling up. Think a little bigger…Sir.

Let’s play a little game called “Madness or Genius?” Last weekend, I spent hundreds of dollars on a plane ticket to Minneapolis to play in a 1700-player
Grand Prix where anything less than Top 8 wasn’t good enough.

Madness? ThisIs….Minneapolis Saint-Paul Metropolitan Area.

As it so happened, my last-minute desperate gambit managed to work out. Therefore, the correct answer to the critically acclaimed “Madness or Genius?” game

Drumroll please…

Madness. The answer is Madness. I still can’t believe it actually worked.


Going into last weekend, I had sixteen Pro Points. To hit Silver status in the Pro Player ranks, I needed to achieve twenty Pro Points. The only way to get
four Pro Points from a Grand Prix is to make the Top 8. Top 8’ing Minneapolis was my only chance at Silver before the Pro Tour in Atlanta next weekend.

Silver status gives you a free Pro Tour invite for each year. Once you hit a rank like Silver, you also have that rank locked in for the next year.

In essence, by Top 8’ing Minneapolis, I earned an invite to the Pro Tour this weekend in Atlanta by virtue of being Silver. I earned an invite to the Pro
Tour in Portland by virtue of Top 8’ing a Grand Prix with more than 1200 players. I then also have an invite to the Pro Tour after Portland, because it is
the first Pro Tour of next year and I can use my Silver invite for next year on it.

By Top 8’ing in Minneapolis last weekend, I qualified for three Pro Tours. It was a triple PTQ, and I managed to triple up. Baby Got Back on the Pro Tour.

One Pea in a Pod

I liked this list a lot. It’s very similar to the Pod list I played in Richmond, which in turn was very similar to the Pod list that Sam Pardee, Jacob
Wilson, Josh McClain, and I played at Pro Tour Born of the Gods. The Phyrexian Metamorph was a nice touch. I was planning on playing something like
Restoration Angel, but I managed to do the smart thing and ask Sam Pardee and Josh McClain for advice before leaving for the event.

Sam and Josh are two of the best Pod players in the world, if not the two best. You could do far worse than trusting their opinion on Melira Pod.

I also ended up staying with Nathan Holiday. I had never met Nathan before, but I recognized his name from some of the success he has had in Magic. You
might recognize him from also Top 8’ing this tournament. Nathan was on Pod and had put a lot of work into the deck. He suggested Burrenton Forge-Tender for
the sideboard. One of the biggest problem cards for Pod is Anger of the Gods. Being able to find Forge-Tender with Ranger of Eos, Birthing Pod, or Chord of
Calling to counter an Anger of the Gods is big game.

I agreed that Forge-Tender sounded awesome. Why, then, didn’t I pull the trigger and register it? I didn’t get into Minneapolis until after 1:00 AM on
Friday night (technically Saturday). I had signed up for the Sleep-in Special, but that meant I needed to email my decklist in by the night before. Let’s
just say I don’t have a lot of faith in dealers. I thought that there was a fairly realistic chance that if I registered Burrenton Forge-Tender, none of
the dealers would have the card. Forge-Tender also isn’t the kind of card people are going to randomly carry around.

I didn’t want to put a BFT on my list and then get burned by not actually being able to find one. I have no clue what would actually happen if that were
the case. I have never been in that situation and don’t know how it gets handled from a judge perspective.

I ended up registering a Kataki, War’s Wage, and a third Scavenging Ooze in my sideboard where Nathan had a Forge-Tender and a second copy of Orzhov
Pontiff. I can’t say I was sold on the second Pontiff, but I will say that the third Ooze and the Kataki were both wildly unnecessary, especially the

I think moving forward, those two cards should be Aven Mindcensor and a Forge-Tender. My Pod opponent in Round 9 was so far behind on-board that I could
barely conceive a scenario where he could win. I had an active Ooze, an active Birthing Pod, and Melira and Kitchen Finks in play. One flashed-in Aven
Mindcensor and numerous failed Pod activations later, and I was actually starting to fall behind in the game. I ended up winning anyway, thanks largely to
the power of Scavenging Ooze and Gavony Township, but I couldn’t deny the power Aven Mindcensor played in the match. It took my opponent from a
near-unwinnable board state to almost achieving parity.

Phyrexian Metamorph was my MVP. I won a lot of matches with Phyrexian Metamorph where other cards wouldn’t have been able to do the same thing. Deep into
Day 2, I won a match in the Melira Pod mirror almost entirely from Metamorph. In Game 1, I was able to copy his Archangel of Thune with Phyrexian Metamorph
and then beat him with it. In Game 2 I was able to use Metamorph to copy a Birthing Pod to hasten my ability to lock up a game I was ahead in.

In Round 10 I got to make a sweet play with Metamorph. I was playing against a pretty cool Bloodchief Ascension deck with Isochron Scepter. He had
Lightning Helix on Scepter and two inactive Bloodchief Ascensions in play. Despite that, he was pretty far behind on board. I was able to start comboing
off with a Viscera Seer, Melira, and Phyrexian Metamorph copying Murderous Redcap. After sacrificing the Metamorph, he killed my Viscera Seer before
Metamorph could come back into play. As a result, when Metamorph came back into play, I had it copy an Eternal Witness to get Reveillark, and an Evoked
Reveillark to return Viscera Seer and Phyrexian Metamorph was able to seal the game.

New Mindet

My preparation and mindset going into this event were a far cry from normal. Generally, I would spend some time testing my deck. I would go into the
tournament with an attitude of “I need to Top 8 this event.” I would go into each match with a grim determination to win.

This tournament was completely different. I didn’t have a chance to test any Modern at all going into this GP. Well, actually, that’s a lie. I could have
made time. I chose not to. I just didn’t have it in me. I’m not sure why, exactly, but I just couldn’t bring myself to fire up Magic Online and jam some
games with the Birthingest of Pods.

The prior two Grand Prix I played in were completely different. In those events I took things too seriously. I knew how well I needed to do in those
tournaments and I let those thoughts run me throughout the day. I didn’t end up making Day 2 of either event.

Going into this Grand Prix, I basically had the mindset that I was very unlikely to qualify for Atlanta. For most people, Top 8’ing a Grand Prix isn’t an
easy feat. I am one of those people. I honestly didn’t expect to Top 8 this event and I had no such false expectations. I had no delusions about the
likelihood I would succeed in my desperate quest.

As a result, I had committed myself to just going to the event to have a good time. I would play the best deck as well as I could and I would accept my
finish regardless of how good or bad it was. I didn’t put any pressure on myself to succeed, and anytime I caught myself thinking thoughts like “I just
have to win three more,” I would force them out of my mind.

One of the most beneficial things I did was bring a book. In between rounds where I finished my match early, I would go somewhere secluded and read for
twenty minutes. That let me clear my mind and focus on things that weren’t Magic. Instead of dwelling on what could have been or getting myself psyched out
about upcoming rounds, I was able to instead get my mind off of Magic for a bit. When I would come back for the next round of Magic I could treat it as
exactly that: the next round. It wasn’t “one of the three rounds I need to Top 8,” it was just “a round of Magic.”

In Round 5 of the tournament, against U/R Twin, I punted Game 1 and ended up losing the match. My opponent was clearly representing Cryptic Command by his
lines of play, but I chose to ignore my gut and the evidence and didn’t play around it. As a result, I threw away a game I definitely could have won.

I think that in a lot of situations I would have let that tilt me. I would have said something like, “Come on, Brian, get your head in the game. You can’t
make any more mistakes like that.” Then I would have this added pressure I placed on myself to play tighter, which can often just lead to more and more
mistakes being made.

In this situation I just shrugged it off. I realized that mistakes happen, that I can’t change the fact that I lost the match no matter how much I dwell on
it, and I just put it behind me. When I lost a few rounds later in the Pod mirror, I likewise just put it behind me. My opponent’s draws in that match were
pretty insane, but it was completely outside of my control and thus there was absolutely no reason to think about it.

At that point I was 5-2 in the tournament. I ended up squeaking out a few more wins and finished Day 1 at 7-2. I knew going into Day 2 that I had to go 6-0
to have a shot at Top 8 and I knew that even going 7-2 wasn’t necessarily going to be good enough. In a lot of these biggest Grand Prix, not all X-2’s are
able to make Top 8.

My tiebreakers were not going to be good. I only had two byes, whereas a lot of players have three, so I lost out on some of the exceptional tiebreakers
that having byes can grant. I also picked up two losses early in the tournament, which are absolutely devastating to tiebreakers.

As it turned out, the Top 8 ended up being a clean cut. That was a good thing, because my tiebreakers were, as I suspected, quite poor. I ended up pulling
off eight matches in a row to go from 5-2 to 13-2 to land in the coveted eighth-place slot.


In my Top 8 match I was paired against Shaun McClaren, resident Pro Tour Champion and fellow SCG writer. I was actually kind of excited about this. For
one, I wanted a chance to prove myself against the last Pro Tour champion in the format he won the Pro Tour in. Second, I knew he was playing U/W/R which I
think is a good matchup for Melira Pod.

Or at least, that’s how I felt until I saw his decklist. When I saw the Restoration Angels and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breakers, my excitement level certainly
tanked significantly. Since Abrupt Decay and Spellskite cannot interrupt the combo, I was left with exactly one card in my deck, Linvala, that could
interrupt him in the first game. He also had the full four copies of Electrolyze in his main. That card is fantastic against Pod.

I ended up losing a pretty interesting Game 1, followed by losing an even more interesting Game 2. Over the course of those two games, no less than four
misplays I made came to mind, and that is just from my own memory. I am sure that if I go back and watch the match I might discover more. All of them are
seemingly minor things, things that a lot of people probably wouldn’t even notice. All of them were relevant in the outcome of the match.

In Game 1, I used Wall of Roots unnecessarily one turn. My plan was to Pod away the Wall of Roots, but I realized instead that it was actually superior to
Pod away my Phyrexian Metamorph to get a Shriekmaw to kill his Restoration Angel. As a result, my Wall of Roots turned from an 0/4 into an 0/3. Later in
the game, that Wall of Roots died to a Lightning Bolt, which led to the rest of my team, including a Voice of Resurgence Elemental, getting picked off by
Elecrolyzes. Having a Wall of Roots would have made the Voice Elemental big enough to survive the Electrolyze barrage.

Shaun later killed me that game with Restoration Angel and Kiki-Jiki. If I had been able to keep my Wall of Roots, I could have podded into Eternal Witness
to get back Linvala and then replayed the Linvala to keep him from being able to combo me out. I might have been able to win.

In Game 2, I played the wrong land on Turn 3. I had a Razorverge Thicket and just accidentally grabbed Gavony Township. I had to shock myself with Godless
Shrine the next turn. Fast forward about fifteen turns and I’m getting attacked for exactly lethal with Celestial Colonnade with a lethal Linvala in play
that I have to chump block with. That two damage mattered.

Later in the game, I drew a Birds of Paradise for the turn. Shaun had a Rest in Peace in play and I had an active Birthing Pod. I decided to keep the Bird
in my hand as insurance that I could rebuild with Pod if he drew one of his two copies of Wrath of God. It turned out that he had drawn a Lightning Bolt
for turn. When I attacked with my 4/4 Voice of Resurgence Elemental token and the rest of my creatures, he was able to bolt my Ranger of Eos, block the
Voice Elemental with his Wall of Omens, and have his Wall survive. If I had played the Bird precombat, he would have lost his Wall of Omens and then been
dead on board the next turn.

While it was certainly reasonable to consider holding the Bird to play around Wrath of God, it was actually just incorrect. I had Viscera Seer in play, so
even if he does draw a Wrath of God, I should be able to find another creature when I can scry five times.

The last mistake was made the turn I cast a Wall of Roots and a Voice of Resurgence when I had four lands, a Birthing Pod, and a Thrun in play. I cast the
Wall of Roots first, which got Spell Snared. If I had cast Voice first, he would have had to Snare my Voice, and I could have then played and activated
Wall of Roots afterward to be able to Pod it away into a three drop. Doing so would have meant that I had more Pod fodder in play and wouldn’t have needed
to then Pod away my Thrun the next turn.

Why do I point out all of these mistakes? It’s not to bash myself or bring myself down, but rather to showcase an important point. We all make mistakes. It
doesn’t matter that you mess up. But it is important to realize it and work on trying to fix it.

It’s easy to say, “Man, Shaun got so lucky against me. He ripped Sphinx’s Revelation when he was dead on board. Even after the Revelation, he was still
dead on board, but then he drew into the perfect Electrolyze into Electrolyze to still win. What a sack.” It’s easy to focus on aspects beyond our control.
It’s easy to blame variance or a string of poor luck.

The reality is that I let him get lucky. If I had played cleaner Magic, he wouldn’t have even had a chance to draw that Revelation. If I had played
perfectly, he wouldn’t have won that game. You can’t control variance, but you can at least play as well as you can possibly play and reduce the outcome it
has on the game as best as possible.

The moral of the story is that as Magic players, myself definitely included, we should blame luck a lot less for the outcome of games. Even if the game was
completely decided by nothing but luck, it does no good to dwell on it. This tournament, I decided I wasn’t going to ever let previous matches bother me,
no matter what happened. I did exactly that, and my results were fantastic. My mindset was great for this tournament I want to just replicate that for
every event.

I have improved a lot playing Pod. I went 4-4 in the Pro Tour. I went 12-3 in GP Richmond. I went 13-2 here. I have steadily done better and better in
every event I have played this deck. I can tell that I am taking better lines and that I am just becoming better at playing the deck.

With that being said, I still make lots of mistakes. Pod is a tough deck to play, but when played optimally, it is a force to be reckoned with. I Top 8’d
this tournament, and I did not play optimally. If I had, maybe I would have won the event. I have gone a long way, but I still have further to go. That’s
true of everyone.

Podding Thrun

I made a decision in a game against McClaren in the Top 8 to Pod away my Thrun. Shaun had his miser’s copy of Shadow of Doubt and I got completely and
utterly blown out. I took a good bit of heat for that line of play. On paper, it looks like a completely terrible play, and because he had the Shadow of
Doubt, the end result was the biggest blowout in Minnesota state history.

I have a few things to note about that. First of all, it is easy to sit at home and bash the line of play someone makes on camera. Keep in mind that there
is a ton of pressure and stress being in a position like that, and there is also the weariness that comes from having already played fifteen rounds of a
tournament. Mistakes will be made. Imagine yourself in that same scenario. Would you play perfect Magic? The answer is no. Nobody does. Would you like
people attacking you over the mistakes you make? I can’t imagine the answer is yes. We could all stand to show some restraint and consideration.

Second, just because it seems like a mistake doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. A lot of people who attack that decision also don’t really understand Pod
or the dynamic of the game in question. Shaun and I both spent more than five minutes studying each other’s lists very closely. I knew that Thrun was not
an immediate win-the-game card against him. It’s easy to claim my decision was a mistake because of how badly it backfired, but does that mean it actually
was a mistake?

It’s possible. Maybe it was, but I don’t think so, and it’s definitely much closer than people think. I’ve certainly thought quite a lot about it since,
and I still stand by my decision to Pod away the Thrun. Shaun’s deck has two copies of Wrath of God. Wrath of God can’t be regenerated from, so if he does
have a Wrath, I lose my Thrun. I had no creatures in hand, so I would be left with a Birthing Pod in play and no way to start the chain again if he does
have the Wrath.

Shaun was also at eight life with two copies of Wall of Omens in play. Thrun is at best a four-turn clock if he has nothing. Every Restoration Angel he has
buys him two full turns. He can block with a Wall of Omens, then blink the Wall to reset it and draw a card. Realistically, Thrun was probably not going to
actually be a lethal creature for another eight turns. That gives him a ton of time to kill me with Restoration Angels, Kiki-Jikis, and Celestial
Colonnades in the meantime or to find a Wrath of God before then.

By turning Thrun into Reveillark, I would present a two-turn clock. I also knew that Shaun didn’t have a Path to Exile, as he Lightning Bolted my Voice of
Resurgence the prior turn and he would have definitely Pathed it if he had one. I also would’ve gotten to present a board state that is resilient to Wrath
of God. If he killed my Reveillark, I would get back a Wall of Roots and a Voice of Resurgence. I could then Pod either of those into an Eternal Witness to
get back Thrun or Reveillark and put him back into a bad spot.


Toward the end of the game, Shaun used his Celestial Colonnade to tap for mana after being activated when I had a Linvala in play. That’s not a legal line
of play, but neither of us caught it and the game continued. I just wanted to point out that it’s an extremely easy thing to miss. I have never seen that
interaction come up in hundreds of games with Pod and I doubt he had either. I also want to note that it wouldn’t have affected the outcome of the game.
Mistakes happen.

Pro Tour Atlanta

As of last week, my expected finish in Atlanta was worse than last place.

Now my expected finish is last place. I haven’t tested very much and I have drafted even less. Much like Grand Prix Minneapolis, I am going into
this tournament with no expectations. I am woefully underprepared and I wasn’t even expecting to go a week ago.

The only thing I can do is play my best and hope things fall together for me this weekend like they did last weekend. It worked once. I wouldn’t mind
another run at it. I guess we’ll just have to see.

Spring 2014 State Championships