Understanding in a MODO Crash: Pro Tour Prague Revisited

RGD Lessons from Pro Tour: Prague!

Yes, that’s right… a second Tim Aten article in less than a month! Before the inevitable deluge of Regionals reports and Standard tech threatens to devour us all, Mr Aten brings us an irreverent look back at the players and performers of Pro Tour Prague. He also highlights some of the important additions that Dissension brings to the Limited arena…

Hi, I’m Tim Aten, and I’m in a tree outside the retirement home with binoculars.

I know, I know. You weren’t expecting another article from me until September at the earliest. However, our esteemed editor threatened the writing staff in an email that he’d show us all pictures from Martin Dingler Teletubbies-themed bachelor party if we didn’t get cracking. I normally don’t respond well to threats, but evidently, there’s a threshold. [Believe me, the word ain’t ready for my Tinky-Winky… – Craig.]

This Limited format makes ME scream, too...

This week, I’m going to be talking about PT Prague, and I will do so without the use of music lists, lingo interludes, or even blatant lies. Next time (I actually almost said “next week,” but then I remembered that “blatant lie” clause from a dozen words ago), I will jump into the exci-TING world of RGD drafts, which no one is even close to mastering. Anyone who thinks he knows this format is a charlatan and a munch. You heard me.

My comments on Prague shall take the form of a by-the-player recap, listed in order of finish. Naturally, since there were over 400 people in the event, I won’t take the time to comment on everyone’s performance. I don’t know who most of these people are, and I don’t want to know. One possible exception is Guillame Wafo-Tapa. Look at the man’s last name. He’s gotta be awesome, right? Of the people I do know on some level, not all of their stories are interesting, even to me. Like, ooh, Julien Nuijten missed Day Two again since he’s “the can’t possibly win under any circumstances ichies,” as the kids say. Alert the media! I no longer need to use skillful transitions to build my reputation and credentials – I’m basically tenured; sorry, brah – so let’s jump right in.

0. Aten, Timothy
Yeah, that’s right. I didn’t show up. I am not addicted to Magic, and I can quit any time I want. Basically, it was as I explained it to Ryan Opalk. I really didn’t feel like driving two hours to an airport, then hopping on a 12-hour flight, then trying to sleep but failing in some seedy Czechorepublakian hotel room. If I feel obligated to do that regardless of whether or not I want to, then Magic becomes a chore instead of something I look forward to. Yeah, I really hurt my chances of staying on the train for next year, but maybe it’s time for me to move on anyway. I might PTQ for future American PTs; I might not. Who cares? Additionally, you’ll be completely indifferent to know that I do plan on attending the rest of the PTs this year.

And no, I didn’t list myself first under the presumption that I would have won if I had gone, or because I thought I was “the real winner” for not going *high five, swig a beer.* I’ve never denied being a loser, okay? Magic is suh-weet.

1. Oosawa, Takuya
I’m not at all surprised that Takuya Top 8ed this Pro Tour. I first encountered the man at Worlds 2004. During the second draft, I managed to defeat Masahiko Morita (and later, Ivan Floch) with a Platinum Angel backed by Whispersilk Cloak. I’m not sure either one of them had an answer to even the unequipped Angel in their respective decks. In between these two, I played “some Japanese dude,” and some Japanese dude gave me a sound, sound beating. Whereas my deck consisted mostly of mana accelerants and Thought Couriers, his had stuff like “efficient fliers” and “ways to bounce/destroy my stupid Platinum Angel if I happened to draw it.”

On the third day, the format was Mirrodin Block Constructed, and I was paired against Takuya yet again. To summarize: Takuya = Japanese, me = American, format = Constructed. And yet — somehow – I… didn’t… lose. When I got home, being the ratings-obsessed little twit I was at that tender young age (almost 23), I checked up on my man Takuya, expecting to lose about 40 points. I was astounded to discover that his rating was over 2000! In Limited! A Japanese guy! Considering our two encounters in the squared circle of Dominia and the rating thing, I realized that Takuya was not your average Japanese gamer.

You may have noticed last paragraph that I made a disparaging remark about the Japanese and their Limited prowess. Now look, I realize that several of Masashi’s Top 8s were in Limited, and that one of the other PTs won by a Japanese player was also Limited, but I’m still gonna go ahead and say that I’m not too impressed by the drafting skills of the Japanese. Sure, they’ll play tricky cards against you that you won’t see coming and, in most people’s cases, outplay you in embarrassing fashion. But during the portion of the event where everyone’s going from 0 to 45 cards, they really don’t have it all together yet. You know who knows how to draft? Scandinavia.* That region of Europe was a little underrepresented this time (with only Rasmus Sibast), but fully half of London was from the Great North. In addition, the two most successful Limited players of all time – Anton Jonsson and Nicolai Herzog – are from that area. And they didn’t build their legacy on playskill; just ask them. So I’ll make the “countryist” statement that if you play against a Japanese player, chances are, you don’t have to worry too much about his deck quality. However, this is simply not the case for Takuya (and a few others).

Oosawa-san cashed in London and went 5-1 in the Limited portion of Worlds. Over the course of the past few years, his rating was always ridiculous, often appearing on the front page of the DCI Global Limited Ratings. Before this Pro Tour, Ted asked me to give my Top 8 prediction. Thanks to my information, I told him Takuya Oosawa… gets honorable mention. Man. Balked again. Even though it’s stupid, I’m glad that Ted mentioned that I saw it coming in the coverage. Granted, contrary to what Ted wrote, the only two times I ever played the man were in the aforementioned Worlds, but I digress.

Speaking of lies in the coverage, it’s a good thing that no one really cares about any of it, since misinformation abounds. For instance, BDM said (and Buehler confirmed) that all four of Takuya’s GP Top 8s were in Limited; only two were. BDM said Jamie Parke recently came up with the nickname “Antwaan Bramble El;” my various groups have been saying that since October. These are only two of countless examples. I don’t expect the poor reporters to know everything about the history of the game, but it’s dangerous to simply make up statistics without qualifying them with a “maybe” or an “I’m not sure.”

The coverage team is responsible for something a little more sinister, as well. Look at Mr. Oosawa’s name. In all of the past coverage, he’s Takuya Oosawa, but as soon as he makes Top 8, one of the O’s gets crossed right out. They did the same thing to Masashi (he was Masashi Ooiso in his first Top 8) and Shuuhei, and they will do it to you. You know, assuming you have some wacky Japanese name with two of the same vowel in a row. Look at Anton Jonsson, a white man, I might add. They let him keep his double-S! Sure, S isn’t a vowel, but the principle is the same. For an example with a vowel, look no further than Ruud Warmenhoven (another white man). To date, he hasn’t become “Rud.” Das Hopper. White. Still Nikolas NygAArd. And don’t even get me started about what they left unchanged in Oyvind Odegaard’s name. It’s rather clear that there’s a huge round-eye conspiracy to change what the white man doesn’t understand as a demonstration of power and control. Hey, guys? We already got them back for Pearl Harbor! Don’t you remember? Maybe it’s time to let it go!

So in conclusion, congratulations to Takuya Oosawa, PT Prague champion!

2. Brackmann, Aaron
Nice. Popped. Collar.

5. Sibast, Rasmus
Now, personally, I’ve never seen a bigger Oots than that. If you happen to locate a bigger Oots, I’d sure like to hear about it.

8. Martin, Quentin
Despite being a so-called “professional,” I learned a few things by watching the Top 8 coverage. Not the least of my acquired knowledge is that Quentin Martin is an ass. Twice during game 5 of the quarterfinals alone, he reached across the table and brashly untapped the Auras that his opponent had “carelessly” tapped along with the attackers. There’s an unspoken agreement while you’re playing Magic. If you want to touch your opponent’s cards during a game, simply ask him nicely. If he committed the mortal sin of tapping an enchantment, you may remind him – as politely or rudely as you wish, although believe it or not, I’d personally err on the side of politely – that only the creatures tap, not the Auras affixed to them. It’s a bit anal retentive, but hey, it’s your right.

That was barely worth mentioning, but it adds to Martin’s coup de grace during one of his opponent’s attacks. Martin was under attack from a Necromancer’s Magemarked creature, and a Dimir House Guard enchanted with Fists of Ironwood and Riot Spikes. Quentin blocked the House Guard with some two-power Black creature, and the opponent neglected to regenerate the 4/2 House Guard. Consequently, Martin reached across the table once more and triumphantly scooped the House Guard and its enchantments into the graveyard. The problem (other than the obvious one)? The House Guard was enchanted. Read Necromancer’s Magemark. Yeah, it was actually a 5/3. Only two words can describe that situation: Awk. Ward.

I had no idea that Mr. Martin behaved in such a manner, but a few sources tell me that that’s his MO. Yes, Quentin truly puts the “cock” in “cockney.”

14. Sadeghpour, Johan
The highest-placing of my “official” Top 8 predictions, Johan didn’t disappoint. Sweden’s awesome, Johan’s awesome, and I couldn’t be happier he made top 16.

18. Wiegersma, Jelger
This is actually one of the biggest stories of the Pro Tour, and this is partly because it usually flies way below the radar of the bourgeoisie. I haven’t gotten to see the man play much, but I can safely say he’s one of the ten best active Magic players today. I mean, I haven’t seen Olivier play much, and c’mon now – he’s gotta be good. Jelger has top 32ed both Pro Tours this year, and the only PT he didn’t cash last year was Los Angeles. In that PT, he may or may not have been playing the dreadful Dutch deck that had a 95% win percentage against Heartbeat and a 2% win percentage against the rest of the field, so I’ll forgive him.

Unfortunately, Jelger hasn’t had a high-profile finish in two whole years (wow), and people don’t exactly have the longest attention spans, so gamers overlook him when Invitational voting comes around. Don’t make the same mistake next year. Jelger deserves the slot, and he should be able to come about it honestly… y’know, without having to solicit votes on World of Warcraft forums or MySpace.

23. Nassif, Gabriel
Nassif very quietly finished in the top 24 this tournament. What a master.

44. Hoaen, Richard
I placed around 44th in Hawaii. I was borderline ecstatic. Had the event been Limited instead of Standard, I probably would have been somewhat disappointed. Hoaen is better than me, you, and just about everyone else, at drafting, so you can imagine how this one felt. Naturally, I had predicted Hoaen to Top 8, as he’s been the most consistent Limited player over the past three years. I chalk this finish up to the random nature of the format, which I’ll discuss at some point, while Hoaen maintains that there’s nothing wrong with the format. I’m going to make a somewhat bold prediction now. Hoaen will either Top 8 the next Limited Pro Tour…or finish outside the money entirely.

54. McDaniel, Chris
Further evidence that this format may be a complete joke: The Star Wars Kid made money in a Limited format. I mean, if I remember correctly, someone passed him Demonfire in the second draft, but I mean. I mean.

70. Jonsson, Anton
Not gonna lie, I was kinda hoping Anton would Top 8 too.

92. Goodman, Ben
Unlike the other people I was actively rooting against, Lucky the Leprechaun here actually made me sweat it out a little. I was hoping he wouldn’t make Day 2, but making Day 2 but not cashing is the next best thing. I’ll take it.

123. Nygaard, Nikolas
Das Hopper got off to a strong start this tournament but, despite being the new Finkel, failed to convert. Since I love talking about myself, allow me to quote my last article:

“It is my sincere hope that this glowing endorsement is enough to hex Mr. Hopper out of making a red dime in Prague.”

For now, let’s continue to assume that the “red dime” line was a cutesy, intentional malapropism and not evidence of my burgeoning senility. That would really help me out a lot. I didn’t paste that line as some sort of evidence that I can see the future (which I can) or – imagine the arrogance – somehow alter the future with my thoughts. I’m just saying it’s kind of an adorable coincidence.

168. Ravitz, Joshua
: (

194. Cutler, Aaron
: (

248. Hill, Zac
Cackle cackle cackle. So, Zac *snicker*, how did your little mind tricks work at the professional level, eh, sport? Did they fall for the “play the fifth land, heave a sigh, and pass the turn all disheartened-like so they’ll send their Centaur Safeguard, Mortipede, and Dross Crocodile right into your Scatter the Seeds” ploy? Did they waste Demonfire on your Courier Hawk since you bluffed the Wit’s End so masterfully by asking how many cards they had? And don’t tell people you went 3-3. You were out of contention after round 4 and everyone knows it.

301. Finkel, Jon
This was my favorite. Many pundits were abuzz with notions that Finkel was going to storm Prague and take home the title and win one for the old-timers and blah blah blah blah blah. While I knew better than to make any definite predictions against the man—It’s Finkel, for God’s sake—I wasn’t so sure that he was the warm knife and the other 400 competitors were the butter. No, I wasn’t sold that he was the kitten and the rest of the field was the ball of yarn. Truly, I wasn’t sure that Finkel was the priest and…well, you get the point. I bet Ravitz a dollar that Hoaen would finish higher than Finkel. Easiest dollar I ever made.

While I love being correct as a result of not buying into hype, there was something else about Finkel’s performance that made me grin. To quote Brian David-Marshall on Finkel’s second draft:

“He did pick up three more karoos – bringing the grand total to seven – all of which were Simic Growth Chambers. He took the third one over a Rakdos Signet, which he regretted immediately after the draft since he could not possibly play with all seven of them – although he was tempted to try.”

Jon, NOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I’m glad you read my last article, but it was supposed to be a joke! A JOOOOOOOOKE!!

Well, that wraps up my commentary on the players of Prague and, hey, would you look at the time? I guess I’m all done for this week. Join me next week when…

Whoa, wait. I didn’t actually say anything remotely strategic yet in this entire article, did I? I just spent the whole time making fun of the defenseless?

Ah, damnit. Well, okay, I guess I can toss you a bone and give you the illustrious…

My First Thoughts on Dissension
By Tim Aten

This is the part of the show where I look at the spoiler and make comments on a few of the cards that strike my fancy. Starting when Dissension hits MTGO, I’ll try to do a draft walkthrough every week. Really, watching comprehensive draft reports and drafting yourself are the only good ways to get a feel for this format.

Entropic Eidolon (and ALL the rest)
These are all very nice (even the Red one, yes). Decks nowadays only seem to average six or so multicolored cards, but that’s enough to play them. If you trade for a 2/2 and get it back once – even if you don’t get to use its ability on the way out – then you’ve come out ahead. Still, four-mana 2/2s aren’t exactly the most cost-efficient, so don’t take them too early. Almost every deck could benefit from one of these, and a few wouldn’t mind two.

Macabre Waltz
This shouldn’t be going 12th, as I’ve seen happen. In general, the decks in this format are going to be a little wishy-washy. In other words, even decks that attempt to be tempo-oriented will often fail to achieve aggressive starts because of mana issues. Often, the mid-to-late games will turn into attrition wars as players shuffle around their 6 basic lands and 3 double lands and 2 signets that could provide any colors of mana if they can just draw a spell. In these situations, the Waltz gets back the two creatures your opponent had the hardest time dealing with. Unless you’re way behind before you cast it, you should be in good shape once it resolves.

Helium Squirter
This is really good, and everything positive you’ve heard about Graft is true. Thanks in part to Graft, the Skarrgan Pit Skulk has been promoted from “minor embarrassment” to “actually pretty awesome.” The li’l human warrior is surprisingly difficult to block if it gets a second +1/+1 counter.

Ocular Halo
People have forgotten that creature enchantments are inherently bad in Limited, so I won’t need to dwell on this card’s shortcomings. Just make sure they can’t kill whatever you target with this in response. That said, the Halo replaces itself with the first activation and, if unchecked, will net you massive card advantage for a reasonable price. There’s no shame in scooping this up as early as first or second.

Sporeback Troll
See “Helium Squirter.” When I looked at the spoiler, I assumed that a 2/2 for four mana would be mediocre, but I was incorrect.

Utopia Sprawl
Takuya let this cat out of the bag. Better than Signets, assuming the land doesn’t get Wrecking Balled or Rolling Spoiled.

Fertile Imagination
This card seems very good. Has anyone played it who can confirm/deny? I’ve heard tales from Ravitz about eight 1/1s on turn 3…

Utvara Scalper
You had better have a lot of Bloodthirst if you let this guy anywhere near your deck.

Taste for Mayhem
As I mentioned earlier, creature enchantments are inherently bad unless they’re negative Auras you can neutralize opposing creatures with (Pillory of the Sleepless), they do something to compensate you (Galvanic Arc, Ocular Halo), or are simply ridiculous in power and/or make the creature considerably harder to kill (Moldervine Cloak). The more experienced Limited players already know this, but you don’t want to play this card. “Your 4/2 is now a 6/2? Great. Block it with my Tin Street Hooligan. Oh wait, you’re Hellbent, so it’s 8/2? In that case…block it with my Tin Street Hooligan. All set?” Don’t try to rationalize playing this by saying you have a lot of evasion creatures; if you put it on a flier, the flier’s gonna get Last Gasped.

Kindle the Carnage
A bit unwieldy, but it’s still a Wrath. Because of its restrictions, and because mass removal seems somewhat worse than average in this format, I’d take spot removal like Cackling Flames over it. Naturally, this is better in Green decks, where you’ll often be able to pitch a single card to kill a few of your opponent’s creatures while leaving your bigger men largely unharmed.

Guardian of the Guildpact
Elliot Ness. The Guardian will leave your opponent with the option of “Wrecking Ball or no.” Just remember that you can’t put Strands of Undeath on this or pump it with Ghost Warden.

Brace for Impact
Way too expensive, and you probably don’t have anything you can target with it anyway.

Assignment: Write an article. Deadline: Eight months.

This is a pretty solid card. It ranges from a cycler to an effective +1/+1 (assuming it’s blocking or being blocked) to an outright bloodbath; typical results will be somewhere in the middle. Remember that there have to be two creatures in play to cycle this. And that’s my last “Ask the Judge” moment. Honest Injun.

Vigean Hydropon
I am not that impressed by this card unless you have several Graft-ability creatures like the Sporeback Troll or Plaxcaster Frogling. Sometimes tapping out on turn 3 to play something that doesn’t directly affect the board can put you too far behind. Sometimes you’ll need to press a tempo edge and play a “real” creature on turn 3 instead of this, reducing its effectiveness. And sometimes, you’ll topdeck this in the late game, and it won’t do anything. This is playable, and in some games it will be a huge beating, but I’m not its biggest proponent.

Shielding Plax
You’d need some extra incentives to play this beyond the “draw a card” line, such as the Flaring Flame-Kin, a few Bramble Elementals, or several creatures that your average opponent will lose to straight up if they’re allowed to stay in play.

This should usually be a first-pick if you’re both of these colors.

Rakdos the Defiler
Why is it that everyone I asked about this card invariably questions, “Well, what if they have something?” Here’s a little bit of advice for all you prospective Magic and/or poker players: They don’t always have something. In the case of Rakdos, his ability is only a drawback if you attack with him and he fails to deal damage to your opponent. That means sorcery-speed removal doesn’t make him a liability beyond the frailty that plagues all creatures. There are ways to get a read on your opponent, and if you’ve figured out he has a Fury-Shield or a Mortify, then don’t attack until the coast is clear. Don’t play scared because of what your opponent might have. Rakdos is a frickin’ 7/6 flying frickin’ trampler for SIX mana! Your opponent will lose if this gets through. If you can cast him, take him on sight.

Plumes of Peace
Maybe it’s just my area, but this card goes around far later than it should. It’s reasonable removal that doubles as a Thundersong Trumpeter if you’re on the offensive.

Hit / Run
I think this card is marginal if you can only play one half, but rock solid if you can play both.

Azorius Signet (and the rest)
For a little while there, I hated Signets and wouldn’t touch them. Now, in an environment where we have to play a bare minimum of three colors, and often four or even five thanks to splashes, Signets are back in my good graces. I’d like one to two Signets in most decks, but since they’re basically lands, I wouldn’t want to play three or more under ordinary circumstances.

That’s all for this week. Questions, comments, strudel recipes, accurate appraisals of my appearance, debates on Billy Moreno sexuality, viruses, date requests, Final Fantasy III cheat codes, AFI songs, credit card numbers, and plain ol’ gibberish should be directed to [email protected]. Join me next time for music lists, lies, and lingo interludes… and if you’re lucky, Mana Bases for Dummies. Peace I’m outta here.

Tim Aten D.D.S.
The Faaaaaaaaastest Horse in the West
Still Bipolar
Still Goofy Lookin’
12:51 on MODO
Bert1656 on AIM
And like, [email protected] for real

*I include Finland. [Go Lordi! — Craig]