I recently had the opportunity go to Venice and do coverage of the Pro Tour for the Sideboard. Aside from the opportunity to go to Venice – a city I have always dreamed of visiting – I was looking forward to getting an early look at some of the strategy behind Team Sealed at the Gateway. Unfortunately, by the time I got myself pulled together on Thursday and arrived to do coverage, the event was already moving forward to the Rochester Draft rounds, which was not nearly as interesting for the purposes of preparing for this PTQ season.
Don’t get me wrong; it was fascinating to watch some of the top players in the world plunge into unexplored territory. I had the opportunity to watch Bob Maher Jr. come back from a game down and clinging on at one or two life against Alex Shvartsman. He had to win the deciding match for Courtney’s Boys against Illuminati and managed to do so in a manner befitting a baseball movie – just call him The Natural. That match clarified what I already knew about decks lacking any actual removal, but what I wanted was to understand the Team Sealed format.
When I got back from Venice, there was an e-mail waiting for me from William Jensen. He was upset that in my coverage of his semi-final match, it looked like he made a mistake in his semi-final match against Osyp by choosing to Oblate Osyp’s Akroma, Angel of Wrath with his own Angel in hand but without the eighth mana to cast it. I was trying to convey in the coverage that Jensen was operating with a plan. When I included other players’ comments in regards to the play, I used the word”mistake” in quotation marks. I went on to point out that Jensen was wary of Akroma’s Blessing and felt he needed to act while Osyp was tapped out. Jensen further elaborated in his e-mail that there were four Akroma’s Blessings in Osyp’s deck and only two Akroma. In the end, he made his decision based on numbers, and not out of a reflexive fear of six to the dome as some others implied. I thought it was clear in the coverage – but based on Jensen’s comments and a few other players’ as well, I guess it was not. Hopefully, that will set the record straight as I would not want to diminish a tremendous weekend on Jensen’s part in any way. He is definitely one of the finest players in the world, and deserves all of the praise that has been heaped upon him in the wake of his back-to-back top 8 finishes.
Lost in all the hype of Regionals, Nationals, Masters, Test with The Pros, etc. is the fact that this weekend is the unofficial kick-off for the 2003-04 Pro Tour season. The first event of the year is the Team Pro Tour: Boston and – as I have discussed in the past – it is unique in that you only need to achieve a ratings plateau to earn an invite. In the past, a 1750 was sufficient – and if it is raised for this season I would be shocked it went higher than 1775.
The reason I say that the new season is getting underway is the smattering of team events across the country in the form of Grand Prix Trials for Amsterdam and Boston. There are three tournaments this Saturday – New York, Boston, and Atlanta – that will earn the winning team a two-round bye for Grand Prix: Amsterdam. More importantly, at 24K they will earn newly-formed teams gobs of ratings points in pursuit of a ratings invite to Boston.
There are also a number of Grand Prix: Pittsburgh Trials going on all across North America as well as a sanctioned team event at Pastimes (www.pastimes.net) in Illinois. And that’s just this Saturday! There are going to be Grand Prix: Pittsburgh Trials over April and May, right up to (and including) the night before. The rest of the PTQ information can be found here. The Professional Event Services page actually has there PTQ dates listed, but I haven’t seen anything else yet.
The bulk of the rounds for these events will be Team Sealed with two Onslaught Tournament Packs and four Legions boosters. It seems like every deck I have opened in practice has been filled with amazing cards. Most card pools have multiple copies of all of Legions’ best commons – Timberwatch Elves, Skinthinners, Skirk Marauders, Echo Tracers, Daru Stingers. With twenty-two Onslaught and twelve Legions uncommons – not to mention the ten rares available – bombs are dropping like an inappropriate war reference.
To practice building for this weekend, Mike and I dove into a card pool and built three decks separately from each other – Matt Boccio has chosen to stay off this one. Predictably Mike, and I came up with very different builds. We were both stunned by the depth of the card pool and found it extraordinarily difficult to make cuts within a color. Our solutions were very different, and I think we both understood the approach the other player was taking. I have put all of the cards in alphabetical order by color regardless of set – what would your team do with these cards?
Disciple of Grace
Liege of the Axe
Liege of the Axe
Wall of Hope
Crown of Ascension
Master of the Veil
Merchant of Secrets
Wheel and Deal
Bane of the Living
Shepherd of Rot
Chain of Plasma
Goblin Sky Raider
Wave of Indifference
Chain of Acid
Hundroog (Hundroog! – The Ferrett)
Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
Patron of the Wild
Wall of Mulch
I think we dispatch with usual space to think and just take a look a the depth of the colors. You could easily build mono-color decks of you wanted and there are enough green and red cards to build two separate decks of reasonable quality. Of the ten rares, seven or eight are playable and several are the aforementioned bombs. All of the playable rares are either green, red, or black. The card quality of the white and blue cards is till pretty good, but there is nothing that is going to make your opponent slam his fist on the table and explain to his teammates that there was nothing he could do…you drew Kamahl…or Starstorm…or Bane of the Living. You get the idea.
Post your builds in our forums, and I will try to incorporate some of your ideas and builds into next week’s article along with mine and Flores’ builds. I will also continue to include this exercise with our card pool from this coming Saturday. Its never too early to start working on your rating – so if you are at all serious about qualifying for the Pro Tour look for any sanctioned team events in your area, continue to play with the same team, and winning wouldn’t hurt either.
briandavidmarshall at hotmail dot com