First, I’d like to apologize to all of you for the delay between the Pro Tour and this report, which was in part because of the Czech League in chess last week.
So where to begin? At the end of August, I realized that if I wanted to regain my platinum status for another year, I would need to do really well at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica because earning 45 pro points after missing the World Cup isn’t easy. I prepared about eight hours per day playing Modern Daily Events on Magic Online and playtesting with Ivan Floch. After about fourteen days, I’d tried almost every deck in the field and concluded that Jund, U/W, and RUG were slightly better decks than the rest of the field.
Jund had a comfortable match up against RUG and aggro decks and was an underdog to U/W. U/W destroyed all the combo decks but had an uncomfortable matchup against RUG. RUG had a 50-50 matchup against everything except Jund, where it was a slight underdog, and U/W, where it was the favorite. Everything seemed to be in balance.
At the end of September, Ivan and I traveled to Brno to start practicing Return to Ravnica Draft and to get into the right mood for the Pro Tour (we did the same before Pro Tour Avacyn Restored, and it was a great deal of fun). We learned a lot about the RTR Limited format. For example, our friend Jan Kotrla pointed out that due to the lack of removal in the set, Izzet Aggro with Pursuit of Flight is one of the best archetypes in the format. A week before GP San Jose, we moved to Prague to start practicing with our teammate Lukas Jaklovsky.
We got to San Jose two days before the GP, and as always, Ivan had troubles on his way. This time he had problems during his interview while entering the US, then his baggage was scanned for almost an hour, and when we were finally able to get a cab, we were stuck for two more hours in a traffic jam.
At the GP, we did really well. I got a game loss for deck errors in the first and last round, and Ivan lost ten straight games in a row on Day 1. But we finished in 4th place, so all was forgotten. I have to admit that I really like team tournaments. GP San Jose was for me the most entertaining tournament I’ve ever played. My teammates were great, and the opportunity to watch other good players thinking and making decisions was priceless.
Sample hand from my first team draft in San Jose. It wasn’t the best deck ever, but I managed to win the key match with it.
In Seattle, we met up with Robert Jurkovic and some French players headed by Raphael Levy.
We realized that, in Modern, the card with the biggest impact from Return to Ravnica was not Abrupt Decay but Deathrite Shaman. We tried to stick it in every deck, like B/G Smallpox splashing Lingering Souls, but after more games, we realized we should simply add Shaman to Jund decks.
The Jund versus U/W matchup completely turned around to favor Jund, and Jund was also becoming popular on Magic Online. We realized it would be the deck to beat at the Pro Tour.
Rafael showed us his Vengevine deck and it seemed to be very powerful, but what I didn’t like were the post-board games because we weren’t able to find a good sideboard plan.
We were running out of time due to bad time management. The dumbest thing I did was bet 50 dollars that I could eat an extra-large pizza in an hour. I did it, but it was a bitter victoryâ€”I felt like I could explode any minute and was forced to stay in bed for the rest of the day, unable to move.
All I could do was think about the format. I realized that if U/W didn’t have a good matchup with Jund anymore, it wasn’t going to be that popular at the Pro Tour, meaning it might be good to run combo. I researched the most common hate cards, and after some time I figured out that running Second Sunrise might be viable because there weren’t going to be as many counterspells played. In addition, Grafdigger’s Cage doesn’t do anything against the deck. A lot of Jund players didn’t have anything to beat Leyline of Sanctity, which was very good news as well.
On Wednesday, I played some games with the deck, and it did well so that I jumped on board immediately. Lukas liked the deck as well, but he was doing so well with RUG that he didn’t know if it would be a good choice for him.
On Thursday, we moved to the Pro Tour hotel. We had to purchase the cards we needed first, so we took a cab. As we were leaving, we encountered some sad French guys who were just told that someone had bought the artifacts for Eggs a minute ago. We felt bad for them, but we also couldn’t stop smiling because we realized if we had been there ten minutes later, we would’ve had to play something else.
After getting to the hotel, we found out we hadn’t bought Reshape, so we had to cab back to the store again to get them. This time, we told the driver to wait so we didn’t have to bus after trying to catch a cab for an hour.
We finally had all the cards we needed, and I wrote down the following list:
If you want to know more about how the deck works, you should check out my deck tech.
I didn’t run Krark-Clan Ironworks because I feel like it’s a win more card. When you go off, it makes everything easier, but I don’t think it’s necessary.
I played one Gitaxian Probe. It’s very good against decks with ways to disrupt your combo because information about their hand helps you to find best line of play. It can also give you extra information for the next game if you go off. Silence can buy you a turn if it’s played at the right moment, and it’s priceless against decks with counterspells.
The sideboard is full of answers for your opponent’s hate cards. Leyline stops all discard, most graveyard hate (like Nihil Spellbomb, Jund Charm etc.), and Slaughter Games. Echoing Truth bounces most problematic cards like Stony Silence and can buy you some time as well.
It’s also very good to have another win condition in the sideboard. I sided in Grapeshot a lot, mostly switching for Pyrite Spellbomb, especially against Jund but sometimes against the other decks. For example, I faced G/R Tron in round 1, and after game 1, I sided in two Needles and Grapeshot for two Silence and Spellbomb. I didn’t want to side in any Echoing Truths, but I also didn’t want to concede to a random Pithing Needle. Having Grapeshot was a good solution.
Lukas decided to run the same list as me, Ivan stayed loyal to RUG, and Robert played R/G Tron.
I was paired against R/G Tron, which is good matchup for me. Tron has no clock, and most of its cards aren’t very scary either since most lists don’t run Mindslaver anymore. The only problematic card is Relic of Progenitus, but you can deal with it by playing an extra Second Sunrise in response to the Relic activation. In game 1, my opponent wasn’t able to draw any Relics. I simply Silenced him on turn 3 to make sure he couldn’t topdeck anything and killed him on turn 4.
In game 2, my opponent had early Relic, so I played the waiting game. On about turn 5 I played Needle naming Relic of Progenitus. Then I sacrificed all my artifacts and cast a second Sunrise with four mana floating. He had Nature’s Claim ready, but I had Faith’s Reward backup. Everything came back, and then Relic’s trigger resolved. Then I sacked everything again, returning it all with Second Sunrise, and after few minutes I killed him with Grapeshot.
I was paired against Living End, a very tricky matchup. You have a faster clock, but they have some graveyard hate, so you always need to pay attention.
In game 1, I mulled to six and my hand wasn’t very exciting. I had to cycle Pyrite Spellbomb before going off on turn 5. When I Probed my opponent, I saw he had Faerie Macabre in hand, which meant that if he removed Spellbomb I’d lose on the spot. I was able to keep my poker face while going off, and when I had two Conjurer’s Baubles I put Spellbomb on the bottom of my deck. When I redrew my Spellbomb and used it, my opponent tried to remove it with Macabre, but I already had something like six Sunrises in hand, so I simply cast one of them in response and killed him.
I started game 2 by suspending Lotus Bloom on turn 1. At the end of turn 3, my opponent tried to Violent Outburst, but I had Silence ready to stop Living End. On my turn 4, I had Hallowed Fountain, two Ghost Quarters, and Flask in play. Lotus entered the battlefield, and my opponent immediately cast a Krosan Grip on it. I didn’t know I could still sacrifice it for mana (since you can still activate mana abilities), but I also didn’t pass priority. I should’ve been able to sacrifice it and play Second Sunrise before any move from my opponent.
We called a judge, followed by the head judge. They ruled that I should have indicated I wasn’t passing priority, so they put Krosan Grip on the stack. Unfortunately, I did not know I could sacrifice it anyway, so it was destroyed.
I drew Misty Rainforest, destroyed two lands with Ghost Quarters, sacked Flask, and returned everything including Lotus Bloom. From Flask I drew another Second Sunrise, and with two artifacts in my hand, it meant GG.
I faced David Ochoa with Jund. Honestly, I don’t remember the games very well because I faced Jund several times in the tournament and the games are always very similar. In the first game, I killed David through one discard spell on turn 4.
The key after board in this matchup is to open with Leyline of Sanctity, which leaves you in a very good spot because it stops their best cards (discard, Jund Charm, Nihil Spellbomb, Slaughter Games etc.).
I mulled into a reasonable six-card hand but without Leyline. David played discard on turn 1, missed his second land, but was able to play discard spells on turn 2 and 3. I drew too many lands while David played Dark Confidant followed by more discard spells, and he killed me in a few turns.
For game 3, I didn’t have Leyline, but otherwise my hand was very solid. I believe I killed David on turn 4 despite him resolving a discard spell.
I was paired against RUG Scapeshift. I felt really comfortable in this matchup since my deck is simply faster and they don’t have enough disruption to face my combo. I was on play and started with Ghost Quarter and Star followed by flask on turn 2. On turn 3, I played Scalding Tarn. My opponent tapped out for Telling Time, and I respond with destroying my land with Quarter, sacrificing Tarn and both artifacts and playing Second Sunrise, which put me very much ahead. On my turn I played Silence, which resolved, and I started combo with Reshape and Faith’s Reward and killed him on turn 4.
Against the pure R/G version, it’s worth considering siding in Leylines to shut down your opponent’s Valakut, but versions with blue are able to bounce your Leyline with Cryptic Command, so this plan doesn’t work against them.
In game 2, I drew a no-lander with two Lotus Blooms, Silence, and Second Sunrise and I decided to keep this hand. By turn 4, I was still without lands. My first Lotus was countered by Negate, but the second resolved.
I drew Scalding Tarn, found Hallowed Fountain, cast Silence, sacked Lotus for blue, and played Star+ Reshape followed by Second Sunrise. I had one more Second Sunrise and Faith’s Reward plus several artifacts in hand, so I started combo and killed him. After the game, my opponent showed me another Negate in hand, so if he had countered both Lotuses I wouldn’t have been able to go off and I would’ve lost the game almost for sure, but luckily that didn’t happen.
I got paired against Willy Eden with Jund. In game 1, Willy wasn’t able to draw any discard spells, and I won easily on turn 4.
For game 2, I had a reasonable hand without Leyline. Willy played discard spell taking Reshape followed by Dark Confidant. On turn 4, Willy cast another discard spell, and I chose to sacrifice my three artifacts and play Second Sunrise in response to get some card advantage. But I wasn’t able to go off on following turn; I only played Ghost Quarter, Flask, suspended a Lotus Bloom, and passed. On turn 5, Willy played Slaughter Games, but luckily he named Pyrite Spellbomb, which I’d sided out for Grapeshot. On my turn I tried to go off using Reshape to find Lotus Bloom, destroyed a land with Quarter, and cast Second Sunrise.
After drawing some cards, I asked Willy if I’d played a land. He said he wasn’t sure, and I said I think I didn’t so. I played Scalding Tarn getting an Island, cast three more artifacts, destroyed a land with Quarter, and cast another Second Sunrise. Before Second Sunrise resolved, Willy checked all my lands in play and in graveyard again and said that I had to have played an extra land somewhere because I had one more land than I should have. I was confused because I really didn’t remember playing any other land except Scalding Tarn this turn, but the truth was that I had ten lands in graveyard and in play together and it was my turn 5. I’d searched twice with Ghost Quarter, once with Scalding Tarn, and once with Misty Rainforest, so I realized that the only explanation was that I’d played extra land somewhere.
We called a judge to help us solve the situation, and after about 20 minutes they decided to put Scalding Tarn back in my hand, the Island searched up by Tarn back to my library, and drained blue mana from my mana pool, letting Second Sunrise resolve. I tried to run the combo, but I fizzled due to missing mana with about fifteen cards in hand, keeping one Bauble on the table for sure. I discarded two Lotus Blooms and passed, ready to go off next turn again. Willy played another creature, which meant he was going to kill me next turn and passed with three mana open.
On my turn, I played another Bauble and tried to put Lotus Bloom on the bottom of my deck. Willy responded with Jund Charm, forcing me to use another Bauble on Lotus. Jund Charm resolved, leaving me with only one Lotus in my library. I cast Reshape, three more artifacts, and started to combo. Thing were really complicated because two of my Lotus Blooms were exiled and the third was suspended, but I was lucky enough to find Second Sunrise / Faith’s Reward always in time and finished the game with Grapeshot.
I was obviously very happy about my record, but I knew that switching to “normal” Magic with creatures might be difficult after doing well with a combo deck. My first draft was very interesting, which you can see here.
My goal during the Limited portion was to avoid white if possible because I’d been really satisfied with my decks and results in drafts before the PT with the exception of when I had decks with white. I considered white the worst color, and it sounded like other players didn’t agree with this, so avoiding white seemed like a good plan.
My first pick offered me Stab Wound or Dreg Mangler. I believe that in an aggressive Golgari deck Mangler is the slightly better card. Stab Wound is great in every black deck and seems to be the safer pick there, but I decided to take Mangler because I’d felt really comfortable when I had aggressive Golgari decks in past and I thought my chances of ending up with Golgari were much higher passing Stab Wound than Mangler. Second pick, my options were Arrest, Voidwielder, and Ogre Jailbreaker. I didn’t consider Ogre much because I think he doesn’t fit well into the aggressive Golgari plan and the power-levels of the other cards were much higher. Arrest is clearly the best card in the pack; however, I decided to pick Voidwielder from following reasons:
- My previous results with white decks weren’t very good, and I didn’t think that the PT was a good time to start experimenting.
- Sending Arrest third pick in the first booster as the only good card might make Tom Martell sitting next to me consider that a signal that white was open, so the chance that we split colors would grow.Â
I picked Sewer Shambler third over Lobber Crew, and on the fourth pick I had an interesting choice between Dead Reveler and Izzet Charm. I had more G/B cards at the moment, but I also realized that nothing really exciting was passed to me. I also didn’t pass anything good in blue or red colors to Tom, so I thought Izzet might be open in the second booster as well, so I picked Izzet Charm. My next picks were relatively simple, and after booster one I had 6-7 playable cards for Izzet and a strong feeling that Izzet was going to be open in next two boosters. That luckily happened, and I ended up with a very fast deck with a very low curve full of good creatures and four Pursuit of Flight.
I played against Azorius in round 6, which is the deck you don’t want to play against if your deck includes Pursuit of Flight because bounce spells like Dramatic Rescue or Voidwielder shine in this matchup.
I started with a two-drop followed by Pursuit of Flight because I didn’t have anything else to play on turn 3. My opponent played Crosstown Courier followed by Sunspire Griffin. We both added more creatures, and game was very unclear until turn 6, when I topdecked Isperia’s Skywatch to detain his creature and killed him on board.
In game 2, my opponent must have kept a weaker hand because his only plays until turn 5 were two Crosstown Courier. I played creatures on turns 2, 3, 4, and 5 and ended the game really quickly.
I played against a slow Izzet deck. I opened with a 2/1 unleashed creature, and my opponent answered with Doorkeeper. I played Pursuit of Flight and attacked. He played Lobber Crew. I attacked again and added another creature. Liu played his own Pursuit of Flight on Doorkeeper, but I had Voidwielder ready to bounce his Doorkeeper and ended the game the next turn. Game 2 was even easier since my opponent had no answer to Frostburn Weird with Pursuit.
I faced Istvan Topody with Golgari. In the first game, I had very good draw and took the initiative quickly. At some point Istvan scavenged his 1/1 Grim Roustabout, allowing me to attack for lethal because Grim Roustabout couldn’t block due to counters from scavenge, but it didn’t really matter because I had an extra Annihilating Fire in hand.
Game 2 Istvan mulled, missed his third land drop, and had no chance since I played creature on turns 2, 3, and 4 followed by Pursuit of Flight.
With a playset of Pursuit of Flight, it’s no problem to fly through the draft without losing a game.
After Day 1, we had very good reasons to celebrate because my roommate Ivan Floch was second in the current standings at 7-1, but we were completely destroyed so we at a quick dinner at Subway and went to sleep.
Before Day 2, started I met up with Martin Juza, and he asked me if the draft viewer was showing my picks correctly. I said yes, and Martin was joking about my picks and said that my nickname is going to be “Stanislav draft-viewer must be broken Cifka,” which was really funny to me and helped me relax.
My second draft was much easier because I first picked Korozda Guildmage over Angel of Serenity and got passed very good Golgari cards like Stab Wound, two Grisly Salvage, Daggerdrome Imp, and a couple of scavenge guys in pack one. Pack two was also fine, but the real gift for me was Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord third pick in the third booster. I ended up with probably best deck I ever had in RTR Draft: I had three Grisly Salvage, three Daggerdrome Imp, Korozda Guildmage, Jarad and Jarad’s Orders, six or seven good scavenge guys, and all the other cards you’d want in your Golgari deck.
I played feature match against Conley Woods. In game 1, Conley had an aggressive start with Tavern Swindler followed by Dead Reveler. It took me some time to stabilize the board, but Conley was out of gas and I was able to fly to victory with Daggerdrome Imp. Game 2 I had the perfect draw. I played Imp on turn 2, Grisly Salvage on turn 3, Jarad on turn 4, and another Salvage on turn 5, making Jarad a 6/6 or maybe even 7/7 and killing Conley quickly.
I was paired against R/U/W Control deck. I was winning by a lot in game 1 since I had Korozda Guildmage and two more creatures in play, but my opponent played Supreme Verdict and suddenly things looked very unclear. My last card in had was Grisly Salvage, and I was lucky enough to hit Jarad and finish with him within two turns.
In game 2, I started with Imp and Grisly Salvage, putting some scavenge guys in my graveyard. My opponent played Mercurial Chemister on turn 5 and things were looking bad, but I played more Salvages and put Jarad in play while my opponent didn’t draw the right answers and lost to Jarad and other big scavenge guys despite having active Chemister.
I faced Istvan again; this time he was playing Rakdos. In game one, I traded some guys and stabilized the board with Jarad. I scavenged Imp and won in a few turns. Game 2 Istvan mulled and didn’t have a very explosive draw. I played two Grisly Salvages, finding everything I needed, and finished with the game with Jarad.
After the second draft, I was in a great spot, needing only four more points to make Top 8, but more than losing four matches in a row I was afraid that I would mess up something like in round 5 and be disqualified, so I promised myself that I would pay much more attention. Luckily, there was a judge present for most of my matches, so nothing bad happened.
I played against Yuuya Watanabe, and you can watch our match here.
Game 2 I suspended two Lotus Blooms and went off on turn 4, sacrificing everything before using Faith’s Reward. Yuuya had Jund Charm ready, but I had another Second Sunrise to respond Jund Charm, returning everything back. I let Jund Charm resolve, and because Faith’s Reward was still on the stack, I sacrificed everything again, drawing more cards and finding another Sunrise to win.
I was paired against Splinter Twin. I lost the die roll, and my opponent started with Steam Vents and Sleight of Hand. I played Ghost Quarter and Chromatic Star. My opponent played two Serum Visions on turn 2. I played Scalding Tarn, and my hand was really good: Reshape, two Second Sunrise, Faith’s Reward, Flask, and Silence. I decided to sacrifice Tarn and Quarter and play Reshape for Lotus Bloom because it’s almost always good to play Second Sunrise in order to get some extra lands and cards. When I draw for Star, I got another Reshape and tried to go off, which worked out for a turn 2 kill. :)
I have to admit that I felt like a king after that game since it was my 20th straight game won in a row and a turn 2 kill isn’t very usual for this deck, but I had to come back to reality very soon since my opponent had very good draw the next game: he played Relic of Progenitus, destroyed my Needle with Ancient Grudge, and killed me with the Exarch + Kiki combo.
After the game, I changed some cards because I wasn’t completely sure what I was playing against before game 2. My sideboard for the last game was -2 Silence, -3 Sleight, +4 Echoing Truth, +1 Needle. Game 3 went very long since my opponent had Relic on turn 1 and I had Echoing Truth ready for his combo. He played Vendilion Clique, and at seven lands he added Kiki-Jiki to have a faster clock. I tried to bounce Relic EOT, but he Dispelled. On my turn I had enough mana for Sunrise + Faith’s Reward, so I was able combo through active Relic.
I played against Bruce Pai with Jund, and you can read about the match here.
Game 1 Bruce didn’t draw any discard spells, so I didn’t have many problems making a turn 4 kill. After board I had a reasonable draw, with Leyline of Sanctity shutting down all of Bruce’s ways to stop my combo, and I’ve won without any problems on turn 4.
Learn how to play solitaire well and you’ll be on your way to winning a PT.
I was paired against Pedro Carvalho with Affinity. I won the die roll, which is very important in this matchup since it’s a pure race game 1. Pedro mulliganed because his only chance to win a pre-board game on the draw is to kill me by turn 3. It didn’t happen, and since Pedro didn’t have a fast enough clock I waited until turn 5 to combo because I wanted to minimalize the chance of fizzling, killing him then without any problems.
After board, Pedro didn’t draw Relic to disrupt my combo and his clock wasn’t fast enough, so I tried to go off on turn 4, and after playing my third Second Sunrise Pedro conceded.
You can watch this match here. I was paired against Kelvin Chew with Infect, which is after U/W the worst matchup for Eggs because it has a faster clock and countermagic in post-board games. In game 1, I didn’t have Reshape and wasn’t able to go off on turn 3, so I tried to do a small Second Sunrise and cast Silence to increase my chances of surviving until my next turn, but Kelvin had a hand full of perfect pump spells and killed me during his turn.
Game 2 I bounced Kelvin’s Elf on turn 2, keeping him out of infect creatures and making sure I could survive until my turn 4. I had three Ghost Quarters, Fountain, and Lotus. I didn’t have many death cards in my library because I fetched for all basic lands, so I was able to go off with even with less card drawing artifacts than usual, finishing with him with Pyrite Spellbomb on the same turn.
For game 3, I had a playable but not optimal hand, and I decided that I had to risk it if I wanted to win on the draw and shipped the hand back. The second hand wasn’t much better, and Kelvin had very strong draw, killing me on turn 3 with Spell Pierce backup.
Despite losing the last round, I finished in 1st place after sixteen rounds of Swiss, which was great because it meant I got to play first in all my matches in the Top 8. After some interviews and a great dinner at a Chinese restaurant, I tested my quarterfinal matchup with Ivan and Lukas. We concluded that I had a good chance in my next matchup against Pedro Carvalho Affinity, and knowing that I would go first in game 1, which is a pure race, was also very promising.
You can read this match here.
I won the first game easily on my turn 4 since I knew Pedro had no way to interact in game 1.
My sideboard for games on the draw was +2 Pithing Needle, +4 Echoing Truth, -2 Silence, -2 Sleight, -1 Probe, -1 Flask. On the play my sideboard was +2 Needle, +2 Truth, -2 Silence, -1 Probe, -1 Sleight. I did this because I wanted to have as stable deck as possible on the play, but on the draw I felt like I needed to have some answers to survive until my turn 4.
Game 2 my draw wasn’t good enough to beat Pedro’s fast clock combined with a Relic of Progenitus, so we moved to game 3 quickly.
In game 3, I suspended Lotus Bloom turn 1. With my hand I knew I could kill Pedro on my turn 4, the only question was if I would be able to survive until then. I had to do some math during Pedro’s turn 3 because I had Echoing Truth in hand and Pedro had Ravager and Inkmoth Nexus in play, but the maximum he could get was nine poison. When I untapped, Lotus Bloom hit the board, and I killed Pedro despite his Spell Pierce.
We were moved to camera for game 4, which you can watch here.
Judges asked Pedro to not concede if I went off, which was probably kind of frustrating for him. Pedro mulled to six, starting with Citadel, Drum, Ornithopter, and Steelshaper’s Gift finding Cranial Plating. When I saw my hand, I knew I was in the semifinals almost for sure since I had two Lotus Blooms and Pithing Needle to stop Cranial Plating, buying me enough time. Pedro played Master of Etherium, but his clock wasn’t fast enough. I finished the game on turn 4.
After the match, I watched the last quarterfinals between U/W Control and Scapeshift. Despite knowing Tian’s Scapeshift would not be an easy matchup for me, I was really happy that he managed to win his match since I knew that my chance of beating U/W Control in a best of five match was very small.
In game 1, I was able to get two extra lands and draw extra cards at the end of my turn 3 after my opponent tapped out for Telling Time, which put me pretty far ahead. Next turn I played Silence, which was countered, but Lee was tapped out so I could go off and win on turn 4.
Game 2 wasn’t very interesting because Lee mulliganed to five and missed his second land drop. On my turn 4, I Silenced Lee and combo’d off.
In game 3, I mulliganed to six, and on my turn 2, I made a mistake when I played Chromatic Star instead of Conjurer’s Bauble and it was countered with Izzet Charm. On my next turn I played two Baubles, and Lee played Vendilion. Next turn he used Nature’s Claim on Bauble and I had to choose if I wanted to gain four life or draw a card, and I choose to draw a card. The game was very close, and on the key turn I fizzled mainly because I was missing Chromatic Star in play.
The key moment in game 4 was when Lee decided to play Vendilion Clique at the end of my turn, allowing me to sacrifice Ghost Quarter, Rainforest, two artifacts, and return them back with Second Sunrise, after which I had a big advantage. Next turn I cast three more artifacts, and one turn later I played Silence and combo’d off.
In the finals, I played against Yuuya Watanabe with Jund, which is a good matchup for me. Yuuya is one of the best players in the world, though, so I knew it was going to be a tough match.
Game 1 I had very good start, playing two artifacts on my first two turns, and I decided to play Reshape and Second Sunrise on turn 3 to improve my board position then another Faith’s Reward to improve my board position even more. I had a very good chance to go off on turn 3 and decided to try it, but it was a mistake because I should have waited until Yuuya’s upkeep, sacrificed Star, and Silenced him so that on my next turn the chance of fizzling would be even lower. So I started combo, but unfortunately the unlikely happened and I fizzled. Yuuya played Bloodbraid Elf into Dark Confidant, and I knew I needed to go off on my next turn. I had Lotus, Flask, Star, and five lands in play, so the chance that I would win this turn was very high and when I drew Second Sunrise I thought I would win almost for sure, but then I started to draw terribly and fizzled.
I opened with Leyline of Sanctity game 2 so I was protected from all of Yuuya’s threats and won comfortably on turn 4.
I started game 3 with a mulligan and kept a good six-card hand but without Leyline of Sanctity. Yuuya played a pair of Shamans in the first two turns while I suspended Lotus and played a few artifacts. Yuuya used Shaman to play Liliana, and I had to decide what to discard. Normally I would discard a land card, but I knew that Yuuya really needed the mana from Shaman so I picked Serum Visions. I was so focused on thinking about Yuuya’s options for his next turn that I forgot to remove a counter from the suspended Lotus Bloom, which was a terrible mistake. On my next turn I decided to go off anyway even though I was missing Lotus, and this time I was lucky enough to combo through my deck and win with Grapeshot.
Everyone says that the last step is most the most difficult; it’s especially true when you’re facing the current Player of the Year.
For the last game of tournament, I didn’t have any land but had Leyline and two Lotus Blooms. It was a clear keep, but if I didn’t have a Sunrise effect in hand when the Lotus Blooms hit play, I would lose to Ancient Grudge. On turn 2 Yuuya Thoughtseized himself, and I saw that he had the Grudge.
I held my poker face, but I knew that if I didn’t draw Second Sunrise or Faith’s Reward I’d be in big trouble. Luckily I drew Island to play Serum Visions, finding Faith’s Reward. When the Lotus Blooms hit play, Yuuya destroyed one of them during upkeep. I improved my board position with Faith’s Reward, having three lands, Star, Flask, and two Lotus Blooms in play, and passed the turn because there was no reason to hurry. I waited until the last the moment to minimalize the chance off fizzling, went off on turn 6 comfortably, and finished the game with Grapeshot.
When the finals ended, I was so happy because winning the Pro Tour was a dream come true for me. After the ceremony, we ate a quick dinner and then went to the karaoke bar where we had a lot of fun, especially after finishing our tenth refill of Long Island Iced Tea from the Pro Tour trophy.
The day after Pro Tour, I traveled with Lukas, Martin, Shuhei, and Yuuya to Las Vegas for a short vacation before GP Philadelphia. We had a really good time there, but that’s another story…
To end I would like to thank Jan Kotrla for a perfect week in Brno, the judges at the PT for having patience with me in round 5, Lukas Jaklovsky for a great month in the US, and especially Ivan Floch for helping me prepare for all the tournaments in the last year and being a very good friend.