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Initial Technology: Pro Tour Kyoto Report, Part 2 *2nd*

PT Kyoto Report *Part 2*

After Round Seven, the standings looked like so:

Rank        Player                                      Points              OMW%
1     Yamamoto, Akimasa [JPN]      21                      65.30%
2     Scott-Vargas, Luis [USA]          21                      64.62%
3     Driessen, Thomas * [NLD]        21                      59.86%
4     Robinson, Brian * [USA]           18                      73.46%
5     Yasooka, Shouta [JPN]              18                      72.10%
6     Anderson, Mattias * [SWE]      18                      69.38%
7     Kaye, Kamui * [USA]                  18                      65.98%
8     Ruess, Jan [DEU]                          18                      63.26%

That is the first pod for day 2, and I don’t feel too bad about it. It being the 7-0 / 6-1 pod at a Pro Tour, I don't expect to play against anyone bad, but it isn't as stacked as some pods I have had the pleasure of drafting in. Shouta continues to be the person I most want to avoid, although I am not likely to face him until round two at the earliest. This draft isn't covered, but I will walk through the broad sketches of it, which will hopefully explain the somewhat odd-looking decklist.

I open Resounding Thunder and get passed Sedris, the Traitor King in the second pack. This obviously sets me on the path to go Grixis, but a bunch of random late Esper cards leads me into the second straight draft of Five-Color Esper, which is probably a draft archetype worth exploring more in-depth at some point. A random Rhox War Monk pick 7 pack 1 throws me off a little, but there was nothing in the pack so I grab it. I could actually take a second War Monk around pick 7 in pack 2 as well, but I take Bant Panorama instead. I would much rather have a Panorama and a War Monk than two uncastable War Monks. That is the sort of pick that requires some discipline, and the sort of pick that frustrates my teammates when we do 3v3s.

See, in a Pro Tour I am quite disciplined, both in drafting and mulligan decisions, but that kind of goes out the window in team drafts. I certainly enjoy Magic quite a bit more when I get to be a little loose, which sometimes can be detrimental to our team's chances of winning. I like to think that I take "calculated" risks, but that isn't always exactly true. The classic example of this sort of behavior is GP: Atlanta, where I ran a bunch of 3v3s with Cheon and my old roommate Eirik. The two drafts we did before day 2 of the GP involved such atrocities as double Goblin Deathraiders and double Jhessian Infiltrator in the same deck, and a prompt 1-2 result in both drafts. The thing is, we won both drafts (and I obviously won all the good rares when we gamed them), even though I probably could have done better. Cue day 2, and Eirik was a bit annoyed while watching me draft a really tight Esper deck, passing on more powerful cards for consistent ones over and over. The moral of the story: Drafting against me outside of the event can be quite different than in the event (that and I like to mise my teammates).

Back to the business at hand, here is my sweet 5c Esper deck, although I liked the first one more. Nicol Bolas is pretty sick, and I only got to cast him once. It was pretty disappointing, particularly the round where I could have cast Bolas but my opponent died on the turn I was finally going to.

Second Draft Deck

1 Paragon of the Amesha
1 Vithian Stinger
1 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Sedris, the Traitor King
1 Puppet Conjurer
1 Vedalken Outlander
1 Yoked Plowbeast
1 Sludge Strider
1 Tidehollow Sculler
1 Blister Beetle
1 Fleshformer
1 Sanctum Gargoyle
1 Faerie Mechanist
1 Cloudheath Drake

1 Obelisk of Bant
1 Obelisk of Grixis
1 Call to Heel
1 Traumatic Visions
1 Grixis Charm
1 Cumber Stone
1 Resounding Thunder
1 Path to Exile
1 Etherium Astrolabe

1 Crumbling Necropolis
1 Bant Panorama
1 Esper Panorama
4 Island
4 Swamp
3 Plains
2 Mountain
1 Forest

SB Cards
1 Matca Rioters
1 Skyward Eye Prophets
1 Rhox War Monk
2 Dispeller's Capsule

I end up sideboarding the three green cards plus a Forest and Plains each match, since I thought my mana was worse than it ended up being. I felt I was doing some pretty powerful stuff, so tempting fate by splashing a bunch of UWG cards was greedy, but as it turned out I drew perfect mana every game and should have just ran all the good ones.

Round 8 vs Thomas Driessen (Naya)

Featured again, how lucky! I actually got a bunch of feature matches, which I guess happens when you are the last undefeated for a few rounds. Everyone is waiting to see how long you last, which in this case happened to be exactly long enough to where I could safely lose (and promptly did). I guess all of our Pro Tour shirt money (since the iconic PT shirts weren't given out in Kyoto) went to the fancy new "Arena" feature match area, but to be fair the Arena is pretty nice. This is a pretty long way to introduce the link for the feature match, which even defeats the purpose of getting to cheat by linking to the match instead of talking about it.

(I guess I should add the link, after all that!)

Game two is kind of funny, since Path to Exile has the worst drawback imaginable when it lets me search up a Mountain to cycle a lethal Resounding Thunder. Thomas actually plays the Path on his turn, which is pretty bad since I even have a Paragon of the Amesha out with all the colors but red, and it isn't that much of a stretch to imagine me having a Mountain in my library somewhere. I think I could have won by just activating the Paragon and attacking for lethal, but Thunder seems a lot safer. Regardless, casting Path on his turn lets me do either, and I don't think he considered that when he Pathed.

Round 9 vs Brian Robinson (Grixis)

Here I had a feature match (not covered on the website) against eventual Semi-Finalist Brian Robinson. Apparently Brian hadn't lost a game in the Standard portion, and was 3-1 in the draft portion so far.

Game 1: This is a very awkward game, since I never have quite enough mana and always have so many insane plays. I miss my third land drop, but hit two lands in a row after that to play a Cumber Stone. This card is somewhat hard to evaluate, but trust me, it is really good. Every time I have seen it in play it has been very relevant, and even against the big green decks where it seems mediocre, it does a lot. It turns off all the "5 power matters" guys, which makes their Rakeclaws and Drumhunters pretty awkward all of a sudden. In this particular game, it completely halts Brian's offense, since he is trying to kill me with 1 and 2 power artifact dudes.

It soon becomes apparent that Brian is a bit flooded, as he passes the turn over and over without doing much. I actually have to Path to Exile my own Ethersworn Canonist just as a Rampant Growth, but that gives me the fifth color to start using Fleshformer or Paragon of the Amesha. This is particularly important because I know he has a Traumatic Visions in hand from a previous Tidehollow Sculler, so any turn where he leaves five mana up I use one of my WUBRG guys instead of casting a spell. I am so short on mana this game that walking into Visions at any point would be pretty bad, especially since using those guys is a pretty powerful effect anyways.

After a few hits from the Paragon, I am able to sneak in Sedris while he taps out to deal with the pseudo-Exalted Angel. Reanimating guys with come-into-play effects persuades Brian to throw in the towel and try and finish the match within time.

I sideboard in the War Monk, Rioters and Prophets, as well as a Dispeller's Capsule. I kind of give up on some of the artifact synergies, and cut the Canonist, Etherium Astrolabe, Call to Heel, and Vedalken Outlander.

Game 2: Brian apparently keeps a removal and land heavy hand, as he does nothing but kill my first two threats. I am able to stick a Skyward Eye Prophets, and as soon as he lets me untap with them in play I know I am golden. Sure enough, Brian dies a few turns later, and shows me the three spells and 10 land he saw this game.

9-0

Just one more round and I get to escape the drafts with a perfect record! It isn't that I dislike Limited, but I traditionally do a bit better in Constructed in premier events (aka Worlds 2008, going 11-1 in Constructed and 2-4 in Limited).

Round 10 vs Mattias Anderson (Grixis)

Game 1: I soon realize this match is going to be a grind, since we both are playing Grixis-type decks that are heavy on removal and light on creatures. After trading a bunch of cards, I drop what looks to be a game winner, Sedris. With multiple creatures with come-into-play effects in my bin, it seems doubtful that Sedris won't just end the game. Even if Mattias has a removal spell, I get a creature before Sedris dies. Unfortunately, he has a Traumatic Visions instead, and all my reanimating plans are foiled. We both are out of gas at this point, but he draws a Faerie Mechanist that chains into a Tidehollow Strix, and I die slowly.

Sideboarding: Same as against Brian, since Dispeller's Capsules seem decent here.

Game 2: This time I actually get to stick Sedris, although Mattias has a Yoke of the Damned for him. Since I don't have any guys to reanimate, I just send in Sedris. He blocks with a Blister Beetle, and when his Beetle dies goes to bury Sedris. I respond to the Yoke trigger with a Grixis Charm, bouncing Sedris. Mattias immediately counters the Grixis Charm with Traumatic Visions, but since he didn't just wait to counter Sedris on the way back down, I have enough mana for my own Visions. A turn later I drop Sedris, and this time he is good for the win.

Game 3: I keep a powerful but risky hand, containing:
Swamp
Plains
Matca Rioters
Path to Exile
Skyward Eye Prophets
Rhox War Monk
Tidehollow Sculler

When I Sculler him on turn two, his hand is:
Scavenger Drake
Wall of Reverence
Obelisk of Esper
Swamp
Island

With two lands and an Armillary Sphere already in play. I take the Wall, and proceed to miss my third land drop the next turn. Luckily, I draw a Forest the turn after, and start applying beatdowns with my Sculler and Rioters. He plays two Scavenger Drakes, then plays Yoke of the Damned on my Sculler. When he chumps with a Drake, he gets back the Sculler, but I Path his Wall and keep beating down. Once I draw an Island, I play too many guys for him to deal with.

10-0

Alright, just one more win and I can draw in. Although I know I can potentially 1-3 into Top 8, thinking about things like that is a recipe for failure. Counting how many times you can lose just doesn't seem productive to me, although it is always in the back of my mind.

Round 11 vs Yann Massicard (5-Color Control)

Feature Match coverage can be found here
.

Game 1: I have triple Windbrisk Heights, but that leads to a somewhat slow start. My first two plays are both Glorious Anthems, which he matches with double Esper Charm. It seems like drawing cards would be better in that situation, but I'm not complaining. He drops a Broodmate, which gives me the opening to play a Cloudgoat. With triple Heights, I just hope I can get a swing in, and after he bashes for 8 I get my chance. I attack, letting me use my Heights to play Sculler, and he responds with Cloudthresher. I take his Terror, leaving him with just a Broken Ambitions. I also drop a Glorious Anthem and a Spectral Procession, so as long as he doesn't peel I have lethal. He unfortunately draws a Volcanic Fallout, and I die to his assortment of monsters.

Game 2: Bitterblossom does all the work this game, cranking out Faerie Rogue after Faerie Rogue. Glorious Anthem plus Ajani make them into pretty fierce threats, and all of his Wrath effects don't really get him anywhere. He scoops to a Head Games, not willing to show me his post-board deck configuration.

Game 3: Not as exciting, he doesn't play a third land until way too late, and my draw is sufficient to take advantage of this.

11-0

I am obviously quite excited, as now I am a lock for Top 8, barring something pretty weird. I still have a few rounds left, although I am now in the position of kingmaker, as I have the choice of scooping my opponents into Top 8 or playing to try and knock them out.

Round 12 vs Matteo Orsini-Jones (BW Tokens)

Rich Hagon made quite an amusing podcast for this match, which can be found here.

I choose not to scoop Matteo in, since I really didn't want to play the BW Tokens mirror in the Top 8. I didn't relish the thought of knocking him out, but winning the Pro Tour has to be the ultimate goal, so anything that improves my chances seems like the right move. That of course also means I don't really feel too bad when he bashes me, so there you have it. He basically gets out Ajani before I do in Games 2 and 3, after I win Game 1 based on"¦Ajani! That is exactly why I wanted to avoid the mirror, there are just so few things that matter and there is really not much room for playskill (since dropping Ajani first is so bone-crushingly good).

11-1

Round 13 vs Ari Lax (Faeries)

I again choose not to concede, since Ari was Faeries (another matchup which I prefer to avoid). In case it looks like I just wanted to play each round, I actually would scoop in Kithkin, RW Boat Brew, Dark Bant, or any sort of aggressive red deck. I don't think the Faeries, mirror, or 5cc matchups are terrible, but I would rather not play them given the opportunity.

Game 1: He doesn't have Bitterblossom, so I keep casting must-counter spells until one sticks. His removal doesn't do a whole lot against any of my threats, and without Bitterblossom he doesn't have any sort of clock.

Game 2: Again, no Blossom, but I have a pretty slow start myself. I do manage to resolve two Anthems, which is particularly effective against his Agony Warps. My Knight of Meadowgrain gets three solid hits in before it falls to double Warp, a trade I am glad to take. My slow start was partially due to my double Terror, which is bad news for him when he goes for Mistbind Clique with just a Mutavault in play. That also gives me the opportunity to drop another threat, and he just dies.

Round 14 vs Akimasa Yamamoto (RW Boat Brew)

At this point we are both a lock, so he is happy to ID into Top 8.

After some kind of silly pictures (all of the Top 8 jumping off one of the Arena pedestals?), I go bird some Vintage. Gerry manages to 7-0 with Rich Shay's sweet Remora deck, and wins both an Ancestral Recall and a free entry to a Beta-FBB Revised-Portal Three Kingdoms draft.

We talk about my upcoming Top 8 match against Masayasu Tanahashi and his very odd Faeries deck. I didn't plan on playtesting against Faeries initially, but after looking at his list it seems prudent. Luckily, APL obviously can build the deck on the spot, no proxies, making things very easy. Not having to proxy  is quite a relief, and playing against proxies sucks anyways.

His list is interesting. No Terrors, Sowers, Scions or Infests at all, and odd choices like Shriekmaw and Makeshift Mannequin make me pretty optimistic. Scion, Sower, and Infest are all the cards I fear out of Faeries, and Shriekmaw is basically just a blank. Sure, he gets to side them out, but he just doesn't have that many cards that I care about. Peppersmoke is a fine card, but it's not exactly a gamebreaker like Infest. A few games later and I decide to just get some sleep, as the matchup seems straightforward enough.

Quarterfinals vs Masayasu Tanahashi (Faeries)
The fairly short match coverage.

Not much I can really say here, as I just run him over. I barely have to do anything, as his draws are pretty bad and mine are pretty good. As exciting as a well-fought match can be, in the Top 8 of a PT sometimes you just want your opponent to mulligan and miss his second land drop (which he did in Game 3, coincidentally enough).

Semifinals vs Brian Robinson (Dark Bant)

Both Masayasu and Brian are at their first Pro Tour, which is pretty sick. Top 8'ing your first PT is pretty impressive, and having it be the first of the season can't hurt either.

Match coverage!

Game 1 is pretty frightening, since a few more draws like it and I am just done. Turn 1 Hierarch, Turn 2 Doran, Turn 3 Rafiq equals 14 damage just like that. I fight for a few turns, but I am never really in it. I think this matchup is pretty favorable, but I can't beat draws like this very easily.

The other games go more as I expected, and a combination of Terror and Path to Exile slow him down enough that all my token makers overrun him. I actually side out more Glorious Anthems after Game 2, since I suspect he might side out Scattershot Archers (after seeing how bad they are against Glorious Anthem).

Game 4 is pretty funny though, since he drops Scattershot Archer right after I play a Procession. I proceed to draw the last Anthem left in my deck, which lets me use Windbrisk to play Wrath of God the following turn. Sometimes you are just blessed I guess.

Finals vs Gabriel Nassif (5-Color Control)

Coverage Coverage Coverage!

The most interesting game is of course Game 4, which is truly epic. Despite double Broodmate and Cruel Ultimatum, I still am two turns from winning when he plays Mulldrifter into gas, and my dreams are crushed. The play that catches most people's eye is the turn where I cast Ajani, knowing he has Negate, with just Windbrisk untapped. Nassif being as crafty as he is, actually doesn't counter it, correctly surmising that if he does, I will play a land, attack, and Windbrisk out a Head Games. I figure most people in that situation will counter the Ajani, but unfortunately for me, Nassif isn't one of them.

Game 5 was ridiculously anti-climactic, and I have to settle for 2nd place. Not that 2nd is bad, but there is a pretty big difference between 1st and 2nd.

As for the BW deck, I would make a few changes. Cutting two Kitchen Finks for two Marsh Flitters is all I would do to the maindeck, as four Flitters would be too many 4+ drops. The sideboard is pretty good, but like all sideboards can be adjusted to your metagame. Scepter of Fugue is a good addition, since I now expect much more 5CC.

The best way to wrap up a successful tournament is to 0-3 a draft, and I promptly do just that. Luckily Web and Josh carry me, so that even ends well. The trip back is uneventful, and I immediately jump into Legacy prep for Chicago.

As we all know, Nassif won Chicago, passing me in the POY race, although my 10th place finish is reasonable. Nassif and I played the same maindeck, although I didn't have the courage to run the all 1-of sideboard. The sideboard I (and PV, Web, and Josh) ran is:

3 Engineered Plague
2 Krosan Grip
2 Thoughtseize
2 Tormod's Crypt
1 Relic of Progenitus
2 Perish
3 Blue Elemental Blast

The sideboard was good, and I probably would only change it by removing two Tormod's Crypts for a second Relic and a 4th Plague.

Thanks for reading!

LSV

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