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Top 8 at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir with RG Devotion

Last time you heard from me was after my Top 8 at PT Khans of Tarkir. Now I’m back like Summit Prowler with a report from PT Dragons of Tarkir, this time with more Dragons. Let’s get to it.

After my first success in Hawaii I quit school to concentrate on playing Magic. I was never a big fan of studying but still I put a lot of pressure on myself with this decision. The road to becoming a professional Magic player is a hard one, but I believed that with a lot of effort I could get there.

I played 5 European GPs, but only secured 3 points with some near misses. PT Fate Reforged also wasn’t the best experience. I played Merfolk, a deck I chose because I had a lot of experience with it and it has a decent matchup against Abzan and Burn, which I expected to dominate the Modern field. After a disappointing Day 1 where I barely squeezed out a 4-4 record I battled back Day 2 to a respectable but unexciting 10-6. I earned 3 extra points which put me at 27 before Brussels. So going into Brussels my goal was 11-5 to lock Gold.

Our preparation started a couple days after the prerelease. As usual I prepared with Team Cabin Crew: Martin Juza, Stanislav Cifka, Ivan Floch, Frank Karsten, Marijn Lybaert, Matej Zatlkaj, Petr Sochurek, Fabrizio Anteri, Robin Dolar, Lukas Blohon, Thomas Hendricks, David Dobis, and myself. This time we had a larger group, since Marijn and David qualified through PTQs and Frank wanted to add Thomas after a good experience with him at the World Magic Cup.

Standard Testing

My front-runner from the start was Mono-Red. The deck got significantly better with new additions such as Dragon Fodder, Zurgo Bellstriker, and Lightning Berserker. I also thought people might underestimate the deck because no one wants to play Mono-Red at the PT. So I built the deck and played a lot with it. I kind of regret not trying the winning version with green for Atarka’s Command. We just thought the mana base couldn’t support it but it wouldn’t have hurt to build the deck and trying it out.

Another deck I was interested in was GR Devotion. The deck started as a collaboration between Fabrizio and Thomas who played the regular version with Xenagos, Genesis Hydra, and Ugin. I remember playing some games with Martin Juza when they mentioned how good Dragonlord Atarka is. Martin immediately brought up See the Unwritten as a great way to cheat Atarka into play. This idea got Stan involved in the testing. For those of you who don’t know, Stan has been doing pretty well in Hearthstone lately so for the first couple of days (last days in HS season) he was grinding non-stop.

But when the season ended he started playing with the Devotion deck a lot and set to work streamlining it—he put in Surrak and Boon Satyr and built the sideboard. I was excited about the deck from the beginning but then we tested the control matchup boy was it terrible. I tried our UB deck against Fabrizio’s version with Hydras that was supposed to have a better matchup, but I crushed him 5-0 preboard and 4-1 post-board. The matchup is not that bad but I was a little discouraged after that and spent the next 5 days debating my choice between Mono-Red or Devotion.

When we arrived in Brussels I was actually set on playing Mono-Red since everyone else shied away from Devotion except for Thomas and Fabrizio. They were set on playing their version which I didn’t like. Stan got convinced by Ivan to play Sidisi, so he abandoned the deck as well. As for Martin, he was undecided like me but it was pretty obvious that he would end up with the aggressive deck.

On Wednesday evening I played a couple games with Mono-Red against the Sidisi deck we had. I was winning preboard, but post-board I got crushed.

What was worse, I wasn’t playing well. I firmly believe Mono-Red is one of the harder decks to play properly, so I chose to play Devotion. I even Tweeted about it so I wouldn’t change my mind.

I like the deck for 2 reasons: it’s easy to play, most of the time you just have to count your mana and that’s it. The second is that we figured the metagame is going to be wide open that I just wanted to be doing the most powerful things I could. I think casting Atarka turn 4 qualifies.

At the last-minute Martin tried to convince me to shave Boon Satyrs for Shaman of Forgotten Ways. Luckily I ignored him because Boon Satyr won at least 3 matches for me.

Here’s my deck list, I wouldn’t change a card. You can check the deck tech here.

RG Devotion

Limited Preparation

As for Limited, we decided to ignore white. I believe drafting white is a giant trap and I think I wouldn’t pick a single white card over something like Sarkhan’s Rage. I realize that that’s pretty extreme, but white is just so bad. Other than that, of all the combinations I liked RG, BR, and UB the most.

Draft 1

The PT kicked off with great news. I was in a 7-man pod (free bye) where I only recognized Brian Braun-Duin.

Then I noticed a familiar face to my left. His name is Sam-Luca Rolph, a name that probably doesn’t ring a bell for most of you, but he beat me in GP Liverpool. Throughout that match he impressed me with his play and I believe he could have a bright future if he keeps working hard.

As in Liverpool, the draft went poorly. I first-picked Foul Renewal and then Sarkhan’s Rage. I followed that up with 3 mediocre red cards in an effort to cut red so I could be red/black. But then I got passed late Silumgar Sorcerer and other sweet blue cards, so I moved into blue/black since blue/red is a terrible combination. I especially regret picking Screamreach Brawler over Hand of Silumgar. I picked it so I would cut red but in retrospect it was just bad.

Pack 2 was awful again. I started nicely with a Deathbringer Regent but then I saw almost nothing. The only consolation was that the packs just were terrible. Still, I would need a lot of help in the third booster. Luckily Fate Reforged delivered, so my deck was at least playable.

Yes, off-color morph and Hewed Stone Retainers isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I sat down to draft. The Retainers were actually fine in my deck since I had no good creatures, and I even considered playing Ancestral Statue but that would be going too deep. The deck had some powerful cards, but overall I didn’t like the game plan.

The first game of the tournament was also a disaster. My opponent Sean Gifford had a really aggressive BW deck including 2 Mardu Shadowspear. I got behind in the early game but managed to crawl back into it with some nice combat tricks.

I stabilized the situation and was firmly in control at 2 life. I swung with Mindscour Dragon, and I could have played Butcher’s Glee to gain 7. Instead, for some reason I thought it would be better to save the card for later since BW can’t really kill me with anything. My opponent then untapped and proceeded to dash Reckless Imp. I’m terrible. At this point I was really shaken. I have spent a lot of time preparing for this tournament, I managed to navigate the game pretty well into a winning game state, but then I just threw it away at the last possible moment. I just refocused myself and hoped it would be better for game 2.

That one didn’t start very well since my opponent played Echoes of the Kin Tree, a very good card against me. I managed to crawl back into the game with a decent play. I milled myself with Mindscour Dragon and hit Deathbringer Regent which I then brought back with Sibsig Muckdraggers. My opponent was forced into some bad trades so he wouldn’t get completely blown out and I just killed him with the 5/6 flying body. Game 3 was a blowout where I had the right answers for my opponent’s threats.

Phew, I was relieved that my mistake didn’t cost me. In round 2 I also got pretty lucky since my opponent had something like 2 mythics and 3 rares in his strong RB deck. My cards just lined up better against his.

In round 3 I won game 1 pretty easily against what seemed like an average RG deck. Unfortunately in the next 2 games I got blown out by Display of Dominance which was very strong against my deck. I also made a mistake since I forgot about the destroy mode on Display.

It was quite embarrassing, because I had even called a judge to ask for the oracle text, but I completely missed the second mode. My opponent then proceeded to destroy my Reduce in Stature on Surrak and rolled over me. I could have played around that but I’m not sure I would have won the game regardless.

Standard Day One

Off to Constructed. I’m always a bit scared of the Constructed rounds because you never know what to expect. Is my deck great? Did anyone break it?

My first opponent was no slouch, since I played against Lukas Blohon. Sidisi is not an ideal matchup but I got luckier and took the match in 3 games. It sucks to play a friend but I’ll take the win.

In the next round I played a mirror match against Alessandro La Porta. We split the first two games and in the third I was on the play which is very important. I stumbled a bit while my opponent got ahead thanks to Courser. It looked terrible for me, but my opponent made some mistakes like flipping manifested Atarka when he already had one in play and shooting manifests with Polukranos instead of killing my Courser.

I had an out in drawing Nykthos from that same Courser, but I don’t and the game is over. My opponent even asks me if it’s correct to side out Caryatid in the mirror. In a matchup where speed is everything, I would recommend keeping them in.

In my next match I managed to make probably the stupidest mistake ever. I had 5 mana and Rattleclaw and Boon Satyr. I needed to play both of them so I can play See with ferocious next turn. So I proceed to morph Rattleclaw, because why not? Only at the end of his turn when I flip the morph do I realize that it doesn’t produce the GG I need to cast Satyr. Oh well, I still have a shot with ferocious See the Unwritten 2 turns later, but I flip 7 lands and Elvish Mystic and I die. The other games go better since RW is a great matchup for me and I move to 4-2.

Next I was paired against Marcio Carvalho. He was playing GW Devotion and in game 3 I pass on turn 5 with Atarka, Polukranos, Whisperwood, and 2 manifests in play. Not close. In my mind this round was really important since in the past I had a lot of trouble beating the top-tier players like him.

In the last round of Day Two I was paired against UB Control. It’s a nightmare matchup but I managed to steal game 1 with Polukranos into Surrak while my opponent whiffed with Ingenuity. I got crushed game 2 as expected and in game 3 I had 3 Nissas to win a close game.

6-2 after Day 1, so I’d need 5-3 to lock Gold.

Draft 2

I checked my pod to find out that I was seated with Ken Yukuhiro, Martin Muller, Olle Rade, and Josh Utter-Leyton. Not an easy pod for sure—especially Josh whom I consider to be one of 10 people I don’t want to draft with at the PT.

This draft went much better. I started with some red and green cards and when I received Savage Ventmaw later in the pack I knew RG was open. It’s also my favorite combination so I just continued picking up solid cards.

This deck is nice, it doesn’t look that great but I’ve had awesome experiences with RG so I was happy to play this archetype. I fully expected to go 2-1 and hopefully 3-0.

I faced Ken Yukuhiro in the finals of our draft, and the second game had 2 interesting situations: Ken was at five lands with a Hardened Berserker in play. Thanks to Marijn who was scouting for me I knew he had Deathbringer Regent in his deck so I chose to kill his guy while I wouldn’t otherwise. This play probably won me the game since he had it. The second situation was with Ken at 5 life and 2 untapped Swamps while I had Sarkhan’s Rage in hand. I thought for like 10 seconds and then played it. Ken wasn’t pleased with my “slowroll” but I was truly trying to figure out if he could have had something.

3-0 in draft is always nice and I knew that I just needed to win 2 more for Gold and 3 for Top 8.

Standard Day 2

The next 3 rounds were bit of a blur since my draws were just amazing while my opponents often stumbled. After beating the eventual champion Martin Dang in the feature match area I was locked for my second Top 8 this season. I also locked Platinum which was pretty nice.

Round 15, I was paired with Seth Manfield who unfortunately couldn’t draw in. He wanted me to concede but I didn’t for 2 reasons: First, I didn’t have time to check standings so I couldn’t know if there was a possibility of me getting paired down in the next round. I knew I wouldn’t forgive myself if I had conceded myself out of the Top 8. Second, I was playing for seating. It’s really quite important to go first with my deck. Seth still tried his best to convince me saying that Abzan is a good matchup and I want him in Top 8. I’m not sure that’s entirely true—I consider the matchup to be pretty much even. So we played and I crushed him. His draws were awful while mine were decent so it wasn’t very close. I didn’t feel so bad after I found out that Seth had been in my exact spot in D.C. and also played.

At 13-2 and pretty much locked for 1st place, I drew with Adrian Sullivan the last round.

After they took some pictures and gave us deck lists I went to my hotel room. I gave the deck lists to Stan and Ivan who were kind enough to test my quarters matchup for me. I relaxed for a while and then got a call from Martin Juza asking if I’m going to the party. I was really looking forward to this party since Marijn was the organizer, so I agreed to go. I promised myself I’d be back by 3 and would not drink that much.

Although my appearance raised many eyebrows I was happy that I went. I mean how many can say that they played League of Legends with Brian Kibler, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, and Marijn Lybaert. (Un)fortunately we lost connection 10 minutes in when Kibler was already 0-4 or something like that. At around 1 a.m. Brad Nelson and my Czech friends convinced me to go back to the hotel and get some sleep.

Top 8

You can watch my quarterfinals here.

I thought I was losing in both games, but in the end Andrew got quite unlucky and made some mistakes game 2 so I narrowly got there.

I was less pleased to find out that I’ll be playing Shouta in semis. He is a beast—one of the most talented players in the game and he already beat me in D.C., plus the matchup wasn’t a cakewalk either.

Check the video here.

Game 1 was pretty exciting for the viewers, but from my perspective I was never winning. Shouta had a lot of cards in hand at all points of the game and my draw was pretty weak. In the second I made a slight mistake by not playing Nissa into Colossus since I overlooked the ability to untap my lands. Luckily it didn’t cost me and I won. In game 3 I had a really strong opening and Shouta thought for a while before keeping his 6. That’s quite interesting since normally he plays at a blistering pace so I hoped his hand was a borderline keep. Unfortunately he had the stone-cold nuts and even though I topdecked the perfect card for 4 turns in a row I bricked on the 5th turn and I died.

So that was that. I lost. I don’t get to bring the trophy back to the Czech Republic. Well that’s not entirely true since I got this small one with “Semifinalist” on it. Anyway I’ll be back to win more. I still don’t play as well as I’d hope, but it’s clear to me that I’ve come a long way since Hawaii. I just hope that I keep improving and one day I’ll be considered one of the best.

As for this season I’m in a decent position. I have 49 points. I’m Platinum. I’m close to being the Czech captain and I believe I’m close to securing a spot at the World Championship which would be an unreal achievement for me. I’m also still very much in the running for Player of the Year.

In short, I’m living the dream.

I’d like to thank all my teammates, especially Matej Zatlkaj and Stan Cifka. Also I would like to say that you should be voting Marijn Lybaert for Hall of Fame. This guy is one of the best people I’ve ever met at the PT and he made this Pro Tour much more enjoyable not only for me but basically for everyone who attended the after party. So just #voteformarijn ok?

Thanks for reading.

[Editor’s Note: Ondrej’s deck list originally included Voyaging Satyr instead of Rattleclaw Mystic.]

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