“How mad would you have been at Jon (for advocating to play Storm) if you lost that game?”
That was the first thing I heard when leaving the feature match area after very barely winning game 3 against Michael Hetrick in round 16 of Pro Tour Valencia. The game certainly was ridiculous. Michael didn’t get anything going and hardly interacted with me in any way—yet my mighty combo deck just couldn’t put the game away. But I did not feel unfortunate at all. Which is strange—my grip on leading the lifetime Pro Points ladder used to be at least as firm as my grip on the title of worst complainer after losing in a very unrealistic scenario.
This game was different. To start things off, Michael had a miserable day. He went from 8-0 on Day 1 to “I have to win this round to make Top 25 and qualify for the next PT.” While there were certainly better players than me in this event, I doubt he would have picked me for his last round grudge match, given a choice. He was on Living End, which meant the first game was hugely in my favor and I won.
I knew that Michael’s anti-combo sideboard slots were four copies of [ccProd]Leyline of the Void[/ccProd] and one of those unfortunately started game two on his side of the table. I only had one solution in the deck in [ccProd]Echoing Truth[/ccProd]. That did not show up. [ccProd]Empty the Warrens[/ccProd] against Living End is about as useless as trying to tell Paul Cheon not to draft blue cards in Cube and I couldn’t do much at all.
I noticed that Hetrick did not play around [ccProd]Blood Moon[/ccProd] at all in game 2, and one cascade showed me almost his whole deck. His creature base did not have Swamp cyclers and he was playing very few basic lands. I am still not sure if it is correct, but Leyline was scary and if I put a Blood Moon into play with a Ritual on the second turn when going first, I thought there was a reasonable chance that would slow him enough to give me the time to find my Echoing Truth.
But then the madness started: As it turned out, his initial 7 cards did not contain said Leyline and he mulliganed to 6. But again, no Leyline. The 5-card hand didn’t do it either and he stayed on 4 cards, without a Leyline. After I saw his opening 4 cards of two lands, [ccProd]Fulminator Mage[/ccProd] and Spirit Guide with a [ccProd]Gitaxian Probe[/ccProd], I checked with another Probe three turns later another time and his three draw steps gave him… two Living Ends.
After I kept my very decent 7-card hand and him not doing anything until turn 5-6, you’d think that my deck that goldfishes around turn 3.5 just wins. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case here. Fulminator Mage and [ccProd]Goblin Electromancer[/ccProd] were happily attacking past each other. At some point Michael put a Leyline into play the non-cheating way, but that hardly mattered. Unlike [ccProd]Rest in Peace[/ccProd], it does not remove the stuff that is already in the graveyard and I had one copy of almost all my spells in there with the Echoing Truth and three [ccProd]Pyretic Ritual[/ccProd]s in my hand, meaning I could stack up all three [ccProd]Pyromancer Ascension[/ccProd]s at will—but I had none of my 20+ cards that read “draw a card” to start the engine.
Eventually a Living End was suspended in the originally intended way and threatened to go off, while I was busy drawing lands and other cards without the text “Draw a card.” Usually I would be highly upset at this point, but nine rounds of playing this deck toughened me up somewhat. Plus it would be a bit awkward to complain too much about being unlucky after Michael experienced:
• A triple-mulligan
• Immediately drawing the Leyline that might have won him the match and his PT Atlanta invite if it were in his opening hand
• Drawing two of his three Living Ends by turn three along with said Leyline
It was more comical than upsetting really. Unfortunately for Michael I found a [ccProd]Desperate Raving[/ccProd] one or two turns before he would have won with his abysmal start. The rest of the game was not all that exciting any more, as three active Ascensions mean fizzling is somewhere in the 0.00001% area.
That game was one of the better ones I’ve played in, at least from a comedy point of view. It’s up on YouTube.
Now that we are through with what was clearly the most exciting game for me in Valencia, let’s go back to where things started:
As you probably know, I was preparing with CFB Pantheon. It looked like we wouldn’t be able to find an old greek temple (and yeah, I think the team name is somewhat silly!) outside of Valencia, so we had to settle for a pretty sweet house about 10-12 miles outside of the city. Finding the place hidden between lemon and orange plantations was not an easy task though.
Google maps gave me a location that was a good 1000m away from the actual house. Brad Nelson and I lingered there for a good hour until we managed to work things out. Not that easy in a country where hardly anyone speaks English. The bedrooms were split on a first-come-first-serve basis, which meant the master bedroom with the whirlpool was gone—Should’ve booked an earlier flight. I ended up sharing a room with Andrew Cuneo, and said room was luckily hidden at the far end of the building. Luckily, because that meant it was far out of Gaudenis’ reach, who arrived a bit later and ended up wrecking a good amount of the furniture. Doubt we’ll be seeing much of our $1000 deposit.
The next few days lived up to my expectations. The weather was great—yet everyone was sitting inside playing Magic. I tried to enforce playing outside on the very nice terrace as much as possible, but that wasn’t so popular. We even had a tennis court. The last time I played was about 20 years ago and Rich Hoaen beat me up badly. I used to be okay at Badminton and Table Tennis, which worked all right for forehands, but trying to hit backhands out of my wrist—not so much.
But every days highlight was easily the $250 grocery shopping. It’s unbelievable how fast 15 people can annihilate food. At least the lady at the butcher shop only smiled and nodded when I asked her for 6 pounds of steak the second time. The first time it wasn’t easy to explain to her that yes, I actually wanted 6 pounds and not just one piece.
Other than that it was 10-12 hours of card slinging every day. I’m not sure I could stand that for an extended period, but as I don’t play all that much outside of preparing for a Pro Tour, I had a great time. You’d also expect that in a group of 15 people, there would be a fight here and there, but everyone actually gets along very well. Naturally Americans stay American and even ear plugs weren’t enough to shield me from the yelling when I tried to sleep around 1 a.m., but that is the price you have to pay when hanging out with a bunch of great guys.
The draft practice worked out well enough. Not that much changed with the introduction of Born of the Gods. You still REALLY want to be white. While others were okay with it, I was determined to not touch GR and GB at all. These decks are quite good when they come together, but I’ve seen far more trainwrecks in those color combinations than any others. Without having drafted these archetypes a handful of times, I just wanted to stick to what I knew.
Modern on the other hand proved to be tough. I’ve actually never played the format. Well, arguably I did as the Pro Tour in Amsterdam 2010 was basically Modern, although it was freshly-rotated Extended back then.
But while the format had evolved since then, not that much happened in the last 1-2 years and I felt everyone else would have a big edge on me. I read through PT and GP coverage to get a reasonable idea where others would start.
The front-runners were easy to identify: Zoo, Twin, Birthing Pod, and various blue/white(/red) control decks. Nothing was outstanding though. Zoo was in the 40-60% range against any of those and then the others were matching up against each other depending on how much sideboard hate you could bring in.
That’s also my biggest problem with the format—the insanely powerful sideboard cards. There is a huge variety of playable decks. With such a big card pool it’s only normal that most of those have a very focused, linear strategy. For example Affinity, Storm, Dredge, and Twinb. But such a big card pool also contains extremely powerful hosers, like [ccProd]Rest in Peace[/ccProd], [ccProd]Combust[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Shatterstorm[/ccProd]. And decks that focus so much on a certain part of the game are very vulnerable to that.
With a huge variety of decks and 15 sideboard slots, you have to gamble and decide what you want to defeat as it’s not really possible to cover everything. Most decks end up having 1-2 copies of certain silver bullets in their sideboard and if you draw those in the appropriate matchup, you are a huge favorite to win. That’s a very bad thing in my opinion. There was a good reason why cards like [ccProd]Boil[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Flashfires[/ccProd] are not printed any more.
But all those combo decks are extremely powerful and if those hosers did not exist, I would expect the format to be extremely degenerate. That’s not a good thing either, so I’m uncertain if there is a great solution, but I definitely had more fun testing for the last Standard Pro Tour.
Even before people flew into Valencia, a lot of guys were already making fun of Jon for being locked into Storm. Even the official Pro Tour Twitter account couldn’t resist:
— Magic Pro Tour (@magicprotour) February 13, 2014
The team had played Storm at two previous tournaments with very mediocre results though. Everyone but Jon was pretty unhappy with the deck and after even more cards were banned going into this event, the general opinion was that the deck just wasn’t good enough.
Then we played a small tournament at the house—obviously, Jon went 4-0. Still, at this point I was heavily leaning toward some version of UR Twin. The deck just felt good against all the other decks trying to do fair things. But when we tested more against Zoo, it became obvious that that matchup just wasn’t good if the Zoo player knew to only play 1-2 guys and sit back on removal. I definitely did not want to play against a deck that had a mediocre matchup against what we expected to be 15-25% of the field and Twin was put on the bench. Sadly we never tried to just put more fair cards into the deck like Patrick Dickmann did. That means you can be more of a normal RUG deck against fair decks but have the two-card combo against other combo decks.
With that option eliminated, Gabriel Nassif was pitching a last ditch effort with a mono-white control deck which we tried on MTGO until the evening before the Pro Tour, but that ended up being too weak as well. The two options I had left at this point were Owen’s Big Naya Zoo deck—where big means you actually have 3-casting-cost creatures and one 4-mana planeswalker and not just 1/2-mana stuff—and Jon’s Storm deck.
Those were the two most played decks in the team. A few guys brought their own stuff: Cuneo with his trusty Melira Pod, Chapin with Dredge, and Reid brewed up a GB control deck that ran [ccProd]Treetop Village[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Phyrexian Obliterator[/ccProd]. The only deck that slightly interested me out of that bunch was Pod, but I didn’t think that was a good choice with my very limited experience with a rather complicated to play deck.
Naya Zoo or Storm it was. Storm fit my playstyle a lot better and while it was very weak to sideboard hate, I didn’t think there would be all that much around. There were a few Storm decks in the Daily Events on Magic Online but [ccProd]Rule of Law[/ccProd] just didn’t exist anywhere. Actually, if you look at the top Modern decks in the Pro Tour coverage, there’s only three Rule of Laws between all those decks.
Anyway, I felt that Naya was the better deck but everyone would be coming into this event prepared for Zoo. Plus I really didn’t want to take 8 damage from my lands each game and in return attack with some 2/3s and 3/3s. The Storm deck at least loses in style points, so I ended up registering Jon’s deck list:
3 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Shivan Reef
2 Steam Vents
4 Goblin Electromancer
3 Past in Flames
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Serum Visions
4 Sleight of Hand
4 Thought Scour
3 Desperate Ravings
4 Desperate Ritual
4 Pyretic Ritual
4 Pyromancer Ascension
4 Lightning Bolt
1 Echoing Truth
1 Defense Grid
3 Blood Moon
3 Empty the Warrens[/ccdeck]
The main departure from other lists is the use of [ccProd]Thought Scour[/ccProd]s. If your opponent has no graveyard hate, this card is simply fantastic, filling up your graveyard for both [ccProd]Pyromancer Ascension[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Past in Flames[/ccProd]. 16 lands is risky, but even with 16 it is quite easy to flood out as you keep casting cantrips and drawing more than five lands is pretty bad in most matchups. You will have to keep a lot of hands with one land and a [ccProd]Serum Visions[/ccProd]. That sometimes doesn’t work out with just 15 lands left in your deck, but I still think it’s the correct amount of lands. As with most combo decks, the sideboarding is very straightforward, as you can’t change your deck too much without damaging the engine. This is what we planned to do at the Pro Tour:
Add: 4 [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd], 3 [ccProd]Empty the Warrens[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Echoing Truth[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Blood Moon[/ccProd] (on the play only)
Remove: 3 [ccProd]Desperate Ravings[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Past in Flames[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Pyromancer Ascension[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Grapeshot[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Thought Scour[/ccProd] (-4 Thought Scour when bringing in [ccProd]Blood Moon[/ccProd])
Add: 3 [ccProd]Shatterstorm, 4 [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Empty the Warrens[/ccProd]
Remove : 4 [ccProd]Gitaxian Probe[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Desperate Ravings[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Pyromancer Ascension[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Past in Flames[/ccProd]
vs. Blue-Based Control
Add : 3 [ccProd]Blood Moon[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Defense Grid[/ccProd], 3 [ccProd]Empty the Warrens[/ccProd]
Remove : 4 [ccProd]Thought Scour[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Grapeshot[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Past in Flames[/ccProd]
vs. Birthing Pod
Add : 4 [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd]
Remove :2 [ccProd]Gitaxian Probe[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Past in Flames[/ccProd], 1 [ccProd]Desperate Ravings[/ccProd]
It’s tough to say what my expectation was going into the event. I was reasonably happy with the deck. Jon played it so much that I was convinced all the deck and sideboard choices were great and I actually ended up using all sideboard cards heavily but the three [ccProd]Shatterstorm[/ccProd]s. At the last two Constructed events I always ended up with a 10-12 card sideboard, so that was a step up. And Affinity was definitely out there, so having those Shatterstorms was important. On the other hand, we had obviously not broken it, but I thought there was a less than 10% chance that anyone else had. My only real worry was that Huey kept saying Storm was a trap and Naya is the deck to play. I value his opinion a lot, but I knew I’d have a much better time playing Storm.
The Pro Tour kicked off with a draft. I noticed that ever since joining this team, my Limited results have improved a lot. In the few events I played before joining them, my card evaluations were just too far off as I just don’t play enough. Having some guys that did 20ish drafts already like Sam and Reid sharing their evaluations helps me a lot and I was quite confident. My first table looked reasonably tough with Cuneo and some other guys that I recognized. But it turned out that one guy wasn’t registered and they had to take one player from the last seven tables to start a new draft pod. I was one of those and I actually didn’t know anyone at my new table, always a good sign:
I cracked my first pack, hoping for some white cards and was greeted with a big bowl of emptiness. The best card by a mile was [ccProd]Raised by Wolves[/ccProd] and I don’t like that card all that much. I still took it and got passed another unexciting pack with a [ccProd]Swordwise Centaur[/ccProd]. The third pack had no green and the best card was a [ccProd]Sudden Storm[/ccProd]. If there is any color combination where that card shines, it is green/blue.
When the fourth pack came around, it had a [ccProd]Reap What Is Sown[/ccProd]. I get that committing to two colors is annoying, but this card is very, very good in a green/white deck. Getting that fourth is a huge signal in my book and I like those colors anyway, so I grabbed it.
My fifth pick was [ccProd]Glimpse the Sun God[/ccProd]. To quote LSV: Oh, [ccProd]Cryptic Command[/ccProd]. At this point I was certain that some of the guys in front of me didn’t have that much experience with Born of the Gods yet. I got an [ccProd]Akron Skyguard[/ccProd] 6th and a [ccProd]Loyal Pegasus[/ccProd] 7th afterwards. My Theros packs were not that exciting but I never had a reason to stray away from white/green and with a very good BNG pack and a first-pick [ccProd]Wingsteed Rider[/ccProd] and a [ccProd]Heliod’s Emissary[/ccProd], I was happy enough and expected a 2-1.
My first round against Aziz Riphat was actually the closest. In game one I barely outraced his two [ccProd]Tormented Hero[/ccProd]es enchanted with two [ccProd]Aqueous Form[/ccProd]s by targeting my [ccProd]Setessan Battle Priest[/ccProd] four times and winning on 1 life exactly. I got lucky in the second game that Aziz missed his third land drop. His turn four [ccProd]Agent of the Fates[/ccProd] was scary enough, but after sacrificing four creatures, I barely got in for enough damage. I doubt I would’ve won that game if the Agent came down a turn earlier.
Donny Jones won the first game in round 2 quickly, but I won a close game 2 and then in game three his deck refused to cooperate after mulliganing. Joao Andrade in the finals of the draft actually had a better deck I think. He curved two-drop into [ccProd]Wingsteed Rider[/ccProd], into [ccProd]Phalanx Captain[/ccProd] with an Aura in game 1 but as I won the die roll and my curve was good as well, he had to start blocking and I had the combat tricks to win. Joao then got stuck on two Mountains in the third game and couldn’t do much while I bestowed a Centaur several times.
After that great start to the tournament, I was quite happy when I realized that my round 4 opponent Alexandre Bonneau was playing Living End. I never tested that matchup, but figured it has to be good. I won game 1 after I fizzled once, but had a stacked up Ascension and finished the game on the following turn. Game 2 started with a [ccProd]Gitaxian Probe[/ccProd] that revealed a [ccProd]Slaughter Games[/ccProd] in his hand. Uhm. I figured he’d name [ccProd]Grapeshot[/ccProd] and that meant I could not win any more. I tried to go off on turn three, but failed and he won that game. I boarded in a single [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd] for game 3. Looking back that was too greedy and I should’ve boarded two, but even with one it’s very winnable. If you go off with an Ascension in play, it’s not too tough to draw your whole deck, stack up all four Ascensions and then copy the Bolt four times, flash it back with Past in Flames and copy it again.
Unfortunately my draw in game three wasn’t great and Alex cast Slaughter Games on Grapeshot on his third turn, with a Spirit Guide. I couldn’t go off on my fourth turn and he had another Slaughter Games for Lightning Bolt. That’s also 2 for 2 in his deck. Greeeeat! After using a [ccProd]Beast Within[/ccProd] defensively, he didn’t have the time to kill me as he spent all his early turns to disassemble my deck and we ended up drawing.
I was hoping that in a mixed format, I wouldn’t end up playing vs. blue decks for the rest of the event, but that hope turned out to be in vain. John Sittner’s Faeries were sitting opposite me in the feature match area next. I won game 1 once again, lost game 2, and he fortunately thought that it was okay to cast a [ccProd]Bitterblossom[/ccProd] on turn four in the third game, disabling his [ccProd]Cryptic Command[/ccProd], but having a [ccProd]Spellstutter Sprite[/ccProd] up to counter my two-casting-cost stuff, like [ccProd]Goblin Electromancer[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Pyromancer Ascension[/ccProd]. Blood Moon however costs three and his deck has a total of two basic Islands, none of which were in play. I used Grapeshot to clear his growing token army a few turns later and then won with him being unable to play anything else. Time to stop bitching about overpowered sideboard cards. For now.
You can find written coverage of that match here.
Did I say something about draw brackets and blue decks? Shi Tian Lee and his Cryptic Command/Blood Moon deck was next in line. I won game 1 [ccProd]Gitaxian Probe[/ccProd] showed his hand of some lands, [ccProd]Vedalken Shackles[/ccProd], [ccProd]Spreading Seas[/ccProd], and a [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd]. Nice hand! But about one gazillion counterspells some Counterfluxes and Cliques later, I signed the match slip 2-1 in his favor.
None other than Kenji Tsumura presented me with another opponent packing Cryptic Commands, again in the feature match area. Game 1 was easy again. But game 2 started with a double mulligan into a hand with no lands but some cheap cantrips and a Gitaxian Probe, so I kept that but didn’t draw a land in the first few turns. Game three I was actually a big favorite to win with multiple Ascensions in play and various spells in my graveyard, but I bricked, drawing all lands, Ascensions and Blood Moons. Happens, especially after boarding out some card drawing for Blood Moons. If you want to see the match in all its glory, feel free to watch it here.
After falling from 4-0-1 to 4-2-1, going into the last round I was a) not happy with Storm and b) badly wanted to win. 4-3-1 means I am in single elimination mode if I want to even think about Top 8——Not the spot I expected to be in after the first five rounds. My opponent was a bow-tie-wearing gentleman named Roberto Gonzales.
He was—obviously—playing [ccProd]Cryptic Command[/ccProd]s. This time they were complemented by just some white cards and no red splash. Once again, he didn’t put up much of a fight in the first game. A Gitaxian Probe at the start of the second revealed a [ccProd]Knowledge Pool[/ccProd]. That card has a lot of text. When he played a [ccProd]Teferi[/ccProd] on his 6th turn, I figured there was a combo and sure enough he confirmed that both cards in play mean you cannot cast another spell ever again. Cute. Fortunately he thought that Teferi stopped Pyromancer Ascension in the same way it stops cascading, but the ascension is a triggered effect and doesn’t care about spells being restricted to sorcery speed. I won that one, up to 5-2-1.
After a good night of sleep it was back to drafting. My pod had the following villains:
That’s two of my teammates with Paul and Gaudenis plus Alexandre again. This time my first pick was better, but still not really exciting. The choice was [ccProd]Bolt of Keranos[/ccProd] vs. [ccProd]Ghostblade Eidolon[/ccProd]. I am not a fan of six mana spells and took the Bolt. I was passed another Bolt second and a couple of [ccProd]Fearsome Temper[/ccProd]s confirmed that red was a good color to be in. A seventh-pick [ccProd]Asphyxiate[/ccProd] meant I moved into black. I got lucky enough that a ton of [ccProd]Deathbellow Raider[/ccProd]s were opened at the table and I got four of them, with Paul stealing the fifth. First-pick, too—and he was red/white. Can’t trust anyone these days.
My second pack actually contained the black God and I passed it twice—once for a [ccProd]Gray Merchant[/ccProd] and once for a Raider. Other than that the draft was once again fairly unexciting. I finally opened a great card with Elspeth in pack 3. Too bad there was no chance I could play it. I actually considered hate drafting it over a [ccProd]Lightning Strike[/ccProd], which was obviously great for my deck. The reason was that the Elspeth would probably be having a good time stomping both Paul and Gaudenis as well. Eventually I decided to go with the Strike and fortunately Alex behind me cut the Elspeth. That worked out well. This was my deck:
The day started off with a feature match against Paul. His draft didn’t work out very well. He was RW, but had to play some suboptimal cards. I won the first game and lost the second after Paul used [ccProd]Peak Eruption[/ccProd]. The Mountain didn’t matter, but 3 to my face was pretty decent! I mulliganed in the third game and we had some Deathbellow Raiders bounce off each other. Paul got some damage in with the 5/2 Cyclops and I played my [ccProd]Tymaret, the Murder King[/ccProd] to block it as my team of Deathbellow Raiders was forced to attack. When I blocked, Paul used [ccProd]Titan’s Strength[/ccProd] to save his mighty cyclops. Apparently at this point the Twitch chat went crazy when I just put the card in my graveyard. But it actually reads “sacrifice ANOTHER creature, deal 2 damage to target player.” The card is just really not good, I’d take another Deathbellow Raider over it in a second.
Anyway, Paul attacked me to 1 life while he was on 2, played two blockers and I had five lands with a [ccProd]Sip of Hemlock[/ccProd] in my hand. Any land or burn spell would kill him, otherwise he’d win. I think I was actually favored there with both Bolts, the [ccProd]Lightning Strike[/ccProd], [ccProd]Portent of Betrayal[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Gray Merchant[/ccProd] still in my deck, along with 11 untapped lands. The Temple of Abandon would have been a cruel finish, but fortunately my draw was a [ccProd]Bolt of Keranos[/ccProd]. Close one.
Afterwards, Alex Bonneau destroyed me quite easily. In the actual games we played, he didn’t even show me any good cards. Two [ccProd]Accursed Centaur[/ccProd]s and some [ccProd]Scourgemark[/ccProd]s were enough. His deck of 2/4s and 0/6s matched up really well against my 2-power ground dork army. After the match I learned he had Phenax, and that’s why I couldn’t convince him to move out of black, and the [ccProd]Returned Centaur[/ccProd] tag team also made a lot more sense now.
To make up for my bad draws vs. Alex, I got quite lucky to beat Ben Yu in the 3rd round. Paul lost to him previously and told me some cards he saw, which were all pretty unexciting. After I won two quick games, he then showed me double [ccProd]Polis Crusher[/ccProd] and a [ccProd]Courser of Kruphix[/ccProd], out of which he drew NONE in the four games against Paul and me.
7-3-1 going into the second Modern portion, and still alive for Top 8—but only with five straight wins.
First in another seemingly endless line of Cryptic Command-powered decks was Jeremy Dezani with UWR. Another relatively easy game one win was followed… by a double mulligan for Jeremy. I answered his third turn Geist with a lot of Goblin tokens and that was enough to take the match. This was fortunate as Jeremy actually had a reasonable sideboard against me. No Rule of Law, but two copies of Rest in Peace and two or three [ccProd]Counterflux[/ccProd].
Omri Tubiana in his first Pro Tour wasn’t a pushover like the PT Dublin Champion. He started the first game with [ccProd]Experiment One[/ccProd] into double [ccProd]Goblin Guide[/ccProd] on the play. I tried to go off, but a timely removal for my [ccProd]Goblin Electromancer[/ccProd] spelled doom for our hero.
I had a rare decision in the second game. One option was to Grapeshot his entire team and pass with an Electromancer in play and scry [ccProd]Past in Flames[/ccProd] to the top of my deck. If he didn’t kill the Goblin, I could then next turn cast Past in Flames and probably win relatively easy. If he did kill it, however, I had to draw some sort of mana. But I was still sitting at a high enough life total that if he didn’t have Rampager and double Bolt, I should be OK. So I chose to Grapeshot him after scrying a Lightning Bolt to the top that would finish him next turn if he didn’t have a [ccProd]Lightning Helix[/ccProd]. He attacked with a Goblin Guide, saw the Bolt, and shuffled them up.
I felt I was in a great spot in the decider after having a Bolt for his [ccProd]Wild Nactal[/ccProd] and him drawing only one more creature, a Goblin Guide, as a follow-up. That’s typically not fast enough. A few turns later he had [ccProd]Disenchant[/ccProd]ed my Ascension, and when I conceded, my remaining deck of 45 cards had a grand total of four lands left. Sigh. 8-4-1 and out of Top 8 competition.
With the ultimate goal out of sight, I lost focus, and the match against Elmer van Eeghen was embarrassing. At some point I copied a [ccProd]Serum Visions[/ccProd], and when scrying I put one card on the bottom and one in my hand. It was still technically what would happen anyway, as the second Visions would draw me that card, but still. Elmer was naturally not too happy.
Afterwards, I managed to move my three-card hand to the bottom of my deck when casting a [ccProd]Desperate Ravings[/ccProd]. I really have no idea why I would do that. Again, Elmer was understandably scared I was doing something shady as I knew the bottom of my deck from scrying. Fortunately that happened in game two with a Rest in Peace in play. I had an Ascension in play, one in hand, and another one was the card I put on the bottom of my library. With no way to deal with the Rest in Peace, the judges agreed that I was just being stupid and not cheating, so I got off the hook and pulled myself together. Games without graveyards are no fun though and I lost that one. An early Blood Moon meant Elmer couldn’t participate much in the final game, and I won the match.
Round 15 was time for a rematch as I faced Kelvin Chew playing the same blue Blood Moon deck I lost to earlier on Day 1. Once again the first game was easy as those control decks pack so much removal. My excitement was short lived as I looked at his hand of three [ccProd]Spell Snare[/ccProd]s and a [ccProd]Counterflux[/ccProd] in the second game. The main plan against control is to resolve an Ascension. That clearly wasn’t happening in this game. The backup plan was Goblin tokens, and the Counterflux was ready for that.
I eventually drew into two [ccProd]Empty the Warrens[/ccProd] as Kelvin didn’t manage to find one of his Cliques to apply some pressure, and he was forced to counter single iterations of that second Empty the Warrens. The remaining Goblins still brought it home as he didn’t find an [ccProd]Anger of the Gods[/ccProd] in time. That match left me wondering if I lost the previous encounter with that deck due to not knowing the matchup well enough. Counterspells are definitely a big issue for the Storm deck as you easily flood out and end up sitting there with a ton of useless Rituals in hand, but not having some actual sideboard hate is a big problem for the Blue Moon player.
Going into round 16 I was in 23rd, but my tiebreakers were pretty good. Shi Tian was playing for Top 8 this round and Jeremy won his last three rounds. Even if most people on 11-4 drew, I figured a win would give me a very good chance at Top 16. Pairings in the last round are done by standing, Dezani was in 24th, so I would end up playing against Michael Hetrick. I was pretty happy about facing Living End at first, but then learned that he had the four Leylines waiting.
After I won, Chapin told me it would be a coin toss between 16th and 17th if tiebreakers didn’t change much. They did, however, and I got a comfortable 14th place. I originally didn’t intend to play PT Atlanta in May, but after winning the flight in Valencia and checking with my boss, it looks like I’ll be going.
My original plan for this season was to play all events and hopefully get enough PT points to captain the German team at the World Magic Cup. I had already given that up as Wenzel Krautmann put up a great string of results going into PT Dublin and pulled quite a bit away. Now after finishing 17th in Dublin and 14th here, I actually passed Wenzel—but Patrick Dickmann jumped past both of us with his Top 4. The rest of the season means Patrick doesn’t get to play Modern. So that obstacle might be manageable as well!
A few people asked me what I think about Storm in upcoming PTQs/GPs. Honestly, I would stay away. I assume there is going to be more hate now, which is not easy to beat. Plus, the deck is really complicated. I spent quite a lot of time playing with and against it in testing. So if you think there won’t be (m)any Rule of Laws, you should practice a few hours at least.
If you have any questions/comments, either post below or talk to me on Twitter at @kaibudde.
I am most likely going to write an article or post a video here and there. In the meantime you’ll have to be content with Reid talking about green/black control decks in all formats every week. Sorry about that!