Before I go into my article, I would like to say “thank you” to everyone who supported my first one. The response has been incredibly overwhelming and I appreciate everyone’s kindness. For those who did not read my first article, the short background is that I’m a more-than-legally blind Magic player who is looking (heh) to compete on a more professional level. (“What does it mean to be more-than-legally blind?” you ask. “Read my first article!”)
I qualified for PT Theros at GP Vegas, and as the date approached I was getting psyched. The weekend before the Pro Tour I decided to go to GP Oklahoma to get some Theros practice.
Day 1, I ended up building a UB deck that was 90% 2/3 creatures—but also had [card]Voyage’s End[/card], 2 [card]Sea God’s Revenge[/card], and [card]Mnemonic Wall[/card] to help me cast them again. I felt blindsided to be playing a deck where one of my best cards was Mnemonic Wall, but things worked out all right. I also ended up meeting a group of really cool guys from Texas that were qualified for the Pro Tour as well and we had some good discussions about deck choices and how to draft Theros. I really do love meeting new, interesting people.
Day 2 was a little more interesting. I started the day at 8-1 and I was in pod 1 for the draft. Some of the guys in my pod were part of the group from Texas I had just befriended the day before. Pod 1 draft with new buddies—sounds good to me.
Here is the deck I ended up with:
2 Battlewise Valor
Ordeal of Heliod
Ordeal of Purphoros
Chosen by Heliod
2 Akroan Hoplite
2 Leonin Snarecaster
2 Anax and Cymede
Fanatic of Mogis
I had [card]Ray of Distortion[/card] in my sideboard. I first-picked [card]Gods Willing[/card], second-picked [card]Akroan Hoplite[/card], got [card]Ordeal of Purphoros[/card] 3rd, then 5th pick [card]Anax and Cymede[/card]. Pack 2, pick 2 I got [card]Fabled Hero[/card] and pack 2, pick 6 I got the second [card]Anax and Cymede[/card]. I was super pumped about my deck and couldn’t wait to play. In the first round of the draft I played ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ on turn 3 all 3 games and that just isn’t real Magic.
In round 11 I played Zach Dorsett and as we were shuffling I could tell he was my favorite kind of Magic player. In game 1, we draw our hands and he casually says, “I drew eight.” I asked, “Have you looked at them?” He called for a judge and we sat in silence while we waited. Zach told the judge he accidentally drew 8 and then told the judge that he looked at them. The judge issued a forced mulligan and we played our games. I told him after that I would have never known that he had looked at them and I sincerely appreciated his honesty. He responded by telling me this game is so great because of the community we have all built and when people do scummy things they hurt the whole community. I could not agree with Zach more.
In round 12, I was paired against Will Lowry, the only undefeated player left in the tournament. We had some very good games with a climatic finish. During our final game, he was at a dangerously low life total and I attacked with [card]Flamespeaker Adept[/card] and two other creatures. After blocks, I used [card]Spark Jolt[/card] to trigger my Adept and presumably win the game. I sat my hand down on the table and looked at the top card of my library—it was a Mountain. In my mind I instantly made the decision to put it on the bottom of my library, let damage happen, and win the game. Unfortunately, when I sat the card down I sat it on top of my hand. I mindlessly picked up my hand and started shifting the cards… and realized I had 3 cards in my hand instead of 2.
As I realized what had happened, my stomach dropped. I looked up and saw a judge walking over. I told him what had happened and just like that, I had managed to turn my game win into a game and match loss. Will said he didn’t even notice and thanked me for my honesty. In that moment, I felt so colossally stupid. Afterwards, a stranger asked me, “Why does it matter? He was going to lose and a Mountain in your hand was irrelevant.” I told him, “some day I will win a Grand Prix, and it won’t be because my opponent happened to be looking the wrong direction when a mistake was made.” I love Magic and I love the community we have all built and continue to build. I love winning, but more than that, I want to get better. Mistakes like this one will make me better.
My next draft deck was not so incredible, and I ended up finishing the GP in 25th place. Walking into this GP, I had practiced a lot of Theros limited and with the practice and experience of this GP, I felt better prepared for the Pro Tour.
My First Pro Tour – Pro Tour Theros
Going to your first Pro Tour is a bit like riding a bike without training wheels for the first time. The mechanics and skills are almost identical, but all of a sudden you’re playing with the big kids, and probably going fall and get scraped up quite a bit along the way.
The first time I rode a bike without training wheels I ran full speed into a parked truck.
I didn’t have anyone to test with that was also qualified for the Pro Tour, but I did have a good group of guys willing to help me test—and we tested a lot. Throughout the majority of my time testing I could not decide on a Standard deck and I was continually shifting from one to another. We also did a lot of drafts and learned a lot about the Limited format quickly.
A few days before the Pro Tour I decided I really liked Gerry Thompson’s red/black midrange list, and I knew that [card]Desecration Demon[/card] was a beast (Demon technically, but it all looks the same to me). Two days before the event Sam Black also released an article about RB Midrange and while I don’t advocate blindly following others’ lists (or blindness in general), practice games went well and I felt pretty secure in my deck choice.
I had never been to Ireland before, but I have a good friend that lives in Dublin so I was able to stay with him, which was amazing. He knew the city and how things work, and fed me traditional Irish cuisine. I was excited to travel to Ireland, but the feeling when I first walked into the hall of the event to register was incredible. The sound of gurgling streams and the smell of Irish Spring soap permeated the air. Sparkles trailed after me as I skipped into the room, gazing around with wide-eyed wonder. The sound of bagpipes resonated in the space—which was odd, as this was Ireland, not Scotland. Leprechauns sprinkled rainbows and Black Lotus confetti along my path as I walked towards registration.
Okay, so actually the room was mostly empty, but it was still pretty sweet as I walked through it knowing that tomorrow it would be filled with players ranging from relatively unknown to legends of the game, all with the same goal.
3 Gods Willing
2 Leonin Snarecaster
2 Scholar of Athereos
3 Sentry of the Underworld
Vanquish the Foul[/deck]
I first-picked [card]Gods Willing[/card], then got it again 5th pick and 7th pick. Obviously, no one wanted to be white in my pod, and when I got [card]Celestial Archon[/card] pick 5 in pack 2 I was convinced there was no other white drafter at my table. I wasn’t unhappy with the deck, but it had a lot of 5-drops in a format that can be fast and unforgiving.
My Limited games went smoothly and I finished the draft portion at 2-1. I played against Naya in round 4, and my opponent’s Domri did not want to cooperate with his plan and I was able to win. After round 4, I was 3-1 at my first Pro Tour and feeling euphoric. I had told my friends before I left LA that I would be happy if I could just make Day 2. At 3-1, that goal looked easy. Round 5 was my first round against a big green deck. When my opponent cast [card]Arbor Colossus[/card] on turn 4 I remember thinking, “Is that a card?”
I quickly realized how good it was against [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] and [card]Desecration Demon[/card] and I was worried. Over the course of our match he played more [card arbor colossus]Colossi[/card] and [card polukranos, world eater]Hydras[/card] than I had removal and he won.
In round 6 I played against Tom Ross and he taught me a lesson. In one of our games he had active Domri and Chandra with some [card]Elvish Mystic[/card]s and a [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card] to go with his 3 cards in hand. I have lands and 2 [card]Rakdos Keyrune[/card]s. He attacked with his Rampager, but I was worried he might have another Rampager in his hand so I don’t block with my Keyrunes and I took 4 going down to 20.
He used Chandra’s zero and exiled another Rampager. He cast the exiled Rampager, used Domri’s +1 and did not reveal the card. On my next turn I cast [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card] to see the cards in his hand—he didn’t have rampager. On his following turn, he used Chandra’s +1 to kill my Zombie and then attacked with both of his Rampagers. I activated my 2 Keyrunes and blocked a Rampager, and before damage he bloodrushed a Rampager from his hand onto his blocked Rampager.
“What a boss.” I said to him as I laughed. “You left that Rampager on top when you saw it with Domri and I just let myself get destroyed. When I tell this story later to my friends I’ll call you Tom “The Boss” Ross. He laughed and we continued. I eventually lost the match and we talked some after. We both think that because I was so far behind on board, I couldn’t afford to let him bluff free damage, but it was a cool play! After losing, my record was 3-3, and worry began creeping into my thoughts.
In round 7 I played against an opponent that did not speak English. Anytime there’s a language barrier, games can be more challenging for both players. For me, it’s extra challenging because we can’t verbally communicate, we can’t visually communicate, and it’s hard for me to explain my disability. At one point in game 2 I cast Lifebane Zombie and he fanned out his hand on his play mat. I moved to pick up his hand and he stopped me. I tried to explain that I couldn’t see the cards, but he couldn’t understand. Eventually, we had to call someone to explain to him that I needed to pick up the cards to hold them close enough to read them. After the explanation, everything was fine. I ended up winning the match to bring my record to 4-3.
I lost round 8 and finished Day 1 of the PT at 4-4. The competitor in me wasn’t very happy with that record, but I made Day 2 of my first Pro Tour and that is pretty awesome.
I had some troubles sleeping after Day 1, partly because of me going over all of my games and trying to figure out different play lines and partly because of jet lag. Luckily, by draft time, I felt rested and ready to play.
2 Battlewise Hoplite
Chosen by Heliod
Ordeal of Heliod
2 Battlewise Valor
Triton Fortune Hunter
3 Wingsteed Rider
2 Setessan Griffin[/deck]
I had [card]Glare of Heresy[/card] in the sideboard. I felt good about my deck and I was ready to battle.
In round 9, my deck worked perfectly and I was able to get a fast match win. Round 10, however, was a little more interesting. In game 1, my opponent had [card]Daxos of Meletis[/card] with both [card]Hopeful Eidolon[/card] and [card]Observant Alseid[/card] bestowed on it. I had built my own [card baneslayer angel]Baneslayer[/card] with a [card]Wingsteed Rider[/card] and [card]Hopeful Eidolon[/card]. The game went on for 31 minutes before my opponent drew [card]Voyage’s End[/card] to unseat my Rider, and Daxos quickly dispatched me. Game 2 I played all 3 Wingsteed Riders and won the game quickly. While we were shuffling for game 3 we were talking and he looked back and spoke Chinese to someone. I asked who it was and he told me it was his mom. It turned out he was pretty young. How cool is that? He qualified for the Pro Tour and his mom came with him to show him support and cheered him on during his matches.
Game 3 was funny. Neither of us cast anything on our first 2 turns. On turn 3, he casts Daxos and on my 3rd turn I cast [card]Wingsteed Rider[/card]. He followed up with a [card]Leonin Snarecaster[/card] to tap my Rider and bash me with Daxos. He had 1 mana available, and the card I revealed was [card]Aqueous Form[/card]. He looked at the card then looked at me and said with surprise in his voice, “I can actually cast that!” I said, “Yeah, you can.” He cast it on his Daxos and I did my best to turn it into a race, but the life gain was too much. To be clear, I’m not telling that story to complain about a bad beat. I genuinely think it’s a funny story and his surprise and elation was encouraging. We all play this game for the sweet stories. We shouldn’t omit the stories that involve us getting “ranched” (thank you Conley Woods).
In Round 11, my opponent sat down, held out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Dave.” I recognized his voice and said, “Hi Dave, I’m Travis.” I asked him how he felt about his deck and he said it wasn’t very good. When he said that, I smiled and I was thinking, “Right David Williams, I’m sure your deck is reaaaaaaaaal bad.” Our games weren’t very interactive. He was playing 3 colors, and in 2 games he got the mana he needed and my deck didn’t feel like cooperating and I lost. After the games we sat and talked about our decks and how our drafts went. Neither of us felt like my deck was a 1-2 deck or that his deck was a 2-1 deck, but that’s how it ended up.
The next few rounds were pretty unremarkable. In the last round of the tournament I played a Taiwanese player and we had some communication problems, but ultimately everything worked out. After our matches, he and 3 of his friends were asking me a lot of questions about my vision and how I play Magic. It was interesting to hear their perspectives about it, because they asked questions most Americans don’t usually ask.
I finished the tournament 7-9 and was disappointed. I regretted my deck choice and was unhappy with myself that I didn’t practice enough to figure out the deck’s weaknesses. I didn’t have an accurate picture of what the metagame would look like (hard to avoid a blind joke). I felt like I had failed and I had some unpleasant Facebook messages reminding me I’m a scrub.
That Sunday night at the after party I was standing next to David Ochoa and I asked him how he finished. He said he finished Top 25. I congratulated him and told him he’s probably pretty used to that. He corrected me and said that he doesn’t have the best record at PTs, to which I replied with earnest shock, “Really? You’re so good I find that hard to believe.” He looked back at me solemnly and said, “Pro Tours are hard.”
Pro Tours are hard.
It’s pretty simple, and sounds obvious, but that moment has stuck with me. I made it to the Pro Tour. I made it to Day 2. I didn’t finish as well as I would have liked, but I played Magic at the highest level. I have grown a lot this year and I plan on growing more. Sure, I had my lucky days. But I also improved my game a great deal. My passion for Magic is a bonfire right now (but not [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card]—no one likes that card). I want to continue getting better and go to future Pro Tours.
And I will.
As always, if you see me at an event, please say hi—because I won’t see you. Thanks for reading!
Made blind for balance,