Waking up Saturday morning was very strange, since I knew I could do something insane like a PT Top 8, or end with a mediocre finish after one of the best starts. I was very nervous about this possibility, but also very excited to prove myself.
I received so many messages about my Day 1 finish that I was feeling like the whole of Italy was behind me—I was on cloud nine!
I also received encouragement from Gerard Fabiano and Mike Sigrist, the two all-stars of the group. They said that if I finished at least Top 25, we would play the GP Portland Team Sealed together the week after the Pro Tour. They gave me the perfect motivation to do great on Day 2.
Down to business, my first pod draft was a little intimidating. I was going to draft with Chapin, Larsson, Utter-Leyton, Reid Duke, and Todd Anderson. Things were getting difficult for me.
You can see every pick I made in this pod in the Draft Viewer
First pack offered me one of the best cards in Journey into Nyx: Silence the Believers. As soon as I saw it I had no doubt about what I would take, but I was sad to pass Golden Hind, the best common and also in my favorite color. Along with the Hind was Mogis’s Warhound, Feast of Dreams, and Cloaked Siren, so I was hoping Todd wouldn’t pick it.
Ricardo passed me a pack with 2 good red cards, Bladetusk Boar and Wildfire Cerberus, which I was sure I would not take, along with Ajani’s Presence and Colossal Heroics. Maybe the Presence is better than Heroics, but I got a little blinded by how well it worked for me on Day One, and considering how much I dislike drafting BW, I took the uncommon trick.
Next I had to choose between Oakheart Dryads and Ravenous Leucrocota. I actually don’t know which is better but last time I drafted BG I ended up with zero 4-drops and a ton of 3-drops, so I went for the 4-drop even if it may be worse than the Dryads.
Fourth-pick was a huge signal: Sigiled Starfish, a card that I rate very highly, and since there were no black and green cards I took it.
The draft continued with only green picks, since there were no black or blue cards. Oakheart Dryads, Ravenous Leucrocota, Font of Fertility, Renowned Weaver, and Nature’s Panoply rounded out the rest of the pack.
I still didn’t know what colors I might end up playing. I was green for sure and I had to decide on blue or black, but neither of them seem to be very open, though I’m more confident in blue with that 4th pick Starfish.
Born of the Gods started with a pretty unexciting pick, the pack was filled with a bunch of good red and white cards while I chose to go for a solid Nyxborn Wolf.
For my second pick I used basically all my time to choose between Kiora’s Follower, Siren of the Fanged Coast, Sudden Storm, or Nyxborn Eidolon. This was a turning point in the draft, since it was time to decide if I wanted to go black or blue. I went for the Kiora’s Follower, since it’s better than the other two blue options, and it’s way better than the black one, even if Silence the Believers is the nuts. In my opinion it’s always better to follow the flow and let go of rare bombs if you can’t build a good core around them.
3rd pick I got no UG cards but just a Nyxborn Eidolon, and I immediately felt so bad! 4th pick was mediocre too, but 5th pick was between 6 good cards for me, where I took Swordwise Centaur over a Pheres-Band Tromper, 3 good blue cards, and a Pain Seer. I really didn’t know what was happening.
The Theros Booster I opened had many good cards of every color except blue and green. I could have taken a Gray Merchant of Asphodel, but since UG is the best archetype I decided to stick with it and took an Omenspeaker.
Then I received a gift from Ricardo in the form of Arbor Colossus! DING! The pack continued with Agent of Horizons, Ordeal of Nylea, Horizon Chimera, Sedge Scorpion, Feral Invocation, and Opaline Unicorn.
I ended up with this:
I felt good about my deck. It had a good amount of ramp spells, some monsters, and some ground guys to halt aggro decks. I felt like despite the guys sitting at my draft table I could do it!
Round 9: Todd Anderson
This was the first time I met Todd, even though I’ve seen a lot of videos of him here and there. He was on RW aggro and the first game was close. I eventually won at 2 life after he topdecked Glimpse the Sun God for the victory, but I had Retraction Helix to bounce an attacker that would have been lethal.
The second game was brutal for him and basically ended on turn 4, since he never played his third land drop and I bounced his creature after he played a trick on it to consume his whole turn.
Round 10: Ricardo Sanchez Garrido
I saw him playing against Reid Duke the turn before, and since he lost I knew I was paired down against him.
He was on UW Heroic with some flyers. The first game was very tough, I monstrous’d Arbor Colossus to kill his Siren of the Fanged Coast which met a well-timed Crypsis that brought me to 2 life. Somehow I managed to stall the board and eventually won thanks to Crystalline Nautilus.
The second game he went down to 6 cards but had a very aggressive start with Akroan Skyguard and 3 Auras in as many turns. Once again it was Arbor Colossus to stop the flyer and take the game.
Finally the time came. Here’s the chance to take back my stolen crown: Reid Duke beat Patrick Chapin in the last round, so I was expecting to play against him for the “King of the Hill” title.
Unfortunately it didn’t work the way I thought, and since there were 4 players in the 9-1 bracket, we were paired in a way that two players would end the draft section at 3-0.
Round 11 : Josh Utter Leyton
Once again, I’ve never played against Josh but I know a lot about him, and one of the many facts is that he’s definitely more skilled than me.
He was on RG aggro , but in the first game I had a start that even a Constructed deck couldn’t handle. After winning the die roll I went:
T2: Kiora’s Follower
T4: Arbor Colossus
T6: Feral Invocation to destroy his double-block on Colossus.
Game 2 I kept a bad hand: 5 lands, Colossus, and Snake, I drew 3 other lands while he started making quick work of my life total until my 2 big monsters stalled the board. When he went all in I untapped my big creatures with Colossal Heroics managing to staying alive and then attack for lethal the following turn.
Words can hardly describe how I was feeling at that moment, I really wanted to hug someone there but I only found Gerard Fabiano, who was so sad the way the tournament was going that he couldn’t even hug me.
People in Italy were getting crazy, I kept writing on a Facebook group of Italian Magic players and everybody was so happy about my almost perfect run that my motivation to not disappoint them was over the top!
Going 6-0 in Limited is something I thought only the best players in the world can do, so I have 2 theories: 1) I am one of the best players in the world or 2) Sometimes luck can overcome skill. I think the second is the right answer.
I think that my 6-0 in the draft portion is thanks to the fact that I love drafting UG and both times it was super open, so I didn’t had to read any particular signal (even though in the second draft I skipped black after a bomb-first-pick).
Once again it’s time for Constructed. And there’s no chance that I’m not fighting for my crown now.
Round 12: Reid Duke – BUG Midrange
You can see the whole match here.
Reid is my Magic hero, my idol for this game. Every time he writes an article or puts a deck list online, I trust him on every word and follow him as the true master he demonstrably is. I’m so happy to play against him, and doing it at the Pro Tour sitting in the main feature match is somewhat unbelievable.
He was playing BUG Midrange, basically a midrange mirror, but Prognostic Sphinx is very hard to deal with. Silence the Believers and Hero’s Downfall also are way better than Lightning Strike and Magma Jet so I was not feeling good for this matchup.
Game 1 I mulliganed to 6 on the play, and didn’t start with any ramp creatures. Despite the mulligan my hand was filled with threats I had the time to play. I felt like I had a shot to take the game but 4 Hero’s Downfall from Reid in the first seven turns were enough to shut my hopes down. To seal the deal Reid also cast a couple of Prognostic Sphinxes and soon everything was over.
After I lost the first game, I felt completely hopeless. I chose to go to the toilet, wash my face and clear my mind a little bit. I had to stay focus and sharp if I wanted to beat him. When I returned I opened a very bad hand but chose to keep it: 5 Lands, Arbor Colossus, and Lightning Strike. Apparently he kept a worse hand than me or his draws very bad since we both flooded but I was able to won with just a couple of cards.
The third game is one of those I will always remember, not because I made particularly good play or because it was very interested, but because I beat Reid Duke by ultimate’ing Xenagos, the Reveler and flipping 2 Arbor Colossus as the two first cards.
What really stands as a perfect memory is the clamor as people saw me reveling my cards from the top of my deck, and the crowd of people who came to congratulate me after my win. Feeling like there’s somebody cheering for you when you are doing well is something that really wipes away any bad moment this game can provide.
As Zac Hill said “This can easily became a meme.” The Italian Community didn’t take long to make that happen.
After my success against Reid, the Italian group lead by Estratti and Giusti along with Team ThroughtheGate were shouting “The king is back!”
I just needed one win in 4 matches, or it’s better to win one of the first three since then it’s easier to draw the last one.
Important note: Gabriel Nassif made a video of me, without asking anything, just as a joke. I’m the first person to joke and troll everyone so I didn’t care, but the 2 most superstitious people I know (Estratti and Giusti) suggested that I approach him and ask for him to delete the video. I didn’t mind.
Round 13: Guillame Wafo-Tapa – Junk Constellation
I heard many times that Guillame is considered one of the best players in the world, so I wasn’t too happy to play against him, but sitting 11-1 it was basically impossible to be paired against somebody unknown.
He was playing Junk Constellation and the game was always in his favor, he was always ahead on cards. Our games were never close.
This first loss after a while gave another chance for Estratti and Giusti to blame the video Nassif took. I responded with “If I lose one more I will ask him to delete the video.”
Round 14: Num Sang Wook – Junk Constellation
I was paired against another Junk Constellation, and thanks to the match with Wafo I wasn’t very happy to play this matchup again.
The first game I mulliganed to 5, and never hit the 2nd land drop. Second game was his turn to not play a single card and I quickly won.
The third one was very long. One turn I untapped with Xenagos, the Reveler at 6, Elspeth at 5, and in hand another Elspeth and Xenagos. I ultimated my Xenagos but this time I wasn’t lucky as I was against Reid, and my top 5 were lands, a Caryatid, and a Lightning Strike. I still felt I could win, but Herald of Torment got me in the end.
Now I must respect the deal with my Italian buddies and I went to Nassif asking him to delete the video. He didn’t feel comfortable about my question, and answered “No.” I explained the situation but he didn’t want to, so Estratti and Giusti tried to think on some other way to remove the curse: I shot a video of him, so we were even!
A week after the Pro Tour, I discovered he makes videos during tournaments to edit them in a video report. I have to apologize for my overly superstitious behavior.
This funny story really took me away from thinking that I had almost reached the Top 8 and the tension was quite high. I told myself that no matter what, I must win this one.
Round 15: Ben Friedman – Naya
I ended up winning 2-0 but the win arrived when the timer was at 00.00. The games were so long a Judge stayed near us the entire time and we played as quickly as we could.
I hugged everyone I found on my path and shook hands like three time with Ben, wishing him best of luck since he still can play for the Top 8 (eventually he couldn’t and drew into 11th place).
Now I only need to be paired against a player with my same points to draw into Top 8.
Round 16: Yuuki Ichikawa
It’s settled! I drew with Yuuki to reach my first Pro Tour Top 8!
I made a post on Facebook that reached 250ish Likes in less than 1 hour, I was so happy that I couldn’t express myself.
The day continued with photos and interviews. I’ve never imagined that so many people would work behind the Pro Tour to make it run so perfectly.
But it’s not over, now it’s time to crush the Top 8!
We received each of the deck lists of the Top 8 so that we could playtest.
As soon as we arrived in the hotel Matt, Jeremy and me started to build Nam Sung Wook’s deck, as he was my opponent in the quarterfinals of Day 3. A lot of people from my team decided to help me and I battled against every one of them.
I found out a day later that Mike, Matt, Justin, Stony, Nicky, Jeremy, and maybe more stayed up all night playtesting the MU. Gerard Fabiano tried to sabotage me by snoring (even though he assured us that he didn’t) so I spoke a full hour with the most American guy I’ve ever met: The Eagle Fox Bat. I found out he’s an awesome guy that finished 40th in the Pro Tour playing 2 copies of Nyx-Fleece Ram in his main deck. A great accomplishment indeed!
Speaking of accomplishments, it didn’t go too well for my team since only Josh and Matt earned some money, while Jason, my roommate, fell short of the Top 75 after a 6-0 start.
Sunday started very early, and after 6 hours of sleep Mike and I arrived in the hall, discovering that fruit exists in America too. I thought there were only chicken and cans! (Kidding!)
We did some playtest games, in which I didn’t agree on the sideboard plan my teammates suggested to me. I was not sold on boarding in Anger of the Gods vs. Junk Constellation. In the playtest games I managed to win a lone game after sideboard of about 10. Things were getting pretty ugly but I was not demoralized.
They called me for the feature match and everything started.
Quarterfinals: Nam Sung Wook – Junk Constellation
You can see the whole match here.
I started off with a mulligan and opened on an unexciting hand. I kept drawing basic Forests while my opponent was drawing cards on cards and playing lands from the top with Courser. After I played only two spells, my Elspeth, Sun’s Champion got to 7 loyalty so Nam had to find an answer, which eventually he did in the form of Hero’s Downfall.
Nam did definitely make a bad attack with two Eidolon of Blossoms and a Courser into my 5 Elspeth tokens and a Voyaging Satyr. He probably thought I would have blocked in a way where I would get blown up by Silence the Believers but unfortunately for him I didn’t and he lost one of his Eidolons.
The game continued and I chose not to play a Xenagos, the Reveler along with a Stormbreath Dragon keeping them as a secret resource. In the end I didn’t need neither of them since I ripped two Lightning Strikes off the top to kill Nam from a unwinnable board state.
The second and third game were way faster than the first. In the second I had a great start, but his Reaper of the Wilds easily outclassed my Polis Crusher and his Hero’s Downfall from the top destroyed my Dragon and with it, my hopes.
In the third game I drew too many reactive spells and little action. In the last turn where I conceded, I was facing a non-monstrous Fleecemane Lion and a Reaper of the Wilds with only 6 mana up. My hand was Banishing Light and Glare of Heresy. Unfortunately I missed the fact that it was impossible for him to save both of his creatures so while the first removal on one of them would be fizzled either by the monstrous ability or the hexproof activation, the second would have stuck for sure, leaving him probably with just the Lion. From that position I would have been able to chump block and maybe draw an Elspeth. I scooped instead, since I was tilted by how badly that game went.
After the loss Nam and I went backstage to have lunch together. He kept apologizing for how our match went and I was shocked by how kind he was.
I ate some Penne alla Bolognese, even though they weren’t Penne but Rigatoni, and some Cannoli Siciliani for desert. It was nice to see how Italy conquered the world in a different way.
When you lose you always feel a little bit sad , but this time was different. I was still so happy that when I came out the first thing I said was: “Draaaaaft???”
A big thanks to everyone that encouraged me, live or from home, especially those who didn’t even know me. I hope to continue my winning streak in Portland and Honolulu, and this is finally my chance to make it to the gravy train!