Pro Tour Hour of Devastation is only a couple of weeks away. With Hour of Devastation’s early release on Magic Online, I'm trying to hit the ground running and spend all the time I can better preparing for the PT. Normally, the testing process can be a bit chaotic. A schedule should help me get everything I need done in a more organized fashion.

Below is the schedule I intend to use and follow in my preparation for Pro Tour Hour of Devastation.

Day 1: July 10

Constructed gets put on the back burner for the whole first week. It’s time to dive right into Booster Draft. I’ll begin by using the intermediate Swiss queues in order to play all 3 rounds with my Draft decks.

It’s important to get a feel for how the format plays out early, so you can begin noticing interactions and evaluating cards. In this time you start to learn the commons well, and learn the different combat tricks in the format.

I intend to do 5 Drafts on Day 1.

Day 2: July 11

While I’ll still be focusing on Booster Draft, I'll make the immediate jump into competitive single elimination Leagues. The competition is stiffer in competitive Leagues so the Drafts will be tougher. This is a good time to start evaluating how early and late certain cards are being drafted.

Today I’ll start taking full notes on my decks with pictures posted to our online testing forum. I’ll evaluate cards that played out better or worse than they looked, and begin tracking records for my deck with my team. This eventually will give us a compiled document of data from our entire team on archetype analysis to look at toward the end of testing.

One thing I learned last PT, for example, was that the rare split cards in Amonkhet were better than I initially thought. I thought Prepare // Fight would be a solid card and maybe a first pick in G/W, but it turned out that it was basically a bomb with a huge life gain swing in a format that was rather aggressive.

I’ll try today to do up to 7 Drafts. With round 1 losses ending the Draft immediately, it’s easier to get more of them in. Playing is still important, but I also want to be testing against other Pro Tour players, and the competitive single elimination Leagues is where they gather.

Day 3: July 12

Still drafting.

Today’s focus is more of the same. I’ll start to form opinions on which archetypes I think are better than others. Early in a format, it’s difficult to pin down what’s best, but after a few days you need to analyze your early impressions so that you can understand how others may react to the format. Draft is self-correcting, so the best archetypes may be over-drafted. It’s important to know what they are to begin with so you can begin to adapt.

I’ll again try to get about 7 Drafts done today. The better I do in the Drafts, the less I’ll get to do because of more rounds played.

Day 4: July 13

While I’ll still be focused on drafting, I intend to do some experimenting today. In the past I’ve been bad about sticking to my early evaluations of cards. I thought Oketra’s Monument was barely playable initially, while others identified the card as one of the best uncommons in Amonkhet.

Today I will try out cards I haven’t tried before, and any unique archetypes available. If my team likes any cards I didn't at first, I’ll make sure to try to draft them and revisit my own opinions.

I intend to do between 5 to 7 Drafts today.

I'll also try to pay attention to prices on Magic Online. While the early prices for cards are volatile, I want to buy cards to begin playing Standard, and this is when I’ll look to see which cards are trending up or down.

On top of that, I’ll look for trends in which decks people are playing. If a card suddenly jumps a lot in value, you can use that to determine how popular a card is, or, hopefully, how popular a deck is.

Day 5: July 14

I’ll continue my regimen of drafting, but I’ll start to brew some deck list ideas. I’ll put together some of the ideas I have on Magic Online, and build decks while I draft to get an idea of which cards I need to purchase.

This is when I’ll start checking out deck lists on Magic Online as well. The early data can be a bit off, because some people are playing decks without the new cards while they wait to see other’s innovations. This is when tracking Standard becomes an everyday routine for me, while before I mostly just ignored it.

I’ll try and do about 5 more Drafts today, and if I see a deck I really like, I might take it for a spin in a League or against a teammate on Magic Online.

Day 6: July 15

Today is an off day for the most part. I’m going to be spending some time with my family since I’ll be leaving for Japan for several weeks in a few days. While I won’t be playing any Magic, I’ll be focusing any extra attention I have on the SCG Open, watching coverage and noticing what decks and ideas seem to be working. The first major Standard event can give you a lot of information and generally sets the pace for how the metagame will look for the next week or so.

Day 7: July 16

I won’t be playing much today either. I will have a close eye on the SCG Open again, and I’ll start to build decks on Magic Online. I’ll tediously buy and sell cards, and build a few decks. I’ll make sure to get the stock decks from the SCG event and build one or two of my brews.

If I have extra time, I’ll put together physical decks as well. It can be time consuming to build decks in person when I get to house testing.

Day 8: July 17

This is the last day before I leave for Japan, and also the first day I’ll start to dive head-first into Standard. At this point people will have had time to build decks on Magic Online, and they'll want to play with decks that broke out over the weekend.

I’ll start by playing competitive Leagues with stock decks from the SCG event. In general, I like to find out if the deck's plan is functional, if the mana base needs work, and if there are some obvious card choices that could change. This is where tuning stock decks begins so that we have solid versions of them for house testing.

If I decide to play brews, I won’t be doing so in Magic Online Leagues. It’s still important to keep ideas close to the vest, especially at this point. While I believe most good ideas will be found before the PT, it’s important to keep good ideas secret as long as possible so that other players don’t have as much time to develop them. For Grand Prix, I don’t care as much—they are much larger events with smaller prizes. At a Pro Tour, secrecy is still valuable with the smaller field.

I intend to play one League with all the major archetypes from the SCG. If there’s one breakout deck, like Mardu Vehicles before the last Pro Tour, I’ll play several Leagues with that deck.

I could also play against teammates if our schedules line up instead of Leagues.

Day 9: July 18

Travel day today—no Magic. Whenever I have internet access I’ll take a look at Magic Online deck lists and make mental notes of anything I see that seems interesting or new.

Day 10: July 19

Travel day again—Japan is far away and also like 13 hours ahead of my time zone so I’ll end up losing half a day just in time zone changes. I’ll try and get to sleep at 10 p.m. to regulate myself for the first day. Jet lag is tough, so I try to wake up around 7-8 a.m. every day, and to be the first and last person in the testing room every day. I’m way more often the first, but I want to absorb as much Magic as I can, especially with so many gifted players around me.

Day 11: July 20

I’ll probably do my first house Draft today. We like to do these when we wake up around the same time we would at the Pro Tour. It may or may not help, but the idea is to condition ourselves to the experience. Since the release of Hour of Devastation was so early, we’ll probably do 3-5 house Drafts total. Most of us will feel pretty comfortable with Limited at this point, but it’s nice to have a few Drafts against the best in the world.

I’ll mostly focus on Standard today. My goal is to get some reps in with deck ideas and brews I like, and to play against teammates and their brews. We’re arriving a little later than normal and with time lost due to travel I’m surely going to feel behind.

I want to keep track of game scores as much as possible, and list them on the team forum. We’ve done a poor job of this in the past and while it’s important to get the feel of matchups, it’s also important to have statistics. I’ll play 10-game sets without sideboarding. This gives us a general idea of how a matchup is going or if a deck is even functional. I plan to rule out ideas and brews today. There’s not enough time to spend on mediocre ideas this time around.

Having the ability to scrap a deck idea fast with confidence is a great asset. A lot of people want to spend time fixing and adapting their own ideas because they believe they are onto something, but it’s more important to have an intuitive feel for the peak performance of a deck and if it’s not high enough, scrap it and move on. There’s no shame in playing a finely tuned stock deck at the Pro Tour.

My intent is to play at least 70 games today. This will largely be dependent on how badly jet lag is kicking my butt, but I want to get 10 sets of 10 in.

I also intend to try 4 or 5 different decks today. Playing the same deck over and over this early leads you to get tunnel vision. Keep a mental note of what you like and what you don’t, and move onto the next.

Day 12: July 21

One week until the Pro Tour. It’s crunch time.

We’ll likely do an early morning Draft, and then move right into Constructed.

I’d like to start narrowing down what the metagame will look like at the Pro Tour at this time. I like to hypothesize what the metagame will be, and within that metagame decide what would be the best stock deck to play based on matchups.

Sometimes it can be difficult to know what deck is good against what deck, which is why it’s important to trust your teammates and their conclusions. It’s impossible to get enough reps in by yourself to know every matchup.

At this point, we may have a short Constructed meeting to deduce our conclusions and our confidence in those conclusions. “I went 7-3 with Marvel against Zombies and I felt like that record was pretty indicative of how the matchup felt.” Or maybe “I went 3-7 with Marvel against Mardu but I drew poorly and had mana issues. The real games we played felt close and I might even be a small favorite.” These are the types of conversations we’ll have within a short Constructed meeting.

Generally there are a few matchups we’re unsure of at this point. That’s why we have this meeting. Then we’ll immediately go and play that matchup to determine its conclusion.

Sometimes at this point we’ll have a night time Limited meeting. We’ll discuss what we think the best common and uncommons are, and then move into the rares and discuss our experiences. It’s impossible to have played enough with all the rares and mythics by this point as individuals, so we discuss all the rares and mythics so that anyone who has had experiences with them can share their thoughts so people know more about these rares for the Grand Prix.

My goal today is to play about 6 or 7 sets of 10. The day will be shorter with meetings and we will have an earlier bed time in preparation for the Grand Prix. Hopefully I exceed that game total.

I also hope to narrow my personal deck choice down to about 3 or 4 decks. This is fairly easy as I’m pretty quick to dismiss decks I don’t like. My guess is that we’ll have about 2 or 3 brews we still like at this point and about 2 stock decks we think are the best.

Day 13: July 22

Day 1 of Grand Prix Kyoto: It's Sealed deck today so there’s not too much to learn other than getting extra experience with cards. The hope is to make Day 2 with a reasonable record and to kick back when I’m not playing.

Day 14: July 23

Day 2 of the GP is more interesting. It’s the first called Draft I’ll (hopefully) do. This is the first time I’ll get to draft in an extremely competitive setting and it's good practice for the Pro Tour.

If I don’t Day 2, I’ll stay home and play Standard with the stock decks on Magic Online, or if another team member didn’t make Day 2 we’ll work on the brews still in question. We generally have about 2 people who either don’t make Day 2, or choose to skip it—Standard testing is more valuable to the team.

Day 15: July 24

This is one of the most important days of testing for me. This is the last day I will try a new idea if I think it’s worth the time. If no new ideas come to mind, I’ll focus on testing any brews we have left and start to build sideboards for them.

I play sideboarded games from here on out. I like to play six-game sets still, but we’ll do two game 1s each on the play and draw, and then another four or so post-board.

While we have sideboards built, we don’t stick to only those sideboards. I’ll say something like, “Let me try boarding in Dispels” and just add them to my deck to try them for a few games. Remember that it’s testing, so you can do whatever you need to in the name of science.

The focus on the records is less important because the sideboards are adapting, so tracking games with different plans isn’t useful.

I’ll focus a lot on Magic Online deck lists today. It’s important to mull over everything you see, and decide which decks are for real and what aren’t. With the newly released system of posting deck lists on Magic Online, the metagame will be harder to determine because you’ll only be seeing one list of each deck each day, so we will no longer see 7 Zombie deck lists on the same day.

I plan to play about 70 games again today. I could fall wildly short of this depending on how long it takes to discuss sideboard ideas and build the sideboards.

Ideally, when I go to bed tonight I’ll have chosen a deck. This almost never happens, though.

We’re done with house Drafts by this point. I will basically only Draft in the morning if I’m up for everyone else and don’t want to play stock decks on Magic Online, or if I want to do a quick Draft before bed. At this point I don’t value playing the Draft games out much—it’s just the Drafts I care about. I will sometimes Draft and not play out the matches until later, or sometimes burn my tickets and drop from the event entirely just to get more Drafts under my belt.

Day 16: July 25

Today is all Standard, and mostly sideboarded games. I want to rule out all but one stock deck, and spend the day trying to decide if any of our brews are still worthwhile. If one of our brews is good, at this point we’ll have people locked into that deck and we’ll all begin testing all of its matchups extensively. We’ll also try out different sideboard plans both with and against our deck to make sure it’s not fragile. It’s really important to test as many sideboard games as possible because 2/3 of your games could be sideboarded games. A good matchup in game 1 can easily become a bad matchup overall because of how much the percentages swing post-board. Today is the day we’ll figure that out, and whether there’s something we can do to react to a sideboard plan that is good against our deck.

If our front-runner is a stock deck, we’ll focus on playing it against all the other stock decks and any potential new Magic Online brews we see. We’ll work out the sideboard plans and try to make sure any cards we put in our sideboards are actually the best card for a matchup. Sometimes you can just throw sweepers in your sideboard for aggro decks, or planeswalkers in your sideboard for control decks, but it’s important to make sure that a sideboard card is not only good in your matchup, but the best card for your matchup as well.

I hope to play as many as 100 games today. I’ll likely play less than I anticipate because I’ll be in constant discussion with teammates about our ideas. But I’ll set a higher goal for the day because I’ll want reps with my deck and now is the time to do it.

Day 17: July 26

Today will be much like the day before. This is a day of working out sideboard plans, and tuning the main deck to remove cards that have been under-performing.

I want to have my deck chosen. I sometimes don't at this point, but I generally have a really good idea. I’m going to spend the day getting reps in with my deck and making last-minute adjustment to both the main deck and sideboard.

Details matter. I’ll make sure the deck's mana is the best it can be, the card choices all have a solid reason for being in my deck or sideboard.

I’ll probably play 40 or 50 games today between online and in the testing house.

Day 18: July 27

We move to the Platinum hotel today and register for the event. We’ll pick up last-minute cards from the vendor and focus primarily on the small details again.

This is the day I’ll build a sideboard map for my deck. This is basically a sideboard guide for known decks, and when we determine we need more cards for a certain matchup to take out all of our bad cards. We’ll try to make room and compromises that give us cards for multiple matchups so that the ins and outs line up correctly.

It’s likely I play very little today—maybe a League or two—because most of the last-minute changes will be done through theory and prior knowledge.

We will also have our big Limited meeting today. This is where we try to discuss every card, rank them in tiers, and determine which uncommons we take over which commons, and which rares are better than the best uncommons and commons. This meeting is lengthy and usually takes a few hours. We have, in the past, scrapped this meeting when we’re on a tight constraint for time and still working on a Constructed deck. This Limited meeting is more of a refresher than anything else.

We will break off into groups at this point to discuss the different decks the team has chosen to play. When we have a really broken deck we almost all play it, but usually there will be 2 or 3 different decks.

By midnight, I’ll have submitted my deck.

Day 19: July 28

It’s game time. Obviously I’ll be playing today and hoping to do well, but the work isn’t done. During the Pro Tour it’s important I talk with my teammates, find out what other players are playing, and most importantly discuss how to sideboard against any new decks.

After Day 1, I’ll usually go back to my room and figure out my sideboard plans against any unknown decks in the field that I’ve been made aware of. It’s much better to do this now than try and adjust on the fly in a timed round.

Day 20: July 29

After Day 2 hopefully I’ll be testing for my Top 8 match, but if not me, I’ll be helping any teammate who wants help.

Usually the player who Top 8s will buy dinner and the rest of the team will try to figure out their Top 8 matchup and any likely matchups after that. Sometimes the player who made Top 8 doesn’t care too much for the help because it’s just decks they’ve played against a bunch already, in which case we’ll only play a few games. Other times, it may be a whole new matchup and we’ll stay up until 4 or 5 in the morning.

Day 21: July 30

Top 8 playoff time. I’ll sit and watch any teammates during the Top 8. We’ll have people around watching how the bracket breaks so that we can get some games in against our next opponent and try to get some last-minute info.

After this it’s usually a team dinner with some or all of the team, and we discuss things we did right and wrong for next time.

This is how I intend to spend my time leading up to Pro Tour Hour of Devastation. I hope this gives you a peek at what it’s like in my mind when I’m preparing for a Pro Tour, and maybe some pieces of this will be helpful to you in testing for the Pro Tour, or any of your next events. Wish me and the rest of CFB Ice some luck!