My Pro Tour didn't go very well, partly because my team misjudged how good Mono-Red would be.
0-3'ing my Draft didn't help either.
We knew that Red was going to be popular, but we thought that it would be approximately tied with Black-Green Constrictor to make up a total of 30% of the metagame—15% each. I thought the deck was good, but not enough that big teams wouldn't find anything better. Essentially, I was expecting those not on super teams (FacetoFace, CFB Ice, CFB Fire, Pantheon, etc.) to play it, and then for those teams to play decks like Black-Green since it has a good matchup.
If that happened to be the case, then my choice of playing Ramp would’ve been fantastic, since it fundamentally has a good matchup against most decks that are trying to beat Red.
It turned out that most of the big names just played Mono-Red, as did the common mortals.
We spent a lot of time tuning the list, and more importantly, we spent a lot of time wondering if we should abandon the Mono-Red matchup altogether.
The answer ended up being that the more and more we tuned the deck, the better and better it was getting against Red without harming other matchups. We didn't need that many sideboard slots for other matchups, and when we did, Thought-Knot Seer was overlapping beautifully against both Red and decks like U/W Gift, Emerge, the mirror, and control.
The unfortunate part was that even though it was getting "better" I still wasn't really favored—we could get to even at best. Which was fine at the time. I was expecting it to be 15% of the field.
These are perhaps the most intriguing cards in my build. Mark Jacobson came up with the idea of playing these two cards as a way to mitigate the "ramp disease," commonly known as "flooding."
We originally had 2 Islands in the deck as a way to aftermath Mind and to have access to Negate in the sideboard. We quickly realized that there weren't really any matchups where we wanted Negate. Thought-Knot Seer was just better, and those Islands made the mana base a little shaky.
We also came to the conclusion that you rarely had time to aftermath the blue card until very late in the game and by then, you’ve probably drawn a Gift of Paradise, which single-handedly casts it.
Gift of Paradise is kind of unintuitive because it makes Shrine of the Forsaken Gods a little worse, as opposed to something like Beneath the Sands. The 3 life is extremely important in this deck, however, and not just against Mono-Red. Weirding Wood's Clue is drastically worse here.
The number of copies chosen for each of these cards was thoroughly tested. Traverse, for example, can’t really be played in more copies without getting flooded. The deck can get to delirium, but that often requires drawing a Walking Ballista. The Tormenting Voices are here to help with that as well, while also dumping a Kozilek’s Return in a matchup where the front side isn't very good. It also filters your draws in a deck where there isn't much to do on turn 2 anyway.
I think we nailed the number of threats here. You can’t really play more than 2 Ulamog because unless you draw Hour of Promise, it’s very hard to cast.
Walking Ballista makes the transition between early and late game much smoother. It gives you a potent early play, which happens to be great against Mono-Red, while acting as an Ulamog or World Breaker late game via Sanctum of Ugin.
That’s a very odd sideboard card, isn't it? This was a last-minute addition. I really wish I had thought about it earlier, because it’s possible I would have had more. The 1/3 size is perfect against Mono-Red (trust me, I had Permeating Mass at some point…) and because I'm boarding in Thought-Knot Seer, Druid lets me ramp to it cleanly.
2-drop mana dorks can’t make the main deck thanks to the removal that people have. If your ramp cards aren't reliable, you’ll suffer some very clunky games. Post-sideboard, it’s unlikely that people will have Fatal Push or Abrade, which makes Druid of the Cowl a versatile card to bring in when you have dead cards in a certain matchup.
While I didn't do well at the Pro Tour with this list, I actually think it's going to be a great deck choice as the metagame evolves. The red deck can be beat, so people will start playing the decks I originally thought they'd play (Black-Green, etc). The red deck will then fade away a little bit, leaving room for a deck like ramp to shine.