You win some, you lose some.
Things didn’t go exactly as I had hoped this weekend.
It all started with a really bad first pick. I took Dimir Spybug over Crackling Drake and Chamber Sentry. The Sentry would have been a perfect first pick and I’m not really sure what I was thinking. It looked like I might have dodged a bullet when I got passed another Spybug in pack 2, but things got messy after that. I felt that my lane wasn’t really open, but I was getting just enough to keep me roped in and I was hoping that the depth of blue and black in Guilds of Ravnica Limited would allow me to assemble a reasonable deck. It didn’t, and I ended up with a mediocre Dimir deck. To make things worse, I opened and passed a Trostani Discordant (which I lost to) in pack 2 and a Venerated Loxodon in pack 3. Not only that, but I think that if I had first picked the Sentry and gone with the flow in pack 1, I would have ended up in Selesnya or some kind of Abzan almost assuredly.
I got fully punished and didn’t win a match in Draft, getting pretty much stomped in rounds 1 and 3. I think I could have won round 2 against Tom Ross as game 1 was extremely close but I made two small mistakes that ended up costing me.
Despite my 2nd place finish at GP Lille, I wasn’t convinced the Blue Obsession deck was that good. I felt like I got away with a lot in Lille as people were not familiar with the deck. I had multiple black-green opponents not bring in Duress against me, for instance. I also felt that the deck was hard to play against, but expected my PT opponents to be prepared and take the correct lines. The blue deck doesn’t run too many lands, and a lot of the time you’ll have spots where you only have access to three or four lands, and you’re hoping your opponent jams their threats into your counterspells so that you can then drop a Tempest Djinn.
I played a League with the deck. It didn’t go too well, and the few times I played against it with White Weenie, I felt advantaged as long as I played well, but I will say that the deck is fairly hard to play against and I was messing up at times despite having been on the other side a ton.
After dismissing the blue deck—maybe prematurely, as it seems a lot of the French players decided to play it at the PT and seemed quite happy with their choice after Day 1 (one of them went 10-0 in Constructed!)—I went back to the other deck I was strongly considering for the GP: White Weenie splashing red. I did really well with the deck all week on Magic Online. I made some tweaks, and switched back and forth between the version with the red splash and the mono-white version. I was basically going 4-1 or 4-0 drop in every League. I was getting excited, even though I knew the results on MTGO weren’t always meaningful.
Then the Monthly MOCS Standard happened and the Top 32 was about half White Weenie variants. While that confirmed my belief that the deck was very strong, I figured it that would put a huge target on its back. As a team, we started to tune our decks against white. On the Tuesday before the PT, most of us were set on WWr, but on Wednesday, the day deck lists were due, it seemed like the deck didn’t have a favorable matchup against anything anymore.
Pete Ingram’s Black-Green deck was running Druid of the Cowl and four copies of Find // Finality main. Pascal, who was testing with us, played an Izzet Drakes deck that was splashing white for Deafening Clarion. Our Jeskai Control list was a bit less clunky and better suited in the matchup. The White-Green Explore deck Ted Felicetti was set on playing had an inherently good game against it as well. Everyone except Ted jumped ship and I just couldn’t make up my mind. I thought Jeskai Control might have been a good choice, but we had dismissed Eli’s GP-winning version early in testing as it was doing poorly against White Weenie.
I hadn’t really thought about reworking the deck until too late, so I would be playing the deck with less than a day of tuning and testing. I thought the Jeskai Phoenix deck looked good, but I didn’t have a ton of reps with it and I was wary of switching to an untested version even though it looked like adding the white was positive overall. I finally made up my mind ten minutes before deck lists were due and went with White-Green Explore, expecting WW variants and black-green to be the two most played decks. Explore also has a great matchup against red and I hoped that most people wouldn’t play a control deck at the PT. The Phoenix matchup wasn’t favorable, but not unwinnable either.
While I’m usually an Ixalan’s Binding hater, I think it makes sense to play it over Conclave Tribunal in this deck given that a lot of your guys make mana anyway so you don’t get as much value out of convoke. Your games also go longer than if you were playing WW, so the Binding upside is real especially with decks like Phoenix or Mono-Red making up a decent part of the meta as they usually have no ways to get rid of it barring maybe something like Blink of an Eye.
We added Druid of the Cowl to the deck, a creature a lot of black-green players have also adopted as the mana acceleration is good and the 1/3 body is relevant against the aggressive decks.
The main deck was solid, but the sideboard was probably a bit off. We had Adanto Vanguard for the control matchups as well as the Phoenix deck, but our ultimate sideboard plan against Blue-Red didn’t even include them and they are most likely underwhelming against control anyways. Perhaps a copy or two of Carnage Tyrant would have been good, but we were worried that they wouldn’t be very effective because Jeskai Control has access to more sweepers post-board (Star of Extinction, extra Settles/Cleansing Novas). We probably should have had a second Vivien Reid and some number of Knight of Autumn as an additional beater against control and a way to get rid of Curious Obsession while being serviceable against red. The plan against white aggro decks was to bring in everything but the Adanto Vanguards and to board out some of the cards that are vulnerable to Tocatli Honor Guard. While game 1 should be favorable, sideboard games can get tricky between the 1/3 hatebear and the Experimental Frenzies, which get even better post-Settle, so it’s possible the plan needs work.
If Draft went all wrong, Standard didn’t go much better. I got paired against Boros Angel in round 4, a matchup we hadn’t tested much, got poor draws, and got trounced. I then got paired against Blue Obsession, which is supposed to be a nightmare as well, especially with zero Knight of Autumn in the sideboard, but my opponent never had an early Obsession and I was able to steal the match. I finally got paired against White Weenie, but my draws were just horrendous, which ended my hopes of Day 2.
I kept playing because I didn’t have much else to do. I was still having fun despite the infinite losses and I figured that I might be able to figure out a thing or two to help out Ted. What I found out in round 7 was that Boros Angel is probably an abysmal matchup for the Explore deck as we are removal light and their Angel plan trumps our tokens plan.
I got paired against a pure Legacy player in the last round who had qualified by Top 8’ing GP Birmingham with no byes. He had, in fact, never even played in a sanctioned Standard or Draft tournament in his life before this PT and I managed to get a second win against his Grixis Control deck.
My deck choice was probably not great, and in hindsight I wish I had spent some time tuning Jeskai Control, but even after the PT results, I don’t feel like there is a clear best deck. I also wish we had planned our Limited meeting better as I ended up missing half of it to attend the Hall of Fame ceremony, and being there for the rare valuations might have saved me from my questionable (at best) first pick. This one is entirely on me—gross malpractice, as Owen would say. While all of Face-to-Face Games got along great and I got to know my new teammates better, we had some communication issues and didn’t make the best out of all the games of Magic we played before the PT. After an honestly overall poor performance (Morgan McLaughlin was the only one who cashed with an 11-5 record), I’m more motivated than ever and can’t wait for another shot at Pro Tour Ravnica: Allegiance.
Besides Ted, myself, and Shaheen, who obviously played Esper Control, here is the list the rest of the team ended up playing to something probably close to a 50% win rate:
According to Eli Kassis, one of the takeaways from the tournament was that the deck needed more Drakes. A turn-3 Enigma Drake is especially crucial against WW.
Speaking of which, our latest attempt at WWr had Ajani’s Pridemate and Leonin Vanguard a la Team ChannelFireball, and while these additions seemed great at first, the deck started doing worse and had I played the deck in the PT, I probably would have gone back to a version with very few 2-drops, maybe four Vanguard and a copy of Bounty Agent and Tocatli Honor Guard main.
Magnus Lantto was the sole WWr player with nine wins in Constructed, and if I had to pick up the deck, I would start with his list:
White Weenie Splashing Red
I was talking with Magnus in between Draft rounds on Day 2, and he was really happy with his list and excited to get back to Standard. Everything he was saying made sense and I’m not surprised he ended up doing so well. He was especially high on Hunted Witness, calling it the best 1-drop in the deck and the only card he never cuts no matter the matchup.
I was also talking to Zvi, and while he failed to make Day 2, he had an interesting build of Blue-Red. He basically decided to play a Phoenixless version of Izzet Drakes with more removal and I wonder if a Jeskai version of that deck might be good. Something along these lines:
Despite the fact that I don’t plan on attending any live tournaments until the next PT, I’m excited to get back to jamming some Leagues on Magic Online, seeing how the Standard metagame develops, and jumping back into Modern, as I believe it is the format for the upcoming RPTQs. I’ll let you know if I find anything good!