On our 8-hour drive back home from Nationals this weekend, I struggled to stay awake while I was driving, so I started ranting about different occurrences over the course of my Magic career.
Some of them are not quite suitable for the public—but some are. There’s something to learn from most of them, and hey, they’re funny.
I’ve played 20 Pro Tours to this day and the environment in which each of them took place ranged from “it’s a completely new format, you have almost zero outside information on the format, good luck” all the way to “there have been multiple SCG Opens and a million Magic Online deck lists, try to innovate”
The most challenging events, to me, have been the former. Those led myself and the various groups of people I was testing with to come up with some questionable… strategies.
Pro Tour Mirrodin Besieged (Paris 2011)
This was my second Pro Tour ever, and it was Standard/Draft. My testing team at that point was basically just every Canadian who was qualified. Noah Long, Vincent Thibeault, Eric Gaudreault, Sammy T, Daniel Pham and a few others.
Our testing wasn’t very thorough. We didn’t really ever meet up or talk before the event, we were basically just rooming together and talking about what we liked a few days before it started.
I always had something for control decks, so it was a given for me that I would play one, especially with Jace, the Mind Sculptor in the format.
To give you some context, R/W landfall aggro, U/W and U/B Control variants were what I expected to face. A few Valakut decks as well, yet, those were kind of fading from the format, so we didn’t bother that much. Also, some artifact-based decks, Tezzeret or Kuldotha Rebirth/Signal Pest were to be expected, as it was the new hot things coming out of Mirrodin Besieged.
This is an approximate reconstitution. I can’t remember the actual main deck that I played card for card, but I remember that I had 8 Jaces and that I was splashing Lightning Bolt, then Pyroclasm in the sideboard. There may or may not have been a number of Elspeth Tirel and Gideon Jura somewhere in that 75 as well.
I couldn’t beat that matchup in a million years, I was just a slow control deck in the face of Spell Pierce and one of the best Standard strategies of all time.
Outside of the fact that my deck was barely tested and horribly built even for what I expected, it was baffling that we missed the obvious deck of the event, especially since what we called “Caw-Go,” essentially a blue-white control deck with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Squadron Hawk, already existed.
Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze (San Diego 2013)
Good old Block Constructed. Those were interesting events because not only were there very few deck lists, you couldn’t even refer to the format before Dragon’s Maze came out—it didn’t exist.
The 2-color guilds clearly helped with deck design, as all the green-white Selesnya cards obviously worked well together so that was a deck, as was true of Sphinx’s Revelation and Aetherling, and so on.
For that Pro Tour, I was testing with the original team Face to Faces Games, Jon Stern, Alexander Hayne, Josh McClain, and David Caplan.
We expected tons of midrange decks, specifically Selesnya (similar to what won that event), Esper control decks, and a bit of mono-red.
Those were times when we tried too hard to beat the metagame, and were unable to just give up and play what we knew to be good. That led us down a dark path…
We thought Maze’s End was a smart way to beat all the control decks. The games would take forever and they only win with Aetherling, which takes forever to get going and they have nothing to stop us from activating Maze’s End over and over.
Initially, we had removal in our deck—we were basically Esper Control with Supreme Verdict, Far // Away, Detention Sphere, Devour Flesh, and other removal spells with off-color Guildgates to win with Maze’s End.
The deck was testing reasonably well, but we were struggling to find the optimal removal package. That’s when someone suggested we play Fogs to solve that issue. Yes, Fogs. Over all of our removal.
That idea sounded pretty smart at the time, I mean, if your opponent’s creatures never deal damage, you don’t need to kill them. And against control, removal spells aren’t relevant anyway. It’s a great matchup where all that matters is making sure Aetherling does not connect three times.
Fast-forward to the Constructed rounds…
We were dumb enough to forget that Esper would play this card in their 75, as it was good in the mirror. Plus they played a bunch of cards like Sin Collector and Precinct Captain in their sideboard, also for the mirror, which, backed by counterspells, made our Fog plan abysmal.
Nightveil Specter itself was literally the worst as if it connected and hit one our Gates, we would die on the spot. We only played one of each, and no other win conditions. There was no way we could Fog every turn starting on turn 3.
We felt idiotic, and as if to drive the point home, in the last round I played before dropping, I was paired against someone with the following card in his deck.
I conceded when he cast it game 1, as I had a Gate in my hand…