I was not expecting to write a tournament report for Pro Tour Fate Reforged. As I explained in my pre-tournament deck tech I did very little testing for this tournament. I was in Manila for work and couldn’t get to D.C. to test with the rest of the Pantheon until the Monday night before the Pro Tour. I picked a deck that I though was a reasonable choice for the tournament, but I definitely didn’t expect to do well.

The preparation time I did have was mostly spent drafting and playing the Twin deck. I played a couple of other decks at first (Affinity, Infect, Death Cloud, Esper Angler) but decided pretty soon after I got to the house that I would run Twin. Why Twin? I mostly wanted to play counterspells. They fit my style of play very well. I like to trade early, then win in the late or midgame with some hard-to-stop card or combination of cards. I had never played Twin before getting to D.C., but it was obvious that in most matchups it was not hard to play. You would counter some spells, then show them the combo and that was that. The version we had was even easier as there were some matchups where you would just play Blood Moon on turn three and the game would be over. I believe Huey and Kai were mostly to thank for the list I ended up running. All I did was add two Sleight of Hands.

I had drafted a good amount of triple-KTK, and as only a small, underpowered set was added, I was pretty confident I could do well in the draft portion. I went a mediocre 9-10 in the five drafts I did, but learned a lot. Especially from Tom Ross, the newest addition to the team, who managed to 3-0 all 5 drafts I was in by drafting these janky-looking 4- or 5-color decks. He explained why the strategy works so well now and how to execute it.

With Fate Reforged there is less incentive to go into one of the clans. People stay two colors a lot more often. Even allied two-color combinations get drafted. This means that there often is a clan (or two) that has no one actively drafting its gold cards, meaning that you can pick up a lot of very powerful 3-color cards very late in Khans. If you have the lands to cast those spells your deck will be very powerful.

I decided to go with this strategy in my 1st draft. After the Fate Reforged pack I had 7 lands, a Sandsteppe Mastodon and Yasova Dragonclaw as well as some filler. I then took a questionable first-pick Necropolis Fiend over Murderous Cut, my reasoning being that with this many lands I would need the most powerful cards I could find. Murderous Cut is so good and such an efficient removal spell that it might have been wrong though. I got another Necropolis Fiend in the same pack and picked up three Scout the Borders to fuel their delve as well as a lot of other very powerful cards over the next two packs. My deck came together nicely:

FateReforgedReport1

Round 1: Won 2-1 vs. Braun-Duin, Brian [USA]

Round 2: Won 2-1 vs. Carvalho, Marcio [PRT]

Round 3: Won 2-0 vs. Nakamura, Shuhei [JPN]

I have known Shuhei forever, hanging out and drafting with him at lots of Grand Prix and Pro Tours when I still traveled a lot for Magic. He is of course great and I was happy to play him in the finals of our draft. It was a feature match too, which was very good as the bright lights of the feature match area made sure we were not freezing like the hundreds of other poor players who were in the general playing area. I kept a hand with no green game one and almost got punished for it, going down to very low life against his Mardu beatdown deck. I managed to find a green source with a turn-four Bitter Revelation and then cleared the board with Death Frenzy taking me back to around 6 life and then following up with Dead Drop to kill his last creatures. From there my bomb rares took over the game. In game two his draw wasn’t very good and I had a good curve, so that was not very close.

I joked with the feature match reporters that I would like to stay in the feature match area, as it really was nice and warm compared to the harsh conditions out there on the regular tables. I got my wish next round as I was paired against the King of the Hill! Not only was I playing to stay undefeated, but if I kept doing well and winning I could stay in the feature match area for awhile and not freeze to death.

Round 4: Won 2-1 vs. Stajic, Milos

Milos was playing Elves, which was not a deck I even knew existed in Modern. He came out of the gates quickly in game one with multiple Elvish Archdruids. He generated a bunch of mana, pacted for a Craterhoof Behemoth, and smashed my face. I got to sideboard in my Anger of the Gods though and, combined with enough other removal, I didn’t really get into any trouble games two and three. In game three he had a Spellskite out, but I was able to race him with Pestermites as he never got much of a board going.

Round 5: Drew 1-1-1 vs. Maguire, Justin [USA]

Justin was playing Jeskai control. I won game on when I resolved an unexpected Blood Moon and he couldn’t really fight my combo very well off only a couple Islands and about ten Mountains. We then played a very long game two where in the end he had answers for everything I tried to do, took control and eventually killed me with Restoration Angel beatdown. For game three we only had about five minutes and it was clear that neither of us were going to get close to winning. I got to remain King of the Hill with the draw though, so everything was still OK with me.

Round 6: Won 2-1 vs. (13) Cifka, Stanislav [CZE]

Mr. Cifka was running BW tokens. I had played that deck a bunch on modo a few months previously, so I knew he was pretty weak to Blood Moon. I managed to land an early Blood Moon both game one and game three and he had a lot of trouble casting his spells from there on out. In game one I followed it up with a quick Twin kill, but in game three I had boarded into the control deck. He had gained a lot of life from Auriok Champion, and I had to work through a bunch of his tokens, so it took a long time of attacking with a Batterskulled up Snapcaster Mage and a Wurmcoil Engine, but I finally managed to close out the game with a couple of minutes left in the round.

Round 7: Won 2-1 vs. Ochoa, David [USA]

Round 8: Lost 0-2 vs. Bursavich, Austin [USA]

I was happy to be 6-1-1 and went for dinner with colleagues Gary Wise and Kai Budde at this excellent Chinese Restaurant a couple of blocks from the hotel. Kai wasn’t running so hot all week, being sick and then going 1-4 drop and his bad luck continued as he lost the credit card game. I got a nice free dinner. I went to sleep around 9 p.m., still somewhat jetlagged from my trip to Asia. I woke up early, had a good big breakfast, and went to watch some fencing. I had also done this on Day One and I feel it helps me relax and regain focus, thinking of something else entirely right before an important tournament day starts. These kids were all impressive fencers and it was good to see these little masters doing what they are good at.

My second draft was on camera. I am not a big fan of being featured in this way, as it basically means my opponents can have my entire deck list, which is a significant edge. Especially on Day Two, there are plenty of people who can scout and watch the video coverage for them and let them know exactly what the person on camera drafted. I understand that coverage is very important for the game and that it’s in the player’s interest to have the coverage be the best it can be, but this situation just isn’t great for whomever gets selected to be covered. I was in the second pod, which had some very good players, fellow Dutch Hall-of-Famer Frank Karsten, Eric Froehlich who is very much on his way to making it into the Hall of Fame sometime soon as well, and two very talented younger players in Jacob Wilson and Jesse Hampton among them.

My plan was to go for the 5-Color deck again, but I got off track pretty fast this time. I first-picked Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest. It’s a great card, but doesn’t really shine in the 5-color control deck. Shu Yun is a much better fit for a blue/red or Jeskai tempo deck. For my second pick I took Flamerush Rider. Though I wasn’t very sure about how good that card was, it did go well with my first pick. For the rest of the pack the solid blue and red cards kept coming. I kept the option of going into Jeskai open for awhile, picking up a Feat of Resistance early in pack two, which would have been great with the prowess team I was developing. I opened Duneblast in pack three, at that point very much regretting not being on 5-color and having to pass it. I ended up straight blue/red:

FateReforgedReport2

Though the deck didn’t seem great, it was definitely solid. It has enough powerful cards, a great mana base, and decent synergy. I like having two Treasure Cruises in decks like this, where you have a lot of cantrip spells and a somewhat low curve. It’s not unusual to trigger your prowess creatures every turn after turn five or six in this deck. You go through a good amount of cards, which also helps you find the powerful finishers. Smoldering Efreet might look weak, but it’s important to have enough 2-drops. You don’t want to fall behind too much against an aggresive Mardu or black/white deck, while you want to start applying pressure to the multicolor control decks. I was thinking a 2-1 would be about right.

Round 9: Won 2-0 vs. Ozguney, Osman [TUR]

Round 10: Won 2-1 vs. Oldaker, Matt [USA]

I was back in the feature match area and it was nice and warm again. Matt got me game one with multiple Goblin Heelcutters making blocking tough and finished me off with Temur Battle Rage. In game two and three I got out of the gates a little quicker, managed to stabilize and took control with my more powerful cards. I made sure to stay at a high enough life total to be safe from any Temur Battle Rage shenanigans.

Round 11: Won 2-1 vs. Hampton, Jesse [USA]

I had played Jesse before in Honolulu three years earlier in round 16, and I ended up beating him to (narrowly) make it into the Top 8. He was fresh off his first Pro Tour Top 8 back then and he definitely impressed me with his play.

In this match he got off to a good start, winning game one pretty easily with his 4-color control deck with multiple Sultai Soothsayers locking up the ground, providing him with card advantage and fueling his delve.

In game two we both played powerful cards and ended up in a race. I got Pearl Lake Ancient into play and after tapping out he opted not to block the Pearl Lake and my Lotus Path Djinn, allowing my Cunning Strike to provide a surprise finish. He later told me he had Feed the Clan, which would have thrown the math off by a lot and which might have stolen him the game.

In game three he did almost get me with Feed the Clan after I went for the kill by casting Force Away, Crippling Chill, and then Treasure Cruise to deal what I thought was lethal with Pearl Lake Ancient and Lotus Path Djinn again. I fortunately had enough blockers to survive the swing back and with the card advantage the Treasure Cruise provided I was able to finish him a couple of turns later.

Round 12: Lost 0-2 vs. Manfield, Seth [USA]

Round 13: Won 2-1 vs. Karsten, Frank [NLD]

Frank and I go way back. We always tested together when I lived in the Netherlands, traveled to countless Pro Tours and even played as a team (with Victor van den Broek as our third) for awhile, getting 5th place at one of the team Pro Tours. It was good to see an old friend do so well this late into the tournament. We were somewhat playing for the Dutch National Championship as well as everything else that was on the line, as the winner had a very good shot at a bunch of Pro Tour points that would be hard to catch for whoever lost. I was National Champion a few years ago, while Frank had that honor in 2014. I would like to make it back to the World Cup again, so I had to get through Frank.

Frank was playing Affinity, a deck he’s been playing since Pro Tour Kobe in 2004. He had an explosive draw in game one, though not that powerful, attacking me with multiple Signal Pests, Ornithopters, and Vault Skirges starting on turn 2. I was a couple of life points short of surviving his turn five while I would have been able to combo him out the next turn.

In the next few games my sideboard came into play and I was able to control the board with multiple Ancient Grudges, Lightning Bolts, and Anger of the Gods. In game two he had the Dismember the first time I went for the combo, but fortunately I wasn’t under any pressure and I was able to rebuild my hand and kill him a couple of turns later with a large amount of Deceiver Exarchs. In game three I had the backup counterspell to protect the combo and I killed him on turn 6.

Round 14: Won 2-1 vs. Ayers, Daryl [USA]

This match really showed what it takes to do well in a tournament. I felt like I was playing pretty well and that I had an edge in Limited against most of my opponents, but to do well you also need a lot of luck. Daryl was playing Scapeshift and that doesn’t seem like a good matchup as they are able to out-mana the Twin deck pretty easily and have the tools to fight your combo.

In game one Daryl kept a one-lander on the draw with what I assume was multiple Sakura-Tribe Elders and other ramp spells. He discards a couple of times before eventually playing a second land on turn five. When he finally played his Sakura-Tribe Elder I killed him on my next turn.

In game two he has a better draw, counters some of my spells and then Scapeshifts with multiple-counter backup on about turn seven.

In game three I misplay, going for a Serum Visions on turn five before playing my Blood Moon allowing him to Izzet Charm it. I was not thinking at all about Izzet Charm, as I hadn’t seen it in any decks all week, so my lack of preparation really cost me. I had to go for the combo on turn six, as I didn’t have much else going on. Daryl had the enchantment removal, so I was all tapped out and I was sure I was dead when he untapped with 8 lands in play and six cards in hand. Daryl drew his card and just passed the turn. When I then went for another Twin Daryl showed me that his hand was literally all lands.

Round 15: Won 2-0 vs. Vasovski, Michael [CAN]

Round 16: Drew 0-0-3 vs. (11) Froehlich, Eric [USA]

I felt very lucky to lock up my fifth Pro Tour Top 8. Especially with this little preparation I did not expect to come anywhere close to doing this well. I had been lucky all weekend, going 6-2-2 in Modern while avoiding all of the Abzan decks and being able to surprise a lot of people with main deck Blood Moons. Going 6-0 in draft of course requires plenty of luck as well, especially against all the great players I played against.

I had some quick food, played a couple of games of my quarterfinals matchup against Zvi Mowshowitz and went to sleep nice and early again. I woke up at around five, had a big breakfast, watched some more fencing and then started testing a little more with Zvi. The matchup against Jacob Wilson seemed pretty good, and being on the play was very important as he had a pretty fast clock. He did not have that much interaction though, so after sideboard I could still go for the combo and didn’t have to board into the control deck. I felt like I was a small favorite.

I was somewhat nervous, which I didn’t really expect. I have played a lot of big matches in the past, I’m already in the Hall of Fame and don’t feel like I have that much left to prove. Winning an individual Pro Tour is the big accomplishment missing from my resume though and it would mean a lot to finally get it after all these years. I still really felt it when the quarterfinals started and I knew this was my big chance to win.

Quarterfinals: Won 2-0 vs. (15) Wilson, Jacob [CAN]

I had a pretty much perfect hand in game one of the quarterfinals. I wasn’t under that much pressure and combo’d off on turn five after he tapped out for a Siege Rhino.

In game two I was under some early pressure, but got very lucky to topdeck Anger of the Gods to clear the board. It was very cool to hear the crowd cheer when I drew that card. I ended up squandering my good luck by bouncing his Smiter during his attack step instead of doing it end of turn, leaving me open to a Thoughtseize on my second Cryptic Command. I didn’t have much gas left after that and his Smiter got me.

In game three my hand was again very good. I was able to deal with all his threats, while Jacob’s mana was awkward thanks to a couple of Gavony Townships. I was just missing a Deceiver Exarch or Pestermite, but fortunately wasn’t under any pressure. I finally found the Pestermite off a Serum Visions and he had only one Path to Exile for which I had the Dispel. I was on to the semifinals!

I had a little time to prepare for my semifinal and discussed the matchup with Zvi, Gabriel Nassif, Josh Ravitz, and Thea Steele. I had never played the matchup before, so it was very important to get their input. This was going to be a huge match, as while we were waiting for our match me and Antonio saw Justin Cohen win the other semifinal meaning the winner would have a very good matchup in the final. I felt that, between my inexperience in the matchup, my deck list which wasn’t great for the mirror, and being on the draw in game one, I was a significant underdog for the semifinals.

Semifinals: Lost 0-2 vs. Del Moral Leon, Antonio [ESP]

I had been very lucky all weekend, but my luck finally left me this match. I kept two-land opening hands both games and missed several land drops, falling too far behind to ever really put up a fight. I am sure I didn’t play 100% correctly either and maybe I should have mulliganed the first game, but overall I didn’t feel like I could do very much. It was very disappointing to come so close and then fall short in what was possibly the last big hurdle before the Pro Tour win.

Of course that disappointment didn’t last for very long. Making the semifinals of a Pro Tour is something to be very proud of and I was happy to see I could still compete even when I am not playing very much anymore. I picked up a ton of Pro Tour points, making it to Gold and taking a huge lead in the race for National Champion (hopefully some other Dutchies will make Top 8 later in the season to make it a little closer). I have to set new goals for myself and am going to try to get to Platinum now, needing 12 more points. I will play in both Brussels and Vancouver and might even make it to one or two GPs looking for points. If I have another good Pro Tour I could even get to the World Championships.

Some Old School Props and Slops

Props:

  • All of The Pantheon. You are all great.
  • ChannelFireball for sponsoring the team.
  • Tom Ross for showing me how to draft this format.
  • Reid Duke for lending me the complete deck.
  • Kai Budde and William Jensen for working on the Twin/Blue Moon deck.
  • Gaudenis Vidugiris for giving me confidence by playing endless games with Amulet/Bloom against my Blood Moons.
  • Zvi, Gab, Josh, and Thea for helping me prepare for my Sunday matches.
  • Patrick Chapin for innovating and bringing Gurmag Anglers to the Pro Tour.
  • Andrew Cuneo for introducing the team to Tracks Ahead, while always being on the lookout for alligator attacks.
  • Jon Finkel, Jamie Parke, and Owen Turtenwald for just being DI.
  • Matt Costa and Dan OMS for their selfless help of the rest of the team even when not qualified.
  • Jacob Wilson, Eric Froehlich, Jesse Hampton, Justin Cohen, and especially Antonio Del Moral Leon for their excellent finishes and great play.

Slops:

  • Air China.
  • Air conditioning.
  • Two-land opening hands.