Theros limited was already a fantastic format, and in my opinion the addition of Journey into Nyx only made it better. Triple-Theros had many non-interactive heroic cards like Wingsteed Rider, Hopeful Eidolon, and the Ordeals, which led to quick games. Though Born of the Gods replaced one Theros pack, it also added inspired creatures that incentivized attacking, so it did nothing to slow the format down. Now Journey into Nyx has replaced one more Theros booster, and provided access to cheap, common answers to heroic creatures like Pin to the Earth, Hubris, and Feast of Dreams. Though tempo is still important, Journey has given the format more breathing room. Before, I never played with random seven-drops like Kraken of the Straits unless I could help it, now I don’t mind playing some clunkers given the right supporting cast. That said, heroic decks are still excellent if the cards are there, I’ve just found them harder to achieve with only one Theros booster.
I had a great time staying with Jacob Wilson, Dave Shields, Ben Friedman, Matt “McNassty Burger” Nass, with many surreal moments provided by Ben. Every morning before we left for the event site, Ben blasted country hits such as “Drunk on a Plane” and “Summertime Feeling” at top volume in the shower. We heard him stamp and clap along with the rhythm for some minutes before he emerged in his usual attire—tank top, basketball shorts, purple Beats by Dre headphones, and wide-brim safari hat. We listened to trap music and ran back more country hits as we rode to the site in his hatchback Subaru. To quote the series of Magic commercials Wizards ran on MTV in 1997, Ben is the “#1 wild man on the circuit, and East Coast Magic phenom.” (On an unrelated note, I often re-watch these four commercials to get in the right frame of mind for important tournaments—a strategy I highly recommend.)
For motivation, we agreed everyone who missed Day Two had to sleep on the floor, even if we all missed.
I never say anything about my pool during registration, but this time I couldn’t help but crack a smile. It doesn’t get much better than this:
Five great, on-color rares, a decent curve, plenty of removal—#mtghappiness.
Normally I would post my whole pool, but none of the other colors came close to red or green. I chose to leave Revel of the Fallen God, Scouring Sands, Desecration Plague, and a second Pinnacle of Rage in my sideboard. I also did not include an Akroan Line Breaker and Setessan Oathsworn for lack of targeting.
Of these cards I could see going either way on the Revel of the Fallen God. The weakest card in my deck was probably Wildfire Cerberus, and I wouldn’t fault anyone for making that swap. I included the Cerberus because my deck was already so powerful that I felt I’d rather have the cheaper card in order to reduce variance. I boarded in Revel when my opponents were slow, removal heavy, and/or didn’t seem to have many X/3 blockers. I love me a Pinnacle of Rage, especially in Sealed, but I thought two was excessive given my other burn spells for small creatures. However, I did get plenty of value boarding in the second.
I was a little worried about my Arbor Colossus, Fated Conflagration gruesome twosome. To mitigate this mana conflict I included Traveler’s Amulet in addition to 17 lands. I had plenty to do with my mana, so 18 sources seemed about right. With few two-drops and strict color requirements, I thought Amulet was better than Forest.
Game two of my round seven feature match against David Ochoa was one of the most insane games I have ever played. I mulliganed and my early draw was poor, but turn six Vulpine Goliath stonewalled his entire team. This resulted in a board stall, but he began to make Soldier tokens with an Akroan Horse. The board became exceedingly complex—on the final turn I had 51 power and Archetype of Aggression to his roughly one-million Soldiers and a few large guys. My initial plan was to find Hydra Broodmaster and make an enormous amount of trampling power, but Ochoa combo killed it with Cast into Darkness and Feast of Dreams on his turn, so I only made three 3/3s.
Wildfire Cerberus was my second out. The turn I drew it I could have monstrous’d immediately to kill him, but chose to wait a turn so I could monstrous again in response to a removal spell if necessary. This gave him an extra draw step, and he drew Bow of Nylea. He attacked with an absurd number of deathtouch Soldiers, so I was forced to dispatch all the Soldiers on his turn, which meant I couldn’t use the 2 damage on all of his creatures to trample over on my turn. However, without his trusty Soldiers I was able to attack Ochoa for 1 less than exactly lethal, and he had to chump away most of his board. He blocked such that I killed him exactly, but had he survived at 1 I would have attacked for more than lethal the next turn so the result would have been the same.
The deck played out just as well as it looked. I was pleased to 6-0 after three byes, and was super excited for Day Two. In our room only Matt had to sleep on the floor, and I was excited to see Vidianto Wijaya, Alex Majlaton, and Jon Stern make Day Two with strong records. After a couple more blasts of country music, it was time to draft.
I opened Hour of Need in a pack with Forgeborn Oreads and some good red commons. I took Hour of Need and Jon Stern passed me Harness By Force, the strongest possible signal to draft red. It was not ideal to have passed so much red, but Harness By Force is absurd. Next pack contained Mogis’s Warhound, and I rounded out the rest of the pack with two Flurry of Horns and a few decent black cards. Blue was non-existent and I found out later that Jon and William “Huey” Jensen, sitting two to the right of Jon, had also opened Hour of Need. I stayed red black for the rest of the draft with this result:
I had many playable sideboard cards so deckbuilding was challenging:
Looking back, I think I should have registered a Pharagax Giant over Dreadbringer Lampads because most of my creatures weren’t very large. Aspect of Gorgon is also not my favorite card, and I could see cutting it for a Cutthroat Maneuver or Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass. It was also difficult to decide how many Mountains to play, but I ended up playing eight despite my heavy black because Harness By Force is so strong.
Round one I played against Huey’s UW tempo deck. On the draw in game one I played Tymaret and Blood-Toll Harpy to Huey’s Deepwater Hypnotist and Ephara’s Enlightenment. On turn four he passed with four mana up after attacking. I decided to precombat Gild the Hypnotist and got fairly blown out by Breaching Hippocamp to return Ephara’s Enlightenment and inspire the Hypnotist to shrink my Harpy. I got in there with Tymaret and he didn’t block. On his turn he Enlightened his Horse Fish and attacked, but I was able to block with my Harpy and spend my Gold token to play Coordinated Assault. I was glad Huey hadn’t shrunk my Tymaret, because leaving back an unshrunk Harpy would have telegraphed a trick. My removal, including Scouring Sands out of the board, proved quite effective against his small creatures so I won the second game as well.
Next round John Esposito (ginger pride!) destroyed me game one with tripleForgeborn Oreads, so I went deep in sideboarding. I boarded out my five X/1s and Dreadbringer Lampads for many mediocre creatures with more toughness. I beat him down with a monstrous Gluttonous Cyclops in game two and Eater of Hope in game three—Forgeborn Oreads only pinged my face. His deck was much better than mine, so I was happy my draw lined up well enough against his to emerge with the victory.
I acquired my first loss at the hands of Alex Majlaton’s RW aggro deck in a fairly uninteresting fashion, and was happy to 2-1. I knew I only needed to win one, maybe two matches in the next draft to Top 8.
After starting off with Bladetusk Boar, Cloaked Siren, and Rise of Eagles, I was passed fourth-pick Pharika, God of Affliction with little else in the pack. After taking it, I was solid black/green for the rest of the draft. In Theros, I was passed third- or fourth-pick Xenagos, the Reveler. Because my deck needed some punch, I decided to take it. Next pack rewarded me with Underworld Cerberus, and luckily a Nylea’s Presence wheeled. My deck ended up being fairly awkward, but I hoped my powerful cards could carry me to a 2-1.
After winning a close round one on the back of Drown in Sorrow, I thought I could probably draw in! However, after looking at the standings I concluded that I had to play it out. Unfortunately, the next two rounds showcased the awkward aspects of my deck rather than the bombs, so I had the misfortune of losing to Huey and Tomoharu Saito. I felt I drew below average, but I knew that possibility was my deck’s main flaw.
In the end I finished 10th. Congratulations to Jon Stern on the victory, and Alex Majlaton and Vidianto Wijaya for making Top 8. By finishing in the Top 16 I locked up Silver, so while my main goal was to win the whole tournament, I wasn’t too disappointed with my result. I am looking forward to PT Honolulu!
During Top 8 I had the pleasure of team drafting with Paulo Vitor and Matt Nass against the Japanese—Yuuya Watanabe, Shuhei Nakamura, and Ken Yukuhiro. While Yuuya was busy going 3-0, he was hamming it up grunting for good topdecks, slamming lands whenever he topdecked one, and frequently exclaiming “$%@#ing Japanese!” to his teammates who were not faring as well. My sweetest play was casting a turn-four Rise of Eagles off my Oracle of Bones against Ken for the turn five win. Matt was less familiar with Journey into Nyx (and Born of the Gods), so we were a bit worried about drafting with Japanese packs, but he managed to 1-2, and PV and I both won two matches so we were victorious. We Italian gamed the rares, and in a rare case of justice in the world, Matt got none.
I’ve been enjoying Magic more than ever lately, and can’t wait to play more GPs and PT Portland this summer. See you there!