On April 27th, Wizards surprised the community with an emergency ban on Felidar Guardian. I was excited then about the Pro Tour and the many implications for the new Standard. Unfortunately, it turned out that Felidar Guardian just got replaced by a different 4-mana card in Aetherworks Marvel so Standard still kind of sucks. As it turns out, I was right!
This time, our team decided to test in Richmond. Because I'm planning to go to Grand Prix Santiago this week and then on a vacation to the Easter Islands, I had to buy my plane ticket in advance. I talked to my teammates and we decided to start testing on Friday, the 28th of April. I booked my ticket, but then the whole team decided to attend the Draft camp in DC. Now I had to fly to Richmond, take a bus to DC, and then Uber another 40 minutes to Fairfax where the camp actually took place. Then I had to go back to Richmond two days after that. #notsmart
We also made this decision before we knew that the set would be online right after the prerelease. Siggy shared his thoughts about what this means for the PT, and I have to agree with him. In the future, I'll do the majority of my PT testing online as it's much more convenient, and cheaper than staying in a hotel for two weeks.
At the Draft camp, I was only able to get about 5-6 Drafts in, as I was still recovering from the long journey. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I've struggled with this set. I've played around 25 Drafts online, and won only 2 of them. My win percentage was around 50%, so I was worried. Surprisingly, my results at the Draft camp and then even in our own real-life drafting were quite good, so I was confident going into PT. It felt like red and white were clearly the two best colors, and I wanted to avoid green.
Constructed was a tougher nut to crack. I have to admit that we failed in this PT. Big time. I also know what mistakes we made, and I know that I could have fixed them if I had worked smarter.
First, we missed Zombies. Ivan and I played a couple of games with the deck, and concluded that it's bad against sweepers and therefore not a deck we want to pursue. We knew it was popular online, but we thought that was because it's a budget deck, not because it was actually good.
Second, we tried too hard to break it. After many attempts, it became apparent that Mardu and Marvel were still the best decks. Oliver Tiu and Jacob Wilson were testing online from their homes and they both loved Mardu, so we knew we would have a good deck list for that. With Marvel, it was different. Everyone knew it was good, but no one really tried to build a solid version. That turned out to be a big problem.
The first deck we tried to break was Temur Emerge.
Steve Rubin built this deck on day 1 and it showed a lot of promise. The combination of Elder Deep-Fiend and Kozilek's Return was strong against the aggressive decks in the format. Unfortunately, it had a weak game against both Marvel and blue control decks. We expected those make up a much higher percentage of the metagame, so in the end we shied away from the deck.
Steve tried many things with the sideboard including Wastes + Thought-Knot Seer + Reality Smasher, Swamp + Dispossess, Bounty of the Luxa, and Honored Hydra. I'm still not sure what's best, but the main deck is solid.
The second deck I liked was this Abzan deck.
It was basically the old B/G Delirium deck, but we were splashing white for Cast Out and Angel of Sanctions so we would have a better chance at beating Marvel. This deck was also quite bad against control. There aren't many high impact cards and you're slow, so they just counter everything and win with Pull or Gearhulks. The mana base also wasn't ideal, so I chose not to play it.
5 people on our team actually ended up playing the third deck we liked:
I think we tried too hard to make this deck work. Our team loves the idea of breaking the format, so we pushed this deck a lot. We played an incredible number of games with this deck. After playing a set of games online versus my roommate in Prague, I realized that the cards in the deck are just too underpowered. Cards like Blisterpod and Yahenni just aren't good enough for the modern era of Magic. I regret not pushing against this deck more, but Joel Larsson and Sam Pardee seemed confident, so I let them be.
With time running out, I had a tough choice to make. It came down to Mardu vs. Marvel. We played Marvel a lot as the enemy, so we had some idea of how to build it, but we didn't really have any solid plans. In the end PV, Siggy, EFro, and Jacob copied a deck list from Magic Online 10 minutes before the deadline and went with it. After Day 1, EFro—who was 7-1—straight up asked in our team forum if anyone knows how to sideboard against Zombies and in the mirror.
I briefly considered switching in the last couple minutes as I thought Marvel was stronger than Mardu. In the end, I decided against it, because I was confident in the Mardu deck list and sideboard plans we had, which could not be said for Marvel. I also didn't have that much practice with Marvel, as I was usually the person trying to beat it in testing (and losing to it).
Aside on Marvel: every time Siggy would flip turn-4 Ulamog (which happened like every other game) we would start yelling "I LOVE THE MARVEL" which quickly caught on and was used on many many things over the week.
Here is the deck list that Steve Rubin, Petr Sochurek, Oliver Tiu, Ivan Floch, and I played at the PT. Any differences between our lists were small.
I talked a bit about the deck in my last article, but here's the sideboard guide my teammates gave me before the PT. Going into the tournament I didn't have much experience playing it, but everything that my teammates said about it made sense to me, so I was confident.
On the Play
On the Draw
On the Play
On the Draw
Moving forward, I would want more cards against Zombies. 2-3 Magma Spray would go a long way toward improving that matchup. I didn't like the 2nd Sorin and I never drew Oath of Liliana, which was the card I was least sure about. Also, it might be worth splashing blue in your sideboard, as Andrea Mengucci did—counterspells help a ton against Marvel.
The Pro Tour
The tournament itself was one huge disappointment. The first Draft went well—I recognized that blue-black was open in my seat, and I was rewarded in the third pack by opening Archfiend of Ifnir and getting passed Curator of Mysteries. I thought my deck was great, but I lost the finals to teammate Josh McClain who had an excellent R/W Aggro deck.
Going into Constructed, I just prayed for great draws. That also started well as I managed to beat two members of MtgMintCard in Michael Bonde and Zen Takahashi. Against Zen I even managed to beat Ormendahl. He was at 3 and couldn't attack against my board of creatures. I managed to peel a 2nd Heart of Kiran, which meant I could flip my Avacyn thanks to the legend rule. After that, it all went downhill, as I mulliganed a bunch and didn't get to play many games for the rest of the day. Going from 4-1 to 4-4 was soul crushing.
Day 2 wasn't much better, as I started with my first 0-3 Draft at the PT ever. I drafted a medium R/W deck, mulliganed a lot, and won only one game. In Constructed, I managed to win a match, but then punted both games against Zombies, and dropped from the tournament.
I was devastated afterward, mostly blaming my poor luck. But as I was writing this, I realized that while I was a bit unlucky, I also didn't make the best choices. Our Constructed deck wasn't great, which isn't a feeling I'm used to. Our team usually delivers, and it isn't often that we fail this spectacularly.
I also failed to realize how different drafting at the PT has become. Before, you could just figure out the best archetypes and then force them at the PT as they were usually underdrafted. Now, with Drafts on MTGO ahead of time, everyone knows the best archetypes, so you have to stay more open. I messed this up in my 2nd Draft, where I should have switched into green somewhere along the way, but instead stayed R/W which was comfortable for me.
Our whole team didn't do well with a win percentage around 50%, so we definitely have to reevaluate the way we do things. Luckily, EFro made the Top 8, so that at least gives us some chance in the Team Series if we do really well in Kyoto. As for myself, I'm now sitting at 35 Pro Points, which means it's going to be very hard for me to make Platinum this year without an insanely good result in Kyoto. To be honest, I kind of wish the next Pro Tour were a different format than Standard. It's miserable to play. I don't really see how the metagame is going to change, as Marvel is just too strong. I don't think WotC can afford to ban any more cards, so we will just have to wait until the rotation. Maybe they should consider making the PT Modern, which seems quite healthy.
Next week, I'll be playing the Grand Prix in Santiago, where I'll most likely be spinning some Marvels. Wish me luck!