Due to the positive feedback I received for my PTQ version, I decided to continue the Cinderella story of qualifying for the Pro Tour and winning it. The format of the article will change because testing for the Pro Tour should begin when all of the sets are released. This is a process that will last for several weeks. Testing, maximizing your experience, and travel are key points I will discuss in detail.
Let us continue with your story…
You just won a PTQ and contacted Hasbro to set up your travel arrangements . The Facebook status you posted got many positive replies and your enemies are beyond jealous. The girl you asked to prom suddenly is interested. Life couldn’t get any sweeter.
We need to first assemble a posse to test with that’s capable of actually winning games against you. Joey from down the lane is a nice guy and all, but we won’t learn much from him. There are a few guys from your store that think they’re hot stuff so see if they want to team up. They will be honored to help you test so don’t hesitate to ask. There are very few people who actually test on superstar teams for Pro Tours so don’t feel like you will fail by testing with local players.
Chemistry is very important when choosing the right playtest partners. That guy at your shop may be one of the best, but he also has body odor, a lazy eye, and creepy enough to send Charlie Manson running. If you are going to be brewing for the next month with this team, make sure they are cool. Who knows, you might even get together again soon to playtest for the next Pro Tour.
We need to find a good starting place to build decks so look at the MTGO daily events with just two sets. It won’t be what you face at the Pro Tour, but everyone will start from there. Find the archetypes that can survive with the new set and make the proper adjustments. We only get 145 new cards so every archetype from the past won’t be decimated completely.
Although we only get a small amount of new cards, there are only three sets in the block. Try to build around some new cards from new set on the block. There will be some money rares and most likely some powerful new planeswalkers we can try. The new set also brings us more artifacts and infect creatures so we can add them to archetypes that have failed in the past.
Cards like Stoneforge Mystic have gone up in value because they become more versatile over time. Each new set that’s released makes them more powerful so we must look for those types of cards to innovate. (I owe Patrick a nickel for using the word innovate.)
Perhaps the best example of these types of cards is [card]Gruesome Encore[/card]. There will be a whole entire new set of creatures that can go to the graveyard via sacrifice effects. Make sure to keep an eye on this card for the Pro Tour. I would also start investing in them now because even if they end up sucking, there are plenty of fun things to do with them. You could hide them on a ceiling fan so when your unsuspecting victim turns it on, they get a Gruesome Encore!
I also want to mention my new contest: the best Gruesome Encore story in the comments section wins a Gruesome Encore! Tell your friends about it!
The decks that you have been testing with for a few weeks have been tuned and the weaker strategies have been scrapped. Testing for the Pro Tour is very frustrating because all of these decks probably won’t even be considered in the next couple of weeks.
The final set of the Scars block has just been released on MODO and we can finally get down to real testing. Magic Online Daily Events are once again the best place to start when it comes to finding decks to test. The new set will be released on May 30th so we have about a week and a half to play the real format. Most of the big named Pro Tour players won’t play their real decks, but there are still good deck ideas out there. These big names don’t hide their decks to be sneaky, but they work in a group so there is often an unwritten agreement to keep the decks on the down low.
A week goes by of Magic Online testing and it’s time to narrow the deck choices down to a few decks. There is a pet deck you think has what it takes and there is the popular aggro deck. Nobody wants to play the boring aggro deck, but we might have to if our main deck falls short. No matter what deck we play, there needs to be a plan against this stupid aggro deck because it will be very popular. Not everyone has the time or dedication to break the format even at the Pro Tour level. Your testing will show that this aggro deck is junk, but it will still be big and it may even beat you in the main event. There are only a handful of people who make it their plan to try to hit a home run at every tournament so you will face the gauntlet decks.
Once you arrive to Japan there will be a startling revelation: everything you have learned about the format is wrong! Each person you talk to is saying their findings are more and more different. Ari Lax keeps raving about Dinosaurs being the best deck in the format. LSV just keeps saying [card]Gruesome Encore[/card] over and over again. The Japanese found a way to win with an all basic land deck. Who can you believe when the trusted names are all saying different things? Only a few of these people will actually be correct and the others are in the same boat as you. Ari’s Dino deck will fall short, but the Japanese were right and Islands are all you need to win. We can’t go around changing our minds about the format with each conversation so don’t even try. I know it’s your first Pro Tour and all, but have some confidence in yourself and your testing.
Find some people you recognize and get in some last week testing because it’s always the most important. If the only incentive your group has is to help you get better, then it won’t be the maximum amount of preparation. Testing with other people who also have the goal to succeed on the Pro Tour will increase the value you get out of practice. Their decks will be tuned and you can learn something from them. Don’t forget to make an updated sideboard because the format is starting to unravel. This is your chance to be outgoing and collect all the information you can. Is it any wonder that the most well-connected players are often at the top?
We can’t only spend time worrying about Constructed, can we? I fell victim to that during PT Paris and will never let it happen again. Draft as often as you can and be sure to talk to players you respect about their personal views and strategies. You can do some drafts for pride points on site, but pick your team mates wisely. I like to do drafts against the best players I can find because they are often well informed. Take note of the draft archetypes they choose because they may be some of the more powerful options available. They may also be playing cards you thought were unplayable so be sure to ask questions.
I should be more specific about setting up the Hasbro travel because it may be a collaborative effort. If you know anyone that also won a PTQ or is level 6 or above, try to get on the same plane. A trip to Japan is not easy to sit through if traveling alone because not all of the planes have On-Demand. If I couldn’t test with Adam Yurchick on the way to Worlds last year, I would have went insane. We won our PTQ in the middle of the season so it may be better to wait for your friends to win one as well. Go through the list of PTQs left in the season to see if its worth waiting for a travel companion.
I have tried to bring homework on the plane, but that never gets finished. The only thing that happens is that your bag gets slightly heavier. A book is a decent play, but it should be saved for the trip home. We have about twelve hours to playtest and theorize about limited so make good use of that time. Try to be as polite as possible when asking others around you to switch seats in order to playtest because your odds of getting them to move depend on it. Although you may be traveling alone, I have never gone to a Pro Tour without knowing someone on the plane. I have made many friends by sitting by someone that I didn’t know that well before.
Don’t be that guy who has no foreign currency and gets owned by the airport exchange rate. That guy is always there and he doesn’t seem to ever learn. Its so simple to avoid this that even a caveman can do it-go to a bank a week in advance and ask for some money. They won’t have it on hand so don’t wait ‘til the last second.
You don’t want to be this guy, do you?
It can be easy to rely on the guy sitting next to you to help with directions, but you may not be going to the same place. Everyone has a different agenda for Pro Tours and the odds of you going to the same place are quite low. Be sure to print out directions from the airport to your hotel and be ready to tell a taxi driver that doesn’t know English about it. The people you share a hotel with should arrive around the same time in order to split costs on the cab, it can be quite expensive otherwise.
Make sure the plan is set in stone because going to a foreign country is like camping. Even if you have the foresight to get a different cell phone plan that allows your cell phone to work in Japan, nobody else will. Magic players aren’t the most responsible people in the world so don’t assume they will have working phones. You will be less stressed out if you just party like its 1999 and turn off the cell phone. Don’t leave it at home altogether because your hotel may not have an alarm clock. Japan also has the same plugs as the United States so all my homeboys in the U.S. can leave the converters at home.
Once you arrive at the hotel you may find that it’s quite small. It probably only has one bed as well so there cant be too many people in the room. It’s easy to pack six people in an American hotel room, but not here. I say this because you don’t want somebody who is twice your size sleeping in the same bed as you.
If you don’t care for Japanese cuisine, be like Craig Wescoe and bring your own cans of beans. My hotel had a miniature stove so cooking could be done in the room. I personally think the food there is awesome since sushi is pretty much the best ever. That being said, they will cut your head off with a samurai sword if you ask for rolls. The genuine sushi bars only serve sashimi which could be a little bit more expensive, but it’s worth it. If you try to tip after the meal, they chase after you because there was some money you seemed to have left behind.
Live it up, you’re in Japan!
How many times do you get to go to Japan in your life? My guess is not that many if you aren’t already from there. Spend a couple of days seeing everything the country has to offer. Part of choosing your entourage is finding someone who is good with navigation and knows a little bit about Japanese culture. If you don’t top 8 (you obviously will) then assemble some friends to go out on Saturday night.
There are many players who will be from Japan (obviously) at this tournament and will be more than happy to tell you the big things the country has to offer. The subway system is top of the line and you can use it get pretty much anywhere.
The Japanese have a tradition of renting out a restaurant for Magic players after the tournament finishes up on Sunday night. In Chiba, there was unlimited beer and food for 3,000 Yen This is a lot of fun even if you don’t drink because you get to see all of your favorite stars having a little too much fun.
My idea is to do this for Pro Tour Philadelphia so if anyone is interested in this let me know. I am not from the area so we will need the help of the local players.
Make this trip count! You don’t want to go home and tell everyone you just played cards for five days while in Japan.
I am unsure about the status of the player party, but assume it won’t happen. WOTC seems to think there is a correlation between taking money from the Pro Tour and increasing attendance. Magic is a fun game so we will continue to play up until a point where enough is enough and move on to more lucrative hobbies. I hope that we can soon return to the glory days of catered food five times a year with a player lounge at the Pro Tour level.
Go over your decklist fifty times to make sure your first Pro Tour is a good experience. Drink your 5 Hour Energy that you brought from home, because they don’t have them in Japan. The round one opponent has a foreign name, but is not one you recognize. Not every opponent will be a big star otherwise they wouldn’t be stars now, would they? All of these players do have the capability of top 8ing because they are all very good to get to this point. You take the advice to never underestimate your opponent and you calmly smash him 2-0. This raises your confidence because it’s not impossible to win at the Pro Tour level. Niels Vieane top 8ed Pro Tour San Diego and it was his first time competing at the highest level.
The next round you lose, but don’t get rattled because there are 14 rounds to go. You are still confident in your deck choice as you just lost to a big name. I would like to say that you fought the good fight, but you were just star-struck and rolled over easily.
Your next three rounds go pretty well and finish the first day of Constructed at 4-1. You begin to think drinking plenty of water is not the way to go because you run to the bathroom after every single round. Trust me: it’s worth it!
The draft begins and you are sitting next to big stars you have only read about like Alex Bertoncini and Ryan O’Connor. Don’t be intimidated by them because they are human too and can be defeated. The first pack begins with a bomb rare and you take it. We are in it to win it so we stick to the colors we began with for the entire draft even though it looks grim for the next few picks. We are rewarded and now have the pleasure to register a sick deck.
We calmly and professionally 3-0 the pod defeating Alex in the finals! 7-1 is a great way to end the first day of the Pro Tour, now go and get some food from the cool restaurant a few streets over. There are some young upstarts in your group that suggest going to McDonalds but shut them down immediately; we are in Japan for cryin’ out loud!
Day 2 begins and you take a shower because being smelly is not cool. Drink a glass of raw eggs Rocky style and now you are ready to take down this tournament! Make sure to eat a real breakfast too because raw eggs aren’t very substantial.
You see Megan Holland in the distance handing out cupcakes, but you two are not properly acquainted. She gives you a cupcake anyway and you put a mtgmom.com sticker on to support the cause.
There are many players crowded around the draft pod seedings but don’t worry about who you will face. We are ready to draft and there are even bigger names in your pod this time! Kyle Boggemes to your left and Gerard Fabiano to your right. Well it was fun while it lasted…
But wait! You read hundreds of times that it doesn’t matter who you face given the right attitude. Reach into your backpack, grab your game face, and continue with the draft.
Today is your lucky day because another bomb rare from the new set is looking back at you. Your draft deck is once again insane, but don’t get too cocky because Gerard is your round one opponent. Luckily for you, the bomb rare is drawn each game and your foe is vanquished. Gerard tells you about how he got cut during the draft and the deck isn’t that good, but he has a smile on his face nevertheless. He hands you a 3thingstoknow.com sticker and you wish each other luck in the next rounds and go your separate ways. There’s just enough time to use the computer to check out the website. It intrigues you and you decide to submit your own entry to the website in hopes of winning the big contest.
The other two rounds of the draft go just as smoothly because your deck is insane. Kyle obviously tilts because you got so lucky, but you drafted well and deserve to be here too.
Block Constructed begins again and you are up against that foreign guy with the deck everyone is talking about. You are unsure of how to pronounce his name and even more unsure of what he is actually playing. Some folks say it kills on turn one, while other folks say it can’t be defeated at all!
There is always a deck like this at the Pro Tour and only eLVeS! has lived up the that kind of hype. Block the rumors from your mind as they are not only false, but distract you from the goal of winning. The deck is interesting, but you defeat him in three close games.
Your record is currently 11-1 and you know that 12-3-1 is the magical top 8 record. Don’t get too caught up in that since that’s the recipe to choke.
The next two rounds don’t go exactly as you had planned. One round is a severe beating from mana screw popping up at the wrong time. The other round you almost win, but end up punting because the thought of top 8 made its way into your mind.
Your record is 11-3-1 and you are up against an unknown name. Remember this match is for top 8, but don’t let that affect your play. The opponent is dispatched in three close games. The next thirty minutes feel like hours as you wait to see if your last round opponent can draw into top 8. You find the pairings sheet and your opponent is waiting for you to ask if you can draw. Tell him that you didn’t travel around the world just to draw… just kidding! Draw with your opponent and shout from Mt. Fuji that you are in the top 8!
The top 8 is announced and it has some big names, but don’t let that distract you. It may be tempting to test for hours on end against your top 8 opponent, but just get a nice dinner with friends and go to sleep early.
The top 8 is not how you imagined it from the webcasts at home. There are cameras pointing at you from every angle and the lights are bright. It can be tempting to feel satisfied with just a top 8, but you may never get this far again.
The top 8 match is the easiest because your opponent seems to be content with the top 8 finish. His nerves also clearly have gotten to him and you take the first match 3-0.
Go eat your nice player lunch and get inside the head of your top 4 opponent. Tell him you will put the smack down on his candy ass and make your way into the arena for round two.
The confidence you conveyed has really shaken your opponent and you advance to the finals in another anti-climactic three game series.
Your finals opponent is one of your losses from the Constructed portion. It may be tempting to throw in the towel as he has a sick matchup against you. Offer a split before the round begins because playing for 20,000 dollars is pretty risky. I made a split of 5,000 without taxes taken into consideration, because it can get messy otherwise.
The first four games have been split evenly and the Pro Tour title comes down to just a single game. You look at your hand and it’s an instant mulligan. Don’t let this get you down as mulliganing is a typical part of the game. Your next hand is pretty good and the game goes long. There is a [card]Gruesome Encore[/card] that has been sitting in your hand since the beginning because there aren’t any good targets. Evil sacrifices a creature that will be gruesome to return, now we have a good plan to victory. He attacks very carefully leaving enough creatures back to protect his precious one remaining life. We calmly untap and cast [card]Gruesome Encore[/card] to get enough creatures to attack him for the win!
You are a Pro Tour Champion!
Numerous representatives from websites ask you about interviews and a permanent writing gig. Don’t commit yet as making the right decision should take some time. Go out to eat with some friends and this time it’s alright to pay for the meal.
Thanks for reading
A big shout out to the beautiful Tatyana Dobreva for the cartoons. If you are interested in more cartoons, let me know!