Owen’s a Win – Pro Tour Theros

Last weekend was Pro Tour Theros, and I finished in 55th place good for $1,000 and 5 Pro Points. This finish is fine, though clearly unexciting, and I think I would have felt much better about it if not for the fact that almost literally every other person I practiced with performed better than I. My teammates finished in 3rd, 6th, 9th, 17th, 26th, 30th, 34th, 35th, 43rd, 51st, 55th, 99th, and 274th. Those numbers are astonishing, I think the level of play and our preparation was incredible, and I was proud to be a part of it. Given that I was so well prepared for draft and had played a ton of games with my Constructed deck, mono-blue devotion, I am embarrassed to finish how I did and I actually let the team down a little. Given my perceived skill edge and good draft prep, alongside playing undoubtedly the deck of the tournament, I really had a great opportunity to do well here, and it saddens me to come up short, but I still think I played well across the weekend and gave it my all.

I was thrilled with my first draft. It started out rocky with a first-pick [card]Sealock Monster[/card] over [card]Lash of the Whip[/card], which means two things: I made a very close decision that could easily bite me based on what I was passed, and that my opening pack was very underwhelming. Second pick I saw no good cards except [card]Phalanx Leader[/card] which I took, I don’t particularly like aggressive low-curve white heroic decks, but that card is too good to pass up and there was no good alternative. Third pick, I saw [card]Keepsake Gorgon[/card] which was a massive signal, I believe this card to be the best uncommon in the set by a wide, wide margin. Fourth I took [card]Psychic Intrusion[/card] and never looked back. Some people are skeptical about this card’s power but I see it as a high-pick, always-play, strong-reason-to-move-into-those-colors type of card. I side it out against low-curve aggressive decks, but in a control mirror it’s basically [card]Desertion[/card]/[card]Bribery[/card] that can steal instants and sorceries as well. Here’s the deck I went 3-0 with:

[deck]Main Deck
1 Traveler’s Amulet
1 Voyage’s End
1 Baleful Eidolon
1 Shipwreck Singer
3 Returned Phalanx
2 Blood-Toll Harpy
2 Read the Bones
1 Dissolve
1 Coastline Chimera
1 Disciple of Phenax
2 Griptide
2 Sealock Monster
1 Psychic Intrusion
1 Keepsake Gorgon
2 Mnemonic Wall
1 Medomai the Ageless
1 Plains
1 Temple of Deceit
7 Island
8 Swamp
Sideboard
1 Vaporkin
1 Omenspeaker
2 Mnemonic Wall
2 Thassa’s Bounty
1 Opaline Unicorn[/deck]

I had a ton of interesting decisions with this final build, and I think I made a slight mistake only playing 17 lands and 1 [card]Traveler’s Amulet[/card]. With a splash card, three different monstrosity creatures, and multiple [card]Mnemonic Wall[/card], I think it would have been best to cut 1 [card]Blood-Toll Harpy[/card] for an Island, and the most common thing that happened in my matches is that I would sideboard out both Harpies for an Island and whatever card I liked best against them, be it [card]Annul[/card] or [card]Benthic Giant[/card].

As I built my deck, I noticed I had a large amount of scry like with [card]Dissolve[/card], [card]Temple of Deceit[/card], and [card]Voyage’s End[/card], alongside multiple copies of [card]Read the Bones[/card], so I knew I had good consistent ways to smooth out my draws, but I just didn’t know how to evaluate those in terms whether to play an 18th land since you could argue that scrying is a good way to prevent mana-screw and mana flood. I finally chose to play 17 land and the Amulet under the assumption that at this level of competition, there was value in just playing a lower land count and drawing more spells than my opponents. This was poor logic, because my deck was so strong and I had such good mana sinks for the late game that getting flooded was ideal. Also, the spells I had were Blood-Toll Harpies, which were actually costly to have in my deck at times because I had two Read the Bones with zero ways to gain life.

[card]Shipwreck Singer[/card] is totally amazing, as there aren’t a ton of good clean ways to remove it, and it is merciless against smaller creatures. In the end I had 4 [card]Mnenomic Wall[/card] and no clean way to remove a creature from the table with the exception of [card]Griptide[/card] and [card]Keepsake Gorgon[/card], so I wish I had [card]Lash of the Whip[/card] over [card]Sealock Monster[/card], but I stand by my pick.

I had a situation in round two where I controlled Shipwreck Singer and Sealock Monster while my opponent had [card]Hammer of Purphoros[/card] and zero creatures in play. My opponent cast [card]Felhide Minotaur[/card] and passed turn. At this point I called a judge, and they ruled that since my opponent did not declare which phase he was in when he cast his Felhide Minotaur that it was his precombat main phase, so I simply forced it to attack and blocked it with Sealock Monster. A good lesson to learn here is that haste isn’t always a good ability to have, and to be very careful and announce everything you intend.

My second draft deck was far less good than my first, but still quite good. I finished 2-1 with this:

[deck]2 Returned Phalanx
2 Fleshmad Steed
1 Omenspeaker
1 Voyage’s End
1 Nimbus Niad
1 Dissolve
1 Akroan Horse
2 Disciple of Phenax
1 Coastline Chimera
1 March of the Returned
1 Sealock Monster
2 Prescient Chimera
1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
1 Shipbreaker Kraken
1 Thassa’s Bounty
1 Sip of Hemlock
1 Abhorrent Overlord
1 Curse of the Swine
9 Island
9 Swamp[/deck]

So I took p1p1 [card]Abhorrent Overlord[/card], and 2nd pick I had a choice between [card]Pharika’s Curse[/card] and [card]Akroan Horse[/card]. I asked almost everyone on the team I could find, and the only person I got to agree with me was Nassif, but I stand firm that this was the correct pick. I believe Akroan Horse is great and just a better card overall than Pharika’s Cure, and the only reason any part of me questions this pick is the possibility that passing a Pharika’s Cure might hurt me in pack two because of poor signaling, but I think the Horse is enough better that it’s worth the risk.

I actually had a strong suspicion that the person passing to me was also blue/black, but I first-picked Abhorrent Overlord in the first pack and I opened [card]Shipbreaker Kraken[/card] in the second so I just said “oh well,” those two cards individually are so powerful and worth forcing a color regardless of what the people around you are doing. I also got a [card]Curse of the Swine[/card] 7th pick in the first pack, which I rate very highly. Obviously [card]Fleshmad Steed[/card] should be avoided because it’s both weak and underwhelming, but it can be played in circumstances where you need additional devotion to black or in this case where I just wanted cheap defensive creatures that would allow me to survive long enough to cast my bomb rares. [card]March of the Returned[/card] is also a card I choose to leave in my sideboard most of the time, but I felt my deck was a little weak outside my stellar rares, and that most of my best cards were creatures, so I chose to play with the March on the off chance I actually got to cast my best cards and they just die, it’s also easy to have a deck that plans for a long game when you get multiple copies of [card]Returned Phalanx[/card].

The Constructed portion of the tournament was far less exciting for me, since I finished with a 5-5 record with a deck I felt was by far the best choice in the tournament. I find it hard to argue playing a deck that finished in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. I played the exact same 75 cards as almost everyone on the team, and I think only a small handful of people defected and played 1 card different. Here is the list I ran:

[deck]Main Deck
20 Island
4 Mutavault
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Cloudfin Raptor
4 Frostburn Weird
4 Judge’s Familiar
4 Master of Waves
4 Nightveil Specter
1 Omenspeaker
4 Thassa, God of the Sea
4 Tidebinder Mage
3 Bident of Thassa
2 Cyclonic Rift
1 Jace, Architect of Thought
Sideboard
2 Ætherling
1 Dissolve
3 Gainsay
3 Jace, Architect of Thought
2 Negate
1 Omenspeaker
3 Rapid Hybridization[/deck]

The deck was amazing and I fully expect it to be a staple of the Standard format moving forward. As I mentioned, I am disappointed with a 5-5 record, though two of my losses came to Jeremy Dazani and Jon Finkel in the mirror match. The mirror match can be quite random and draw dependent, and both of these players are obviously very strong and finished well, so I suppose there’s no shame there. The deck was amazing to play with, and it did seem like we actually broke the format. Mono-blue devotion is consistent, powerful, and has great tools for any matchup you might face. We played the deck up and down against any matchup you can think of, and even got to the point where we deemed it to be a waste of time to continue to play against decks like green/white and mono-red aggro. The deck was basically pre-sideboarded against them with [card]Tidebinder Mage[/card] in the main deck.

One realization I came to was that people actually put [card]Frostburn Weird[/card] in their sideboard for mono-red, and this deck just gets to start with it. You need as many of the blue-intensive costed cards as you can to make good use of Thassa and [card]Master of Waves[/card], but they are genuinely good cards on their own, which makes for a nice dynamic. It was funny to realize that you didn’t even want to sideboard out Tinderbinder Mage against a blue/white creatureless control deck because it was able to beat down, turn on Thassa, and trigger the [card]Bident of Thassa[/card]. I don’t know exactly how to fix the mana base, but I believe a second copy of [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/card] would be a great addition. It’s very powerful in the mirror match allowing you to play out the contents of your hand faster and activate Thassa to make your creatures unblockable, while also giving you the opportunity to overload [card]Cyclonic Rift[/card] more often. In fact, I think a build with zero [card]Mutavault[/card] and a ton of Nykthos might be the best way to go to just maximize your chances of having a busted draw.

Testing for the Pro Tour was a great experience for me, and I do firmly believe that the team I played with was the greatest magic team ever assembled in the history of the game and it’s hard to argue with a team that has the top 3 best players to ever play the game in Jon Finkel, Kai Budde, and Gabriel Nassif. Also a big congratulations to Sam Black and Paul Reitzl on each making Top 8 of the tournament. It wasn’t meant to be for me this time, but at least I got to be a part of such a huge success.

Owen Turtenwald
qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj on Magic Online
OwenTweetenwald on twitter

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