A week or so back I played in the World Championship at PAX Prime. It was the first time Worlds was held there and it was awesome; having Magic be a part of PAX is great. People watching not just on stream but also live at PAX was fantastic for the game and, for me at least, PAX was just a fun event to be part of even if I did extremely poorly at Worlds itself.
I tested with Eric Froehlich as the only member qualified for the tournament but we had other teammates helping us via Skype and Magic Online. Right off the bat Eric and I were interested in testing for the Constructed part of the event more than Limited, we both felt confident in our Limited game and were more worried about how to break Modern and/or Standard. During early theorizing about the metagame for Modern we predicted that most of the field will be people playing unfair decks to try to break it. Now with modern there are too many unfair decks with different kinds of hate cards required to play a traditional control deck. We decided that a Delver or Jund deck would be quite bad too because, again, they are only good against some of the combo decks but we have no way to know what combo decks will actually be played.
During our first skype call with Josh Utter-Leyton, LSV, and Eric, someone came up with the idea of Black/White Tokens. I don't remember who it was but we all went on board with it, LSV built the deck on Magic Online, and Eric and I started playing it. The reason Black/White Tokens seemed so good was that no one will be prepared for it...like no actual hate cards specifically for it because it's so off the radar. Also it's just inherently good vs. combo with all the disruption in the maindeck and black/white having access to the best sideboard cards.
As for Standard, we both played a ton this year and it hasn't really been drastically changing; it's a well-balanced format so I didn't think we could break it with something no one would see coming. We had no idea what to play but were comfortable playing any deck in the format so we didn't want to waste our time testing it. For what deck we were going to play it was between Jeskai, and Abzan Aggro. I never thought Green Devotion was very good, and wanted to stay away from Monored because it's the only viable deck that's easy to hate.Day 1
Day 1 was Modern Masters and my Draft was actually the featured one. It can be found here.
Looking back, my Draft was very indecisive but I don't like thinking in hindsight. There were different lines I could have taken that would have turned out much better for me, but the main problem with it was there were just bad picks, such as when I took the Hikari, Twilight Guardian over the Glint Hawk Idol. That was the turning point. I wanted to go GW Tokens because I was afraid too many people in the pod would draft Affinity but Glint Hawk Idol is so much better, especially if I'm not BW Spirits. I definitely regret making that decision. As for my actual deck I kept passing Matca Rioters when I was heading towards Five-Color, reason being I think that card is just bad in that deck. The Five-Color deck never has problems with not having powerful cards; its weakness is the early game and having a 2/2 on average on turn three is not what you're looking for. The coverage guys disagreed and kept saying, "He passed another Matca Rioters and he's heading Five-Color?" I don't want that card in my usual Five-Color decks; I think it's a trap.
Round 1) Vs. Lee Shi Tian playing BR Bloodthirst
Game one he had an early start with two-drop, three-drop, three-drop, but I was able to stabilize the board and eventually had an Ant Queen alive for multiple turns which closed out the game quickly. His removal spells were three Burst Lightning, one Dismember, and one Banefire.
Game two I had a good start with Lightning Bolt, into two-drop, into four-drop but his quick curve followed by removal spells, burn spells, and an eventual Banefire closed out the game that was already basically lost for me once he killed my Precursor Golem and attacked me really low. This is, overall, a very bad matchup for me. BR in general is Five-Color's worst matchup and his was a good deck for that archetype and mine was mediocre at best.
Game three was more of the same. His deck preformed, he killed my precursor which cleared my board and attacked. I was too behind on life and on board and couldn't recover.
Round 2) Vs. Paul Rietzl playing BR Bloodthirst
You can tell already that I am off to a bad start here playing against another good looking BR deck with Hellkite Charger and a Comet Storm at the top end.
Game one Paul flooded really hard and didn't do much of anything except poking me with Goblin Fireslinger. He did kill my Ant Queen but after that he died to some creatures of mine and had 10 lands in play at the end.
Game two was my turn to flood out as much as him and I couldn't recover from his two-drop, two-drop, into Gorehorn Minotaur on turn four. The only removal spell that could kill it in time was Celestial Purge which I didn't draw.
Game three my opener was a two lander and the third land I drew, which was a turn too late, was Gruul Turf. This put me yet another turn behind and forced me to discard. At this point I was too far behind and died before playing a single spell.
Round 3) Vs. Ondrej Strasky playing BG Tokens
Game one I kept four lands, Mulldrifter, Kozilek's Predator, and Sphere of the Suns. His start was turn three Kozilek's Predator as well, followed up with Necrogenesis, Bloodthrone Vampire, and Tukatongue Thalid. He attacked me with just the Vampire after I passed the turn with a Mulldrfiter in play and two spawns.
I did the math and saw he has five lands in play so he can only use the Necrogenesis twice which was only 17 damage while I was 19 life. I thought about it some more did some more math checked it was only 17 then said no blocks he did some math too and was very surprised I didn't block, that's when I noticed one of his lands is a Rakdos Carnarium which means he can use the Necrogenesis one more time to do me exactly 19 damage. Strasky thought about this for a good two minutes, thought what I can have to make this play because he gave me the respect of not making this huge blunder. Once he figured that all I can have is Dismember and that's not even that bad for him he sacrificed every creature one by one to get me to zero.
This is one of the biggest mistakes I've made that I can remember and it was in the biggest tournament of the year. Was very tough to shake it off, but I remember being totally fine for my other matches so I'm happy I was able to get over it.
Game two his draw was more powerful than mine, he played a turn five Pelakka Wurm, and my deck has no removal against that. The only way I could potentially beat it is if I have one of my bombs and he doesn't draw one of his three Bone Splinters.
Round 4) Vs. Antonio Del Moral Leon playing Splinter Twin
This is one of my best matchups. I have four Auriok Champions in the main and he doesn't run many Pestermites. It played out exactly like that, I played disruption and Auriok Champions and he was never in the games. My clock was fast enough with tokens to close out the games quite quickly.
Round 5) Vs. Eric Froehlich playing the 75 mirror
The mirror with this deck is not my favorite, there are twelve cards that matter: Lingering Souls, Spectral Procession, and Intangible Virtue being the most important. I had all those cards but against Eric he was always one Intangible Virtue ahead of me. Can't do much when all his creatures are twice the size of yours.
Round 6) Vs. Alexander Hayne playing Affinity
Game one I didn't draw a third land and died to his Etched Champion. This matchup feels really close, one of the best cards against Affinity is Lingering Souls and we have eight of them. Etched Champion is problematic but you can race it since you have so much disruption for everything else they have.
Game two was very similar, I disrupted his hand but I stalled out on lands and couldn't compete with his little flyers. I did have an option of taking Whipflare and chose to take Ornithopters because he kept a one lander, but he played Etched Champion on turn three and then still had the Whipflare..
Round 7) Vs. Ari Lax playing Boggles
Game one Ari was super far behind because I had a lot of chump blockers and can easily race him until he drew the Rancor. Ari slammed it on the table, as he does when he is about to win, and attacks with just the Rancored creature which meant I can chump with all my guys to go to one life. He then realized he could attack with the other 1/1 he had for exactly lethal. It didn't matter though because I couldn't defend against the trampling monster.
Game two and three my deck did what it's supposed to do vs. Boggles. I have tons of disruption - Zealous Persecution, Spellskite, and Lilianas - it's a horrible matchup for them.
I ended the day 2-5. I was not happy of course, but I blamed myself for all of it because of how I drafted and played in the early rounds.
My Draft started and the two guys to my left opened Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh, and Kytheon, Hero of Akros; it was going to be really hard to be either of those colors. I think taking white cards is actually fine because the guy to my near left got the Chandra so he will pass white and in pack two white will get passed to me as well. I ended up mediocre UW and lost to all my opponents in very close games but they outdrew me and their decks were mostly better. Multiple stalemates my opponents won because I flooded out. That's how you go 0-6 in Limited: you have mediocre to bad decks and draw poorly on top of that.
Round 11) Vs. Ari Lax playing Abzan Control
I'm playing Jeskai Aggro and this matchup is always grindy. Their game plan is to kill all my guys and play Siege Rhinos to either come back or pull even further ahead. My plan is to play all my guys first and try to deal as much damage as possible, then finish out the game with burn spells, Dig Through Time, or Stormbreath Dragon. The games weren't interesting and I was able to pull ahead in two of the three games.
Round 12) Vs. Eric Froehlich playing the 75 mirror again
Eric won in three games, it started with him winning the die roll and both of us keeping the same UR lands, Mantis Riders and burn hand. He drew out of it before me and pulled too far ahead. The third game I stabilized at seven life and resolved two Dig Through Time while he bricked for three turns, but on the last turn before he died he drew Dig Through Time and found seven points of burn. I never saw a counter with any of the Digs.
Round 13) Vs. Antonio Del Moral Leon playing Abzan Aggro
Game one my draw was great and I had a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and a Mantis Rider on the board for multiple turns, which let me burn him out easily. He never saw a Siege Rhino to have a chance.
Game two was very close. We were in a tight race with him having one card in hand that he just drew. I decided to go for it which meant I attacked with all my guys putting me dead on board on his turn; if he has just one removal spell he still dies after I Jeskai Charm to pump my team and Stoke the Flames him, but the one card he drew was the Dromoka's Command to stay alive and kill me the following turn. The same thing happened in the third game when I had no choice but to go for it and burn him out but he had another Dromoka's Command to prevent himself from dying.
Round 14) Vs. Brad Nelson playing Abzan Control
Brad was playing the same deck as Ari Lax but the games were much closer. Game one I got him down on life, but he stabilized with multiple Siege Rhinos and Den Protectors and I wasn't able to draw another burn spell in three turns.
Game two Brad and I both have each other dead on board if no one has anything. I draw a Disdainful Stroke which is really bad here because if I pass the turn he will know I can't kill him since he has no cards in hand and if I draw anything I win. I'm at five life and he has a Siege Rhino and a face down Den Protector. He kept the card on top with his scry the previous turn. I have a Mantis Rider, Goblin Rabblemaster, and at least four Goblin Tokens, and he is at 14 life. This means I can't attack with my Rabblemaster because if I do he will attack with both creatures, flip his Den Protector, and get a removal spell or Dromoka's Command back to kill me. What happens is Brad decides to attack with both his guys and flip his Den Protector before blocks, I then just chump block the Siege Rhino with my Mantis Rider to bluff that I have a Lighting Strike, he lets the damage go through and I go down to one life. The card he kept on top was another Siege Rhino which he played for the win, but I still had the Disdainful Stroke which I use to counter and swing back for lethal. Brad and I shook hands and said to each other "that was probably the best match I've played all tournament."
This tournament was really rough for me but it gave me the drive back to try to get to Worlds again and redeem myself. I'm not automatically Platinum this year so I have to do to it like everyone else, the hard way. There were a lot of plays and decisions I regret making this event that I'm disappointed in myself. But there is always next year to do better.
Till next time,