The last Pro Tour of the season always an extra stress factor: whatever your goal is, this tournament is your Last Chance to achieve it. There won't be any other try. Fall short at this one tournament, and say goodbye to the superior pro level or the captaincy of your country. Historically, I've managed to achieve my goals most of the time: reaching level six (the old platinum) at Worlds in Paris in 2006 (needed a Top 32), reaching level eight (the old new platinum) at Worlds in New York in 2007 (needed Top 32), reaching Platinum at PT Portland in 2014 (needed Top 75).

For Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, I had two goals within my reach: Platinum (needed x-4) and the World Magic Cup. I needed to do at least better than Pierre Dagen, who had one more point than me going into the tournament. There was also the possibility another French player came from behind with a good finish (a Top 8 or a win) to snag the slot.

With that in mind, my wife and I packed our bags and undertook the 30-hour journey from Toulouse, France to Sydney, Australia. She would enjoy the (rainy) city while I'd be busy getting ready for the tournament with the team that consisted of:

-The South-East Asia contingent: Lee Shi Tian, Yam Wing Chun, Hao-Shan Huang, Faye Lai
-The "almost locals": Jason Chung, Jake Hart, Anthony Lee, Paul Jackson
-The Italians: Marco Camiluzzi, Andrea Mengucci
-The Japanese: Katsuhiro Mori, Tomoharu Saito
-The Frenchies: Thierry Ramboa, Julien Henry, Jérémy Dezani and myself

The first week was mostly about Limited preparation. I spent most of the time trying to find the right way to draft the format. I usually try hard to make mono-red work, but my day two of Grand Prix Sydney, where I racked up four straight losses without winning a single game drafting B/R and mono-red, was a pretty clear signal that I wasn't doing things right.

I knew I had to look for something else. The revelation came when Monica and I were walking down Circular Quay on Monday following the GP and ran into the WotC crew. I caught up quickly with Brian David-Marshall and asked him how the Grand Prix went for him and who won. He said: "Scott Lipp won, and man, that was something, 2nd pick Lunarch Mantle!?"

And I thought, "how didn't I figure that one out earlier?"

When I'm working on a Limited format, I'm always looking for the sleeper cards, the cards that you'll get 10th or 12th pick that would totally change the course of your draft. Remember Fortify? Anyway, I thought it was genius, and changed the way I would draft the format.

I ended up drafting a G/B deck in my first pod, winning an extremely close game against Ivan Floch in round two and losing to Steve Rubin in round three to finish 2-1. I drafted a great W/G deck, the deck I wanted to draft, in the second pod, going 2-1 as well, losing to Yuuki Ichikawa.

The Constructed preparation was intense in the house the week prior to the PT. Everyone was building decks and the first crash tests to see if the deck was viable were against Bant Company and W/B Control. We built a lot of decks, and unfortunately couldn't find an Emrakul, the Promised End deck that could defeat both Bant Company and W/B Control.

From our results and the discussions I had with a lot of people, Bant Company was the deck to beat. We couldn't show up at the tournament with a deck that didn't have a positive result against it.

Jake Hart had his U/R Emerge deck he was happy with and that I worked on a little bit:

DECKID=1269220

The deck had decent results against the field, but I wasn't quite satisfied with the Bant matchup, which wasn't bad, but not great. It felt like there was a lot more to do with the deck but that we didn't have the time to figure it out.

Got to blow off some steam at the gym before #PTEMN with @aaron_nicastri ar ICC in Sydney ! #bjj pic.twitter.com/1EWsINOk8F

— Raphael Levy (@hahamoud) August 3, 2016

On Wednesday night, former Australian pro player Aaron Nicastri invited me for a roll at his gym in Sydney. I needed the exercise and a few hours away from the testing table to sort all the information I'd been gathering. While I was away, Jérémy Dezani messaged me on Facebook:

"Don't mess this tournament up, don't pick a wacky deck like you always do, you want to beat Bant Company, play our W/B Control deck."

Those were not his actual words, but close enough. It got me thinking and I decided to trust him for this last tournament.

The Frenchies along with Yam and Hao-Shan had been working on the following version of B/W control that us 6 ended up playing:

DECKID=1269101

The deck looks a lot like classic versions of W/B Control, with the addition of Oath of Liliana. If we expected a lot of Bant Company decks, this was definitely the deck to play. Its matchup against it is not unlosable but very favorable, and that's where we wanted to be.

From what I heard, some teams neglected W/B Control because it was too vulnerable to Emrakul, the Promised End; you would destroy your own board and lose to Emrakul, the Promised End anyway. I played against a few Emrakul, the Promised End decks — R/G Ramp, B/G Delirium, Temur Emerge — and got Emrakuled many times, and it turned out it to be far from game-ending.

My overall score against Emrakul, the Promised End decks was 2-2-1, mostly because we had a lot of ways to actually deal with Emrakul, the Promised End once it's in play: Ob Nixilis Reignited, Blighted Fen, Planar Outburst, and Oath of Liliana. Add to that the fact that you can hit it with Transgress the Mind to gain some time before the second one arrives.

The deck was great. I loved that it would toy with Bant Company and have a shot against pretty much everything else. It felt that the only way I really lost games was because I didn't hit my lands, but the manabase was fine, and Read the Bones helped make land drops, so that didn't happen often. When you get stuck with two or three lands and either never get the third land on the draw to play Read the Bones or the fourth land to play Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, then you lose, which makes sense since you're playing a deck that doesn't have any threat that costs less than four mana and only one way to draw cards that costs three.

In a nutshell, if you play well, and the deck gives you the right lands, you don't lose.

With that said, there are a few things I would have liked to change in the deck if I had to play it again. We made a pretty big mistake not to give Emrakul, the Promised End decks enough credit by leaving Infinite Obliteration out of the sideboard. The first thing I would do would be to swap the two Eldrazi Displacers from the sideboard for two copies of Infinite Obliteration. I never got to board in Eldrazi Displacer, which is great against G/W tokens and fine in the mirror but pretty weak against the rest of the field.

With that in mind, here's the sideboard guide:

W/G Tokens

-1 Languish
-4 Oath of Liliana
-1 Planar Outburst
-2 Transgress the Mind

+2 Duress
+3 Thought-Knot Seer
+1 Reality Smasher
+2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

When we playtested for GP Manchester and Costa Rica, I did try W/B Control and thought it was okay. I decided to drop it when I realized I could never beat W/G Tokens. Later, at Grand Prix Costa Rica, where I played W/G Tokens, I lost to W/B Control in the swiss rounds twice. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Eldrazi Displacer were quite annoying since I never really wanted to keep in too much removal post-board. If you expect a lot of W/G Tokens in your area, keep Eldrazi Displacers in your sideboard.

Bant Company

-2 Secure the Wastes
-1 Anguished Unmaking
-1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

+2 Dead Weight
+2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

As I mentioned above, Bant Company was the matchup we wanted to see. Jérémy Dezani played against five or six of them during the tournament and beat them all. I went 2-1 against it, losing to Shaun McLaren, but always felt the matchup was great.

You take care of all their threats, one by one, and as soon as you have a threat of your own in play, it goes downhill for them. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet will probably meet a Reflector Mage or two, but once it's in play, they will have a hard time overcoming the card advantage it will provide every time you kill one of their creatures.

Spell Queller looked a lot scarier on paper than it really is against W/B Control. It basically delays the unavoidable. When it exiles a removal spell, you just have to play another one to free your first spell. It's still a card you have to play around, but nothing too bad really.

W/B Control

-3 Languish
-1 Hallowed Moonlight
-2 Grasp of Darkness
-2 Ultimate Prise

+2 Duress
+2 Transgress the Mind
+3 Thought-Knot Seer
+1 Reality Smasher

Our original sideboard plan included Eldrazi Displacer. Note that this plan was against mirror matches, not against creature-oriented W/B Control like the one Lukas Blohon used to win the Pro Tour. In that case, you probably want to keep both Ultimate Price and Grasp of Darkness to deal with Archangel Avacyn and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. You'll also want to have creatures to put pressure on Liliana the Last Hope (otherwise, their creatures will keep coming back), which makes sideboarding a little tricky as you'll need both anti-control cards and removal.

Against Blohon's version, I suggest cutting the remaining Hallowed Moonlight and not replacing Grasps of Darkness for Duresses. You want to hit the creatures with Transgress the Mind so they can never come back with Liliana, the Last Hope.

For all the Emrakul decks, keep in mind that there are a lot of different versions of each deck (R/G, Emerge, G/B delirium), and you'll have to adapt to each deck according to which creatures they play.

Ramp

+2 Duress
+2 Transgress the Mind
+3 Thought-Knot Seer
+1 Reality Smasher
+2 Infinite Obliteration

-2 Hallowed Moonlight
-3 Languish
-1 Planar Outburst
-2 Grasp of Darkness
-2 Ultimate Price

The big difference between the current versions of ramp and the old one is that you won't always hit their big threat with Transgress the Mind. A smart ramp player will keep their Traverse the Ulvenwald and Grapple with the Past until the last moment before they go look for their win condition (to play around Transgress the Mind). This makes Infinite Obliteration important. With so many discard spells after sideboard (Duress, Thought-Knot Seer), you'll know exactly what to call, and even hit something in their hand once in a while.

Temur Emerge

+2 Transgress the Mind
+2 Infinite Obliteration
+3 Thought-Knot Seer
+1 Flaying Tendrils

-2 Ultimate Price
-2 Languish
-2 Grasp of Darkness
-2 Hallowed Moonlight

Testing U/R Emerge before the tournament taught me how to play around Emerge strategies. It's not that complicated: kill everything on sight. Flaying Tendrils is a card we had in the sideboard, just in case we missed Zombie decks (to get rid of Haunted Dead), but it works fine against Emerge as well. It will exile a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy (if you're on the play), but also a Pilgrim's Eye or a Matter Reshaper. Exiling these creatures is crucial as it will take more time for them to actually cast their Deep-Fiend Elders and Emrakul, the Promised End — exiled creatures don't count towards delirium. The games can be long, but you have a lot of ways to fight back and destroy their big threats.

B/G Delirium

+1 Transgress the Mind
+3 Thought-Knot Seer
+2 Infinite Obliteration
+2 Duress

-3 Languish
-3 Grasp of Darkness
-2 Hallowed Moonlight

It's crucial that you start putting pressure on Emrakul, the Promised End decks as early in the game as possible with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar since you can't keep up with their sources of card advantage if the game is too long. It's a relative "too long" as games will be gruelling and will last 10+ turns even when you have early pressure. Infinite Obliteration should be a key sideboard card to make sure they won't be stealing your turns.

If they're playing Grim Flayer and no Mindwreck Demon, choose Grasp of Darkness over Ultimate Price.

Except for the sideboard tweak (that we should have had), I would definitely play the deck again. As you probably know by now, I'm not a control player, but this deck doesn't really play like control. You just clear whatever your opponent offers, deploy your threats and finish the work. Anyone can do that.

Oh, and I got to play with these sweet hand-made tokens!

New tokens for B/W (soldiers=warriors). Courtesy of my wife. #PTEMN pic.twitter.com/BrMVxfKcdT

— Raphael Levy (@hahamoud) August 6, 2016

I needed an X-4 finish for Platinum, but that didn't happen. I came in 29th place, which put me a few points ahead of Pierre Dagen and secured me the qualification to the World Magic Cup in Rotterdam later this year.

Pro Tour Eldritch Moon also concluded one of my most memorable seasons. I didn't do too well at the Pro Tour this year, but got to bring home two trophies, and in the end, that's something to be happy about.

It's been 9 years since my last Pro Tour Top 8. I hope I can break that shameful streak and get back to the Sunday stage next season!

As usual, thanks TCGPlayer and its readers for their support, thanks to my team who helped me prepare for the tournament, everyone who could help me find cards (Andrea Mengucci in particular), and my wife, who travelled 60 hours in total to cheer for me (or maybe was it to just go to Australia...).

Cheers, and see you next season!

Raph

@hahamoud