Going into Pro Tour Hour of Devastation, my goal was to win at least 10 of 10 rounds in order to qualify for the World Championships. Up until this Pro Tour, I felt like my season had been fine but not great for my standards – but a Top 8 changes that fast. This finish really reinvigorated me, and gave me the confidence I needed. The opportunity to Top 8 a Pro Tour for many is once in a lifetime, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity three times now.
After starting out undefeated Day 1 of a Pro Tour, expectations tend to change. All of a sudden, I felt like if I wasn't able to convert such a strong start into a Top 8, the tournament would be a failure. Getting enough points to qualify for Worlds would not be enough. Starting out 1-2 in the second draft certainly wasn't what I was looking for, especially since I drafted a very strong White-Black Zombies deck. It felt like for the entirety of Day 2 I was playing with my back against the wall.
When I lost Round 15 to pick up my fourth loss it seemed like the Top 8 dream was dead, so I was in shock when I looked at the standings going into the final round and saw that I had a win-and-in. This was the largest Pro Tour of the year, with over 450 players, so I wasn't sure there would be a player with four losses that made Top 8. Luckily, there were two, and I was one of them. It really was a roller coaster of emotions, I did my best to keep myself together for my quarterfinal match against a certain Brazilian Hall of Famer.
It is tough to come back from such a big match, and to feel like you could have done better, but that is how I feel. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa Played better than me; he played to his outs to win and got there. I was up against one of the best of all time, and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. I know looking back at the match that I can do better next time. As a Magic player, there is always room to improve, and it is easy to dwell on little mistakes that may have been costly rather than focus on the positive.
In order to make the Top 8 of a Pro Tour you need to do a lot of things right, and I did that. Not only was I putting pressure on myself, but my teammates needed me to do well so I could get Genesis to the Team Series Finale. I am happy to say that Genesis will indeed be competing in Boston this year on the World Championship stage, and I was a big part of making that happen. Playing for my team helps me feel that much more invested in doing well.
The deck that I played was great, and in my opinion, it was the best Ramunap Red list of the tournament. While the entire Genesis team played Ramunap Red, a couple of my card choices were different from theirs. I sleeved up this beauty.
This is exactly the opposite of a deck that goes all-in on one mana creatures and hopes to get there. This list can go big, and play a long game with the best of decks. Going into the Pro Tour most of the commonly played lists of Ramunap Red resembled Sam Black's with only 21 lands, and cards like Cartouche of Zeal. This list is a cut above that. There are 23 lands main, with the ability to go all the way up to 25 after sideboard. In fact, I boarded in lands in every single matchup.
This deck has a transformational sideboard that makes it so difficult to prepare for. I found my opponents oftentimes boarding in cards like Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, while I was taking out small creatures in favor of Glorybringer and Chandra, Torch of Defiance. You can imagine how that went. In most matchups, you have access to a threat that the opponent is going to have lots of trouble getting off the board.
In the mirror, as we saw many times throughout course of the Pro Tour, that card is Hazoret the Fervent. Going into the Pro Tour, most Ramunap Red decks only had two copies of Hazoret the Fervent in them, which is pretty funny in retrospect. One part of my list that sets it apart from the rest is that I have four copies total between main and sideboard. This is your best possible card in the mirror, but against a deck like Mono-Black Zombies it isn't your best threat.
Zombies is a deck that has access to cards that can deal with Hazoret the Fervent, like Grasp of Darkness and Dark Salvation. You would rather have Chandra, Torch of Defiance because it is much more difficult to deal with. Some lists of Zombies do play Never // Return but even then it's only a couple copies. This is the type of matchup where you are trading removal with the opponent, so if you do have a turn four Chandra, Torch of Defiance often there won't be any other nonland permanents in play.
Zombies is the exact sort of deck where players will want cards like Liliana, the Last Hope and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet after sideboard. Most people are under the impression that Zombies is a bad matchup for Ramunap Red, but it really isn't. I never lost to it at the Pro Tour, while beating it multiple times. The key is having the ability to go big, and play the lategame with them. Here is how I sideboard:
IN: 1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance, 2 Glorybringer, 4 Magma Spray, 1 Reality Smasher, 1 Scavenger Grounds, 1 Sea Gate Wreckage
OUT: 4 Falkenrath Gorger, 4 Bomat Courier, 1 Abrade, 1 Ahn-Crop Crasher
It may seem weird to board out so many one-drops, but honestly the one-drops aren't how this deck wins. You really want your opponent to trade off a removal spell for a one-drop just so when you play a four-mana card your opponent hasn't had time to develop their board with creatures. The worst feeling is having your creature eaten by Liliana, the Last Hope. With this plan, you only have Earthshaker Khenra left as a one-toughness threat after board. Magma Spray is a great way to answer cards like Relentless Dead, and I'm surprised there weren't more in the red decks at the Pro Tour. In many ways Magma Spray is the most efficient removal spell in the format, since being able to exile a creature is huge.
Most Zombies lists are pretty similar so your sideboard plan doesn't vary that much between different lists. However, versus other decks (like the mirror), there are many different variations of Ramunap Red. Naturally, this means you want to sideboard a little bit differently depending on what version of the deck you are against. As a general rule of thumb, post-board you want your bigger creatures and extra lands.
Ramunap Red is the best deck in Standard, and we knew this going into the Pro Tour. We did our best to be prepared for the mirror, with three copies of Chandra's Defeat and Reality Smasher being standouts other lists don't have. However, it turns out you can't gain that much edge in the mirror because games can be high variance, and often come down to hitting your fourth land drop and casting Hazoret the Fervent.
Team Genesis couldn't find a deck that beat Ramunap Red and was decent against the other decks in the format. None of us wanted to play the known deck that everyone was gunning for, but the deck is just that good. It had a huge target on its head, and still put up amazing results. That doesn't mean it's time to start calling for bans, but players are going to have to go to extreme lengths to try and beat it.
Main decking a card like Authority of the Consuls could be a good way to go. Having a card that just gains life like Sunscourge Champion certainly isn't enough. With so many creatures having haste Authority of the Consuls becomes a great way to make a card like Ahn-Crop Crasher much less effective. Even with Authority of the Consuls, in your deck it really is only going to be great if you can play it on turn one, because later in the game it will ineffective. There is no perfect hate card that just shuts down Ramunap Red – it's a resilient machine, that can be aggressive or turn into a midrange deck post board.
Another card that I really liked in my list is Sea Gate Wreckage. Control decks no longer have the inevitability against you if you have this card. There were plenty of games won against control on turn 12 because of drawing cards with Sea Gate Wreckage. We think about Ramunap Ruins adding a lot to the deck, but I would say all the non-basic lands really help take the deck to the next level. At one point, we were playing Thought-Knot Seer since there are enough colorless sources to play Eldrazi creatures if you want.
Moving forward I wouldn't change that much about my list, but maybe update it to help even a little more against the mirror. Pia Nalaar was a card that we missed in testing, but it is a built in two-for-one that is a good inclusion in the sideboard, or even possibly main deck, though I'm still unsure what to cut. I do know I am moving the fourth Hazoret to the main deck; I expect many players will do this to try and get as much of an edge in the mirror as possible, and it is the best card in the deck.
I will be attending Grand Prix Minneapolis. I'm going to be hitting my head against a wall trying to find a deck that can beat Red, but if you can't beat 'em, join 'em! It will be very interesting to see if any new cards or decks emerge as a result of the knowledge of Ramunap Red being so good. If the deck continues to dominate the next few weeks we are in danger or running into a bad Standard format once again.
Thanks for reading,