Pro Tour 25th Anniversary Tournament Report
I’d qualified through the RPTQ system for the first time with two friends smashing our way through a tournament. Having had a few close shaves over the last year, I knew I was bound to win one eventually and it came just at the right time to go to the most interesting pro tour in recent times. Immediately being locked into the legacy seat (being the only person of the three who regularly played the format), it was time to buckle down and test.
Personally, I had played a lot of Death and Taxes in the past and had played Force of Will decks before but never really enjoyed it as much as Wasteland and Rishadan Port. I started testing there and felt far behind the Deathrite Shamans of the world. I had seen Thomas Enevoldsen move away from the deck he had made famous, playing the “Czech Pile” decks that had recently become popular and suspected that would be where I’d end up. Suddenly the card was banned (with Gitaxian Probe as a secondary hit) and I was very happy with the deck’s positioning again. I played another 100 or so matches coming into the pro tour and honestly only had middling results. However, I found the decks I was losing to just weren’t part of the metagame I’d expected and figured it was worth pulling the trigger anyway. During that time, I found myself reaching out to the people who were doing a lot of winning on Magic Online and realized the community there was very open and easy to speak to. I found during the event in idle chat that many people had done the same coming into the pro tour.
The Thursday was amazing, I was able to get into the venue and register and was immediately greeted with a foil set of Hour of Devastation with some booster packs and a bag. Running to the vendor I bought a shoulder bag and playmat for a hefty sum and realized I’d be buying a playmat every day because of how nice and clearly valuable they would become. Later, there was free food and drink for everyone there, trivia contests with additional prizing and a chance to chat with some of the people I already knew coming into the event. I left for the hotel and checked twitter to find a great tweet from Willy Edel about how positive the event was for newcomers, tweeted my agreement, and went to sleep.
Round 1: De Jesus/Edel/Kiefer – Eldrazi
I came to regret tempting fate as I immediately found myself paired up against De Jesus/Edel/Kiefer in round 1. During the player meeting, De Jesus started resolving some Serum Powder mulligans as neither of us were sure if that was allowed. This one isn’t a great matchup, and after winning game 2 I found myself facing a disadvantageous board when the match was called as both my teammates had lost. All three of our opponents had been incredibly fun (a common theme of our day), and despite starting 0-1, I felt a bit of my initial nervousness go away going into round 2.
Round 2: Concha/Sanchez/Vega – 4c Loam
Despite starting with a loss, I was feeling quite good having had a closer match and enjoying the first experiences of the tournament so far. It was time to put the testing I had done to work. Leading off with an Aether Vial, my opponent played Savannah, Mox Diamond, Mox Diamond, Knight of the Reliquary. After a Swords to Plowshares dispatched the creature, my opponent didn’t have a very potent follow up and found themselves beaten down by the usual suspects of Stoneforge Mystic and Flickerwisp. Game 2 was less straightforward, as I opened with a Mother of Runes and Stoneforge Mystic into a Liliana of the Veil and a Liliana, the Last Hope. After killing the first Liliana of the Veil, I was greeted by a second. I tried to outrace the zombie emblem, but that didn’t really work out. Going into game 3 I was able to open on another Aether Vial and after a creature or two resolved a Rest in Peace. That allowed me to kill the first few Knights of the Reliquary with ease, and a Sanctum Prelate on 2 sealed the game as my opponent conceded with four 2 mana spells in hand.
Round 3: Prosek/Prosek/Ksandr – Miracles
Overall Miracles isn’t the best matchup, but you can certainly piece together winning games. Game 1 I was able to stick a Mother of Runes, Stoneforge Mystic, and Sanctum Prelate (naming 1) and attacked for 3 for several turns. During that time, I kept a Sword of Fire and Ice in hand, looking for a 4th land to play and equip. I kept myself constrained on mana, porting Prosek’s single white source to avoid a Terminus, but once the second white was found I had to start to put equipment in. Eventually I end up in a board state where Prosek has a Snapcaster Mage and Monastery Mentor and I’m able to put in a Jitte or Sword of Fire and Ice against Prosek at 8. I incorrectly choose Jitte, but cannot attack because the Prelate on 1 is keeping Prosek’s hand contained. Had I used the Fire and Ice, I may have had a chance, but instead fall to a Terminus shortly after. Game 2 is uneventful, and I’m able to piece together a quick win. Noticing there are 15 minutes on the clock, I speed up my play significantly and make a crucial error on turn 3, leading with a Remorseful Cleric instead of a Phyrexian Revoker on an empty board. This allows my opponent to cast a Jace and bounce the Spirit, and I’m never able to control the Jace. The game progresses very quickly, and I’m able to exile each Monastery Mentor as it is played, and as Prosek casts the 3rd and final copy my teammates inform me they’ve both lost. With only 45 seconds left on the clock we were likely to draw, but ultimately, I wouldn’t win unless I drew another removal spell immediately.
Round 4: Pardee/Nass/Black – UB Death’s Shadow
I thought you weren’t supposed to play hard matchups in the 1-2 bracket. I guess that’s what I signed up for going to Minneapolis. I manage to win game 1 off creatures and equipment, and they didn’t have great ways of interacting. In game 2, I lose handily to a Dread of Night and go to game 3. Going into game 3 I’m prepared to try and take this and find myself facing down another Dread of Night alongside a Liliana, the Last Hope. I curse my foul luck, but help my teammates win their two matches to win the round. I’d later find out that Sam was playing 2(!) copies of Liliana, the Last Hope and 3(!!) copies of Dread of Night. Winning that match would always be tough.
Round 5: Maliszewski/Mitchell/Montoya – Eldrazi
These 3 were winners from the Denver RPTQ, and my opponent immediately mulligans to 4. They choose to show me no cards and concede after finding out I am playing Death and Taxes. My opponent had commented on just missing lands a few times, and I decide they’re a bit more likely to be on a combo deck and I board in a couple of the more standard combo hate and shave some of my fair cards like Swords to Plowshares and Mother of Runes. Game 2 it is revealed my opponent is playing Eldrazi and I stare longingly at the Path to Exiles sitting in my sideboard. After losing quickly, I come into game 3 with the proper sideboard plan and my opponent simply loses to Stoneforge Mystic and Palace Jailer. The most noteworthy part of this match was the opposing team’s infighting and frustration, which helped my teammates close out their matches as the other team distracted each other. It was a stark contrast to how everything else had gone so far and was a bit off putting for us having had such pleasant opponents so far.
Round 6: Seck/Parke/Kibler – Eldrazi
Before the match even started I knew this was going to be fun. Seck and I kept a long conversation going throughout the match that kept things interesting as I sat down to play Eldrazi for the 3rd time. Game 1 goes poorly as I face a trio of Eldrazi Mimics which do a good job of being 4/4s and 5/5s until I’m finished. Game 2 is unusual as Seck’s first two lands are Ancient Tombs and he is forced to Dismember a Stoneforge Mystic. This prompts me to race with my far smaller creatures, and I’m able to get his life total far below comfortable levels. He equips an Eldrazi Mimic with Umezawa’s Jitte but passes the turn at 2 life. I’m able to cast a Phyrexian Revoker and name the Jitte, keeping him from regaining life, and control his mana completely. I’m able to present lethal attackers for a few turns and eventually one connects. Game 3 I keep a hand with no 1 mana spells, but a couple Stoneforge Mystics and Flickerwisps, and the quick Chalice of the Void on 1 has no immediate impact. I’m able to get some equipment in play, Flickerwisp the Chalice, and the game ends quickly afterwards. Turning to our centre match, I find my teammate Attila with 15 lands in play as Parke is resolving a Meddling Mage. My teammate is playing RUG Scapeshift, and Seck is working with Parke to try and figure out what to name. The two of them aren’t quite able to figure out what Attila is playing and discuss a variety of blue options like Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Cryptic Command. Kibler chimes in to help them out, explaining the Scapeshift combo to his teammates and they name the card. They lose to a combination of removal and the spell shortly after.
Round 7: Bonde/Matsoukas/Kowalski – Death and Taxes
Coming into this round we are 4 and 2, and I’d love to end day 1 with a 5th win. Bonde starts asking if I play a lot of legacy, which I had been the last month, and we settle into our match. He leads on a Plains and Aether Vial and I’m excited to play the mirror. I end up losing an extended game 1 without having my own Vial and win a close game 2 where he has the Vial advantage as well. Going into game 3 I mention I’m due for a Vial draw of my own but keep a good 7 without one. The top of my deck gave me the turn 1 Vial that is important in the matchup, and I was able to turn that advantage into a win. This was easily the most technically difficult match I played all event, and I was able to talk a bit after the match about how GP Strasbourg was what got me interested in legacy, and how his top 4 was one of the reasons I had bought the deck so many years ago.
Round 8: Lipp/Ashton/Wu – Affinity / MUD
Coming into day 2 at 5-2 we were feeling fantastic, and we wanted to keep that feeling alive. Seeing another Ancient Tomb I was ready for another Eldrazi slog, but the follow up of Phyrexian Revoker and Steel Overseer made me feel better pretty quickly. Locally we have a player who has played every variant of MUD and Affinity I can imagine, and it helped me here a lot as I never ran into any significant surprises. I was able to contain my opponent’s mana in games 2 and 3 and closed this match out without significant problems. Aether Vial and Stoneforge Mystic simply took over the board and I was able to stop my opponent from casting anything that cost more than 4.
Round 9: Sajgalik/Huong/Yan – RUG Delver
Finally paired against my first RUG Delver deck of the event, we were at table 4 and I could see us getting to those elusive top tables. Game 1 was a pair of awkward draws from both me and my opponent, as a Tarmogoyf simply went the distance as both players flooded. On the final turn of the game I make a crucial mistake playing a Batterskull with 6 mana up instead of simply casting a freshly drawn Swords to Plowshares on the only threat. I just needed to extend the game at that point with my Batterskull and died to a Stifle with a Lightning Bolt. If I wait a turn instead I get the Germ token stifled without pressure on the board and remain at 5 life, and can likely return and recast the Batterskull over the next few turns. We are then deck checked and wait a full 25(!) minutes before receiving our decks back. My opponent receives a game loss for marked cards and we head into an awkward game “3”. I keep a hand with a Rishadan Port, Wasteland, Aether Vial and white spells, and I resolve the Vial on turn 1. Unfortunately, my opponent draws both Ancient Grudge and Sulfur Elemental before turn 4 and I’m dispatched quickly. Had I played game 1 correctly here, we likely win this match and go on a very different turn for the tournament.
Round 10: Cuneo/Finkel/Rietzl – Miracles
In game 1 I play an Aether Vial on turn 1 but draw 3 copies of Swords to Plowshares and a second Aether Vial over the first few turns. I never draw creatures to get out of this game, and eventually die to Jace and a few Council’s Judgments to remove the Vials from the board. Game 2 plays out similarly as I die a slow death to a few Snapcaster Mages and Vendilion Clique, and once I start to stabilize a Baneslayer Angel puts me away. Far more interesting is our middle match where Scapeshift faces Storm in modern. After a tight game 1 that our Scapeshift player wins, we get a Damping Sphere on the board in game 2 and it becomes apparent that Finkel has no way of interacting with the permanent. He is able to almost go off through the permanent several times and we’re able to win eventually when we bounce a Blood Moon with Cryptic Command and cast our own 5 mana Scapeshift for lethal.
Round 11: Pinto/Merjam/Santos – Death and Taxes
I’m starting to see the mirror more and it feels great, it is a matchup I’m incredibly comfortable in and feel favors experience heavily. I’m able to win my match by forcing Swords to Plowshares onto low value targets by using equipment, and at the end my opponent thanks his teammates for bailing him out. He had gotten his list from other pros and hadn’t prepared for this matchup as much as he would have liked.
Round 12: Moughon/Elsik/Humphries – Storm
I end up spending most of this match just talking to Moughon as I get rolled over. I simply don’t have interaction that is fast enough in most games, and it hurts as I get stormed out quickly. The most interesting part of the match is Moughon trying to play around Surgical Extraction in game 3 by casting Ad Nauseum instead of Past in Flames. This ends up giving me an extra turn as he flips Abrupt Decay, Abrupt Decay, Fatal Push, Dark Petition and cantrips but no mana sources. I’m unable to draw a way to lock up the game and die the next turn anyways.
Round 13: Ortiz Ros Ramiro/Martos/Donaire – BR Reanimator
Feeling a bit down off our pair of losses, we’re still 7-5 and have a great opportunity to cash the Pro Tour. I find out quickly I’m against BR Reanimator, and this matchup plays out similarly to Storm, just that I have far more relevant interaction. I lose a quick game 1, win a game 2 where my opponent mulligans to 5 and we go to game 3. I keep Karakas, Swords to Plowshares, Containment Priest, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Stoneforge Mystic, and Council’s Judgment. I’m quickly greeted by:
- Dark Ritual
- Entomb a Griselbrand
- Reanimate the Griselbrand
- Draw 7 cards
- Unmask targeting self to discard an Archetype of Endurance
- Lotus Petal
I lose that one.
Round 14: MacDonald/Rood/Pite – Sneak and Show
Final round and a final opportunity to lock up a cash finish. Up against Sneak and Show I’m not too happy as Omniscience has flipped that matchup on its head and Sneak and Show tends to be favored now. My opponent casts a 2 a Sneak and Show, but their Griselbrand meets a Phyrexian Revoker. I’m able to bounce the legend with a Karakas and close the game out with my creatures. Game 2 I’m able to keep a hand with my Leonin Relic-Warder, and on turn 3 I cast a Recruiter of the Guard and reveal a Phyrexian Revoker. This forces my opponent to only cast Sneak and Show with an Omniscience in hand and I’m able to get them a few turns later. I have a fairly anemic beat down plan and kill my opponent very slowly. I end up putting in a Flickerwisp on a second Show and Tell to bounce another Omnicience and kill my opponent on the turn I’m given. We end up losing the match overall to go 7-7 and finish in 73rd.
After our event we head out to Manny’s Steakhouse for an incredible meal to cap off the event. We’re treated to a 10 minute presentation on steaks and how they’re cut before we even get a menu and my steak is cooked to perfection. Rob Smith unknowingly orders a ludicrously large prime rib, and we have a great dinner to close out the weekend.
Incredible experience, obviously the one to go to if you had a chance. Now I’m extra fired up to qualify again soon. Death and Taxes was really well positioned, but needs to be adjusted to beat Death’s Shadow. Put a War Priest of Thune and a Sword of Light and Shadow in your board and you’ll do fine.