Hello ladies and Gents, Harrison here with another Magic: The Gathering article for you folks. This Sunday I attended the Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier being held at Good Games Brisbane. For those of you unfamiliar, first prize for the event was an invitation to the Regional Pro Tour Qualifiers being held in September and October (as well as a box of Modern Masters 2, but you know, that’s secondary) Top 4 from that Regional would find themselves playing professional Magic at the Pro Tour. I found myself in a very awkward position going in to the comp; I was playing a deck archetype that I was extremely familiar with – Burn – but I had recently changed it to include green and white spells. Super recently. The day before recently. So I was quietly confident, the deck plays super well and I felt like I had game against popular decks like Infect and Tron, but I was worried that my inexperience would hand me some losses. So for those of you interested, my (super obvious) 75 looked like:
Imma let you finish, but Goblin Guide is the best red one-drop of all time!
So yeah, nothing that breaks the mold there. I wasn’t entirely sold on the playset of Mutagenics, but they did a lot of work, including carrying me in my Round 2 game (but more on that below). The sideboard is where things get a little more interesting.
So to break it down real quickly for you folks;
Deflecting Palm comes in for Tron, Infect and (mistakenly) Scapeshift. Turns out I misunderstood how the Palm works, and it only stops the first bolt from Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Luckily, it didn’t end up doing me too much damage, but it was a close thing.
Destructive Revelry just breaks everything. In a format where every man and his dog is playing Spellskite, the Revelry almost single-handedly won me several of my rounds.
Molten Rain is there for Tron, Grixis, Jund and any deck that gets too greedy with its mana base. Either fortunately or unfortunately, I never ended up really needing the Rain, although it did come in handy a couple of times.
Path to Exile is my answer to Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Spellskite (again) and creatures that would otherwise be difficult to get rid of, such as when I go up Infect and they have Wild Defiance. It’s Path. There’s not a whole lot to say about it.
Pyrite Spellbomb is my cute tech pick to beat Etched Champion and Kor Firewalker, seeing as the source of the damage is colorless. Again, either fortunately or unfortunately I didn’t end up calling on Spellbomb much, but I’m glad it was there.
And finally, Searing Blaze is for games where I need removal against creatures. It did a decent amount of work, and I was happy to see it. In the future, I may want even more than 2.
Floor is Lava Level: Expert.
Looking back, I’m happy with the 75 I brought with me. The only change I would make is
-2 Grim Lavamancer
-1 Molten Rain (SB)
+2 Molten Rain
+1 Path to Exile (SB)
There were a lot of game 1’s where my opponents made greedy plays with their land base and I could have punished them for it. And the Lavamancer just didn’t carry his weight in a deck where every card needs to push out massive damage.
To summarise the event, there was 60 players who attended. We played for 6 rounds, with a cut to Top 8 following that. And the head judge was Yong Ming Lim, ably assisted by Johnny Tong, Chris Hudson and Alex Norris.
Round 1, 0-0 – ‘Bad Christmas’
So my Round 1 opponent was on UW Tron (no Gifts, so Bad Christmas) which was a kick in the teeth as this is a matchup I really have to fight for. I had a strong game 1, but my opponent stabilized with a Wurmcoil Engine on three life. Luckily, I had the Boros Charm and his permission proved ineffective.
Moving into game 2 my opponent found a turn 3 Wurmcoil, but looking at my pair of Skullcracks in hand I didn’t feel too bad about it. Unfortunately he followed that Wurmcoil up with a Batterskull, which I also felt okay about. The big issue came when he landed his Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. I can answer one big threat, I can even answer two. But three of them? On to game 3.
Game 3 I opened a hand of Revelry, two Atarka’s, a Molten Rain and three Mountains. Feeling okay that I would find a green source before it became desperate, I kept, but ended the game with three Commands and a Revelry in my hand. Hoping it wasn’t a sign for the rest of the day, I very quickly lost that game and the round.
For the man who wants to watch the world burn, one artifact or enchantment at a time.
Round 2, 0-1 – Grixis Twin
My opponent opened a fetchland, into a shockland, into a Serum Visions. This proved to be a mistake as I threw a flurry of Bolt variants at his face, and very rapidly cut his life total down. He cast an Electrolyze dealing one to my Lavamancer, and one to my face. I responded with a Growth, keeping my Lavamancer alive. He then decided to attack with his Deceiver Exarch, which I then blocked and shocked. From there, there was nothing much else for him to do, and I picked up the win convincingly.
Game 2 was a non-event, as he resolved a turn 4 Splinter Twin. Game 3 I resolved a turn 2 Eidolon, had the Path for his ‘Skite, and it was a sweep from there.
Round 3, 1-1 – UB Faeries
Following a short lunch break I sat down to a game 1 where a Swiftspear and a pair of Commands pushed through an insane amount of damage. My opponent attacked back with Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize and got me to nothing in hand, but my topdecks are just too good and I picked up the win.
Game 2 was basically a solitaire. He kept a one land hand based off some strong SB cards, but failed to find either the follow-up lands or a black source until it was far too late.
Round 4, 2-1 – Infect
In what was going to be a recurring theme for the day, my opponent opened into a Glistener Elf. But in the other recurring theme, Taylor Swiftspear carried me to a quick win.
Game two I was forced to used my burn spells to remove his creatures, and he resolved a Skite when I didn’t bring a Revelry.
Kicking myself for not anticipating that, or bringing the card that blows up his Inkmoth Nexus, I hastily sided and opened a hand of two fetches, a Swifty, a Mutagenic, a Command, a Charm and a Revelry and knew that I was going to take the win. I blitzed out 18 points of damage in three turns and picked up an easy win.
Round 5, 3-1 – Living End Cascade
After a deck check (everything coming back all good), my opponent cycled a Deadshot Minotaur, and I knew I was up against LEC. While it is a really strong combo deck that I personally am a big fan of, it does give me four uninterrupted turns to beat his face in. Burn capitalized, and after my opponent’s mulligan to 5 in game two, I was sitting pretty on 4 wins to 1 loss.
Round 6, 4-1 – Infect #2
Consulting the standings, I was forced to play it out to make the Top 8. Feeling the pressure myself, I put the pressure on my opponent and wrapped up game 1 in a few minutes.
Game 2 I was under the pump as my opponent played super aggressively – like Infect does – and I made my first and only Rule Violation of the day. I blocked my opponents 3/3 Glistener Elf with my Swiftspear, then Mutagenic’d it. I put the -1/-1 counter on my creature, untapped and went to my draw step. I was pulled up very quickly by the judge, and Swifty went to the graveyard. Without a blocker I lost in the next attack, and it was down to the wire.
My final game in the Swiss rounds demonstrated how consistent and aggressive Burn can really be. I rapidly knocked my opponent down to 4 life, and Eidolon kept him from being able to cast enough spells to win. With that, I slotted into 4th overall and was on my way to my first major Top 8!
Going to get real sick of this guy before too long ….
Quarterfinals – Jund
Game 1 I had the significant advantage of going first, and came out swinging. My opponent helped me out here as well, flipping a Tasigur off of his Dark Confidant. So with those two free Bolts and my opponent being forced to Terminate his own Bob, I won even through some major Liliana of the Veil pressure.
Game 2 Huntmaster of the Fells and Scavenging Ooze proved to be just way too much value, even with my opponent missing some of his triggers due to the Werewolf being in Japanese. I realized that this was going to be a major struggle if I wanted to stay in the competition.
Game 3 Luckily my deck delivered, giving me the absolutely crazy hand that I needed to win in three turns. It didn’t even feel real, but I’d just made Top 4 and was in with a shot to win.
Just as a real quick aside, it’s such a pain in the neck to deal with players who can’t play with any sort of professionalism. There’s a time and a place to joke, and have fun, and give your opponent passes on cutting the deck, or be sloppy with life total keeping. That place isn’t the Top 8 of a competition where first prize is a box of Modern Masters 2. And mid-round saying ‘sorry about that misplay, I’m a little bit drunk’? Absolutely poor form.
Semifinal – Scapeshift
So coming off that match, I was paired up against the other player in the Top 4 I wanted to play the least. My opponent is a champion guy and I enjoyed playing against and talking to him, but I did not feel favored in this game. However game 1 Swiftspear and Mutagenic proved just too good and I was – somehow – up a game.
Magic is a game of variance. Some days you do well, and some days you don’t. Luckily for me today was the day where my opponent didn’t do well, and kept a hand of a single land, a pair of Search for Tomorrow and a pair of Obstinate Baloths. He unfortunately didn’t find the fourth land until it was too late, and I had the Skullcrack to make his Baloth irrelevant. Stabilizing on three, he swung in, and with bated breath I cast the last card in my hand, a Deflecting Palm. Stone-cold, my opponent cast a Peer Through Depths. After looking over the cards, he extended the hand and I was playing for the win!
Talk to the hand, bub.
Finals – Infect #3
With my opponent picking up the critical first turn play, we entered probably the tensest round of Magic I have played to date. Game 1 had some back and forth, and I reduced my opponent to 7 life with a suspended Rift Bolt and a Boros Charm in hand. If I’d been able to untap I would have had the win, but Infect proved too fast and I was down a game.
Eidolon proved to be the MVP in the second game, sticking a ton of extra damage and putting my opponent in a game state where he had no way out. Of course, I’d be going to a third game.
With reflection, I think a correctly prepared sideboard and sideboard plan is one of the most effective tools you can bring to a game of Magic, and especially a game of Modern, where there are so many powerful combo decks, and powerful answers to those decks. Both of us demonstrated that, as on my opponent’s attack I had the well-timed Deflecting Palm for lethal damage back to him. Unfortunately he had the even-more-well-timed Feed the Clans to stabilize himself. With three attacking creatures I put the pressure back on, but the second Feed the Clans put him just out of reach. I came prepared to deal 20 damage, and I even managed 30, but 40 life just proved too much (I ended up dealing 33 damage over the course of the final game). Extending the hand, I ended up second in one of the biggest events I’ve played in to date.
Driving home I had a good think about the event, and the important thing I took away was that my technical play was excellent, my interaction with other players, judges and spectators was professional, I played some of the best Magic of my life, and I still came second. I also gained the realization that sometimes your best isn’t good enough, and I can accept it, improve myself where I need to and move on. In the long run, that’s going to be more useful that any invitation.
And my prizes had an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and a Noble Hierarch, so silver linings, right?
Thanks for reading ladies and gents, and I’ll see you next time.