Living the Pro Tour Dream

Written by Josh Milliken on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

Living the Pro Tour Dream

Josh Milliken

Josh is a grinder from Ohio. He has several Top 8s across various formats to his credit, competed at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica, and is the 2013 Pennsylvania state champion.

July 28

6 a.m: I wake up from a dream where I’m hoisting a trophy over my head in victory.

8 p.m: I’m 5-1 in a seven-round PTQ, and nobody can draw into the Top 8. Oh man, this is brutal.

9:30 p.m.: I’m playing the best player in the first round of Top 8? Yes! He’s playing Delver. I roll him 2-0.

10:15 p.m.: Can this finally happen? Can I finally win a PTQ? The mirror match!?!? Well at least I came prepared. Wow, that was easier than I thought. This deck is really nuts.

11 p.m.: I finally made it to the finals. I’ve played my opponent several times before and he’s playing the same U/W Delver list I’ve been rolling all day? Sweet!!!

11:30 p.m.: I won a PTQ? I just won a PTQ?? I JUST WON A PTQ!!! Wait, when is the Pro Tour? What format is the Pro Tour? Who cares. I’ll figure it out when I calm down. I JUST WON A PTQ!!!!

12 a.m.: I gotta let my wife know. I gotta let my friends know. Oh man, I’ve got an hour and a half ride home by myself.

I played this list…

July 29

11 a.m.: I wake up. I JUST WON A PTQ!!! oh yeah, I need to find out what formats.

11:15 a.m.: Modern and Return to Ravnica Draft? Wow, Modern. I love Modern!

11:30 a.m.: Hmm, what do I play? I just made Day 2 of GP Columbus with RUG Delver last week, should I play that again?

11:45 a.m.: After a quick refresher of the decks in the format … Burn? Screw that. Affinity? I hate Affinity. Jund? I love Jund, but I don’t think it’s good enough. Pod? Eww, this deck is way too delicate. Tron? Just isn’t my style. Tokens? This deck is terrible! Storm? Way too much math. UWR Delver? I’m really not feeling it. I guess RUG Delver it is then!

12:30 p.m.: Oh man, Return to Ravnica is probably going to change everything. I better hold off testing until I see what the set brings.

 

August 27

12:01 a.m.:
Street Spasm: This seems OK, but not good enough for RUG.

Dreg Mangler: Wow, he’s pretty good. He will definitely see a lot of Standard play.

Korozda Guildmage: This seems pretty good. What’s that beside it?

Izzet Charm: Oh … my …. god. This is exactly what I’ve been wanting in my deck. How many do I run?

Goblin Electromancer: OK, what’s next in the spoilers …

Ahhh, that’s all!?!? I need more spoilers!!!

12:30 a.m.: I can’t sleep, I’m too excited about the spoilers from Return to Ravnica.

I change my list from this …

To this …

September 1-2

Lots of new cards. Whew, I’m glad Azorius Charm isn’t as strong as I feared. I should still be fine on my first choice of RUG Delver for the Pro Tour.

Dreadbore seems really good, but it doesn’t feel like it should be a rare. Jund may play a copy or two if it wants to kill planeswalkers on the cheap. Judge’s Familiar is really, really good, but there’s already Cursecatcher in Modern so that doesn’t change anything. Selesnya Charm is pretty solid, and a G/W aggro deck may crop up in Modern using it. Jace, Architect of Thought is really exciting, but it’s just unfortunate that he’s too slow for Modern.

There are too many rares and not enough commons spoiled to get a clear picture of how Limited is going to play out just yet, but it looks promising. The detain ability seems really good in Limited, but really meh in Constructed.

September 6

G/B is really getting a strong push this set. Abrupt Decay was just spoiled. At least Jund can’t replace all their removal with it or they just lose to Restoration Angel.

Lots of Modern fringe playable cards so far like Lotleth Troll, Selesnya Charm, Supreme Verdict and Slaughter Games. Dryad Militant and Judge’s Familiar are really good, but they shouldn’t be too much of an issue. I wonder what Izzet is going to get as an uncounterable spell?

 

September 9

My first Modern testing is today with RUG Delver vs. Jund. The Jund list is the one Yuuya Watanabe used to win the 2012 Players Championship and the RUG Delver list is the one I’ve been working on. Jund will probably account for at least 20 percent of the decks at the Pro Tour, so I need to ensure my matchup is good.

Testing went OK. I played eight matches and was pretty close to breaking even with Jund with all games being presideboard. I’m not sure if Blood Moon would help. The games I lost were when Jund had lots of discard or resolved a Liliana of the Veil. The games I won, I just dominated. Pillar of Flame was amazing at killing Dark Confidant and Kitchen Finks when they resolved. Izzet Charm wwas decent, but not game-changing against Jund.

September 11

With Liliana of the Veil being such a problem, I may want to run Obstinate Baloth instead of Huntmaster of the Fells. Liliana is such a gamebreaker against RUG Delver that she’s almost impossible to come back from.

With Izzet Charm in the maindeck now, I may only need one Spell Pierce. All the combo matches are so ridiculously in my favor anyway, that one sideboard card shouldn’t make a difference.

September 12

Counterflux could be a decent sideboard card against Jund to take away their Cascade advantage. It might also be decent against counter matchups, but I wouldn’t run more than one or two.

September 14

Ash Zealot could be really good if a Loam deck becomes a problem, and it will be a card to keep in mind in the future.

Rakdos Charm was just spoiled, and I don’t know why everyone is so down on it. If they had seen this charm first they would love it like I do. Blistercoil Weird also seems pretty good for RDW, but not for a deck like RUG Delver.

There’s been a lot of non Modern playable cards that I’m liking, but I think Jund Control is where I’m going to be in Standard.

Next testing session, my sideboard will change drastically from …

To this …

The R/W/U Tempo deck is not a good matchup for RUG Delver because of Geist of St. Traft, so I’m trying to minimize that with Blood Moon and Volcanic Fallout instead of the slower Bonfire of the Damned. Jund will also get easier if I have Blood Moon to slow them down and Obstinate Baloth to drop off Liliana. The extra Vendilion Clique will most likely come out for a third Ancient Grudge becaise it generally only comes in against the combo match ups.

September 18

Rest in Peace will be a decent card across all formats, and definitely a card to watch out for but will not have a huge impact on Modern. There’s some interesting cards with Overload, but none really seem to be what RUG Delver would want.

Annihilating Fire may see some play, but is generally overcosted for the decks that would want it. Detention Sphere should make a splash in the U/W decks because it’s pretty much everything that deck wants in a removal spell. I really like Deathrite Shaman, but it probably won’t see much play because it’s slow and fragile.

 

September 20

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle just got unbanned. While I am not sure how huge this is yet, I am sure it is quite relevant. Some Valakut decks will be played at the Pro Tour, most likely in conjunction with Scapeshift, Primeval Titan and Prismatic Omen.

I need Blood Moon in my sideboard now, unless I want to just lose to ramp decks the whole time. It will generally lose to the other combo decks, but will kill the aggro and Jund decks pretty consistently.

While Valakut is not a deck I want to play it is definitely a deck to fear. It could sideboard into Splinter Twin and be RUG for countermagic because most of the hate will not overlap.

A sample list that I fleshed out in about 15 minutes …

While I think the whole set was spoiled yesterday or the day before, I have only glanced at about 30 of the new cards. Phantom General has the possibility to see play in the tokens decks, thought it may be one mana too much. Sphere of Safety may make an Enchantress deck possible, but Enchantress is probably too slow for Modern Blustersquall, Cyclonic Rift and Downsize may see some play in a control deck with Snapcaster Mage.

September 21

I played nine sideboarded games against Jund tonight, finishing 5-4. I tried the following sideboard plans:

RUG Delver
-3 Izzet Charm; -4 Cryptic Command; -2 Vendilion Clique
+1 Spell Snare; +1 Grim Lavamancer; +3 Blood Moon; +2 Obstinate Baloth; +2 Dismember

Jund
-2 Maelstrom Pulse; -1 Jund Charm
+2 Seal of Primordium; +1 Nihil Spellbomb

I’m not sure if that was correct on the Jund side, but I wasn’t real sure on what to take out because everything feels significant when I’m playing against it.

Blood Moon was ridiculous and won me at least three games pretty much on its own. Obstinate Baloth was really good as well, but uncastable once I land a Blood Moon. It needs more testing to determine whether he merits slots in the sideboard. The Vendilion Clique slot in the sideboard could become a third Obstinate Baloth depending on further testing.

The Dismembers were solid, and provided me a way to kill opposing Tarmogoyfs that I had been missing. I never got to activate [cardGrim Lavamancer[/card] because he ate a Lightning Bolt every time I cast him, he may not be right for against Jund.

September 29

After reviewing the spoiler, I decided to switch from Golgari to Selesnya for my prerelease because of the high power level of the cards. When the shop owner called me up to get my Guild Pack, he tried to give me Golgari. I’m glad I corrected him.

When I opened my Guild Pack I found two Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, two Grove of the Guardian, and a Loxodon Smiter as my playable rares/mythics. I also had a considerable amount of populate, which led to many games of three to four 8/8 tokens beating down my opponents.

This pool helped me easily 6-0 the prerelease and win a box of Return to Ravnica, which I intend to use to practice drafting.

October 2

We did two drafts because we had exactly enough product. I won’t be able to get as much of a feel for the format as most of the players at the Pro Tour, so I needed to see if forcing G/W or G/W/b is a viable option every draft.

Draft one I was easily able to draft what I expected to draft. I won Round 1 quite easily, but lost in Round 2 because of not hitting a sixth mana so I could deal with his Lotleth Troll. We decided it would be in our best interest to move on to the next draft instead of playing Round 3 since it was late.

I was easily able to draft what I expected to again, but this time I took Growing Ranks instead of Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage. As soon as I made the pick I knew it was a mistake. It ended up that most of my populate didn’t make creatures, but I did have two Call of the Conclave and a Selesnya Charm to keep copying.

I ended up losing Round 1 to an Izzet deck with Mercurial Chemister and a lot of tricks. In Round 2 I faced what was essentially a mono-removal deck, but fortunately my deck was just too aggressive. We then again decided not to worry about Round 3 because it was closing in on midnight.

I should easily be able to force Selesnya in future drafts. It will give me the best chance to beat the players who came more prepared for the draft portion of the event.

October 5

I forced Selesnya again at FNM. The more I play it, the better it seems to get. I went 4-0-1 after intentionally drawing with a friend. The Golgari deck I faced in the finals was one of my easiest matches.

October 6

My Modern sideboard will change from …

To this …

10:30 a.m.: I’ll be playing in a Sealed GPT shortly. Hopefully I make Top 8 so I get to draft.

10:50 p.m.: I made Top 8 and drafted Selesnya splashing black. I won Round 1 quite easily, but lost in Round 2 to the mirror match. I don’t feel like my deck could have lost to any other deck in the Top 8. The only reason I lost to the mirror was he had Grove of the Guardian early both games.

October 8

I’m considering adding a manland to RUG Delver, but not sure which one yet or which land to take out for it.

October 9

My tentative sideboard plan is as follows…

Jund
-4 Cryptic Command; -2 Vendilion Clique; -3 Izzet Charm
+1 Spell Snare; +2 Dismember; +3 Blood Moon; +3 Obstinate Baloth

WUR Tempo
-3 Izzet Charm; -2 Pillar of Flame; -2 Vedalken Shackles; -2 Cryptic Command
+3 Blood Moon; +2 Dismember; +1 Spell Snare; +2 Firespout; +1 Grim Lavamancer

Affinity
-4 Cryptic Command; -1 Izzet Charm; -2 Vendilion Clique
+1 Spell Snare; +1 Nature’s Claim; +1 Grim Lavamancer; +2 Ancient Grudge; +2 Firespout

Pod
-4 Tarmogoyf; -2 Spell Snare; -2 Izzet Charm
+1 Grim Lavamancer; +2 Firespout; +2 Dismember; +3 Blood Moon

Burn
-2 Vendilion Clique; -2 Vedalken Shackles
+3 Obstinate Baloth; +1 Grim Lavamancer

G/R Tron
-2 Vedalken Shackles; -2 Pillar of Flame
+1 Spell Snare; +3 Blood Moon

Splinter Twin
-2 Pillar of Flame; -2 Spell Snare
+2 Dismember; +1 Grim Lavamancer; +1 Nature’s Claim

Monoblue Faeries
-2 Pillar of Flame; -3 Izzet Charm
+2 Ancient Grudge; +1 Grim Lavamancer; +2 Dismember

Storm
-2 Pillar of Flame; -2 Vedalken Shackles
+2 Firespout; +1 Spell Snare; +1 Nature’s Claim

Merfolk
-3 Izzet Charm; -3 Cryptic Command
+2 Dismember; +1 Grim Lavamancer; +1 Spell Snare; +2 Firespout

U/W Control
-3 Izzet Charm; -2 Spell Snare; -2 Cryptic Command; -1 Mana Leak
+1 Grim Lavamancer; +2 Dismember; +2 Firespout; +3 Blood Moon

Tokens
-2 Pillar of Flame; -2 Vendilion Clique
+2 Firespout; +1 Spell Snare; +1 Grim Lavamancer

Zoo
-2 Vendilion Clique; -4 Cryptic Command; -3 Izzet Charm; -2 Pillar of Flame
+3 Obstinate Baloth; +2 Firespout; +1 Spell Snare; +2 Dismember; +3 Blood Moon

Valakut
-2 Pillar of Flame; -2 Vedalken Shackles
+1 Spell Snare; +3 Blood Moon

Infect
-3 Izzet Charm; -4 Cryptic Command; -2 Vendilion Clique
+3 Blood Moon; +1 Spell Snare; +2 Dismember; +2 Firespout; +1 Grim Lavamancer

October 15

I just moved to my new place with only a couple days before I leave for Seattle. It’s not looking like I’ll get any more solid testing before the Pro Tour.

I hope it’s enough …

— Josh Milliken
@joshuamilliken on Twitter

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