Reliving the Pro Tour Dream

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

Reliving 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.

October 15

When I left you last, I didn’t think I would get to do anymore testing. But it turns out a local shop has Monday Night Magic and the format is Draft. I arrived a little early so I could introduce myself, and I just hate being late. I was surprised to hear they had 14 players and were splitting up into two pods — one of six and one of eight — and that we would play between pods. I drafted a Junk Populate deck with such hits as Necropolis Regent, Vraska the Unseen and Deathrite Shaman. I quickly went 4-0-1 with an intentional draw in the last round.

October 16

After I got home, I found out Return to Ravnica drafts were running on Magic Online. I was primarily G/W in all six drafts I played, winning one, taking second in two, losing in the second round of one, and losing in the first round of two. While those aren’t amazing results, I didn’t feel they were particularly bad either.

October 17

I didn’t get to test anymore Modern, but still felt like Jund was a coin flip and that I could beat pretty much everything else. I also felt I had the meta pegged, and that Jund decks would lose to Scapeshift decks and the Scapeshift decks would lose to the Tempo decks. With that in mind, I made some changes to the main deck and sideboard before I left for the airport.

This is what I played at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica …

I decided I would probably play against a lot of decks with counterspells, and that Krosan Grip, Volcanic Fallout, Counterflux and Thrun, the Last Troll would be important for me to win those matches. I also decided cutting the Mountain for Raging Ravine would be a great threat against Jund and Tempo decks, and that it would help cast Obstinate Baloths and Thrun, the Last Troll. These did not change my sideboard plans much because I still brought the new cards in for the matchups that I took the old cards from.

October 18

I got into Seattle around noon. Because registration didn’t start until 6 p.m. I headed to my hotel to rest for the evening.

I made it back to the registration site and it was packed with familiar faces plus a lot of people I didn’t recognize. I decided to get in line for registration and see what was going on afterward. After about five minutes, I was crashed into by a very excited and laughing Yuuya Watanabe before he bolted upstairs. Maybe he knew how well he would do this weekend.

Finally I made it to registration and was given all of this …

 I didn’t realize they gave so much stuff away. It was no wonder everyone was so excited to be there early.

After about 15 minutes sitting around, Caleb Durward asked me if I wanted to draft. That was a no-brainer because I needed more practice and playing with other Pro Tour competitors would go a long way. I drafted Bant with Populate because I kept opening blue bombs and was passed a pair of Temple Gardens. I won my first round off Volatile Rig alone because no one ever wants to set it off, and then I got crushed in the second round and was out of our tournament.At least I could go back to my hotel and get some food and sleep now.

October 19

I got to the shuttle site early and met Tony Tømmeraas of Norway. We started talking and ended up hanging out most of the weekend because it was Tony’s first Pro Tour as well, and he didn’t really know anyone else. We went over his Affinity sideboard and made a few changes before watching the Pro Tour Hall of Fame induction ceremony. It didn’t last very long, but it felt good to see some amazingly talented people honored for their achievements.

Tony and I ran through a few games to make sure our decks were shuffled well enough. I told him, “I lose more matches due to my deck not being shuffled enough before the tournament.” Just a few minutes later, the first round of my first Pro Tour began …

Modern

Round 1 — Jund (Chee Chong Hiew)

I started off with a pretty decent hand Game 1, but got it stripped of everything relevant and then flooded. I got stuck on land and wasn’t able to draw the spells I needed in time to stop the beating he was giving me.

Lost 0-2
Overall: 0-1 (0-2)

Round 2 — Eggs (Lucas Florent)

In the first game, I kept a one-land hand with a lot of action but didn’t draw my second land or flip my Delver of Secrets until the turn before he went off. I kept on a fairly aggressive hand in Game 2, and he went off the turn before I was going to kill him.

Lost 0-2
Overall: 0-2 (0-4)

Round 3 — Jund (Michael Hopkins)

I never really got into Game 1 because he resolved three Kitchen Finks. In Game 2, I resolved an Obstinate Baloth and Thrun, the Last Troll while beating down with an Insectile Abberation to tie up the score.

In Game 3, I mulliganed to six and he stripped all nonland cards from my hand on his second turn. I eventually ripped a Blood Moon and Lightning Bolt to kill his Liliana of the Veil. I was getting beat down by a Kitchen Finks when I ripped a Snapcaster Mage to flashback Pillar of Flame. I was at only two life and finished my opponent the turn before he would have drawn Lightning Bolt.

Won 2-1
Overall: 1-2 (2-5)

Round 4 — G/W/u/r Through the Breach (Kenny Mayer)

I felt like I was in really good shape because I didn’t know what he was playing early in Game 1. Then he played a red source and cast Through the Breach putting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play to one-shot me. In Game 2, I blind-flipped a Delver of Secrets and controlled the game while I finished him off.

In Game 3, he kept a one-land hand with two Birds of Paradise. When he passed with two Birds of Paradise and a 2/2 Knight of the Reliquary in play, I played my land and cast Volcanic Fallout to knock him out of the game.

Won 2-1
Overall: 2-2 (4-6)

Round 5 — Scapeshift (Pere Llimos Muntal)

In Game 1, he managed to Remand my Vendilion Clique three times and then have a Cryptic Command to prevent me from stopping him. In Game 2, I blind-flipped Delver of Secrets and kept him from going off while it finished him.

I was pretty unfortunate in Game 3. It ended with Island, Breeding Pool, Forest in play on my side and two Blood Moon, two Mana Leak and Snapcaster Mage in my hand. He didn’t have the means to deal with double Mana Leak, or even a single Blood Moon, but I just couldn’t get there.

Lost 1-2
Overall: 2-3 (5-7)

Draft Pod No. 1

Field: Samuel Pardee, Gabriel Nieves, Joshua Milliken, Cesar Soto, Miguel Angel Dapia Silva, Joshua Cho, Rick Lee, Thiago Oliveira.

Round 6 — Joshua Cho

I entered feeling like I had the absolute best deck at the table, but Josh Cho quickly showed me otherwise with a timely Teleportal in Games 1 and 3.

Lost 1-2
Overall: 2-4 (6-9)

Round 7 — Miguel Angel Dapia Silva

I had a very aggressive start that my opponent just couldn’t do anything about in either game, which made me feel a lot better about my deck after the previous round loss.

Won 2-0
Overall: 3-4 (8-9)

Round 8 — Samuel Pardee

This is it. If I win, I make Day 2. If I lose, I draft for the next two days.

I would like to say these games were close, but they were all blowouts that neither player’s deck could handle. I’m just glad the final blowout was in my favor, and that I would get to play in all 16 rounds of the swiss.

Won 2-1
Overall: 4-4 (10-10)

October 20

Draft Pod No. 2

Field: Andrew Sullano, William Jensen, David Sharfman, Patrick Cox, Chikara Nakajima, Joshua Milliken, Randy Cummings, Aaron Biddle.

I sat down from a very nervous young kid named Aaron Biddle. He was freaking out about the players in our draft pod. I explained they’re only people and you can still beat them. He seemed to calm down a little bit after we chatted for a few minutes. Then the draft started.

This had to have been one of the most loaded drafts ever. The rares/mythics that I know were opened …

3 Angel of Serenity
2 Rakdos, Lord of Riots
3 Mercurial Chemister
2 Lotleth Troll
1 Archon of the Triumvirate
1 Hypersonic Dragon
1 Dreadbore
1 Loxodon Smiter

I ended up facing all three players who opened Angel of Serenity. Fortunately, the last opponent was unable to play his since he got cut on white.

Round 9 — Andrew Sullano

Game 1 wasn’t even close because I couldn’t draw white mana and he eventually killed me with Archon of the Triumvirate. I sideboarded in two Aerial Predations and quickly found out after killing his Archon of the Triumvirate that he also had Angel of Serenity. I killed the angel, but couldn’t find an answer to the Archon a second time or draw any creatures to finish him.

Lost 0-2
Overall: 4-5 (10-12)

Round 10 — David Sharfman

In Game 1, he jumped ahead pretty quickly and I wasn’t able to keep up with his aggressive Selesnya deck while I flooded. For Game 2, I brought in the Archweaver because his deck was in reality fairly slow. I got a Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage online and was getting to the point where I could start going for the kill when BOOM here comes Angel of Serenity. “Not again!” I cried out, as he took my guildmage and my blockers to end the game.

Lost 0-2
Overall: 4-6 (10-14)

Round 11 — Randy Cummings

As I sat down across from Randy, I told him how ridiculous the Draft pool was. After I won the match, he showed me the Angel of Serenity in his sideboard and had a good laugh. Randy played a fairly slow Jund deck, which allowed me to get Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage online to take Game 1. In Game 2, some Centaur Healers came to the rescue and quickly turned the game in my favor.

After a fairly abysmal start to the day I was ready to get back to Modern.

Won 2-0
Overall: 5-6 (11-14)

Modern

Round 12 — Affinity (Jorge Iramain)

In Game 1 he got off to a quick start and I stabilized at one life. Unfortunately, he drew Galvanic Blast to finish me on the one turn I needed to tap out. In Game 2, I controlled the pace of the game with a lot of Lightning Bolts, Pillar of Flame and Snapcaster Mages flashing them back.

In game 3, I mulliganed to five for a fairly mediocre hand and drew Ancient Grudge on my first draw step. I proceeded to draw very well while he did not, which allowed me to take the match.

Won 2-1
Overall: 6-6 (13-15)

Round 13 — RWU Tempo (Anthony Huynh)

I controlled the pace of Game 1 with an early Vedalken Shackles that he could not overcome. In Game 2, I drew my Volcanic Fallouts for his Geist of Saint Trafts, and I had the Spell Snare for his Snapcaster Mage when he went for the win.

Won 2-0
Overall: 7-6 (15-15)

Round 14 — Jund (Martin Juza)

In Game 1, he mulliganed to five and I tried to play around everything I thought he was trying to do. Unfortunately that led me down the path of defeat. In Game 2, he kept a very good hand while I mulliganed to six.

I told him, “I had three Blood Moon, but only one land.” I hoped it would make him slow down and play differently to give me time to get in the game. It sadly didn’t work, and he neither played around it nor played slower. The game was over in less than eight minutes, and I knew I was playing for pride the rest of the day.

Lost 0-2
Overall: 7-7 (15-17)

Round 15 — U/R Storm (Gaudenis Vidugiris)

When Gaudenis sat down across from me, he looked very angry. I was a little unsettled at first but then tried to talk to him. He ended up being a pretty nice guy, even while his deck was giving him nothing.

In Game 1, I kept a fairly slow hand and was pleasantly surprised when I saw he was playing Storm Combo because it’s a very easy matchup. After a few turns, I cast Vendilion Clique on his end step and saw two Past in Flames, Gitaxian Probe and a few rituals. I decided I would take nothing, and proceeded to beat him down while he drew no win conditions. In Game 2, I kept a very good hand against him and ended the game by Turn 6 with a flipped Delver of Secrets, some Lightning Bolts and a Snapcaster Mage.

He wanted to discuss lines of play for a few minutes, so I sat and talked. He was by far one of the friendliest pros I encountered all weekend.

Won 2-0
Overall: 8-7 (17-17)

Round 16 — U/W Control (Aaron Biddle)

Remember Aaron? The kid that was nervous about Draft Pod No. 2? We talked for a few minutes before our match started. Even though I beat him pretty badly, we hung out most of Sunday and drafted.

Both games went almost exactly the same — Turn 1 Delver of Secrets, Turn 2 Tarmogoyf and Turn 3 or 4 Vedalken Shackles. This was probably the worst thing he could see while never drawing Path to Exile. When he did try something, I had either Mana Leak or Cryptic Command to tell him no.

Won 2-0
Overall: 9-7 (19-17)

After the match I found out there was an announcement. A new booster product called Modern Masters with all reprints for Modern. I was very happy to hear the news even though I own most Modern staples. I have been trying to get people into the format, but their biggest complaint is that they don’t have the cards. This helps solve that problem.

My final record was 9-7, only good enough for 131st and no prize.

October 21

With only the Top 8 remaining, I rolled into the venue early for the free drafts and socializing. It turns out Aaron Biddle and his dad had the same idea, and we ended up drafting together while talking about all things Magic. Tony finally rolled and did a draft with us, but I think our American food did him in as he left sick after the draft. I ended up getting in a total of about six drafts that day, and had a great time. Hopefully I get to go back to the Pro Tour again soon to compete with the best of the best.

To sum up my weekend is a Tweet I made after finishing Day 2…

[tweet https://twitter.com/joshuamilliken/status/260212937359253504]

I will definitely be trying harder than ever to make it back onto the Pro Tour. It’s good times, good people, and insanely good competition.

— Josh Milliken
@joshuamilliken on Twitter

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