It’s something we remind ourselves to do. We all do our best to remain vigilant and determined in a match but sometimes the mind wanders and our thoughts waiver. It happens to the best of us and it happened to me.
This past Saturday was my Regional Pro Tour Qualifier and I was lucky enough to have taken down a modern Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier tournament a few weeks prior to qualify. I spent the weeks leading up to the RPTQ practicing on Magic Online to make sure I was familiar enough with the sealed format to feel comfortable in all situations.
I was given a pool at the RPTQ that had two very distinct options. When looking at a sealed pool and making a decision on what to play there are a lot of things to consider. I mostly try to focus on the following questions and how well does my pool and potential deck(s) line up to the answers.
Mana Curve – Am I looking at a deck that can cast spells at all stages of the game?
Threats – How do I kill my opponent before they kill me?
Interaction – If my opponent has a bomb, how do I beat it?
Green Sealed Pool
Blue Sealed Pool
Black Sealed Pool
Multicolored and Colorless Sealed Pool
White Sealed Pool
Red Sealed Pool
Mana Curve – I believe the worst attribute this deck holds is in the Mana Curve. It’s clear as day that we’ve got nothing going on turns four or five. This is a big deterrent since these turns often define a match. The one thing this has going for it is that the two and three drops are extremely effective defensive cards that can buy us time for our late game.
Threats – Speaking of our late game, the threat category is pretty high here. There’s no shortage of Dragons to choose from. Assuming we live long enough to deploy our threats, there aren’t very many decks out there that can match the raw power this top end has to offer.
Interaction – Having access to multiple kill spells and even a protection spell gives us the ability to fight through some scary things. There’s nothing worse than staring at an opponent’s dragon and being unable to stop it from killing you. Since sealed is often times defined by rares and bombs, its necessary you have some way to interact with them or face a quick departure.
Mana Curve – This is pretty close to the dream. The five slot is slightly bogged down and I even had to cut a very reasonable spell in Ojutai’s Summons to make sure the curve works. The role we are playing is clearly defensive and our deck does a pretty good job of doing that.
Threats – The bombs don’t just stop with Option A. This deck also offers multiple rare dragons, a way to tutor for said dragons, and some other evasive creatures that can sometimes just steal games. This Esper deck offers a higher quantity of evasive threats and is the front runner in this category.
Interaction – This is where we have a rather big problem. We’re missing all of the common removal black is known for and stuck with having to splash a third color to give us a chance against opposing threats. The blue does offer some soft interaction with Sidisi’s Faithful and Aven Surveyor. However, Option A has a clear advantage in this category.
In the end I decided to choose Option B with having the capability of boarding into Option A if the circumstances warranted. My reasoning behind this was that the Mana Curve and Threat category was in favor of Option B. The interaction category went to Option A, but that wasn’t enough to make it the front runner. I also really enjoy the U/B archetype in this format and although the removal suite isn’t the greatest, there is a decent amount of bounce effects as well to help interact with my opponent to some degree.
I’m not going to bore you with the play by play of each of the six rounds of swiss. I will only bring up that this was a 34 player event and that crazy things happen when there’s just a couple of players over to cause an additional round in swiss. (32 players is 5 rounds)
Round 1: Win
Round 2: Loss
Round 3: Loss
Round 4: Win
Round 5: Win
Round 6: Win
Normally at 1-2 I call it a day and head home knowing there’s no shot at making top 8. However with the absurd payout of RPTQ’s that pay down to top 24, it made sense to stick around with only 34 players participating. Going in to the final round I was sitting in 15th place and my tie-breakers weren’t great given how early my losses happened. Remember when I said crazy things happen?
Yes, that happened. A tie-breaker dream jumped me a whopping seven places to steal a slot in the top 8. My feelings of elation where short lived however. Looking at who I was playing made me realize this was the same guy I lost to in round two, who had a much better deck than me.
But wait! Isn’t top 8 supposed to draft? Why yes it is! For those not in the know however, Wizards of the Coast decided that it would make more sense to have top 8 just play out one more round of sealed since it cuts to top 4 for the Pro Tour invites.
Discouraged and knowing my deck was heavily outclassed, my fears where confirmed when I was thoroughly thrashed again game 1. My Esper deck simply can’t beat this G/W monstrosity my opponent had, and I decided my only chance was to switch it up and finally give Option A it’s time to shine. I was rewarded game two with an early Echoes of the Kin Tree which allowed me to push ahead and steal game two while my opponent flooded out. Game 3 my opponent misses his third land drop and I do my best to pounce on the situation. A streak of four consecutive land drops followed his miss and the game got very interesting. So much so that I lost my focus and let the match slip away. I played back the match in my head and found the pivotal turn.
Opponent: Morph, 3 Plains, 2 Forest (all untapped). Six cards in hand.
Life Totals: Me: 20 Him: 16
Knowledge of Opponents Deck: Enduring Victory, Hidden Dragonslayer, Den Protector, Dromoka’s Gift, Channel Harm, Pacifism, Return to Earth, Epic Confrontation, Hunt the Weak, Sandsteppe Mastodon, Valorous Stance and Pinion Feast. There’s a Valorous Stance and Colossodon Yearling in his graveyard.
I had lost my focus and all I saw was a dead opponent who didn’t know it yet. I’m clearly in a commanding position and couldn’t fathom my opponent winning this game. It’s your precombat main phase. What’s the correct play?
What I did: I Megamorphed my Segmented Krotiq precombat, attempting to kill my opponents face down morph thanks to Temur War Shaman. I did this with the logic if I attack with my team he can block the morphed Segmented Krotiq and offer the trade. If I try to then Megamorph my opponent could have the Enduring Victory to prevent me from fighting and killing his morph.
What I should have done: I should have just attacked with my team and allowed my opponent to offer the trade. Since he has five mana untapped and plenty of cards in hand he clearly has a plan to do something. Anything at all he plans on doing will allow me to respond with the Megamorph to kill his face down creature. If he decides to do nothing I can follow up my attack with a Stampeding Elk Herd and be miles ahead on board.
What Happened: I Megamorphed my Krotiq precombat in an attempt to kill his morph. In response, he megamorphed a Den Protector returning the Valorous Stance to his hand and killing my Segmented Krotiq. I lose my only opportunity to kill his Den Protector, tap out for the turn being unable to cast my Stampeding Elk Herd, and he ends up winning the game a few turns later when he used Dromoka’s Gift to make Den Protector unblockable while using cards like Enduring Victory and Channel Harm to prevent me from racing.
Had I spent the time to thoroughly think things out and focus I’d be back on the Pro Tour right now. Instead I’m qualified for the next RPTQ and continue my streak of coming up just short as of late. That play was match defining and has taught me an invaluable lesson. Always stay focused! The game isn’t over until your opponent is at 0 life or 0 cards.
The best thing I get to take away from this is I recognize my mistake. A lot of people (myself included until recently) would just blame luck. After all, he did keep a two land hand and drew four straight lands. How lucky is that? At the end of the day I am solely responsible for the play that decided that game and no manner of luck changes that. Hopefully you can learn from this as well and not make the same mistake that I made in the future.
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