As you’ve likely already seen, my first Pro Tour did not go as well as I had hoped. It finished 2-6, with a miserable draft deck and a half-hearted attempt at Standard after taking two unusual losses. Right now (as in the moment I’m typing this, not the moment you’re reading this), I’m sitting in the spectator area watching some the still-playing competitors build their draft decks.
So what went wrong? “A lot” could be an answer but I think it’s not quite accurate. “Nothing I’m just unlucky” would be an outright lie. Honestly, the answer is somewhere in between. I think it’s important to look at the good and the bad. My first Pro Tour experience was not as amazing from a playing perspective but I still want to get the most out of it that I can. That means I need to make genuine assessments of where I can improve and what I think worked for me already. Like I said before, you can get bitter or you can get better and I would like to do the latter.
Point of Success #1: Deck Selection
I think for Standard I chose an excellent deck. Looking at the day 1 metagame breakdown, 12.5% of players decided to sleeve up Mono-Red and I was among them. My main reason for selecting the deck was its matchups against Jeskai Control and the W/r Aggro decks that dominated the MTGO PTQ the week before. In fact some of the power teams decided to sleeve up Adanto Vanguard and Heroic Reinforcements.
Mono Red does struggle with Boros Angels and GB but my thought was that, while GB would be the most popular deck, I didn’t believe that either deck would dominate the top tables to the point where I would need to play them more than 3 times during the event.
Point of Improvement #1: More In-person Testing
As you have probably noticed, I played a lot of MTGO over the past few months. Like a crazy amount. The only non-MTGO that I played was 17 rounds of casual store-level play and a 3-round draft. And as you probably remember, 5 of those rounds were Vintage. This ended up being a detriment to my gameplay.
Hardcore MTGO players will know that the stops are points where you can remember you want to act. There’s a visual reminder that you can and should double check if you want to do something. When playing your match, however, there is not reminder or visual cue that something is going to trigger during combat or that an effect is active. During the tournament, I missed effects three times in the same match, 2 from History of Benalia and 1 from Legion’s Landing. I had answers to both but I honestly forgot about the History triggers and forgot to respond in the beginning of combat to Shock the third creature to turn off the Legion’s Landing. If this was MTGO, I wouldn’t have missed the fact that a Knight token was a 5/4 between a History of Benalia and the Belanish Marshal and thrown away a Goblin Chainwhirler.
During my next major event, I need to spend more time testing live, especially against decks like the decks that have some many effects that affect power and toughness at non-square values (think History of Benalia, Adanto Vanguard, Ghitu Lavarunner, Knight of Grace). Making better attempts to understand the board state at any given time would have won me at least 3 different games during the Pro Tour.
Point of Success #2: Avoiding Tilt
This isn’t a large problem for me but I think it is very easily to lash out when things don’t go your way on such a large stage. As I mentioned before, this has been a goal of mine since I was a child and nobody plans on having a below average day on their first day. I tried to take in as much as I could enjoyed all 8 rounds of play. I don’t get many opportunities to play against elite competition such as Shahar Shenhar.
The reality is that everyone at the Pro Tour deserves to be there. I played against mostly GP Top 8 competitors, which is something I’ve never accomplished. In a lot of respects, I am one of the worst players in the room so I should try to soak up everything that I can rather than complain about my poor luck.
On another note, not everyone is making day 2. I’m sitting next to Christian Calcano who has a Pro Tour Top 8 and talked to Gabriel Nassif, who is in the Hall of Fame, and neither them is made day 2 either. This event is just hard and even the best in the world fall short sometimes.
Point of Improvement #2: Drafting
I drafted GRN 15 times and watched probably as many videos. Even with that, I felt very lost while drafting and my deck reflected that. I started off with Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice, then with no phenomenal cards in red or white, I second-picked a Deadly Visit. This started me down a path of picked up Dimir cards, then Izzet cards, before eventually coming back to Boros. I sacrificed about 5 quality picks early in pack 2 on a deck that I didn’t play. Little did I know, this caused the player to my left to play Boros as well, which led to a below average pack 2 for me.
Limited is one of my major weaknesses. Both Draft and Sealed are formats with unknown quantities and concepts for decks rather than hard-and-fast rules. The way I think, I need consistent ideas to make my decisions in. Limited requires you to adapt and roll with the punches; I don’t want to do that. I need to find someone who I can work with to improve that. That’s my goal before MagicFest New Jersey next year.
Point of Success #3: Papers, Planes, and Deadlines
I was very lucky to find a room for this event. I normally travel with the same 5 or so players and, unfortunately, none of them were qualified. I was very anxious being in an airport for the first time alone, registering everything for the Pro Tour deadlines, and trying to leave my classroom for 3 days at the end of the quarter. While everything was certainly not ideal, neither is life. I know I have a lot of work to return to on Tuesday but I put myself in a position where I won’t be crushed by everything.
Point of Improvement #3: Finding my Way Back
As of right now, I have no idea how I’m supposed to make my way back to the Pro Tour. I am already qualified for the RPTQ in January but that’s a lot of eggs in one basket. I need to make a stronger effort to try to requalify for the PT. The number of Grand Prix I have attended as plummeted over the past few years, some due to convenience (do you really expect me to drive to Columbus on a Friday night?) and some to circumstance (there’s always a local GP on the weekend of Halloween and Easter, which is close to my and my wife’s birthdays, respectively).
I think this whole experience has given me something to strive towards. The Pro Tour is a place where I can improve and gives me more incentive to get better and not be content with where I am as a Magic player. This is important enough to me that I want to come back and try to prove myself again. Hopefully I don’t have to wait another 18 years.
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