It was a long time coming, but I finally made it. On a fateful Pro Tour Sunday in San Diego, I attained a goal toward which I had been striving my entire adult life. The blur of impossible obstacles, relentless naysayers, and my own sometimes-crippling doubts faded away as I reaped the just rewards of my accomplishment. A single tear of joy stained my cheek as I relished in this moment, the acme of a tireless life’s work, the realization of a golden dream. That’s right …
On Sunday, May 19, I experienced In-N-Out Burger for the first time.
But I’m getting ahead of myself! let’s start at the beginning.
BEFORE THE PRO TOUR
I came away from the MOCS in Boston tied for last, and a little bit salty. Previous MOCS events had been tied to the old World Championships, and the opportunity to compete at Worlds had been as much a part of the prize as the MOCS itself. When the MOCS was announced to be held at PAX East, I felt like I’d been cheated, that I’d won a 700-player PTQ only to be told at the end that WotC had moved the goalpost. So it came as quite a surprise when my friend Christian Valenti sent me a congratulatory text a few weeks after my trip to Boston. He told me to check my e-mail. Sure enough, each of the MOCSers received an invite to the Pro Tour of their choice. (I have no idea how Christian found out about it before I did.) Shortly thereafter, I was approached by Bernie Wen about working together with him and some other local PTQ winners. The common wisdom is that you need a team to succeed at the PT level, and I knew Bernie was a powerful wizard, so I was happy to accept.
Preparation for Block Constructed moved very slowly at first. Because of our team being relatively scattered, we spent a lot of time sending decklists back and forth and discussing, but very little time actually playing matches. The exceptions to this were Nick Edgerle and Josh Glantzman in Michigan, and Andrew Schneider down south. After they jammed various brews against it, reports from both directions indicated that Esper control with Aetherling was beating everything by a significant margin, and that some sort of Voice of Resurgence theme deck was the only other strategy really worth considering. This matched my intuition. Schneider, having concluded that a control deck was the best strategy, went straight off the deep end, brewing up a four-color control deck with four Counterflux, zero Supreme Verdict, and an expressed desire to win counterwars over Aetherlings and shrug about everything else. That particular list was shelved, of course, the moment we tried it out against a Mountain or a Forest, but Counterflux was indeed providing the inevitability in control mirrors as advertised. Combining this with my desire to play Renounce the Guilds and Turn // Burn as instant-speed answers to large problematic monsters like Obzedat, Ghost Council and Sire of Insanity, I brewed up and suggested a UWR control list that was about eight cards off of what I ended up playing at the Pro Tour.
The Kentuckians and Ohioans met up in Cincinnati the weekend before the Pro Tour to jam practice drafts. My initial plan was to try to draft aggressive mostly-two-color decks. On the one hand, I’m relieved to see after the fact that most Pro teams concluded this was the most effective strategy. On the other hand, I bricked off three drafts trying it and quickly concluded that it wasn’t going to work for me. One pattern I noticed was that Selesnya was ALWAYS open in Pack 3. I discussed this with Lukas Parson, who had a lot of success in our practice drafts with GWx decks. He felt that Selesnya was essentially too deep in the RtR pack to be cut from. Once I began leaning heavily toward it, my draft results swiftly improved. I knew I’d have a full week to grind 8-4s on Magic Online before the Pro Tour, so after my fourth live draft in Cincinnati, I opted out of further drafts and jammed Block Constructed games with the immensely helpful Jason Morgan.
I was happy with UWR, and my enthusiasm convinced Bernie and Schneider to come on board as well. Over the course of the next week I played a ton of two-man queues to a solid record, and our team debated various bits of technology, including Aetherize, Debtor’s Pulpit, the Prophetic Prism splash, and the merits of Rakdos’s Return vs. Slaughter Games off of said spash, although we were fairly split on all of these. This was the list I eventually settled on:
UWR Control, Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze
Even though I had an excellent constructed record at the Pro Tour, I think we missed the mark with this list. We correctly identified that building a control deck to win control mirrors was the smart plan, but we went the wrong direction trying to execute it by focusing on the long game. Yes, having access to a Mind Shatter and a fancy Cancel made us a favorite if both players got to draw cards and play lands unmolested, but we failed to find and were woefully unprepared for the short-game tactics (Precinct Captain, Nightveil Specter, Bant decks with Voice/Smiter, etc) that most of the successful control decks were using. Bernie and Schneider got stuck in the logjam of control mirrors and ended up doing poorly in Constructed. I was very fortunate in my pairings, facing only one Bant Control and one UWR mirror in 10 rounds.
I was pretty anxious on Friday morning, but luckily the player .eeting took long enough that was fairly calm by the time the first draft began. My pod looked like this:
1 Real, Enzo
2 Castellon, Rob
3 Daniel, David
4 Cox, Patrick
5 Shrout, Andrew
6 Enevoldsen, Thomas
7 Swasey, Laurence
8 Filho, Walter
(Note: The order above is what was listed in WotC’s coverage, but not actually the order in which we were seated. Hell if I know. I’ll just assume that Rob and I, being noobs at the PT, sat in the wrong seats and messed everything up.)
I recognized Pat from his PT successes, Thomas from his recent GP win, and Larry from MTGO. You might notice the presence of eventual Top 8er Rob Castellon; I certainly didn’t. I was passing to Larry and being fed by Pat. The pack I opened contained a Deadbridge Chant, a card I assumed was very powerful, but had never actually played with. It luckily also had an Unflinching Courage, so I stuck with what I knew and passed the Chant along to Larry, who had first-picked Varolz, the Scar-Striped and must have been marveling at what an easy game he was playing. I found an Ascended Lawmage in the next pack, and just like that, I had a deck. I settled into Bant, picked up four Guildgates relatively late in Pack 1, matched them up with two Way of the Thiefs late in Pack 2, and filled out the deck with some good bodies (sadly, no Rubbleback Rhinos) and a reasonable populate theme in Pack 3.
Round 1 — Larry Swasey
Larry had drafted a sweet-looking Golgari deck that featured, among other hits, the clunky but effective package of triple Trestle Troll, triple Maze Abomination. I literally stole Game 1, with Stealer of Secrets into Way of the Thief dealing 20 unanswered. In Game 2, I went through most most of my deck without ever finding a blue source. I had a decent start but got stuffed by 1/4s; Larry cast Deadbridge Chant, started regrowing giant monsters, and I died with both Way of the Thiefs stuck in hand. I curved Call of the Conclave into Wayfaring Temple in Game 3, which was enough to beat a slow start from Larry.
Round 2 — Pat Cox
Pat handed me my first loss with a weird looking RUG deck. I lost the first game to the Plague Wind mode of Armed // Dangerous, then made a gross misplay in the second game that put me in a foul mood. I had a strong start with Wayfaring Temple and Centaurs, but was stuck on three land. He played Goblin Rally on Turn 5. I drew my fourth land, attacked him to 12 with my two Centaurs, (Temple eating a goblin in the process) and I then had the option of playing Hazda Snare Squad or a blue Cluestone to leave up Dramatic Rescue. I got greedy and chose to play the creature. This was a mistake on its own, but when he followed up with Ruination Wurm, I compounded the error by attacking with everything again, tapping the Wurm and dropping him to five. This left me unable to leave up Dramatic Rescue for the second time, so I passed with no blockers at 17 life against a Ruination Wurm and two Goblin tokens. Pat crunched some numbers, showed me Scorchwalker and Weapon Surge, and I went to zero.
I was pretty upset with myself after that loss. I’d played sloppily, not taken time to consider possible outs Pat could have, and assumed my on-board lead was good enough without thinking through my sequencing to ensure it. (Him having two cards for exactsies may seem unfortunate, but of course I also neglected to play around the Armed // Dangerous I already knew about.) Fortunately Pat punished me for my laziness swiftly, so there was plenty of time left in the round for me to stomp around the event site frowning at everyone, resolve to tighten up, and clear my head.
Round 3 — Enzo Real
I thought I was matching up really well against Enzo in Game 1 when I played two Croconuras against his board of small Naya creatures. Then he played Tenement Crashers on consecutive turns, which I couldn’t handle. He double-mulliganed in Game 2 and didn’t get to do much, and I finished out the match in Game 3 by finally living the 5/4 flying-hexproof-trampling-lifelinking dream.
Round 4 — Yuuki Ichikawa
Yuuki was playing the Borzhov Midrange deck that had been the frontrunner in two-set block. I was able to Renounce or Verdict away all of his threats, and he flooded out a little in both games, a fairly common issue with his deck. He was on the Slaughter Games plan post-board, which isn’t something I’d been particularly worried about. (The one opponent who had successfully double Slaughtered me off of my win conditions on MTGO the week before hadn’t been able to answer Jace and died to his own Blood Baron.) Interestingly, Yuuki declined to do just that in Game 2. He named Assemble the Legion with his first Slaughter Games, because I’d taken it in a Jace split and would play it the next turn. Several turns passed before he drew the second, and he cast it into my eight open mana, knowing I held a Sphinx’s Revelation. I pulled the trigger on a Rev for five, and he named Revelation anyway. I suspect he didn’t take the time to look through my library thoroughly while resolving the first, as he should have known I only had two other Revelations, and also that my only other win conditions were Aetherlings. Alternately, he may have simply not liked his chances against Jace ultimates if he allowed me to chain Revelations.
Round 5 — Mark Simard
Chitchat before the match revealed that Mark had won a PTQ with Domain Zoo to earn his spot in San Diego. This suddenly seemed pertinent when my opening seven was Counterflux, Thoughtflare, Sphinx’s Revelation, and four lands, an excellent hand against a control deck. I decided to mulligan, looking for a hand that wasn’t blank vs. aggression, and was rewarded for doing so with a Jace, Verdict and Renounce against his Varolz-based Junk deck. The only other thing I remember about this match was that I again played sloppily with a lead in Game 3, attacking him to eight with Aetherling rather than six, giving him a chance to topdeck Obzedat, which he did. This bought him a turn, and he would have stolen the game by drawing another Obzedat to drain me for exactsies had I not found Aetherize.
Round 6 — Ross Merriam
I knew from railbirding the previous rounds that Ross was playing the BG aggro deck that had taken over the MTGO Block Daily Events. In all my online practice that week I hadn’t actually played against that deck, but I assumed it had a hard time with Azorius Charm, Renounce the Guilds, and Aetherize, which proved to be correct. Ross had an awkward Game 1, drawing his Experiment Ones in the wrong order and leaving them 2/2s against Supreme Verdict. I stuck a Jace, defended it, and ended the game with a hand full of action. Game 2 took a while, but I felt like I was way ahead the whole time. Boros Reckoner brickwalled his team for several turns while I Jaced and Reved. He was bottlenecked on mana and could only cast one threat per turn, which made Aetherize especially brutal when he finally found an answer to the Reckoner and attacked with everyone.
Round 7 — Jonas Koestler
Something very strange happened in our Game 1. He was playing Monored, but ran out of gas quickly, and I stabilized at a high life total with a Verdict and a Jace. I drew and cast Assemble the Legion and essentially just needed to go through the motions from there. In this case, “the motions” meant casting Sphinx’s Revelation for five and six on consecutive turns. I was quite alarmed, then, when I noticed while paying for the second Revelation that I only had eight lands in play, and therefore had accidentally drawn an extra card with the first Revelation on the previous turn. A judge was called, a game loss was awarded, and I silently berated myself all through sideboarding for giving away unloseable games. I ended up winning the match anyway when Jonas kept a pair of one-landers that didn’t pan out.
Round 8 — Tomas Westling
This round seemed to take a really long time to start, which Tomas and I passed with small talk about the upcoming Swedish Grand Prix and our mutual enthusiasm for Danish women. He was playing a Junk deck very similar to the one I had faced in Round 5. Unfortunately I remember very little about our games other than the strange sequence that ended Game 3. I began the turn with five lands in play and one card in hand, which Tomas knew from his Sin Collectors was a mostly-useless Renounce the Guilds. I drew a land, then downticked Jace to reveal two Aetherlings and another land. After a long time in the tank, Tomas surprised me by putting both Aetherlings in a pile against the land. His plan was to gamble that my draw for the turn had not been a land, and use the extra turn to win a race with the Varolz and Advent of the Wurm in his hand. This was costly, not only because I had the land, but because I ended up needing both Aetherlings to win anyway, because a single copy couldn’t actually race a Wurm token that was 7/7 or bigger. I played them both, double-blocked his Wurm, and won a close race from there.
Finishing the first day at 7-1 was pretty satisfying, although on the whole I wasn’t pleased with my technical play, racking up two punts and a game rules violation in eight rounds. My confidence was also a little shaken by the metagame breakdown in the coverage, which revealed nearly a third of the field playing control. This felt like bad news because Bernie hadn’t made Day 2 after losing several control mirrors, and Schneider similarly ended the day at 5-3 after a 4-0 start. I resolved to skillfully dodge control for the second day and awoke confident that I could run it back.
My second draft pod was a tough crowd, featuring Nassif, Maher, Wescoe, and Jurkovic. We were in the feature match area with a judge assigned to each player recording their picks for a Draft Viewer in the official coverage, which was an odd experience. I was pretty excited at the idea of being able to go back later and watch how the draft played out. Unfortunately, the Draft Viewer is all screwed up somehow. My opening pack shows a Putrefy and a Breaking // Entering that weren’t actually there, which are then somehow passed to Oliver Rottman-Polak, who was on my right.
My ACTUAL P1P1 was pretty interesting. The standout cards were Flesh // Blood, Alive // Well, and Punish the Enemy. In a vacuum, I think Alive // Well is clearly the third-best card in that pack. The wrinkle was that directly to my left sat Kerry Edwards, whom I had done a practice draft with Thursday night. I knew that he had drafted RGx in both the practice draft and on Day 1. The extra wrinkle was that directly to Kerry’s left sat Gabriel Nassif, who was on record in the Day 1 Draft Viewer first-picking a Rubblebelt Makka. (Although, knowing what I know now about draft viewers, maybe this is not so reliable.) I didn’t want to take a red card and pass another strong red card to Kerry, because I thought it was reasonably likely that I’d end up being behind two red drafters in the Gatecrash pack, where you get most of your rewards in red. I like Alive // Well quite a bit anyway, and still had a strong preference for Selesnya, so I took it with confidence. I was then passed two Gruul War Chants, which I took with the intent to splash, and took mostly white creatures and mana fixers for the rest of the pack. I first-picked Sunhome Guildmage in Gatecrash, but red was very sparse after that, as predicted. I limped through Pack 2 taking aggressive white cards, and picked up strong Selesnya cards in Pack 3 as usual, getting passed a Vhitu-Ghazi Guildmage and tabling a Phantom General. I was very pleased with the resulting WGr deck.
Round 9 — Oliver Rottman-Polak
This was unfortunately a non-match, as Oliver took a lot of mulligans and missed a color in both games, while I curved out fairly well and played Gruul War Chant twice. The match was over in less than 10 minutes, and I spent the rest of the round watching Kerry and Bob Maher’s feature match on a TV in the lobby.
Round 10 — Kerry Edwards
Having seen a lot of Kerry’s deck the round before, I felt like I matched up pretty well against it. He had drafted a slow Jund deck with a lot of good blockers and an endgame of Ruination Wurms and powerful split cards. I figured with two Chants and two Guildmages I wouldn’t have much trouble breaking through board stalls, although that wasn’t really how it played out. In Game 1 he killed my Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage with a Morgue Burst before it could come online, and I could never make a meaningful attack past his Lobber Crews. I nearly gave away Game 2. I had Guildmage active this time, pumping out 4/4 Centaurs, and Kerry attacked with a Ruination Wurm, ostensibly offering to trade it for a token. I immediately concluded that he intended to make a 9/9 Golgari Decoy with Flesh // Blood, so I just chumped with a token. He had no post-combat play, and on his next turn made the same attack. I reasoned that he must not actually have it, since he would have Blooded my Guildmage last turn, so this time I double-blocked to put a creature in his graveyard, and promptly lost my Guildmage to a fairly obvious Morgue Burst. Fortunately I had plenty of time to recover, because I’d built up a nice board of tokens and sat at 34 life thanks to Alive // Well. We played draw-go for a very long time, and he eventually went for an alpha strike with his Golgari Decoy; my two cards in hand were Pit Fight for his decoy and Rootborn Defenses to eat his board. We had very little time left for Game 3, and I don’t remember much about it other than it was race which I won with a surprise Sunhome Guildmage.
I continued to enjoy an information advantage, as I walked out into the lobby after the match to find the other 2-0 from my pod, Craig Wescoe, onscreen discussing his draft with Zac Hill.
Round 11 — Craig Wescoe
The bad news was that Craig’s deck looked very good. I had what seemed like a very fast start in game 1, only to be quickly outclassed by a 5/4 Daggerdrome Imp thanks to Pursuit of Flight and Deviant Glee. I managed to win a race in Game 2 by stalling with Seller of Songbirds and Eyes in the Skies. My opening seven in Game 3 was Phantom General, Nav Squad Commando, Aerial Manuever, and four lands, which I sent back, figuring it to be too slow. My six-card hand was two Mountains and four strong white cards, which I kept after some deliberation. I found the white source on Turn 6 while staring down lethal attackers.
After the disappointing final round, I was sitting at 9-2 after the second draft. Despite the loss, I felt more confident than before about the constructed rounds, and was anxious to get started.
Round 12 — Gabriel Nassif
I knew Nassif was playing the SCG team’s Bant list, which I thought would be a reasonable matchup. He appeared to be action-light in Game 1, which allowed me to get a Jace active early on, and I only grew further and further ahead from there. At one point he tried to Plasma Capture my Counterflux, although the game was pretty much already over at that point. He tied up the match pretty quickly though with multiple Voice of Resurgences in Game 2. The final game was pretty drawn out. He had early creatures, but this time I had Boros Reckoner to hold them off, which bought me enough time to find Supreme Verdict. The game became an attrition war at that point, and I ran pretty hot in the last few turns, drawing Revelation to bait a counter, then Aetherling to force through his last counter with my last card in hand, Dispel. The second Aetherling came off the top right afterward for the rub-ins.
Round 13 — Orrin Swift
I’d been sitting near Orrin for pretty much the entire tournament, so I figured I’d be playing against him eventually. This match was featured on the video coverage. I had an interesting hand in Game 1. I had three lands, none of which made blue. My four spells were Azorius Charm, Supreme Verdict, Jace, and Sphinx’s Revelation. I kept knowing that I was incredibly live to hit a blue source in any of my first three turns, and that Charm into Verdict should carry the game from there if I did. I hit on Turn 3, stabilized, and got to wrap the game up by making a huge pile of Soldier tokens. I was bowled over pretty handily in Game 2, but things went much better in the final game. Orrin, clearly a little nervous under the lights, played a Turn 2 Ash Zealot and passed without attacking. There’s an outside chance the two points actually mattered, although the game would have played out very differently. I ended up trading two Jaces for two Skullcracks and 14 points of combat damage, Thoughtflaring into Verdict, and winning easily from there. With the two-point headstart, Orrin might have considered ignoring Jace and attacking me, although this would have let me untap with Jace in play and Aetherize in hand.
Round 14 — Craig Wescoe
I’d somehow managed to keep my head on straight up to this point, such that I’d been playing a round at a time and actually had no idea what sort of record I’d need to make Top 8. Wescoe forced me to consider this when he sat down and immediately offered a draw. After some discussion, we concluded that I needed to win one of the next two rounds. I decided to take my shot here, because I knew Wescoe was playing GW and thought I had a strong sideboard and a good understanding of the matchup. Of course, as I now know, Wescoe’s GW list was atypical, but not so different that it would swing the matchup much.
I was actually little surprised when I lost Game 1, because I felt like I was ahead the entire game. I Verdicted his board, milked Jace for some value, got off a decent Revelation, dealt with several of his threats one-for-one, and then suddenly I was out of action and dead to a random Centaur. I suppose that’s the peril of playing a deck full of answers rather than a deck full of threats. Game 2 was basically the same game without me running out of gas. I managed to make good use of Dispels and Aetherize, shut down his attackers with a Boros Reckoner, and ultimated Jace for Aetherling and Trostani. Much like my previous encounter with Craig, Game 3 was anticlimactic. After some deliberation I kept a hand with a Verdict and the lands to cast it, but no ways to interact before Turn 4. This is a risky keep against GW on the draw, because you often won’t have the luxury of waiting until Turn 5 to Dispel their Advents and Rootborns. Sure enough, the game was over quickly. He had an aggressive start, hit me down to five and passed with four mana open. All I could do was cast a Verdict, and died to Advent.
As with my other losses, I was fortunate that the match was over quickly enough for me to collect my thoughts and not dwell on losing a Pro Tour Top 8 win-and-in. I had another to play!
Round 15 — Christian Fehr
I knew Christian was playing UWR control, so I was simultaneously excited and a little uncomfortable. I’d dodged control mirrors the entire tournament, so I didn’t like the idea of now having to play one when it mattered most. On the other hand, the splashed Rakdos’s Returns seemed like they gave me a pretty big edge in a proper mirror.
I went down a game pretty quickly. I kept a hand with three lands and several strong mirror cards. I missed my fourth land drop, while Christian played a Jace and started drawing a bunch of extras. I was never really in it. Eventually I was forced to tap out for a Jace to keep him from ultimating his, which gave him a window to resolve Aetherling.
Things looked just as grim in Game 2. I boarded out all the Verdicts and Turn // Burns, and was completely blindsided by Precinct Captain. I drew all three Rakdos’s Returns early on, which looked pretty stupid against his Captain. His draw was very strange, too, with all four Jaces in the top 14 cards. Having no reliable plan against the Captain and nothing better to do, I fired off the first two Returns for value, getting a Mind Rout out of the first and drawing a Counterflux with the second. I forced through the third Return with a Dispel, clearing out his hand and killing his Jace. The next turn I played Aetherling at seven life against Precinct Captain and three Soldiers. I had the second Dispel for his Azorius Charm when he attacked, and I ate the Captain and fell to four. He drew a blank, I ate a Soldier and fell to two. He drew another blank, I ate a soldier and fell to one. He drew a third blank and conceded.
I couldn’t believe how many bullets I had just dodged. I quickly re-boarded a few removal spells and settled in for Game 3. The deciding game, fortunately, didn’t require any miracles, and I’m very pleased with the way I played it. My opening hand had a ton of land, which suited me just fine, and early on I shocked myself to represent a Counterflux I didn’t actually have. Christian did the same thing, and we played land-go for many turns after that, giving me time to actually find the Counterflux. The turning point came when he went for a Revelation for five on my upkeep, leaving up three mana to represent Counterflux. I assumed he was trying to bait out my Counterflux, which I only had one of, so that he could resolve Aetherling the next turn. So I Izzet Charmed it. He tanked for a while, concluded I just wanted to take him off of his Counterflux so I could resolve MY Aetherling, and declined to pay for the Charm. I didn’t actually hold an Aetherling, but having sold both it and a Counterflux, Christian was spooked off of casting spells for awhile. We played more land-go, and eventually I drew into plenty of gas, including Aetherling, multiple Counterfluxes, and multiple Rakdos’s Returns. The Returns gave me enough must-counters to force Aetherling through, and that was all it took.
As soon as the game was over, there was a big round of applause from the gathered spectators. It was a genuine shock, as I’d actually kind of forgotten what I was playing for. It hit me that I had just Top 8’d a Pro Tour, and an incredible wave of relief and giddy satisfaction swept over me. I had no idea what to do with myself other than smile a big dopey smile. I couldn’t figure out how to fill out the results slip. I couldn’t form words. I spectacularly botched the traditional “good luck in the last round” condolences to Christian and somehow ended up insulting his country. I took a victory lap around the event site and I’m pretty sure I hugged a complete stranger.
Bernie tracked me down and told me to get ahold of myself, as it looked like I’d be paired up against Rob Castellon in the last round, who had no reason to draw and could play for seeding. This was disconcerting. I tracked down Rob, introduced myself, and asked his intentions. He made me sweat it, saying we would “probably draw.” I have since concluded he had no intention of playing it out, and was simply enjoying his position of power, a right he had certainly earned. When the pairings for Round 16 finally went up, it was a clean cut to Top 8, and everyone drew (except Wescoe, who took the power trip one step further and made Mihara play a game before they drew).
Once the round ended there was some pomp and picture-taking, and we were handed out copies of the Top 8 decklists. I wish I could say that I kept my focus that night and diligently tested my quarterfinal matchup, hungry for a trophy. The reality is there was simply no way I could convince myself I wasn’t already satisfied with my tournament. I was also a little overconfident, because I knew my list had a strong matchup with monored. As it turned out, the Boros-flavored cards each made a pretty big difference, and they combined to make me a slight underdog. We proxied up Wrapter’s deck, swapped Mortars out for Firstblades, and jammed about 10 games. The matchup felt reasonable.
Chi Hoi and Lukas kept on playing while I was in the shower, and when I got out they had made an interesting discovery. Chi Hoi, playing my deck, had stalled the board with a Boros Reckoner and a Jace, but had to continue +1-ing to avoid a lethal attack. When he ultimated Jace, he realized he could use the opposing Boros Charms in combination with his Azorius Charms and either Izzet Charm or Turn // Burn to gain infinite life. We played another game, the same situation arose, and we went infinite again. It happened a third time a few games later. I’m still not sure if that was just a fluke thing that happened in our small sample of test games, or if it was a real gameplan. I was content with an evenish matchup and a weird showboaty backup plan, so I went to bed.
At no point did it ever occur to us that Josh might bring in Arrests for my Boros Reckoners. In retrospect that seems fairly obvious. I’m not sure there’s anything I can do differently to avoid them, though, so all the oversight did was lend me a little false confidence.
Most of my quarterfinal match was on camera, so I won’t go over it too much here. As relaxed as I’d been the night before, I was a big bundle of nerves on Sunday morning. I quickly established that I was a rank amateur who did not belong by forgetting I was on the play and offering to roll for choice before our match started, although in my defense this was mostly because we had been sitting onstage in silence for 10 minutes and I needed something to do with myself. The match itself was over a lot quicker than I expected, and is all kind of a blur. I missed on finding a Verdict in Game 1. I forgot what my opponent’s cards did in Game 2 and made a mostly irrelevant but still awkward misplay. I drew a lot of Aetherizes and was never once happy about them. In Games 2 and 4, Reckoners that would have taken over the game were Arrested instead. Josh played super-tight, the way you might expect a PotY to play. When it was all over, I shuffled back out into the lobby and was 3v3-ing 10 minutes later.
The rest of the night I spent in the company of my Legit MTG teammates, drafting onsite until Wizards ran out of packs, then back at the hotel drafting poolside, and capping off the night with the true highlight of the weekend, a trip to In-N-Out Burger. I know this is redundant advice and you’ve heard it from more reliable sources than me, but if I can make one recommendation to anyone attending their first Pro Tour, it would be to get yourself a proper squad. Without teammates, these things wouldn’t be nearly so much fun. Unfortunately most of my teammates from San Diego will have to requalify for the next round, but they’re all certainly capable of doing so, and I’m looking forward to working with Chi Hoi Yim again, who finished 22nd to earn his ticket to Pro Tour Theros. We’ll be back, and I’ll keep the fire through Sunday and go a few matches deeper in Dublin.
What’s the Irish equivalent of Animal Fries, anyway?
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