Pro Tour Avacyn Restored Barcelona 2012 Report – Part 2 Booster Draft & Block by Tom Harle

How to Get Better at Magic The Gathering by Tom Harle

So onto the drafting! (you can find Part 1 here)

Drafting Avacyn Restored

The week before the PT mainly consisted of doing 2-3 drafts every day and we definitely learnt a ton about the format.  Personally things didnt start out so great as I ended up in black in my first 3 drafts because it seemed like the colour was open.  Sadly in AVR, just because black is open really isnt enough of a reason to start drafting it and all 3 of the decks ended up looking good on paper but just not playing out that well and all three went 1-2. 

After that I started making sure I was forcing one of the two best colours (blue and green) and then going for which ever of the other good colours was open and basically avoided black like the plague!  This worked out pretty well for the next few drafts and I managed to win two in a row and then lose the finals of the next few.  This seems like a very solid plan in this format as there arent that many playable cards and the difference in power level between the colours is much greater than normal, so forcing one of the good colours and partially ignoring the signals of whats open seems to work much better than in other formats. 

This does make the format a little bit random if everyone is doing this as it just depends on what cards get opened but if you’re the one forcing colours and letting your neighbours settle into the colours you dictate, then it works out alright.  A couple of examples from my drafts include myself and my downstream neighbour both drafting RU because the cards were deep in those colours and both making the final, with me losing to him too when theoretically my deck should have been better (2 packs of first choice instead of 1) and also a draft where my only green card at the end of pack 1 was a first picked Wolfir Avenger but I still forced green in packs 2 and 3 and ended up with a really good deck that 3-0’d.

The other big thing we noticed from our drafts was that big creatures were awesome and green especially was doing very well.  I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how fast the format is and you can get some fast decks but we were finding that the best decks were the ones that presented a big creature that the other deck couldnt deal with.  Cards like Nettle Swine and Wildwood Geist would be pretty unimpressive in other formats but the lack of removal and card quality of AVR limited make both those guys pretty good.  The fact that white has such good lifegain at common and uncommon (Seraph of Dawn, Goldnight Redeemer, Nearheath Pilgrim, Scroll of Avacyn) means that drafting a pure aggro deck, even one with lots of synergy like the Thatchers Revolt deck, was a risky proposition.

With this in mind my first booster in my first PT draft presented me with the option of Demonic Rising, Thunderous Wrath, Latch Seeker, Gryff Vanguard and Nettle Swine as the playables.  The correct pick here is almost certainly the Rising but I didnt want to draft black as I felt it was the weakest colour and we also felt that blue would probably be overdrafted so I stuck to my plan and first picked the pig to force green.  The next few picks were midrange green guys over not much else exciting and somehow the Gryff Vanguard from the first booster came back and put me into blue as a second colour.  I ended up with a reasonable midrange UG deck with no amazing bombs but pretty solid cards thoughout and a reasonable curve.


Day 1

Round 6 vs Brian Kibler

I’d been passing to Kibler in the draft so I was a little worried he’d be playing the bomb rare I’d passed pick one but fortunately for me he has a UR deck with some flyers and a few human synergies. 

Game 1 he mulligans to 5 and I quickly outclass him with big green creatures that he struggles to deal with. 

Game 2 he starts quickly and a Stonewright and Flyer present a pretty fast clock that I’m sort of racing with my big guys.  Sadly he draw an Into the Void and bounces both my guys to win the race. 

Game 3 is basically an echo of the first game as he mulligans to 6 and makes smaller creatures than me and my Geist Trapper stops him having any chance of racing.


Round 7 vs Willy Edel

Willy was to Kiblers left so again I half expected the big black rare to come back to haunt me but Willy was playing a RGW three colour deck that seemed to have some powerful cards but a pretty awful mana base. 

Game 1 he hard cards Entreat the Angels for 1 which I bounce and continue beating him with my big green monsters.  He stabilises with an Archangel at 7 mana and starts coming back at me in the air but luckily I find one of my Eaten by Spiders before I have to start chump blocking and can fly over for the win. 

Game 2 he makes a T3 Forcemage into T4 Druid’s Familiar and there’s nothing my deck can do about the 2 5/5’s.  I try and double block the Bear at one point and he has the Joint Assault to completely blow me out. 

Game 3 is a little awkward as he makes t4 Heirs of Stromkirk t5 Familar and basically just hits me for 4 then 5 then 6 then 7 unblockable damage.  He never drew a plains in game 3 so if i’d had some way of dealing with his threat he’s have probably lost to his mana base but sadly UG doesnt have a lot of removal and I didnt draw any of my bounce spells.


Round 8 vs Michael Jacob

I’d seen Michael goldfishing his deck between rounds and it included multiple white 1 drops which really isnt where you want to be in this format in my opinon.

Game 1 he makes a few small humans and I just make bigger guys and overwhelm him. 

Game 2 is a little awkward as I dont get the fastest start and he makes a Tandem Lookout and draws a bunch of extra cards.  Luckily for me he just draws more little humans and I manage to stabilise for a bit but cant really start attacking him back.  Eventually he draws a Tormentors Trident to go with his Moorland Inquisitor which makes blocking really difficult and then an Angelic Armaments to finish me off. 

Game 3 is a little anticlimactic though as he mulligans to 5 and never really gets into the game.  As he’s desleeving I see two Mass Appeals and a Riders of Gavony which helps explain why he was playing all the little humans but I’m still pretty sure that 1 power guys for 1 are unplayable in this format.


I was pretty happy to be going into day 2 with a positive record after my 1-2 start and didnt think I’d made too many huge mistakes in the games that I’d lost.  Generally the team was doing pretty well too with 6/10 of us in day 2 with two 6-2 records and four 5-3 records – not amazing but better than average.


Day 2

My day 2 draft starts pretty well with a first pick Silverblade Paladin and then being passed a Mist Raven second and a Seraph of Dawn 3rd.  Things pretty much stay that way too as I end up getting second pick Mist Raven in all 3 packs and another 2 Seraphs relatively late (4th and 5th) to end up with a very good UW fliers /card]deck with early defence in Alchemist’s Apprentice, Angelic Wall, Galvanic Alchemist[c, and 2 [card]Righteous Blows, 3 each of Mist Raven and Seraph, the best commons in U and W, and a nice late game in Archangel and Goldnight Reedemer and of course the very powerful Paladin.

Round 9 vs Joerg Unfried

I dont really remeber anything about this round apart from the fact that it was over in like 5 mins and I won 2-0.  I’m pretty sure I just curved out nicely with powerful fliers and double strikers and he didnt do anything to stop me.


Round 10 vs Alexander Hayne

Game 1 I mulligan to a 4 land Alchemist’s Apprentice, Righteous Blow hand on the play and proceed to never draw another spell and die pretty quickly. 

Game 2 is only slightly better as I mulliganed again and dont draw any of my Ravens or Seraphs and struggle to put up much defence against his aggro red black deck.  I do make a small mistake where I attack for 1 with a Galvanic Alchemist leaving an Alchemist’s Apprentice back to block his 2/1, sadly a Fervent Cathar means I take 4 and couldnt trade for his guy, when realistically the 1 damage I did him was pretty irrelavent.  It might not have mattered but when I did eventually lose I had just drawn a Zealous Strike to deal with his Archwing Dragon and had 5 lands and a Goldnight Reedemer in hand so the 2 life would have saved me and I could have easily got back into the game.


Again this round only took about 5-10 mins to play and I’m pretty pissed with myself for making the small mistake, and at my deck for drawing so badly in game 1.  I know it happens but it was easily the best deck I’d drafted in the format so I was obviously hoping for a 3-0.  Turn’s out Alex was on a bit of a hot streak (he won the whole event if you didnt recognise the name) and there would have been a game 3 if I had won but I felt with my 3 Seraphs I was very well positioned against his RB aggro deck.  I go outside for a walk at this point and wander up to the very fancy museum at the end of the road and enjoy some sunshine and basically get my head straight – yeah it’s annoying to lose but I was still in Barcelona on a free holiday so I couldnt really complain!

Round 11 vs Richard Parker

Rich and I were staying together and had compared decks after the draft which I’m pretty sure helped me win this round – he knew how good my deck was and was probably more mentally prepared to lose than if he’d not known what I was playing. 

Game 1 is very awkward as I draw only Plains for my first 6 lands and only 3 white spells in the first 15 or so cards.  Luckily for me they’re Silverblade Paladin and 2 Seraph of Dawns so I hit him for a bit and gain a bunch of life before having to hold back and use my wall of first strike to keep him from attacking.  He misplays slightly the turn he makes a Timberland Guide and pumps his Pathbreaker Wurm by thinking that an alpha strike with all his men will kill me when he was including the Timberland Guide he’s just played. 

I block and kill a Nightshade Pedeler with first strike which means I can kill the guy it was paired too with my other double striker and basically kill 3 of his attackers without losing a guy and gain just enough life to stay on 1.  I then rip the Island and can flood the board with my blue spells and come back to take game 1. 

Game 2 is over very quickly as I again struggle on mana and he quickly curves out large green creatures while I sit there with uncastables in my hand. 

Game 3 Luckily for me game 3 my deck decides its time for the god draw as I curve Paladin into Seraph into all 3 Mist Ravens and it’s not remotely close.


I’m feeling pretty good at this point even though I didnt 3-0 the draft.  I’ve a pretty good shot at t16 if I win out and we’re very happy with our block deck against the metagame.


Back to Block and the Final Stretch

Round 12 vs Marc Lalague playing Naya Silverheart

Marc was one of quite a few people playing the Naya Silverheart deck that had the right idea but just wasnt quite playing the best cards for the endless Silverheart mirror matches.  Instead of ramp guys like Pilgrim and Villager he was playing Strangleroot Geist and Dawntreader Elk which just arent very relavent in the matchup. 

Game 1 I ambush his Strangleroot with a Wolfir first time and then with an Angel second which makes his guy look rather foolish.  A quick Vorapede into Silverheart later and we’re on to game 2. 

Game 2 is much closer as he Silverhearts first and hits me once before I Sever it.  The turn after I had a choice between Garruk Relentless or Silverheart and choose to make the planeswalker to play around a possible Zealous Conscripts which I still think is probably correct, sadly he doesnt have Conscripts and instead Bonfires my whole team and planeswalker for 3 and is able to Devil’s Play me out before I can recover with the Silverheart. 

Game 3 I keep a 2 land Villager hand and fail to draw my 3rd land which leads to a rather awkward situation – I draw my not land and quickly pass the turn so I can flip my Villager and make the Restoration Angel I have in hand during Marc’s turn.  Marc was watching me closely though and doesnt hear me pass the turn so when I flip my villager calls a judge as he hadnt played a spell in his own turn either and my villager should have flipped during my upkeep.  A judge is called and we clear up the situation and I’m happy to pass the turn still as it was my mistake that I’d missed my trigger, even though the Garruk I could have made would have been much better than the Angel.  Marc has a Brimstone Volley to deal with my Villager when I tap out for the Angel which would have been awkward had I not drawn 3 straight lands off the top and curved out nicely with Garruk, Vorapede, Silverheart :P


Round 13 vs Korey McDuffie playing Naya Silverheart

Korey is sadly playing the good version of Naya Silverheart with all the ramp guys and we have 3 very quick games where the player who goes first ramps into Garruk and Silverheart first and just wins.  Unfortunately for me he won the dice roll and so was the person with the first Garruk 2 times out of 3 and it’s so hard to beat that when they kill your mana ramp guy.


Sadly with the loss t16 was out of the question but there was still a chance to top 25 if my tiebreakers were good enough.

Round 14 vs Till Riffert playing Boros

Boros was always a good matchup in testing and still didnt seem to have any amazing tech to change things – I was fortunate enough to have the t1 Tragic Slip for his Stromkirk Noble and Champion in the two games we player but neither were really close as Boros just struggles to attack into your flash men and they dont really have any answers for Silverheart or Vorapede.


Round 15 vs Josh Utter-Leyon playing GW humans

Josh was playing the ChannelFireball GW humans deck that was basically just a bad version of the Naya deck playing too many irrelevant small creatures like Mayor of Avabruck and only Fiend Hunter as removal for Silverhearts (who’s so bad against Garruk and Terminus its laughable).  Both games are pretty 1 sided as he struggles to get much in the way of early pressure through my Angels and Avengers and doesnt draw any answers to my Silverhearts or Garruks.


I decide after that win that I’m going to play the last round to try and win into t25 as the PT invite is definitely worth a lot more to me than Id’ing and guarenteeing the extra $500 that top 50 would get.  I check the standings and am in 37th going into the last round so it’s a very small outside chance but i’m willing to risk it.  I sit down and my opponent immediatly offers the ID saying there’s no chance we can make t25 and everyone around us basically says the same and starts filling out their slips.  I’m still not sure but when my real opponent comes over and points out the other guy is in the wrong seat and says the same thing I relent and ID – $500 basically covers the hotel bill for the week and checking the standings when I got home I wouldn’t have made it in with a win so it was the right thing to do.



Final Thoughts

So a pretty consistent 2-1 average over the weekend in all formats which earns me a very respectible 33rd place and $1500.  I was a little dissapointed to not make t25 and earn another pt invite but I did the best out of our testing group so really cant complain.  A little bit more luck in a few matches here and there and slightly tighter play might have got me there but there’s always next time.  So after a 6 year break pro tours are still as awesome as ever and I’ve definitely got the bug back so expect to see me at the upcoming PTQs and hopefully I’ll get there again and qualify for Seattle!

Best of luck in the upcoming season (unless you’re playing me of course!)

Tom Harle



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