My name is Fabrizio Anteri and I just won the last PTQ of the season last Saturday at Stansted. I find tournaments report a bit boring because I don’t feel I get anything useful from them, so I’ll try to write more about my short preparation for it and my thoughts about the deck and the format.
When I asked Tu (Manaleak) about writing this report, he mentioned that many people don’t know me yet and this might be a great opportunity to get to know the community and vice versa. As such, I would like to start with some quick background information about myself.
A brief history of…
I am a 23 years old guy from Venezuela with double nationality (Italian being the second), moved to London about 2.5 years ago for the crisis my country is passing through right now (started some years ago, but getting worse and worse every day).
I’ve been playing Magic for more than 10 years, but the community in Venezuela is very small, so I never had many chances of playing at the biggest levels. Instead, since I moved to London, I have had the chance to play many GPs and PTQs already, I’ve even played three Pro Tours these last couple of years.
As my previous magic accomplishments, I can count with 5 PTQs top8 here in UK (out of 10 played), with two wins (both at Milton Keynes, my theatre of dreams) and two GPs top 8 (London and Antwerp last year); I feel very proud as well of my general consistent results in GPs: 11 played, 10 day 2, 9 money finish.
After the release of Theros, when the Standard metagame become basically Mono Blue and Mono Black, I lost interest, focusing more in Modern for the upcoming Pro Tour I was going to play in that format. Finally after few days of no Magic (very few, as you can guess I am a big fan of the game (aren’t we all?)), I opened the official Magic Online website (www.MTGO.com) looking for getting back into Standard by looking at the deck lists making positive records in the Online Dailies and Premier events.
The first deck that got my attention was Esper midrange. Born of the Gods was barely introduced to Magic Online by then, so decks were not completely updated with the new set, but the idea of putting a deck with Precinct Captain, Brimaz and Ephara together was tempting.
I played the deck for a couple of days, got quite solid results, but felt unhappy about it; the core of white creatures is extremely powerful, but the colour lacks some tools and the “splash” of both colours, blue and black felt really awkward.
The deck wants as bad casting Supreme Verdict in some matches as it wants to avoid it in others, wants as many Dual lands as possible in some games and as many Plains as possible in others. In general, the deck has very powerful cards, very powerful hands, but it misses consistence in different aspects.
Then it came RG Monsters. Just by looking at the list I knew the deck was going to be aggressive enough to beat Control and was going to be able to control more aggressive strategies.
Few games certified the theory, the deck has very good matches against red aggressive decks, and enough powerful threats to kill your control opponents before they get the time to do their stuff; my games against Mono Black were close, but I disliked the fact that I didn’t have anything relevant in the sideboard to improve the matchup.
Mono blue is by far the worst matchup, Polukranos is the only answer to Master of the Waves and they have very cheap answers to that in form of Cyclonic Rift and Rapid Hybridization, Tidebinder Mage is horrible to see at any point of the game and the core of flying creatures plus Thassa make your 0/3s and 2/4s useless blockers.
Playing the mirror match twice the most relevant lesson was to play around Mizzium Mortars, the card is easily the most devastating one in stuck games and “already won games”.
With all that information about the deck and the format, the next step was Jund. RG doesn’t suffer to aggressive decks and the additional 8 dual lands were not going to completely change that fact.
Dreadbore was surely going to shine killing Dormi Rades, Jaces, Elspeths, Demons and what ever else was coming in front; Reaper of the Wilds was going to improve even farther the draws of the deck by Scrying and was going to survive the Mortars (and any other spot removal); and finally Rakdos’s Return was going to give the deck something to bring in against Mono Black.
I didn’t want to play additional removals (Abrupt Decay, Putrefy, Hero’s Downfall) or Thought Seize, because I wanted to keep the core of the RG deck: being aggressive against control was key factor to win the match and all the magic from Domri Rade was going to faint if I would had cut creatures for spells.
Some more games with Jund, I was improving my gaming with the deck and the format and I was getting closer to the 75 I wanted to play.
Scraping the deck together before the tournament, obviously…
I usually spend 4 to 20 hours a week playing Magic Online, depending what else I am doing with my life at the moment, but I just play paper Magic in big events (PTQs or bigger), so I don’t really have cards because I don’t want to spend £1000-£2000 in a Standard set for using it once or twice.
I had some problems trying to borrow cards at first here in UK, players I know didn’t have the cards or were using them; until I met Mark Horne, he is the dealer and partner of Manascrew and we made the deal of him lending me cards for tournaments and me wearing his Mana Screw shirt at the events for publicity purposes.
I gave Mark my final list of cards for the PTQ two days before the tournament. Unfortunately, Mark had an incredible busy week already and barely managed to get to the shop and look for the cards, with the hurry he didn’t find some of them but left a box with the ones he found for one of the guys going to the PTQ to take for me.
On Friday I texted Raoul Zimmermann, nice German friend living in Cambridge I met and prepared with for Pro Tour San Diego and recently Pro Tour Valencia, asking him for the missing cards for my deck.
Sadly I found out he wanted to play the same deck as I, and of course was going to play with all the cards I needed. Being such a nice guy, he promised me he was going to ask around and try to get the cards with other friends. Later that day, he informed me he got everything I needed for the next day, thanks Raoul!
The alarm of my phone woke me up at 6.30AM and the first thing I see is a text from Mark saying that no one he asked for took the box with the cards for me. With barely 5 hours of sleep and knowing I was working early the next morning as well, I stayed in bed considered for a couple of minutes if it was worth to get up that morning.
First thing I did was text Raoul again and after a quick reply I knew Saint Raoul was doing his best to get some more cards for me. I didn’t like the idea of spending money with the dealers for cards I was just going to use once and resell afterwards at half their price, but I was feeling so confident with my Jund list that I really wanted to play that day.
I withdrawn from an ATM £100 hoping I was not going to spend more than that in the missing cards. Domri Rade and Stormbreath Dragon were already on the way with Raoul, but I knew getting some coursers of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid was going to be harder.
On the bus to the airport, I knew already from Raoul more or less what I was going to need and realised I was going to spend a lot more money than I wanted to if I was going to play Jund, so with the extra games of experience with Jund, I started thinking and writing down on my phone the list of RG I would like to play.
Once in the venue I started asking around with people I know for the missing cards and I knew, if I had any change to get some others, Courser of Kruphix was not going to be one of them.
I queued for service with the dealers and got disappointed to hear that the card out of stock, something that really surprised my considering the card was published at £9.99, when it can be bought in European websites for €6-€7.
I started to despair for so many missing cards with less than half an hour for the beginning of the tournament, despite the help I got from Jack Doyle and Matt Light…
When a wild Saint Tom Law appeared. I played the guy twice and had few talks with him in previous events, but I didn’t really know him or have the trust to ask him for cards… I hesitated a couple of seconds… but knew I had to ask him or I was very likely not going to play the PTQ…
His answer? “Oh, you are very lucky, I have that deck here but was not going to play it today”, and very friendly looked at my list of missing cards and start taking them out. 72/75 were put together, I was just missing the 3 Burning Earth I wanted to run in my sideboard, a card I didn’t see anyone playing on MODO, but considered was very good against any variance of 3 color control (Esper, Bant, BUG, UWR).
Once again in the queue for the dealers, writing down my decklist to give to the judges and maybe enough time to sit down 5 minutes and breath before players meeting…
“Sorry, out of stock”… :(
I didn’t have the time to start screaming and pulling out my hair when David came from behind to say “hi”. He was one of the guys meant to bring me the cards Mark put on the side for me, but apparently no one could find where Mark put the box of cards. Luckily, David had some copies of the enchantment for me and I didn’t even had time to get mad with him for not looking harder for the box.
At first I didn’t want to write a tournament report like all those around mentioning “And so we went to McDonalds for lunch after round 2, I had a Big Mac and Bob had some Mac Nuggets”, but I really wanted to share that part of the story of how I couldn’t play the deck I wanted to, but still manage to win– or better, how I couldn’t play the deck I wanted to, and because of that I won!
The deck, well decks
For references, these are the two decklist.
4 temple of abandon
4 stomping ground
2 Gruul Guildgate
4 elvish mystic
4 sylvan caryatid
4 courser of kruphix
4 polukranos, world eater
4 ghor-clan rampager
4 stormbreath dragon
2 Ruric Thar
4 domri rade
3 mizzum mortars
2 xenagos, the reveler
The Matchups Discussion
Without getting into details of every round, I’ll just mention the decks I played against and interesting things that happened during my games.
During the swiss I played 3 Jund decks, the deck I wanted to play to have an advantage against plain RG decks, I won all three. Just three matches are not enough information to get conclusions about a matchup, I still believe Jund is favourite and I believe I got lucky to win 3 out of 3 matches.
It think its important to mention that 2 of those 3 were running the sort of list I didn’t want to, with extra spot removal, Thought Seize and extra Temples in the mana base. And the last one was actually Raoul, who asked me the day before for my decklist to compare with his own and ended up playing my list of the deck, lol.
I beated as well 3 Esper. My draws were very good and the 6 games I won were relatively easy, just loosing one game on mulligan 5. Despite my good draws I think the match is very good, post sideboard basically every single spell is a problem for them, having all some sort of resilience against their answers; Planeswalkers or Burning Earth can’t be deal with Supreme Verdict, Dragons can’t be deal with Detention Spheres or Charms, Hydras can’t be countered.
The mentioned haste creatures plus Xenagos are always dealing damage even after a Verdict or Sphere, this second one can’t always be trusted as an answer because of the Destructive Revelry. Ruric Thar… Do I need to say something about that card in the match?
Firstly, I didn’t like the God, unlike Ephara, I don’t think is easy to get enough devotion to animate it, actually I don’t imagine many games where you get the devotion required that you were not already going to win.
Then I don’t find the trigger that relevant, attacking with a Polukranos 5/5 or 10/10 is a must block or must kill all the same and attacking with a courser 4/6 is not that impressive for those 5 mana, if you think about what you can do with a Ghor-Clar for 2 is even lame. Even when I first build the deck Online and started playing, the first card I was removing for sideboard cards was the God, I couldn’t find a match where I like having it there.
When I got that free slot I start testing with Scavenging Ooze, Blood // Flesh and even Destructive Revelry main deck: the card looks to have a target in every single deck of the format (Detention Sphere, Underworld Connections, Courser of Kruphix, Chained to the Rocks), but finally I realized I didn’t want more spells that make Domri Rade worse (or more like bad, or more like less insane actually). So I thought the big Ogre I was sideboarding in many of my matches was going to fit perfectly in my main deck.
About my two copies of Gruul Guildgate: I found myself making mulligan to every single hand that couldn’t produce green and with only 8 dual lands that was quite often, I didn’t even like the idea of playing Mutavault in the first place because of that.
I think I just made mulligan in 2 or 3 games in the whole event. Does that mean that the Guildgates worked? No, it means that I had good draws all day long and that’s how a 400 players PTQ is won, but playing the Guildgates definitely made the mana base more solid.
Actually none of my games of the top 8 were any exciting. I played against Mono Black in quarter-finals and he mulligan to 5 game 1 and got stuck on two lands game 2. He mentioned after the match how well the deck worked so far, which proves once again that you will always need good draws to get that far in big tournaments.
Semifinals was a rematch against one of the guys playing Esper, Andy; the games got some interaction, but once again my good draws were all it took the deck to win a good match.
The finals was a mirror match against my only lost of the swiss in the last round against Mark. Game one he went down to 4 cards and I played a solitaire game. For game 2 I made my sideboard that included bringing in the two copies of Destructive Revelry and take out the two Flesh/Blood.
I am not sure if doing this is right, Destructive Revelry only deals with Coursers, but I think the card engine can win a game where both players finish their gas and get into topdeck mode or when you need the lands from the top to play the monsters, so having how to deal with it and maybe saving the Mizzium Mortars for later is a good idea.
While I was shuffling for the second game I remember our previous match where he mentioned he took out the courser because he believes the mirror match is more about accelerating into monsters and the 2/4 body was not good at attacking or defending, so before presenting my deck I swap the cards again.
Game 2 he got a much better hand on the play with Caryatid, Domri Rade, Polukranos and Dragon. Once again I felt lucky when after playing Polukranos and watch him shocking himself for playing the dragon, I deal 18 damages attacking with the Polukranos, giving it Bloodrush and finishing him with Blood.
I will keep playing the format online because I really like how it looks right now (who wouldn’t after winning a 400 players PTQ?), but I will split my Magic time with Block (starting the preparation for the Pro Tour in two months) and Theros Limited; I already know the draft format quite well for my preparation for the last Pro Tour, but probably I need some sealed practice.
I would like to thanks once again everyone who helped me putting the deck together and apologize to those opponent who couldn’t get a real game with me due to mulligans, I know it sucks.
I will see you on PTQ Milton Keynes, unless I get qualified the week before on the Grand Prix Vienna :)