It’s been a while since my last article and this time I have the excuse of not having the time to write any.
After Pro Tour M15 in Portland and GP Utrecht, I barely played any Magic for several weeks. As my first year with a Pro Player Status (Gold), it was a weird feeling of nostalgia and relief at the same time not having to travel every 2-3 weeks around the UK chasing PTQs; I was reading on Facebook status from friends about how they were doing and felt like I wanted to be there, also playing. There also were the MWCQ, another series of important tournaments happening around me that I couldn’t play.
After quitting my job, 3-4 weeks after coming back from Utrecht, I thought I was going to use that spare time on Magic Online, to keep myself as updated as possible with the metagames and formats, but with a rotation happening in Standard and nothing Modern to play soon, I was demotivated to do so. Instead, I was using my time to do more “normal stuff” that “normal people” do.
With the spoiler of Khans of Tarkir, the arrangements for the Pro Tour got started. For this tournament, I got included in one of the best teams in Europe and likely the World: Team Cabin Crew. Frank Karsten and Martin Juza already wrote something about our preparation and conclusions for the tournament, which you can find here and here.
Instead of writing more of the same, I would like to share the experience I had preparing with them; Answering some of the questions from people about the “going pro life style”.
The first thing that surprised me, was that the meeting date for start testing was the very next day after prereleases, basically the first day available for playing with the new cards between us. The meeting place for the Team Cabin Crew? The Cabin in the Woods of course. This house belongs to Matin Juza’s family and is situated literally atop of a wooded mountain, in the middle of nowhere, somewhere 2-3 hours drive from Prague. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.
Testing started the very first morning; The team is way more focus on Draft than constructed. I sort of disagreed with that at first, but then I understood why: We worked on limited the ten days we spent in the Cabin, barely playing some constructed matches in between, once we met in Honolulu the Monday before the PT we started proper constructed testing. It ended up being much easier to test constructed once we had some information about the format from the StarCity events.
After each draft, we split in two random teams to build decks; This was the best moment to discuss picks, power level of some cards and best possible builds with the available cards drafted. Then we played, three matches each player, 12 total matches. It didn’t matter if one team already got 7 wins, we still played the 12 matches in order to get as much information as possible about the archetypes and the format. Results are written down to get the win % of each archetype after all drafts have been played.
Playing finished around 10 pm, but everyone stays around chilling, discussing about the formats or playing HeartStone until 1-2am. 10am was the meeting time for everyone to be downstairs again and ready to draft, obviously being punctual is not included in Magic skills, so we were starting the draft around 10.30, with half the people drafting with one hand and still having breakfast with the other.
Overall I’ve found all these guys to be very responsable and committed to the testing. Organizing big groups of people is never easy and in this team everyone put effort to make things happen as efficiently as possible. I really felt well prepared for the draft format after the 10 days we spend in the Cabin, regarding my personal record of 22-23 there; I knew the limited level of these guys was way higher than the average player of the Pro Tour, so I was confident. The team ended up with a 42-24 record in the PT, almost a 2-1 record per draft in average; pretty impressive if you ask me.
The commitment with the testing was the same even in Honolulu; we all wanted to go out, but we all stayed in the hotel’s rooms for at least 8 daily hours having Standard games.
As a bonus from the already mentioned decks in Frank’s and Martin’s articles, I am going to share the decklist that I invest most time on in Hawaii (I just jumped in Jeskai Burn the day before the PT):
When the team concluded that [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card] was not good enough in the format, I replaced them with [card]Hordeling Outburst[/card]; Also, the two [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s were originally the last copy of Sorin and last copy of [card]Seeker of the Way[/card]. The decklist was very similar to the one Brad Nelson used to top8 GP LA, but his version was less aggressive and more focused in the late game.
I was getting very good results with this deck and the only reason why I dropped it was because I was working on it by myself and had no much time left to work on the sideboard plan. I was concerned that all the good results I was getting were going to get much worse against decks with [card]Anger of the Gods[/card] and [card]Drown in Sorrow[/card] in the sideboard.
The Pro Tour went quite well for me. I stayed alive until round 12 with a 9-3 record, then I lost three of the last four rounds but luckily finished 50th for some extra cash. The more I play, the more I get used to the Pro Tour, the more players that I meet, the closer I feel my level to the best in the World.
My arrogant comment comes with a reflection: 6 months ago I was nowhere close to the level I am right now; I was playing well and getting lucky, some results came and my confidence grew more and more; I started taking the game more seriously and giving more importance to every decision during each game; I took that step from the good player to the top player and I realized that most of the knowledge and skill was already in my head, I just needed to open myself to the change. I am sharing this because I know there are a lot of talented players in the UK that sometimes just don’t fully realise their potential and don’t get to that last step.
After one amazing week in paradise (Honolulu and the Big Island of Hawaii) I went to LA for the GP; I wanted to play two different decks there: Or the Mardu list I just shared with you, or a more control’ish approach of the Jeskai we played in the PT. The first one was the safer option because I tested the deck a lot, the second one was the most tempting one because after the PT I had the feeling the colours of the deck I played had the potential to control most of the games, but without card advantage it was short of answers or burn to finish off the games.
I took the risk of playing a decklist I wrote down the night before the tournament and never played before; Most of the time this is going to end up in disaster and I would recommend only doing this for a FNM or Game Day. Luckily for me, the deck idea was actually great and rewarded me with a top16 in the GP. You can take a peek at my list following this link and looking up for my name.
[deck]3 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
4 Mantis Rider
2 Anger of the Gods
2 End Hostilities
4 Lightning Strike
3 Magma Jet
2 Jeskai Charm
2 Steam Augury
3 Dig Through Time
3 Disdainful Stroke
2 Suspension Field
1 Banishing Light
3 Temple of Triumph
3 Temple of Epiphany
4 Mystic Monastery
3 Battlefield Forge
2 Shivan Reef
4 Flooded Strand[/deck]
[deck]1 Anger of the Gods
1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
2 End Hostilities
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Disdainful Stroke
2 Magma Spray
2 Stoke the Flames
1 Keranos, God of Storms
Now back at home and rested from so many days out (I know, resting from Hawaii doesn’t make much sense), I can start having a look at what Modern has become; it’s time for me to explore new options and maybe have something new and spicy for Grand Prix Madrid; hopefully I will see some of you there.
Thanks for reading,