Menu

Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar: A Mulch perspective

Hello whoever you are,

TGM Editor Molly Rowe has been bugging me to write a tournament report from the recent Pro Tour: Battle for Zendikar. Since I’m unorganised I have 12 hours in an airport to kill, so may as well do this tournament report. When I read tournament reports I don’t really care about the games, I just want the life stuff. All the stories, so that’s how I’m going to present this one. I think I’ll just write it through as it happened, see how that goes.

Qualifying

Suppose I’ll start with how I qualified. I finished 11-5 at the previous Pro Tour, which I heard one pro call a “min qual”. That’s a little bit degrading. Didn’t feel minimal to me…I mean technically that IS the minimum result you can get at a PT to qualify you for the next one. Not sure how long it’s been like that but wizards changed it from ‘top 25′ to ’11-5 or better’, which I was pretty damn happy about.
I’ve been in Canada since then, just holidaying about. I’m actually on a working visa but in light of qualifying for PT Battle for Zendikar, I chose to take the opportunity to do a few GP’s around it and visit friends rather than finding work (YOLO). It has been unsettling not having an address or income. The uncertainty has definitely played on my mind and wasn’t good for my Pro Tour mentality.

Pro Tour preparation

My first step was trying to find some qualified Canadian players to test with. I didn’t manage to. Especially unfortunate for me since two of them top 8’d, it would’ve been handy to have that skill to test with. I actually met Paul Dean at GP Quebec the weekend after the PT. Nice guy, he was still riding high on it, as you would be.
Second step was rounding up the Australians and New Zealanders (don’t know when it started but Aus and NZ have always been close magically, it’s great). When I say “rounding up” I mean creating a Facebook group and adding them to it. Easiest way to organise accommodation and discuss deck ideas. Here’s a brief description of the ‘ANZAC’ crew:

MTGmint

jason
Jason – our spear head flagship player if you will. From Auckland. He’s been snapped up by team MTGmint but is still part of the crew; hanging, testing, dining with us etc. Jason is currently a platinum pro. He was in our crew for PT Origins also.

pjax
P-Jax- from Perth. He’s currently a gold pro thanks to his break out top 8 in Vancouver. That also catapulted him to Australian captain for the up and coming Worlds, carn Aussies! P-Jax has also been recruited by MTGmint.

tyler
Tyler – from Newcastle, NSW. Top 4’d the RPTQ in Sydney. I first met Tyler at this event. We crashed at Matt Anderson’s place together (thanks Matt). Tyler is super easy going and doesn’t snore, so I was stoked to be crewing with him. Tyler’s just 17 years old but I don’t even notice the age difference (I’m 28). Funny how magic transcends that kind of thing: age and culture. We’re still working on gender but hopefully that one comes round soon. Tyler lost his top 8 win-and-in this weekend at GP Quebec City, so condolences and big congrats to you buddy. Those near misses hurt.

chris
Chris – from Sydney. Top 4’d the RPTQ. This is my first time meeting Chris. He recently got married and is a sensible adult. Refreshing to have one of those on the team haha.

nolan
Nolan – from Lismore, NSW. Top 4’d the RPTQ. My first time meeting Tim. He leant me a bunch of cards which I’m very grateful for and he’s a strong player.

I don’t know what happened to the 4th RPTQ top 4’er. Astonishingly he didn’t show up. Shame for whomever he knocked out last round of the RPTQ.

darcy
Darcy – from Melbourne. Won an online PTQ, quite a feat. Mostly a MODO grinder. He played this Pro Tour before ever playing a GP. Enigmatic!

Don
Don – The Don father. Always a pleasure. Don cracks me up. Don got pretty close to Gold last season. I’ve never actually watched him play magic but his results speak for themselves, especially in limited. On reputation alone I would take any draft pick he recommended. Don’s actually Dutch but I think he had some semblance of Australian residency before recently returning home. Don’ll be back for GP Melbourne next year, so look out!

Prep Part II

OK, back to the trip; of course we left the accommodation organising to the last minute. Don found an apartment online a couple weeks before, and we went with it. We had to stay pretty far away from the venue to get the price range everyone was comfortable with, but no big deal. The PT was in Milwaukee (map link). I had no impressions of Milwaukee before I arrived. It was just another American city. Wide open concrete spaces. Stuff too far apart to walk anywhere. Everything functioned well though, public transport, food and amenities everywhere. The autumn trees were nice and so were the people.

Tyler, Nolan and I caught a bus from GP Madison to Milwaukee. I was up until about 2am the night before, organising how to catch the bus. I must subconsciously get a thrill out of the last minute stress I cause myself by procrastinating. Makes me feel alive or something. Normally I’m unorganised enough to book things the day before, but this time I was booking ON the day. I was and still am going through a bit of personal discovery. I had broken up with my girlfriend of over a year that day, right in the middle of day two of the GP. Made the GP seem totally insignificant. Years of cardboard conditioning carried me through and I finished a respectable 61st out of >1800 players. I was also drunk when booking the bus of course. The Greyhound Bus website was a total nightmare. I tried calling customer service a couple times. Their voice menu was impossible so I had to lie to get through to an operator who didn’t understand me until I started faking an American accent. Tyler was on the same air mattress as me when I was doing all this. Woke him up a few times. Would have been weird for him heh.
In the end I just took an educated guess as to where and when the bus would arrive and terminate and I relayed the info to Nolan who was staying elsewhere.
Next morning we meet Nolan at the University to catch the bus. Nolan hadn’t booked a ticket and assumed there’d be a ticket office at the bus stop. There wasn’t even a bus stop. Also, the website specified that we needed to present a printed paper ticket and that smart phone pdf’s would not be accepted. Ridiculous in this day and age but what you gonna do? We found a library and they kindly printed our tickets for us, which was awesome of them. We grabbed some Subway and marched up and down the street with bags and subs in hand asking everyone where the Greyhound Bus stop was. It was the same time as first class for all the University students. I felt like Simba in a wildebeest stampede. We asked a bus driver of a different company where to catch the Greyhound. He laughed and revealed that Greyhound outsources here and we actually want the bus behind him, which was a totally different company. Good thing we spoke to that guy. Ticketless Tim Nolan got lucky as our bus driver allowed him to ride without a ticket and just buy one at the end of the trip. It seems all systems are imperfect and it’s personal interaction and favours, which keep everything functional. The bus trip was only a couple hours. We met a couple other grinders on the bus who were great value. Steve and….shit I forgot your name dude but yeah, we talked nonsense the whole time. They spoke of the classic tussle between wife-time and magic-time, coping with bad beats, baseball, road trippin’, etc.
Tyler, Nolan and I were the first ones to arrive at the apartment in Milwaukee. Shotgun big bed with ensuite! booyah! I was sharing beds with Tyler again. We had a mutual understanding: he accepted me staying up late tossing and turning. I accepted his blanket stealing.
The place was nice, lots of space, a couple tables, kitchen, laundry and three bedrooms. The floorboards creaked super loudly under every footstep, which was funny and annoying at the same time.
First day we did a massive supermarket run. We emptied out our suitcases to carry all the food home on the bus.

shopping

The supermarket was in a pretty ghetto area. It happened to be an Aldi, which was strangely comforting for me as I have many fond memories of dollars saved at the ALDI back home in Box Hill. The supermarket had a security guard and a dude tried to sell us burnt DVD’s out of his backpack. Good luck to that guy, not sure how his business model will work out for him.
Don, Chris and Darcy all arrived the next day. That gave us three days to test before the PT. There had been a big Starcity event on the weekend before with decklists to give us some focus. GW Megamorph, Atarka Red and Jeskai Black were the big three. I didn’t have expectations for the testing process. I had learnt from the last PT that it’s easiest just to go with the flow. Let people test how they want and hopefully their desire to do well will make the testing meaningful.
Without knowing everyone in the house or how they approach the game, I didn’t want to force anything on anyone. Perhaps if the whole crew knew each other we could’ve structured everything, made a gauntlet, assigned people to be in charge of certain archetypes, etc. But I didn’t want to be a control freak. Hopefully next time something like that can be arranged; if there is a next time.
As it turned out, most of the guys jammed variants of GW Megamoprh against each other for constructed testing. Trying splashes of blue or black. Nolan tried fitting Drana in a few different shells but failed and just jumped onto GW Megamorph. Tyler was jamming GW Megamorph but couldn’t break the mirror so reverted to Esper Dragons which had got him to the Pro Tour. Don was on GW Megamorph from the start as he felt we didn’t have enough time or resources to creating something new. He just wanted learn a proven decent deck, which was wise. Chris Sha was the same as Don. Darcy was on Atarka Red from the start as it hadn’t lost much from Theros and it was what he played all last season. He tried a dragons variant and an aristocrats deck for an afternoon but otherwise he just focused on MODO draft. I brewed my heart out for three days straight. I tried Bant Obscuring Æther, BW Demonic Pact control, 4c goodstuff Temur Ascendancy, BG Elves and I had a few more ideas to try but ran out of time. By Thursday afternoon I was on Elves. It was fun to play and could do some powerful things. By Thursday evening everything was crushing Elves and I was having a bad time. We were testing at Jason and P-Jax’s hotel. I cracked the shits and canned the deck. Sorry again for snapping at you Jason.
Once again I found myself at midnight the night before the PT brewing some untested nonsense. The Bant Obscuring Æther deck I had built earlier in the week decent except it folded to Mantis Rider. I realised Silumgar Assassin killed Mantis Rider. I added black for that and Abzan Charm and my PT deck was born. It was a risk, but it was what I had.

As for draft testing, there were only 6 in our house so if we wanted to draft, it was MODO or nothing. I could’ve played MODO but that was a low priority whilst I didn’t have a constructed deck. I at least watched heaps of drafts over the others’ shoulders and discussed picks. In the end my limited preparation consisted of GP Madison and that was it, i.e. not much.
For everything non-magic related to a testing house, we did great. Everyone did their bit with the cooking and cleaning and we didn’t really break anything in the house. There was one incident; We bought a big bottle of clothes washing detergent. I placed it on the shelf next to the washing machine. Whilst we were testing I heard a big bang from somewhere. Turns out the washing machine rocked the shelf during it’s spin cycle and the detergent fell off spilling everywhere. At least the basement smelt clean. The floor was concrete so not a big deal. You’d think detergent would be easy to clean. I tried. It wasn’t. Today we got an email enquiring about the remaining stain. Was irresponsible of me not to tell them about it. Turns out the stain wasn’t permanent so we didn’t get charged, it was just shitty of us not to completely clean it up.

cleaning

The PT

Each morning of the PT we caught a taxi in. With 6 of us it was feasible. One taxi we caught was third world. This guy was all over the road, sharing lanes. His cab was a mess. He answered two phone calls. I still gave him a tip because foreign country culture but to this day I regret that tip.
The taxi on the morning of the PT was where I built my sideboard. I hadn’t played a game with my list. Terrible. Somehow I went 6-4 with it over the weekend. The deck felt pretty bad; inconsistent mana and could easily get over powered if it didn’t draw an Obscuring Æther. Here it is:

deck list

Almost all of us day 2’d which was a good effort considering our average prep. 4-4 or better got you to day 2. I went 5-3. Here was my day 1 draft deck:

draft 1

Really solid. I made a few misplays, which cost me. I ended up 1-2 with it. I lost to Chapin, which really hurt. Wanted to maintain my winning streak against him 😛

Here was my day 2 draft deck. Had a tough seat and this was where my lack of experience in the draft format really punished me. I ended caught between an aristocrats style and eldrazi style RB deck:

draft 2

I also 1-2’d with this, which was expected. Yes, that Processor Assault was stuck in my hand every time. Yes, the first Voracious Null ate the second one. Yes, I needed another land. Yes, yes, yes. I need to MODO from now on.
I ended the PT on 8-8. No prize but considering the ingredients of my preparation, the result was surprisingly ok.
Out of our crew, Jason finished the best on 9-6-1, earning him an extra Pro Point than the rest of us. He was playing Jeskai in constructed.
The GW Megamorph deck got stomped. It was one of the big known decks coming into the tournament and Pro’s know how to beat decks if they want to. Don’s constructed record best sums up the deck’s performance, 1-7 (he dropped with two rounds to go). He didn’t know that if he won his last two rounds he could’ve earned an extra Pro Point. Hopefully that doesn’t come back to bite him. He well made up for his poor constructed record though, with an astounding 6-0 limited record.
The top 8 was stacked: PV, Owen Turtleworld, Jon Finkel (what a master), Martin Müller, two Japanese players I should know and the two Canadians who evaded my stalking attempts.

All of us were too exhausted to party it up after the PT so we just did a 6-man team draft. I got carried and our team rolled to see who got all the cards. It was Tyler time. Little kid luck etc. After that we hit up the hotel bar and grill for the 3rd time of the weekend then taxi’d home to chill.
Sunday was good. Despite no one getting a good result, we were all happy to hang out and watch the top 8 at the venue. Wizards was also offering free drafts if there was a Platinum Pro or Hall of Famer to host the draft. I was lucky enough to join one with Thiago Saporito. He was a great guy. Jason also hooked us up with a draft at the end of the day. We 8-man team drafted for 20’s. Our team won (I got carried again) and we again rolled for who got all the cards. P-Jax this time. Nash!
Monday morning was a little house cleaning then we just had to kill time until everyone’s flights. I was the only one with a flight on Tuesday. I ran the gambit of ‘go to the airport with everyone else and ask to switch flights’. I got no-sir’d and decided to pull an all-nighter at the airport to wait for my morning flight. The all-nighter was weird. Hard felt tiles on concrete. No blanket. Binge watching Gundam SEED. I was a stinky mess after that and all my connecting flights to Québec.

So that was the PT. I’ve still got a couple GP’s to come. C’mon redemption!

A tout a l’heure!,

Luke

P.S. Squirrels are a drug for me. Just hilarious:

squirrell 2

squirrel

  • Vit

    What changes would you make to the Obscuring Aether deck if you had to play it again? Your positive Pro Tour record got me to take a similar deck to FNM, and it’s a blast to play. I’ve got fun-ofs of Sagu Mauler and Kheru Spellsnatcher over two Icefeather Avens, and dropped an Abzan Charm for another Mastery of the Unseen (my meta has a lot of Esper Control). I dropped the Rhinos and Minister of Pain from the sideboard, as I found that I don’t really want to side out morphs, and added in the other two Masteries and two Evolutionary Leaps (Raptor + Leap is good; Raptor + Leap when every creature in the deck reanimates it is better). Icefeather Aven has generally been pretty weak outside of the case where I have Trail of Mystery, as it doesn’t get card advantage or kill Mantis Rider. I don’t know what to replace it with, though.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed that Icefeather Aven is too weak.
    I found the deck really struggled against Wingmate Roc. Can’t think of anything to help with that. Mantis Rider also got in for too much damage.
    Honestly the deck just can’t compete on power level with the top decks unless it draws Obscuring Æther, which isn’t frequent enough.

%d bloggers like this: