I knew going into Day 2 in advance that a record of 11-5 would qualify me for the next Pro Tour, and that 10-6 could potentially cash. But I’d have to go 7-1 or 6-2 to achieve either mark; after having gone 4-4 Day 1, well, let’s just say I wasn’t expecting much.
My pod actually ended up being kind of a big deal; not what I was anticipating in a pod of 4-4s! Two of the players in my pod were in contention for Draft Master (Travis Woo and Martin Mueller), and PT Aether Revolt winner Lucas Esper Berthoud was in my pod as well. I was passing to Twoo this draft.
My P1P1 this time was my rare, Dreamstealer, which I took over the next best card in the pack (Banewhip Punisher, also Black). Consideration was given to taking Banewhip over Dreamstealer, and I still think of this is a hard pick; moreover, I was almost 100% that Twoo would be taking whichever one I did not. I P1P2’d Desert’s Hold, and then decided to take Consign // Oblivion P1P3, noting that it did not table in my last Draft and that the card is excellent in UB or GB/Ux.
BW Zombies is an archetype I’d had a lot of success with in testing, so I took a speculative P1P4 Mummy Paramount out of a weak pack (the best other card was a Desert of the Mindful, I believe). I was immediately rewarded with a P1P5 Unraveling Mummy (essentially the reason to be Zombies) and basically autopiloted into the archetype for the rest of the draft. I also took a Dagger of the Worthy in pack 1, noting how strong the card was against me when Carvalho played it (and how great a 3/2 Dreamstealer is).
P2P1 was a very sad Aven of Enduring Hope, and P2 itself would be rather weak affair in general, with most of the early picks spent on filler level zombies (Disposal Mummy, Marauding Boneslasher, Khenra Eternal), a Lethal Sting, and not much else (Saving Grace/Without Weakness). I felt as though my archetype was open at this point (given the late Unraveling Mummy in P1 and the number of Zombies I’d seen) but not necessarily my colors. A P2P8 Unraveling Mummy confirmed my suspicions, and I had to restrain my casual urge to windmill slam it.
Amonkhet started off terribly, and I picked what was likely one of the weakest recorded PxP1s in Pro Tour history; a Doomed Dissenter. The rest of Amonkhet went much better though, as by the end I picked up Wayward Servant, an In Oketra’s Name, and two Time to Reflect. Here’s the deck I ended up playing:
1 Festering Mummy
1 Mummy Paramount
2 Khenra Eternal
1 Wretched Camel
1 Doomed Dissenter
1 Wayward Servant
1 Disposal Mummy
2 Unraveling Mummy
1 Marauding Boneslasher
1 Wasteland Scorpion
1 Merciless Eternal
1 Aven of Enduring Hope
2 Time to Reflect
1 Djeru’s Renunciation
1 Saving Grace
1 Without Weakness
1 In Oketra’s Name
1 Dagger of the Worthy
1 Desert’s Hold
1 Lethal Sting
1 Cradle of the Accursed
Almost every playable I had in my colors was in the deck, as I only had 1-2 other cards in my colors; we’d barely gotten there! We had 11 Zombies (12 if you count Doomed Dissenter/Dreamstealer as 0.5 Zombies each), a ton of payoff cards, a low curve, and a bunch of scrappy tricks to hopefully get my small creatures through. I waned over whether or not to play Cradle over the 8th Plains and decided I have a low enough curve/high enough synergy that I wanted the Cradle.
I lost the die roll and decided to keep a Cradle/Swamp no white source hand. I was quickly punished and ending up dying having cast only 2 spells G1, conceding with a grip of white cards to my opponents curve of 2 3 4 removal removal. I noted that I would’ve done fine if Cradle had been Plains #8, laughed, and decided not to make a results oriented call about cutting it. He seemed to be on some kind of removal heavy BR deck, but honestly for this draft I had virtually no sideboard anyways.
G2 I kept a no black source hand on the play (2 Swamps) on the back of 2x Khenra Eternal + having my uncommon on curve, and was rewarded this time with a Swamp off the top. Despite this my opponent still had quite a bit of removal (my Unraveling Mummy got Open Fire’d) and a Torment of Scarabs on me by T5. My plan to beat Torment was to take about 9-12 damage from it then discard Dreamstealer to it later, so I could bypass having to get it killed off and win with a 4/4 Menace. This + my initial curve out proved too much, and we were on to G3.
As a quick aside I’d like to note an interesting misplay my opponent made, which involved him casting a Puncturing Blow on my Disposal Mummy. I used Saving Grace, making the Mummy a 2/6 with 5 damage on it, and he declined to attack his 2/2 for 2 into my Wayward Servant (which had a -1/-1 counter due to Lethal Sting). Had he done so, no matter if I chump/take 2/etc, my Mummy would’ve taken 2 damage from combat and been finished off, and the 2/6 ended up being a very relevant attacker for the rest of the game.
G3 continued the trend of me opening on and keeping 7s with only one color of Mana (white this time) but I had Mummy Paramount, Without Weakness for cycling, and I was on the draw. I kept and ended up having those two cards be my T2/T3 plays, but my opponent missed two land drops and died to my curve of Zombies from T4 onward.
Lucas Esper Berthoud was my next opponent. He was very nice in the pre/postgame talk, so nice in fact that I had no clue I’d just played against someone who won a PT before (I didn’t recognize him/his name until after the PT).
I lost the die roll G1 and kept a weak opener with 4 lands, Wretched Camel, In Oketra’s Name, and Without Weakness. He opened on Fetid Pools -> Forest -> Strategic Planning (milling Chaos Maw + land) and I knew immediately that I was in for some nonsense (at least 3c plus how do I ever beat a Chaos Maw?). My zombies kept running into his lone blocker (Wall of Forgotten Pharoahs), and a Desert’s Hold on his Oasis Ritualist denied him mana/a great blocker. He used Consign//Oblivion on one of my attackers (a card I was sure to write down, alongside Chaos Maw/the sizes of his blockers) but still ultimately ended up dying to chip damage without putting up much of a fight.
G2 I mulled a terrible 7 (5 lands, 2/1 ⅔) into an excellent 6 with Unraveling Mummy, Aven of Enduring Hope, Khenra Eternal, and 3 lands, scrying another 3 drop attacker to the top. His blockers (the 0/4 again, and an Ancient Crab) were unable to block my creatures due to the threat of implied deathtouch, so he was taking chip damage again. I decided not to play around Chaos Maw this game as he had only Islands/Forest a single Manalith in play, and I did not believe that his deck would have that many untapped R sources in it. I also knew for sure that I was the beatdown in this game/matchup.
He Consigned one of my attackers to stall the game when he was at about 7, then used his last card to Lay Claim my freshly played Aven of Enduring Hope. Unfortunately for Berthoud I immediately drew Time to Reflect (and I was already on almost mono spells this game, with only 5 lands in play on about Turn 10) and pushed through my own creature. A few more Unraveling boosted attack steps ended the match fairly easily.
Some of my friends who were watching the PT had been talking to me about the Draft Master race, and I’d heard that Martin was in the running for Draft Master, so I dreamt of a potential feature match. However, the Martin they were talking about was actually Juza, not Mueller.
Regardless, Mueller was the other 2-0 in our pod, and my final boss for this Draft. He was on a very solid looking GW Midrange deck with Sifter Wurm, Mouth//Feed, 2x Sandblast, and plenty of creatures. I won the die roll G1 and killed him on Turn 6 with one of the filthiest curve outs I’ve ever in Draft. He had a 3/3 Blocker, Sandblast, and Colossapede on curve from 3-5 and still couldn’t survive my Wayward Servant boosted draw.
He was on the play G2, but we had a Dreamstealer on T3 which was quite threatening. A Desert’s Hold on one of his blockers let the Stealer sneak in for 1 card, and Mueller ended up passing on Turn 5 with two cards in hand and no creature in play. I had the Without Weakness in hand for his Sandblast on Dreamstealer, saving Dreamstealer and forcing him to pitch a real card (Bitterbow Sharpshooters). He had hesitated before passing, so I imagine he’d considered playing it on T5 but realized losing Sandblast for free seemed terrible.
Mueller flooded out quite hard and was at about 10 life with 0 creatures facing down 3 of mine. He top decked Sifter Wurm, bottomed all 3 cards, and then revealed a cycling land (ouch). It wasn’t hard for me to ride this tempo to victory, as I had Time to Reflect for the Wurm on blocks and more Zombies to play. We wished each other luck and I celebrated, if only for a moment. I’d 3-0’d my 2nd PT draft…if Constructed goes better, could we actually cash this PT?
CONSTRUCTED DAY 2
My first Constructed opponent for Day 2 was a Korean player on Mono Red Eldrazi. I say this rather than Ramunap Red because his build had Heart of Kiran, Matter Reshaper, and maindeck Thought-Knot Seer/Reality Smasher (not at all like the other builds I’d lost to).
I lost the die roll G1 but had Grasp of Darkness for his Heart of Kiran, and an unanswered Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet embarrassed his Matter Reshapers and quickly won G1 by about Turn 8. For sideboarding I had a good read on his Eldrazi creature base/slower speed, so I boarded like this:
-3 Fatal Push
-1 Ulamog, The Ceaseless Hunger
-1 Demon of Dark Schemes
-1 Yahenni’s Expertise
-1 Collective Brutality
+1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
+1 Never // Return
+1 Noxious Gearhulk
+2 Transgress the Mind
G2 was dominated by Matter Reshaper, as I couldn’t find a Kalitas and my reactive hand lined up disastrously against his 3/2s that I didn’t want to kill. I took 3 from them a bunch of times, eventually had to Grasp them away, and watched as he flipped back to back Reality Smashers and killed me. I made no changes to my 60 for G3 as I liked my board plan and knew being on the play would help.
I had a strong opener G3 (Transgress taking Chandra into Champion of Wits pitch Ulamog and Champion of Wits) but my opponent had a Crook of Condemnation as well. I ended up trading Champion for Matter Reshaper on Turn 4 (he blocked) and my opponent revealed Thought-Knot Seer to the draw. Given that my hand was just The Scarab God + land (and my board was empty/graveyard ready to be Crooked) I was expecting him to untap, cast it, and leave me with nothing.
However, my opponent started to tank on his turn after playing land #4. He was visibly concerned with my Ulamog in the yard, and seemed to be worried that if I had Liliana + Scarab God in hand (2 cards, unknown to him), or one on top of my deck, he would’ve missed his opportunity to Crook the Ulamog and potentially lose the game on the spot. I noticed this and started trying to Hollywood sell that my Ulamog was important to me, glancing at it while was thinking and eventually thumbing it over/drawing attention to me reading it.
This A+ level acting (or more realistically, my opponent’s own thought process) got the job done, and he main phased Crook (2nd mode, sac + exile all), played a Matter Reshaper, and passed. This window to cast Scarab God essentially won me the game, as his hand couldn’t answer it at all. I later drew into Strategic Planning, binned a Champ of Wits, and started a disgusting Eternalize chain that ended in a concession/win.
Platinum Pro/PT BFZ Top 8er Paul Dean was my opponent for Match #13, although once again I had no clue at the time who my opponent really was. Our pregame small talk had me mentioning this was my first PT, to which he said he’d played in “a few” and wished me luck warmly.
He was on Temur Energy, and we played an extremely long G1 that really let my UB deck flex its late game muscles. Paul was noticeably enjoying what my deck was doing, laughing/commenting that “he had no clue what I was on” multiple times throughout the match. Scarab God ground him to dust G1, as I faded a crucial turn early on (where he would’ve needed Harnessed Lightning for tempo purposes) and murdered his board over time with his own Glorybringers. I had the opportunity to hard cast Ulamog G1, but chose not to as a) I didn’t need to to win and b) I hadn’t milled any Ulamogs at all this game (or even drawn any Shrines), so I wanted to keep the fact that I was playing it secret if possible.
I don’t remember exactly how I boarded for G2, but I do know that I took out the Ulamog plan and added in Doomfalls/discard. This didn’t really get me anywhere G2, as I had a clunky draw and died to a 2 3 4 5 curve out by him. I decided for G3 that I wanted to try the Ulamog angle against him, as I hadn’t seen Negate for Liliana, Death’s Majesty and I knew he hadn’t seen them yet. I also had my own Negates in as well (took out the Fatal Pushes on the play)
I was paid off in the hardest way imaginable in G3, curving T3 Champin of Wits pitching Ulamog into T5 Lily -3 Ulamog, making his solid curve of Longtusk Cub -> Servant of the Conduit -> Bristling Hydra look weak in comparison. I had Negate up on T4 for his potential Chandra as well, although he played Hydra instead. Despite my T5 Ulamog, I’d taken some prior damage and he was able to attempt a real game with Glorybringer clocking me for 4 every turn.
Demon of Dark Schemes came down and swept away his Servant, although it ate a Harnessed Lightning and I fell to 6 from Glorybringer. I passed with Scarab God + reanimate Demon up for his Glorybringer attack, knowing that I could -2/-2 the Glorybringer before blocks from the trigger for a clean kill. He attacked into my open mana (signaling Harnessed Lightning) which he did have, but I reanimated the Demon, Negated the Lightning, ate his Glorybringer, then reanimated it for the alpha strike win next turn. Was my 11-5 dream becoming a reality?
I lost the die roll to Mardu Vehicles and played harrowing Game 1, with my opponent having Unlicensed Disintegration for my Scarab God on curve after playing Thraben -> Heart -> Pia on the play. I missed my return trigger (which was mostly irrelevant) for the first time of the tournament, and died stuck on 5 lands with a potentially lifesaving Demon of Dark Schemes in hand. My sideboard plan was:
-3 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
-1 Liliana, Death’s Majesty
-1 The Scarab God
+1 Never // Return
+1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Against Mardu I’m never 100% sure how to board (given the deck’s commonly known ability to transition from aggro to planeswalker midrange at will) but I decided I wanted to hedge for Gideon. Negate was live against Unlicensed as well, so I was fine playing them. I Negated a Gideon on T4 Game 2 then quickly won with Scarab God. I decided I wanted my Dispel as well on the draw (to protect Kalitas mostly) but I can’t remember exactly what I cut for it (might’ve been a 2nd Liliana).
I had a solid anti-aggro hand G3 (Champion of Wits, Gifted Aetherborn, tons of removal), and at one point was at 29 life in the face of a fairly aggressive draw. My opponent stuck a Gideon around Turn 6 though, and had Fatal Push to kill my Gifted Aetherborn. I drew a tapland on Turn 7, cutting me off Eternalize, and ended up taking 5 over and over, as I Eternalized Champs into more Champs/lands. By the end of the game I’d Eternalized 2 Champ of Wits, played 3 of them, and still had about 13 lands in play (with 7 in the yard) to my opponent’s 6. His Gideon was at 9 loyalty from hitting me in the face too many times, and I never found a Never despite seeing over half my deck.
In retrospect I feel I played the games well and just suffered a bit of bad beats, but in the moment I have to admit to being visibly a bit tilted. I wished my opponent luck and took a walk to try and get the tilt out of my system and refocus myself. If I could 2-0 my next 2 rounds I could still make 11-5, and only needed one more win for 10-6.
I played against the infamous Shaheen Soorani this round, keeping a slow hand on the draw with the assumption that he was on some kind of UR/Esper Control deck (as is his reputation). To my shock he played Mountain and Bomat Courier and attacked me for 1. I got extremely lucky and not only drew Gifted Aetherborn for turn, but had it live the entire game as it held off an army of 1 drops/Kari Zev. A reanimated Ulamog from Liliana ended Game 1 quickly, and I boarded the same way I’d done Day 1. To recap:
-2 Liliana, Death’s Majesty
-3 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
+1 Noxious Gearhulk
+1 Never // Return
+1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
+1 Gifted Aetherborn
+1 Yahenni’s Expertise
He kept a 1 lander Game 2, and stumbled too long for his early drops to matter. There was a funny sequence of turns where I played Scarab God, blocked Ragavan/got it Abraded, and repeated this process three turns in a row. By the fourth time the Scarab God came down though, Shaheen was out of temporary answers and I was at a healthy 13 life.
My final battle was against another player on Ramunap Red. He was another PT first timer apparently; one of us was getting a PT invite. I was on the draw G1 and mulled into a terrible 6 (Scarab God/Scarab God/Champ/3 Swamps), kept on the blind, and got ran over without putting up any fight whatsoever. I boarded as per usual and crossed my fingers that I’d be able to make it through two games, with more concern towards an eventual G3 (as I’d be on the draw).
G2 was won easily by a runaway Kalitas against his mediocre 6 card hand. He kept 7 for G3 though, and I mulled a 1 lander into 6…thankfully, it was a fairly solid hand of Grasp/Champ/Yahenni’s/3 lands. I bottomed a land and wondered to myself if this hand would be good enough.
I tried not to make the same mistake here I’d made against Owen the day before, using Grasp on my opponent’s Earthshaker Khenra to save 4 life on the way to Yahenni’s Expertise. I dropped Expertise at 10 life again (having Champed on 3 just to try and stem the bleeding/loot into gas), leaving me feeling somewhat comfortable, but my opponent quickly played Land #5/Glorybringer and put me to 6. I had no answer for it in hand, tapped out for Scarab God, and lost the match to a topdecked Ahn-Crop Crasher.
I congratulated my opponent on going 11-5 (it was also his first PT), shook his hand, and felt a surge of positive/negative emotions flow in. In about 10 minutes, all the negative emotions were gone, and I was proud of myself for having held my own against such great competition.
I was extremely pleased with how I’d Drafted/played Limited, and felt like I’d played Constructed reasonably well but didn’t do enough work into the deck. I actually liked the deck, for the record; playing a “brew” carries several advantages (mostly misinformation) that can lead to wins. When the Mono Red Eldrazi player Crooked instead of casting Thought-Knot Seer, I have to imagine he did this out of fear/lack of information about my 75.
But the Ramu Red matchup was terrible (1-3 against them), and the Ulamog plan wasn’t great. I’ve been playing the deck on MTGO quite a bit after the PT, and have an article about it coming soon. I 5-0’d two leagues with my revised version and 6-2’d the MOCS with a further update, qualifying for the playoffs. I won’t go into too much detail for now, but I will say that cutting Ulamogs for Noxious Gearhulks made the deck much, much better (as they are almost as good to reanimate, yet also quite castable). Hostile Desert is another major upgrade, as Shrine of the Forsaken Gods may as well have been a Wastes at the PT.
I came back to the venue Day 3 to watch the finals in person, get some free product, and team draft with some pros. Players of note that I got to play with were Amaz (of Hearthstone fame), Martin Mueller, and Craig Wescoe. I actually ended up betting my taxi/get home money on one of the drafts, but #gotthere and won back my money from Mueller/Wescoe.
I was pleased to see how much fun most of the pros were just playing team drafts (Owen in particular seemed to really be enjoying himself). It was a nice reminder why everyone was here in Kyoto, and what Magic means to all of us. I have to say though, seeing what happened to Wing was even more brutal in person; I really do believe he could hear/feel the crowd before he went to attack like that. I took a taxi home afterwards, my head already dreaming of PT Ixalan and the stories I’ll have from that.
Oh that’s right…I’m qualified for PT Ixalan btw! I won a PTQ Finals the Sunday before I left for Kyoto, playing HOU Sealed. I had a mediocre GB Sealed deck, made Top 8 on breakers as the sole x-2 @ 6-2, and drafted this to go to win the whole thing. So I hope you enjoyed this writeup, and promise that I’ll have one in November, right after I win Pro Tour Ixalan.