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Smells Like Team Spirit - Pro Tour Seattle (part 2)

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Richard Bland
Richard Bland

About Richard Bland

Richard is an English pro player. He started playing Magic on a foreign exchange trip to Germany in the dark days of Darksteel, and was running sick homebrew Shared Fate decks at FNM while everyone else was playing affinity mirrors. While he has learned better since then, he still retains a soft spot for combo decks of all hues.

  • Platinum Pro Player
  • 98 Lifetime Pro Points
  • 2nd Worlds 2011
  • 2nd GP San Diego 2011
  • 3rd GP Barcelona 2011
  • 3rd GP Madrid 2010
  • 2nd Great Britain Nationals 2010

Smells Like Team Spirit - GP San Jose and Pro Tour Seattle (part 2)

Hello everyone,

When we left off in part 1, I detailed the UW deck I decided to play at Pro Tour Seattle. I came to this decision about 2 days before the event, and along with Eduardo, Brad and Andreas we decided on the final few sideboard slots and strategies.

UW Modern - PT Seattle

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I managed to make a huge rookie mistake the day before the tournament when we walked to player registration. I underestimated how far the walk would be and wore new shoes as my other ones weren’t very water-resistant and it looked very likely to rain. Half an hour into the trip and I could already feel the blisters forming. It made for a painful day or two to say the least. Lesson learned; always break your new shoes in before a trip, not during.

The venue itself was an odd one. It was actually the Seattle cruise-ship terminal, which evidently must not see much use at this time of year. This meant it was way out on Pier 91, in an industrial area far from, well, anything you might want near a Magic venue – roads, taxis, food, anything. This became a problem both for getting to and from the venue and for finding food during the tournament. Wizards had arranged some food trucks to sell hot food outside the venue, but hadn’t accounted for players being too busy playing their constructed rounds to be able to make the 3-hour window the trucks were there for before they left/ran out of food. To be fair to Wizards, they did try to make up for this by ordering in dozens of pizzas and handing out free slices to players later in the day, but if the venue had been anywhere central this wouldn’t have been an issue at all. After day 1 ended we were again shown the drawbacks of the venue’s location as we had to wait in the rain for almost an hour for the pair of shuttle coaches to repeatedly take several hundred people back and forth in groups to downtown from the venue, and then for us, to find a taxi to take us back to our house. When sleep is so important to doing well at an event, anything that wastes time at the start or end of a day is always frustrating as all we want to do is find food then get to bed.

Despite these failings, the tournament itself was well run, with few games going to time ensuring a fast turnaround. Sadly, with Eggs as a big deck after this tournament, other Modern events like GP Lyon wouldn’t be so lucky, with one round lasting nearly 40 minutes into extra turns due to a combo on combo matchup. Whether this issue will be addressed by future ban lists, I’m not at all sure, but it will definitely be something to keep an eye on with more Modern tournaments coming up and a PTQ season on the horizon.

The Event

Round 1 I played against UR storm, which ran the new Mythic Epic Experiment, which I’d previously tipped to be constructed playable. The version of storm we favored didn’t run Experiment, as we felt it wasn’t consistent enough, but it had value for when you needed to increase your density of ‘action spells’ against counterspell-free decks like Jund. I won the roll and decided I needed to play my turn 3 Geist of Saint Traft to put enough of a clock on, but sadly he Experimented for 5 on turn 3, hit more rituals and a Past in Flames and went off from there. I boarded out my sorcery speed cards and useless removal spells for instant-speed threats and relics. I won the second with a Relic in play allowing me to stop him from comboing out despite him Gigadrowsing me. On the third game I got down an Aven Mindcensor and Restoration Angel and started beating down, but was a little light on mana. I was unable to stop Gigadrowse from tapping me low, and a Spell Snare on a ritual wasn’t enough to stop an Experiment for 5. He only flipped Manamorphose and Grapeshot in the 5, then cast and drew a card off of Manamorphose and as he quickly played Pyretic Ritual from his hand and went to cast the Grapeshot, I stopped him as he clearly had gone past the point where he could stack spells with Epic Experiment (as part of the card’s resolution) when he drew the card from Manamorphose and told him he should put the Grapeshot and the other cards he had flipped into the graveyard. A pair of judges decided that he should be allowed to back up his play despite having drawn cards and cast other cards from his hand.  I should have appealed to the head judge but did not as the second judge was in agreement with the first that this was the correct procedure for dealing with resolution disputes over this card.  Having gotten the take-back, he showed the last card in his hand to be another Grapeshot and hit me for an easy lethal with them both. Frustrated with myself and the players who don’t know their own cards, I wasn’t off to a good start

0-1

The next round I faced off against a 4-color non-black Zoo deck, where I lost a quick first game where I drew rather more land and fewer Path to Exile or Snapcasters than I would have liked. I boarded as I would against Delver, and mulliganed to a weak 5 card hand. Expecting a quick loss, I was surprised and somewhat amused to see his hand of Steppe Lynx into Tarmogoyf was stymied by a lack of a 3rd land or fetches, and while his deck delivered him more Lynxes and he was forced to start Pathing them to get out of his mana trouble, I Threads of Disloyalty and Supreme Verdicted his board (though not in that order). In the third it was his turn to mulligan and I managed to get a Geist of Saint Traft on the attack while Kitchen Finks stalled the ground. A Threads on his Thalia, Guardian of Thraben swings tempo in my favor and Spell Snare stopped him from going to my face with Tribal Flames while Geist went the distance.

1-1

I faced off against an English PTQ winner in the next, who had brought an interesting GB Dredge deck, with Rotting Rats as a glue to bind the Stinkweed Imps, Gravecrawlers and Vengevines together, with a light disruption package of Thoughtseize and Abrupt Decay. I took a short game one where I raced in the air with Vendillion and Angel after Mana Leaking his first few plays. I lost a long second game where I couldn’t draw enough gas, Relics or Path to Exiles to get past his Stinkweed Imp blockers, which were halting my flying army. In the third I hit the sweet spot of Paths and countermagic, and a Grisly Salvage where he accidentally forgot to take a card didn’t hurt. I never drew a relic, but it was fairly comfortable game despite the matchup not feeling all that favorable.

2-1

I faced my second storm opponent of the day in round 4, and this time I had the right cards at the right time. I lose a quick game one where he combos me out when I tap out on turn 3 again. His Gigadrowses weren’t enough to stop my handful of counterspells in game 2, where I had enough mana and counterspells to leave myself 2 mana untapped through the Drowse and used my floating mana to pop Relic of Progenitus to stop his Pyromancer Ascension from building up a second counter. He tried to go off regardless, but my 2 mana up left a Negate for his Past in Flames and he was out of gas at that point. In the third he mulliganed and attempted to Gigadrowse on turn 4, but I Vendilion in response and take the Empty the Warrens he was planning on casting. He tries to combo off with an Experiment for 4, but whiffs and scoops up soon after.

3-1

In the last round of constructed I play against future top8’er Kelvin Chew’s infect deck, and manage to blunder horribly in both games. In the first I am surprised by his turn 1 Sleight of Hand from basic Island play become turn 2 Ichorclaw Myr that I say ‘Ok’ to the play as I’m looking at how my hand of Dismember and Path to Exile is looking far better now he’s not on some other combo deck. Almost immediately I realize I should have Mana Leaked the Myr, and as a result am unable to play Sword of Feast and Famine on turn 3, which would have been a big threat as I had Mutavault in play. I wasn’t ever really able to find a good time to get the Sword down afterwards and lost to a Rancor’ed up Blighted Agent a few turns later. In the second, I again made a mess of reacting to events in time as I pondered too long between Cyrptic Command and Snapcaster Mage on Mana Leak to block when he cast a pair of Might of Old Krosa on a Glistener Elf with Noble Hierarch in play. I weighed up the tempo and board positional advantages of each for too long so that when I’d decided cryptic was the safer play he’d already declared attacks and I pointed the Cryptic at the Elf instead of tapping his guys with Cryptic like any sensible person. As justice was served, his final card was Apostle's Blessing and I deservedly lost a game I had all but locked up.

3-2

Back on tilt, I was happy to be getting out of Standard and into the draft. I first picked Rakdos Ragemutt in a very mediocre pack then picked up more red cards and an Izzet Staticaster. Still undecided I went into pack 2 where Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius was staring back at me and made my decision for me. I picked up a Bloodfray Giant over Annihilating Fire in pack 3, as I was light on win conditions and the giant is the perfect target for Pursuit of Flight, a personal favorite common of mine. My final deck ended a little light on threats, and played 18 lands due to my 6-drops and abundance of looters but was fairly solid and was a good Paralyzing Grasp deck, as much as any deck can be one.

PT Seattle Draft 1 - Izzet

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Blue9
Gold5
Hybrid1
Land18
Red7
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26
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Basic Land16
Creature15
Enchantment3
Instant4
Land2
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4
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I played Sweden’s Kenny Oberg in round 1 who played GWb, and lost a tight game to Trostani's Judgment on my Isperia's Skywatch, stopping me from racing his Scavenged up ground guy. The second was a protracted affair that involved his Martial Law and my walls facing off against his army of 3/3’s. Amusingly, for several turns my Doorkeeper was being detained to slow my potential milling win, but he found Giant Growths for his flyer to knock turns off his clock on me before I was able to mill him out.

3-3

Round 7 was against a hyper-aggressive Rakdos player who had multiple Grim Roustabouts. Voidwielder and Doorkeeper earned their keep in this match, as I was able to race him with Stealer of Secrets card advantage through his unleashed men. I lost one game where I failed to draw bounce or Paralyzing Grasp when he Pursuit of Flight’ed his 3/3 Splatter Thug early, despite drawing a pile of cards with Thoughtflare. The third was somewhat of an anticlimax, as he failed to draw much in the way of action, but had Auger Spree for my first plays, but nothing to stop Niv Mizzet on turn 6.

4-3

Round 8 was against another Golgari deck with powerful creatures like Dreg Mangler and Corpsejack Menace. Cobblebrute earned his keep by stopping Golgari Longlegs and the Menace from attacking (no one ever wants to trade for Cobblebrute, it’s amazing how often opponents will play awkwardly to avoid doing so), and Pursuit of Flight on a Nivix Guildmage gave me a clock. I made great use of Paralyzing Grasps in the match by tempting him into trading his Dreg Mangler then chumping a 11/10 Golgari Longlegs, courtesy of Corpsejack with Runewing, before grasping it down. In the second game, I brought in Downsize and it saved my Bloodfray Giant from trading with his Golargi Longlegs and 6 damage, which for a 13h pick, wasn’t bad at all.

5-3

I left the day feeling a little disappointed in my record. 5-3 left me with a lot to do and I was still down on my first and 5th round losses. A good night’s sleep sorted that out, as well as some very nice and exotic pizza from a local restaurant (including clams, lobster, huckleberries, duck egg and potato toppings). 5 of the 7 of us had made day 2, with Dan Royde leading us at 6-2, myself, Andy and Andreas at 5-3, and Eduado scraping in at 4-3-1

The next draft started with Annihilating Fire and Street Spasm to choose between, and I decided on Street Spasm as it was more splashable, a pick that in retrospect I think was wrong. Annihilating Fire is just too efficient and not hitting players or flyers can be very significant in certain matchups. I took Frostburn Weird over Splatter Thug, looking to go Izzet again, but late Deviant Glee and Golgari Longlegs made me move toward Rakdos. In the second I took Augur Spree over Rakdos's Return, which I think is pretty close, but Spree hits the sweet spot of cost, instant speed and ability to kill 4 toughness guys. Black continued to flow and I picked up some very late Hellhole Flailers, Perilous Shadows and more Deviant Glees, making my deck very much a Black/red deck. I was a little light on bombs but I had a lot of powerful creatures and the ability to punch through most board states. I should have maindecked the third Deviant Glee over a Rakdos Shred-Freak, but I was worried about drawing too many Glees, which really doesn’t happen, and Shred-Freak really isn’t very good.

PT Seattle Draft 2 - Rakdos aggro

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Black10
Gold4
Hybrid5
Land17
Red4
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Creature17
Enchantment2
Instant3
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Round 9 was against an Axebane Guardian Golgari control deck, running I think 4 copies of the mana accelerator and plenty Trestle Trolls, Gatecreeper Vines and 7-drops. I lost a very one-sided game to turn 4 Vraksa the Unseen followed by a turn 6 Rakdos's Return for 7, while I failed to find my 4th land.

I took the second after getting him low with an early assault and then after he stalled the board with Terrus Wurm, Ogre Gatekeeper and Trestle Troll built an army of guys that can attack through his board in one turn. I correctly read him for Launch Party and waited until I had him dead in 2 attacks even with Launch Party and double alpha strike took the game. The third game was really short and hilarious, as I never drew a red source, but I did draw double Sewer Shambler and Deviant Glee, which sailed right under his double Trestle Troll draw and killed him without needing to cast another spell.

6-3

My next opponent was Azorius aggro, with plenty of fliers and assorted 2/2’s including New Prahv Guildmage. I won the first and third with Hellhole Flailer starts, which he wasn’t able to race, and wasn’t able to double-block successfully due to Augur Spree. In the second, I didn’t draw my Augur Sprees and Lyev Skynight enabled him to pull far enough ahead in the damage race to race me in the air.

7-3

The draft ‘final’ was against Elias Watsfeldt in the Rakdos mirror. His deck was strong with the Splatter Thugs and Lobber Crews I was missing. Luckily, my Deviant Glees made Lobber Crew less relevant against me than other decks. I took a very close game 1 that involved both players casting Traitorous Instinct. I dealt the final 6 points by Deviant Gleeing up my Hellhole Flailer and throwing it at him when at 2 life and an active Lobber Crew on his side of the board. In the second I get another Hellhole Flailer and Gorehouse Chainwalker opening with Augur Spree for his Splatter Thug blockers, which he wasn’t able to race. After the match Elias told me he could have won game 1 had he played a seventh land on turn 7 – he instead held it to play around Mind Rot, but then was unable to throw my Hellhole Flailer at me on turn 8 when he cast Traitorous Instinct.

8-3

Back into the constructed and with another good Pro Tour draft performance (5-1 or better in my last 4 Pro Tour drafts) I was back on track for a money finish and just needed to hold it together. For a few more rounds.

And of course I get paired against nightmare matchup Merfolk in the next round. I kept a double Mana Leak hand and cringe when my opponent leads with turn 1 Aether Vial. I didn’t win that one. In the second I get a reasonable start but Phantasmal Image on my Kitchen Finks slows my counteraggro and I’m forced to Supreme Verdict to not die to Islandwalking attackers. I draw into more land than spells after the wrath, and can’t stop him assembling a critical mass of Lords.

8-4

Round 13 was my first mirror match, which seemed to be an almost 75 card mirror. In the first I get hit with the combination of Angel and Sword without finding a Path to Exile to break it up, and I’m too far behind to get back into the game. In the second we trade resources back and forth, both players trading Tectonic Edges for man lands, Spell Snares for Snapcasters and Mana Leaks for Angels, and end in topdeck mode with a Sword each. I draw another manland and he doesn’t. In the 3rd we have a very strange game. I Vendillion Clique mainphase twice to cycle my hand of 3’s and 4’s looking for a 4th land. He wastelands one, then mainphases an Angel after the second, allowing me to drop Geist of Saint Traft, which forces him to hold back his pair of Angels even after wastelanding my Clique again. Tectonic Edge hits me back down to three lands, and I draw both my Cryptic Commands before I hit another land to cast them, and I narrowly lose to his Angel/Manlands despite nearly using Dismember and Snapcaster to force my Geist through. A very enjoyable, close and hard fought match that didn’t go my way in the end, sadly.

8-5

I rallied in the next rounds against a pair of combo decks. I played against a Birthing Pod deck in the first who paid the Birthing Pod price by mulliganing to 5 in the second game. Sword of Feast and Famine proved itself here, allowing me to smash through birds and walls alike and clear out his hand while holding up counters.

9-5

Scapeshift
Versions:
Morningtide (Foil)

The next match was against Scapeshift, where I survived both games on 3 life or less. Tectonic Edges allowed me to stop him from killing me in the first game, where he was happy to only Scapeshift for 18 damage. Kitchen Finks pushed me back above the 3-life threshold and I finished him off by bouncing Valakut with Cryptic and beating down with Vendilion and Finks before he found a kill. In the second, Aven Mindcensor post-non-lethal Scapeshift kept me alive long enough at 1 life to finish him off.

10-5

The final round I drew into the top 50 with an affinity player from New Zealand as neither of us had breakers high enough to threaten the top 25.

10-5-1

I spent the final round watching the last rounds of Dan and Eduardo, both of whom were playing for better records than me. Dan won his last to finish 17th (so close to that top 16 :) ) and Eduardo clean swept the entire day to make the top 8.

The rest of the evening was spent getting back to the house to test and eat far too much takeout food while testing ‘til 3am. Sadly the quarterfinals didn’t go so well for Eduardo, and we all took his loss pretty hard, but another Pro Tour Top8 from our group was a big boost for us, and we’re all raring to break the format for Montreal. U/W is still a great deck for Modern, as the recent GP in Lyon proves, and I’d suggest Sunlance in the board if Infect, Affinity and Deathrite Shaman Jund remain popular.

Thanks for reading,

Richard

Bonus: here are the pick orders for limited we came up with during draft testing. Some evaluations have changed since, but I think they’re worth reading.

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