The Japan Metagame Diaries: Pro Tour Journey into Nyx (Part 1) – Amongst Gods
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure . . . than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat”
Nobody ever got anywhere by sitting at home and doing nothing. That is what the quote by Teddy Roosevelt means to me. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. We have to fail countless times before we can enjoy the joys of triumph. It took me hundreds of games and countless weeks of losing before I got good at standard. My first outing as a “pro” (which I never claimed to be) was a rough one. I finished dead last, but at least I can say I was there. I was at the Pro Tour and surrounded by greatness, by the Magic gods of new and old. It felt like a great honor to even walk in the same footsteps as people I had only read about. To see them alive, living breathing . . . there was a huge disconnect. Some people were larger than life, some were what I expected them to be like, and others were quite a surprise. I knew going into the event that I wasn’t going to do well. I was working full time, only had chances to do booster drafts on Friday nights and Sunday, and I was brewing/testing decks for the Pro Tour almost entirely by myself. I’m a pretty good standard player, but I had only been drafting seriously since Born of the Gods came out. I’m still leagues behind everybody else at the pro tour, and that’s a skill set I will try and improve from here on out.
I feel that I played well at the Pro Tour and made very few mistakes, but that’s now what you need to win at a Pro Tour. You have to play amazingly, like every game is a Grand Prix top 8 or PTQ top 8. You have to draft an amazing deck, and you have to know your formats in and out. I wasn’t at that point, and in retrospect I can say that this PT was too early for me. At the beginning of the year I had said it was my goal to make a day 2 of a GP or to finish in the top 8 of a PTQ. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever believe I could win one, let alone go to a Pro Tour. But now that I have, I can say that I’m motivated to play harder and go even farther than before. When I look back in the future, I can say that Pro Tour Journey into Nyx was the turning point.
After an 18 hour plane flight from Nagoya to Tokyo to Washington D.C. to Atlanta, I had finally made it to the event hall. Thanks to a 3 hour delay in Washington, I made it just around 6:30 pm. My mom had flown in from Indiana to cheer me on, as well as to hang out with my wife who came along on the trip (for a week long vacation afterwards. I really can’t say how lucky I am to have these two supportive women in my life). Once there, I went to the registration desk, got my name tag, and was handed a nice bag of swag for the Pro Tour. Inside a Xenagos pull string bag was a T-shirt, water bottle, a draft set of cards, and your choice of Xenagos or Ajani sleeves and box.
After I registered, I took a few minutes to explore the Galleria Center in Atlanta and to get some pictures.
Here’s me posing in front of the sign
The Feature area where the top players would sit on Friday.
And here was the schedule for the weekend. Exhausted from the trip, My mother, my wife, and I all got dinner together and then went to bed at our hotel around 9pm or so. Although I was grateful to have my wife along with me, not being able to come a few days early for play test and rest probably wasn’t a good idea. When Magic isn’t your full time job, it’s hard to prioritize things. Do I need the money from work, or the extra time to test? But I digress. After only a few hours in the tournament hall, I was feeling pretty excited. Wizards of the Coast treats their Pro Tour participants well, even those that lucked out and ‘spiked’ a PTQ to make it there.
It was pretty hard to sleep the night before, even though I was dead tired from my international plane trip from Nagoya to Atlanta. My mind was racing with draft picks, card names, and how to play against certain decks in block. I simply had too much going on in my head. I was reading up on drafting, looking at Block decks on MTGTop8.com, and doing everything in my power to prepare myself for Day 1. Although it didn’t work out as well as I thought, I felt like I had the skills to win a few block constructed games and maybe even sneak in a win with my draft deck. I knew it was a long shot, but I was trying to remain positive the whole time that there was a small chance I could make day 2.
The first part of the Pro Tour was draft. Instead of opening packs, we were given already opened packs that were stamped by the judges to discourage any type of cheating. I started off my draft in black, choosing a Master of the Feasts as my first pick. I was hoping to go for a BW aggro or BU flyer deck, but as the cards went around I noticed that I was getting cut in the other colors I wanted. I was forced to go into green, but managed to pull out a deck with a good amount of synergy.
BG isn’t the strongest deck archetype in draft, but I felt like it’s much better in Journey into Nyx limited than Born of the Gods before it. Getting Satyr Wayfinder, Kruphix’s Insight, and Commune with the Gods worked really well with Strength from the Fallen, and I thought I had enough bestow creatures and enchantments to make it work. My biggest problems with the deck were removal and finishers though. I lacked any large beaters to end the game with, and aside from Feast of Dreams, I didn’t have any strong pin point removal.
My sideboard didn’t help much either, merely giving me more card draw and one card to deal with enchantments. I seem to have misplaced my notes from the draft portion of the event, but I do have access to the people I played against.
My first match was against Jean Bur from France. If my memory serves me correctly, he was playing a rather fast BW aggro deck that I had sought to build. He had a lot of the removal that I direly needed in his deck, and a lot of good Strive cards like Ajani’s Presence. He also had a great curve and managed to punish me for playing a slower deck without removal. I fell 0-2 against him I believe.
In match 2, I played against Marcel Kaschapow from Germany. Again, I can’t be for sure but I seem to remember him playing a fast RW Heroic deck. He beat me quickly in game one, but I managed to hold him back in game 2 for a while before dying to his flyers like Akroan Skyguard. My deck simply didn’t have a good late game or early game.
In match 3 I played against Graeme Mcintyre from Scotland. Now I’m pretty sure he was using a GR monsters midrange build. I managed to sneak game 1 from him I believe and thought I could sneak in a win thanks to early dredging and pumping my creatures up with Strength of the Fallen every turn, but in the next few games Graeme was able to bring in lots of good enchantment removal and play finisher after finisher after finisher against me. I simply couldn’t handle all the pressure, especially without any removal. At the end of round 3 I was 0-3, but I still felt like I could manage a few wins with my block constructed deck. After a short break for lunch, the competitors were ready for the second part of day 1.
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
|4 Temple of Abandon
2 Mana Confluence
2 Temple of Triumph
4 Temple of Plenty
4 Magma Jet
2 Banishing Light
3 Xenagos, the Reveler
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
13 other spells
15 sideboard cards
My choice for the Pro Tour was Naya Midrange, or as most people were calling it, RG Elspeth (for the most part). I had tested it out a few times with friends and I felt like it had a good game against mono black aggro, Esper control, and GBW reanimator which I THOUGHT were going to be popular at the event, but alas this is where testing with a group of people and having a larger gauntlet of decks to test it out against would have helped. Mana Confluence really helped me to hit all the mana symbols I needed to on time, and Courser of Kruphix was amazing, but in retrospect, I probably should have made more changes to the deck. Arbor Colossus’ 3 green symbols was a bit much for a 3 color deck, and the nature of enchantments in this block should have made me play 4 Polis Crusher (which I originally had but cut for the Colossus to deal with cards like Herald of Torment and Master of the Feast). 4 Voyaging Satyr was also a bit much, and I think a 4th Courser of Kruphix would have been better instead. The Deicide actually wasn’t bad, especially against all the Junk Constellation decks out there, but I think 4 Banishing Light would have been better in the main deck. Another Elspeth, Sun’s Champion instead of an Ajani, Mentor of Heroes or a Xenagos, the Reveler would have worked better too. I probably could have cut some more from the side as well, but lack of in-depth testing lead me to false conclusions. Yuuki Ichikawa of Japan and Andrea Mengucci of Italy actually ran more well tuned decks using similar cards and made top 8, which shows you the power of the archetype. I simply needed more time with it.
Going into the block constructed portion of the Pro Tour, I kept my hopes high. I thought there was still a chance for me to pull out a few wins. Round 4 put me against Ricardo Landeta of Mexico. Ricardo was using an interesting RG aggro deck based around Eidolon of the Great Revel. I’d call it a sort of RG punishment deck. He would play the card early to punish players like myself for playing mana creatures or any 3 casting cost card, and then play Polis Crushers and Stormbreath Dragons to finish me off. He also was using Harness by Force as a finisher to steal my big creatures late in the game. I won my first game very quickly against him by getting an aggressive curve, but he was able to punish me early a lot in the next two games with Eidolon of the Great Revel. The loss dropped me to 0-4.
In round 5, I played against Gao Tan of China who was using Junk midrange. I mana flooded both games pretty badly and wasn’t able to put anything on the board aside from the cards I had in my opening hands. Without any pressure, he won the game easily. Sometimes it happens. A hand looks fine, then you draw 10 mana in a row. 0-5
Shockingly enough, I played against Hall of Famer Bob Maher in round 6. I guess both of us weren’t having good days. He was playing BUG Control as part of the Channel Fireball team. I actually didn’t know who he was until he told me. I felt rather embarrassed that I didn’t know, but having only been following competitive MTG since 2012 means that I’m still trying to get caught up on all the history of the game that I missed before that. We each took a game from each other, but during game 3 he managed to slow roll me with a great balanced hand of removal and counterspells. Silence the Believers was really effective against my deck, especially in locking me down later in the game and exiling my finishers like Polis Crusher and Arbor Colossus. Great guy to play against and really friendly. He actually is a good friend of the owner of MythicMTG. The loss put me at 0-6. Oddly enough I wasn’t really feeling any tilt at this point. It was exhilarating to be playing against all of these people at such a high level. It’s just too bad I wasn’t at the top of my game for the event.
Round 7 pitted me against Peter Sundholm from the USA, who was using mono black aggro. I was prepared to play this deck, and had a good sideboard plan against it. My turn 2 Courser of Kruphix wasn’t enough to stop his onslaught in game 1, so we quickly moved to game 2. I had sided in a lot of removal such as Magma Spray and Anger of the Gods, but after my initial hand of a Magma Spray and Banishing Light, I didn’t manage to draw any of the other 10 pieces of removal I had and eventually lost to his Herald of Torments and Mogis Marauders. A quick 0-2 loss sent me into my final game without a win.
In my final round, I played against a fellow 0-7 player Bernhard Wurmitzer from Austria (if my memory serves me correctly) who was using the ever popular BUG control deck. I managed to win one game from him and it looked like I just might sneak out a win, but in game 2 he fought back with a lot of removal and protected his Kiora, the Crashing Wave just enough to get her to her ultimate and after a few turns I was finished. Silence the Believers ended up being my undoing again in game 3, taking out my big blockers and Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver managed to steal some big creatures from me and make it incredibly difficult to put any kind of real pressure on him.
I had a good conversation with just about everybody I played at the event. They were all great people to have met and I hope that our paths cross again in the future. At 0-8 and in last place (349/349), I was let down for sure, but at the same time the experience was amazing and I managed to network and meet tons of people. There were many things I would have done differently had I a chance to do everything again, but I can honestly say I will become a better player from this. The level of play at a Pro Tour is absolutely insane, and it will absolutely crush you if you aren’t ready for it. At the same time, I felt no pressure at any time that I had to prove myself to anybody. This is a stark contrast to playing in a Grand Prix trying to make Day 2 or even shooting for Top 8 of a PTQ. I was there merely to enjoy myself and to play Magic.
While I was finished playing in the Pro Tour after day 1, I wasn’t done playing Magic at all during Pro Tour Weekend. I hope you will join me for part 2 of my Pro Tour experience in a few days as I talk about the people I met and played against on Saturday and Sunday, share more pictures from the event, as well as talk about my plans for the future and how you can build a MTG team in your community to raise your game to the next level. I want to also thank all of you that supported me and my website through my journey to the Pro Tour. Thanks for reading and for being patient as I took my time getting back from the event! Now that I’m back, I’ll be sure to bring more quality content to The Japan Hobbyist!