A new MTG season began. I already played 3 tournaments, 2 Grand Prix (Standard and Modern) and a Pro Tour (Standard/Draft). With the new pro point system, it does not really matter anymore when the season starts and when it ends but I still have the feeling that having a strong start is going to rhythm the rest of the season positively.
Your goals could be very different after the first events. Playing for Gold or Platinum, trying to be qualified for the Pro Tours or for the World Championship are not the same.
Grand Prix Lille 2018 (Standard)
For me, everything started with the preparation of the Grand Prix Lille 2018. It was a very exciting event to prepare for: new set, new Standard before the Pro Tour.
During my Grand Prix preparation, I was playing a lot of Golgari (Black Green) Midrange, I felt like it would be a strong dominant deck in Standard and even if I will not end up playing with the deck, it is just great to know your enemy well.
I was doing OK with the deck but I realized that players already had a sideboard plan and played well against BG. Every player was just prepared for it.
I am a player that prefers to play a brew than the best deck because of this reason. I think playing something your opponent did not prepare for is a big advantage. I really need a strong reason to play the most popular deck at a tournament.
These days I have a friend living with me in my apartment (with my girlfriend too, no worries we are a happy family). His name is Thierry Ramboa, he is a strong French magic player, former test teammate in Team Mint Card. He is actually not qualified for Pro Tour but he is still a really good deck builder. Grand Prix Lille was his comeback tournament so he took his preparation very seriously. He was running a Jeskai Control deck and was doing super well with it.
Here is the list:
4 《Sacred Foundry》
4 《Steam Vents》
4 《Clifftop Retreat》
4 《Glacial Fortress》
4 《Sulfur Falls》
-Land (26)- -Creature (0)-
2 《Blink of an Eye》
2 《Lava Coil》
4 《Deafening Clarion》
2 《Fight with Fire》
4 《Chemister's Insight》
1 《Settle the Wreckage》
1 《Cleansing Nova》
4 《Expansion // Explosion》
1 《The Mirari Conjecture》
4 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》
I gave a try to the deck and did very well myself too. What impressed me the most with the deck, is the capacity to win even after a mulligan to 5. It happened multiple times to me but the presence of 4 《Chemister's Insight》 just allows comebacks. The most important thing for the deck was to set a land every turn, a hand with 4 lands and a 《Chemister's Insight》 can do the job against BG decks.
Playing 0 creatures maindeck was great to have a strong game 1 in the metagame, dodging all the 《Ravenous Chupacabra》, 《Lava Coil》 etc… Also, having 4 《Expansion // Explosion》 makes your deck quite strong in the Control mirror.
Here are my rounds at the Grand Prix:
|Round 4||Boros Aggro||2-0|
|Round 5||Jeskai Control||2-0|
|Round 6||Jeskai Control||2-0|
|Round 7||Mono White Aggro||0-2|
|Round 8||Boros Aggro||0-2|
|Round 9||Jeskai Control||2-0|
|Round 10||Golgari Midrange||2-1|
|Round 11||Jeskai Control||2-0|
|Round 12||Golgari Midrange||2-0|
|Round 13||Golgari Midrange||2-0|
|Round 14||Izzet Phoenix||1-2|
|Round 15||Jeskai Control||2-0|
I finished at the 20th place with a 12-3 record, 3 Pro Points. I was very happy about it.
I just have some regrets about my match vs Izzet Phoenix, the sideboard plan and my plays could have been better.
I did super well against the Golgari decks, the matchup was very good especially game one.
In the end, I felt happy with my choice since it was better than playing Golgari, but both the medium results of other guys playing the deck and my losses against White Aggro decks made me think that It was not perfect. The deck clearly had weaknesses to fix.
Grand Prix Atlanta 2018 (Modern)
Like every Pro who played this GP, I was not super happy about playing Modern games before a Pro Tour in Standard. I didn’t want to give much time to prepare for it.
At this point, I had two options: UW Control or Bant Spirit. I played UW at GP Prague 2018 with a top 16 finish and I played Bant Spirit at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary (12-4) and GP Stockholm 2018 (10-5).
To be able to play Control at a tournament you need to practice a good amount of games. You play a reactive deck, so you need knowledge to make a great list.
UW has a hard time against the rising Dredge decks. You can’t really play 《Rest in Peace》 or 《Surgical Extraction》 main deck in UW, the only thing I found that was fine to play a 《Bojuka Bog》 instead of 《Ghost Quarter》.
Bant Spirit is a proactive deck that can win against anything in addition to having some very good matchups. The deckbuilding was way easier than for a UW deck.
Also, I was excited about a couple of things with the deck. Playing 2 《Remorseful Cleric》 over a 《Selfless Spirit》 and a 《Rattlechains》 is not a big deal and it can give you an option against all the graveyard decks in Modern (KCI, Hollow One, Dredge and so on). The other big thing is 《Knight of Autumn》. People talk a lot about 《Assassin's Trophy》 but for me the real Modern Card from Guilds of Ravnica is 《Knight of Autumn》.
Every Spirit list were very similar but had some weird cards in the sideboard like 《Dromoka's Command》, 《Detention Sphere》, 《Nikko-Onna》, 《Kor Firewalker》, 《Kataki, War's Wage》, 《Blessed Alliance》, 《Auriok Champion》…none of these cards are great and 《Knight of Autumn》 just replaces all of them perfectly. Also, it doesn’t change the creature numbers for your 《Collected Company》, better, it increases their power level.
Here is the list I played:
1 《Breeding Pool》
1 《Hallowed Fountain》
1 《Temple Garden》
3 《Flooded Strand》
2 《Misty Rainforest》
2 《Windswept Heath》
3 《Horizon Canopy》
2 《Botanical Sanctum》
1 《Seachrome Coast》
1 《Moorland Haunt》
-Land (21)- 4 《Mausoleum Wanderer》
4 《Noble Hierarch》
4 《Supreme Phantom》
3 《Phantasmal Image》
2 《Remorseful Cleric》
1 《Selfless Spirit》
4 《Drogskol Captain》
4 《Spell Queller》
2 《Geist of Saint Traft》
Here are my matches during the event:
|Round 4||Ad Nauseam||2-0|
|Round 5||Abzan Scales||2-1|
|Round 6||Amulet Titan||0-2|
|Round 7||Grixis Shadow||1-2|
|Round 8||5C Human||2-1|
|Round 10||Mono Green Tron||2-0|
|Round 11||Bant Spirit||2-0|
|Round 12||Mardu Midrange||2-0|
|Round 14||Hardened Scales||1-2|
|Round 15||5C Human||2-1|
Kind of similar to the week before, I finished 19th place with a 12-3 record, 3 Pro Points. I could have played better the 3 matches which I lost but this is the price of not preparing an event enough, small details matter a lot when you play Bant Spirit, more than for UW Control.
《Hardened Scales》 is a tough matchup, not bad but you need to practice it to be able to do well.
Not having 《Reflector Mage》 is a problem against Grixis Shadow, the card clearly changes the matchup.
I was really Happy with my deck, you just have a good time playing the deck all the time. I really recommend it if you don’t know what to play in Modern.
Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica (Standard/Draft)
As usual for Pro Tour I was testing with my team. During the testing, we split into 4 groups inside the house.
|Golgari Midrange||Boros Aggro||Jeskai Control||Multiple Brews|
|Javier Dominguez||Lee Shi Tian||Jeremy Dezani||Tomoharu Saito|
|Andrea Mengucci||Simon Nielsen||Raphael Levy||Jason Chung|
|Kelvin Chew||Yam Wing Chun||Christian Calcano||–|
|Petr Sochurek||Zen Takahashi||Kevin Jones||–|
Our Jeskai team started with my list from Lille. The goal of the team is making a good list against White Aggro decks.
One of the cards I was happy with was 《Sailor of Means》. The card is a perfect blocker for 《Adanto Vanguard》 and it allows you to sometimes cast 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》 on turn 4. Also, the card is giving you an extra mana source you can use for 《Expansion // Explosion》 so it is basically a Cycling card.
With such a good blocker we found that 《Karn, Scion of Urza》 became a really good option, probably better than 《Chemister's Insight》. 《Sailor of Means》 also survives 《Deafening Clarion》 and gains lifelink for an extra life point.
We found also 《Settle the Wreckage》 necessary to fight well against 《Carnage Tyrant》, White decks and UR Phoenix. With 《Sailor of Means》 attacking around 《Settle the Wreckage》 becomes also more difficult for your opponent.
If you want to know more about 《Sailor of Means》 Jeskai, please read this article from my teammate, Christian Calcano.
- Jeskai Control with 《Sailor of Means》
- Christian Calcano
The matchup against White Aggro became very good but in parallel it was very hard to beat Golgari. Also, our list became worse and worse in the mirror match mainly because of the cut of all 《Ionize》 for 《Sailor of Means》.
We never found the list able to have a chance against every deck and we finally decided to drop the deck couple of hour before deck submission to join one of the other teams.
Golgari players were still undecided about some cards in the main and sideboard, when players from Boros team were discussing about the 15th card in the sideboard and were locked for the maindeck.
Watching couple of games of the Boros destroying Golgari convinced me that the easier move was to follow them and register the same list and follow their sideboard plan. Tomoharu Saito and Jason Chung also did the same and joined the Boros team. Christian Calcano decided to follow the Golgari Team.
|Golgari Midrange||Boros Aggro|
|Javier Dominguez||Lee Shi Tian|
|Andrea Mengucci||Simon Nielsen|
|Kelvin Chew||Yam Wing Chun|
|Petr Sochurek||Zen Takahashi|
|Christian Calcano||Tomoharu Saito|
Here is the list I used for the PT:
4 《Sacred Foundry》
4 《Clifftop Retreat》
-Land (23)- 4 《Hunted Witness》
4 《Skymarcher Aspirant》
4 《Goblin Instigator》
4 《Adanto Vanguard》
2 《Boros Challenger》
2 《Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice》
4 《Heroic Reinforcements》
3 《Legion's Landing》
4 《History of Benalia》
4 《Conclave Tribunal》
I didn’t play a single game with the deck and focused on finding the cards and practice Draft alongside Raphael. Also, we had to move from house to hotel, register and attend the Hall of Fame ceremony of team mate Lee Shi Tian. It was great to see him inducted, he is a great team leader, a great guy and a great player. He is also someone who cares a lot about MTG in Asia and he is a great ambassador for the game in this region.
I am lucky enough to be in Lee’s team and play Team Grand Prix with him. He is one of my favorite magic players and I am happy people around the world recognized his talent.
For the first Draft I got a strong Boros deck. Normally, Boros is about good creatures and combat spells easy to get. Here I just got all the uncommon, premium removals in multiple copies.
I played against a medium Dimir deck that had no chance to win, despite the fact he used 《Unmoored Ego》 on 《Conclave Tribunal》 and hit two, it’s still card disadvantage. Then I played a good tempo Izzet deck where my opponent missed a lethal attack in game three, lucky me. In the finals of the Draft I played against the second Boros deck of the table, but he clearly had a worse deck than mine.
Total Score: 3-0
Round 4: Golgari Midrange – Kazuyuki Takimura 2-1
At least, I played enough the BG deck to know how to play against it. You have to win before 《Find // Finality》 or make sure the BG player has an empty board after playing it. If you can do that the matchup is quite good.
Round 5: Izzet Phoenix – Jon Finkel 2-0
It was against Jon Finkel. This is the reason why you play the Pro Tour, it’s the way to be able to face this kind of player. We had some situation, hard to negotiate, especially for him. He had to play around my draws and his potential next draws. Definitely harder to play from his side than mine and as my teammates told me, the matchup is very good.
Round 6: Mono Red – Alexander Mertins 2-1
If the Mono Red player doesn’t have an active 《Experimental Frenzy》 multiple turns in a row it’s a totally different story. My opponent was not able to do that 2 games out of the 3 and lost the match.
Round 7: Dimir Control – Mark Jacobson 2-1
Mono Red. Romolo Disconzi 2-1
It’s a tough matchup. 《Goblin Chainwhirler》, removals alongside 《Experimental Frenzy》 are just great in the aggro mirror. You can still win with value you produce from 《History of Benalia》 and using 《Conclave Tribunal》 on the 《Experimental Frenzy》. 《Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice》 with 5 toughness and vigilance is very hard to beat for him. It was very close but I managed to win the match.
Then my friends told me I didn’t used the Mentor of 《Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice》. I had no idea the card had Mentor, I already felt the card was super strong, the game would have been much easier if I knew it.
Total Score: 8-0
It is the first time in my MTG pro player life that I make a perfect record Day 1 of the PT. I know it allows me to 4-3-1 Day 2 to lock the Top 8 and this is a really good position to be in. I know things can go quickly wrong at the PT, a bad Draft deck could be a 1-2 or 0-3 easily and I’m still not sure if I went lucky in constructed or if the deck is great. My teammates playing the deck did bad or fine, I was definitely the guy who had the best results with the deck.
It was my first 5 match with Boros aggro, I’m still piloting it in the dark but I learned 《Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice》 has Mentor so at least my deck is improving for Day 2.
I was the featured Draft player. Between booster one and two I got kind of dizzy. I am someone who never eats breakfast. I was scared being late so I ran to the tournament. Add to this the spotlight in my face in the feature match area and you understand what happened. I am sorry for the other 7 players this happened. The staff was nice with me, making sure I recovered, gave me food and drinks, called a doctor…
I was very angry with myself, why this happens today, the day I am 8-0 at the Pro Tour. You know at this point you feel little superstitious, and think maybe it’s not my day, etc…I had to refresh and focus hard to fight these bad thoughts and solve my body condition problem. Complaining is not the solution, nobody but yourself can help you. There are no fatalities and you have to try your best in every circumstance.
During the booster 1, I made a pick that many people didn’t understand. Pack one I opened a 《Watcher in the Mist》, a 《Goblin Cratermaker》 and a 《Bounty of Might》. I was not 100% against it but I had the idea to avoid green if possible. The problem with 《Bounty of Might》 is that players have access to their opponents’ card pool list at the feature pod and I believe it’s very bad for the card. The Goblin, from my experience, is not something better than a 2/2. So I ended up picking an unexciting 《Watcher in the Mist》 pick 1.
Pack two I received a very empty pack. With my teammates, we considered 《Capture Sphere》 as a very poor card that you never want to play in Izzet decks since it is not an Instant or a Sorcery, and it’s very replaceable in a Dimir deck where the curve at 4 mana is already full of better cards. The only deck where I found 《Capture Sphere》 being OK is 4 Color Control decks with no synergy but it is something I really wanted to avoid.
This said the rest of the pack was very bad but from experience Boros is by far, maybe the only archetype that can do well with only bad cards. So, I decided to activate my non fail deck option pick 2 by picking a white two drop. I consider 《Blade Instructor》 as a bad card and I prefer any two drop over him, would have been different with a 《Wojek Bodyguard》.
I finished the Draft with a medium Boros deck but considering what I saw during the Draft, I believed that the power level was very low and the deck I got was not that bad.
I played against a very good Golgari deck (Jun Hao Tay) and lost 0-2. I attacked for lethal both games but finally lost both.
Then, I played against an Izzet deck (Romolo Disconzi) which was running 2 《Capture Sphere》. It didn’t work very well alongside 《Piston-Fist Cyclops》 and 《Leapfrog》. He also played 3 《Sonic Assault》, a very bad card when you are behind.
In the final round, I was paired against the guy who was 2-0 at the pod with a Selesnya deck (Nathan Eager) with 《Camaraderie》 and 《Venerated Loxodon》. I should have lost the second and third game but I managed to win the match with the help of 《Gravitic Punch》.
It was probably the key moment for me in the tournament, transforming a 1-2 Draft into a 2-1.
Total Score: 10-1
Round 12: Boros Aggro – Michael Bernat 1-1
Both game 1 and 2 were super long. We didn’t get many key cards and traded a lot of lifelink creatures. Game 3, my opponent mulliganed to 5 and we didn’t start the game.
Round 13: Golgari Midrange – Michael Kundegraber 2-0
I won the roll and got a strong start both games and my opponent was not able to find and untap the 6th land for 《Find // Finality》.
At this point I have 3 win and ins for my second PT Top 8.
Round 14: Boros Aggro – Jun Hao Tay 0-2
I had very bad draws both games. I could have mulliganed aggressively my 3 spells 4 lands hand but I knew it was a mirror match and I still think that keeping was better. Unlucky draws are part of the game.
Round 15: Golgari Midrange – Makihito Mihara 1-2
It was a tough match that I probably could have won. Games were long and I had many choices. I started being nervous at this point and I lost another win and in. Mihara san is a master and against this kind of player you have to play your best.
Round 16: Selesnya Tokens – Teruya Kakumae 2-0
Fortunately for me, I had very good hands and draws during this match. I was ahead the whole time; my only concern is the small experience I had for this matchup and I was scared to make a mistake. Kakumae san is a fantastic player and person and I hope he will Top 8 a PT very soon.
Total Score: 12-3-1 – TOP 8
5 years later I finally reach my second Pro Tour Top 8. I was so close multiple times before but things didn’t go well for me, 9th place tiebreaker, lost win and in…It was very liberating for me to finally unlock this second Top 8.
Quarter Finals: Boros Aggro – Kasper Nielsen
For this match, I was on the draw and according to the deck list, it is a huge disadvantage. It means that I have to win at least one game on the draw and not drop a game on the play. I would have won game one on the play but being the first player to play 《Heroic Reinforcements》 is a huge advantage. The player who started the game won each time. Finally, we had a game 5 to play, I will be on the draw. Fortunately for me, Kasper had to mulligan and got to a slow start. I was ahead and drew 《Heroic Reinforcements》 which won the match for me.
Semi Finals: Boros Aggro – Luis Scott-Vargas
I never beat Luis in a tournament. I also felt that the matchup is very bad if he got a decent draw. His mana curve is so low that the start is way more explosive than mine. Also, he had a lot of lifegain effects and since the matchup is a race it’s very relevant.
I had no chance of winning during this semifinal and no regrets about it. About the 《Settle the Wreckage》 story game 3, I already had declared attackers and was thinking about the Mentor trigger of 《Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice》, so the token move didn’t get me. But it’s good for magic to have some spicy moments like this.
Congrats to Luis, he is a fantastic player, like I said in the Wizards interview may be the best of Modern times.
If you analyze this report, I was close to play 3 different decks during testing for the Pro Tour. Deck choice is one of the most important thing in Magic and it impacts your results very much. I think it was one of my weak points and I just picked up bad decks so many times. My teammates made me realized that then I decided to listen to them more carefully. Finally, I could have a great deck this time and I want to say thank you to all my teammates.
I want to say thanks to my teammates again here. They are fantastic. Our team, Hareruya Sword is second place now for the Team Series. We have a great team and it’s a great start, let’s be optimistic.
I had a lot of good results this year and I am sure it’s mainly because of the time I spent in Japan. Making magic content for Hareruya, playing Hareruya events, cube with the staff then play Magic Online, talking with strong Japanese players…I had days full of Magic. I clearly improved there and I have to say thank you to Tomoharu Saito, Yusuke Osaka and Hareruya because they gave me this opportunity.
I am now locked for Platinum for a while and I have the chance to play future tournaments with less pressure. This doesn’t mean that I will decrease the work and not prepare events, I will try my best during every single Grand Prix and Pro Tour I will play and make sure to represent proudly the colors of Hareruya.
Thank you for reading,