The Old Expiring Force -5th at PT Phoenix-

Allen Wu

“Throw away your books; stop letting yourself be distracted. That is not allowed. Instead, as if you were dying right now, despise your flesh. A mess of blood, pieces of bone, a woven tangle of nerves, veins, arteries… Stop allowing your mind to be a slave, to be jerked about by selfish impulses, to kick against fate and the present, and to mistrust the future.”


Grand Prix Portland (Standard)

I quit my job at the beginning of December. I felt stuck, and an extended holiday back home in New Mexico was a good excuse to make a clean break.

I flew to Portland for a Grand Prix first, playing a UG Flash deck that Javier Dominguez, Seth Manfield, and Brad Nelson dominated Mythic Championship VII with.

I played actual 0 games in preparation, and the tournament itself was a perfect storm of bad play, bad pairings, and bad draws. In round 8, playing against Charles Wong on Jund Sacrifice for day 2, I just forgot to crack a 《Fabled Passage》 at the end of my opponent’s turn and then couldn’t cast 《Growth Spiral》 on turn 2.

Korvold, Fae-Cursed KingNoxious Grasp

I managed to work my way back into the game after my opponent flooded, but then I mis-sequenced my spells against my opponent’s topdecked 《Murderous Rider》 and wound up tapped out of 《Frilled Mystic》. I was still way ahead on board and my opponent had no cards in hard, so I would untap and win if he drew anything except 《Korvold, Fae-Cursed King》. But he drew Korvold, which drew 《Noxious Grasp》, and then I lost shortly thereafter. That story was pretty much my entire tournament.

I still cashed despite failing to make day 2, and Portland was great as always. I stayed at KEX Hostel, which was nicer than most hotels I’ve been to. Nong’s Khao Man Gai remains my favorite restaurant.

Then I flew home, where I spent my winter break swimming, board gaming, and reading Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations. Meditations are essentially Marcus Aurelius’s diaries, where he works out how he should live, how he should think, and what he should believe. It’s maybe the best book I’ve ever read.

Grand Prix Austin (Modern)

Urza, Lord High Artificer

From New Mexico, I drove with my friend Monica to Austin for a second Grand Prix. Most of why I wanted to take an extended holiday was that Portland → Los Alamos → Austin → Palo Alto was a convenient circuit. I also played 0 games in preparation for GP Austin, but I was much more familiar with the Urza deck than with UG Flash because I’d played it at GP Columbus. Also unlike UG Flash, the Urza deck was broken. I had solid luck and pairings, and ultimately lost my win-and-in to Bay Area grinder Alex Lim on Dredge.

GP Austin was maybe the least fun I’ve ever had playing Magic. The Urza deck was fun when your opponent was playing anything else, since it was so much better. But the mirrors were long and miserable. I went to turns in almost every mirror I played despite playing as fast as I could from turn 0, and only narrowly escaped with just a single unintentional draw.

On the plane back to San Jose, following Meditations, I thought about why we assume by default that human life is valuable. Like, if I weighed the food and water and gas I consumed against my contributions to the world, I was clearly in the red. Most people are, or global warming wouldn’t be a thing. And if we start from the belief that we’re in debt for our lives, maybe the meaning of life is simply to repay that debt. I felt entitled, viewing the world entirely through the lens of my own happiness. I needed to be smarter, more focused, more disciplined. I needed to be capable.

Landing in San Jose, under the specter of that resolution, I committed entirely to preparing for Players Tour Phoenix for the next three weeks.

Limited Preparation

I always start with limited for Pro Tours. The later you start thinking about constructed, the more decklists, tournament results, and public discourse you have access to. The best constructed deck often changes from one week to the next, but limited insights stay valid with only minor adjustments. For Phoenix, because the Players Tours in Nagoya and Brussels were scheduled a week earlier, I would even have two whole Players Tours of data to work from.

Limited is also harder than constructed to prepare for. Unlike constructed, where you can reasonably learn a single deck or strategy inside and out, limited demands you understand how to play the full spectrum from aggro to control and that you understand on a fundamental level what role each card in the format plays.


This is where working in a group is particularly valuable, because everyone has their biases. I’m definitely most comfortable playing control decks where I know I have inevitability and I’m not shy about playing more than 2 colors to achieve that goal. In a group setting, I can lean into my biases and my teammates can lean into theirs, and together we get a more complete picture of the format.

Per my preferences, I started out by drafting a bunch of blue, green, and black decks, which struck me as the clear best colors. Red and white looked shallow. But midway through the first week, Tommy Ashton shared that he’d been having success drafting white aggro decks utilizing cards I’d dismissed as unplayable, like 《Pious Wayfarer》 and 《Omen of the Sun》.

Pious WayfarerHero of the Pride

I tried drafting these decks myself and immediately 3-0’d twice in a row. 《Pious Wayfarer》 and 《Hero of the Pride》 in particular outperformed my expectations. 《Hero of the Pride》 is clearly a good card, but I didn’t appreciate at first how regularly you’d get a card or more of value from the triggered ability. Similarly, 《Pious Wayfarer》 pushed through early damage, created favorable combats with instant-speed enchantments like 《Indomitable Will》 and the Omens, and ultimately demanded a trade with a more expensive creature.

Grand Prix New Jersey (Theros Beyond Death Limited)

I booked GP New Jersey because flights were cheap and I thought it would be a good practical test of my understanding of the format. But when it came time to actually board the redeye I’d purchased, I was having regrets. I had no reason to take the redeye other than that it was $30 cheaper, and I hope to never repeat the experience. I couldn’t sleep on the plane and was fully delirious when I landed. Coffee kept me awake but did not ease the delirium.

Dream Trawler

As a further dagger, I sat across from Louis Kaplan during deckbuilding on day 1 and he offered to trade me a Calix pack for my odd Elspeth one. I accepted, as ritual demands, and the Elspeth pack obviously had a 《Dream Trawler》 in it.

Polukranos, Unchained

Despite my best efforts, day 1 went smoothly. I got lucky to open a lot of fixing and registered a BGru deck (You can see my deck here). My pool didn’t have any of the best rares, but I did have 《Polukranos, Unchained》, solid mana, and good removal and card draw. I drew well and mostly dodged the trifecta of 《Ashiok, Nightmare Muse》, 《Kiora Bests the Sea God》, and 《Dream Trawler》, ending the day at 7-1-1.


I got my draw in the last round against a newer player where I would have won if I’d left my 《Shadowspear》 on a smaller creature instead of moving it to a bigger one on an earlier turn, dealing an extra damage against a removal spell. As is, I was a damage short of winning against my opponent’s topdecked 《Nessian Boar》 on turn 3 of turns. I don’t blame myself since I was playing quickly, but I will try to correct my autopilot for the future.

Going into draft, I had a slight bias towards drafting white since black was the consensus best color. White was nearly as good but I had heard relatively little buzz about it. That preference worked out perfectly, as I wheeled literally every 《Pious Wayfarer》 I saw and ended up with 2 great white aggro decks. (You can see my first draft deck here and second deck here.) I went 2-1 with WR and 3-0 with WG, losing to Brock Parker’s mono-green deck with 《Shadowspear》.

I wound up in 9th place on tiebreakers, but my friends and teammates Collin Rountree and Andrew Elenbogen made top 8. Everyone part of Team Chalkdiesel/Medium Elo/7% has really improved over the past year and it’s rewarding to see that improvement manifested in results. (But more on that later.)

It was cool to see Jake, Lan, Alejandro, Martin, and Mimee again, in addition to the tournament Magic crowd. GP New Jersey was uncomfortably crowded, such that there weren’t even spare tables to sit down at between rounds on day 1, but there’s something to be said for everyone being there. I wish I’d booked a longer trip and gotten to see more of New York, but I was back in the Bay Area by Monday afternoon.

Constructed Preparation

Heliod, Sun-CrownedWalking Ballista

With GP New Jersey behind me, I shelved limited to focus on constructed. My frontrunner for most of testing was White Devotion with the 《Heliod, Sun-Crowned》 + 《Walking Ballista》 combo. I love white midrange decks and this one even had the combo angle to give it a chance against decks like ramp. It also lined up well against the mono-colored aggro decks that initially defined Pioneer.

Gideon of the Trials

Will Erker publicly broke the format with UB Inverter, but I still wasn’t concerned. White had the best hate card for Inverter in the format in 《Gideon of the Trials》, which I wanted as a resilient threat against UW Control and 5C Niv to Light anyway. I tested a lot of the Inverter matchup against my teammates with maindeck 《Gideon of the Trials》 and felt slightly favored overall. I felt confident in the deck going into the PTs in Brussels and Nagoya.

Hour of DevastationUgin, the Spirit DragonHero's DownfallNoxious Grasp

My teammate Ethan Gaieski played White Devotion in Brussels and went 7-3, beating Inverter 5 times. Still, Brussels featured a lot of concerning developments for the White Devotion deck. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa’s 5C Niv deck featured 《Hour of Devastation》, which trumps both Gideon tribal and Heliod. The Lotus Breach deck that Brent Vos top 8’d with was an actual unwinnable matchup, since 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》 beat both 《Rest in Peace》 and Gideon and Lotus Breach’s baseline goldfish was faster and more resilient. Inverter decks adapted to 《Gideon of the Trials》 with 《Hero’s Downfall》s and 《Noxious Grasp》s, and Gideon tribal was White Devotion’s only real gameplan in that matchup. After testing against the Brussels and Nagoya decklists, I reluctantly concluded that I couldn’t play White Devotion. The aggro matchups weren’t nearly good enough to make up for how unfavorable the combo matchups were.

Underworld Breach

Not all was lost though. Ethan advocated for Brent Vos’s Lotus Breach deck, saying it was just broken. Looking back, Lotus Breach did have all the markers of a broken deck. A fast combo kill, resilience to disruption (once you have 2 《Lotus Field》s in play, you’re always a 《Pore Over the Pages》, 《Fae of Wishes》, or 《Underworld Breach》 away from winning), and a strong backup plan of using 《Granted》 to wish for sweepers and planeswalkers after ramping with 《Lotus Field》 + 《Thespian’s Stage》. After exhausting every tool available to give White Devotion any chance of beating Lotus Breach, I committed to learning and refining the Lotus Breach deck.

Temple of MysteryHour of DevastationMystical Dispute

We tried a bunch of changes to Brent Vos’s original decklist, including 《Opt》s, 《Chart a Course》, 25 lands, a second 《Dig Through Time》 in the sideboard, 《Expansion/Explosion》 > 《Thassa’s Oracle》, and maindeck 《Mystical Dispute》, but we wound up just adding a 24th land over the second 《Blink of an Eye》 and changing the manabase to have 4 Temples and 14 duals. We did make a lot of improvements to the sideboard, swapping out 《Supreme Verdict》 for the superior 《Hour of Devastation》 (which gets around 《Spell Queller》, 《Selfless Spirit》, and Heliod) and cutting the extraneous sweepers for 《Mystical Dispute》s. The day decklists were due, I was “locked” on the following list:

Alpine Moon

At 11:00 PM, an hour before submission, my teammates told me they’d added an 《Alpine Moon》 to the sideboard for the mirror, over the 3rd 《Mystical Dispute》. “The sauce is always cooking,” Collin said. “Eat or be eaten.”

Niv-Mizzet, Parun

At 11:30, Mark Jacobson suggested playing 《Niv-Mizzet, Parun》 for the Spirits and discard matchups. That got my interest. Niv-Mizzet was exactly the card I was looking for against Spirits – something with defensive utility that could also proactively punish them for playing too defensively with countermagic. It was also an excellent plan B against hate cards like 《Leyline of the Void》 and 《Unmoored Ego》. I had little interest in the 《Infinite Obliteration》 anyway, since Inverter is perfectly capable of winning without Inverters postboard.

At 11:50, with no testing, I submitted the changes my teammates proposed.

It’s easy to feel confident in my deck choice in retrospect, knowing that Lotus Breach was the best performing deck and having personally finished 8-1. But actually pulling the trigger on the deck wasn’t easy. Complicated combo decks like Lotus Breach are by far my biggest weakness in Magic. I just don’t have the constitution for sitting down and figuring out how many cards I need in my graveyard to win given my deck size, the number of cards in my hand, whether or not I have a 《Hidden Strings》, etc. Lotus Breach was broken enough that I could stumble my way through the easy kills, but I had trouble recognizing wins when I only had 1 《Lotus Field》 or when I didn’t have 《Granted》 or 《Pore Over the Pages》.

Cauldron FamiliarHogaak, Arisen Necropolis

In the end, I didn’t want to keep making excuses for my weaknesses. I passed on Cat Food for Mythic Championship VI because I didn’t think I would be able to play quickly enough to avoid unintentional draws. I passed on Hogaak for Mythic Championship IV because I didn’t want to give up the experience and comfort I had with UR Phoenix. Neither of these decisions were big mistakes, but they were both mistakes. I should have practiced more and developed better heuristics so I could play Cat Food faster, and I should have tested Hogaak more thoroughly. I wanted to play the best deck this time.

My team’s help was invaluable here. Full credit to Jacob Nagro and Sam Sherman for walking me through mulliganing, sequencing, and all the minimal kills. I would not have been able to play the deck without their help.

Players Tour Phoenix (Draft and Pioneer)


Getting to Phoenix was uneventful. I flew in Thursday afternoon, registered, and hung out at the convention center for a couple hours. I got dinner at Pizzeria Bianco, which was excellent.

Liar's PendulumNyx Lotus

Watching me play mental Magic against Jarvis Yu while we were waiting for our food, Tommy Ashton suggested I name 《Liar’s Pendulum》 instead of 《Implement of Ferocity》. I’d had no idea that card existed and was surprised by how powerful it was. I asked the table if people had played 《Liar’s Pendulum》 in constructed circa 2003. Ari Lax laughed and replied that 《Liar’s Pendulum》 was from Mirrodin. The conversation felt very topical. 《Nyx Lotus》? Of course that card wasn’t strong enough, it was from Theros.

I headed back to my Airbnb in Scottsdale and got 7 hours of sleep before breakfast, coffee, and the first draft.

Day 1

First Draft

Eutropia the Twice-FavoredIchthyomorphosis

My first pack started out with 《Tectonic Giant》 passing 《Eutropia the Twice-Favored》, 《Destiny Spinner》, 《Final Death》, 《Nessian Hornbeetle》, 《Ilysian Caryatid》, then 《Thirst for Meaning》. Blue and green were both open, highlighted by wheeling an 《Ichthyomorphosis》 with 4 cards in the pack and getting a 《Setessan Skirmisher》 literal last pick over the basic land. I biased toward green cards so I’d have more leeway to take my rare in pack 2, but I bricked and took a 《Warbriar Blessing》 instead.

Archon of Sun's Grace

I was still mostly green after pack 2 though, and I was still able to take the 《Archon of Sun’s Grace》 I opened in pack 3. I wound up with 3 《Ilysian Caryatid》 and an 《Omen of the Hunt》 for fixing and built a strong Bant deck. The draft was straightforward after abandoning 《Tectonic Giant》, which was an easy call given that red is the worst color and that the Giant is good but not busted.

My deck was solid but it was light on removal and straight 3 colors. I expected to finish 2-1.(You can see my deck here. The 《Setessan Training》 was in my maindeck but I forgot to include it in the picture.) I drew 《Archon of Sun’s Grace》 a lot though, and my opponent’s decks didn’t put up much resistance. I beat Zirui Zhou on Jund Bombs (his deck produced 《Polukranos, Unchained》 on turn 4 in game 1 and 《Nightmare Shepherd》 in game 2, but didn’t do much else), Dylan Feeman on WR Aggro, and Matt Stankey on GB Escape.


For my first round of constructed, I got paired against Mike Sigrist and was called to the feature match area. While we were shuffling, a judge walked up to Mike and told him he’d be given a game loss for submitting his deck a minute after the midnight deadline. After a long judge call and appeal, the head judge upheld the ruling. Mike would be on the play, but he was playing Inverter and game 1 is heavily favored for Lotus Breach. Inverter doesn’t have enough disruption to keep Breach off winning for long, and playing 《Inverter of Truth》 without winning in the same turn risks dying to 《Granted》 for 《Tome Scour》. To make things worse for Mike, he mulliganed to 5. I wasn’t thinking about it at the time, but breaks like that are definitely the kind of luck that top 8s are made of.

I continued to draw well, beating David Pargh on GR Aggro, Matt Severa on UW Spirits, and Matt Tumavitch on Mono Black Aggro. I took my first loss on camera to Sebastian Pozzo on Sultai Delirium in round 9.

On the second to last turn of game 1, I messed up badly. I thought that Pozzo would kill off his 《Jace, Telepath Unbound》 to 《Thoughtseize》 me, not processing that the 《Nissa, Who Shakes the World》 gave him the mana to 《Traverse the Ulvenwald》 for 《Emrakul, the Promised End》 instead.

Emrakul, the Promised EndLotus Field

I should have played the second 《Lotus Field》 from my hand, sacrificing my 《Thespian’s Stage》 and 《Botanical Sanctum》. I would have been a big underdog either way, since my hand was all lands. I would have had 7 mana going into my actual turn, post-《Mindslaver》, and needed to draw exactly natural 《Underworld Breach》 or 《Pore Over the Pages》/《Vizier of Tumbling Sands》 into 《Fae of Wishes》, with 1 Pore, 2 Viziers, and 2 Breaches left in my deck. But holding the 《Lotus Field》 let Pozzo turn my Stages into Sanctums and then sacrifice both 《Lotus Field》s, leaving me with no outs. Making the right play wouldn’t have mattered given the top of my deck, but holding the 《Lotus Field》 was still a big error.

Lotus FieldVizier of Tumbling SandsBlast Zone

There were another couple close calls at the end of game 3. The first was cycling 《Vizier of Tumbling Sands》 on 《Lotus Field》 to find a Vizier or Pore and then 《Granted》 with 《Mystical Dispute》 up instead of using it to untap 《Blast Zone》 and kill 《Tireless Tracker》. I like my line there even though I was banking on running outs, since beating the 《Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy》, 《Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath》, and 《Leyline of the Void》 would have been so improbable with how few resources I would have had after taking the safer line.

Ugin, the Spirit DragonLeyline of the Void

The second call was using [-4] on my 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》 instead of [-3] to take out Pozzo’s Leyline in addition to his Tracker and Jace. The reason to preserve the loyalty on Ugin was that Pozzo was certainly going to Escape his Uro next turn and the extra loyalty would let me [-3] again while keeping Ugin around. There wasn’t a ton of point to removing the Leyline, since I wasn’t filling my graveyard in the immediate future. I think this was a clear mistake, given the Uro on board.

The third big decision point was the turn after sweeping the board with Ugin, after Pozzo Escaped Uro and passed. My hand was 《Thespian’s Stage》 and I drew Vizier for the turn. I can make the same play of charging 《Blast Zone》 to 3, using Vizier to untap 《Blast Zone》, and blowing up Uro. The problem with that play is that I have to commit a bunch of mana to charging the 《Blast Zone》 and then untap the 《Blast Zone》 instead of a 《Lotus Field》, so that if I draw 《Pore Over the Pages》 off the Vizier then no longer have any chance of winning that turn.

Blink of an EyePore Over the Pages

I knew that Pozzo didn’t have a removal spell or a counterspell on the previous turn, because my 《Arboreal Grazer》 (and thus my face) would have died to removal and my 《Granted》 wouldn’t have resolved against a second counter. So if I miss, then I can probably still live by casting Fae, bouncing Fae, and then casting 《Granted》 for the 《Blink of an Eye》 that I boarded out. And if I draw 《Pore Over the Pages》 into 《Hidden Strings》 off of Vizier, or 《Strategic Planning》 into Pore into Strings, then I can probably win by casting Fae, bouncing Fae, and then casting 《Granted》 for 《Underworld Breach》.

Mystical DisputeAbrupt Decay

The risk of this line was that if Pozzo drew countermagic or removal in his 3 draws, and potentially a 4th off of the last clue, then I’m forced to bin my Ugin to survive against his Uro. But even then, I’m still drawing heavy to Pore, Dig, 《Granted》, or Breach. Overall, preserving my mana felt like a risk worth taking. It turned out that Pozzo drew Dispute, Dispute, 《Abrupt Decay》 in his 3 draws, allowing him to both counter 《Granted》 and save his Uro against the Ugin minus, leaving me with absolutely nothing. I still like my line here though, since I knew he had none of those cards on the previous turn and the upside of hitting Pore is so high.

I would have still lost no matter how I played, since the Emrakul that Pozzo found off the 《Grisly Salvage》 he drew beats Ugin. Exiling the Leyline actually gave me the best chance of winning. That doesn’t make these decisions any less close or interesting though. I’m still not sure what the right plays here were.

Day 2

Second Draft

Nylea's Intervention

My day 2 draft pod was stacked, as pod 1 typically is. I started off with 《Anax, Hardened in the Forge》 over filler and then immediately moved off red for 《Eutropia the Twice-Favored》 in the next pack, partially because there was a 《Nylea’s Intervention》 in my first pack that I thought I would wheel (and did). There were some 《Nexus Wardens》 I was hoping to wheel and didn’t but green was otherwise open, culminating in a pick 8 《Loathsome Chimera》 in pack 2 and 3 《Ilysian Caryatid》s again.

Banishing LightMire's GraspTriumphant Surge

I wasn’t confident what my second color should be but I didn’t see any reason to deviate from blue until it was too late to move out of it. I picked up a 《Banishing Light》, 《Mire’s Grasp》, and then an 11th pick 《Triumphant Surge》 to splash in pack 3. The late Surge was much appreciated given how light I was on removal.

My draft was featured, and you can watch coverage of it here. You can find a picture of my final deck here.

I maindecked the 《Nylea’s Intervention》 because of the double splash and because my deck was light on interaction, particularly for fliers. I’m also higher on the lands mode of that card than most. The deck thinning starts to become relevant at X = 4 or 5, and GU decks are decent at making use of their 9th and 10th lands.

《Nylea’s Intervention》 is also a banger in my 《Azusa, Lost but Seeking》 EDH deck, so I was happy to pick up a stamped copy.

I beat Charles Wong, Matt Nass, and Sebastian Pozzo to 3-0 6-0 my pod. My matches against Charles and Pozzo were on camera. (against Charles / against Pozzo) My deck wasn’t great but these multicolor green decks play out better than they look. The pod also broke weirdly so that I got to 3-0 without playing against Huey (William Jensen), who had the best deck in the pod, and we both got to 3-0.

Medomai's Prophecy

I had an interesting decision against Charles in game 1, after he missed his 4th land drop on the play. (Intentionally, as it turns out.) On turn 4, with 2 《Ilysian Caryatid》s and 3 《Forest》s in play, I had to name a card with 《Medomai’s Prophecy》. My hand is 《Thirst for Meaning》, 《Skola Grovedancer》, 《Nylea’s Forerunner》, 《Triumphant Surge》, and 《Forest》.

Storm's Wrath

Because we had access to pools for the featured draft, I knew Charles had a 《Storm’s Wrath》 in his deck and thought there was a reasonable chance he had it from the way he was playing. If Charles doesn’t have 《Storm’s Wrath》, then I definitely want to name 《Thirst for Meaning》 with the Prophecy and plan to discard 《Skola Grovedancer》 to it. But if he does have the Wrath and then I’m no longer able to even cast the 《Thirst for Meaning》, that would be a disaster. There’s also the question of whether I even want to play the Forerunner to either force the Wrath or capitalize on his “mana problems”.

Nylea's ForerunnerThirst for MeaningSkola Grovedancer

Ultimately, I decided to name 《Skola Grovedancer》 with Prophecy and play the Forerunner. The problem with switching the order — naming Forerunner then playing Thirst and Grovedancer — is that Charles could just wait for me to play the Forerunner before Wrathing, and I’m forced to comply in order to trigger Prophecy. By playing the Forerunner first, I at least make it so Charles has to take a hit for 7 if he wants to sweep an additional creature. I like my line, overall. Naming Thirst would have been too greedy, and naming Forerunner would have been incoherently conservative.

Starlit MantleThryx, the Sudden Storm

I played nicely around 《Starlit Mantle》 in game 2, not attacking my Grovedancer into his 《Wavebreak Hippocamp》 and playing 《Triton Waverider》 instead of 《Banishing Light》 against his 《Arena Trickster》 with 2 open mana, but Charles drew so many lands that the gameplay didn’t really matter. I regret playing so conservatively around 《Thryx, the Sudden Storm》, since I knew Charles didn’t have it after he didn’t spend his mana on turn 5. At the same time, I just couldn’t see how I could lose except for Thryx eating a creature. I also forgot about trample damage from the 《Loathsome Chimera》 with 《Nylea’s Forerunner》 on the last turn, but thankfully that didn’t matter.

Eidolon of Philosophy

My match against Pozzo was more straightforward. I had good draws to his mediocre ones. Game 1 was cool and unusual from my side, since I drew almost every land in my deck but also used all my mana every turn of the game. 《Eidolon of Philosophy》 put in overtime this draft.


Hour of Devastation

Going back to constructed, I kept running great with Breach and locked up 1st seed without losing a match, beating Huey, Jacob Wilson, Tommy, and Pete Ingram. In game 3 against Tommy on Spirits, I needed to draw 《Mystical Dispute》 or 《Hidden Strings》 off my Vizier cycle (or running Viziers and Pores) in order to sweep his board with 《Hour of Devastation》, and I did. I obviously then found natural Breach off 《Strategic Planning》 to win that same turn after casting the 《Hidden Strings》 under 《Spell Queller》.


Huey had a potential turn 3 kill against me under certain library and graveyard counts in game 1, since he was playing 《Expansion/Explosion》 and not 《Thassa’s Oracle》 and only had 1 《Lotus Field》. He went for it without knowing for sure and the numbers didn’t line up.

Inverter of TruthThassa's Oracle

I messed up game 2 against Pete Ingram, where I could have used a 《Vizier of Tumbling Sands》 to pass with a 《Blast Zone》 on 2 counters instead of making a 《Thespian’s Stage》 into a third 《Lotus Field》 and then died to 《Inverter of Truth》 + 《Thassa’s Oracle》. The correct line would have only bought me a single draw step though, since Pete also had 《Jace, Wielder of Mysteries》. (I knew about the Jace since I’d bounced it with 《Blink of an Eye》 earlier in the game.)

I drew with Austin Bursavich in the last round, Corey Burkhart drew next to me, and Tommy won to make it so that fully half of the top 8 was from our testing team. 7% of the Pro Tour to 25% of the GP New Jersey top 8 to 50% of the PT Phoenix top 8. Pretty cool.

After the top 8 photos and interviews, I got dinner at The Arrogant Butcher, an American place next to the convention center. The pretzels were delicious, my meatloaf was fine. I got back to the Airbnb at 10:00 PM, hoping to get a solid 8 hours of sleep. I had trouble sleeping though, and ultimately woke up at 6:00 AM for more breakfast, coffee, and Magic.

Top 8

My top 8 match was anticlimactic. You can watch it here.

I drew incredibly in game 1, such that I had a turn 5 kill with enough blockers to prevent Zachary Kiihne from killing me on turn 4. I tanked on the last turn because I thought I had exactly enough mana to win and was triple-checking my kill, but I wound up like 4 mana over. I mulled to 5 in game 2 and wound up in a spot where I needed to topdeck a Breach or Fae to win (or Pore, Planning, or Vizier into those cards) and missed, and then Zach had a good draw with 《Eidolon of the Great Revel》 to dispatch me in game 3. I’m happy with how I played though, which is all I can ask for.

I hung out at the convention center and team drafted to pass the time, partly but not totally present. I played lands-only Mental Magic against Andrew Cuneo and he only played lands to give his nonexistent creatures banding and to remove banding from mine. (eg. Adventurers’ Guildhouse, Tolaria) I got dinner and missed my flight, then stayed up until 6:00 AM to catch the next one on standby. I landed in California and 8:00 AM and felt pure relief to be home.


This top 8 is my second best result in terms of both payout and prestige, but it doesn’t feel that way. My recollection of the weekend feels muted, like someone else took control of my body for a while. When I won Pro Tour 25th Anniversary with Ben Hull and Gregory Orange, I felt a joy that I don’t feel now. It’s been a week now since the Players Tour, and I’m trying to process what’s different this time.

My working theory is that, in my subconscious, this Players Tour is a beginning rather than an ending. I played the best deck, had the best list, knew every intricacy of the draft format, ate and slept well. I was more prepared for this Players Tour than ever before. And at the same time, I could have played better, taken better care of myself, prepared more efficiently. My finish feels like a natural consequence of my process, and I’m looking forward to repeating and improving that process, and ultimately mastering it. I don’t feel catharsis because I feel anticipation.

In the meantime, I have three months to figure the rest of my life out.
The world is badly made, but it’s what we’ve got.
Thanks for reading, as always.


Allen Wu (Twitter)

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Allen Wu Allen Wu is a pro player from United States. One of America's powerhouses made his way onto the scene via Magic Online's PTQ which is arguably one of the hardest ways to qualify. After winning Grand Prix Albuquerque in 2016, he joined Wizards of the Coast's "Play Design" team and worked on Magic's development. After returning as a player, he won Pro Tour Magic 25th Anniversary with his teammates Ben Hull and Gregory Orange. Seeking growth and victory more, he joined Hareruya Pros in the 2018-2019 season. Read more articles by Allen Wu