The Greatest Season

Sebastian Pozzo

Sebastian Pozzo

Hello, I’m Sebastian Pozzo form Argentina, and I feel honored and excited about being part of Hareruya Latin for the following season.

Hareruya Latin

Today I’m going to share with you how I experienced the crazy season I just had, which finished with the unexpected and heartwarming title of Standard Master, and a 2017 World Championship invitation.

Usually I’m not a big fan of anecdotal MTG content and I enjoy more the strategy based articles. However, lately I’ve found how important experience is to play your best game, so I’ve decided to write about what went through my mind during last season and what was my experience as a Magic Player before that, hopefully someone will find it enriching.

Beginning

So, brief history of what’s my MTG experience prior to the 2016-2017 season. I’ve been playing since I was a kid, in 2008 I played my first GP in my hometown and reached the top8 to play in my first Pro Tour in Berlin. It was very relieving since by then I’d lost a bunch of PTQ top8s. PT was awsome, but more of a vacation than anything else, still I managed to 5-3 day one (4-4 was not enough record for day2 back then), and finished with a 9-7 record after 16 rounds of old extended format, playing BG Death Cloud.

Death Cloud

After that, I kept playing but not very much, I was studying (without much dedication to be honest), and played mostly online, something I’ve always loved (and was a constant temptation when I had to study). I decided to play more again after the return of a GP to Buenos Aires in 2014. There, I realized how much I’ve been missing the competition and the desire to play to the top of my capabilities flourished. Soon afterwards I lost a limited PTQ final. That felt bad for being so close and not getting there, however, being close was a really good sign.

Some months after that, the best result of my life at the time arrived, in form of a MOCS win. That meant I would go to not only PT Fate Reforged in Washington but also to the 2014 Magic Online Championship to compete for a Gold Status and 25,000 US$ for the winner in a 16 players event.

PT was great, I got closer to the Brazilians like Pedro Carvalho who helped me with his Affinity expertise and I went 6-4 with it.

However I was still lacking of Draft knowledge and 3-3ed for another 9-7 record. The week before the PT I also shared the room with some other guys including Antonio del Moral Leon, who I’ve contacted because he was also going to Seattle to play the MOCS and we both speak spanish. Well for those who don’t remember, it turned out that the guy we were giving some limted tips and didn’t test Modern at all because he was confident with his UR Twin deck ended up winning the whole tournament. It was amazing to live that from such a close perspective.

Antonio del Moral Leon

Antonio del Moral Leon

Image Copyright: MAGIC: THE GATHERING

Then the MOCS came and expectations were as high as the sky. Long story short: I finished 15th out of 16 after 14 rounds of play. I earned the participation 4,000$ and learn a lot about what was to play alongside PT Champions like Antonio itself or Martin Dang. I saw the real picture about how far I was to the top level players, and knew that the path to get there is steeper at every step.

It took me another year to qualify, the RPTQ system helped a lot to reduce variance and again another Modern PT. Also another 6-4 with Affinity and 3-3 in draft. I really needed to improve my draft skills. Fortunatley I also succeeded in the next RPTQ, and that took me to Madrid to play a Standard PT.

This time I was part of a huge and unorganized Dex Army. The best thing was that I was finally able to test Draft seriously and not just jam drafts online. We drafted a lot and talked about the cards and decks, but the key was the day before the PT, when Marcio Carvalho gathered us all to give us his impressions on the format in about 30 minutes. That glued all the pieces of the puzzle for me.

The sad part of the story is that everyone who liked the deck I was playing (White Weenie) were abandoning for Bant Company and I was not enough brave to do so with the tournament so soon. That led me to a 3-7 record with the deck, but an awsome 5-1 in draft. Also the round that I lost was the final of my first pod. I got close to the 3-0 in a draft where I had to change gears and start picking a 3rd color. It’s not something spectacular, but at the time it felt like something Pro Players navigate naturally and was never easy to me. At the same time my friend Luis Salvatto made top8 in his first PT. Now that we are both in the Pro Tour I realize how important was for me to have a close friend to push in the same direction and chase the same objectives successfully.

The next PT was Sydney and this time the RPTQ was not kind to me. So it was time to watch a PT at home once again after being there for the last two. I really enjoyed watching it, and I watched with another eyes, it was clear to me that I wanted to be there every single time. And not only that, but do well at least once. However, reaching the 11-5 that I always desired felt so distant.

2016-2017 Season: First Pro Tour: Kaladesh in Honolulu

Here we enter to my magical 2016-17 season. So far I have never been close to Silver Status. My main goal was trying not to skip many PTs and keep learning. First PT was in Honolulu, and winning an online PTQ was one of the happiest moments of my MTG memories for a bunch of reasons. First, my friend Salvatto was also going, and it was the first PT of the season, which was very important with the old system. But second and more important, I wanted to go there so badly, I’ve always loved the sea, and I knew that swimming there would be the best vacation possible, I wasn’t wrong about that.

The deck I used for the online PTQ was a BGu grindy deck that featured 《Dragonlord Silumgar》 to steal 《Gideon, Ally of Zendikar》 and 《Nissa, Voice of Zendikar》 from the GW players. GW Tokens was clearly the deck to beat and even with a deck designed to beat it, like mine, it was not an easy matchup.

Gideon, Ally of ZendikarDragonlord SilumgarNissa, Voice of Zendikar

So going to the tournament the Dex Army was very spread among common languages. We weren’t very organized this time either. However, masterminds Carlos Romao and Carvalho won both GP London and Atlanta (both the week before the PT) and having their opinions of how to approach the format was super valuable. We did some live drafts in Honolulu and it was super hard for me to not go to the beach all day (since I would stay there 10 days after the PT I did my best efforts to only go 1 or 2 hours a day).

I was feeling confident for limited, but constructed I would just go with an obvious choice. One of the most represented decks at the SCG, BR aggro. With Pedro Carvalho and Marcelino Freeman we tried a bunch of things. They were more experienced and had more ideas, I helped more with giving my opinion and trying stuff. This was the final list:


Sebastian Pozzo – BR Aggro
Pro Tour Kaladesh

10 《Mountain》
5 《Swamp》
1 《Smoldering Marsh》
3 《Aether Hub》
4 《Foreboding Ruins》

-Land (23)-

4 《Bomat Courier》
4 《Inventor's Apprentice》
4 《Scrapheap Scrounger》
4 《Chief of the Foundry》
2 《Pia Nalaar》
1 《Bloodhall Priest》

-Creature (19)-
2 《Incendiary Flow》
4 《Fiery Temper》
4 《Unlicensed Disintegration》
4 《Smuggler's Copter》
2 《Key to the City》
2 《Fleetwheel Cruiser》

-Spell (18)-
3 《Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet》
3 《Galvanic Bombardment》
3 《Transgress the Mind》
2 《Collective Brutality》
2 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》
1 《Lightning Axe》
1 《Key to the City》

-Sideboard (15)-
hareruya

Having only two 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》 and having them on the sideboard was super bad. 《Chief of the Foundry》 weren’t very good but made 《Smuggler's Copter》 go larger than your opponent’s ones and in general I liked them. Afterwards it was clear that having a build with more 《Bloodhall Priest》 was better.

Chandra, Torch of DefianceChief of the FoundrySmuggler's CopterBloodhall Priest

I started the tournament 3-0 for the first time ever but finished the day with a 5-3 record after losing a super close Game 3 in round 8. My goal was to 11-5 so I would have to do on Saturday what I was so close but couldn’t do on Friday.

The draft didn’t go very well but I was able to pull a 2-1. Now it was time to get a little lucky with my deck. Things started very good with a 3-0 and I had 2 shots. Fist one missed and 2nd was a super intense match against PT Champion Kazuyuki Takimura. The match ended in extra turn number 7 (2 extra turns where given us due to slow play warning on him) with a very big 《Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet》 on my side and a clear win with one more turn. After I explained him I was not Qed for Dublin he thought for a bit about giving one pro point away but he decided to concede and I almost fell in ecstasy. It was an enormous gesture from such a champion.

I was already Q’ed for Dublin, and after losing in a couple PPTQs with paper cards for Nashville I spiked another MTGO Standard PTQ. This time playing BG Delirium with 《Emrakul, the Promised End》, just the week before it became clear that Temur Marvel was the best deck and everyone would play it. I was starting to see the rewards for deciding to take MTG as my main activity. That included some MTGO grinding besides going to the tournaments.

Second Pro Tour: Aether Revolt in Doublin

So next was Dublin. I have 12 Pro Points (2 from GPs). Now Silver Level is super close and 10-6 record doesn’t look that heartbreaking. In Dublin teams were introduced and I was part of “Ligamagic”, the 2nd DEX team. Personally I never understood the Aether Revolt draft format. I never knew how to build good synergic decks. In Constructed 《Saheeli》 was the deck to beat, and we also expected control decks and BG. Mardu was a deck that we didn’t pay much attention until very late, and only those who didn’t like what they were testing decided to get in that boat (including PT finalist and PT winner, Marcio and Lucas). I kept my hands over the good old BR Aggro, courtesy again of Pedro. This time the deck was not expected and that is always possitive. If your deck is super expected you have to be certain that the deck is awsome to play it anyway.


Sebastian Pozzo – Mardu
Pro Tour Aether Revolt

10 《Mountain》
6 《Swamp》
3 《Smoldering Marsh》
4 《Foreboding Ruins》

-Land (23)-

4 《Bomat Courier》
4 《Inventor's Apprentice》
4 《Scrapheap Scrounger》
4 《Forerunner of Slaughter》
3 《Pia Nalaar》

-Creature (19)-
3 《Shock》
1 《Lightning Axe》
3 《Incendiary Flow》
4 《Unlicensed Disintegration》
2 《Implement of Combustion》
2 《Heart of Kiran》
3 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》

-Spell (18)-
4 《Fatal Push》
3 《Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet》
3 《Transgress the Mind》
2 《Release the Gremlins》
2 《Ob Nixilis Reignited》
1 《Smoldering Marsh》

-Sideboard (15)-
hareruya

This time at least we knew how good 《Chandra》 was. And there are a lot of burn spells and 《Saheeli》 disenablers. Against BG you could turn more controlish with removals and planeswalkers, while most would sideboard anti-aggro cards. The problem was Mardu, and we didn’t know that it would be so highly represented. Day1 started 0-2 but I won the last round of the draft. Standard started unsurpassable and I 5-0ed without playing against a single Mardu (they were in the top tables apparently). In day2 my draft didn’t go any better and 1-2ed again. In Standard all the Mardu were waiting for me and I battled against 4 of them splitting matches with a little luck since 《Gideon》 sometimes takes over the game all alone. I won the other one and finished with a solid 10-6 finish that locked me for Silver with my invite to Nashville.

However, paying an Air ticket from Argentina to Japan is not a decision I would take lightly.

That was why GP Porto Alegre would be so important for me. I top8ed playing Mardu and that gave me the tranquility that I wouldn’t have to pay for a ticket to Japan. The 4 pro points would also put me at a reasonable distance to Gold, since I would have 22 plus 2 Pro Tours invites. A single 10-6 and some GPs would seal the deal.

Third Pro Tour: Amonkhet in Nashville

Prior to PT Amonkhet I got a PP in GP Mexico City with Salvatto and Michael Bonde. And 2 PP in the GP Richmnond the week before the PT. I was feeling confident once again with limited. The format was very aggresive and that is where I’m best at. Constructed practice was horrible this time to be honest. We didn’t see how superior Zombies and Marvel were. So I sticked once again with what I play better. Mardu it was.


Sebastian Pozzo – Mardu
Pro Tour Amonkhet

4 《Plains》
3 《Mountain》
2 《Canyon Slough》
4 《Inspiring Vantage》
4 《Concealed Courtyard》
1 《Needle Spires》
1 《Shambling Vent》
4 《Spire of Industry》
1 《Aether Hub》

-Land (24)-

4 《Toolcraft Exemplar》
4 《Thraben Inspector》
4 《Veteran Motorist》
4 《Scrapheap Scrounger》
2 《Pia Nalaar》
2 《Archangel Avacyn》

-Creature (20)-
2 《Fatal Push》
4 《Unlicensed Disintegration》
4 《Heart of Kiran》
2 《Cultivator's Caravan》
4 《Gideon, Ally of Zendikar》

-Spell (16)-
3 《Transgress the Mind》
2 《Release the Gremlins》
2 《Fumigate》
2 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》
1 《Oath of Liliana》
1 《Painful Truths》
1 《Anguished Unmaking》
1 《Cast Out》
1 《Nahiri, the Harbinger》
1 《Skysovereign, Consul Flagship》

-Sideboard (15)-
hareruya

I chose a bad deck for the tournament, but at least I had time to play with it and tune the sideboard properly. Zombies and Marvel were not good at all in game one, but the sideboard had some good things goint to try to revert that. Draft 1 I was in the Featured Draft, you can watch my picks here: Pro Tour Amonkhet – Day 1 Draft Pod 14

I ended with a very good UW deck with a splash for 《Nissa, Steward of Elements》. However, I faced very good players and being a little unlucky meant that all of the sudden I was 0-3. I was not depressed but I felt disapointed, of course. I needed to move on, but I also lost round 5 with one of those cluncky Mardu draws where you have color screw, mana flood, legend flood, all togeather (I’m exaggerating a bit but it felt like that). The first reason I wanted to day2 at least with 4-4 was to try to make 10-6 that would put me a single point away from gold. But I also wanted to draft again and try to redeem myself after my first 0-3 draft in a PT ever.

I played two very intense miror matches against GP winners in rounds 7 and 8. One against Brandon Burton, and another against Corey Baumeister. The second one I remember making a mistake that luckily for me it didn’t cost me the round. So I was 4-4 and yes, the day I don’t get to play on Saturday was not yet to come.

On day2 I drafted a GW aggro deck and I got lucky with the rares. 《Rhonas》, Prepare to Fight and 《Regal Caracal》 came in packs 2 and 3.

Regal CaracalRhonas the IndomitableRegal Caracal

I finished 3-0 and with a 3-2 I would get to my goal. I started 2-0 and truly I couldn’t believe it, I had won the last 8 matches. And the streak continued to 10-0 while playing a lot more relaxed than I usually do at high stakes games, I was so dead at 1-4 that I felt I had nothing to lose. The final match was unpleasant since I mulliganed to 4 in game 3 of a mirror match. However a 11-5 finish meant I instantly made Gold. A lot more than what I would have aspired to at the beginning of the season. And there, for the first time I realized I had a shot at Standard Master. I was 3 points behind Steve Hatto and Shaun McLaren, and 1 Point behind Lee Shi Tian. However, 3 players with an edge over me made me think that maybe my chances were 10% or so, being realistic.

Steve Hatto Shaun McLaren Lee Shi Tian

Steve Hatto, Shaun McLaren, Lee Shi Tian

Image Copyright: MAGIC: THE GATHERING

So in between PT’s I got 2 more PP in GP Santiago, going up to 37.

The Last Pro Tour: Hour of Devastation in Kyoto

The PT Hour of Devastation preparation started with a bunch of drafts from home. I knew it would be more important for me to win Standard rounds, but in the early days I rather draft to focus on Standard while being in Japan. I liked the format, but I was drafting aggro deck most of the time, and then I learned that in this format the defensive decks can be also very good.

Early in the Standard testing the red deck appeared. My first impressions where that the deck was very fragile. 《Thraben Inspector》 seemed like a nightmare, 《Walking Ballista》 as well. However, when we went to numbers, there was not any deck that was beating it consistently. We tried a Temur deck thinking that it would naturally beat it but still it was not easy at all, 《Hazoret the Fervent》 would take over a lot of the games.

Hazoret the Fervent

So even if we could have a 55% win against mono red with another deck it was a big risk to go with something that could lose so badly to another deck. This standard there were a lot of options and going aggro really seemed like the safer choice, especially if it’s what I feel more comfortable with.

So, after 3 PT of not playing a very good deck I finally registered the most succesful archetype of the tournament:


Sebastian Pozzo – Ramunap Red
Pro Tour Hour of Devastation

14 《Mountain》
4 《Ramunap Ruins》
4 《Sunscorched Desert》

-Land (22)-

4 《Bomat Courier》
4 《Falkenrath Gorger》
4 《Soul-Scar Mage》
4 《Earthshaker Khenra》
3 《Kari Zev, Skyship Raider》
4 《Ahn-Crop Crasher》
3 《Hazoret the Fervent》

-Creature (26)-
4 《Shock》
4 《Incendiary Flow》
2 《Abrade》
2 《Collective Defiance》

-Spell (12)-
3 《Glorybringer》
3 《Chandra's Defeat》
3 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》
2 《Scavenger Grounds》
2 《Harsh Mentor》
2 《Abrade》

-Sideboard (15)-
hareruya

In the first draft I started 0-2 with a decent WR aggro deck. I was able to win the last one and the Standard Master Race was on. I beated my oponents one by one without wanting to know how were the other contenders to the race doing. But after the last match of the day was over Brian David-Marshall came close to me to talk about what my chances were. I was super happy of being able to batte for such a great accomplishment, still I had nothing to celebrate yet. McLaren had 4-1 and Lee Shi Tian 3-2. So I was tied with McLaren and 5 points ahead of Lee.

However, I should not forget that I was 6-2 in the tournament. Some friends joked about that I should concede all 3 draft rounds to get easier rounds afterwards. But that was not an option, I was playing two different tournaments. And another 6-2 would give me Platinum.

Saturday started very good to me. I opened 《Ominous Sphinx》 and got 《Ammit Eternal》 passed, a clear singnal that the person to my right didn’t want to draft black at all. I finished with a very good UB deck that also contained 《Archfiend of Ifnir》.

Ominous SphinxAmmit EternalArchfiend of Ifnir

I won the first two rounds but the final of the draft was against a very good WR deck and I stumbled.

Now, every round will count double. I won the first one, against Zombies, which was a tough matchup. I also won the second one, in a mirror match against the same player who beated me in the final of the draft. So I was 7-0 and every round was a final now on. My first loss came against Seth Manfield in a mirror match where I was able to kill a 《Hazoret the Fervent》 in game 2 with a combination of 《Chandra's Defeat》 and 《Soul-Scar Mage》, but that was not enough.

Knowing about other’s results was inevitable. McLaren had fell of contention. However, Lee Shi Tian was 3-0 today and seemed very concerned about getting the Standard Master title even though his invite for Worlds was locked. I had minimum advantage against him, since only 2 points were just a match of difference. Round 15 is where I get there, and I was on camera the whole time. You can watch my most important match ever here: Pro Tour Hour of Devastation Round 15 (Standard): Sebastian Pozzo vs. Dimitriy Butakov

It was a good matchup but game one started roughly. However he flooded a lot and I got away with it. In the second game he didn’t get any luck and my draw was very good. In both games the MVP was by far my beloved 《Bomat Courier》.

Bomat Courier

That win alongside Lee’s loss secured me the tilte and a big relief and enormous excitement overwhelmed me as my friends shared that moment with me.

Marc Calderaro did me a quick interview that you can read here: STANDARD MASTER LAST LEG, AND WINNER’S INTERVIEW

However it was time to play the final round of the day for Platinum Status. The truth is I was not comfortable playing for that much. I was never in such a spot before either. That probably impacted badly in my decisions and I lost to a Temur deck 0-2 with a close G1 and a beating in G2. That put the end to an amazing season for me, which could have been even better. It also gives me now the desire and ambitions for more. If I had won the last round of any of the last 2 PTs I would have been Platinum.

Conclusion and from now on

It’s time now to start again and my first shot will be nothing less than the 2017 World Championship itself. I’m doing my best efforts to humbly give the best version of myself to battle alongside such amazing players. The fact that there’s so much in play may affect me in a bad way. However, I’m setting my mind in how grateful I am to the game that gave me this opportunity, and I am looking forward to playing 14 rounds against the best players, something I would like to do every weekend even if we were playing just for fun.

In the end that is what it’s all about, just doing what you enjoy doing.

Thanks for reading!

Pozzo

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