My Way to Become the Pro Tour Champion

Luis Salvatto

I just won a Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, where to start?

Why Did I Chose Lantern Control?

Lantern of Insight

A few months ago, a friend from Argentina introduced me to Lantern Control, telling me that the deck has a lot of potential and is skill intensive. There, I thought to give it a chance, because I needed to play Modern for the Pro Tour and since I didn’t have enough experience with any specific deck, also becoming familiar with the actual metagame was important. I spent a few hours a day during 2 or 3 months, and in the beginning each round took me a lot of time, a 5 match would take me 2 days sometimes. At that moment the version was the black green one, and I also started to see Kanister (Piotr Glogowski) streams to learn tricks and sideboard material.

Whir of Invention

When the 《Whir of Invention》 version became more popular, the deck started to have a lot of success, and two pro players (Brian Braun-Duin and Sam Black) started to play it in live tournaments. Those players results, Kanister succees in Magic Online, plus the hard feelings in the opponents (generated between the full lock and the end of each game) made me think that the deck will not be available for the pro tour due the ban of a key piece, or because a release of a new fantastic card against the deck without a high cost in the sideboards.

Then I start to play test other decks, UW control, Abzan, Storm, BG, and in the last days before the pro tour, 8 rack.

I carry with me an Abzan build, but arriving in Bilbao, I decided to play 8 rack, making me start asking to borrow cards.

On Wednesday before the pro tour two friend was testing Lantern vs. Storm, and I stop to watch the game. At that moment Pedro (Lantern’s owner) look at me and saw in my eyes how I was looking the Lantern deck, which was some kind of love. He offered me to keep piloting this deck. After a few games, he told me “You should play this deck. The 8 rack is too bad in comparison to this deck and you are good playing this deck”.

With this last-minuite switch and despite, I was afraid to play it at the pro tour without experience in real life, and in the Pro Tour where a field with lots of experienced players. After a talk with my team, they gave me confidence and I accepted to face the challenge.

Day 1

For the limited part, I play 15-20 drafts online, and then 6-8 normal drafts with discussion about the picks and the decks. Despite my horrible results, I felt I was learning a lot, thanks to my teammates and having confidence about my skills in this draft set.

It was 9:10A.M. and I pick my first card (《Thrashing Brontodon》). My next pick was another green card (《Swift Warden》), and after I picked a 《Raging Regisaur》, followed with 3 good blue cards. At the end of the pack, I found a signal in the form of 《Sun-Crested Pterodon》. I finish the pack with 3 green cards, 3 blue, 2 whites, one GW (《Atzocan Seer》) and the RG one.

Thrashing BrontodonSwift WardenSun-Crested Pterodon

In the second pack, I decided to go full white opening 《Luminous Bonds》 and get passed a 《Zetalpa, Primal Dawn》. I end with a 2-1 maybe 3-0 deck, despite losing a lot of early picks. The hardest part of this draft was to abandon the blue ideas, and that allows me to pick the open colors, and not forcing a combination that was close.


1st Draft

I won my first two rounds against Boros Dinosaurs and RG Dinosaurs, both times siding in the 《Ancient Brontodon》 giving me a few games.

Ancient Brontodon

I lost the last round screwed in 2-3 lands until die against a good blue red pirates.

Modern was about to start and I was a bit nervous, but hoping to play my best magic.

My first Modern round was against an Abzan company, which is a bad matchup. He beat me 2-0 easily and left me with the sensation that I didn’t play very well.

My second round was against Storm, and I play with my friend Thiago Saporito in the next table. This round was also a party for my opponent, in the first game he combo me turn 3 and I couldn’t stop him, and game 2 I open with discard and his hand was insane (《Engineered Explosives》, 《Shattering Spree》, 《Manamorphose》, 《Opt》, and 3 lands) and his following draw was a 《Baral, Chief of Compliance》. He end up playing a lot of spells and winning the game without 《Gifts Ungiven》 but using his 《Spree》 from the sideboard and multiples goblin tokens.

Shattering Spree

At that moment I was a bit sad because I couldn’t win any single game in Modern…

But when you are at the Pro Tour, you will need to give your best even in the worst conditions, even if you had already lost 4 rounds. You don’t play a Pro Tour each week and if you keep fighting you can transform a bad start into a good finish (This already happen to me in Pro Tour Kaladesh, losing my first draft and then winning 12 of the 13 next rounds, finishing 15th).

The Lanterns start to shine in round 6, beating an Abzan in 3 games. In round 7 I beat an Affinity deck in 2 games. Without pressure to not pass the day. I won the last round of the day against a Jeskai with a lot of burn and 《Geist of Saint Traft》. These cards made me lose the first game but made me win the other 2.

I return to the hotel with a good sensation about the deck and hoping to draft a good deck and keep playing at my best level. If I could finish with a 6-2 to end up 11-5, getting 10 pro points and some cash would be great.

Day 2

The second draft started with a 《Ravenous Chupacabra》 following with a 《Baffling End》. Blue was extremely open, and I finish with this piece of art:


2nd Draft

I won the first two rounds against Vampires (a good deck but worse than mine, with 2 good cards against Vampires in my sideboard)

The last round was against a super aggro RB Pirates deck. I lost the first game with just lands and nothing good from the top. I reverse the match winning the other 2, siding in 《Negate》 against 《Pirate's Cutlass》 and some tricks.

This put me in a good spot to my goal, which I just need to win 3 out of 5 games with my deck.

Another important thing in this draft set is picking sideboard cards and know when you need to change your deck. When to be more defensive, more aggressive, try to find how you can upgrade your matchup. Cards like 《Cancel》, 《Negate》, 《Plummet》, 《Naturalize》, 《Sea Legs》, 《Dual Shot》, 《Cleansing Ray》, are weak main-deck cards, but with good potential in the sideboard.

NegatePlummetNaturalizeDual Shot

After the draft and having lunch, pairings up and what a surprise, I play against Kanister! At that moment I only face a mirror one time (now counting 2) and I knew that I needed to play extremely well and having the luck to beat him. That was what happened, I had more luck than him in both games, drawing better spells in game one, and drawing 《Tezzeret》 and protecting him against 《Pithing Needle》. I closed the round with a 2-0 and started to feel that I could do more than 11-5.

Current score: 9-3

The following round I get paired against Christian Calcano, playing Bogles.

An easy win game 1, and game 2 slightly worse than game 1 but still good to win. During game 1, I drop 《Ensnaring Bridge》 and won immediately despite his double 《Leyline of Sanctity》 on board. (Won via milling with 《Pyxis of Pandemonium》 and recurring a 《Mox Opal》 with 《Academy Ruins》 each upkeep until mill him) and the game 2 he mulligan to 5 and can’t never be in the game.

At this point, I reach the 8 consecutive victories and continued to feeling good with the deck.

Round 14, I get paired playing against a strong player, Jon Stern and his Burn deck.

Jon Stern

Jon Stern
Image Copyright : Wizards of the Coast

Game 1, I start the lock and when I assemble all the pieces with only 1 card in my hand. I pass with 3 life, 《Monastery Swiftspear》 on the board, and his 1 card in hand (which I don’t know). When he untap and draw a brick, he thohght and I realized I had the win. His last card was 《Searing Blaze》, and I go down to 1 life as he attacked and played his prowess creature. A few turns after, I won via 《Inventors' Fair》 + 《Witchbane Orb》.

Inventors' FairWitchbane Orb

The game 2 I mulligan and keep a no land hand. He starts with 《Goblin Guide》 following with multiple spells which I couldn’t do anything and lost.

In the game 3, I start with 《Leyline of Sanctity》 and vision an easy game 3, but I started to flood. His turn 2 《Eidolon of the Great Revel》 put me in a weird position. My initial hand was 《Leyline of Sanctity》, 2 《Ensnaring Bridge》, 《Mox Opal》, and 3 lands. I drew 4 lands in a row and he attacked me with 《Eidolon》 and 《Swiftspear》 since I can play one land per turn. When I went down to 3 life, my outs reduce to 《Whir of Invention》 (to searching 《Lantern of Insight》 to try to find a removal via 2 mill rocks) or a removal. I drew 《Collective Brutality》 and the show starts. I play and replay the 《Brutality》 and via 《Codex Shredder》 and 《Academy Ruins》 thanks to my board full of lands. After the first 《Brutality》 he could top-deck a 《Destructive Revelry》 to win, but he didn’t draw and at the next turn, I shut down his odds and two turns after, I won burning the burn player.

Wow! I won 9 rounds in a row and now I’m 11-3, just about to play a kind of win and in and try to draw. I look at the standings and identify a dangerous name. Corey Burkhart. The best Grixis Control pilot and a great guy, despite he talks too fast in English and I only understand half of what he says, hehe. I really want to avoid that matchup, but of course, we get paired.

Corey Burkhart

Corey Burkhart
Image Copyright : Wizards of the Coast

Lucky for me, he did not play 《Ancestral Vision》 anymore, so if I control his top, I can reach the lock and win. That was what happens in game 1, relatively easy thanks to all the dead draws in form of removals and 《Bolt》. In game 2 the things start to be more difficult. With disruption and a fast 《Tasigur, the Golden Fang》, I could’ve put a 《Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas》 in play but was not enough and lost that game.

In game 3, he kept a 1 land hand and did not find a land as I assemble fast 《Lantern》 + 《Shredder》 and unable him to draw more lands I won the game, and I was pretty excited about my second pro tour top 8!!! (which this distracted me form de-side boarding properly, forgetting to side out the second 《Cage》 and putting the 《Orb》 back in)

Despite reach the 12 victories, my opponent’s points were not good and got paired down against my friend and teammate, Lucas Esper Berthoud.

Lucas Esper Berthoud

Lucas Esper Berthoud
Image Copyright : Wizards of the Coast

I believe if you are reading this, you probably know what happend. I got a game loss because the missing 《Orb》 when I try to tutor it to lock the game 100%. After I set my mind like if I had just lost in a regular way, and kept confidence to play my best. I prove myself again that every mistake can be corrected properly and you don’t need to regret it while you can solve the situation. In result, I won the other two games finishing the second day with a perfect score and in second place in the standings. This allowed me to start on the play every match until finals (if Pascal reach the finals, he could have chosen against me)

After all the happiness with my second pro tour top 8, I realized I can take revenge from the first one, in which I had the worst deck by far in the top 8.

This time I have the best deck, and I knew how to use it!

Pro Tour Sunday

Studying the situation, my worst matchup was the quarterfinal(Traverse Shadow), and my friend Sebastian Pozzo who played that deck at the Pro Tour, so he offered to playtest during the night to figure out how to beat it.

The key was try to win the first two games and then get lucky in any way to win one more with sideboards. We can’t find a good way to deal with that combination of discard plus big creatures, counterspells, planeswalkers and 《Ancient Grudge》!

Ancient Grudge

We also found that playing a Lantern can be very positive for him since the deck is full of fetchlands, 《Street Wraith》, and some dead cards. But keeping it in hand means it can be discarded.

Jean-Emmanuel Depraz

Jean-Emmanuel Depraz
Image Copyright : Wizards of the Coast

“The Plan” starts well, I drew well in both first games and won, but Jean-Emmanuel Depraz destroyed me in game 3, despite that I opened with 《Leyline》, and in game 4, I needed a few turns more to lock him. He reveals an 《Ancient Grudge》 in his top and thanks to double 《Street Wraith》 (one recycled with 《Liliana, the Last Hope》) he can draw it as I sacrifice my 《Lantern》.

The situation was tied at 2-2. I imagine how can I beat this guy who plays extremely well with that deck. I realize I needed my 3 《Needle》 instead 1 and 2 《Decay》, to shut off his 《Liliana, the Last Hope》, 《Street Wraith》 or fetchlands.

Lantern of InsightCodex Shredder

In our 5th game, he kept a hand full of powerfull spells but with only one land. I started to lock his top via 《Bauble》 + 《Shredder》 first, then I drew the 《Lantern》 to start to 《Needle》 his fetchlands. He was never allowed to draw a 3rd land and locked him to pass to the semifinal in one of the most important games I ever played.

Ken Yukuhiro

Ken Yukuhiro
Image Copyright : Wizards of the Coast

Next game, I was facing the winner between Reid Duke and Ken Yukuhiro, and Ken defeated Reid. So I had a good matchup, since in both first games, he can’t deal with the 《Bridge》 and doesn’t have specific discard. I had the option to mulligan agresively to 《Bridge》 and close the game fast. That was what happens in both games 1 and 2.

Post-board, I have another 《Cage》 and a few 《Jar》 to keep the 《Bridge》 alive.

I was too confident and that made me make two small mistakes, costing me one game each. That is what happens with the 《Lantern》, a small mistake makes the difference between a win or lose. I recommend see the games to understand better.

In game 3 I played the wrong land on turn 1. After he discards 3 random cards from my hand never getting the 3rd blue mana and lost against creatures with a 《Whir》 in hand.

Pithing Needle

In game 4 I decide to discard a 《Hollow One》 being too afraid of the draw/discard spells and leave his hand with a 《Lavamancer》. I played a 《Pithing Needle》 naming a land because I had enough life and he had his graveyard almost empty. I regrowth the ancient stirring and milling myself aggressively didn’t find in time other 《Pithing Needle》 or 《Whir》.

Finally, in game 5 I started with a good hand and the game was always under control.

In a perfect weekend, I reached the finals, which was my last match of the day going against Gerry Thompson. He defeats Pascal in a masterful way.

Gerry Thompson

Gerry Thompson
Image Copyright : Wizards of the Coast

I thought the matchup was hard for me because of the discard spells + 《Kolaghan's Command》, but as I played, I realized that deck doesn’t put pressure on me. Both games 1 and 2, I won easily, thanks to the 《Bridge》 and not letting him draw 《Kolaghan's Command》. He was a bit unlucky with his draws, but the matchup was too good for me. Post sideboards, I mulligan with a weak hand with 《Bridge》 playing around 《Surgical》 (the best way for him is put a 《Bridge》 in graveyard and 《Surgical》 it) and when I found the last lock piece (a mill rock in this case) I start to close the game and despite I missplay with a 《Mishra's Bauble》, I could solve the double land draw to lose. Finally, I ended the game with a 《Tezzeret》 on top and he conceded making me the champion of pro tour Rivals of Ixalan!

About Lantern Control

For extra content about the Lantern lists and the sideboard plan, there is a lot of people working on it, sharing their thoughts and building will be expense.

Lantern of Insight

A special apart to explain to all the Lantern haters. Magic is a complex game with a lot of ways to lock opponents to win the game. The big difference is that Lantern takes too long to win the games, “faster to kill” is unnecessary and make the deck worse. There is no big difference with a deck like Storm. If nobody plays hate pieces, Storm win against almost any decks without interaction or attacking. The same is for Tron, it is “unfair” to play a 7 drop planeswalker in turn 3, but is still between us, because it wins the game fast.

Lantern is a tier 1 deck, but is not invencible. There is a lot of ways to deal with this deck. Sometimes you need to understand that you lose the game. Each turn is worse, and the lock is unwavering when is properly set.

Lantern don’t deserve a ban. The time will show us how hard is the near future for Lantern players and then the format will stay in this way, with plenty good decks that can win a tournament.


A special thanks to all the judges (thanks for the judge’s blessing), and all the Wizards staff. My friend Marc Calderano, talking to me all the Saturday and Sunday supporting me and giving me his best wishes of success. Brian David-Marshall, you gave your best your weekend, your dad is proud of you for sure.

With friends

Image Copyright : Wizards of the Coast

One more thing, a big thanks to my Argentinian friends at the Pro Tour, my teammates, and all the other magic players rooting for me. I felt the love and support from everyone.

Thanks everyone for reading, it was exciting to write this! I remember each moment and my feelings. Hope you enjoyed this.

See you soon in a tournaments somewhere! Keep enjoying the game as I do.

Luis Salvatto

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