Pro Tour Testing
Hello everyone! Pro tour Dublin is on the horizon and I am preparing harder than I ever have. I first attended a draft camp organized by my friend Martin Juza in the cabin his family owns, on the top of a hill inside of a forest deep in the south of the Czech Republic. The temperature was freezing, but we had a great time and I gained some good insight about the format.
There were no pro players in the cabin besides Martin, but there were a couple of pro tour competitors and I am glad that I took part in those drafts, because they replicated actual pro tour tables pretty well. One problem I had before, was that the drafts with 8 top level magic pros are just very different compared to the “actual” drafts. You will wheel different cards and more importantly; the games will often play out differently, because the pros will on average kill you more quickly or just have better decks in general, which may greatly influence your opinion on some cards.
Just to give an example; let’s say that there is this slow super powerful engine card that while testing with all good players the card might not seem that great, because you are too often in a spot in which you can’t afford to cast it so it seems kind of mediocre. The truth is that a lot of games against average players don’t play out this way and having such a powerful effect is very valuable. You can make an argument, that you will beat those players regardless, but that is just not how magic works – sometimes they will have great rares or you mulligan to 5 etc.
After a pretty reasonable overall record in the cabin drafts I came back to Prague, where my testing team had rented an entire pension to test in. It’s really hard for me to describe how honored I am to be able to test with such an insanely skillful group of magic players. A lot of pros on this team are guys that I looked up to while growing up and a couple of years ago it would be unimaginable for me to even think that I am talking about magic with players like PV, Sigrist etc.
We call our testing team the conglomerate and it’s consists of following players: Me, PV, Ondrej Strasky, Eric Froehlich, Mike Sigrist, Ben Stark, Alexander Hayne, Oliver Tiu, Jacob Wilson, Sam Pardee, Shuhei Nakamura, Joel Larsson, Steve Rubin and Ivan Floch. Everyone on the team is Platinum besides Ben and Shuhei who are hall of famers and I am fairly confident that this is the best testing team in the world right now. I am most likely the worst player on the team, but I don’t think it’s by a significant amount and I feel like I am improving every second I test with these players.
Most of the members of our team didn’t do a lot of drafts so we played a lot of them and I got to confirm some things I wasn’t sure about and learned about several new interactions and archetypes and I felt very good about the upcoming GP in Prague.Grand Prix Prague
For a second it seemed like the GP wouldn’t even be happening, because of the fire incident on Friday (one of the food stands had an explosive incident), but fortunately the organizers were quick on their feet and they just moved the event to the second hall.
I opened what seemed like a very powerful sealed deck with rares such as 《Demon of Dark Schemes》, Red Gearhulk and overall cards of a very high power level, but the problem was that I didn’t really have enough good playables in two colors and most of my black cards were double black (even triple black in case of the demon). I figured that I will risk it and I played 3 colors with Attune and growth for fixing with a manabase consisting of 7 swamps, 6 forests and 3 mountains. I played red Hulk with only 3 mountains, because I thought that it’s just powerful enough to justify the fact that I will not be able to cast it early, but it turns out the card wasn’t actually that great; my deck wasn’t aggresive so it was basically just a 6 mana big guy that I wasn’t even able to cast half of the time.
You might also have noticed that I played only 16 lands, which seems weird given the cards I have, but I just didn’t want to flood out. My deck had a huge amount of 1 for 1s and you are just bound to lose the lategame if you draw 3 less spells than your opponent. I would actually play only 15 if the color requirements weren’t so high.
I started strongly and won my first two rounds easily, but a tough opponent awaited me in round 6: Hareruya pro and player of the year Jeremy Dezani. I have to admit that I played quite badly.
Game 1 I kept a sketchy two lander on the draw with no green mana and I wasn’t able to cast anything for a very long time. My reasoning was that the mana in my deck is so terrible that it’s likely not going to be fixed on six cards and my hand was actually very good if I get there. I went on tilt after missing several land drops and that was the point where things started going downhill.
I started to play sloppily, because I just assumed that I am so screwed in the game that it doesn’t really matter what I do and I think that my discards to handsize weren’t optimal. I also made a huge mistake at the end of the game, because I thought the card does something different, but I am ok with that since yes, I was really mad at myself for not double-checking and throwing the game away, but I made the best play with the information I had. The fact that I went on tilt though and most likely didn’t take the path that gives me the best chance to win bothers me way more and that is something I will try to work on, because I feel this is probably my biggest weakness in the game right now.
Jeremy played 1 spell game 2 and I did the same game 3 and the match went to Dezani. I think this match influenced me through the rest of day 1 and I didn’t play my best, but I don’t think there was all that much I could have done in the matches I lost. It happened to me 3 (!) times that I had 6 or more lands in play with hulk and/or demon in my hand and I couldn’t cast it, when it would easily have won me the game. It’s possible I was supposed to board my red cards out against my round 7 opponent who was on red green aggro.
The reason you might want to do that is that your card quality is probably going to be higher even after exchanging some good cards with mediocre and bad ones, but you will be able to start casting spells earlier and on curve more often. If you do this though, there will certainly be games where you flood and you lose because of the worse card quality so it’s really hard to tell which option gives you a higher win percentage, but I feel like I messed up.
I felt miserable after my horrible 6-3 finish on day 1. I know that the GP was more of a preparation for the PT than anything else, but I just couldn’t help it and it felt bad. As fortune would have it, my girlfriend is awesome and she cheered me up and helped return my motivation to try my hardest next day. She also pointed out, that I always do badly anytime I don’t eat properly during the tournament day and I have to say, that there might be something to it. I usually don’t eat in the morning and then I always play terrible in the beginning and then I claw my way back up.
I shook off the bad feelings off and I went confidently into day 2. I knew the format much better than the non PT players and I feel like there is a significant edge you can gain in this format. I drafted a fine U/R deck. We had only 6 people in our pod and it was the classic example of a draft, where you know that another color is open, but you have a rare and uncommon so strong that you just can’t switch, because it’s very unlikely that cards from the open color will be a higher powerlevel than of those 2 cards. The deck ended up being ok and I expected to 2-1, which wasn’t great, because I really wanted to 6-0. I play a lot of GPs and I want all of my results to be at least 3-pointers + I already have 6 results so x-4 isn’t really doing anything for me.
I played against two czech players the first 2 rounds and I won relatively easily, but I knew that my round 3 opponent Christian Seibold had an insanely powerful deck, that is going to be hard to beat. Not only was I passing to him and knew about all those great green and especially black cards I passed to him, but I also talked to the player he beat in the previous round and he told me that Christian has Skysovereign, black expertise, Riskhar and infinite removal spells. My deck included a lot of small flying creatures and 2 4/4 hexproofs so his removal spells weren’t that great against me and I had a counterspell in my sideaboard that I can catch him with.
I stole game 1 after curving out on the play. I lost game 2 easily and it wasn’t looking great game 3, I was flooding out and Christian stopped playing lands so his hand was gas, presumably full of removal spells. I figured that I am not winning the long game so I just attempted to race. I got insanely lucky and drew runner-runner into counter on his essence extraction and won on exactsies. I obviously got really lucky, but I am glad that I played to my outs.
Also after the match we went through the game and we agreed that Christian would have won had he used the 《Fragmentize》 on a better target. I am not sure if the play was bad, because I don’t know what was in his hand at the time, but it seemed like a pretty big mistake to me. Cards like essence extraction aren’t great to deal with vehicles, because they are expensive and you just waste 3 mana if the opponent doesn’t activate and it’s very stretching to keep up 3 mana every turn.
I 3-0ed my draft and suddenly my chances weren’t looking so bad. I drafted a mediocre red/black deck in the second draft though. It was looking great at the beginning, but I got nothing in pack 3 (don’t really understand why, because it was open pack 1) and my final deck was fine but not great.
Like before I won my first two rounds easily, because the non-pt opponents just played nonfunctional decks, but I got annhiliated by Valentin Mackl in round 3. I got an insane draw game 1 against his U/G energy deck, but I lost very easily game 2 and 3. I played very well I think – I even played around 《Metallic Rebuke》 and 《Shielded Aether Thief》 that he ended up having, but his deck was just a lot more refined than mine and I got outclassed. It sucks to work the entire day, come so close and then lose the last round after winning game 1, but that is just how Magic goes sometimes and I am happy with how I played day 2 and I am looking forward to Pro Tour: Aether Revolt and hope to explore this awesome limited format some more.
Thanks for reading,
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His prowess in reading the meta and taking advantage of it with flawless plays is among the reasons he is considered to be one of top European players right now.
Having played Grixis Control to a magnificent victory at GP Paris 2016.
He is most assuredly one of the top players to keep an eye on right now!
- First take on the AER Draft format
- Oliver Polak-Rottmann