Hello and welcome back!  I was going to say Happy New Year (and I still do wish it to you) but now that this has been delayed so long, it has lost some of its ring.  Things have been pretty crazy for me on the non-Magic side of things and as a result I will be only writing monthly now, however there is going to be a big announcement soon (maybe even up already when this is posted) that I’m sure KYT would like to present himself.

First off, a note on my previous article about the Modern format.  As it was submitted before the bannings were announced, I thought I would clarify my recommendations.  I won’t write another article about it just yet, since I don’t really think that the bannings change too much.  Zoo becomes a bit weaker, but if it’s not the top deck then the anti-zoo cards will be less prominent.  Losing Wild Nacatl does slow it down by roughly half a turn, but replacing it with Loam Lion and Steppe Lynx (maybe even Figure of Destiny) is still going to leave the deck as tier one and I would still recommend it for the same reasons as before.  There are some popular anti-zoo lists online right now (Martyr, anyone?), but for the first few PTQs people will probably still resort to known decks and after that the new set will throw everything upside down again anyways.

So, since 2011 has come and gone, I thought I could take this opportunity to recap what has been a whirlwind of a year.  It will be shorter than you might expect, since Magic-wise for me it really didn’t start until the summer.  I have been working full-time and didn’t give myself too many opportunities to hit any major events.  Apart from the pre-releases and a bunch of cube drafts, Magic was taking its spot on the back burner.  My rating was high enough that I could likely have afforded to go to events and still be qualified for Nationals, but I was busy enough that it didn’t matter.

The first of my run-goods happened about a month or two before Nationals.  I was invited by Andrew Oyen to a testing group consisting of mostly constructed players.  Constructed is always where I had struggled and I knew in advance that I wanted some good testing to try and perform well, so this was perfect.  To top it off, Lucas Siow started running some practice M12 drafts and suddenly I was more prepared for a tournament than I had ever been before.  Nationals obviously went well and suddenly I was qualified for my first pro tour!

Lesson learned: Always be prepared.  Testing (and more importantly, good testing) will always help your results.  Example:  Even after having played about 60 games with the twinpod list I used, during one game vs caw blade I used Birthing Pod to search up a Frost Titan and tap down their only blue source, then combo’d off post-combat to play around Leak/Pierce.  Problem?  The combo needed the combat step…

The next tournament was GP Montreal, which was awesome except for the actual tournament part.  I got to drive over with two of the guys I learned to play Magic with, one of whom hadn’t played much in a while and the other who only played about once a year!  It was fun driving in the car trying to teach them the format as thoroughly as possible in 6 hours.  We stopped for food a couple of times and at one point decided to kick around our soccer ball in the middle of a McDonalds parking lot, which was fun until we hit and car in the drive-through and were asked to leave the premises.  The actual tournament went terribly, which I expected when I saw my pool, and was confirmed when I sat down to play my first match in round four.  I was beaten by turn 4 Gideon game 1 and turn 5 Gideon game two.  I lost another round to a planeswalker and dropped at 1-3 in matches played.  Screw planeswalker points when you can explore Montreal!

Lesson learned: Sealed sucks!  Well really the lesson I learned was that I was trying too hard to prove that Nationals was not a fluke, I let it get to my head and I didn’t play my best.  But even if I had, I would need divine draws to make day two.  Sealed sucks!

From then on, every day I was thinking about the Pro Tour and once we were 100% sure about the formats, testing begun in earnest.  We started off doing drafts (which Matt Vienneau was kind enough to host, with some good talent invited to boot) since I knew learning Innistrad limited early was more valuable than learning one of the constructed formats, which changes from week to week anyways.  That being said, provincials was a good chance to see what decks were powerful enough to keep an eye on and I needed all the constructed help I could get.  I tested with Noah and Tomik, and they had a bunch of strong decks but nothing stood up to mono red, even after boarding in hate.  My solution looked obvious and I played mono red, while Noah decided that he would play the only deck that WAS surviving over half the games, mono green wolf run.

Despite not having a very good wolf run matchup and being paired against it multiple times, through a combination of luck and some sweet draws, I only lost to it once and every other matchup I played against seemed easy.  I made top 8 and lost in the finals to Lucas Siow, playing none other than wolf run.  The tournament proved very useful, since nearly all the decks I played against went on to later become top tier decks (UW humans, UB control, wolf run, flare, mirror).  The decks of course were un-tuned at this stage, but it was good to learn what each deck was capable of and how they played out.

Lesson learned: Mono red was actually good!  Also, it was the first time I had just picked a deck based on testing and it was very reassuring to know that we were capable of predicting what people would play and how to beat those decks.  It also gave me confidence that I could play constructed at a high enough level to compete.

I then went to what I believe was my 5th lifetime PTQ, but the goal wasn’t really to qualify for Hawaii, it was to get another opportunity to practice Innistrad and pick the minds of some people I hadn’t seen in a while.   I made top 8, which was useful because I then got to play a relevant format (draft)!

Lesson learned: Ok sealed doesn’t always suck.  My confidence was also up now that I had (in my mind) gotten rid of some of the naysayers with a string of good results.  Confidence is often overlooked in magic, but as long as it doesn’t go too far, a bit of confidence does a world of good.

Next up was Worlds!  I think I did everything I possibly could to give myself a shot to do well and it paid off.  The team as a whole was interesting, since the extra points I got from the teams left me just enough for level 4, while Noah Long missed level 4 by a few, and Dan Lanthier missed level 3 by 1 point.  The extra points also ranked me first in Canada’s pro point total, which if it holds up will also qualify me for the World Magic Cup!  I’m not going to any GPs though, so if any of Hayne, Noah, Dan or Cappy really want to, they could probably overtake me.  It gives me a funny feeling knowing that four guys I consider friends and stayed with for a week will now be the same people I’m supposed to root against, but if any of them overtake me I won’t hold it against them as they’d deserve it just as much as I do anyways.

The year was to end with a bang, since I got engaged, Wizards actually listened to complaints and made good changes, and I started writing for this site!  Dark ascension is being leaked as I finish this up and it’s looking pretty sweet.  By the time I get around to the next article, preparation for the Pro Tour should be fully underway, so wish me luck!  Also, I apologize to the people who comment on my articles.  I do read them all (I promise) and despite being busy I will definitely make more of an effort to respond to them all as I should.  Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next month!

Marc Anderson