I started playing Magic when I was ten years old. It was 1993 and my friends were flicking card and discussing dragons, shapeshifters and lightning. How could I not be absorbed by it all?
I’ve always considered myself to be an ambitious person. I started looking for ways to further my game immediately. My friends and I would sometimes play all night. It wasn’t long before I had set my eyes on the Pro Tour. A couple years of practice later I turned 13 and I won my first Limited PTQ. I got to travel to the other side of the country and compete in California for my very first Pro Tour. It was a dream come true.
The lights, the stage, the personalities! How could I not be so excited to be a part of it all. I was even fortunate enough to cash that PT, finishing in 52nd place. I was hooked.
After I’d been eliminated Top 8 was set to begin. I was that little kid on the railing watching the Finkle’s of the world compete on ESPN! In my soul I knew that that was something I deeply wanted, but also recognized I could try for a lifetime and never get it.
Hopefully now you can understand a little piece of what this Top 8 meant to me. 27 years in the making and it was just as sweet as I thought it would be.
Tune in tomorrow to see who takes home the trophy. 🏆
— Magic Esports (@MagicEsports) November 10, 2019
The deck I decided to play this past weekend at MC Richmond was Golgari Adventures. I played it in a Twitch Rivals event to a Top 8 recently and immediately fell in love with the deck. When I saw Chris Kvartek’s list online and realized the potential it had against the field full of Food decks I knew I was running into I was sold. I played a few reps against one of my Face to Face teammates and fellow platinum pro Morgan McLaughlin. They went favourably and I had a game plan I developed to beat Food. With there being so few other decks in the format the deck construction from there was easy.
My plan for the Food decks was pretty simple actually. I wanted to play in such a way where I’d maximize my own card advantage and take advantage of the way they’re forced to over-commit to the board. I played the matchup with a huge emphasis on Edgewall Innkeeper getting me ahead and making them have a kill spell for it every time. Because, the fact is they just don’t have that many.
So I’d try to gain incremental advantage early, forcing them to commit Nissa to the board, and then blow out their post-Nissa production with my MVP on the weekend — Massacre Girl.
If you can get up on cards and then thwart that key Nissa mid-game progression you can beat these decks. It’s a tall order but it’s possible, and it worked for me all weekend.
Top 8 MC Richmond, Golgari Adventures – Eli Kassis
The first three rounds of the Pro Tour are of course Thrones Limited. I managed to get in about 20 drafts for practice, which I imagine made me one of the least prepared players at my table. Still, I found I had a good grasp of the format. After opening a banner and drafting a bunch of good knight cards I managed to take Mardu to a 3-0 sweep. I then 5-0 swept my Standard rounds. Making me one of the lucky 9-0 players after day one, in perfect position to achieve my goal.
Congratulations to our two Day 1 undefeated players at #MythicChampionshipVI!
See you for Day 2! pic.twitter.com/QMHIoKzMtt
— Magic Esports (@MagicEsports) November 9, 2019
I started off my Standard rounds against Bant Food — just as planned. Without Noxious Grasp to kill Innkeeper I was able to run away with card advantage. Even Mass Manipulation didn’t seem to be a problem because I was killing all their mana producers so it was too hard for them to even cast.
Round 5: I was paired against Rakdos Embercleave which I actually had zero reps against, thankfully open decklists gave me a good grasp of what they were trying to do. After that the combination of beefy creatures removal that my deck naturally houses helped me to overwhelm my opponent.
Round 6: This time it was the Sultai version of the food deck. I’d have to face off against opposing Noxious Grasps and Casualties of Wars. That said, I still think I’m ahead in this matchup. After playing around a couple Veil of Summers my board progression was just better than theirs.
Round 7: Yet another Food deck — but this time I had to beat a friend. The cards broke down in my favour as they had previously. The real MVP and for much of the event was Massacre Girl. A lot of my game plans allowed my opponents to run away with Nissa for a few turns, and then completely catch back up with a Massacre Girl. This often left them with no manabase left to claw back into the game with.
Round 8: This match was on camera against Austin who also made the Top 8 of the event. Long story short he was on Sultai Food, his draws didn’t come together as well as mine.
Rounds 9-11: were back to draft and this time I was at the feature draft table. Brad got me in Round 9, I also lost Round 10. Then after getting the double pair up to the 2-0 at the table I managed to turn my luck around at 1-2 the draft. I didn’t love my deck, it didn’t help that my Round 9 opponent was sitting to my right in the draft and knew he would be playing me first.
Round 12: I was very happy to be returning to Standard. Unfortunately, I was paired against Kowalski and I knew him to be very formidable. Even worse for me he was on the Jeskai Fires meme deck that I knew I was a huge dog to.
Round 13: Another Food deck to prey on.
Round 14: This time I played against a straight Simic Food player, this matchup felt even easier than the three colour lists. They just can’t effectively interact with your must-answer threats. Brazen Borrower is just a dud in the matchup. Massacre Girl clinched the match as she usually does.
Round 15: Looking at the standings, I knew this could be my win-and-in round. And of course, I was paired against Javier Dominguez (our reigning World Champion) and let me say that not only is he extremely formidable, but he will also kill you with kindness. He was on Gruul Embercleave he’s is known for since the last Arena MC. After winning the very important die roll I managed to out aggro him in game one with Lovestruck Beast, Rankle and some cheap removal. In game two he set up a quick Experimental Frenzy and lucky for me spent the next two turns essentially doing nothing. His deck was unkind to him in those turns and I was the fortunate recipient of that unluckiness.
I exhaled, knowing that this might be it.
Round 16: Louis Deltour and I high-fived so hard we knocked over the railing and the table. Very excited for our intentional draw and first Pro Tour Top 8.
Quarterfinals: This is of course the end of my tournament, as I’m sure a lot of you saw on camera. Oscar was an excellent opponent. The first two games fell my way in the fashion I was typically accustomed to. I knew his sideboard plan would involve Veil of Summers and I accounted for it the way I had all tournament with Spyglass out of the sideboard. Unfortunately for me I never drew spyglass and he did draw plenty of Veils.
After a 2-0 start the 0-3 finish was a bitter pill. Still, I reminded myself of how much I had already accomplished. How exciting it was to have come so far. From being that kid on the railing watching Pro Tour Top 8s in the 90’s.
Then I set about my journey home after a brief stop at Buffalo Wild Wings of course (Shaheen you are persistent I’ll give you that).
For those that are interested in how I sideboarded, here’s what I was doing all tournament:
+2 Spyglass +1 Noxious Grasp
-1 Rankle -1 Foulmire Knight -1 Order of Midnight
+2 Spyglass +1 Noxious Grasp +2 Veil of Summer
-2 Rankle -1 Foulmire Knight -1 Massacre Girl -1 Order of Midnight
+2 Spyglass +1 Noxious Grasp +2 Veil of Summer
-2 Rankle -1 Foulmire Knight -1 Murderous Rider -1 Order of Midnight
+1 Noxious Grasp +2 Cavalier of Night
-3 Noxious Grasp -Rankle
+4 Veil of Summer
+2 Sorcerous Spyglass +2 Thrashing Brontodon +4 Duress -2 Legion’s End -1 Noxious Grasp -2 Foulmire Knight -1 Paradise Druid -1 Rankle -1 Midnight Rider
+2 Thrashing Brontodon +2 Cavalier of Night -3 Rankle -1 Order of Midnight
Thanks for joining on my trip through the weekend that was. A true dream come true.
Keep on the lookout for more content in the future as I’m getting straight to work on Modern and Pioneer for the Invitational.
I stream three nights a week at Twitch.tv/EliKassis and my subscribers get access to my decklists and sideboard guides before tournaments occur. So, if you’re interested in reproducing my results give me a sub or just follow along with a stream one night. All are welcome and the more the merrier.