Pro Tour Montreal was a strange experience for me. On the one hand, we had an insane testing group, and I felt more prepared than ever.
On the other hand, it was my worst performance to date. So what happened?
The first thing to sort out was actual testing. Alex and Jon lived in Montreal (and Pascal in Quebec City), so we decided we would all go to Montreal for a week or two to test and figure things out. Simple, right? … not so much.
Lucas Siow and Rich Hoaen both wanted to stay in Toronto and get some extra work days in before heading over to Montreal. This was a pretty huge blow, since they are among the best in the group for constructed and limited, respectively. After discovering that the majority of the people looking to test with us would be arriving in Montreal the Monday before the PT, it was suggested that we spend the weekend prior in Toronto. Then we would drive to Montreal on Monday to meet the rest of the group. Alex and Jon both decided to come even earlier to get almost a week in Toronto, and Pascal joined us on Friday.
Later on, Rich decided that he would actually come to Montreal with the rest of us for the entire week. Our testing group looked like this:
Alex Hayne, Pascal Maynard, Jon Stern, Rich Hoaen, Marc Anderson plus:
Lucas Siow, Maksym Gryn, Jamie Naylor and David Caplan.
Alex Hayne, Pascal Maynard, Jon Stern, Rich Hoaen, Marc Anderson plus:
Tzu-Ching Kuo, Hao-Shan Huang, Miguel Gatica, Doug Potter and Dan Lanthier.
Much to the chagrin of Pascal, we actually ended up going back to Montreal on Sunday! He only spent 2 days in Toronto, but it gave us time to build the gauntlet, check in to the house early on Monday, and avoid more of the traffic. Pascal and I stayed at Alex’s place for the night, and I must say, it left me with quite the first impression…
We walked in the door to his house, and he calls up “Hi mom, I’m here with Pascal and Marc”. She was upstairs, and comes down to greet us with the following “So, GP London had about 1900 players and some random guy from France won, there was nobody I recognized in the top 8, Estratti finished 12th, Shahar in the top 64, and nobody else really did well”.
Coolest. Mom. Ever.
Anyways, there was a standard event (SCG I think) going on that weekend, so we primarily did drafts in Toronto. We planed to do more constructed in Montreal after some results were in from the standard event. I kept a detailed history of our drafts, and even recorded the results by guild and by player.
Dimir: 11-7 (61%)
Orzhov: 25-17 (59%)
Boros: 30-24 (55%)
Gruul: 14-16 (46%)
Simic: 19-29 (39%)
3+ colour base: 9-12 (42%)
The 3 colour base ones were decks I considered to be more than just XY splash Z. My tool to measure this was if the deck had more than 4 sources of mana for at least 3 colours, it was in this group. It’s worth noting that most of the 3 colour decks were Esper (UWB), which sort of reduces the higher win percentages seen in Dimir and Orzhov. The 3 colour base lists were actually doing a lot worse initially. They got better as other players realized this strategy was bad and tried to streamline picks, letting cards like [card]prophetic prism[/card] and [card]verdant haven[/card] go later and improved the 3 colour decks. One deck that I thought was particularly sweet was a 4 colour deck that Hao-Shan drafted. It was the first time I had seen [card]Mortus Strider[/card] played, and it comboed with [card]Undercity Informer[/card], [card]Sage’s Row Denizen[/card] and even [card]Gruul Ragebeast[/card]! He lost in the finals of that one.
The other interesting thing to note is the number of times each guild was drafted. Dimir overperformed, but was hardly drafted (leading to a lot of 3-0s as the only DImir player at the table), with decks full of [card]Dimir Charm[/card]s, [card]Dinrova Horror[/card]s and [card]Call of the Nightwing[/card]s. Boros was overdrafted, but still had above 50% win rate, while Simic did awful, but was also likely overdrafted. All the guilds proved playable, though identifying which guild you should be in for your seat seems quite important.
Next, on to the players, sorted by win percentage for those that did more than 2 drafts, and then those that did less. We did a total of 10 drafts between the two houses (and a few more on MODO), though the one that I didn’t play in was not recorded.
Doug Potter: 6-3
Alex Hayne: 15-9
Marc Anderson: 16-11
David Caplan: 7-5
Rich Hoaen: 12-9
Jamie Naylor: 9-9
Lucas Siow: 6-6
Pascal Maynard: 8-10
Jon Stern: 10-14
Maksym Gryn: 5-7
Tzu-Ching Kuo: 3-6
Hao-Shan Huang: 3-6
And those who didn’t get as many in:
Andrew Naylor: 2-1
Steven Wolfman: 3-3
Miguel Gatica: 2-4
Mark Raska: 1-5
(Dan Lanthier was gracious enough to sit out all the drafts, and offer advice and opinions where needed. Thanks Dan!)
As for the constructed bit, as I’m sure many of you have heard, it was heavily influenced by Saito’s twitter account. From the day we got to Montreal he had posted a RG deck that was good enough for everyone to sit up and take notice. We ran a few mock tournaments and his deck put up good results, so we worked on finding decks that would primarily have a good red matchup, thinking that a lot of PTQ players might default to Saito’s list.
Various members of the house were working on different lists before we pared things down to the cream of the crop. Rich and Miguel worked on Reanimator, Alex had Naya, I had a Jund Aggro deck, Pascal had a Naya Humans list and Kuo worked on UWR, with the rest of the house graciously filling out the gauntlet with various Jund and Esper lists. We found the 3 colour aggressive lists to be slightly too inconsistent, and settled down on working with UWR, leaving [card]blasphemous act[/card] out of the list. It didn’t quite come down as quickly as you liked, and even when it did, there was often an opposing [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] on the table to make things miserable. The large majority of the house was set on playing UWR. It had a lot of play to it, had a good red matchup, and could take advantage of less prepared players. Either by killing much quicker than expected, or setting up an infinite life loop with a Reckoner, a [card]Boros Charm[/card] and an [card]Azorius Charm[/card].
So how many of us ended up playing UWR? 0.
The day before the PT, we woke up to find that Brad Nelson and Todd Anderson had been working on very similar lists to ours, with I think 56 of the maindeck cards being identical. We had hoped that the list was further off people’s radars, but it seemed as though a lot of the pros were beginning to lean towards UWR. Both Dan and Doug simultaneously spoke about switching to Jund, since Jund was one of the matches the UWR player wanted to see the least, while still maintaining a good red matchup. Tzu-Ching ended up playing Reanimator, as he didn’t like the sideboard plans we had with Jund. I don’t blame him as it was very last minute, and showing up to a PT with Jund didn’t really have any of us excited (the only Gatecrash card in our list was [card]Stomping Ground[/card]). We also had Nate Holt from Walking the Planes come by and do a video segment on our group, including an interview with Alex and Pascal that should turn out to be pretty good. I look forward to seeing how they edited it, and would highly recommend checking their stuff out if you haven’t before.
I also had a chance to speak to a lot of different people leading up to the tournament. I was kind of disappointed with what I heard. People were discussing Kibler’s article on the state of pro play and truth be told, I just realized it isn’t what I want to be doing. “The Dream” is pretty sweet – if you reach platinum you get to live an extravagant lifestyle, but all the perks, the travel and the fame and the endless magic all wear thin after a while. The only real thing you end up with after all is said and done is the community. Speaking of which I was super happy with our group. I consider all of them good friends, but going in to the PT I definitely didn’t have “the fire”, and pretty much gave up after round 4.
Those first four rounds were pretty surreal though. I drafted a decent Orzhov deck splashing [card]Aurelia’s Fury[/card], and my pod had Christian Calcano, Jesse Hampton and Richard Bland. Round one I played against Jesse running Simic, and game one I mulled to 4 cards. Great, just how I wanted to start off my PT, against one of best players with only 4 cards.
However, my four cards were [card]Swamp[/card], [card]Plains[/card], [card]Basilica Guards[/card] and [card]Alms Beast[/card], and my first four draw steps included 2 lands and an [card]Orzhov Charm[/card] to snag the 2 for 1 when he double blocked. I basically drew perfect and managed to win game one. His deck played a few rares though, so I boarded in to a bit of a lower curve. Game two I thought I had locked up. We got to a point where I had him at 2 life. My board was an extort guy, a [card]Deathcult rogue[/card], 9 lands in play, some 4 and 6 drops in hand, and the [card]Aurelia’s Fury[/card] that I’d been holding all game… but with neither of my 2 red sources. He played a [card]verdant haven[/card], so I had to draw something that costs 3 or less to kill him, or a [card]mountain[/card]. I whiffed, got him down to one, and played enough chump blockers to survive the turn and kill him on my next. He played a [card]Crowned Ceratok[/card], and trampled me for almost DOUBLE my life total while still having tons of cards in his hand.
If Jesse’s deck had a few more 2 drops, it would have been the best I’d ever seen. His deck contained: [card]Diluvian Primordial[/card], [card]Stolen Identity[/card], [card]Fathom Mage[/card], [card]Simic Manipulator[/card], [card]Master Biomancer[/card] and [card]Prime Speaker Zegana[/card]. Have you ever seen what happens when you play Biomancer in to [card]Fathom Mage[/card]? You draw a LOT of cards. Same thing with Biomancer in to Zegana. Yuck! I turned back to my sideboard and reduced my curve even more, [card]Shadow Alley Denizen[/card]? I’ll take two please! It ended up working out and despite mulling to 6 I curved [card]Shadow Alley Denizen[/card] into [card]Basilica Screecher[/card] in to [card]Deathcult Rogue[/card] and mised a win.
Alright, after getting that done with it has to be smooth sailing right? (hint: it’s not).
My next opponent began game one with [card]Legion Loyalist[/card] in to [card]Truefire paladin[/card] in to [card]Skyknight Legionnaire[/card] into a second [card]Truefire Paladin[/card]. I won game two but he got a slightly less nutty draw game three that was still easily enough to kill me. Then in round three, game three, my opponent tanked on the play, and keep. Turn one [card]forest[/card], [card]experiment one[/card]. Turn two [card]Forest[/card], [card]Disciple of the Old Ways[/card], level the experiment (I played turn two [card]basilica screecher[/card]). Turn three, he drew his top card, didn’t even slowroll me and put the mountain he just drew right in to play and drops a [card]Warmind Infantry[/card], levels his experiement and attacked for 5 (I played a turn three [card]Kingpin’s Pet[/card]). Turn four he again drew his top card, put the freshly drawn [card]forest[/card] directly in to play from the top of his library and played a [card]Scorchwalker[/card], levels his experiement and attacks for 10 (I traded the Pet for the Disciple, then untaped and played a [card]Daring Skyjek[/card], draining for one). Turn five he drew his top card, and just showed me the freshly drawn [card]act of treason[/card] off the top and that was game.
Now I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining, because honestly those aren’t even bad beat stories. It happens in this format, and my last round opponent even apologized for his draws! It definitely crushed my spirits though, and after I lost my first constructed round to Reanimator I basically just gave up and misplayed the next two rounds.
Most of our house made day two (everyone but me and Alex), and I was asked to help a few websites do coverage (including a large segment for Richard Castle’s Inside the Deck series). I slept in a bit on Saturday and made my way over to the site, intent on doing some drafts. I was pretty upset to find that people were more interested in value than in drafting. I don’t want a bunch of cruddy rares, I want to draft! Any draft where someone first picks a [card]watery grave[/card] is useless to me but oh well. I got two “value drafts” in before we got a hold of enough real drafters to get some “honour drafts” going. Lucas, Seb Denno, Maksym, Alex, Jamie, Kyle Duncan, Anthony Berlingieri and a couple other were all game. The problem was they stopped giving out packs at 5 so we had to use our own. What a strange system.
We started yet another draft and midway through they kicked us out of the convention room and told us to move downstairs. We finished up the last rounds on some couches laid out around the Palais du Congres. I was being crushed by Lucas when some homeless guy came over and started to explain how he used to play magic and started butting in, offering his opinions… As I looked through my graveyard his heavy-french accent was suggesting I play “the fire” (a mountain, which was also in my graveyard) and he was starting to tick me off. I turned to him and said “I got this, ok?” And he snap-responded “you got nothing” and we all burst out laughing. Man! Even the homeless guy was ragging on me. Security thankfully walked over and escorted the guy away, and I in fact had nothing, lost to Lucas and the draft was over.
I didn’t stay for Sunday. I drove back in the morning and the roads were thankfully clear. I had a great time with the crowd but can’t help but think I didn’t need to spend a whole week to do so. I think that with 1/10th of the testing I could have got to 90% of where I ended up, and might not do the whole “week off to test” thing next time. I want to work more on producing content so hopefully you guys can get a video or two out of me soon, but only time will tell. Congrats to Jon Stern on the top 16, Tzu-Ching on the top 50, and Rich Hoaen on the top 100 despite scooping his last round! Maybe one day I’ll learn how to win again.