My First Pro Tour

Hello everyone! My name is Dalia, and I just played my first Pro Tour!

I qualified for Pro Tour Phyrexia by making Top 8 of the Face to Face Games Regional Championship in Toronto with Pioneer Mono White Humans back in November.

Shortly after I obtained my invite to the Pro Tour, I was invited by Noor Singh to join Team Sanctum of All for the event. Sanctum of All is a dynamic team dedicated to supporting members of marginalized gender identities and LGBTQ+ Magic players from around the world who are serious about performing at high level.

During the weeks leading to the Pro Tour, we collectively tried to balance our time as efficiently as possible and accommodate everyone throughout time zone and scheduling challenges. Juggling things like testing new brews, honing existing lists, analyzing cards from the new set, and Limited testing, proved to be quite the undertaking. It was something that I hadn’t experienced before as a player. I can’t overstate how much I learned from the beautiful minds of my teammates during those weeks. The work we did and the help I received ensured I would feel ready to battle and give it my all when the time would come, and I am incredibly grateful for it.

Members of our team ended up settling on different decks for the event. Some of us brewed up a spicy Mardu Sacrifice list that turned out to be quite powerful. Meanwhile, the Canadian wing of our team, consisting of Violet Davies and myself, were mostly going back and forth between Gruul Vehicles and Mono White humans. Turns out trying to guess a Pro Tour metagame spread on the heel of a set release is a very difficult task. Although we both ended up settling on Gruul Vehicles mere days before the event, we had done extensive testing with the deck. 

Pro Tour Phyrexia was not only my first Pro Tour experience, it was also my first time in the US, my first time flying, and my first time attending a convention of this magnitude. The sheer size of the venue and the thousands of Magic players that came out to play made GPs look tiny in comparison. I was immediately dazzled by the luxurious look of the Pro Tour hall. 

It was hard not to gasp when I realized I was surrounded with so many Pro Tour legends and successful content creators. Seeing all of them just waltz was pretty breathtaking. I admit I was too shy to say hi to everyone that I admire, but I was still so thrilled to be part of the same event. To think we all gathered in rainy Philadelphia just to jam some games of Magic the Gathering.

After a long day of travel, our team focused on grabbing all of the cards we needed for our decks and getting some rest. We ate some delicious dim sum and discussed sideboard plans as day one of Pro Tour Phyrexia slowly approached.

I showed up on day one with my freshly sleeved Gruul Vehicles list and my pink Limited deck box. I was ready to apply what I had learned about the Phyrexia Draft format, but I was not prepared for what was about to happen in this pod.

Catastrophe struck after the draft portion as I discovered that myself, along with two other players in the pod, had been fighting over Red and White. Although I had the feared Eternal Wanderer in my deck, the rest of my cards were medium at best. The main issue with my deck is that being Boros, it wanted as many For Mirrodin! cards as possible, and I sadly only ended up with three. This left me unable to reliably cast any of the Oxidda Finishers that I drafted, nor to capitalize on the power of Bladegraft Aspirant. Veil of Assimilation is a decent card but it would have been much better with more of a critical mass of equipment in the deck. I am not a huge fan of Veil, but it can be serviceable in the right shell. Sadly, this was not the deck that could maximize on its power. With a few more equipment spells and maybe 1-2 more removals, the deck would have been much better.

Looking back, I believe that my biggest mistake was not picking Jor Kadeen, First Goldwarden pack 1 pick 1. I think that most of what transpired in the draft stemmed from that. I approached the drafting process with the logic of staying open for as long as possible to see signals and find my lane. This led me to pick Hexgold Hallberd as a first pick and passing the Jor Kadeen. Doing this got me to start picking some Green cards during pack 1 instead of more synergistic Red or White cards that would have been good in my deck.

In doing so, I accidentally sent a strong signal downstream that Boros Equipment was open. When pack 2 came around, the player to my left was already deep in Green-Black and this forced me to abandon Green as a potential color. Since the person who picked up Jor Kadeen and some of the other good Boros cards was now invested in this color pair, I was suddenly choked on playables in most colors. Since I had so many Red cards already, and since none of the Blue cards I was seeing made sense for the direction my deck was going, I felt that I had to hang on to this lane. In pack 3, it became more obvious that Blue-Green and Blue-White were wide open. It was also the only pack with strong incentives to start picking those color combinations. Unfortunately, it was much too late for any of us to pivot into those colors, and we all kept picking what we could find for our respective decks. 

After losing to a Green-Black Toxic deck and a White-Black toxic deck, I managed to cobble a win together against a friendly opponent on Boros in the 0-2 bracket. The lucky one who ended up going 3-0 was my Round 1 opponent. He had a very clunky curve but it’s hard to beat double Venerated Rotpriest. 

My biggest takeaway from this first Pro Tour draft experience is that, sometimes, you can’t be too fancy with your draft strategy, and picking the good gold rare is probably a fine approach. It’s risky, but the opposite, as I discovered, is also very risky. When the music stops, you don’t want to be the one without a chair to sit on. I also feel like spending more time doing drafts prior to the PT would have helped me make some better decisions at different points. I sat down with good knowledge of which cards were good and what each type of deck could look like, but not enough practice picking the right cards to get there reliably.

Lucky for me, I was much more prepared for the Pioneer portion than the Draft…or so I thought. 

Round 4, my deck wouldn’t function, and I quickly lost to UW Control. My opponent said something along the lines of “Normally, I would offer feedback about the match, but you didn’t really do anything”, and he was right.

Round 5, I am paired against the mirror (Jegantha version). I felt confident after winning the die roll and subsequently, Game 1. However, things got complicated Game 3 when the deck gave its best “Oops! All Elves” impression. Another loss. Before round 3, I joked that I was a Gixian Raptor with my 1-4 stats.

Round 6, I got paired against Rakdos Midrange. Happy to play a good matchup, I got the win in typical fashion.

Round 7, once again paired vs UW Control. Despite having a much closer match this time, I mulliganed to five in game 3 and end up taking my 5th loss after a very long and tense game.

Round 8, I won a match against a friendly opponent on Mono Green Devotion. We were both disheartened with our score at this point, but we played it out for points and standings. I got it in three games.

And thus, I ended my first Pro Tour at 3-5. In hindsight, and despite running pretty cold in my draws and pairings during the constructed portion, I don’t think playing Gruul Vehicles was the best option. It looked good versus the expected metagame, but it didn’t put up great results over the course of the weekend.

Not making Day 2 was rough, but I’m not sure I would have been able to get the 9-7 to re-qualify even if I had. I had to have a better plan for the Sunday PTQ if I wanted a better shot at qualifying for Minneapolis.

On Friday, after a very long and demanding Day 1, the whole team went out to a nice pub that served some really good Philly Cheesesteak. Everyone and their dog told me I had to try one of those while I was in town, and I was happy to oblige. To the surprise of no one it was delicious!

It felt surreal to hang out in person with the wonderful folks I had spent weeks testing with leading up to the event.

Philadelphia is a beautiful city! Although my stay was short, and mostly focused on the event, I had a lot of free time on Saturday. Not wanting to burn myself out on side events or the massive Sealed PTQ (I think it ran almost past midnight), I decided to take it easy and enjoy the stay. I swung by the venue to bring lunch to a teammate working hard in her Day 2, took some pictures around the halls, and bought and sold some cards. Overall, I was happy to disconnect from Magic for the day.

I happen to have a good friend in Philly who I hadn’t seen in a long time and having her take me on a date through Philly’s Gayborhood was such a wonderful time and the absolute best silver lining to not making Day 2 in the PT. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend Paulie Gee’s Soul City Slice Shop for some of the best pizza around!

Once back to my room though, my brain was itching to get back to slinging spells at the tables the next day. I had a PTQ to play, a list to figure out, and the determination to give it my best.

On Saturday night, seeing as I had obtained some copies of Skrelv, Defector Mite and Sword of Forge and Frontier, I decided to try out the breakout Humans list from the PT. One of the reasons I didn’t want to play Mono White is that I didn’t feel confident with the list we came up with in testing. Since this one differed quite a bit and was positive versus the field, I decided to try a similar list. Not having the exact 75 on hand, I had to make some adjustments and added some Containment Priest to the sideboard seeing as Creativity had come in full force at the PT. 

After a 4-0 start, beating 5c Fires, Rakdos Midrange twice, and Izzet Phoenix, I took a loss to a teammate on Mardu Sacrifice. I don’t think Humans can realistically win this matchup and was happy to see a teammate get a lock for Top 8. I then beat Mono Green Devotion in round 6 to lock my spot at 5-1 with stellar tiebreakers. The intentional draw round 7 with the Creativity player was but a formality at that point. This was easily the most stacked PTQ I ever played. World renowned players every other table made the whole experience quite exciting.

The invites for Minneapolis went down to Top4, so I still had one match to go. In the Quarterfinals, I was paired against 5c Fires on the draw. We joke about being fated to play against each other since he beat me Round 7 of Day 1.

Ready to get my revenge, we get rolling. I manage to steal Game 1 and feel very good about my odds at this point. I have a strong deck, a good sideboard, and a somewhat good matchup. Unfortunately for me, both games 2 and 3 don’t go my way. A mixture of poor and clunky draws fail to keep up with the opponent’s flurry of removal and smooth draws. I lose in 3, and the PT invite slips away.

After the PTQ run, Violet and I decided to wrap up our stay with some amazing sushi as we went on about the highs and lows of our respective performances and anecdotes from the weekend. We were both exhausted and eager to sleep in our own beds by that point.

Despite the poor record in the PT main event and failing to snatch an invite to the next one at the last minute, I am proud of my performance overall. This first Pro Tour experience and getting to attend a MagicCon during Magic’s 30th anniversary celebrations was the best weekend of Magic I ever got to play in! I am so grateful to have been able to be part of it, and to those who helped me get there.

There are so many lovely people I got to finally meet in person, and made so many new friends along the way. I am beyond thrilled to have had the chance to play on the international stage along with the legends of the game, a dream I had since the first time I read the famous “play the game, see the world” line.

I also learned a lot of things before and during this trip to Philly; things I plan to put to good use as I continue to work hard toward improving at the game. Because, you see, this is only the beginning.

Thanks for reading, and until next time!

Dalia Morin

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