Without Exemption!

On my way to Seattle without a Sponsor’s Exemption!

Yup. I am qualified for the next PT and it’s not with a pity invite from Wizards because I had series of successful events. This time I finally closed, I won the Toronto PTQ that was held the day next to the WMCQ.

I won’t really go through a round-by-round report, instead I’ll narrate our testing process and what was in my head before and during the WMCQ/PTQ weekend.

1st day of testing (Sunday, May 27th)

It was the Avacyn Restored Game Day at Boutique Donjon. I usually take this event very casually, except this time it was a field where I could test my #1 favorite : UW Pike Delver. I easily 5-0ed into Top8 but then encountered Solar Flare in the quarters. I have never been scared by that matchup in the past, but I [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] him and see the nuts on turn 1. All the cards in his hand seemed like a nightmare. We played out the game as I also had the nuts and he got me after a long exhausting one hour and thirty minutes game. I won the second game quick. Game 3 the same thing happened, I had the nuts, he called me with a nuttier one. Right after losing I starting thinking about a Solar Flare build dedicated to beat Delver. Gerry T had just Top8ed the SCG Open with his version so I could imagine the WMCQ weekend to be flooded with similar decks.

2nd day of testing (Monday, May 28th)

With my Quebec City crew, (NAMEDROP!) : Marc Beaulieu, Kevin Anctil and Philippe Gareau we had non-stop games going with our Solar Flare list. I wanted it to have four [card]Sun Titan[/card], four [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] and three [card]Cavern of Souls[/card] to always resolve our titan. We tried numerous weird cards as we found that the only general problem was [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card].

3rd day of testing (Tuesday, May 29th)

Basically just some more testing, we built a bigger gauntlet but continued to be only beaten by [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card]. We added [card]Dismember[/card] instead of [card]Dead Weight[/card]/[card]Doom Blade[/card]/[card]Go for the Throat[/card] since it kills [card]Restoration Angel[/card] and stops [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card] on some key turns for only one mana.

4th day of testing (Wednesday, May 30th)

This is when I remembered [card]Tumble Magnet[/card]. It fixed every issue. It stops [card]Sword of War and Peace[/card] and is the perfect target when you expect your opponent to [card]Vapor Snag[/card] your [card]Sun Titan[/card] when it comes into play (to prevent the [card]Phantasmal Image[/card] chain). We jammed games with three [card]Tumble Magnet[/card]s and it was awesome. I was on cloud nine thinking we had the best deck.

5th day of testing (Thursday, May 31st)

DRIIIIIIIIIIIINNKKIIIINNGGG TIME !!! (Girlfriend’s birthday)

6th day of testing (Friday, June 1st)

We left Quebec at 3:00 pm for a long drive to Toronto, arrived there around midnight, and had problems checking in as apparently my reservation had disappeared. Once in the room, Gareau brought up the point that [card]Lingering Souls[/card] was the worst card in the deck and felt like it made us play 27 land because of it’s mana intensiveness along with [card]Think Twice[/card] and [card]Forbidden Alchemy[/card]. Kevin and I agreed. Marc was sleeping.

Day 1 : World Magic Cup Qualifier (Saturday, June 2nd)

I woke up with one [card]Lingering Souls[/card] in my deck, Gareau had zero, Kevin had two and Marc had four since he slept and had no idea what we we’re talking about. He couldn’t figure how we would ever come up with the conclusion that it’s bad in the deck.

I registered this :

[deck title=Solar Flare]
[Creatures]
4 Sun Titan
4 Phantasmal Image
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Tumble Magnet
4 Ratchet Bomb
3 Think Twice
3 Day of Judgment
1 Dismember
1 Doom blade
3 Oblivion Ring
1 Lingering Souls
1 Nihil Spellbomb
[/Spells]
[Land]
4 Glacial Fortress
3 Isolated Chapel
3 Drowned Catacomb
2 Evolving Wilds
5 Island
4 Plains
1 Swamp
3 Cavern of Souls
1 Ghost Quarter
[/Land]
[Sideboard]
2 Negate
1 Dissipate
2 Gideon Jura
4 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Sever the Bloodline
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Ghost Quarter
2 Timely Reinforcements
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

I went 4-3 conceding to Kevin at some point as he was paired down and he still had a shot for Top8. Obviously, he finished 9th on tiebreakers. Gareau finished in the Top16 and Marc didn’t do very well as he was playing four [card]Lingering Souls[/card]… Just kidding! It was actually fine, it is mostly due to his lack of sleep and the fact that he drove 10 hours.

Back in the room, I knew I wanted to play Pike Delver in Day 2 for this reason: the metagame at the top tables from the WMCQ was something like 50% UW Restoration Angel Delver, 30% [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] decks and 20% of various decks. Kevin and I made few changes to our list and we we’re set.

Day 2 : Pro Tour Qualifier (Sunday, June 3rd)

Wow, the venue was crowded and it seemed impossible to fit in all the players. 180 players showed up. The event organizers did a good job at fitting them all. Surprisingly, we were not dying in the room thanks to the two front doors kept open.

Mad props to tournament organizers.

This is what I registered :
[deck title=Pike Delver]
[Creatures]
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Geist of Saint Traft
1 Invisible Stalker
1 Phantasmal Image
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Vapor Snag
4 Ponder
2 Gut Shot
1 Dismember
3 Gitaxian Probe
3 Runechanter’s Pike
4 Thought Scour
1 Mutagenic Growth
1 Mental Misstep
3 Mana Leak
[/Spells]
[Land]
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Seachrome Coast
3 Moorland Haunt
1 Plains
8 Island
[/Land]
[Sideboard]
1 Mental Misstep
2 Act of Aggression
2 Negate
2 Phantasmal Image
1 Mutagenic Growth
1 Dismember
1 Gut Shot
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Celestial Purge
1 Steel Sabotage
1 Timely Reinforcements
1 Midnight Haunting
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

I played my first round against Casey Warner (according to my matches history), I don’t remember what he was on, but I do remember that I played pretty loose and ended up winning on his minor mistakes. I lost round two against Solar Flare, again because I played loose.

I took a walk outside after that match, thinking what was happening… why was I playing so terribly?

Without a satisfying conclusion, I was back for round three. My opponent felt new to competitive tournaments, which makes it even more frustrating to lose. We were going to game three, I mulled to five and started boiling in my head as I was going to be out of contention against someone who probably doesn’t even mind being out. I somehow won due to him being stuck on three lands without a blue source with a hand full of blue cards and four drops.

Sure, I won the match, but did I really deserve to? No. I only got the win because he got unlucky. The fact that I thought my opponent was a free win due to my approach on his knowledge is unacceptable.

I walked away in shame as I heard a local talking about PTQs and saying that they are 60% scrubs, 30% people who never played on the Pro Tour but wish to, and 10% of David Caplan, Dan Lanthier, Noah Long, and him **pointing at me** …   I immediately updated my Facebook status to this :

5 minutes later I was reading the following :

The crushing started. With my loss round two I knew I wouldn’t be able to intentionally draw my last round so I had to 7-1 to touch the Top8.

Mission accomplished. I played incredibly tight to win my six next rounds.

Top8 was just a sweep. Top4 and finals we’re awesome, long and mentality exhausting matches.

Mental conclusion :

I have awesome Facebook friends. Seriously, friends and socializing are my favourite parts of that game, I would’ve never been at that point without people like Christian Calcano to remind me that I deserve to win and Alexander Hayne; who was in Toronto this weekend especially just to cheer his team up.

Goals for the remaining of the season :

Now that I’m back on the Pro Tour with a simple PTQ win rather than double GP Top8, I’ll be living this season quite a bit less nervously. That doesn’t mean I won’t be playing any Grand Prix. I really want to hit Gold this year so I will attend GP Atlanta, Columbus, Boston and Costa Rica this summer.

I really hope to see more Canadians there!