So we've got this thing at work. It's called Fancy Boys' Fancy Feasts. We meet every Tuesday at some random restaurant and hang out, swapping stories and chowing down on the finest cuisine Syracuse, NY has to offer.*
*Just kidding. Last week we ate at Denny's.
Despite the name, women are also welcome. In fact, there are women among us tonight; I'm writing all of this in a stenographer's pad, live from Empire Brewery in downtown Syracuse, to later be transcribed to a Word doc. I'm sitting with six of my best friends, all of them talking excitedly – hell, Kristen and Kane just started a game of Magic – and I'm stuck in a notebook. The downsides of procrastination, I guess. DO YOU REMEMBER JOE FROM WEEK ZERO
(Abridged from Google Chat)
Joe: hey jon Joe: i've got an idea for an article Jon: lol Jon: i'm all ears Joe: so you remember how you wrote about smashing me w that legacy deck when i was playing a standard deck Jon: hahaha Jon: of course Jon: no one forgets their life's achievement Joe: well this week you can write about how i went undefeated in my second prerelease ever Jon: you went undefeated?? Joe: heck yes Joe: 3-0-1 Jon: !!! Jon: nice!! Joe: i kept texting the wife Joe: cuz we had stuff planned Joe: “i can't leave, i keep winning!” Jon: that's great Joe: my last round opponent was like Joe: “you wanna draw?” Joe: and i casually say “sure” Joe: but in my head i'm like Joe: “THANK GOD I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE OUT OF HERE AN HOUR AGO” Jon: lmao Jon: congrats Jon: ya i'll put it in Joe: i've still got the deck over here Joe: if you want the list Jon: haha sure Joe: 1 Aven Skirmisher 1 Arashin Cleric 1 Ainok Guide 1 War-Name Aspirant 2 Whisperer of the Wilds 1 Bloodfire Expert 1 Alesha, Who Smiles at Death 1 Abzan Beastmaster 1 Bloodfire Enforcers 1 Highspire Mantis 1 Sagu Archer 1 Whisperwood Elemental **MVP** 1 Dromoka, the Eternal 1 Temur War Shaman 1 Arashin War Beast 2 Mardu Runemark 1 Abzan Runemark 1 Sandblast 2 Smite the Monstrous 1 War Flare 1 Blossoming Sands 1 Wind-Scarred Crag 1 Nomad Outpost 3 Mountain 4 Plains 7 Forest
That's a pretty nice deck, Joe. Great job! EVERYTHING YOU WANT IS YOURS
I've played in three PPTQs for the Vancouver RPTQ season, and I've lost in the finals in two of them. All three were Standard, and I played Abzan Aggro in each one. I wrote about my first finals loss here, but in my second loss, my build was much different:
For those of you unfamiliar with one of the key interesections where laziness and Magic: The Gathering meet, I lifted this decklist straight from the last Sperling/Rietzl joint article, taking notes of the changes they'd make going forward. I simply copied it, card for card. One Courser of Kruphix and one Herald of Torment to complement zero Thoughtseizes stood out to me, but I didn't worry much about for two big reasons: those two are much better at Wizard Squares than I am, and I wasn't expecting much from this tournament.
Playtesting against work friends during lunch in the week leading up to the PPTQ saw me lose to just about everything. UB Control, Monored, Sultai decks sporting just removal + Villainous Wealth as a win condition – and no game wins to be found. I went to the PPTQ looking to figure out how to tweak the deck and to make as little play mistakes as possible. Again, I had no real expectations.
If your local shops hold $1k tournaments with infrequent regularity – that's what I'd best equate a PPTQ to. Going into this new system, I had no idea what they'd be like. I knew they'd require an L2 to fire, but I had no idea what kind of players they'd draw, let alone how many. All I knew was who of my friends hated it, which ones would only be playing cash tournaments/grinding the SCG circuit now, etc.
There's a threshold to how much punishment players will take. If you talk to almost anyone who played in PTQs regularly, the idea of a winner-take-all tournament to qualify to play in a PTQ is absurd. Lots of great local players came out of the woodwork from all over to go to PTQs. Now, the best players don't go to PPTQs unless the prize payout is good enough to justify it, and even then, they're certainly not traveling to play in them. I can't blame them.
For me, the Pro Tour's always the goal, so choosing which events to go to is pretty easy. Luckily, I like playing Magic and I don't have to rely on prize payouts to support playing, so the new system doesn't bother me much.
Here's the thing: I've played in way too many sweaty, cramped PTQs with too many people and not enough concessions, bathrooms, etc. I look at it as a trade off: I'm no longer able to spike one tournament and make it to the Pro Tour, but one miserable tournament that I loathed traveling to is broken up into two vastly more comfortable ones. I have to travel to the latter tournament, but it's only 70 people as opposed to a hundred-something people. My least favorite part of Magic tournaments is how cramped they are, so I'll endorse anything that eliminates that.
PTQs were just pretty tense places to be. PPTQs are a good attempt at releasing that pressure, but it's hard to make “more Magic” appealing to someone who doesn't actually like it in the first place. This applies to more tournament players than you'd think.
|Tasigur, the Golden Fang||
I lost one match all day at the PPTQ, and it was the finals, to UB Control. I'd beaten a UB Control deck in the swiss rounds, but Grand Prix Top Eight Competitor Jeff Pyka boarded into Tasigur, the Golden Fang...and completely crushed me with it. In our second game, Jeff discarded a Dig Through Time in his discard step while he had about eight lands in play. I did not win that game! ANOTHER STERLING QUOTE FROM MY ROOMMATE DAN
“I'm drinking out of an empty glass, which is representative of my life.” WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT MODERN
Last week brought with it a lot of negative attention to Modern, as a format – the nature of matchups post-sideboard, the gameplay – and I found a lot of it applying to the salient thoughts I'd had about Legacy.
I went to PT: Philly for the first Modern Pro Tour, in 2011. I got to meet Evan Erwin and have him sign my Magic Show ‘mat and generally just barn on him super hard and eventually we started talking shop.
Evan: So what do you think of the decks you've seen so far? Me: Oh, I haven't seen much. How's the format? Evan: This. Format. Is. Insane. Me: Really? Evan: Yeah. Turn two and turn three wins all over the place. WotC is not happy with this one. Me: Really? Evan: Oh yeah.
That always stuck with me.
There's this great podcast, Top Level Magic, hosted by Patrick Chapin and Michael Flores. In one of the episodes, they discuss some of the parallels between Modern and Legacy, namely that the fact that Modern's no longer a Pro Tour format is a testament to how strong the Modern community is. Chapin posits that if there were Legacy Pro Tours, the format would be effectively ruined, because the best players and minds on earth would be far more highly incentivized to “break” it, but since there are no Legacy Pro Tours, there's a lot less pressure on the format as a whole. Chapin sees Modern following a similar trajectory; without the pressure that Pro Tours put on a format, R&D can start slowly unbanning cards in Modern without needing to worry about the consequences too much. So that's kind of promising.
I watched my coworker Yonathan try to stamp his ticket to the RPTQ last week, playing Modern. Here's the metagame of the 40-person tournament.
UG Infect 3
Splinter Twin 3
Monoblue Merfolk 2
UW Tron 2
BW Tokens 2
8 Rack 2
GW Hate Bears 1
Monoblue Tron 1
Jeskai Control 1
Sultai Control 1
Domain Zoo 1
Mardu Midrange 1
Tezzeret Affinity 1
UB Merfolk 1
Grixis Twin 1
Soul Sisters 1
Domain Zoo 1
UW Tron 1
GW Hate Bears 1
There's not much to take away from that. Modern is a strange, strange place. TAKE IT TO THE HOUSE
For the PPTQ at Cloud City, home of 52 FNMs, I was originally planned to play a RW midrange brew that came with high endorsements from a guy I once drew into 9th place with:
Imagine my surprise when I left the deck at home, forcing me to play a slightly updated Abzan Aggro deck that was luckily in my bag, or else I would've played nothing at all:
I dispatched Esper Control twice, as well as RW Midrange and Mardu Control, on my way to the Top 8, where I beat RG Aggro, RW Midrange (same guy as in the swiss) and a green devotion deck in the finals in order to lock down my spot at the RPTQ in Catskill, New York.
Losing in the finals twice does something to your brain, I think. I went down a game in the finals and thought, “here we go again.” And then I won. I don't know how great Abzan Aggro is going forward, but I personally really like it. All three unique two-drops are just such a problem for decks, and resilient pressure just isn't something people are anticipating right now. The wrinkle in the Abzan Control decks from last weekend's Grand Prix was Fleecemane Lion out of the sideboard, which makes sense, but as someone who was playing Abzan Aggro pre-Fate Reforged, all I can think is...finally.
Going forward, I think I'd play this if I was looking to stay on Abzan Aggro:
A lot of the oomph in Anafenza, the Foremost is gone now that Whip of Erebos randomly isn't seeing any play anymore. Tasigur might look ambitious without any Satyr Wayfinder-style cards to fuel it, but it's designed as a later play – the idea here is that every threat should be able to demand a Wrath effect by itself, and Tasigur's definitely one of those.
Hope to see you at an RPTQ in April.
Jon Corpora Pronounced Ca-pora @feb31st