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12-3 at GP Pittsburg: The Quest for Gold Finished

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Time was running out leading up to Grand Prix Pittsburgh. It was my last shot to (have enough lead time) to hit Gold and qualify for Pro Tour Sydney. I was feeling pretty nervous with my back against the wall.

I was at 32 out of 33 pro points necessary for Gold level status, with my six Grand Prix pro point slots being: 8, 4, 4, 3, 2, 2, which meant I needed a 12-3 or better finish in Pittsburgh to pick up Gold.

I started working hard to look at the recent Standard data. Bant flavored Collected Company and G/W decks made up the majority of the field, so I turned to an old favorite, B/G Husk, since I noticed that Zan Syed was doing well with an odd version on June 4th from StarCityGames Atlanta Open:


The important take away I gathered here was the core of the deck was still eminently reasonable even if I didn’t agree with his individual card choices (Hangarback Walker comes to mind here).

After looking at my old list, and determining what I expected to play the most against, I ended up here:


I added Silumgar Assassin as a nice answer to Eldrazi Displacer and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Kalitas shuts down the entire deck. Nissa, Vastwood Seer was adopted because it’s a great alternate engine that also helps you hit land drops to cast your sideboarded Reality Smashers. Languish is unexpected from a deck that packs 29 creatures in the main deck, so it ends up being a massive blowout every time you cast it versus Humans and East-West Rites.

Here’s a quick rundown of what I played against:

  • Round 3: Win over ‘classic’ Bant Company with Bounding Krasis and Eldrazi Displacer
  • Round 4: Loss to G/W Tokens
  • Round 5: Win over Bant Humans with Eldrazi Displacer
  • Round 6: Win over Esper Control with Crush of Tentacles
  • Round 7: Win over Abzan Control (with Seasons Past?)
  • Round 8: Win over Boros Eldrazi
  • Round 9: Win over U/R Fevered Visions / Pyromancer's Goggles control
  • Round 10: Loss to G/W Tokens – Shuhei Nakamura
  • Round 11: Win over W/r Humans
  • Round 12: Loss to W/r Humans
  • Round 13: Win over G/W Tokens
  • Round 14: White over ‘classic’ Bant Company with Eldrazi Displacer – Andy Ferguson
  • Round 15: Concession from Gerry Thompson, presumably on G/W Tokens

I was extremely relieved that Gerry graciously agreed to concede to me which let me acquire the necessary 12-3 finish. He’s one of the writers and players I have the utmost respect for, since his ability to predict where metagames are going is unparalleled.

I was relieved and excited to hit this goal of mine. Every other year I’ve played Pro Tours in, I’ve done very poorly and not been close to any sort of constant ‘gravy-training’.

It’s been a long journey this year. Starting in 2015 there were four Grand Prixes: Indianapolis / Seattle / Atlanta / Pittsburgh (which were all on back to back weekends in 2015). I told myself I would step back from the game quite a bit if I didn’t do well at any of them.

I inauspiciously started with a 1-3 drop at Indy (playing the Jon Finkel / Owen Turtenwald Dark Jeskai deck that made Top 8 of Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar). That event wasn’t all bad, because my friends surprised me for Halloween by dressing up as me:

‘Prolific Magic author and competitor Jarvis Yu tries to run from his friends, who drag him back for a photo. Yu’s friends surprised him at the start of Round 2, gathering around the pairings board all dressed as Yu, complete with the full range of possibilities including “golfer Jarvis” and “handsome Jarvis.” This group definitely wins the award for most original costume. ’ – (Wizards of the Coast)

In Seattle, I decided to play a (then-rogue) deck, 35 Lands, based off advice from many people. I managed to make top 8 of this Grand Prix, and win it in decisive fashion. It was the best Magic weekend of my life ever, and I was extraordinarily happy I managed to prove to myself and others that I was capable of doing well in a Premier Event.

I decided to try to make this year a great one given that I had nine Pro Points by this point (eight from Seattle and one from Madison).

Both Grand Prix Atlanta and Pittsburgh were less memorable, but I managed to eke out an 11-4 finish in Battle for Zendikar Limited (while drafting Green both times on day two which was regarded as one of the worst colors).

Given that I was at 11 pro points by this point, I decided to head cross country to Oakland to participate in a standard event with 4-Color Rally the Ancestors (which Reid used to win the Grand Prix with). I started 7-0, but then finished 7-2 on day one. On day 2, I picked up 2 more losses in frustrating fashion, but finished 11-4 for another 2 pro points (which put me at 13 for the year). I was really close to making Silver by this point (since 18 points were necessary), so I decided to see how Pro Tour Atlanta went before deciding to do anything else.

A few weeks later, I joined the newly formed East-West Bowl for Pro Tour Atlanta. Our team posted absurdly good results (including 3 players in the top 8). I myself finished 10-6 (6-4 in Modern, 4-2 in Draft) for six more points (which put me at 19 and locking up Silver status).

Post Pro Tour, I decided to start #chasinggold since, with another Pro Tour, I’d have a minimum of 22 out of 33 points, so I’d only be 11 away (Grand Prix Finishes by this point: 8, 2, 2, 1).

Rally the Ancestors
Grand Prix Houston was up next, and I decided to run an updated version of 4 Color Rally. Reflector Mage and Ayli, the Eternal Pilgrim were both excellent additions to the deck. I was getting tired of traveling by this point, but you know what they say: ‘No Gamble  . . . no future.’

In Detroit, I decided to finally sleeve up the U/W Eldrazi menace. Unfortunately, the horrifying aliens didn’t treat me that well, and I finished a disappointing 4-4. By this point, I was questioning my decision to try to chase gold . . . 

Fortunately, Grand Prix Washington DC was right close to my house (considering I’ve grown up and live in that area). My teammates Steve Nagy and Benjamin Peebles-Mundy performed admirably. We started a rocky 6-2-1 on day one (which meant we were dead for top four), but we managed to 5-0 day two to pick up 4 pro points for me, which put me at 26 out of 33 pro points. (8, 4, 2, 2, 1).

Attending Pro Tour Madrid, I again joined East-West Bowl to prepare. My results were very disappointing, and I failed to make the second day of competition finishing a disappointing 2-6 (1-4 with W/B Midrange in Standard and 1-2 in Draft). I showed up on Sunday morning to play-test some for Seth Manfield, but I was really regretting all of my close calls (including a loss in the top 8 of a Regional PTQ for Madrid).

Post Pro Tour, there immediately was another Grand Prix in Toronto, which is a convenient 1 hour flight away from Dulles airport. B/G Husk looked excellent to me, and looked like it had about a 60% win rate during the Pro Tour. In addition, I’m a strong believer in playing decks you enjoy, and Nantuko Husk alongside Zulaport Cutthroat was extremely enjoyable for me from 4 Color Rally the Ancestors. I finished 11-4 in Toronto, noticing some flaws in the deck that I would address for New York (which was the following weekend).

I lost two win and in for top 8 at Grand Prix New York which would have locked gold. This was utterly heartbreaking to me, but I was really happy with my play and deck choice for both Toronto and New York. Status after New York: (8/4/3/2/2/2) for a total of 30 out of 33 pro points.

In Grand Prix Charlotte, I decided to brew up a new version of a known deck to have fun: Jeskai Nahiri was known by this point, but I wanted to crush mirrors as well as have better game versus attrition decks, so I decided to figure out how to splice in Lingering Souls. I finished 10-5 with this deck, which is a respectable but disappointing result for me because it did not improve my pro point status whatsoever.

Dragonlord Silumgar
In Minneapolis, I wanted to try something new and fun, so instead of running back B/G Husk a third time, I switched to a version of Seasons Past splashing Blue for Dragonlord Silumgar and Silumgar's Command. I went 7-6 drop with this very sweet but ultimately not great deck which made me regret spewing a tournament on a deck that I wasn’t sure was great or not.

In Columbus, I was the reigning North America Legacy Grand Prix Champion, so it would have been really hard to improve on my current status. I ran back a modified version of 35 Lands which included the Standard all-star Tireless Tracker in my sideboard as a second engine that avoided graveyard hate. I finished 13-3 (losing in top 8 to the eventual winner playing Infect). This was yet another close call to hit Gold, because this put me at 32 out of 33 pro points (8/4/4/3/2/2). I was 25% frustrated, 75% happy after this tournament, because I recognized that top 8ing my second Grand Prix (in the same format) proved that I wasn’t a one-hit wonder, which I was mildly bothered by since Seattle.

That brings us back to Pittsburgh, where I attained a 12-3 record to hit 33/33 pro points (8/4/4/3/3/2) to hit Gold just in time for Pro Tour Eldritch Moon in Sydney. I’m feeling like I’ve escaped the Sisyphean tragedy at the moment.

That’s a total of sixteen Grand Prix and two Pro Tours. Weekends definitely started to blend together (sometimes I couldn’t even remember which city I was in), and I never really had as much time as I wanted to practice for every single event.

However, over the year, I do think I improved a lot:

  • My deck selection for most events was excellent: I managed to find the right intersection of ‘fun’ and ‘good’ for me in almost all of the tournaments.
  • I managed not to tilt off even after missing many close calls (losing in top 8 of the Madrid RPTQ, losing two win and ins at Grand Prix New York, losing in top 8 at Grand Prix Columbus all come to mind).
  • Trusting other people’s play-testing data with decks that I suggested for them. Teams and friends exist for a reason.

I thank everyone for showing the huge amount of support that I’ve received over the past year. I’m very excited for Sydney and this upcoming year, and who knows, perhaps #chasingplatinum is in the future for next year.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to another great year of Magic.

Jarvis


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