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One PT: Philly Report

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Originally titled: The Only Combo I’m Interested in Is a Bowl of Chicken Soup and a Reuben: A PT: Philly Report.

Well, here goes. I’ve actually been dreading writing this report out of fear that the whole article would sound like whining about Modern. This is why I’ve chosen to take it in a different direction. I’m just going to gloss over my matches and talk more about the positive experiences I had in the City of Brotherly Love. I really don’t want to complain about Modern for an entire article, so I apologize if any parts of this are overly negative. I actually wrote out summaries of the games I played, but trust me, no amount of flowery prose could make them interesting. Spoiler alert: I didn’t do that well. I went 2–3 in the Constructed portion, putting myself in the position of 3–0’ing my draft pod to make Day 2. While I was not successful in this feat, I at least pulled out two wins to make Top 200 and get an extra pro point.

Let’s go back in time a few weeks. I’m getting ready to learn the Extended format, perfectly happy to run the Scapeshift/Valakut combo deck that got me to the PT in the first place. While some sort of Jace/Stoneforge deck would undoubtedly be the best choice, I had no interest in playing mirrors all day, nor do I believe myself skilled enough to win said mirrors at a Pro Tour. Then the Modern announcement came out. After the initial shock, I was pleased with the changes. Then I actually started grinding out games and discovered how lame the format truly was. I knew that combo was going to dominate, but I had no idea which combo was the best choice. I left the tournament site Thursday night without knowing which seventy-five cards I would be playing the next day. One thing I did know is where I would be eating all weekend. The article Geoff Matteson and Jon Becker wrote on SCG about the best places to eat near the site was my lifeline for the weekend. I had an amazing Reuben sandwich from Hershel’s East Side Deli for breakfast/lunch. I don’t normally like sauerkraut, but on their Reuben, it was perfect. Later that night, my squad of goons and I went to Vietnam. The food there was very good, but I was most impressed by the service. They brought out our orders almost suspiciously quickly, as in How-can-they-even-make-it-this-fast? quickly.

My uncertainty carried on all the way to morning of the tournament, when I settled on U/R Pyromancer, mostly because I couldn’t find the cards to build anything else I was comfortable playing. I was able to get a list from Phil Yam through our mutual friend Lucas Siow, but even he wasn’t exactly thrilled about what he was playing. I finished sleeving up the deck and writing the decklist about two minutes before the player meeting. This is what I played:

[cardlist]

[Spells]

3 Lightning Bolt

4 Manamorphose

4 Seething Song

4 Gitaxian Probe

4 Grapeshot

4 Ponder

4 Preordain

4 Rite of Flame

4 Sleight of Hand

3 Pyromancer's Swath

4 Pyromancer Ascension

[/Spells]

[Lands]

2 Mountain

6 Island

3 Misty Rainforest

3 Steam Vents

4 Scalding Tarn

[/Lands]

[Sideboard]

3 Vendilion Clique

2 Echoing Truth

2 Mindbreak Trap

4 Spell Pierce

3 Firespout

1 Threads of Disloyalty

[/Sideboard]

[/cardlist]

I didn’t copy Phil’s list exactly, and my sideboard was completely thrown together. I ended up playing against four different combo decks that were almost literal coin-flips. The last match was against a G/B Death Cloud deck in which I mulliganed to four cards in one game and got discarded into oblivion in another. There were probably some decisions I could have made better along the way, but it’s hard to say if I would have done better even if I were playing perfectly.

The draft started decently well for me. I first-picked a Jace, and got passed some solid Blue cards including an Azure Mage. Blue was very open on my side of the table, but I was having difficulty picking up a second color. I had a few solid White cards, but I was concerned that I didn’t have any removal. Green was the only other color coming, but it’s not like they were great cards, just slightly better than the chaff I was picking up in everything else. I also had some random cards in other colors. In Pack 3, I was passed Serra Angel, so I was pretty much settled into a U/W flyers deck. In an unfortunate turn of events, Blue dramatically dried up and I got almost no other playables that pack. It turns out that the player to my right was U/B, and the Blue in Pack 1 was just deep enough to give the impression that it was open. It was considerably less deep in Pack 3, which explains how I got cut. I would have been perfectly happy to run Ice Cage in my deck, but as it turned out, I was forced to splash for an Incinerate as my only removal. Here’s what I registered:

[cardlist]

[Creatures]

1 Amphin Cutthroat

1 Assault Griffin

1 Azure Mage

1 Belltower Sphinx

1 Jace's Archivist

1 Lord of the Unreal

1 Merfolk Looter

1 Serra Angel

1 Skywinder Drake

1 Stormfront Pegasus

2 Griffin Sentinel

2 Harbor Serpent

2 Phantasmal Bear

[/Creatures]

[Planeswalkers]

1 Jace, Memory Adept

[/Planeswalkers]

[Spells]

1 Cancel

1 Flashfreeze

1 Incinerate

1 Stave Off

1 Visions of Beyond

1 Manalith

[/Spells]

[Lands]

1 Mountain

10 Island

6 Plains

[/Lands]

[/cardlist]

The deck has a few cards that I’m not usually happy main-decking, like Cancel and Flashfreeze, but it was all I had to work with. I know that my deck is weak to giant green monsters, so the Flashfreeze isn’t that bad. The fact that I can always pitch it to Merfolk Looter or Jace’s Archivist is what clinched it. Visions of Beyond isn’t great, but this was a good deck for it. I never got to Ancestral Recall with it, but at least it helps with drawing me to my good cards. I definitely like it a lot better than Ponder, since it doesn’t suffer from the problem of seeing one good card and two lands and knowing you’re going to brick for two turns.

Like I said before, I went 2–1 in the Draft portion, losing to the U/B guy sitting to my right. He was a good opponent, and fun to play against, as we were both constantly making snide comments. It was definitely the most enjoyable match I played all weekend, even if I lost. So props to Andrey Yanyuk for winning the pod and cashing out.

With the tournament over, I was finally ready to back to my favorite restaurant ever: Fogo de Chao. We don’t have very many churrascarias in Canada, at least not in my neck of the woods. We have one called “Copacabana” in Niagara Falls, which I try to go to once or twice a year, but Fogo’s is even better. I first went to one back at PT: Austin and have been itching to go back since. I know I’m not the first Magic player to gush about these kinds of places, but if you’ve never been and are a meat-eater, you owe it to yourself to go to a Brazilian steakhouse. While I ended up spending about $70, it was worth every penny. The only downside is that I ate so much meat that I wasn’t hungry again until the next evening and thus didn’t get around to trying something else at the market. I can’t say enough good things about the Reading Terminal Market. If I lived or worked anywhere near the market, I would find it very hard not to eat there every day.

I spent most of Saturday durdling around, not wishing to play a four-hundred-person PTQ. I drafted a couple times, but by the end of the day, I was really tired and wanted to go home. Other than the food, I wasn’t enjoying myself. Speaking of which, the last place we ate was Dim Sum Garden, and the soup dumplings were indeed delicious. I love dim sum, but it’s another one of those things that I never get to eat any more. When I was in college (the last time I was in college, that is), my roommate was from Hong Kong and took me out to dim sum frequently. I didn’t know what anything was called, so he ordered for us. Since he moved back to China, I’ve very rarely been able to get my dim sum on. I ordered a bunch of stuff for the table, and I think it went pretty well. I think I need to make more Asian friends locally so I can do this more often.

One of my friends wanted to play the draft challenge on Sunday, but I expressed my strong desire to leave. I must admit, I kind of wanted to play the challenge myself, but it would have involved waking up at 6:00 a.m. to be at the site for 8:00 a.m. It also would have involved me driving all night and getting home at a ridiculous hour. It just wasn’t worth getting hardly any sleep and paying another $20 for parking to play in the event. It was just as well that I convinced him to abandon the plan, as there was a massive two-mile-long line at the border, which added two hours to our return trip. To pass the time during the traffic jam, we rolled down the windows, put the volume to max, and had an impromptu karaoke party. The people in the cars around us probably thought we were insane, but we didn’t care. We belted out The Weight, Stand by Me—and anything else we knew the words to—at the top of our lungs as we radio-surfed.

Since I’m not currently qualified for Worlds, I’m looking into attending GP: Montreal. Even if I don’t do well there to qualify, a Top 64 will at least lock up Level 2 for me, and I hope I’ll be able to grind up my rating afterward. If not, at least I can say that I’ve had a good run this year and can work on improving my results in the future.

I hope you all enjoyed reading my report. If I manage to make it out to Montreal and you see me there, feel free to say hi!

Until next time,

Nassim Ketita

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