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Pro Tour Amsterdam Tournament Report – Part 1

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First of all, I'm sorry for abandoning you all last week. My schedule leading up to PT: Amsterdam got ridiculous and I wasn't able to finish anything for last week. Fortunately, I'll make up for that with an awesome tournament report. In two parts!

Prelude

In the week leading up to PT: Amsterdam, I found out about Zvi Mowshowitz's secret deck and subsequently got invited to join his team. I accepted, and tested his deck a bunch, but even on the morning of the Pro Tour I was still unsure about whether or not I would play his deck or the Ad Nauseam combo deck that I had been working on prior to joining the team.

Zvi's deck was basically an Extended format Mythic deck. It used Noble Hierarch, Birds of Paradise, Lotus Cobra, and even Nest Invader, to accelerate into Baneslayer Angel or Primeval Titan, and also to trigger Windbrisk Heights (which Primeval Titan and Knight of the Reliquary could conveniently fetch). Finally, the deck also used Summoning Trap to fight counterspells, and Iona, Shield of Emeria to fight combo decks. While the deck was very powerful, I felt it was weak to the Punishing Fire + Grove of the Burnwillows combo, which I thought would be very popular in Amsterdam.

My Ad Nauseam + Angel's Grace deck, on the other hand, was very similar to the version being played on Magic Online, except that it did not run Punishing Fire, and it generally had a better manabase. I was also running Everflowing Chalice instead of Coalition Relic, to make my Ad Nauseam easier to cast when I didn't have an Angel's Grace – a play that came up surprisingly often in testing.

So which deck did I end up playing, and how did I do? Read on and you'll find out.

Tuesday

I was supposed to arrive in Amsterdam on Wednesday morning, spend the day testing, and spend the night seeing Amsterdam. However, Delta had other plans for me. Despite arriving at Newark on Tuesday, over 2 hours before my flight's departure time, I did not end up on my flight.

While checking in, one of the Delta agents told me that the gate printed on my boarding pass didn't exist (it did) and that we should look on the departures board to find my actual gate (bad idea). So, we looked at the board, and we found a flight to Amsterdam leaving at 6:35pm (my departure time) from gate 133 (not my flight), the only problem being that it was a Continental Airlines flight (this should have tipped us off). Delta Agent #1 told me not to worries because Delta co-something's with Continental Airlines. Sure, sounds reasonable (not really).

I hop back on the Airtrain and take it to the Continental Airlines terminal. When I get to security, Continental Agent #1 looks at my boarding pass quizzically. She asks me why I'm not in the Delta terminal and I explain my story to her. She runs over to Continental Agent #2 and they fiddle with a computer for a minute or two, before coming back and telling me that it looks fine.

I go through security and meet up with BDM, who is waiting for the same flight. We chat for a bit and then boarding starts. My zone is called last and I get in line with just a few other people. BDM is ahead of me in line and they scan his pass and let him through. I hand them my ticket, they scan it, aaand… "beep"… they scan it again… "beep"…

"Sorry sir, I don't think this is your flight. You know this isn't a Delta flight, right?"

"but, but… everyone told me-"

"Sir, you need to step out of line. You can take up your concerns with customer service."

So now I'm running as fast as I can with my 2 bags across this terminal to customer service. I wait in line for a painfully long amount of time. Everyone seems to have "just one more question" for their customer service rep. When I finally get to speak to someone, it takes them 5 minutes to figure out that I'm definitely not supposed to be on their flight, and another 5 minutes to figure out that there is another flight o Amsterdam leaving from Newark at exactly the same time, on the other side of the airport, and yes, it is operated by Delta.

With roughly 5 seconds to get from one side of Newark Airport to the other, I'm again running as top speed (not that fast, considering my luggage). Obviously I don't make it to the gate in time, but I do run enough to literally pass out in a chair for what I think was only about 5 minutes.

At some point after waking up, I head back to the Delta check-in area and attempt to make a case for why they should give me something free. Unfortunately, the Delta agents seem much more interested in the man getting arrested for shouting racial slurs at one of their employees, so I'm unable to get very far with any of them. The cab home is $76, not cool.

Wednesday

  1. Wake up.
  2. Go to the airport.
  3. Get on my plane.
  4. Be terrified of flying.
  5. Movies!
  6. Remember I'm terrified of flying.
  7. Arrive in Amsterdam. – Technically, this happened on Thursday.

I was amused by a foreign pack of cigarettes in the duty free shop because it was literally covered in big red-letter warnings that read "smokers die younger than non-smokers". Don Draper would never have let that fly.

Thursday

I meet up with a friend while waiting in the passport line at the airport. We wander around the airport for a while trying to find his friends who are supposed to meet him there, but since no one has working phones, we obviously find no one. After about an hour, we decide to take a bus to my hotel. The following conversation takes place while we attempt to buy tickets for the bus:

Cute Ticket Lady: So why are you two here?

-Pete and I look at each other-

Pete: We're going to the convention center.

Cute Ticket Lady: Why are you going to the convention center?

Pete: For a thing.

CTL: What kind of thing?

Pete: A card game.

CTL: What kind of card game?

-Pete looks at me, desperately-

Me: You seem to have this under control.

Pete: It's sort of like poker.

CTL: What is it called?

Pete: Uhh… Magic.

CTL: Sorry, what was that?

Pete: Uhh… Magic.

CTL: Oh, Magic. I figured it was that! Cool, I used to work in marketing at Upper Deck! So I know all about Magic.

­-Pete lets out the biggest sign of relief I've ever witnessed-

CTL: Here are your tickets, have a nice day.

Yeah, that happened in real life… The bus ride is actually a shuttle ride, complete with a driver who is singing along to the radio. One of the highlights of the entire weekend is singing along to Dancing Queen with Pete and the driver.

We arrive at the hotel, which – according to the driver – used to be a juvenile prison. No big deal, right? For lack of a better word, the hotel is… creepy. My room seems to have no shower. There is just a big bed on one end, with a bearskin rug on it. There is a tiny room with a toilet in it, but where could this shower be? Hmm… what's that showerhead doing sticking out of the wall next to the bed? Oh. Oh my. There's a drain on the floor, ok… I think I get it.

Anyway, I decide not to worry about the fact that there is a shower in my living room, and instead I just pass out under the bearskin rug.

Thursday 2.0

  1. Go to the site.
  2. Meet up with Zvi's team.
  3. Chat about Extended.
  4. Be indecisive about what to play.
  5. Get a tip from BDM that Kenji is looking for help with his Ad Nauseam deck.
  6. Swap ideas with Kenji. Is this real life?
  7. Pass out again.

Friday

I wake up Friday and head to the site with Ad Nauseam and Mythic in my bag. I register both decks, and spend what little time I have being unsure about which one to play. Finally, the rest of Zvi's team shows up and I toss out the Ad Nauseam idea. This, I'm pretty sure, was a mistake. I had three or four times as much practice playing the Ad Nauseam deck, and it was the deck that I was by far the most comfortable with. I also had very little confidence in my ability to ever beat a Punishing Fire + Grove of the Burnwillows with Zvi's deck. Regardless of all those facts, I sleeve up Mythic and prepare to battle.

Here is the 75 that I registered:

I remember some games very clearly and others not at all, so bare with me.

Round 1 – GR Scapeshift Eldrazi

Game 1.

On the play, I keep a hand of:

Windbrisk Heights

Horizon Canopy

Verdant Catacombs

Nest Invader

Nest Invader

Baneslayer Angel

Primeval Titan

By turn 4, this hand should either be triggering Windbrisk Heights, or casting Primeval Titan - which almost always wins you the game the following turn.

I play Windbrisk Heights on my first turn and hit… Birds of Paradise, bleh! My opponent plays a Raging Ravine. I draw another Baneslayer Angel, play and crack my Verdant Catacombs for a Forest, and play Nest Invader. Opponent plays Grove of the Burnwillows and Punishing Fire's my Nest Invader. I draw Plains and play my 2nd Nest Invader, and said Plains. Opponent plays Eldrazi Temple (wha-what?) and Punishing Fire's my Nest Invader. I don't remember what I draw here, but I know that I cast Primeval Titan. The following turn I have Iona and Knight of the Reliquary to go with my Titan, and he concedes.

I don't remember how I boarded. I know I brought in Tectonic Edge and Terastodon.

Game 2.

I don't remember the exact details of this game. I know had two quick Baneslayer Angel's, even though he had Punishing Fire going fairly early. I was worried about getting destroyed by Prismatic Omen + Scapeshift when he made his 6th land drop, but instead he played a Primeval Titan and searched for Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin. Fortunately, my Baneslayer's were able to kill him before he could make use of his Eldrazi Lands.

After the match, he tells me that he doesn't have the Scapeshift combo in his deck at all, and he's just playing GR Eldrazi ramp. Meanwhile, I'm just thrilled that I managed to beat Punishing Fire.

1-0

Round 2 – Ad Nauseam

Game 1.

He wins the die roll and assembles his combo on turn 4, which, conveniently for him, is the turn before I would have put Iona into play.

I board out Nest Invader and Baneslayer Angel for Ethersworn Canonist, Gaddock Teeg, Tectonic Edge, and Terastodon.

Game 2.

On the play I keep:

Horizon Canopy

Windbrisk Heights

Misty Rainforest

Noble Hierarch

Noble Hierarch

Primeval Titan

Terastodon

This hand has the following lines of play.

  1. Turn 5 Terastodon or Iona if I draw at least one land or mana creature on my seconds, third, or fourth turn.
  2. Turn 4 Windbrisk Heights if I draw any of the 19 creatures left in my deck with cmc 3 or less on my second or third turn.
  3. Turn 3 Windbrisk Heights if I draw any of my 14 2cmc or less mana creatures on my second turn.

I play Noble Hierarch on my first turn. He plays Lotus Bloom and Vivid Creek. I draw Knight of the Reliquary and play Noble Hierarch and Windbrisk Heights – hitting Iona. He plays a land and passes. I play land, Knight, and pass, ready to activate Windbrisk Heights on my next turn. He plays Deathmark on my Knight, nooo! I play Primeval Titan, fetching Stirring Wildwood and Mutavault. He plays Lotus Bloom and kills me.

It's obviously frustrating to be just a turn short two games in a row, but having tested Ad Nauseam, I knew what he would need to beat it, and unfortunately for me, he had it. It's never fun to lose, but the worst thing you can do after a loss is start to tilt. It's a lot easier to not start tilting if you understand how you lost, and in this case I definitely did.

1-1

Round 3 – Pyromancer Combo

Game 1

I remember having the nuts. He had Punishing Fire + Grove of the Burnwillows going on turn 3, but I still had a Turn 4 Iona shutting off Blue, which prompted the scoop.

I boarded in Forge-tenders, Ranger of Eos, Tectonic Edge, Bojuka Bog, and Terastodon. I boarded out Baneslayer Angels, some Nest Invaders, Mutavault, and another land that I can't remember.

Game 2

All I remember about this game is that I cast a Primeval Titan that I was 100% sure he was going to Cryptic Command, he did, I cast 2 Summoning Trap's and ended up with a Noble Hierarch and a Lotus Cobra in play. He won shortly after that.

Game 3

This was a hard fought game that went pretty long. I stuck a big Knight of the Reliquary and used it to Tectonic Edge and Bojuka Bog him, which slowed him down a lot. Eventually I resolved a 2nd Knight, and just won by swinging with 2 giant Knights.

2-1

Round 4 – Ad Nauseam

Game 1.

He wins the die roll and assembles his combo on turn 4, which, conveniently for him, is the turn before I would have put Iona into play. (Yeah, exactly the same thing that happened in round 2.)

I boarded exactly the same as Round 2.

Game 2.

I win this one on the back of an Ethersworn Canonist which slows him down enough for me to get a Knight, which protects the Canonist with Sejiri Steppe. He eventually kills the Canonist, but I have another hiding under a Mosswort Bridge, and my hate bears end up taking him down.

Game 3.

I mulligan to a 5 card hand of:

Windbrisk Heights

Arid Mesa

Ethersworn Canonist

Birds of Paradise

Birds of Paradise

He has a Slaughter Pact for my Canonist and kills me on his 4th turn. I don't draw a 3rd land or anything else relevant.

2-2

Round 5 – Bant Fauna Shaman (with Black for Shriekmaw)

Game 1.

I win the die roll and we both curve out nicely. His curve involves Birds of Paradise, Fauna Shaman and Vengevines. My curve involves Lotus Cobra, Baneslayer, Primeval Titan, and Iona. I win this one pretty easily.

I board in Canonist, Baneslayer, and Bojuka Bog, and I board out Iona, 1 Nest Invader, and a land.

Game 2.

He curves out again, but I miss my 1-drop and can only manage a turn 2 Lotus Cobra. Unfortunately for me, he has a Tarmogoyf in play to my Lotus Cobra, and is able to Mana Leak my Baneslayer and Primeval Titan that I attempt to cast in the next two turns. He continues to pressure me with his Tarmogoyf and I don't draw anymore gas.

Game 3.

I resolve an early Knight, followed by a Baneslayer. He has Fauna Shaman, and uses it to get Sower of Temptation. My Knight gets a Sejiri Steppe to protect my Baneslayer, and I resolve a Summoning Trap for Primeval Titan. He gets a Shriekmaw with his Fauna Shaman, which deals with my Baneslayer, but at that point my Primeval Titan has put the game out of reach for him.

3-2

So, I managed to escape the Extended rounds at 3-2. Not as good as I would have hoped for, but I'm not too disappointed with my result, considering that of the 5 decks I faced, I think Bant was the only good matchup.

I find Kenji and we chat a bit. He says he's 3-2 and I start to apologize, but he stops me and says that both losses were because of his play mistakes. He asks me how I'm doing and I sheepishly tell him that I switched decks. He calls me a master (seriously, is this real life?) and then we go our separate ways.

Join me next week to see how my draft went and hear more about how terrified I am of flying!

-Benjamin Hayes

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