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November 10, 2017

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Going for the Gold: Pro Tour Ixalan Recap

Welcome back to Going for the Gold. As promised, today is the recap of my latest Pro Tour.

Spoiler: It’s shorter than usual!

For those of you who were kind enough to follow me in the standings, you probably noticed that my wins stopped after round five. It was not a great feeling. After taking beat after beat, I didn’t make Day Two,  the second time I have failed to do so in my 14 starts.

In preparation for Pro Tour Ixalan, I had tested every aggressive deck that was viable. If you forget why this is a good idea, click here for my article on choosing the right deck for a Pro Tour.

After trying out all the various forms of Hazoret the Fervent aggro, I settled on Ramunap Red since it had the best manabase without losing much in terms of threats.

For reference, here’s the list I sleeved up and registered (alongside Vidianto Wijaya and Rob Anderson):

Ramunap Red

Maindeck: (60)
Soul-Scar Mage
Bomat Courier
Earthshaker Khenra
Harsh Mentor
Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
Rampaging Ferocidon
Hazoret the Fervent
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Shock
Abrade
Lightning Strike
Ramunap Ruins
Sunscorched Desert
Scavenger Grounds
15 Mountain
Sideboard: (15)
Harsh Mentor
Abrade
Magma Spray
Pia Nalaar
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Chandra’s Defeat
Glorybringer
Aethersphere Harvester

This deck is two cards off the list that Dan Fournier was able to go 9-1 with in Standard. Hopefully he’s able to qualify for the remaining Pro Tours since he’s now leading the Constructed Master race for 2017-2018.

New Mexico was unique; I’ve never been anywhere quite like it. Gerard Febiano met us at our hotel at 11 pm the night before and, after a few deck changes, we went to bed. The next morning we grabbed breakfast and were on our way to the first Pro Tour of the season. It’s always a stressful feeling when you sit down in your first pod and get nervous about its difficulty (whereas Day Two pods tend to be just as difficult as your record would indicate). Thankfully I only recognized a few players in my pod (Andrew Baeckstrom, Louis Deltour and Matteo Moure).

So I opened my first pack and, to my dismay, it was the worst pack I’ve ever opened in Ixalan. In the end, this was the card I took:

nest

Seriously, it was that bad! 

By pack two, I was in blue and red and faced a tough decision between Captivating Crew and Pirate’s Cutlass. I took the Crew, but regretted it the entire time since the Cutlass would have been so good in my deck, while the Captivating Crew needed me to get to a late game and avoid removal.

Fortunately I got passed some great cards and ended up registering a deck that, in my opinion, was a 7/10. I thought this deck would give me a great shot at finishing 3-0 and would be disappointed with anything worse than a 2-1 record.

Here’s what I was playing:

Draft Deck Day One

Maindeck: (40)
Island
10 Mountain
Captivating Crew
Charging Monstrosaur
Fathom Fleet Firebrand
Frenzied Raptor
Headstrong Brute
Headwater Sentries
Nest Robber
Prosperous Pirates
Rummaging Goblin
Shipwreck Looter
Siren Lookout
Storm Fleet Aerialist
Sun-Crowned Hunters
Depth of Desires
Fell Flagship
Fiery Cannonade
Lookout’s Dispersal
Siren’s Ruse
Sure Strike
Swashbuckling
Unfriendly Fire
Relevant Sideboard: (7)
Fire Shrine Keeper
Prying Blade
Rile
Sentinel Totem
Sun-Crowned Hunters
Tilonalli’s Skirmisher
Wily Goblin

As you can see, my sideboard did not really give me any sort of advantage outside of Fire Shrine Keeper, which is great against a Vampires deck.

My first match was against Matteo Moure, who was playing a Blue/Black Pirates deck. Charging Monstrosaur and company made quick work of him.

charging

In the second round, I played against Han Xiao and his ridiculous BW vampires deck. A Legion’s Landing curved into multiple creatures proved to be too much to handle. I was able to take down one of the games using my Fiery Cannonade. Unfortunately in game three he used Duress on turn two to strip it away from a lackluster hand and I would end up being 1-1 going into the final Draft round.

In round three, I played against Tyler Hill and was able to utilize my Captivating Crew effectively in a long, stalemated game where I kept discarding minor creatures to keep playing lands. Once I played the Crew, I was able to protect it with four different spells and end the game in short order.

So I ended up going 2-1, a record I was happy with, but not entirely over the moon about. Especially when you see a lot of regulars constantly achieving complete pod take-downs.

I started off comfortable with my deck in Standard. This quickly changed as I found myself going 1-4 in the most frustrating fashion. In the last round, after mulliganing to four in game two (having lost the first to flood) I just signed the match slip and Willy Edel asked, “you don’t even want to try?” I’d started to tilt because every round was just getting worse and worse and it didn’t feel like I could pay to win a match. I was watching other players win the matchups that I was losing just because of my draws.

Your ability to win with this deck relies on four factors:

  1. Drawing Hazoret the Fervent
  2. Your opponent’s inability to draw the right mix of early removal and creatures
  3. Drawing the right mix of lands and spells
  4. Minimal mulliganing

I played 14 games in order to go 1-4 and I cast Hazoret the Fervent zero times. Most of my opponents had removal spells in the first three turns. Flooding happened so often that I was boarding out lands. I must have mulliganed down to five at least six times in the tournament. If you add all of that together, this was just a case of the bad luck run, and I think that this deck was otherwise very well positioned.

When you compare the list that I played versus the lists that went 9-1, you will see that the two are quite close. What I have learned however, is that I will never play a deck solely based on power level in the format since I felt completely helpless in that tournament.

At least I got to spend the weekend at the casino. Next time, we’ll be back to the article series on improving your magical playing abilities. Until then,

Have a great weekend!

Sammy T