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August 19, 2015

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Demonic Pact at the Pro Tour

As a casual observer of the standings at Pro Tour Origins, you might say that my event didn’t go according to plan, but in truth, it kind of did.

This season has been filled with a whole lot of personal success. I had a good mix of Grand Prix results, and a good showing at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, which was good enough to get me to Silver status, and qualify me for Pro Tour Origins and the first two Pro Tours of next year (October and February). But because I acquired my points so late in the season, there was a very little opportunity to aim for Gold unless I did well in Vancouver, so I stopped playing until about a month before the event. Giving me plenty of time to get practiced and learn everything there was to know about both the draft format and the constructed meta game.

Testing was reasonably productive, I learned a lot from it personally. I understood very quickly what archetypes stood out and what strengths and weaknesses each possessed, but really found it difficult to identify which deck was going to give me the best opportunity to hit my very ambitious goal. Because I had so much to gain by shooting for the moon and trying to put up a top 16 performance (in order to hit gold) I managed to justify to myself that I should not be playing a known deck like Abzan at the Pro Tour despite my win of the MDSS in Ottawa just the week before. While I was certain that the deck was still good despite all of the changes going on in Standard as a result of Magic Origins, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to take a chance, and risk playing a deck that was both unknown and had the possibility of being much better than I thought it to be.

With much hesitance and regret, this is what I played at Pro Tour Origins..

Sultai Demonic Pact – Dan Lanthier

Lands: (24)
Polluted Delta
Temple of Malady
Swamp
Forest
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Temple of Deceit
Opulent Palace
Temple of Mystery
Yavimaya Coast
Llanowar Wastes

Creatures: (14)
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Den Protector
Satyr Wayfinder
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Spells: (22)
Demonic Pact
Thoughtseize
Disperse
Hero’s Downfall
Languish
Silumgar’s Command
Sultai Charm
Dig Through Time
Murderous Cut

Sideboard: (15)
Feed the Clan
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
Drown in Sorrow
Treasure Cruise
Ultimate Price
Duress
Disdainful Stroke
Negate
Sultai Charm

I was not impressed with this deck while preparing for the event, and that feeling continued tenfold into the actual event itself. But if there is a silver lining to be had, I think it has a lot of cool things going for it, and it’s VERY fun to play (so I had a good time losing). The guys that I did most of my preparation with felt that this deck had a lot of potential, and had a decent or favourable matchup against Abzan and Green Devotion, so while they were generally exciting and open to the idea of playing this deck at the event, I merely decided that I didn’t have anything else that I was particularly excited for and gave it a shot.

At first glance, this deck might look a little strange, and you’d be correct. It’s designed to take advantage of all of Demonic Pacts powerful modes without actually falling victim to the fourth option. It functions as a tap out control deck, not particularly interested in fighting over enemy spells, but more interested in grinding out long games and winning off of the tremendous amounts of card advantage that you can generate off of Demonic Pact, as well as Den Protector and Jace. The Disperse’s and Silumgar’s Commands were reasonably underwhelming, but I don’t think you can truly afford to play a deck built around Demonic Pact without making some sacrifices in card quality in other places.

While it didn’t serve me well in the main event, and in truth, didn’t serve any of us particularly well, I do think there is a lot of potential in a deck built around the enchantment moving forward. Perhaps once Theros block leaves standard and the power level of the format settles down, there could be a world where a deck like this becomes tier 1 or tier 1.5. The deck is very complicated to play as every game you are playing with fire just to squeak out small advantages here and there with the enchantment, but you’ll likely find that just having access to Demonic Pact as your decks engine allows you to do some pretty wild things.

Looking back at it all now, I do have some amount of regret that I took the gamble that I did. It would have been incredibly unlikely for me to put up a truly great result with any of the tools that I personally had available to me but there’s something to be said about the satisfaction of putting up merely a good result at a Pro Tour. My first several Pro Tours I felt woefully underprepared and outmatched due to how I approached them, but the last 4-5 that I’ve attended I’ve felt that I have what it takes to compete and put up solid finishes and doing any less than that has started to feel a little bit like a waste.

All of that being said, I’m starting off this season with invites to the first two events (Milwaukee and Atlanta) and I hope to hit a handful of Grand Prix in between. It’s a brand new season moving forward so I can quite literally put everything about this event behind me and look at a brand new start in the fall. Hopefully I can put up the necessary finishes this year to keep the ball rolling, and make this the best professional season of my Mtg career.