No, the deck's name. What's the deck's name?
Just Orzhov. I guess you could call it B/W Midrange if you want.
Where's the style in that? There has to be a cleverer name than that.
If it were about style, I would've just played the blue deck. If it were about being clever, I would've just played Revelations. I haven't made Top 8 of a Pro Tour in two years. I just want to win.
. . .
It's been not 24 hours since Pro Tour Theros. My new wife, Amanda, and I are staying the rest of the week and making it a second honeymoon of sorts. She says the tradition is to go on a honeymoon each month to celebrate the year you get married. It seems like a pretty big commitment to spend that many days vacationing, but who am I to question tradition.
Fortunately for me, she sleeps about four hours a night longer than I do, so I have high hopes of sneaking in a tournament report over the next couple of nights of vacation . . .
When I arrived in Ireland, the first thing I did was head to the meeting spot we had picked out: a car rental place. Originally, Team StarCityGames.com was supposed to have a bus take us to our castle an hour or so outside of Dublin, but we had canceled it on account of the promise of rental cars at €127/week. Even with an exchange rate of $1.36 to the Euro and having to drive on the left side of the road, it seemed too good to be true.
Of course, that's because it was.
As we traversed the rental-car district of Dublin Airport, we were hollered at from across the way. A medium-sketchy used-car-salesman-turned-rental-car-agent told us we were going to get a car through him. We turned and decided to hear the man's offer out.
What? What the hell are you even talking about? You better be getting us a left-handed Ferrari for that kind of money.
He insisted we wouldn't find a better deal but offered to knock a hundred Euro off his original price point. That was still nowhere near the ballpark of what we had been promised by the Internet. We made our way to the rinky-dink rental outfit that had originally quoted our $127 price but were told when we arrived that they were sold out and that cars would be three times as much.
I'm not even sure what the word "sold out" means in this context, but when I showed them the price we were quoted, I was told that was only if we registered online. I said, "So you have cars, I just need to register online?" She answered in the affirmative, so I sat down and logged into the free public Wi-Fi available in Dublin Airport. Registering with Rinky-Dink Rental was no trouble, and I received a confirmation e-mail saying I was good to go and listing the $127 price.
I walked back to the counter ready to pick up the car I had registered for.
"I'm sorry sir. Online orders take at least 24 hours to process."
What the hell?
. . .
I drove away from Budget with Kai Budde, Gabriel Nassif, Sam Black, and Brad Nelson in tow. It was my first time driving on the left side of the road, so making it a stick shift was a nice way to up the challenge a bit.
Kai and Nassif had not yet formed strong opinions on the format but assumed that control was the starting point given the SCG Opens and the last Pro Tour. Brad liked the R/G Monsters deck he had been tuning. Sam and I had played a lot in New York the previous few days but hadn't fallen head over heels for anything. He was still interested in big-mana Nykthos decks. I wanted a Sphinx's Revelation deck to be the best but had been having the best success with Thoughtseize / Doom Blade decks (most notably B/W).
The origin of B/W was just updating all of the Block decks for Standard. B/W/R was an important Block deck that gained a lot from M14 and Theros—Thoughtseize; Chandra, Pyromaster; Doom Blade; Hero's Downfall; and scry lands to name a few.
One of our early observations was just how bad the mana in Standard is. What makes this particularly interesting is just how good the scry lands are. While most people played twelve shock lands in three-color decks, with a few scry lands I had gotten to the point where I wanted to play all eight (when the colors lined up) even if it meant trimming a shock land.
Still, this doesn't mean the mana is "good." There are a lot of really great gold cards, and having harsh mana requirements in a format this aggressive and fast is dangerous. It's not that you are dead turn 4; it's that before turn 4 players are making big plays to take serious advantages. This is a format where you have to be proactive even if you are controlling.
The mana in the B/W/R deck seemed brutal, so I had been trying each possible deck that involved removing a color. Big-mana Boros missed the discard element too much, as I had found Thoughtseize to be absolutely incredible. Rakdos, in the same vein Gerry Thompson ended up playing, was ok but seemed like a worse B/W. Rakdos's Return, Sire of Insanity, and Dreadbore were just not as compelling of gold cards as Obzedat, Ghost Council; Blood Baron of Vizkopa; and Sin Collector. Chandra was awesome, but so was Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Anger of the Gods was ok, but I was really coming to believe that the format wasn't going to be about that at the Pro Tour.
The problem with B/W was the need for one- and two-mana plays. The natural path is to just play oodles of removal, but then you are starting the game extremely reactively. If you play against a control deck or even a planeswalker-heavy deck, you are going to get murdered.
In building B/W, I remembered how effective Precinct Captain was in Block out of Esper. Noticing another superstar weenie had been added to the format in Soldier of the Pantheon, I decided to try an experiment of having cheap creatures to fill out my early plays. Both Precinct Captain and Soldier of the Pantheon can make excellent early defenders while serving as efficient proactive threats against control.
First strike combined with the threat of counterattack makes the Captain deceptively good at "blocking" even larger creatures like Boros Reckoner (that may decide to stay home if they're alone). The Captain's on-hit trigger ensured that I could just ride one without having to commit more to the board and still force a Supreme Verdict out of control. Once they tapped out, I could drop one of the big threats and finish the job.
Protection from multicolor was particularly compelling as protection from hybrid, making Soldier of the Pantheon an excellent defender against Frostburn Weird, Burning-Tree Emissary, and Rakdos Cackler, not just Fleecemane Lion and Voice of Resurgence. The extra life seems like a tiny bonus, but it really does add up fast, particularly when you factor in how much damage you are preventing by the threat of blocking. All this extra life is converted into real advantage by cards like Thoughtseize and Read the Bones—excellent cards but ones that can add up to a lot of life loss.
My original version also had Fiendslayer Paladin maindeck. It was clear that the deck was going to have trouble with fast red aggro, and the extra life gain was a nice way to offset Thoughtseizes and Read the Bones. It was even kind of nice to stack first strikers, as they do give you another dimension to defense.
When we arrived at the castle (without hitting anything or anyone I might add), we discovered that it was actually larger than advertised. At one point I jokingly guessed it had 23 rooms, only to discover two more that day that brought the total up to actual 23. It's not clear we actually needed that many kitchens, but we certainly made good use of the space and many on the team would say we couldn't have lived without the puppies and the donkeys.
One of the big advantages to testing with so many stone-cold masters of deckbuilding is less pressure on one or two individuals to figure the format out on their own. Gabriel Nassif, Zvi Mowshowitz, Sam Black, Reid Duke, and Brad Nelson are some serious deckbuilders, and that's just scratching the surface. Owen Turtenwald, William Jensen, Jon Finkel, Kai Budde, Matt Costa, Matt Sperling—it's just insane to have that many good deckbuilders looking at ideas.
Because of the amount of talent at our disposal, we examined just about every deck in the format and how it was against every other deck in the format. This let us escape traps—assumptions made early on that could have easily steered us the wrong way. For instance:
- The format is not much different than the Block format.
- Esper defines the format.
- Red aggro is strong.
In reality, the format was shaping up extremely different from Block. Even though most of the best Block decks gained a lot, there were giant holes in Block that just didn't exist in Standard. There were also many "build-around mes" that demanded homes.
Esper was quite good against many brews, but the more we played, the more we determined that Esper just didn't match up well against many of the decks people were playing. If we had just been trying to defeat Esper rather than tune it, we would have easily missed just how many problems it had.
We had figured out before we even got to Ireland that Doom Blade was just nuts in the format. There were just so many completely awesome big creatures, and even against fast decks you wanted Doom Blades to help bridge into the middle game. Doom Blade's biggest weaknesses are decks with all black creatures (and the black creatures didn't seem the most popular) and decks without creatures (which looked worse and worse from testing).
In retrospect, we should have gone even further, using all four maindeck and finding even more to put in the sideboard. I had also originally started with fewer Hero's Downfalls, but the versatility was just too good to skimp on. I would have gladly played five.
Seeing this trend in the B/W deck was not just a matter of tuning it but in revealing the process that others would go through in exploring the format. It seemed pretty clear most people would figure out how good Doom Blade was, which made Desecration Demon; Obzedat, Ghost Council; and Blood Baron of Vizkopa much more appealing. It's not a coincidence that I didn't play a single creature costing more than Doom Blade that could be Doom Bladed.
I was far from locked in on B/W and continued to explore other possible dimensions to the format. I think I made something like 30 different decks (two of which were Grixis), but the deeper I dug, the more it seemed I wanted to be on Thoughtseize / Doom Blade / Hero's Downfall as a strategy.
Look, obviously it would be fun to cast Jace then protect it with a series of well-timed reactive cards, but I very much just wanted to play whatever gave the best chance of winning the tournament—even if it was Mono-Red Aggro. My assessment was this stupid B/W Midrange deck was the best positioned, so even if it was a gloried The Rock deck, I was on board.
By the end of the weekend before the Pro Tour, Nassif and others had determined that the devotion to blue deck was very strong; in fact, if everyone is just playing random decks, it's probably the strongest. I haven't seen the deck-by-deck win percentages from Theros yet, but I would guess that devotion to blue is the best-performing macro-archetype. Three in the Top 4 is obviously big, but it was seriously all over the place at the top tables. I played against it four times (including having to play teammates three times sadly).
Why didn't I play the blue deck? I thought it was good, but I didn't like its control matchups or its black matchups. I was pretty sure we had multiple good decks and that the B/W deck was the best positioned. Some players on the team, myself included, believed there would be a lot of devotion decks of various colors. Both the blue deck and B/W matched up well against other devotion decks, but B/W won the head-to-head, as well as had an edge against Esper.
Esper was important because while it would struggle against some random decks, I thought it was particularly well positioned against the best decks. It even beat most Thoughtseize / Doom Blade decks; it was only because of the Soldier of the Pantheon / Precinct Captain technology that our B/W was able to get edge over Esper, a deck that traditionally beats B/W Midrange decks. It was risky wanting to still beat Esper, but I believed that there was a great chance of having to pass through Esper in order to actually win the event.
The trade-off? B/W has to fight tooth and nail against some creature decks like G/W, while Thassa is literally 90% to win a match against W/G. While I certainly don't mind facing G/W with Orzhov, I would rather just face devotion and control all day, and in fact my record in constructed broke down like so:
- 5-2 vs. God decks
- 2-0 vs. Control
- 0-1 vs. G/W Aggro
A number of people on our team asked me if they were making a huge mistake by playing the blue deck instead of B/W. I had to answer honestly no. I think the B/W deck is a little better positioned, but the blue deck is very good. If it is a mistake, it's not by much, and it may be that enough people miss the blue deck that it's the best place to be.
In the end, we ended up with a dozen people playing Thassa, the deck of the tournament, combining for a 68% match win percentage; our only dissenters, Paul and I on B/W (84% in Swiss) and Brad Nelson on R/G Monsters (70% in Swiss) finished 6th, 9th, and 30th respectively. Without question, I'm happy with our testing process and the conclusions we came to in this format.
Here is the Orzhov deck Paul Rietzl and I played in Dublin this past weekend:
- 1 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
- 4 Desecration Demon
- 4 Precinct Captain
- 2 Sin Collector
- 4 Soldier of the Pantheon
- 3 Obzedat, Ghost Council
Thoughtseize is a very misunderstood card. While it's easy to use Thoughtseize in places where it should not be, it is equally easy to underuse it as well. Thoughtseize is a card that's strength is proportionate to the disparity of value of opposing cards. The card shines in Vintage, where people are using both Ancestral Recall and Lightning Bolt in the same deck, ensuring huge disparities in power level. Besides, when you are fighting a battle over Yawgmoth's Will, nothing else matters, and taking the Yawgmoth's Will or Force of Will that would have stopped yours is massive.
Conversely, there have been plenty of Extended/Modern formats where Thoughtseize is merely fine. When people's decks are all good general-purpose cards, there isn't always that much difference between their Tarmogoyfs and Scavenging Oozes, their Abrupt Decays and their Terminates, their Thoughtseizes and their Inquisition of Kozileks.
Standard is at a spot where Thoughtseize is absolutely incredible. Everyone's decks have cards of wildly differing power levels. Devotion to blue decks are basically Thassa, God of the Sea and Master of Waves plus 52 cards that are nowhere near as good. Esper relies very heavily on Jace, Architect of Thought and Sphinx's Revelation. Without one, it's just a bunch of Doom Blades. Green Devotion is a deck with a few planeswalkers and a lot of filler. Even Orzhov, a midrange deck that may look like it has no key cards, relies heavily on Desecration Demon and to a lesser extent Obzedat, Ghost Council.
Do you sideboard out Thoughtseize in some matchups? Absolutely. Against fast red aggro or G/W Aggro, it's just not worth the life loss. However, even in those matchups it's not completely dead game 1, particularly when we have life gain from Soldier of the Pantheon, Obzedat, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, and Whip of Erebos.
Speaking of Desecration Demon, that card is a beast right now. In the world of extremes where most people are all creatures or all spells, Desecration Demon shines. Opponents with all creatures have very few creatures that can compare to a 6/6 flier for four. If you can trade one-for-one enough times, opponents run out of resources, and you just end up with a 6/6 that trumps any one creature an opponent could draw.
Opponents with all spells are less bad off, but it is still a six-power threat for four mana that can't be easily burnt or Doom Bladed. Rietzl and I boarded some number out against control all weekend, but that was only because we had even better threats after board and wanted to win an attrition game against them.
Desecration Demon is particularly good with the addition of Theros because Thoughtseize is effective at hitting the one card your opponent had that could have stopped the Demon, and Hero's Downfall is the perfect solution to problematic planeswalkers that would otherwise feed the Demon indefinitely such as Xenagos, the Reveler; Elspeth, Sun's Champion; and Garruk, Caller of Beasts.
Obzedat and Blood Baron are a result of needing more finishers to put away the game after we one-for-one for a while. With so much fewer card draw and far less ability to protect our bombs, we need a greater quantity of them. Besides, they all do a great job of helping us establish a board position. We played a 3-1 split simply because Obzedat is a stronger card and better in the format but didn't want four Obzedats because of the legend rule combined with a desire to be able to board into two Blood Barons against some decks.
The Elspeth, Sun's Champion gives us yet another way to close out the game with a bomb while opening up some new dimensions. It gives us a sort of sweeper against R/G while also offering us a chance to catch up against opponents that get far ahead of us. It's also nice to be able to just flood the board with tokens and then win in the air when she goes ultimate on her fourth turn.
Playing a second would not be out of the question, but we can only play so many expensive cards. The bar is much higher for spells that cost six when we have so little card draw. Still, the second copy in the sideboard is much appreciated against R/G Monsters, devotion to green, and devotion to red (matchups where Blood Baron of Vizkopa is outclassed by creatures too big to brawl with).
Rounding out our creature selection are the Sin Collectors, a creature I would normally have wanted four of (and in fact started with more of), but after we got more of a feel for the format, we cut back on it. They are fine against red and G/W and obviously incredible against control, but they are not what you want against any of the Devotion decks. In fact, if I played B/W in Louisville, I might want Banisher Priest instead, moving the Sin Collectors to the sideboard.
Having access to them is important because the card Sphinx's Revelation is brutally effective against us. Having lots of ways to attack it forces opponents to play a "fair" game against us, and with so many potent threats, we will often stick one against an opponent whose hand has been stripped, leaving them just a couple turns to draw out of it. Some percentage of the time they will, but enough of the time they won't.
The spell suite is pretty straightforward, and I would have happily played four of each had we had the room. Trimming a Doom Blade was a hedge in case we were wrong about the metagame, but if I could do it again, I am confident all four should be maindeck. Trimming the Read the Bones was painful, but we had to make room somewhere and drawing the second Read the Bones is much less good than the first against aggro.
As for the Whip of Erebos, it was the last change to the deck and added by Paul Rietzl. I had built lots of decks with one Whip of Erebos and already knew the card was an overperformer from my experiences with it in Limited. Still, I had neglected to use one here, thinking it was too fancy and this was a simple deck that was basically the antithesis of fancy.
Still, Rietzl insisted we try one, drew it twice in testing, and declared he was certainly playing it. I trust his instincts a great deal, particularly given how rarely he has such strong positions. After ten rounds of Swiss with the card, I can safely say he was right. I would not have wanted a second copy, but the one we had gave us powerful angles of attack that no other card would have.
The most exciting Whip of Erebos game was definitely in my match against devotion to green (similar to what Mihara played). My opponent had a Garruk, Caller of Beasts; a Domri Rade; and seven cards in hand with a high life total. I had no board, nothing in hand, and was almost dead. I assumed the game was nearly over, but I drew my card for the turn and a smile crept across my face.
I played the Whip and activated it immediately, returning Obzedat, Ghost Council to play. Obzedat attacked Garruk, solving my most pressing problem. The seven life I had just gained gave me a bit of breathing room to begin to mount a comeback. At the end of the turn, I used Obzedat's ability, which satisfied the Whip's condition. At the beginning of my next upkeep, I got to return Obzedat and keep it. As long as Obzedat doesn't die the turn you Whip it back, you can keep bringing it back as many times as you want no matter how many times your opponent might kill it.
The following turn I Whipped a Lifebane Zombie into play, taking my opponent's Arbor Colossus and killing Domri Rade. Over the course of the next several turns, I gained over sixty life from the Whip, brought back Obzedat three times, and fought through something like fifty power's worth of different creatures.
As awesome as the Whip is, you still board it out in some matchups. The most common time to cut it is when you cut some number of Obzedats. Without the Obzedat combo, the card does become much weaker. Blood Baron already has lifelink, and Desecration Demon is prone to getting tapped rather than dealing any damage. That said, Whip of Erebos can be quite good with the Demon, as it completely forces opponents to start tapping the Demon immediately rather than take two hits first.
Whip of Erebos is also a little loose against devotion to red and devotion to blue. The matchups can be very tempo based, and the Whip a little too slow. The life gain is nice, but those decks can get so big fast that they can just overpower it.
Where Whip really shines is against control or any kind of highly interactive deck. If someone is trying to kill your creatures but can't remove the Whip, it will singlehandedly win a lot of games just because of the recursion it provides. If anyone ever played a Whip of Erebos against us, we'd basically be drawing dead to it.
The mana base was not always so clean, and not surprisingly we started with fewer Orzhov Guildgates; however, missing playing on curve was just too brutal in this format. While we have Read the Bones to bridge to Desecration Demon and Obzedats, we need to have our mana worked out before then. A control deck can wait on its second white until turn 4 after Divination or Jace, Architect of Thought. Orzhov needs to have double white on turn 2 because Precinct Captain's utility drops pretty quickly after that.
Unfortunately, we can't overload the white mana too hard with Plains because we still need to play Hero's Downfall on turn 3 and Desecration Demon on turn 4. The result? We are playing absolutely every single dual land we can, accepting that a lot of turn 1s are going to be spent playing a tapped land rather than a Soldier of the Pantheon or a Thoughtseize.
That is part of the beauty of those two two-drops though. Both are very effective two-drops, letting us play yet another tapped land. Perhaps we play them turn 3 along with a Doom Blade or turn 4 after a Read the Bones. Unlike Precinct Captain, Soldier of the Pantheon holds its value pretty well because often all its doing is holding off a two- or three-mana gold creature.
With 26 lands, there is a very real risk of flooding out. Read the Bones helps, but really what we want are enemy-colored man lands. As pleasant of a dream as that is, the world we live in is one with just Mutavault in this department. When Rietzl showed up to the castle, I had three. The first thing he did was shave one for the fourth Guildgate. An expert on W/x Aggro mana bases, Rietzl pointed out just how devastating it was when we missed and how much we'd be willing to pay to smooth the mana out just a bit.
After an evening of testing, he was persuasive in arguing to cut another for an extra Swamp, with an eye on the last one. He agreed it was very good, but our biggest weakness was our mana base. This is the price we paid for Precinct Captain into Hero's Downfall. Looking back, I think one was the perfect number due to diminishing returns, though a second wouldn't be wrong by that much and actually starts getting good if enough people play control.
I was generally happy with the sideboard, although I never used Fiendslayer Paladin. That was a blessing, though, as we knew fast red aggro was our worst matchup. In retrospect, I probably overvalued the Paladin a little, having spent so much time testing against the hyperaggro version with tons of small creatures and no Fanatic of Mogis. Once we switched to the Fanatic version, the Paladin looked less good due to Fanatic punishing ground stalls and Boros Reckoner going over the top of it.
The only real glaring oversight in the sideboard was the lack of Banisher Priests. That card would have been absolutely amazing for us all weekend. It's the perfect card against all of the Devotion decks, which have little hope of removing it. It has tons of opportunity to trade up and can even exile a god. In addition to being such a great tool against Devotion decks, it is an extremely effective weapon against G/W, absolutely crippling token-based strategies. Finally, although significantly less good against R/G with Domri, Polukranos, and a little burn to undo its work, not to mention Stormbreath Dragon having protection from white, it is still a viable option, particularly given how unimpressive Obzedat and Blood Baron are in the matchup.
The sideboard itself is pretty straightforward. Sin Collector lets us increase our discard package against decks where Doom Blade isn't so hot. One Duress would have been nice, but we just ran out of room.
Pithing Needle gave us another answer to planeswalkers, and frankly I would have liked a second copy. Again, we had space constraints, but here I think we may have wanted to make the room even if it meant hard cuts. It is just too important against all of the various R/G decks to stop Domri, Xenagos, Garruk, and Chandra. That it also has utility against Jace, Ashiok, and Elspeth is a happy bonus.
Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Elspeth, Sun's Champion help us tune our late game to be more appropriate for our specific opponent rather than just brute forcing them with expensive cards. Elspeth is the best when it's -3 ability is good and a fine option against anyone you don't want Blood Baron or Obzedat against. Blood Baron is specifically for matches where you want the protection or where every single drop of life gain is needed. Obzedat is the default best kill card, generally coming out against G/W (sometimes keeping one) and whenever we have enough good cards to bring in to shave copies against other kinds of green decks where fatty creatures are only so-so.
The Underworld Connections gives us an additional angle of attack against control but can also come in against R/G and other decks where we play a particularly one-for-one game. Given the highly tempo-based game we are trying to play, it is not as good here as it would be in many other places, hence only a single copy.
The Lifebane Zombies were absolutely awesome all weekend, another Paul Rietzl contribution. I had cut them, unsure of where we really needed them, but Rietzl argued we could cut the Glares of Heresy if we had enough spot removal to bring in and Lifebane Zombies for power. Moving forward, I think I'd want all four and certainly at least three.
Finally, we filled the deck out with a variety of spot removal, as I noted that all we really wanted was a lot more Doom Blades. Sadly, I did not think of Banisher Priest, but Last Breath, Devour Flesh, and Pharika's Cure were all still decent. This is just a great format for removal, particularly when facing Devotion decks.
After six weeks on the road in the last nine, I was ready for a break this weekend; however, a ninth-place finish carries with it fifteen Pro Points and an opportunity to make a move on a World Championship invite. With the new GP rule that only counts your top five, players that can't attend every single GP actually have a real shot now, so I am inclined to go to more GPs than I otherwise would. Besides, GP Louisville is Standard, and there aren't too many more of those this year, so I am going to try to make it if I can change my schedule.
I want to take a look at the stats from the weekend before making a decision, but if Louisville were tomorrow, here is what I'd play:
- 3 Banisher Priest
- 4 Desecration Demon
- 4 Precinct Captain
- 4 Soldier of the Pantheon
- 3 Obzedat, Ghost Council
While I think Orzhov was a great metagame call for this past weekend, I do think it will stand the test of time as a regular fixture in the metagame. It won't always necessarily be high tier 1 and may need to be rebuilt as the metagame evolves, but in a world of Gods and control, it has its strengths.
Major thanks to Team StarCityGames.com for such an incredible testing process. Zvi was a major asset despite not being able to attend, keeping our list organized and the information we knew about the format processed.
Nassif rebuilt my B/W deck after being impressed with it, instantly improving it (such as removing the Paladins from the main). Kai played stock decks against it for hours after settling in on the blue deck. Brad and Sperling had valuable insights for how to give it the best anti-R/G sideboard plan possible, including the second Elspeth.
Reid, Owen, and Huey battled me with everything from Mono-Red Aggro to U/W but more importantly played all of the matchups in the format, providing much of the information we used to construct our picture of the metagame.
Costa contributed big time despite having a nerve injury that impaired his ability to actually play cards for very long. His constant birding and insightful questions and suggestions improved all of our versions of the decks in the field, leading to a better understanding of what decks would look like rather than a bunch of outdated or inbred lists.
Sam was a huge asset in the early stages of B/W when we camped out in NYC for a couple of days and brainstormed about the format. He is no stranger to B/W decks and had a lot of good ideas, such as not being afraid to embrace Read the Bones and white aggro creatures in the same deck and pushing for us to have more big threats than we originally had.
Jon was a powerful force in testing, providing not only strong opposition but also contributing big to tuning the Thassa deck and helping educate those of us that were not as successful in early drafts. I started out 0-9 and was 2-13 before finally managing a winning record in a draft. Jon was instrumental in figuring out the Limited format, which by the way I absolutely love. It kind of reminds me of a less weird Rise of the Eldrazi. In the Pro Tour itself, I went 5-1 in Limited, with Finkel, Rietzl, Sperling, Huey, Reid, and Black each teaching me at least one major lesson that I used during the event.
Tom Martell and Gaudenis Vidugiris were unable to attend this one early but are always strong players and real team players, helping teammates test their matchups, getting a read on the field, and making sure everyone has everything they need and everything is alright.
Finally, last among teammates but certainly not least, I am extremely grateful for Paul Rietzl's ideas, energy, and enthusiasm. He believed in the Orzhov deck despite most of the team being on Thassa, and having someone invested involved in last-minute tuning made a world of difference. If not for him, I am confident my finish would not have been so good despite how lucky I got throughout the weekend.
I also want to thank StarCityGames.com for putting us up in the castle. It was a lot of fun and made for a great work environment. Ireland is an absolutely beautiful country, and getting to experience it this way added a lot of memories and enjoyment.
Now I'm off to Dublin Castle with Amanda. Maybe I'll see you in Kentucky. Thanks again for all of the Standard suggestions and for all of the positive energy this weekend. What do you make of Theros' metagame and what would you play this weekend?
Until next time, may you always know when to put away the toys and get down to business when you want to get stuff done . . .