Uggh. It's too early to get up for Day 2. Must go back to sleep.
Okay, in retrospect, I probably should gotten dinner. I guess this is the part of trying to sleep off the depression that comes back to bite you. Or at least one of the parts.
Okay, maybe it's like five, or something. I'll just get an early breakfast. No biggie.
Hrmm. I see. Well, that's pretty early. Maybe I can get up, go get some food, and then come back and get another round of sleep.
I stepped out the door of my cheap motel room, an unexpected replacement for the super-double-oversold site hotel that's only sort of a site hotel now that there's no platinum hotel. The cool desert air was refreshing, despite the waft of stale cigarette-laden air from the alley and nearby park.
Why does the empty park smell so much like stale cigarettes, anyway?
I had brought my phone, but at the moment, I just couldn't bring myself to open it. What would I search for?
What if anyone had messaged me?
What if no one had?
Two blocks in a random direction later, I was knee-deep in what appeared to be a very Southwestern bar district. Police walked down the middle of the street, traveling in packs of three. The establishments blurred together, their patrons spilling over into the streets, with no synergy and no regard for signals, the draft well on its way to a complete trainwreck.
As I approached, I could tell something was wrong. Metal bars? What sort of a 7-Eleven was this?
It looked sort of closed, but in a fashion that appeared only mostly closed.
Maybe they were closing soon?
When I reached the door, the sign read "Open 24 Hours," but the lights were off, the door locked, not a soul in sight. At least not inside this empty husk.
I debated for a moment the prospect of using a phone, but the same ominous questions lingered. No good could come of that. It's not the most satisfying of all the ignorant blisses, but like not knowing when you will die, it's easier than the alternative.
A few more blocks and I caught myself.
How long had I been falling into that abyss?
Is it even fair to describe as falling, when the torment is so indulgent?
Homeless people. Breakdancers. Drunks wandering into traffic.
+1: Revealing the top card…
Okay, I can handle pizza. Now.
Two slices, each the sizes of clown shoes, and I struggled to keep my mind on track. Day 2 of the Pro Tour, tomorrow!
As I began my trek back in the general direction I had wandered from, my mind turned to the deck I had played in the Pro Tour, W/R Approach.
It wasn't totally clear to me why I had chosen to play this strategy instead of U/B Control. I didn't regret it at all. I was just curious, as it seemed a bit surprising to me, given U/B Control had a reasonable Energy matchup, which I expected to be about half the field. I could play a U/B Control deck in my sleep. Why play something like this?
Can't the deck just have been good enough?
Maybe, though I'm not sure what "good enough" even means. It is pretty unlikely that it was the choice for optimizing my win percentage for this event, however. Energy seemed like the best deck, but there's so much play to it, I didn't want to have to face nothing but mirrors against substantially better-prepared players. U/B Control, however? That seemed like a pretty good deck, and one I'd play reasonably well.
Sometimes, you just want to feel something.
The deck above was the result of playing some games with Josh Utter-Leyton, piloting the W/R Approach deck Adam Bialkowski piloted to a 10th place finish at US Nationals, a few weeks ago.
The deck was super-cool with lots of great ideas. I quickly added more mana, brought the curve down, and was enjoying the challenge of tweaking, tuning, trying to make a new archetype work. I guess there's my answer.
I absolutely love Treasure Map on basically every level. It's flavorful, immensely satisfying. Very dynamic turn to turn, game to game. Its power level is basically perfect for the experience it presents. There's so much gameplay to it, but it's never overwhelming. One of my favorite cards of all time.
As for its place here, I very much stand by it. "What about Abrade?" they'd say. However, if they spend their early turn doing that, that's not so bad. If I ever get to scry with it, I'm doing all right, and besides, they don't always have it.
The ability to smooth your draws early and then get a big return on your investment in the form of a potential four-for-one (since the land is a card itself) is a deceptively potent way to go over the top of people in the mid-game without playing quite as many clunky four- and five-drops. Plus, the acceleration into a quick Approach of the Second Sun is a big game.
Sunbird's Invocation is a powerful card draw engine that not only draws you an extra card each time you play a spell, it gives you selection and a powerful mana advantage. It takes very few hits for Sunbird's Invocation to completely run away with the game. Just remember, it is mandatory, so don't ruin your Approach by putting it on the bottom!
I had tried Vance's Blasting Cannons, but it drew me an extra card less than half the turns. Not only does it miss on land, it misses on Settle the Wreckage, sometimes on removal, and sometimes flipping Sunbirds or Approach without mana to play them. It was very hard to flip, and sometimes I didn't even want it to, as it would just be destroyed by Field of Ruin.
I wanted to like Huatli, Warrior Poet, but she just didn't have enough impact on the battlefield to justify the cost. I didn't typically have any creatures Game 1, so the lifegain would only be fueled by her, and when I made tokens, they just ate removal spells. She's also just so vulnerable to Glorybringer.
I very much did not love turning on my opponents' Essence Scatters Game 1. Besides, how many expensive cards can I play?
While the conventional wisdom was that Solemnity was the way to hit the Energy decks hard, some games with former US National champion Michael Jacob suggested to me that it wasn't as impactful as I'd like, particularly if they're playing The Scarab God.
I tried a variety of sideboard plans, starting with Adam's sideboard and experimenting with all kinds of proactive threats, including even attempting to transform into W/R Vehicles.
While my Game 1 percentage against Energy was great, I was really struggling after sideboarding. MJ suggested Tocatli Honor Guard, arguing that it was an underrated weapon in Standard that was sort of a Solemnity for a mana cheaper, but also one that stopped Rogue Refiner from drawing a card. Besides, somebody's got to block Whirler Virtuoso.
Very quickly, I saw he was right. While I did end up hedging a little, I think I would cut the Solemnity moving forward. People are already bringing in Appetite for the Unnatural anyway because of all the Cast Outs and Bindings and Sunbirds and so on.
While I was initially quite skeptical of Captain Lannery Storm, she quickly revealed herself to be basically the best sideboard threat you could ask for against U/B Control. Now, granted, that matchup seems to be going away, and she's less good against people with Harnessed Lightning, Abrade, and Chandra's Defeat rather than Fatal Push and Vraska's Contempt, but I'm not sure she should be counted out yet. The mana advantage is actually just excellent, and I actually found moderate success using her against Energy lists, especially on the play.
I think I'd be interested in trying Scavenger Grounds instead of Field of Ruin, considering the overwhelming popularity of The Scarab God. It's not that we don't have answers. We've got tons. It's just that we could use even more. It has a profound impact on the game and can undo almost all of our advantages very quickly, not to mention being the one card that really punishes us for Settle the Wreckage.
Maybe we could try something like:
Sure, sure. Can we get back to dwelling on the endless upwelling of sadness now?
The most impressive Approach deck of the weekend was definitely Guillaume Matignon's (and Guillaume Wafo-Tapa's) Jeskai Approach deck. In true Guillaume fashion, it's a much purer control deck than most versions of the strategy aspire to be.
As is so often the case with the Guillaumes' decks, there's a lot to take in from the decklist.
Glimmer of Genius makes total sense, particularly with Harnessed Lightning, but Opt over Hieroglyphic Illumination is kind of interesting. Obviously, it's a little easier to use with Approach of the Second Sun, but it's also sacrificing a little mid- and late-game power for a small boost early. Approach of the Second Sun goes over the top of everybody anyway, so no biggie.
I knew I could count on the Guillaumes to bring back Pull from Tomorrow. Torrential Gearhulk is still great, and Pull still doesn't work with it, but I absolutely would have loved to have access to Pull from Tomorrow in my W/R Approach deck. Sure, it can get Negated, but it's such a powerful way to take over the game against midrange decks, like Energy, that I wanted to find a way to splash it.
There's a lot I don't know, but I can tell you one that's for sure. I know it makes all the difference in the world, the people who walk up and introduce themselves, who care. The friends who reach out, who are happy to see you. The passionate people who spend months and years making a game for millions, and then endure a never-ending barrage of focus on mistakes and misses. The people sharing positive energy, and the people with patience.
Most of all, the love. It makes a big difference.