I'm going to Worlds! Wait, what I mean to say is I'm going to Worlds for the fourth time in a row! Words can't describe how good I'm feeling right now. This will be the seventh installment of the most prestigious Magic tournament ever held, and after this year I'll have played in it more times than not! Five-years-ago Brad could only dream of competing in this tournament. "Maybe one day," he would tell himself as he watched 24 of the best Magic players in the world duke it out for a chance at glory. Every year I tell myself there's no way I'm going to make it, but for these past four years I've found a way to prove myself wrong. I'm going to Worlds!
Pro Tour 25th Anniversary wasn't all upside though. Team Genesis ended up right where we started which was in 5th place, finishing with zero prizes. It was sad, because we did in fact pass the teams we were trying to, but two others passed all of us. I would be lying if I didn't say it hurt as we were one of the two teams who competed in Team Worlds last year, and even started this season off in first place thanks to teammate Seth Manfield winning Pro Tour Ixalan. We gave it our all though, which is all I can ask. I guess there's always next year.
I'm getting ahead of myself though. Earlier this week I wrote an article before the event even took place. I always love writing about what happened before the events themselves, but the content always seems to get tainted through retrospective analysis. This time, however, I took the time to write about the tournament before competing in it, but still couldn't post the article until the event had concluded as it could potentially jeopardize myself and my teammates.
Anyway, let's start off right where we left off.
It was Thursday night as Seth, Brian, and I were talking about our upcoming tournament. All three of us were excited to compete in the event as we all felt extremely prepared for it. A little nervous perhaps as Seth didn't get as many reps in with the "newish" version of U/R Storm in Modern, but Brian and I had all the faith in the world that Seth would carry us to Worlds. Seth was going on about how he would feel really discouraged if we started the event 0-2 or something, but Brian and I consoled him by explaining to him how the two of us almost always start Pro Tours with this bad of a record (or worse), but often rally back for a strong finish.
He was not consoled.
Well fast forward to round three we found ourselves 0-2. A couple more rounds later we were 1-3. A very discouraged 1-3. You see, I wasn't winning. "Master of Standard" be damned, I was not performing. I lost every die roll, rarely drew the lands I needed to deploy my spells, and pretty much everything that could be going wrong, was. Part of me wanted to feel like I was letting my team down, but the rational side knew I was getting the blunt end of some sick variance. In fact, I only won two rounds on day one. That's right: the guy you all come to for Standard advice finished the day at 2-5! Luckily my teammates helped carry me into day two with a 4-3 record, but we weren't that thrilled about it.
Team tournaments are so hit or miss for me. When the three of us crushed GP Toronto earlier this year, I was having a blast. Probably because all three of us were winning, but it seems shallow to think the only way to have fun at an event is to win, right? Well, no. Winning is all that matters at big tournaments like the Pro Tour. There's enough Grand Prix in a season to do poorly at some, but the same can't be said about Pro Tours. This event had become the only way for Brian and I to make it to Worlds and for Seth to find his way back to claiming Player of the Year. Well, we thought Player of the Year was decided last weekend, but that's a whole different story. This event was also my last shot at clenching a fourth Pro Tour Sunday, which would make it much easier to get through this Hall of Fame voting season, especially after I effectively punted away a Top 8 at Pro Tour Dominaria only a couple months ago. These events are high pressure, and I don't know if the world watching truly gets what pros go through while the event is still in process.
My teammates did a great job on day one. At least one of them won a match each round, which meant that if I had been winning we could have been in a much better position. I scoured my brain for moments in the event where I could have won games, but to my dismay I couldn't find them. I hate blaming variance and would much rather blame myself, but I couldn't. I could only hope that the next day would go better.
And it did.
We ended up going 4-2 leading up to the last round of the day. Behind us sat PGO, better known as Reid Duke, Owen Turtenwald, and William "Huey" Jensen, who also had the same 8-5 record we did. Both teams needed to win the round to put people into Worlds. PGO needed the win for Huey to make it, and we needed the win for both Brian and I to make it. Luckily, none of us would be taking each others slots as there was more than enough room for all of us if we obtained these last rounds' points.
My opponent for the final round was Jacob Baugh.
Let me rephrase, as that sentence did not convey the magnitude of the situation.
My opponent for the final round was my arch-nemesis: Jacob Baugh. Why is Jacob Baugh my arch-nemesis, you ask? He beat me in the 2016 StarCityGames Players' Championship. He cost me the glory of winning the event for a second time. The same goes for Jim Davis as he beat me the year prior. He cost me the right to say Baugh cost me the glory of winning the event for a third time. Why must I write this in such a convoluted way? Well, for most things in my life now, I blame Jacob Baugh. He's the reason I'm not a better writer, just like he's the reason I'm not a three-time Players' Champion. Now he wants to be the reason I don't go to Worlds.
What sick motivations does this monster have?
I win the die roll, and look at this hand.
I put Jacob on playing Mono-Green Aggro, which made this hand a reasonable keep, but he surprised me by leading on Fetid Pools. Does this mean he's playing Grixis Midrange? Maybe he's gone rogue? Surely he didn't specifically bring Esper Control just to crush my dreams once again by playing my worst matchup in the room!
Of course you played Esper Control, Jacob Baugh!
Luckily for me the top two cards on my deck were a second copy of Bomat Courier followed by my one copy of Pia Nalaar. A few points of chip damage here and a few more there, and all of a sudden Jacob Baugh lost game 1 after I resolved my Chandra, Torch of Defiance.
The second game was actually a repeat of the first. I started on two copies of Bomat Courier while sequencing Canyon Slough as my second land drop, followed up by Pia Nalaar on turn 3, which didn't get countered. After that I deployed a couple Scrapheap Scroungers and the game was over. Jacob extended his hand in defeat, and I started to really think about it. Jacob Baugh is actually one of the nicest guys I've ever met, and I should really look inward to figure out why I've had so much animosity towards him for these past two years.
I guess my heart only has room for one arch-nemesis after all, and Jim Davis is still the embodiment of all evil and all that's wrong in this World.
I quickly pack up my things and rush over to see how my boy BBD is doing. The action is palpable as I sit down to figure out where we are at in our Legacy game 3. Resolving is our Surgical Extraction on our opponent's Griselbrand. Our opponent has three lands, one being Boseiju, Who Shelters All, another land in hand along with one copy of Emrakul, the Eons Torn. I look towards Brian's graveyard to confirm my suspicions, and yes Tourach, was called upon multiple times. Now I get a look at Brian's hand which includes a third land, Force of Will, a blue card ready to be exiled, and our one copy of Ensnaring Bridge. Brian picks up our opponent's library, and the two of us excitedly look through it as we both know there's a chance we've locked up our Worlds invite.
Three cards on our mind. None in the deck. In fact, nothing that can interact with Ensnaring Bridge at all, and I jump out of my chair in excitement once we know it's locked up! Our opponent knows it as well, and graciously extends the hand. Brian and I are going to Worlds!
Sadly though, the same cannot be said for our practice teammates for the event. PGO lost their last match which not only cost Huey Platinum, but also a chance to go back to Worlds to defend his title. This will make it it back-to-back years where the defending champion is not in attendance, and I think that's appalling. I'm not going to get into this again though, as anyone who follows me on Twitter already knows where I stand on this issue.
Long story short, we finished with a respectable 9-5 finish which was good enough to get us into individual Worlds, but that's about it. I wouldn't say the event was a bust per se, but it wasn't what we expected after putting so much work into the event itself. We should have tested more against the R/B Vengevine deck that seemed to do well in the event, and we completely missed Bant Nexus in Standard. All things considered though we were happy with our preparation and our final lists. Standard just seemed like a high variance format where we got stuck playing the best deck which didn't alleviate that. It seemed like we all went 50-50ish in the R/B Aggro mirrors which wasn't a surprise, but wasn't what we hoped for. I still think our list was great though.
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 2 Glorybringer
- 4 Goblin Chainwhirler
- 2 Soul-Scar Mage
- 3 Hazoret the Fervent
- 2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
- 1 Pia Nalaar
Moving forward in Standard might be a challenge. It seems like people didn't jump on Mono-Blue Outcome as hard as we thought they might have, but some of the best players in the game did decide to play the deck at the Pro Tour. I believe they got punished for those decisions, and I assume there will be little of the deck moving forward. That would allow Mono-Red Aggro to become a great choice as that deck is a favorite in the Chainwhirler mirrors. Bant Nexus might also be the next hyped deck which means anyone playing red should look towards this card to help them fight through the fog.
This is the deck I would be most interested in playing if I were going to Florida this weekend. That or U/W Control, as I still don't think enough people will target the strategy given how many distractions are currently in the format.
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 2 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Goblin Chainwhirler
- 2 Rekindling Phoenix
- 4 Soul-Scar Mage
- 4 Hazoret the Fervent
- 2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
Mono-Red Aggro comes with a slew of issues against other decks, but does one thing well: beats up on R/B Aggro. Not as much as one would hope, but just enough to justify the choice. I do not want to play this matchup when on the R/B Aggro side even though I maindeck Magma Spray and play three Hazoret the Fervent, myself. It's just too difficult to keep up with the speed of a deck like this in the mirrors.
Mono-Red Aggro isn't really what most of you will want to play though. I know many of you will just be playing R/B Aggro no matter what you read this week, and most likely you'll have the best deck in the room. As of right now I don't really know what I'd change from the list we played at the Pro Tour as many of the card choices you have are judgment calls. There's only a few that I know I'm sure about.
Don't put this card in your deck. It sucks. You know it sucks, because no one in the history of playing this deck has ever finished an event and said to themselves, "wow, Doomfall was great all tournament!" Instead, I bet the card was decent once or twice, and horrific every other time it was cast. Almost all of my opponents playing R/B Aggro cast it against me this past weekend, and each time it was horrible! I mean, worse than anything else it could have been.
Now I get it. Doomfall is a great card to put in the sideboard of this deck to make you feel like you can sideboard in every matchup, but playing a terrible card in every matchup sounds like the worst thing you can possibly do! Honestly just throwing the 26th land in the sideboard and bringing that in every matchup might be a better choice as I, for one, can say I lost multiple games to not having a fifth land for my Glorybringers. Doomfall is wasted space!
That's the issue with R/B Aggro right now. It's difficult to make room for everything you'd need for every matchup. At the Pro Tour I really wanted a third Cut//Ribbons, but decided to play the third Unlicensed Disintegration over it so I would have a strong sideboard against the control matchups. I could have taken out one of the two Hour of Glory, but found them to be very good in the Chainwhirler mirrors. It was very difficult to find room for everything, and I didn't want to take out the fourth Duress to make room for something as I assumed I would want them even if I didn't know exactly why. Turbo Fog showed up, and U/W Control won the tournament so I guess it was correct to keep all four Duress in the deck.
I don't think there is a perfect way to build R/B Aggro right now. The metagame will ebb and flow these next couple weeks, and it will be difficult to know exactly where you should be until the event itself. I'll do my best to help you out next week after we see what happens at Grand Prix Orlando, but for now it's up to you. I will say I did like our list, and would play something similar to it again, but for right now I don't have the confidence in defending a maindeck with zero Rekindling Phoenix. It did make sense to me to still play three Hazoret the Fervent and add Magma Spray to the maindeck though, and I will say they were awesome every time I drew them against a deck with creatures in them.
Don't play Mono-Blue Artifacts!
This is a wildly fun and interesting deck to play, but I'd advise against playing it. There's just too high of a fail rate when Sai, Master Thopterist, Karn, Scion of Urza, or Paradoxical Outcome are not drawn in high numbers. Sometimes it's bad to draw too many of them as well! The deck just isn't consistent.
I'd probably stay away from Turbo Fog too. It's going to be targeted and thought about. Red decks can play Insult//Injury, or even move more towards Wizard Red which plays many burn spells like Wizard's Lightning. It was a superb choice for Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, but I expect it to not be as strong moving forward.
Now it's time for me to take a much needed vacation away from competitive Magic. Not for long, of course, but just enough time to get my head on straight. I've been on the road for Magic for far too long, and life didn't give me much a break in between these past two Pro Tours either. I'm in need of a few weeks off. Just enough time to get some great content out for y'all, and spend some quality time with the missus.