Pro Tour Amsterdam 2010 Posts
Saturday, September 4, 2010, 12:25 PM
This weekend's Magic Online Live Series had finally come to an end, but the champion Eduardo Sajgalik and his opponent Raymond Veenis were not done, by far, shooting back and forth friendly banter and comments about their finals match and their draft decks.
"I should have played better."
"No, I should have played better."
"Actually, come to think of it, you really should have."
Four qualifier tournaments had been run throughout the weekend, with the finalists of each of those qualifying for today's eight-player event. Prizes to be awarded included 2000 $ for first place (along with one complete Magic Online foil set of the champion's choice) and, respectively, 1000 $ for second place (along with a non-foil set). A lot of money on the line, but the final was played in a remarkably relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
"After all, with all this money, we basically already won," said Eduardo, and Raymond added: "And we're in Amsterdam—what could possibly go wrong!"
Afterwards, I sat down with Eduardo and chatted a bit about him, and Magic Online, and when the two connected.
"I started playing Magic Online when I qualified for Pro Tour–Geneva, which was Time Spiral block draft, and I used the program to test," Eduardo said. "I played a lot last year. Not so much this year, but I really like the program. Sometimes you just come home and want something to do for the evening... and you simply fire up a draft."
"I also like M11 draft. When they first announced it as a format for Nationals and the Pro Tour, I was skeptical, like a lot of players," he recalled, "but M11 really won me over. There aren't as many bombs, or maybe just more ways to deal with them. Cards like Combust or Plummet mean that not even Baneslayer Angel wins that many games anymore, at least against a player who knows what he's doing."
"The players I played against in the course of this tournament were all good and some really impressed me," he went on. "Also, a lot of fun games. This would have been a blast even if I hadn't won. This way it's just totally awesome."
Congratulations to Eduardo Sajgalik, the champion of the Magic Online Live Series at Pro Tour Amsterdam 2010!
Saturday, September 4, 2010, 7:39 AM
Figuring out the math needed in order to Top 8 a Pro Tour, or any event, can be a tricky subject. As we enter the final rounds of Pro Tour-Amsterdam, I caught up with Patrick Chapin and Cedric Phillips to ask them about the types of records one can expect to have in order to play on Sunday at the Pro Tour. Here's how things broke down.
First, it's important to distinguish the fact that a 16 round Pro Tour, like Amsterdam, has different numbers than a 14 round tournament like many Pro Tours of yesteryear. As more players compete in the event, the likelihood a record hoping to squeak into the Top 8 on tiebreakers will make it decreases dramatically. That's important because with 457 participants, Amsterdam is the largest individual Pro Tour ever held.
For this weekend a 12-3-1 record (that's 12 wins, three losses, and one draw) should make it "every time" in Chapin's words. Occasionally a 12-4 record will make the cut, though that's more likely the fewer players there are in the event (Pro Tour-Austin had two such records play on Sunday while Pro Tour-Berlin had just one). With the Pro Tour featuring 16 rounds instead of 14, the Top 8 generally breaks now to seven players with clear cut records for the Top 8 and one lucky 8th place finisher who squeaks in ahead of a number of other players with the same record. This is a happier conclusion for more people compared to 14 round events which generally saw the 9th place finisher sitting on the same record as multiple members of the Top 8, but feeling badly about sitting out simply through a cruel twist of tiebreaker fate.
Of course, crazier records can make the cut to play on Sunday. A player who finishes with no losses will of course have a solid enough record to accomplish that though in the course of Pro Tour history only two players have ever finished the Swiss rounds with neither a draw nor a loss: Luis Scott-Vargas earlier this year at Pro Tour-San Diego and Ryan Fuller at Pro Tour-Tokyo. In fact, the maximum number of wins you need to make the Top 8 is 11, but in 16 rounds the remaining five matches you play would ALL need to be draws to get you there. Of course, an 11-0-5 record is pretty unheard of and memory doesn't serve up an incident in which such a record actually was accomplished and managed to Top 8.
One way to help visualize the records for making the Top 8 of the Pro Tour is to look at the tournaments as two 8-round events held back-to-back; simply take a record you'd need to Top 8 a single 8-round event, then double it and it SHOULD serve to get you into the Top 8 of the PT.
Finally, here is a numerical look at the records that could play on Sunday:
12-3-1 (may sometimes miss if the tournament has a high number of players)
12-4 (but only on tie breaks)
11-0-5 (again on tie breaks, numerically equivalent to 12-4)
Saturday, September 4, 2010, 4:50 AM
Extended used to be one of the formats with the weirdest card interactions, if only for sheer size, and although it has gotten smaller with the recent changes, it's still big and the questions are still pouring in.
One of the most important interactions this weekend is Punishing Fire plus Grove of the Burnwillows . The combination itself is pretty straightforward and, by now, well-publicized and well-understood. Some people, however, have tried to fight Fire with Extirpate , and that just didn't play out the way they had envisioned.
While Extirpate certainly does have split second, and it's true that you can't cast any spells or activate most abilities during its tenure on the stack, you might have already noticed the catch: You are allowed to activate some abilities, for example the mana ability of Grove of the Burnwillows . This, in turn, grants your opponent 1 extra life and triggers Punishing Fire 's graveyard ability—that is, a triggered ability and not an activated ability. They get to be put on the stack and to resolve even on top of a split-second spell. What all this boils down to: If your opponent is playing carefully and has two Groves, you may just never be able to catch Punishing Fire with Extirpate . And if he or she only drew one Grove of the Burnwillows , then you really should wait until it's tapped before casting your Extirpate .
One of the decks which include the Fire / Grove combo is the new Pyromancer Ascension deck played by some Japanese and some German players. And it has another interaction that took even some of its very own pilots by surprise. When you copy Cryptic Command via Pyromancer Ascension , the copy will have the modes automatically locked in. You may choose new targets for the copy, but if you chose to counter a spell and draw a card for the original, the copy will have to do the same. Especially with countering, though, the problem is there might not be two different spells on the stack you even could—or would want to—counter. And if both the original and the copy target the same spell, only the latter will actually counter it. And if the other mode was drawing a card, which means those Cryptic Command s only had one target (the spell to be countered), then the original will itself be countered on resolution (because it no longer has at least one legal target) and not even draw a card. On the plus side, however, a Cryptic Command and its copy can always just counter Bloodbraid Elf and the spell it cascaded into.
One more "trick" a lot of players don't know about involves damage prevention. Let's say, you control Burrenton Forge-Tender and have Demystify sitting in your hand. Now your opponent draws all of his deck with Angel's Grace / Ad Nauseam , then exiles three Simian Spirit Guide s, and casts Seismic Assault . What do you do?
Well, you could wait until your opponent discards the first land to shoot 2 damage to your head, and respond with either the Forge-Tender's ability or Demystify . But your opponent will simply shoot you again in response. Then you can respond one more time but, with his whole deck in his hands, your opponent can always discard just more lands and will inexorably burn you out.
Instead try the following: Activate Burrenton Forge-Tender in response to Seismic Assault , that is, with the enchantment spell still on the stack, and pick it as the red source of your choice. The resulting "prevention shield" will actually affect the Seismic Assault once it enters play—only until end of turn, of course, but that leaves plenty of time to hit it with that Demystify , without getting burned in response. Sweet, isn't it?
Saturday, September 4, 2010, 2:42 AM
M10 draft is a format that isn't as intricate as many, but one of the cool things about that is that it means that when something cool happens everyone can take note. Cruising around the top tables here at the Pro Tour, I hit up a few of the players for the classy ways to win that they look out for.
Infantry Veteran is a card that initially didn't cause too many street parties when it snuck into M11, but it is gaining plenty of support in the aggressive white decks, where it can make opposing blocks something of a nightmare, or simply ensure that whichever creature is most evasive becomes that little bit shorter a clock.
One of the creatures that is kind of fun to pump is Scroll Thief. This little card drawing machine is powerful enough on its own, but gets even better when you have a way of making blocking harder. Blue/white aggro has a nice little sideline in ways to keep the path clear, with Blinding Mage, Unsummon, Excommunicate, Aether Adept, Mighty Leap and, perhaps most exciting of all, Armored Ascension.
Just about any time I see an Armored Ascension early in a draft I personally can't help but start daydreaming about Sacred Wolf, the creature that is nigh unassailable with the one-two combo of evasion and a small amount of pumping. I guess that's just me though - most of the pros I was talking to were more excited about drawing cards.
Drawing with Scroll Thief is one thing, but once one starts looking to the rare slot, Conundrum Sphinx can be absolutely brutal. Without information on what sits atop your deck, you can name lands and go for the percentage play, or start naming what you need if things look desperate. In the feature match area, Brad Nelson worked a whole mess of tricks with this 4/4 flyer, from naming (and hitting) one of his two Spined Wurms when he just needed a creature, naming Negate and missing as a way of selling in the idea that he didn't have a counter, and naming Triskelion at the end of the match when Brian Kibler was watching, causing Kibler, who may have to play Brad later, to question of Brad was actually running the artifact, or just trying to get in his head.
The more straightforward play with Conundrum Sphinx is to just know the top of your deck. Between Preordain, Augury Owl, Foresee and Crystal Ball, that isn't so tough, but I particularly like the classy Viscera Seer that Katsuhiro Mori was running, which along with Reassembling Skeleton provides a handy little scry engine that just keeps on chugging.
Another card that Reassembling Skeleton is best friends with is Bloodthrone Vampire. The Skeleton turns Bloodthrone into a virtual Nantuko Shade, but without the expense of needing only black mana, and the use of a fairly high draft pick.
In turn, Bloodthrone Vampire works especially well with returning favourite Fling. They give redundancy to a sacrifice themed deck, and even better, being able to Fling a chunky Vampire right after it has fed is a great way to end games from nowhere.
If we're talking about Fling, we should probably also look at Act of Treason. Down at common, it is more available than ever, and with sacrifice outlets, turns into a full scale removal spell, with some additional damage from attacks thrown in as an afterthought.
Finally I'll leave you with a cool Act of Treason play I saw that worked in pretty brutal fashion with another combo. Act of Treason to steal Fire Servant, turning this Pyroclasm into something more akin to Day of Judgement? Don't mind if I do.
Saturday, September 4, 2010, 1:47 AM
"So what do you know about M11 draft that others don't?"
That was my question, and one player happy to answer it was none other than four-time Player of the Year Kai Budde. "Actually, there's not much," he said. "In M11 you don't go for specific archetypes but rather for good cards, plain and simple."
"Green and red are much weaker than the other colors, they just don't have as many good commons. Basically, the only reason to go in that direction is rares. I just went in that direction and I am quite happy with my deck," he said, flashing some awesome bombs from the second draft which had just finished, "but usually, I consider red-green a trap."
Last year's Rookie of the Year, Lino Burgold, had the following insight into the intricacies of M11 draft: "White..."
"White is really the most important color at every draft table," he elaborated. "You can combine it with any other color and you can even go mono-white. It's absolutely central and its division among the drafters is what you need to figure out quickly. Usually, white decks are among the best at any table, but—as always—when it's overdrafted you really need to stay out."
"When not drafting white, my absolute favorite M11 card is by the way Reassembling Skeleton . Whether it's in red-black or mono-black, this is a centerpiece to decks that resemble those in the more archetype-driven formats like Rise of the Eldrazi," he added.
Thus the consensus advice goes something like this: Watch out for white, beware of red and green. Try to get good cards, rather than archetypes. Only sometimes you shouldn't, and sometimes you do it exactly the other way round, and sometimes... well yes, booster draft is a real challenge and it's different every time. Good luck and have fun!