I wasn’t qualified for PT RIX but I found myself there this past weekend nonetheless. While I was at work on the Wednesday before the Pro Tour, I was presented with an offer I couldn’t refuse. I was looking at flying to Spain, in less than 23 hours, half expenses paid for, so I could see my long distance boyfriend (Alexander Hayne) in the most romantic of possible settings. I didn’t have any firm plans that weekend, besides scrapping together Grixis Energy for a local PPTQ. So I followed my heart and booked the flight out.
In order to get such a cheap flight in such a short time frame, I had to be flexible with my choice of airport. So Thursday morning I started the trip by driving a little under 3 hours up to New York. I was a little bit spoiled with my flights as I had the entire row to myself on both flights over (New York to Munich and then Munich to Bilbao). Also, as a side note, Battle of the Sexes is a great movie and had me feeling a bit spikey on the way to Bilbao. After I landed I had a chance to practice my rusty Spanish on the cab driver and security guard and grab the room key from my boyfriend. By the time I got back to the site, draft was over but I was able to bird some good constructed matches.
I gained some valuable experience during the constructed matches by overhearing judge calls. One of the hardest parts of getting into the competitive scene for me has been the appropriateness of calling a judge. I’ve been told always call a judge—when in doubt, just do it. But I’m a pretty awkward person, and it doesn’t always feel right to call a judge. I witnessed two horribly awkward judge calls, but both were important to have been made. The first call was in regards to a communication issue. Playing at the GP/PT level, you will encounter players who do not speak the same language as you. It can be a true struggle to communicate effectively given this. Judges provide an unbiased party to weigh in on what passed. They can help provide insight to both players on how to communicate more clearly in the future. The second judge call was in regards to a missed trigger. One thing I’ve recognized is that I don’t actually always realize when something is an illegal play. Judge calls have actually helped me learn the rules better and can help even more inexperienced players play better as well. This was a PT level player who didn’t even recognize he had fully missed a trigger. Player A is playing Death’s Shadow and player B is playing Burn; player B has an Eidolon of the Great Revel out. Player A plays a Death’s Shadow followed by a second Death’s Shadow. Player B then says trigger and points to both Death’s Shadows. Player A calls a judge. I didn’t understand why at first. The explanation was so simple I was surprised I didn’t recognize the error right away too. The second Death’s Shadow is not something that can be played at instant speed. For the second Death’s Shadow to enter the battlefield, the first one must have resolved. Player A easily recognized this while player B sat a bit puzzled. He was trying to argue how he did not miss the trigger, then how he was rushed. The judge clarified you must declare you have a trigger when he attempts to cast the second Death’s Shadow. You cannot group the triggers together. It seems like such a minor error but examining the timing of the spells, it is clearly an illegal play to try to resolve both triggers at the same time. I think if I had been in player A’s spot, I would not have recognized the missed trigger. It is very clear to me now though. For example, you could not decide to counter the first Death’s Shadow after seeing the second one come into play. I think fewer magic players would argue that the latter scenario in which you respond to the first spell with a counter is okay—so why leniency on the first? I think holding players accountable to announce their triggers properly helps them uphold the rules of the game and helps newer players learn the rules as well. The day ended on a slightly somber note as only 2 out of the 6 on Ultra Pro (Hayne’s team) day 2’d. They would have to perform well in order to keep them live for the team series.
Day two of the tournament was underway and I grabbed food with Shahar who was unfortunately already out of the competition. When we came back with pizza (including pineapple pizza, which was really good by the way), we were met with other players who were interested in firing off a draft. I was pretty excited to start a draft with some pro players. It can be slightly intimidating but it’s still really good experience. Usually team drafts are huge on Sundays at the PT, but with so many people not making it after the first day they fired early.
For the first draft, we found ourselves with 2 extra drafters so decided to do an 8-man with random teams. I drafted a mediocre B/R Pirates deck. I wasn’t a huge fan of my deck as even though I had fair combat tricks and okay creatures, I lacked the aggressive curve I was really hoping to find. Having three two drops was not where I wanted to be. I got destroyed by Owen’s more controlling B/R deck and Sam Black’s grindy explore deck. My teammates were Shahar, Matt Nass, and Collins Mullen. I think only Shahar had a winning record, so we lost the draft, but I played out my last round with Sam Pardee anyway. We ended up in a game three. He had a Golden Guardian that wrecked me in our earlier game. Game three started off well for me but the Guardian came out to play. But I kept fighting, using tricks and combat to keep him off an overwhelming board and then my Waterknotted Twilight Prophet finally ascended. What seemed like a doomed match ended up with a timely victory after a few profitable reveals off the top of my library. I never got to complete my match against Mike Sigrist so who knows if I could have tied up my record but I was pretty elated off of stealing the match from Pardee (complete with awkward victory dance).
The second draft was a true team draft. My team was LSV and Collins; the opposing team was Shahar, Owen and Sam Black. I was so extremely happy with my deck. I had a very very very very very nice vampire deck… if I do say so myself. My team gets together to review our decks and LSV has a 2/10 pile. He looks over at me and Collins and says, “well at least your decks are good”. Collins had a nice W/G deck and it seemed strong. We clean sweep the first round, which I don’t understand how because I think LSV only had one win condition in his deck (not exaggerating, his deck was really bad). I punt the second game against Shahar, not realizing his Merfolk didn’t have flying and wasting a Moment of Craving. Holding the Moment of Craving was really important as I flooded and needed a removal spell for his actual important threat. I manage to not punt game 3 and we win the draft. I still play Owen to finish the draft. I really wanted redemption from the massacre that was the first draft. Sadly, I did not get there. Path of Mettle is a good magic card. It’s even better against vampires. I brought in a Spreading Rot game 2 to try to combat it as it was the dominating presence game 1. Game 2 starts out okay for me but he kills my creatures and stabilizes the board. I have only the Spreading Rot in hand, and Owen has two Plains and a Mountain. I am not under pressure and my life total is close to 20. (I don’t have the life total pad, but I believe I was around 19 life). One of my friends, Anand, who is watching the game suggests I fire off the Spreading Rot on the mountain. I disagree with his play and instead wait. Owen starts playing creatures and I start to flood. I lose the game and Owen never flips his Path to Mettle, but he did play it to kill two of my x/1s. I didn’t want to fire off the Spreading Rot because it is my only answer to the flipped land. Two turns later, Owen had drawn another Mountain. The play of killing the Mountain would have bought me a few extra turns, but I know I would have died to the flipped Path of Mettle. I tried my hardest to give myself the best chance to win, which was to hopefully draw a blocker to his threats. I had 4 turns to do so and didn’t. I think although I lost the game I still made the best play. I felt more validated with this draft after having a winning record, even if it did end on a sour note. By this point most of day 2 was over. I followed Hayne’s matches and unfortunately he lost the final round to not back-to-back top 16 which was disappointing, but he cashed which was nice. Then it was time for a nice dinner and hang-outs.
Although there were tons of drafts firing Sunday, our group decided to do more touristy outings instead. We went to downtown Bilbao and checked out the very famous Guggenheim Modern Art museum. My favorite part was the sculpture that resembled Hangarback Walker. In general, Spain was kind of an annoying city to visit due to their unique restaurant hours and lack of flexibility in said hours. It’s a different style of life that isn’t super my cup of tea, and I am not the biggest fan of ham, but the country was very pretty. I would definitely rate it behind Japan, Canada and France but ahead of England in my ranking of best countries to visit. Barcelona was also much better than Bilbao.
All said, it was a fun trip! I was super happy to get home and escape the prison that is the Munich airport. I was very sad that my delayed flight home meant I would not get back in time to record the podcast with the CAT girls, but I am super pumped to check out the latest episode. <3