October 21, 2016

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The Time We Mardu'd - Pro Tour Honolulu Recap

"Maybe we can get food at Supercuts?"
- Shahar Shenhar, Magic World Champion 2013 & 2014

His frustration resonated with every one of us. Supercuts is a hair salon that was adjacent to the Subway in which Vidi, Ferney and I were waiting in a 50+ line for food. The first set of draft rounds had ended and thanks to my preparation I had started off 3-0 beating 2 relative unknowns and William Jensen (Huey). Here was my draft deck:

Draft 1

At every Pro Tour, you are given a 30 minute lunch break which commences once the last feature match ends. But since there is no food organization, every pro tour ends up having a large huddle outside the closest food venue with little time to purchase, let alone eat your food. In my case, I chose to spend my time begging my Standard deck to cooperate enough to at least let me draft again. Well that and enjoying some delicious Subway oatmeal raisin cookies. My team had been split between playing BG Delirium and Mardu mid-range, of which I landed on Mardu since it was the deck that I had brought to the table.

By the time you're reading this, the first pro tour of the 2016-2017 season has come and gone. The Pro Tour was dominated by Aetherworks Marvel combo decks, Smuggler's Copter aggro and mid-range decks and Torrential Gearhulk control decks. So how did my team come to the conclusion that Mardu Mid-range was a decent choice for this event? Keep reading on. In my second draft, I faced Smuggler's Copter every round and ended up mana screwed or flooded in the games I did lose. Overall I ended up a paltry 1-2 which gave me an overall 12 points to contribute to my bid to be the 2017 draft master. Here’s my second draft deck:

Draft 2

Since I was hyperfocused on limited leading up to the Grand Prix and Pro Tour, I did not start my Standard preparation until last Monday. I had left it to the rest of my seven player team to do that work. When I heard nothing but silence, my buddy Kris Kavanagh (shout out for coming through in a big way) and I started putting in a lot of hours where we jammed the best decks from the most recent Starcitygames Open. One thing was very clear:

1) RW Vehicles was very resilient and would be the aggro deck of choice in the format. The omnipresence of Smuggler's Copter meant that instant speed removal such as Harnessed Lightning and Grasp of Darkness would have to be played. Also, we realized that most decks that "beat it" were only a slight favourite if any.

2) BR zombies / Grixis Emerge was the combo creature deck of the format. It has a way to keep pace with the fast aggro decks but also had built in resiliency to keep up with the mid-range decks that would inevitably be built to defeat aggro. Scrapheap Scrounger and Smuggler's Copter were huge additions to this deck.

3) Aetherworks Marvel was inconsistent and couldn't beat control decks with counterspells. It became very obvious that you could go over the top of RW but you would still lose half your games to them. The only deck that consistently beat the aggro deck was Mardu mid-range. It did not require you to draw well, like the Jeskai and BG deliriums builds did. I expected a lot of teams to come to the same conclusion about RW and it was played by some masters during the event including Reid Duke. The night before the Pro Tour, we wanted to make sure that we had a good answer for Aetherworks so we played a couple copies of Lost Legacy. Here's the list that Vidi, Doug and I played (we had a 100% conversion rate to day 2 with our deck):

Goblin Dark-Dwellers is still a really great card that is under the radar and forms the basis for the Mardu mid-range deck. Live Fast is a poor substitute for the departure of Read the Bones but the small upside is that it allows Harnessed Lightnings to take down bigger threats. Dead Weight was technology that we used against the Pummeler decks that we expected to face, and also were great versus the aggressive decks that played a lot of 1 drops. The three Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
 made our deck very good against the various Emerge decks as it quickly gets out of the range of Kozilek’s Return. In addition, it completely demolishes the R/B Zombies deck unless they have the nut draw while also being very good against aggressive decks. Finally, Dragonmaster Outcast was a great card in matchups where we expected our Goblin Dark-Dwellers to be exiled by Lost Legacy.

I ended up going 1-2 against the version of Marvelworks that was played but I beat RW vehicles 2-0 the three times I faced it. I also got very unlucky against Zac Elsik who top-decked a few cards in a row to win a game three that I had all but locked up. Also a RB zombies player nutdrew me and effectively killed me on turn 4 in game 1 and 3. Chandra, Torch of Defiance turned out to be miserable against everything and I would not play this card again.

Overall the tournament didn’t go as great as I expected given my 4-0 start but at least I picked up an extra pro point. Also this was a very large Pro Tour due to all of the deferrals resulting from the visa fiasco of Pro Tour Sydney. If you are heading to Providence I would recommend that you play the Aetherworks Marvel deck, as long as you build it to beat counterspell decks. It is just so much more powerful than anything else you can do in the format.

After the tournament, we did some much needed sightseeing which including visiting the Hawaiian village. We also made sure that we made the time to get souvenirs for loved ones back home. After all, we don’t go to Hawaii every day and the 12 hour travel time for me was brutal. I found out that Doug and Marcel chose to sit in Aisle seats on purpose which was insane for me. I had called ahead the night before to ensure that I had window seats on both of my flights as I can’t handle people sleeping on me during flights.

Unfortunately, when I got to the airport I found out that my flight to LAX was apparently delayed by 4 hours which would force me to miss my connection and get home at some ungodly hour. The check-in lady was able to get me a flight that got me home a few hours later than originally planned but now I was stuck in a middle seat, my biggest nightmare. I must have had the worst seat on the plane, a mom reading to her 6 month old baby on one side, an old lady who wiped snot on me on the other and a 4 year old kicking my seat from behind me. At least the baby would soon be asleep and I would get some well needed rest before my final flight and my run bad would finally end.

I was wrong.

Until next time,
Sammy T