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Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan Report

2018/02/10 00:00 

    • Pascal Vieren
    • Column

Hello! I’m Pascal Vieren, Hareruya Hopes and a Silver level pro from Belgium. Last weekend, I finished in third place at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan in Bilbao, after going undefeated in the swiss portion. This will be my first article for Hareruya.

Preparation

For testing, I was mostly relying on Magic Online. At first, I tried playing Elves, but wasn’t too convinced. At this point, my brother Peter told me he had a Blue-Red tempo/control deck, which he had been working on. After trying it in a couple of leagues online, I was sold. The deck seemed to have a plan for everything. The games were really interesting and entertaining, with lots of decisions to be made. After a lot of discussion, we settled on the following list:

I’m very grateful for having a brother who can design a deck like this (his deckguide is here). I think 《Young Pyromancer》 and 《Thing in the Ice》 are the win conditions a UR deck like this needs. After the banning of 《Splinter Twin》, people seemed to be desperate to put some sort of combo in the deck, but these feel very clunky.

Young PyromancerThing in the Ice

As for draft, I came to the following conclusions about the format:

I arrived on thursday in Bilbao and spent the evening Rochester drafting with Peter and Branco Neirynck versus Marijn Lybaert, Robin Dolar and Michael Bonde. For me, it’s important to relax the night before the Pro Tour, and doing a Rochester draft is an excellent way of doing this.

Day One

I started the draft with a 《Forerunner of the Empire》. Blue and green were very open, and I easily ended up with a very good Merfolk deck.

Round 1 - Faeder Dustin

Round 2 - Papadopoulos, Panagiotis

Round 3 - Kaczmarczyk, Radek

I had excellent draws with an already excellent deck, while my opponents stumbled. This resulted in an easy 3-0, winning each round 2-0.

3-0

Round 4 - Watsfeldt, Elias with UW Control

In the first game, Elias couldn’t get much going, while I got to sculpt an excellent hand to eventually get a win condition on the board and take the first game. The second game felt like it was going the same way, until Elias cast an 《Emrakul, the Promised End》.

Emrakul, the Promised End

With my turn taken, Elias got rid of a lot of my win conditions. I was unable to get anything going after that and got milled out. We started the last game with less than 5 minutes on the clock. I actually had an aggressive draw with two 《Young Pyromancer》s, but a timely 《Supreme Verdict》 made sure the match resulted in a draw.

3-0-1

Round 5 - Gaspar Goncalves, Rafael with Naya Burn

I kept a hand without a removal spell on the draw and got demolished in the first game, without putting up much of a fight. In the second game, I cast four 《Dispel》s, which is a good way to win versus Burn. Having lots of cheap interaction and having a reasonable clock, is what makes the matchup against burn decent. The third game was close. I needed to give Rafael a one-turn window to draw his third 《Boros Charm》, but luckily he didn’t find it. A 7/8 Horror ended the match a couple of turns later.

4-0-1

Round 6 - Levy, Raphael with UW Control

This was probably the most intense game I played all weekend. Raphael tried two early 《Gideon, Ally of Zendikar》s, but both got countered. After a couple of turns where we were both content just playing lands, we both found and suspended 《Ancestral Vision》s. At this point, Raphael started counting cards in libraries, and it was clear he would try to win by decking me. I kept chipping in for damage with 《Snapcaster Mage》 here and a 《Young Pyromancer》 with a token or two there, but we eventually got to this situation:

So this resulted in the following sequence:

So I won the first game, with no time left on the clock, no cards in my library and his 《Ancestral Vision》 on one counter.

5-0-1

Round 7 - Zhang, Bolun with BG Midrange

This was a feature match. Bolun was rather nervous and played rather slowly because of that. The end of the match was shown on camera.

We split the first two games, with me casting four 《Snapcaster Mage》s in the first game and Bolun having 《Liliana of the Veil》 and 《Dark Confidant》 in play for way too many turns in the second one. The third game started with about 10 minutes left. I tried going for the kill aggressively with an Awoken Horror in the additional turns, but Bolun had two removal spells ready, so the game resulted in a draw.

5-0-2

Round 8 - Maples, Zechariah with UW Control

The first game I had an aggressive opening with two 《Young Pyromancer》s, the first met with a 《Path to Exile》, but the second made an army with 《Opt》 and 《Spell Snare》 on his 《Snapcaster Mage》. I proceed to cast a turn 4 《Cryptic Command》 in my own turn to prevent him from casting a 《Supreme Verdict》 and the game was over by turn 5. In the second game I had an early 《Ancestral Vision》, and could easily sculpt a perfect hand and eventually beat down with a 《Vendilion Clique》.

6-0-2

I was pretty happy to be at 20 match points after the first day. I figured I would need at least a 5-1-2 record on the following day to make top 8, but really wanted at least 4-3-1 to get another Pro Tour invite.

Day 2

The draft started with a 《Profane Procession》 being opened two seats to my right, while I started the draft with a 《Bishop of Binding》. After a second pick 《Famished Paladin》, I got a third pick 《Legion Lieutenant》. I figured BW is deep enough, even though the person two to my right would be playing the same colors. I ended up with another very strong deck.

Round 9 - Duke, Reid

Round 10 - Thompson, Gerry

Round 11 - Stroh, Kim

I actually lost every first game with pretty bad draws, but my deck made up for it by giving me excellent draws in every game two and game three.

9-0-2

Round 12 - Stern, Jon with RW Burn

The first game was close, but I needed to give Jon a window to draw any burn spell, with a 《Thing in the Ice》 in play. He drew 《Lightning Helix》 and we moved on to game 2. The second and third game, I had enough early interaction alongside a threat and was able to overpower the Burn deck. The games against Burn are always close affairs, but I really enjoy playing the matchup.

10-0-2

Round 13 - Kaczmarczyk, Radek with UR Madcap Experiment

The first game is fairly lopsided, as he has an expensive win condition, alongside ineffective 《Blood Moon》s. I was able to get a win condition in play, with a perfect hand to protect it. The second game was much closer, as most of his useless cards have been replaced with 《Vendilion Clique》s, 《Young Pyromancer》s and 《Pia and Kiran Nalaar》. I managed to control most of his board, and get enough tokens from my own 《Young Pyromancer》 to get the job done.

11-0-2

Round 14 - Depraz, Jean-Emmanuel with 5c Traverse Shadow

Excellent text coverage of this match can be found here.

Field of Ruin

I’d like to add that in matchups like this one, aggressively using 《Field of Ruin》 can really make a difference.

12-0-2

At this point, I was locked for Top 8 and ecstatic. While trying to call my wife, Marijn jumped on me and hit me really hard. If people wondered why I didn’t look too happy after that, it was because my jaw really hurt a lot.

Round 15 - Yukuhiro, Ken with BR Hollow One

Intentional draw.

12-0-3

Round 16 - Dominguez, Javier with 5c Humans

Intentional draw.

12-0-4

I could actually have played here, but I was in first place with the draw. I'm not the guy to go dream crushing anyway.

The top 8 ceremony was kind of unreal to me. I think I still hadn’t fully grasped I was going to compete on Sunday.

We went out for a nice dinner with some friends. I tested the matchup versus Andrea Mengucci and his 5c Humans with Branco and Peter. I didn’t really like the matchup preboard, but I think it greatly improves after sideboarding.

Top 8

Quarterfinals - Andrea Mengucci with 5c Humans

Text coverage can be found here.

Andrea was pretty unlucky with mulligans in every game and pretty mediocre draws. I had a lot of fun just chatting with him, while we were waiting for our match to continue. He’s genuinely a really nice guy.

Semifinals - Gerry Thompson with Mardu Pyromancer

Text coverage can be found here.

I should’ve played differently in game 5. Countering the 《Thoughtseize》 was definitely a mistake. But I’m still really happy about the way I played throughout the tournament. The games are long, difficult and with a lot of decisions to be made.

Conclusion

Magic is great!

I’m now at 34 Pro Points, locked for Gold and with Platinum actually being achievable. Making top 8 of a Pro Tour is a dream come true. Ever since playing on the Pro Tour, top 8’ing one was always the goal.

Thanks to all my friends for the support and help, especially my brother Peter. I could never have done this without him. Thanks for the community for being awesome.

And special thanks to my wife Charlotte, taking care of our three amazing kids, while letting me do what I love. I couldn’t have done it without her either.

Pascal Vieren (@VierenPascal on twitter)

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