The end of a college semester is never a peaceful time. After a nice Thanksgiving break, you’d think there would be enough time to slowly sail along through the end of the semester, having enough time to get all of your assignments completed. Sadly, that is never the case.

The realization that there’s only three weeks left to finish all my work has hit me like a baseball bat. Suddenly, papers, projects, and final exams have taken over my life and all I’m thinking about is the sweet freedom that Christmas break promises. What better time to procrastinate and stress than the week before the RPTQ?

Naya Burn – PPTQ 1st place – Roman Fusco

Creatures (14)
4 Goblin Guide
2 Grim Lavamancer
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel

Instants and Sorceries (26)
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Atarka’s Command
4 Boros Charm
2 Lightning Helix
4 Searing Blaze
4 Rift Bolt

Lands (20)
4 Arid Mesa
3 Mountain
3 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Stomping Ground
4 Wooded Foothills

Sideboard (15)
2 Path to Exile
3 Deflecting Palm
4 Destructive Revelry
2 Lightning Helix
2 Searing Blood
2 Skullcrack

A Quick Recap:

By no means am I a Modern player. Since I usually dedicate my Magic time during the week to drafting and PPTQ’s, the only time I really find myself playing Modern is either for a local Grand Prix or the Summer Modern PPTQ season. I found myself putting Burn together because it was an aggressive strategy, I felt relatively comfortable playing it, and I had felt good playing it at the handful of Modern events I’d attended. I decided to pilot the same 75 Mike Flores used to win his PPTQ, which is the same list that also sprung New York local, Miles Rodriguez, into top 8 of the New Jersey SCG Invitational.

After a measly record of 3-2, defeating Infect, Tron, and Jeskai Control, and losing to Infect and Merfolk, I found myself sitting at 7th place after the top 8 had been announced. I can only describe my top 8 matches as going perfectly. I defeated the Menfolk player who had defeated me in the swiss, won a very close match against Abzan, and then finally had a swift win over Jeskai Pyromancer Ascension in the finals. I had fast starts, no mulligans, and drew very well – I probably played adequately, but at the end of the day I was just satisfied with finally placing first.

Flashforward to now.

I have less than a week before the RPTQ, which makes me feel a little like this:


All joking aside, even though I wish I had dedicated more of my time to playing different decks and testing for the event, I’m not going to freak out about my impending doom or success. Even though I’m dedicated to competitive Magic, sometimes you can’t prep for every event and life gets in the way, and that’s okay.

It can be hard to balance time for Magic with your many other responsibilities. By no means should Magic take up all of your time, but you shouldn’t throw it aside if it’s something that’s important to you. This past year, I’ve had to dedicate less time to playing in every weekend PPTQ or weekday event that I’d like to play in. Instead I’m focusing my effort on the events I’m able to go to.

Schedule Playtesting

The most testing I do is usually before a major event, such as a Grand Prix or SCG Open. I like to get in as much testing as I can the weeks leading up to the event. Sadly, I don’t have access to Magic Online, so my testing gets done in person, usually with a group of about 4-8 people. The most prepared I’ve ever felt for an event was earlier this year at Grand Prix New York. A week before the event, I was hopelessly lost. Finals had just finished, and I had no idea of what to play. Luckily, I caught some of the Grand Prix Toronto stream and watched Josh Buitenhuis pilot B/W control to an impressive 15-0 in the swiss, easily putting him into top 8. I sleeved up the deck and found others to test for the event.


I don’t really have any specific way to playtest. Usually, I’ll try to test against the other pillars of the format, alternating games between playing and drawing, as well as playing many games post-sideboard. I also try and talk to my friends or opponents about what cards they bring in, how they play the matchup, and if there’s anything I could have done differently. I am by no means a great player, so I try to surround myself with players I respect who I know will help me become better through our testing.

After getting in a week of testing, having a general sideboard plan, I was able to finish with a 11-4 record. That’s not an incredible finish, but my best GP finish thus far. If I had Magic Online, I’d probably play exclusively on the digital client, playing in-house drafts and competitive events as the only times I’d play paper Magic. However, there’s something I value about being in-person to talk and communicate with others, to see what their ideas are and how their minds think differently than my own. That’s something I appreciate about Magic. I love the feeling of spending hours at someone’s apartment slinging spells, trying to broaden your depth about a game you’re passionate about with others who are equally as passionate.

What’s beautiful about Magic is how you can apply your own personal experiences to the game.

Learn from Magic, Learn from Life

Over the last two years, I’ve devoted my study in filmmaking to focus on sound design. Sound design encompasses all the audio aspects of a film apart from music, including editing sound effects and dialogue. Although you may not notice it, a film scene can have a plethora of different sound effects, all recorded and edited in the post-production editing phase of the filmmaking process. It’s the job of the sound designer to build how the world of the film they’re designing sounds.

But how can this relate to Magic?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how to improve as a drafter. Similar to sound design, you start with a blank slate when drafting. From the very first pack you open the process begins, and you begin building and designing your deck, figuring out what cards best work together based on your prior knowledge. By the end, you’ll have to have a deck of 40 cards, whether you like it or not.


In both drafting and the sound design process, you’re picking out pieces that will add up to a grand whole. When drafting, it’s important to think about each card you pick and how that card works in conjunction with the other cards you’re picking, similar to sound design where every small sound has to be picked carefully, so it works in harmony with the other sounds for that scene, and does not disrupt the flow of the movie. This is just one way to think about Magic as more than just a simple game. You can take the things you experience on a day to day basis and apply them to improving your Magic experience.

Looking to the Future

As the year draws to an end, my head is swirling with the memories I’ve made playing Magic. Although I know I won’t be able to get in all the testing I would like to before Sunday, I’m grateful to be able to play in the RPTQ for the first time and I’m going to do my best to secure my invite to Pro Tour Aether Revolt. Who knows, I might even have a tournament report to write after this weekend.

How has Magic affected you personally? What lessons from everyday life can you apply to improving as a player? Let me know!

One deck I’m considering for my RPTQ is this unconventional deck that Charlie Rinehart-Jones wrote about in his Modern Spotlight article, which you can read here.


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