Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Riccardo Monico, and I live in Brooklyn, New York, but was originally born in Milan, Italy. I have a passion for all things Magic and have strong Pro Tour aspirations. A little over a month ago, I won a PPTQ with 4-Color Copycat, and I’ll be writing about my experience here today. Our story starts when I found out that my family was going to visit our family in Italy, which we do on a semi-frequent basis. Naturally, as any reasonable Magic player would do, my first instinct was to check for PPTQs in the area. When I found one 20 minutes away from where we were staying, I had struck gold.
In terms of deck selection, my thoughts leading up to the tournament were to play Jeskai Copycat, as B/G Constrictor had just stormed GP Pittsburgh, and Jeskai seemed like the natural predator. However, after reading an article on 4-Color Copycat with Aetherworks Marvel, and playing a few Leagues with it on MtGO, I was sold. I quickly messaged a friend, who said he had all the cards for it. Content with this, I played leagues and tuned the deck throughout the week.
Two hours before I had to leave for the airport to Italy, I took a bus to my friends house, only to find out he was missing 2 Rogue Refiner, an Oath of Nissa, and a Baral’s Expertise for the board! Those cards seemed pretty much essential to the deck in my testing, so I had to figure out replacements or figure out a way to find them in Italy. That night, I stayed up till 1 or 2 in the morning testing various solutions. The only thing I managed to come up with was to jam two copies of Tireless Tracker into the main alongside an Ajani Unyielding, and shore up the sideboard with a Chandra, Flamecaller at my friend’s suggestion. The day of the tournament, I was feeling good with my deck choice and preparation.
Round 1 – Mardu Vehicles
Round 1 wasn’t very interesting, as I faced my worst matchup, and got trampled as expected. In game 1 he mulled to six, I kept an unexciting 7, and he had turn two Heart of Kiran into turn 3 Veteran Motorist, and his follow up Gideon, Ally of Zendikar made short work of my Whirler Virtuoso and Saheeli Rai.
Game 2 I was on the play, and kept a decent hand with a Harnessed Lightning, which nabbed his turn 2 Heart of Kiran with the help of Aether Hub. However, his next play was another Heart, I had no reasonable answer, and I lost quickly.
Round 2 – Jeskai Copycat
In game 1, I tried to force him to waste his early turns or burn through removal spells by attacking with my Servant of the Conduit a few times without committing anything more meaningful, while all he did was play lands. After a few turns, I had a Tireless Tracker countered, and my next play, Felidar Guardian resolved. When he cast Fumigate to get rid of my Guardian, I knew I was ahead, and so began landing a few threats, which ended the game fairly quickly.
Game 2, my deck went off. After some action in the early turns, I had a full board of Oath of Nissa, Aetherworks Marvel, 6 energy, and a few creatures. I slammed a Chandra, Flamecaller and put him low in two turns. When he managed to remove it, I was left with 8 lands, Marvel, a Rogue Refiner and an Elder Deep-Fiend in hand. An end of turn Marvel spin hit Deep-Fiend, and tapped half his lands, I untapped, drew, and hardcast Elder Deep-Fiend to tap the rest of his lands, then attacked with my two creatures to bring him from 8 to 0. My opponent was a really nice guy, and I enjoyed the games.
At this point there was a lunch break, which clearly shows Italian PPTQs are superior to all others. [Editor’s Note: Well if that ain’t the most Italian thing I’ve ever heard…]
Round 3 – U/W Panharmonicon
In game 1, he ran me over with an Eldrazi Displacer and a Drowner of Hope, tapping all my blockers end of turn until I was dead. In game 2, I had some early plays, like a Tireless Tracker to get ahead. Once I I had swung a few times with it, and he hadn’t done anything except counter one of my spells, I tapped him out upkeep with an emerged Elder Deep-Fiend, and when I established my board, he was unable to get back ahead.
Game 3 was a very interesting game, as I won through a misplay, and kept a very suspect hand of 6 lands and an Oath of Nissa. This was very, very wrong, and my reasoning was something super flawed like “Lumbering Falls is basically a spell right?” Oath of Nissa found me land #7, and I was in bad shape. When his first play of the game was a turn 3 Displacer, met by my freshly drawn Harnessed Lightning though, I didn’t feel so bad. With the initial burst of lands apparently gone, I managed to draw gas for the rest of the game, and land a Chandra, Flamecaller to board wipe. When Chandra (and more attackers) put him down a few life, he landed a Drowner of Hope, and my board was stalled once again. The turn after he killed my Chandra, I felt far behind.
However, I hardcast an Elder Deep-Fiend on his upkeep, which allowed me to tap down his blockers, and force him to tap my deep fiend. After he had it killed next turn, and followed with a copy of Archangel Avacyn. I simply passed back, and was intending to Deep-Fiend him on the draw, but he quickly said “untap draw,” and I didn’t stop him in time. With my board being an Elder Deep-Fiend, Servant of the Conduit, and a bunch of land, I just prayed he didn’t cast anything main and went with the usual line of “play things after combat.” Thankfully he didn’t play around my other Deep-Fiend, and I tapped down Avacyn and his lands when he went to combat. I untapped, activated Lumbering Falls and attacked for exactly 15, winning the game.
Round 4 – B/W Control
After starting off badly, It felt good to have a win-and-in this round. My opponent was a very nice guy, and it sucked to not get to play much Magic, as he was stuck on 2 lands basically all of game 1, and I killed him with a few random creatures. Game 2 my deck went off again, and I was able to play something almost every turn while keeping up Negate for any potential copies of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar that might be coming. When I hit a bunch of copies of Oath of Nissa and clues from Tracker, I was able to Negate his desperation Gideon and Deep-Fiend his lands end of turn, which ended the game on my next combat.
Round 5 – U/B Control – ID
After the pairings were posted and I checked that I could draw in, my opponent (who was on UB control, a deck that I have no experience against) and I drew into top 8!
After coming to this tournament to crush B/G, and never having played against it in the swiss, I was hoping to just have dodged Winding Constrictor and friends, and to play them in every top 8 round.
Quarterfinals – B/G Constrictor
In game 1, I simply waited for my opponent to tap out, and when his turn 5 Verdurous Gearhulk left him open, I untapped and combo’d with a million cats. Game 2 started off much worse, with his Winding Constrictor into Tireless Tracker looking much more intimidating than my turn 2 Servant of the Conduit into turn 3 Felidar Guardian. At 9 life, with a Saheeli Rai in hand, I played an Oath of Nissa, revealed Chandra, Flamecaller, played a fifth land, and passed.
My opponent simply attacked with a 5/4 Tracker and his Constrictor. My hand was Attune with Aether, Servant of the Conduit, Saheeli Rai, and that Chandra. Not wanting to go dangerously low, and not thinking I could win the long game with the hand I had, I blocked Constrictor with Felidar Guardian, and chumped the Tracker with Servant, setting myself up to combo next turn. When he simply passed with 4 mana up, I had to go for the combo, and he didn’t have anything.
This outraged my opponent, who very rudely said the Italian equivalent of “wow I thought you were pretty good, but that was a terrible play.” In the moment I tried to explain my reasoning, which was that if he just played a land second main then the Tracker would have been bigger than the Chandra in my hand’s -X ability, and would subsequently have killed me had I chumped with Felidar Guardian, taken two, and gone to 7.
In hindsight, the Chandra wipe may have been the better play, but my reasoning was that he has more lands than removal spells in his deck, and I also am not confident I can win the long game with the rather anemic hand I had, so once he passed I was locked into combo or die. Anyway, my opponent’s rudeness was totally uncalled for and I think he was mainly salty he lost against someone younger than him. Oh well, there is always someone like this in tournaments.
Semifinal – B/G Constrictor
My semis opponent was a super nice guy, and I enjoyed our match immensely. In the first game, he had a Servant of the Conduit into Rishkar, Peema Reneagde start, which is pretty scary, but I came back with a Tracker and a Rogue Refiner. Then, stuck on three lands, he tapped his creatures and lands to cast a Verdurous Gearhulk, which I killed with Harnessed Lightning. As the game progressed, I had an Elder Deep-Fiend to tap his freshly drawn 8/8 Gearhulk. I then attacked for 2 with a Servant, and slammed Ajani Unyielding exiling his 8/8. He then attacked both of his creatures at Ajani. I blocked the Rishkar, which he followed up with another one.
After a few turns, he had tapped down to one land (but he still had Rishkar and Servant up for mana, with a Tireless Tracker and a clue sitting on the field as well). I quickly untapped and showed him the combo in my hand, momentarily forgetting that he could get another black with his Servant to Grasp of Darkness or Murder, which was very loose of me, and prompted him to tell me to actually do the things in order. I cast Felidar Guardian, blinked Rogue Refiner, and then played Saheeli Rai. With the -2 on the stack, he cast Fatal Push on his own Servant and then another Push on my Felidar Guardian. Whoops.
He did nothing on his turn and I drew another guardian, we went to game two. Never punished. In this game, I had the combo in my opening hand. I did nothing except a Conduit turn 2 into a turn 3 Felidar Guardian, as my Saheeli Rai would have died to his 2 creatures. When he cast Fatal Push on my Servant end of turn, then untapped and played a Walking Ballista for 1, things were looking grim. However, I had Harnessed Lightning in hand, but only one red mana when I next untapped. I knew I had to pass and keep up Harnessed Lightning, as I couldn’t risk playing it next turn, because I didn’t want to turn on Fatal Push. Therefore, I just passed, and when he tapped out for Gearhulk, I killed Ballista in response and showed him the combo.
Finals – B/G Constrictor
After coming to the tournament to beat B/G Constrictor and having done so well at it up until this point, I hoped I could continue my streak and combo off once more in the last match. In game 1, my opponent had the best possible start, with a Winding Constrictor into Rishkar, putting me to 16. After I landed a Servant, I passed and went to 8. Then, I cast Harnessed Lightning on his Constrictor end step (in response to Fatal Push on Servant). During his turn, I killed his Rishkar in response to his Verdurous Gearhulk, untapped, and combo’d him with 6 lands.
Game 2, my opponent mulled to 4, and to be fair kept a pretty competitive hand that he told me after the game was Servant of the Conduit, Transgress the Mind, and 2 lands. I kept 3 lands, Attune with Aether, Saheeli Rai, Aetherworks Marvel, and an Elder Deep-Fiend. He got on board first with his Servant, and then Transgress nabbed my Marvel (as I had drawn the second Attune and could go up to 5 energy with my Aether Hub, this was likely the correct play from my opponent). I played Saheeli Rai, scried to the bottom and passed. He attacked Saheeli down to 2, and when the top card of my deck was Felidar Guardian, I showed it to my opponent and had won the PPTQ!
Winning the tournament was a mixture of relief, excitement, and nervousness for what to come. The tournament organizer ran a very nice store and the judge was on top of things, ever reviewing a ruling that I asked him to, and admitting his mistake, which I found admirable. Overall, it was a great experience, and I was just happy to finally convert a top 8 into a win. The most valuable lesson I learned from the tournament was definitely to never give up, and always imagine yourself coming back from a back situation. Not getting tilted from my round 1 loss or my rude quarterfinal opponent allowed me to play tighter and better than I had before in the same situation, all of which combined with a lot of luck, and a great deck gave me the win.
There were many obstacles I faced throughout the day, but explaining to my family how it worked to travel from New York City to a tournament 20 minutes away from a suburb of Milan, which then qualified me for another tournament in Boston, which could then qualify me for another in Japan definitely takes the cake.
Thanks for reading and see you next time!
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