April 17, 2015

Pro Tour Dragon Fodder and Hatchlings

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Dragon Fodder Takes down Dragons


Dragon Hatchlings and Virtual Top 8s



Kyle Boggemes

Craig Wescoe

Josh Utter-Leyton

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

Sam Black

Brad Nelson

Andrea Mengucci

Seth Manfield



Looking Back at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir



Dragon Fodder takes Down Dragons


Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir is in the books, and Martin Dang's nearly-mono-red aggro deck has rushed to the front of everyone's Standard playtesting queues. It has been a pretty big Pro Tour season for Danish Magic with Dang winning the Pro Tour, Martin Muller leading their National team to the World Magic Cup title, and Lars Dam winning the Magic Online Championship. It has also been the culmination of very good season for Dang who won a seat at this year's Magic Online Championship Series and won Grand Prix Liverpool just last month.


If you go back fifteen years, Martin Dang and Lars Dam were young players hitting up every PTQ they could get to in an effort to get onto the Pro Tour. With precious blue envelopes on the line and coming from separate cities, they didn't start out as friends…but that changed by time Dang made his debut at Pro Tour Nice during the 2002 season. Suddenly, their local disparity had become global proximity.



Martin Dang—Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir Champion


"We had met before at Nationals and talked a bit, but at that Pro Tour we really hit it off. We respected each other's playstyle and since then we have been really good friends," recalled the recently crowned Pro Tour Champion. "Lars was already a respected player in the Danish Magic community back then, and I remember his last words to me on the trip clearly, he said, 'now that we have been on a Pro Tour together and I've watched you play, I wouldn't mind playing on a team with you,' I guess that marked the start of our Magic journey."


While Dam no longer lives in Denmark—he played last year in the WMC as the Thailand National Champion—the two old friends still make time to chat on Skype about new sets and old times. They will also be playtesting together for this year's MOCS since Dam is qualified as the reigning champion. Dang's team, Thommo Thommo Thommo, will also be sending a strike team of Dang and Martin Muller to the World Championship; Muller won a berth as the captain of the winning team from last season. Between Muller, Dam and Pro Tour Hall of Famer Nicolai Herzog, the supporters in Dang's corner came from across multiple eras of Magic history. It has been something of a whirlwind for the player who thought he had achieved the pinnacle of his Magic dream when he won GP Liverpool.


"Surreal," was how Dang described his week after winning the Pro Tour. "I have always thought that I would Top 8 a GP at some point—or something like that—but to win a GP and a PT is beyond my wildest dreams. I talked to Nikolai Herzog about it, and he told me that I wouldn't be able to understand the full extent of what I've won at this point, but it's big, and I agree with him, it's still unbelievable. But the week has proven that if you keep on playing and believe, you'll get there."


Anyone who has ever fantasized about winning a Pro Tour knows that the dream is only as good as the epic end boss in the finals. And Dang found himself facing down against Pro Tour Champion and 2006 Player of the Year Shota Yasooka.



Shota Yasooka—2nd Place Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir


"I have the uttermost respect for Shota, I even told him that both times before we played, so that surely was the win of my career," said Martin Dang who can now claim the title of Pro Tour Champion as well after dispatching the Pro Tour Charleston Champion in four games.


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Dragon Hatchlings and Virtual Top 8s


As we were coming down the stretch on Saturday it became apparent that a player with four losses was going to finish in the Top 8. It also meant it would leave a pileup of players with an identical record on the wrong side of the elimination bracket. I like to think of missing out on Sunday on tiebreakers as a "virtual Top 8".


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Kyle Boggemes


Virtual Top 8s rarely come by as razor thin a margin as Kyle Boggemes's 9th-place finish. The Pro Tour San Diego finalist had his tiebreakers miss by just six one-hundredths of a point. Boggemes does earn a nice little infusion of Pro Points for his otherwise-blank Players Club card and will be automatically qualified for the last Pro Tour of the season, which will give him the chance to claw his way toward Silver and Gold over the next couple months of Grand Prix events.


Boggemes went 6-0 in Limited but only matched that win total in Standard with four losses playing Blue-Black Control. Blue-black was his color pairing throughout the weekend as he was able to position himself in that archetype for both his drafts.





Kyle Boggemes's Silumgar Control — 9th place


































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Craig Wescoe


Sitting in 10th place was Pro Tour Dragon's Maze Champion Craig Wescoe, one of the newest members of Team Ultra Pro. Semifinalist Adrian Sullivan was effusive about Wescoe's assistance in testing the matchup as well as the meticulous sideboarding notes—something Ari Lax also said about Wescoe at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir—even if it is impossible to imagine Wescoe playing a creature-less deck like the one Sullivan was piloting.


Wescoe, who propelled himself into the Top 25 Pro Rankings in the 18th spot, split his four losses evenly over the two formats with a pair each in Draft and Standard. Wescoe was playing Bant Devotion in the Constructed format and piloted this deck to an 8-2 record.





Craig Wescoe's Bant Devotion — 10th place


































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Josh Utter-Leyton


Draft was not kind to Josh Utter-Leyton as his 9-1 Standard showing was dragged down by a 3-3 record at the draft tables. Utter-Leyton, who has five Top 8 finishes over the course of a career that has still not yet spanned a decade, continued to show why he has been one of the very sharpest Constructed minds in the game. I know that if I was looking to hone in on which version of the control decks that dominated this tournament to play, I would look to the one played by Team ChannelFireball. Just two spots beneath Utter-Leyton was his teammate Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, who played the same Ojutai-fueled control brew to an 8-2 record. Utter-Leyton jumped nine spots on the back of his finish to 14th in the Top 25 Pro Rankings.


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Paulo Vitor Dama da Rosa


For Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa it was nearly the 10th Pro Tour Top 8 of his Hall of Fame career. It was, instead, the first Top 16 in which he did not make the Top 8. Damo da Rosa has been a ferocious closer over the course of his career, but found himself on the wrong side of math this time out after a 1-2 start in Draft left him playing catch-up the rest of the way. With just three Standard losses across 20 matches, playing the identical 75-card list, theirs is the deck I am looking forward to playtesting on Magic Online all week.





Josh Utter-Leyton & Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa —Esper Dragons


































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Sam Black


Another player who put himself in a deep hole after the first draft was Sam Black, who started out 1-2 and had to claw his way back with perfect Day Two draft and an 8-2 record in Standard. Black, who leapfrogged six spots into third place in the Top 25 Pro Rankings, was terribly ill on Friday but somehow mustered through. Black finished 17th at the last Pro Tour—his first as a member of Team Ultra Pro—and he continued a string of high-level finishes that goes all the way back to his Top 8 in Dublin last season. It was the second Top 16 for his team. They placed three players deep in the event with Black, Wescoe, and Top 8 competitor Adrian Sullivan all playing wildly different decks. Black was showing his opponents all about the burn and the bees with a red-green deck that could Roast its own Hornet Nest to mana-accelerate a Chord of Calling for Dragonlord Atarka. It could also do some pretty brutal things with Setessan Tactics and deathtouch insect tokens.





Sam Black's The Burn and the Bees


































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Brad Nelson


If you needed to nominate a champion to defend you in a trial by Standard combat you would be hard pressed to find anyone other than Brad Nelson to go into battle for you. Nelson has the best Standard winning percentage on the Pro Tour over the past decade and his 9-1 record this weekend in Constructed did nothing to tarnish that record. Like Black and Damo da Rosa, Nelson started his event out with a forgettable 1-2 record in the first draft, going 3-3 in the format overall, which left him no room to drop a match in Standard. His weapon of choice for the event was an Abzan Aggro list that played difficult-to-deal-with creatures at every stop along the mana curve from one to four. Topping out with a hasty Surrak, the Hunt Caller after Anafenza, the Foremost was a formidable threat most decks were not prepared to deal with.


Nelson, who was one of the new additions to Team TCGPlayer.com, propelled himself onto the Top 25 Pro Rankings, all the way up to 16th. And while the team did not put anyone into the Top 8, it did post multiple players in the Top 16 and remains a force to be reckoned with on the Pro Tour.





Brad Nelson's Abzan Aggro


































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Andrea Mengucci


Another team that did well this weekend was Day1MTG which has multiple players from Italy on their roster. Marco Cammilluzzi finished 6th and his teammate Andrea Mengucci was the first player to come in with four losses and a draw in the standings. Mengucci came out of the gates strong with a 3-0 Draft to start his tournament, and started out 4-1 in Standard—in great shape heading into Day Two. He went 2-1 in his Day Two Draft, and then down the stretch of Standard went 2-2-1. The Italian player was playing an Abzan Control list that was identical to the one his teammate played to a Top 8 berth.





Andrea Mengucci's Abzan Control


































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Seth Manfield


How about Seth Manfield? He had always been successful at the Grand Prix level, but he has been replicating that success at the Pro Tour with a Top 8 and now a Top 16 in addition to multiple GP Top 8s. He is climbing up the Top 25 Pro Rankings and is now in 7th place from a previous high-water mark of 13th. Manfield went 5-1 in Draft and 6-3-1 in Standard with an Abzan Whip deck.





Seth Manfield's Abzan Whip




































When the World Championship rolls around, you'll see all the Pro Tour Champions—like Martin Dang—represented, but the bulk of the field will be made up of the players who occupy these precious Top-16 berths and are consistently among the best over the course of a season. We are officially in the home stretch of the Pro Tour season now and it will be exciting to watch as players tackle the remaining Grand Prix before that crucial final PT event of the season at Pro Tour Magic Origins in Vancouver this summer.


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Looking Back at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir







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