It’s Regional Pro Tour Qualifier season and a couple of friends of mine seized the day and managed to snag a pair of blue envelopes in the end! I was inspired by their story and wanted to share it with you guys today. Please welcome Daniel Scherer (Germany) and Emil Martiny (Denmark).
First of all huge congratulations on your triumph! Let the readers know about when you started playing Magic and when you started considering yourself a competitive player?
Daniel: I started playing Magic when Darksteel was released, so 2004ish. I initially played Eternal formats like Vintage (unpowered) and Legacy because these formats didn’t rotate and back then a Legacy deck was a cheaper and better long-term investment than Standard. The change to “real” competitive Magic came with Modern, so 10 years later approximately.
Emil: Ever since I learned to play chess at age 4, i loved playing games of all kinds. I first got into Magic at the intro trip at university in 2012, where some people had brought Magic decks. After that somebody donated a box full of cards to our student lounge and a bunch of us built decks and played in the lunch breaks, and in the afternoon. I really love Sealed, and I think that is in part since i just love to build decks out of random cards. I first got into playing tournaments at the Born of Gods Prerelease, where I came in second on saturday. I won half a box, which i went home and cracked to build Sealed decks with. I returned the next day, won the prerelease and was hooked.
I don’t know if i even consider myself that competitive of a player, i just really like the mental challenge of figuring out what the best play is. I think i play roughly the same way at a GP or when i drink beer and play Cube with my friends, which is still my favorite kind of Magic. My first competitive tournament was the last Limited PTQ in Denmark – Khans of Tarkir Limited. I had been to the Galla party at University the night before, had slept something like 3 hours, and was pretty hungover. The nice swedish guy who registered my Sealed pool told me he was sorry that my first competitive event was with such a bad pool. I lost 10 hours later in the semis to the very same guy. After that I have been that guy that was in the top 8 of nearly every Sealed PPTQ in the Copenhagen area, 13 or 14 total I think, but never really got there. I have had some issues with playing really poorly late in the day.
The proper preparation
How you win outside of your comfort zone
What was your mindset like preparing for the RPTQ and what did you expect? Try and explain the feeling when you got the final handshake.
Daniel: I was excited because I consider Modern to be a format where I am quite performant, but then I panicked because Modern is quite unpredictable, and then I just embraced the fact that you have to get lucky either way. Testing on MTGO was also a nightmare, it didn’t matter which deck I practiced with, I would constantly get paired against 3 horrible matchups in a row (or people that configured their deck to hate on whatever I was playing) and end up burning my play points and tickets eventually. I was basically happy about any 3-2 league finish at some point.
The handshake during the win-and-in match was relieving because the last game was extremely tense and close. I managed to not die to a lethal attack and had lethal on the backswing myself IF there is no surprise blocker hopping out of that Aether Vial my opponent had. I went all-in with my creatures for exactsies, my opponent activated his Vial… so I asked him “You got a blocker?” and he was like… “Nah, GG, congratulations man!”
Emil: When I first qualified for the tournament I was a bit scared that I should play Modern. I normaly more or less only play Limited (I do play a lot of Limited). What I started doing was that instead of watching Limited streams a couple of hours a day, I just watched Modern instead. I have now watched a lot of Modern content. My first plan was to play the UW deck that I own, but honestly the more I played, the more I became convinced the deck is just not good. Instead I wanted to play something proactive. I really like Hardened Scales, because it is feels like solving puzzles, which is something I am good at. When I go into tournaments I really try not to expect anything. I do think that I play well enough that if I am lucky I can win. This weekend I was lucky.
My KCI opponent made a mistake to give me an extra turn, and a topdecked Hardened Scales gave me lethal. It took me 2 seconds to figure out I had lethal, and what felt like 5 minutes to convince myself that I was going to win and actually do it, the only thing going through my head was “don’t screw this up”. A split second after the handshake, I yelled something like “F*ck Yeah” and high fived the guys I was travelling with. It was the most crazy adrenalin rush I have experienced.
Playing online or in paper
The familiarity of your home vs. looking your opponents in the eye
You can either play your RPTQ online or in real life. What made you travel to yours and what are the pros and cons of offline vs. online?
Daniel: Unlike the previous one in Leipzig, the RPTQ in Frankfurt was convenient for me because it was just an hour away by car, so in the worst case you go there, pick up your Noble Hierarch, get crushed and go home. The value of the promo covers the travel expenses quite nicely. Also 2 other people from my town qualified, so we took the roadtrip together.
Playing offline has the benefit of having to play fewer rounds, and you can ID into top8 when you had a good undefeated run. In both cases you are dead for top8 with 2 losses, so playing the event with fewer rounds and the possibility to draw is better in general.
But some people enjoy playing at home smoking shisha and sipping coffee during the PTQ, or simply when the RPTQs are too far away or too time-consuming.
Emil: I did consider playing online. It seemed reasonable to just rent a deck I jam a bunch of games with, I do also play 300+ drafts on MTGO a year, so the client is very familiar to me. But one of my best friends, Ulrik Thingsgaard won a PPTQ just after me. He told me with the words: “I had to win the PPTQ, i couldn’t let you go the RPTQ alone”, so we had to make a trip out of it. We were joined by 3 other really nice Danish guys. I do like Magic trips, I got to spend 8 hours in a small car, discussing Modern and a bunch of other stuff, which was a blast.
Weapon of choice
How to choose a deck in a format as open as Modern?
What did you play at the event and why? Also, share a highlight or two that you remember clearly.
Daniel: I qualified for this RPTQ with Humans (shoutouts to Ondrej Strasky). Before playing Humans, I was on Hollow One which I also played at GP Prague to an okay-ish 10-5 finish. So these were the decks I had the most experience with and feel comfortable with, the question was simple: Which one of these two is better in the current metagame?
I asked Martin Juza and he said he’d prefer Hollow One because Humans has no real sideboard (which is an issue right now), and the night before the RPTQ Thomas Enevoldsen locked the top8 of the Modern Challenge with Hollow One, which gave me some assurance that the deck is still fine. And well, even against unfavored matchups the deck still has some tools to get an edge, plus it can be very brutal when you’re lucky.
My Highlights: Attacking my Spirits opponent for 10 on turn 2 with 2 Hollow Ones and a Flamewake Phoenix while destroying his Supreme Phantom with Fatal Push. On turn 3, I destroyed his 3-drop with Lightning Bolt and attacked for lethal. Proper Magic, just as Richard Garfield intended. Also losing with 2 Hollow Ones on Turn 1: in the mirror match, both my opponent and I had double Hollow Ones on turn 1. He had Ancient Grudge, I didn’t. Go figure.
Emil: As I said earlier, I played Scales. I liked the deck and was able to borrow it. It can also be played in Unified Modern together with Spirits and Death’s Shadow which was relevant in Liverpool, which is certainly a plus. A highlight was playing against Spirits, where i didn’t destroy his Stony Silence for three turns, so I could set up a combat where I could blow him out completely by blowing it up mid combat. Sometimes patience wins you games, don’t just cast your spells at the first chance. Another highlight was a very complicated board against Dredge. I found a line where even if the 5 cards my opponent dredged with his Stinkweed Imp included 2 Bloodghasts, his 4th Creeping Chill and a Conflagrate, he could only put me to 1, and could not hinder me in killing him the next turn. My opponent dredged, hit those 4, tanked for a minute, played out his turn, put me to 1 and scooped. That felt great.
What’s the most important lesson for aspiring players?
For other aspiring Pro Tour competitors out there, what are your best pieces of advice?
Daniel: I don’t really know which advice I can give to other people given that there are plenty of players that are better and more experienced than me. But thankfully these more experienced people sometimes happen to write very good articles for various platforms from which you can extract and implement a lot of knowledge, be it a Modern deck guide or card rankings/archetype breakdowns for Limited. Social media is also beneficial for an exchange of knowledge. And playing MTGO together with a friend also helps. I think I improved a lot ever since I started playing MTGO some time last year.
Emil: Care less about if you win or lose, and more about understanding why. I know it is the classic advice, but people spend so much energy thinking about times where they were unlucky. Just accept that playing well doesn’t mean that you will win, if you play bad you won’t get lucky and win, but if you play well there is a chance.
This article was written by Andreas Petersen in a media collaboration with mtgmintcard.com