Recapping Magic Con Chicago, The Pro Tour, and Some Tips for Paper Magic Play

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Get the highlights from Magic Con Chicago and the Pro Tour, plus essential tips for improving your paper Magic: The Gathering play.

How Was Magic Con Chicago?

Going to any convention has it's fair share of nervousness, but also anticipation for some fond memories. I was personally incredibly excited to go and thankful for the opportunity to be there. My goal was to draft a bit, play in some constructed events, and try to earn some free MTG product - along with spending some time with friends and other creators that I would see there.

Being able to watch The Pro Tour so closely was exhilerating. The Rakdos Vampires Deck stole the show, and we will get to some analysis of that later. It also proved us right that Vein Ripper is a powerhouse of a new card that can be potentially format-warping. There were some other decks that kind of took everyone by surprise. Emergent Ultimatum was another surprise card that saw play in the tournament and performed well.

It was a really successful weekend. There were tons of fun people there, and I was able to participate in a few very fun events. I ended up being able to get forty-five packs from various sets from my winnings, proving that it isn't too hard to farm events at these conventions and get enough product to either refund a badge, or even come out with some extra money. The best part is that you can keep playing in the later rounds even if you don't do well, because you still get extra prize tickets for winning around, and even for participating.

Although I was not able to make it there in time to participate in the Standard 75k event, I was able to compete in the Standard Cup and almost made top eight. I was one point of damage away from making my way into the championship rounds, but was still proud of how I played. I looked back briefly, however, and realized that I made a few mistakes that could have put me in a better position, and that has led me to come up with some better practices that both I discovered, and also some tips that I've gotten from others.

Tips for Playing Paper Magic

Something that is always tough for me are triggers that go on the stack that the player ends up being responsible for remembering. We are so used to and spoiled by the fact that MTG Arena handles all of the triggers for us. I constantly found myself missing triggers from Sheoldred, The apocalypse. It is really easy to miss the draw step triggers from this creature. Something that I ended up picking up as a tip from another player was to put a dice on top of your deck so that you wouldn't miss anything on the upkeep/draw step. This will make you think about why you are removing it, and cause your mind to think more procedurely.

Another thing that I learned this weekend was to simply call a judge if you either don't understand something, or think that your opponent might be acting without your best interest in mind (you should never assume they have your best interest in mind to begin with).

Analysis of Pioneer Rakdos Vampires

Total Cards:

We already know what Vein Ripper is capable of, but now we are going to make it part of a combo.

Magic the Gathering Card - Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord - MTG Circle

Sorin really lights up the early game and the advanced position that this deck can quickly capture. He allows us to put a Vein Ripper on the board on turn three. It creates a situation that is almost impossible to recover from in a format where that early in the game people are mainly holding up Fatal Push or other small damage spells as removal. Something even scarier and more noteworthy about this combo is that the deck runs Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. Why is that so important? Well, Vein Ripper is a non-legendary creature. We can make as many of them as our deck allows. Using Thoughtseize and Duress in the main deck also allow us to fish out any counter spells so that we can safely resolve our Sorin.

Magic the Gathering Card - Cavern of Souls - MTG Circle

We can also use the Cavern to ensure that our vampires resolve. Given that Sheoldred is the only non-vampire creature in the list, we can do a pretty good job of maintaining pressure and nullifying any counter spells.

Magic the Gathering Card - Mutavault - MTG Circle

The creature lands in this deck allow some early pressure as well if the opponent is not playing anything but trying to hold up counter spells. Mutavault is a really easy and efficient two damage that can get across for early pressure.

The sideboard is also stacked with answers and spells that shut down some of the prevalent Pioneer combos.

Magic the Gathering Card - Leyline of the Void - MTG Circle

Leyline is awesome in this deck to shut down any graveyard shenanigans that the opponent might be trying.

The deck is not only stocked with threats, but it also has plenty of card draw and filtering so that we can find what we need. It makes it very easy to get out the combo and be in a position to set up shop. The sideboard is well thought out and it is tough to deal with us after game one, especially if we took game one.

Is it here to stay? Or did it just take everyone by surprise?

The deck uses a lot of staples of the already-existing Rakdos Midrange that has been a strong Pioneer deck for some time. Although people will obviously adjust their sideboards to deal with difficult spells such as Vein Ripper, I believe that Rakdos has enough versatility and powerful cards to adapt to anything that attempts to deal with it. If nothing else, fable is still one of the most broken cards that we've ever seen, and that alone can put people in difficult positions. My belief is that there simply aren't enough sideboard cards to truly deal with all of the threats and win conditions in this deck. It is somewhat of a pick your poison matchup for how you want the deck to beat you. Pioneer is due for a bit of revamping, and I am personally excited to see what changes are to come.

I am a Magic The Gathering competitive player, and streamer. I specialize in homebrew decks. My favorite formats are: Standard, Pioneer (Explorer on Arena), and EDH. I first started playing MTG in 2001, and have played on and off since then.
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