My First Pro Tour Experience
First thing, allow me to introduce myself! My name is Raymond Perez Jr. I have played competitive Magic since the tail end of 2010 where I thought I was an insane player but was proven wrong when I went to my first GP. Fast forward to today and I think I have improved slightly but still have lots of room to grow. That’s the fun part, though!
I recently won my first PTQ a few months ago and was finally able to qualify for the Pro Tour in Dublin, Ireland for the first time ever. I worked hard the last few years to be able to do such a thing and was excited to finally get to the big stage. The thing that everyone forgets to tell you is that it’s just the beginning of an insane battle. No one warns a new guy like myself about all the stress, time, money and other things you must sacrifice just to prepare for this one tournament. That was a wake up call for me to know how much this all meant to me. It’s a sad moment when you realize just how hard and grueling it is to prepare if you ever want to play a PTQ or get qualified for the PT again as someone without a full pro team or people that know what is going on or what to expect. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Let us start from the beginning.
Winning a PTQ
The first time I ever won a PTQ was for Dublin. This meant two things:
1. I was finally qualified for the Pro Tour! “Everything is paid for (outside of hotel and food) so it will be a nicer trip to attend!” This is what I thought, ignorantly, about the trip.
2. I would need a passport now to even attend. No biggie; I need one anyway so this will just speed up that process. Another hidden cost I forgot to total in my head for the grand scheme of things.
So, lucky for me, I had a couple months to “prepare” for the Pro Tour. I thought that would be plenty of time to figure out standard, get guys together to test and draft and save money for the trip so I could enjoy myself while I was there. I did lots of things right, but I also did more things wrong to prepare. This will be my attempt to let others like myself know how to do things differently so they don’t become stressed as much as I did.
I want to address a few misconceptions that a first-timer might have.
The illusion That You Will Have Optimal lists
First off, I am a horrible deck builder. In the past, I usually just scanned the internet for the best deck and tuned it. Once I knew I loved control I was able to tune my lists way easier week to week than if I were to pick up a different deck like Jund. This was my strength going in. I knew that if I were to build a control deck from scratch, I would have gotten most of the things right on the first time. The thing about control, though, is you need to build for what you’ll face. This was where the optimal lists came in.
My buddy Mike McShane and I built a gauntlet of the decks we decided we would face. A majority of them were just saying “Hey, we should make a red deck.” and throwing cards that seem like they would fit in there into the deck. This led to us having some very rough decks and not much time to tune them as we had to keep figuring decks out. This let me to believe certain things about my deck that most likely weren’t true. One such example was that I was favored against the red decks with my control decks. We never spent too much time on the decks and when they Fanatic of Mogis version debuted at SCG two weeks before the PT, we had to readjust and go from there.
That People Will Have Time to Help
This was my biggest concern and what caused the most stress. Knowing that you aren’t testing in groups with pros such as Jon Finkel or even insane players like Gerry Thompson etc. feels like you are fighting a battle that you cannot win. They will be miles ahead of you due to the fact they have a team of like-minded individuals that can shed light on lists, draft strategies etc.
Going in, a had multiple people saying they would help me with testing, drafting, etc. Well, life happens and people will be people. The biggest thing I can say is don’t count on anyone to do what you cannot do yourself. I lucked out – my buddy Mike McShane was able to spend hours on hours during the day before I went to work and he was the reason I was able to come to understand the standard format. He was willing to jam deck after deck against me and had that not taken place – well, let’s just say calling me “stressed out” would be an understatement.
Drafting was also a huge thing. Ryan Bushard, one of the Brainstorm Brewery podcasters and my sponsor, bought me 3 cases to draft with. Sounds insane, right? Well, only if you have people willing to draft. It was hard enough just finding people that would actually draft at the same time and also hard to find people that I could actually learn something from. The random Joe Smith at the stores will not help me understand the limited format for a PT so I was forced to be picky. Even after assembling a fine draft crew, I still didn’t learn a ton. Whatever we played, I already knew from the few drafts I did personally at prereleases the weekend prior. It also didn’t help that when you have people who are biased towards certain archetypes, you tend to get a repetitive draft atmosphere where certain people are just taking RB because they like it and the rest don’t mind as they like something else.
I also underestimated how much time it would take to draft then play rounds. I never considered how long it would take before as it was only for me when I drafted and if I lost then I can find another draft or just move on. We only ended up getting through 2 boxes of product for drafts before everyone left. Definitely not where I wanted to be a few weeks before the PT. This is where MTGO comes in. Thankfully, they made Theros live on MTGO the weekend before the PT and that is where I would recommend getting reps in for drafts if you have the same issue as I did with groups. I drafted for a solid 16-18 hours doing three drafts at a time to prepare. This is where I learned everything I knew about the format. I was able to draft multiple different decks and find the one that I thought would give me the best chance at winning my draft rounds at the PT. When in doubt, MODO it out.
Cash Rules Everything Around Me
A usual Magic weekend for me ranges from $180-260 to get a hotel, food, events etc. This is what I was assuming would be the same range of costs for me at this tournament. The huge flaw I looked over in that thought process was that all those trips I have my buddies with me to share expenses. Going to the PT meant I was traveling alone and most likely rooming alone for the first one. Those were costs I had to factor in and definitely did not think about it when I was prepping until later on. Don’t be an idiot like me – draw up a plan. Try to find people to go with as it makes for a better experience as well as cheaper expenses. I ended up staying by myself across the event center which was super convenient but was boring once the night was over.
Try to research how expensive things are there. I was blown out by not knowing what I would paying, on average, per day for meals and transportation. People in Europe were telling me that Ireland is expensive on its own and even more so to Americans as the Euro is worth more than the dollar. I usually spent around 15-20 Euro on a meal and would spike a good deal every now and then for 10 Euro. That adds up when you stay there for multiple days.
Which leads me into my last words of advice.
Play The Game, See The World
I chose to fly in Wednesday morning and leave Monday morning. This was a mistake to the fullest. I missed out seeing some of what Dublin had to offer because I just didn’t have enough time. I really wanted to go to the countryside and also other bar districts to see what those were like but ran out of time fast. Even if you don’t have a team of players getting a house for a month prior the tournament, try to get at least a week to spend around town. Getting to travel to other countries is something I never thought I would have been able to do a few years ago playing this game and now that I was able to, I wish I was able to take advantage of that. DON’T DO WHAT I DID! See the beautiful sites!
I was able to qualify for Valencia, Spain which is the next PT, so I will be more equipped this time around. Less stress is always a good thing in life and these were the major issues I had with prepping for the PT. I hope you all get to go to a PT yourself as it’s such an insane time. Getting to travel to play a game you love is always a good time and getting to meet so many new people is also always a great thing in life. Hope this will help anyone expect the unexpected in their PT preparation and if you have any other questions about what to expect, I will always be happy to chat about them! All you have to do is find me on Twitter, MTGO or message me on Facebook.
Till next time,
Facebook: Raymond Perez Jr.
Magic Online: RayFuturePro
Because you asked, here is the deck Ray played at the PT