The Hazoret of a Lifetime

by Yam Wing Chun on 04 August 2017, Friday

Yam Wing Chun

 

The Hazoret of a Lifetime

Before Pro Tour Hour of Devastation, I was at exactly 20 Pro Points. I didn't have high hopes since I needed a 12-4 finish for Gold. However, I wasn't doing well on the Pro Tours, having only one money finish out of eleven Pro Tours played. I also had a lifetime win rate of less than 50%, which suggested that I was a "bad" player at the Pro Tour Level.

 

Hazoret the Fervent

 

Two weeks prior to the Pro Tour, the Hong Kong squad (Lee Shi Tian, Wu Kon Fai, Amaz, and myself) had been working extensively on a Red-Green Eldrazi deck and it looked promising. However, when we arrived at the team house, it was dismantled on the second day of playtesting. From then on, I was basically locked on Mono Red because the deck suited my play style very well. The rest of the playtesting team were pretty much divided into Team Mono Red and Team Zombies. The Zombies matchup for Mono Red was a bit rough, because it is the only deck that doesn't die to a resolved Hazoret the Fervent. However, I didn't think that many people would play Zombies, so we believed Mono Red to be a fine choice.

 

After a week of playtesting at the team house, we moved to individual hotels before going down to the venue to register. Since I always appear to be "the little kid at his first Pro Tour", I was surprised when Andrew Brown (who was manning the registration booth that afternoon) handed me my badge without asking for my name. Perhaps this was an omen? 

 

Meanwhile, we waited for everyone else to be done, while I saw many players heading to the basic land station to search for matching Mountains, which was exactly what I did ten minutes ago. At that moment, I had a hunch that Mono Red was going to be huge. After a final discussion regarding draft strategy, Jason Chung (who was in the next room) asked if I wanted to go to the games arcade. My roommate KFC (Wu Kon Fai) also wanted to go. After having a great time, we had sushi afterward and went to bed.

 

 

 

Day 1

 

Unraveling Mummy


I recognized a few big names at my draft pod, including Ondrej Strasky and Qi Wentao (who Top 8-ed three Grand Prix in the last three months). I drafted poorly at Grand Prix Kyoto last week, so I wasn't very confident. I hoped to escape the draft with a 2-1 record.

 

My roommate, KFC, had been drafting a lot of White-Black Zombies on Magic Online and he told me that if someone passes you Unraveling Mummy, you should move into the archetype, because the guy who passed it to you is almost always never White-Black. This meant that you're guaranteed a lot more good cards later on. Hence, when I saw a 5th pick Unraveling Mummy, I took his advice!

 

Splendid Agony Start // Finish

 

Pack 3 Pick 1 gave me an interesting choice between Splendid Agony and Start // Finish. The aftermath card is better in a vacuum, but Splendid Agony isn't too far behind either, due to the increase in one-toughness creatures. I decided to take the gambit by picking Splendid Agony and hope for Start // Finish to wheel because I believed I was the only White-Black player. It paid off, and I managed to wheel it 9th pick!

 

In the end, I managed to assemble this deck, to achieve the 2-1 record I had hoped for.

 



Thereafter, I went 5-0 in the Constructed portion, and the Mono Red deck felt unstoppable. There were a few games where I had to sweat it and hope to topdeck that final two or three damage to win, but most of the games I felt like I was miles ahead starting on turn one! I'm a slow learner and usually grasp a format more slowly (which is why I generally don't perform at Pro Tours and "new" Constructed Grand Prix), but Mono Red decks play similarly no matter which era they belong to. I've been playing Boros Burn for years, and I managed to "transfer" some of my experience to Standard.

 

Finishing 7-1 in Day 1 felt great and it was the best Day 1 performance for me. I only needed a 4-4 finish tomorrow for another Pro Tour invite, a 5-3 finish for Gold, and perhaps 5-2-1 for a Top 8. 

 



Day 2 

 

Torment of Scarabs


Since I finished 7-1, I was drafting in Pod 2. This is also the first time I was drafting in a Pod with a single digit pod number (haha!). I had teammates Christian Calcano and Nam Sung Wook in the same draft pod. This time, I drafted an aggressive Blue-Black deck after opening Torment of Scarabs in Pack 2. It is a very interesting card because it ranges from "insane" to "unplayable". I generally like aggro decks and I believed it was really good if you are very aggressive.

 

 

I went 2-1 with this draft again, putting me at a score of 9-2. From this point, it was all high-stakes going forward. One more win secured me a money finish, while two more wins will earn me a Pro Tour invite plus airfare. Of course, if I managed to get three wins or more, it would be Gold, or Top 8. However, I tried to not think so much about it and focused on my matches.

 

After beating the legendary Jon Finkel in a mirror match, I moved up to 11-2 and I began thinking about the Top 8, because I had two win-and-in matches ahead of me. I lost the next round but won the one after that, which put me at 12-3. My teammates congratulated me and naturally assumed that I could draw into the Top 8. However, I was paired against Sam Black, who needed to play. In order to hit Platinum, he needed to go into the Top 8 as highly-seeded as possible, so that he improved his chances of placing 5th in order to lock Platinum. 6th place and below wouldn't do it, which was why Black was insistent on playing.

 

Earthshaker Khenra

 

We went 1-1 and then the coverage team stopped up in order to broadcast Game 3. It was a very close game. When Black paused after his draw step in the very last turn, I figured that he might have missed out on the Earthshaker Khenra in my graveyard. I sat still and I did not budge. When he decided to attack me with all his creatures, I was relieved because I knew I had him. Upon winning, my teammates roared with joy and my dream of making the Top 8 finally came true. It was an emotional roller coaster and I was simply overwhelmed.

 

 

 

 

Quarterfinals Against Shintarou Kurata

 

Collective Brutality Ammit Eternal


As we are able to view all Top 8 competitors' decklists, our team studied my quarterfinals opponent's decklist. We originally thought that Collective Brutality and Ammit Eternal might be a huge problem, but after playtesting we realised that it doesn't change the simple fact that Hazoret the Fervent was still going to be the deciding factor. His lands coming into play tapped was also a huge liability.

 

 

Our initial thought on Mono Red mirrors was to "go big" by cutting one-drops and playing more control cards such as Chandra, Torch of Defiance. However, Jason Chung (who gave me his decklist for this Pro Tour) had played more than 100 matches on Magic Online and assured me that "going small" is still the correct way to go.

 

While the first player to have Hazoret the Fervent will usually win, you can win by pushing early damage and finishing them off with burn spells. This was why we all played burn spells such as ShockIncendiary Flow, and Collective Defiance, because they can all go to the opponent's life total. Since your creatures are mostly costing one mana, you're always "trading up" because your opponent is likely to use a card which costs one or more mana to deal with it.

 

And because we understood the importance of Hazoret the Fervent, we decided to play 4 Soul-Scar mage for a better chance in dealing with the mirror. In short, our plan of "going small" allowed us more chances to push early damage, increased our chances of getting lucky, and also presented a quicker Hazoret.

 

This was our sideboard plan in the quarterfinals matchup, and also the way we sideboard for Mono Red mirrors.

 

+3 Magma Spray
+1 Kari Zev's Expertise
-2 Falkenrath Gorger
-2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider

I won my quarterfinals 3-1 by geting my Hazorets faster. I guess this further emphasizes how powerful Hazoret is. 

 

 

The Epic Semifinals Game 5

My quarterfinals was scheduled early so I had plenty of time to rest and prepare for the semifinals. From watching the quarterfinals between Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Seth Manfield, we noticed PV bringing in slower cards like Aethersphere Harvester and Glorybringer. We believed that he would do the same against me.

 

I was quickly down 0-2 but I didn't give up yet, because I believed our "go small" plan was really good. In Game 3, a timely Kari Zev's Expertise off the top allowed me to put PV at 2 life, which enabled Ramunap Ruins to seal the deal. In Game 4, he was stuck on 2 lands and I was able to eternalize Earthshaker Khenra to take the game.

Suddenly, I found myself one game away from making the finals of the Pro Tour, despite starting out at 0-2.

 

In Game 4, PV's start was so fast that I had to put Ahn-Crop Crasher on defense, not something you want to do in the mirror match. The game seemed to be slipping away but I somehow managed to stabilize. I figured that if I did my math right, I could race with Hazoret. I was given a Slow Play warning for taking a little too much time, but I decided to attack and knock PV down to 11. He cast Bomat Courier and attacked me with everything, putting me at 4 life. 

 

 

The rest is history and I believe you guys already know what happened.

 

However, if you do not know the story yet, here is the tale of the "Biggest Punt in Pro Tour History". 

 

As I drew my card, I was so focused on the board that I forgot all about Hazoret the Fervent's prerequisite for attacking. I needed to have one or less cards in order to attack. I took a slow peek at my card as usual (sorry, that's an old habit, and old habits die hard), because the few seconds allowed me to think about what I could draw, and it also allowed me to think about what type of facial expression to reveal. I was holding Collective Defiance and I drew Incendiary Flow, which together with an attack from Hazoret the Fervent was lethal!

 

I could hear the crowd roaring through the headset. It was too loud to be drowned out. Then, it sank inside me that I had won the match. However, I made the mistake of attacking with Hazoret the Fervent, where I was stopped by PV and the judges. It felt like I was hit by a truck and I could barely breath. As you can see on the live broadcast, I took off my headset in disbelief and I had to breathe in really, really deeply. You cannot possibly imagine how agitated I was, because I think I did a pretty good job in containing it all and eventually regained myself.

 

However, the punt was too huge and it gave PV so many outs to beat me. As he cast Chandra, Torch of Defiance, I offered the handshake and wished him luck in the finals.

 


The Aftermath

Right after the match, I walked to a corner of the feature match area and stared soullessly into a metal pole. Then, I remembered that my teammates and friends were outside, probably as heartbroken as I was. As I walked out, my teammates came over and offered me way too many warm hugs. My phone, together with social media, was bursting with supportive messages from friends and fellow Magic players. I also saw the video clip of Rich Hagon during the live broadcast. I'm really thankful for all the support, despite my moment of folly. 

 

 

The Hazoret punt cost me a lot, but those are also the Hazorets which carried me all the way to my first Pro Tour Top 8. If you asked me before the Pro Tour whether I was willing to take a Top 4 finish, but end up making the biggest punt in history, I think anyone would be happy to accept it.

 

I couldn't sleep that night. It was difficult to. But I decided I was going to be a graceful loser without regret. Everybody makes mistakes, but life has to go on. It was a great experience for me in terms of my Magic career and for my personal growth. I won't be ashamed of it, because what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I hope my story can inspire many others who are pursuing different goals in life. Thanks for reading. Before I sign off, here's the decklist which I will remember for all eternity.

 

 




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