Players Tour Phoenix is just around the corner. It will stand in the shadow of PTs Nagoya and Brussels, tournaments where Inverter of Truth defined the metagame and once again put Dig Through Time at risk of a reasonable ban. But I’m not here to talk about tournament metagames or what to watch out for—you can get much better takes on those elsewhere at Hipsters. Instead, I’ll talk about the tournament from a much more limited perspective, from the point of view of a single person.

You see, I’ll be playing at Phoenix. It will be my first ever professional-level event, and I’m more than a bit nervous.

I’ve felt better going into other events. A lot better. Not only am I expecting a higher level of competition than I’ve ever faced at a Grand Prix day two or PTQ, but my confidence is fairly low. I had a strong initial showing at GP New Jersey, but did poorly on day two. In fact, I’ve consistently done poorly at Theros Beyond Death draft, which is likely exacerbated by my not enjoying the format (and perhaps related). I like my synergies a bit stronger, my commons a bit better, and my mega-bombs less pervasive (and splashable, and cheap). Draft is where I’d expect to be able to get some match wins, but THB seems to be a much harder format for me to crack than ELD, WAR, or GRN.

As for Constructed, I’ve played as much Pioneer as I can in paper, but my local communities are small. I have zero experience playing against several archetypes, including the format-defining Inverter combo (a deck which folks don’t want to invest in when it seems likely to get banned next week). My deck, WU Control, had an abysmal showing in both Nagoya and Brussels, suggesting that far better players than I would have been better served playing something else. Nevertheless, I’m going to stick with the deck, since I’ve been practicing with it for over a month and know how to play it. I’m still tweaking it, but here’s something close to what I’ll be submitting tomorrow:

Pioneer WU Control

Creatures (2)
Dream Trawler
Torrential Gearhulk

Planeswalkers (7)
Gideon of the Trials
Teferi, Time Raveler
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Spells (27)
Azorius Charm
Dovin’s Veto
Sinister Sabotage
Thirst for Knowledge
Dig Through Time
Supreme Verdict
Seal Away
Detention Sphere
Cast Out
Lands (24)
Hallowed Fontain
Glacial Fortress
Irrigated Farmland
Field of Ruin
Castle Ardenvale
Castle Vantress
Fabled Passage

Sideboard (15)
Aether Gust
Mystical Dispute
Dovin’s Veto
Nyx-Fleece Ram
Rest in Peace
Disdainful Stroke
Dream Trawler
Settle the Wreckage

I’ll be putting the deck through its final paces tonight and confirming the list. It probably needs a 25th land and to shave a win condition from the main deck, but I’ll see how it feels first.

The last and perhaps hardest part of the tournament is that I’m basically going there alone. I’ll have friends there, but many of my closest Magic friends won’t be in attendance, and many of those who will be are with their own squads. That’s an experience I’ve never had at a Grand Prix and one I’ve never courted.

All gloominess aside, I’m nevertheless quite excited about the event. I’ve got my friends and my family cheering me (heck, even my girlfriend’s parents very kindly lent their support). And I have to remind myself what’s at stake: absolutely nothing. It does not matter how well I do in Phoenix, whether I make day two or drop and play in the Grand Prix. For some people, attending PT Phoenix would be their first step to achieving their dream of becoming a professional Magic player or joining the MPL. But that’s not my dream. Mine was always to qualify for the Pro Tour, just once. I’ll have succeeded in my dream upon playing my first land in my first game, win or lose. The rest is just gravy. Oh, I’ll play my hardest, bring snacks, get coffee and tea, and do everything else within my control and the spirit of the game to win, but I won’t judge my worth by how well I do on the big stage.

It’s a hard thing to recognize what’s important and what’s not, to separate self-worth from performance. I don’t pretend to be very adept at, but I’m endeavoring to maintain this perspective. I want to play my hardest to make it to Saturday and accept I’ll likely take more than a few lumps along the way. But, at the end of the day, I’ll be playing the best game in the world, on one of the biggest stages in the world, with the only goals being challenging myself and having fun. And when I put it that way, it seems pretty darned exciting.

Here’s looking forward to how this weekend goes. And, as always, thanks for reading.

Zachary Barash is a New York City-based game designer and the commissioner of Team Draft League. He designs for Kingdom Death: Monster, has a Game Design MFA from the NYU Game Center, and does freelance game design. When the stars align, he streams Magic (but the stars align way less often than he’d like).

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.