At the of the first day, a familiar face from Boston sat at the top of the Pro Tour Osaka standings. His name: Rob Dougherty. His record: 11-2-1. The 3rd day of the Pro Tour isn't exactly strange to Rob at this point, as he finished Top 8 at Pro Tour NY 99, top 4 at PT Chicago 2000, and was a member of Your Move Games, the winning team at the first team PT competition in Washington DC in 1999. In fact, that team won quite a bit of money in the Masters series this previous Thursday, finishing in the quarter finals.
I sat down with Rob right after the end of round 14, and got to get a good insight into his finish at the end of Swiss.
Ben: Judging from your high finish, your deck was well-built. What made your deck perform so much better than the rest of the black decks in the field?
Rob: We overcommitted to beating other black decks. We thought there were going to be three big decks in the field: Blue/Green, Mono Black and Blue/Black, with some Green as well.
Ben: Looking at your decklist here (pulls out decklist), I wonder if you could give me some insights into how your deck beat other decks.
Rob: Our first innovation came from trying to figure out how to beat green decks. The vampire (Stalking Bloodsucker) really allowed us to beat that deck. Originally, we had that Champion in our deck...
Ben: Laquatus's Champion....
Rob: Yeah, we had him, but he just wasn't doing enough against Green. We'd have instances where he'd come down and stall the game, but eventually they would build up forces, lots of squirrels, and cast Overrun to just blow us away. Our deck could edict away the first few creatures they dropped, and blow up some of the Squirrel Nests, but eventually we found they would get down a Squirrel Nest with a Deserted Temple, and just crank out more than we could handle. With the vampire, we had a way to end a stall, because now we could drop him on turn five with a Coffers, and then hit for 10 damage the next two turns.
Ben: So basically it's a two turn clock.
Rob: Right, so now we could beat mono green. Next, we looked at the Blue/Green decks, and we found that (Mesmeric) Fiends, (Faceless) Butchers and (Ghastly) Demises were really key to winning that match up. That just left the mirror match, and obviously Braids was the best card to win, although more teams figured that out than we'd hoped for. Skeletal Scrying was also key to winning that matchup.
Ben: Yeah, from what I've heard this weekend, Black on Black really came down to Braids and Mind Sludge, although other people have said that Mesmeric Fiend also won games by taking out the opponent's Braids or Sludge.
Rob: The Fiend was key, because they bought me that one turn I needed a lot of times. My opponent would have to kill it, and that turn it took to get rid of the Fiend bought me the time I needed to get the advantage.
Ben: So if you knew now what decks were in the field, how would you have changed your deck or sideboard?
Rob: Wow, that's a tough one. (Sits and thinks for a minute). I think I would have taken out a Shambling Swarm for a main deck Braids, just so I could (Diabolic) Tutor for her in the first game. That would have let me add a Skeletal Scrying or a Mesmeric Fiend to the sideboard. Other than that one card, I don't think I would have changed anything.
Ben: So what did you face today?
Rob: 50 trillion black decks! I faced 4 Blue/Green, and I had that draw in the last round (his opponent was running Psychatog), and then I faced 9 Black decks the rest of the day.
Ben: I know that you have a close knit play group at Your Move Games, but was there anyone in particular who really developed this version of the black deck, or was it more of a team effort?
Rob: We had a large group this time around, everyone was pitching in to help build decks.
Ben: So basically the deck was made by Your Move Games, and not any one particular person.
Rob: Yeah, but I have to give credit to some other people who didn't make it here to Japan who really helped build the deck, including Tom Guevin and Chris Manning. We had a huge team qualified this time, over a dozen members. Some people contributed more than others, but everyone definitely helped to build the deck.
Ben: Do you have any feelings about the Masters from Thursday?
Rob: The Masters were frustrating! Our opponents played well, and I had no complaints about our draft, we got the tools we needed to win. I won my match, Red/Green on Red/Green, in about 20 minutes, and I couldn't watch my teammates (Darwin Kastle and Dave Humphreys) play, so I went away, and when I came back, we had lost.
Ben: I know what you mean, sometimes you just can't watch your teammates play, it isn't always good.
Rob: Don't get me wrong, my teammates are amazing players and I wouldn't want to play with anyone else in the world! Whenever we're at a team Pro Tour, they carry me the entire event. But at these Masters events, the same thing happens every time: I win in 10-15 minutes, walk away, and when I come back we've lost. This was the third one in a row, including the team event just before the Masters were established, and I wished it could end differently.
Ben: Well Rob, thanks a lot for your time. Good luck tomorrow in the top 8.
Rob: Thank you! (Shakes hand)