Matt Nass immediately pulled out Decoction Module. "Get that outta here," Sam Pardee said as he curtly pushed it out of the playables pile. They both chuckled, and continued on to assessing the other cards, with Pardee intermittently tossing bad cards to the wayside.
This is often how longtime friends—and now both Pro Tour Top 8 players—Matt Nass and Sam Pardee interact. They've been teaming up in various capacities for years, and have two Team Grand Prix Top 4s together, with one win (D.C. 2016 and Detroit 2015). It's fitting they both earned their first, long-overdue Pro Tour 8s in the same year.
Together, they always interact with punctuated pure honesty, and punctuated pure trolling. Listening to them, you know they've been doing all this stuff together for a while.
When they sat down with the Kaladesh Practice Sealed Pool—that we saw Shaheen Soorani, Brandon Nelson, and Christian Calcano fiddle with earlier—they often working both sides of a coin to figure out the best build, sometimes in sync, sometimes looking for that syncing channel.
They went through the same sadness the previous team went through—seeing Whirler Virtuoso and Unlicensed Disintegration, then slowly coming to the realization that they were likely to play neither, because the support colors weren't really there.
But Nass quickly recovered when he saw Era of Innovation, and pulled back the Decoction Module with the Whirler Rogue. "We have Era to go with these," Nass said. Pardee waved his hand dismissively and made a "pssshh" sound. But Nass informed Pardee that they'd be building that deck, "after they build the good one." They agreed.
As Nass went through the colors, he kept asking, "What are the highlights?" to keep perspective on why to consider the color in the first place. It was a novel way to keep his head straight that worked well.
Nass laughed when he got to the blue pile. "[Our] Blue has all the flying creatures that people think are good, but really aren't at all." He held up Weldfast Wingsmith and Wind Drake, specifically, although Long-Finned Skywhale was right there too. "These look like 'real' Magic cards, but they're not."
After cycling through the rest, while Pardee tossed the unplayables of each color diligently, Nass concluded, "I think our Green is a slam dunk; It's legit good."
"And White is, like, fine," Pardee added. That was good enough for a start. They laid out Green and White—the colors the previous team wound up keeping—in mana-cost order.
"This deck definitely looks good to me," Pardee said.
As the two considered the Sky Skiff that the other team easily included, Pardee said, "This is not awful—it's just a lot worse than it looks." He continued, "Usually you have to use a two-powered thing to crew it, so it just provides evasion and sometimes haste. It's ok, sometimes." He paused for a second, then admitted, "The deck will probably end up in a lot of board stalls, so maybe it's better here."
After that build, they went straight to Nass's Temur Energy as promised. "Get that White outta here ... and get 'Big Turts' in." Nass grabbed Thriving Turtle and added it to the team. Pardee contested that the 0/3 for one mana was indeed "Big" Turts, but it wasn't a sticking point.
"I want card draw spells too, for something to do with all this mana," Pardee pointed to the mana-accelerating Servant of the Conduits. "Plus even Long-Finned Skywhale should be in this deck. Getting it out on turn three is real." Pardee finished his thought with, "And if we're doing that, we're probably splashing Black for Unlicensed Disintegration anyway, right?"
"If I built this, I would probably go greedy and go double-off-color. You need too." Nass added. But his tense was foretelling.
Their joint enthusiasm to the deck soon faded.
"This looks so much worse than Green-White, and with worse removal"; "I'm not even counting Unlicensed Disintegration; we'll never cast it"; "Our mana's just gonna be 'garbo.'"
The two were in agreement with this abomination—and they scrapped it entirely. The last build, Black-Green, was the first time the two diverged. It looked similar to the first draft of Soorani, Nelson, and Calcano—splashing red for Unlicensed Disintegration.
The pair kept slightly disagree on everything. Pardee liked Fortuitous Find, but Nass retorted, "That card is so bad," etc. The heart of their disagreement seemed to be about the nature of the format. Pardee thought it was faster, and Nass thought it was slower.
"I mean, it's not that different for us. We still have about the same card evaluations; it's whether we skew one way or another when building," Pardee said. Throughout these discussions there were filling out the Black-Green cards for the deck.
Then, they stood back and checked out the pile broadly. It looked pretty good to both of them. But when it came to deciding which was better—Green-White or Black-Green—they disagreed again. How many Midnight Oil to include if any; was Live Fast better than the second Midnight Oil; all that. They lined the two decks up side by side, both lamenting that Syndicate Trafficker is basically a 3/1 do-nothing either way.
Nass said, "Black-Green is just worse than Green-White."
"Eh, it's got slightly better removal, and slightly worse creatures," Pardee opined. He was still figuring out which one he liked better.
That's when Nass started his persuasion. He said, "What's the best card in Black?" Pardee brought up Tidy Conclusion. "Ok," Nass continued, "What's the best card in White?" Pardee brought up Skywhaler's Shot, and they faced the cards off on the table. "Which one's better?" Nass asked. This continued down the line for the best four of five cards of each color.
Though this method had its holes, it was a good way to visually compare. The two jostled between which card was slightly better, and in which circumstances. "You are only going to cast Unlicensed Disintegration 65% of the time in your deck. That's gotta mean something, right?"
In the end, the two agreed to disagree. Pardee liked Black, and Nass liked White. "It's real close though," Pardee said. "If Syndicate Trafficker were better, it would be real easy." He bemoaned the fact that he had so few artifacts that both the Trafficker and Underhanded Designs were all but useless. He had already cut the Designs entirely.
"I think it comes down to the fact that I like Inspired Charge and Sam doesn't," Nass said. His preference to lean towards the synergy of all-out attacking was too great.
"Look, if we were on the same team, for like a Team Sealed or something, and Matt said play White, I'd play the White—it's that close." Pardee shrugged.
These two showed throughout this building process how well they know each, and how well they operate together. They were in sync when they needed to be, and when they weren't, understood why and were okay with it.
Though both players finally got their first individual Pro Tour Top 8s this year, with teamwork like this, the next time Team Pro Tours show up, they'll probably be up in the lights again—this time side by side.