With only three more weekends' worth of Grand Prix on the horizon before Pro Tour Magic Origins, time is running out for players to make their final push to secure one of the 24 coveted spots at the next World Championship.
In a new wrinkle to the race this year, one of those spots will go to the player who has earned the most Pro Points at all Grand Prix in the 2014-2015 season. With no cap on the number of Pro Points players can accrue, the pressure is intense to attend as many tournaments—and put up as many strong finishes—as possible.
Pascal Maynard, fresh off a Top 4 finish at Grand Prix Las Vegas, is trying to chase down No. 21 Alexander Hayne for a slot at Worlds.
One of the players in the thick of that race is Pascal Maynard, who comes to Providence trailing No. 21 Alexander Hayne by 4 Pro Points in the race for that Grand Prix slot. Hayne finished in 17th last weekend at Grand Prix Charlotte, padding his lead, and leaving Maynard in need of a string of top-notch finishes in Rhode Island and beyond.
But, Maynard says, he is up for the challenge. He has plans to travel to all the remaining Grand Prix—including long distance trips to either Buenos Aires and Singapore—in his quest for a spot at the World Championship. The invitation-only tournament is the only one he's never played and has such a high expected value, or EV, that it's a goal well worth fighting for, he said. “And when I say EV, it's more than just money—it's also the experience...the chance to play in a tournament with 24 best players in the world.” The bonanza of Pro Points that he could potentially win to get a head start on the next season doesn't hurt either, he added.
For Maynard, the race for Worlds started before he even knew it was underway. He had already put up Top 8 finishes in Omaha and Ottawa, and won Grand Prix Mexico City before the Grand Prix Pro Point slot for Worlds was even announced at Pro Tour Fate Reforged. At that point, realizing that with the recent tear he'd been on he would be one of the early contenders for the spot, he dedicated himself to locking it up.
In a position where it's hard to earn additional Pro Points in his pursuit of Platinum thanks to the cap, “I'm now basically only going to tournaments because of this race,” he said. Fortunately, Providence and Grand Prix Montreal are within driving distance, but he is also likely to attend either Buenos Aires and Singapore unless he is able to add a glut of points this weekend with Hayne adding none—an unlikely scenario given how well Hayne's been performing of late, he said.
Fortunately for Maynard, both Montreal and Grand Prix Dallas—the final tournament before the Pro Tour—are Limited, the format in which he specializes, Maynard said. While it's unfortunate that Dallas occurs the week before the Pro Tour, meaning his hunt for Worlds will detract from his testing time, “at least if I make Day 2 I'll get to draft, and hey, that's practice right there,” he said.
So, in need of a big finish to close the distance between himself and Hayne, did Maynard allow the Worlds race to affect his deck choice for this weekend? Would he try to go off-the-beaten path in the hopes of catching the field unawares and spiking the tournament?
While he might have thought that way in the past, Maynard said, no more. “I don't think those factors should ever influence the deck you are playing,” he said. “No matter the tournament these days I just try to play a good deck rather than anything funky.”
Trying to innovate and hope a higher variance deck could lead to huge finish “used to be my thinking, back when I was trying to qualify for the Pro Tour,” he explained. Last year, having fallen off the Pro Tour, he spent a lot of time grinding Pro Tour Qualifiers and trying to brew unique decks that would enable him to take down those tournaments—where a second-place finish was not good enough.
“I would end up spending a lot of time and effort trying to make one new thing work, and then the day before the tournament I would realize it didn't, and end up audibling to a known deck, but without any time to test it,” he said.
Maynard's weapon of choice in Providence was nothing fancy, just a “fairly stock” Abzan Megamorph list.
The known quantity Maynard settled on for Providence was Abzan Megamorph. After playing Esper Dragons consistently ever since the last Pro Tour, he'd found himself unable to beat the Megamorph deck in testing. “The issue was that Foul-Tongue Invocation used to be good against Abzan, but now they have Satyr Wayfinders,” which are more than happy to serve as fodder for the black instant, he said.
He tried to adapt Esper Dragons to beat Abzan Megamorph, but couldn't make it work. He was consistently losing practice matches and couldn't dream up a card that would swing the match-up considerably in his favor. So he made the switch to what he described as a “fairly stock” Abzan Megamorph deck. No more Esper Dragons for Maynard and—more importantly—no more brewing. “I've been trying to brew all my life and I've realized I'm just not very good at that,” he said. “I'll leave that to Sam Black.”