Pojo's Magic The Gathering news, tips, strategies and more!

Jeff Zandi is a five time pro tour veteran who has been playing Magic since 1994. Jeff is a level two DCI judge and has been judging everything from small local tournaments to pro tour events. Jeff is from Coppell, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, where his upstairs game room has been the "Guildhall", the home of the Texas Guildmages, since the team formed in 1996. One of the original founders of the team, Jeff Zandi is the team's administrator, and is proud to continue the team's tradition of having players in every pro tour from the first event in 1996 to the present.

 

Pojo's MTG
MTG Home
Message Board
News & Archives
Deck Garage
BMoor Dolf BeJoSe

Columnists
Paul's Perspective
Jeff Zandi
DeQuan Watson
Jordon Kronick
IQ
Aburame Shino
Rare Hunter
Tim Stoltzfus
WiCkEd
Judge Bill's Corner


Trading Card
Game

Card of the Day
Guide for Newbies
Decks to Beat
Featured Articles
Peasant Magic
Fan Tips
Tourney Reports


Other
Color Chart
Book Reviews
Online Play
MTG Links
Staff



This Space For Rent

The Southwestern Paladin
Remembering ProsBloom
Pro Tour Paris, Mike Long
and Magic’s First Combo Deck

by Jeff Zandi
April 14, 2006

Decks come and go, but very few designs will stand the test of time. One deck that has is the ProsBloom deck that Mike Long famously built and piloted to a win at Pro Tour Paris in April of 1997. That Pro Tour was the first held outside the United States. ProsBloom became known as the first REAL combo deck in the age of organized tournament play. That special event and that very unique deck are nine years old this week. There has never been a deck like the ProsBloom deck.

While I was recently reviewing some of this deck’s key cards, I found myself wanting to read and study more about this amazing deck. Back in the day, I had been a big fan of this deck, and played a Type II version for many months. Reading some old accounts of ProsBloom, Pro Tour Paris 1997, and the man who won that Pro Tour, I was bowled over by this deck all over again.
Before I knew it, I was digging through my collection to put this deck together for the first time in almost ten years. This fascination was something that I just couldn’t keep to myself, which is why I wrote this article.

ONE WAY TO WIN

The ProsBloom deck is a thing of beauty for many reasons. If you are not familiar with this deck, let’s start with the basics. It all starts with an enchantment called Squandered Resources, which lets you sacrifice a land in play for one mana of a type that can be produced by that land. Once you have the ability to sacrifice lands in play for mana, a sorcery called Natural Balance lets you put as many basic lands straight from your library into play untapped to put you to five lands in play. At this point in the exercise, you need another enchantment, called Cadaverous Bloom, to allow you to discard a card from your hand for either two black or two green mana.
You use the large amounts of mana generated by these cards to play Prosperity, a blue sorcery that costs one blue and X, where X is the number of cards that you and your opponent each draw. The goal is to draw as many cards as possible. If you draw another Natural Balance, you can put a fresh set of five basic lands into play. If you can combine more mana with more card drawing, you can eventually draw every card in your library. Once you have drawn most or all of your deck, it’s finally time to win. At Pro Tour Paris, Michael Long did this by playing his deck’s ONE win condition, a Drain Life that allows you to deal damage equal to the amount of black mana that you spend casting Drain Life after the initial 1B casting cost.

Everything about this deck reminds you of the mercurial personality of its most famous driver Mike Long. With ProsBloom, it’s checkered flag or crash.

Basically, only one of two things can happen when you play ProsBloom. You either draw enough cards to play a fatal Drain Life or you exhaust all of your resources and fail to draw enough cards or fail to draw the Drain Life or fail to successfully cast Drain Life.

On paper, this deck looks ridiculous. At first glance, you would think this was a casual deck at best. There is some counter magic in the deck to help you stave off interference from your opponent, but not very much of it. Your deck requires not one but two enchantments, each costing TWO colors of mana, to stay in play in order for you to win. This thing should never work. But it does. This deck looks very brittle, but ProsBloom is actually quite a strong design. You have to play the deck a lot in order to get the feel of it, but once you do, you will find it easy to often roll off a turn four win and you even hit the remarkable turn three win more often than you think.

PROSBLOOM DECK
as played by Mike Long in Pro Tour Paris 1997

4 Prosperity

4 Cadaverous Bloom
4 Squandered Resources
4 Infernal Contract
4 Natural Balance
4 Impulse
4 Vampiric Tutor
2 Memory Lapse
1 Drain Life
1 Elven Cache
1 Three Wishes
1 Emerald Charm
1 Power Sink
4 Undiscovered Paradise
3 Bad River
7 Forest
6 Swamp
5 Island

Sideboard:
3 City of Solitude
4 Elephant Grass
1 Elven Cache
3 Emerald Charm
1 Memory Lapse
1 Power Sink
2 Wall of Roots

While Mike Long may not have been the only person to immediately see the possibilities of combining Prosperity with the powerful mana producing enchantments Cadaverous Bloom and Squandered Resources, his is the earliest version of the deck to be proven successful in big-time tournament play.

Winning the Paris Pro Tour is just about as big as it gets. Long’s Paris version of this deck is very significant in a number of ways. Lots of decks are called “combo decks” simply because they feature combinations of cards that have particularly good synergy with each other. ProsBloom represents the most true definition of a combo deck because the deck cannot win without executing its “combo”. Finally, it is important to note how remarkable the Pro Tour Paris version of this deck is, constructed from only Mirage and Visions. There have been other powerful and deeply synergistic decks that came out of a tightly defined block constructed format. The Rebel deck from the Mercadian Masques block is a good example. The Affinity deck from Mirrodin block is another. However, both Rebels and Affinity were essentially laid out for the player by WOTC and each deck was immediately obvious to the playing community as soon as these sets were released.

PROSBLOOM AFTER PRO TOUR PARIS

A few months after Pro Tour Paris, Type II versions of ProsBloom were everywhere, being played by the best players in the game. In fact, the very best player in the history of the Pro Tour, Kai Budde himself, played a version of ProsBloom in the German Regionals that year. These Type II incarnations of ProsBloom featured many improvements to the original Mirage-Visions design. The most important changes to the deck that make it work so much better is the land. It may not be very exciting to talk about, but mana is what makes Magic work, and the Type II upgrades to ProsBloom in this area are substantial. Undiscovered Paradise is replaced with City of Brass. The Paris version of ProsBloom would often have been able to “go off” much quicker if the correct types of mana were in play. City of Brass takes care of this problem much better than Undiscovered Paradise. Undiscovered Paradise was never better in any deck than it was in Mirage-Visions ProsBloom, but picking up the Paradise after using it is a very big setback.

Taking a few points of damage from City of Brass is
MUCH preferable to picking up Undiscovered Paradise. Both lands have good synergy with Squandered Resources, since they can be sacrificed to this enchantment for any color of mana. Bad Rivers, which do help in a small way to thin out the Mirage-Visions ProsBloom deck, were replaced with Gemstone Mine. Gemstone Mine is a good solution for several reasons, despite the ability to only tap it for mana three times. The combination of Gemstone Mine and City of Brass virtually assures the ProsBloom player the correct mix of black, green and blue mana needed to set up their board in the early turns of the game. Like City of Brass and Undiscovered Paradise (but unlike Bad River), Gemstone Mine can be sacrificed to Squandered Resources for any color mana. Meditate was added to the Type II version of ProsBloom replacing the quite bad Three Wishes and a couple of Vampiric Tutors or Elven Cache. Most of the more successful Type II builds left Elven Cache out entirely, along with the ability to win if their Drain Life were somehow removed from the deck at any point of the game.

MIKE LONG AND PROSBLOOM

ProsBloom is Mike Long’s baby. So many things have been said about Michael Long that a lot of people have forgotten that he is one of the great players in the Pro Tour’s decade long history. Mike Long, in his core, has proven his love for and dedication to the game.

PRO TOUR PARIS FINALS

For that first foreign Pro Tour in 1997, Mike Long did not only build ProsBloom, he also built the aggressive red/black deck Mark Justice played with to the top eight of the same tournament. When these two great players met in the finals, the player with the greatest knowledge of the other’s deck would end up being the winner. In game one of the best-of-five Pro Tour finals, Mike Long attempted to go off on turn eight, but ran out of card drawing and conceded the game. In game two, Long goes off on turn six under pressure from Justice’s Coercions and Viashino Sandstalkers. Long is at five life after casting Infernal Contract, but seems to have enough resources to easily complete his combo, causing Mark Justice to concede. In the third game of the finals, Justice’s creatures quickly drop Long’s life total to five on turn six, giving Long one last turn to make the combo work. Long Impulses but fails to find the card he needs, and Long concedes game three.

THE PIVOTAL FOURTH GAME

In game four, there appears to no hope for Mike Long. Justice takes away Undiscovered Paradise, the only land in Long’s hand, with Coercion. At the end of Justice’s turn three, Long Impulses but finds no land and takes instead a Squandered Resources, which he plays on his own turn four. On Justice’s turn four, he plays Stupor which causes Long to discard his last two cards, a pair of Infernal Contracts. A turn later, Long draws and plays Bad River. On turn seven, all hell broke loose. Long plays Prosperity drawing four cards (Justice also draws four cards, of course). Long casts Natural Balance, sacrificing his only three lands in play, with no other mana in his pool. Justice responds to Natural Balance by sacrificing four mountains to play two Fireblasts, reducing Long’s life total to 4. Long puts two Islands, two Forests and a Swamp into play and taps all five to play Cadaverous Bloom. Long discards cards from his hand and plays Prosperity for seven cards. Long casts an Infernal Contract putting his own life total to 2, which Justice responds to by sacrificing two Mountains and playing Fireblast reducing Long’s life total to -2 (Pro Tour Paris was played at a time when a player with a life total of zero or less was not “dead” until the end of a step of the game, meaning that even at -2, Long could continue playing as long as his life points were above zero by the end of the turn).

Long plays two more Prosperity cards, first for fifteen cards, and then for nine cards. At this point, Long has most of his deck in his hands. Long discards around sixteen cards to Cadaverous Bloom and plays a 30 point Drain Life that reduces Mark Justice to quite a bit less than zero life points while raising his own life total to quite a bit more than zero. The championship would move on to game five.

Game five started with Mike Justice choosing to keep an opening
hand of Fireblast and six lands, despite the recent addition of the so-called Paris Mulligan rule (actually first used at Pro Tour Los Angeles a few months previous). Choosing not to take a mulligan would be the first of Mark Justice’s mistakes in this final game. Long gets a Squandered Resources into play on turn three. Justice plays Stupor on turn four, Long discards two Islands. Neither player plays any spells or lands for the next two turns.

For a few more turns, each player drops lands but neither plays any spells.
Justice breaks the silence with a turn seven Incinerate to Long’s face, putting him to 17 life points. On his next turn, Justice plays Coercion and finds Long holding Cadaverous Bloom, Drain Life and some other cards thought to include Natural Balance and Vampiric Tutor. After some thought, Justice takes Cadaverous Bloom, believing that Long still has one of his two Elven Cache somewhere in his deck with which to get back the Drain Life later in the game. What Justice doesn’t know is that Long has sideboarded out the Elven Cache from his deck, and would have no way whatsoever to win the game without the Drain Life. Long goes off on his next turn and wins the Pro Tour championship with a 44 point Drain Life.

This match defines Mike Long as a player. The championship match showcases both the showmanship and strategic trickery that put Mike Long on top of the game, as well as the deck building and general play skills that Long has displayed throughout his career. A lot of people think that Mike Long’s infamous card-in-the-lap episode occurred at Pro Tour Paris, but it did not.
The biggest dark mark on Long’s glittering card playing career occurred at the U.S. Nationals in a match versus Peter Leiher. Long was playing ProsBloom when judge Jeff Donais (a former teammate of Mike Long, no less!) was called over to their table. It was discovered that there was a Cadaverous Bloom in or near the lap of Mike Long. Long received a small suspension from the DCI, but the incident left a mark on Long’s record that he would never be able to remove.

THE FUN OF PLAYING PROSBLOOM

I love playing the ProsBloom deck. Since rebuilding this deck last week, I have played more than one hundred games with it, and I have to tell you, it has been very fun. Magic’s original combo deck is very satisfying to play with, once again proving just what an amazing invention Dr. Richard Garfield’s card game is. Playing ProsBloom without an opponent is, well, almost exactly the same as playing with an opponent. You see, the ProsBloom deck needs to be played the same way more or less regardless of what your opponent is doing to you. Basically, the only role that your opponent plays is in determining how many turns you will have to accomplish the combo and resolve the fateful Drain Life. The average time needed to win with ProsBloom, in its original Mirage-Visions format, is six turns. You usually get six turns against most draws of most modern Type II decks. Playing ProsBloom is like solving a puzzle. You look at your opening hand and try to imagine the fewest number of cards that you will need to use in order to get to the combo. You often begin with opening hands containing absolutely none of the important combo pieces. Don’t panic, you have time. You need only reach an Impulse or possibly cast a turn three or four Infernal Contract, or even a two or three card Prosperity to be right back in the thick of things.

Nothing is automatic, you can start going off with this deck and suddenly run out of card-drawing options. You can just lose to a faster deck.

THE BEST THING ABOUT COMBO DECKS

The thing I liked BEST about ProsBloom is that it’s a deck you can literally learn to play better with even practicing by yourself. Back in 1997, there was no Magic Online and there were fewer places to play Magic in general.

Back then, I appreciated greatly the fact that I could work hard and practice ProsBloom and actually help better prepare myself for tournament play. With a normal deck, you really need the interaction with other players and you need to see the choices they have made in their decks in order to educate yourself in the best way to play your own deck. With ProsBloom, like many other combo decks that would follow, the most important thing was learning your own deck. The more you play ProsBloom, the more you realize what kinds of opening hands that look okay are actually terrible as well as vice versa.

Last weekend, I judged a 40 player Junior Super Series tournament. In the finals, were the crazy under-sixteen players crushing each other with Elves and Minotaurs and Dragons? No. Both fifteen year olds in this JSS finals were playing combo decks. The player who won the tournament was playing a Heartbeat deck that wins, much like the ProsBloom deck, by spending a huge amount of mana to win with a black X spell, Maga, Traitor to Mortals. The runner up deck was a mono white Tron deck featuring a set of Urza’s lands combined with some very large spells like Storm Herd.

Long live combo decks!

Jeff Zandi
Texas Guildmages
Level II DCI Judge
jeffzandi@hotmail.com
Zanman on Magic Online







 

Copyrightę 1998-2005 pojo.com
This site is not sponsored, endorsed, or otherwise affiliated with any of the companies or products featured on this site. This is not an Official Site.