If you are among the many fans of “Expensive Sorcery Master” Shaheen Soorani waiting for him to unveil the latest iteration of Eldritch Moon illuminated control decks for Standard you will have to wait until after the Pro Tour — or possibly until he does he deck tech in the Tournament Center. Recent success at the Grand Prix level earned him an invite to Pro Tour Eldritch Moon and in Brazil two weekends ago essentially qualified himself for the next handful of Pro Tours, when he finished in the Top 4 of the event alongside teammates Pascal Maynard and Brian Braun-Duin.
Soorani is usually not the globe-trotting adventurer when it comes to Magic; certainly less-so than his two GP teammates. Pascal Maynard was in the thick of the Grand Prix Player of the Year race right up until the end of last season and has demonstrated a willingness to play Magic in any time zone or hemisphere (even if he can’t pass the foil Tarmogoyf). Brian Braun-Duin — aka BBD — is the front-runner in this year’s GP race and is priced into playing a GP in Antarctica if they announced one. Soorani’s Pro Point coffers were not as full.
“Prior to this trip I had 13 pro points on the year with two GP slots at 1 point,” said Soorani of his thinking about heading to South America to play in a team Grand Prix. “After losing that heart-breaker to (Andrew) Cuneo for my win-and-in earlier this year at GP Houston, I booked travel for every North American GP coming up. I really wanted to make a run for it this year and after spiking a 13-2 at GP New York, it all started coming together. I wanted to lock Silver before the PT, and this and the GP in Sydney were the last options. Team Sealed is by far my favorite format, BBD is one of my closest friends, so the decision was fairly easy for me despite the cost and distance.”
The trip was a huge success for all parties invloved. Maynard assured himself Platinum status for next season and Braun-Duin managed to maintain his meager lead over Tomoharu Saito for the invite to the World Championship that comes with winning the Grand Prix Player of the Year title. For Soorani locking up Silver meant he would be qualified for three PTs in a row but perhaps more importantly, Grand Prix Sao Paulo marked the first time he had the chance to play in the elimination rounds at the GP or PT level.
“It was a surreal moment for me to finally play after the Swiss rounds were up. The experience was shadowed by a devastating Humble the Brute — a one-outer — off the top of our opponent’s library in the final possible turn to dash our GP victory dreams, but when the dust settled I had finally made it to a GP to 8. I Top 8’d five SCG Invitationals in a row, which are arguably more competitive than an average GP, but not having one Grand Prix top 8 was starting to make me doubt my competitive abilities. To summarize my experience in one word; relief,” said Soorani who was coming off missing the Top 8 in GP NY on tiebreakers.
All those Invitational Top 8s, near-misses at Grand Prix, and other success are much more impressive when you consider Soorani’s gainful employment. He is a teacher and his time is accounted for every Monday through Friday. The summer is a sweet spot for him when it comes to playing in events.
“That was the only reason I was able to travel as far as I did for GP Sao Paulo. My girlfriend is definitely not a fan of the amount of time I’m away, but she knows that I love this game and it’s become so much more than a hobby,” said the lover of control decks who was dubbed The Expensive Sorcery Master by Pro Tour Hall of Famer Gabriel Nassif during Pro Tour: Amsterdam. I was actually doing a deck tech with him and the French player crowned him that after another Hall of Famer, none other than Kai Budde, snorted derisively at a Thought Hemorrhage.
“(He) asked why it wasn’t Thoughtseize or a good card. Since then I embraced that title, using cards like Mass Polymorph at a Pro Tour, and just using cards that had great control power regardless of their mana cost,” he said proudly. “Control is a way of life and not a tournament-by-tournament decision. I believe it takes the most skill, ingenuity, creativity, and love for the game to create and pilot a control list.”
That reasoning sounds somewhat emotional but when you strip all the pride and self-identification away, there is actually a very specific and concrete reason that Soorani has elected to play with his expensive sorceries (and instants).
“The reason why I chose control and dedicated my career in Magic to this more difficult path, is to be able to win against any foe regardless of mana flooding. It sounds pretty basic, but control decks love to draw lands and filter them through a Sphinx’s Revelation, or Dig Through Time. When midrange or aggro decks hit that clump of land they are toast. When I started playing competitive Magic and saw that happen, I decided to run with control and never looked back.”
If you could pick any single player who embodies the opposite of everything Soorani believes in regard to Constructed Magic it would be his playtesting teammate for the upcoming Pro Tour, Craig Wescoe.
“Wescoe and I couldn’t be farther apart with playstyle, so I’m sure my criticisms of aggro and his of control may be a bit harsh,” laughed Soorani about his team which also includes Chris Fennell. “My hope is his experience developing strategies to beat control, and my experience developing strategies to beat aggro, will improve both archetypes during testing.”
He is always excited to share his unique view of attacking Standard but is doing his best to keep his tongue bitten between now and Round Four of the Pro Tour.
“I’ve worked with teams before and those events were Block Constructed or Extended PTs, so it was easy to keep my mouth shut,” said the popular strategy columnist. “This is the most difficult situation I’ve ever been put in for a Pro Tour, because it’s Standard and I can’t say anything in articles or on social media. What a nightmare!”
Gold status for next year is within Soorani’s reach although he may need to stand on his tip-toes to grab it. He will need a 12-3 finish at GP Sydney and then at least a 12-4 at the Pro Tour the following weekend.
“I decided to give professional Magic my all, for at least the remainder of this year leading up to Pro Tour: Dublin. You can expect to see me at every GP — minus my best friend’s wedding the weekend of Atlanta — in the near future,” said the Sao Paulo semifinalist. “I’ve been playing competitive Magic for quite some time, but I’ve never — until now — given it 100% due to work and school. I want to see if this old dog has enough energy left in him to achieve greatness.”