If you missed Part 1 last Thursday, you can find my decklist, matchup analysis, sideboard guide, and how I won three byes here.
Day 1: Undefeated @ 8-0-1
When seatings were posted, I sat down in front of a friendly Englishman who had been working in Barcelona for the last three years. We exchanged the usual congratulations on our respective city’s football clubs, and he did a pretty good impression of trying to convince me to never come to Barcelona—it turned out he was only doing his best to keep out all the tourists from an otherwise stunningly beautiful city. Having visited Barcelona before, I didn’t fall for his trickery!
Round 1, 2, & 3: *BYE*
Byes are such a treat. On top of nine points, you also enjoy better tiebreakers and are able to preserve a lot of mental energy. Never leave home without them! Still, my friend Sergey never fails to remind me of what is basically already on its way to a meme inside the Legacy community: "Julian! Byes again? Byes are for girls!!!"
But as always, with great power comes great responsibility—in my case responsibility for the culinary desires of my travel mates. So while Armin, Florian, and Seppi were out there battling in the first three rounds, I set out to find a supermarket. Instead of going for the one at the nearby train station, I followed a friend’s recommendation of "right there down the street" and suddenly found myself on an epic journey probably coming to a theatre near you soon. Forget Peter Jackson and Frodo; finding stores with at least halfway decent hours in France is what it’s all about these days!
After what felt like an eternity, I eventually ended up in a small shop on top of a hill (for the sake of analogy, let’s call it a mountain!). Unfortunately, no eagles showed up to take me back to the tournament center, so I just grabbed all the water I could carry and somehow managed to arrive back at the site in time for round 3. I equipped my friends with supplies and waited for the round to finish. Time to get this tournament started!
Round 4: Alexander Killi – U/W Miracles, 2-0 W
For my first actual match of the tournament, I played against a fellow German. Alexander studies in Berlin but is currently on a semester abroad in Paris just in time for the BoM and GP next year. That’s what I call proper timing!
G1: Tundra into Sensei’s Divining Top. Once again DCI reporter felt like giving me a hard run for my money. Fortunately, my opponent seemed to have a much better understanding of Elves than I do. That’s the only explanation I can give you because why else would you insta-scoop to the obviously unbeatable combination of Wirewood Symbiote and Elvish Visionary? When he told me, "I know where this is going . . . " I first believed he just intended to F6 for the rest of the turn, but he actually just picked up his cards and started shuffling for the next game. Guess the cards on top of his deck were not the droids he was looking for?
G2: During this game my opponent actually got Counterbalance on turn 2 but failed to blind flip for a while. After Abrupt Decaying his Balance end of turn, I main phase Thoughtseized him for Force of Will, dropped some more Elves, and instantly Natural Ordered for Progenitus. He failed to find a Terminus on his next two draw steps and packed it up. Sometimes it just works out, especially when your opponent doesn’t have Sensei’s Divining Top.
Round 5: Maciej Pasek – Esper Miracles, 1-1-1 Draw
Time to revisit our Polish friends! For this round I actually played against another guy from the Polish Legacy team that came to Paris in a now-obvious attempt to snipe me from the tournament. Unfortunately, this one came well prepared as he was on Esper Miracles—very likely the worst matchup I would ever face the entire weekend.
G1: But who actually gives a damn about bad matchups? Not this guy. I just went for my usual strategy in game 1 against Miracles of sending my Elves to his throat ASAP. Everything went according to the plan of him not having Terminus until he had Terminus. However, with my opponent at only six life, I chained Green Sun’s Zeniths into several Wirewood Symbiotes while Deathrite Shaman actually went all the way.
There’s not a whole lot I can say here, yet people keep asking me about how to beat this matchup. All I can tell you is play to win! Hesitation in game 1 is the most common reason for losing to Miracles with this deck. Forget that crap about "playing around Terminus" (in game 1) as it will do you no good. It’s like not raising a strong hand pre-flop in fear of a worse hand coming out on top of you on the flop. The less you raise pre-flop (commit to the board), the more likely any of the weaker hands at the table will hit their outs in the long run.
G2: This game acted as a quick reminder that I am actually mortal. Not that I ever had a tendency to think otherwise, but after winning three games straight against the possible worst matchup, a man sometimes starts dreaming. Not this time though as my opponent quickly established the Counterbalance-Top lock while I tried to play (read: draw) my last remaining outs in the form of Abrupt Decay.
After being hit by two Engineered Plagues on Elf and Dryad, Wirewood Symbiote was my last remaining hope of actually staging one of the most epic comebacks I could have ever imagined. I even drew the Natural Order I was looking for; my opponent had the Force of Will but still failed to find a way to actually kill me. We both durdled around for quite a while, but he eventually got me with Jace, the Mind Sculptor’s ultimate ability. We reconsidered our sideboarding and then shuffled up for game 3 with less than ten minutes left.
G3: After drawing no lands in my first opening seven, I actually considered keeping a hand of five lands and one Thoughtseize but ultimately decided to ship it back. Despite this loss of crucial resources, the early game played out pretty well for me with several Elves nibbling on my opponent’s life total, and I had a feeling that I might be actually able to get there, The joke was on me as my opponent just turned the game state upside down by sweeping my board with Perish (or was it Toxic Deluge?).
After getting down some preemptive Engineered Plagues, he looked in great position to take the game but yet again lacked the tools to actually get there. At some point he flashed in a Snapcaster Mage in an attempt to capitalize on my incapability to do anything. Too late though as we finished the game with me at two life in the fifth extra turn. At this point I had to give a lot of credit and respect to my opponent for swallowing the draw without any hard feelings. One of the best guys I played all tournament.
Round 6: Johannes Gutbrod – U/W Miracles, 2-0 W
Third time’s the charm they say. Whoever came up with this saying should definitely go watch Elves vs. Terminus 3. You might ask why they would print such a strong spell. I don’t know. I kinda love it. I actually hate it. Especially the excruciating feeling of seeing your entire squad crushed under the iron first of just a single white mana.
To make matters worse, I was playing against Johannes, another member of the Munich/Nuremberg Legacy crew.
G1: Game 1 saw Johannes without any kind of mass removal, which made it really easy yet nevertheless thrilling for me to get there. At ten life he managed to stick a Moat, which could very likely spell trouble for me even after sideboarding. Fortunately, my Deathrite Shaman took him down to eight on his end step. When his life total dropped to six life on my main phase, I actually hard cast Ruric Thar, which now reduced his outs to the single Karakas he was probably running. When he didn’t find it, we were quick to shuffle up for the next game.
G2: I don’t remember a whole lot about this game, but I feel Pithing Needle on Top might have played an important role here. He again failed to find the Force of Will for my Natural Order, and Progenitus got there in two clean swings.
Round 7: Hove Thiessen – BUG Delver, 2-1 W
G1: I remembered seeing Hove play in the Top 8 of GP Strasbourg earlier this year and assumed he might be still on some kind of BUG Delver strategy. Since he didn’t manage to foster any kind of offense (read: Delver), I had free rein to play the old Symbiote/Visionary game and eventually just ground him out. Not a whole lot to see here.
G2: With his back against the wall, Hove mulliganed down to five cards on the draw. Despite this huge disadvantage, he managed to crawl back into the game, trading two times three-for-one with the help of Golgari Charm and Toxic Deluge. When I fired off a Hail Mary Natural Order, he had the Force of Will for it and sealed the game with a Tombstalker. I hadn’t seen that card in European metagames in quite a while I have to say.
G3: Time to return the favor! In quick fashion I mulliganed down to five but kept a strong hand of two lands, DRS, Visionary, and Symbiote. When Hove didn’t Hymn me on turn 2, I felt relieved and brought all my guys to the table. We did some trading of business spells for counterspells and discard, with me eventually resolving a Natural Order for Progenitus while he was at eleven life. I jokingly announced that Toxic Deluge might still do it for him as I was unable to activate my tapped Deathrite Shaman. He looked me in the eyes and then proceeded to cast Brainstorm with three lands still untapped. He slowly drew his cards and then thought about what to put back for a while.
During all of this, I was on the edge of my set as I had absolutely no idea how many Toxic Deluges he might be packing. Despite not making a huge splash in the metagame yet, the card is actually insane and will definitely see way more play than the general public currently expects it to. Fortunately, it didn’t see a lot of play in this very game as Hove failed to find anything besides another one of his Golgari Charms and extended his hand. As I later found out, he had sided out all his Liliana of the Veils, a move I don’t agree with, although doing so on the draw might be reasonable.
Round 8: Samuel Marti – Elves! 2-0
When testing the waters while shuffling up, Samuel seemed to be a quiet and deliberate guy. It’s always a bit awkward when you don’t really get a good grip of what kind of person you are playing, but I don’t blame him as he seemed very focused.
G1: I believe I got to play first in this game, which is such a huge boon in the Elves mirror as it takes away the stress of actually having to hope to just live through your opponent’s third turn. So after playing out several Elves on the first couple of turns, I moved all in on what seemed like a Glimpse of Nature chain that was rather unlikely to actually result in a win for me. All I was hoping for at this point was to maybe get enough Elves to the battlefield to barely survive a Natural Order out of Samuel on his third turn.
Still, despite the bad outlook, I played it out in a very disciplined fashion, neglecting to make any land drops until I found Gaea’s Cradle, and eventually found Heritage Druid on the last possible draw before I would be forced to ship the turn. During all of this, Samuel suddenly changed and did his best to rush me into making a mistake. I can’t stand that kind of behavior as we both knew that I was far from slow play. Anyway, after I had drawn the Heritage Druid I needed (once again on the last possible draw!), I easily dispatched him with him being ready to do the same to me had he gotten another turn.
G2: During the first two turns of this game, we both had very explosive Gaea’s Cradle draws and were able to summon several Elves to the battlefield. Unfortunately for Samuel, all that was left for him to do on turn 3 was to go for Natural Order after doing some calculations that saw him attack for 24. This of course meant that I got to block with two Nettle Sentinels and eat the creature he had sacrificed with my Deathrite Shaman and barely survive at two life. With Natural Order in hand, this now looked like a sure win for me. The only problem I had to overcome at this point was his Symbiote untapping his Craterhoof Behemoth, which provided additional five toughness of defense.
After doing some calculations, I realized that in order to kill him immediately, I would have to topdeck any one-mana creature. It seemed Samuel had already figured out the same as I collected my seemingly well-deserved "piece of shit!" from him as I cast and sacrifice my newly drawn Heritage Druid into a lethal Natural Order. No hard feelings Samuel, at least you got to win GP Valencia the following weekend.
Round 9: Nicolas Bourguet – Junk, 2-1 W (@nicoleptik)
G1: For the last round of the day and the honor of emerging undefeated for the moment, I was playing Nicolas, a very friendly and talkative guy from France. I wasn’t too sure what he was playing, but it seemed he already had my number when he used GSZ to grab Gaddock Teeg as soon as turn 2. I tried to grind him out with Symbiote/Visionary, but he had the Swords to Plowshares to stop any of my shenanigans and sealed the deal with Umezawa’s Jitte.
G2: It’s funny; I have much better memory of all the games I actually lost than the ones I took from my opponents. I have a hard time remembering what was actually going on here, but one of the few things I recall his him misplaying with his Golgari Charm. He was trying to use it in response to me bouncing Elvish Visionary with Wirewood Symbiote when in fact he should have waited for me to replay it in order to take out the entire engine at once. Despite his mistake, he stayed in the game and even got Gaddock Teeg online at some point. Abrupt Decay into Natural Order got there.
G3: I hope this is not getting old for you guys, but in the face of no interaction on his first turn, I just Natural Ordered for Progenitus on my second turn and got there. Nicolas took it with a good laugh and extended his hand. One of the coolest guys I played all weekend. He finished the main event in thirteenth place I believe.
So far, so good . . . so what! Unlike the first couple of times I made day 2 of GPs, my desire for more definitely exceeded my happiness about finishing day 1 with a decent record. The draw against Maciej seemed unavoidable, but given how I managed to already overcome several difficult matchups, I feel pretty good about my chances at this point. Unfortunately, Armin, Seppi, and Florian didn’t make it into day 2 though. They still happily cheered for me, and we headed out for dinner at what must be one of the very best places to get burgers. The guys at the restaurant even did that special thing where they put a sunny-side-up egg on top of your bacon. Coincidentally, I had just read about this kind of culinary pleasure on Reddit the other day and was really excited to try it myself. And boy did it deliver.
Day 2: I Might Be On To Something Big Here
It looked like I wasn’t the only one drafting cheese + ham this morning. I still managed to get some good late picks, but mono-ham just doesn’t have the same kind of feel for me, so I decided to move into the yet unexplored territories of strawberry jam on toast. It ended up curving out well, but I recommend anyone trying this strategy to check whether the toaster is actually switched on before just staring at it like an idiot for almost five minutes. Oh, and they were out of orange juice. So I guess this qualifies as finishing outside the money at breakfast. 🙁
Since the tournament would be starting even earlier today, Armin, Florian, and Seppi decided to join me later, which was fine with me. Especially at big tournaments, I really enjoy just putting on my headphones between rounds and relaxing. My choice for this tournament was David Garrett’s album Rock Symphonies (a crossover between classical and rock tunes), which I basically kept listening to nonstop between rounds.
Shortly after the doors opened, pairings were posted, and I headed over to one of the top tables just looking to play a match of Magic and see where it would take me (spoiler: very far).
Round 10: Cyryl Kociecki – Merfolk, 2-0 W
Ok, I kid you not. I was actually battling the fourth member of what I at this point can only refer to as the Polnish Ninja Turtles. I like to imagine that the Eastern European equivalent of Master Splinter had sent them out on a special mission to hunt and take me down to satisfy his vicious desire for Elf blood—and I was facing my final confrontation against their glorious leader.
Yup! I’m weird.
Game 1: I’m sorry, but I don’t remember a lot about this game. I remember him not having to quickest of starts but still getting me down well below ten life. At some point I opened myself up to dying if he had another lord in hand but figured it might be worth it as by doing so I’d be able to play around Force of Will on the next turn. Dropping down to very low life post-combat, I untapped and cast Glimpse of Nature. Seeing it countered, I just dropped Gaea’s Cradle and Natural Ordered up my own super mega-lord and overrun him.
Game 2: Ok, here’s a little exercise for you guys. I will give you the name of four different cards, and you will try to figure out how the game played out. Ready? Mutavault, Forest, Aether Vial, and Pithing Needle. Followed by several end of turn discards on Cyryl’s side of the table. Do you remember what I said about Merfolk mana bases?
Round 11: Yohan Dudognon – U/W/R Miracles, 2-1 W
When pairings were posted Cyryl (Polish for Leonardo) was quick to track me down and inform me that we had actually signed our match slip the wrong way. We quickly headed down to the judge station and informed them of the mistake, and they reorganized the pairings of the first few tables. Thanks Cyryl, that was a real gentleman move.
G1: A quick assemblance of Counterbalance + Sensei’s Divining Top followed by a Terminus. Nothing to see here.
G2: While he was running Volcanic Islands, I got a feeling he might be playing red mainly for Pyroblasts and potentially Sulfur Elementals. A lot of Miracles players have recently made this switch, which is completely fine with me. I quickly put him all in on my first Natural Order, and while he didn’t have the Force of Will for it, he still flipped Terminus from the top (courtesy of SDT) and reset my board. I was still far from done here, and when he got Counterbalance online later, I just waited for two turns, only grinding with Deathrite Shaman and setting up for the kill.
With him at twelve life, I Abrupt Decayed his Counterbalance end of turn and ground two more life with the Shaman. During my turn I tested the waters by dropping Pithing Needle onto the board, which he sure enough responded by flipping his Top. Considering for the slightest of seconds but eventually ruling out Quicken into Divine Verdict (this ain’t no Standard, Julian!), I still Thoughtseized him but (obviously) saw no Force of Will. I then used all the mana I had previously built up on lands to easily Natural Order for the win. Note that ever since I started playing Pithing Needle I leave one Craterhoof Behemoth in the maindeck against Miracles as you often don’t have to fear Terminus outside of corner-case scenarios involving Brainstorm.
G3: For our third and final game, we both mulliganed down to six cards. I led with Pithing Needle on Sensei’s Divining Top followed by Wirewood Symbiote. Unable to filter his draws, Yohan on the other side of the table started missing land drops early in the game and spent most of the time just doing nothing. Not the good kind of nothing Miracles often does but the I-have-three-miracles-in-hand nothing as my Thoughtseize showed me. I took one of his two Terminuses and set up for a lethal Natural Order on the next turn. <3 Pithing Needle.
Round 12: Grzegorz Jezierski – Ad Nauseam Tendrils, 2-1 W
Ok, time to start playing mono-Top 8 players. Grzegorz is a very nice guy from of course Poland once again. So that’s like the fifth Polish guy this weekend? I wasn’t exactly sure whether he was on ANT, but as you can see above, I had played next to him during the last round of day 1 and felt I remembered seeing him engage in some sort of Shokushu Goukan.
G1: For this game I keep a very good hand of lands, acceleration, and the potential to Natural Order on turn 3. Unfortunately, Grzegorz Duressed me after Pondering on turn 1. As he took the NO, I was left with just some Elves beating down on him. When he didn’t find what he was looking for, he was eventually forced into Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Burning Wish, and hard cast Massacre to reset my board. I saved Deathrite Shaman and a Dryad Arbor with Wirewood Symbiote, and Quirion Ranger and continued to deliver the beats at three damage per turn, adding another Quirion Ranger off GSZ. Because of his rather low life, Grzegorz was forced to find a way to win through the graveyard, but with me sporting two activations of DRS per turn, he was unable to get there.
G2: I kept a solid hand including a Mindbreak Trap. We both did our usual thing, which was developing the board for me while Grzegorz spent some time at Camp Cantrip. Unfortunately, he decided to leave at just the right moment with me ready to untap into Natural Order. I fully expected him to name said card when he cast Cabal Therapy on his third turn. The moment "Mindbreak Trap" came across his lips I knew I was doomed. He would never name that card over Natural Order if he didn’t know he’d be able to kill me on this very turn. Unfortunately, I was right. As soon as the Therapy resolved, Grzegorz started chaining rituals and eventually resolved a Past in Flames. I responded by eating his lonely Infernal Tutor with Deathrite Shaman, but with three cantrips remaining in his graveyard, he still got there and even found the natural Tendrils of Agony for the win.
G3: For our final game Grzegorz went first and Pondered. On my turn I Thoughtseized him and saw (among others) Brainstorm, Dark Ritual, Burning Wish, Duress, and (I believe) Lion’s Eye Diamond. I ended up taking the latter one, trying to act as careless about his discard spell as I could. It didn’t work out for me as he still followed his Preordain with Duress, taking my Natural Order. With him tapped out, I topdecked Cabal Therapy and aimed it at what I feel was the best call here: Dark Ritual. He ended up having TWO!
He was a bit bummed about me not naming Brainstorm, which would have also made sense given the fact that I also knew about it. However, and I think I’ve already mentioned this, what I am looking for in this matchup is buying time. This means that I want to take out my opponent’s business spells as soon as possible while he is forced back into cantripping. This might not be the overall best approach in the long run, but RURIC THAR NOT CARE ABOUT LONG RUN!
Still, left with little gas and only some creatures, I knew the game was far from over. When I drew Glimpse of Nature with only one creature in hand but two Wirewood Symbiotes in play, I just went for it to see where it would take me. It ended up drawing me only three cards, but oh boy that was probably the most profitable fizzle ever: Thoughtseize, Cabal Therapy, and Natural Order joined my hand. With only one black mana left, I Thoughtseized Grzegorz, took out an Infernal Tutor, and passed the turn with about five power on the board. Grzegorz used a Burning Wish to grab a Toxic Deluge, which soon fell victim to my Therapy followed by Natural Order for everyone’s favorite Ogre Warrior. This game could have easily gone either way, and I feel lucky I got to walk away victorious.
Round 13: Jamie Westlake – Ad Nauseam Tendrils, 1-2 L
At this point I was the only undefeated player still left in the tournament. When Jamie and I sat down for our match, the head judge came over and told us that there was some good and some bad news. The bad news was that we would have to pack up all of our stuff. The good one was they were moving us to the feature match area!
You can find video coverage of our match here. Here are some notes of what was going on in my head during the games:
G1: Jamie made a mistake in going for only fourteen Goblins in a situation where he should have just waited and swallowed the risk of dying on my turn. He immediately recognized his strategic mistake but couldn’t really undo his moves once he had started chaining rituals. What you don’t see in the video though is that the judge actually asked Jamie to make a play; I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have gone for it had he had more time to think about it.
G2: I kept a rather weak hand of Thoughtseize, Mindbreak Trap, Gaea’s Cradle, Craterhoof Behemoth, and some fetch lands. My plan for this game was delaying him with my disruption spells for as long as possible while fetching Dryad Arbors to quickly accelerate into Craterhoof Behemoth while also having a lot of good topdecks. The moment I drew GSZ, I had already spent time during Jamie’s turn thinking about how I could use a potentially topdeck Zenith into generating eight mana. Short story: I couldn’t but really felt I should be able to.
So after pondering it for a while, I ended up concluding that getting Quirion Ranger was the best choice as it would allow me to use Deathrite Shaman twice that turn. Seemed good. The SECOND I picked up my deck I wanted to die in shame as I immediately realized my mistake. Mentally shattered, I even failed to set up the Deathrite Shaman properly and ended up having only one untap with it, which even might have cost me the game once more.
G3: "Oh shit."
Round 14: Stuart Taylor – U/W/R Delver, 2-1 W
I’m not gonna lie; I hated myself for losing that last match. With a win I would have been a sure lock for the Top 8, but instead here I was battling a really bad matchup. However, even though I knew Stuart was on U/W/R Delver, I had never felt more confident about winning this match. Even when he took the lead in game 1, the thought of not winning this match didn’t even come anywhere close to me. This was my tournament, and after an incredible run, I was definitely making Top 8. I’d been actively chasing this high-profile finish ever since I got a taste of what-could-have-been in my 88th finish at GP Amsterdam 2011, and now I was closer than ever and wanted it more than anything else. I just could not lose here.
I did not lose.
G1: Stuart opened up with Volcanic Island into Grim Lavamancer. Argh, that guy. He chained some cantrips and shot down each and every Wirewood Symbiote or Elf I presented to him. When I tried to slowly stabilize at very low life, Geist of Saint Traft came down, and the next thing I knew he launched a 4/4 Angel straight to my face. GG.
G2: I knew Stuart didn’t run Stoneforge Mystic and instead opted for the more burn-oriented Snapcaster Mage. I still sided in my Abrupt Decays and Pithing Needles as I was in desperate need for a solution to Lavamancer; also, if worse came to worst, I could still set them on either Wasteland or an Umezawa’s Jitte that he might have despite the lack of SFM. In this game Stuart dropped an Engineered Explosives for one on his first turn but neglected to blow it for quite a while despite me having two one-mana Elves on the field.
In a moment of weakness, he spent two of his three mana on Ponder and Delver before passing the turn. Sensing my opportunity, I performed a rather complicated and mana-tight turn that involved untapping Llanowar Elves with a bounced and replayed Quirion Ranger several times before going for GSZ into Birchlore Rangers to have just enough green and black mana to blow up Stuart’s EE with Decay. The Delver flipped, but at this point I already had overwhelming forces and could potentially even outrace the second best Insect in Legacy.
However, since my opponent’s deck had much better tools for getting a lead in damage races, I opted to let Visionary and Symbiote do their dirty dance and quickly ramped up to a full grip while semi-negating the Delver with DRS for two for two turns—sadly not a lot of creatures left to eat up though. With two Natural Order and one Glimpse in hand, I went for the first NO, drawing the expected Force of Will out of Stuart’s hand. On my next turn I tried to bait him with Glimpse once again, and much to my surprise, it actually resolved. Even more to my surprise, I actually managed to clutter the board with Elves, eventually Thoughtseizing Stuart, seeing nothing of relevance, and proceeding to hard cast Craterhoof for the win.
G3: The final game of our series started out pretty much like the first one with Stuart throwing all kinds of lava and lightning at my poor creatures. This time though Delver of Secrets joined the fray. Once I had Needled the Grim Lavamancer, I was presented with the decision to either start developing my board or Abrupt Decay the Delver right away. Usually, trading three-to-six points of life for board position is a very good move and should be prioritized versus most decks. In this game though his deck represented a lot of reach, especially with Snapcaster Mage in the mix. That’s why I decided to play it safe and took care of his Delver before starting to commit my creatures to the board.
As expected, Stuart killed almost all of them and eventually got a replacement Delver online that beat me down to four life before being caught on the receiving end of yet another Decay. When I cast a GSZ=2 on an empty board, I held my breath; I felt that Stuart might very likely be already holding onto a Lightning Bolt. Depending on what his deck presented him, he might either try to burn me out or out-control me for the rest of the match. The GSZ opened a window to actually beating both strategies. When it resolved I immediately grabbed a Scavenging Ooze and passed the turn. I don’t know if a lot of players would have tried to start eating creatures right away, but with only two green mana left, that would have been like just throwing away the Ooze to Lightning Bolt.
Instead, I waited for my next turn to carefully outgrow any damage-based removal spell while also gaining life. Probably drawing him from the top of his deck, Stuart slammed Geist of Saint Traft onto the table now. At this point none of us had any profitable attacks, and we just keep staring at each other for a couple turns, only growing my Ooze. Stuart seemed to stumble on relevant draws, so once I got more Elves down for defense the Ooze started crashing in on his life total. Stuart did some more Pondering and Brainstorming but soon just got overrun by my ever-growing board presence. He extended the hand, and I was a lock for Top 8!!!
Round 15: Timo Schunemann – Ad Nauseam Tendrils, ID
Timo eventually arrived at table 2 following an astonishing run through day 2 after entering at a shaky 7-2. We quickly did the math, and it was an easy ID for both of us. I didn’t really consider playing it out anyway as the ID ensured second seed for me, which meant I would definitely be playing first in the quarters and semis and possibly the finals should Jamie not make it.
After the ID with Timo, I walked back to the hotel room, took a shower, and stocked up my supplies of faucet water. I already said it in my GP Amsterdam report on The Source, but I strongly believe that drinking a lot and catching some fresh air is key in doing well in big tournaments. I’m not saying it’s absolutely essential, but it definitely goes a very long way.
Just as I returned to the tournament center, final standings were posted. As expected, I got into the Top 8 as second seed with a record of 12-1-2. Sweet!
Quarterfinals: Fabian Gorzgen – Punishing Maverick, 2-1 W
Fabian once again made it to the Top 8 of a premier Legacy event. I remembered watching him play in the playoffs of both GP Amsterdam 2011 and GP Strasbourg earlier this year. This time though I’d be rooting against him. We talked a little bit about the matchup, and while I feel it’s pretty good for Elves, he seemed to respectfully disagree. Alright, so let’s shuffle up and let the cards decide!
G1: We both started out with early acceleration, but Fabian missed his third land drop. When he finally drew it, he made a comment about it being the wrong one, so I guessed that’d be good for me. He was still able to slowly Punishing Fire two of my creatures, but with him tapped out and still three creatures on the table, I was easily able to play around a potential Mindcensor and go for Natural Order. Once again Behemoth jumped onto the battlefield, and because he had already taken some damage from a Nettle Sentinel, I easily overran him.
G2: This time I was the one running low on mana. Fabian Wastelanded my only dual and Swords to Plowshared my only mana producers. Because of an early Ethersworn Canonist, I was unable to keep up with his pace as he got to effectively cast two spells per turn cycle while all I could do was play a creature. On the offensive Qasali Pridemage joined in. Once Fabian Enlightened Tutored for Engineered Plague, the game looked pretty much over, especially as my next two draws were just Natural Order. Next!
G3: At this point we were the last match still playing, so they moved us to the feature match area. You can find video coverage of it here. After the game Fabian lamented about the most recent rule changed as he would have otherwise been able to Enlightened Tutor for Phyrexian Metamorph to remove the Progenitus.
Semifinals: Grzegorz Jezierski – Ad Nauseam Tendrils 2-1
This match was played off camera. Both my matches against Grzegorz were a real pleasure. He told me he used to play a lot of Elves, and it clearly showed throughout his decisions in all of our games.
G1: While drawing his starting hand, Grzegorz announced to the judge that he had forgotten to desideboard his Massacre. No problem though as he just received a warning, got to correct his deck, and draw seven once again. We both kept, and I once again had a very explosive start while my opponent was left cantripping a lot. The key to this matchup is reducing his life total ASAP if you don’t have the immediate kill with Natural Order. I actually did, but just at the right moment he squeezed in a Cabal Therapy to make me discard it.
Once you’ve reduced your opponent’s life to less than ten, Deathrite Shaman + as many untap effects as possible will get you there. For Grzegorz’s final turn, I shipped it with an untapped Deathrite Shaman, a tapped Dryad Arbor, and Quirion Ranger but no other lands. My opponent carefully analyzed the board and then scooped up his card. He later told me that he had the win via Past in Flames but immediately recognized my trick and gave me enough credit for him to not even try to go for it.
G2: This game I kept a healthy mix of Mindbreak Trap, Natural Order, and some Elves. Unfortunately, Grzegorz easily dispatched me on his third turn after discarding my Mindbreak Trap. I had the out of NOing on my second turn had I drawn the best Elf in the entire deck (read: Quirion Ranger) but failed.
G3: For our last game and the battle to represent the non-World Champion side in the finals, I kept a hand of one land, GSZ, Natural Order, some more Elves, and Glimpse. After I GSZed for Dryad Arbor on my first turn, Grzegorz once again Gitaxian Probed me (as he basically did every single game) and followed it up with a Cabal Therapy. In this situation I’m pretty sure most people would insta-go after either NO or Glimpse, but Grzegorz carefully analyzed my hand and correctly recognized that I was pretty much dependent on Quirion Ranger here. Without it I would lose a lot of tempo and not be able to meaningful advance my board.
So while he clearly identified that Natural Order was my best spell here, he still took the Ranger as it was the best mana acceleration I had available. Unfortunately for him, I immediately draw GSZ, which I insta-slammed for my beloved Quirion Ranger. This allowed me to untap the Dryad Arbor and replay my hand, summoning up an Elvish Visionary that drew me into a Mindbreak Trap! I’m not gonna lie; I felt pretty good here. My opponent did some more cantripping but failed to find the discard spell he was so desperately looking for, and I once more untapped into NO for Ruric Thar, looking to kill my opponent in quick fashion. Grzegorz had other plans though; at fourteen life he cast Dark Ritual (down to eight) into Burning Wish (down to two) and grabbed Deathmark and aimed it at Ruric’s head to go out with a boom. Finally, Ruric Thar was defeated—but so was Grzegorz!
Moving on to the finals of the Bazaar of Moxen against reigning World Champion Shahar Shenhar!
Finals: Shahar Shenhar, The Freaking World Champion! – Death & Taxes 2-0
You can find video coverage of the finals here.
Going into the match I felt incredibly good about my matchup against Death and Taxes. I had been thinking about playing D&T myself and knew that especially in game 1 the pace of the match would be set by whether I’d be able to kill him before he got to his third turn. Once he manages to find and land Aven Mindcensor, basically your only out is going down the Glimpse route. Fortunately, I kept a great opening hand and was able to safely Natural Order and kill him on turn 2.*
For game 2 I again kept a very quick hand with easy access to Natural Order on turn 3. My original plan was to set up NO + Abrupt Decay in case he had the Aven Mindcensor, but when he opted to take my Gaea’s Cradle with Rishadan Port, I just went for it. This line even allowed me to Abrupt Decay his Germ token when he had assembled the Exodia (a creature equipped with both Batterskull and Umezawa’s Jitte) for the final win I needed to become Champion of the Bazaar of Moxen Paris 2013!!!
*Just one thing I still need to get out there: some people later realized that I attacked with a summoning sick creature in game 1 of the finals. I feel so bad about it now, and I felt literally sick the moment I realized it way later. After the finals, I went to my team to tell them how I killed him on turn2 without Cradle. After I failed to explain it after like four attempts, I pulled out my cards and recreated the game state—only there did I realize that the Quirion Ranger was in fact summoning sick. Neither Shahar, the judge, the stream, nor I realized it. My friends now like calling it the Raging Quirion Ranger. Although I like the name, I feel really bad about it. I already apologized to Shahar via Twitter and he seemed really cool about it, but it still leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.
After the finals were over, Raphael Levy called me over to the casting booth and did a little interview with me. If you are looking for footage of it, you can find it here.
I spent the next 30 minutes accepting congratulations from so many people that I almost felt embarrassed! Almost! 😉
After leaving the event site, I invited Armin, Florian, and Seppi to dinner, and we celebrated! When we later came back to the hotel, I checked my Facebook feed and was yet again overwhelmed with congratulations—guys, you are so awesome! The only person left dazed and confused about what was going on was actually my sister that messaged me asking me what all the fuss was about. It turned out that stupid card game finally turned a profit! 🙂
Looking back at what I accomplished, next to the tournament win what really stuck out to me was my incredible record of 28-1-2 over the course of the last three events including the tournament the week before the BoM at Nuremberg. Of course hardly anyone has ever won a big tournament without a little help of Fortuna, but looking back I really feel like Elves was possibly the perfect choice for the expected metagame. It beats up on everything carrying BUG in its name and has great game against any midrangey or generally fair deck. I have to admit I got lucky I didn’t really face any RUG Delver as the matchup is at best only about 50/50 with my current sideboard. On the other hand, U/W/R Delver is even worse, and I managed to overcome it several times throughout the tournament.
I feel that Elves is still a very solid choice for any Legacy tournament coming up. Considering that the US always has a little less combo than Europe, you might want to exchange the two Mindbreak Traps for something to beat up more on the tempo decks. Don’t laugh; you wouldn’t be the first Elves player to give even more obscure cards like Skylasher a try. I sometimes run it on Magic Online these days, and thus far it has performed well. To be honest though while sideboards are important, the most efficient way to improve your general play is to develop a firm strategic grasp of how your most important matchups are supposed to play out. Basic knowledge about the odds and when you should actually play to win is the key to a successful tournament experience. I hope I’ll get the chance and time to produce an article on especially this in the near future.
In the meantime, let me once again thank all of you, the entire staff of the Bazaar of Moxen, and all my friends who cheered for me for their support throughout the tournament. I’m very much looking forward to returning to Paris in February!
Julian23 on The Source, @itsJulian23 on Twitter, twitch.tv/itsJulian
– Restaurant hours in France—seriously!
The guy who handed in his decklist on an A1 sheet (59x84cm).
– The guy who handed in his decklist on an A1 sheet (59x84cm).
– The entire Munich/Nuremberg Legacy crew for being awesome testing partners and cheering for me all the time!
– Everyone I ran into that I previously only knew from Magic Online! So many cool guys, cheers!
– The overwhelming amount of congratulations I received from players, judges and organizers—just WOW!
– Raphael Levy for future inspiration.
– Julia, the beautiful girl that drew me during one my matches—see here work here.
– The Source (http://mtgthesource.com)—Happy Tenth Anniversary!
– David Garrett’s crossover album Rock Symphonies, which kept me focused in between rounds.
– All the loyal followers of my stream http://twitch.tv/itsJulian and Twitter http://twitter.com/itsJulian23. If you want to see me beat a turn 1 Griselbrand or listen to the legendary "Glimpse Music," you should definitely pay a visit!