An Awesome Year Of Magic – Worlds 2011 *53rd*

Fabian Thiele has had an awesome rookie year of Magic, narrowly missing Rookie of the Year. Read about his finish at Worlds, with some sweet tech for the SCG Open in St. Louis this weekend.

When I sit down after long trips like the one to San Francisco just now, I start thinking how absurd and awesome it is that I spent six days in the US playing Magic: The Gathering against the world’s best players and even came back with more money than I had before.

Just as the title states, it has been an awesome year of Magic, with stops in Paris, Nagoya, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. With my finish at Worlds, I leveled up to level six, which is quite nice. Without further ado, here’s my tournament report.

Travel Preparations

This has been the first Pro Tour I came into already knowing which deck I wanted to play. When I read Martin Juza’s decklist from Hiroshima, I was instantly committed to the deck. I borrowed the last cards I didn’t have from some friends, but I basically had everything sleeved up. When I landed in Detroit, though, my plans were, let’s say, a little disrupted. I had to recheck my luggage, but after looking for it for over twenty minutes, I gave up. They told me I had to wait till San Francisco to find out where my bag was. All the cards for my Standard and Modern deck were in that bag.

In San Francisco, they told me my bag would be with me within 24 hours. I arrived at the hostel to meet up with Team Germany and some other Germans.

We didn’t playtest a lot the night I arrived, but it seemed as if many of them would play Mono Red for Standard. Martin Zimmermann was set on G/W Tokens as well.

While playtesting, I found out that every single deck that was built had Gut Shot or a similar effect that kills one-toughness creatures. That didn’t seem fair against my Birds of Paradise and Avacyn’s Pilgrim, so I was a little worried.

Martin got a lot more worried as he changed his choice to U/B Control. That was actually pretty good news for me because now I could borrow a lot of cards at once. I was only missing three Garruk Relentless.

Martin had four Gut Shot in the maindeck and sideboard, which I didn’t like so much. But I came up with another sweet zero-mana instant, which actually won five of the eleven Standard games that I played.

Here’s my decklist:

I wouldn’t describe myself as much of an expert on the deck, but I was feeling confident with my choice because I liked the numbers. There are only three two-ofs—which I like a lot—with some extra redundancy in the sideboard (Mutagenic Growth, Garruk Relentless, Oblivion Ring, Fiend Hunter).

Blade Splicer performed better than I expected, and I expected him to be very good against Arc Trail and other shenanigans. I’m still not decided on which my favorite card of the deck was: Mutagenic Growth or Gavony Township. They’d both deserve it.

Round 1: Dara Butler (IRE), playing Mono Red, on the play

I keep a hand of five lands including Gavony Township, Mirran Crusader, and Blade Splicer. I think it is a little risky, but six cards can be much worse, and on the play, this can be enough. I play my first spell on turn three, Blade Splicer, but Dara already has early pressure with Reckless Waif and Shrine of Burning Rage in play. When I untap on my fifth turn, I’m down to eight life and have a Golem token and Hero of Bladehold in play. Dara has the Waif, the Shrine, and a Phoenix in play with no blockers on the board. Playing my Township, attacking him, and using it would yield 15 damage. I draw Mutagenic Growth from the top, thinking how awesome the card is.

Game two, I can deny his pressure with Mortarpod and use Mutagenic Growth to save my Birds of Paradise. That way, I get maximum value off of Gavony Township, and I run him over.

1-0; 2:0

Round 2: Martin Juza (CZE), playing Tempered Steel, on the play

I don’t stand a chance in game one, not because Martin knows my deck very well, but because I mulligan to five and don’t have enough gas at all. Game two is much more intense with a lot of back and forth. I go down as low as three life against two Etched Champions after a mulligan to six, but stabilize with a topdecked Blade Splicer, a lot of tokens, Oblivion Rings, and Elspeth Tirel’s +2 ability. I’m pretty much dead if Martin draws Tempered Steel, but it doesn’t happen.

Game three, he takes a mulligan and neither has an explosive start nor the Tempered Steel. I force through some damage while always having more than ten life. I think it is one of my Humans that kills him off ;)

2-0; 4:1

Round 3: Kyle Stoll (USA), playing G/R Kessig Wolf Run, on the draw

Game one, Mutagenic Growth again shows its strengths. He ramps himself into a Primeval Titan, after which I attack with my Hero of Bladehold, a Mirran Crusader, and an active Gavony Township. He intuitively blocks the Hero, and I use my land. He’s ready to write down the damage, but I pay one green mana to kill his Titan with my zero-mana instant.

Game two, I don’t even do a single point of damage and just lose.

Game three I feel on top of things when I sneak in a hit with Sword of Feast and Famine, but he has Viridian Corrupter for it and Green Sun’s Zenith searching Acidic Slime for my Oblivion Ring. I don’t ever come back from that.

2-1; 5:3

Round 4: Yorrick Pieters, playing Mono-G Wolf Run, on the play

Although he has a pair of Dungrove Elders, I never have less than eleven life. Elspeth Tirel’s army chump blocks all day while my forces grow stronger each turn. I win the game at 24 life.

Game two, he has no Elders, but his Wurmcoil Engine keeps me busy. The first one gets eaten by Oblivion Ring, and the second one gets chumped by Mikaeus, the Lunarch, using the last counter to both pump my team and prevent him from gaining any life. I don’t even lose a single life in that game.


Round 5: Ferenc Nagy (HUN), playing Birthing Pod, on the play

To be honest, I only find out after round three what he is playing because I haven’t prepared well enough.

Game one is once again decided by Mutagenic Growth, which kills a Phantasmal Image copying a Fiend Hunter capturing Mirran Crusader.

Game two he beats my Bird/Pilgrim-heavy draw with multiple Garruk Relentless.

Game three, he mulligans and is screwed on mana. I don’t give him the time to recover, so he extends his hand quickly. It would have been a tough game if he’d drawn the correct mana, and we still disagree as to which of us “would” have won. After the match, I feel quite stupid not recognizing his deck, especially since I left out my Naturalizes.

4-1; 9:4

Round 6: Matthias Künzler (SWI), playing Illusions, on the draw

Matthias was staying at the same hostel as we were, so we have seen each other around and talked a bit. In game one, he doesn’t have enough counters for my threats, and I overwhelm him.

In game two he tries to kill one of my much-needed Birds of Paradise with Gut Shot. I respond with Mutagenic Growth. He thinks a bit and plays Dismember to kill the Birds anyway. I am quite slow with regard to killing him while he gets me down to two life. After using Ponder like six times, he still hasn’t found a second Gut Shot to kill me, while Elspeth Tirel saves the day. Blinded by her sheer power, I don’t gain life instantaneously but instead use her -2 ability to make three tokens. That’s a horrible mistake, but Fate had a good day, so the life she gains the turn after that is enough to win the match.

5-1; 11:4

I was in tenth place after Day One. I checked the standings to see that I would draft with Luis Scott-Vargas, Jeremy Neeman, and Brian Kibler the next morning. I also checked to see that Elie Pichon was 1-5 and Matthias Hunt was also 5-1. That was interesting to me, since we were all in the Rookie of the Year race. Elie had 26 and Matthias 23 Pro Points opposed to my 25. If the tournament was over now, I’d be the Rookie of the Year. I tried not to let that affect me too much. My goal was a Top 64 finish, and I was well on my way to get there.

To sum up the Standard part: My deck performed more than well, and I didn’t have too many mulligans. Especially Mutagenic Growth was the surprise of the day, and I honestly recommend everyone give it a try. It can do awesome, nasty things out of nowhere. And a tournament where every trader is out of Gut Shots is a good environment for Mutagenic Growth.

Day Two, Draft One

My thoughts on the draft format are pretty straightforward: I like aggressive strategies and especially value two- and three-drops very highly. Obviously, Travel Preparations is my favorite common. I don’t like blue a whole lot because the decks can turn out too fancy. Sometimes you just beat yourself when the cards come in the wrong order.

I start off my first draft with Thraben Sentry and Midnight Haunting and try to cut white. After pack one, I’m not sure about my second color. I have Orchard Spirit and Ulvenwald Mystics in green and three mediocre black cards. I open a Sever the Bloodline and would have snap-picked it, if Brian Kibler hadn’t shown us a Bloodline Keeper. I picked it anyway and ended up with a sweet, aggressive deck:

2 Doomed Traveler
2 Typhoid Rats
1 Cloistered Youth
1 Walking Corpse
1 Silverchase Fox
1 Chapel Geist
1 Village Cannibals
1 Voiceless Spirit
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Abattoir Ghoul
2 Mausoleum Guard
1 Thraben Sentry
1 Stromkirk Patrol

1 Blazing Torch
2 Altar’s Reap
1 Tribute to Hunger
1 Rebuke
1 Sever the Bloodline
1 Moan of the Unhallowed

9 Plains
8 Swamp

Round 7: Mikko Nurmi (FIN), playing G/R, on the draw

I mulligan to six but stabilize the board with Tribute to Hunger and Rebuke. My Spirit tokens do the damage two by two.

Game two, Mikko has a sweet draw with multiple Brimstone Volleys, Geistflame, and Kessig Cagebreakers to finish me off.

Game three, I again mulligan to six, but my opponent doesn’t do very much, so his defeat is just a matter of time.

6-1; 2:1

Round 8: Brian Kibler (USA), playing U/B on the draw

This is actually a feature match, so you can read it here.

I want to point out my sequence of plays in Game 2: Doomed Traveler into Cloistered Youth into Fiend Hunter into Tribute to Hunger into Sever the Bloodline. Good game.

7-1; 4:1

Round 9, Ken Yukuhiro (JPN), playing U/G/r/b, on the draw

I was told that my opponent has five Delver of Secrets in his deck, which worries me a little. But the longer the games commence, the less frightened I am. Game one, I kill his Makeshift Mauler with Tribute to Hunger and win with 25 life.

Game two is much closer until I realize that Zombies don’t like Blazing Torch. I can attack with my small dudes against his Makeshift Mauler and Stitched Drake. When I again force him to sacrifice his Makeshift Mauler with Tribute to Hunger, I am too far ahead.

8-1; 6:1

Draft Two

I’m actually at the first draft table, but it wasn’t featured. I start off the first pack with Elite Inquisitor, Chapel Geist, and Smite the Monstrous and move into green with a late Darkthicket Wolf, which is my favorite green two-drop. In pack two, I pass three Rebuke in favor of cheap creatures. In pack three, I have to choose between Darkthicket Wolf and Travel Preparations. I choose the Wolf, but in hindsight, I’d rather have the Travel Preparations.

This is my deck:

1 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
3 Darkthicket Wolf
1 Elite Inquisitor
1 Avacynian Priest
1 Chapel Geist
1 Elder Cathar
1 Orchard Spirit
2 Villagers of Estwald
1 Lumberknot
1 Galvanic Juggernaut
1 Festerhide Boar
1 Somberwald Spider
1 Kindercatch

2 Blazing Torch
1 Bonds of Faith
1 Spidery Grasp
1 Midnight Haunting
1 Smite the Monstrous

I really liked the deck, probably even more than the first one. The only problem I had was Conley WoodsBloodline Keeper, which I didn’t have an answer for except Spidery Grasp plus Smite the Monstrous.

Round 10: Conley Woods, playing B/R, on the draw

This match proved why I was in the Rookie of the Year race, since I made at least two rookie mistakes in this match.

In game one, I feel good with Galvanic Juggernaut, but he has double Ghoulraiser to stop it. He plays a Rage Thrower, which makes my Juggernaut evil. I take 2-4 damage each turn off the Rage Thrower while he replays his Ghoulraiser. When the board is clear except for the Rage Thrower, and I am at one life, I think I have at least another turn, since Rage Thrower is enchanted with Bonds of Faith. I should have read the card better because Rage Thrower is a Human. Conley realized that four turns before I did but kept it a secret.

Game two, I outrace him although he has Markov Patrician.

In game three, he mulligans to five but has the sickest possible draw, killing all my creatures while slowly grinding me down. I also throw away my Spidery Grasp on the way. He doesn’t even need his Bloodline Keeper or Olivia Voldaren.

8-2; 7:3

Round 11: Matthias Hunt (USA), playing B/W, on the draw

So a showdown at last. I and Matthias are both 8-2 and play a deciding match for the Rookie of the Year race. It is in the feature match area, but wasn’t featured.

Game one I don’t do a lot and lose while Matthias gains life with Markov Patrician.

Game two I am really aggressive and finish him off without taking a hit.

Game three is much closer, with creatures trading and removal being played. I draw quite some lands, but even my creatures would not have done a whole lot against his hand full of beef. My Kindercatch gets him down to ten, but after that, I am left with next to nothing. Losing this match feels like losing the Rookie of the Year race already.

8-3; 8:4

Round 12: Nico Bohny (SWI), playing U/G/b/r, on the draw

Nico plays a self-mill deck with two Skaab Goliaths, Blasphemous Act, and a lot more good stuff. Game one I am able to get a lot of pressure on. He is at six life when he has only two cards in hand and one in his library. He attacks with his Skaab Goliath when I tap the other with my Avacynian Priest. I can choose to block it with two of my creatures, trading one for one. I decide to go down to two life because if the two cards in his hand are both creatures, I won’t be able to kill him and die on the next turn. However one card in his hand is Spider Spawning, so I cannot kill him, and the army of Spiders easily eats my last two points of life.

Game two I mulligan to five and have the nuts. Turn one Avacyn’s Pilgrim, turn two Villagers of Estwald, turn three Orchard Spirit, turn four Midnight Haunting. I win while still having 20 life.

Game three is a little more intense, but he doesn’t find either Blasphemous Act or Spider Spawning before my creatures eat him up.

9-3; 10:5

In comparison, I liked the second deck better than the first. But I can’t complain about the result; after all, I was in 11th place after day two, which was a great position to finish at least Top 64. And with a good run, I could even make it to the quarterfinals.

Day 3: Modern

Modern is by far my least favorite format. I started playing tournament Magic with Shards of Alara, so I don’t even know a lot of the legal cards. Before the tournament, I thought about playing either Affinity or Jund, but after talking to some of my mates, I decided to play Splinter Twin. I don’t have the exact list handy, but it wasn’t at all exciting, and I wouldn’t recommend playing it at the next Modern event.

Round 13: Yuuya Watanabe, playing Death Cloud, on the play

Game one, I start off with a Gitaxian Probe turn three. Despite seeing his hand, I play my Deceiver Exarch only to see it get killed by a Doom Blade that I have scouted. The game goes long after that, but I don’t find my combo, and he has enough time to find his lands and kill me.

Game two, he doesn’t have a lot of action, and I am able to find my combo.

Game three takes a long time, and I go down to five life. In my fifth extra turn, I need to draw either a red mana source or another Deceiver Exarch/ Pestermite to kill my opponent. Luckily for me, I draw the Deceiver Exarch.

10-3; 2:1

Round 14: Jun’ya Iyanaga (JPN), playing Mystical Teachings, on the play

I don’t remember a lot from the two games we play except that I feel I don’t have a chance because he has that many Thoughtseizes.

10-4; 2:3

Round 15: Nico Bohny (SWI), playing Death Cloud, on the play

Game one I am able to kill him with my combo before he does the first point of damage.

Games two and three, his draws just beat mine. I try to screw him with Blood Moon, but he only plays basic lands. My combo is never secured, and my dreams of Top 8 are crushed.

10-5; 3:4

Round 16: Peter Kesteloo (NED), playing Ad Nauseam, on the draw

In game one, I don’t have an answer for his combo. Game two, I make a mistake by not countering his Lotus Bloom when the last counter has been taken off, so I am just dead to his combo backed up by Pact of Negation. I could have stayed in that game, but I am not sure whether or not I would have won.

10-6; 3:6

Round 17: Ryou Juumonji (JPN), playing Jund, on the play

In game one, two Putrid Leeches eat me up, when I don’t find enough counters to backup my combo.

He mulligans to five in game two, but after that kills me off in a quick order.

10-7; 3:8

Round 18: Patrick Chapin (USA), playing Grixis Control, on the draw

Before round 18, I am in 68th place, which means I need one more win to achieve my goal. Patrick also needs one more win for his last four Pro Points.

Game one, I have the combo ready, but I only have one Dispel to back it up. Fortunately for me, that is enough to win the game.

In game two he misses his third land drop, while I look at his hand with Gitaxian Probe. I decide to use Vendilion Clique to get rid of his Negate, which is unneeded, since he taps his lands to play Punishing Fire to kill Vendilion Clique. He has only non-basic lands, so my Blood Moons leads me to victory. He only resolves four spells the entire game.

11-7; 5:8

So that’s it. I finished 53rd in my first Worlds. Despite going 2-4 in Modern, I am now a level 6 pro. Congratulations to Matthias for his Rookie of the Year title. I and Elie were each one point behind. But I cannot complain at all: PT Paris 20th, PT Nagoya 4th, PT Philadelphia 398th, Worlds San Francisco 53rd.

An awesome year of Magic.

See you in Honolulu.