Big Snips in London, Part 2

The controversial Mr. Szleifer returns with the conclusion of his London report, which includes more than a little discussion of bad beats, getting smashed by Nicolai Herzog, and a hint of self-reflection. Love him or hate him, this sixteen-year-old Pro Tour winner certainly gets a reaction out of his readers.

Last time I left off after squeaking into Day 2 in London. Unfortunately, I had managed to land a third tough pod, a third bad deck, and a nice little unlucky loss in the first round. To be perfectly honest, this second part of my report is likely to just sound like one long bad beat story that never ends. That’s a good thing, though, since it sure felt like a never-ending beat when I went through it myself, so you readers get to experience it as if you went through it yourself. Believe me, it’ll happen at some point. I’m not too happy to say that now, looking back on the whole situation, the very worst part wasn’t the hard pods, or the crappy opens, or getting land screwed. No, the worst part for me was that I don’t feel like I learned anything or got any better. That’s a big problem, because in a tournament in which I lost seven matches, I’m pretty sure I have to have done something wrong. As of now, I really can’t see it. I’m almost steaming thinking about the whole affair. Hopefully, after I put what happened on paper… well, on Word file – I can find something I messed up, just some little thing to make me feel like I don’t have bad luck to blame one hundred percent for my abysmal finish.

As you can tell, thinking about this tournament now makes me just a little bit bitter. Rewind back in time to where I was 4-3, though, and it was nothing like that. All I was thinking was “Hmm, hopefully I’ll get to play a scrub this round, since I lost.” But it wasn’t to be. Just for reference, here is the deck I was playing with at the time:

9 Swamp

8 Forest

2 Kuro’s Taken

2 Cruel Deceiver

2 Order of the Sacred Bell

Okiba-Gang Shinobi

Child of Thorns

Shinen of Life’s Roar

Kami of Empty Graves

Deathmask Nezumi

Painwracker Oni

Scaled Hulk

Nightsoil Kami

Loam Dweller

Orochi Sustainer

Takenuma Bleeder

Elder Pine of Jukai

2 Roar of Jukai

Exile Into Darkness

Hideous Laughter

Manriki Gusari

Round 8 vs. Jelger Wiegersma

Jelger told me his deck was absolutely terrible, and he didn’t turn out to be lying. Game one I mulliganed and he had some bad Red guys but they beat me down while he had a bit of burn for my guys. I drew lots of land and he finished me with Feral Lightning. Yep. Nothing I could do. Seems like so many games this tournament I kept hands with four lands and three spells and drew something like seven lands and one spell and died. Since he was almost mono Red splashing just Spiritual Visits (not kidding) I boarded in some bad cards such as Iname, Death Aspect and Kashi-Tribe Warriors. This was because these were pretty much auto two-for-ones against his deck of small Red guys and since my deck had a million two drops I was sure to last until I could start playing big guys like the ones I boarded in and the actually playable ones that were in my main deck. I also boarded in Sosuke’s Summons since he had lots of X/1 creatures and the Summons is strong against a deck like that.

Game two I traded a Cruel Deceiver for a Hearth Kami or something then cast Sosuke’s Summons and Order of the Sacred Bell. I had nothing on turn 5 but six-drops on turn 6 and 7 were enough to get him to scoop.

Game three is one of the most frustrating games of the tournament. Jelger played first and led with a Mountain, while I had a Forest. On his second turn, he did nothing, played no land, and said go. I had another land and an Orochi Sustainer. On his turn he drew a land and played Blademane Baku. I responded with an Order of the Sacred Bell. He drew another land, which was good to Yamabushi’s Flame my Order. On my turn I played some random small guy. He peeled another land and had Hanabi Blast for my guy. I played a Scaled Hulk. He drew another land and had Jiwari, The Earth Aflame. I played another guy but he drew yet another land and I couldn’t beat his Jiwari. One land on the play, peel five in a row, geeg. Jelger told me he kept Mountain, Blademane Baku, Glacial Ray, two Spiritual Visits, Jiwari, and Hanabi Blast because his deck was so bad that he had to take the risk since he had drawn all his good cards. I really disagree. Obviously, it worked out for him, but can you really count on drawing that many lands in a row? I mean, if he just gets, say, three in a row after the missing the second once, then misses again I’m pretty sure it’s my game. The worst part of all was that since we actually had an eight-man pod (most 4-2 pods were seven-mans) I would actually have to play and win in order to not go 0-3.

4-4, 8-7

Round 9 v. Manuel Faustino

In game one, for the second consecutive game, my opponent kept one land on the play. For the second consecutive game, he peeled a bunch of land in a row after missing his second land drop once. He had Split-Tail Mikos on turn 3 and 4, but I had Hideous Laughter for them. My Order of the Sacred Bell survived that and beat him down that turn and the next after some other big creature joined the party. Roar of Jukai wrecked him the next turn and he conceded.

Game two I played turn 2 Shinen of Life’s Roar and he responded with some random guy. My Manriki-Gusari was enough to make sure his guy was dead. Then on his turn he played Ronin Warclub. When it died later to Gusari, he picked it up, read it real quick, kind of shook his head then shipped his guy to the yard. Eventually I traded the Shinen for two of his guys but he had nothing left while I had, well, everything left and I got him in a game that wasn’t close.

5-4, 10-7

Right here was where it had to happen for me. I mean, I figured at 5-4, I had to get an easy pod. I would 3-0 it, pull out a 2-1 in the last pod, and get a Top 32. It shouldn’t have been that hard. The problem was that, for the third time in a row, I got a pretty good pod. On the bright side, it was the easiest of the four I had so far, but the fact that I had heard of more than three players in it meant it wasn’t an auto 3-0.



Karsten, Frank



Harkonen, Jarno



Homann, Sebastian



Szleifer, Gadiel



Mueller, Andre



Hasnes, Øystein



Wolfman, Steven


Even so, the draft went very well. I opened a Kabuto Moth, and got lots of good White and Blue tricks and flyers. Going into the third pack, I had an awesome deck that just lacked two-drops. In the third pack I was able to pick up lots more quality Blue and White cards including two Kitsune Loreweavers and a Minamo Scrollkeeper to solve my two-drop problem. With this deck, I was confident I would 3-0. Until I saw Frank Karsten’s opens, that is.

9 Plains

8 Island

2 Kitsune Loreweaver

Descendant of Kiyomaro

Shimmering Glasskite

Indebted Samurai

Minamo Scrollkeeper

Devoted Retainer

Kami of Old Stone

Kabuto Moth

Moonbow Illusionist

Tori Watchward

Teller of Tales

Shinen of Stars’ Light

Waxmane Baku

Soratami Mirror Guard

2 Indomitable Will

2 Hundred-Talon Strike

Otherworldly Journey

Consuming Vortex

Genju of the Falls

Genju of the Fields

Round 10 vs. Jarno Harkonen

Game one he started with a Raving Oni-Slave. As you might guess, that guy is not at its best against my deck. I quickly got ahead but at some point I hit a land pocket and he drew a lot of removal putting the game back at about even. It got to the point where I could peel literally any nonland in my deck to win the game, and I did. He kind of complained, too, because he thought the card I did peel was my only out or something.

Game two is a game that I just can’t really recall whatsoever. When remembering long tournaments, random games often go blank and this is one of them. I do know I won easily.

6-4, 12-7

Round 11 vs. Sebastian Homann

Game one I started with some flyers and he didn’t do much. As he had Swamps, I held back some guys in case of Hideous Laughter, but he ended up not having it. Regardless, my flyers did him in quickly and I was never even in danger of being in danger.

Game two I had some early flyers again, but I was a little bit mana-hosed so that I could not do quite as much as I would have liked. Additionally, the fact that he played spells before turn 5 this game made it a bit harder as well. We were locked in a kind of stalemate eventually in which I was at a lower life total but had pretty much stabilized the board and had started attacking for a few points a turn in the air. For several turns I had left some mana open but eventually I tapped out to play two flyers. This gave him the opportunity to safely channel a Shinen of Life’s Roar and kill me. I didn’t have anything in hand that would have allowed me to stop it had I left mana up, and I hadn’t seen it in his deck so it didn’t seem worth it to bluff a trick.

Game three I had another normal draw, which for this deck was a nice flyer curve, but he did stuff as well. This time, though, I didn’t even remotely stall on lands and this time I was on the play. I won this one easily, and even got to make a nice play by blocking his Bleeder with my Moth and pumping it after asking him if he had a trick and making the read. He lacked the trick. Ding!

7-4, 14-8

Round 12 vs. Frank Karsten

Round twelve was the beginning of the end. I knew I was doubtful to win this one, as Frank was fortunate enought to crack Yosei, Opal-Eye, Konda’s Yojimbo, and Celestial Kirin. But after the understandable loss to the superior deck, my luck and I were unable to pull things together. I could say a lot about the match with Frank, but the fact that he had Yojimbo on turn 3 both games should explain it if you’ve even glanced at my deck list. I boarded in Hankyu which could potentially be a game-breaker if I drew it in the kind of stale mate that is very possible in the Blue/White mirror, but I never drew it and got bashed fairly quickly.

7-5, 14-10

Going into the last draft, once again I was hoping for an easy pod. I felt like I really deserved it, the way things had gone in this tournament, but it was not to be. I got one of about equal difficulty to the one before it, and at the time I was fairly confident I would pull out the necessary 2-1 to cash. Here is said pod:



Szleifer, Gadiel



Herzog, Nicolai



Oomori, Tomoaki



Zambrano, Carlos



Lieberman, Alex



Wolfman, Steven



Mueller, Andre


The draft went well, for the second time in the weekend. In the first pack I cut off Black and White nicely, and was rewarded with lots of great stuff in the second pack including double Okiba-Gang. The excellent second pack was complemented with merely okay first and third packs but it was enough for this very solid deck,

Silly 0/2 or ninja?  You make the call.

10 Swamp

8 Plains

2 Wicked Akuba

2 Okiba-Gang Shinobi

2 Kami of Empty Graves

Faithful Squire

Kitsune Dawnblade

Araba Mothrider

Kyoki, Sanity’s Eclipse

Kuro’s Taken

Deathmask Nezumi

Inner Chamber Guard (the two Gangs…no, I obviously don’t think it’s good by itself)

Kami of False Hope

Takenuma Bleeder

Kami of Old Stone

Blessed Breath

Waking Nightmare

Charge Across The Araba

Swallowing Plague

Indomitable Will

Round 13 vs. Nicolai Herzog

This match was almost as frustrating (maybe more than) the match against Jelger that I started the day with.

Game one he started with a nice draw with a curve and a Budoka Pupil that flipped quickly. I flipped a Faithful Squire myself and also had Kyoki but not much else. We kind of sat there for a while and I drew a lot of lands and he added guys to his team. In between all the lands, I also drew Indomitable Will and Charge Across The Araba but they were fairly irrelevant at the time. A few turns later, he had enough creatures that he could clearly on-the-board kill me even if I had a removal spell, but he just missed it. As soon as I drew and played a creature on my turn, he started getting mad at himself when he realized he could have killed me. On his next turn he did decide to attack, and I took a while to block as it was quite complicated with his Pupil and a Feral Deceiver that could potentially pump. Eventually I blocked and of course he had a land on top for his Deceiver and I went to a precarious one life. I needed to draw another creature and I did. On his turn he attacked again. He could kill me with trample if I had nothing but Indomitable Will before damage prevented that. On my turn, I killed him exactly with Charge.

Game two he beat me in three minutes with a perfect draw. As for mine, I kept four lands and three spells and drew literally seven lands in a row before conceding. IIII MEAN, he has to have won two Pro Tours somehow. From what I can tell in my limited experience playing against and around him, outplaying people wasn’t his chosen path to victory. Nicolai is also known to have cast Genju of the Realm one or more times on this weekend in sanctioned play, but that is neither here nor there.

Game three starts with me playing an Inner Chamber Guard and also killing a Budoka Pupil of his with a Swallowing Plague. When he played Okina Nightwatch, I attacked into it with the Chamber Guard. In fear of Okiba-Gang, he blocked right into my Indomitable Will. The next turn he did get Ganged. On his turn, instead of playing a guy that could block the Gang, he went for Embers on it and I had Blessed Breath. I got the rest of his hand, and played out two more guys. This leaves the following situation: I had Okiba-Gang, Inner Chamber Guard, and Wicked Akuba in play. He had nothing in play and no hand; I had an irrelevant hand. I lost this game. There are several ways this could have happened, and I will leave it to the observant reader to pick out the correct ending.

Be careful what you wish for.

After wishing that pianos fell on the heads of people I dislike for the whole weekend, I ironically suffered that very fate a turn before I would reduce Nicolai to negative seven. Karma is a b*tch.

He drew Moss Kami, followed by his second Budoka Pupil, followed by Feral Deceiver and Hearth Kami for the flips, while I drew… all lands for the rest of the game.

Insert random unlikely-to-occur event that would cause me not to be victorious here.

7-6, 15-12

To add insult to injury, after the round following this brutal beating, Nicolai approached me and it was hard to tell whether he was laughing or crying. “I just lost,” he said, “Because I flipped two Budoka Pupils at the same time… and then they were a legend. Baaah!” [This actually happened. This is not an exaggeration. – Knut, who was there to witness] At this point I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry myself, as I two of my many losses had come at his hands. Even still, I thought with my deck I could win the last two and cash. I was really, really hoping for a bye, which would go a long way in helping me out, as in three seven-man pods so far I hadn’t gotten any. But I guess when you’re the guy who got the 1500$ bye (no, it wasn’t a bye into Top 8 per se because I could have lost and still made it in), you can’t really complain about not getting one in the next tournament. Needless to say, I didn’t get it.

Round 14 vs. Steven Wolfman

Game one he mulliganed, but had a good draw with some flyers. On turn four, he made the “mistake” not to block a certain 0/2 White animal and got Ganged. I remember that this game went somewhat long considering the beating that actually took place, but I won easily on the back of the Gang. I happen to be one of those who feels Gang is the third best Black card in the set, behind only Ink-Eyes and Throat Slitter…but then again, I was the one who lost seven times in the Pro Tour for that format, so if I were you I’d listen to a real master like Matt Abrams instead. But I shouldn’t digress…

Game two I was the one doing the mulliganing and I did it twice. Despite a fairly good five, his flyers ended up getting me. Had I known he had as many as he did, I probably should have held back on Swallowing Plague’ing his Moonbow Illusionist. That way I could have hit his Teller of Tales later. In my defense is the fact that I wouldn’t be blocking the Illusionist and if I didn’t Plague it I would have done nothing on that particular turn so I didn’t want to lose tempo. I think his barrage of flyers would have done me in even Teller-less, but it definitely would have been a bit closer.

Game three I kept a great hand and was pretty confident it would be enough. To be exact, it contained 2 Swamps, Wicked Akuba, Kuro’s Taken, Okiba-Gang Shinobi, Plains, and Indomitable Will. Keep in mind, my deck has 18 lands in it so I wasn’t worried in the least about peeling the one necessary to make my draw real good. Three turns came and went and the plan was going, well, as planned but the elusive fourth land was yet to travel from the top of my deck to my hand. On the fourth turn, I knew it wouldn’t come. Oh so long ago, I knew a Blue source was going to come in some match in Pro Tour: Columbus. It just went right from the top of my deck into play, and sure enough, when I looked it was an Underground River. Just the way I knew it would come that time, this time I knew it wouldn’t be there. I squeezed for so long that any poker player would be proud and sure enough, it was Kyoki, Sanity’s Eclipse. Against a fair to bad draw, I would still be in the game, but doing nothing on that turn against Steve’s second good curve of flyers was fatal.

7-7, 16-14

I first met Steve in Philadelphia, where we faced each other in the semifinals, and he seemed like a legitimately good guy. Additionally, by this time I was way over the threshold of pain; the loss didn’t even hurt anymore, not the way any of the other ones had. Steve needed the Top 64 to get to level three, and I actually hoped he’d get it, which he did. As for my tournament, it was over. Being 0-2 in the seven man pod, I received the bye I had been longing for so hard, and I got to watch Tim beat a mulliganing-to-four Antoine Ruel in order to secure the Top 16. I got to reminisce with Mike Krumb about a few hours ago, when I was 7-4 and he was 8-3 and we both thought the tournament was going well. Just for the record, he finished just like me. Obviously some more went down at the tournament site involving the play of this magical card game before I left London, even involving me. Out of everything, though, the only thing worth mentioning was the sidedraft against Newly Crowned PT Champ Geoffrey Siron in which he 0-3’ed and shipped against us. Just a little ironic fun fact.

Also just for the record, I’m very sorry that this article just isn’t going to live up to Tim Aten last. Not only am I unable to provide the witty humor or the analytical match reports or say he’s got a milf, (I even met her too!), but I also couldn’t win matches in this tournament. Looking back, this report seems exactly like what I feared it would be when I started it: One long bad beat story. So why don’t I just not send it? Why don’t I just stick to the reports like the one from Philadelphia, fifteen pages on Word of just good beats? As I said at the beginning of part one, I don’t want my articles to trick readers into believing that I never lose matches, the way a certain other StarCityGames writer tends to do. I also don’t want people to believe I’m the luckiest player in the world or something to that effect. Hopefully this article settles all that. And hopefully, you can get something out of this and become a little better at the game by reading about the tournament in which I am too stupid to see where it was my fault that I went wrong, even though I’m sure I did. Next time, I plan to go back to a fairly happy tale. Oh, and it’s a little late for a Grand Prix: Minneapolis report, but at that tournament I lost forty-five ratings points, more than the thirty-one I lost in London, but I still managed to Top 16. How strange. Until then, I’m

Gadiel Szleifer

Once again, he who only wins with his “Heart of a Champion” (I didn’t make this up OBV)

Luckiest Constructed player in the world

Unluckiest Limited player in the world