Duel with Ruel – At Least I Had The Right Deck At Amsterdam…

Wednesday, September 15th – Everyone came to the same conclusion: even if playing White Weenie at a Pro Tour would be ugly, it was our best deck.

Pro Tour Amsterdam is now over, and a new Pro Tour champion has been crowned: Paul Rietzl. The top 8 was amazing, with seven top pros, featuring the best player of all time: Kai Budde.

To prepare for Amsterdam, I tested with friends, including Gabriel Nassif. At some pointI realized that any deck that I built was crushed by his atrocious White Weenie. Gaby was also testing with Rietzl, Budde, Elarar, and other friends, and everyone came to the same conclusion: even if playing White Weenie at a Pro Tour would be ugly, it was our best deck.

A few things about White Weenie:

Punishing Fire and Grove of the Burnwillows is annoying to face, but it’s really slow… And without the land to recur it, Punishing Fire is just a bad removal spell. If the opponent goes turn 1 Lightning Bolt, turn 2 Punishing Fire, has the land,

is on the play, then you

lose… but a 3/3
Ethersworn Canonist
can still lock out the Punishing Fire Combo.

Playing control in the format didn’t seem like a good idea, since the metagame was new and featured too many different types of decks (control, combo, aggro, midrange) to efficiently target the cards you would need to deal with.

Combo, on the other hand,

have been good. But I expected to see a lot of combo decks, I didn’t feel like playing “goldfish” against my opponent for two days. That just meant whoever won the die roll would win the match.

Here is the metagame that I expected:

1) Scapeshift (55% win)
2) Faeries (45% win)
3) Doran (65% win) / Pyromancer Ascension (40% win) / Ad Nauseam (65% win)

In this field, White Weenie would be merely okay — but I assumed that most of the other decks (Combo Elves, Red decks, Jund, Kithkin, miscellaneous control decks) would be very good matchups for White Weenie.

Dredge was a bit scary, and even though I didn’t test against it, I knew it was probably a bad matchup — but would anyone really play the deck?

Here’s the actual metagame of the Pro Tour

. And here’s the deck I played, as designed by Gabriel Nassif:

I decided to run three maindecked Mana Tithes when the others went for two and one Path to Exile, assuming that Mana Tithe would be more flexible in the field.

Round 1: Carvajal Blanco, David [ESP] (Dredge)

On the draw, my opponent played Gemstone Mine on turn 1, then Hedron Crab on turn 2, a Misty Rainforest that milled him into Iona, Shield of Emeria, Bloodghast, and Dread Return. Then he just needed to fetch for a Dryad Arbor and reanimate the Angel on turn 2.

Game 2, he had his Angel and six zombie tokens on turn 3.

0-2 0-1

Round 2: Imagawa, Hiromasa [JPN] (Agro Elves)

This was the second deck in a row that I didn’t test against.

Hirosama played Bramblewood Paragon, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, and many Elves and Warriors. Brave the Elements won the matchup, as he ran neither Overrun nor Garruk Wildspeaker.

2-1 1-1

Round 3: Lundquist, Benjamin [USA] (Dredge)

I won game 1 when Ben did not play a spell, then lost game 2 because the matchup is horrible. In game 3, I decided not to Path to Exile his Magus of the Bazaar, choosing instead to play Spectral Procession and add some pressure before his deck went nuts. I could beat an Iona, Shield of Emeria — but it showed up along with eight zombie tokens, finishing the game.

If I had played a few games of testing against it, I would have known this could happen and won, but we had no good decklist to test against.

Anyway, that was a huge mistake — reaching day 2 from this point would be really hard.

1-2 1-2

Round 4: Koch, Florian [DEU] (Mono-Red Aggro)

Florian got stuck on two lands in game one, then mulliganed to six on the play in game 2. He got a Leyline of Punishment on turn 0, which left him with five cards against my eight, which made it impossible for him to win the aggro mirror.

2-0 2-2

Round 5: Plummer, Richard [ENG] (Living End)

Game 1, I played
Ethersworn Canonist
to ruin his cascade plan. Thankfully, he couldn’t target Canonist with Shriekmaw.

Game 2, I played Relic of Progenitus to slow him down, then put down a couple of Rule of Laws.

2-0 3-2

Draft 1:

Despite my mistake against Ben, I now needed a 2-1 result at this Draft pod to reach day 2:

Ruel, Antoine [FRA]
Riffert, Till [DEU]
Justice, Joshua [USA]
Viaene, Niels [BEL]
Ravagli, Luca [ITA]
Tsumura, Kenji [JPN]
Mygh, Sebastian [DNK]
Etinzon, Nadav [ISR]

The pod was okay, featuring a superstar who quit Magic for a short while: Kenji Tsumura. I really hoped to play against him, as it is always great to play games against a genius.

It would have been interesting to force an archetype like R/G, as the two colors are unanimously considered the weakest. But I’d rather just follow the flow and draft the best possible deck, whatever comes.

1 Ajani’s Pridemate
1 Angelic Arbiter
1 Armored Ascension
2 Blinding Mage
3 Excommunicate
1 Inspired Charge
1 Mighty Leap
2 Palace Guard
1 War Priest of Thune

1 Azure Drake
2 Cloud Elemental
1 Cloud Crusader
1 Conundrum Sphinx
1 Maritime Guard
2 Preordain
1 Scroll Thief

1 Whispersilk Cloak

9 Plains
8 Island

Black Knight
Howling Banshee
2 Stabbing Pain
Tireless Missionary

I first-picked Blinding Mage, then got Howling Banshee, Corrupt, and Black Knight. On my sixth pick, I got passed a pack with Sign In Blood, Wild Griffin, and Cloud Elemental.

Now, I think that W/B is a bad Draft archetype whatever the format is, including M11. Given that, there’s no way that I draft this. So what’s left? Either U/W or U/B, both of which are very strong archetypes. So I took the bet and picked Cloud Elemental.

After that, I ended up U/W, as the only black cards I received were between weak and “not good enough.”

I decided to run seventeen lands, as I had two Preordain. I usually play eighteen lands when I have expensive, game-winning spells in my deck like Angelic Arbiter…. But with a couple of one-mana card drawers, I tend to think of my deck as having around thirty-eight cards. With so many weenie creatures, I don’t want nearly half of those cards to be lands.

The deck is U/W, and the archetype just wins in M11, so I expect to go 2-1 and advance to day 2.

Round 6:

Etinzon, Nadav [ISR]


He was on my left and drafted W/B; I must have destroyed his draft by sending weird signals and taking his best cards. That also explains why I got good blue cards on the second pack and mediocre black ones.

We played normal games; he drew well in game 2, but his deck was out of tempo in games 1 and 3 because of his archetype.

2-1 4-2

One more win for day two!

Round 7: Viaene, Niels [BEL] (W/B)

My second B/W in a row! Conundrum Sphinx wins game one, Angelic Arbiter the second.

The good thing about weenie decks with flyers is that your opponent tends to cast his removal spells early, then is empty-handed when the bombs show up.

2-0 5-2

Four wins in a row to secure a day two spot, with one round left to play!

Round 8:

Justice, Joshua [USA] (R/B Goblins) (!!!)

Kenji told me that the guy had a very aggressive deck, featuring Threaten and Magma Phoenix. At least my two Palace Guards and Maritime Guard would be very useful.

His Goblin Balloon Brigade was not followed by immediate threats, turning it into a bad card. A couple of Excommunicates helped me to take an early lead.

At one point I attacked with Angelic Arbiter and an Azure Drake when he was at four life. He blocked, respectively, with Magma Phoenix and Goblin Balloon Brigade. I played Inspired Charge so that my two flyers would survive, which led to a concession from his side. With the three damage from the dying Phoenix, I would have gone to five life, and a freshly-topdecked Threaten would have killed me if he hadn’t scooped.

Game 2 was a bit harder, as Joshua played four (!) Canyon Minotaurs, and I needed to topdeck a Mighty Leap the turn before I would have lost to kill him. Fortunately….

2-0 6-2

From 1-2 to 6-2! My tiebreakers are awful, but I can still reach the top 8, or at least finish in the money.

Draft 2:

The pod was tougher than the previous one, with two World Champions, two Rookie of the Years, and a total of seven Pro Tour regulars.

Oberg, Kenny [SWE]
Kowal, Brian [USA]
Mori, Katsuhiro [JPN]
Burgold, Lino [DEU]
Coqueiro, Rafael [BRA]
Ruel, Antoine [FRA]
Van de Logt, Tom [NLD]
Porojan, Raul [DEU]

2 Assassinate
1 Doom Blade
1 Necrotic Plague
1 Nightwing Shade
1 Rotting Legion

1 Destructive Force
1 Earth Servant
1 Fireball

2 Aether Adept
1 Augury Owl
1 Foresee
1 Mind Control
3 Mana Leak
1 Jace’s Ingenuity
1 Maritime Guard
1 Preordain

1 Crystal Ball
1 Elixir of Immortality

6 Swamp
4 Mountain
8 Island

1 Negate
1 Duress
1 Rotting Legion
3 Stabbing Pain
1 Call to Mind

I didn’t see creatures during the draft and ended up playing Grixis control. Matignon and Olivier both told me that Elixir of Immortality was really good in such a deck — and it might not be the right moment to find out, but with so few kill methods, I had no other winning option (Call To Mind would have been okay, but probably less decisive on the long run).

I expected to go either 2-1 or 1-2.

Round 9 : Brian Kowal [USA] (U/G)

Brian played Sword of Vengeance in all three games, combined with an army of Grizzly Bears. My Assassinates didn’t bother him at all, thanks to the equipment. The creature I stole with Mind Control got immediately bounced twice by Aether Adept, and an Acidic Slime on a land forced me to play with just two colors.

The matchup was just bad.

I drew Elixir of Immortality, sacrificed it on game one to get my card drawers and removal spells back into the deck, then drew it the turn afterwards when I really needed something to save me. It was terrible.

1-2 6-3

Round 10: Kenny Oberg [SWE] (W/B).

I kept a two-lander with Preordain in game 1, but missed my third land drop and couldn’t manage to come back into the game.

It was funnier when I played against this archetype yesterday. Kenny crushed me just by playing cheap and efficient guys and removal spells. Then we talked about W/B a bit, and he explained me that the colors didn’t matter in this format as long as you were aggressive. I had to agree with him.

0-2 6-4

Round 11: Lino Burgold [DEU] (U/W)

The former rookie of the year had a strong U/W deck with counterspells and Jace Beleren.

Just like in the previous match, I drew my cards in the wrong order, and the match ended up in a blowout. When I finally drew my Mind Control, Lino just played War Priest of Thune during his main phase.

0-2 6-5

Manuel Bucher was behind me during the draft, and confirmed that I did not have any other options other than playing creatureless control. I still think that my deck was okay — but with this kind of deck, once you’re behind in tempo, the game is over.

With one Pyroclasm and one bomb, I believe that the deck would have been really good. Elixir of Immortality was surprisingly bad; I drew it in every single game, and it was always a mulligan.

Anyway, the pod was good and so were my opponents’ decks.

has to go 0/3, and it ended up being me.

Back to Extended! I’d now need a 5-0 or a 4-1-0 to get into the money, but I was confident in my deck.

Round 12:

Tsumura, Kenji [JPN] (Ad Nauseam/Angel’s Grace combo)

This matchup is easy, especially when the opponent mulligans to four cards. Anyway, I had
Ethersworn Canonist
on turn 2 and 3 and he couldn’t beat that — not even with seven cards.

Game 2 was more typical of how this matchup goes; I got a fast draw, and Kenji didn’t have enough time to set up his combo.

2-0 7-5

Round 13: Karsten Franck [NLD]

(Ad Nauseam/Angel’s Grace combo)

On the first game, I had an Ethersworn Canonist on turn 3, Franck answered with Coalition Relic, and passed the turn.

I had to put some pressure on him while he was tapped out — so I cast Spectral Procession, planning on protecting my 2/2 artifact with Brave the Elements later on. Except Franck had Slaughter Pact at end of turn (a one-shot, I guess) — I wanted to counter it with Mana Tithe, but my own Canonist got in the way!

He then untapped, played Angel’s Grace on his upkeep, and discarded a Simian Spirit Guide to cast Ad Nauseam. So I cast Mana Tithe on Ad Nauseam, but Franck had a second Simian Spirit Guide to pay for it — then drew all his deck, played a land, then Conflagrated me for zero before flashing it back for forty.

On the second game, he also went “turn 3 Slaughter Pact on Ethersworn Canonist, turn 4 kill you.”

0-2 7-6

Out of the money, I decided to keep on playing in order to cast Ranger of Eos one time on the Pro Tour Scene. I failed, sideboarding it out most of the games as I mostly faced combo decks.

Round 14:

Komanicky, Vladimir [CZE] (5CC Punishing Fire).

Nothing special happened in the games; I played creatures, he didn’t cast any Wrath of God effects, I won.

2-0 8-6

Round 15:

Woo, Travis [USA] (Living End)

This matchup is all about one question: “Do I have Ethersworn Canonist or not in game 1?” Alas, I did not, and Travis cascaded for a winning Living End — but revealed an Ingot Chewer that should have been in his sideboard.

Despite a free win, I still ended up losing, as Maelstrom Pulse dealt with both my threats and disruptive permanents.

1-2 8-7

Round 16:

Riffert, Till [DEU] (Ad Nauseam/Angel’s Grace combo)

Game 1, he played two Vivid lands — so I decided to play Honor the Pure on turn 2 to protect my creatures from a probable Punishing Fire, then played Ethersworn Canonist turn 3 and 4. He scooped to the second one, thus providing me with the info that he was probably playing Ad Nauseam, and I could sideboard properly.

I had a quick draw on game 2 — so quick that he would need to Mystical Teachings during my attack step and cast Angel’s Grace to survive. He had Ad Nauseam in hand, but my heavy pressure meant that he had to search for (and play) Angel’s Grace to survive three times before he could untap with it in hand and win… Which he didn’t.

2-0 9-7

I ended up in 110

place. I felt like I played the right deck — the same deck that placed Rietzl and Budde in the top 8, got Boeken 13

, and put Sperling, Levy, and Elarar in the top 32.

As a side note, I really liked what happened at a big side event. There were great prize for 5-0 players and mediocre ones for anyone with 4-1.

Someone was paired down at 4-0 and asked his opponent:

4-0: “Would you concede?”
3-1: “I would not concede for nothing.”
4-0: “Juuuudge! He tried to sell me the match!”

The judge disqualified the 4-0 player. That’s good to see judges punishing unsportsmanlike conduct, rather than punishing an opponent for an improper usage of grammar!

As I played the same White Weenie deck that Paul Rietzl did, and Brian Kibler played the same Doran deck that Brad Nelson, later on we’ll test together for next week’s matchup: the replay of Pro Tour Amsterdam Championship match.

Until then, good luck everyone — and thanks for reading!