One of my first articles for this site was about my Top 8 at Pro Tour: Hollywood. I still remember how excited I was, and how much I wanted to share my story with everyone. It’s about one and a half years later now, and my results since then have been fine but not spectacular. A bad result at Worlds would have actually put me back 3 years in time, where I had to win PTQs to get to the Pro Tour. My parents and girlfriend were already worried I didn’t have it anymore, and to be honest, I got a little worried too, especially after Grand Prix: Paris, where I screwed up big time. “You’ve played the game, seen the world. Time to move on?” they said, but I wanted to shine at least one more time.
My preparation for Worlds started right after PT: Austin. I had learned quite a lot there, and I didn’t want to make the same mistakes again. I checked out some Standard lists, and it immediately became clear that Jund was the deck to beat. Before Austin, I would have started by building decks to beat Jund, but this time I wasn’t willing to take the risk of ending up with another bad control deck. I bought all the Jund cards online, and joined a bunch of 8-man queues. Five tournaments later I was 11-2 in matches, losing the mirror once and losing to some weird GWB deck the other time. The decklist I had at that time was actually really close to what I ended up playing at Worlds.
Besides those Standard queues, I was drafting a fair bit. As always, my first few drafts were just a disaster, but in time I found out how important two-drops are in triple Zendikar and my results were getting much better. About a month before Worlds, in a local draft, Pascal Vieren kicked my ass with his Mono-Red monster. His deck was 22 dudes (including 3 Goblin Bushwhacker), but I still lost in 2 short games. In the days after, I tried forcing Mono-Red a few times online, and it worked out most of the time. The big advantage you have when drafting Mono-Red is that you want to pick up cards no one else wants (Spire Barrage, Molten Ravager, and Zektar Shrine Expedition).
Extended was, as usual, a completely different story. I wanted to play Rubin Zoo, but no one seemed to be interested in testing a format we had all â€˜figured out’ for Austin. I had two choices at that time: trust Mr. Kibler when he said his deck was amazing, or play a deck that was very easy to pilot and could just get there with amazing draws: Hypergenesis. It took me until Friday night to decide what I wanted to play.
We arrived in Rome at 11pm on Wednesday. Christophe Gregoir, Dennis Stone, and I were staying in an apartment in the middle of Rome. The apartment was nice and had three beds, which is a pretty good number for three people, if only Christophe hadn’t destroyed one of them the very first minute we entered the place. All three of us were running my Jund list, and we stayed up until 1am discussing the last few cards. Christophe and Dennis were a bit worried that my list was too straightforward, but I had done enough testing and was confident my knowledge of the format would lead me to a good result.
The other Belgians, with Jan Doise and Mark Dictus among others, were staying in another apartment since they had been in Rome for a few days already. There must have been something in the water in that apartment, as they had all decided to run things like Mono-White Control and Mono-Green, instead of just playing Jund. The best part about this was that they had tested the Mono-White deck against Jund the night before and lost 9-1 pre board. It didn’t stop them from playing it though, as they were confident things would be better after sideboard.
Round 1 versus Neri, Riccardo [ITA]
Riccardo was running Boros Bushwhacker, and his draws didn’t really serve him. Game 2 showcased a classic mistake a lot of players make when sideboarding. Riccardo had sideboarded a bunch of Harm’s Way, Celestial Purge, and Manabarbs, taking out mainly creatures. As a result, his draw was really slow, and I was still at 16 when he resolved his Manabarbs.
Round 2 versus Levy, Raphael [FRA]
Raphael was playing the Japanese version of Jund, which was slightly slower than my Jund but had more late-game power with Siege-Gang Commander and 4 Broodmate Dragon. In game 1, the “go big” plan worked out for Raphael as his Siege-Gang and Broodmate were too much for my single Broodmate. After boarding things got worse for him, as I brought in both Mind Rot and Goblin Ruinblaster, which fit my plan of trying to stop him from resolving his big(ger) spells. In game 2 my double Mind Rot draw emptied his hand, after which my double Sprouting Thrinax killed him, and in game 3 Raphael was stuck on lands and I kickered a Ruinblaster to ensure victory.
Round 3 versus Nakamura, Hajime [JPN]
You don’t Top 8 Worlds without things going your way, and round 3 was the first time I felt really lucky. Hajime was piloting Jund, and his Oran-Rief + double Thrinax draw put me in a lot of trouble. On his turn 4 Hajime attacked with his 4/4 and his 3/3 Thrinax while I was at 15 already. I only had Bloodbraid Elf at that time, and was holding Bituminous Blast, another Bloodbraid Elf, and some lands. I couldn’t really afford to take 7 damage, so I had to gamble. I blocked his 3/3 Thrinax, which created three 2/2 Saprolings (thanks to Oran-Rief, the Vastwood). He passed the turn, and on my turn my Bituminous Blast cascaded into Bloodbraid #3 into Maelstrom Pulse! Hajime drew only lands after that, and my Bloodbraids finished him quickly. In game 2 Hajime got flooded once again, and I won fairly easy.
Round 4 versus Komuro, Shuu [JPN]
Mirror #3, but unfortunately I don’t remember a lot of it. For those of you who can read Japanese, the match was covered here. For those of you who can’t, let’s just say Mind Rot and Ruinblaster got him in three close games.
Round 5 versus Rozhon, Benjamin [AUT]
Benjamin was running a UWR Control deck especially build to beat Jund with maindeck Flashfreeze and Double Negative. Game 1 was the strangest game of Magic I’ve played in a long time. I was stuck on two lands for six turns, while Benjamin was playing lands and drawing cards with Mind Spring. He wasn’t casting anything relevant though (except for 2 Wall of Denial), and when I finally drew my third land I started casting spell after spell. After 5 counters, his hand was empty and I was still holding some guys, including a Broodmate. Benjamin was still drawing lands so I got in some damage, but Benjamin came back with Sphinx of Jwar Isle and Earthquake, which put him at 1 life. I had a one turn window to topdeck burn, when Blightning #3 came off the top and took the game. Game 2, Goblin Ruinblaster destroyed one of his UW lands, and Benjamin didn’t draw a third White source for the Day of Judgment he was holding.
Round 6 versus Fortier, Remi [FRA]
It was getting late, and I guess I was too excited to remember anything about this round. The only thing I remember is that Remi got two turns to topdeck burn in game 2, but failed to do so.
Being undefeated after Day 1 at Worlds certainly felt strange. Usually I barely make Day 2 with several losses, but this time luck was on my side the whole day. I only had to mulligan twice, and I got stuck on lands only once (in a game which I won in the end). All the luck, combined with a good deck and hard work, put me in pole position for Day 2, which was triple Zendikar draft. I was excited, but also stressed because I had a goal to reach. Christophe, Dennis, and I went 14-4 combined, and were all still in great shape, while the other Belgians and their wacky decks put up a nice 7-17 record, to put them in a slightly worse shape.
My first draft table featured Tomoharu Saito, Bram Snepvangers, and Makihito Mihara among others. Mihara was feeding me, and I knew the Japanese liked drafting Green. You can review my draft here. My first pack featured Harrow, River Boa, Giant Scorpion, and Kor Sanctifiers, all cards which are slightly better than Goblin Shortcutter. None of them are really spectacular though, and if I took the Goblin there was a great chance the players on my right wouldn’t draft Red. The plan worked out, except for the fact that there were literally no playable Red cards in pack 2 (except for a Torch Slinger which Mihara opened and went the other way). Luckily, I got rewarded pack 3 and my deck ended up being great, with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and Obsidian Fireheart as highlights.
Round 7 versus Mihara, Makihito [JPN]
Round 8 versus Antonenko, Alexey [UKR]
Alexey’s deck was probably the best at the table, but his manabase was a little bit shaky due to a Sorin Markov in his nearly Mono-White deck. Game 1 Alexey drew a bunch of removal (2 Pitfall Trap and a Journey to Nowhere) but I was able to kill all his guys and win the game without taking damage. Game 2 was a tight race, but his Landbind Ritual gained 10 life, after which I never drew a sixth Mountain to kill his Shepherd of the Lost, which goes all the way. Alexey was clearly stressed at 7-0, and it cost him game 3. His turn 6 Sorin Markov was taking over the game when Alexey decided to steal my turn. When I/my opponent drew Torch Slinger, I knew the game was over. Alexey didn’t share the same feelings, and didn’t kicker my Torch Slinger to kill one of my guys. He even attacked himself for one that turn! On the next turn I drew my sixth Mountain to kill his Sorin (which was at 3 loyalty at that time), and several Mountains, another Landbind Ritual, and a fully fueled Obsidian Fireheart later, the game was mine. Phew…
Round 9 versus Saitou, Tomoharu [JPN]
Another feature match which you can find here.
Playing against Tomoharu Saitou is always something special. Against most other players I always feel like I’m in control of things, but Saitou always gives me the feeling he’s the one in charge. He can’t ever be distracted, he never makes mistakes, and he always knows what’s coming. Good thing his UB deck couldn’t beat Valakut, and I beat him in 3 games.
Nine rounds, and I was on top of the standings. I was on Cloud Nine, but knew there was a long road ahead of me.
I was still in heaven when I opened my first pack of the second draft and saw an Elemental Appeal, together with Windrider Eel, Harrow, Turntimber Basilisk, and Kor Sanctifiers. Elemental Appeal is a good card… if you are Mono-Red. In any other deck it will probably end up in your sideboard, so taking it here was just wrong, and there is no good excuse for it. The difference with my first pick from the first draft is that with the Goblin Shortcutter I could still move into WR or BR. I guess the Elemental Appeal looked too appealing (sorry Richard Hagon, I’m sure you had this joke in line for one of your next articles…). Apart from that pick, everything went fine. A 5th pick Kazandu Blademaster was a clear sign White was open, and I managed to draft a decent Wr ally deck, featuring 2 Blademaster, a Murasa Pyromancer, and Conqueror’s Pledge. Review my draft here.
Round 10 versus Antonenko, Alexey [UKR]
Alexey was still in shock from round 8, when he screwed up against me. This time he had drafted a UW beatdown deck. He didn’t have a lot of removal though, and in game 1 my double Ondu Cleric draw gave me enough time to kill him. In the second game, Kor Cartographer, followed by Conqueror’s Pledge, and a kickered Bold Defense (on turn 6 thanks to the Cartographer) did just enough damage.
Round 11 versus Jurkovic, Robbert [SVK]
Robbert’s deck was weak, and his draws might have been even weaker. I ended one game at 28 life, and the other at 33 thanks to my Ondu Clerics. Despite running RB he couldn’t find a single removal spell, and my flyers + a big Blademaster made short work of Robbert.
Round 12 versus Snepvangers, Bram [NLD]
My third feature match of the day, but unfortunately also my first loss of the tournament. Snapplebanger’s deck was pretty slow, but once it got rolling there was not a lot I could do to stop it. Game 2 I kept a hand I probably should have mulliganed, and in game 3 his Gigantiform made sure my Luminarch Ascension (which I had sideboarded) never came online. When writing this article I reviewed my draft, and apparently I had a chance of picking up a Kor Sanctifier in the draft but instead took a Windborn Charge. This (and the first pick Elemental Appeal) might have cost me the 12-0.
Losing the last round of the day is never very pleasant, but who was I to complain? I was still in second place, and would only have to win 3 of my next 6 rounds of Extended to make Top 8. Checking the standings revealed that I would be playing Bram again on Saturday morning. Luckily I had spies in the Dutch base camp, so I knew Snapplebangers was going to run Dark Depths. My plan up until that moment was to play Hypergenesis in Extended (I had spent $25 already to buy some of the cards) and hope to squeeze out just enough wins to make Top 8. Testing that same evening revealed that Hypergenesis couldn’t really beat Dark Depths, and that I was probably going to lose the 13th round if I stuck to the plan. I decided went for the last-minute-switch and tuned Kibler’s Zoo so I had a great chance of beating Dark Depths. I added a second Ghost Quarter maindeck, and replaced the Lightning Helix for Temporal Isolation. This is what I played:
- 4 Tarmogoyf
- 4 Wild Nacatl
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 3 Qasali Pridemage
- 3 Baneslayer Angel
The Temporal Isolations were actually fine against other matchups, and I would definitely play them again. The second Ghost Quarter was a bit clunky, but when I saw it smiling at me during round 13 I knew I had made the right decision. The singleton Chalice should have been another Meddling Mage, but I expected a lot of Hypergenesis and thought Chalice would be better in that matchup.
Round 13 versus Snepvangers, Bram [NLD]
Another feature match. Bram hadn’t played the Dark Depths deck before, and was kind enough to play 2 Dark Depths at the same time during game 2. It made things a lot easier for me, and I won in two short games.
After beating Bram, I needed one more win and a draw in five rounds. Winning right away would make things too easy though, so I decided to give my fans more suspense for their money and waited until round 17 to pick up the much appreciated win.
Round 14 versus Brozek, Petr [CZE]
Petr was running Mono-Red Burn, which was, according to him, a bad matchup for Zoo. In game 3 I chose to play around Molten Rain by keeping my Ghost Quarter (instead of destroying his Blinkmoth Nexus that was attacking) so that I could destroy my own land if he had Molten Rain. I was at 5 life at that time, so that one extra damage probably wouldn’t matter anyway, as most of his spells did three and I was resolving Baneslayer Angel on the next turn. Petr drew his third Keldon Marauders though, and together with the Incinerate he was holding, that was just enough to kill me.
Round 15 versus Reitbauer, David [AUT]
David’s deck did what it was supposed to do: go all-in on the first turn, as he twice resolved a turn 1 Blood Moon. In game 2 I mistakenly played my Arid Mesa instead of Misty Rainforest turn 1, and as a result I could only fetch a Plains in response to his Blood Moon (which could only cast things that delayed my execution instead of avoiding it). Had I played the Misty Rainforest I could have cast some guys, or maybe drawn a Noble Hierarch, with which I would have been able to stop his 6 goblin tokens.
Round 16 versus Yasooka, Shouta [JPN]
Shouta was 3-0 on the day and was certainly more confident than I at 1-2. He was running a weird 4-Color Rock deck with Gifts Ungiven to fetch Life from the Loam; Yosei, the Morning Star; Emeria, the Sky Ruin, and other goodies. Luckily his deck had problems beating Punishing Fire + Grove of the Burnwillows and together with Elspeth I won a long game 1. When I drew and cast my singleton Elspeth on turn 3 in game 2 I was already seeing myself in the Top 8, but Shouta fought back with triple Eternal Witness plus Miren, the Moaning Well. With 8 minutes on the clock, we started game 3 but his double Tarmogoyf draw made it impossible for me to win in time. I decided to go for a draw and killed his Goyfs with the burn I had in hand.
Three rounds had passed, and I felt like I could have won all three of them had I played perfectly. Several small mistakes certainly cost me the match against Shouta, and who knows what would have happened had I played Misty Rainforest instead of Arid Mesa against David. I had two more rounds to pick up the extra win I needed to Top 8, but I knew I had another match against Saitou coming up, the last thing I wanted to see when battling for Top 8.
Round 17 versus Saitou, Tomoharu [JPN]
This was by far the most exciting match I played in a very long time. There were dozens of people watching our game, Richard Hagon was looking over our shoulders, and the stakes were high. Tomoharu was running Bant Zoo with maindeck Umezawa’s Jitte. I was too stressed to remember a lot from the match, but all three of our games were really close, and in the end I won with a Temporal Isolation on his Baneslayer Angel.
Phew… what a relief. I made it to the Top 8 again! Beating Tomoharu Saitou, no less! I think I must have high-fived about 15 people before walking out of the feature match area with a big smile on my face. Shortly after, the pairings for round 18 went up, and I was playing AndrÃ© Coimbra. I was 99.9% sure of making it with a loss, and a win would probably improve my standings, but I didn’t want to take the risk and actually just wanted to enjoy the moment, so I drew.
I ended up in 6th place, and it turned out I had to play AndrÃ© Coimbra and his Naya Lightsaber deck in the quarterfinals. Dennis Stone had also done pretty well, and ended up 42nd, qualifying for San Diego. The other Belgians didn’t make any money, although Mark finished 100th, which earned him 4 points and Pro Level 4 for next year. Congrats to both of them!
The rest of the evening was filled with testing my matchup against Naya and having dinner at some Japanese place. The matchup seemed to be in my favor, but AndrÃ© was sideboarding 12 cards, which doesn’t really help if you are playing best of five. I still felt like I had a good chance, as I was winning at least 60% of the games, and the Naya deck seemed to be mulliganing a lot. I could already see myself holding the trophy and the massive check…
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. I won the first game against AndrÃ©, but after that my draws were weak. I kept a hand of 6 lands (including 5 basic lands) and Broodmate Dragon in the final game. During testing I had the feeling that whenever I could cast my spells I was probably winning, especially if I could follow it up with a Broodmate Dragon. I also didn’t want to lose to Goblin Ruinblaster for the third time. I guess I was just looking for excuses to keep this awful hand, and God himself punished me immediately when I drew 5 straight lands.
Result: quarterfinals exit, for the third time in a row. And that is a bummer, dude.
Thanks for reading.