Feature Article – Missing Top 8 at Belgian Nationals *9th*

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Monday, September 15th – With Patrick Chapin nursing his wounds over in Rimini, today we have the exciting conclusion of Marijn Lybaert’s Belgian Nationals report. Last week, we shared the Belgian preparations before the big event. Today, Marijn takes us through his final decklist and shares the pertinent details of his matchups as Top 8 loomed large. Patrick returns later in the week!

Hello! It’s me, Marijn… and I love making Top 16 at Belgian Nationals!

Over the last 8 years I’ve made Top 16 at Belgian Nationals a total of five times… Prepare for a bitter Nationals 2008 report.

After our weekend in the Ardennes, as chronicled here, I still had no clue what to play. Our Reveillark list wasn’t good enough at that point, and with only four days left before Nationals I was afraid we wouldn’t quite get there. That was until I read the German Nationals Coverage. Fabio Reinhardt had piloted his UW Reveillark list to a third place finish, and his deck seemed just what this little dude needed. No more Rune Snags (but more Prismatic Lens and Runed Halo), Kitchen Finks instead of Aven Riftwatcher (which I believe to be superior), and a sideboard with a bunch of one- and two-ofs… it sounded good to me!

Tuesday (three days before Nationals)

I tested the Reveillark deck with Jan Van Nieuwenhove (a local guy that was also qualified for Nationals). The results were… weird. Let’s just say the Red Deck Wins versus Reveillark matchup favored me. Neither deck… just me. I think Jan won two games during the whole evening, while we switched decks constantly. We did find out that Mutavault was just too greedy, and that 4 Reveillark was a bit too much with only ten targets. I removed one in favor of a lonely Body Double, and it won me at least two games in testing.

Back at home I still had no clue what to play. I talked to Pascal on MSN, and he said he was going to play UW Reveillark for sure, but with the combo (Mirror Entity plus Body Double). He believed his version to be really good, and tried to convince me to play it too. Unfortunately, my experiences with the combo version were pretty bad, as I had screwed up big time at Grand Prix: Copenhagen.

Thursday (one day before Nationals)

On Wednesday night, I had a weird dream that I won Belgian Nationals using nothing but Red spells. RDW in Standard, Mono-Red Elementals in Lorwyn / Morningtide draft, and Mono-Red Beatdown in Shadowmoor / Eventide draft. Normally I don’t pay attention to my dreams (god only knows what would happen if I did), but this one had to be special!

Thursday afternoon I did some more testing with Pascal and Peter, and they were really surprised to see me playing RDW. They asked me why I didn’t play something better, but I told them about the dream and how I thought that RDW was the best deck in the format. They agreed, but countered that at Nationals (at least in Belgium) there are so many bad players that you’d rather have a deck that gives your opponents the opportunity to play badly, by running into a Venser or Wrath of God. I decided to give the Reveillark deck a final chance, but losing the three first games I played didn’t really help.

This is what I ended up playing at Nationals.

The list was actually quite good. Only thing I’d change is cutting one Ashenmoor Gouger for another Magus of the Scroll, and replacing one Keldon Megaliths for a Snow-Covered Mountain. The Everlasting Torments were also pretty bad, and I’d replace them with one more Greater Gargadon, one more Unwilling Recruit, and one more Sulfurous Blast.

Unfortunately, I started with a loss because I sideboarded wrong. I had to play Jan Van Nieuwenhove (and the UW Reveillark deck we had tuned together), and for game 2 I put in Everlasting Torment and Faerie Macabre while cutting 2 Demigod, 1 Gouger, 2 Skred, and 1 Unwilling Recruit. I wanted to avoid drawing multiple Demigods because I knew he was sideboarding up to 4 Runed Halo. The problem with this was that my deck became too passive. After boarding Jan had 3 Condemn and 1 Archon of Justice, and my guys just kept on dying while I was drawing stupid enchantments and Black creatures.

Round 2 I won against a Merfolk deck, and in round 3 I had to play Julien Bernard with RDW. I again win game 1 because of the singleton Unwilling Recruit (I had also won a game with it versus Jan), but games 2 and 3 his draws were simply better than mine. He drew Greater Gargadon in both games, while I didn’t see mine. He was the second person at the tournament to ask me why I played RDW instead of Reveillark, and I told him I think that RDW is just the best deck in the format and I don’t see a reason not to play it. During my six rounds at nationals I played 3 matchups that favored me (UG Merfolk, Faeries, and a weird Lightning Angel deck), two that were 50-50 (UW Reveillark and the mirror), and one pretty bad matchup (Storm). Picking a deck for a Constructed tournament is always a matter of matchups. While Reveillark might be a better deck in a vacuum, I still believe RDW was the right deck to play in this tournament. I had several reasons for this:

1. I knew there were going to be people that would just stick with their Faeries list from the qualifiers.
2. Merfolk just won German Nationals so I expected that in force.
3. A lot of people thought that their RDW matchup was really good, while in fact it was pretty bad. A good example was my ten-game post sideboard test session against Elves on Thursday. The guy I played believed his deck was good against the Red guys, and I ended up beating him 8-2 while he kept on sideboarding different cards every time.
4. RDW is the most consistent deck I’ve played in a long time. Thanks to Demigod, Figure, and Keldon Megaliths you can easily run 25 lands without getting mana flooded too often.

I can’t say I was happy with my start, but in both the Pro Tour’s in which I made Top 8 I was playing with my back against the wall for several rounds before managing to fight back. I had drafted quite a bit, and I was well prepared for the Limited portion. Last year I had made the mistake of thinking I’d be fine in Limited, and I only concentrated on Constructed. I went 6-0 with my UB Teferi deck but screwed up in the drafts. I ended up 10th.

My LLM draft didn’t go very well, but I managed to sweep the table anyway. I opened a pack with Ashling the Pilgrim and Lash Out as best cards. I took Ashling (which was probably wrong), and got passed a booster with Ajani and Mulldrifter. I took the Ajani and got a third pick Changeling Hero (over Plover Knights). The White dried up after that, and I picked up some late Red elemental cards. My deck ended up being passable but not spectacular, but the cards worked well together and I had a lot of removal. I ended up going 3-0 on the back of Ajani, Rage Forger (which I could fetch with Flamekin Harbinger), and Swell of Courage.

4-2 after day 1 wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for, but after a 1-2 start I could live with it. With only 12 rounds (and 140+ players) I’d probably need to go 5-1 on Day 2 (or so I thought…).

Saturday started with a small disaster. While my draft deck was certainly fine (Mono Red with double Boggart Ram-Gang, Flame Jab, Puncture Bolt and other goodies) I lost my first round against Joachim. His deck was almost certainly worse than mine, but I misplayed in game 2 by going on the offensive when I shouldn’t have. On my turn 5 I played a Heartlash Cinder to attack for 5 while I could have played a Rustrazor Butcher and kept his men at bay. I still think I would have won the late game against his deck. I won the next two rounds pretty easily (mostly thanks to Spiteful Vision, which is absolutely insane in Mono Red).

5-1 in Limited, with mostly Red cards… memories of my dream came flooding back, and thoughts of how I’d go on to win Nationals. If only I could win those last three rounds…

Round 10 was… well, pretty strange. I had to play a UWR deck featuring Lightning Angel, Swans of Bryn Argoll, Balefire Liege, and some other weird stuff. For the third time in four rounds I won my first game on the singleton Unwilling Recruit in my deck by taking his Liege, firing out another Red spell, and attacking with my army of five Red guys plus the stolen Liege. I brought in some more Recruits (and Gargadon) for games 2 and 3, and I won a close third game where I drew 10 cards, thanks to his Swans, before stealing the Swans with a Recruit. The turn after, Gargadon sealed the deal.

Round 11, I was paired against Jeanke De Coster (you’ll be seeing him in Berlin, as he won the Sunday PTQ at Nationals). Jeanke De Coster is a huge fan of rogue decks, and hadn’t disappointed this year… he’d piloted himself to the 7-3 bracket with the Mono Red storm deck. It’s a good matchup for him, but Lady Fortune was on my side this time.

Game 1 I mulliganed into a one-land hand that featured Magus of the Scroll, Figure or Destiny, Boggart Ram-Gang and some other goodies. My next two draws were Mountains and I killed him on turn 5 with a second Ram-Gang. His mulligan to five helped out, as his only shot at delaying the inevitable was making eight Goblin tokens, which wasn’t enough as he scooped the next turn.

For the second game, I brought in two Sulfurous Blast, two Sulfur Elemental, and a Greater Gargadon (it’s not great or anything, but my Skreds and Recruits are completely dead, and at least Gargadon has the potential to do something). On his fourth turn, he decided to go for it and made eight tokens, but my Sulfurous Blast cleared away the board, and two turns later Demigod sealed the game and match.

Before round 12, standings were posted. Some quick calculation showed me that, barring miracles, I can only finish 9th, and thus would obviously need to win my next match. However, I still trusted in my dream and was counting on two more DQs (like last year), which would firmly put me in the top8, ready to grab the title. In any case, all I can do is win this next match and hope for the best.

I get paired against Faeries. The deck’s pilot claims he has a good matchup, as he already won twice against RDW, but I’m not so sure about his claim, as I know the matchup is in my favor. In the first game, I get double Keldon Megaliths online and he has no good answers. The second game I maneuver myself into a position where I have only a few lucky outs to win the game. The Boggart Ram-Gang I see the next turn was one of those outs.

Mission accomplished! Top8, here I come!

Or so I thought. The judges didn’t really cooperate (when do they ever?), as no one got disqualified out of the Top 8.

Yep, you guessed it… I came in 9th on tiebreakers, as predicted.

Very. Very. Very. Bitter.

If only I hadn’t drafted White cards in LLM! If only I had listened to Pascal and took his Reveillark list instead! Ironically, he ended up winning Nationals with that list… you go, girl!

Nationals … it’s just not my thing.

Let’s take a look at Pascal’s UW Reveillark deck…

Pascal’s Reveillark list looks like a collision between Robert van Medevoort’s UWr list, Christophe Gregoir and Gabriels Nassif’s list from Grand Prix: Copenhagen, and some personal tweaks. After a lot of testing, Pascal concluded that adding Mirror Entity and Body Double to the deck is a must. Most of the games you play against RDW you get pretty low on life in the first 5/6 turns before you take control. Without the combo to finish quickly, you just give them too much time to topdeck a second Demigod or the last points of burn.

The deck plays Tolaria West and Mouth of Ronom, which is a twist I really like, as the deck aims to accelerate fast and this gives you some extra value out of your lands late game. A lot of the Mono Red players choose to play Boggart Ram-Gang over Magus of the Moon, so adding some more non-basic lands was no problem.

Even though the list has few four-ofs at first sight, it’s a very solid build, designed to beat the most popular decks in the format. Two Kitchen Finks and two Aven Riftwatchers seems a little weird, but, as Pascal explained, the first Finks is better than the first Riftwatcher and after that you’d rather draw Riftwatchers because he can block Demigod of Revenge (or the Charizard 8/8 version of Figure of Destiny)… and he can be returned with Reveillark, which is key against Mono Red.

Another advantage of playing the White-Blue version over the Uwr version, besides the lands, is that you can play Mind Stone instead of Coldsteal Heart. With all those four- and five-drops, it’s essential to play a turn 2 accelerator, but you also want to avoid getting mana flooded. Both Mind Stone and Mouth of Ronom help here.

The best thing about this decklist is probably the sideboard. Pascal made sure he had all the matchups covered, and it won him several games throughout the tournament. Sacred Mesa versus Quick n’ Toast and Faeries, Teferi’s Moat versus RDW and Elves, Glen Elendra Archmage versus combo. He told me that his maindeck had a lot of cards that are pretty bad against control (Wrath of God, Runed Halo, Aven Riftwatcher) so he wanted at least seven cards he could bring in in those matchups.

And with that, we’re at the end of my Nationals 2008 report. Once again, congratulations to Pascal Vieren for winning the whole thing, and providing us with yet another great decklist.

Thanks for reading!