Feature Article – Paulo in Berlin

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Friday, November 14th – Going into Pro Tour: Berlin, most folk believed that Zoo would be the deck to beat. Things didn’t quite pan out for the multicolor menagerie, but Paulo played it anyway. In today’s exhaustive tournament report, Paulo delivers the details behind his strong finish, and explains why Zoo isn’t quite dead yet…

Hello again! I haven’t written anything since Pro Tour: Hollywood, mainly because, as always, I didn’t really have anything to write about. The tournaments at which I played and succeeded were mostly for dead formats, and I didn’t think it’d be interesting to talk about them. Extended is pretty interesting though, and since I had a decent finish, I’m going to talk about it.

Things began when I found out I hated all Extended decks.

When Shards came out, I built every single combo deck I could think of. My train of thought was that Zoo was too powerful, too fast, too consistent — other beatdown decks couldn’t really compete (I’ve always hated Affinity), and I didn’t feel comfortable playing Control against this Zoo that has 3/3s on turn 1. Since Zoo is pretty straightforward and I’m already experienced with this kind of aggro deck, I decided to focus on trying to beat it while having it as my safe port if everything else failed. The best way to beat Zoo and not lose to everything else seemed to be combo, so that’s what I tried.

I thought Swans had to be powerful, since it had the speed and the disruption for the other combo decks, as well as four tutors for each of your cards (Muddle and Glittering Wish), as well as Firespout and a Wish board for various situations. To this day, I’m not sure why I didn’t push on a Swans deck — I think I got mad after losing too much to Zoo post board due to Ancient Grudge on my mana sources and gave up on it, because the thought of losing to Zoo, even if only after sideboarding, was unacceptable. After Swans, the combo deck that appealed to me the most was Hulk — I was killing turn 3 more than is healthy for a format, but I was afraid everybody would run Stifles and Extirpates and I didn’t want to have this kind of gamble.

After Hulk, came Elves — I think I knew about Elves earlier than most people, due to playing on Magic-League, which is where it came from. I never really considered it a real deck for me to play, though. Right now it’s obvious I underestimated it — but it just didn’t feel like a deck for me. I played some matches against it and I didn’t have a hard time beating it with Zoo or Hulk, and when I played with it I’d have a hard time drawing keepable hands. The thought of being empty handed and drawing Birchlore Rangers was enough to scare me from the deck. TEPS looked too luck based to me, too, as well as folding to Stifle, Ethersworn Canonist, and Gaddock Teeg.

A lot of people asked me why I wasn’t playing Faeries, since I have been playing exclusively Faeries for about 6 months in every format they were legal. The reason is that I didn’t think the Faeries deck was good enough — Zoo was too fast for me. Today, I think I also underestimated Faeries. The problem I have with Blue decks in this format is that Blue has the best answers to combo and the best answers to creatures, but they are very specific answers. If you don’t know what they are playing, you are in for a lot of trouble. What use is it having Threads, Smother, etc if you can’t keep a hand with a bunch of those unless you know what they are playing? Do you imprint Threads of Disloyalty or Vendilion Clique on Chrome Mox turn 1?

I also tried Death Cloud (good against Zoo, but had problems with Gaddock and a very hard time beating Combo, even though I ran Thoughtseize, Raven’s Crime, and Life From The Loam) and a kind of Bant deck, that suffered from the same problem all the Blue decks did — you had half your deck against Aggro and the other half against Combo, and nothing to do with the dead cards in each matchup. If only you could play Brainstorm

Basically, when I’m choosing a deck, I want something that meets the following — you don’t have to draw the right half of your deck in each matchup; You don’t depend extensively on knowing what they are playing to know if you are going to take a Mulligan; If someone else leaves home with the thought “I don’t care what happens, I want to beat this deck,” you still have a chance of beating them. In the end, I went to Berlin with my mind on Zoo. I played a bunch of games once I was there, with different decks, but I never really gave up on the idea of playing Zoo, so all that was needed was for me to figure out which version.

One thing I like in my Aggro decks is for them to have very few reactive and situational cards. I hate playing something like Stifle in my Zoo decks. (In fact, I just hate drawing dead cards, no matter what I’m playing. I believe that in dedicated control decks you have the room to draw a useless spell, but in aggro-control and in full-aggro, you don’t. I knew I’d cut my wrists if my opponent was at 1 and I drew Stifle, so I don’t like playing them). The first Zoo list I liked was this:

4 Kird Ape
4 Wild Nacatl
3 Mogg Fanatic
3 Figure of Destiny
2 Isamaru, Hound of Konda
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Tidehollow Sculler
4 Keldon Marauders
4 Tribal Flames
4 Lightning Helix
3 Blightning
21 Lands (I know the Lands are important, I’ll talk about them later)

This was a very aggressive version — it was made with outspeeding other Zoos in mind. It doesn’t run Jitte or Oblivion Ring, but they don’t really have enough time to use those cards if playing against this version. Their Dark Confidant was also a liability — it’d kill the more often than not and 2/1 is not a good size for this format.

I played a bunch of games with this list, but then I figured out Keldon Marauders just didn’t cut for me. I’d play versus decks like Doran, that had a bad Mana base but didn’t entirely kill themselves like Zoo, and they’d be pretty bad. In those matches, Jitte was the card that mattered. I was losing far too many games to Jitte with this version — I had to play my own, as well as Oblivion Rings for answers.

We moved to this:

4 Kird Ape
4 Wild Nacatl
3 Mogg Fanatic
3 Figure of Destiny
1 Isamaru, Hound of Konda
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Tidehollow Sculler
4 Watchwolf
4 Tribal Flames
4 Lightning Helix
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
21 Lands

Watchwolf was surprisingly good. I didn’t want to play Dark Confidant, as I considered it too much a liability on the mirror, but that was a mistake. The mirror I had in mind was the very fast deck with more burn that no one was going to play. In the actual Zoo mirror, where people have Jitte and Oblivion Ring, Dark Confidant is actually not bad. Still, my lists didn’t have him.

We went to the registration site a little bit before the opening time. We were hungry. I insisted that we checked the site — maybe there was some food in there. My idea was met with the very solid argument that the last 237 or so Pro Tours didn’t have any decent food — mostly Nachos with Lemonade — and there was no reason to believe this one actually had. We went to a (not so) nearby shopping mall, but ended up having to eat at McDonalds. We went back to the event and found out we had missed what was probably the best registration party ever. There was plenty of food and it all looked very good, but since I had just eaten I couldn’t really eat anything. I’d like to compliment WOTC on this Pro Tour’s party — maybe there is some hope for professional Magic after all. Please, please don’t have Nachos again in Memphis or you’ll make me regret saying this.

Even though I didn’t eat anything, the party was still enjoyable. I found out everyone wanted Glimpses of Nature, and made a note to myself to go through my deck once I got back to the hotel and try to find some sideboard for it.

Getting back, we toyed around with Gaddock Teeg and Canonist, with Watchwolf and Sculler. The Lands weren’t friendly — there is no combination that will allow you to play Watchwolf and Sculler turn 2 unless you run Overgrown Tomb, which proved to be a liability with Figure of Destiny. I decided to remove the Watchwolfs for Canonists, since they were good versus combo and versus Elves, even though they harm you a lot more than Gaddock Teeg. I went to sleep, at about 3am, due to wake up at 7am, with the following list:

4 Kird Ape
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Mogg Fanatic
3 Figure of Destiny
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Tidehollow Sculler
3 Ethersworn Canonist
4 Tribal Flames
4 Lightning Helix
3 Oblivion Ring
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
21 Lands

3 Kitchen Finks
2 Ranger of Eos
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
1 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Gaddock Teeg
2 Jund Charm
3 Ancient Grudge

I had no idea what I was going to play in my last sideboard slot. A third Gaddock Teeg seemed overkill — six of those creatures looked enough. I didn’t want a third card specifically against Elves, and I had nothing else to take out in the mirror so I didn’t want another card there either. I decided to ponder on it once I woke up. The problem is that I couldn’t really stop thinking about it, and I have a very hard time sleeping when I’m thinking about something important. Time went on. I kept trying to sleep, but couldn’t. Other people couldn’t sleep either, so we started talking. And time went on and on. At 6:30, everybody was asleep except for me. I was still thinking over that last sideboard card.

In that half hour I had before sleeping and having to wake up, I had a flash of insight. I wasn’t really happy with my deck. I couldn’t play something I wasn’t happy with. I hated drawing Canonist as much as I hated drawing Stifle. I decided that I’d think about adding Dark Confidants back — how could I have been so oblivious about them?
Earlier on, I had decided they weren’t worth it, so I just stuck with the idea they weren’t worth it to the end. I didn’t realize circumstances had changed. Life total was not the most important resource in the mirror with this version — Jitte was. There was no reason not to play Dark Confidant. I cut the three Canonists from my main deck and added three Dark Confidants. I wanted a fourth, but I didn’t think I could take out anything, so I didn’t. I also swapped an Oblivion Ring for the third Jitte — if I have Bobs, I want to draw into Jittes. This meant I had to put my Canonists in the sideboard. For that, I removed the Jitte (I moved it main and a fourth in the board seemed unnecessary) and a Gaddock Teeg. This is what my deck ended up like:

Now, the explanation on the Mana — with this version, your ideal opening is Temple Garden into Blood Crypt, or vice-versa. That means you can cast any of your spells turn 2. There are opening hands, though, in which you have to forsake casting turn 2 Sculler for a little bit of speed. In a vacuum, the best land to play turn 1 is Stomping Grounds, because that lets you play turn 1 Nacatl and then two of the Red one-drops turn 2. Mountain is a concession to the mirror match and Burn, where the ability to fetch a basic with any of your lands is welcome, and Plains is a concession to Demigod Stompy, which was beating me more than I wanted it to before I had it. Overall I was very happy with my manabase throughout the tournament. I’d have loved to run a Forest, since there are eight Fetches that get it, but Figure of Destiny is more important and for this reason I don’t run Overgrown Tomb either. It also doesn’t help playing any of your Gold cards, so you can’t really run it.

Getting to the event, I talked to some people and asked which was better versus elves, Goblin Sharpshooter or Jund Charm. Almost everyone said Sharpshooter was better, and as it was also good against Faeries, I made the swap.

Overall, I was happy with my deck. I don’t think I’ve ever done this — thrown away weeks of testing because I “didn’t feel like it,” but I think it was the right decision. I had tested a lot, but it wasn’t good testing — when you draw conclusions under the wrong premises, it doesn’t matter that they were the right conclusions. I was much happier with my deck than with the deck I thought I was going to play when I went to sleep — that had to count for something.

Round 1: Oiso, Masashi — UR Desire

This match was a feature match, covered here.

There isn’t much I can say that hasn’t been written. Game 1 I had too slow a hand, and he killed me turn 4 on the draw, when his Lotus came into play. Game 2 I played turn 2 Canonist and he ended up taking one point of mana burn when he tried to play Ponder + Serum Visions in the same turn. He Firespouted away the Canonist but I had another one and he couldn’t combo past it.

Game 3 he had triple Firespout for my Canonists and Scullers, but he never found his Mind’s Desire and couldn’t kill me. One interesting thing in this game is that when I played Sculler on turn 2, he responded with Peer Through Deeps. Most people have it on their minds to not play any of their card drawing before Sculler — after all, why give me more information? If the card he ends up getting is good, I’ll just take it. It was right to do it in this case though, since he had double Firespout — had he not done it, I’d have gotten the Peer and he’d have wasted a turn, since he’d have to Firespout and then play the Peer.


I sided -3 Umezawa’s Jitte, -2 Oblivion Ring, -3 Lightning Helix, +4 Canonist, +1 Gaddock Teeg, +3 Ancient Grudge

Round 2: Liaol, Yee Nan — Previous (or is it Next?) Level Blue.

Game 1 I played an early Nacatl and killed his Tarmogoyf, and he couldn’t do anything about the 3/3. Game 2 was basically the same, except I had to wait a lot on my Tidehollow Sculler because if it ran into Spell Snare his Goyf would be too big to handle. He resolved an Ancestral Visions, but I had a Ranger that got a Figure and a Mogg Fanatic for his Vendilion Clique and he couldn’t recover from it. In this match, you have to be very careful with your Scullers and, to a lesser extent, Jitte. The smaller a Tarmogoyf is, the better for you. Even if you are the only one with Tarmogoyfs, they might have Threads of Disloyalty. Sometimes it’s correct not to play your Sculler, because if they Spell Snare it, that alone puts their Goyf outside the Tribal Flames range. If their Goyf stays 1/2 or 2/3, it cannot harm you, and they have very few ways to grow it bigger than that if you don’t do anything to help them.

I sided -2 Lightning Helix, +2 Ranger of Eos. Had I seen Shackles and Jitte, I’d have sided in the Ancient Grudges for game 3.


Round 3: Renedo, Rodrigo

I knew he was playing elves. My opening hand had Nacatl and a bunch of burn, and I was on the play. He kept a one-lander with Llanowar Elves, and I burned his Elf, Oblivion Ringed his next one, burned the following one, and ended up killing him before he could do anything.

I sided -3 Figure of Destiny -4 Tarmogoyf for +2 Goblin Sharpshooter +4 Ethersworn Canonist and +1 Gaddock Teeg.

Game 2, I kept a hand with Nacatl, Sharpshooter, two lands, and a lot of burn. He played turn 1 Llanowar Elves and turn 2 Hivemaster, without playing a second land. I realized that once I draw a third land I ignore all Hivemasters and tokens, and the only way for me to lose is if he combos me, so I kill the Mana Elf. He plays a Birchlore Ranger next, and I again burn the Mana Elf, not the Hivemaster. He ends up playing another Hivemaster and some more Elfs, and I still don’t have the third Land. I end up dying to a bunch of tokens without drawing the third land for Sharpshooter that would have won me the game on the spot. I think that if I just kill the Hivemasters I win this game, since he didn’t have a combo kill, but I think my decision was correct since I couldn’t count on just never drawing a third land.

Game 3 I kept Sculler, Sharpshooter, five Lands. I play Sculler turn 2 and take a Glimpse, and on his turn 2 he plays his whole hand with two Nettle Sentinels and Birchlore Rangers. He has only one card in hand, the one he just drew. I play Sharpshooter. He pauses at the end of my turn, with four untapped elves, and starts counting. He doesn’t do anything, draws and starts counting again. I figure he drew Chord of Calling, so unless I have a burn spell, which I don’t, I can’t just activate Sharpshooter, else he’ll get Symbiote and bounce my target, leaving my Sharpshooter tapped. He passes and I draw and play a Dark Confidant. His next draw was a Pendelhaven. I don’t draw anything relevant and two turns later I die when he Chords up a Predator Dragon. That was a really frustrating game, since he has to draw both the Chord and the Pendelhaven to win, and have me not draw any burn spell, or Fanatic, when I had a Dark Confidant in play. If he has just the Chord, I kill all the Elves in response to the Chord, so we have to play the draw-go game and eventually I’ll find a way to untap my Shooter. Had my Sharpshooter been Jund Charm, I think I’d have easily won this game


Round 4: Levy, Raphael — Burn

This was a fake feature match. Game 1 he kills me like he is supposed to, though I had him dead the following turn. Game 2 I play Kitchen Finks (which he can’t do anything about since I’m on the play, so no Vortex or Flames) and I have Jitte next turn, so he has to start burning my guys and that’s when he starts losing. Game 3 he draws three Marauders — I Helix one and chump block the two others — and he can’t kill me before I double Flames him.

In this matchup, your life total is the most important resource — not how many cards you have, not how fast you are, your life total. You can take the damage to play a big guy turn one, as to put pressure, but playing an untapped Dual to play Tarmogoyf turn 2 is just bad — it’s better to play it tapped and play the Goyf the following turn. Dark Confidant is an absolute never play. Don’t be afraid to chump block or to Helix a Marauder, or to Mogg Fanatic away a Spark Elemental — when you have Helixes, Jittes and Finks, it’s hard for them to kill you if you don’t help them. Just don’t take too much damage and you should be fine.

I boarded -3 Dark Confidant, +3 Kitchen Finks. I wanted to bring in Ancient Grudge for random wins against Artifact Land draws + Nexus, but I had nothing to take out. I left Oblivion Rings because I thought he had Vortex, but turns out he didn’t. Vortex is very bad against you on the draw, but on the play it’s pretty good, countering Finks, Jitte and usually Helix because you won’t have played it by turn 2, so maybe on the play I should have took out the Rings for the Grudges.


Round 5: Lybaert, Marijn — Elves

That tournament was starting to look like Hollywood, where I played against what seemed to be all the good players in the world in a row.

I won the die roll (I won a lot of die rolls this tournament) and kept a Wild Nacatl, Jitte hand. He played a Llanowar Elves and I drew a Mogg Fanatic. I figure playing the Jitte is the best play, since next turn I can equip and Fanatic away a Symbiote if he has it, so I’ll put counters on the Jitte no matter what. Then he kills me. Without Glimpse.

I sided the same as for the other elves deck above.

Game 2 I played a Canonist, which he dealt with via Seal of Primordium. I had a Jitte, though, and he had no response to that until it was too late. I declined to kill a Heritage Druid once, since I could kill it in response to anything, but that was clearly a mistake since it gave him the sixth mana to convoke Chord and get a Viridian Shaman, but it didn’t matter as he was too far behind already and had nothing else in hand. Game 3 was pretty much the same — I had Sculler plus Jitte, and drew a second Jitte when he killed the first, though that was largely irrelevant since he had no permanents in play, no relevant cards in hand, and I still had a Lightning Helix.


Round 6: Chong, Rick — Mirror

I don’t remember much of those games, to be honest — I played a ton of mirrors in this tournament, and this didn’t stand out. I thought he was playing Elves, since he was friends of people I knew to be playing Elves, but he was playing Zoo. I mulliganed to five game 1 and quickly succumbed to what I think was a maindeck Jitte (but I might be wrong), then won games 2 and 3. In this match, Kitchen Finks is the best card you can have, since it fights all the important concepts — life and cards. It makes it so they can’t burn you out, and it provides you a creature after everything else has been removed. It’s also the best card to draw with Jitte. If you want another card in the Zoo mirror, play a fourth Kitchen Finks.

I sided like this: -4 Sculler, -1 Mogg Fanatic, -1 Dark Confidant (on the draw)
-4 Sculler, -2 Mogg Fanatic (on the play) +3 Kitchen Finks +2 Ranger of Eos +1 Ancient Grudge. The reason for that is that Dark Confidant is very good on the play — they really have to spend their turn killing it — but on the draw it’s more of a problem sometimes. It doesn’t trade with anything they are attacking with, and it might just kill you if they go for the throat. Sculler is not necessarily bad, but it just gives them a target for the Ancient Grudges they are likely already bringing in, especially if they saw maindeck Sculler and Jitte. I boarded in one Grudge because of Jitte, but had I seen Sculler game 2, meaning he didn’t take them out, I’d have boarded more in.


At this point, it looked like I was on the verge of death. I’m not a very physically resilient person — I always finish tournaments very exhausted, even when I sleep well, but this was a whole new level of exhaustion — I had had absolutely zero sleep. I don’t think my body and brain were fully prepared to handle what I was doing. I also hadn’t eaten anything except for a sausage the whole day.

Round 7: Sacher, AJ — Mirror

I won game 1, I don’t remember how. Game 2 took a long time, and I had a bunch of decisions to make. It feels like I should have won that game, but I didn’t and I don’t know where I messed up — there are many plays that could’ve gone different and I don’t really know what would have happened if I had made them. We both had Nacatls and he had a Dark Confidant. I had a choice between killing the Dark Confidant or the Nacatl — I killed the Nacatl and bashed, hoping his own Dark Confidant would be a problem, since I was ahead on board and on life and I had more removal in hand. He had triple Lightning Helix, though, so his Dark Confidant ended up helping him in the end. I had a Jitte in play, and for five turns he killed the guy I was equipping, with his three Helixes and two Smothers. Then he drew Ranger of Eos, which got Forge Tender, so I couldn’t attack with my Figure. I made it an 8/8 Flier to attack through the Tender, and he had another Smother. Then I lost.

During this game, I fetched a tapped Blood Crypt and when I untapped I had a Godless Shrine in play as well. Apparently, the cards were stuck together and when I untapped them they split back. I point out to him that I didn’t have a Godless Shrine and I must’ve gotten it by accident, and he tells me to just put it back and continue the game. I’m not sure what would have happened if we had called a judge, but I certainly appreciated not having to find out — Thanks AJ!

I mull to five game 3, and he has Oblivion Ring for my first play so I’m never really in it.


Round 8: Bergström, Jonathan — Tezzeret (I think, he never played one but he had all the other cards).

This match was very frustrating — game 1 he has a Chrome Mox and an early Chalice for two, as well as a Vedalken Shackles and an Engineered Explosives. He gets my Dark Confidant with the Shackles and I kinda hope he dies to it, but he doesn’t. When I draw the Oblivion Ring, he has the Venser and I’m dead on board.

I sided -1 Umezawa’s Jitte, -2 Mogg Fanatic, -2 Lightning Helix +3 Ancient Grudge, +2 Ranger of Eos

Game 2 I have an early Nacatl and he has no responses to it. He plays a relevant spell, I think Shackles, and I Oblivion Ring it, and that was that.

Game 3 was looong. He had once again Shackles, and I had Jitte. He has a ton of Islands. We get to a point where we are both topdecking, but I had a Ranger of Eos some turns before and that gave me a Figure of Destiny, that was about to get to 8/8 the next turn. He draws, plays his seventh land and passes with one card in hand. I morph my Figure to 8/8 — well outside the range of his tapped Shackles — and it turns out he drew Cryptic Command. With the Cryptic Command, he draws a Thirst for Knowledge to play with his three remaining mana, and on his turn he has a Firespout and in the next turn a Chalice for two. I draw all the two casting cost cards I hadn’t drawn before and die some turns later. If I ever draw an Ancient Grudge against his deck and he doesn’t play a very quick Chalice (for which I need to have no O-ring), I don’t think I can lose this match, but apparently I did.


At this point, all of my roommates had already gone go to the hotel (hey, thank you). I end up sharing a cab with some Portuguese players and with the only other Brazilian standing, and we go to (surprise) the McDonalds for the third day in a row. I remember looking like a zombie when I arrived back to the hotel. I get there, everyone is already sleeping. I go to bed and no one seems to notice I’m there.

I woke up at 1am. Everybody else was already awake, which made it downright impossible for me to sleep again. I put on the blindfold I got from the plane, and the earplugs, but I still couldn’t really sleep. I ended up falling asleep at about 6:30 and had to wake up half an hour later, a lot more asleep than when I had woken up at 1am.

Round 9 — Bode, Roland — Elves

Game 1, I mulligan into a hand of one land, on the draw, and I keep since it has all the tools to fight anything if I draw into a second and I can still put a fight if I don’t, depending on what he is playing. It turns out he is playing Elves, though, so Nacatls and Apes don’t classify as “putting up a fight.” I don’t draw a second land to play my removal, and he wins easily.

Game 2 I play a turn 2 Sculler, and I have a Sharpshooter to follow up. I get to pick between Fecundity and Viridian Shaman. Normally I’d take the Shaman, but since I had the Sharpshooter, the turn he spends playing Shaman on my Sculler is the turn I’m going to kill all the Elves he has in play with the Sharpshooter, and I’d rather not have him draw cards with Fecundity, so that’s what I take. He Shamans my guy and then plays Fecundity, and a Pendelhaven, but I have burn spells and bigger guys so I just kill him.

Game 3 was the worst game of Magic for me in the past three years or so. We have a complicated game — I have Scullers and Canonists, he has Shaman, Engineered Explosives for my Canonist, and Fecundity. Fecundity is probably the best card they can have against you, because, against Elves, you have to play control — you cannot expect to race them. You should aim to kill their important guys, not them, and Fecundity makes it hard.

We get to a point where he has three 2/2s (two Nettle Sentinels and a Shaman) and I have two 3/3s and four lands, though no Steam Vents. I’m at 2 life, he is at 10. I have Lightning Helix and double Tribal Flames in hand, as well as a Bloodstained Mire to get the missing Blue Land, which means he is dead next turn. He attacks me with his three 2/2s. My thought at that time was that I have to try to kill as few Elves as possible, since board is irrelevant at this time — he is dead with the cards in my hand alone, I don’t need to kill his guys, and if I do he might draw cards from Fecundity and just combo me. So, what I do — I block only one of his guys, not two. Then I play Lightning Helix on my own guy, before damage is on the stack. That way he draws no cards, and cannot possibly combo me out, and I win for sure next turn. Seemed like the perfect plan.

What I didn’t take into account was the fact that he was not dead next turn to the cards in my hand — he was dead to the cards in my hand and one life. I ended up gaining 3 and taking 4, and fell to 1. As a result, I couldn’t use my Bloodstained Mire for Steam Vents and ended up throwing away the game that had looked bad from the beginning but I had worked so hard to bring to a winnable position. What I should have done, and what any normal person would have done, was to just block his other 2/2 with my 3/3 — that way he draws one card only and has to kill me with that. Or alternatively I could have blocked one guy and Helixed him, so he goes to 7 and I don’t need the Blue Land to kill him. Basically, I could have done anything, except what I actually did.

The problem was that, again, I had drawn a conclusion under the wrong premises — I thought he was dead next turn no matter what, so the only thing that was important was surviving through the next turn. Once I got that in my mind, that was what I worked with when I decided what play to make. I do believe the play I made was the best possible, was the circumstance “I must survive to untap.” But that wasn’t the circumstance — it was “I must survive to untap at more than one life.” So I lost.


At this point, the tournament pretty much ended for me. Not only because I had made such a stupid play that was going to cost me so much, but because I had wanted big things for that tournament, things that were then out of my reach. It’s so frustrating to have to play seven more rounds knowing that, even if you win them all, which is highly unlikely considering the way you chose your deck and the way you are playing, you still can’t possibly get what you came for. Still, there were big things at stake — a Top 16 is still a very good result, and I had that to work for. I couldn’t let my tournament end.

One thing that seems to work for me is talking to other people about my mistakes. I’m not sure why, since it should probably be the opposite, but the more I talk about them, the more they look like things from the past, and I can then concentrate on playing the next rounds. It’s as if by talking about them I’m recognizing my nature as a human being, someone who makes mistakes – I’m not going to forget making the mistake (I don’t think I’ll forget that play anytime soon, to be honest), but I’m going to accept it, I’m not going to torture myself over it. I made a stupid game-losing mistake, I have to live with it, and talking about it seems, to me, the best way to do so.

Round 10: Nelson, Brandon — something Level Blue

Game 1 I won on the back of Figure of Destiny. I think it’s usually not a good idea to pump your figure to 4/4 on turn 3 against a deck that likely plays Threads of Disloyalty, but this game I did because I had Oblivion Ring. If you don’t (and don’t have the Tribal Flames to deal with it in case they steal it), it’s usually safer to wait until you have one extra mana, to shrink it back to 2/2 in case they steal it. It’s the same as the Goyf thing — it doesn’t matter how big your guys are, it matters how big their guys are, and against Zoo a 4/4 is a thousand times better than a 2/2, and it’s worth not dealing two damage to avoid taking the risk of them suddenly having a dominating monster in play. Since I had the Oblivion Ring, though, that was not a concern. Sure enough he has the Threads, and I Ring it back. The Figure attacks him to low enough that I can burn him out when he is forced to tap out to deal with it.

Game 2 he kills me pretty easily, with a lot of Tarmogoyfs and then an Explosives for one.

Game 3 is pretty long. I have a good early start, but I can’t follow it up since I draw infinite lands in a row. There comes a point in which I can’t use any more Fetchlands, because all my non Fetchland lands are already in play. He eventually draws a second Tarmogoyf to start attacking, but I draw a Dark Confidant. He is too low on life, from my fast start, so he can’t attack anymore and we play Draw-Go from there, except I’m drawing two cards a turn. I draw a relevant spell (an Oblivion Ring) one turn before he draws his (a Cryptic Command that would have killed me) and remove one of his blockers to be able to attack for the win.


Round 11: Havlik, Michal — Cloud

Those games were pretty bad for me. I made a lot of wrong decisions and lost the first game, though it’s unclear whether I would have won had I made the right ones, since he had Sakura-Tribe Elder into Damnation and then some Tarmogoyfs.

I sided -4 Mogg Fanatic, -2 Lightning Helix, +3 Kitchen Finks +2 Ranger of Eos +1 Gaddock Teeg. The Finks are very good against Death Cloud, since they provide a body for their mass removal and they can no longer Death Cloud both players to only lands and then “get there” because their deck is better suited to handle this situation, since you are left with a 2/1 to attack again.

Game 2 I don’t remember him doing anything relevant, and I win. Game 3 I again make some awkward decisions, like not playing Oblivion Ring in one of his Tarmogoyfs to play something else instead that I’m sure was not better than the Oblivion Ring, when he had a Raven’s Crime in the graveyard. I didn’t realize that his Crime would grow the Goyfs, since I was going to send an enchantment to my graveyard, and that made them too big to deal with. To add insult to injury, he played a third Tarmogoyf. Overall, a bad matchup and bad plays from me, so a match I definitely didn’t deserve to win, and I didn’t.


Round 12: Wichlacz, Zbigniew — Zoo

I win the die roll and my opening hand is two lands, three Wild Nacatls and two Tribal Flames. I draw another Tribal Flames. His first play of taking three to Stifle my second Land couldn’t really compete.

Game 2 I’m very flooded, but I’m able to stabilize at one life with a Figure of Destiny which I grow to 8/8, since, you know, I’m very flooded. He seems to forget that my Figure has First Strike (or he is hoping I forget), since he attacks with his Kitchen Finks with Jitte into it, so I just block. He reaches for the Jitte counters, and I stop him. He draws a bunch of lands after that, and I’m able to come back and kill him in two Figure attacks.


Round 13: Bartolomei, Iain

I knew he was playing Zoo with four maindeck Forge Tenders. Game 1 he has a big early assault, but I’m able to kill everything and I have Dark Confidant to draw into relevant spells, when he is a bit flooded. Against him, I sided out one more Mogg Fanatic and kept the Dark Confidant both games, on the play and on the draw, since he had the Forge Tenders.

Game 2 he has a Threads, and I have Oblivion Ring for it. Eventually he fetches his second Plains and has Duergar Hedge-Mage for it, and I lose.

Game 3 comes down to a decision I have to make — either he has the Hedge-Mage or not. He hasn’t played a lot of spells, so it’s likely he does have it, but I figure waiting will only make things worse, so I go for the Oblivion Ring. I could have played Tribal Flames on his Goyf instead, but he had Forge Tender, and if he sacrifices it I’m in a bad spot. I asked him afterwards and he said he would not have sacrificed the Forge Tender to save the Goyf — had I known that, I’d have Tribal Flamed it. He does have the Hedge-Mage, so the game looks very bad, but I have Dark Confidant and I draw into a third burn spell and the sixth land, so I am able to triple burn him out past his Forge Tender and win anyway.


Round 14: Alarcón, Jorge — UGW “I want to beat Zoo.dec”

Game 1 I come blazing fast, and the only thing he can muster is a Birds of Paradise when he has, I believe, a Breeding Pool and an Island in play and I have, among other things, a Mogg Fanatic. I play a Sculler and he scoops up his cards, rather than show me his hand, which was a very wise decision since he was definitely not winning that game. This doesn’t tell me much on how to sideboard, but I think that I wouldn’t have known how to sideboard even if I had seen his whole hand. I ended up doing -2 Sculler and +2 Ranger of Eos, since I had really no idea what to do. Normally I’d have removed Helix or Fanatics, but since he had played a Birds of Paradise I decided to play it safe and the only thing I could think of to remove was the Sculler, which was probably wrong but I had to side something out.

Nothing could have really prepared me for what I saw when I Scullered him game 2 — two Threads of Disloyalty and two Worships. He didn’t have any creatures, and I had two Tribal Flames, so I took out a Threads in the hopes of killing him before he could play Worship and get a creature to stick, but his next play is Troll Ascetic and I’m already looking like an idiot for not taking one Worship. I try not to damage him, so he maybe gets the idea to Threads my Dark Confidant and then I can burn him to one life and let him die to it, but he Threads an irrelevant guy instead. The game drags on and on, I have a Dark Confidant in play, as well as three 8/8 Figures of Destiny, Jitte with counters, so I’m at more than 20 despite the Confidant, a bunch of other guys and four Tribal Flames in my hand, but only one Oblivion Ring. He has Two Worships and two Troll Ascetics, and apparently no way to kill me besides decking, which will be easy once because of my Dark Confidant. Then he draws and plays… a third Worship. I’m considering whether I should scoop and save time or I should hope he kills himself with a Fetchland, but while I’m thinking he casts a Remand on his own Worship, drawing a card. I don’t understand why he thought drawing a card was more important than getting the third Worship in play, but apparently he did, and I’m glad for that. I draw a Sculler from the Dark Confidant the next turn, and I try to play it as casually as possible, since his only card in hand is Worship. I try to make it look like I’m not desperate to play it and get it out of his hand, so in case he draws Bant Charm he doesn’t feel tempted to kill my Sculler and get his Worship back, so I’m just like “hmm… hmm… Eh, whatever, I’ll play it now”. I’m not sure whether he bought it or not, as I drew the second Oblivion Ring before he drew his Bant Charm. I had maybe ten or so cards in my deck by then.


Round 15: Yoshida, Hiroshi — Demigod Stompy (the Mono Red deck with Blood Moons and Demigods)

I think he is playing Elves, like all the other Japanese players, and my hand is pretty good against Elves so I keep. It turned out he was not, but my hand was also pretty good against his deck. I went turn 1 Nacatl and he went turn 1 Demigod, I fell to 12. I played untapped Dual and Jitte, going to 10. He attacks me to 5; I attack and put two counters on my Jitte, without playing a third land. He attacks me to 2 – one counter left – and plays a Magus of the Moon. I attack him, get back to three counters, use two to kill the Magus and finish the Demigod with a Lightning Helix, and Jitte dominates from there.

I side -3 Dark Confidant, -2 Tarmogoyf, +4 Canonist, +1 Gaddock Teeg.

At this point, I’m out of paper, I lost my die, and my pen stopped working. My opponent has extras of everything, though, which he promptly hands me – thanks Hiroshi!

Game 2 his plan seemed to evolve around Blood Moon turn 2. I have a Heath turn 1, which I would have used to fetch the Plains in case he had what he had, but since I actually drew the Plains I was able to play a Nacatl turn 1, which grew to 3/3 after that with my basic Plains. I play a turn 2 Canonist, and he can only play a Figure of Destiny after that, which is not enough since I have a lot of dudes in play, including my own Figure.


Round 16: Johannsen, Dennis — Doran with Nacatls

Game 1 I think he is playing normal Doran, since his only plays were Dark Confidant, Smother, and Doran himself. I kill everything he plays and then I kill him.

I side -4 Sculler, -1 Lightning Helix, +2 Kitchen Finks, +2 Ranger of Eos, +1 Ancient Grudge

Game 2 he surprises me by playing two 3/3 Wild Nacatls. He then has some Tarmogoyfs, and when I manage to muster a defense he has Explosives for 1 to kill me. My opponent played those games in a glacial pace that would give Tiago Chan a run for his money as the slowest player in the universe, and he got a warning for that.

For game 3, I take out the Ancient Grudge, since I didn’t see Sculler or Mox in any of the games, and bring the third Kitchen Finks.

Our game 3 is pretty long, but it comes down to him not drawing Black mana after I kill his Birds with Jitte. Without Black, he can’t do anything to stop my Jitte from dominating the game.


So, I finished 11-5, which was good for 37th place. It does feel kinda unfair, since people with 33 points, same as me, finished 20th, getting twice as much money and two more Pro Points. To think of it, I only had one more loss than eventual champion Luis Scott Vargas (congratulations, by the way… I knew you were good!), and I still couldn’t finish inside the Top 32. Still, it’s also my fault for playing the way I played and for choosing the deck the way I did, so I guess I can’t complain. Had I won all my rounds, tiebreaks would have been irrelevant. It’s just disappointing that my last three tournaments were defined by tiebreaks — I finished 9th on breaks in Denver, 67th on breaks in Kansas, and now missed the Top 32 (or 24!) on breaks too. I know tiebreaks have some credit with me, since I finished 8th in Hollywood, but they spent them all when I finished 9th in Denver.

Many people think now that Zoo is very bad. I get weird looks at me when people see I played Zoo. I don’t think it’s all that bad. The matchup versus Elves is very winnable; it’s not a blowout. If Elves becomes the most played deck, there are probably better options than Zoo, but that doesn’t mean Zoo is not an option.

If I were to play the deck again, I’d find a way to get the fourth Dark Confidant in there. I still have no clue what to remove, though. The only thing that seems removable is the fourth Sculler, and I don’t really like that. Maybe a Figure of Destiny? In normal times, I’d remove a Mogg Fanatic, but you need them all against Elves. I’d swap the Sharpshooters for Jund Charms — I think they are more effective on what they do. You don’t randomly get losses to Pendelhaven, and LSV’s build ran two after board. Jund Charm also doubles as a Dredge killer, if you happen to run into one. Also in the sideboard I’d consider Shattering Spree — it’s better than Ancient Grudge versus both Tron and Tezzeret, or just anything randomly playing Chalice, since the default Chalice number versus Zoo is 2. Even if they have Chalice for 1, you can still get rid of it with the Replicate, and they can’t Stifle it because they have a Chalice for 1. With the number of Chalices increasing, I’d strongly consider making the swap, though that weakens your matchup against Combo a bit since you can no longer Grudge Lotus and Moxes.

As for Elves, I don’t think I’ll play it right now. It’s obviously good — who can argue with those results — but, for me, it’s probably not the best choice. If I was going to play it, though, I’d play something close to Tomoharo Saito’s list. I think the best kill conditions are Dragon and Brain Freeze, and I think Chord is better than Weird Harvest. Just be warned, though, that if you want to play Elves, you shouldn’t just come to your tournament and get an Elves deck — the deck is very hard to play properly, and the version with Weird Harvest is even harder. I believe one of the factors that made the Elf deck do so well is that most of the very good players played it. In the hands of an inexperienced player, there is a lot of room for mistakes, be it in counting, choosing what to get or just triggers — I’ve seen players lose games in the Pro Tour because they put the Hivemaster token into play before untapping the Nettle Sentinel.

Well, I think that’s it… Thanks for reading!

Paulo Vitor Damo (damo, damo, damo, how many times do I have to write that so people stop writing dama in the coverage? Damo damo damo damo I hope that’s enough times damo damo) da Rosa