Feature Article – Pro Tour: Berlin Tournament Report, Part 1 *Winner*

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Friday, November 7th – As we all know, you can’t spell “Elves” without LSV! In a tournament dominated by combo-tastic elven hilarity, LSV took his potent build all the way to the top of the pile. While the smart money is on a swathe of imminent bannings, LSV takes to the page in order to document his excellent tournament win. Congratulations LSV!

Plans for Berlin began months before the actual Pro Tour, as figuring out whom we were testing with and where we would meet was very important. This section might be a little long, but our trip for Berlin started in truth almost three weeks before the PT, and plans were in the making months ahead. Feel free to skip to the action if that’s more your thing, but I figured I might as well tell the whole deal at once. Neoncheon and I were obviously going to work together, but as for the rest we had many plans to make. We had worked with the one and only Innovator (and his crew) for PT: Hollywood and GP: Philadelphia, and we were just getting into a good rhythm for playtesting. Granted, our Hollywood results weren’t optimal (I mean, did anyone see the deck Paul and I played… Mono-Green beats with Warhammers), but we were confident that we could avoid some of the mistakes we had made in the process. As it ended up, Paul and I played that Gw thing, Heezy played Faeries, Nassif played BR Tokens, and Patrick, MJ, and DJ Kastner ran Reveillark. Whenever a test group goes into the tank and comes out without any consensus, that usually indicates some lack of confidence in the results. A good example of this was PT: Valencia last year, as we tested in a group with upwards of 15 well-known pros and no three people played the same deck. Unsurprisingly, our results there were also not promising. So anyway, back to Berlin, with a brief stop in Rimini on the way.

Dr. Chapin did a good job of covering the Rimini trip, which importantly set the stage for our testing plans for Berlin. After testing for Rimini went well, both sides of the Atlantic were ready to commit to test for Berlin. The final roster ended up being Paul, Patrick, and myself from the U.S., with Manuel Bucher from Switzerland and the Ruel brothers plus Wafo-Tapa and Matignon from France. Before we left from the U.S. we tested separately, with the idea of comparing notes once we all met in Berlin. So with preparations at the ready, our three-week long trip began, with a detour to Kansas City en route.

GP: KC didn’t go so well, so I will summarize it quite briefly. I misbuilt my deck terribly, which can even embarrassingly be seen in the coverage, as Bill Stark covered my deckbuilding. In some defense, I ran out of time while considering the second configuration, and ended up stuck with it. Still, playing Game 1 with a terrible deck and siding into what was probably just an average one was enough to keep me from playing Day 2. I even lost the credit card game while having delicious barbecue, so apparently I just wasn’t running good on the weekend. I really do have to get my complaints in while I can, since Paul has threatened to hit me if I complain for at least the next month (unless it’s a really bad beat, like losing a MTGO 8-man).

Alright, so Berlin for real this time. Patrick and Paul were already going to their gates for their flights Monday morning when I got a nice surprise. Apparently, my flight was not on Monday like the other two guys, but instead was on Tuesday. Same time, just a 24 hour difference. It was supposed to be on Monday, but I hadn’t booked it, and apparently our contact at Hasbro got the date wrong (although she still awesomely was able to get me a flight from KC to Berlin but back to home in California, saving me a nice bit of money). This mix-up wouldn’t have been a big deal, but I was the one who not only booked our hostel in Germany, but also had all the info as for how to get there. Luckily, Paul called me back during his layover and I was able to explain slowly how to get there. I say slowly since I had to spell out all these absurd German words, since the German language subscribes to the theory of “why use four letters when thirteen will do.” Disaster was averted, since although we had absolutely no way of contacting each other once in Germany, they were at the hostel as planned, and were able to start our reservation despite me not being there. The chronicles of the HappyBed Hostel could go on for pages, but I will let someone with real flair get into that, as I believe Patrick is going to go into it. Suffice to say that we played so many games with Zoo that I had to replace the sleeves multiple times. It was the main enemy we tested against, as we expected a fairly fragmented metagame. Our final expected field looked something like:

ZOO (in caps because we expected 30% of the field to play animals, and they didn’t disappoint)
TEPS (I really doubted the numbers of successful TEPS decks, but we played two Thorn of Amethysts regardless, since they really put a hurt on TEPS)
Affinity (I expected Affinity to do terribly, and it did)
Elves (we were extremely low on the number of Elves, since we clearly didn’t realize how popular it was going to end up being)
Various Levels of Blue control (Faeries and Tron count here also)
Jank (not PT Jank, but Jank as in bad decks like Deathcloud, Burn, etc)

We didn’t do a terrible job of guessing the expected decks, with our estimate of Elves being low, much like I think just about everyone else (except maybe the Japanese, since Saito had 2 Blasting Station, Pontiff, AND Sharpshooter in the side).

The final list ended up as follows, with some spicy additions from testing. One of the sickest additions came about in the following way. I was piloting Zoo, which was basically the worst. If I never sac a Foothills to cast a Nacatl again I think I’ll be happy. Anyway, I kept bashing elves (played by Manuel B with Paul sitting there birding), and eventually Paul said “Man, if only we had something sweet to Pact for when you aren’t comboing.” Patrick semi-seriously suggested Mycoloth, which was in the stack of Paul’s draft rares which Patrick was idly looking through, and then Manuel just simply said that he was adding a Mycoloth. Big Mike ended up being insane versus Zoo, and thus earned his spot in the sideboard.

On to the list!

This list was the result of many, many hours of testing, although it isn’t drastically different than the list Manuel B and Olivier had when we arrived in Berlin. I would like to think we helped tune it a good amount, since for the most part that is my strength rather than just creating decks to begin with. The sideboard was quite good, particularly the Jittes. Just looking through the matches I played, I sided in Jitte in 11 of the 16 rounds of swiss, and one round in the Top 8. I also assume that most everyone is acquainted with the Elves kill, where you Glimpse and chain Elves until you finish with either Predator Dragon or, in our case, Grapeshot.

Once we showed up at the site, it became eminently clear that Elves was going to be much larger than previously expected. Just about everyone was running around looking for Glimpse of Nature, and they were nowhere to be found. Still, we were confident with our 4 Thoughtseize plan for the mirror, since we tried many different cards and none of them seemed to alter percentages much.

Round 1 versus Matt Benjamin

This was a pretty funny pairing, since Matt was my roommate for the last three years, and this was his first Pro Tour. I knew he was playing TEPS, since we finalized the build the night before, since we were both mising Cheon’s free hotel room.

Game 1
We both mulligan to 5, and he suspends a Lotus Bloom on the play. I play a Heritage Druid and a Nettle Sentinel turns 1 and 2, and then go Glimpse into Symbiote into Summoner’s Pact turn 3, going off and killing him before his Bloom comes out.

Sideboarding versus TEPS
+4 Thoughtseize, +2 Thorn of Amethyst
-2 Viridian Shaman, -1 Weird Harvest, -1 Grapeshot, -2 Llanowar Elves

Against TEPS you don’t really need to kill them when you go off, since you end up Thoughtseizing them four times and playing two Thorns, so it’s pretty unlikely they can do anything on the following turn. Weird Harvest, although slow, is also pretty good here, since they can’t get anything. You often end up slowing them down enough to just cast Harvest for 4 then winning the following turn.

Game 2
I apologize for the boring depiction of some games, but in games like this where I won turn 3, there really isn’t much to be said. I assembled a team of Elves, cast Glimpse, and won before his Bloom came in.

Since this match was so short, I might as well add a funny little story involving Matt. So, at one point in the weekend I owed Matt 10 Euros. I handed him a 10 Ringit (Malaysian currency) bill, thinking he would notice and we would get a laugh. He actually didn’t notice, since I guess all foreign currency looks fake to those of us from the US of A. I decided the opportunity for comedy gold was there, and didn’t say anything. I expected him to try and spend it at some point, get no-sirred and come yell at me, at which point I pay the 10 Euros. Instead, he said nothing, and two days later I asked if he had the 10 I gave him. He didn’t which opened up a whole new realm of possibility. At this point, Paul said “Matt, didn’t you tip our tour guide 10 Euros?”, and the joke got insane. Apparently, Matt shipped this poor tour guide roughly 3 dollars, instead of the 13 or so he thought he was giving. All of us found this ridiculously funny, all of us except Matt who worries about such things. The best part is that I never did have to ship those 10 Euros, making the trip just that much sweeter.


Round 2 versus Geoffrey Siron

The PT: London champion, which was also the Pro Tour I had my previous best result in, finishing 14th.

Game 1
I win the die roll, and play a Forest and an Elf. (At this point all the one-drop elves kind of bleed together in my mind, but it usually isn’t relevant. He plays a Blinkmoth Nexus and passes. Turn 2 I play a Visionary and a Nettle Sentinel, but can’t quite go off yet. Turn 2 He plays a Darksteel Citadel and again passes. I then win turn 3 with a Summoner’s Pact for Regal Force.

Sideboarding is interesting, since the first impulse would be to put him on Affinity. Still, he kept his seven card hand and didn’t play anything turn 1 or 2. I actually couldn’t think of a keepable Affinity hand that would play out like that, so I ended up siding as if he was Mono-Red Burn. The burn deck often plays Shrapnel Blast, Nexus, and some artifact lands, so it seemed like a reasonable assumption.

Sideboarding versus Burn
+2 Jitte, +1 Mycoloth, +1 Nullmage Shepherd
-2 Weird Harvest, —1 Elves of Deep Shadow, —1 Grapeshot

Nullmage is for random Pyrostatic Pillars or the like, and Jitte makes him waste his burn spells on my elves or straight up lose. Of course, he could still be Affinity but I really doubted that. Still, I normally would have sided in the full 4 Jittes and taken out the 2 Viridian Shamans, but I felt hedging my bets was best. There was always game 3 if things went wrong. Again Grapeshot goes out, since if I combo I get to hit with a Jitte on a creature, so that’s at the very least four life.

Game 2
He led with Mountain into Rift Bolt, so Burn it was. He played a Keldon Marauders on 2, but couldn’t really attack since I had two Nettle Sentinels and two mana elves out at this point. Symbiote got a Magma Jet, and the Nettles started dying to various burn spells. Still, between my draw steps and Summoner’s Pact, I was able to dig up the last two Nettle Sentinels in the deck and combo off.


Round 3 versus Andrew R. Vargas

Apparently, this gentleman from Texas gets asked at just about every big event if we are cousins, so meeting was kind of funny. We are in fact not, but I doubt the questions he gets will stop.

Game 1
He was on the play, and led with Wooded Foothills into Mountain into Lava Spike. Here I assume Burn is the most likely, both due to the obvious Lave Spike and since Zoo rarely has the luxury of fetching a basic Mountain turn 1. He seemed reluctant to use his burn on my Llanowar Elf, although after I went turn 2 Birchlore into Heritage into Viridian Shaman on his Ancient Den he killed the Heritage Druid. I still had a Pact and a Nettle Sentinel though, so when I Glimpsed turn 3 I was able to successfully Grapeshot him to death.

+4 Jitte, +1 Mycoloth, +1 Nullmage Shepherd, +1 Pendelhaven
-3 Elves of Deep Shadow, —3 Weird Harvest, —1 Grapeshot

The Pendelhaven may look odd in the sideboard, but we really felt like an additional land against Zoo and Burn decks would help, since they tend to kill your mana elves on sight. In this case I left in Viridian Shaman since I had seen Ancient Den, which to me indicated a possible splash of Ethersworn Canonist.

Game 2
This game was all about Jitte. I made turn 1 Llanowar, turn 2 Elves of Deep Shadow plus Elvish Visionary. When I played and equipped Jitte to the Visionary turn 3, he was forced to Shard Volley it. That’s an exchange of resources I can live with. The Elves of Deep Shadow got Shrapnel Blasted on the following turn, and it was downhill from there. Andrew conceded as soon as I got a hit in with Jitte, since there really was nothing his deck could do from there.


Round 4 versus Thomas Guedj

This was a nice match, as my opponent cast (I think) two spells in total.

Game 1
He suspends a Lotus Bloom and casts Ponder turn 1, then I turn 2 him with Nettle plus Glimpse plus Heritage Druid into multiple elves and so forth.

I sideboard the same as round 1.

Game 2
He again suspends a Bloom on turn 1, but I end up winning turn 2. He actually concedes to my Weird Harvest with x = 15, although I wouldn’t technically win on my turn. Still, TEPS has really no outs to 4 Thoughtseizes and two Thorns, hence the removal of Grapeshot after board. In fact, the only matchup I even leave Grapeshot in is the mirror, which I will explain deck by deck when I run into them.


Here I was feeling pretty good, as none of my matches had been close. Still, my compatriots weren’t faring as well, with Paul, Olivier, Antoine, and Manuel having a rougher time than I. We knew going in that playing such a deck could definitely lead to varied results, due to factors like Paul facing down 10 Chalice of the Voids in the first four rounds.

Round 5 versus Martin Juza

Ah, the first of what I assumed would be many mirrors. The die roll is a large part of the match, and sadly I lost the roll game 1.

Game 1
We both had somewhat slow hands, which meant that he killed me on turn 4 when I was about to return the favor. I kept a hand that needed to draw a Glimpse or a Summoner’s Pact for Regal Force, and didn’t see one until the turn after I died. I would have won on turn 4 either way with Weird Harvest, but in the mirror you really can’t Harvest unless you immediately win. I didn’t get up to enough mana to do so until turn 4, or rather, the turn 4 I never got to see.

Sideboarding versus Elves
+4 Thoughtseize
—2 Viridian Shaman, —2 Weird Harvest

This is the one matchup where Grapeshot absolutely has to stay, since winning the turn you combo is imperative.

Game 2
This game was nice, as I mulligan to a five-card hand of Overgrown Tomb, Thoughtseize, Birchlore Ranger, Forest, Forest. I Thoughtseize a Chord on turn 1, leaving Martin with Hivemaster, Symbiote, another random Elf, and lands. I draw another Thoughtseize on turn 3, but soon get beaten to death by insects.


Round 6 versus Gabriel Nassif

Our match was featured, so I will direct you to the coverage for a good look at what happened.

I sideboard like so:
+4 Jitte, +2 Viridian Shaman, +1 Mycoloth
-3 Weird Harvest, —1 Grapeshot, —2 Elves of Deep Shadow

Against Blue decks Jitte is awesome, as it forces them to not only react to your combo but also face the beatdowns. Plus, they killed Nassif’s Jittes, which is one of his best ways to beat me. Viridian Shaman comes in for his Jittes, Moxes, Seat of the Synod, and potential Shackles or Explosives. Some Faerie decks even run Chalice of the Void as an additional target. Big Mike is also a good random threat, and one that is surprisingly hard for blue to deal with.


Round 7 versus Ziming Chen

Game 1
After my opponent leads with Temple Garden into Birds of Paradise, I assumed he was playing Doran. When he Smothered my Birchlore and played a Treetop Village turn 2, it turned out I was right. With the help of a Llanowar Elf I cast Weird Harvest for two on turn 3, and he fetches two Tidehollow Sculler. I get Heritage Druid and Nettle Sentinel, and just hope he doesn’t draw a land on his turn. He missed his land drop the turn prior, simply Witnessing back his Smother, so one more turn without land and I should be good. He misses on land, electing to play a Sculler. He sees a hand of: Weird Harvest, Summoner’s Pact, Heritage Druid, Nettle Sentinel, and Forest, with Llanowar Elves, Nettle Sentinel and three lands in play. The card he takes is Heritage Druid, which luckily is fine for me. I untap, Pact for a Heritage Druid, play Sentinel, Druid, Weird Harvest for 3. This untaps my Sentinels, and leaves me with 3 elves untapped. My three Weird Harvest cards are Nettle Sentinel, Wirewood Symbiote, Regal Force, which easily gets enough mana to cast Regal Force. I don’t end up drawing Glimpse off Regis, but hit a bunch of Elves and a Harvest for 11, which prompts a concession.

+4 Jitte, +1 Mycoloth, +1 Pendelhaven, +2 Viridian Shaman
-2 Elves of Deep Shadow, —1 Overgrown Tomb, —3 Weird Harvest, —1 Grapeshot, —1 Summoner’s Pact
Here I switch out a Tomb for the Pendelhaven because of how good the Haven is in this matchup, and I don’t really need an extra land in total. Viridian Shaman stays in because of opposing Jitte and Tidehollow Sculler, as well as random Chrome Moxes.

Game 2
Ziming starts with a turn 1 Dark Confidant off a Chrome Mox, and unfortunately the Bob stays in play for a number of turns. I manage to get a hit in with Jitte, killing Dark Confidant, but then the Jitte dies to his copy of it. He then drops an Engineered Explosives for 1, killing my Nettle Sentinel and Llanowar Elf, leaving me with Symbiote and Birchlore in hand versus his freshly played Doran. Doran plus a Treetop Village rumble in for a few turns, and even with Symbiote letting me chump Doran with Birchlore every turn I’m dying fast. I do manage to cast a Regal Force, but this is where I make the biggest punt of the tournament. The board is: Regal Force, Symbiote, Llanowar Elves, Birchlore Rangers, Viridian Shaman for me, and Doran, Treetop, Birds of Paradise for him. I’m on 3 life, but he’s low enough that I kill him next turn. I leave back Regal Force and two 1-drops to block, instead of leaving back a one-drop and a Viridian Shaman. He peels an Explosives, kills the two one-drops, and Treetop plus Doran kill me. If I just play around EE there I win pretty easily. Despite the terrible play, I still have a game 3 to win though, so we move on.

Game 3
We both play guys, his being a Dark Confidant and mine being Birchlore and Symbiote. I have a turn where I play Jitte, equip, and attack with both guys. He could have a Slaughter Pact, in which case Bob survives and I’m forced to bounce my elf with Symbiote, since I naturally equipped the elf. He blocks Symbiote with Bob, which I take to mean he has no Pact, since I have Pendelhaven out. He actually does have the Slaughter Pact, but because he blocked with Dark Confidant for no reason I get to Pendelhaven my Symbiote and still two for none him. He does Jitte my Jitte, but at this point I Summoner’s Pact for Mycoloth, make him an 8/8, and ride him to victory in the following turns. Even a Doran and a 4/5 Tarmogoyf do nothing against the turbo Verdant Force.


Just one more round to go, and I managed to even survive the round where I threw a game for no reason. The deck was running well, and even our odd sideboard cards like Mycoloth were pulling their weight.

Round 8 versus Andre Coimbra

I had sat next to Coimbra at some point during the day, so I knew he was with Spire Golem Mono-Blue. What I didn’t know was whether or not he had Engineered Explosives, which is basically just the best card he could have against me. The old lists of Mono-Blue didn’t have them, and I never saw a non-Blue land, so I assumed he wasn’t running them.

Game 1
I keep an elf-heavy hand (and yes, there are other kinds of hands in this deck), but I don’t have Glimpse or Pact so I probably am not comboing super fast. Still, against his kind of deck, Nettle Sentinel beats does a good job. I actually end up morphing two Birchlores and playing two Nettles and a Llanowar, and just hit him with bears until he dies. His suspended Visions never comes out, since he didn’t suspend it until turn 3.

+4 Jitte, +2 Viridian Shaman, +1 Mycoloth
-3 Weird Harvest, —2 Elves of Deep Shadow, —1 Summoner’s Pact, —1 Grapeshot

Due to his large artifact count, Viridian Shaman is sick against him. As usual, the Jittes come in to enable a better beatdown. I also don’t like Weird Harvest against decks with counters and Vendilion Cliques, since it never seems to work out they way you want.

Game 2
He has double Visions this time, but Jitte makes him throw away cards on my 1/1s. Even double Spire Golem eventually falls to my guys while he waits to draw off Visions. I actually draw into the cards to combo while I’m beating down, and start to go off when he’s at two life. Here he bluffs me really well, as he asks how many spells I’ve played as I am comboing, and counts my library. He obviously is representing Brain Freeze, and although I don’t think he has it since if he did he would have waited until I was dead to start counting, I still stop midway. I have more than enough men to kill him on the following turn, no reason to randomly lose. He of course doesn’t have the freeze, and even the six cards off Visions can’t stop my horde of green idiots. Even if he found Cryptic Command, a midcombat Summoner’s Pact would untap my 3 Nettle Sentinels to continue the beats.


Going 7-1 on Day 1 is actually the best I’ve ever done day 1 of a PT, so I was pretty excited. Chapin was 6-2 with his Gifts deck, which was sweet as well. I actually thought he had drawn a match, since I saw him battling Zoo as time was called, but it turns out they had 10 more minutes so Chapin was able to pull it out. Sadly, Paul wasn’t able to make Day 2, and even barely finished out of the Top 200 and the extra pro point. Manuel B was 5-3, as was Olivier, and Guillaume Matignon finished day 1 at 6-2. We went out to eat, and of course I had to get a draft in before I went to bed. Back at the site, I teamed up with Matt Benjamin and Josh Utter-Leyton (wrapter on MTGO, and def. a ringer). We found a draft against some really funny French Swiss fellows, all of whom were about half into enormous bottles of beer. Despite starting 4-0, we barely pull it out 5-4, as my teammates carried me and my 1-2 performance. I still managed to get a solid six and a half hours of sleep, way above average for a PT.

That’s all for today… join me early next week for the Day 2 and Top 8 action!