Last week, I brought you the highs and lows from my first day at Pro Tour: Berlin. I left with a 7-1 record, and I was full of positivity for Day 2 play. Let’s go!
Round 9 versus Mateusz Kopec
The winner of GP: Vienna, I expected Mateusz to be running some level of Blue deck.
He won the roll, and simply led with Seat of the Synod. I wasn’t fooled, and didn’t believe he was Affinity for a second. I played Forest and Llanowar Elves, and passed. He played a tapped Steam Vents, perfectly setting up my Viridian Shaman on his Seat. He then missed a land drop and played a Mox imprinting Cryptic Command. Another Viridian Shaman later, and he conceded to a lack of lands.
+4 Umezawa’s Jitte, +2 Viridian Shaman, +1 Mycoloth
-2 Elves of Deep Shadow, —3 Weird Harvest, —1 Grapeshot, —1 Summoner’s Pact
Apparently I was fooled after all. He started like a Blue deck, with Condescend, Remand, Firespout, and Explosives, but on turn 5 he played Swans of Bryn Argoll, RFGed a Simian Spirit Guide, and Chain of Plasma’ed his Swans. I died shortly thereafter to a Conflagrate, prompting me to completely change my sideboarding.
Sideboarding (from the MD configuration)
-3 Weird Harvest, —1 Viridian Shaman
I wanted one Viridian Shaman to handle Explosives, and Weird Harvest is really bad against the team of Remand and Condescend.
All of a sudden my matchup got much worse, as Swans is much tougher than random Blue control deck. I kept a kind of slow hand that had everything I needed for the combo but creatures, figuring I was still faster than his roughly five-turn kill. Both of us did nothing until turn 5, when I went for it, playing a Glimpse. In response he cast Thirst for Knowledge, then let it resolve. I tried a Heritage Druid, and he Condescended for one. I was able to go off fairly easily from there, and wasn’t even vulnerable to Firespout since I left in the Grapeshot.
Round 10 versus Gadiel Szleifer
Going into the round I knew this was going to be a tough matchup, as Gadiel was running Faeries with access to up to four Engineered Explosives, three of which were maindeck. Spellstutter is also insane versus Elves, so Faeries is one of the harder control decks to face.
After Gadiel mulled to 6, he only played a Mutavault before I won on turn 3. Getting a free game like that is pretty important against bad matchups, and certainly gave me a good chance overall.
+4 Umezawa’s Jitte, +2 Viridian Shaman, +1 Mycoloth, +1 Nullmage Shepherd, +1 Pendelhaven
-3 Weird Harvest, —1 Grapeshot, —2 Elves of Deep Shadow, —1 Overgrown Tomb, —2 Summoner’s Pact
Trying to combo against a legion of Explosives and Stutters is difficult, so I would mostly rather go beatdown with Jitte and Viridian Shaman.
By turn 3 he has out two Dark Confidants, and I miss drawing a land on my turn 3 to play and equip Jitte to kill them both. Once that opportunity passes, he always has mana up to play Spellstutters or Agony Warp or Spell Snare, all of which pretty easily answer the Jitte. He even gets out his own Jitte in a few turns, and I die very quickly. Riptide Laboratory is so amazing in the Faerie deck, allowing them to rebuy Spellstutter, save Bob, and even get multiple Vendilion or Mistbind triggers.
I am stuck on one land for a few turns, but that’s really not much of a problem in this deck. He pops an EE for one, killing a Nettle and a Birchlore, but I start playing my three mana guys. First I Eternal Witness my Birchlore, then I Viridian Shaman his Chrome Mox. He uses two Agony Warps and a Smother on my guys, but he’s pretty flooded at this point. I beat him down to seven before the following situation unfolds. He has 7 land, including a Riptide Lab. His hand is two Spellstutter Sprites, as they have been going back and forth between the board and his hand. I have a Viridian Shaman, two Wirewood Symbiotes, a Heritage Druid, and a Birchlore Rangers. I even played the Shaman and killed my own Jitte, since with the Riptide Lab I was never getting any counters anyway. When I attack with everything, he activates the Mutavault he just played, and blocks; my Symbiotes die, but so do one of his Stutters. Post-combat I play more guys, and since the Mutavault is summoning sick he can’t recast his Spellstutter to stop me. The turn after I can swarm for enough damage, even though I lose random men.
Round 11 versus Denis Sinner
Another Faeries matchup isn’t optimal, but at least Sinner doesn’t have Explosives.
My hand is somewhat lackluster game 1, and by turn 4 I just have a Symbiote, a Viridian Shaman, and a Llanowar Elves out. His turn 4 is very odd, as he taps out for a Bitterblossom and a Jitte. That’s right, a Jitte. Despite my confusion I manage to attack him for four and use Symbiote plus Viridian Shaman to kill his Jitte for free. The game goes on a number of turns longer, and I would have almost assuredly lost to the Jitte at some point if he just holds it. I actually finished this game by playing two guys, bouncing one with Symbiote, playing it, then Grapeshotting him for four when he was at three. He countered three of the copies, but died to his Bitterblossom a turn later when he failed to peel a Mistbind Clique.
+4 Umezawa’s Jitte, +2 Viridian Shaman, +1 Mycoloth, +1 Nullmage Shepherd, +1 Pendelhaven
-3 Weird Harvest, —1 Grapeshot, —2 Elves of Deep Shadow, —1 Overgrown Tomb, —2 Summoner’s Pact
I lose the only game of the tournament to double Pendelhaven, as my Llanowar Elf plus two Pendelhaven doesn’t allow me to cast the turn 2 Viridian Shaman to wreck his Chalice of the Void on one. I soon die, as I don’t see another land until way too late. We accepted the risk of double Pendelhaven, and it actually happened to be relevant this game. It’s still so insane when you are beating down that I would run the risk again.
He has a turn 2 Bitterblossom, and a Mana Leak to stop me when I try to win on turn 4. This game went pretty long, and after trading a bunch of cards (Threads, Smother, etc) the board comes to his Mutavault and Riptide Lab against my three guys, with him at 7. He then peels a Vendilion Clique the turn I draw Regal Force, and hits me during my draw step. I draw two land in a row, and he draws a Mistbind Clique, so I die quite rapidly. This round was a bit frustrating, since my opponent was kind of rattled, what with the Jitte thing game 1 and maybe just being in the feature match, so I had more opportunities to win than I should have.
Round 12 versus Robert D. Seder
At this point in the tournament I assume most people know what I’m playing, since through scouting I know what just about all of my potential opponents are playing. Robert was some sort of Blue control deck, that’s all I knew.
He wins the roll, and I can only assume he doesn’t know what I’m playing, since he doesn’t play Explosives for one on turn 1, instead playing it on turn 2 when he can’t activate it. With the Explosives out I am forced to go for it, and I try to combo. I basically have two Glimpse draws to hit an elf or a Symbiote (or Summoner’s Pact), but I don’t and die to my Pact when he explodes my board. He seemed like he hadn’t played against Elves yet, which is odd since it was quite prevalent on Day 2.
+4 Umezawa’s Jitte, +1 Mycoloth, +2 Viridian Shaman
-3 Weird Harvest, —2 Elves of Deep Shadow, —1 Grapeshot, —1 Summoner’s Pact
I only play four spells this game, but they are Umezawa’s Jitte and three 1/1 elves. He mulls to five and gets stuck on two lands, so even though he has triple Tarmogoyf they only come out one by one, and fall to the pointy stick. Jitte is so awesome, since it turns a deck with all terrible little men into a fierce offensive menace, since even crappy elves carry a Jitte quite well.
I again go beatdown this game, and despite his Threads and Sower I am able to Jitte my way into a board advantage. He doesn’t ever draw Explosives, instead having to use sub-par answers like Echoing Truth on my Jitte. I end up attacking with seven guys into his Finks, Vendilion Clique, and Shackles, using Symbiote to bounce the Nettle Sentinel the Finks blocked before damage so his Finks don’t die and persist.
Round 13 versus Kenny Oberg
This was a fake feature match, as it wasn’t covered for the website.
He is on the play, and has turn 2 Mox into Trinket Mage for Chalice of the Void. I can’t win with a Chalice out, so I have the perfectly reasonable response of simply winning on my turn 2 instead.
+2 Umezawa’s Jitte, +2 Viridian Shaman, +1 Nullmage Shepherd
-2 Weird Harvest, —1 Grapeshot, —2 Elves of Deep Shadow
I didn’t board in the full number of Jitte because I didn’t know how insane they were against Kenny, who had such a big advantage in the Swiss due to his opponents not knowing his decklist. It had so many things going on that just about anything could be in it, and it made it hard to play against and sideboard against.
I have a turn 1 elf, but that’s easily trumped by his turn 2 Chalice. I don’t find a Viridian Shaman, and he rapidly accelerates to a Tezzeret that grabs a Trinisphere, while I still only have two mana sources.
Yet again, Trinisphere rears its head, with a turn 1 Chalice on one, and a turn 2 Trinisphere. I am reduced to morphing Birchlore Rangers (something I did entirely too often during the tournament), and am easily mopped up by a Firespout and a Threads of Disloyalty.
It’s getting near crunch time, as a record of 12-3-1 is typically what is needed to Top 8 a PT. Still have three rounds to go, and it looks like I will need to go 2-0-1 to assure Day 3.
Round 14 versus Alex Majlaton
I’ve been acquainted with Alex for a while, and he can usually be seen wearing a very pink hat. Today he was dressed rather sharply in a suit, which he unfortunately couldn’t wear on Friday due to luggage mishaps. This was one of the most pleasant matches I had in the tournament, as well as being one of the closest.
I knew Alex was Zoo, and he knew I was elves. He mulliganed a presumably decent hand that was too slow for the matchup, and came out with just a turn 1 Isamaru and turn 2 Seal of Fire. I played a bunch of guys, and although a turn 3 Blightning was kind of annoying, I was able to just play enough guys to kill him while still out of Tribal Flames range. He even ripped the Tribal Flames, but didn’t have the second burn spell to make it lethal.
+4 Umezawa’s Jitte, +1 Mycoloth, +2 Viridian Shaman, +1 Pendelhaven
-3 Weird Harvest, —2 Elves of Deep Shadow, —1 Grapeshot, —2 Summoner’s Pact
I knew he had Sculler and Canonist, so the full complement of Viridian Shamans came in.
This game ended rapidly, as I mulliganed to a six-card hand of Llanowar Elf, two Viridian Shaman, three land, and got blown out by Tidehollow Scullers. He Seal of Fired my Llanowar, Scullered a Shaman, then had the second Sculler to get my other Shaman before I could cast it. I died shortly thereafter.
This game started pretty normally, but soon became one of the odder games of the event. Around turn 5 he had amassed a force of two Tarmogoyfs, a Wild Nacatl, and two Kird Apes. I was at 10. I feel like he has no burn spells in hand, based on how he’s playing, but I still think going off now would be prudent. I try and get there, but end up having to pass the turn. He attacks, and I chump a bunch of guys and fall to 6. I then pay for my Summoner’s Pact, and play two more guys. I then have to chump one more time, but this time go to 1 life since I basically can’t win if I throw more guys away. Luckily for me, he doesn’t have the burn, but he does have a Canonist he just drew. So, I untap with Heritage Druid, Birchlore, and Nettle Sentinel in play, with Regal Force and Glimpse in hand. My odds of winning this game are ridiculously low, but I peel Viridian Shaman, which was step 1. I Viridian Shaman his Canonist, and then play Regal Force. At this point I have no mana floating, and just a Nettle plus a Birchlore untapped. So in order to win, the five cards I have to draw off Regal Force must include one of the two Nettle Sentinels left in the deck, and probably two if not three other elves. Since I’m blessed, that’s exactly what happens. Still, I’m at one, and even though I get a Jitte hit in, I will die to Tribal Flames. Obviously he doesn’t hit his four outer, since that would be way too lucky, and I somehow escape with the win.
Round 15 versus Sebastian Thaler
This was a big game, and I felt a touch tense going in. Having GerryT there to bird my matches and offer moral support was huge, and definitely helped my mental state. Also, Dr. Chapin, despite suffering some beats at this point in the tournament, gave me a good pep talk, keeping me focused and in the game. Having people around to give you energy is a big deal, and although it sounds kind of new-agey, is really a big difference from feeling like you are toughing it out by yourself. I was also under the assumption that losing this round put me out of contention, but we all know how that turned out.
I lose the die roll, and since I know he is Elves, that doesn’t bode well. Sure enough, he wins on turn 3, when I had the turn 3 in my hand.
-2 Weird Harvest, —2 Viridian Shaman
For those of you who have some familiarity with the deck, I pose a question. Would you keep Elvish Visionary, Glimpse of Nature, Wirewood Symbiote, Heritage Druid on the play? I don’t mean those cards plus land… I mean just those four cards. I mulled three consecutive no-landers into that, and ended up keeping. That obviously didn’t end well, but I’m pretty certain it’s better than a three-card hand.
I was now feeling pretty bummed, since I assumed 4 losses was out, especially considering the size of this Pro Tour. Standings went up, and I was in 9th! Therefore, it looked like I was a lock if I won. I was playing against Sukhum Kiwanont, and I had absolutely no idea what he was playing, so I assumed elves.
Round 16 versus Sukhum Kiwanont
He won the roll, but led with Steam Vents and Lotus Bloom. All of a sudden my hand looked a lot better, since there was no chance he would live to see that Bloom come out. I actually could have turn 2’ed, but he had Remand so I turn 3’ed instead. I would also like to issue a minor correction, since the coverage is a bit mistaken here. I did not in fact bounce Eternal Witness with Symbiote, since that clearly doesn’t work. What happened was I Pacted for Witness, Witnessed the Pact, Pacted for Regal Force. When you are trying to type everything down I can see how that would be confusing, so it was just an honest mistake. Still, those of you who were quick to assume I cheated, just think about what would have to happen for me to get away with that. First, I would have to go for it, and I would like to think I’m not scum. Second, my opponent would have to not notice, and it’s Round 16 of the Pro Tour, playing for Top 8. At that point, you aren’t playing against idiots. Then the judge would have to not notice, THEN the 25 people watching would all also have to not notice. All in all, that sort of thing is pretty tough to have happen, so rest assured I didn’t pull a fast one on the way to Top 8.
+4 Thoughtseize, +2 Thorn of Amethyst
-2 Viridian Shaman, -1 Weird Harvest, -1 Grapeshot, -2 Llanowar Elves
I keep a suspect hand of Thoughtseize, Symbiote, Llanowar Elves, Regal Force, and lands. This is a slow hand, but the TEPS deck in its current incarnation is so vulnerable to Thoughtseize that I figured it would buy me at least a few turns. I Seize turn 1 and see Rite of Flame, Pyromancer’s Swath, Peer Through Depths, Mind’s Desire, and Seething Song, with Steam Vents and Lotus Bloom on the board (the Lotus is obviously suspended). I take Desire, and Sukhum draws an Island. He Peers into Firespout, then draws Ponder on the following turn. He casts Ponder when the Bloom is on one counter, and here is where things get bad for him. He puts back the three cards after thinking, and immediately winces. I know exactly what just happened, and there is no way I’m letting him change the order again. I Thoughtseize him on my turn, and sure enough there is a Desire in his hand. All he has to do to win is put Desire second so he draws it on his turn, and he gets to Desire for six. Instead I Thoughtseize it, he does nothing for four turns, and I win the turn after casting Regal Force.
I come out thinking I’m locked for Top 8, but that actually isn’t the case. Only if Kenny wins do I advance, and he could scoop his opponent in. He plays, partly to get Johan Sadeghpour in, a friend of his, and partly to get me in. Kenny does end up winning, a fact I am very grateful for. He could have easily not allowed me in, but he did. The minutes waiting for him to win and then for the Top 8 standings to be announced were not fun, as I was about as tense as I have ever been. When they announced that 8th place was from the United States, it was such a relief. I then had a lot of work ahead of me, but still, Top 8 is Top 8.
We go out for dinner, which I actually don’t have enough money to cover, embarrassingly enough. Then again, Europe is expensive, and I didn’t actually plan for such in my budget. After some delicious ribs from Tony Roma’s, the crew heads back and we get to work.
Paul starts proxying the Tezzeret deck (I refuse to call it Tezzerator, as that name just doesn’t do it for me), and Chapin prods us until we also start testing Elves versus Elves. We kind of assume Saito is going to win his quarterfinal match, since his deck looks sick in the mirror, what with Blasting Stations and all. Our diligent testing of my quarterfinal matchup involved me losing seven sideboarded games in a row to Paul, then saying screw it and going to sleep. Initially we weren’t siding in the Jittes, and just trying to combo out, but that clearly didn’t work. After a good night’s sleep (I got infi sleep at this tourney, getting 6-8 hours every night), I went to the site and got ready to battle. After some sleeve hijinks in which we all had to resleeve, since the packs they gave us the night before were marked, we were ready. I even managed to mise the leftover packs of sleeves for some additional value.
The coverage of my matches is quite good (thanks to Tim Willoughby, despite his confusion in round 16), and it can be found here. I will just add some comments about things that the coverage couldn’t catch.
– I initially sided against Kenny the way I did when we played in the swiss, only putting in 2 Jitte. Then in game 2, I realized Jitte would have been insane, so I brought in a 3rd. It was actually insane, so for games 4 and 5 all four were in the deck. The matchup isn’t quite as bad as I thought, since the beatdown plan is quite viable, but I still got pretty lucky to win. Runner runner Viridian Shamans game 3 then a mull to 4 (and still almost win) game 4 took some doing.
– Against Saito it was just a race, and if he ever draws a Chord I just can’t win. Luckily, he never did, and then I had the nuts game 5. A turn 2 kill on the draw will usually do it, and I somehow got there.
– The finals were much less stressful than the first two rounds, as I just had insane draws against Matej’s mediocre ones. I don’t mean to cut the end of the report short, but the finals coverage (and the videos) do quite a good job of showing what happened.
It all didn’t seem real, even after Matej extended the hand and we were done. I was running pretty good on the weekend, and although I was clearly playing the right deck (elves), and playing it well, it still takes a whole lot of breaks to make Top 8, much less win. I rode tiebreakers into 8th, aided by the fact that all four of my losses made Top 8, and came back from 0-2 deficits twice in the Top 8. This deck is probably too good, and although it seems likely to be legal for Worlds, I wouldn’t count on having it for PTQs. If I had to guess, Glimpse might get the axe come December 1st.
After the Top 8, nothing much of note occurred. I borrowed some money from Matt (real money even, not Ringits) so I could get dinner again, and I had an awkward trip home carrying some ridiculous check. The guy at U.S. Customs even asked if I had $40K in cash on me, which I clearly didn’t. Lastly, you can’t win a Pro Tour (or much any kind of tournament) without help, so I have some thanks to give out.
– The team (Manuel B, who set it up; Olivier and Antoine Ruel; Paul; Patrick; and the Guillaumes both Wafo-Tapa and Matignon)
– Avrom Oliver, for sponsoring Paul and I, allowing us to compete in all these crazy countries.
– Paul again, for being someone I can always count on.
– GerryT, for birding all my matches Day 2.
– Geneva, for letting me run around the world chasing cards.
Alright, I’ll stop the thanks before it gets too sappy, but I did want to offer my gratitude.
Until next time!