Feature Article – Testing at David Besso’s House… and 10th at Grand Prix: Rimini

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Tuesday, September 23rd – In this entertaining tournament report, Paul Cheon takes us through his recent jaunt to Italy for Eurovino 3 and Grand Prix: Rimini. He placed well at both events, and brings us a thrilling play-by-play for the GP. There’s also a handful of road-trip stories, tales that draw back the veil to reveal secrets of top-level tournament preparation. [Editor’s Note – Ben Bleiweiss appears on Friday with his customary “Financial Value” article for Shards of Alara… watch this space!]

LSV: Come on, Paul, it’s a good deal! I tell you what… I’ll split with you 50% at the Vintage tournament! Besides, how often do you get to go to Italy?

Me: Sigh… okay fine, but it seems like bad value.

LSV: Alright! I’ll go book your flight!

That was the week before I made the decision to go to Italy. For the last month I was unsure if I really wanted to go to Italy simply for a Grand Prix. It turns out that there was also a huge Vintage tournament the week before GP: Rimini that gave out a full set of the Power 9 to first place. Since Vintage hasn’t really been a format that I’ve embraced, or one I’ve been any good at, there really wasn’t much incentive to go. Although I’ve always wanted to go to Italy, I was pretty happy with my decision not to go as it really didn’t seem like it was worth the 1500 dollars it would cost to go. Then LSV called me offering a 50% split at the Vintage tournament, and with him being a veritable master of the format, and me realizing that I had absolutely nothing else to do, I decided to go. It turns out it was well worth it, and the trip was one that I’ll remember forever.

The plan was to meet up with Patrick Chapin and Mike Jacob at Atlanta and then take a plane together to Milan, where we would meet up with the up and coming David Besso and stay at his place. For those of you that aren’t too familiar with this man, so far he’s made Top 8 at GP: Krakow, and he’s qualified for every pro tour this year. He also tried his best to be a hospitable host to nine people in a tiny two-person apartment. His goal is to hit Level 4 this year… best of luck, David!

When we arrived in Milan, I was excited at the prospect of trying out some of Italy’s fine cuisine. Some pasta, maybe some pizza, perhaps just some good cheese. As we walked around looking for something to be open, the search proved to be too difficult and my stomach was just too empty to wait any longer. Our first meal in glorious Italy, with its fine dining and even finer women, was… McDonalds. Don’t judge! You would have done the same if you were stuck on a ten-hour flight and were given stale bread and dry pieces of lettuce that tried to call itself “salad.”

Belly full of processed deliciousness, we continued our search for Besso’s house, and when we finally arrived, I indulged myself with a tour of the apartment. It lasted a total of 30 seconds. The apartment was literally two small rooms, an even smaller kitchen, and… nope, that’s about it. At some point I was told that three more people would be staying at the apartment, making it a grand total of nine people in a place that barely housed two. I don’t really want to sound like I’m complaining too much here, but I’m sure the others at the house would agree that living conditions were less than ideal. It even came to a point where I slept in a hotel for a couple of nights just so I could get some restful sleep. Anyway, I think I should probably start talking about Magic before I get totally sidetracked.

Before our testing for GP: Rimini, we decided to sleeve up some Vintage cards and practice a bit because the Power 9 type 1 tournament was in just a couple of days. I was pretty much all in on playing Grim Long, because the sheer power level of the deck is unrivaled and I felt like it was just the best deck. To get some additional practice with the deck, we decided to play in a 3 versus 3 team tournament, where the only condition was that one of the decks were unpowered. I wanted to be teamed with LSV because he’s had so much more practice with the deck than me, so I wanted him to give me as much tutelage as possible before the real tournament. Our third was Stuart Shinkins. I never met Stuart before this trip, but let me tell you, this man was awesome to hang out with, and it turns out he’s quite the capable mage as well finishing 11th at Rimini with Mono-Green Beats! Why did he choose to play Mono-Green at the tournament?

Me: Stuart, why Mono-Green? It seems like there are decks that are far more powerful than this deck in the field.
Stewart: I just felt like playing Mono-Green this year…
Me: …

I guess when something just feels right, you just go for it! Stuart also placed second at Irish Nationals with a Mono-Green deck very similar to his GP deck. Did I mention Stuart’s a bit wild? Unfortunately we didn’t get there at the team tournament, as we lost in the last round playing for Top 4, but after playing at that tournament I really felt like I knew the ins and outs of the deck. I was going to put up a short little tournament report of the Vintage tournament, but the DCI hasn’t posted who I played against, and I take terrible notes in tournaments. Long story short, I finished 7-2 and placed 13th. Luis also went 7-2 but finished lower on tiebreakers, which was huge because I won a Mishra’s Workshop and he got a Foil Flooded Strand. I was still pretty happy with my finish, as I felt like I was really on top of my game and it gave me the confidence I wanted to propel me into GP: Rimini.

Testing for the tournament involved us making the three biggest decks in the field: Faeries, Kithkin, and Five-Color Control. I still wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to play, but it definitely was a toss-up between Faeries or Five-Color Control. My love affair with Islands is much too strong for me to even consider playing a deck with 16 Plains. After several days of testing, the Faeries deck was putting up decent results, but so were all the other decks. It seemed like every deck was winning 50% of the time, and that just didn’t seem like accurate results. I think the reason for this dawned upon us at the same time. When you have an entire house filled with masters, you’re simply just not going to get the numbers that you were getting when you were testing on MTGO or with your local friends. I felt that the Kithkin versus Five-Color matchup was heavily in Five-Color’s favour, but after hours and hours of testing, it really felt closer to a 50/50 matchup. After hours and hours of testing the Five-Color versus Faeries matchup, the end results was 50/50. A turn 2 Bitterblossom plus 2-3 relevant spells was just an autoloss, but any fair game of Magic that was played gave the Five-Color deck a much bigger edge.

Time was running out, and even going into the last day before GP: Rimini, I still didn’t know what I wanted to play. At this point I was working on my own brew which utilized Fulminator Mage, Mulldrifter, Stillmoon Cavalier, Sower of Temptation, and Reveillark as I really wanted to make Reveillark work in this block. I just didn’t like River Kelpie or Archon of Justice against Kithkin, because Unmake just kolded the card. Reveillark seemed like the natural “big threat” solution for this because Five-Color is only allotted 2 or 3 slots for win conditions, and I wanted one that actually did something to fight removal. The only problem was that I didn’t have too much more time to test the deck, and the Fulminator Mages were much weaker than Kitchen Finks. After further discussion with the rest of the David Besso house, I was finally convinced by Patrick to play his version of Five-Color Control. Patrick and Manuel Bucher spent countless hours playing and tweaking their decks, and I was just testing an idea that I had that day. I essentially played their same 75, except I replaced one River Kelpie with an Oona, Queen of the Fae. I also cut a Plumeveil from the main for a 4th Firespout, as I really felt like the Kithkin matchup was a little worse than advertised, and I replaced their one-of Inversion with a second Shriekmaw to make my Makeshift Mannequins better. Here is what I played at the tournament:

I was really happy with how the deck performed, although if I were to change the deck, I would have played one copy of Mind Shatter main as I boarded it in literally every matchup. It’s even good against Kithkin, as the good players don’t over-commit to the board and play out only a few threats at a time. You can really make them pay by Mind Shattering their entire hand away and then casting a board sweeper. I added a third Hallowed Burial to the sideboard because I really didn’t want to lose to Kithkin, and they’re also randomly good against Doran decks and such. Patrick and Manuel played 3 Vexing Shushers in their sideboard, but I opted to play 2 Shushers and 1 Negate. The Shushers were mainly for the Faeries matchup, but if they are aware that you bring in the Shushers, they can just choose to keep their Nameless Inversions, and if they do, then their effectiveness goes down a lot. I felt like the Negate had a similar function in helping to fight counters, but having a diverse way to attack an opponent’s threat just makes it that much more difficult for your opponent to figure out exactly what you’re up to. Besides, your opponent may then proceed to play around additional copies of Negates after being destroyed by the first one (there’s no way he plays around the first Negate).

Of the people staying at the David Besso House, six of us played Five-Color Control. One played Faeries, one played Mono-Green Aggro, and one played Kithkin. Here is the breakdown by player:

Rasmus Sibast: Kithkin
David Besso: Faeries
Stuart Shinkins: MGA
LSV: Five-Color Control
Patrick Chapin: Five-Color Control
Mike Jacob: Five-Color Control
Manuel Bucher: Five-Color Control
Leonard Barbou: Five-Color Control
Me: Five-Color Control

If you notice, our house likes to cast Cryptic Commands. After acquiring the last few cards necessary to complete the deck, I was ready to battle!

Round 4: Gianluca I. Bevere (Doran Control)

Gianluca is an Italian player from Milan, and he was already qualified for Berlin going into this tournament. When he led out with a Murmuring Bosk, I couldn’t help but smile. We tested this matchup pretty briefly and immediately discarded the idea of playing it, as the matchup was so heavily in Five-Color’s favor. I was also happy that I had the 3rd Hallowed Burial in the sideboard.

Game 1 involved me trying to survive the first few turns where he cast a turn 3 Doran after a mulligan to five. I had to spend a few turns casting Cryptic Command to effectively Repulse and try to draw into some gas. I eventually got Oona’s Grace going with a ton of mana, and drew into all the threats I needed to win the game while trying my best to play around Profane Command. It also helped that he had Cloudthreshers and Firespouts maindeck, which aren’t really too strong in this matchup.

In: +3 Hallowed Burial, +2 Nameless Inversion, +1 River Kelpie, +1 Plumeveil
Out: 4 Firespout, 2 Shriekmaw, 1 Cloudthresher

I wasn’t exactly sure what was in his deck and whether or not he played Vanquishers or Wolf-Skull Shaman. He didn’t draw any game 1, and he was packing maindeck Firespouts so I figured he was playing a more controllish version of Doran. It turns out he was playing the two-drops but never drew them. It didn’t really matter too much, as I got River Kelpie plus Oona’s Grace going and he didn’t provide nearly enough pressure. Eventually I just overwhelmed him with card advantage. It turns out he didn’t have Profane Command, which was the card I was most afraid of.


Round 5: Ernest Grisun (Five-Color Control GP: Denver Style)

Ernest came from Lithuania and was very friendly. He showed up with his deck and a stack of Faeries tokens. I wasn’t really sure what to make of this, as I’m pretty sure 90% of people at GPs won’t be nearly this careless. After further contemplation, I figured he was playing Five-Color Control with Oona and used the Faeries for tokens, and had them out as a way to fool opponents into thinking that he was Faeries. That was at least my thinking. He could have been Kithkin and totally destroyed me. Fortunately for me, my read was correct and he was Five-Color Control. I ended up drawing my lone copy of River Kelpie game 1 and got Oona’s Grace going. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the match-up, River Kelpie is probably one of the strongest threats to play in the mirror, and the first to resolve it will usually win off the back of all the cards they draw. I was fortunate to draw the one Kelpie and just out-card my opponent to death. I also attribute the fact that I drew my one of Kelpie to the fact that I in fact have two in my deck. One was actually in my deck, and the other was there in spirit thanks to my “Kelpie Avatar” that I had in play all of my matches.

This was my Kelpie Avatar that I opened after eating a Kinder Egg, that Manuel Bucher told me I had to try. You’re gonna need Facebook to access this but hey, if you don’t, just sign up and buddy me!

In: 2 Jace Beleren, 2 Vexing Shusher, 1 Mind Shatter, 1 Negate, 2 Hallowed Burial, 1 Makeshift Mannequin, 1 River Kelpie
Out: 4 Firespout, 1 Austere Command, 1 Plumeveil, 3 Cloudthresher, 1 Shriekmaw

I took out a bunch of terrible cards and replaced them with awesome ones. I still wanted to keep some Wrath effects in the deck, as it looked like he was playing the deck from GP: Denver which means that he would board into the Chameleon Colossus man plan. Game 2 wasn’t very close as he evoked a Mulldrifter on turn 3, which gave me the opening I needed to cast a Jace Beleren on turn 3. I followed that up with a Cryptic Command on turn 4, River Kelpie on turn 5, and a Mind Shatter resolved a few turns after that. I really liked how my sideboard against Faeries doubled up as an effective sideboard in the mirror.


Round 6: Sascha Luscher (Faeries)

Here it is, the matchup that we tested for countless hours to beat. Game 1 was really terrible as he didn’t cast a Bitterblossom on turn 2 and we both missed our turn 4 land drops for 5 turns. I eventually got to play my lands first and resolved a Cloudthresher, and it stuck for the win.

In: 2 Jace Beleren, 2 Vexing Shusher, 1 Mind Shatter, 1 Plumeveil, 1 Negate, 1 Makeshift Mannequin, 1 Cloudthresher
Out: 2 Austere Command, 2 Shriekmaw, 2 Firespout, 1 River Kelpie, 2 Oona’s Grace

Jace doesn’t seem like it would be too great in this matchup, but an opposing Jace by the Faeries opponent is nearly impossible to beat so this is one of the few answers that we have. Also, if you just randomly cast it and activate the second ability, you can usually get a couple activations out of him while preventing some damage to yourself. I also cut the Oona’s Grace as you really don’t want to be cycling lands in this matchup. You want to be able to out-mana your opponent and be able to cast two spells in one turn to make their counters less effective. River Kelpie and Shriekmaw do almost nothing, and Austere Commands are just far too clunky. I kept two copies of Firespouts in because it buys you some time when Bitterblossom gets a little out of hand.

Once again he didn’t get turn 2 Bitterblossom. I ran out a turn 3 Jace and he had a very controllish draw that couldn’t actually deal with the Planeswalker. He got hosed again, and I resolved a Cloudthresher again. We didn’t really play a real game once, but hey, I’ll take the wins where I can get them!


Round 7: Federico Gazzolti (Faeries)

This is where winning the die roll basically won me the first game. I had the Broken Ambitions for his turn 2 Bitterblossom, and let me tell you, the game is a lot easier when they don’t have that pesky enchantment in play. I drew mana and was able to cast some spells, and without Bitterblossom, Faeries doesn’t actually do a whole lot…

In: 2 Jace Beleren, 2 Vexing Shusher, 1 Mind Shatter, 1 Plumeveil, 1 Negate, 1 Makeshift Mannequin, 1 Cloudthresher
Out: 2 Austere Command, 2 Shriekmaw, 2 Firespout, 1 River Kelpie, 2 Oona’s Grace

I don’t remember too much of what happened this match, but I believe he Thoughtseized me turn 1 but didn’t cast a turn 2 Bitterblossom. If my Faeries opponents just never cast a Bitterblossom on turn 2 for the rest of the tournament, I’d be a pretty happy camper. I’m not exactly sure how I won… let’s just say it was via Cloudthresher or some kind of Finks beats.


Round 8: Jacopo Tei (Kithkin)

Ah yes, the other matchup that we tested all week. Jacopo had zero byes, and this was his first GP so more props to the man for being 7-0! He was very friendly ,but I had to get revenge because he already beat LSV and Leonard Barbou in the earlier rounds of this tournament.

Game 1 was pretty close, and he got a pretty explosive start. I managed to stabilize with Firespout but he had the Cloudgoat Ranger to follow it up. I still thought I was looking good because I tapped out to cast an Oona, but he drew a card for his turn and said “Bonjourno!” Turns out he drew Mirror Entity and attacked me with Cloudgoat and all of his minions for roughly a million damage.

In: 1 Mind Shatter, 3 Hallowed Burial, 2 Nameless Inversion, 1 Plumeveil
Out: 3 Broken Ambitions, 1 River Kelpie, 1 Cloudthresher, 2 Makeshift Mannequin

I saw Jacopo holding a couple of Beckon Apparitions when playing against Leonard, so I boarded out all my Makeshift Mannequins. I also found Mind Shatter to be surprisingly effective against Kithkin players, as they like to slowroll their heavy hitters. If you can just Mind Shatter their hand away and Wrath the board, they usually just can’t win. The matchup gets so much better after sideboarding. You have nine board sweepers after sideboard, and Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender is close to irrelevant once you have 3 Hallowed Burials, 2 Austere Commands, 2 Nameless Inversions, and 2 Shriekmaw. I won game 2 by sweeping the board a couple of times and then dropping an Oona. This time it stuck!

Jacopo started off game 3 with a Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender and a Mirror Entity and went with the beatdown plan those two creatures. I was able to stall some time by Cryptic Commanding his team a couple of times to try and draw my 5th land for Hallowed Burial. He ended up playing a Cloudgoat Ranger, which only made my Hallowed Burial that much more sweeter. I was a little concerned that he would drop Reveillark on the following turn, but to my surprise he didn’t activate his Mirror Entity for zero in response to bin his Reveillarkable creatures. The next turn he dropped Reveillark… awkward. I Nameless Inversioned his Reveillark with no targets, and he didn’t have any gas left in the tank. A couple of Kitchen Finks and Shriekmaw beats later, I managed to take it down.


Round 9: Matthias Kunzler (Faeries)

You can find good coverage of this match here. Remember that thing I said earlier about hoping that my opponents don’t have Bitterblossom on turn 2? Well, he had it and he also happens to be a very good player. Matthias ended up going 14-0-1 in the tournament, and he also made Top 8 at GP: Birmingham with Faeries. If anybody knows how to pilot the Fae, it’s this man. Not too much to say about this match except that he bashed me and it wasn’t close.


8-1… not bad for a day’s work. I had a feeling that the next day would be much more difficult. There happened to be quite a few Merfolk decks in Day 2, and that was the one matchup we actually didn’t test at all, figuring that it wouldn’t make up too much of the metagame. We figured the matchup to be pretty poor, and I wish I’d tested it some more because it was the deck that knocked me out of Day 2 at GP: Denver. I was 6-1 and lost my last two matches to Merfolk. My testing partners assured me that it wasn’t a real deck and nobody would play it…

Round 10: Filippo Kratter (Faeries)

Filippo Krater is a professional snowboarder who also seems to know what he’s doing when playing with Magical cards. He came in second at Italian Nationals this year, so we’ll definitely be seeing more of him. If not, you can probably catch him on television ripping up the slopes in the Alps. This match was actually the inspiration for me wanting to write a report. It was one of the most memorable matches of Magic that I’ve played, and I really felt like I was going to make Top 8 after winning this one.

Game 1 started off with him casting a Thoughtseize followed up by a Bitterblossom on turn 2. I knew I was in for a world of hurt, but I actually had a pretty good hand to fight him this game. He played a couple more Thoughtseize afterwards and actually got to a pretty low life total. I then evoked a Cloudthresher to clear the board to buy me some more time. After clearing the board a couple of times with Cloudthresher and Firespout, I actually got him to three life while I was at five. At the end of his turn, he had seven mana up to my six. I cast a Makeshift Mannequin at the end of his turn, targeting Cloudthresher. In response, he cast a Mistbind Clique, championing Bitterblossom. He had three mana up, and it felt like he had Broken Ambitions, so with Mistbind’s trigger on the stack, I decided to float two mana. He looked a little confused and my Cloudthresher resolved, putting him at one and me at three life. I then manaburned down to one life, and he killed my Thresher with a Nameless Inversion. I untapped and bounced his Mistbind Clique with Cryptic Command, and he died during his upkeep to his Bitterblossom while I was at one. It turns out he did in fact did have the Broken Ambitions, and had I let the Clique resolve without floating, I would have lost.

In: 2 Jace Beleren, 2 Vexing Shusher, 1 Mind Shatter, 1 Plumeveil, 1 Negate, 1 Makeshift Mannequin, 1 Cloudthresher
Out: 2 Austere Command, 2 Shriekmaw, 2 Firespout, 1 River Kelpie, 2 Oona’s Grace

I got a pretty suboptimal draw game 2, and he went for a Mistbind Clique during my upkeep on the play, with just a Scion of Oona in play. God, I wish I had the Broken Ambitions. Anyway, he had a Mistbind Clique with 3 counters in his hand to protect it, and I died shortly afterwards.

Game 3… what a battle it was. He didn’t have a turn 2 Bitterblossom, but he did have a pretty solid draw with several Thoughtseizes. At some point in the game, I thought I was done for because he cast a Puppeteer Clique, getting my Cloudthresher, and then he also got a Mulldrifter after “his” Cloudthresher hit play and killed his Puppeteer Clique. I took a boatload of damage that turn, but I stabilized by hardcasting a Cloudthresher when he was tapped out, killing what he had on the board. At this point, time was called on his turn. I was at two life, and he had a Spellstutter Sprite and Mutavault in play. He dropped another Mutavault and passed. On my upkeep, he attempted to cast a Mistbind Clique, championing his Spellstutter Sprite. In response I Makeshift Mannequined my Kitchen Finks, and went up to 4 life. That was my turn 1. On his turn 2, he cast a Thoughtseize, getting the Mulldrifter out of my hand leaving me with just a Firespout. He followed up the Thoughtseize with a Bitterblossom, and was at ten life. Fortunately for me, he didn’t have a Cryptic Command to tap down my team and was unable to attack me that turn. It was then turn 3, and I drew for my turn.

I’m sure he was feeling pretty happy about the situation he was in, until out of nowhere I attacked with the team. He looked a bit confused, but put his Mistbind Clique in front of my Cloudthresher and took three from the Finks, going to seven. I now had two cards in hand, and ended my turn 3 with me at four and him at seven. On his turn 4 he went to six from Bitterblossom and then played a Secluded Glen revealing Spellstutter Sprite. He asked me if that was game, as he had potentially five Faeries with Spellstutter backup for the win while I was at four. I asked him to go through the motions, so he activated both of his Mutavaults and attacked me with the Mutavaults and Spellstutter Sprite. With no other options, I showed him Cryptic Command and told him that I wanted to bounce my Kitchen Finks and draw a card.

Me: Attack for 5? I guess I’ll attempt to cast Cryptic Command, bouncing Kitchen Finks and drawing a card.
Filippo: I have Spellstutter… you lose, right?
Me: So do you Spellstutter my Cryptic Command?
Filippo: Yes, I Spellstutter your Cryptic.
Me: Okay. Spellstutter resolves, counters Cryptic Command. Kitchen Finks dies because it has a Mannequin counter on it, and then returns to play. I go to six.

I took five damage and went down to one life. On my turn I cast the Firespout he knew I had in hand, and attacked him for lethal with Cloudthresher and the 2/1 Finks for the win on turn 5 of turns. My opponent was in shock at the sequence of plays that occurred, and actually did not sign the results slip for a few minutes, recapping what actually just happened. I had to actually have him Spellstutter Sprite my Cryptic Command or he would have had a chumper for my Thresher and would have forced the draw. This match was epic, and it really felt like I couldn’t win this one, but I managed to pull it out. Thanks Filippe, this was an awesome match! After winning this match, I really felt like this was my tournament to win, and I felt unstoppable…


Round 11: Gennaro Mango (Kithkin)

This was where the downwards spiral began.

Gennaro started out Day 1 with a pristine 9-0 record. He ended up drawing the first round of Day 2 against Matthias, which confused me a little . Kithkin against Faeries? Somebody has to be playing slow, and Matthias plays at a pretty reasonable pace. Game 1 had him get a very strong start with Goldmeadow Stalwart on turn 1 followed up by a Turn 2 Figure of Destiny pumped. I had to Shriekmaw his Figure, but his draw was very aggressive. I was still looking okay when I tapped out to cast an Oona, but unfortunately I had to block his Cloudgoat Ranger to survive. As I wait for him to go into the tank for two minutes every turn, I realized that for me to have a chance to win this match, I need to make sure that his pace quickened. I asked for a judge to come, and after 10 minutes, the judge came up to me and told me how Gennaro plays at his local PTQs and when he sees him play, he gets “bored.” At this point I’m thinking “then why don’t you do something about this? ” Every turn literally took two minutes, and it was getting very frustrating. I ended up losing game 1, but only after 30 minutes passed.

In: 1 Mind Shatter, 3 Hallowed Burial, 2 Nameless Inversion, 1 Plumeveil
Out: 3 Broken Ambitions, 1 River Kelpie, 1 Cloudthresher, 2 Makeshift Mannequin

At this point, Bram Snepvangers (judge) was watching the entire game. I had a really strong draw and the matchup feels so good after sideboarding. I’m trying my best to get him to speed up a bit by playing faster, but every turn still took two minutes. While I nervously glance over at the clock and at the judge, nothing happens. I managed to gain total control of the board and was cycling with Oona’s Grace fervently trying to find a way to win this game. With about 5 minutes left in the game, my opponent began to continue asking how much time there was left on the clock. This bugged me even more, because it seemed like he was now fishing for a 1-0 win with Kithkin, and it felt like he chose to play even slower. Finally time was called, and at this point I had to fight just to get a draw. When time was called, Bram gave my opponent a warning for slow play and gave me 2 additional turns during time. I only wish that the warning was given earlier, as I really felt like I would have won this match had we played out three whole games. The 2 additional turns didn’t end up mattering, because I beat him on turn 3 with Cloudthresher.


This draw felt really unfair, and it’s been a while since I’ve picked an unintentional draw in a tournament because I’ve really tried to speed up my pace of play. This was a conscious decision of mine after I picked up three unintentional draws at GP: Montreal. Not too much you can do about it now, gotta keep on truckin’. Oh, and a little bonus information on the result of Mr. Mango after round 12… 9-0-3.

Round 12: Michal Marciniszyn (Demigod Red)

After testing a lot with Besso’s House, we determined that we had no chance to beat the Demigod Red deck now that we’d cut Runed Halos and Archon of Justice from the deck. According to the coverage, there was only one Demigod Red deck that made Day 2. I guess it was only fair for the pairing gods to put me up against it. Game 1 he led off with Mountain, Figure of Destiny, and I already knew I was going to be in a world of hurt. He also cast a turn 5 Demigod of Revenge and I was able to deal with his threats with Austere Command. However, when the Command resolved he said yep with a whole lot of excitement, and I just slumped in my chair as I knew what was about to happen. Demigod of Revenge number 2… thanks for playing!

I don’t really remember how I sideboarded, but game 2 wasn’t close. I was stuck on two lands, and he drew two Fulminator Mages and Demigod of Revenge to pummel me.


I now needed to 3-0 to make Top 8, but I was still confident in the power of this deck. Just no more Demigod Red decks!

Round 13: Alvise Gorghetto (Four-Color Merfolk)

Ugh. After a draw and a loss, I get paired against my nemesis. Alvise was playing Four-Color Merfolk with maindeck Glen Elendra Archmage. One of the only ways to win this matchup seems like I need to either hose my opponents or have them mulligan a bunch. Both happened game 1, and I got to resolve some pretty large monsters and win.

In: 2 Jace Beleren, 2 Vexing Shusher, 2 Nameless Inversion, 1 Mind Shatter, 1 Plumeveil, 3 Hallowed Burial
Out: 3 Broken Ambitions, 2 Austere Command, 2 Firespout, 2 Oona’s Grace, 1 Island, 1 River Kelpie

I wasn’t exactly sure how to sideboard in this matchup. You want to board in anti-control cards but they still have several aggressive threats you need to deal with. I brought in 2 Shushers, and I didn’t really want to get too many Firespout/Shusher draws so I boarded a couple of those out. Hallowed Burial is just better than Austere Command in this matchup, and although I would rather not have either, you have to have a way to kill Chameleon Colossus.

This was yet another game where my opponent got hosed. He cast a Silvergill Adept on turns 2 and 3 but didn’t have a land to play on his third turn. Let’s just say I Mind Shattered him for six…


Okay, a little justice after getting paired against Demigod Red. Let’s try to play against Kithkin, Faeries, or Five-Color mirror for once!

Round 14: Joel Calafell (Five-Color Merfolk)

Really? Is this how today is going to end? This was a feature match ,and it looked like the match was covered but then it wasn’t put up on the web-site. Basically, the match played out how it was supposed to do, where he drew lands and spells and crushed me. I think the only way to actually beat a competent Five-Color merfolk player is to hose them.

In: 2 Jace Beleren, 2 Vexing Shusher, 2 Nameless Inversion, 1 Mind Shatter, 1 Plumeveil, 3 Hallowed Burial
Out: 3 Broken Ambitions, 2 Austere Command, 2 Firespout, 2 Oona’s Grace, 1 Island, 1 River Kelpie

Game 2 looked really good, as I got Jace going and drew a ton of cards. The only problem is that drawing a lot of cards is useless when they’re all lands. I believe I drew 17 lands and 8 spells after sideboarding out a land. I also realized that I made a pretty significant sideboarding error in this matchup. Unlike the Faeries matchup, where you want all your mana to resolve your spells, it’s not as important here and you really need to just have more threats than them. This piece of advice was very important for my final match… which was neither a Kithkin, Faeries, or Five-Color deck.


Ah well, not too much you can do when being paired against your worst matchups three rounds in a row. I should be glad that I even managed to steal a match! I might have been out of Top 8 contention, but I still needed to win to make Top 16 and get those valuable pro points that are much harder to acquire these days.

Round 15: Cliff Van Damme (Five-Color Merfolk)

It seems like I was the victim of a sick thing known as variance. Cliff was even packing Doran in his Merfolk deck to provide a little more offensive punch. Cliff started out game 1 pretty aggressively with a Silvergill Adept, and a Reejerey, but I Firespouted to stabilize the board. His draw kind of slowed down after that, and we played a couple of turns of “draw, go” which I was more than excited to play. I eventually found a way to resolve a River Kelpie, and it stuck with 2 Kitchen Finks in play. I thought I was looking really strong because I also had Oona’s Grace in the yard and he had no board. Then out of nowhere, he cast a Silvergill Adept, Nameless Inversion, and Sower of Temptation on my River Kelpie all on the same turn! I just had a grip of lands and Oona’s Grace in the yard. I really needed to draw some kind of Wrath effect or removal to get my Kelpie back. I squeezed the top card of my library and saw that it was a White card. White card? What white card do I play main? Oh my god, it’s Austere Command! I killed everything and got back my Kelpie with persist, and once I got Oona’s Grace going, he packed it up shortly afterwards.

In: 2 Jace Beleren, 2 Vexing Shusher, 2 Nameless Inversion, 1 Mind Shatter, 1 Plumeveil, 3 Hallowed Burial
Out: 3 Broken Ambitions, 1 River Kelpie, 1 Island, 2 Austere Command, 2 Cloudthresher, 2 Firespout

I decided to keep in Oona’s Grace this time, after being extremely flooded against Joel. Cliff started off with a turn 2 Stonybrook Banneret, which I immediately Shriekmawed. That guy is the key to the deck, and is essentially the Sapphire Medallion or Nightscape Familiar. He then tapped three mana on his third turn, and I was praying to god that it wasn’t a Jace. He evoked a Mulldrifter. It all made sense; I figured he boarded into some kind of anti-control strategy involving Mulldrifters and Reveillarks. Him tapping out allowed me to play a Jace on my third turn, and the man carried his weight. I got to draw so many more cards than my opponent, and just when I thought that I couldn’t lose, he dropped Silvergill Adept and Chameleon Colossus on one turn with Cryptic Command backup… but I had the Hallowed Burial plus Cryptic Command. I then started to get Oona’s Grace going, and let me tell you, having the ability to draw a spell every turn is pretty nice. I finished him off with an Oona. Let’s just say I untapped three times with her in play.

11-3-1 10th Place.

Not too bad. Despite being paired against four terrible matchups and drawing against Kithkin, I was still happy with the end result. Going 2-2 against your worst matchups isn’t the worst. Patrick finished ninth place on tiebreaks, which was really unfortunate, but overall, the deck did very well. Out of the six of us that played the deck, four of us made Day 2, and we all made Top 32. Shuuhei finished 2nd at the GP and has now locked up Level 8, with 52 points this season. How sick is that? I wonder if he can donate the rest of the points he wins this year to some of the others who would like to join him up there…

I hope you enjoyed this report… now I’ve got to start testing for PT: Berlin. Take care!

Paul Cheon


David Besso’s House: You guys rocked, and were all so much fun to hang out with. I really hope we can do this again.
David Besso: You were an awesome host, and I’m sorry for letting you know on such short notice that we were coming to Italy.
Shuuhei Nakamura: I mean, Level 8 with 2 Pro Tours left? You are sick!
Patrick Chapin: For convincing me to not play my loose Reveillark/Fulminator Mage deck.
LSV: For convincing me to go to Italy. It was a blast, and I can’t wait to go back.
Matthias Kunzler: For going 14-0-1 at the GP. That was sick. Hope you make the train this year!
Avrom Oliver: I would not be where I would be without your help and support. Thanks for everything.
Rich Hagon: Thanks for those Power Pills! I’m certain I would have been dying on Day 2 without them.
David Besso: Once again for being awesome, and also for being the winner of the Paul Cheon Happy Face Contest!
Rock Paper Scissors (RPS): For being an awesome game and wasting hours of my last few days in Italy. Paper Dolls for the win!
Filippo Kratter: For playing one of the most memorable matches of Magic I’ve ever played. See you at Worlds!
Lan D. Ho: Motivational speaker extraordinaire.


The mosquitoes at Besso’s house: 17 bites. At one point, my leg just looked red and mangled. I’ll get you back!
Forexchange: The foreign exchange rate place that destroyed me on the exchange. For any of you traveling out there, it’s much better to exchange money at your local U.S. bank, or even using your ATM card. You may get charged a few dollars for the transaction, but you’ll get the very best exchange rates.