Feature Article – Winning Worlds, Part 3

Read Uri Peleg's Worlds report... only at StarCityGames.com!
Uri Peleg, World Champion 2007, rounds out his entertaining tournament report in style! He brings us five rounds of top-drawer Legacy action, followed by a run-through of the Top 8 from a guy who admits he was just stoked to be there. Congratulations again, Uri… here’s hoping 2008 is a successful year too!

Part 1 can be found here.
Part 2 can be found here.

This is our Legacy list:

Round 12 versus Nassif, Gabriel [FRA]

And guess what I have to play first round — a Landstill mirror versus Gabriel Nassif. Nassif winning is probably not a surprise to anyone, and it certainly wasn’t a surprise for me — but the game itself was pretty interesting.

If you look at the decklist, it seems clear the mirror isn’t going to be about beatdown. With 4 Wastelands, 4 Swords, and 4 Deeds in both decks, I thought the games would come down to who managed to play and keep a Crucible of Worlds — a few turns of Wastelanding the other player could mean enough of an advantage to win the game.

The way the game actually played out is that Gabriel got an early Crucible to resolve, and while I resolved and blew up a Pernicious Deed he had time to Wasteland me twice. This left me slightly color screwed and I had to discard a few times, which ended up proving pretty important. The Crucible and a subsequent Tarmogoyf when I was tapped low let Gabriel draw off a Standstill, putting him even further ahead.

But in a way he was also behind, since with one Crucible left, if I managed to stop it he would lose to decking. I tried to resolve a Pernicious Deed which would mean he would have trouble with the Crucible, and managed to draw a counter. When Gabriel went for the Crucible we had a fight over it on his turn, which he won, and he then played another Standstill. On my turn we fought over my Crucible, and Gabriel didn’t have enough mana/counters to stop it.

With both of us having Crucibles in play, and me having about 9 cards more in my deck, I was pretty sure I had the game locked up. What I didn’t know was that Gabriel had a maindeck Extirpate. This allowed him to Extirpate my Wastelands, and set up a situation where we both have all our manlands in play, but he also has Wastelands, which means that all my manlands die.

At this point Gabriel was low on cards, and I had a Standstill in play. If I could make him draw off my Standstill he would lose to decking before his lands were able to kill me. I went for it by playing a Brainstorm in my main phase, but Gabriel had a lot more instant spells than me, and ended up playing two Swords to Plowshares on his own Mishra’s Factory in order to force me to draw. With the extra four cards I had drawn, Gabriel was able to deck me with two Standstills of his own on his turn.

I was very impressed by Gabriel’s play throughout the game. He was very focused throughout the entire fifty minutes, constantly looking through my graveyard to try to figure out my hand, and plan out his next turns.


Round 13 versus Pils, Florian – [DEU]

Florian was very relaxed considering the record we both had, which was a pleasant change from Gabriel’s intensity. I felt the same, as getting this far I had already exceeded my expectations, and wouldn’t be disappointed with my finish no matter what happened at this point. He was playing a Mono-Red deck with Magus of the Moon, Trinisphere, Chalice of the Void, Arc-Slogger, Gathan Raiders, and probably some other cards I didn’t get to see.

Game 1 I didn’t know what he was playing. I ran out Tarmogoyf, and had Force of Will for his Magus of the Moon, which would otherwise mean I wouldn’t be playing any more spells this game. I played a Standstill, later a Fact or Fiction, while Florian played an Arc Slogger. I blew a Pernicious Deed to empty the board, and when on my turn I played a 56 Tarmogoyf and a Standstill he conceded.

Game 2 I Force of Willed his turn 1 Trinisphere, but wasn’t able to stop a Magus of the Moon that came down a few turns later. Since Florian also had a Chalice set to one, I wasn’t able to float mana and Swords it. I had only a Tarmogoyf in play at this point, and Magus meant I wasn’t able to play any spells for the rest of the game. When Florian played a Jitte the game was basically over.

Game 3 I kept a hand with creature removal and a Pernicious Deed. I figured that if I got to resolve a Deed Florian’s deck wouldn’t be able to win, as all his cards like Chalice of the Void, Trinisphere, Jitte etc which work well in conjunction with others would become pretty bad. It seems I was correct in this game, as I was at no point forced to blow the Deed, while Florian committed a Jitte, a Trinisphere, and a Chalice to the board. I just dealt with his creatures with Smother and Counters, meanwhile making land drops with Crucible and beating down with Mishra’s Factories.


This is one of the matches that showcased what a good deck choice Landstill was for this metagame. Florian’s deck was very bad against a resolved Pernicious Deed, and I felt that barring an early Magus which I couldn’t answer my deck was a huge favorite in this matchup.

Round 14 versus Mori, Katsuhiro [JPN]

A feature match! And I was in it! How cool is that! Me and my friends were all very psyched and took multiple photos of the names hanging from the table.

Katsuhiro was playing a mid range control deck that I’ve never seen before, and from our matches I wasn’t able to figure out completely what it was. He had Thoughtseize, Hymn to Tourach, Sensei’s Divining Top, Brainstorm, Tombstalker, Swords to Plowshares, Exalted Angel, and Engineered Explosives. There were probably Trinket Mages in there as well.

Game 1 was a funny game, at least for me. I went first and played a fetchland, Mori played one on his turn. On my second and third turns I played a Tundra and another fetchland, while Mori played another on his turn as well. When Mori went to crack his fetchlands I was ready with two Stifles, and with such a significant mana advantage I was able to win the game pretty easily, although without really figuring out what he was playing.

Sideboard saw the Stifles getting the hell away from my deck, by the way. Game 1 was an aberration, and I didn’t see any point in leaving them in for game 2, especially now that he knew about them and would try not to walk into them.

Game 2 and Mori played a turn 1 Cursed Scroll. He hit my hand with several discard spells, while I resolved a Crucible of Worlds and Pernicious Deed. He played Engineered Explosives for three without the mana to activate them, so I activated Deed for one to kill those and the Scroll while leaving my Crucible in play, and played a Standstill.

Thank you for this deck Antonino De Rosa and Gabriel Nassif!

The game played out for several more turns, but I was ahead by over ten cards, and Wastelands kept Mori on a very low land count throughout the game, while Fetchlands constantly thinned my deck. A resolved Tombstalker forced me to blow a Deed that killed my Crucible as well, but I was constantly attacking with Mishra’s Factories, and I had enough extra cards that I was able to answer every threat Mori drew until the Mishras killed him.


At this point I went to look at the standings with my teammates and Bram Snapvangers, who has been to countless pro tours and has a lot of experience with calculating draws for the final rounds. It seemed that if I won the next round there was a good chance I could draw into Top 8, which, and I know I’ve already said this several times, was pretty incomprehensible for me. I still didn’t feel any pressure though, which I’m sure helped me to play immensely, both at this point and throughout the tournament.

Round 15 versus Huber, Christoph [CHE]

Christoph was already a lock for Top 8 at this point. I asked him if maybe he wanted to concede, but he didn’t because he was on his national team and the round counted for their score. He was playing a Mono-White Stax deck with Smokestack, Crucible, Trinisphere, Armageddon, Ghostly Prison, Magus of the Tabernacle, Powder Kegs etc.

Both games were extremely easy. This is a very good matchup for the Landstill deck. The key card is his Crucible, which I have multiple ways to stop. I have manlands while he doesn’t, I have a cheap threat in Tarmogoyf that he has a lot of trouble answering, and my Standstills are almost always good. I felt in control throughout the match and finished both games with multiple counters in hand.


We checked the standings, saw the pairings, and it was very clear that both me and my opponent could draw into Top 8.

Round 16 versus Chapin, Patrick A [USA]

I just sat down and we chatted while waiting for the round to begin so we could sign our slips and be off.

12-3-1 and Top 8.

And that is the true surprise, in my opinion. A single match can go either way, and me winning the whole thing in the end doesn’t seem all that far-fetched — I had a good deck and good draws, and it was only three matches. The surprising thing for me was to make it that far in the first place.

Elisha had lost to Mori’s deck with our list of Threshold and ended up finishing in 14th place, which is the highest finish an Israeli has ever had except for me at this tournament. Eviatar ended with a record of 8-8, while Asaf Shomer finished 7-9, a respectable showing for his first Pro Tour.

We called Orr’s cousin to make sure it was okay that we would get back at exactly eleven thirty, and he said it shouldn’t be a problem. Of course he ended up arriving at eleven and waiting half an hour for us in the corridor of his own apartment… quite an unfortunate turn of events.

The next day was the team competition, in which we fared miserably, going from being ranked second to seventh. Orr tried testing the match against Mori for me during the day, even playing against himself part of the time due to all of us being in the team competition. At about 10pm we finished and I got to play a few matches, mainly to make sure I had a correct sideboard strategy. I was going to be playing against Katsuhiro Mori and his Green/Black Elves deck. Which by the way has 3 Tarmogoyfs and 1 Civic Wayfinder, something I still have a hard time fathoming.

Orr had a sideboard strategy for me that he had prepared, but Elisha was very adamant that Orr was sideboarding the wrong way.

Some sideboarding choices were obvious, like bringing in 2 Nath, the Shriekmaw, and Oblivion Ring. But what do I take out? And should I make room for Loxodon Warhammer or Serrated Arrows? What about Stupor?

We were all tired and wanted a quick answer. What we did was test each card by putting it aside, and playing a game where we could choose to draw it at any point we wanted to. Not exactly an accurate plan if the choices are close, as you will be drawing the card at the ideal time, but it gives a good feel for how often the card is useful.

After about ten games it was very obvious that Serrated Arrows, Loxodon Warhammer, and Stupor were not going to come in. Also, we saw that Thoughtseize was a very important card. When your opponent plays Thoughtseize turn 1 and takes your Thoughtseize, you know it’s good to keep it in… The match was always about specific cards such as Profane Command, or whether someone had a removal for Tarmogoyf. Thoughtseize was sort of a trump in the early game, in that it pre-emptively dealt with the opponent’s most troublesome cards. The games would often come down to low life totals, but the person who won usually had the board under control anyhow, so it was more of a threat game than a race.

Off to sleep it was.

My quarterfinal match against Mori continued the surreal theme that had been going on throughout the entire tournament, with me getting significantly better draws in game 1 and game 3, while winning a close game 2 where Mori had several outs to turn the game around.

If you read the coverage of game 1 you can see that Mori played a Civic Wayfinder while I played a Tarmogoyf. Just saying…

Keeping in Thoughtseize proved crucial, and I don’t think that any other card would have given me a shot in the second game. I discarded his Profane Command, which would have brought me to a very negative life total had he had it at any point in the game.

Mori also sideboarded in a way that I don’t really understand for this match. He brought in two Viridian Shamans, two Phyrexian Totems, two Slaughter Pacts, and a Liliana Vess, and took out Imperious Prefect and 4 Thoughtseizes, all of which are very strong cards against my deck.

Time to lose the semis to Mannequin? So I thought. The matchup was supposed to be bad after sideboarding. We started playing it, when Orr had a pretty smart idea. Christoph Huber had played the same matchup in the quarterfinals, and was playing a very similar deck to mine, so he probably already knew what to do.

I went to talk to Christoph who was getting ready for the team finals, and he suggested I side out Tarmogoyfs and Ohran Vipers, bring in all my high casting cost cards like Nath and Cloudthresher, and play control after sideboard rather than having to play into Shriekmaws and Damnations all the time. By siding out Goyfs and Vipers I was turning my opponent’s Shriekmaws from very good cards into very bad cards.

My teammates tested this for about an hour while I took a nap, and when I woke up they told me it seemed to work well, so I was going for it.

Game 1 was a game I felt I was winning at several points, but Koutarou kept drawing what he needed and managed to put it away. I made a misplay at the start of the game when I didn’t notice his Urborg and took a counter off my Gemstone Mine that I didn’t have to, but I wasn’t beating myself up too much about it because I was very tired, and I don’t expect myself to play perfectly. Tired people make mistakes, I was doing my best, and that was enough for me.

Koutarou was certainly mulliganing differently than I would have, as I would never keep a hand with six lands and a Shadowmage Infiltrator in this matchup.

Games 2 and 3 were easy wins for my deck. Game 2 was so lopsided I didn’t even bother to think about what would be the best play — I wasn’t exactly winning next turn, but when you have Liliana, Garruk, Doran, Serrated Arrows, and a hand full of gas against an opponent with three Islands and 2 Phyrexian Ironfoots, it doesn’t really matter what you do.

Game 4 Koutarou topdecked a Damnation to get out of a tight spot and leave us both in topdecking mode. He drew much better than me at this point, and when it became clear I wasn’t winning the race even if I drew and played Doran or Shriekmaw, I took a moment to think about what outs (if any) I had. I came up with Cloudthresher. My next draw was Garruk, which was shut off by a Pithing Needle in play. I played it for two reasons — both because I thought I could redirect Cloudthresher damage to it, and to make Koutarou more confident that I didn’t have anything should the situation arise that I would draw the Thresher.

Next turn I did indeed draw one. With Koutarou on 9 life, and tapped low to equip his fresh Loxodon Warhammer and kill me on his turn, it was a timely topdeck that allowed me to win despite the Persuasion in his hand .

I was in the finals?

I had five minutes to look through Chapin’s decklist, before playing a match for about $20,000 against a deck I had never seen in action in my life.

You can see replays of the final match here

I will try to explain some of the plays I made.

Game 1 I got a weak draw and figured my best chance was for Patrick to have no Hellkite, so I had to kill him as fast as possible. I used Garruk to untap lands so I could kill Patrick with the Overrun effect. On the turn I activated Garruk for the Overrun, Patrick had 8 mana untapped (due to a Lotus) and the possibility of Hellkite seemed very real, but I figured if he had one and I didn’t force him to use it he would drop the Hellkite at end of turn, killing my creatures anyway, and then on his turn use it to activate his Spinerock Knoll, or alternately just attack and kill my Garruk. By forcing him to cast it during my main phase I was able to remove it with Profane Command so that if he didn’t have more gas I was in reasonable shape.

He untapped and played Dragonstorm for 2, and that was game.

Games 2 and 3 probably seemed close on camera, but since I had no idea what was in Patrick’s hand they seemed very lopsided for me. I didn’t know Patrick was a mana away from killing me every turn for the entire game 3, for example. I just played out my hand and hoped for the best.

In these games I also mostly used Garruk to untap lands, as I was very afraid of the three Sulfurous Blasts in Patrick’s sideboard, which would have left me with no board had he had one.

Game 4 is the game in which I made a play that threw away the match.

Here is the situation:

I have in play 2 Birds of Paradise, Doran the Siege Tower, Riftsweeper, 2 Forests, Caves of Koilos, and Llanowar Wastes. My hand is filled with good cards, the most notable being a Cloudthresher which I had just reached the mana to play.

Patrick was at eleven life, with 8 mana untapped due to his storage lands, and having 2 Spinerock Knolls. It took me a while to figure this out because I was tired, but I reached the conclusion that the best play was to keep the Birds back so I can play Cloudthresher, rather than trying to kill Patrick this turn (9 damage from my creatures plus 2 from the Thresher).

Unfortunately for me, when I entered my attack Patrick made a move to write down his life total. I caught this out of the corner of my eye, so I didn’t think it was a trick, and the possibility of ending the tournament on this turn was tempting. I moved in, and he had the Hellkite, devastating my board.

I played another Doran and passed the turn at 17 life.

At this point I think it is pretty obvious I don’t have any way to remove the Hellkite in my hand. Otherwise there is no way I am leaving it in play with Patrick having two Spinerock Knolls.

Neither do I have an additional Birds of Paradise or Elf, or I would have played them.

My board was Doran and two Birds, and I was on 17 life.

Here is what happened on Patrick’s turn:

Attack with Hellkite, I go to twelve.

Rift Bolt me, I go to nine.

Activate both Knolls, meaning an Incinerate and a Grapeshot for three. Patrick chose to kill my Doran and one Bird. Here is an alternate play:

Incinerate me taking me to six.

Grapeshot killing both Birds and taking me to five.

With a lethal Hellkite on the board, I have one turn to draw removal or I am instantly dead. This would leave me with about 12.5% to win the game if I had all 4 Shriekmaws in my deck at this point — which I didn’t. As it was I think I had 4 outs.

Considering my hand, Patrick’s play was wrong, as he left me with five mana, and if I had drawn a non-Treetop land on my turn I would have been able to play Cloudthresher immediately. That doesn’t mean it’s the wrong play however, as in the situation that I do draw a removal spell I am still in pretty bad shape due to the second Hellkite in Patrick’s hand.

Two turns later I had a Garruk and a Cloudthresher in play.

When Patrick Sulfurous Blasted in my upkeep, I attacked with the Thresher because leaving him the Hellkite meant that if he drew Empty the Warrens I wouldn’t be able to attack at all.

Patrick played his second Hellkite, putting me on 5 life, and on my turn I played out enough attackers to win next turn, and my one Hypnotic Specter, which had finally decided to show up for a game.

Patrick needed any burn spell to win — but drew a mountain, and I had won the match.

The day ended with me trying to catch a cab in the rain, wearing crocks and with a huge trophy and a huge grin, one of which was constantly getting filled with water. I bought the Israeli contingent dinner at TGI Fridays in Times Square, and the next few days were a strange time for me as I slowly got used to actually having the ability to buy the stuff I see at the stores I was visiting. I was a bit slow, but I think the fact I had to buy an extra bag just for presents shows I got it in the end…

I wanted to thank Eviatar, Orr, and Elisha for their help and support before the tournament and during the Top 8 — I wouldn’t have made it without you guys.

Gabriel Nassif and Antonino De Rosa — for giving me a Legacy deck that made getting the 3-1-1 record I needed seem ridiculously easy/

Christoph Huber for telling me how to sideboard in the semis.

Ziv Tzoran, Fernando Cornstein, and the Zebra —for lending me a lot of cards.

I still have trouble grasping that I am the world champion, as it is so far removed from the rest of my life. For now I am back in Israel, trying to make up the two weeks of school that I missed, and I guess I’ll see if the world has gone back to normal or is still being very strange the next time I attend a Pro Tour.

I’m pretty sure me doing well was a combination of not being stressed and having a good run, I’m just not sure which was the more crucial factor. I have had good records in pro tours in the past only to make horrendous screw ups in later rounds, probably due to excitement and nerves. This is a large part of the reason that even when I was 7-1, I wasn’t overly optimistic about my chances.

This is the first international tournament I have ever played in which my nerves weren’t a factor, and I’m sure that played a great part in my success. But having good decklists and good draws was definitely a part of it as well.

As for the future, you will probably see me at a pro tour here and there (not in Malaysia though — hostile country). My streak of doing badly in pro tours has ended, but whether or not it will begin again, time will tell…