Levelling Up – Stuttgart: The First or The Last Grand Prix?

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Today’s Levelling Up sees Tiago Chan in a reflective mood. He relives his performance in the fist – or was it last – Grand Prix of the year, Stuttgart, sharing his cardpool and final deck alongside tips from Raphael Levy and Frank Karsten. He also re-evaluates his place in Magic, and makes a statement regarding his future in the game…

Personally, I never liked these schedules. To have the 2007 season finish at Worlds makes perfect sense, as it’s the biggest stage of the Pro competition and the perfect place to crown all the champions of the season. To have the first event of the new season just a couple of days later seems a little harsh, especially when the one after that is only two months away… but hey, at least they had the decency to make it Limited rather than Constructed.

Stuttgart was the first Grand Prix of the 2008 season, but to tell you the truth, it didn’t felt like a new season at all. Everyone was still tense and exhausted after such a long 2007 season, and clearly everyone was just waiting for Stuttgart to finish so they could go on vacation. I arrived in Portugal from Worlds on Tuesdsay afternoon, and I didn’t felt like going to Stuttgart at all. But since there was a very cheap direct flight – we’re talking less than 100 Euros – many Portuguese players were attending, including many of my friends. They convinced me to go rather than stay at home feeling miserable about myself.

72 hours to go…

Eventually I found myself at an airport gate, ready to board a plane for Stuttgart along with seven other Magic players (including my favourite twins, some good friends from the city of Coimbra who I rarely see outside of Magic, Paulo Carvalho, and Sérgio Preto the Portuguese Limited guru). Despite that, I was already bored with the trip, so I started to count down the hours remaining until we landed back in Lisbon airport. Of course, I couldn’t do it silently, I had to share my anxiety, which started to become a litte annoying for others over the weekend.

66 hours to go…

I thought they only did this at North American Grands Prix… naming the event after the closest major city, and then holding it in some random location in the middle of nowhere. It happened with Stuttgart. We had made a reservation for two rooms in a Hotel in the area, but still the twin brothers decided it would be better to search the surroundings for cheaper hotels that were closer to the site, despite it being the middle of the night and very cold. After a very long walk without success, we hailled two taxis to take us to our resevred hotel.

51 to go…

I realized it was going to be another huge Grand Prix, so I was hoping for a good card pool, as a normal one usually doesn’t take you there. When you’re still in contention for Day 2 in the last swiss rounds of Day 1, all the decks are so strong. I got this.

Initially, I went for the Blue as it had many cards, but it was missing power, creatures, and synergy. I settled for this four-color deck, thanks to the many mana fixers I had, to try to add some more power to my deck.

During the Byes I played many games against Raph Levy, and I wasn’t too pleased with the power of my deck. I decided for this Grand Prix (with this deck) to draw first, for many reasons. I didn’t think speed would be that relevant, I had very few ways to gain card advantage, mulligans would be less of a problem, and also because of certain cards I was playing. With two Hornet Harasser I felt safe against fast creature rushes, and two Thieving Sprite could be more hurtful if my opponent’s had fewer cards in hand.

I gave my card pool to some friends to get their opinions on how would they build. Frank Karsten would’ve built just like I did, except he would have had Changeling Berserker instead of Gilt-Leaf Seer. I sided in Changeling Berserker at certain times during the tournament.

Raph Levy built Black/Red based deck splashing for some Green cards and Oblivion Ring. His deck was like this.

2 Thieving Sprite
1 Mournwhelk
2 Boggart Loggers
1 Thorntooth Witch
2 Hornet Harasser
1 Eyeblight’s Ending

1 Hearthcage Giant
1 Changeling Berserker
1 Lash Out
1 Adder-Staff Boggart
1 Boggart Sprite-Chaser
2 Soulbright Flamekin

1 Changeling Titan
1 Immaculate Magistrate
1 Briarhorn

1 Wort, Boggart Auntie

1 Oblivion Ring

1 Moonglove Extract
1 Wanderer’s Twig

1 Vivid Creek
1 Vivid Grove
1 Forest
1 Shimmering Grotto
7 Swamp
6 Mountain

I don’t know if his version is better, but I don’t like the fact that it plays with too many two-mana 2/1s

Round 4: Amiel Tenenbaum – Blue/White Merfolks splash for Shriekmaw

Game 1 Amiel got there with Turtleshell Changeling, as I had no way to stop it from dealing twenty damage. I either did not draw something big enough to stop it, or I couldn’t play it… what I do know is that the turtle got there.

Game 2 was a lot closer. I had a good start but Amiel managed to stabilize and was probably going to swing the game. A Shriekmaw from his side slowed down my offensive a lot, and he played a Silvergill Douser. I attacked with everything, and I had to risk and play Fistful of Force on one of the unblocked creatures, as winning the clash meant it was lethal damage. Luckily I won, but I think I had better chances of winning the game depending on the outcome of this clash, rather than waiting against an active Silvergill Douser on the following turns.

Game 3 was Featured Matched, but very little happened. We both mulliganed, I kept with one land and one Wanderer’s Twig on the draw, didn’t draw lands, and had to discard. Amiel was beating down, first with a Silvergill Douser then with the Turtle again.

3 – 1

Round 5: Andre Schwankl – Black/Green

We both had Immaculate Magistrate, not only in our decks, but in play by turn 4. However, he untapped with his first and he also had one more Elf than me, so that was too much for me to overcome.

I sided in the two Hunter of Eyeblights I had in my sideboard. Not only do they combo with my Immaculate, they also prevent his from growing creatures. I guess they can be okay on their own as well. I remember one being good when I played it, but by then the game was already looking good. I don’t remember the next two games I won, but I’m pretty sure one was due to some unfortunate events from his side.

4 – 1

Round 6: Frederic Geiger – Green/Black/Red

Game 1 he played Chandra. That caused some injuries on my side, but I managed at some expense to deal with it. I stopped attacking his life total for a while, and I lost some resources battling it. Then he played Liliana, and it was too much for me.

Game 2… Interesting, it seems I don’t remember how I won games with this deck. I probably played some creatures and attacked. That, or perhaps he got mana problems because his color requirements were too specific.

Game 3: this time Liliana came first, and then he tutored for Chandra. With both of them in play, I was lucky to get away with a draw. Since, at the last few European Grands Prix, X-2-1 was good enough to make it, I thought it wasn’t that bad.

4 – 1 – 1

Round 7: Jochen Korbel – Blue/White/Black

Game 1 he mulliganed to five on the play. He still got a very solid draw and curved out. I drew all lands, and couldn’t put up a fight. Fortunately, he also mulliganed once for the next two games, keeping a two Plains hand in one. In that game he did not play spells. In the other I had a turn 4 Changeling Berserker I had sided in, and had some removal or tricks to back it up. I had sided out both Boggart Loggers against him, and sided in Changeling Berserker which won a game, and probably Hunter of Eyeblight’s.


Round 8: Matthias Ludewig – Green/Black splash White

Game 1 was kind of silly, since he only had three swamps and Oona’s Prowler for permanents the whole game… and he killed me with them. He killed both my Thieving Sprites, one with Nameless Inversion and the other with Moonglove Extract. I had to try and race the turn 2 Oona’s Prowler, but the only guy who might give me a chance to succeed was Changeling Hero, which he dealt with via an evoked Shriekmaw.

Game 2 I remember his Elvish Harbinger tutored up a Changeling Hero. After I dealt with it, the Harbinger came into play and tutored for a second one. I had to dealt with that as well. I had a chance to turn the game with Immaculate Magistrate, but he had Shriekmaw for ir, this time it stuck around as 3/2 fear guy.

5 – 2 – 1

A quick look at the standings confirmed my fears. 6-2-1 wouldn’t be enough this time, but since I came all the way here, I decided to play and hope for a miracle.

Round 9: Dav Magallon Martinez – Blue/Black/White

Game 1 I was overrun by a truck on the street. All the Faerie squad, including Faerie Harbinger; Wydwen, the Biting Gale; and Peppersmoke. Out with the Boggart Loggers, in with Changeling Berserker. His deck also had a Dread, so the creatures were very good… maybe he was lacking some more ways to deal with permanents.

Game 2 I won with Immaculate Magistrate. First I grew a Thieving Sprite big enough to hold back his flyers, and then I grew someone else to attack. The Magistrate lived for too long. Game 3 I remember Changeling Berserker was very good once again, so I guess Frank Karsten was right… I should’ve played him main deck too, though I don’t know what I would cut for it.

6 – 2 – 1

38 hours to go…

I didn’t even bother checking the standings, as there’s always someone who checks and memorizes the places for everyone and then acts as the bringer of the good or bad news. Just like in life, I was waiting for a miracle that would never come.

24 hours to go…

I was Gunslinging almost all of the next day, followed by a draft or two. Meanwhile some of my friends were doing pretty well at the tournament, but they ended up short. I don’t know if the hour countdown is annoying, but I do know what I said when we boarded the plane back to Lisbon. No, it wasn’t “3 hours to go…” Instead I said, “what a pity, we’re already leaving! I love Germany, and I would love to stay longer!”

At the beginning of the article I refered to Stuttgart as the “first Grand Prix.” Now I see it as the last one. With this two month break, I will be shifting my priorities… things will be different. I played the second half of the 2007 season in the midst of a few of personal problemas, but I decided to ignore them and finish the season since I was a Level 6, even though my heart was not in it. I need to put my life back on track. That means I will probably skip some Pro Tours in 2008. I won’t be seen on the Grand Prix circuit as often as I was this year, but Magic will still be my only hobby. I will continue playing it online, writing the articles, playing at least once a week at the local store, and I’ll probably hit the PTQs in the Lisbon area. Until I move to China, of course. If I do, I cannot predict anything.

For now, thank you for reading, and see you next week!