Levelling Up – World Championships: Standard

Read Tiago Chan every Friday... at StarCityGames.com!Level 6 Mage Tiago Chan needed a superlative performance at Worlds to reach the dizzy heights of last year’s showing. Unfortunately he fell short this time… but his passion for the game is not in question. Today’s Levelling Up brings us Tiago’s take on his preparation and Day 1 performance at Worlds. For part 2, be sure to return next week!

After Grand Prix: Daytona Beach I was left with about ten days to get ready for Worlds: two different Constructed formats, including one I had never played before. I had some decks built for both formats since I started testing a little by myself, but I needed to find people to test with. There was the possibility to join with the top French players, but after waiting too long for a reply, I assumed their answer was no. The Portuguese players were all over the place, each testing on their own, so my solution was to find and gather people who were in a similar situation to mine.

Initially I hooked up with Rasmus Sibast from Denmark and Manuel Bucher from Switzerland, which meant most of our games and discussions had to be done online. Eventually we joined American players interested in testing the formats online: Alex Kim, Adam Yurchick, and Brett Blackman. This wasn’t a hardcore testing team with assignments, plans and restrictions; it was mostly a group of players and friends who joined together to play some games and discuss the formats. Most of us worked isolated and then shared and compared with the others. It certainly isn’t the best you can get, but it was indeed the best I could have, and I was quite satisfied with how it turned out.

These were some of the decks I tried:

Tarmo-Rack: It was the deck I played at Grand Prix: Krakow, and I liked it a lot. I added Edge of Autumn and Phyrexian Ironfoot because most of the games I played were due to mana color problems, but after the other players and I tried it for a while, the verdict was “not good enough.” I’m probably returning to where I left off when tuning this deck at some point in the future, as I believe it plays almost all the best cards in Standard.

Blue/Green Pickles: Alex Kim had a deck featuring the Pickles lock, Garruk, Cryptic Command, and Mulldrifter, and it looked quite good on paper and (at first impression) in action. Having played with it for a while, I found out it was incredibly hard to beat creatures, or permanents in play, besides the obvious mana problems.

Blue/White Blink: Alex agreed on the same problems and moved from Green to White, losing mana acceleration and Garruk for Monentary Blink and better mana. The deck still had the Pickles lock… it was very similar to Paul Cheon deck from Grand Prix: Krakow, but with Mulldrifter and Blink. I found it to be okay, but I liked Mannequin better.

Mannequin: This was Manuel Bucher favorite deck, as well as my own. I just liked playing with it, and it seemed better than Blue/White Blink, because the more we played the format the more we noticed pure control decks weren’t doing that well. Mannequin is (and should be) played as a tempo deck, and the moment we added four MInd Stones, I was convinced. Besides, I felt I should’ve played this deck in Krakow, but thanks to my roomates I ended up not doing so.

Blue/Green Scryb and Force: A good deck capable of the most explosive starts, and one that fully exploits the combo of Troll Ascetic plus Loxodon Warhammer. I always had this deck built and ready to go if I wanted.

Black/Green Aggro: More powerful than Scryb and Force, with slightly less explosive draws. The problem was that it was so hard to find the optimal build when not exclusively focusing on doing so.

Red/Green Big Mana: I absolutely hated playing with this deck, but I seriously considered playing it, just because I never win when playing against it. It’s so frustrating… it’s like playing against Tooth and Nail. I also carried a copy of this deck with me to New York, which I ended up lending to a friend.

One day I tested the Mannequin versus Red/Green Big Mana, against Adam Yurchick. It seemed that Mannequin had a small advantage, and since I thought R/G Big Mana would be the most popular deck, I settled on Mannequin.

This was the list I played at the event. I give the main credit to Manuel Bucher. I changed some cards afterwards, but I don’t know if that improved anything.

Manuel Bucher list had 3 Aeon Chronicler main deck instead of the Damnations, and he had one more Cloudskate or Ironfoot instead of the single Wydwen. Right now, if I were to play it again, I would try to fit one or two Loxodon Warhammers main.

Two of the Portuguese also played Mannequin. One went 3-2, and the other went 3-1-1, with different lists. They were playing with Epochrasite, Nekrataal, and Loxodon Warhammer. They did not have Mind Stone, but had everything else in there, though in twisted numbers. Marcio Carvalho played such a deck in one of the qualifiers for the Win a Car Tournament and finished 8-1, so I guess that if you want Loxodon Warhammer, Epochrasite and Nekrataal are good targets to equip… though I’d really leave Mind Stones in there.

Before going into the rounds, I’d like to expose a situation that happened with the round 1 pairings. I was paired against Jelger Wiegersma at table 192. The pairings around me looked a little suspicious. Let’s start with table 194, the bottom table of the tournament:

194 Da Costa Cabral, Berna [BEL] 0 vs. Arita, Ryuuichi [JPN] 0
193 Watanabe, Yuuya [JPN] 0 vs. Carvalho, Marcio A [PRT] 0
192 Wiegersma, Jelger [NLD] 0 vs. Chan, Tiago [PRT] 0
191 De Rosa, Antonino [USA] 0 vs. Carvalho, Paulo [PRT] 0
190 Saitou, Tomoharu [JPN] 0 vs. Mori, Katsuhiro [JPN] 0
189 Stein, Sam A [USA] 0 vs. Kaji, Tomohiro [JPN] 0

That’s twelve Level 3 Pros (or higher) seated in a row.

It’s historically proven that the DCI reporter is not flawless software. I called for a judge, and while I wasn’t expecting for something to be immediatly done, I felt that calling attention to this situation was warranted. For example, if you are doing a deck check and notice a strange pattern in the order of the cards, it is possible that it was just randomly shuffled and ended that way, but it can also be something else. Pairings like these are quite frequent at the Pro Tour, but what made me suspicious was they were all in a row, and starting at the very last table.

After investigating the pairings at home, I discovered what happened. Yes, the pairings were completely random. You could be paired against anyone, except for your National Team members. What were not random were the seatings. I guess if those pairings were happening on tables 23, 54, 69, 145, 152 and 180 it would have been something normal, but it looked strange at tables 189,190, 191, 192, 193, 194.

If you start at table 1, you’ll see the four members of South Africa (ZAF) seated on tables 1 to 4. Then you’ll see the Venezuelan National Team (VEN) on tables 5 through 7. The lone player from Uruguay (URY) at table 8. The next four tables have the USA national team, followed by the members of UKR, TWN, TUR, THA, SNV. I hope everyone has spotted the pattern here. While the pairings were totally random (except for being unable to be paired against a National Team member) the order, or the seatings, were not, which created that situation. Tables 162 to 164 had the National team members of Argentina (ARG), and from 165 until 194 sat everyone else who still didn’t have an opponent – ratings invites, and Level 3s and up.

Despite that, who you were playing against was indeed completely random, but who was playing at tables next to you was not.

Round 1: Jelger Wiegersma – G/R Big Mana Snow

Jelger stayed in the United States after Daytona Beach and he playtested in Indianapolis. I asked him who designed the deck he was playing: Gabe Walls or GerryT. If it was Gabe Walls, I would high five anyone. Have you seen the non-land all pitch-spell Legacy deck he designed? But if it was GerryT, then well, damn rough beat.

His answer? Both of them. Awkward!

Game 1 I played a big Profane Command, returning one of my creatures and Fireballing him, and on his turn Jelger played Molten Disaster, making this game a tie as a precaution. He would still go first again in Game 2, since he won the roll for Game 1.

Confirming that playing first is key in Constructed, he won the second while I won the third. For Game 4 he’s on the play once again. With five minutes left on the clock I mulliganed a no lander. My six-card hand only had one land. I went to five cards, and just with a couple of minutes left he didn’t have enough to kill me in the remaining turns, though he was definitely winning the game.

0 – 0 – 1

Round 2: Gabe Walls – G/R Big Mana Snow

Game 1 he was lacking Red mana. He didn’t start the game by mana ramping, just playing a tiny Tarmogoyf, so I played the tempo game in the air, always attacking him or killing his Garruk while bouncing stuff – one turn a 3/3 token, the other his single Red land.

Game 2 I lost fair and square. Game 3 I’m on the play, played turn 4 Mulldrifter, turn 5 a second Mulldrifter. I was left with only mana, a Damnation, and one Mannequin. After playing and sacrificing some Mind Stones the next turn, my hand was still five lands, one Damnation, and one Mannequin, so every turn until I died, I would draw a land, play a land, and pass with the exact same hand as turn 5. Since you can’t play a long game against R/G Big Mana, I died.

0 – 1 – 1

Round 3: Jonathan Rispal – Blue/Black Control

Game 1 I mulliganed and was two-for-oned when he played Damnation off his Dreadship Reef. He had Island, Island, Dreadship Reef. I played a second creature, he charged his land, and on his turn he played Damnation, putting me very far behind on cards. The matchup gets a lot better after sideboarding, with 4 Thoughtseize and 3 Aeon Chroniclers.

Game 2 I have two creatures and a Chronicler, while he just has a Chronicler. However, his life can’t afford another attack, while I’m close to 20. He attacks, so he probably has Cryptic Command. On my turn he plays it, taps my creatures and draws a card. On hs turn he attacks me again, so at end of his turn I play Extirpate on Cryptic Command, and he concedes.

Game 3 I drew twice the number of lands compared to spells, something like 5-10 or 6-12, and he easily killed me with his Chronicler.

0 – 2 – 1

Round 4: Cedomir Vojnovic – Green/Red/Black Big Mana

Game 1 was the longest game I played in the Standard portion of Worlds, though not necessarly the best. From my perspective it was fine, as I was playing spells, but he only had multiple Grove of the Burnwillows and painlands, and he had to cast many cards with double mana in the costs, like Garruk, Siege-Gang, Damnation, and Liliana. As a result, he dealt close to 10 damage to himself, while I gained more than that thanks to Grove. This allowed me to win against more powerful cards.

Game two I had a huge tempo advantage backed up by the right cards, like Venser, Shaper Savant, so he was always behind. He couldn’t even race or try to block with his Treetop Village, as he knew I was holding Nameless Inversion from a previous Thoughtseize he played.

1 – 2 – 1

Round 5: Pierre Canali – Blue/Black/Red Teachings

Game 1 he did not have a counter for Shadowmage Infiltrator, which gained me some cards. One turn he tapped out for Aeon Chronicler, for one or two, and I played Profane Command for seven, targeting a Mulldrifter and dealing seven damage to him. He played Pact of Negation, which was also cool since it gave me a free turn. Thanks to the card advantage and this small tempo advantage, I turned the extra cards into even more cards with Mulldrifters,

Game 2 he got unlucky, as he played Careful Consideration one turn to find a land drop but drew four cards and still missed. I played Thoughtseize, taking out Pact of Negation, leaving him with Mystical Teachings, 2 Faerie Trickery, one Rune Snag I could play around, and two other cards. Since he already had a Faerie Trickery in his graveyard, and I was holding Extirpate, I knew I could pretty much play the spells that I wanted.

2 – 2 – 1

Seven points was not much, but considering I had just one point two rounds ago it wasn’t that bad. Bad news was that I had already used one of my favorite formats, with five rounds of Legacy still to come, but technically I was still in Top 8 contention.

My draft pod had Jason Imperiale, Andrew Cuneo, Cyryl Kociecki, Pedro Motta, Jonathan Sonne, Brandon Scheel, and Andreas Nordahl. I won’t go into full details of the draft, since I can’t remember all picks, and for better or for worse you have an idea of how I draft by checking the daily feature “Drafting with Tiago.”

I first picked Aethersnipe over Tarfire. I second picked Whirlpool Whelm over nothing I remember, and followed that with Moonglove Extract. Fourth pick I took Tarfire from a pack missing Aethersnipe, and fifth pick I went Black because of Warren Pilferers. I ended with a Black/Blue Goblins deck with Mad Auntie, two Warren Pilferers, and Nameless Inversion, but it wasn’t very exciting. If I’d plumped for Green, my deck would’ve been amazing, as I was passed 2 Huntmasters and 2 Elvish Branchbenders in the third booster, all in in different packs, plus Epic Proportions. Sadly, in the first booster, the Green I saw was very mediocre – lots of Bog-Strider Ashes and so forth. I usually go Green when I see half-decent cards, but this time I didn’t see them in the early packs.

I won the first match, against my friend Pedro Motta from Brazil and his Red/Black Giants deck, thanks to Mad Auntie. He killed it a couple of times, but she just kept coming back with Warren Pilferers and Boggart Birth Rite.

Mad Auntie also won my first game against Jason Imperiale. He was Blue/White Merfolk with some Kithkin, and his weaker draw gave me the chance to attack with my Goblins protected with Mad Auntie for the win. Game 2 he had better draws and a strong deck, with two Merfolk Reejerey and Summon the School, so he easily won. His wins were very easy, as I barely played spells. Game 2 I played Ponder on turn 3 and saw Spiderwig Boggart plus two lands. I think it’s very weak to draw a 2/2 on turn 4 and then nothing for two turns, so I shuffled… and only saw lands for the rest of the game. Game 3 I kept with Island, Swamp, and Ponder. I played it, didn’t see lands, shuffled, and never saw a third land anyway.

Round 3 I played against Andreas Nordhal. I lost 0-2 in two good games. In the first, his Green creatures became too large for me to handle with my damage-based removal, Game 2 was very close… the advantage was shifting between both of us until he played Profane Command for my life total.

3 – 4 – 1 was a score that left me out of contention for Top 8, but I decided to not drop to play the Car Qualifiers, as there was still money and pro points to be won, and I owed to myself to stay in the event (I dropped before I should’ve at PT: Valencia). Join me next week for Day 2 of Worlds, and for my first look at the Legacy format, as well as the end of the 2007 season and the beginning of 2008.

Thank you for reading!