Now I know what you are thinking from just the title alone, who cares if someone gets third place in a tournament that is essentially just as hard as an American PTQ? Well this is just not quite true. You see, whilst not being as tough as any of the other European Nats, it is still played at a reasonably high level and the top tables are quite capable of having players with PT Top 8s. Nats is one of those nice events for the pros, as we get to play real life MTG in our own countries only about twice a year. Due to this fact, I usually put quite a lot of effort in and this year was no exception. I felt that I would be well prepared enough for the Limited portion of the event because I did so much practice for PT: London, which was the same exact format. This left me with quite a lot of time to only have to concentrate on one thing: Constructed. Now anyone that knows me knows just how much I loathe a game involving sixty-card decks, but I was still prepared to give it a go and see if there was a deck that I liked the look of in the current format.
The way that I decided to approach this might not have been the best, as I decided that I wanted to be lazy and just sit at home and MODO all day. Now, I have never had a MODO buyin worth mentioning before – I tend to just piss it away trying out new draft strategies and doing the odd drunken draft each night (cheers Phil). As I was logged onto to MODO for most of the time, I unfortunately couldn’t stop myself from doing one or two drafts a day so as not to go crazy from withdrawal. I then set about looking for people whom I could borrow decks from and then just run each archetype in the format through twenty 8-mans in the Constructed room. I managed to get a few decks together and after playing Mono-Green Aggro and Tooth and Nail, I wasn’t to impressed with the results that I was getting, so looked to move onto greener… er make that other pastures.
The next deck I tried was Mono-Red with a list that I put together from the various Red decks that I had played against over the last few days. This was absolutely disastrous and I gave up after the fourth event with a total of 1 game won out of 9. The next deck I wanted to try was Five-Color Gifts Ungiven control as Stuart Wright had said that it was really good, and was almost definitely playing at Nats. He very kindly gave me his list and all the cards to play it, which I was pleasantly surprised with as we are each other’s major competition for the event itself. After very few games I could tell that this deck was extremely hard to play, and with Nats drawing near, I wanted to play some more decks to get a more complete view of what the metagame might well be.
Now, the whole time I had being playing in these events I had not seemed to be beating the U Tron deck that had recently become popular, so I figured it was at least worth playing some games with it. The person who I think knows more about this deck than any other person on the planet is Quentin Martin for sure. He wrote an article about it a very long time ago stating that the deck was very powerful and anyone would be a fool to be playing anything else. Now I’m not sure if he just got lucky and chose a deck very early on in testing that was good enough to be competitive, but I knew that I wanted his list with which to begin my testing. He shipped it and after 3-4 events I knew that this was the deck I would be playing at Nats for sure. I ended up borrowing the deck for 28 hours total before he wanted it back and I spent almost every single one of them on MODO. By the end, I had earned enough packs to pay for my own copy of the deck which I promptly did so I could carry right on the next day. For the next few days we threw ideas around to each other about the last few sideboard slots and with just a few days to go we were pretty confident about our chances. This is the list that I decided to play:
This is a pretty solid list of one of the best decks in the format, but it is not quite perfect yet I don’t think. It turns out that the metagame for English Nats had a lot more White Weenie than either myself or Quentin had expected and although we had 3 Razormane Masticores in our board which were basically game, the Steel Walls would’ve been so much better as Sun Droplets, which is what I wanted to play, but Quentin convinced me otherwise.
So onto the event itself. My journey begins by taking a few days off to go and hang out with my dad for his birthday. Now I like to stop playing Magic for the few days leading up to a major event, but this time I was totally unplugged from the rest of the world, and unless you are planning on spending every waking hour drunk as hell, being away from the internet for a few weeks can really take its toll on you. But while I was there, my dad bought me a plane ticket to go too my beloved MSU, so not all was lost. After a few days there, I get ready to drive up with some local guys and one of my roommates. Now this particular roommate had to grind in, as he was 65th in the ratings when the Top 64 qualified. This is particularly harsh, considering the fact that there are 3 other guys living with us who were all rated ahead of him and had no intentions of playing in Nats at all, but he ground in at the first attempt so all was well.
I managed to find all 75 cards I needed for my deck from some various people and once we had that done, we had to start building a deck for my roommate, as he had brought nothing with him and just used someone else’s to grind with. I told him about most of the decks and he decided that WW was nice and cheap to buy and pretty easy to play, so we went about searching for the cards he needed. I’m not to sure about the exact list he played, but I told him about some guy who is rated 1850 in Constructed on MODO and is always tripled up in events, so I tried to remember his list as closely as I could. When the evening comes round we realize just how far we are away from everything out here in the English countryside, as there is not a single restaurant within 10 kilometers. This meant that food consisted of going to a kebab shop and eating the remainders for breakfast the next day.
So the morning comes and we get there nice and early so as to meet everyone and check out who actually turned up this year. There is a little bit of rivalry between the old guard of English Magic and us youngsters (as they like to call us), and Dan Paskins made a grid with the top 6 OAP’s and the top 6 of us rising stars so as to keep track of which team performed better at the event as a whole.
Round 1: Julian Surface, Tooth and Nail
This is such a good matchup and a dream pairing to have round 1 so as to get the ball rolling. Game 1 I counter some spells and then win off of back-to-back Mindslavers. Game 2 I win after casting a crippling Shifting Borders and completing my Tron whilst wrecking his, then untapping and surely doing something nasty to him that I just can’t remember.
Round 2: Martin Swan, Erayo Affinity
I can’t really remember too much about this match, but I know that I screwed up a bit in game 1 by forgetting what cards I had on top of my deck and then trying to get tricky with Sensei’s Divining Top and somehow drawing a land instead of a Mana Leak. Martin gets a bit flooded in games 2 and 3 and I ride a Memnarch home both games which is I guess the plan vs. Affinity.
Round 3: Jon Ormerod, WW
Now Jon and I played against each other in round 3 last year and then again in the quarterfinals where he won both times and went on to take the whole tourney. Again he had a good matchup against me, but I was a lot more prepared for Constructed this year than last so was looking forward to the games. Game 1 I get kinda lucky, as I Top on turn 3 knowing the top 2 cards and needing the third one down to complete my land set. Needless to say it is and I get to stone his board on turn 4 and then Memnarch on turn 5 take it down. Game 2 I am about to take control with Razormane but he rips Glorious Anthem and kills me one turn too early for me to gain control – seems fair after I got lucky game 1. I have no idea what happened in game 3, so his draw must have been quite bad as I won when he was on the play which is hard to do unless they stumble a bit.
3-0 after the first three rounds of Constructed was more than I had hoped for and now I got to draft, which is traditionally very easy at English Nats. I was on pod 2 and there were some people that I recognized as being solid Limited players, but no one that I was bothered to draft against. This pod consisted of 4 3-0 players and 4 2-1 players, so from this I could work out that there was a reasonable chance that I would play against the guy I was feeding in the draft. Thus it was my plan to maybe screw him a bit in the draft so he would be an easy round for me. My first pack had Soratami Mirror-Guard, Yamabushi’s Flame and Mothrider Samurai in it. I chose the Mirror-Guard as I figured Red might be a bit overdrafted at a bad table due to removal being picked too highly. My next few picks were Blue also and then I got the choice between Teller of Tales and Frostwielder fifth. Now Teller is a better card and was also in my colors, but this was a perfect opportunity to hook the guy on my left and get him to probably be in both of my colors, as I would have expected him to take the Flame second. With me being Blue I didn’t want to give him a Frostwielder, as it would most likely kill a large proportion of my team. It turns out he took the Mothrider second, but I did manage to get him into blue so not all was lost. My deck ended up okay but it was not quite what I had wanted. It had five Goblin Cohorts and was backed up by a lot of removal, but I would have preferred to have a solid slower deck that gave more opportunities to outplay people.
Round 4: Mark Knight
In game 1 he makes turn 2 Hand of Honor, turns 3 and 4 Takenuma Bleeder Takenuma Bleeders, which is exactly the problem with the deck that I had just drafted. Needless to say I didn’t win this game, although I did get within one turn of killing his last flier with Frostwielder before I got Plow Through Reito’d out. In game 2 he gets a bit screwed and on turn 5 attacks his Bleeder into my Sokenzan Spellblade and it would be a Time Walk for me if he were to cast a pump spell, so I decide to block as he will lose too much tempo. I move my Spellblade in front of his guy and Mark then just sits there. After about 10 seconds I say “ok” and then we wait a bit more and I try to point out that his guy is dead. He missed the fact that Spellblade has bushido and the tried to argue his way out of it by saying that we had only passed priority once and hadn’t said “damage on the stack”, so we had not progressed far enough into the turn for damage to be on the stack. This was pretty sh*tty on his part and he even got the first judge on his side, but thankfully there was a good head judge at the event and he took Mark’s intent and the fact that he had screwed up into consideration. Needless to say that after all this effort I did lose game 3 when I didn’t cast a creature until turn 4 and he had two removal spells.
Round 5: Jason Keen
Jason was also on 0-1 in the pod so I figured his deck wouldn’t be up to much. Again it was quite a while ago and I’m not too sure what happened in the games which I apologize, for but obviously nothing outstanding happened or it would have stuck in my mind.
Round 6: Oliver Schneider
This was the guy that I was passing too in the draft, so I was reasonably confident about my chances in this match, although he is quite good. He had ended up with a decent U/W deck, but if he didn’t get a quick start my deck would just run over him. All I remember about the match is how good his deck was as he opened both Patron of the Kitsune and Cloudhoof Kirin, but thankfully neither of them made an appearance and I won 2-0.
So before the end of Day 1 we had another draft and another round to play so as to have time for the Top 8 to be played out on Day 2. For this draft I was on pod 1, which was quite lucky as most of the good players were on pod 2. I have no idea what happened this draft but somewhere along the way I got royally screwed. My deck was 1 Kabuto Moth, 1 Kiku’s Shadow and 20 cards on a par with Skullsnatcher for card quality. I had all sorts of maindeck Heart of Lights and multiple Kami of the Tattered Shoji.
Round 7: Andrew Leeder
No matter how bad I thought my deck was, Andrew’s was worse for sure. I don’t think he was very good and probably just hadn’t drafted many times before. He had a 3-color monstrosity featuring such hits as Empty Shrine Kannushi and 4 equipment in his 43-card deck. But sometimes it just doesn’t matter and the gods of Magic just screw you over. I have no real memory of how I actually lost game 1 but I think I was just very flooded. In game 2 I bashed the crap out of him and in game 3 at one point I do remember being 9-2 flooded, but luckily one of my spells was a Kabuto Moth which he just couldn’t possibly beat as he was G/U/W. I eventually got to the situation where I had a few turns to draw any spirit or arcane to win but he drew Yosei, the Morning Star and attacked with it a bunch of times until I had to start chumping. Luckily for me time ran out and I had enough dudes to chump until the match was a draw.
This round has been erased from the annals of Magic history to protect the innocent. Move along, nothing to see here.
Round 9: Michael Overstreet
Michael had a Red/Black deck and it was really quite good, but I drew my 1 Moonlit Strider both games and it turns out that it is the best card versus Black/Red in the whole format. I got pretty lucky in game 3 after he destroyed my hand with Honden of Night’s Reach and a Waking Nightmare, but that was basically everything he drew in the game whilst I drew five monsters in a row and just kept turning them sideways until I won.
So now my record was 7-1-1 and I only needed 1 win out of the last 3 rounds of Constructed and I went 3-0 in the first set, so I figured I was almost a lock.
Round 10: Nick West, WW
I knew Nick’s whole list as we had done a lot of testing for this event together, but unfortunately that doesn’t help me as much as it helps him. I knew that this would be a tough game, but I didn’t mind if he made Top 8 as he is definitely a good man and deserved a Top 8 slot. In game 1 I conceded on turn 4 without having cast 1 spell. Game 2 was a lot more interesting and I think I must have screwed it up at some point as I cast 2 Triskelions and a Razormane Masticore but still managed to lose. I think this match was the one time throughout the weekend that it felt like I was being outplayed.
Round 11: Dan Paskins, RDW
Urgh. Another bad matchup and again I lost the very important die roll as being on the draw versus RDW or WW is basically impossible. This was a problem with my deck that I would rectify if I were to play it again by adding 3 Chrome Moxes. I did win game 2 when I was on the play but it was to no avail as I lost the match.
Round 12: ?????????, Mono Green
I have absolutely no idea what this dude’s name was and I had never seen him before. I was pretty mad about losing the last 2 rounds and was very determined not to lose this one too. When I saw what he was playing I was over the moon, as this matchup is a total joke. It was made even more unfair by the fact that I went turn 2-4 counters and then turn 5 Memnarch with counter back up in both games. There’s nothing like attacking your opponent for lethal with his Bird of Paradise with his Jitte attached.
I had gone 8-3-1, which was exactly the cut for Top 8 it turns out and it was at this point that I found out my quarterfinal matchup would be against Dan Paskins and his Red men. I was kind of disheartened throughout the time when we were having the Top 8 pictures taken, as I figured there was no way I would make it onto the Worlds team, which was my goal coming into the tournament.
Quarterfinals: Dan Paskins, RDW
I lose the die roll yet again (I hate to keep complaining like this) and game 1 is over very quickly as I get bashed. Game 2 he keeps a no-lander on the draw off of a mulligan to six as he has the chance for a turn 1 Slith if he gets a Mountain. Thankfully his first draw step gives him a Blinkmoth Nexus and he makes a turn 1 Hearth Kami, which really isn’t a worry. At one point in the game he still only has one land in play but does have two Moxes, so I send them back with Echoing Truth, as he only has two cards in hand so it would cost him too many resources to relay them any time soon. The game was over quite soon after as I found a Memnarch and countered his Shrapnel Blast.
For game 3 Dan made turn 1 Slith on the play and although he didn’t do much else after that, it is usually game on its own. I had to draw the natural Tron by turn 4 to have any hope and on my last draw step I got the Urza’s Mine to make and blow an Oblivion Stone. In doing this I had to tap out giving him the chance to make an Arc-Slogger, which he duly did. This meant that my next drawstep had to be an Echoing Truth so I could take it off the board as I was on a very low life total and I had the counter for it on the way back down. It must have been my day, as my next card down was the Truth I needed and now I had some sort of control over the game even though I was on a very precarious life total. I’m not sure what happened over the next few turns, but I was down to 1 and he had a Nexus in play and an Arc-Slogger in his hand with 6 mana up when it was his end step. I had just a Masticore and a Triskelion with no counters on it and he was on 9, so I had a few outs but not many and yet again, for once in my life, it was there and I drew another Echoing Truth for my own Triskelion to put him down to exactly 0 the trun before I died. He was really good about it too, as I would’ve been really mad if some idiot lucksack (like me) did that too me.
Semifinals: Richard Moore, WW
Sigh… another bad matchup, but this time it was against one of my flatmates so we played in a really friendly manner. He won the die roll (obviously) and smashed the crap out of me game 1. Game 2 I cast a lot of counterspells in the first few turns and then made a Memnarch on an empty board, so that was all to plan. Game 3 however was kind of annoying as he played so badly, yet still won. The situation was I was at one with a Masticore in play and he had just a Lantern Kami during his turn. He attacks and I have the bounce spell so as to survive and he just absent mindedly recasts it after combat and lets it die to my Masticore rather than waiting for another flying creature to kill me with. Obviously in his next three draw phases he gets an Isamaru to chump with thanks to his Eiganjo Castle and two more fliers to lock up the game. That’s a pretty bad beat when you’re playing for a spot in the finals of Nats but hey, never mind. He would go on to win the whole event after grinding in the day before, which was pretty cool as at least the winning trophy was coming back to my place.
3rd – 4th place playoff: Neil Rigby, Pristine Angel control
Last year, this guy made the team playing three maindeck Darksteel Gargoyles in what was otherwise a solid deck that later many people played at Worlds. Needless to say, he went 6-0 in Limited this year, but his record was good in Constructed too. We talked about doing a prize split before the match started and while we were talking we looked over the decklists and both figured it was going to be an easy matchup for him as he had access to a lot more hard counterspells than I did. It turns out that it is actually very good for me as the Urza’s lands plus Sensei’s Divining Top are both extremely powerful in the control mirror. Game 1 he got a bit screwed and I bounced his Talismans at a crucial time to deny him much Blue mana. Game 2 I again screwed him a bit, but this time it was due to me casting Shifting Borders on his lone Island so he had a hand full of 5 counters by the end of the game without any way of casting them. Game 3 I drew the Tron very early and was able to force through several threats, any one of which would’ve won me the match. All in all, this best of 5 Mono-Blue mirror lasted less than an hour and we were all very relieved to be able to get home at a reasonable time.
If I were to play the tournament again I would still play the deck as I do believe that it is the best in the format, but it just needs a few changes so as to be able to handle the beatdown decks a bit easier.
The only cards that might want to get cut is the Oblivion Stones, as you have added Moxes so they have obviously become a lot worse. Cards that I might want to put into the deck are some Talismans if there tend to be a lot of beatdown decks in your area or maybe some maindeck Annuls if there is lots of control. That’s about all I have to say and if you’ve made it this far then you are a better man than I, so props to you for doing it and thanks for reading. I hope it wasn’t too boring and I am still kinda new at this, so until next time peace out.