For my first nationals, we had what was probably the biggest test group ever for a Dutch National Championship. It was also spread throughout the entire country, which is rare, since the Netherlands usually splits up in several regional testing groups for Nats. At first, everybody in our testing group thought that the G/W Slide deck was insane. Looking at the Nationals Qualifiers, we expected a lot of Ravager and U/W Control decks. U/W was considered a bye for G/W in our group back then, since we had put no Mindslavers in the U/W deck. Oops.
Ravager was good after sideboarding, since then we had four Viridian Shamans and four Oxidize. Then the French Nationals happened and put Goblins and other Red strategies back on top. G/W had a horrible matchup against Goblins, and we tried to fix that, but most of us lost faith in the deck, including me. So I took what served me well at GP: Brussels: the Goblin-deck. I ended up playing Ruel’s deck with a few adjustments. I was expecting a lot more Goblins than and less Ravager-decks, so I put the Electrostatic Bolts in the side and the Gempalm Incinerators in the main. Nassif also told Jeroen to never run less than four Clickslither, so I did that. Here’s what I ended up with:
3 City of Brass
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Goblin Sledder
4 Skirk Prospector
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Goblin Warchief
4 Goblin Sharpshooter
4 Gempalm Incinerator
4 Siege-Gang Commander
2 Patriarch’s Bidding
4 Electrostatic Bolt
3 Sulfuric Vortex
1 Tendrils of Agony
1 Patriarch’s Bidding
Most of the choices are pretty obvious, but the Tendrils of Agony in the board is probably confusing you. Here in the Netherlands, there’s always at least one wacko running Worship plus a creature you can’t target, and this is a good out, since it can’t really be countered. It’s also okay against Circle of Protection, if Patriarch’s Bidding can’t solve that problem.
Round 1: Ka-Way Cheung
Ka-Way ran the U/W-Control deck, not too good of a matchup for me. He simply did what he was supposed to do: play the Circle of Protection, Wrath away the board from time to time, and counter my Bidding. I was a bit disappointed, but I figured that now that I had my bad matchup, good matchups were waiting for me.
Round 2: Kevin Grove
I had no idea what he was running until he played a Forest and an Island followed by Fertile Ground. Mind’s Desire… nice. This would mean that I had to find a Goblin Piledriver or Goblin Warchief to win. I did that game one, but games two and three, he outraces me by going off as quickly as turn 4.
Round 3: Marco Duijnisveld
I didn’t know Marco, but after the match I found out he had been on the Dutch national team twice. He did tell me that he was out of Magic for a while and I noticed that, since he made a few mistakes – mainly concerning timing or stacking rules. He also ran Goblin Bidding, but with Plunge into Darkness, which gave me a big advantage in game one, so I won that game. When I almost obtained board control in the second game, he played Oversold Cemetery. Ouch. He started recurring Siege-Gang Commanders and Gempalm Incinerators, and I wasn’t able to get the last points of damage through. I can’t really remember game 3, but somehow I managed to win it.
1-2 after three rounds, not quite what I expected or hoped for. At least I’d get a bad draft table now. Or so I thought….
Draft 1 (1-2 bracket)
Michael van Luijtelaar
Tom van de Logt
Michael de Vries
What? Tom and Frank in the 1-2 bracket? I was rather surprised so when Frank offered me a split, I didn’t hesitate to accept. There’s a thing about Frank, at least they say so – whenever you split with Frank, you will do well in your tournament. It worked for me in the past, and since my hopes for now weren’t too high, I thought, what the heck, why not? And then Frank first-picked a Gilded Lotus….
I first-picked a Copper Myr (I do that from time to time), and the second pick gave me another bad booster, so I picked Flayed Nim. Then I got a Leonin Skyhunter, and fourth-pick Granite Shard, which I took as a signal since it’s usually a card you’d love to pick first. Then I got an Altar’s Light, so I figured I’d play R/W, which is a reasonably good deck. Next was Darksteel…
Except for Murderous Spoils, my own booster wasn’t all that exciting, so I decided to take the gamble. I picked up two Grimclaw Bats, two Dross Golem and an Emissary of Despair, so the gamble worked out fine. Now I had to make a decision – Red or White. White is better in Fifth Dawn in my opinion, so I picked two Stasis Cocoons first and second. When I got passed a Blind Creeper third, I knew I was in the right color, and my deck rounded up nicely with a few Fleshgrafters.
1 Copper Myr
1 Blind Creeper
2 Grimclaw Bats
1 Leonin Skyhunter
1 Elf Replica
2 Dross Golem
1 Emissary of Despair
1 Scavenging Scarab
1 Cackling Imp
1 Flayed Nim
1 Leonin Bola
2 Stasis Cocoon
1 Baton of Courage
1 Fill with Fright
1 Altar’s Light
1 Murderous Spoils
1 Tree of Tales
My deck was okay, and if I could avoid Tom and Frank, I might do really well at the table. I can’t recall too much of the draft games, so I won’t try to discuss them in detail, but I managed to avoid both Tom and Frank, and ended up 2-1 with my deck. Now I had to win all my remaining matches to get to the top 8.
Draft 2 (3-3 bracket)
My pod was as follows:
Jasper de Jong
Michael De Vries
Tijs De Kler
I knew every player in the draft and they aren’t really too bad or too good, so I was relatively comfortable with this pod. I started off with an Icy Manipulator, a card I love to pick first since it fits in every single deck strategy. Then I got passed Neurok Spy, a Cobalt Golem from a bad booster, and then a pair of Silver Myr. I love picking Myr very early; even first-pick them sometimes, and the fact that I got two on-colored ones relatively late pleased me. I also picked a Chromatic Sphere and Seat of the Synod, making an Affinity-based deck possible. After some more packs, I got to choose between another Cobalt Golem and an Irradiate. I had not taken any cards that weren’t artifacts or Blue yet, so Black would be a good choice for my deck, since a lot of the color’s cards are good in affinity-strategies. When I got passed another Irradiate, I knew I made the right pick.
The first three picks of the Darksteel boosters were really good for me: Arcbound Ravager, Chromescale Drake, and the best card of the set: Wand of the Elements. I got to choose between Vedalken Engineer and Spire Golem, and since I planned on playing about ten Islands at that time and the Golem helps my affinity from time to time, I picked the big guy. Then I got a rather late Echoing Decay, but there also was an Arcbound Worker, which I really wanted in my deck. When I took another look at the booster though, I figured it would come back to me, which it did. The rest of Darksteel gave me Specter’s Shroud, Darksteel Citadel, and Drill Skimmer.
In Fifth Dawn I opened up a weak booster, but there was a Pentad Prism in the pack, which I really wanted in my deck. I know the card quality isn’t what you would expect from a first pick, but it was exactly what my deck needed. I then got passed two great creatures in Qumulox and Synod Centurion, and picked up some other artifact creatures and a Baton of Courage for some extra tricks. My deck ended up like this:
1 Arcbound Worker
2 Silver Myr
1 Arcbound Ravager
1 Spire Golem
1 Battered Golem
1 Neurok Spy
1 Myr Quadropod
1 Synod Centurion
1 Cobalt Golem
1 Chromescale Drake
1 Wand of the Elements
1 Wayfarer’s Bauble
1 Pentad Prism
1 Chromatic Sphere
1 Baton of Courage
1 Specter’s Shroud
1 Echoing Decay
1 Icy Manipulator
1 Darksteel Citadel
1 Seat of the Synod
This draft gave me a lot of hope, since my deck looked really good. I was pretty confident I could 3-0 my pod.
Round 7: Jasper de Jong
Jasper was my teammate at Grand Prix: Bochum, and he had drafted a Green/Red anti-artifact deck, starting game one with a Relic Barrier and Viridian Shaman. Not too shabby. I took the game mainly with the humongous Qumulox. Game two, I get to abuse the raw power of Wand of the Elements.
Round 8: Jonne Assen
Jonne had a Black/Red deck, with a lot of Gray Ogres and the usual removal spells. Game one I had the massive Synod Centurion and some other guys, and game two I won mainly because he failed to draw his Black mana sources. When he found one, he had to waste his Echoing Decay to prevent two damage so he could live another turn.
Round 9: Matthias Straetmans
Matthias was next to me in the draft, and what amazed me was the fact that he had drafted a deck with the same colors as I had – Blue and Black. Unfortunately for him, his deck was a lot worse than mine. Game one he put on a lot of pressure with double Clockwork Vorrac and some other guys, but I managed to outrace him using evasion creatures. There were some tap wars going on, with both of us having an Icy Manipulator, and his Leonin Bola didn’t help me at all. Game two was much less tense, since the power of my deck just crushed him.
Phew, 5-1-ed the Limited part, now back to Constructed. At that moment in time, I figured my chances were reasonable, depending on the matchups I was faced with.
Round 10: Noah Boeken
Everybody knows Noah. He’s been European Champion and has a lot of strong finishes in other premiere tournaments. I knew he was playing Goblin Bidding, which he hated, ever since he found out the existence of Circle of Protection: Red in the format.
Game one I started fast with two Goblin Sledders and a Skirk Prospector, while he stalled on two lands for some turns. I made a Warchief, and my Skirk Prospector caught an Electrostatic Bolt. Noah didn’t have too much action going on, since he was still stalled on land. Sparksmith blasts away his creatures, but when he finds enough lands to cast his Clickslither, he finally stabilizes the board at five life. He now has a hand full of spells, while I am out of gas and find some more lands, so he won.
Game two I opened a hand with a lot of Sparksmiths and a Goblin Sharpshooter. It was a decent hand, but I was worried I wouldn’t be able to deal a lot of damage after getting the board under control. Clickslither solved that problem and combined with a Siege-Gang Commander to give me game 2.
The third game was somewhat closer, with both Noah and I trading creatures from time to time. Then when Noah’s board was empty, I thought for a while whether he could have Starstorm, but for some reason I doubted that he played them, and I cast my Siege-Gang Commander. He did have the Starstorm, but he used it on my end step, after I had untapped, taking eleven damage in the process. After the match, he admitted he had misplayed, and realized this the second after he passed the turn. The last points of damage weren’t hard to deal with another Siege-Gang Commander.
Round 11: Gerjal Ter Wal
Gerjan also ran Goblin Bidding, so I was faced with yet another mirror match. I won game one, but in game two he stabilized after my creature rush with an Oversold Cemetery. Game three is pretty close and I think the crucial play that lets me win was him throwing away a Goblin Sledder. I had double-blocked his Goblin Warchief with Goblin Sledder and Skirk Prospector, damage was put onto the stack (two to my Sledder), and he tried to pump up his Warchief with a Sledder. I responded with a Bolt on the Chief, to which he responded to by pumping it again. Lucky me.
Round 12: Chen Ziming
There I was, after starting off 1-3, I now needed only one more win to seal a spot in the top 8. I thought I knew what everybody with my amount of points was playing, but when I saw my opponent, I had no idea what he was playing. He also had a striking comeback, from 0-3, he was currently in the 8-3 bracket. It turned out he was playing G/B Death Cloud, which was actually a pretty good matchup for me.
He had a nice start with turn 2 Vine Trellis and turn 3 Ravenous Baloth. I got out some Goblins and then he played a morph, probably Bane of the Living. A turn later I played Siege-Gang Commander, giving me a full board, but I passed the turn since he could just block all of my good creatures and take some damage, and not be forced to use the Bane. He used it on his next turn, but I had plenty of gas left, with Goblin Sledder keeping some of my guys alive and two Clickslithers plus another Siege-Gang in my hand. He tried to stabilize with Oversold Cemetery and Ravenous Baloth, but the gas I had left in my hand allowed me to finish him off just in time.
Sideboarding gave me access to Sulfuric Vortex and Smother to deal with his Walls, Witness, morphed Bane and others, and after thinking for a while, I decided to board out my Biddings. He would probably have Withered Wretch or maybe even Death Cloud, so it seemed like Bidding would be a dead card. It turned out that he had kept his Clouds in as a plan against my Biddings.
He had a turn 3 Baloth again and I made some Goblins, forcing another board-clearing Bane of the Living. Meanwhile, Vortex was keeping him on a clock, with him at fourteen and me at fifteen life. I wasn’t able to put on a lot more pressure, and he was setting up an Oversold Cemetery recursion. I managed to find a Clickslither to put him under a lot of pressure, and somewhere in the next few turns, he dies from Sulfuric Vortex and Clickslither beatings.
Yay, top 8 after a horrible start. The whole top 8 looked like this:
1 Jelger Wiegersma 28
2 Niels Noorlander 27
3 Julien Nuijten 27
4 Jeroen Remie 26
5 Stijn Cornelissen 26
6 Roel Van Heeswijk 26
7 Rogier Maaten 26
8 Jasper Blaas 25
(Coverage of the top 8 can be read here: http://www.kvdeckmasters.nl/Artikelen/Artikelen_nk2004_dag3.html)
Quarterfinals: Roel van Heeswijk
Roel was my teammate at GP: Bochum, and has been to a couple of Pro Tours. He was part of our testing group, as were another three of the top 8 competitors. As I said earlier, during testing most of us lost faith in the G/W Slide deck, but Roel didn’t. And here he is, playing in the top 8. Game one should always be mine, but after sideboarding he has access to both Scrabbling Claws and Circle of Protection: Red, which can be a pain. However, the post-boarding matchup is still in my favor, since he probably has to draw a Circle, Scrabbling Claws, and one or more Wraths of God.
I started game one off with some cheap Goblins, and sacced them for mana to produce a Siege-Gang Commander in my third turn, when he only had two lands. He didn’t even have a Wrath of God, so goblins combined with a Clickslither took down game one.
Here’s how I boarded:
-2 Sharpshooter, -3 Sparksmith, + 1 Patriarchs Bidding, +3 Sulfuric Vortex, +1 Tendrils of Agony
What, side the Shooters out? Well, I did, and found out about how bad that was a few games later. I don’t know what I was thinking, but obviously it’s a fair answer to the Circle of Protection. In a later game, I took out some Gempalms and put the Sharpshooters back in.
Fortunately, Roel didn’t have Circle of Protection in game two. He Vengeanced away my Warchief/Siege-Gang board, but I was able to keep the pressure on him with Clickslither and two more Warchiefs. After a few more Wrath, I cast Patriarch’s Bidding and the game was over.
Game three Roel had turn 2 CoP: Red and turn 3 Scrabbling Claws. I tried to apply some pressure by just overextending with some Siege-Gang Commanders, but a Decree of Justice killed me in the end.
In the fourth game, he also had a Circle of Protection, but no Wrath of God or Scrabbling Claws, so I was able to overextend into his Circle, forcing him to use his Akroma’s Vengeance. I had some gas left in my hand and kill him off with it.
Semifinals: Rogier Maaten
Ah, the champ himself. Rogier had won last year’s Nationals, and wasn’t about to let his title slip away. He had been playing Ravager Affinity since the beginning of time, and he was playing a version that is best in my opinion, the Dutch version, similar to the build Frank used to place third at GP: Zurich.
I mulliganed two horrible hands, but the third was even worse with only a Goblin Piledriver and four lands. Since I was already at just five cards, I decided to keep. He started quickly with an Arcbound Worker and three Frogmites on the second turn. I managed to find a Goblin Warchief by turn 3, and some smaller Goblins and a Gempalm Incinerator for the fourth turn. It seemed that Rogier was running out of gas, and he continued to draw and play out his lands. I traded some of my Goblins for the Frogmites, and then Patriarch’s Bidding brought my guys back, forcing him to topdeck or scoop up his cards. He did the latter.
+4 Electrostatic Bolt, +3 Shatter, +2 Smother, +1 Sparksmith, -4 Clickslither, -4 Goblin Piledriver, -2 Patriarch’s Bidding
The second game, we traded some guys, and my Goblins died from Pyroclasm, but when I Shattered his Great Furnace, he was stuck with two more Pyroclasms in his hand. A Goblin Warchief and some smaller Goblins quickly ended the game.
In game three we both had a fast start, but he took the initiative by equipping Ornithopter with Cranial Plating. I used some removal to clear his board, and then he cleared my side again with a Clasm. The game ended soon after that, when I didn’t have an answer to his Blinkmoth Nexus with Cranial Plating.
The last game wasn’t all too exciting, as he mulliganed to five and I went into an aggressive game plan. He wasn’t able to cope with that, since I just destroyed every creature he made and he got stuck at too few lands.
Finals: Jeroen Remie
Jeroen… who doesn’t know him? He’s just won a Pro Tour and was on his way winning his Nationals. He ran Nassif’s land destruction deck from French Nationals.
The first game, we both took a mulligan, and all I had to do is make some random guys, since he seemed to be drawing nothing but lands. I put in Sulfuric Vortexes and Shatters for his Culling Scales and maybe Stalking Stones. The second game I kept a hand with Sulfuric Vortex and Shatter, meaning the Vortex was there to stay. I drew another Shatter, but unfortunately he had three Culling Scales and could now focus on destroying my lands. Once he reached six mana, Rorix Bladewing came down to eat away my life points.
The third game, I kept a six-card two-land hand, meaning he’d probably destroy both of my lands. Therefore I made my Warchief on turn 2 with the help of a Prospector. Once my lands were gone, he started cycling some Lay Wastes, getting some laughter from the crowd. When I found my lands, I was able to make a Clickslither and another Warchief, but he had already used Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] on me, so I could not attack, because if I did, he would have been able to mana burn to one and Pulse me out three times. So I just went Clickslither, go. It didn’t matter, as he had a second Forge[/author]“]Pulse of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] in his hand.
The fourth game I kept a rather dangerous hand, with two Sulfuric Vortex as only ways to put on pressure, and a City of Brass. I made some random Goblins and two Vortexes, but he managed to get ahead in the damage race with a Molten Rain on my City of Brass, so my own Vortexes killed me. How ironic, I came all the way up to the finals and end up killing myself.
In the end, I was very happy at making the national team after such a bad start, but you’re always a bit disappointed when you’ve made it so far and barely miss winning it all. At least now I know to never to give up if you’ve had a bad start, even if the chances seem unrealistic. I’m also very happy with our testing group, since five of the top 8 competitors were part of it, and all, but one (Roel) advanced to the final 4.