Worlds 2006 – How It Happened, Part 1 *T8*

With his Level 5 status locked in before the event began, Tiago approached Worlds with a relaxed eye. Hours of pre-tournament testing was not for him – he knew his deck early on, and planned to run with the fun choice. Even so, his exceptional talent and dependable luck propelled him into the Top 8 after three gruelling days of play. Tiago shares the highs and the lows of the event today…

It’s still hard to believe all the good things that happened to me in Magic lately. Worlds 2006 was the peak of it. Not only did I reach the Top 8, but I also guaranteed Level 6 in the Pro Player’s Club for the 2007 season. Going into Paris, I was already a lock for Level 5, and I wasn’t thinking about a level up… I just wanted to do my best and win as many rounds as possible. I had a sense of “mission accomplished” for this season, and that allowed me to play with much more relaxed attitude. But to actually get to this position, I went through a lot. There was hard work, not only at GP: Athens and PT: Kobe, but also Grand Prix: New Jersey and GP: Yamagata. I’d grabbed the points I needed to lock Level 5, but it left me physically and mentally exhausted.

Most of my preparation for Worlds was done during the trip to New Jersey and Yamagata with everyone in the crew. All of us had the same problem — we didn’t have enough time to test due to the trip, so we tested together in hotel rooms, hotel lobbies, airports, and planes. Of course, most of the time we just drafted, but we did some Constructed testing as well. As Rich Hoaen (probably) said: “Constructed feels like homework, while drafting is skipping classes.” After GP: Yamagata, we split into smaller groups. I was invited to join the Dutchies, either at Julien’s place with Gadiel, the Cak, and Wessel in Amsterdam, or go to Frank’s place in Eindhoven with him, Quentin, Rasmus, and Bernardo. After a flight from Tokyo to Houston, Houston to Paris, and Paris to Amsterdam, I was too tired. I went to the KLM counter see if it was possible to reschedule my flight back to Portugal.

Don’t get me wrong. I had an amazing time with everyone in New Jersey and Yamagata, and would have enjoyed continuing the fun with them either in Amsterdam or Eindhoven. But sometimes you have to go back to the Real World. I was very tired, and I’d been away from home for fifteen days. I’d already done some testing to Worlds… I did not desperately need any finish at Worlds, since I was already a lock for Level 5, with only a Top 8 finish working out with me levelling up. After considering everything, I decided it was time to go back to Lisbon and take a rest.

I spent the vast majority of time sleeping. The Portuguese weren’t into testing much; they were just playing MTGO. They were all pretty much set on playing Izzetron in Standard and Boros in Extended. Here’s how things usually work here: no one has a clue about what to play, until someone eventually settles on a deck. Then a second player chooses the same deck, just because the first player did so, thinking “if he’s playing it, it must be good…” until eventually, everyone else follows. This time, however, there was at least a valid argument: if you expect a metagame with few beatdown decks and more control (or soft control) decks, Izzetron with Think Twice is a good choice. I wasn’t too convinced by it, but nevertheless I borrowed some cards and built a copy for myself as well.

My other deck was a personal choice. At PT: Kobe I saw a girl playing a side event tournament, the $1000 bash for amateurs. Her deck was U/W/R good stuff that resembled Solar Flare, with the reanimation engine, but packing Lightning Angel. She lost in the finals, and even though I didn’t have access to the decklist, it wasn’t too hard to build it simply by remembering the cards I saw. Later I came to know that I only missed the exact build by a couple of cards. With States occurring the week after PT: Kobe, I planned to give the deck a try. I showed some friends the decklist, but their answers were “This deck is terrible! You’re awful! Just play Solar Flare… why Red? Black is better.” I took the deck to a 5-1 finish at States, and knew that it had a lot of potential. A week after, and there’s a list from Kenji Tsumura who finished second at his States playing a decklist only a couple of cards different than the build I had. Suddenly the deck became very well known; even some of the guys who badmouthed it before copied and built Kenji’s list!

I made the choice between Izzetron and Lightning Angel on the plane from Lisbon to Paris. After much thinking I realized I should just follow the advice I give the most – pick the deck that you’re more comfortable with, the deck you played the most, the deck that you like! Even if it was not the correct choice, I was under no pressure… there was no need for me to post any significant finish at Worlds, so I was going to play the deck that I liked. I knew that Frank Karsten and Quentin Martin were tuning the deck during the Grand Prix tournaments at NJ and Yamagata. They had removed the reanimation components and had up to four Demonfires, making the deck feel more like a Big Burn deck. At the player’s registration I talked with both to ask for advice about the deck. Turns out they’re both playing the same deck, and they didn’t mind sharing their decklist with me. This is deck they gave me; the one I registered to play.

This deck is very, very good by itself. It may not be the correct choice for this metagame — in fact, I don’t think it is right now – but it plays with some of the most powerful cards available in Standard. I went 5-1 with it, and both Frank and Quentin went 4-2, having played against each other in round 1. This deck has good matchups against creature decks, and versus control decks you just need to put them in a Demonfire range. Against Martyr.dec though, that’s another story…

I felt more confident after I choose this deck, even if it was not the correct choice, just because this was the deck I played the most previously to Worlds and the one I had playtested against a variety of matchups. Day 1 rewarded me with a nice result of 5-1, and I’m going to present some brief comments on each round.

Day 1

Round 1: Gerry Thompson — U/W/R Control

UWR Control has many sub categories. Even though I saw Firemane Angel, doesn’t mean it’s a pure Firemane Angel control deck. His weak draws didn’t show me many more cards and both games went like this:

I play a Lightning Angel, he plays Firemane Angel.
I kill his Firemane and continue sneaking some points, until my Lightning Angel is Condemned.
He pays ten to bring back his Firemane, and I play Bogardan Hellkite dealing three do the Firemane and two to him.
I attack with my Dragon and Demonfire for X.

Overall, I didn’t see many cards from him, even though he played some Compulsive Researches.

1 — 0

Round 2: Max Sjoblom — U/R snow

This is a tough matchup, and like other counter-heavy decks, the plan is cast a hellbent Demonfire for his life total. It might be difficult to put him in Demonfire range since he can virtually counter all your other threats.

Game 1 he mulliganed to five, but managed to recover after countering most of my threats and playing three Careful Considerations. I took advantage of him tapping out to sneak some extra points here and there, until I finally play Compulsive Research just to dump some cards to the graveyard and play a lethal Demonfire empty handed. I was wary of Repeal on my Signet, but fortunately he was half tapped out, and didn’t have enough mana for Repeal plus counter-magic.

Game 2 went much more in his favor. He countered absolutely everything and refilled with some card drawing. Then he dropped Blood Moon, which absolutely crippled my manabase. It took him some time to find a win condition, which was either Teferi or Rimefeather Owl.

Game 3 sees him stall on three Islands and a Scrying Sheets for some turns, so no Red cards (and no Blood Moon). I managed to get a Sacred Mesa in play, but he had double Phyrexian Ironfoot on offense so I was also doing some blocks with tokens, to stay out of his Demonfire range. Finally, down comes a big Rimefeather Owl, and it seems the game will be a draw on the extra turns. I took the opportunity (when he was tapped to play the Owl) to play a Demonfire, then in the extra turns I empty my hand to play a hellbent Demonfire on the last turn.

2 — 0

Round 3: Balazs Varady — Solar Pox

In game 1 I didn’t see any of the Solar Pox cards, so I thought the deck was either Pox or Flare. I only saw Court Hussars, Wrath, and Mortify for my Lightning Angels, but they were doing the job sneaking for some points and then trading for a removal spell. The game ended with an end of turn Bogardan Hellkite, attack, and Demonfire.

Game 2 he slowed me down with a Smallpox. He discarded an Akroma with Peace of Mind, and reanimated it with Dread Return. Racing an Akroma is quite hard, even moreso if he can gain life with Peace of Mind. I just dug through my deck for a solution to the Akroma, and failed to find one in the few turns I had.

Game 3 I played two Giant Solifuges, immune to Mortify and Condemns, and I was hoping he sided out his Wraths. He had Peace of Mind again, but only had one White mana so he could only activate it once a turn. He reanimated an Angel of Despair to stop my attacks, but once again I drew one of my four Demonfires (or maybe I got it with Compulsive or Hussar). I played it on the Angel, and attacked with both Solifuges for the win.

3 — 0

Round 4: Masami Ibamoto — Dragonstorm

A bad matchup. Here you only have a couple of plans according to Frank Karsten.

Plan A: Dragonstorm loses by itself not drawing his combo.
Plan B: Lightning Helix him to gain three life, and sit at 23. Chump-block his Hunted Dragon with Lightning Angel, and play Wrath on your turn.
Plan C: Ivory Mask out of the sideboard.

Game 1 he has a suboptimal draw, and yet he still wins quite easily. Game 2 he just digs through his deck, finally losing after drawing nothing relevant. Game 3 is the interesting one, or at least the one that contained card interactions.

I play Ivory Mask, so he had to be more cautious with his Dragonstorms. At the cost of many life points and some removal spells – either Wrath or Lightning Angel plus Helix, or Demonfire – I managed to kill all the Dragons in his deck. He’s still playing it out, and at some point he tries to Demonfire me for infinite, but I pointed him the Ivory Mask. He takes it back and we continue to play draw-go, so I assume he’s trying to draw into Repeal for the win, or is just hoping time runs out before I draw something to kill him. I’m only drawing useless Compulsive Researches, as I can’t be targeted. We go into extra turns, and I have an active Urza’s Factory making some tokens. He finally uses Demonfire to kill one of my tokens, and this move allows him to stay alive after the extra turns. At this point Helix, Demonfire, Lightning Angel would’ve allowed me to win, so after some Remand tricks to cycle through our decks, I drew Demonfire for the remaining two life points he had on my final turn.

4 — 0

Round 5: Wai Kin Au Yong – Zoo

This was by far the most unbalanced match I had at Worlds. The matchup I believe is in my favour, but his draws were quite bad. In the first game, I only saw three Kird Apes and some random burn spell. The Kird Apes weren’t even turn 1 Ape and turn 2 double Ape, but instead spread across the turns. I didn’t have problems winning this one. The second game was even more unfair, as he mulligans and keeps a one-land hand, fails to draw a second one for a while, and when he does I already have Lightning Angel… so his plan is burn me out from twenty to zero faster than my Angel can return the favor. I was holding Helix and Faith’s Fetters, so it was one of those games where you know you’ll win.

5 — 0

Round 6: Willy Edel — Boros

Boros is a good matchup for this deck, but Willy drew his good cards against me – multiple Scorched Rusalkas and multiple Solifuges as his only creatures, and the rest only burn spells. For example, his Icatian Javelineers and Knight of Holy Nimbus are quite bad against my deck. I could have a chance if I went first, but my first play was a turn 3 Court Hussar that he killed, and I didn’t even had the Wrath to follow.

I never thought I could lose Game 2, as I had two Court Hussars and Lightning Angel to Willy’s Savannah Lions, and I was holding Faith’s Fetters and Lightning Helix, while my life was near twenty. I even discarded two Wraths to a Compulsive to keep some lands, as I had a Sacred Mesa in my hand. However, Willy killed my Angel, both my Hussars, and then played a Solifuge and attacked with that and the Lions. I played Helix on the Lions – he cast Honorable Passage, and I took nine. I played Fetters on the Lions, going back to safe digits, and he swung again with the Solifuge. I played Sacred Mesa with mana to make some tokens. He attacked again with the Solifuge, trampled some damage over to me, and pointed Helix and Char at my face. During the whole game, he never had more than two or three cards in his hand… As the Brazilians said after the match, Willy’s drawing arm is hoooot!

5 — 1

I played against six different decks, and it went well. Maybe I was a little unfortunate losing against Boros, but I was definitely lucky winning against Dragonstorm, which is an unfavourable matchup. I came out on top in other close matchups too, such as U/R snow and Solar Pox.

The next six rounds were Time Spiral Draft, a format I’m very comfortable with. I had the experience of five drafts at PT: Kobe, and made Day 2 in three Grand Prix tournaments… but most importantly, I had countless hours of side drafts at the tournament sites, hotel lobbies, and even on trains, against some of the best players in the world. The funny fact is that I see myself more of a Limited player than a Constructed one… maybe I just need to play good decks in Constructed in order to do well.

In between New Jersey and Yamagata I came up with a rule to guide me while I’m drafting. It all started in GP: New Jersey where I had a very good deck – only good cards and some rares such as Sacred Mesa, Magus of the Disk, Weathered Bodyguards, and Soul Collector among others… and yet I posted a bad result. I started to notice that when I draft White decks they rarely perform well – or at least that’s the case when I run with aggressive White decks. If I were to make a pick order right now, I would rank the Rebels way below the norm, and probably have good stuff like Castle Raptors on top of the list. My new plan was to ignore White, and draft one of the removal colors (Red or Black – one of these but not both). That leaves the following as possibilities:


Since then, this plan has worked out fine for me, with at least a positive score in each draft I’ve done. One time I tried for Blue/Green, and I posted a 1-2. Keep in mind that, in draft, nothing is eternal. What’s true today can be a lie tomorrow. Take, as an example, the pick orders — they are consistently changing. A plan like this is only good as long as it’s winning. As the draft metagame evolves, new plans are needed. My latest draft offline was a booster draft 4-on-4, where I first picked a Clockwork Hydra out of a weak pack and then moved into White/Blue. It means a plan is only a guideline reference – each draft is different, and you have to adapt to what you open and what you’re passed. One of your goals in the draft table is to draft the best deck as you can.

Day 2

I finished Day 1 in ninth place, which meant I would be drafting at Pod 2 along with some very strong players, and receiving from fellow countryman Paulo Carvalho (who, by the way, is not related to Márcio Carvalho).

Pod 2:

1 — Gulyas, Daniel — 15
2 — Saito, Tomoharu — 15
3 — Wang, Xuan-Ji — 15
4 — Carvalho, Paulo — 15
5 — Chan, Tiago — 15
6 — Ibamoto, Masami — 15
7 — Oberek, Przemek — 15
8 — Hamon, Yann Y — 15

I would like to say hello the boys at Mox Radio, and thank them for their excellent job in covering European events – thanks for occasionally picking me as a player to follow! Right now, I’m listening to their podcast (where they covered my draft in detail), and that allows me to remember what happened much more accurately.

Pack 1:

1- Lightning Axe over Nightshade Assassin; pretty much the only two cards worthy, and I know I can play the Axe even as a splash.
2- Durkwood Baloth over Undying Rage.
3- Tendrils of Corruption was the best card. I can go Green/Red or Green/Black at this point, splashing the Axe if I need.
4- Might of Old Krosa over Fathom Seer and Looter il-Kor. I tried to stick to the plan of G/R or G/B splash Red. It would be a mess if my first four picks were cards from four different colors. (Paulo later told me he picked Riftwing Cloudskate from this pack).
5- Search for Tomorrow over nothing relevant. A good pick, and it allows me to more easily splash the Axe or other cards (possibly if I open Strangling Soot).
6- Flowstone Channeler over Trespasser il-Vec.
7- Ashcoat Bear
8- Gemhide Sliver
9- Penumbra Spider
14- Savage Thallid

At this point I was Green for sure, but I still hadn’t committed to either Black or Red, and had a Search for Tomorrow and a Gemhide Sliver to help with the splashing.

Pack 2:

1- Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder over Weatherseed Totem and Yavimaya Dryad. Once again, a card that would make it into my deck be it as a main color or as a splash.
2- Orcish Cannonade; pretty much the only card in my colors, so at this point I hoped for Green/Red splashing Black for Endrek Sahr and (hopefully) any copies of Strangling Soot. I got the feeling that I would receive more Red than Black for the rest of the packs. The only Black cards I had so far were a Tendrils of Corruption – a third pick just to see how the draft would go that was already dismissed – and Endrek Sahr, which is easily splashed.
3- Sporesower Thallid over Undertaker.
4- Gemhide Sliver.
5- Strength in Numbers over Empty the Warrens.
6- Nantuko Shaman
7- Thallid Germinator over Urza’s Factory
8- Bogardan Rager; I don’t mind playing one of these guys when I’m Red. It’s a fine trick, and sometimes allow you to deal a lot of damage.
9- Herd Gnarr

Pack 3:

1- Magus of the Scroll.
2- Durkwood Baloth.
3- Might Sliver.
4- Pendelhaven Elder (pretty bad pack – I wasn’t in the Empty the Warrens plan).
5- Havenwood Wurm (another weak one).
6- Subterranean Shambler
7- Flowstone Channeler
8- Mogg War Marshal
9- Ashcoat Bear

I got some more late picks in each pack, like Scarwood Treefolk, Wormwood Dryad, Aether Web, and Viscerid Lemures. In the end I built this deck:

Overall… it seems pretty bad! And to be honest, it’s not very good and I wasn’t very optimistic when I registered this deck. Looking back, I had to go Green and I’m happy I did with that second pick Baloth. I could go Blue in pick 4, with Looter or Fathom Seer, but no other Blue cards came. Both Masami Ibamoto to my left and Paulo Carvalho to my right were Blue. I could’ve probably decided earlier between Black or Red, but it didn’t affected that many picks. Maybe it could’ve improved the deck a bit, but that wasn’t the overall factor affecting the strength of the deck. The thing is, when you are passed weak packs and your deck ends up being just average, chances are that most of the decks at the table are low on power as well. With the exception of Paulo Carvalho, who had an amazing Blue/White deck, I didn’t see any ridiculous deck at our table.

Round 7: Tomoharu Saitou — Blue/White splash Disintegrate

Tomoharu started with a mulligan, but had a good start with turn 2 Coral Trickster, turns 3 and 4 Spiketail Drakeling. I play turn 2 Ashcoat Bear, turn 3 Mogg War Marshall to stop his Trickster, and turn 4 Penumbra Spider (which he countered with one of the Drakelings… but he played a third one on his next turn). I suspend a Nantuko Shaman, and the game is a race, as I have no way to stop the two remaining Drakes in the air. Tomoharu is stuck on three lands and bounces back my Nantuko Shaman on the end of turn, after I attacked and played a Flowstone Channeler. The next turn I replay the Shaman and give him haste with the Channeler. After the attack our life totals are around five life each, but he’s left with only one Drake that he leaves on defense. I show him an Orcish Cannonade, and he concedes.

For game 2 I sideboard in a second Aether Web, and took out the Black card as the Master Breeder isn’t very good against Blue decks.

Tomoharu suspend a Riftwing Cloudskate on turn 2. He played some more creatures, and even tough I had blockers, they were tapped by Trickster and bounced multiple times with two Snapbacks. I never dealt a single point of damage, and had very little chances of blocking.

After seeing so much bounce, I took out the second Aether Web for a Scarwood Treefolk.

With eight minutes left to play, we both got fast draws. Looter il-Kor, Spiketail Drakeling, and Crookclaw Transmuter backed up by Snapback for Tomoharu, while I had Durkwood Baloth suspended on turn 1, then a Gemhide Sliver that allowed me to speed both Penumbra Spider and Nantuko Shaman into play. I was a little behind, but then the counters on Baloth faded and I made a big attack with the Baloth and a 4/4 Herd Gnarr. At this point, we were both on low life, and Tomoharu had already discarded a Disintegrate to the Looter on turn 3, so I was feeling safe against a Blue/White deck. My Baloth was bounced by Snapback number two, but this time the bounce spells were to help him stabilize and not to take out blockers. It was a very close match that could’ve gone both ways.

6 — 1

Round 8: Daniel Gulyas — Green/Black

I win the dice roll and start by suspending a Durkwood Baloth. Daniel did the same with a Corpulent Corpse. We keep playing other small random creatures and sneaking a few points here and there, until I produced one big turn and attacked for sixteen damage to take the first game. Turn 6 my Durkwood Baloth came into play with haste, and pumped my Herd Gnarr to 4/4. I attack with them plus a Penumbra Spider. After he blocks, I play Ashcoat Bear to pump my Gnarr to 6/6, and I pump the attacker he blocked with a Strength in Numbers for another three (and, of course, the ability to trample over the blocker).

I start game 2 with a mulligan on the draw, but I have an early threat in Sporesower Thallid. I managed to attack three times before Daniel can finally double-block and kill it in combat, netting me a Saproling in the process. I have the option to hold onto a Bogardan Rager to take out an opposing creature in combat – I think it was a Nightshade Assassin – but I decide to be more aggressive and pump an unblocked creature for extra damage. Sometimes the best defense is a good attack, as this move held back a few more of his creatures on defense. So the first eight damage were from a Sporesower Thallid, then six more from a creature pumped by Bogardan Rager… and the final six were dealt by Magus of the Scroll. He was forced to use his last removal spell — Sudden Death — on an unblocked creature that was pumped with Might of Old Krosa.

7 — 1

Round 9: Masami Ibamoto — Blue/Black splashing for Vhati Il-Dal

I kept a one-land hand on the draw that included Forest, Search for Tomorrow, Ashcoat Bear, and Sporesower Thallid among others. It’s reasonable to keep this, as even if I fail to make a land drop, I don’t have to discard… and when the Search for Tomorrow resolves on turn 3, I catch up on the potential I may have missed. Things went perfectly, as I drew two lands and curved with a turn 1 suspend Search for Tomorrow, turn 2 Ashcoat Bear, and turn 3 Sporesower Thallid. Masami was missing Blue mana, and never quite recovered.

In game 2, my board consists only of very small creatures – a pair of Gemhide Slivers and some random 2/2s – and plenty of lands, but that allowed me to have an active Magus of the Scroll. His only defense was a Stuffy Doll, as he wasn’t drawing into anything to deal with my Magus. He was keeping a full hand, presumably full of one- and two-toughness guys. When the Magus threatens to take all his life points, he then throws down an army of small creatures. I proceed to kill them all with the Scroll, and continue attacking with my small 1/1s into his Stuffy Doll, making us both lose a life point. Eventually, the Magus finishes the job.

8 — 1

Before playing with the deck, I was unsure about how it would perform. It seemed a little underpowered, with few ways to stop evasion creatures. Thanks to some solid draws and a little luck, things went much better than I expected, and I was once again at the top of the standings at Worlds. I remembered Worlds 2005, where I ended Day 1 with a score of 5-1 (just like here) and then 3-0 in my first pod (just like here). After that, I picked up a single point in the second pod, and finished Day 3 by posting a 1-5 score in Extended. So despite it being true that I was looking strong tied for second in the tournament, it was also true that we were only halfway through. I had to draft a new deck (which would hopefully be better than the first), and then switch into another format — Extended.

Next time out, I’ll talk about my Extended preparation, as well as sharing amazing story about me being kicked out of my hotel thanks to the other Portuguese players. Of course there’s still draft number 2 to be covered… I’ll wrap it all in part 2. I hope you tune in.

Thank you for your time,