I was really excited about Worlds this year, more so than other years, because the tournament was held in Japan, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been (there was no Japanese Pro Tour last year). Japan has such a fascinating culture, and every time I go there, I can’t help but be amazed. Unfortunately, not speaking Japanese is such a hindrance. It makes you feel kind of excluded, as if you’re only allowed to look from afar, but Japan still makes for quite a unique experience anyway, and it’s the only country I really look forward traveling to.
Worlds usually follows just after the last PT, but this year, there was plenty of time in between. The four Pro Tours were spaced out more evenly throughout the year. This meant a lot of time to prepare.
I playtested as usual with the local guys. Guillaume Matignon also joined me for ten days so we could put in some more serious testing, and then we kept contact via mail with the other qualified Frenchies.
With so much time before Worlds, we decided it best to focus on Extended first, since the Standard metagame would likely evolve with all the StarCityGames.com Opens happening, whereas Extended had no major events going on. Our gauntlet contained 5-Color Control (5CC), Faeries, Merfolk, White Weenie, W/G Trap, Goblins, and Pyromancer Ascension.
I thought Faeries would be popular now that Punishing Fire wasn’t in the picture. It was clearly the best deck in my mind, and I thought it would be obvious for a lot of other people, too.
I didn’t think much of Jund, as it wasn’t big in the last Extended, and it stayed under the radar during the time Faeries dominated Standard. We tried it for good measure but quickly discarded it.
My eyes were set on 5CC from the start. To be sure, it was the best control deck. I tried three-color variants, dropping each of the splash colors in turn, but in the end, they all proved key.
I tried and subsequently discarded Preordain. It seemed to me that the card lost too much of its value with all the “enters the battlefield tapped” lands. As I see it, one of the best features of Preordain is being able to dig for that Mana Leak (or any other two-drop) on turn 1. Seeing as the card was embraced by others at Worlds however, I might be wrong and will have to give it another go.
Sunblast Angel was suggested to me by a local player as a joke and quickly became the finisher of choice. The synergy with Cryptic Command really made the card shine, and it proved better than any other six-drop against all the aggro decks that seemed to fill the meta.
I was really confident in 5CC. I felt the deck had never been as well positioned as it was now, and for once, I had a decklist with sideboard two weeks prior to the tournament.
Guillaume wasn’t so sold on 5CC. He’s kind of in love with Pyromancer Ascension, so we spent some time working on that, but the Fae matchup was really tough after sideboarding, and we couldn’t come up with a good plan. He considered playing Faeries, too. Though he agreed 5CC was a good choice as well.
The time Guillaume spent in my hometown flew by. It’s not that we weren’t productive; it’s more that our days weren’t filled with that much testing. Given that I’m not really a morning person, I tend to sleep in late, whereas Guillaume tends to be up really early. So we didn’t get any testing done on Standard when he left, two weeks before Worlds.
As for the Draft portion, I did, as always, all of my testing on Magic Online. For a fair number of them, I had someone else tagging along. It’s always a much more enriching experience to draft along with someone else.
The archetypes I had the most success with were infect, B/R, and U/X (X being red or B/R). Infect couldn’t be forced, but if it came, you needed to be able to switch, and that was something to keep in mind in the crucial first picks of the draft.
I hated white; I always lost with it. It seemed to me that white relied on metalcraft too much, which is a terrible mechanic. The more I played, the more I hated Myrs, too, to the point where I began to see them as basic lands with drawbacks (one of the reasons I don’t like white: metalcraft meant Myr).
The more I played, the more I liked blue, and then I started forcing it. Blue commons aren’t exactly first-pick caliber, and the color was really under-drafted, making it easy to be a blue mage if you wanted. The advantage of the strategy was you got so much more value out of your late picks. After losing some games with insane U/B decks, I realized the archetype needed artifact removal badly, especially to stop dying to junky equipment, hence the red.
In Standard, Guillaume and I were both set to play Preordain, Mana Leak, and Jace. The week before we left for Japan, Guillaume tested quite a bit on Magic Online, mostly U/B. He was confident that black was the color we needed to pair with blue. Antoine Ruel advocated white instead, while I was completely in the dark.
On one hand, I wasn’t sure how U/B fared against the aggressive decks (which I knew U/W was good against). On the other hand, I doubted U/
had what it took to beat a good Valakut player after sideboarding (U/B didn’t have this problem thanks to Duress and Memoricide). Although black seemed better on the surface in the blue mirror, I wondered if that was the case.
So that’s where I was on the Saturday before Worlds. I was confident about Draft and Extended. Not so much about Standard.
I joined Guillaume in Amsterdam from where we flew to Tokyo together. Our flight was delayed a bit by the weather but nothing dramatic. The other two members of the French team (Antoine Ruel and Julien Parez) weren’t so lucky, as their plane couldn’t land in Amsterdam (they were supposed to arrive just after us, but the weather conditions suddenly deteriorated). They were forced to spend the night in Brussels instead (yeah really), and their flight was postponed till the next day.
Anyway, we all arrived in Japan, where we stayed at the Koyo Hotel, which is awesome by the way, and I recommend it to anyone going there. It’s cheap, it’s clean (yeah, you’d be hard-pressed to find a hotel that’s not in Japan), it’s got free wireless. Plus you’ve got individual rooms, which seriously kicks a** (no snoring guy, no getting kicked during your sleep, no drunk people, etc.). What more could you ask for? Probably one of the best hotels I’ve stayed in.
As anticipated, Japan was great. The people were cool, and I loved the food. We did a few hours of shopping/sightseeing each day as well as putting in some testing.
The turning point of our testing came during a Valakut vs. U/W series, where U/W ended up getting crushed. Overall, I didn’t have a good feeling about the matchup. If they know how to play their Trap (at the end of your turn), you’re in big trouble. Your being always in the dark is no good either. Knowing the Valakut’s player hand is so key (so you don’t run a Jace into Koth, for example).
Luminarch Ascension was disappointing; I don’t like this kind of card that just tries to steal the win in the early game and ends up being terrible in the midgame.
I found out Leyline of Sanctity wasn’t such a good sideboard card against Valakut either because you don’t care about Valakut anyway (that’s what the four Spreading Seas and the four Tectonic edges are for). Though Leyline is the nuts against Vampires.
And so we settled on U/B.
The last update of the deck came as expected at registration, where we had the pleasure of discovering that Gabriel Nassif was also set on playing U/B. That was comforting. What’s more, his list was very close to what we had. He suggested we split our playset of Duresses with Inquisitions of Kozilek and cut Jace’s Ingenuity from the deck. He seemed to know his business, and with his being inducted into the Hall of Fame not long after his start, it seemed foolish not to listen to him. In retrospect, I’m not sure it was the right call, but given how it turned out, I guess I can’t complain. And I was onto round 1.
Round 1: Shuhei Nakamura — Valakut
A feature match to start things off. Not exactly an opponent I wanted to face so early, but that’s life. I won’t add anything because the match is
fully covered on the Mothership.
The upside of playing a good player is that starting the tournament beating Shuuhei definitely felt good.
Round 2: Gonzalo Del Fierro — Valakut
I don’t remember much about this round besides that I did my thing, and it was enough. I probably had Jace turn 4, which is what you want against Valakut, and won from there.
Round 3: Ivan Schroder — Valakut
Another Valakut and another smooth round. My opponent mulling to six in game 1 and four or five in game 2 certainly helped. He was never really in it.
Round 4: Ian Chung — Valakut
Another Valakut opponent, but this time something quite funny happened. Game 1, I used Spreading Seas on his first Forest and saw after Duressing him that he doesn’t have another green land. I logically decided to try to up Jace to ultimate all while keeping him off green mana. Twice, I was forced to put a green land on the bottom, which let him draw an unknown card the first time (the rest of his hand was full of green cards: monsters and ramp) and a Forest the second time.
He immediately used his Forest to cast Cultivate for two more, and Jace was going to ultimate him just after he had time to cast one fatty. He didn’t have enough Mountains to bolt my Jace if he cast a Titan, and my hand had a couple Consume the Meeks, so I didn’t care about Avenger. He would have multiple turns after the ultimate however because of his grip full of cards, but Titan and Avenger aren’t very impressive with no lands in the deck, and though I would have to draw something, I thought I was in good shape with another Jace, The Mind Sculptor in hand.
The fatty turned out to be… Terastodon… What?!!! It went downhill from there, considering his hand was chockfull of fatties, while mine sucked (and he had a giant Elephant coming at me every turn). Games 2 and 3 were classic U/B against Valakut that I won without much trouble.
Round 5: M. Techarattanaprasert — U/B Control
I was disappointed when he started the game with Island. (I wanted a Valakut opponent dangit!) I also had only played a couple blue matches on Magic Online. To sum it up, I won because he was playing Frost Titan, which isn’t very good in the mirror.
It was also during sideboarding that I realized Sorin Markov was garbage. You see, I hadn’t played any games of the mirror, but I figured Markov was better than Volition Reins in the sideboard because it doubled as a sideboard card against Vampires. While Markov is good against Vampires, it’s terrible in the mirror. What I hadn’t taken into consideration was the fact that a blue deck runs four copies of both Spreading Seas and Tectonic Edge, meaning that out of my sixteen black-producing lands, I could only rely, on average, on half of them. Sometimes those Seas and Edges can even keep your opponent off double black (or white). And boarding in a triple black card isn’t a good idea. Besides, Markov gets trumped by Grave Titan and has nowhere near the power level of Volition Reins.
Round 6: Christian Gawrilowicz — Valakut
I was surprised to see Christian facing me, as I’m more used to seeing him judging. I didn’t even know he played. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was any good. You know what they say about judges. He even joked about it before the match. I’ll never know because both games were pretty one-sided, as he flooded game one, and post-board games are tough for Valakut anyway.
Well, it wasn’t so hard. Facing Valakut five times was lucky I suppose, but still I was happy with my level of play.
I stayed to watch the team portion after that, so I could get a feel for Extended coming on Day 3 and to know what tweaks I needed to make. That’s where I saw Jund and 5CC were in fact pretty popular (as much as a deck can be in Extended, anyway). I also got to witness Guillaume almost drop because he was 3-3, and the team wasn’t doing well, but he saw reason eventually. And after going back to the hotel and eating, it was more than time to go to bed to get up early for Day 2.
As I was saying earlier, I like blue a lot in this format, and I pick Sky-Eel School very high. I was also planning on avoiding white (short of Sunblast Angel, I almost never first-pick white). My first draft is
covered on the Mothership.
I opened a pack which left me with three possibilities: Cystbearer, Embersmith, and Arrest. I’m not a big fan of Embersmith because it’s usually bad in the red decks I draft, which usually have few artifacts. I don’t like white, so Cystbearer, a very good infect card, was an easy pick for me. Besides, with this pick, I had a guaranteed card on the wheel (Trigon, Call, or Might). I knew infect was tricky and couldn’t be forced, so I was ready to jump on anything else if need be.
Brian passed me a second pack which contained nothing amazing except a Tangle Angler, which is insane in infect decks.
Pack 3 really was poor, and picking Contagious Nim here felt good because it really was the best card in the pack.
I was happy to pick up an Infiltration Lens in pack 4, which is overall a good card and complemented my Angler nicely.
Pick 5, I picked a Genesis Wave over a second Contagious Nim. I know some people find it strange, but the Nim is just an okay card to me, whereas the Wave has the potential to be game breaking. You can’t always run it, but when you can, it’s really good.
There wasn’t much after that. But from there, I was kind of committed. Unfortunately, Lukas, two slots to my right, was also drafting infect, and I ended up with a terrible deck. Even on pack 2, I had mediocre picks overall. Looking back, I don’t think I could’ve done any better. Sometimes you’re just set up to fail.
Round 7: Pierre Canali — U/R
Not only did I have a bad deck, but it didn’t want to cooperate either. I got flooded game 1 (without drawing either my Wave or my Liege of the Tangle) and kept a two-lander with double Cystbearer that got there way too late in game 2. But with that bad of a deck, I had no regrets.
Round 8: Eric Froehlich — W/R
I didn’t have a good curve, and I had no removal. Game 1 he just got me with a couple fliers. Game 2 I managed to put him under a little pressure and buy enough time so that I could drop my Liege, which took the game. Game 3 I put up a good fight, but you know, what with my deck being awful, he won eventually.
Round 9: Ian Chung — W/G
Being 6-0 after Constructed and having a bad deck in Draft really sucks because most of the people at the table sit at 5-1, meaning you can play people that have won even if you lose.
Ian was 0-2 like me, though. He was really friendly. We had already played yesterday (the Terastodon guy), and he even had his girlfriend take pictures. Game 1 I attacked on turn 4 with a Lens equipped Cystbearer into his board of Gold Myr and Ghalma’s Warden. He went into the tank then asked if I was going to draw four cards if he blocked with both. I said yes… and he double-blocked anyway. I went on to replace my Cystbearer with a new one. My deck was bad, but I managed to win that game.
Game 2 was another affair. We raced and arrived at a position where I was going to kill him the turn after if I didn’t die on his next turn. He had a lethal flier for which I had Tainted Strike. He attacked with his flier, and I played the Strike. He started thinking and asked me how many poison counters I had. I realized then that I was dead if he had Untamed Might. He just had enough mana to bring me up to ten poison counters. He started counting aloud but forgot the +1 from the Strike, cursed, and extended the hand. I shook, went to pick up my cards, and he immediately realized his mistake: “Oh no, wait! I kill you!” …Awkward.
Now you see where this is going. I really couldn’t let that pass. The way I see it, when you do something, it’s done. That’s why you need to think before you play. There are no take backs. A misplay is a misplay, and I apply this to myself, too. I never ask for take backs. Still, it doesn’t feel good winning like this.
Ian didn’t seem to take it badly though. He recognized it was his mistake. What I didn’t like was the way the judge handled the situation. After checking that we did actually shake, he ruled that I could decide the outcome! Seriously!? All the while smiling as he ruled. Well, I’m telling you it was an evil smile.
The second draft went well. I was able to draft a solid U/b/r deck. I opened Perilous Myr in a mediocre pack, then got passed a very nice booster with Myrsmith among other good cards where I took a Darkslick Drake. Pack 3 I saw a Volition Reins, and the rest just fell into place. I ended up with the following deck:
I was a bit light on win conditions, having no Sky-Eel Schools, so I sometimes boarded in a third Scrapdiver serpent depending on the matchup. The other two notable cards in my sideboard were a Psychic Miasma and a Disperse.
Round 10: Pierre Canali — R/G
Pierre again, except this time we kind of switched decks. I was playing the good blue deck whereas he was playing the crappy green deck. I remember games were close but mostly due to poor draws on my part.
Round 11: Matt Sperling — W/R
He was playing metalcraft. I remember both games going long and Trigon of Thought being scary (as it usually is, if I may add) and making the difference. Given how much time I took to kill him game 1, he sideboarded Swamps with some Exsanguinates game 2. I know I saw one really late in the draft and really should have cut it. That could’ve cost me a game here.
Round 12: Markku Rikola — W/R
Metalcraft again. He didn’t have an especially good deck, but he had bombs. A Steel Hellkite, a Sword of Body and Mind, and another I can’t remember. My deck was well equipped to deal with all that. Plus he mulliganed a lot, and I won easily.
That left another short evening and then Extended. Before we left the site to go eat, Gaby and I discussed Standard U/B with Carlos because he needed a Standard deck for the last day of the Magic Online tournament. We just told him what we’d change in the list, basically the sideboard: making sure he had two Volition Reins and four Duresses total, and he went on to win the whole thing, which is really cool.
Saturday morning, the tournament started later because of the team portion of the event. That left me plenty of time to find the last card I was missing and to sleeve my deck. Olivier had bought some really cool sleeves at the hobby store with a cute Panda on the back, but unfortunately they were sold out, so I was forced to use a regular brand. I wasn’t too jealous because they promised to have more tomorrow. We just made a minor modification to the decklist, changing a Doom Blade to Path to Exile and Day of Judgment to Hallowed Burial because Jund was now in the equation. We also threw a couple Runed Halos into the sideboard for Valakut and Anathemancer, and that was it:
Round 13: Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa — 4CC
Game 1 was a drawn-out affair, as it usually is in the mirror, with me winning after the fourth Jace stuck. Game 2 I didn’t draw enough hand disruption/ countermagic and was forced to take action with a hand of too many Jaces/Ultimatums, which ended with me losing.
Time was called just after we finished game 2, and we drew. Our lists were close, and a draw seemed fair, especially since it looked like four losses and a draw would make it. I saw that PV was playing Preordain, and that made me wonder. I still don’t know if it’s right or not, but I like my Mulldrifters.
Round 14: Lukas Jaklovsky — Jund
Game 1 was long, and I lost the turn before killing him. Turned out he played one Anathemancer maindeck and drew it on his last turn. I think I misplayed at some point, but I don’t exactly know where. This was one of those intense games that are so close and go on for quite some time and leave you with a bad feeling; you feel you probably should’ve won.
Game 2, he had a damn good hand, leading with double Putrid Leech, then double Blightning, and Bloodbraid Elf, while I could only play a Mana Leak on turn 2 and Vendilion Clique on turn 4. I tried to race him but with no success.
Round 15: Noah Long — 5CC
Game 1 I just remember being able to stick a Jace and bring it home (he didn’t play any Bolts).
Game 2 I made a big mistake. I played a midgame Thoughtseize when I had just drawn a Clique. We fought over it, and when the dust cleared, I was tapped out. Thoughtseize resolved, but his hand had both Grave Titan and Cruel Ultimatum. Titan then resolved and killed me.
Game 3 he made a mistake this time. The situation was like this: my board was seven lands, and my hand had Cryptic Command, Esper Charm, and Cruel Ultimatum. He had eight lands, two Cryptic Commands, and a card I didn’t know in hand. It was the end of his turn. I figured that if I cast my Charm and he tried to fight over it, either he gets greedy and draws with both his Cryptics, letting Cruel destroy him, or he remains reasonable and ends up bouncing one of my lands with his second Cryptic, in which case, he’s just up a card, and I still get the opportunity to topdeck an untapped land.
Esper Charm resolved. So I went for it. He didn’t even consider I could have Cruel and lost to it.
Round 16: Eric Froehlich — Ooze
Not much to say here. Eric draws were miserable. He played one land destruction spell total in both games, which sucks because it’s supposed to be Ooze’s plan against 5CC. Instead, both games he drew plenty of small dudes, which got burned away, and just after casting Masticore, I made him discard his last two cards.
Round 17: Love Janse — Elves
Elves is a good matchup, and though I had a hard time finding sweepers, I managed to do it eventually.
Round 18: Guillaume Matignon — 5CC
ID. 13-3-2. And that was it. Making Top 8 with Guillaume felt great. And for the next hour or so, I was just happy. Then reality kicked in, and I remembered it was far from over. In fact, it really started now, as I also had Level 8 on the line. After the Top 8 was announced and pictures got taken, it was getting late, and after another quick meal, it was time to go to bed. We just discussed our matchup a little bit and then figured sleep would be more important than any playtesting.
Quarterfinals: Lukas Jaklovsky — U/B Control
I had played Lukas earlier in the Swiss. He was friendly, and I knew he was a good player. Our lists were very similar.
By the way, I don’t think it’s that strange that so many different playtesting groups arrived at the same U/B list. There aren’t that many options available in U/B, compared to U/W. I can’t say much about the games we played. I don’t think I made mistakes, at least not glaring ones, and I didn’t see any on Lukas’s part either. I just seemed to come up on top three games out of four. The U/B mirror doesn’t seem all that interesting.
Semifinals: Love Janse — Eldrazi Green
I made sure to memorize Love’s decklist before the game. I noted he didn’t have All Is Dust either main or side, and I was happy about that. He couldn’t do much about a resolved Grave Titan barring Ulamog, but considering the difference in casting costs, Grave Titan spells doom for his deck. His deck didn’t like Jace either. I thought the matchup looked to be in my favor, but I wasn’t so sure after seeing how he dispatched a U/B deck in the quarterfinals. He didn’t have much to bring in and nothing to bring out, so I knew things would look up after sideboard.
Game 1 was very quick, and everything went wrong for me. First, I whiffed with Duress, and then I failed to draw my fourth land, and I scooped after he resolved his first Titan, knowing he had one more to come and Emrakul in hand.
Game 2 showcased how bad his deck is against Jace and Grave Titan. Memoricide along with Duress was a real beating as it always is against those ramp decks. His deck was clearly prepared to take on U/W decks but not U/B. I also got to see he’d sideboarded barely anything in. No Acidic Slime. I found that strange, but I guess it made sense. I didn’t really see what he would cut for them.
Game 3 I cut him off green with Spreading Seas, and it was too late when he started playing again.
Game 4 started really well, and I was far ahead until I made a big blunder. I cast Spreading Seas on his Eye of Ugin, which was terrible because I didn’t care about him getting Ulamog at all (it was too slow), and I realized too late that turning his Eye into an Island allowed him to pay for the Mana Leak I was holding for his Summoning Trap if he drew a land. Fortunately he didn’t, and I was able to close the match without trouble.
Finals: Guillaume Matignon — U/B Control
Meeting Guillaume in the finals certainly seemed unreal. And playing it, it didn’t really seem like the finals. Obviously, we split beforehand, so there was no stake in the game other than the title, and having tested together and meeting here, it just seemed like the end had come already. Anyway,
I won’t dwell on the games, as there’s
complete coverage on the Mothership.
I’ve had a lot of questions about a play where I chose to go with Inquisition of Kozilek over Duress at some point. Well, I misplayed and can’t really say what passed through my head at the time.
Congratulations to Guillaume for winning Worlds. Reaching the finals was just what I needed to make Level 8, which seems funny considering I was playing in PTQs at the beginning of the year. Getting there only to lose to Guillaume in the finals, I could hardly expect a better outcome. So overall, Worlds was awesome. Also thanks to Level 8, I’ll hit a lot more GPs next year, starting with Atlanta. So thanks for reading, and I hope to see you there.
Happy New Year!