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Angels in Ghent, Part 2 – The Tournament

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Hello again, everyone; I hope you liked the part that concentrated on the actual deck. This part will focus more on how the tournament went and will try to highlight some interesting situations.

I had decided to attend Ghent pretty early on this year, as I didn’t really have any plans for the summer, and Legacy Grands Prix are always pretty good (except last time when I started out 0–3). From a competitive perspective, Legacy GP fields are pretty soft, as many play their pet decks, compared to, for example, Standard GPs, where the decks are, well, more standard.

Wasteland
Now, there’s nothing wrong with playing pet decks if you are just looking to have fun, just don’t get upset if that mono-green Stompy or Enchantress doesn’t do all that well. About six weeks before the GP, I won a GP Trial (although I already had the byes via Gold Level), and I received some free flights, so the tournament was already getting off to a good start. I played basically the same deck, except with Wastelands and a Crucible of Worlds (which, as I mentioned in the strategy article, were not very awesome. In the weeks following the trial, I managed to borrow some missing cards and assemble the deck on Magic Online to put in some testing. The online metagame was primarily R/U/G Delver and some assorted combo decks, so at least I got some valuable testing against R/U/G, which can be a pretty tricky matchup to play.

I arrived in Ghent on Thursday evening, a day earlier than I usually arrive at European GPs. I figured Ghent seemed like a good location, and everyone else was staying the additional day, so I would have some company. As it turned out, the tournament site was basically in the middle of nowhere, with no restaurants within walking distance, so our establishment of choice for lunch on Friday was Maze of Ikea. We even managed to almost become lost in the maze of Swedish interior décor on our way out of the meatball extravaganza. Hitting up IKEA was not quite the gastronomic adventure I envisioned when I thought about Belgium and all the endless awesome food available.

Underground Sea
My friends went on the hunt for byes, and I heard an announcement about a Chaos Draft looking for one more player. I instantly ran to the registration area and had the chance to throw my money down the drain—nice! I actually think the format is pretty fun and skill-intensive, but as far as value goes, paying 20 euros for a Draft with a 5–3–2–2 payout just isn’t good value anyway you put it. Well, except if you open like a dual in the revised booster, but who does that? The guy in seat four in fact, as he cracked an Underground Sea, which he proceeded to show to the other drafters. Even though I beat him in the first round, he was the real winner of the Draft.

I lost in the semifinals to a guy who had a deck I just couldn’t win, featuring Infest for my mono-X/2 deck and undying guys for my removal. Yeah, it wasn’t very fair. None of the other Finnish guys managed to win any byes, so it was overall not a very successful day. I did manage to put in some testing against Maverick, R/U/G, Zombies, and Burn, so I guess it was time well spent. We decided to head downtown for dinner, and some of the other guys who were there the day before said there were a lot of people there. I just thought it was your regular big-city crowds, but it turned out walking on some of the streets was more like trying to get across the dance floor at a packed club (try doing that with a twenty-kilogram bag of records and music gear, by the way). Well, enough about pre-tournament preparations; you probably want to read about how the tournament went, right?

I’ll be presenting the matchups, results, and a short summary, but I won’t go into great detail on each match—both because that would be pretty boring and because my notes are pretty lacking. After the description of my own tournament, I’ll finish with some good stories heard from other Finns. Let’s begin, shall we?

Rounds 1, 2, and 3 – Byes

I did have a chance to try the food truck thing outside; the fries were good!

Round 4 – Carrie Oliver playing Maverick – 0–2

I had seen Carrie playing Maverick the previous day, and I assumed she was playing the same deck. I was right, but I still lost due to my draws being pretty bad.

Round 5 – Bram Volkaerts playing Death and Taxes – 1–1–1

I punted a bit in the first game, and the second game was very drawn out. I would probably have won the third game, as I had Snapcaster Mage and Counterbalance in play with Brainstorm, a fetch land, and Vendilion Clique in hand against my opponent’s two Rishadan Ports and Karakas (no cards in hand or nonland permanents).

This meant I had to win the following four rounds to make day two—not the best start to a tournament.

Rishadan Port
Vedalken Shackles
Lingering Souls

Round 6 – Sergio Luque playing W/B (Deadguy Ale?) – 2–0

I played an early Vedalken Shackles and took the spirit out of his Lingering Souls. My opponent then played some 2/1 guy for 1b while I had Shackles and Sensei's Divining Top in play. Let’s just say I felt pretty confidant. Game 2 was much of the same: Jace doing his thing.

Round 7 – Geert Schenk playing Maverick – 2–0

I don’t remember much about this match except him playing Enlightened Tutor for Choke, which was fine, as I had both Force of Will and Disenchant for it.

Enlightened Tutor
Choke
Gaddock Teeg

Round 8 – Artur Queiroz playing Maverick – 2–0

Pretty standard Maverick games: kill Gaddock Teeg, play Terminus, win some turns later.

Round 9 – Michel Theissen playing B/G/W Nic Fit (Where do these Legacy deck names come from?) – 2–0

Cabal Therapy
As I started out the tournament pretty roughly with a loss and I draw, I was pretty nervous at this point, as losing and not making Day 2 would have felt pretty bad. I was pretty relieved when my opponent played black and green spells during the first couple of turns. This was perhaps one of the first really interesting games in the tournament, so I’ll talk about it some more.

My opponent played a first-turn Cabal Therapy (on Force of Will). He then played a second-turn Veteran Explorer but did not sacrifice it. On the third turn, he played a Phyrexian Tower and sacrificed the Explorer for mana, leaving him with 6 mana once the trigger resolved. He then played an Eternal Witness, which I countered with the Counterspell he knew I had. He was a bit upset when I had drawn two Force of Wills for his Veteran Explorer number two, meaning he could not pull the Jace out of my hand. Turn-three Jace . . . it’s not every day that happens with a deck with zero mana acceleration effects. Entreat the Angels for three finally closed the game, after his finding Sigarda, Host of Herons twice with Green Sun's Zenith. My expression must have been pretty good when he resolved that first Zenith, as I was not expecting seeing Sigarda being played in Legacy.

The second game was a bit closer, but he stumbled on mana a bit, and Vendilion Clique and Snapcaster Mage applied some beat-downs to take the match.

Making Day 2 of an event always feels really good. At Pro Tour: Barcelona, I was super-happy to go 4–4 and make Day 2 even though the record was pretty bad. Getting a chance, no matter how slim, is still better than having the feeling that the chance was just stolen away from you. As there were approximately one thousand people trying to cram themselves into the trams going downtown, we settled on the hotel restaurant and even managed to get a pretty good night’s sleep before Day 2.

Round 10 – Christy Jesudason playing R/U/G Delver – 2–0

This was the first R/U/G match the whole weekend, and if you were so inclined, you could say I swept the R/U/G. I don’t really remember the specifics of the match other than the fact that I managed to stabilize at a pretty healthy life total and was never really close to losing. I consider being at 7 life or more to be pretty safe assuming the opponent does not have any creatures and that you are holding off the troops with some Angels.

Round 11 – Kristian Heibing playing R/W/U Aggro – 2–0

Steppe Lynx
This was basically the same deck that people have been playing in Modern, but with Force of Will, Brainstorm, and Daze added. In the first game, my opponent missed some land drops after a timely Spell Pierce on his Brainstorm. This left his Steppe Lynx looking somewhat foolish. I started racing a Grim Lavamancer with an Angel token, having a Terminus floating on top of my library courtesy of Top.

However, he had 1 life too much, so I had to pull the trigger on the Terminus in fear of dying. I put a Counterbalance and Jace down and managed to lock him out. The second game came down to me landing a timely Vendilion Clique, pulling Sulfuric Vortex out of his hand. I had not boarded Disenchant in, so I was left with merely one Oblivion Ring as an answer. I managed to draw out all the cards in his hand with the Clique and a Snapcaster to block his Geist of Saint Traft, and I followed up with a manual Terminus to kill the Geist, a Lynx, and some other dude. Paying too much for your Hallowed Burial has never felt so good. Counterbalance and Entreat the Angels locked the game up.

Round 12 – Tobias Dreger playing Goblins – 2–0

Skirk Prospector
When my opponent played a turn-one Skirk Prospector, I felt that I was in trouble. Goblins is the worst matchup for this deck, as I discussed in the strategy article. Luckily for me, he didn’t draw an Aether Vial, and he only drew a Cavern of Souls on approximately turn six, so my Counterbalance-plus-Top combo was very much live. Some removal and Jace managed to grind him out.

The next game started with him playing turn-one Goblin Lackey via Cavern of Souls. Luckily for me, I had the Swords to Plowshares, and I proceeded to play a turn-three, end-of-turn Vendilion Clique into a turn-four Moat. I had included the Moat in the sideboard as something that allowed me to straight-up win the game against some decks, and that it did. Vendilion Clique attacked for seven turns, and when my opponent died, he had literally over fifty Goblins in play, mostly thanks to Krenko, Mob Boss. His out was putting down Skirk Prospector along with Siege-Gang Commander. As I was floating a Terminus on top at every point, this is where is would have become tricky. I came to the conclusion that he would need some combination of multiple Prospectors, Commanders, and Vials to get around my instant-speed Terminus and two Swords to Plowshares in hand. It seems Goblins aren’t all that tough if you keep them out of the castle.

Round 13 – Andrey Petukhov playing R/U/G Delver – 2–0

I had seen him playing R/U/G in a previous feature match, so I knew what I was up against. He mulliganed to five in the first game, but he still had a pretty solid opening of Delver of Secrets and some disruption. I killed the Delver and eventually played Clique when he had four cards in hand, revealing three Spell Pierces and a Daze. From that point, I couldn’t really lose the game. In the second game, I established the Counterbalance-plus-Top lock quite early, and it was never really close. I did get lucky on the Counterbalance blind flip when he tried to kill the first Counterbalance I played (did not have Top at the point). The odds of hitting were approximately 0.3, so it wasn’t the worst by any means.

Round 14 – Marek Vardzik playing Belcher – 1–1–1

Empty the Warrens
Marek was another player whom I had seen playing next to me, so I knew I needed to mulligan very aggressively. In the first game, we both went to five, and I didn’t draw a Force of Will or Spell Pierce for his second-turn Empty the Warrens combo. I did, however, hit Terminus with my two Brainstorms just in time to not die. I established Counterbalance and Top a while later, and I locked it up.

In Game 2, I mulliganed to five again, and this time, I found the Force of Will to stop his first-turn combo. He was left with Taiga, Lion's Eye Diamond, and Chrome Mox (on red) in play and Warrens in hand (I knew it from his Land Grant). He drew pretty good afterward and managed to play a Goblin Charbelcher from a Simian Spirit Guide and Seething Song when I had put a 2-mana card on top with Brainstorm and had Counterbalance in play.

In Game 3, I played an early discard and had to play super-carefully not to lose. He had a few draws to find a kill card after the Thoughtseize, but luckily for me, he did not. I had not seen Xantid Swarms in Game 2 (played a Surgical Extraction), so I sided the last of my creature removal out, which came back to bite me when he played an early Swarm, but I held it off with a Vendilion Clique. I got Counterbalance and Top active and slowly drew enough lands to feel pretty safe. Time was not on my side, and I didn’t find the Entreat I needed. If we would have had even a few more minutes, I am pretty sure I would have won the game and the match. Getting the draw was pretty much the same as a loss with regards to making Top 8.

Round 15 – Robbert Menten playing Maverick – 2–1

Game 1 was textbook control-on-Maverick. Terminus killed two guys, and Jace came down with some Angel friends a few turns later. In Game 2, I stalled on mana, and my opponent played Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Thorn of Amethyst to make life difficult for me. The fact that he had Karakas to make all my removal just bounce spells was pretty awkward, too. In Game 3, I put a Counterbalance down and managed to grind his guys out with Vedalken Shackles and a Terminus, finishing off with some Angels.

Round 16 – Felix Pischinger playing Lands – 1–0

Zuran Orb
All right; this was it. Win and in.

I was mildly confused when my opponent played Tropical Island and Exploration on the first turn, and it took almost a few turns to realize he was playing Lands. I had no idea if the matchup was good, but I thought it must be good, as Jace is pretty nice, as would be Counterbalance. I did bring a Counterbalance out with Top in play, but he managed to grind it out with Academy Ruins and Engineered Explosives, playing the Explosives with several mana of the same color (a very relevant trick if you didn’t know about it).

When both of my Counterbalances were killed, I started feeling a bit uneasy. I had been attacking with a Vendilion Clique, but my opponent was gaining way too much value every turn, not to mention he had Zuran Orb in play, meaning he would see many more turns. The game went back and forth a bit, and I realized way too late that I should have conceded many turns ago to save time. Luckily for me, my opponent gave me an out. He had The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale in play and forgot to pay for his Worm Harvest tokens not once, but twice.

The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
The critical turn was when he used Academy Ruins to bring back Explosives and used it to kill Jace. This meant he was almost tapped out, and I could end-of-turn Entreat the Angels using Top, making nine tokens and getting in there for 36 damage. I think there were many avenues of play my opponent could have taken to ensure victory (sacrifice Tabernacle end of turn to Zuran Orb, pay the upkeep, or play Explosives for 0), but it was quite a complicated board state and late in the tournament, so this was not meant as a diss.

This left us with eight minutes for the last game, and I was pretty sure my opponent would not have enough time to win (his deck probably had an even slower clock than mine). I tried to play at quite a fast pace so that there would be no slow-play accusations, and we managed to make it quite a few turns into the game considering how intricate the turns were, and I maybe would have lost eventually, as my draws were not the best, but he was still perhaps three combats short of killing me when the extra turns ended.

Quarterfinals – Lukas Maurer playing Elves – 0–2

Glimpse of Nature
I felt that the matchup was really good, and I even asked my friend Levi who was playing Elves, and he thought the matchup was pretty fantastic for me. At the beginning of the match, my assumption was that if I was going to lose, it was going to be to a fast combo (turn two or turn three), so when my opening hand was five lands, Counterspell and Force of Will, I kept.

Thinking about it afterward, I should definitely have mulliganed, but I don’t think the hand was horrible in any way, as there were so many good cards, and this would prevent me from randomly losing early. I ended up drawing a Top and countering a Glimpse of Nature, but using Top three times with two shuffles in between showed me two lands and Entreat, three lands, and three lands, so I did get a bit unlucky.

The most interesting decision came when my opponent attacked me with four 1/1 creatures and a Nettle Sentinel (with another 1/1 creature in play) while I was at 8 life. I had Entreat the Angels on top and could play it for one and block the Nettle Sentinel, meaning I had to draw one of the following cards from the one unknown card: Terminus, Swords to Plowshares, Snapcaster Mage, Vendilion Clique, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, or Oblivion Ring. The other option was to take 6 and then pray that the last card in my opponent’s hand and the card on top of his library were both lands so that he could not untap the Nettle Sentinel—then, I could get him with an Entreat for four during the next combat. I went with the Entreat for one and missed on my outs. If I only had 1 more life, I could easily have gone for the Entreat for four, and I would probably have won the game.

Nettle Sentinel
In Game 2, I mulliganed to six, and my hand was two fetches, Swords to Plowshares, Counterbalance, Vendilion Clique, and Entreat the Angels—a fine six-card hand. I exiled my opponent’s first-turn Dryad Arbor from a Zenith and played the Counterbalance. It missed when my opponent played a 1-mana dude, and would it have hit, I think I would have won the game. On turn three, I played a Top, leaving Tundra and a fetch land untapped. My opponent played Ezuri, Renegade Leader, and I used Top and fetch-plus-Top to try to find a 3-mana spell, Swords, Terminus, or Force of Will, but I only found irrelevant stuff. My opponent even followed up with Zenith for Gaddock Teeg—quite a nice turn three thanks to Gaea's Cradle. I didn’t draw any of my few outs and was out of the tournament. It was a bit of an anticlimactic end to the weekend, but making Top 8 felt really good, and I hope the Pro Points will be of use.

 


So that’s my story of what happened to me during Grand Prix: Ghent. The second day definitely featured more interesting games, especially the ones against Belcher and Lands. As promised, here are some of the more interesting things that happened to the other Finns during the weekend.

Best Pun

Award of best pun goes to Markku Rikola who came up with “Daze the Mind Sculptor” (you play Daze when your opponent plays Jace—it almost makes me want to play Daze in Legacy).

Best Rules Story

The best rules story was when a Finnish player suddenly started sideboarding while mulliganing. The conversation went something like this:

Opponent: Did you change some sleeves?

Him: No, I sideboarded.

Opponent: Umm, we’re mulliganing.

Him:  . . .  . . . JUDGE!

Since there was no precise ruling about this, he only received a warning, but the story is still a pretty good one.

The New Player

Goblin Charbelcher
Another story worth mentioning was the guy from Finland who had not played a single game of Magic when he boarded the plane to Ghent, but when Round 1 of the GP came around, he was sitting down and shuffling up. He even managed to pull off a respectable 4–4 finish considering he had learned (some) rules less than thirty-six hours earlier.

Some of you might have figured out what he was playing by now, and yes, it was Belcher. It’s pretty much the most non-interactive and easiest deck to play in Legacy if you basically know nothing about Magic. In the GP, his sideboard was four Xantid Swarm and eleven Forests, but on Sunday, he was already playing with Burning Wish (and only seven Forests!).

One funny moment was when he played against another Finn in the big Legacy side event on Sunday and didn’t put Belcher into play when his opponent cast Show and Tell, but instead, he played it from his hand the next turn. I guess nobody told him you don’t get style points for practically killing your opponent twice.

Wrapping Up

Phew, quite a long article; thank you all who have had the energy to read this far. I’ll be directing my efforts to Standard and Magic 2013 Limited with a dash of Innistrad Block Constructed and Modern thrown in, as I’m trying to prepare for the Magic World Cup.

As I’m finishing up this article, I’ll be heading to Ropecon, the Finnish equivalent of GenCon, to play some Team Sealed, which funnily enough is even a relevant format this year with the World Cup. I’ll be returning with a new article in the near future, and if you have any topics you would like me to write about, be sure to hit me up in the comments or on Twitter.

Thanks for reading,

Max

@thebloom_ on Twitter

Maxx on Magic Online

You can find my music on: http://soundcloud.com/bloomlive

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