Paris ūüáęūüá∑ | Winning Bazaar of Moxen

Bazaar of Moxen : L’int√©gralit√© des live

‚ÄúIf your dreams don‚Äôt scare you, they are not big enough.‚ÄĚ

Why Elves?

I strongly believe that Elves is one of the top decks in Legacy. Unless people start not only throwing a lot more hate at it but also understand how the deck actually plays out post-board, Elves will definitely continue to put up numbers in the hands of competent players. But how did I arrive at this conclusion? My personal Eureka moment struck me when I was playing at the Bazaar of Moxen Annecy in May. Especially during day 1, the top tables were infested with Elves players tearing up the metagame. Back then I was on Shardless BUG and got my butt handed to me by some very good Elves players that were easily able to outplay me over the course of the game. The deck just felt invincible to me, and I remember how our resident Elvish Champion Lukas Maurer managed to take what is now Legacy’s premier tribal deck all the way to the finals of Grand Prix Ghent in 2012.

 

After Annecy, I knew exactly which deck I wanted to focus on for future testing. Already having given it several successful tries in paper Magic, I decided to also start testing on Magic Online. After getting comfortable with the deck and 4-0ing several Daily Events, I started streaming my progress on http://twitch.tv/itsJulian. Playing in front of an educated audience helped a lot in playing a much tighter game and discovering potential loopholes in my sideboarding strategy.

The more I kept playing and winning, the more my feeling grew that Elves might still be flying under the radar for a lot of people. The deck just felt like the strongest 75 cards I had ever registered to any given tournament since the banning of Mental Misstep (and the sad departure of NO RUG it brought about). Yet many people failed to understand that this once niche and geeky tribal deck had risen to the very top of the format and was putting up very noticeable results! Following Lukas’ great run with it at GP Ghent in 2012, LSV and Matt Nass had once again showcased the power of the deck to a broad audience at GP Denver in January. But with Deathblade being the talk of the town for almost the entire summer, Elves never got the amount of attention I felt it deserved.

Taking a look at the top-tier decks of Legacy on October 29th, two days before my departure, tcdecks.net confirmed my sentiment, as Elves had been doing incredibly well all month with very little acknowledgement by both players and writers.

 

 

It’s not like I bothered though. When I arrived in Paris, I knew that I was on one of the very best decks I could have taken to the tournament.

Understanding Elves!

You might already know, but Elves! is a highly complex deck of a very technical nature. Since I want to focus on specific strategies as well as my run through the Bazaar of Moxen itself, anyone looking for a detailed primer should be best advised to check out the excellent writing of Daniel Nguyen (danyul) over at The Source, who recently made Top 8 of the SCG Legacy Open in Seattle with it.

In the following I will instead put more focus on pointing out my personal evaluation of certain cards as well as the modifications I made to the deck. Despite running a core list of about 55 cards, Elves can be highly customized according to your preferences because of the sheer number of tutoring it employs.

The Creatures

4 Deathrite Shaman 4 Heritage Druid 4 Nettle Sentinel 4 Quirion Ranger 1 Llanowar Elves 1 Birchlore Rangers

In case you’ve always been wondering why this deck is called Elves, here you go. The four-ofs are pretty much set in stone, while the choice of the complimentary mana-producing Elves is still highly debated even among veterans of the deck. I did some testing with Lemnear’s list of four Birchlore Rangers, which emphasis strong turn 2 Glimpse chains but soon went back to two Llanowar Elves as I’m just that much more of a Natural Order kind of guy. With Llanowar Elves, Quirion Ranger, and Cradle, you can cast Natural Order as soon as turn 2, which is especially important in post-board games as well as against Storm. In the end, though, I settled on cutting one Llanowar Elves and adding Birchlore Rangers as a concession to the maindeck Ruric Thar as well as the variety of off-color spells in the sideboard. By including the Birchlore Rangers, your Green Sun’s Zenith suddenly becomes the worst fetch land ever printed, which will sometimes be just what you need in order to cast that game-winning spell that’s been sitting in your hand. On top of that, machine-gunning people with Deathrite Shaman becomes much easier once Birchlore Rangers hits the table.

Other than that I really have to give credit where credit is due‚ÄĒin this case¬†Quirion Ranger. This card has easily been the MVP of the entire tournament for me, untapping¬†Deathrite Shaman¬†and¬†Dryad Arbor¬†left and right and adding so much to the consistency of your mana (and thus your deck) in general. It singlehandedly won me several games, especially against Storm, where every additional mana you can generate matters a lot. I sometimes jokingly refer to it as the green¬†Dark Ritual, when in fact it sometimes produces up to¬†five additional mana¬†when you play it:

1) It’s another Elf that taps for Heritage Druid. 2) It untaps a fellow Elf with its ability. 3) When casting it, it untaps Nettle Sentinel. 4) It’s plus-one mana off Gaea’s Cradle. 5) When you’re out of lands, it allows you to bounce and replay that land for +1 mana.

While some of the above points also apply for the other Elves as well, only Quirion Ranger will provide you with the whole package. That single card is so incredibly overpowered in this deck and will be very willing to even work the extra shift with Dryad Arbor, keeping Umezawa’s Jitte at bay. Hands down, Quirion Ranger, you’re the (wo?)man!

4 Wirewood Symbiote 4 Elvish Visionary

Glimpse of Nature¬†is good, we all get it. But what‚Äôs better than one engine? Two engines! Seriously, people often underestimate what these two guys, sometimes cutely referred to as the¬†‚ÄúBest-Friends Team‚ÄĚ,¬†are capable of. Easily assembled by¬†Green Sun‚Äôs Zenith, having one of each in play equals drawing three cards a turn while also continuously Maze of Ithing one of your opponent‚Äôs creatures. Note that while I moved up the tables, the amount of resources people were willing to dedicate to stopping this combo rose significantly. Unless you‚Äôre playing combo yourself, you really shouldn‚Äôt be afraid to burn your¬†Force of Will¬†on¬†Wirewood Symbiote¬†if you have no other way of stopping he Visionary and his parasitic friend on their quest to draw¬†all the cards!

2 Craterhoof Behemoth 1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed 1 Viridian Shaman

These last three (or, in my case, four) slots are where you will see some customization. Ever since two Behemoths has been established as the best configuration, adding Viridian Shaman is what I consider my chicken choice for big tournaments. You never know what you are going to face, and having maindeck outs to otherwise horrible matchups (Stax, anyone?) is something I’d be willing to trade off for a little less overall consistency. Also, while Affinity is already a pretty good matchup, being able to bury them und a never-ending stream of Vindicates off Wirewood Symbiote is usually the last nail in their steely coffin. Bonus consideration for the fancy people out there: Viridian Corrupter. But keep in mind that this one’s got especially bad synergy with Craterhoof Behemoth.

Moving Ruric Thar to the maindeck was a ‚Äúlast-minute‚ÄĚ swap I decided on the weekend before the tournament. My reasoning is that Storm has practically zero outs to Ruric in game 1 and thus including it increases your win percentage in game 1 from probably less than 20% to about 40%. As a matter of fact, I won all my game 1s against Storm this weekend. Of course the power of Ruric comes at a price: running the dreaded 61st card a lot of people shy away from often for no apparent reason other than pure ideology. Note that I will respect your opinion once you‚Äôve done the math and come to the conclusion that cutting something from the deck to go down to 60 is fine; however, postulating 60 cards just for the sake of it, is pretty much useless. I won‚Äôt get into the general discussion of the merits of 60 vs. 61 cards here, but keep in mind that the upsides will most likely outweigh the opportunity costs¬†if¬†the card you add meets two conditions:

1) It can be tutored up rather easily and

2) It has high impact on an important matchup you plan to improve.

Bonus: Running 61 cards will earn you the respect of the entire Russian Legacy community. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t like that.

The Spells

4 Glimpse of Nature 4 Green Sun’s Zenith 3 Natural Order

This is where the Magic happens. While Glimpse of Nature and Natural Order are the two superstars of this deck, Green Sun’s Zenith earns its merits as the glue that holds most of this deck together. The beautiful thing about it is that it doubles as acceleration AND business, and you will often find yourself GSZ for Craterhoof Behemoth to close out games. Even GSZ for Progenitus is nothing unheard of. However, for me the by far most tutored up card has always been Quirion Ranger as it provides a lot of explosiveness on turns 2 and 3.

Glimpse of Nature aka the-card-I-seem-to-play-differently-from-most-other-Elves-players. Don’t get me wrong; Glimpse is an awesome spell and has won me a countless number of games. However, I have absolutely no problem cycling it on my second turn if I’m running short on mana and need to draw into a way to deploy my hand much faster. I hardly ever wait on my Glimpses and will use them pretty aggressively. Of course there will be exceptions like the mirror match or Storm, where you are just forced to wait if you know you won’t be able to close out the game with Glimpse as passing the turn with a non-lethal amount of Elves doesn’t really get you anywhere here.

Natural Order, on the other hand, I admire. This card accounts for the vast majority of turn 3 kills and the setup couldn’t be easier! Here’s some numbers for you to see how easy it actually is to Hoof people.

2 creatures = 10 damage 3 creatures = 16 damage 4 creatures = 24 damage 5 creatures = 34 damage

Note that this is calculated with every creature being 1/1 (and the Behemoth at initially 5/5 of course). Also note that for the kill with four creatures, only three of them don’t need to be affected by summoning sickness as the fourth one will be sacked into the Natural Order and be replaced by the hasty Hoof. With a Gaea’s Cradle in play, what you will usually do is crack a fetch land for Dryad Arbor (plus-one mana on Cradle) and sacrifice it right into the Natural Order.

Remember that with any kind of acceleration on turn 1, a Quirion Ranger and a Gaea’s Cradle you will be able to cast this bad boy as soon as turn 2. While usually not enough for Craterhoof Behemoth, this is something that will come up often after sideboarding, when you want to go for Progenitus.

We never really compared numbers on this on The Source, but in my testing for every game I win on the back of Glimpse chains, I win about three with Natural Order. The only reason for the 4/3 split in the maindeck is that Glimpse clogging up your hand is much less problematic than being stuck with two or three Natural Orders, which are worse in multiples and can’t be cycled.

The Mana Base

Contrary to popular believe, this deck’s mana base is far from stable. While Merfolk still wins the award for the worst (essentially) monocolored mana base for the fifth year running, Elves has entered the competition as a strong runner-up. So don’t be fooled by the solid look of twenty lands, as there’s only fourteen of them that will produce mana on your very first turn. Despite this rather intimidatingly low number, Elves will be perfectly fine operating on just a single Forest for a solid amount of time. Yes, you will mulligan every once in a while because your hand contains no initial mana source, but that’s the price you pay for playing an otherwise incredibly powerful deck. Note that twenty lands is already a little bit on the high end for most Elves builds these days but also stems from the inclusion of the second Dryad Arbor. Whatever configuration you go for in the end, just make sure you don’t ever touch that fourteen actual lands, ok?

4 Verdant Catacombs 3 Misty Rainforest 2 Windswept Heath

The abundance of fetch lands in this deck is of course meant to fuel your Deathrite Shaman. While other decks can get away with a count of less than nine, the interaction between Quirion Ranger allows you to burn through your fetch lands at lightning speed. In most games your opponent will gladly help you out on this, but you really want to make sure not to starve your Deathrite Shaman. I strongly advise going below nine fetch lands in this deck!

4 Gaea’s Cradle 2 Forest 2 Bayou 1 Taiga

Ever since the most recent changes to the legendary rule, I consider four Cradles a given for every Elves list. People sometimes point towards how awful it is as your only mana source in your opening hand. What these people also often neglect though is that the common ‚Äúfix‚ÄĚ of playing three Cradles + one¬†Crop Rotation¬†does nothing to solve this problem. If you don‚Äôt run four¬†Gaea‚Äôs Cradle, you‚Äôre doing it wrong, trust me. Regarding the singleton¬†Taiga, I decided to include it over the tenth fetch land after many rounds of testing. The situation of having Ruric Thar in hand with no means of casting it came up at times and needed to be fixed in order to fully capitalize on the maindeck inclusion of our beloved combo-breaker. Another not unimportant point is having an additional¬†actual¬†land instead of a fetch land when facing decks with heavy creature removal and¬†Wastelands¬†as it helps in getting to¬†Natural Order¬†mana. Same goes for two¬†Forests¬†which you should always fetch for when facing an unknown opponent.

2 Dryad Arbor

Another choice I want to focus on here is the second Dryad Arbor. If you’re a dedicated Elves player, chances are you already recognized the power of this rather subtle choice. Yes, you don’t always want to naturally draw it, but the many uses of this card heavily outweigh the opportunity costs. Here are some neat tricks you may or may not already know about:

1)¬†Acceleration off GSZ on turn 1‚ÄĒ ok, that was easy.¬†2) Produces essentially plus-two mana with¬†Gaea‚Äôs Cradle¬†at the cost of a land drop.¬†3) When facing an opponent who‚Äôs dripping off removal spells, you can still setup a¬†Natural Order¬†for¬†Progenitus¬†by cracking a fetch land for¬†Dryad Arbor¬†and immediately cast your green¬†Tinker. They don‚Äôt get priority, and you even get to tap¬†Gaea‚Äôs Cradle¬†for one more mana in between.¬†4) Can be tutored up with fetch lands as a surprise blocker and protects¬†Progenitus¬†against Liliana.¬†5) Acts as a pseudo¬†Maze of Ith¬†in combination with¬†Quirion Ranger, denying¬†Umezawa‚Äôs Jitte¬†or¬†Batterskull.¬†6) Keep in mind that in rare situations instead of saving it from¬†Terminus¬†with¬†Quirion Ranger¬†you can instead just crack a fetch land for it and your opponent‚Äôs end of turn. This comes in handy when you already had your land drop but still want to attack on the very next turn.

The Sideboard

3 Cabal Therapy 2 Thoughtseize 2 Mindbreak Trap 3 Abrupt Decay 2 Pithing Needle 1 Scavenging Ooze 1 Progenitus 1 Natural Order

The sideboard is easily the part of the deck I’ve put the most work into ever since I started playing it right after Bazaar of Moxen Annecy in May. When building an Elves sideboard you usually have to make a decision between including graveyard or Storm hate, and I settled with the later. My read on the format was that Dredge and Reanimator where on an all-time low these days, and especially against the black Zombie army you can sometimes just be faster than them anyway.

I used to play four Cabal Therapys, but once I saw Reid Duke sport a list with Thoughtseize, I was quickly hooked up. In a vacuum, Therapy is much better than Duress but will also sometimes put you to difficult decisions than cannot always be solved with skill or any read you might have on your opponent. Especially against high-variance decks like Oops, All Spells!, you will have to make the decision whether to name Balustrade Spy or Undercity Informer . . . or Dark Ritual? You see, sometimes you can make the right call on Therapy (which is Balustrade Spy because I’m also running Needles) and still lose. Thoughtseize, while generally a little bit weaker, helps you out by often buying at least one guaranteed turn . . . which is often just enough to land that sweet Ruric Thar to rain onto your opponent’s parade. I’m still not sure whether I want the 3/2 or 2/3 split here though, so feel free to make your own judgement. Another very important bonus for Thoughtseize is having another card for the Miracles matchup.

The Mindbreak Traps could easily become Thorn of Amethyst if you feel confident enough to not play against any kind of fast combo (Spanish Inquisition, Belcher, to a certain degree even TES). They are definitely not there to beat ANT. Still, I have to disagree when people argue that they don’t do anything against Storm because they will do exactly what they are supposed to do in that matchup: buy you a turn to hopefully Natural Order up your Ruric Thar. If you’re not running Ruric (hint: don’t!), exchange those Traps for whatever you feel comfortable with, but please make sure to never complain about your opponent blowing you out while you were just waiting to untap into killing him.

The card I received the most questions on was¬†Pithing Needle. As you might know, Magic Online is infested with Miracles and thus provides a pretty good testing environment for that matchup. As you might also know, Miracles just smashes Elves like no tomorrow‚ÄĒthe main reason being¬†Terminus. While¬†Counterbalance¬†will often just be a nuisance,¬†Terminus¬†is what you fear and will make you walk the thin line between overcommitting to the board and falling behind really quickly. Even with perfect play, that line will soon completely vanish under your feet, and you will just lose. Since losing is pretty bad, I decided to put most of my testing into improving that matchup. For quite a while I ran a configuration of two¬†Chokes¬†and two¬†Pithing Needles, but eventually got rid of the¬†Chokes¬†in favor of more discard and one more¬†Abrupt Decay. Once I realized that¬†Sensei‚Äôs Divining Top¬†is the actual card to fight here, this decision came quite naturally, and I never looked back.

On top of that Needle also significantly improves your matchup against Sneak and Show and other random combo decks like Imperial Painter and also shuts down Umezawa’s Jitte, Grim Lavamancer, or Goblin Charbelcher. People still question its inclusion a lot, but I would never leave the house without at least two copies of it.

Other than Pithing Needle, a lot of people have also asked me why I didn’t want any white in my deck. I had Gaddock Teeg and Harmonic Sliver in the deck for most of my testing. In the end, I feel both aren’t worth moving into a different color. There are not many artifacts or enchantments that cost greater than three that you really need to kill that are seeing enough play in Legacy to worry about. Yes, Sliver can be tutored via GSZ, but I’d much rather have the third Abrupt Decay here as it’s got way more applications over the entire metagame. Gaddock Teeg, on the other hand, is actually a card that goes against my very strategy in most matchups I’d want him in. The big problem with this guy is that it prevents you from getting Ruric Thar onto the table anytime soon while doing actually nothing to disrupt your opponent for most of the game.

The Matchups

A lot of you guys have been messaging me with questions about how to sideboard with this deck. Because you’re playing almost zero reactive cards in the maindeck, sideboarding with Elves doesn’t come as naturally as with most other decks. So let’s just get right into medias res here.

Disclaimer: Don’t blindly mirror my sideboarding if it doesn’t suit the strategic approach you are following for any of these matchups. Mindless sideboarding without accounting for what you are actually seeing out of your opponent while neglecting the strategic thoughts behind the exchanges you make is a sure way to just lose. Losing sucks.

Miracles

+3 Abrupt Decay -3 Heritage Druid +2 Pithing Needle -2 Glimpse of Nature +2 Thoughtseize -2 Nettle Sentinel +1 Natural Order -1 Viridian Shaman +1 Progenitus -1 Craterhoof Behemoth (+1 Scavenging Ooze if they have Snapcaster) (-1 Quirion Ranger)

‚ÄúAch! Hans, run! It‚Äôs a miracle!‚ÄĚ

This is Shiva, destroyer of worlds. Our matchup against Shiva is awesomely bad, and I advise staying away from it at all costs. Seriously, game 1 against Miracles is a really tough one. I‚Äôve spent dozens of test games trying to find a practical way of actually grinding out Miracles in game 1‚ÄĒyes, I‚Äôm that crazy. In the end, the best advice I can give you is trying to close out the game as soon as possible. Because you don‚Äôt have the tools to efficiently fight neither¬†Counterbalance¬†nor Top, your best bet is to put them on the spot for having¬†Terminus¬†as soon as possible. Remember, that when bad odds are still the best odds you can get, it‚Äôs the absolutely right play to go for it. Way to often do I see people complaining about somebody making a perceivably ‚Äúbad play‚ÄĚ‚ÄĒlike playing right into¬†Terminus‚ÄĒwithout actually understanding that odds of winning the game on the spot at 30% is still better than your regular game 1 percentage against Miracles of about 20% if you try to grind it out.

After sideboarding things become way easier. Which doesn’t mean that you’re not still the underdog. I like siding in the Progenitus package, as unlike your other Natural Order options Progenitus can only be handled by Terminus, which means that your other NOs will stay live. I also used to side out both Craterhoofs here, but once you manage to shut down Sensei’s Divining Top with Pithing Needle, the Hoof kill actually becomes semi-viable again and requires them to have a Brainstorm into Terminus to stop it. The rest should be pretty much self-explanatory. If Thoughtseize them on turn 1, always aim for their Sensei’s Divining Top unless there’s an incredibly convining other card you want to take.

In case you’re running Gaddock Teeg, here’s a trick for you; if your opponent Swords to Plowshares your Gaddock Teeg during a crucial moment (e.g. a lethal attack), you can Abrupt Decay his Top in response. This leaves him with the decision to either save his Top and be unable to cast his Terminus or lose his Top and risk losing the game right away.

RUG & BUG Delver

+3 Abrupt Decay -2 Heritage Druid +2 Thoughtseize -2 Nettle Sentinel +1 Natural Order -1 Viridian Shaman +1 Progenitus -1 Craterhoof Behemoth +1 Scavenging Ooze -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed -1 Glimpse of Nature

Your matchup against the supreme tempo decks of the format is really tricky. Especially against RUG, Natural Order can sometimes become more of a liability, so consider siding out the Progenitus package on the draw (in which case you might also not use the Thoughtseize). Against BUG Delver, I’d always want to keep in the Natural Orders as their clock is just a tad slower than RUG’s because their tempo suffers from a slightly higher mana curve.

Strategically, you will often find your first three or four creatures being instantly removed, so plan ahead and try to lose some Symbiotes instead of actually good ones. Especially Deathrite Shaman is of highest importance since it helps a as it basically shuts down almost all of their win conditions over time. Thoughtseizes should usually go for either their hard countermagic (in order to resolve Natural Order) or big blowout spells like Toxic Deluge. Note that Golgari Charm can be very annoying but will usually not stop you from Natural Ordering, so don’t give it too much credit. Abrupt Decays are there to buy you time against Delver or remove problematic permanents like Grafdigger’s Cage (very annoying) or Engineered Plague (less annoying). Generally speaking, I don’t really mind Engineered Plague all that much as you can still easily setup Natural Order.

While most BUG variants are rather easy and should favour Elves, RUG is one of the harder matchups you are going to face, especially on the draw. Feel free to derivate from my sideboard strategy if you think you found an approach that works better. Just make sure to let me know about it!

Jund

+2 Abrupt Decay -2 Heritage Druid +1 Natural Order -1 Viridian Shaman +1 Progenitus -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed +1 Scavenging Ooze -1 Craterhoof Behemoth

Jund is definitely one of your better matchups. They might have access to all the answers (Punishing Fire, Engineered Plague, Liliana of the Veil, what-have-you) but often run into problems actually putting up an offense while disrupting you. Their best bet is casting Hymn to Tourach or Thoughtseize after your second turn in order to hit an otherwise devastating Natural Order. After sideboarding, expect Engineered Plagues. If they also sideboard Grafdigger’s Cage, you want to go up to three Abrupt Decays.

Merfolk

+2 Pithing Needle -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed -1 Heritage Druid

Sideboarding Abrupt Decay is exactly what that pesky water mages want, so you should refrain from it. Spending two mana early on will get you nowhere against Merfolk as chances are it won’t even change their clock. Instead, you should side in Pithing Needles and name either Aether Vial or Mutavault, most likely the former one. This will usually slow down their clock by two turns and is an investment I’d gladly make early on.

Death and Taxes

+3 Abrupt Decay -2 Heritage Druid +2 Pithing Needle -2 Nettle Sentinel +1 Natural Order -2 Glimpse of Nature +1 Progenitus -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed

The good news: they will be dead to Progenitus, rare corner cases like a Mirran Crusader with Jitte aside.

The bad news: they will usually have access to Aven Mindcensor aka Grafdigger’s Cage on a stick. This is basically all that happens in this matchup. Try to go for a Natural Order as soon as possible, preferably when they are unable to flash in the annoying Bird Wizards from Future Sight. Bonus points if you’ve even got the Abrupt Decay ready. You can try to find out whether they have the Mindcensor by using your GSZ aggressively in situations where they could actually have it. Other than that Pithing Needle is there to either stop Aether Vial, Umezawa’s Jitte or Mother of Runes protecting the Mindcensor; you might also want to just name Wasteland / Rishadan Port if your mana is vulnerable.

Shardless BUG

+1 Abrupt Decay -1 Birchlore Rangers +2 Thoughtseize -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed +1 Natural Order -1 Craterhoof Behemoth +1 Progenitus -2 Heritage Druid

Shardless BUG is actually one of your best (blue) matchups and one of the reasons why I believe that Elves is currently excellently positioned in the metagame. Pre-board the only cards you really care about are¬†Force of Will¬†and Discard. Fortunately, a lot of lists have lately been cutting back here, especially on countermagic. But even if they manage to disrupt your early on, their biggest problem comes in the form of an agonizingly slow clock.¬†Tarmogoyf¬†has issues actually connecting through¬†Quirion Ranger¬†and Wirewod Symbiote while the rest of their creatures is just way too slow‚ÄĒ or just die to¬†Viridian Shaman.

After sideboarding your Natural Orders become even better, as they will often lack an actual out to Progenitus. A very common line of play is them tapping out on turn 2 for Engineered Plague with you untapping into Natural Order. Watch out for Grafdigger’s Cage (and to a lesser extend Envelope) though and side in more Abrupt Decays should they have it (as they should).

U/W/R Delver

+3 Abrupt Decay -3 Heritage Druid +2 Thoughtseize -3 Nettle Sentinel +2 Pithing Needle -2 Glimpse of Nature +1 Natural Order -1 Craterhoof Behemoth +1 Progenitus

This matchup pretty much plays out the same way as other tempo decks. Side in the Needles as an additional way of dealing with Grim Lavamancer and Umezawa’s Jitte. Unless they are running the in my opinion subpar Meddling Mage instead of Ethersworn Canonist, side out two Glimpse of Natures. Your main plan in this matchup is Natural Order for Progenitus. With the current switch from Geist of Saint Traft to True-Name Nemesis, don’t be afraid of siding out Nettle Sentinels; if they play Elecktrickery, though, I’d rather cut something else.

Storm

+3 Cabal Therapy -1 Craterhoof Behemoth +2 Thoughtseize -3 Elvish Visionary +2 Mindbreak Trap -3 Wirewood Symbiote +1 Natural Order -1 Nettle Sentinel (+1 Scavenging Ooze against ANT, not TES) (-1 Glimpse of Nature)

There’s not a whole lot I can tell you about this matchup. Name Lion Eye’s Diamond with blind Cabal Therapys in order to stop (most) turn 1 kills and then flashback on your next turn. Your main goal here is to delay them just long enough for you to dive right into Ruric Thar, the Unbowed. That’s why I think Mindbreak Traps are still ok in this matchup. However, if you expect a lot of ANT (instead of Belcher, Spanish Inquisition etc.), consider exchanging the two Traps for Thorn of Amethyst. Also note that due to your usually very quick early game beats delivered by Nettle Sentinel they will often be forced into Past in Flames, which means Deathrite Shaman + Quirion Ranger become super effective.

Elves!

+3 Cabal Therapy -1 Viridian Shaman +2 Thoughtseize -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed -2 Elvish Visionary -1 Wirewood Symbiote

The mirror match is all about speed‚ÄĒso practice your die rolls! Once you‚Äôre done, remember to always name¬†Natural Order¬†with¬†Cabal Therapy. You should definitely not sideboard¬†Mindbreak Traps¬†here; especially on the play, diluting your deck in this way is a prime example of¬†playing not to lose¬†where in fact you should look out to capitalize on your huge tempo advantage. On top of that the Trap will almost never stop¬†Natural Order.

Dredge

(+2 Thoughtseize on the play) (-1 Viridian Shaman & -1 Elvish Visionary) +1 Scavenging Ooze -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed

You’re rather soft to Dredge, but at least on the play you should often be able to simply outrace their Zombie army with the help of Craterhoof Behemoth. Once you’re on the draw in post-board games, try hitting either their discard outlets or card draw spells with Thoughtseize.

Here are some more suggestions for sideboarding. As mentioned before, always adjust your configuration to what you actually see out of your opponent. Usually two or three Heritage Druids come out against removal-heavy decks in order to make room for the Progenitus combo (in which case you can easily cut one Craterhoof Behemoth). I also like siding out two Glimpse of Natures against decks with access to Ethersworn Canonist. The rest should be pretty much self-explanatory.

Painter

+3 Abrupt Decay -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed +2 Thoughtseize -2 Nettle Sentinel +2 Pithing Needle -1 Craterhoof Behemoth -2 Heritage Druid -1 Glimpse of Nature

Sneak and Show

+3 Cabal Therapy -1 Viridian Shaman +2 Thoughtseize -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed +2 Pithing Needle -1 Elvish Visionary -2 Wirewood Symbiote -1 Heritage Druid -1 Nettle Sentinel

Omni-Tell

+3 Cabal Therapy -1 Viridian Shaman +2 Thoughtseize -2 Elvish Visionary +1 Natural Order -1 Wirewood Symbiote -1 Heritage Druid -1 Nettle Sentinel

Maverick

+3 Abrupt Decay -1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed +1 Natural Order -2 Glimpse of Nature +1 Progenitus -1 Heritage Druid -2 Nettle Sentinel

Reanimator

+3 Cabal Therapy -1 Viridian Shaman +2 Thoughtseize -1 Elvish Visionary +1 Scavenging Ooze -1 Wirewood Symbiote (no need for Needle as they will just Elesh Norn you) -1 Heritage Druid -1 Nettle Sentinel -1 Birchlore Rangers

I hope I managed to answer most of the question you guys sent me over the course of the last two weeks. Otherwise, feel free to shot me some more, and I’d be happy to help you out. So with that out of the way, let’s just jump right into the amazing fairy tale I experienced at the Bazaar of Moxen!

Last-Minute Preparations

After countless hours of streaming, I had finally settled my last issues with the sideboard of the deck. For way too long I had been trying to fight both graveyard-based strategies and Storm. While Magic Online has an annoyingly high presence of Oops, All Spells!, I eventually figured that not a whole lot of people would actually decide to play that deck in Paris. It‚Äôs one thing to build Legacy‚Äôs possible best budget deck on Magic Online for ‚Äúfun‚ÄĚ; I get that. However, actually taking it across the continent, renting a hotel room, and registering that deck to what might be the biggest tournament you will attend all year seemed so alien to me that I decided to (almost) not care about that deck. Considering that you sometimes get to outrace Dredge anyway and Reanimator had not yet fully returned to the top tier, I decided that beating Storm was where the money was.

The weekend before the BoM, I took my Elves out for a walk at the monthly Legacy tournament at the Funtainment Nuremberg. Gathering 52 players, it felt like a decent training ground to see how things would work out for the build I intended to take to Paris. Here’s how I fared:

Round 1: Jund, 2:0 W Round 2: U/W Faeries, 2:0 W Round 3: Imperial Painter, 2:0 W Round 4: Sneak Show, 2:1 W Round 5: I-Kid-You-Not POX, 2:1 W Round 6: Jund, 2:1 W 6-0, 1st place

Although I didn‚Äôt get to battle Storm that day, my result just reaffirmed my faith in the deck. For past GPs, I often showed a tendency to chicken out and play something completely different from what I had tested before. Despite still making day 2 whenever I did so, it always felt like I was eventually unable to squeeze out the last bit of win percentage to finish high up the standings. This time things would be different. I played some more test games on Magic Online against Miracles, U/W/R Delver, and Storm (special kudos to Jori Hukka/kozel!) on Magic Online and‚ÄĒfor the first time in my life‚ÄĒtook a finalized decklist to a big tournament.

The Journey

Getting to Paris should have been much easier than I made it for myself. Unfortunately, l am greedy when it comes to travel costs. Usually, that’s a very positive trait, but every once in a while you will miss out on an otherwise perfect opportunity. During most of the year, flights from Munich to Paris hover at around 130 Euros. Not cheap according to my standards but decent. 10 days before the tournament, the price dropped below 95 Euros, yet I foolishly still held onto my money since I wasn’t exactly sure for how long I wanted to actually stay in Paris. In the end, my greed and inability to make a final decision came back to bite me, as prices rose back all the way to 200 Euros, and I felt like a complete idiot. I actually work in the tourism industry (let me know if you ever come to Kenya!) and knew that there still was an ok chance prices would come down again but just didn’t want to bother anymore. So the weekend before I eventually opted to make a booking, spending 139 Euros on a (return) train ticket from Munich to Paris.

Joining me on my epic journey would be my friend Florian Stange piloting Omni-Tell. Because we settled for the cheapest train possible, we departed Munich at 3:30 AM on Thursday morning. Here’s some valuable advice for anyone travelling at these hours: bring a pillow!

After an uneventful six-and-a-half hour train ride, the two of us arrive in Paris and went for some immediate sightseeing. We visited a lot of popular sights (whose exact spelling I am Googling right now) and later met up with our friends Armin and Seppi. By the way, if you ever take a walk around Paris with a lot of luggage, make sure to walk down the Champs Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe towards the Louvre‚ÄĒdefinitely not the other way round. Why? You will know when you get there.

At the hotel we met up with the rest of the Munich/Nuremberg Legacy crew, who although not in full force still managed to send about twenty people to the tournament. We engaged in the usual Legacy elitist chit-chat and then headed back to downtown Paris. We neglected to actually climb the Eiffel Tower since a horde (‚Äúqueue‚ÄĚ) of humans were blocking the entrance and just took some pictures instead.

For dinner, we cunningly decided to just walk around curelessly for over one hour in Nanterre in search for¬†a good an affordable a nearby¬†any kind of restaurant. After walking down way too many dark alleys underneath dark office building, helplessly trying to find a way up to the real streets, the rain set in. At this point we figured that nobody would ever open any kind of restaurant where there wasn‚Äôt any sidewalks or lights, so our hungry minds set out to find exactly that. After crossing even more parking docks and failing to climb a hill that kept eroding under our soaking wet feet, we eventually arrived at what must have been the center of La Defense (whose spelling I didn‚Äôt Google!). We actually had to wait to dry off a little before sitting down at a fine self-service restaurant and getting ready for dinner. Because we were in Paris, I decided to explore the local cuisine (I knew it wasn‚Äôt spelled ‚Äúcousin!‚ÄĚ) and ordered an insalata caprese & pizza frutti di mare. Good times!

We headed back to the hotel, listened to some more of the latest Legacy-elitists-screwing-over-bad-players talk, and then decided to call it a day.

Day 0: The BoM Three-Bye Trial

After having gone to bed rather early (read: before midnight), I woke up at 8 AM and joined Armin and Seppi for breakfast. The buffet the hotel offered was ok, although I‚Äôve seen better ones for sure. Always having a soft spot for croissants, I ended up drafting the perfect combination of cheese and ham with a slight splash of orange juice. Afterwards, we met up with Florian who had elected to skip breakfast in favor of a little bit more sleep and head over to the tournament center. Fortunately, I was one of the very first people in line for registration for the last-chance three-bye trial held that day. After signup, I just wander around, running into a lot of familiar faces and just enjoy the ‚Äúcalm before the storm‚ÄĚ atmosphere that big tournaments usually bring about. Seatings and then pairings were posted‚ÄĒBazar of Moxen Paris 2013, here we go!

Round 1: Kristian Melby ‚Äď U/W/R Delver, 2-0 W

G1:¬†Winning the die roll felt like a good way to start the tournament.¬†Volcanic Island,¬†Grim Lavamancer‚ÄĒnot so much. Luckily my opponent didn‚Äôt have a lot of other things going for him as he kept refilling his graveyards with cantrips and inefficient countermagic while eating up most of the creatures I threw at him. Due to the tempo advantage I was able to uphold over the course of about three turns, though, I was able to come crashing for‚ÄĒcombined with fetch lands and¬†Force of Will‚ÄĒa solid ten damage. Once he had stabilized with¬†Stoneforge Mystic, I was eventually able to stick some more creatures as his graveyard was running dry. When he main phase Lightning Bolted and Swords to Plowsharesed half my team, I had to move all in on a potentially game-winning¬†Natural Order. Long story short: he had neither Force nor¬†Stifle, and I felt like I just won a game I really shouldn‚Äôt have won.

G2: Usually, game 2 becomes easier since Pithing Needle gets them pretty good (Lavamancer, Jitte) and Abrupt Decay kills basically every non-land permanent in their deck. If I recall correctly, my opponent missed his third land drop followed by me Natural Ordering for Progenitus. (Un)fortunately, he drew two lands in a row, and after taking a hit from my Hydra Avatar, Supreme Verdict cleared the board. I just shrugged and landed Nettle Sentinel and Deathrite Shaman on the next turn. After he tapped out for Humility on his turn, my team took him all the way down to four. When he immediately passed after untapping and drawing, my spider senses started tingling. At this point he had a useless Umezawa’s Jitte, previously deployed by Stoneforge Mystic on the battlefield, and four untapped lands. So instead of committing anything else to the board, I just attacked him down to two and pass. During my end step, he flashed in Vendilion Clique, which then intended to carry Jitte into combat. Abrupt Decay after declaring attackers had different plans for his Jitte, and he just extended the hand.

1-0

Round 2: Jakub Nowak ‚Äď Junk, 2-1 W

My opponent for the second round of the trial was a very friendly guy from Poland(?) who came to Paris with his friends.

G1: Junk isn’t a particularly hard matchup since their disruption usually costs a lot more mana than the ones you will face out of tempo decks. He tickled me a little bit but in the absence of discard just died to Natural Order.

G2: I don’t remember a whole lot about this game except for my opponent fielding an early Gaddock Teeg that I was unable to remove. Soon enough I enter Abyss mode as a giant Knight of the Reliquary now demanded a brave creature to step forward and sacrifice itself every turn. Once I ran out of heroes with no Abrupt Decay in sight, I conceded.

G3: This game was a total blowout, much the way every Elves player likes it. Let me walk you through it:

Me: Forest, Green Sun’s Zenith for Dryad Arbor. Opp: Land, go. Me: Quirion Ranger, Gaea’s Cradle. Tap all for three mana, untap Arbor with Ranger => Natural Order => Progenitus. Opp: Yeah, concede.

Easy as that. I don’t know what kind of hand he kept since it obviously contained neither discard nor one-mana removal. While he might have still had good cards, don’t expect to get there against Elves with a non-blue deck when keeping a slow hand on the draw (unless it’s able to handle Progenitus; Toxic Deluge anyone?).

2-0

Round 3: Yoann Fasel ‚Äď Shardless BUG, 2-0 W

G1: A lot of people have told me I might be a bit overconfident in this matchup, but I used to play this a lot from Shardless BUG’s side and especially in game 1 Elves carries a very strong advantage. Having to fear no kind of mass removal, I was quick to establish a big board presence, blanking all the Tarmogoyfs in the world. Visionary and Symbiote drew me into an insane amount of additional cards while Deathrite Shaman kept slowly grinding down on my opponent’s life total. When he Thoughtseized me, he was faced with the choice between the devil (NO) and the deep blue sea (Glimpse). After opting for the former one, Glimpse closed out the game in disgustingly easy fashion. Sorry Shardless BUG, I really don’t see you winning game 1 in this matchup.

G2: My opponent started the game with a healthy mulligan to a four on the play. At this point the Ancestral Visions he suspended on his first turn are even more of a liability as interaction-wise this essentially turns his hand into a mulligan to three for the first couple of turns. My goal was to set up the kill on turn 3 in order to take full advantage of his suspended Visions, but unfortunately his discard took my Natural Order. His Ancestral Visions resolved, but without any kind of board sweeper in sight, he was unable to match my tempo advantage, trading only 1:1 with most of my Elves while eventually resolving Tarmogoyf. No problem though as I untapped with him at six life and casually GSZ into a Quirion Ranger to go with my Deathrite Shaman and kill him on his next upkeep. 3-0

Round 4: Mecieck Berger ‚Äď Elves!, 2-0 W

My opponent for this round was another very nice and happy guy from Poland. As I had dispatched his friend(?) in the first round of the trial, he already knew what deck I was on. When I asked him whether he was playing a good deck, he told me that he wasn’t sure. After his first turn basic Forest into Nettle Sentinel, I reassured him that he in fact was playing a very potent deck.

G1: Time for the mirror match! Despite huge success with Elves before, I had already established quite the local reputation of constantly losing when facing the ones of my kind. Fortunately, things worked out better for me this game. In game of the mirror match it all comes down to keeping hands with a high probability of killing on turn 3, as there’s gonna be literally zero interaction between you and your opponent. My opponent went first and was quick to establish the Wirewood Symbiote + Elvish Visionary combo on turn 2 thanks to Gaea’s Cradle. However, the more he kept bouncing and replaying his Visionary onto an otherwise pretty stacked board (Heritage Druid, Gaea’s Cradle, Nettle Sentinel, Quirion Ranger), the more the confidence grew in me that even if he eventually hit an out he would no longer being able to actually cast it. When he passed the turn, I knew that victory was mine. As I already had a Natural Order in my opening hand, finding four creatures until turn 3 was much less of a concern than for him finding actual business.

G2:¬†Game 2 actually became way easier for me as it became apparent that we were on two different sideboard strategies. Mine not only turned out to be superior in this game but is definitely the way better way of handling the mirror match in general. I usually shy away from strong, bold, and definite statements like this but there‚Äôs little I feel more strongly about than¬†Mindbreak Traps¬†in mirror matches. Not only (but especially!) on the play, just throw that card out the window and don‚Äôt even dare to look at it. You‚Äôre no stupid control deck trying to grind out a win here. What you are is an aggro-combo deck that wants to go for the throat ASAP! That‚Äôs why I only sideboard discard‚ÄĒand even that might be a mistake when on the play.

So the way this game played out is that he played a Deathrite Shaman on the first turn while I Thoughtseized him off Bayou. He showed me a very unimpressive hand of some more lands, Nettle Sentinel, Quirion Ranger, Wirewood Symbiote, and Mindbreak Trap; I took the Quirion Ranger and passed the turn. We both deploy the rest of our hand on the second turn. When he drew for his third turn, I held my breath as a topdecked Natural Order would still do it for him. Instead, he drew an Elvish Visionary and did some more shenanigans with that but eventually failed to find the discard for my Natural Oder. I untapped and made a humble sacrifice to the Gods of Llanowar, and suddenly we saw four 5/5 angry Elves and their 10/10 Behemoth crashing in on my opponent’s humble life total! *ROAAARRR* 4-0

Round 5: Daniel Heerens ‚Äď Imperial Painter, 2-0 W

For this round, I sat down across some German guy from Berlin who told me we had played before. When I told him that I unfortunately didn‚Äôt remember any of that, he stood by his point and told me he definitely knows me. Fine, I guess I‚Äôll play along and ask him what I was playing back then‚ÄĒhe admitted to not remembering, but I most likely beat him. Works for me. It‚Äôs always nice to see a little bit of discouragement on the other side of the table even if you‚Äôre not the one to actually take credit for it.¬†ūüėČ

G1:¬†He led with (I believe)¬†Goblin Welder¬†but failed to make a play on the second turn. In the absence of¬†Blood Moon, I quickly developed my board and got ready for summoning up Big Ol‚Äô Hoof on the next turn. After he tapped out for¬†Painter‚Äôs Servant¬†on his third turn, I hesitated to immediately¬†Natural Order¬†as I was running the risk of getting ‚Äúmonkeyblasted‚ÄĚ (Simian Spirit Guide + Pyroblast). So I just slammed the¬†Glimpse of Nature¬†I had just drawn; it resolved. This led to me drawing almost my entire deck just to make sure he was not slow rolling an unrealistic high amount of Blasts‚ÄĒsometimes I might be too paranoid. Hoof got there. After the match was over, the people standing behind my opponent gave him crap for not playing the¬†Ensnaring Bridge¬†in his hand instead of the Painter. I‚Äôm pretty sure that would have been the better play since he couldn‚Äôt know that I was actually running the (unconventional choice of)¬†Viridian Shaman¬†in the maindeck anyway.

G2:¬†I have talked to Jacob Kory, and for some reason we are pretty split on who‚Äôs actually favored in this matchup‚ÄĒgrudge match incoming?¬†(To be fair he was actually referring to the U/R Painted Stone list he used in the most recent #SCGLA).¬†My personal feeling is that Elves is really favored, especially against Imperial Painter after sideboarding‚ÄĒif not for the dreaded turn 1¬†Blood Moon¬†on the play. With only two basic¬†Forests¬†in the deck, that card pretty much spells doom for green mage here.

I mulliganed my first acceptable hand that only contained a Bayou in order to find at least a fetch land of some sorts. A fetch land is actually better than a dual as it at least plays around a turn 2 Blood Moon. If you keep a Bayou, your only out to Blood Moon is finding the lone Llanowar Elves in your deck ASAP as Deathrite Shaman is not a reliable out here. For my six, I got rewarded for my conscious decision with a respectable hand that also contained a fetch land. Sure enough, my opponent failed to do anything on his first turn and slammed a suddenly-not-so-intimidating-anymore Blood Moon on the next turn. After that he didn’t really bring anything useful to the table, while I did what I know best: develop my board, making sure to not overextend into something like Pyroclasm. When he eventually found Sensei’s Divining Top, I had the Pithing Needle for it. As I had two Abrupt Decays in hand at this point, there was no reason to be actually afraid of his combo, so Needling the Top seems good here. I don’t actually remember how I closed out the match, but I feel I just got there via careful beatdown.

5-0

Round 6: Tony Flamand ‚Äď MUD, 2-1 W

I had absolutely no idea what he was playing, so I naturally asked him if thinks his deck is good. He gave me a confused look and then smiled and said,¬†‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not as good as yours. My deck is very dumb.‚Ä̬†Is it? I tell him that he shouldn‚Äôt feel too bad about his deck and that I feel the matchup gets so much better after sideboarding, and he instantly agreed. Great, but now I still don‚Äôt know what he‚Äôs actually playing. If only I knew for whom it actually gets better after game 1; guess I‚Äôm about to find out.

My friends often tell me that it seems I like to do a lot of trash talking before and during matches; aside from sometimes getting actual information out of my opponent, I just like getting a better feel for what kind of personality you are sharing the game with. Exploring the attitude your opponent brings to the table is something I‚Äôd rather learn about before the match than feeling uncertain throughout the match. It‚Äôs not like it is going to impact my decision making, but despite my competitive approach I really embrace the social aspect of the global Magic community‚ÄĒsomething which has grown me lots of friends everywhere in the entire world.

G1:¬†Ancient Tomb, tap for mana, lose two life, Chalice on one‚ÄĒargh! At least I now know for whom the matchup is going to improve after sideboarding. Fortunately, I was going first and had dropped¬†Deathrite Shaman. Despite the Chalice I was still able to assemble MUD‚Äôs worst nightmare of¬†Wirewood Symbiote¬†+¬†Viridian Shaman¬†courtesy of two¬†Demonic Tutors¬†on steroids¬†Green Sun‚Äôs Zenith. With the Shaman hopping back and forth, annihilating my opponent‚Äôs entire board, he was quick to concede while the lethal¬†Natural Order¬†was already sitting my hand.

G2:¬†During this game I made what I like to call one of the most classic mistakes people make in Vintage‚ÄĒnot killing¬†Metalworker¬†when I had the chance to. After dropping¬†Chalice of the Void¬†on one on his first turn, Tony landed a¬†Grim Monolith¬†and slammed¬†Metalworker¬†onto the table. So here I was sitting with a pretty decent hand, looking to¬†Natural Order¬†up¬†Progenitus¬†as soon as possible. Unfortunately I had already adjusted my Cruise Missile (Abrupt Decay) onto Chalice, which I planned on killing on the end of his now following turn. Had I paid more attention I would have realized that my opponent was actually in a pretty dicey spot; he had missed his land drop on the second turn and was all in on the¬†Metalworker¬†as his¬†Grim Monolith¬†would likely remain tapped for some more turns. When he untapped, he immediately punished me for my foolish mistakes and revealed six artifacts, including¬†Lodestone Golem¬†and¬†Steel Hellkite. After Decaying his¬†Chalice of the Void¬†in response to the Golem and not topdecking¬†Viridian Shaman, I quickly scooped it up, and we move onto the final game.¬†G3:¬†This match was over pretty quickly. He went for Chalice on one and two on his first two turns . . . followed by death by¬†little¬†giant green men riding on top of a Behemoth. How is that even possible? I went for¬†Deathrite Shaman¬†on the first turn followed by GSZ for¬†Quirion Ranger¬†and¬†Gaea‚Äôs Cradle¬†into¬†Elvish Visionary. When he tapped out for his second Chalice, I knew victory was mine, and I just slammed¬†Natural Order. Great, now I‚Äôm guaranteed at least one bye and a FBB¬†Underground Sea.

6-0

Round 7: Rasmus Nilsson ‚Äď Bant Aggro, 2-0 W

G1: For the last round of the trial, I sat down across from a familiar face, Rasmus from Denmark. The last time we met in Annecy, he easily dispatched me in the penultimate round of the trial in playing RUG Delver. This time things would be different since he was fielding his own take on the Bant Aggro list Reid Duke used to win the SCG Open the week before (including True-Name Nemesis). In this matchup, Elves just does what it always does against the plethora of midrangey decks in Legacy: set up an easy Natural Order or Glimpse kill. Having seen Reid Duke list before, I was pretty sure he wasn’t running any Force of Wills in his maindeck, so this game was rather easy to close out.

One thing that was noticeable was that he neglected to¬†Wasteland¬†a¬†Dryad Arbor¬†that I kept untapping with¬†Quirion Ranger¬†and¬†Wirewood Symbiote¬†during my Glimpse chain. At every point the Dryad was my only mana-producing creature, and I had no¬†Quirion Ranger¬†activations left as I was kinda starving on mana. At the last possible moment I even draw into¬†Heritage Druid, suddenly freeing me from any mana concerns. After the match Rasmus acknowledged that he might have made a mistake there.¬†G2:¬†After sideboarding things changed a little as he now had access to two¬†Force of Wills¬†as well as potentially¬†Gaddock Teeg, which would force me into either finding an¬†Abrupt Decay¬†or focusing on¬†Glimpse of Nature. However, since I usually side out two¬†Glimpse of Natures¬†against decks that are likely to have¬†Ethersworn Canonist,¬†Gaddock Teeg¬†would actually be kinda annoying. Luckily, he only had the¬†Force of Will¬†for my¬†Glimpse of Nature¬†on turn 3, allowing me to safely¬†Natural Order¬†for¬†Progenitus. Rasmus extended his hand and victory was mine‚ÄĒsay hello to ten WB dual lands + three byes for the main event tomorrow!

7-0

At this time, I already felt incredibly happy. Winning back your travel expenses before the main event even starts takes away some of the psychological pressure of doing well in order to also have at least a little bit of financial justification‚ÄĒnot that it really matters in the long run (unless you go pro). Still, starting my BoM experience by winning an almost 300-people tournament gave me a great feeling for the entire rest of the weekend!

Day 1: Undefeated @ 8-0-1

When seatings were posted, I sat down in front of a friendly Englishman who had been working in Barcelona for the last three years. We exchanged the usual congratulations on our respective city‚Äôs football clubs, and he did a pretty good impression of trying to convince me to never come to Barcelona‚ÄĒit turned out he was only doing his best to keep out all the tourists from an otherwise stunningly beautiful city. Having visited Barcelona before, I didn‚Äôt fall for his trickery!

Round 1, 2, & 3: *BYE*

 

Byes are such a treat. On top of nine points, you also enjoy better tiebreakers and are able to preserve a lot of mental energy. Never leave home without them! Still, my friend Sergey never fails to remind me of what is basically already on its way to a meme inside the Legacy community:¬†“Julian! Byes again? Byes are for girls!!!”

But as always, with great power comes great responsibility‚ÄĒin my case responsibility for the culinary desires of my travel mates. So while Armin, Florian, and Seppi were out there battling in the first three rounds, I set out to find a supermarket. Instead of going for the one at the nearby train station, I followed a friend‚Äôs recommendation of¬†“right there down the street”¬†and suddenly found myself on an epic journey probably coming to a theatre near you soon.¬†Forget¬†Peter Jackson and Frodo; finding stores with at least halfway decent hours in France is what it‚Äôs all about these days!

After what felt like an eternity, I eventually ended up in a small shop on top of a hill (for the sake of analogy, let’s call it a mountain!). Unfortunately, no eagles showed up to take me back to the tournament center, so I just grabbed all the water I could carry and somehow managed to arrive back at the site in time for round 3. I equipped my friends with supplies and waited for the round to finish. Time to get this tournament started!

Round 4: Alexander Killi ‚Äď U/W Miracles, 2-0 W

For my first actual match of the tournament, I played against a fellow German. Alexander studies in Berlin but is currently on a semester abroad in Paris just in time for the BoM and GP next year. That’s what I call proper timing!

G1:¬†Tundra¬†into¬†Sensei‚Äôs Divining Top. Once again DCI reporter felt like giving me a hard run for my money. Fortunately, my opponent seemed to have a much better understanding of Elves than I do. That‚Äôs the only explanation I can give you because why else would you insta-scoop to the obviously unbeatable combination of¬†Wirewood Symbiote¬†and¬†Elvish Visionary? When he told me,¬†“I know where this is going . . . “¬†I first believed he just intended to F6 for the rest of the turn, but he actually just picked up his cards and started shuffling for the next game. Guess the cards on top of his deck were not the droids he was looking for?

G2: During this game my opponent actually got Counterbalance on turn 2 but failed to blind flip for a while. After Abrupt Decaying his Balance end of turn, I main phase Thoughtseized him for Force of Will, dropped some more Elves, and instantly Natural Ordered for Progenitus. He failed to find a Terminus on his next two draw steps and packed it up. Sometimes it just works out, especially when your opponent doesn’t have Sensei’s Divining Top.

4-0

Round 5: Maciej Pasek ‚Äď Esper Miracles, 1-1-1 Draw

Time to revisit our Polish friends! For this round I actually played against¬†another¬†guy from the Polish Legacy team that came to Paris in a now-obvious attempt to snipe me from the tournament. Unfortunately, this one came well prepared as he was on Esper Miracles‚ÄĒvery likely the worst matchup I would ever face the entire weekend.

G1: But who actually gives a damn about bad matchups? Not this guy. I just went for my usual strategy in game 1 against Miracles of sending my Elves to his throat ASAP. Everything went according to the plan of him not having Terminus until he had Terminus. However, with my opponent at only six life, I chained Green Sun’s Zeniths into several Wirewood Symbiotes while Deathrite Shaman actually went all the way.

There‚Äôs not a whole lot I can say here, yet people keep asking me about how to beat this matchup. All I can tell you is play to win!¬†Hesitation¬†in game 1 is the most common reason for losing to Miracles with this deck.¬†Forget¬†that crap about¬†“playing around¬†Terminus”¬†(in game 1) as it will do you no good. It‚Äôs like not raising a strong hand pre-flop in fear of a worse hand coming out on top of you on the flop. The less you raise pre-flop (commit to the board), the more likely any of the weaker hands at the table will hit their outs in the long run.

G2: This game acted as a quick reminder that I am actually mortal. Not that I ever had a tendency to think otherwise, but after winning three games straight against the possible worst matchup, a man sometimes starts dreaming. Not this time though as my opponent quickly established the Counterbalance-Top lock while I tried to play (read: draw) my last remaining outs in the form of Abrupt Decay.

After being hit by two Engineered Plagues on Elf and Dryad, Wirewood Symbiote was my last remaining hope of actually staging one of the most epic comebacks I could have ever imagined. I even drew the Natural Order I was looking for; my opponent had the Force of Will but still failed to find a way to actually kill me. We both durdled around for quite a while, but he eventually got me with Jace, the Mind Sculptor’s ultimate ability. We reconsidered our sideboarding and then shuffled up for game 3 with less than ten minutes left.

G3: After drawing no lands in my first opening seven, I actually considered keeping a hand of five lands and one Thoughtseize but ultimately decided to ship it back. Despite this loss of crucial resources, the early game played out pretty well for me with several Elves nibbling on my opponent’s life total, and I had a feeling that I might be actually able to get there, The joke was on me as my opponent just turned the game state upside down by sweeping my board with Perish (or was it Toxic Deluge?).

After getting down some preemptive Engineered Plagues, he looked in great position to take the game but yet again lacked the tools to actually get there. At some point he flashed in a Snapcaster Mage in an attempt to capitalize on my incapability to do anything. Too late though as we finished the game with me at two life in the fifth extra turn. At this point I had to give a lot of credit and respect to my opponent for swallowing the draw without any hard feelings. One of the best guys I played all tournament.

4-0-1

Round 6: Johannes Gutbrod ‚Äď U/W Miracles, 2-0 W

Third time’s the charm they say. Whoever came up with this saying should definitely go watch Elves vs. Terminus 3. You might ask why they would print such a strong spell. I don’t know. I kinda love it. I actually hate it. Especially the excruciating feeling of seeing your entire squad crushed under the iron first of just a single white mana.

To make matters worse, I was playing against Johannes, another member of the Munich/Nuremberg Legacy crew.

G1: Game 1 saw Johannes without any kind of mass removal, which made it really easy yet nevertheless thrilling for me to get there. At ten life he managed to stick a Moat, which could very likely spell trouble for me even after sideboarding. Fortunately, my Deathrite Shaman took him down to eight on his end step. When his life total dropped to six life on my main phase, I actually hard cast Ruric Thar, which now reduced his outs to the single Karakas he was probably running. When he didn’t find it, we were quick to shuffle up for the next game.

G2: I don’t remember a whole lot about this game, but I feel Pithing Needle on Top might have played an important role here. He again failed to find the Force of Will for my Natural Order, and Progenitus got there in two clean swings.

5-0-1

Round 7: Hove Thiessen ‚Äď BUG Delver, 2-1 W

G1: I remembered seeing Hove play in the Top 8 of GP Strasbourg earlier this year and assumed he might be still on some kind of BUG Delver strategy. Since he didn’t manage to foster any kind of offense (read: Delver), I had free rein to play the old Symbiote/Visionary game and eventually just ground him out. Not a whole lot to see here.

G2: With his back against the wall, Hove mulliganed down to five cards on the draw. Despite this huge disadvantage, he managed to crawl back into the game, trading two times three-for-one with the help of Golgari Charm and Toxic Deluge. When I fired off a Hail Mary Natural Order, he had the Force of Will for it and sealed the game with a Tombstalker. I hadn’t seen that card in European metagames in quite a while I have to say.

G3: Time to return the favor! In quick fashion I mulliganed down to five but kept a strong hand of two lands, DRS, Visionary, and Symbiote. When Hove didn’t Hymn me on turn 2, I felt relieved and brought all my guys to the table. We did some trading of business spells for counterspells and discard, with me eventually resolving a Natural Order for Progenitus while he was at eleven life. I jokingly announced that Toxic Deluge might still do it for him as I was unable to activate my tapped Deathrite Shaman. He looked me in the eyes and then proceeded to cast Brainstorm with three lands still untapped. He slowly drew his cards and then thought about what to put back for a while.

During all of this, I was on the edge of my set as I had absolutely no idea how many Toxic Deluges he might be packing. Despite not making a huge splash in the metagame yet, the card is actually insane and will definitely see way more play than the general public currently expects it to. Fortunately, it didn’t see a lot of play in this very game as Hove failed to find anything besides another one of his Golgari Charms and extended his hand. As I later found out, he had sided out all his Liliana of the Veils, a move I don’t agree with, although doing so on the draw might be reasonable.

6-0-1

Round 8: Samuel Marti ‚Äď Elves! 2-0

When testing the waters while shuffling up, Samuel seemed to be a quiet and deliberate guy. It’s always a bit awkward when you don’t really get a good grip of what kind of person you are playing, but I don’t blame him as he seemed very focused.

G1: I believe I got to play first in this game, which is such a huge boon in the Elves mirror as it takes away the stress of actually having to hope to just live through your opponent’s third turn. So after playing out several Elves on the first couple of turns, I moved all in on what seemed like a Glimpse of Nature chain that was rather unlikely to actually result in a win for me. All I was hoping for at this point was to maybe get enough Elves to the battlefield to barely survive a Natural Order out of Samuel on his third turn.

Still, despite the bad outlook, I played it out in a very disciplined fashion, neglecting to make any land drops until I found Gaea’s Cradle, and eventually found Heritage Druid on the last possible draw before I would be forced to ship the turn. During all of this, Samuel suddenly changed and did his best to rush me into making a mistake. I can’t stand that kind of behavior as we both knew that I was far from slow play. Anyway, after I had drawn the Heritage Druid I needed (once again on the last possible draw!), I easily dispatched him with him being ready to do the same to me had he gotten another turn.

G2: During the first two turns of this game, we both had very explosive Gaea’s Cradle draws and were able to summon several Elves to the battlefield. Unfortunately for Samuel, all that was left for him to do on turn 3 was to go for Natural Order after doing some calculations that saw him attack for 24. This of course meant that I got to block with two Nettle Sentinels and eat the creature he had sacrificed with my Deathrite Shaman and barely survive at two life. With Natural Order in hand, this now looked like a sure win for me. The only problem I had to overcome at this point was his Symbiote untapping his Craterhoof Behemoth, which provided additional five toughness of defense.

After doing some calculations, I realized that in order to kill him immediately, I would have to topdeck any one-mana creature. It seemed Samuel had already figured out the same as I collected my seemingly well-deserved¬†“piece of shit!”¬†from him as I cast and sacrifice my newly drawn¬†Heritage Druid¬†into a lethal¬†Natural Order. No hard feelings Samuel, at least you got to win GP Valencia the following weekend.

7-0-1

Round 9: Nicolas Bourguet ‚Äď Junk, 2-1 W (@nicoleptik)

G1: For the last round of the day and the honor of emerging undefeated for the moment, I was playing Nicolas, a very friendly and talkative guy from France. I wasn’t too sure what he was playing, but it seemed he already had my number when he used GSZ to grab Gaddock Teeg as soon as turn 2. I tried to grind him out with Symbiote/Visionary, but he had the Swords to Plowshares to stop any of my shenanigans and sealed the deal with Umezawa’s Jitte.

G2: It’s funny; I have much better memory of all the games I actually lost than the ones I took from my opponents. I have a hard time remembering what was actually going on here, but one of the few things I recall his him misplaying with his Golgari Charm. He was trying to use it in response to me bouncing Elvish Visionary with Wirewood Symbiote when in fact he should have waited for me to replay it in order to take out the entire engine at once. Despite his mistake, he stayed in the game and even got Gaddock Teeg online at some point. Abrupt Decay into Natural Order got there.

G3: I hope this is not getting old for you guys, but in the face of no interaction on his first turn, I just Natural Ordered for Progenitus on my second turn and got there. Nicolas took it with a good laugh and extended his hand. One of the coolest guys I played all weekend. He finished the main event in thirteenth place I believe.

8-0-1

So far, so good . . . so what! Unlike the first couple of times I made day 2 of GPs, my desire for more definitely exceeded my happiness about finishing day 1 with a decent record. The draw against Maciej seemed unavoidable, but given how I managed to already overcome several difficult matchups, I feel pretty good about my chances at this point. Unfortunately, Armin, Seppi, and Florian didn’t make it into day 2 though. They still happily cheered for me, and we headed out for dinner at what must be one of the very best places to get burgers. The guys at the restaurant even did that special thing where they put a sunny-side-up egg on top of your bacon. Coincidentally, I had just read about this kind of culinary pleasure on Reddit the other day and was really excited to try it myself. And boy did it deliver.

Day 2: I Might Be On To Something Big Here

It looked like I wasn‚Äôt the only one drafting cheese + ham this morning. I still managed to get some good late picks, but mono-ham just doesn‚Äôt have the same kind of feel for me, so I decided to move into the yet unexplored territories of strawberry jam on toast. It ended up curving out well, but I recommend anyone trying this strategy to check whether the toaster is actually switched on before just staring at it like an idiot for almost five minutes. Oh, and they were out of orange juice. So I guess this qualifies as finishing outside the money at breakfast.¬†ūüôĀ

Since the tournament would be starting even earlier today, Armin, Florian, and Seppi decided to join me later, which was fine with me. Especially at big tournaments, I really enjoy just putting on my headphones between rounds and relaxing. My choice for this tournament was David Garrett’s album Rock Symphonies (a crossover between classical and rock tunes), which I basically kept listening to nonstop between rounds.

Shortly after the doors opened, pairings were posted, and I headed over to one of the top tables just looking to play a match of Magic and see where it would take me (spoiler: very far).

Round 10: Cyryl Kociecki ‚Äď Merfolk, 2-0 W

Ok, I kid you not. I was actually battling the fourth member of what I at this point can only refer to as the Polnish¬†Ninja¬†Turtles. I like to imagine that the Eastern European equivalent of Master¬†Splinter¬†had sent them out on a special mission to hunt and take me down to satisfy his vicious desire for Elf blood‚ÄĒand I was facing my final confrontation against their glorious leader.

Yup! I’m weird.

Game 1: I’m sorry, but I don’t remember a lot about this game. I remember him not having to quickest of starts but still getting me down well below ten life. At some point I opened myself up to dying if he had another lord in hand but figured it might be worth it as by doing so I’d be able to play around Force of Will on the next turn. Dropping down to very low life post-combat, I untapped and cast Glimpse of Nature. Seeing it countered, I just dropped Gaea’s Cradle and Natural Ordered up my own super mega-lord and overrun him.

Game 2: Ok, here’s a little exercise for you guys. I will give you the name of four different cards, and you will try to figure out how the game played out. Ready? Mutavault, Forest, Aether Vial, and Pithing Needle. Followed by several end of turn discards on Cyryl’s side of the table. Do you remember what I said about Merfolk mana bases?

9-0-1

Round 11: Yohan Dudognon ‚Äď U/W/R Miracles, 2-1 W

When pairings were posted Cyryl (Polish for Leonardo) was quick to track me down and inform me that we had actually signed our match slip the wrong way. We quickly headed down to the judge station and informed them of the mistake, and they reorganized the pairings of the first few tables. Thanks Cyryl, that was a real gentleman move.

G1: A quick assemblance of Counterbalance + Sensei’s Divining Top followed by a Terminus. Nothing to see here.

G2: While he was running Volcanic Islands, I got a feeling he might be playing red mainly for Pyroblasts and potentially Sulfur Elementals. A lot of Miracles players have recently made this switch, which is completely fine with me. I quickly put him all in on my first Natural Order, and while he didn’t have the Force of Will for it, he still flipped Terminus from the top (courtesy of SDT) and reset my board. I was still far from done here, and when he got Counterbalance online later, I just waited for two turns, only grinding with Deathrite Shaman and setting up for the kill.

With him at twelve life, I Abrupt Decayed his Counterbalance end of turn and ground two more life with the Shaman. During my turn I tested the waters by dropping Pithing Needle onto the board, which he sure enough responded by flipping his Top. Considering for the slightest of seconds but eventually ruling out Quicken into Divine Verdict (this ain’t no Standard, Julian!), I still Thoughtseized him but (obviously) saw no Force of Will. I then used all the mana I had previously built up on lands to easily Natural Order for the win. Note that ever since I started playing Pithing Needle I leave one Craterhoof Behemoth in the maindeck against Miracles as you often don’t have to fear Terminus outside of corner-case scenarios involving Brainstorm.

G3: For our third and final game, we both mulliganed down to six cards. I led with Pithing Needle on Sensei’s Divining Top followed by Wirewood Symbiote. Unable to filter his draws, Yohan on the other side of the table started missing land drops early in the game and spent most of the time just doing nothing. Not the good kind of nothing Miracles often does but the I-have-three-miracles-in-hand nothing as my Thoughtseize showed me. I took one of his two Terminuses and set up for a lethal Natural Order on the next turn. <3 Pithing Needle.

10-0-1

Round 12: Grzegorz Jezierski ‚ÄstAd Nauseam¬†Tendrils, 2-1 W

Ok, time to start playing mono-Top 8 players. Grzegorz is a very nice guy from of course Poland once again. So that’s like the fifth Polish guy this weekend? I wasn’t exactly sure whether he was on ANT, but as you can see above, I had played next to him during the last round of day 1 and felt I remembered seeing him engage in some sort of Shokushu Goukan.

G1: For this game I keep a very good hand of lands, acceleration, and the potential to Natural Order on turn 3. Unfortunately, Grzegorz Duressed me after Pondering on turn 1. As he took the NO, I was left with just some Elves beating down on him. When he didn’t find what he was looking for, he was eventually forced into Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Burning Wish, and hard cast Massacre to reset my board. I saved Deathrite Shaman and a Dryad Arbor with Wirewood Symbiote, and Quirion Ranger and continued to deliver the beats at three damage per turn, adding another Quirion Ranger off GSZ. Because of his rather low life, Grzegorz was forced to find a way to win through the graveyard, but with me sporting two activations of DRS per turn, he was unable to get there.

G2:¬†I kept a solid hand including a¬†Mindbreak Trap. We both did our usual thing, which was developing the board for me while Grzegorz spent some time at Camp Cantrip. Unfortunately, he decided to leave at just the right moment with me ready to untap into¬†Natural Order. I fully expected him to name said card when he cast¬†Cabal Therapy¬†on his third turn. The moment “Mindbreak Trap” came across his lips I knew I was doomed. He would never name that card over¬†Natural Order¬†if he didn‚Äôt know he‚Äôd be able to kill me on this very turn. Unfortunately, I was right. As soon as the Therapy resolved, Grzegorz started chaining rituals and eventually resolved a¬†Past in Flames. I responded by eating his lonely¬†Infernal Tutor¬†with¬†Deathrite Shaman, but with three cantrips remaining in his graveyard, he still got there and even found the natural¬†Tendrils of Agony¬†for the win.

G3: For our final game Grzegorz went first and Pondered. On my turn I Thoughtseized him and saw (among others) Brainstorm, Dark Ritual, Burning Wish, Duress, and (I believe) Lion’s Eye Diamond. I ended up taking the latter one, trying to act as careless about his discard spell as I could. It didn’t work out for me as he still followed his Preordain with Duress, taking my Natural Order. With him tapped out, I topdecked Cabal Therapy and aimed it at what I feel was the best call here: Dark Ritual. He ended up having TWO!

He was a bit bummed about me not naming Brainstorm, which would have also made sense given the fact that I also knew about it. However, and I think I’ve already mentioned this, what I am looking for in this matchup is buying time. This means that I want to take out my opponent’s business spells as soon as possible while he is forced back into cantripping. This might not be the overall best approach in the long run, but RURIC THAR NOT CARE ABOUT LONG RUN!

Still, left with little gas and only some creatures, I knew the game was far from over. When I drew Glimpse of Nature with only one creature in hand but two Wirewood Symbiotes in play, I just went for it to see where it would take me. It ended up drawing me only three cards, but oh boy that was probably the most profitable fizzle ever: Thoughtseize, Cabal Therapy, and Natural Order joined my hand. With only one black mana left, I Thoughtseized Grzegorz, took out an Infernal Tutor, and passed the turn with about five power on the board. Grzegorz used a Burning Wish to grab a Toxic Deluge, which soon fell victim to my Therapy followed by Natural Order for everyone’s favorite Ogre Warrior. This game could have easily gone either way, and I feel lucky I got to walk away victorious.

11-0-1

Round 13: Jamie Westlake ‚ÄstAd Nauseam¬†Tendrils, 1-2 L

At this point I was the only undefeated player still left in the tournament. When Jamie and I sat down for our match, the head judge came over and told us that there was some good and some bad news. The bad news was that we would have to pack up all of our stuff. The good one was they were moving us to the feature match area!

You can find video coverage of our match here. Here are some notes of what was going on in my head during the games:

G1: Jamie made a mistake in going for only fourteen Goblins in a situation where he should have just waited and swallowed the risk of dying on my turn. He immediately recognized his strategic mistake but couldn’t really undo his moves once he had started chaining rituals. What you don’t see in the video though is that the judge actually asked Jamie to make a play; I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have gone for it had he had more time to think about it.

G2: I kept a rather weak hand of Thoughtseize, Mindbreak Trap, Gaea’s Cradle, Craterhoof Behemoth, and some fetch lands. My plan for this game was delaying him with my disruption spells for as long as possible while fetching Dryad Arbors to quickly accelerate into Craterhoof Behemoth while also having a lot of good topdecks. The moment I drew GSZ, I had already spent time during Jamie’s turn thinking about how I could use a potentially topdeck Zenith into generating eight mana. Short story: I couldn’t but really felt I should be able to.

So after pondering it for a while, I ended up concluding that getting Quirion Ranger was the best choice as it would allow me to use Deathrite Shaman twice that turn. Seemed good. The SECOND I picked up my deck I wanted to die in shame as I immediately realized my mistake. Mentally shattered, I even failed to set up the Deathrite Shaman properly and ended up having only one untap with it, which even might have cost me the game once more.

G3:¬†“Oh shit.”

11-1-1

Round 14: Stuart Taylor ‚Äď U/W/R Delver, 2-1 W

I’m not gonna lie; I hated myself for losing that last match. With a win I would have been a sure lock for the Top 8, but instead here I was battling a really bad matchup. However, even though I knew Stuart was on U/W/R Delver, I had never felt more confident about winning this match. Even when he took the lead in game 1, the thought of not winning this match didn’t even come anywhere close to me. This was my tournament, and after an incredible run, I was definitely making Top 8. I’d been actively chasing this high-profile finish ever since I got a taste of what-could-have-been in my 88th finish at GP Amsterdam 2011, and now I was closer than ever and wanted it more than anything else. I just could not lose here.

I did not lose.

G1: Stuart opened up with Volcanic Island into Grim Lavamancer. Argh, that guy. He chained some cantrips and shot down each and every Wirewood Symbiote or Elf I presented to him. When I tried to slowly stabilize at very low life, Geist of Saint Traft came down, and the next thing I knew he launched a 4/4 Angel straight to my face. GG.

G2: I knew Stuart didn’t run Stoneforge Mystic and instead opted for the more burn-oriented Snapcaster Mage. I still sided in my Abrupt Decays and Pithing Needles as I was in desperate need for a solution to Lavamancer; also, if worse came to worst, I could still set them on either Wasteland or an Umezawa’s Jitte that he might have despite the lack of SFM. In this game Stuart dropped an Engineered Explosives for one on his first turn but neglected to blow it for quite a while despite me having two one-mana Elves on the field.

In a moment of weakness, he spent two of his three mana on Ponder and Delver before passing the turn. Sensing my opportunity, I performed a rather complicated and mana-tight turn that involved untapping Llanowar Elves with a bounced and replayed Quirion Ranger several times before going for GSZ into Birchlore Rangers to have just enough green and black mana to blow up Stuart’s EE with Decay. The Delver flipped, but at this point I already had overwhelming forces and could potentially even outrace the second best Insect in Legacy.

However, since my opponent‚Äôs deck had much better tools for getting a lead in damage races, I opted to let Visionary and Symbiote do their dirty dance and quickly ramped up to a full grip while semi-negating the Delver with DRS for two for two turns‚ÄĒsadly not a lot of creatures left to eat up though. With two¬†Natural Order¬†and one Glimpse in hand, I went for the first NO, drawing the expected¬†Force of Will¬†out of Stuart‚Äôs hand. On my next turn I tried to bait him with Glimpse once again, and much to my surprise, it actually resolved. Even more to my surprise, I actually managed to clutter the board with Elves, eventually Thoughtseizing Stuart, seeing nothing of relevance, and proceeding to hard cast Craterhoof for the win.

G3: The final game of our series started out pretty much like the first one with Stuart throwing all kinds of lava and lightning at my poor creatures. This time though Delver of Secrets joined the fray. Once I had Needled the Grim Lavamancer, I was presented with the decision to either start developing my board or Abrupt Decay the Delver right away. Usually, trading three-to-six points of life for board position is a very good move and should be prioritized versus most decks. In this game though his deck represented a lot of reach, especially with Snapcaster Mage in the mix. That’s why I decided to play it safe and took care of his Delver before starting to commit my creatures to the board.

As expected, Stuart killed almost all of them and eventually got a replacement Delver online that beat me down to four life before being caught on the receiving end of yet another Decay. When I cast a GSZ=2 on an empty board, I held my breath; I felt that Stuart might very likely be already holding onto a Lightning Bolt. Depending on what his deck presented him, he might either try to burn me out or out-control me for the rest of the match. The GSZ opened a window to actually beating both strategies. When it resolved I immediately grabbed a Scavenging Ooze and passed the turn. I don’t know if a lot of players would have tried to start eating creatures right away, but with only two green mana left, that would have been like just throwing away the Ooze to Lightning Bolt.

Instead, I waited for my next turn to carefully outgrow any damage-based removal spell while also gaining life. Probably drawing him from the top of his deck, Stuart slammed Geist of Saint Traft onto the table now. At this point none of us had any profitable attacks, and we just keep staring at each other for a couple turns, only growing my Ooze. Stuart seemed to stumble on relevant draws, so once I got more Elves down for defense the Ooze started crashing in on his life total. Stuart did some more Pondering and Brainstorming but soon just got overrun by my ever-growing board presence. He extended the hand, and I was a lock for Top 8!!!

12-1-1

Round 15: Timo Schunemann ‚ÄstAd Nauseam¬†Tendrils, ID

Timo eventually arrived at table 2 following an astonishing run through day 2 after entering at a shaky 7-2. We quickly did the math, and it was an easy ID for both of us. I didn’t really consider playing it out anyway as the ID ensured second seed for me, which meant I would definitely be playing first in the quarters and semis and possibly the finals should Jamie not make it.

12-1-2

After the ID with Timo, I walked back to the hotel room, took a shower, and stocked up my supplies of faucet water. I already said it in my GP Amsterdam report on The Source, but I strongly believe that drinking a lot and catching some fresh air is key in doing well in big tournaments. I’m not saying it’s absolutely essential, but it definitely goes a very long way. Just as I returned to the tournament center, final standings were posted. As expected, I got into the Top 8 as second seed with a record of 12-1-2. Sweet!

Quarterfinals: Fabian Gorzgen ‚Äď Punishing Maverick, 2-1 W

Fabian once again made it to the Top 8 of a premier Legacy event. I remembered watching him play in the playoffs of both GP Amsterdam 2011 and GP Strasbourg earlier this year. This time though I’d be rooting against him. We talked a little bit about the matchup, and while I feel it’s pretty good for Elves, he seemed to respectfully disagree. Alright, so let’s shuffle up and let the cards decide!

G1: We both started out with early acceleration, but Fabian missed his third land drop. When he finally drew it, he made a comment about it being the wrong one, so I guessed that’d be good for me. He was still able to slowly Punishing Fire two of my creatures, but with him tapped out and still three creatures on the table, I was easily able to play around a potential Mindcensor and go for Natural Order. Once again Behemoth jumped onto the battlefield, and because he had already taken some damage from a Nettle Sentinel, I easily overran him.

G2: This time I was the one running low on mana. Fabian Wastelanded my only dual and Swords to Plowshared my only mana producers. Because of an early Ethersworn Canonist, I was unable to keep up with his pace as he got to effectively cast two spells per turn cycle while all I could do was play a creature. On the offensive Qasali Pridemage joined in. Once Fabian Enlightened Tutored for Engineered Plague, the game looked pretty much over, especially as my next two draws were just Natural Order. Next!

G3: At this point we were the last match still playing, so they moved us to the feature match area. You can find video coverage of it here. After the game Fabian lamented about the most recent rule changed as he would have otherwise been able to Enlightened Tutor for Phyrexian Metamorph to remove the Progenitus.

Semifinals: Grzegorz Jezierski ‚ÄstAd Nauseam¬†Tendrils 2-1

This match was played off camera. Both my matches against Grzegorz were a real pleasure. He told me he used to play a lot of Elves, and it clearly showed throughout his decisions in all of our games.

G1: While drawing his starting hand, Grzegorz announced to the judge that he had forgotten to desideboard his Massacre. No problem though as he just received a warning, got to correct his deck, and draw seven once again. We both kept, and I once again had a very explosive start while my opponent was left cantripping a lot. The key to this matchup is reducing his life total ASAP if you don’t have the immediate kill with Natural Order. I actually did, but just at the right moment he squeezed in a Cabal Therapy to make me discard it.

Once you’ve reduced your opponent’s life to less than ten, Deathrite Shaman + as many untap effects as possible will get you there. For Grzegorz’s final turn, I shipped it with an untapped Deathrite Shaman, a tapped Dryad Arbor, and Quirion Ranger but no other lands. My opponent carefully analyzed the board and then scooped up his card. He later told me that he had the win via Past in Flames but immediately recognized my trick and gave me enough credit for him to not even try to go for it.

G2: This game I kept a healthy mix of Mindbreak Trap, Natural Order, and some Elves. Unfortunately, Grzegorz easily dispatched me on his third turn after discarding my Mindbreak Trap. I had the out of NOing on my second turn had I drawn the best Elf in the entire deck (read: Quirion Ranger) but failed.

G3: For our last game and the battle to represent the non-World Champion side in the finals, I kept a hand of one land, GSZ, Natural Order, some more Elves, and Glimpse. After I GSZed for Dryad Arbor on my first turn, Grzegorz once again Gitaxian Probed me (as he basically did every single game) and followed it up with a Cabal Therapy. In this situation I’m pretty sure most people would insta-go after either NO or Glimpse, but Grzegorz carefully analyzed my hand and correctly recognized that I was pretty much dependent on Quirion Ranger here. Without it I would lose a lot of tempo and not be able to meaningful advance my board.

So while he clearly identified that¬†Natural Order¬†was my best spell here, he still took the Ranger as it was the best mana acceleration I had available. Unfortunately for him, I immediately draw GSZ, which I insta-slammed for my beloved¬†Quirion Ranger. This allowed me to untap the¬†Dryad Arbor¬†and replay my hand, summoning up an¬†Elvish Visionary¬†that drew me into a¬†Mindbreak Trap! I‚Äôm not gonna lie; I felt pretty good here. My opponent did some more cantripping but failed to find the discard spell he was so desperately looking for, and I once more untapped into NO for Ruric Thar, looking to kill my opponent in quick fashion. Grzegorz had other plans though; at fourteen life he cast¬†Dark Ritual¬†(down to eight) into¬†Burning Wish¬†(down to two) and grabbed¬†Deathmark¬†and aimed it at Ruric‚Äôs head to go out with a boom. Finally, Ruric Thar was defeated‚ÄĒbut so was Grzegorz!

Moving on to the finals of the Bazaar of Moxen against reigning World Champion Shahar Shenhar!

Finals: Shahar Shenhar, The Freaking World Champion! ‚Äď Death & Taxes 2-0

You can find video coverage of the finals here.

Going into the match I felt incredibly good about my matchup against Death and Taxes. I had been thinking about playing D&T myself and knew that especially in game 1 the pace of the match would be set by whether I’d be able to kill him before he got to his third turn. Once he manages to find and land Aven Mindcensor, basically your only out is going down the Glimpse route. Fortunately, I kept a great opening hand and was able to safely Natural Order and kill him on turn 2.*

For game 2 I again kept a very quick hand with easy access to Natural Order on turn 3. My original plan was to set up NO + Abrupt Decay in case he had the Aven Mindcensor, but when he opted to take my Gaea’s Cradle with Rishadan Port, I just went for it. This line even allowed me to Abrupt Decay his Germ token when he had assembled the Exodia (a creature equipped with both Batterskull and Umezawa’s Jitte) for the final win I needed to become Champion of the Bazaar of Moxen Paris 2013!!!

*Just one thing I still need to get out there: some people later realized that I attacked with a summoning sick creature in game 1 of the finals. I feel so bad about it now, and I felt literally sick the moment I realized it way later. After the finals, I went to my team to tell them how I killed him on turn2 without Cradle. After I failed to explain it after like four attempts, I pulled out my cards and recreated the game state‚ÄĒonly there did I realize that the¬†Quirion Ranger¬†was in fact summoning sick. Neither Shahar, the judge, the stream, nor I realized it. My friends now like calling it the Raging¬†Quirion Ranger. Although I like the name, I feel really bad about it. I already apologized to Shahar via Twitter and he seemed really cool about it, but it still leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.

The Aftermath

After the finals were over, Raphael Levy called me over to the casting booth and did a little interview with me. If you are looking for footage of it, you can find it here.

I spent the next 30 minutes accepting congratulations from so many people that I almost felt embarrassed! Almost!¬†ūüėČ

After leaving the event site, I invited Armin, Florian, and Seppi to dinner, and we celebrated! When we later came back to the hotel, I checked my Facebook feed and was yet again overwhelmed with congratulations‚ÄĒguys, you are so awesome! The only person left dazed and confused about what was going on was actually my sister that messaged me asking me what all the fuss was about. It turned out that stupid card game finally turned a profit!¬†ūüôā

Looking back at what I accomplished, next to the tournament win what really stuck out to me was my incredible record of 28-1-2 over the course of the last three events including the tournament the week before the BoM at Nuremberg. Of course hardly anyone has ever won a big tournament without a little help of Fortuna, but looking back I really feel like Elves was possibly the perfect choice for the expected metagame. It beats up on everything carrying BUG in its name and has great game against any midrangey or generally fair deck. I have to admit I got lucky I didn’t really face any RUG Delver as the matchup is at best only about 50/50 with my current sideboard. On the other hand, U/W/R Delver is even worse, and I managed to overcome it several times throughout the tournament.

I feel that Elves is still a very solid choice for any Legacy tournament coming up. Considering that the US always has a little less combo than Europe, you might want to exchange the two Mindbreak Traps for something to beat up more on the tempo decks. Don’t laugh; you wouldn’t be the first Elves player to give even more obscure cards like Skylasher a try. I sometimes run it on Magic Online these days, and thus far it has performed well. To be honest though while sideboards are important, the most efficient way to improve your general play is to develop a firm strategic grasp of how your most important matchups are supposed to play out. Basic knowledge about the odds and when you should actually play to win is the key to a successful tournament experience. I hope I’ll get the chance and time to produce an article on especially this in the near future.

In the meantime, let me once again thank all of you, the entire staff of the Bazaar of Moxen, and all my friends who cheered for me for their support throughout the tournament. I’m very much looking forward to returning to Paris in February!

So long,

Julian Knab

Julian23 on The Source, @itsJulian23 on Twitter, twitch.tv/itsJulian

Slops:¬†‚Äď Restaurant hours in France‚ÄĒseriously!¬†‚ÄstThe guy who handed in his decklist on an A1 sheet (59x84cm).

Props:¬†‚Äď The guy who handed in his decklist on an A1 sheet (59x84cm).¬†‚Äď The entire Munich/Nuremberg Legacy crew for being awesome testing partners and cheering for me all the time!¬†‚Äď Everyone I ran into that I previously only knew from Magic Online! So many cool guys, cheers!¬†‚Äď The overwhelming amount of congratulations I received from players, judges and organizers‚ÄĒjust WOW!¬†‚ÄstRaphael Levy¬†for future inspiration.¬†‚Äď Julia, the beautiful girl that drew me during one my matches‚ÄĒsee here work¬†here.¬†‚Äď The Source (http://mtgthesource.com)‚ÄĒHappy Tenth Anniversary!¬†‚Äď David Garrett‚Äôs crossover album¬†Rock Symphonies, which kept me focused in between rounds.¬†‚Äď All the loyal followers of my stream¬†http://twitch.tv/itsJulian¬†and Twitter¬†http://twitter.com/itsJulian23. If you want to see me beat a turn 1¬†Griselbrand¬†or listen to the legendary “Glimpse Music,” you should definitely pay a visit!

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