Frankfurt 🇩🇪 | CMS – Unfinished Business & A Surprise Top8

Last year, MKM Frankfurt saw me Top8 their 600+ player Modern event, while only placing 19th in Legacy following an 8-2 finish. On top of that I had also won the Grand Modern Trial on Friday and finished as runner-up in the Legacy Super Finals taking home over 1,000 Euro for the entire weekend. I still have fond memories of that time and was very much looking forward to hopefully at least coming close to repeating my performance in what would once again be Europe’s largest privately organized Modern (674 players) and Legacy (437 players) tournaments of 2017. And repeat my performance I did…and then some more!

For this year’s tournament, we assembled a crew of proven Legacy experts with only the finest taste in decks:

Anton “Enton” Karlinski — Elves
Tim “from the Netherlands” van der Lans
— Elves
Me — Elves

Foreword: It’s quite ridiculous that WotC still doesn’t recognize MKM as a WPN Premium TO. They’re running a giant European-wide tournament series that is now halfway through its third season and has proven itself as a by now very well-organized and popular with the players. On top of that they’re even bringing big events to Germany, a market WotC has neglected for years due to gambling law restrictions. MKM has found a way to still make all of this work in an amazing way. It’s really sad WotC insists on MKM being just a “Casual” tournament. To give you some idea how “causal” this event is: MKM told me that in order to guarantee a smooth event, they are using a special piece of software that is otherwise just used for big GPs; they have actually flown in a specialist in using that software from Portugal in order to make sure there wouldn’t be any problems. If you would like to know some more background info about why WotC is withholding WPN Premium status from MKM, I wrote some more about this in a reddit post last month.

Friday – 40h no Sleep & Grand Legacy Trial

“He who said the human body needed 8h of sleep a night has obviously never organized a Legacy league on Magic Online.”
– Abraham Lincoln

Not gonna lie, this was probably the most stressful time I had preparing for and travelling to the actual tournament. I had booked a train from Munich to Frankfurt for Friday 7am, which would allow me to arrive just in time for the Grand Legacy Trial in the afternoon. However, since the Legacy Premier League was running the night before, I didn’t catch any sleep that night. On top of that I still needed to record my weekly Legacy League video, which lead to this really fucked up schedule:


8:00 Get up for Work
9:30 – 18:30 Work & Travel back home
18:30 – 20:00 Preparing stuff for the LPL cast tonight
20:00 – 22:45 Recording my Legacy League Video
23:00 – aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
– 06:00 Legacy Premier League cast & Post-production work
06:00 – 06:30 Packing for MKM Frankfurt & Showering
06:30 – 12:30 Travel to Frankfurt, changing trains several times, no sleep T_T
14:00 – 21:30 Grand Legacy Trial, finishing 7-0 in first place
21:30 – 23:00 Meeting up with the rest of the team, grabbing food + hotel room
23:00 – 24:00 Building my Modern Deck, answering social media etc.

I remember halfway through the Grand Trial, things started feeling a bit as if I was sometimes watching myself play. Not some kind of weird “out-of-body” experience, but rather my consciousness just sitting there making small talk with my opponents, while my subconsciousness was directing my body through all the lines of play I’ve encountered hundreds of times before. Especially with my current list being pretty much as straightforward as it gets, playing Elves sometimes feels more like playing the piano.

Here’s what I registered for both the Grand Trial:

Creatures (28)
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Wirewood Symbiote
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Quirion Ranger
4 Heritage Druid
2 Craterhoof Behemoth
1 Birchlore Rangers
1 Reclamation Sage

Sorceries (12)
4 Glimpse of Nature
4 Green Sun's Zenith
4 Natural Order
Lands (20)
4 Gaea's Cradle
2 Windswept Heath
2 Verdant Catacombs
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Wooded Foothills
2 Bayou
2 Forest
2 Dryad Arbor
1 Pendelhaven
1 Cavern of Souls

Sideboard (15)
4 Abrupt Decay
3 Cabal Therapy
3 Thoughtseize
3 Surgical Extraction
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Progenitus

Legacy is currently very unpredictable, yet even before we really got to play a ton of people already claimed to know exactly where the format was headed and how things would play out in the metagame. I’m none of them; all I know is that I probably know very little about what the future will bring to Legacy. In a position like that, with very little data and experience to rely on, the best approach to deckbuilding is usually to be the best, most dangerous version of your deck you can be. Not only do you thus have to worry less about what other people might bring to the table, you also get to gather the purest experiences with regards to how your deck is currently positioned and which changes you might need to make once the dust of the SDT-ban has settled. As I described it in one of my earlier articles: you want to be the one who knocks.

This weekend, I did a lot of knocking.

Round 1 — 4c Goyf Midrange(?) — 2:0 Win
Round 2 — Liquid Metal Coating Control Thopters — 2:0 Win
Round 3 — Grixis Delver — 2:1 Win
Round 4 — Brain Maggot Combo Enchantress — 2:0 Win
Round 5 —
Jund2:1 Win
Round 6 — Elves — 2:0 Win
Round 7 — Grixis Delver — 2:1 Win
Final Result: 1st out of ~80 players

Most of the trial felt pretty straightforward to me. I remember my R1 opponent on what felt like “4c Goyf Midrange” complaining quite a bit about his bad luck and how he couldn’t win if I had “everything”. Classic rookie mistake that even a lot of veterans will make: as long as you can’t present a clock and just keep trading 1:1, the deck that has inevitability in the matchup will eventually come up with “everything.” On the other hand, game2 I just killed him on turn3 from a very innocent-looking board state, which leads to him playing Tarmogoyf instead of his mass-removal spell. Thus is the beauty of playing Elves: it constantly puts your opponent to decisions he doesn’t want to make, usually with horrible pot odds for him.

For R3 my opponent and I are called into the feature match area. You can find the match below:

[The video preview says it’s Vintage. Once you start it, it automatically jumps to my Lagacy match at the 02:27:44h mark]

Those missed Delver flips, bummer. A lot of you are probably already aware of it, but here’s a PSA for those you still haven’t heard of this: when WotC printed Delver of Secrets there was a problem within the factory, leading to a certain batch of cards not blindflipping properly, prompting Wizards of the Coast to issue a mass-recall. I repeat: if your Delver of Secrets regularly doesn’t blindflip, you might be entitled to a replacement copy. Don’t be like my opponent — replace your Delvers, win the game. Seriously though, it’s not only this match but the entire tournament weekend that my opponents’ Delvers didn’t flip. I think I’ve faced something like ~15 Delver triggers over those four days where my opponents didn’t know the top card, and only about 2-3 of them actually flipped the Delver.

In R4 my opponent starts with a basic Forest, followed by Bayou, then taps both to summon Elvish Visionary, fuck the mirror a Brain Maggot onto the battlefield. Julian scratches his head while the maggot takes his Reclamation Sage. At that point in time, I honestly thought my opponent was on some kind of BG Rock-esque deck and was fully expecting Phyrexian Plaguelord to soon make an appearance. Instead, my opponent follows things up with Enchantress’ Presence on the next turn and things suddenly start making a little more sense now. I’m really happy as the Enchantress matchup is very favourable for Elves, even though the occasional Doomwake Giant you encounter every once in a while will sometimes cause some issues. I quickly take down game1 soon after, paying my way through the Elephant Grass my opponent tried to hide behind. In the second game I’m once again off to a quick start, but my opponent tries to once again halt my progress with a well-timed Brain Maggot. Fortunately for me all he can do is take an Abrupt Decay and cast Helm of Obedience. I figure he probably has Rest in Peace in hand so I have Reclamation Sage unplug the Brain Maggot to get access to instant speed removal should I need it. My opponent concedes soon after and informs me that on the turn he played Brain Maggot, he was just 1 mana short of playing both Rest in Peace and Helm of Obedience + activating the helm to kill me. Didn’t exactly see that one coming, but the matchup is so good, I wouldn’t have minded playing a third game as well. Especially since he actually doesn’t play Doomwake Giant as he later revealed to me.

After beating Jund and Elves, the TO announces they miscalculated the number of rounds and we would have to play one additional round. Makes sense since at the beginning of the tournament they had already announced we were something like close to 80 players and yet would only play 6 rounds. Considering that only first place would get the 2 Byes for the main event, that’s not really something you want to leave up to just tiebreakers, so I am happy they have added the 7th round, even though there were a couple of people moaning about it. I am up against a Grixis Delver player who I’ve been playing next to for most of the tournament, so I’ve had several glimpses at all the crazy Anti-Elves tech lurking in his sideboard: several copies of Engineered Explosives, Darkblast, Grafdigger’s Cage, 2 Forked Bolt, a lot more I probably already forgot to mention…and on top of all: the Red Dragon! The Red Dragon is the stuff of nightmares, a horror story Elvish parents tell to their disobedient children to scare them. Legend has it, one fateful day the Red Dragon will come and devour all of the Elves, young and old, Llanowarian or Fyndhorian, for none of them will ever be heard of again. It is the ultimate threat to Elvish culture and civilization, and has inspired many poets to countless songs about the day it will return.

Interlude: The Red Dragon

Who’s riding so late where winds blow wild
It is the father grasping his child;
He holds the boy embraced in his arm,
He clasps him snugly, he keeps him warm.

“My son, why cover your face in such fear?”
“You see the red dragon, father? He’s near!
The dragon of terror with crown and train!”

“My son, the mist is on the plain.”

‘Sweet lad, o come and join me, do!
Such pretty games I will play with you;
On the shore gay flowers their colour unfold,
My mother has many garments of gold.’

“My father, my father, and can you not hear
The promise red dragon breathes in my ear?”
“Be calm, stay calm, my child, lie low:
In withered leaves the night-winds blow.”

‘Will you, sweet lad, come along with me?
My daughters shall care for you tenderly;
In the night my daughters their revelry keep,
They’ll rock you and dance you and sing you to sleep.’

“My father, my father, o can you not trace
Red dragon’s daughters in that gloomy place?”
“My son, my son, I see it clear
How grey the ancient willows appear.”

‘I love you, your comeliness charms me, my boy!
And if you’re not willing, my force I’ll employ.’
“Now father, now father, he’s seizing my arm.
Red Dragon has done me a cruel harm.”

The father shudders, his ride is wild,
In his arms he’s holding the groaning child,
Reaches the court with toil and dread. –
The child he held in his arms was dead.

Whenever you’re facing an opponent with such a stacked sideboard, it becomes paramount to win the first game. Fortunately for me, I did. For the second game I decided to bring in Cabal Therapy in an attempt to grind out my opponent’s overwhelming amount of hate with some surgical discard spells. So a couple of turns into the game on a pretty even board where my opponent hasn’t really been doing anything all game long, I fire off my first cruise missileCabal Therapy naming Force of Will since I figured it was the most likely card he might be sitting behind. I miss. Not only his hand, but the entire deck as he later reveals he had so much hate to bring in, he had no other choice than to take out Force of Will. Instead, I see a fine selection of all the cards I don’t want to see in the matchup; I try to hold on, but having not generated any early game advantage, I eventually lose to the game to a couple of angry insect beats I can’t find Abrupt Decay for in time.

For the third game I once again take out my Cabal Therapys and go “all-in” on Operation Hydra, going back up to 4 Natural Orders and bringing in Progenitus. The idea was that I already figured during game2 that my opponent very likely didn’t have Force of Will in his deck anymore, allowing me to resolve Natural Order much more easily. Since he has a ton of removal and 2-for-1s instead, it would probably be really hard to set up a win with Craterhoof Behemoth, so having access to Progenitus allows me to Natural Order in many more positions I would have otherwise just needed to pass the turn and fall behind even further. It’s a tricky strategy against Delver since it either requires the opponent to not have a couple of early Delver of Secrets or me having a NO-able board on something like turn3; maybe 4 if I am able to Abrupt Decay a Delver of Secrets while still developing my board/mana with a couple of creatures my opponent doesn’t really wanna kill.

My opponent has two early Delvers beating me down, but I am ready to untap with two Natural Orders, ready to race his Insects. Though before I can summon my Hydra my opponent strips both NOs from my hand with a flashbacked Cabal Therapy (sacrificing one of his Delvers) and adds a Gurmag Angler to his board. With him at 17 life, a Delver and a Zombie Fish in play, and me at 9 life with just two random Elves on the table and no cards in hand the game looks all but over. Well, almost. I announce that things are fine as I am just going to draw another Natural Order now to summon Progenitus.

Which is exactly what happens. Hooray for the Heart of the Cards™.

But the fight isn’t over yet. On his turn my opponent dredges Darkblast to remove my last Elf, then attacks me down to 6 life while Zombie Fish has to sit back for a moment. My problem now is that if I swing in with Progenitus I am putting my opponent dead on my next attack, but before it even comes to that I would die to Gurmag Angler and Delver of Secrets finishing me off. Also, the topdecks that can get me out of this are limited as any 1-toughness creature would die to a dredged Darkblast. Fortunately for me, the top of my deck hands me the Birchlore Rangers which immediately come down as a mighty morphin’ 2/2, allowing me to swing in with Progenitus. At this point my opponent’s outs are still plenty, e.g. Engineered Explosives, Forked Bolt, Lightning Bolt or even an already sandbagged Brainstorm which would allow him to dredge Darkblast during his draw step and main phase. Fortunately for me, he finds neither of those and just extends the hand.

Did you notice where my opponent could have won, by the way? When he sacrificed his 2nd Delver of Secrets to the Cabal Therapy to nuke both Natural Orders from my hand then followed things up with a Gurmag Angler, he should have instead summoned and sacrificed his Zombie Fish to the Therapy, allowing him to keep two Delvers in play which would have raced my Progenitus regardless. Granted, he couldn’t really expect me to draw Natural Order (even though I announced it, lol) but since it was my only real out anyway, might as well play around that.

Anyway, I collect my prize of 2 Byes for the main event, a Leovold, Emissary of Trest, a Jace, the Mind Sculptor as well as 40 € reimbursement of my entrance fee for the main event. I meet up with the rest of the team and we get some fast food before arriving at our hotel for the weekend. At this point I still haven’t built my Modern deck — probably because I really don’t want to play Ad Nauseam in the current meta. The deck’s always been amazing versus blue permission-based decks but has had a hard time versus discard. With Modern slowly turning into Various Flavors of Death’s Shadow – The Format, as well as everyone and their mother playing Surgical Extraction because of Dredge, I think it’s really about time to put down Ad Nauseam. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t really find anything I liked in Modern over the last couple of weeks. I tested Elves quite a lot and initially liked it because it destroys Death’s Shadow, but the horrible matchups versus Tron and Combo eventually made me drop the deck again. Right now I’m looking into maybe Bright to Light Scapeshift, but I don’t really feel like spending money on Modern right now; the whole reason I picked up Ad Nauseam in the first place was that it was cheap, Rodrigo recommended it and I needed a Modern deck to grind MKM. I think altogether I’ve only spent something like 150,- € on the deck and won more than 10x the amount with it; but those were the glory days of Ad Nauseam anyway. Let’s see what the future has in store for me.

Saturday- Modern Main Event

We arrive at the tournament site about 5-10 minutes before the scheduled start of the event. Fully expecting the tournament to run at least half an hour late, I take my time writing my decklist and once again pondering about deck choices. I’m fully caught by surprise when it is announced that seatings have already been posted. Turns out online-only registration makes it much easier for tournaments to start on time, which is a great thing. I quickly finish my decklist and hand in this masterpiece of unplayability:

Creatures (5)
4 Simian Spirit Guide
1 Laboratory Maniac

Instants & Sorceries (23)
4 Ad Nauseam
4 Angel's Grace
4 Serum Visions
4 Sleight of Hand
3 Pact of Negation
3 Spoils of the Vault
1 Lightning Storm

Artifacts (8)
4 Lotus Bloom
4 Pentad Prism

Enchantments (4)
4 Phyrexian Unlife
Lands (20)
4 Gemstone Mine
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Temple of Deceit
2 Plains
1 Temple of Enlightenment
1 Darkslick Shores

Sideboard (15)
4 Leyline of Sanctity
2 Darkness
2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
2 Thoughtseize
2 Hurkyl's Recall
1 Fatal Push
1 Echoing Truth
1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All

The local bakery offered some free copyright infringement pancake to all players 😉

Here’s how my train wreck of a tournament went:

Round 1 — Jund Death’s Shadow — 2:0 Win
Round 2 — UB Reanimator — 1:2 Loss
Round 3 — Eltronzi — 2:0 Win
Round 4 — Abzan Death’s Shadow — 0:2 Loss
Round 5 — Abzan Midrange — 1:2 Loss
Round 6 — Lantern — 0:2 Loss, DROP

In Round 1, Game 1 my opponent opens by casting Tarfire on himself. Welcome to the bizarro world that is Modern. Fortunately for me, I end up stealing my first match versus Death’s Shadow as he didn’t draw any disruption in game1 and then finds himself locked out under a Leyline of Sanctity in the second game — if only you could always have Leyline versus them. We’ve actually been looking into playing it maindeck in the future, moving some/all Pact of Negation to the sideboard as you barely ever face any real countermagic at all right now.

For the rest of the tournament I find myself in tons of horrible spots all over the place. The one that probably screamed “STOP PLAYING THIS DECK!!” the loudest was when my Lantern opponent discarded my Ad Nauseam with Thoughtseize and then Surgical Extraction‘ed it — in game1! Granted, I did screw up pretty badly in game2 when I cast Ad Nauseam in response to a discard spell with Lantern of Insight in play, drawing a ton of cards but ultimately leaving Lightning Storm on top of my library. In my head this made sense as that way, he wouldn’t get to discard it (the rest of my hand was garbage anyway). What I should have done instead was to just draw it and then – still in response to Thoughtseize – just shoot my opponent with it as I did in fact have enough mana and lands in hand to get there. What happened instead is that my opponent took some irrelevant card from my hand and then milled my Lightning Storm. Or did he Surgical Extraction something to shuffle my deck? I don’t even remember, I’m done with this deck for now. I still have to play Modern because I want to Top8/Win their Power 8 Race this season, so I need the points from those events. MKM hasn’t updated their leaderboard rankings post-Frankfurt yet, but I assume I’ll likely be in a Top3 position, but I haven’t really done the math yet.

Since none of us accomplished anything noteworthy in Modern, we just gather the team and head out for our traditional visit to the “ASIAN PALACE.” What might sound a bit like a brothel is actually a great Asian-themed all-you-can-eat restaurant not far from the event site, which we’re visiting every time we come to one of those big events in Frankfurt.

Sunday – Legacy Main Event

For the main event I’m playing the same list as posted above, except for the 1 Umezawa’s Jitte I added to the sideboard, replacing the third Thoughtseize. I noticed that on Friday I couldn’t find a single combo player in attendance while Grixis Delver was almost literally everywhere. Because Jitte is so great against them, I decided to make this change. As I’ve said on Twitter, it’s been a while since I’ve felt this confident in a list and would very much recommend it to anyone playing in an unknown/unpredictable metagame. The only other change I could see making is to add more hate for Storm, which has been huge on Magic Online lately. The downside is that once you start adding Mindbreak Traps in place of Thoughtseize, your Show and Tell matchups get hurt. And since the primary purpose of the trap is to buy time for you to get some permanent piece of hate onto the board, you might also want to add either Gaddock Teeg or Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, which will probably cost you your slot for the 3rd Surgical Extraction. Removing the 3rd Surgical Extraction is justifiable I guess if you add Mindbreak Trap as it’s a card that still works vs decks like Oops-All-Spells and also can work against BR Reanimator (even though it’s much worse than Surgical there). Generally speaking, I like Surgical Extraction more right now, as BR Reanimator seems to be very well represented on Magic Online right now, but I would be lying if I told you I hadn’t played at least a couple of leagues with Mindbreak Trap lately.

Here’s how my tournament went:

Round 1 — *BYE*
Round 2 — *BYE*
Round 3 — BR Reanimator — 2:0 Win
Round 4 — UR Delver — 2:0 Win
Round 5 —
Infect2:1 Win
Round 6 — BUG Delver — 2:1 Win
Round 7 — 4c Loam — 0:2 Loss
Round 8 —
UB Reanimator — 0:2 Loss
Round 9 — Sneak Show— 2:1 Win
Round 10 — BUG Leovold — 2-0 Win

— 8th after Swiss —

Quarterfinals — Food Chain — 0:2 Loss

Hey, Top8 again! Getting there felt incredibly amazing, but more about that later on. After enjoying 2 Byes I am paired against a guy on BR Reanimator, which is a matchup that’s so heavy on variance, I’d rather avoid it despite having a well-equipped sideboard. Fortunately for me, I win the dice roll, but not knowing what’s lurking on the other side of the table, keep a rather weak hand for this matchup. After playing Wirewood Symbiote on the first and Quirion Ranger + Dryad Arbor on the second turn, the situation gets a tad out of control on my opponent’s turn 2. Here’s how things presented themselves for me:

Pretty horrible, hu? The opponent just made both of us discard our entire hands, leaving me with just some parasite Insect, a Forest with an identity crisis and an unemployed Elf (Seriously WotC, why did pretty much every creature get a job during the Grand Creature Type Update, yet somehow Quirion Ranger isn’t even good enough to be a Druid?!), facing down a lifelinking Yawgmoth’s Bargain and a Mind Twist on legs. And yet there’s always hope. Can you figure out how to turn around the game?

Here's how things played out - Click to open spoiler
I topdeck Glimpse of Nature, which is the only card that could really help me here, cast it and replay Quirion Ranger after bouncing it with Wirewood Symbiote. This draws me into Elvish Visionary, which in turn draws me into Gaea’s Cradle and Nettle Sentinel, which draws into Heritage Druid, which gets me Natural Order. (Anyone else feeling reminded of Goblin King‘s flavour text?). Pretty sick sequence of pretty much exactly what I need. It would have been even better to draw a couple more Elves before hitting Natural Order, but I certainly can’t complain. I use Natural Order to summon Craterhoof Behemoth from my deck, attacking my opponent with a 7/7 Wirewood Symbiote and a 11/11 Behemoth. This is exactly enough so that he needs to block with Griselbrand and Sire of Insanity, making him lose both creatures in the process. As mentioned in the graphic, the only possible out I can see for him is topdecking Animate Dead on Griselbrand; if he does, he can either sit back and hope to draw 1 more runner card to get back into the game, or attack with Griselbrand and draw 7 cards, hoping to be able to reanimate Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. If he just attacks without drawing cards, we have him dead on board already. Long story sort: The opponent ends up not drawing anything and concedes. This felt prettttty amazing, not gonna lie 🙂

After taking down BR Reanimator I also emerge victorious from 2 rounds on Mr Delver’s Wild Ride and an incredibly close game 3 vs Infect, and things are looking great! When I sit down for round 7 I feel like things could really work out today as I just won the die roll and see my opponent mulliganning down to 5. Unfortunately for me his 5 is a really strong one as I’m immediately locked under a turn1 Punishing Fire which is soon to be joined by Knight of the Reliquary. I’m still able to eventually engineer a board state where I can fetch for Dryad Arbor at the opponent’s end of turn, untap, play Gaea’s Cradle and hardcast Craterhoof Behemoth for the win. Unfortunately, my opponent plays another Wasteland from his hand this turn, which means I can’t really fetch for Dryad Arbor here. I still hang in there for a couple of turns more, hoping to draw Natural Order but it never shows up. The second game is over just as quickly as I find my early progress immediately halted by an Ethersworn Canonist. And while I wasn’t even relying on Glimpse of Nature in the first place, the Canonist makes it much harder to set up a board state that will persist through my opponent’s turn, making it impossible for me to Natural Order for Progenitus. I lose. Guess sometimes you just do. The matchup isn’t in our favour to begin with. By the way, this is what the match looked like from my opponent’s perspective, taken from his tournament report on The Source:

Round #7: Elves [Julian Knab] (2-0)
I honestly don’t know how I won game #1. He was on the play, I mulled to five keeping a desperate one lander with Mox, PFire, Grove, Lili and KotR and scryed a land on top. All my draws were perfectly sequenced according to this starting hand so that I was able to fight through 2 active DS and take over the game.
Game #2 I had the nuts. T1 Ethersworn Canonist into T2 PFire with Grove into T3 Chalice on 1.

Time to win my next two matches which would allow me to draw into Top8 in the last round. It was pretty much impossible for 8-2 to make it in.

For round 8 I am paired against Marc Tobiasch of recent PT Top8 fame, who had already beaten me during Saturday’s Modern event. We’re called into the feature match area and then proceed to play this match:

[The preview makes it look as if it was a different match but once you start the video it magically jumps to my match at 1:52h]

Well, so much for this tournament. Didn’t really feel like I could have done much about this. Right after the match people on Twitter pointed out to me that Marc had played a second land right before the turn I had conceded, which actually seems to be true. I’m honestly too busy to go back into the VOD and check whether it would have changed anything or whether I would have had any topdecks to still turn things around had he not had that land drop; my gut feeling is that I would have lost anyway, so I don’t feel too bad about missing that. Marc later apologized to me when someone pointed this out to him.

For round 9 I am paired against the Godfather of Show and Tell, Jonathan Anghelescu aka JPA93. We play a very light-hearted match as we consider both of us out of contention for Top8 anyway. After taking an uneventful first game in which Jonathan’s deck refuses to cooperate, I keep a rather weak hand for the second game. On top of that, my mana is absolutely horrible, making me lead with just 2 Dryad Arbors and a Deathrite Shaman. And then the bomb dropped:

The Bomb - Click to open spoiler

After losing ALL my permanents, all I can do is pass the turn with no plays only to see Jonathan chain some cantrips followed by Show and Tell putting Griselbrand into play, and that was all she wrote… — lolol just joking, I still won that game, no biggie.

Well, almost.  As much as I would love to just drop the mic here and walk off stage at this point, I later [Audience: there was a “later”?] in this game opted for the wrong line instead of the one which would have actually still brought me victory. First and most importantly: even though I had no plays on my turn, Jonathan’s Show and Tell allowed me to drop the Progenitus I was holding into play. Having the big bad hydra in my opening hand was also the main reason why I had kept an otherwise super underwhelming hand. The rest of the game plays out as follows:

Me: Attack the opponent down to 8 life (Jonathan had lost 2 life to Fetchlands)
Opp: Attacks me down to 13 life , goes up to 15 life
Me: Attack the opponent down to 5, play Land+Nettle Sentinel
Opp: Attack me down to 3, goes up to 12, plays Show and Tell

At this point I have to make a decision. My hand has Glimpse of Nature, a couple random creatures, a Heritage Druid and a Craterhoof Behemoth. If Jonathan puts in a Griselbrand for the Show and Tell, then I should put in Heritage Druid and try to combo him out next turn. However, if he puts in an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, then putting Craterhoof Behemoth wins the game on the spot as I would attack for exactly lethal on my turn. Even though it’s more likely he has an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn here, I still decide to put Heritage Druid into play as unlike Craterhoof Behemoth, it still gives a shot at taking down the game even if I guessed wrong. It also means that if Joanthan puts in Emrakul, he can’t Force of Will my Glimpse of Nature as it would suddenly put him back in reach of my board; though for that to work I need to draw a land. Another factor: I’m not sure whether I sided out the second Craterhoof Behemoth, but if I did, putting in my only other copy means that I would never be able to overrun Jonathan on this turn no matter how many creatures I played during a potential Glimpse chain.

I go for Heritage Druid and Jonathan puts in Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Back then I only just now realized that putting in Craterhoof Behemoth would have won the game right there.  In my head, it was all about Griselbrand at this point. So I go for my only out, which is a big Glimpse chain, which unfortunately fails and we move on to game 3.

Interlude #2: Griselbrand on the River

So as much as I would love to tell the story of how I came back from an empty board, I didn’t really have the guts to put my opponent on the spot for a second Griselbrand. “Make him have it” is a really important concept that too often gets downplayed as a lot of people who pride themselves with their upper mediocrity will look at the times a play like that goes wrong and happily scold a player for his foolish play. I don’t roll like that. Well, at least usually as I kinda gave in to my inner Sergeant Safety and didn’t make my opponent have it. I think something that somewhat sets me apart from other players is that I am not scared to lose. I play Legacy, and especially Elves, a lot like one is supposed to play poker. Making conservative plays all day long, unwillingness to put something on the line will get you a ton of 6-3 finishes. If that’s what you’re in for, good. But you’ll barely read a tournament winner’s report where they mention how managed to “play around” everything and never had to put something on the line. If you could play like that and win tournaments, chances are something is inherently wrong with the format you are playing. There’s a reason we’re (or at least I am) playing Legacy and not chess, and that reason is not that less experienced players still get to compete: the reason is that playing a game with inherent variance requires a very specific and hard-to-master skill set that I deeply enjoy. Not that chess wasn’t the overall much harder game, but the element of playing a perfect game in the face of randomness is something that you will only find in games with a significant amount of built-in variance.

As such, Magic and Poker are pretty much the same game, just on different levels of variance. Poker is much more prone to variance even until late into a hand, whereas in Magic it’s much rarer to run into a Griselbrand on the River kind of situation. That’s why in order to actually pull ahead of the pack in Poker, one needs to play a lot more games to properly grind out their significant advantage in both online games as well as in live tournaments. The 2016 WSOP Main Event had 6,737 players and lasted for altogether 13 play days until the eventual champion was crowned. While Magic GPs don’t quite get those numbers, they will probably never see anything like a Day 3 (unless Slow Play becomes even more of an issue as it already is.) Chess on the other hand is a totally different beast, where the time factor is both relevant for games as well as (probably even more so) preparation. Magic is sitting at this very convenient spot on the spectrum of variance that allows for a very economic time commitment to play the game at a reasonably high level. If anything, this is true even more so for Legacy; not because it was so “skill-intensive” as people like to always point out, but because once you have developed a basic understanding of the format, it requires relatively low upkeep to maintain a reasonable understanding of the metagame. Contrast this with other, more short-lived formats in which missing 1-2 months of development will put you quite far behind. This is a major reason why Eternal formats resonate much better with an older demographic of players, which often have families, jobs and/or other important commitments that would prevent them from keeping up with Standard, but still allow said players to play formats like Vintage or Legacy on a very competitive level.

The Big Surprise

Standings before Round 10

When we left off, our hero was currently 6-2 in the Legacy Main Event and tied 1:1 against OmniSneak in round 7. I draw a really good opening hand with 1 Cabal Therapy, Glimpse of Nature, lands and a couple of random beaters. I miss with a turn1 Therapy on Brainstorm and see a hand that is capable of a naked turn1 Show and Tell aka missing anything meaningful to put in with it. Jonathan draws for the turn and finds a second Lotus Petal which allows him to go digging for a creature, but misses. On my turn, I draw a Thoughtseize and proceed to completely shred his hand. Jonathan just passes without plays and I take off for a reasonable value Glimpse turn that establishes a board capable of killing in two swings. Jonathan proceeds to topdeck just a bunch of crap and dies to my assault of angry Elves, making me advance to 7-2.

At this point, I had no illusions about making Top8. Checking the standings there’s no real way I can make it in and will likely be playing for exactly 9th place. I am paired vs a Spanish guy on table 6, which means that with tables 1-3 drawing in, tables 4 and 5 are playing for the last two remaining spots in the Top8. It’s not even a tiebreaker thing — I am just out by a very clear cut as 24 points won’t be enough. Knowing that I am just playing for a Top16 finish which will give me the much-needed MKM points for the Power8 Race, I sit down for my match. My opponent is on some midrange Leovold deck, which I easily crush in two games, after which he congratulates me to having made Top8; I mention how I think we were only playing for ninth place anyway. I sign the slip and sit down to watch a friend’s match. A couple more of us gather at the table and soon after the last match is over the Top8 are announced:

And in 8th place: Julian Knab

What?! That wasn’t supposed to happen. I think I’ve never been this surprised by a Top8 announcement, so it was incredibly exciting and people had to actually remind me to eventually come to the head judge where the rest of the players had already gathered. But what exactly happened during that last round that allowed me to sneak in at 8-2? Here’s how Round 10 played out:

Table 1: Christopher Wilhelm vs Walter Woelfler ID
Table 2: Dalibor Szegho vs Daniel Heerens 2:0
Table 3: Robert Swiecki vs Johannes Gutbrod ID
Table 4: Mathias Schubert vs Johannes Weiss 2-1
Table 5: Tomas Mar vs Felix Bolland 0-2

So table 2 decided to play things out. Dalibor later told me that his opponent insisted on playing, which is how one spot for an 8-2 was opened up. Correct me if I’m wrong, but looking at the standings before the last round it doesn’t really make much sense to me that Daniel insisted on playing it out. It looks like he was scared of all three of Johannes G., Mathias and Johannes W. overtaking him on tiebreakers (with the winner of Tomas Mar vs Felix Bolland overtaking him in points anyway); if that was to happen, Daniel would actually be in 9th place. However, and this is the thing: table 4 can’t draw unless one of them wants to take a huge gamble. If table 1-3 draw, then table 4 also drawing ensures that one of them won’t make it into the Top8 unless both their tiebreakers somehow improved enough to overtake at least one player in front of him; and while Johannes W. was actually just 2% behind Johannes G. ID’ing on table 4 still seems like a -EV gamble. So if I had been in Daniel’s place, unless I’m missing something, I’d feel very comfortable to draw — especially knowing and probably also seeing that table 4 was playing.

Standings after Round 10

Ironically, had table 4 known that table 2 was playing, they could have actually ID’ed and be guaranteed to both be in the Top8 as they would both overtake the loser of table 2, while themselves being overtaken by the winner of table 5, putting them into exactly the 7th and 8th place they already were in before. Of course one could argue that they couldn’t know whether table 2 was just “faking it” and had actually already agreed to an ID. In the same way, the same can be said about Daniel not knowing what table 4 had actually agreed on. But like I said before, I think the EV of ID’ing is good for him anyway. In hindsight, we also know that his tiebreakers would have held up even if tables 1-4 had taken IDs. Honestly though, I’m not blaming Daniel for deciding to play it out. Getting the big picture with a decision like this is sometimes quite complicated, especially after 10 hours of Magic and with dozens of other players grouping up in front of the standings/pairings.

The above two paragraphs are also what sucks about Magic as a competitive eSport and should be addressed in the long run if WotC wants to pursue this (definitely cool!) vision of turning Magic into exactly that. People have discussed outlawing IDs before and while I agreed that this seems very hard to enforce, the first step to solving this problem is to become aware of how this is actually not good for the game itself in the first place. But that’s a topic for another article.

For my quarterfinals, I’m up against Dalibor’s Food Chain deck. Here’s our match from the feature match area:

[The preview makes it look as if it was a different match but once you start the video it majestically jumps to my match at 5h 52m]

Guess it wasn’t meant to be. I’m sure there were a couple of things I could (should?) have played differently, but overall I’m not unhappy about going out this way. Daribor’s deck was very well-equipped to deal with Elves and I ended up drawing a lot of lands anyway. Sometimes you just lose; it sucks, but it’s ok. Coming to terms with not everything always being under your control is one of the most important steps to make as a Magic player. Otherwise the salt will get the best of you.

After the tournament is over, we gather everyone including a hungry Rodrigo and select an American specialities restaurant based on its amazing Google reviews proximity. As is tradition, I treat everyone to everything they want to eat and we’re having a good time. Rodrigo suggest playing some matches (~almost midnight), which I would be totally down for, but the rest of our guys really wanna head back to the hotel, so that’s where we’re going!

Back at the hotel I complain a little more about how awful my Modern deck is before we go to bed. It is really bad. On our Ad Nauseam chat, Rodrigo mentions how I should try maindeck Leyline of Sanctity since it’s super high impact in the Death’s Shadow matchup and Pact of Negation is much less important than it used to be. Who plays hard counters in the maindeck anyway?

Monday – Modern & Legacy Super Finals

For those who don’t know, the Modern and Legacy Super Finals are a special single-elimination tournament for the best 32 players of every format from the previous season. Fortunately for me, I had secured #1 place in both Legacy and Modern in 2016, which meant that if there were any qualified players not to show up I would be the first one to receive a BYE in the round of 32. For the event I made the following changes to my decklist from the Modern Main Event on Saturday:

-3 Pact of Negation
-3 Spoils of the Vault
+4 Leyline of Sanctity
+2 Peer Through Depths

I also went up to 2 Boseiju, Who Shelters All in the sideboard to make up for a potentially worse game 1 against blue control, should it ever show up again. Here’s how the tournament played out for me:

Round of 32 — *BYE*
Round of 16 — Rw Burn — 2:0 Win
Quarterfinals — Affinity — 0:2 Loss

Well, we’ll always have Legacy. Which is what I was super excited for this Monday anyway! Like last year I did some research on the other players who had qualified and noticed there was a significant amount of Storm and RG Lands players in attendance. Because of that I changed my sideboard to (I think) this:

3 Abrupt Decay 3 Cabal Therapy 3 Surgical Extraction 2 Thoughtseize 2 Mindbreak Trap 1 Progenitus 1 Scavenging Ooze

I also added 1 Gaddock Teeg as 61st card to my maindeck and replaced the 8th Fetchland with a Savannah. Here’s how things went for me:

Round of 32 — *BYE*
Round of 16 — RG Lands — 2:0 Win
Quarterfinals — RG Lands — 2:0 Win
Semifinals — BUG Delver — 2:1 Win
Finals —
Food Chain2:0 Win(Marius conceded)

Are you still reading? Dude(tte), you’re tough. This might as well be my longest article of the year so thanks for sticking with me! I was really looking forward to the Legacy Super Final following a heartbreaking defeat in the finals of last year’s one. And things were starting off really well for me as my Ro32 opponent didn’t show up. Overall it’s a shame though that the tournament didn’t attract all the qualified people, but being held on a Monday morning in a probably foreign country isn’t easy for everyone. I’m happy MKM recognized this problem and switched to a different end-of-season-goal system for the best players of year.

In the Ro16 I’m up against Jon Knoll on RG Lands. He had previously won his Ro32 match vs Anton and I wasn’t really sure how I felt about the matchup. On one hand I used to beat Jonas (almost) all the time whenever we met, on the other hand the matchup isn’t really good for Elves. Fortunately for me, I get some of the best opening hands I have had all weekend in both of our games. And I would really need them as Jonas presents me with a turn2 Marit Lage, meaning that I myself (being on the play) would need a turn3 kill. The game played out like this:

Me: Fetchland for Forest, Deathrite Shaman
Opp: Land, Exploration, Thespian Stage
Me: Play a la…wait, (*I could draw Cradle*)…tap DRS+Forest, play Elvish Visionary, draw a card..(*damn, no Cradle*)..pass.
Opp: Land, Dark Depths, pass

Alex Beiersdorfer’s latest tattoo

I untap and jump right into a Glimpse of Nature chain with Heritage Druid. Halfway through it I realize I actually FORGOT to play a land on my second turn. I look at my board and only see two lands but I also remember having played and cracked a Misty Rainforest at the beginning of the turn in order to get the Glimpse chain started in the first place. Talk about handicapping yourself in the face of a bloodlusty 20/20. Fortunately for me I hit a really got string of cards which would allow me to easily kill my opponent with damage. I still decide to play it über-safe by going for a kill with 10 Deathrite Shaman activations instead of attack damage as this plays around a potential Crop Rotation into Glacial Chasm. Given if Jonas was actually forced into that line, I would probably win anyway on my next turn, but there’s no reason to not play around some weird sequence of events like him blowing me out with something like an unexpected Engineered Explosives or something. Thankfully Jonas eventually just concedes as he doesn’t have the Crop Rotation anyway and we move on to the next game.

In game2 I once again get a pretty explosive start while Jon’s hand apparently doesn’t really amount to much as it presents neither interaction nor a quick kill. I quickly force him into a Crop Rotation for Glacial Chasm which sets him behind even further. He has like 1 or 2 turns to draw one of his sweepers such as Kozilek’s Return but fails to find any of them before I am able to “burn” him out with Deathrite Shaman. On to the quarterfinals!

[The preview makes it look as if it was a different match but once you start the video it immediately magically jumps to my match at 4h 51m 44s]

Like the ancient scriptures of the Vhadever used to say “No Exploration, no bueno.” If Elves has a reasonably quick start, RG Lands really needs an either Mox Diamond-fueled Punishing Fire start into an oppressive board or an Exploration to threaten a quick kill. Neither of that happened in the two games we played and I advance to the semis!

In the semis, my opponent turns out to be on BUG Delver. After quickly splitting the first two games, my opening of two Nettle Sentinels (but no actual haymakers) leads into one of those dreaded tempo-based beatdown strategies that I don’t always like being forced into with Elves. I still manage to take my opponent down all the way to 1 point of life, but an end of turn Vendilion Clique into an equipped Umezawa’s Jitte makes it look like it’s finally all over for me. Or do you see a way to come back from this board?

You can’t? Yeah, neither could I. Fortunately my opponent had the solution ready 😉 He used both his Jitte counters to kill my Nettle Sentinel…and then just died to the Dryad Arbor I fetched up at his end of turn. You could already see the agony in his friends’ faces as soon as he had pointed at my Nettle Sentinel instead of the Quirion Ranger. I guess his mistake immediately dawned on him when I cracked my fetchland at the end of turn. Sometimes things are just meant to be, I guess :-)))

For the finals, Marcius officially concedes against me as he, Alex Beiersdorfer, Christian Reuschel and I are all driving home together. Before we leave we sit down for a short interview with the MKM team, talking about the season both of us have had, our thoughts on the new metagame and our ambitions for this year’s Power8 race. Check it out below:

In case I sound weird to you, we were told to speak very slowly ;P. Unfortunately the trophy for the Legacy Super Finals had not arrived at MKM in time so I had to go home empty-handed (except for tons of €€€, I guess). Then, a couple of days later a mysterious package showed up at my house:

So after a long 4-day weekend, we’re finally on our way back home. Judging by how unhappy I was with my Modern deck, I would have never expect for Frankfurt to once again be this super amazing and successful tournament for me. Following the most recent MKM leaderboard updated I’m tied for second place with Marius, behind the guy who took down the Modern tournament with Affinity. Looks like I really need to find a good Modern deck that I also like in order to compete for #1 overall at the end of the season, which will grant you a 300,- € appearance bonus for all events of the next season. For now I’m really looking forward to the LEGACY PREMIER LEAGUE Wild Card round this Thursday at 5pm Eastern (11pm CEST), broadcasted live on! I would also like to thank all of my amazing supports on Patreon, you guys & girls are just amazing and I’m very thankful for all the love you are showing me! They’re also the reason I’ve been able to release at least 1 Legacy video per week! 🙂

See you all on Thursday!

So long,

Insert Coin

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