By Tom Vandevelde
THE UNLIKELY SCENARIO
I got paired against Michiel, who had already drawn in last round after a 3-0 start, and was therefore locked for Top 8. With only Lars Meeusen (who had been paired down in the previous round, and therefore could not draw, but went on to win and moved to 4-0) above him in the standings, Michiel was projected to finish in second place with a draw. Considering prizing depended on a Top 8 finish, the fact that Michiel would only be on the draw if he played Lars in the Finals (if Lars got there in the first place) if he took a draw, and could drop further down in the standings if he decided to play and lose to me, it seemed natural that we would intentionally draw, locking me for Top 8 and probably putting him in second place. Michiel still wanted to play for the first seed, however.
I will be honest, this annoyed me quite a bit. It meant there was a more than 50% chance I got knocked out of the Top 8 (and prizing) with a loss, while there seemed to be very little in it for him. However, I do feel I should not have been so frustrated. While it rarely happens, and is often considered a bit unsportsmanlike, Michiel is of course perfectly within his rights to want to duke it out, and it was in fact very entitled of me to expect to be ‘given’ the Top 8 slot, even if this is usually how things go. It’s a tournament. If you want to win it, you’ll need to win matches. And this just meant that I had to earn my spot in the Top 8, instead of expecting to get it for free. In many other sports and games, this is the case no matter what, and I should not have been so frustrated with Michiel’s decision to play. For this, I want to apologize.
Oh, by the way, we were also to play on camera, where my record was now something like 1-8. Spoiler: it was not about to change for the better.
Round 5 vs. Michiel Van den Bussche (UGr Emerge)
In Game 1, I mulliganned to six, keeping a reasonable six card hand with some removal for his early creatures. Against the Emerge deck, you can sometimes remove their enablers (the sacrificial lambs for the powerful Emerge cards), so they get stuck with the top of their curve in hand. Michiel chained all four of his Foul Emissaries into each other, however, taking me off that plan. I stabilized with three Seed Guardians, but Michiel had found a Decimator of the Provinces, which went on to decimate my face. (Contrary to what Niels and Jelle said on stream, Michiel had more than lethal.) The rares of this deck really are what makes it stand out. You can stabilize against Wretched Gryffs and Lashweed Lurkers fairly easily, but if they find Decimator of the Provinces, or Elder Deep-Fiend (and they have plenty of ways to find them) to break the boardstall, that’s usually the game.
I sided in Dead Weights and Oblivion Strike for a few one-ofs, intending to improve my plan to keep him off of early Emerge creatures. I also sided in two Caustic Caterpillar because I assumed he was playing Emrakul’s Influence, which we had found to be insane in grindy match-ups. Turned out he wasn’t, as their testing team instead preferred Duskwatch Recruiter.
In Game 2, we both mulliganned to six, and I kept a double Evolving Wilds hand with a Liliana and two Dead Weights in there. Continuing on the play of removing his enablers, I felt happy about this hand as long as I drew one land, as I would be able to remove all of his enablers while ticking up my Liliana, whose ultimate would be game over for sure. I never drew a third land however, making for a complete non-game.
Aside on a mistake I made: I should definitely have fetched for a Swamp when I cracked my second Wilds (which I cracked because I needed to draw a land and make a three-drop play the next turn if I wanted to have a chance left), as I had a Flaying Tendrils and Pilgrim’s Eye in my hand as fine plays, and I wanted a second black for my Liliana anyway. My reasoning was that it added Grapple with the Past as an out to find a third land, but that would have meant I could not make a three-drop play and would almost certainly lose anyway.
ON (NOT) MAKING TOP 8
Now 3-2, but with good tiebreakers, I needed to hope Timon (who was on 7 points and paired down) lost his match, so I could possibly make it in on breakers.
Timon won his match against Niklas, however, leaving me in 9th place, and feeling absolutely dejected.
Cue another unlikely scenario.
Ok, this time I won’t make you wait for the next article.
As it turned out, Timon could not play in the Top 8 because of a personal matter, and he dropped so that I would make Top 8 anyway, which was a very nice gesture, for which I want to thank him again. Also, talk about an emotional rollercoaster.
The Top 8 was composed of defending champion Jelle, Michiel, Peter Steenbeke, myself, and four more members of our testing squad in Ian, Lars, Frederik and Stijn. Like I said, testing paid off.
Quarterfinals vs. Michiel (UGr Emerge)
Moving up to 8th also meant that I got a rematch with Michiel in the quarterfinals. We weren’t even playing on camera this time, so maybe this time I actually had a chance!
Unfortunately, the match started off much like the previous one ended, with me muliganning to 5 and playing another non-game. 0-1.
Cue a ‘What’s the Play?’:
Taking Michiel’s turn, he had 5 lands, a Primal Druid, a 3/2 Eldrazi Horror token and an Exultant Cultist in play (to my 3/3 Elemental token and Emrakul), and (after his draw step) a Forest, a Duskwatch Recruiter, a Grapple with the Past, a Wretched Gryff and a Lashweed Lurker in hand.
Cards in play for us
Cards in play for them, plus 5 lands
Cards in hand for them
So, what’s the play? I’ll let you think for a moment. Take your time. I did so too.
Because of the possible draws off of Cultist and Gryff, as well as possible hits off of Grapple, the iterations seemed endless. I took way too much time on this turn, and honesty compels me to say I believe I deserved a slow play warning. Feeling compelled to decide, I figured him losing the possibility to Recruit was most important, so I decided to attack his board into mine, getting rid of the Eldrazi and Cultist, leaving the Primal Druid in play. I then played the Duskwatch, and sacked it to the Wretched Gryff, my reasoning being that he could not Lashweed the Emrakul anyway. This was definitely incorrect. What was your line?
In hindsight, I think I should have played the land, sacked the Druid to the Gryff, searching to figure out his sideboard plan and finding no land, then sack the Gryff to the Lashweed, putting his Cultist on top, thereby taking away more draw steps, and then attack the Eldrazi token into Emrakul.
It did not turn out to matter much, and I won the game off of Big Momma. Game 3!
In Game 3, I finally got to keep 7 cards and it was Michiel’s turn to mulligan. Things were looking up! My hand was filled with removal and had a Liliana, plus the lands to cast it. The plan was clear: keep him off of Emerging something with my removal spells and Liliana until I could ultimate it, which should be enough to win me the game. Michiel started out with Duskwatch into Duskwatch, both of which got killed on sight, he also missed a land drop, which spelled disaster for a deck like his. He recovered by topdecking land next turn and playing two more creatures on consecutive turns, each of which I could answer. I figured he had to be out of early drops at that point, but it turned out he had a lonely Primal Druid left. Meanwhile, my Liliana ticked up to 7, ready to ultimate next turn. With 4 lands in play, I needed Michiel to either not have a Lashweed Lurker in hand, or topdeck a land. He topdecked a land, and Emerged a Lashweed Lurker, putting my Liliana back on top of my library, while I cursed Worth (The God of Draws), internally, of course. I figured the game was going to be close to over at that point, as I had exhausted my resources trying to pull off the Liliana plan.
Somehow it wasn’t. Two turns later, I had 10 power on the board, as well as an active Liliana against his nothing, and I felt it would be hard to lose unless he found his Kozilek’s Return to blow me out. End of turn, he Grappled into a Lashweed Lurker, putting Kozilek’s Return into his graveyard. He untapped and played Conduit of Ruin, putting another Lashweed Lurker on top. With 6 lands (and an Evolving Wilds) in play Michiel would be able to play a Lashweed Lurker off of the Conduit of Ruin, bringing back the Kozilek’s Return to wipe my board and put my Liliana on top, making it very difficult for me to recover. Fortunately enough for me, he then decided to chumpblock with the Conduit, which compelled him to crack the Evolving Wilds (shuffling away the second Lashweed) to find a seventh land, and left him hoping to topdeck an eight land to hardcast his Lashweed Lurker in hand. He topdecked the land, flashed back Kozilek’s Return and wiped my board entirely. I then hung around for two or three more turns by using Vexing Scuttler to get back Pulse of Murasa, keeping me in the game, but his Foul Emissary found more gas and that was that, Michiel moved on to the semifinals. I felt pretty unlucky to lose that game, but hey, it happens. I wasn’t even supposed to play in the Top 8 anyway, so I could not complain (too much).
ON COVERAGE, THE FINALS AND THE ORGANIZATION
I got something to eat, and then joined Niels and Sander in the commentary booth for the semifinal between Stijn and Lars. I always enjoy doing commentary, and I think these guys do a great job running the tournament while also streaming and recording the whole thing. Not the easiest thing in the world. The judges did an awesome job as well. A big thumbs up to the entire team!
(editors note: You can find a button on the main page to go to the twitch.tv channel where you can find the matches in the highlights, they will become available on the youtube channel soon as well)
Eventually, Stijn made it past Lars to the finals with the UR Tutelage/Rise deck, where Michiel was waiting for him. I was rooting for my testing partner, but he soon fell to Decimator of the Provinces and Elder Deep-Fiend, respectively. Tough beats for Stijn, congratulations to Michiel, our Gentry Open Finals champion! After the initial frustrations of my disappointing tournament boiled down, I could only feel proud about what our testing crew had achieved. Well done, guys!
Tune in for Part IV, which has me actually winning some matches, and has no less than eight Emrakul showings.
May you… (ok, I’m out.)
Tom Vandevelde has been playing Magic since Tempest, and competitively since Time Spiral. Deckbuilding is his favorite part of the game, which has led to him taking an interest in less conventional formats like League Standard. Alongside his teammates on Team Wrecking Ball he is shooting for the Pro Tour, but you will just as often find him playing Pauper, Pack Wars or Mental Magic, or helping out newer players. You will often find Tom streaming on twitch.tv/wreckingballmtg, where you can actually challenge him to League Standard matches in between rounds! Be sure to come hang out and don’t be afraid to ask questions!