Welcome to another episode of Julian’s Excellent Adventures in Europe. This time we’re looking back at my finish at the inaugural Bazaar of Moxen Series stop in Madrid (26th-28th Feb), including a review of Legacy, Modern and most importantly Cube!
Friday- Legacy Trials
I gotta say it felt kind of weird flying back to Madrid just two months after playing the TOP Series event at the very same hotel. I can’t really put my finger on it, but I think it has a lot to do with how I have been thinking about and experience my “career” ever since I started playing in international tournaments. Every trip always felt like this continuous journey to discover new places, make new friends and gather new experiences. This doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be visiting the same place twice, but it felt a bit odd to not only go back to Madrid after such a short time but also play in the very same conference room.
That being said I still had a great time in the Spanish capital! After flying in on Friday morning with my friends Can Weidemeier and Anton “Enton” Karlinski, we dropped off our bags at a nearby hotel, headed for the tournament site and jumped straight into the afternoon Legacy trial. Probably because most players were still playing in the previous Trial (>50 people), the afternoon Trial turned out to only have 10 players in it, which made for a very weird metagame of something like 3 RG Lands, 2 Eldrazi Decks, Manaless Dredge, Infect and others; I think there wasn’t a single Delver of Secrets in this tournament.
Coming fresh from a victory at the first stop of this year’s MKM Series in Milan, I once again fielded the latest evolution of Elves, which eschews Natural Order in favor of a more stable, grindy but also toolboxy build. (If I had an editor, he would probably find a more elaborated word for toolboxy.)
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Wirewood Symbiote
4 Elvish Visionary
3 Nettle Sentinel
3 Heritage Druid
3 Quirion Ranger
2 Llanowar Elves
1 Craterhoof Behemooth
1 Birchlore Rangers
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Shaman of the Pack
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Wren’s Run Packmaster
1 Gaddock Teeg
Here’s how my tournament went:
Round 1 — Eldrazi — 0:2 Loss but Enton scooped since he already had 2 Byes
Round 2 — Manaless Dredge — 2:0 WIN
Round 3 — Infect — 1:2 LOSS
Round 4 — RG Lands — 2:1 WIN
Result: 3-1 for a bunch of BoM points and 1 Bye
Nothing spectacular to see, even though getting to out-control and eventually deck Manaless Dredge with Elves is always such a joy. My opponent was a really nice guy, but he missed a couple of triggers every once in a while, which contributed to his loss but probably didn’t change the outcome of the game. Especially with Dredge I tend to enforce a very strict stance on triggers and proper play, since the deck is somewhat demanding to play from a technical (but not necessarily strategical) point of view and I’d rather not give up any percentage stemming from my opponent misplaying his cards. Fortunately my opponent was very understanding and immediately stood up for the (few) mistakes he made.
In the end they shortened the tournament by a round and also reduced the prize payout, probably because only 10 people showing up was well below expectation. Still everyone at 3-1 got a Bye, so unless they change the system for future events, the afternoon trial will provide you with the easiest access to Byes there is.
After being crushed by Rodrigo Togores’ Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy Duel Commander deck, Can, Enton and I sign up for the evening trial.
Round 1 — RG Lands — 1:2 LOSS
Round 2 — BUG Delver — 2:0 WIN
Round 3 — RW Imperial Painter — 2:1 WIN
Round 4 — Affinity — 2:1 WIN
Round 5 — 4c Loam — 2:0 WIN
Result: 4-1 for even more BoM points and 1 Bye, that of course doesn’t stack.
This one had all the other players from the morning trial join in again, so we fired it with something like 50-60 people, capped at 5 rounds with 2 Byes to any players finishing at 5-0 and 1 Bye for anyone with 4 wins. The very first round saw me go up against my last opponent from the previous trial with things playing out in his favor this time. In the final game it came down to a critical decision on turn2 where I named Wasteland with my Pithing Needle, well aware that this put me at risk of losing to the Dark Depths combo. My reasoning was that if my Gaea’s Cradle got to live, I would be something like a 80% favorite to win the game from turn3 on. Unfortunately my opponent had kept a hand that was pretty all-in on killing me with his ice monster on turn3 and I lost. In hindsight there’s a good chance that my play was too risky considering that my opponent’s first two turns hadn’t given me any clue on what kind of hand he was sitting, which should probably make you assume that it’s a combo-hand.
In the third round I got to face Painter but despite his best efforts of Blood Moon, Ethersworn Canonist, Painter’s Servant and Goblin Welder, he still fell short of the win. The matchup is very much in Elves’ favor after all. The only thing that really beats you is a turn1 Blood Moon on the play. Chaos Elves is a little bit weaker to Painter than regular Elves, but given how favorful the matchup generally is, it doesn’t matter a lot; especially since Chaos Elves has a much easier time finding room for Pithing Needles and Null Rod in the sideboard, which are absolutely awesome in the matchup.
In speaking of Null Rod, my fourth opponent was on Affinity. I was already getting quite tired at this point, having gotten up at 5:30am, which lead me to make a couple mistakes tracking life totals. Usually this isn’t much of a problem because you can compare your notes with the opponent’s to clear the confusion. My opponent however didn’t track life totals at all and would sometimes just randomly announce that he had 1-2 life more than I had just written down. He would also often just grab my lifepad to remind himself of the current game state. All of this made for a rather unpleasant experience. Game-wise, I just got to outrace Affinity with just regular Elf beatdown, which was kinda unexpected given his great start of Arcbound Ravager and even Cranial Plating. Game2 saw me locked out of the game by Chalice of the Void, only for me to return the favor with my own backbreaking artifact in Game3: turn2 Null Rod had my opponent struggle a lot and reduced him to just casting Chalice@1 with Ancient Tomb and beating down with Etched Champion. Fortunately I had drawn a lot of Green Sun’s Zenith and Abrupt Decay, which allowed me to eventually handle his (three!) Chalices he put to the table. However, because I was so busy taking care of his Chalices, his Champion had already taken me down all the way to 5 before I got to go on the offensive myself. But when I switched gears, it was short and painful. Over the course of the game, he had already lost 16+ life to Ancient Tombs, so a single GSZ for Shaman of the Pack ended the game on the spot.
In the final round I was paired against my friend Can. Since both of us already had Byes, we played a friendly and hilarious match; most of it with revealed hands. He ended up drawing “the wrong half” of his deck, playing Chalices and Punishing Fires when he needed Hatebears – and the other way around in the second game. The match surely isn’t as good for Elves as my recent match results have shown and Can would get another shot at redeeming himself in the Main Event..
Saturday – Legacy Main Event
The next morning we had a total of 110 people sign up for the Legacy Main Event. I haven’t talked to the Bazaar of Moxen guys, but seeing how the TOP Series managed to gather around 250 players just two months before, the low attendance appeared to be a little disappointing. Looking at the big picture though, Europe is enjoying a never-before-seen amount of Eternal tournaments and all of those large events this year have had about the same kind of attendance. Maybe we’re oversaturated? Even for me as someone who loves travelling, I feel unable to reasonably attend every big event of the year anymore. All of this might sound too negative though; I’m super excited to see how much support especially Legacy is receiving right now and even though it really hurts to pass up on this weekend’s Turin Magic Torunament (#1 gets 40 Duals + a Rolex), it’s probably for the better in the long run.
Back to Madrid! Even though we got to see a lot of Lands the previous day I decided no to make any adjustments to my list. The only thing I was considering was playing Aven Mindcensor over Thalia, Guardian of Thraben in the sideboard but my lazy mind eventually decided against it.
Here’s is how my tournament went:
Round 1 — *BYE*
Round 2 — ANT — 2:1 WIN
Round 3 — RW Imperial Painter — 2:0 WIN
Round 4 — Shardless BUG — 1:2 LOSS (Feature Match)
Round 5 — 4c Loam — 2:0 WIN
Round 6 — Bant 12 Post — 1:2 LOSS
Round 7 — Jund — 2:0 WIN
Round 8 — Eldrazi — 2:0 WIN
Result: 6-2 for 13th place and something like $100 in BoM points.
x-2, who would have guessed that? At this point I have lost track but ever since Ovinogeddon in October 2014, I must have had about eight or nine 7-2 & 6-2 finishes at big events. Consistency is one thing, but in the end you want more. Every time you fall short of the Top8 because of an x-2 result, it feels like the tournament just “friend-zoned” you.
I still had some great games though. After joining the action in round2, I was immediately greeted by mulligan to 4 before being turn2’ed by ANT. Game2 it was my opponent’s turn to mulligan twice and I was able to easily take the game on the backs of Deathrite Shaman and Quirion Ranger, with Cabal Therapy to buy time. The final game had my opponent’s face drop straight to the table after Gitaxian Probing me and seeing Thoughtseize+Surgical Extraction in my opening 7. I immediately assumed that he must have Tendrils of Agony in hand and his desperate digging with Ponder and even Lotus Petal into yet another Ponder reinforced my suspicion. Since he couldn’t come up with Brainstorm, my Thoughtseize stripped his only win condition from his hand, which I immediately extracted without giving him another untap in order to play around a potentially topdecked Flusterstorm. My opponent immediately extended his hand. What’s better than a turn2 kill? Turn1! 🙂
Round 3 I went up against my Painter opponent from the previous day and once again, my Elves made short work of him; I think the entire match lasted less than 10 minutes with me just Glimpse-comboing him on turn3 both games. In the following round I was called up to the feature match table; unfortunately the recording of our match is now lost since Bazaar of Moxen didn’t export it from Twitch to YouTube before it got deleted. This means you’re missing out on some sweet #Rektmaster action with Wolves taking over an otherwise really tough game in short order. Game2 & 3 on the other hand, you’re not missing out on much as they were decided by mana flood and screw, with a timely Toxic Deluge when it finally locked like I could get some traction.
Before we move on, let me say that I loved the feature match services they provided for the players: not only did they have lots of dices, lifepads and every token imaginable right at the table, you would also get free drinks! Of course it’s just a nice goody on top, but I really loved it. The only other time I experienced something similar was during Starcitygames feature matches back in the USA.
Following my loss to Shardless, I was once again paired against Can, who still wasn’t able to overcome the Elvish Empire overrunning him. Unfortunately my run for Top8 came to a sudden stop in Round 6 where my opponent on Bant 12 Post took me down in a very long and drawn out match. At first I wasn’t really sure what to make of his deck as he started with Tundra, Tropical Island and Terminus. He eventually started playing Cloudposts and Eldrazis with the occasional critical (blind..) Terminus from the top whenever I was threatening a kill. One blind Terminus I can take; two is starting to get excessive, but this guy pulled no less than three of them every time he really needed it. Who needs Sensei’s Diving Top, after all? We still had an awesome Game3 which involved Moat, Primeval Titan, several Eldrazis and Karakas on my side. It was a constant back-and-forth and I guess everyone watching had a great time watching my little green men go up against the mighty Eldrazi and almost come out on top until they were hit with yet another death ray from the sky. Variance is a bitch; still, great game!
I went on to not drop a game in the final two rounds to finish in the Top16 and collect my share of the BoM point loot. I decided to not cash in any of them this weekend, instead saving up to eventually trade them for something I really want. Right now all my non-cashable winnings (like MKM credit) goes into purchasing reserved list staples like duals and Lion’s Eye Diamonds. Maybe I’lll accidentally assemble ANT at some point? Watching Rodrigo Turn1 people in more than eight games in Madrid, I’d really love to give it a shot.
Sunday – Modern Main Event
To Eternal players, the obligatory Modern event on Sundays always feels a bit like showing up to work on Mondays: You know you should do it, but you’re not thrilled about it. Especially when your workplace consist of a giant pile of Eldrazis that everyone knows will get banned in April. But hey, why did Mallory try to climb the Everest? — “Because It’s there” — That’s good enough of a reason for me to play in a Magic tournament.
For the lack of better options and having had good results with the deck, I once again stuck to Rodrigo’s Ad Nauseam list. Here’s how my tournament went:
4 Ad Nauseam
4 Angel’s Grace
4 Lotus Bloom
4 Pentad Prism
4 Sleight of Hand
4 Serum Visions
4 Simian Spirit Guide
3 Pact of Negation
3 Phyrexian Unlife
3 Spoils of the Vault
2 Lightning Storm
Round 1 — Jund — 2:1 WIN
Round 2 — UWr Control — 2:1 WIN
Round 3 — Merfolk — 2:1 WIN (Feature Match)
Round 4 — Living End — 1:2 LOSS
Round 5 — Abzan Aggro — 1:2 LOSS
Round 6 — RG Eldrazi — 0:2 LOSS
Round 7 — Ad Nauseam — 1:1:1 DRAW
Result: 3-3-1 for…yeah, who are we kidding?
With even Rodrigo abandoning the deck as of late (he went to the finals of Turin with Living End), I guess I was right about not getting my hopes up too high for Modern. Ad Nauseam is great against almost all blue decks as you can usually grind them out or pull off protected wins with Boseiju. Unlike with other combo decks though, this one would much rather avoid the non-blue, especially the BGx decks as discard is much harder to deal with. Pact of Negation on Thoughtseize is a much worse play than countering their Cryptic Command, after all. Unfortunately our blue brethren’s lines have been heavily thinned by the ban of Splinter Twin as well as the r̶i̶s̶e̶ tyranny of the Eldrazi. This leaves us with a metagame that’s not quite unfriendly towards Ad Nauseam.
There’s not much I can say about these games — maybe because not a lot of exciting things happened, probably because it’s still Modern after all. My personal lowlight of the day came in round 6 when my opponent chained THREE World Breakers into each other, destroying my Phyrexian Unlife, Lotus Bloom and a land before murdering me with the overlords. I guess my round 4 match vs Living End was really intense with my opponent playing a very good gaming, always making the correct decisions on his land destruction spells and Living End timings. Who would have thought that Beast Within and Fulminator Mage were that good against combo? Modern really is the true bizarro world of Magic the Gathering.
For extra funsies, I was paired for the mirror match in the final round. Chances are you’re not aware, but the Ad Nauseam mirror in Modern is one of the stupidest matches in the history of the game, because especially in game1, neither player can win: your potentiall lethal Lightning Storm will just whiff because of Angel’s Grace. So my opponent and I did what we are supposed to and summoned an army of red Apes to do our fighting. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t ape hard enough and only saw 2 of them, while my opponent Spoils of the Vault‘ed for another copy and thus overcame me even through Phyrexian Unlife in one of the most glorious games of the weekend. Game2 he had everything going his way when he landed a Phyrexian Unlife, which allowed him to Spoils of the Vault for Dragonlord Dromoka. Fortunately for me, I was holding my one Echoing Truth which I was able to force through thanks to double Pact of Negation. With my opponent at negative life, I was able to steal an otherwise pretty unwinnable game by successfully bouncing his Unlife. And for the final game…we went to time and drew, like we expected to do anyways, haha. Well deserved final round for the crap shoot of a format Modern currently is.
Sunday — Cube Draft
Cube on the other hand is really amazing. I wish they made that a Pro Tour and GP format, even though the logistics of it sound like a nightmare for larger paper tournaments. Fortunately the Bazaar of Moxen guys fund a way to make it work and with my friend Can having accidentally made Top8 in the Sealed Main Event, I decided to sign up for one of their drafts while waiting. For those interested in organizing their own Cube events with strangers, here’s how they did it:
— The entire Cube area was surrounded by tables, only accessible to players and judges
— Each player had to turn in his passport and would only get it back after the event
— During deckbuilding they would take a picture of your entire pool
— If you wanted to leave the Cube area, you had to leave your deck with a judge
— At the end of the event they verified you had turned in the exact 45 on the picture
I wasn’t sure what to make of the other 7 players in my draft and didn’t know what exactly the Cube looked like, so I decided against forcing Storm and instead tried to get one of my three favorite decks: Mono Red Fun Police, Mono Green Genesis Wave and Bant Goodstuff. My first couple of packs didn’t show me any red so after my firstpick of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy I tried to pursue a Reanimator strategy. When that didn’t work out, I recognized all the green manadorks coming my way and adapted. Unfortunately Bant didn’t really come together as three people were cutting white really hard, so I picked up a bit of fixing and went for BUG instead. When Opposition and Upheaval came around in pack3, I tried to fully commit to UG and drop black, but that didn’t really work out. Still, I think I ended up drafting the likely best deck on the table, judging from what I saw later. On a related note: my 15th pick in pack was Sulfuric Vortex; nobody was looking at red at all, it just happened to be that hardly any Fun Police officers were opened in any of the first packs. Here’s close to what I ended up playing
(I think I ended up cutting the Animate Dead and Painful Truth for some more green cards)
We played 3 rounds of Swiss and I just had SO MUCH FUN! It was such a refreshing change from Modern, I’m really looking forward to the next BoM events, where I’ll try to play as many Cube drafts as possible. Seriously, this is one of the most fun formats I have ever played. I ended up going only 2-1, after a loss to UB Control in the second round, but since the payout wasn’t really competitive to begin with, I don’t mind too much as all of my games were really amazing. Here’s a couple of highlights, without going too deep into the games:
— Being down 1-19 life with no creatures against an opponent with 20+ power on the table: Upheaval, which also freed my Sundering Titan and Obstinate Baloth from under Fiend Hunter and Journey to Nowhere. Insane comeback!
— Opponent stole my Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy with Sower of Temptation and flipped it…after which it gets exiled and comes back into play under its owner’s control.
— Locked my opponent under Opposition as soon as turn3.
— Turn3 Sundering Titan, destroying all 3 of my opponents lands
— Turn1 Arbor Elf, Turn2 Rofellos, Turn3 Shardless Agent into Umezawa’s Jitte, equip and attack
And that’s just the stuff I still remember! The draft itself was won by a guy and his girlfriend, which was a kinda cool result. I was first skeptical about playing in a rather casual event, but I really enjoyed how relaxed everyone was about everything all the time. Hope to see YOU in one of of those Cube drafts in Annecy soon!
PS: Stay tuned for my Prague Eternal report next week, where I was able to play Chaos Elves to a 2nd place finish and Top8 the Modern event! Good times were had! 🙂