GP Lille ’15 – A Castle Full of Nerds

The idea to rent a castle for Grand Prix Lille first came up during Team Euroswag’s American raid in November 2014. For the most part nobody really took it very seriously — up until Felix started collecting offers for different places in and around Lille. We had first come across a giant chateau about 100km from the city, but since it didn’t come with its own horse chariot we decided to opt for the somewhat smaller yet much closer Chateau des Ormes. With a maximum capacity of 15 people, we called up some of our friends and filled the remaining slots in basically no time.

The Castle Crew for GP Lille 2015:

Most of our guys during Thursday’s BBQ

Team Euroswag:
Felix “Phelix” Munch — 43 Lands.dec
Philipp “Einherjer” Schönegger — Miracles
Tomáš “Koplinchen” Vlček — Miracles
Marc “Bahra“ König — Imperial Taxes
Julian “itsJulian” Knab — Elves

And Friends:
Matt “SDEMatt“ Pavlic — Jund
Sith Sriharan — Miracles
Kai Sawatari — ANT
Pascal Wagner — Grinding Station
Jonathan Alexander Kurz — Grinding Station
David Jesus Plainfield — Miracles
Sean Fitzpatrick — Miracles
Timur Böse — Grixis Delver
Markus Tumpach — Punishing Maverick
Alexander Kimpel — 4c Delver(?)

 

Day 0 – Friday – Grand Prix Trials

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As opposed to…

Matt and I arrived in Lille on Wednesday night after flying from Munich to Paris. The Grand Prix was the last highlight of Matt’s month-long trip all the way across Europe. Together we had travelled to Prague Eternal and GP Copenhagen where we met up with Marc. Legacywise these tournaments went ok-ish for me, with a solid yet unexciting 6-2 in Prague and a 4-0 into split at the GP Copenhagen side event (both with Elves). For GP Lille though, I was “99% sure“ I would stick with my friend Niklas’ 4c Loam deck that he had used to demolish pretty much anything that dared to cross his path this year:

4c Loam by Niklas Kronberger

Creatures (11)
Dark Confidant
Knight of the Reliquary
Gaddock Teeg
Scavenging Ooze
Deathrite Shaman

Instants (6)
Punishing Fire
Abrupt Decay

Sorceries (4)
Green Sun’s Zenith
Life from the Loam

Enchantments (2)
Sylvan Library

Planeswalkers (3)
Liliana of the Veil

Artifacts (8)
Mox Diamond
Chalice of the Void
Lands (26)
Bayou
Scrubland
Savannah
Taiga
Forest
Windswept Heath
Verdant Catacombs
Grove of the Burnwillows
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Wasteland
Maze of Ith
Karakas
Tranquil Thicket
Barren Moor
Dryad Arbor

Sideboard (15)
Maelstrom Pulse
Slaughter Games
Choke
Reclamation Sage
Ethersworn Canonist
Golgari Charm
Thoughtseize
Leyline of the Void
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Someone approached me for alterations

Before the trials on Friday, Niklas told me to try out some Thalia, Guardian of Thraben over the Ethersworn Canonists in the sideboard. I didn’t really have the time or cards with me to make that change and decided to just head straight into my first trial with the list he had given me earlier that week (see above). Of course kamra is a bitch and I immediately lose to the first round to none other than Elves! The guy went on to win the trial, so there’s something. In my second trial, I was able to defeat Imperial Painter the first round after casting Slaughter Games on Painter’s Servant. That reduced him to an acceptable Limited deck, spending his next four turns casting Imperial Recruiter (for Recruiter for Recruiter for Recruiter) for….Simian Spirit Guide. In the absence of Blood Moon, that line doesn’t match up too well against Punishing Fire. Unfortunately I then lost the second round to Grixis Delver.

At that point, I knew it would feel like a step back, but I really wanted to give my Elves at least some chance. After all they are the deck I really know how to play and a mere 5-0 should always be possible given the correct matchups. So I quickly registered this list for my third trial:

Elves at #GpLille '15

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

Sorceries (11)
Green Sun’s Zenith
Glimpse of Nature
Natural Order

Enchantments (1)
Sylvan Library
Lands (20)
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Gaea’s Cradle
Bayou
Forest
Dryad Arbor
Pendelhaven
Verdant Catacombs

Sideboard (15)
Cabal Therapy
Krosan Grip
Thoughtseize
Abrupt Decay
Choke
Scavenging Ooze
Surgical Extraction

Here’s how my trial went:

Round 1 — Miracles  2:1 WIN
Round 2 — RUG Delver  2:1 WIN
Round 3 — RUG Delver   2:0 WIN
Round 4  Deathblade  2:0 WIN
Round 5  MUD   2:1 WIN

My plan of getting favorable matchups kinda failed (with the exception of MUD) but in the end I still got there. My Miracles opponent int he first round (Matthew Light) was kinda pissed that I wouldn’t give him the free win in game1 after he had established total control of the match. At some point I told him that putting your spells back on top of your library face-up to assure dominance was a bad-mannered move to which he replied that he thinks I’m just trying to run down the clock — bold words for the person taking literally 90% of the game’s time. G2 and G3 I was able to just overwhelm him on the back of Sylvan Library and Krosan Grips. With my current lists I’m more than just ok to face Miracles at any point of the tournament. People still haven’t fully adapted or became aware of the looming threat of Krosan Grip yet. To be fair though, there’s little you can do about it except for using Sensei’s Divining Top with strange timing.

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Team EuroSwag’s quest for helium

My next two RUG Delver matches – especially the first one – felt like some of the best Magic I have played in quite a while. In G2 or R2 I was under constant and cruel pressure from the very first moment. My opponent kept slamming a flipped Delver of Secrets, a Tarmogoyf and a thresholded Nimble Mongoose into my board of Wirewood Symbiote, Quirion Ranger, Dryad Arbor and Deathrite Shaman with Sylvan Library in play. Now it’s not hard to hold on to that pressure for a while, but the thing is that without further help, they will quickly overcome your defenses. Unfortunately all my Sylvan Library kept showing me was more non-Fetchlands that I couldn’t even use because I had to keep bouncing my Dryad Arbor to stay alive. DRS was also not long for this world and hit a timely fate once my opponent struck him with a Lightning Bolt. In the meanwhile, Wirewood Symbiote kept beating in for 2 points of damage/turn thanks for Pendelhaven. Eventually, I was able to make a second DRS stick. To my opponent’s surprise, I actually started draining him instead of trying to gain life. At that point, the life totals were something like 12-6 in his favor. As I mentioned, trying to just stay alive doesn’t cut it when you have an Insectile Aberration bolting you every turn and two ground beaters tying up your mana. Once again though, my opponent was able to find a Lightning Bolt that he quickly aimed at my DRS after I blocked and bounced my Quirion Ranger with Wirewood Symbiote. At this point I topdeck Green Sun’s Zenith and cast it to find Scavenging Ooze. I quickly grow the Ooze out of bolt-range but both graveyards are way too full at this point to reasonably shrink Tarmogoyf or Mongoose. So at my opponent’s next end step, I am left with the decision to go all-in on the Ooze and grow it to something like 8/8 or keep it at 5/5 while leaving three more creatures in the yard should he have Submerge. I move all-in, reasoning that I probably couldn’t beat a Submerge anyways and he has it: after resolving my Sylvan Library trigger, my opponent proceeds to put the big fat Ooze on top of my deck. At this point, with only GSZ in my hand, I have to make one of the most important decisions of the game: do I just re-summon the Ooze or go for an Elvish Visionary? The Ooze could maybe grow back to 4/4 with some chump blocking, but I really don’t see that going anywhere. At best it buys me just another turn by kinda negating a Delver hit — not good enough. Instead I search for an Elvish Visionary, which draws me into another Visionary, which draws me into Birchlore Rangers. Thanks to Wirewood Symbiote I get to draw yet another card, which ends up being Deathrite Shaman. Back in the game, baby! My opponent hits me down to 3 on his turn but doesn’t have the Bolt to finish me off. I untap, use DRS a couple of times, then pass the turn. I kill him on his Upkeep for exactiss! Great Games, man!

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Considered writing Matt’s main event deck choice onto his forehead for the ultimate troll

In R4 I was facing off against none other than the gatekeeper of hell. In R3 I was able to watch his final game against Elves and BOY must this guy hate tribal. The moment he starts sideboarding he releases pretty much every hate card known to m̶a̶n̶ Elves: Zealous Persecution, Containment Priest, Grafdigger’s Cage, Ethersworn Canonist — you name it, he has it. Fortunately for me, I was able to take the crucial game1 the way Elves is supposed to in this matchup and then proceeded to have just the right mix of threats and answers in game2. The turning point of the match was when he spent 3 turns playing Stoneforge Mystic and attaching Umezawa’s Jitte to it, only to lose the equipment to Krosan Grip, which in turn untapped Nettle Sentinel to kill his Kor Artificer. Feels like I dodged a bullet in that matchup.

In the finals I was up against a very friendly Greek guy with MUD. Contrary to general belief, this is a quite favorable matchup for Elves and I have never lost a single sanctioned match against that deck before. Neither would I today. My opponent wins the dice role and casts Chalice of the Void on turn1. On turn3 he has Siege Mastodon Kuldotha Forgemaster, puts a Lightning Greaves on it and digs up Blightsteel Colossus — that’s the kind of draw you need to beat Elves. Game2 he’s never really in the game as I follow one of the most important rules of playing against MUD, no matter the format: kill the Metalworker. I’m not sure what he was hoping to build up to, but I’d rather not know. Game3 I mulligan to 6 and he gets one of the more busted starts the deck can produce:

Turn 1: Chalice of the Void on 1
Turn 2: Lodestone Golem
Turn 3: Trinisphere
Turn 4: His friends comes to the table looking super happy for him
Turn 5: He (pretty much) loses.

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Yoshi’s Got Game!

“Sorry what?“ — On turn1 and 2, I fetch Dryad Arbor, then play Gaea’s Cradle to cast Elvish Visionary on turn3. On my turn4, I cast GSZ to find Reclamation Sage to get rid of the Lodestone Golem. The following turn, GSZ finds Wirewood Symbiote and I use it to bounce and replay the Sage to also kill his Chalice at which point he’s dead in the water. He actually tries to come back with a desperate Chalice on 3 but the game is already over and he soon finds himself locked under his own Trinisphere with only Ancient Tomb in play and a bunch of City of Traitors in his yard. Elves prevail!

With 2 Byes for the main event and a bunch of confidence, I decide that I just have to run Elves in the main event despite its admittedly not great positioning in the metagame. After buying new KMCs AND double sleeves we head back to the castle where Tomas once again can’t find anyone to play Tiny Leaders with him.

Day 1 – Saturday – Grand Prix Lille – Main Event

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Yoshi helping me out there

For the main event, I didn’t make any changes to my list from Friday’s trial, which you can find above. Borrowing an idea from some guys at GP New Jersey 2014, team Euroswag decided to equip all of our players with helium balloons tied to our backpacks. I immediately fail at the task by filling my one with gas, then putting it aside to find some string to….Oooops, there it goes. Have I mentioned that we have about 5m high ceilings in the castle? 😛

We eventually get everyone equipped and head over to the venue. While just hanging out with the guys during my Byes, Matej Zatlkaj walks up to me and asks whether I would be up for a deck tech. We sit down in the feature match area and I explain the basic strategies and synergies of Elves to him.

You can find the VOD here:

 

Here’s how my main event went:

Round 1 — *BYE*
Round 2 — *BYE*
Round 3 — RG Lands   0:2 LOSS
Round 4  Jund  1:2 LOSS
Round 5  Jund   2:0 WIN
Round 6 — OmniTell  0:2 LOSS
=> Drop

Yeah, that didn’t really work too well. Round3 I’m up against Branco Neirynck of recent GP Copenhagen Top8 fame. I win the dice role and cast Deathrite Shaman on the first turn. Both games we play I’m never really in it as he explodes on the first turns with Exploration, Mox Diamond, Punishing Fire and the natural The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale; and there’s Life from the Loam, too. Game2 my hand looked so good, I probably couldn’t set it up much better by myself, but turn1 Punishing Fire and pretty much “the lock“ on turn2 overcomes me.

The next round against Jund, thinks went kinda downhill from the very beginning. We rolled 2d6 to determine who would go first. Having already rolled the same twice, I then lead with a perfect 12; my opponent of course responds with his own 12 and then leads with an 11, which I can’t match. This kinda foreshadowed how our match would look like: whenvever I did something, he not only had the answer, but immediately followed it up with something troublesome: turn1 DRS into Liliana of the Veil, which is one of the most brutal opponenings you can have vs Elves in game1, followed by game3 with turn1 Lighting Bolt on my Elf, turn2 Hymn to Tourach for my business and turn3 Punishing Fire online. I think I manage to steal game2 but I honsetly don’t even remember.

In the next round, I just demolish my opponent, who also stumbles a bit on mana in our second game.

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Kai is probably the happiest person ever!

Eventually OmniTell kicks me out of the tournament in two not even close games. Game2 I Cabal Therapy him four times and Thoughtseize away a Show and Tell but it just isn’t good enough. He Brainstorms into end of turn Dig Through Time, untaps and just kills me. Oh well…

Despite my really poor finish, I’m incredibly happy for all of my friends who made Day2, some of which at quite promising finishes such as 8-0-1. After the last round we gather outside the venue and head for a Chinese restaurant for an all-you-can-eat Asian buffet.

 

Day 2 – Sunday – The Grind is Real

With my friends battling for Top8, I entered the so-called “Bazaar of Dual Lands“ with Elves. I made some changes to sideboard, adding additional copies of the cards that overperformed while cutting some of the combo hate. I feel the marginal value of combo hate in the form of discard is pretty small these days, so I decided to go down a more extreme path, improving my “fair“ matups with additonal copies of Scavenging Ooze and Sylvan Library. The maindeck remained unchanged, while the sideboard turned into this:

4 Cabal Therapy
3 Krosan Grip
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Abrupt Decay
1 Sylvan Library
1 Choke
1 Trinisphere
1 Pithing Needle

This is how my tournament played out:

Round 1 — Infect  2:1 WIN
Round 2 — Miracles  2:1 WIN
Round 3 — Imperial Taxes   2:0 WIN
Round 4  Merfolk  2:0
Round 5  Imperial Taxes   2:0 WIN
Round 6 — Shardless BUG  2:0 WIN (Fabian Görzgen)
Round 7  OmniTell   Prize Split, playing it out because one player winning is better value: 0-2 LOSS

I kind of managed to redeem myself during the side event, taking home 2 booster boxes, 22 boosters and 1 FWB Underground Sea in the process. It’s kinda funny how this is worth about what you would get for a Top32 finish in the GP, yet feels sooo much worse anyways. In the end, the two most important things to the non-professional player are success and having a great time with your friends; money itself just acts as a commodity, allowing you to go on these trips.

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Slightly Lethal

The matchups against Imperial Taxes were kinda easy, mostly because my opponents either didn’t draw Sudden Demise or didn’t have any mana to go with it. In R3 I actually had to double Natural Order to eventually get there as he had both Umezawa’s Jitte and Batterskull online. I actually really lucked out in the first game as a timely Natural Order from the top of my deck was the only card that could actually save me.

Round 4 against Merfolk, I faced an Ukrainian studying in Paris. Not knowing what she was on, I kept an ok-ish hand in game1 with a bunch of Elves and Reclamation Sage. The later came in quite handy when she put a Chalice @ 1 to the table on turn2 and I quickly overcome her. For most part of G2 though, things look grim for me as she has my entire hand locked down with Chalice while beating in with True-Name Nemesis and Mutavault. At 5 life, I eventually have to go for it and cast Glimpse of Nature – it resolves. When I cast my next Elf and announce the Glimpse trigger, she realizes her mistake and counters the Elf. Fortunately for me, the Chalice doesn’t stop the Glimpse trigger and I proceed to draw quite a lot of cards, eventually Abrupt Decaying Chalice and establishing a board pressence that will 100% win on the next turn. On her turn she fiddles around with Mutavault and I wonder whether she had drawn a Lord and had the Spreading Seas to go with it (which she had previously shown). Fortunately for me, she doesn’t and I proceed to Craterhoof it up!

What I really liked about my opponent was how she just accepted her mistake with the Chalice. We’ve all been up against the kind of player who will continue bitching and giving you a bad vibe throughout the rest of the match because he feels that he deserved to win the match…and it’s just so annoying. My opponent instead acknowledged her mistake and even paid respect to my play. I wish more people could just play the game that way.

Cashing Out the Side Event!
Cashing Out the Side Event!

Round 6 was a revival of my Bazaar of Moxen 2013 Quarterfinals against Fabian Görzgen. This time he had brought Shardless BUG to the table, a matchup that used to be very much in Elves favor. With recent lists having incorporated 2 Toxic Deluge in the maindeck, Meddling Mages in the sideboard and silver bullets such as Night of Soul’s Betrayal, I’m still feeling quite confident facing them, but wouldn’t be surprised if a dropped a match every once in a while.

Game1 I just draw my entire deck with triple Glimpse on turn 3 or 4 after he taps out for I believe Tarmogoyf; not that it matters too much as the only thing Shardless BUG can threaten in the first game is, well, Abrupt Decay. Game2 in draw pretty much the NUTS and Glimpse kill him on turn3 despite him Thoughtseizing me on turn1. My draws for turn2 and 3 were Cradle into Glimpse and he didn’t have the Force of Will.

Russian Foil Ooze I got from Sergey
Russian Foil Ooze I got from Sergey

In the last Round, I agree on a split with my opponent. We still play it out officially as the combined prize pool for 7-0 and 6-1 is still somewhat larger than two 6-0-1s. In general the prize payout was a bit weird for this event, with I think everyone at 5-1 drawing into 5-1-1 as that actually paid out more than a 6-1.

After collecting my prizes, I meet up with all of my friends to say goodbye. I eventually run into Sergey who manged to get 34th place in the main event with his homebrew 12Post, featuring 4 Ancient Stirrings and a foil Japanese Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Sergey is an old friend of mine whom I first ran into at GP Madrid in 2010. Ever since then every time we see each other, we follow the old Russian Legacy tradition of dedicating pimped cards to a friend’s deck. After checking mine, Sergey discovers the flavor fail that is my 2nd, non-foil English Scavenging Ooze and decides to give me anawesome upgrade that I will use in every tournament from now on! — благодаря!

Moving Forward

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“Will this pay the restaurant bill?”

After the tournament, we head into downtown Lille and have a great dinner at some French restaurant. Like always, I really enjoyed the time spent with all the great people I had the pleasure to meet over the years. As I mentioned in one of my earlier articles, the format itself doesn’t really draw me into the game as much as it used to ever since the release of Khans of Trakir. This is mainly due to the uninspiring gameplay that Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time have introduced to Legacy, so I am really looking forward to today’s B&R announcement. When in the past I was hoping on Sensei’s Divining Top getting the axe, this sentiment doesn’t even come close to how much I want to see Dig Through Time go. Unlikely SDT, DTT is very hard to hate as a card itself as it’s just something that drastically increases your card quality with a single shot, while not suffering from Top’s weaknesses (activated ability, permanent). This is also the reason why Brainstorm as a card is so hard to actually hate. Unlike Brainstorm though, which I don’t really care all too much about, resolving a DTT always puts you very far ahead in the game up to the point where the opponent can hardly compete anymore as you already established quantiative and qualitative superiority over him. So here’s to hoping we’ll be freed of one of the worst offenders in recent Legacy history.

Tournamentwise, I am skipping MKM Toulouse. I was determined to attend every event of this promising new tournament series, but their switch from London to a somewhat unaccessible city in southern France made me reconsider and I don’t really wanna dedicate the extra time and money it would take me to go there. Let’s hope they’ll put forward some more reliable planning in the future. Nobody said that establishing a new tournament series was gonna be easy, so I still hope they’ll get some really good turnout in Toulouse!

For me, I am still very much looking forward to attending Grand Prix Seattle in November to meet up with all of my friends from all around the world and follow it up with a road trip down the coast. I am very thankful for all the donations I have thus far received from you guys! I noticed that not only I but also you seem to enjoy my Elves streams much more than the Miracles and OmniTell ones, so I’ll be happy stick with our ragtag screw of Insects, Druids, Shamans and Oozes! 🙂

Until next time,
Julian

Bonus Section — 2Guys 1Gas!

Julian’s Elves Deck Tech on Helium:

Matt Pavlic pronouncing German card names:

 

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