Julian’s Excellent Adventures in Europe continue! Following his Top16 finish in Madrid in the previous week, Julian travelled to the Czech capital to compete in the biannual Prague Eternal (11th-13th March) Legacy and Modern tournaments. Check out how he managed to hit the Top8s of both events with his recently developed Chaos Elves and Ad Nauseam!
Legacy Trials Selling Kenya
This year I couldn’t make it the Prague in time for the Friday trials. Instead I was busy selling Kenya at the world’s largest tourism trade fair in Berlin all week long. When Prague was announced I tried to reschedule a couple of important meetings but still wouldn’t be able to leave town before 6pm. But hey, just like my friend Sergey uses to say: “Byes are for girls.”
For anyone interested in my work: I represent a 4-star beach resort on what we call the “north coast” of Kenya. It’s a really beautiful place surrounded by the Indian Ocean on one side and a peaceful lagoon on the other. The resort itself never had problems attracting guests, however Kenya as a destination has gone through some rough years following the terror attacks at Westgate in 2013. We’ve been working on restoring its imagine as the global safari destination #1 ever since and for the first time in three years, things are really looking better now! Go Team Kenya! 🙂
With a really successful (and exhausting) trade fair behind me, I quickly changed from my Kenya robe into something more comfortable and arrived at the Berlin train station just in time to catch my train at 6:14pm. When I reached Prague I asked one of the official taxi drivers how much the ~15 minute ride to my hotel would cost me, which he estimated it at 28,- €. However when we arrived the “taxameter”, which might as well have been just a calculator, was showing a total of 70,- €. Now I might have overpaid on taxis before but this scam was really pushing it and I immediately told the guy that there’s no way I’d pay that. You could clearly tell how uncomfortable he was as he was just sitting there shrugging his shoulders. Eventually he just asked me how much I would be willing to pay to which I told him I had never paid more than 30,- € for this exact route before. He just replied with “30 Euros is fine” — what a joker! My local friends later told me I could have probably gotten away for free had I threatened to just call the police. TMYK.
Saturday – Legacy Main Event
Our crew for this event would be:
Anton “Enton” Karlinski — Eldrazi
Christian “Staubsauger” Sanktjohanser — Eldrazi
Florian “Craggy” Stange — Burn
Marius Hausmann — Commentary
Me — Chaos Elves
Enton and Staubsauger had previously dominated our local Legacy in Munich with Eldrazi and were looking for at least a Top8 finish, while Marius decided to answer the TO’s call and stepped in as commentator for the Legacy Main Event. Flo had just recently switched back to Burn and was hoping to set as many people on fire as magically possible. I myself on the other hand was questioning whether I should have really come to Prague following such a stressful week. While I do really enjoy these big events for the community aspect, I’d still rather play the tournament to the best of my abilities. In the end my competitive drive won out though! Here’s what I played and how my tournament went:
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 is how my tournament went:
Round 1 — 4c Delver — 0:2 LOSS
Round 2 — 4c Delver — 2:1 WIN
Round 3 — 4c Delver — 2:1 WIN
Round 4 — Affinity — 2:0 WIN
Round 5 — High Tide — 2:0 Win
Round 6 — RG Lands — 2:0 WIN (Feature Match)
Round 7 — 4c Delver — 2:0 WIN
Quarterfinals — Merfolk — 2:0 WIN
Semifinals — 4c Delver — 2:0 WIN
Finals — Elves — 0:2 LOSS
Result: 2nd of ~110 players.
After feeling really wasted from not getting enough sleep, I immediately lost the frist round to 4c Delver. I can’t
really put my finger on the how and why just can’t beat Fire Covenant. I would of course get many more chances to redeem myself in the matchup, going up against 4c Delver a total of five times over the entire tournament. The one card that truely got to shine here was the Garruk Relentless I played over Thalia, Guardian of Thraben in this tournament just because I didn’t really expect a lot of combo and wanted another good option vs the usually abundant 4c Delver variants you’d see in the Czech Republic. My gambit paid off!
After clawing my way back into the tournament over the next two rounds, including a win over an Affinity player who was pissed about losing his “best matchup” (ok..), I went up against the Feline Longmore classic High Tide. I wasn’t really sure what was going on up until my opponent used Merchant Scroll to find High Tide on his second turn. This prompted me to immediately GSZ for my maindeck Gaddock Teeg, which ended up buying all the time in the world against an opponent who would have otherwise been ready to untap and kill me. After sideboarding I didn’t really expect him to bring in anything meaningful while I get to arm myself with discard spells, which means that the matchup becomes even better at that point. My opponent still manages to position himself in situation where any High Tide would take the game but fails to draw it, which prompts me to tear his hand apart with a Cabal Therapy fresh from the top of my own deck and run away with the game.
Here’s an interview the coverage team did with me after round 4. Topics include my current run at the tournament as well as my estimate of the impact Eldrazis have had on Legacy:
Having defeated High Tide in round 5, I had earned the right to compete in what I excpected to be a win-and-in match for Top8. When I was called to the feature match table I didn’t know what my opponent was on but I was surely hoping for a good matchup. I didn’t get what I was wishing for, but see for yourself:
Note how my opponent Gamles for a Windswept Heath which I end up randomly discard from his hand, leaving him without a landdrop on the first turn. Fortunately for him he was able to rip a land from the top on turn 2 but the tempo loss surely hurt him. Generally speaking though, it felt like he was a bit lost about what he wanted to do in the matchup, probably underestimating how quickly Elves would be able to kill him. He also missed out on 1-2 opportunities to Wasteland my Gaea’s Cradle and instead opted to advance his own board. In the end both games didn’t even look close, but don’t be fooled: the matchup is 50/50 at best and likely in favor of RG Lands. If just watching single games this will sometimes be overshadowed by one of the players getting one of their godlier draws and killing the other in the early turns with either a 20/20 flier or a bunch of trampling Elves.
When pairings were posted before the last round it looked like my opponent and I unfortunately couldn’t draw and had to play our way into the Top8. The same was true for one of the tables above us where one of the players could have drawn but his opponent’s tiebreakers surely wouldn’t have held up; still the guy with the abyssmal breakers suggested to ID, thereby eliminating himself from the tournament. Not sure what prompted him to do that as it was really quite obvious that his >15% deficit wouldn’t turn into a lead over the course of a single round. He even didn’t make it when the Storm player on table 3 was DQ’ed for suggesting a dice roll to overcome what would have otherwise been an unintentional draw with Martin Šiling’s 12 Post.
I had a much less eventful final round in which I would go up against, you guessed it, 4c Delver. For most of game1 it looked like I was severly behind but fortunately my opponent’s Delver had probably been part of a flawed batch and didn’t flip for a couple of turns; as usual I suggested sending it back to WotC to get a functional replacement one. This slowdown allowed me to somewhat “stabilize” the board except for Delver, but Scavenging Ooze‘s life gain really helps in buying you 1-2 turns you otherwise shouldn’t have. When my opponent had run of of gas, I was able to easily take the first game with Glimpse of Nature. For game2 my opponent once again got off to a strong start but wouldn’t flip his Delver (it’s really broken..) for some time, but was able to keep the board rather clear of any significant cards on my side. At some point he even forced me into trading my Wren’s Run Packmaster for a Gurmag Angler and followed it up with a second Zombie Fish. Prior to that I had been able to take down Delver with Abrupt Decay but now had my rather useless 1/1s staring down a 5/5. It was this moment when I topdecked Garruk Relentless, which allowed me to basically “Fog” the board for a couple of turns until I was able to completly stabilize and quickly turn the tables! Top8, here I come! 🙂
The Top8 consisted of 2 Elves, 2 4c Delver, 12 Post, Merfolk, OmniTell and Enton on Eldrazi. Staubsauger barely missed the cut after being goddrawn out of the tournament by OmniTell. For my quarterfinals I fortunately sat down in front of my best matchup of those left in the tournament, Merfolk. In the first game my opponent didn’t really stand much of a chance despite his four copies of Chalice of the Void. If I remember correctly I actually just outraced him when he couldn’t produce enough Lords to keep up with my ever-increasing stream of Elves from the top of my Library thanks to a Glimpse that drew me 10+ cards before passing the turn. Our second game on the other hand came down to a very tight race where I had a Wren’s Run Packmaster keeping some Merfolk at bay while a Vendilion Clique connected with Umezawa’s Jitte four times in the air. Because my mana was pretty tight and my opponent kept shooting down Wolves and gaining life, I couldn’t really get in for too much damage at a time. In the end it all came down to one critical moment where he forgot to Vial in an Lord of Atlantis postcombat in order to put Jitte on it for guarding duty. Because of this mistake I could finally risk an alpha strike that didn’t leave me dead to whatever he would do on his turn. Had he gotten those 2 Jitte counters instead, he could have attacked me for lethal on the untap. Instead I just won the game and the match to advance to the semifinals where I would go up against Oliver Oey:
I in fact didn’t know what Oliver was playing, but assumed it would probably be 4c Delver. Still, after his first two turns it looked an awful lot like ANT, so I decided to play it safe and GSZ’ed for Gaddock Teeg. After this early “mistake” things really looked grim for me but as Oliver showed me afterwards he just ended up drawing into a stack of 4-5 Lands in a row which prevented him from closing out the game. In the second game, I was fotunately able to lucky-topdeck myself out of pretty grim situation! 🙂
On to the finals! Here I would meet fellow Elves pilot Jan Lenger, who’s also invovled in the Eternal Clash tournaments up in Flensburg. Check it out if you’re looking for a good challenge with good prizes in northern Germany!
As our games demonstrated, having access to Natural Order in the mirror is a huge advantage. In hindsight I definitely misplayed by trading my Gaddock Teeg. I sometimes do these (stupid) things where I “decide” that my opponent just doesn’t have the card that kills me and play accordingly. Since I had drawn GSZ the turn after I got Gaddock down, I was willing to take that gamble in order to win with my Zenith 1-2 turns later. What I foolishly disregared was that Gaddock not only shut down Jan’s Natural Orders but his GSZs as well, meaning that even though I would gain access to my copy of it, so would Jan in case he had it. Had I factored this into my decision I definitely wouldn’t have traded Gaddock as easily there; but there’s also a good chance that even just the threat of Natural Order alone should have been enough to just keep Gaddock back. The good thing to take away is that at least in this match, the better player won.
After the tournament Enton, Staubsauger, Flo, Marius and I head into downtown Prague for our traditional visit to the Hard Rock Cafe. It was Jumbo-Combo time!
Sunday – Modern Main Event
Up until I arrived at the tournament site I wasn’t really sure whether I should play Vintage or Modern as neither of the events didn’t seem to attract a large crowd of players. In the end I opted for Modern just because the prize support looked to be significantly better. Deckwise I didn’t really feel comfortable after seeing even Rodrigo abandon Ad Nauseam (for now) but I just shrugged it off and praid to not face too many UW Eldrazis. Or do I want to face them? I don’t actually know. My gut instinct tells me that the matchup should be pretty bad as they have access to sudo-discard, countermagic, Disenchant and an annoyingly fast clock. On the other hand a couple of Eldrazi pilots told me they’d rather avoid playing vs me, so I’m torn. Good thing is I won’t even need to find an answer to that question anyways. Good riddance, overlords.
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 — Affinity — 1:2 LOSS
Round 2 — Jund (?) — 2:1 WIN
Round 3 — Affinity — 2:1 WIN (Feature Match)
Round 4 — UW Eldrazi — 2:1 WIN
Round 5 — RG Aggro Loam — 2:0 WIN
Quarterfinals — UW Eldrazi — Split & Scoop
With only 26 players we had to play 5 rounds followed by Top8, meaning that a 3-1-1 record would likely begood enough to make it. Of course I once again started out with a loss to the most unhygienic deck I have ever seen. Now we all know that Affinity can be quite “dirty” from time to time but does it literally have to be covered in “dust”, grease and God-knows what other substances? Had this been a larger event I would have called a judge as there’s no excuse for bringing something as disgusting as my opponent’s deck to the table. When I started shuffling it his sleeves started to “snow” onto my playmate so I had to move my hands over and shuffle on his side of the board. He apologized and mentioned how his apartment was “really dusty”. Ok.
I’m not entirely sure what I won against in the second round but I remember being relieved about my opponent mostly tapping out for some Tarmogoyf-esque creature instead of disrupting me, which surely helped. For round three I was paired against Klára who had previously Top8’ed the MKM Series Prague and Day2’ed GP Bologna with Affinity. After she quickly poisoned me in the first game, we arrived at a rather unique situation in the following one. Let’s see if you can catch what’s wrong. Here’s a VOD of our entire match (Game2 starts at 07:00 minutes). Pay special attention to what might be wrong in the beginning of game2. And don’t mind the commentators as their analysis of what’s going on is ~95% incorrect. I guess they just didn’t know better but it annoyed me quite a bit how they misrepresented pretty much everything I was saying/doing.
So what happened was that I announced to play first, followed by Klára taking a mulligan to 6, scrying and playing a Vault Skirge and Mox Opal on the first turn. On my turn I just played a Scryland and passed. She followed up with a Cranial Plating and threatened to attack me for a bunch of damage when I realized that she had actually played first. We both had a good laugh about it and she seemed quite embarassed about the whole situation. We called over a judge who, too, appeared amused by our dilema and got one of his colleagues to handle the situation. At no point had I been angry or called for the head judge, like the commentators said. In fact I kept telling the judge that I’d be fine with whatever ruling, given both Ka and I were responsible for what had happened. I never really expected them to back up the entire game — which ended up being exactly what the judges decided to do. It felt a bit weird but turned out to be the deciding factor as in the end, she was just one turn away from killing me. In our final game I cast Spoils of the Vault for Ad Nauseam on the final turn and fortunately didn’t exile too many Simian Spirit Guides or Lightning Storm before I hit my 5-mana Instant that allowed me to win the game. It’s a known issue with the deck that this happens from time to time, especially when under pressure but since there’s nothing you can really do about it and since only happens rarely, you’d better just ignore it. One way to get some knowledge of how risky your Spoils are is to remember whether you had scryed an important component to the bottom, guaranteeing it wouldn’t be removed.
Round 4 I was paired against a representative of the new ruling class in Modern, UW Eldrazi. This would be my first real game against that deck but I have heard the stories how dominant especially the Azorious build of it had been over the last couple of weeks. My opponent got off to initially seemed like a really good start with 3 Eldrazi Mimics…who never found a thought-knotting or smashing role model to look up to, so I had all the time in the world to assemble my combo. In the second game he blew me out with a Stubborn Denial when I try to go for it, but fortunately didn’t have his counterspell during the crucial turn of the third game. He later told me that he considered keeping a threat-light hand that actually did have a Stroke but eventually decided on mulliganning it since it only had a single Eldrazi Mimic for pressure, which he was very likely right about.
When pairings for the 6th round are announced, I offer the draw to my opponent Moritz Nerlich but he declines. From the math I had done it was rather safe for him since he was leading by almost 10% over the only guy who could overtake him, but he just didn’t feel comfortable and wanted to play for it. Of course it was just a 5-round tournament and tiebreakers can be swingy, but there were a couple of things which, I believe, should have lead him to take the ID:
- There was only one guy who could overtake Moritz
- Moritz had a significant tiebreaker lead over that guy
- With all other things being equal, Moritz’ tiebreakers would likely increase after the ID, while the other guy’s would probably decrease in relation to Moritz breakers, given that that guy would have beaten someone to finish at 2-2-1, while Moritz would had played someone to finish at 3-1-1.
- Both Moritz and I knew what the other was on. Even though he had beaten me during our only previous encounter, the match really isn’t in his favor. Which leads me to believe that taking a draw and hoping that the other guy doesn’t win and somehow make up almost 10% in tiebreakers seems like much better EV than the probably 35% he had in the matchup.
We ended up playing for it and I much crushed him in two quick games. The second game he actually did have one of the best cards against me in Blood Moon, but fortunately I was able to strip it from his hand with my lone Duress before he could resolve it. On the other hand Moon would not have won the game as Pentad Prism and a basic Plains would have still allowed me to generate the mana I needed. The positive side effect of my opponent refusing the ID was for me to finish as the #1 seed after Swiss. When final standings are posted, we learn that Moritz’ tiebreakers would have easily held up.
The Top8 ended up consisting of 4 Eldrazi, 1 Ad Nauseam and a couple more decks I don’t remember since the Prague Eternal guys unfortunately lost the decklists. After checking with the dealer who provided the prizes we soon agreed on a split, which I was quite happy about as we still had a 3-4 hour car ride back to Munich ahead of us. By agreeing on the split this would mean we’d be back home by 8pm, way ahead of schedule. Also factoring in that I didn’t even want to play Modern in the first place, this seemed like a really sweet deal. I’m not sure who ended up winning it but you can check on Prague Eternal’s YouTube channel to watch the other VODs I had not posted here.
So yeah, this was my Prague Eternal. Considering I really didn’t have a good feeling about skipping yet another weekend of just relaxation, I’m incredibly happy to have done so well. The next big tournaments I’m going to attend are gonna be Ovinogeddon (22nd – 25th April), Bazaar of Moxen Annecy (6th – 8th May) and MKM Frankfurt (13th – 16th May). From everything I’m seeing right now, Chaos Elves is still an awesome choice for the European meta, but I’m expecting things to change soon. Not because of the dominance of this deck but rather because both Lands and Eldrazi are doing really well, probably triggerin a shift towards a less Delver or tempo-focussed metagame. If that should actually happen, I’ll probably recommend going back to a more traditional build with Natural Order. But for now: Chaos it is!
On the draw against Affinity I kept a hand with 3 Lotus Blooms. This was my first turn: