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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

MKM Series Prague - Vintage Main Event

MKM Series Prague was an event I was looking forward to participating in since last year. Also after MKM Series Frankfurt that was rather a failure this year for me I needed another event that I could enjoy (3-3 in Vintage, 3-3 drop in Legacy).

A week before the event though I started to have a fever and I spent days shivering with cold while the temperature outside was over 30 degrees Celsius. It didn't look good. During the weekend I stayed in bed and hoped to be fine next week. On Monday I started feeling even worse and I took vacation for the rest of the week. On Friday I woke up with a body temperature that was around 37 degrees of Celsius. That was a huge improvement from the past days and I decided to risk going to MKM Series Prague.

Since I was sick prior to MKM Series and it was possible I wouldn't even be able to participate I didn't really care much about deck choice. I'd simply sleeve something up and try my luck. I created a poll on Twitter asking what deck I should play because there were 3 decks I was considering. Esper Mentor is the deck that got the most votes so I sleeved that up.

Equipped with this deck I headed to MKM Series venue to loan decks, cards and play some friendly games of Vintage with Tom De Decker. He tried putting together a Paradoxical Outcome Mentor deck and I was trying to play with a classic 'Gush' Mentor. I didn't have much experience with my deck apart a Vintage Challenge and Vintage Daily events so I wasn't really sure how the paper event would go (it was a total failure). During the Online events I realized that I lack counterspells and cantrips. I just couldn't figure out what cards to play to fix this. When playing with Tom I realized that some cards weren't doing much good in the deck - Snapcaster Mage, Merchant Scroll, Flusterstorm. I really wanted to replace the cards but I didn't know with what. Later I asked S4mmich about it. He showed me his version of the deck and told me that he feels that it is the counterspell resource that is needed the most and that is why he put Mana Drain in his deck and tried to fit another one main deck. I cut Merchant Scroll and Snapcaster Mage for Mana Drain and replaced Flusterstorm with Night's Whisper.

I also new that my deck configuration was the only problem. I felt that I'm not a good Mentor pilot. I didn't know how reactively or proactively I should play and that was my downfall during the previous events. I figured this out though during the MKM Series event, but at a cost - it cost me few games. It looks like the deck is a classic critical mass control. One needs to get the game into a certain point, have the resources needed and then play Mentor and beat the opponent with it and its tokens.

In the meantime I shared my Paradoxical Outcome Esper Mentor observation with Tom and told him what cards he should play. He was glad for this and changed the deck accordingly and later thanked me for all this. It helped him to win the event and I'm very happy about all that. When looking at his deck laid out in front of him I started to wonder if I shouldn't take out PO and Tendrils of Agony from my binder and play it as well. It was obvious after our conversation that I have way more experience with Tom's deck than mine. Thanks to S4mmich though I ended up with a deck I was content with. The two Vintage Challenges I played with Mentor were a torture and I really did not want MKM Series to be like that.

Round 1 - White Eldrazi

I kept a hand with several cantrips and lands. This is usually enough when playing against something blue which isn't a dedicated combo deck. Combo decks lately though disappeared from the Magic Online metagame. At MKM Series though I could possibly play against anything. My opponent started with Ancient Tomb and Null Rod which suggested an Eldrazi deck. One of the cards in my hand was Gitaxian Probe, so I played it to see my opponent's hand with Vryn Wingmare, Spirit of the Labyrinth, Strip Mine, Thought-Knot Seer and Eldrazi Temple. It took me a while to realize that my opponent is missing a white source. I didn't draw any good card and let my opponent play. As expected he played Thought-Knot Seer removing one of my cantrips from the game. Later I managed to draw Strip Mine and I use it to destroy Ancient Tomb so I wouldn't need to face Reality Smasher. When being down to 8 life I finally managed to find Swords to Plowshares to get rid of TKS and I drew Mentor out of it. During all the time my opponent didn't manage to draw a white source and thus I managed to win the game.

Game 2 didn't look good at all. My hand contained two counterspells and land. This hand would have been good in the previous game but not in this one. My opponent played uncounterable Thalia turn 1 which was very annoying for my deck. Even though I had Swords to Plowshares in my hand I was saving it for Reality Smasher. My opponent wasn't really playing anything so I expected him to have few of those in his hand. When he drew a fifth source he played uncounterable Reality Smasher. I played my Swords targeting Reality Smasher and at this point I was glad I wasn't playing an event on Magic Online where the card is bugged and where my spell would get countered no matter if I discarded a card or not. I drew Monastery Mentor and played it which was possibly a mistake. I realized that there was a slight chance that my opponent boarded in some spot removal and I didn't have mana to counter it due to Thalia. My opponent destroyed one of his lands fetching Plains with Ghost Quarter and plowed my Mentor. Next turn he played another Reality Smasher that I dealt with but a duo of Vryn Wingmare and Thalia killed me.

A third game was similarly bad. My opponent started with Thorn of Amethyst that I decided to counter. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben was the follow up though. Next turn I stared at uncounterable Thought-Knot Seer. Swords to Plowshares that was currently in my hand, I had to play on TKS in order not to lose it. I drew a cantrip that my opponent decided to remove from the game with TKS. TKS was joined by Reality Smasher and another Reality Smasher. I was lucky to actually have another Sword in my hand at that point and I top decked a third one. Unfortunately, due to my mistake, I did not have a card to discard so I had to take some damage. I drew Jace, Vryn's Prodigy that could finally deal with Thalia unless my opponent would have also played Karakas. JVP dealt with Thalia and later I played Mentor and won the game with it.

Round 2 - URw Delver

I lost the die roll and my opponent surprised me by playing Volcanic Island and Delver of Secrets. I tried to counter it but Delver resolved. My hand was pretty useless and Delver was a problem. I played Gitaxian Probe to see Young Pyromancer, Dig Through Time, Scalding Tarn and Mystical Tutor and I drew Ponder off it. I found Strip Mine which seemed as a really good chance not to face Young Pyromancer next turn since Delver decks are light on fast mana and colored mana producing lands. I destroyed my opponent's Volcanic Island and hoped to find something next turn to deal with Pyromancer. Unfortunately for me my opponent drew a fast mana source and played the Young Pyromancer. The game did not end well for me...

The second game was a total mess but in the end it was los of fun. My opponent showed me that he's good at missing triggers and he did not even want to kill me when he could. So I managed to miss few triggers too. Mostly it was due to out of order sequencing so after we agreed that the game would proceed with correct sequencing everything was fine. My opponent played Delver of Secrets. It didn't flip and was joined by Young Pyromancer. The next turn Delver still decided to stay 1/1. I hoped that my opponent drew a land but it wasn't a land. The drawn card was Scab-Clan Berserker. I stared at the board in disbelief since I couldn't deal with either of the 3 creatures currently in play and digging for some removal would cost me a lot of life. I took six damage and hoped for a miracle and I drew it. The fortunate top deck was Kambal, Consul of Allocation. I played it and it resolved. I had Mental Misstep to deal with Lightning Bolt or Swords to Plowshares. After this we both started playing some cantrips to find a way how to deal with the damage dealing creatures. Mine was more efficient since it actually drains life instead of just dealing 2 damage. That was something I really needed. This card was capable of getting me back to 20 life even though Delver finally flipped and started dealing more damage. I drew Swords to Plowshares and got rid of Young Pyromancer since I felt safe with Kambal in play (it was unlikely I'd die to the Berserker + Delver). The next creature I drew was Jace, Vryn's Prodigy which was all I needed to deal with both Scab-Clan Berserker and Delver of Secrets. Later I drew Monastery Mentor and won few turns later.

In game 3 I hoped not to die to Sulfur Elemental or Sudden Shock. I drew Kambal early in the game. The card resolved and eventual killed my opponent who certainly wasn't happy about seeing that card killing him.

Round 3 - BUG Fish

After yet another 50 minute battle I was totally exhausted and round 3 did not even start yet. Thanks to Matous Trajhan and Tom De Decker both on Paradoxical Outcome decks trying to kill each other after time was called I could sit down for a while and take a break.

After this unexpected and much appreciated break I played against the Mentor enemy number one. My opponent played an Island and let me play. I played Monastery Mentor and ran right into Daze. I guess my facial expression wasn't really nice to look at. I drew another Mentor though, slammed it and won later. Judging from my opponent's cards he played - Daze, Island and Preordain - I expected some kind of a BUG Fish deck. I was actually right and boarded correctly.

In game 2 I decided to try to kill my opponent as soon as possibly since I had 2 Monastery Mentors in my hand and I did not expect my opponent to have two Abrupt Decays in his hand. Unfortunately for me my opponent simply had all he needed and in the end I died to a resolved Leovold that I couldn't deal with.

Game 3 was very similar to game 2 with the exception that it actually seemed more likely that I would be the winner. My Monastery Mentors though got Abrupt Decay'ed right away and my lone tokens died similarly fast. I managed to get rid of my opponent's Deathrite Shamans, Dark Confidant and Leovold but my hand at that point looked bad. I had 3 lands and a Mox in it. I drew Force of Will, Mental Misstep and Mana Drain which seemed fine but then I tapped out because of something and couldn't Mana Drain. This way I tried to force Leovold but the card resolved. I was clutching Library of Alexandria for quite a long time (my opponent had Strip Mine and Wasteland in play) and hoped to get back to 7 cards in hand and draw a card at least but this exchange of cards totally ruined my plans. My opponent then decided to blew some of my lands which meant I could play the Library but I couldn't draw cards with it yet. Few turns later I managed to draw cards I could play after I'd resolve Monastery Mentor. I luckily drew the card, played it and then played a Mox. My opponent though played Abrupt Decay and I knew I was doomed. My token died to Snapcaster Mage -> Abrupt Decay and since I was down to 4 life I scooped. I was very sad about the outcome of this game. A pity because I really got the chance to win this really bad matchup.

Round 4 - Dredge

My opponent took a mulligan and his decision was so quick that I suspected a Dredge deck. He kept his next hand though so I wasn't so sure. My hand wasn't particularly anti-dredge since I had no fast mana, no Mentor and not even Mental Misstep. My opponent won the die roll so he was on play and the card he played was Bazaar of Baghdad. The cards he discarded were Golgari Grave-Troll, Golgari Grave-Troll and Bridge from Below. It didn't look good. I got the most lucky top deck though, I drew Strip Mine. I destroyed the Bazaar and hoped that my opponent would hit zero dredgers. I knew the chances were slim. To my surprise though the first six cards didn't reveal a single dredger. The other six cards were also a strange mix not containing a dredger. My opponent during that time did not draw either Bazaar of Baghdad nor Petrified Field and I had the chance to look for some mana sources and Mentor. My opponent then played Mana Confluence and Cabal Therapy that I quickly countered since I didn't want the Trolls to hit the graveyard. I countered 4 Therapies till one finally resolved and I had one turn to create enough tokens and overrun some Zombies that I faced at that point. I managed that and was glad that I would get two chances at winning another game.

I kept a hand with Containment Priest, Mental Misstep, Force of Will, Gitaxian Probe and some mana sources. My opponent dredged once (meaning 3 times) before I managed to play my Containment Priest. Later, he played Bloodghast from his hand and Cabal Therapy which I decided to counter so I wouldn't lose my counterspell. My opponent named Monastery Mentor for the flashbacked Cabal Therapy and missed. Next turn my opponent dredged with Stinkweed Imp which was rather fishy since there were some Trolls in the graveyard. It meant I would most probably need to deal with Contagion that I could counter. Since my opponent actually went for it though, it was clear that a second spell would be played dealing with my Containment Priest in play. I countered the first spell and failed to counter the second one. In that one turn my opponent could do whatever he wanted, he put three Bridges into his graveyard, played a land to get 4 Bloodghasts into play and at that moment I scooped since I didn't need to see the rest of the game.

In game 3 I decided to keep a hand with Grafdigger's Cage, a counterspell and Swords to Plowshares. With a little bit of luck I could possibly find another counterspell, Cage or Priest and win. My opponent was faster in finding two Ingot Chewers than me finding another counterspell and I lost.

Round 5 - Painter's Stone

Round 5 started sooner than I expected and I did not get enough time to get mentally ready for another match. I was hungry since the last time I ate something was like 6 hours ago. We were playing for 8th and 9th place but I wasn't aware of that. If I would have I'd probably just signed our result slip and went to eat something instead. The match was a very quick one though.

In game one my opponent played Painter's Servant that I managed to counter. My opponent didn't have red mana available but just a blue mana left. With that he played Grindstone. That was better than Painter in play. I tried to find a Sword, Fragmentize or a counterspell. I found a counterspell but that one alone was not enough to deal with Yawgmoth's Will and Painter's Servant and thus my library got milled.

Game 2 I'd rather not comment because I colossally screwed up but I took a picture so you can see what happened on turn 1.

After I lost the final match I went upstairs to finally get something to eat. Tom whom I helped with his deck came to thank me for my help and told me that they took an ID. He bought me a drink to cheer me up a bit after my last match and we talked a bit about Magic and the event. When top 8 started I went downstairs again to talk to Mark Poole which was one of the things I really wanted to do that day as well.

I asked him about why he decided to come here since he could have been in Kyoto at that time. He told me that he always wanted to come here one day so he could go see the Slav Epic by Alphonse Mucha. Unfortunately though, the paintings were in Japan!

After we talked a bit more I wanted to get a card signed. I wasn't sure which one though. My old Balance is too nice for that and my Library of Alexandria as well. Ancestral Recall though is in a rather desolate condition and I decided that this card will most likely be the best candidate. It would remind me this day and Mark Poole. He is a really cool person and I wish I could talk to him more.

Mark has really beautiful artwork from my point of view and can work in many different styles. While admiring some of his prints and playmats I found an illustration that I didn't see before. I suspected that to be Library of Alexandria but I had to ask about it. Mark affirmed that it is a Library of Alexandria, reimagined. I'd fancy such a Library on Magic Online. I bought Drew Baker one that I do not really like it (even though Drew Baker is one of my favorite illustrators, look for non-Magic illustrations though). Poole's Library would fit the digital Ancestral Recall and Time Walk very well.

After this I left the site to attend an Anime convention that was taking place nearby. It was quite a shock since the difference of the two venues was huge. I left a very luxurious venue and entered one that was very far from that. I had lots of fun at the con though and I'm very glad I decided to go there. A funny thing happened there and that is also one of the reasons why my weekend was one of the best I can remember.

A local Magic player that I ran into in Rhythm Games room asked me if I do not have two decks on me. I told him that we can play some Vintage if he likes. So we went to a Shogi/Go room and asked if we can play some Magic there. I wasn't afraid of playing Vintage there since I didn't expect anyone to know the value of the cards. One con participant came there to watch us play though. When he saw what we are actually playing he froze and stared at us with a blank stare. It was clear that this person actually knew what is going on or at least heard of Moxen and Black Lotus. After he de-froze he asked us if by a chance we don't have a Modern deck around. Well, I had one so I let my former opponent play a game and I took a break. I was too exhausted to play Magic. A friend of his came and we decided to hang out more during the weekend and it's been really wonderful!

On Saturday I came to MKM Series finding out that even if you win a trial you need to register for the event. This kind of makes sense but it didn't come to my mind. The registration was closed for Legacy so I couldn't participate. I asked if I can claim my free entry (and playmat) and the answer was positive. I got my voucher, playmat and went to buy some Japanese cards. I spent some time with Old School Vintage players, played a little bit of Legacy and then decided to go back to the Anime convention.

MKM Series in Prague was a really cool event for me since I got to meet very nice players and Mark Poole. I even managed to have lots of fun with Esper Mentor which was a surprise to me (a good one after my failures on Magic Online). The only sad thing about MKM Series was that there wasn't enough space for all the players and I couldn't play the Legacy Main Event. Otherwise everything was really good. Thanks everyone involved and see you in Hamburg or next year in Frankfurt!

Thank you for reading
S'Tsung (stsung on MODO, stsungjp on Twitter)