Wednesday, June 14, 2017

MKM Series Frankfurt 2017 - paper Vintage and Legacy for a change

This weekend there was another of MKM Series event organized. This time it took place in Maintal near Frankfurt in Germany. I wanted to go and I knew that I could go there by bus relatively cheaply. I just needed to find players that would share room with me. I couldn't really find anybody and the people I wanted to go with in the end backed out (B&R announcement certainly did not help the situation). Luckily though there was one person from Czech Republic who won Modern main event in Prague and was qualified for Modern Superfinals at MKM Series in Frankfurt. I asked him if I could go with him and he said yes. I was very grateful for that. Two other players joined - Matous Trajhan and Martin Smola. Andrea Cibak wanted to go with us but unfortunately couldn't go. I loaned him a Vintage deck at least so he could still enjoy some Vintage. He joined Power Nine Challenge and went 4-2 with White Eldrazi.

We left on Friday morning. Me and Matous not really knowing what to play in Vintage because of the restrictions from Monday. Matous wanted to play Paradoxical Outcome Storm but when he learned that Gitaxian Probe got restricted he switched to Paradoxical Mentor to prove that the card is still overpowered. I spent the last few weeks piloting BUG Fish with good results against Mentor decks, Shops, Oath and even Storm so I ended up with that deck. The restriction though hit the decks I was gearing up against and thus was unsure about the deck choice. I expected many Eldrazi and Oath decks but I was too stubborn to switch decks last minute. For some reason I somehow wanted to trust my deck and did not even take with me cards for URw Delver so I could play that in the worst case scenario which was a huge mistake.

I was testing against Mentor, Shops and Eldrazi. In the end I also wanted to see what my deck can do against Dredge. It didn't go that well. Deathrite Shaman and Leovold are sweet in theory but slow in reality. It was good to know that my deck is rather clunky against Dredge. I avoided the deck during MKM Series though.

During our trip we discussed Banned and Restricted card lists, we talked about Magic in general and each of us learned a bit about a format we don't really know. I was surprised to learn quite a lot about Modern even if just from Affinity perspective. The topic of women and Magic came up but no one asked me for an opinion.

When we arrived to the site we found out that our event - Vintage Main Event - was postponed by 1 hour. That was good for me because I could eat something and 'wake up', on the other hand I didn't like the change because I started to suspect that more events would not be go as announced (I don't have an internet connection and the information about events wasn't available at the site). The starting times weren't the only thing that changed during the weekend and it made many people discontent.

Vintage Main Event

My Vintage main event was a very bad experience for me and I'm not really sure if it was due to my deck choice, me being a very bad pilot of the deck or simply because I was not lucky enough that day. My confidence was nowhere to be found though and that might have partly played a role. There were 3 BUG Leovold decks though in the event. Most decks were Eldrazi decks as I predicted, followed by Oath decks which wasn't a surprise either.

In round 1 I faced Punishing Oath (when coming to the site we all noticed a nice willow for some reason and I made a joke that we would face a deck running Grove of the Burnwillows. I was the only one to face such a deck). The player started in both games with Library of Alexandria on turn 1. Punishing Oath in theory did not seem like a bad matchup. I had everything to deal with Oath of Druids, Forbidden Orchard tokens (even that LoA on turn 1) and I had ways how to win the game with my creatures that could survive Punishing Fire. In reality though it didn't work that well and I lost. My opponent was a very good player though and I expected to see him in top 8 (he ended up there). I lost to a resolved Jace, the Mind Sculptor that I couldn't deal with unless I'd manage to play a creature against Oath in play which was more of a suicide.

Next round I played a mirror match. It was a race of True-Name Nemeses which I lost due to my opponent not revealing a 1 CMC or higher card with Dark Confidant and I was rather upset after this match. I did not seem to misplay and I knew what needed to be done. It just didn't happen because my deck didn't provide me with the cards I needed. I learned that I didn't want to be in that position though - being an aggressor in a way. The playstyle of this deck was different from Gush decks I played before and it could hardly be labeled as control.

The following round wasn't any better. I faced Eldrazi that I feared. I played the most games against this deck with BUG Fish and the results weren't good. Based on my results it was like 40/60 game 1 and post board it got slightly better. During the event, in game 1 I did not manage to do a single thing and in the other game I dealt few damage before I was overrun by hasty Eldrazi.

After this I wanted to drop but fortunately for me I ran into Mentor decks and won. When playing against a Mentor deck the paths to victory were clear in my head and I played well. My Mentor opponent had no chance to kill me unless he'd go Gush -> Ancestral Recall/Dig Through Time/Treasure Cruise and overwhelmed me with his Monk tokens. That was not that likely to happen so I won. This match was interesting for me because I felt I knew what my deck can do, what my opponent's can do and what I should do. Thinking several turns ahead wasn't a problem and I felt confident. I felt the same way in the mirror match and against Oath but those didn't end up well and undermined my confidence. I doubted myself for that reason. I couldn't figure out if the games could have ended up in my favor if I played differently.

My final record seemed ok on paper (3-3) but I felt like a total loser and had no motivation to play in the following events.

I took my deck apart and started wondering what to play on Monday. Since I brought a Delver deck for Legacy there was a possibility to play a Delver deck in Vintage. But I didn't bring Black Lotus, white cards like Path to Exile or even Wear/Tear.

I went outside to breath some fresh air then. I noticed some players outside so I went to them and ask if I can take a picture. I found that quite funny. It was very windy though so I wouldn't personally play outside.

Some players decided that playing outside was a better idea. It reminded me of some PTQs at local game store when some tables were placed outside.

My next event the following day was a nightmare I had to suffer during the day. I faced Chalice of the Void and Trinispheres and Eldrazi which resulted in a 1-6 record or something similar. This time though I didn't start well because I could have avoided the situations I ended up in. I learned that I was not aggressive/proactive enough with my Delver deck. I tried to force my brain to be more aggressive the next day because in Legacy I would really need that. The deck wasn't good in a control role unlike my Vintage deck.

Legacy Main Event

The pairing boards were also reminding us that Sensei's Divining Top is banned. I did not think this was necessary but then I ran into some players that totally missed the B&R announcement.

For Legacy I sleeved 4c Delver. But without needing to worry about Miracles I decided to cut Abrupt Decay, Sylvan Library (and other cards) and change my sideboard. I expected more mirror matches and Death and Taxes. This way my deck turned Grixis with two cards requiring green - Deathrite Shaman and Ancient Grudge. As for main deck, I played few Leagues and Legacy Challenge with Fatal Push in the deck but I didn't like that much and cut it in the end. Instead I put in fourth Gitaxian Probe and True-Name Nemesis that proved itself in Vintage so I thought 'Why not in Legacy?'.

Round 1 - Noble Fish
In round 1 I faced a deck I feared because I expected that the matchup wouldn't be good in general. The deck is certainly more on the aggressive side of things and seems to be more efficient than my Delver deck. My opponent's hand though didn't seem good against me. Except having a mana producing creature and a land that my opponent played already, there was Swords to Plowshares, Force of Will, Force of Will, Daze and Polluted Delta in his hand. That seemed like a hand I could get through and I eventually did. I got rid of both Stoneforge Mystic and Batterskull, and Umezawa's Jitte never threatened me.

In game 2 my opponent started with Noble Hierarch. I decided to play turn 1 Delver of Secrets while already fearing True-Name Nemesis backed up with Daze on my Force of Will. The exact scenario I feared happened and I was quickly dead to TNN. In game three I made a mental note not to run into something so obvious and try to play around cards that I couldn't deal with. I peeked at my opponent's hand so I knew he had Tundra, Wasteland, Wasteland, Brainstorm, Flooded Strand, True-Name Nemesis and Zealous Persecution in his hand. I played Deathrite Shaman on my turn 1 an followed it by turn 2 Delver of Secrets hoping my opponent would play Zealous Persecution soon so I could play Young Pyromancer and create some tokens. My opponent was afraid of Delver and killed it. So I played my Young Pyromancer and tried to win the game with it. Both Pyromancer and Deathrite Shaman died though. A lone Elemental was all I had left so I started attacking and hoped I could draw something else to have a faster clock. I drew a lot of disruption though so the Elemental in the end dealt the remaining 16 damage (luckily for me). My opponent wasn't happy about the outcome of the game and complained to his friend that he should have just beat my deck with ease. He was probably right.

Round 2 - 4c Delver
The following round was very quick. My opponent landed True-Name Nemesis that I couldn't deal with. I tried to create an army of elementals but they weren't fast enough to race True-Name Nemesis that came early into play. In game 2 my opponent Wastelanded my two lands and killed my Deathrite Shaman. Things didn't look good and later I faced Gurmag Angler that I feared and couldn't deal with unless I would manage to play my own or resolve Diabolic Edict. With no lands in play though the chances of me actually casting either of the cards (that I still had to draw) was bleak.

Round 3 - Eldrazi
I wasn't really winning my die rolls that day so it was my opponent who started. He played Ancient Tomb and Chalice of the Void for 1. I was lucky enough to have a Force of Will and countered the spell. It seemed that both of us were more or less in a top deck mode expect me having Delver of Secrets and my opponent obviously having Eldrazi Mimic. I won the damage race though.

In the following game I looked at my opponent's hand seeing just 1 5/5 creature, 3 Eldrazi Mimics and Endless One. We both Wastelanded each other's lands but I managed to play Grim Lavamancer and Umezawa's Jitte. Since I couldn't play any cards I decided to equip Jitte and attack with poor Grim Lavamancer. This way my opponent lost his 3 Mimics and I lost my only creature at that time. It took a while till I faced the 5/5 creature. In the meantime I managed to draw Delver of Secrets, flip it and race that 5/5 along with a 4/4. Thought-Knot Seer didn't exile anything relevant from my hand and the card it brought me after I killed it was Lightning Bolt which finally allowed me to get rid of the other annoying creature with the help of Umezawa's Jitte. Later my opponent conceded.

Round 4 - ANT
For the first time during the tournament I saw a solid Delver hand against fair decks. Unfortunately a Gitaxian Probe revealed Volcanic Island, Cabal Ritual, Duress, Preordain, Polluted Delta, Gitaxian Probe. I discarded Duress so I wouldn't lose my counterspell but I expected that not naming Cabal Ritual would probably kill me later. Later in the game I played another Cabal Therapy naming Ad Nauseam because that was the only card that could possibly kill me in that situation (opponent having 2 cards in hand). My opponent's cards in hand were Ad Nauseam and Dark Petition though so I conceded a bit later because I was stripped of my counterspells in the meantime and my opponent could play Dark Petition, look for Past in Flames, replay Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, tutor and Tendrils of Agony for lethal. I conceded because I did not need to see that.

In game two I tried to name Infernal Tutor but I missed. The card I discarded later was Lion's Eye Diamond if by a chance the Tutor would show up. In the meantime I was dealing damage with some creatures. When my opponent was down to 6 life he played Dark Petition to look for Ad Nauseam since the remaining cards in his hand weren't really helpful. He played the card and hit Empty the Warrens though. I drained his last two life with Deathrite Shaman.

In the last game I simply discarded all the relevant cards (this time even hitting Infernal Tutors), leaving my opponent with Rain of Filth and Lotus Petal. Young Pyromancer and his tokens did the rest.

Round 5 - 4c Control
In the next round I wasn't sure what I was up against because my opponent started with Underground Sea and Ponder. It could have been ANT but it could have also been some kind of a Delver deck or 4c Control. When my Deathrite Shaman got Dazed I calmed down a bit but later my opponent played Inquisition of Kozilek ruining my hand. I played Cabal Therapy on Snapcaster Mage while my opponent was tapped out. Then my opponent played True-Name Nemesis or Jace, the Mind Sculptor that I had to counter with Force of Will pitching Ponder. I had zero cards in hand and didn't expect to win from that position. I top decked the cards I needed though. The first card I drew was True-Name Nemesis which tilted my opponent. He top decked Jace, the Mind Sculptor that I Dazed. I do not remember the last card I drew but it was also relevant and TNN did the rest.

In game two my opponent's discard stripped me of relevant cards and I just lost. In game 3 I mulled to 5 not keeping anything relevant. I got to a point I had to Force a card otherwise I'd die and from there it went downhill.

This match was a very long one, very close one and drained all the remaining energy I had. Round 6 was bound to be pretty bad for me.

Round 6 - 4c Delver
My opponent had an ideal hand and the game ended very quickly. In game two my lands were Wastelanded, creatures killed and Gurmag Angler did the rest. It wasn't even close. My opponent asked me about my sideboard and sideboard plans but our opinions about that were similar so there wasn't much to discuss and our sideboards were almost the same as well (I ran Dread of Night instead of a second Umezawa's Jitte). He was a Miracles player and didn't understand why Sensei's Divining Top was banned if WotC wanted to punish Miracles. I told him that it was also because of time issues and remarked that at that point the event was already 2 rounds further than last year at the same time of day.

I decided to drop from the event and do something else because I was totally incapable of doing anything (thinking was too difficult). I played one more match though. I played against Lands. The game did not go well at all for neither of us and because of that it we spent the whole 50 minutes playing. I could have won if I Wastelanded my opponent's Maze of Ith or drawn a second Surgical Extraction but the card decided not to show up. It was a very embarrassing match and to avoid more mistakes like forgetting about Tabernacle in play I decided to get something to eat instead and play some limited.

I wished good luck to my opponent and went to see what Amonkhet draft costs. After dying three more times in limited (I opened 2 Mythics in three packs - As Foretold and Oketra the True - so I felt like the winner) it was time to leave the site but the other players I was there with just argued with each other and didn't listen to me anyway so I left on my own. I was tired of trying to talk to someone when that someone didn't listen to me anyway and even told me to shut up. So I ventured on about a 4km trip, I crossed a field to another town we were staying at and tried to get some energy to build a Vintage deck out of the cards I had. I had to lie down though because I was exhausted both physically and mentally.

Vintage Super Finals

I put together URw Delver so I could play Containment Priests and Stony Silence. In the morning I borrowed Black Lotus and Path to Exile. The other white cards I extracted from White Eldrazi I had on me (so I could test against it).

We arrived to the site and I tried to find other Vintage players around. We were told that the event is a single-elimination event and that the top seeded players will have byes. I awaited my first match. I was paired against Tim Van Der Lans and my expectations weren't high. He is a good player, probably playing a deck that would attack me from different fronts (or ends) and I could hardly think straight that morning. I was exhausted. But I was in a good mood. I was among a good and nice Vintage players, equipped with a deck I understood. The match itself ended up to be one of the most memorable ones I ever played. The games were very close. I dealt with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Tinker and could have possibly even get rid of Tezzeret the Seeker that threatened to unlock the Time Vault. I had Delver of Secrets in play but I needed the card to flip. It didn't because the card on top of my library was Mox Sapphire. I lost a very close match in which I mulled to 5 though and that impressed everyone watching the game.

In game 2 I brought in Containment Priests, Grafdigger's Cage and Pyroblasts. I wasn't sure if my opponent was on Oath but he showed me Tropical Island. Priests are good planeswalker killers anyway and Pyroblast would certainly come handy. Since I didn't know what I would actually face post-board I kept my creatures in more or less. During the game my opponent let me resolve Jace, Vryn's Prodigy that I really needed because it would give me the possibility to find something I could start threatening my opponent with. I took two extra turns and tried to produce some creature and attack with them. Unfortunately they died to Toxic Deluge that I didn't really anticipate (I kept Delver in hand so I could play it if my board would get hit with something though). My opponent then resolved Oath of Druids since I tried to counter Toxic Deluge earlier. I hoped my opponent would be also left without counterspells so I played Containment Priest and watched my opponent turn green. That looked good for me because my opponent obviously did not have an answer to my Priest and I still had my Delver and in two turns I could possibly win the game. I won even though it did not go as smoothly as I hoped.

Game 3 was a very swingy game because it often looked like I'd lose to Blightsteel Colossus, Tezzeret or Griselbrand but I didn't. My opponent this time though boarded in Dismember against Containment Priest and when his second Oath resolved and I played my Priest he immediately killed him. My opponent was down to 2 life at that point. I had Delver of Secrets in play, Young Pyromancer and some tokens so I could still possibly win the game even if Griselbrand would attack me. There were actually many outs in my deck to this situation even though I still needed to deal with Oath. Lightning Bolt would have been nice but since I boarded some out it wasn't that likely. Path to Exile would do the job too. Even Time Walk or Containment Priest. Unfortunately I didn't draw the card and was hit by Griselbrand and my creatures died to Toxic Deluge once again. After second attack from Griselbrand bringing me down to 1 I drew Path to Exile and literally threw it at Griselbrand. It resolved. I had some time to find Priest or Cage. I drew 4 fetch lands and a Mox. My opponent drew few moxen and a land. He then played Tezzeret that I countered because even that single Mox would have killed me with Tezzeret's ultimate ability. Next turn I drew Preordain and without much thinking I played it. My opponent played Swan Song and my heart stopped beating for a while. I checked how many Mental Missteps my opponent played that game - 3. I played Mental Misstep, my opponent countered with Mental Misstep. I played another Mental Misstep targeting Swan Song but it was Misdirected to my Mental Misstep. I lost the counterwar and was bound to face another Griselbrand. I still had 2 draws to deal with Griselbrand but I didn't draw anything relevant, I revealed my hand containing 5 fetchlands to my opponent and finally scooped. Waiting one turn with that Preordain would have sufficed though.

I was sad after this match because it was a single elimination event and I was eliminated in the first round. The match though was awesome and it was an honor to play against Tim. I wished him luck but Mikael Linden beat him swiftly in the following round eliminating him.

No matter what I was in control of my deck and some things were simply up to variance to decide. It wasn't in my favor but could have easily been.

I played some games of Vintage against Ondrej Kopicka then. I'd like to thank him for talking to me and listening to me and also for few rather chaotic games. Then I played against Matous Trajhan, Vintage Finalist of this years MKM Series. We had some fun, talked a bit about our events and then after the last player from our group won the Modern SuperFinals we left the site to ride back to the Czech Republic. I was very lucky to come to Frankfurt with these three players and wish for another trip in the same group. We all arrived safe and full of experiences. Matous and Stepan won few hundred euros, Martin did well in his events but didn't reach the top places while I totally failed in all the events I participated in. It was a nice experience though and some games were certainly worth it. The players I played with were nice and good players and like last time it filled me with hope that there are nice Magic players.

Next MKM Series is in the city I live in, so I will certainly go play Vintage there again and most probably won't try something so strange like BUG Fish (that by the way won the SuperFinals).

Thank you for reading
S'Tsung (stsung on Magic Online and @stsungjp on Twitter)