A few days ago I was in London for the Mythic Championship II and let me just preface this all by saying it did not go as planned. While I did tell people around me that I predicted this would be the tournament I’d go X-5 at again, I did not calculate X to be 0.
But it was. I went 0-5.
I have missed Day 2 of the Pro Tour plenty of times before but not in this spectacular fashion. I even battled it out and tried to get a positive Modern record so nobody could blame my deck choice. But instead I won round 6, got a bye and lost round 8 for an even more embarrassing 2-6 finish including a bye.
I spent a month to prepare for this event. No hyperbole here, I had no events in the preceding month and plenty of time on my hands. I played around 400 matches of Modern. I even arranged for a Draft weekend in Copenhagen for all the qualified Danish players. We played with proxies of all cards in the set so that I had a good amount of Drafts going in.
So how did this go so wrong?
And why did I choose to play Mono White Eldrazi in such an important tournament?
It was all timed and planned
My plan was to play 10 leagues with all the decks I found interesting to both gain an understanding of the format as a whole and an idea of how the mulligan rule would impact various decks. Once I got close to the tournament, like 1-2 weeks before, I could select one deck and focus on it with a 50-match head start already in the bank.
I started out with decks that seemed to line up well with the new mulligan rule and seemed to have a good Izzet Phoenix matchup. It started with White Eldrazi, but the manabase seemed awful to me and since the mulligan rule wasn’t online yet, I got mauled by variance. I switched to the Colorless Eldrazi Stompy deck and was very impressed with how good the deck was even without the mulligan rule. But it lacked game against the big mana decks and it seemed like Tron was going to be popular.
After that I tried out Ad Nauseam and concluded that I needed Thoughtseize to not see much play at the Mythic Championship for that to be worth it. Turns out that Thoughtseize did in fact not show up much at the tournament, but instead Humans was quite popular. That however, is an even worse matchup if that’s even possible. Even so, Ad Nauseam still managed to have the best win rate in London despite the high number of Humans. If you look at the actual matchup data though, you can see that Ad Nauseam mostly dodged Humans in the event, which would explain its high win rate.
From there I went on to Amulet Titan, which I actually played 13 leagues with before I concluded that the deck was too medium to make up for how hard it is to learn. I also concluded that you shouldn’t play Serum Visions in the deck. I played my beloved Valakut to mediocre results, some leagues with Hardened Scales, Humans and Izzet Phoenix and all of a sudden I was running out of time.
The Knight in White Armor
I mean, Eldrazi-thingy in white armor
With about a week left until deck submission, me and my teammate noticed that White Eldrazi kept popping up in the 5-0 results. I really liked Eldrazi Stompy and the white cards seemed to help its game a lot against Tron and Humans. I still thought the manabase was awful, but this time I actually sat down and tried to fix it.
Out with Wastes and Cavern of Souls! In with more real white sources. I’d like to be able to cast my sideboard cards please. We also cleaned up the sideboard a bit and went into the fray.
During the first league I was ready to put down the deck again. It felt like I got quite lucky to win, but the mana base was indeed much better and I went 4-1. So I tried another league, and went 5-0.
That was more success that I had with any other archetype initially. I went on to test some of the popular match-ups 1-on-1 against my teammates and came out ahead in almost all of them (not against Humans, that match-up is just rough no matter what you do).
I took the deck to the Magic Online Championship Series Preliminary to try it out against tougher competition. After a brainfart against Dredge and two losses against Humans I was out at 2-3. But I got to play three more leagues and went 4-1 twice more and 5-0 once more. That was a staggering 22-3 record in leagues, and a respectable 80 % win rate even when you take into account the performance in the MOCS Prelim and the 1-on-1 testing.
White Eldrazi by Simon Nielsen
2 Leonin Arbiter
4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Eldrazi Mimic
2 Matter Reshaper
4 Eldrazi Displacer
4 Thought-Knot Seer
4 Reality Smasher
4 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Chalice of the Void
1 Cast Out
4 Eldrazi Temple
2 Gemstone Caverns
4 Ghost Quarter
3 Horizon Canopy
4 Shefet Dunes
2 Stony Silence
2 Path to Exile
3 Rest in Peace
3 Tocatli Honor Guard
1 Celestial Purge
1 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
2 Phyrexian Revoker
1 Declaration in Stone
During testing someone suggested Eldrazi Mimic to me. When I played Colorless Eldrazi Stompy it was the card with the 2nd-highest win rate, right after Eldrazi Temple, so I could it see it do some work here. It also helped fix an issue with the list where if you don’t have Simian Spirit Guide or Gemstone Caverns you’d have nothing to play turn 1.
Eldrazi Temple into Eldrazi Mimic is indeed a very strong turn 1, and with some Matter Reshapers added as well, I felt I had enough ways to trigger the little mimic. Eldrazi Mimic really overperformed, helping me spend mana more efficiently and closing games much faster than the deck used to do.
With not much time left, no deck I really felt comfortable with and very promising results from this sweet pile in my (admittedly low sample size) initial testing, I decided to just take the chance and lock it in before I headed to Copenhagen for our draft weekend.
Drafting with Team Mage
And the other qualified Danes
I can’t let this be a secret: I am quite bad in early Draft formats. My card evaluation is off, I get too attached to ideas that don’t work, it’s a mess really. And I do know that most people struggle early in a format, but when I compare myself to other people on the professional scene I do realize that I lack something in this regard.
And it’s okay, I usually end up drafting a lot in preparation for an event. I listen to those who are better than me, ask questions and get comfortable in the format so I can perform at the tournament. But I do have to prepare, and so for this event where the product wasn’t going to be out, I felt the need to rally the Danish troops. All the Mythic Championship players met up the weekend before the event to draft with proxied cards.
Now, it was not a miniscule amount of work, but it was totally worth it. We got to learn that white aggro was a severe underperformer (except for RW Heroic with 15 lands which you maybe shouldn’t try at home), that green proliferate was very fragile and hinged a lot on Pollenbright Druid, and that black and blue midrange decks with lots of planeswalkers, removal and card advantage seemed best.
We liked Blue-Black and Black-Green the most, and especially Black-Green had a very easy time splashing whatever they wanted. At the Mythic Championship, my teammate Kasper Nielsen could easily play both Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God and Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves in the same Black-Green deck.
I spent a lot of time losing at this Draft camp, as expected. It also doesn’t help that this format doesn’t speak to my strengths, as I’m more about combat tricks and combat math and this format is more about resource navigation and long-term planning. But at least I learned what didn’t work and knew which sorts of decks I was supposed to draft.
The Mythic Championship
A short affair of a tournament
Once I sat down at the Mythic Championship, I was seated between Reid Duke and Ivan Floch for the first Draft. Nothing comes easy, I guess.
After first-picking Tamiyo’s Epiphany, I got passed Ral’s Outburst by Reid. He ended up in Blue-Red himself however, though it did seem like the archetype was open, but I think we had very different evaluations of what the deck was supposed to do.
I got some decent tools, like 3 Spellgorger Weird and 3 mediocre rares that I definitely overrated: Chandra, Fire Artisan, Silent Submersible and Spark Double. All in all, it was an okay deck with a flawed non-unified game plan, both trying to attack and generate long-term advantage.
I certainly didn’t play my best either, and after a true prerelease-esque match against Andrea Mengucci in the 0-2 bracket, I found myself at 0-3 in the first Draft for the second Mythic Championship in a row. Last time I pulled off a 5-0 in the constructed portion, so I was holding my hopes up that White Eldrazi was at least as busted as it had seemed on Magic Online.
It was not.
I lost to Tron twice in a row, where the matches went similarly for the most part. Imagine me with a hand that could disrupt them well from finding Tron and then they had natural Tron. Though I do realize now that the London Mulligan also makes them have natural more often and that I might have just gotten lucky in my testing to “soft-lock” my Tron opponents so successfully.
I tried to play out the Modern rounds even though I could no longer make day 2 to try and get a positive record and shift the blame away from my deck choice. I defeated Esper Control, got a bye, and lost to Dredge in the last round in a match that definitely proved to me that the match-up is quite bad unless I draw Rest in Peace.
At least I get to bring something home with me
While my plan of playing with all decks in Modern was fine solely because I had so much time on my hands (otherwise it’s just better to choose one deck and practice it as much as you can), I still didn’t have infinite time and I should have started with the tier 1 decks.
In my head I figured I’d have time to get to them later, but in reality, I just ran out of time because I spent ages on bad decks. It’s similar to procrastination. Do the boring tasks first, then you can get on to your brews.
This is not the first time I get riled into a deck simply by a spike early on in my testing process with absurd results on Magic Online only for the deck to peter out at the actual tournament. This time though, I felt like I had a solid grasp on things and would not fall into the same trap. My sample size was larger and I playtested the matchups 1-on-1. But I still got caught in the trap of focusing too much in my results.
I think I need to get better at abandoning a deck even if I win a lot with it. Andrew Elenbogen once tweeted: “Competitive Magic is the art of correctly generalizing from sample sizes too small to draw real conclusions.” And it’s true, 25 matches against random people on Magic Online is not a real sample size. I had this feeling that the deck was bad during my first league after we tuned the manabase, but since I kept winning after that, I shook off that feeling. I could probably write an entire article on this concept, but essentially, it’s about recognizing when I get very lucky to win and when things go according to plan and I lose anyway.
I also need to get better at listening to the people around me. I already learned this lesson once, but apparently once is not enough. After the event, my teammates and I were chatting about my deck choice, and they mentioned that they had often told me not to play the deck. Which I found very odd, because I don’t remember them saying that at all.
It’s not that I think they lied to me, I think it’s much more likely that I was too biased to correctly absorb what they said to me. To me it seemed more like “it’s too risky to play this deck, you don’t have time to make sure the deck is good”. But now that I read back in our group chats I see all the evidence and opinions of why the deck was bad.
This is a quite scary thought because it really brings to light how much our reality is altered by perception.
There’s always room to improve
The next Mythic Championship will be Modern too, and once again I have lots of time on my hands. I’ll try the same approach again, but this time I want to do it correctly. So once Modern Horizons releases online (and I’m done with GP Copenhagen), I’ll play lots of drafts to make sure I feel comfortable in Limited. Then once the new Modern metagame settles down, I’ll start with the tier 1 decks and give myself a good overview of the format. Once I am 2 weeks from the tournament, I’ll lock in my deck and make sure I have enough matches under my belt.
Team Mage x MTGMintcard managed to make top 8 in the team series, largely on the backs of Michael Bonde and Thomas Enevoldsen. This means the entire team will get flights and invites for Mythic Championship IV in Barcelona, and I for one am excited to have the whole squad back together for an attempt to spike and break into the Team Series Finals.