I am sitting here at home, after having had a great weekend with some nice people.

These last couple of weeks have been pretty intense Magic wise, even though there haven’t been any GPs or MCs for a while before Barcelona. With both Pauper– and Team Modern Super League on their respective day and testing for MC Barcelona in Modern Horizons Limited and Modern Constructed has really put some fire in me. This has come with a cost of cutting 99% down on MTGA, but with the upcoming MCQ on the client in early August, it will definitely put both Standard and MTGA on the map again for me, but for now it is the eternal formats that have my focus, and it’s actually quite refreshing.

Running Hot

The team came in with momentum

With all these different things going on, GP Krakow wasn’t really exactly my first priority when I initially looked at the schedule but honestly, I love Poland and I love attending GPs, so why not! It being the first GP without Pro Points, I was a bit scared that my trusty travel companion and bestie Thomas Enevoldsen wouldn’t want to attend – but it seems like Thomas also likes Poland and loves Magic, and it wasn’t an issue when everything came to booking and doing it! Christoffer Larsen teamed up and we had a Mage crew up and running! And what a crew. Thomas unlocked Platinum for the rest of the year and Christoffer was running hot with a finals finish at GP Copenhagen and a 12-3 finish in Seattle the week after, we had enough Limited strategy to discuss, food to consume and stories to tell.

And the above are all factors that make a perfect trip where we are there for the game, but everything else on the side is amazing!

I started my trip from Aarhus, the town where Martin Dang and I live, with a train trip to Copenhagen to meet up with Thomas. The trip itself wasn’t really anything special and I was pretty tired anyway from playing in the Pauper League from 3am to 7am and then packing, to get to the train at 8:30am. The things we do to play some sweet games!

Thomas rushed to the airport after getting my notice that I was there, and so it began – the trip had finally started, and now there was only one thing to do – let me enlighten you!

Sealed Wars

Limited Preparation with Team Mage

Thomas's M20 Prerelease Deck

Thomas’s M20 Prerelease Deck

When we attend Limited GPs it is almost always close to the pre-release, where our combined winnings are rarely less than 12 boosters, and more often close to a box. And this time Thomas brought the 12 M20 booster he had won in a 2HG pre-release with Christoffer Larsen. To maximize the games of a 12 booster loot, we each open a Sealed pool of 6 boosters and build our deck. Once this is done, we take a picture and then swap the two pools and start building again.
When we have two decks each, we play bo5, where you can sideboard after game 2 and the final score of the maximum 10 games are combined to determine the winner – where the prize is not only all the cards, but also the complete bragging rights!
It’s not every day that you get to do IRL Sealed wars, but also having someone else build your pool is a pretty sweet exercise, since you often build differently due to either math, card evaluation or something else entirely. And by knowing what the pool does, from theorizing and from playing, its fun to see how another build plays out – and this time wasn’t any different. Thomas smashed me 3-1 and then 3-1 after the swap, where we had almost two completely different decks.
We landed one hour prior to the schedule, and were off to a place to grab some grub and then get a couple of drafts in back at the hotel. We had a sweet traditional plate with a lot of sausage and cheese as an entry, just to get a medium burger after that. But with a beer and a cherry vodka, it was an overall good experience and with a trainwreck Modern Horizons Draft at the hotel, we were ready for the GP.

Sleep or Chaos?

Getting side events in before day 1

Having three byes gives you the prerogative to sleep in, quite a bit. There is however one flipside: The longer one sleeps, the harder it gets to play a side event prior to round 4. We went to the site, built our deck and after talking to the Kiefer family I rushed to the side event stage to get a Chaos Draft in before my start in the main event. I was lucky enough to enter a Chaos Draft, with 6 people already signed up, and it didn’t take that long for it to fire. Spoiler: I went 2-0 and got an ID (intentional draw) with 11 minutes on the main event clock for round 3. Christoffer and Thomas managed to finish the quarter finals but had to scoop the semis – yup they are masters, and both won – and I felt extremely lucky. Prior to this, I had just said hi to Martin Dang, who ran towards the deck construction area. Later I was told that he narrowly managed to 2-0 his chaos draft to get an ID just in time to get to construct his main event deck.

Playing the Draft Master

My Match against Elias Watsfeldt

Vilis, Broker of Blood from Core Set 2020

Vilis, Broker of Blood from Core Set 2020

Round 4 was announced, and I faced the Draft Master from last season, Elias Watsfeldt, who is not only a good friend, but also an amazing player. We were put in the feature match and off to the races – and these games were amazing.
In game one I had my Planar CleansingPlanar Cleansing in my opening hand and the match was my WB against Elias’ UB. Naturally, mass removal effects aren’t the best against control decks, but most Limited decks are mostly creatures and only part control. So, having the mass removal in the opener, you can play for an optimal use of it, since you don’t need to hope for a top-decked sweeper later in the game.
As the game went on, I saw a lot of the same cards as I had in my pool, and when he milled a Steel OverseerSteel Overseer, the following went through my head:

  • He has a lot of the same cards as I have.
  • There have been rumors that a lot of people have been opening the same rares, which indicates that the rare distribution algorythm has been a bit off.
  • He might have the 8/8 demon Vilis, Broker of BloodVilis, Broker of Blood (which I have myself).
  • I have a Mind RotMind Rot in my sideboard, he is playing black, he might have one as well.

Since there wasn’t really a downside to assuming he had the demon and Mind RotMind Rot I went with that line, and kept 2 lands in my hand for the next 7 turns and I didn’t fire off a PacifismPacifism right away, though it had a great target, and I was once again extremely lucky to have guessed correctly on both!
Elias hit his eighth land drop and a couple of turns later he played the demon, with two black sources up and suddenly my game plan changed, since I didn’t really have any alternatives against it besides firing off my Planar CleansingPlanar Cleansing, which would leave me extremely behind on cards.
I then went with the plan of putting PacifismPacifism on the demon and attacking him for 10 damage, allowing him to draw 10 cards, changing my game plan to a mill strategy, rather than a damage based one. Keeping a close count on lands played and milled, evaluating what he was able to do, I got to discard two land cards to his Mind RotMind Rot, while he committed all his creatures to the board. Then they all just got removed by my Planar CleansingPlanar Cleansing, leaving him unable to kill me before milling out. I felt like the ultimate mastermind having put this plan into action and winning the game that way! We had a great game two, but unfortunately, I kept a shaky two lander in game three and never really got to play spells before he killed me. A rollercoaster from big brain to 3-1, but life goes on, he was the Draft Master none the less and my deck was fun and pretty good.

A deck full of spoilers

What a pool for X-1 looks like

Spectral Sailor
Risen Reef
Planar Cleansing

I then continued to win, some games were close, and some games were about setting up a perfect Planar CleansingPlanar Cleansing, but I eventually managed to be 6-1. That meant I was locked for day 2, and playing in the feature match against a local, who started with 0 byes. Two fun facts: When people have zero byes, they often have a lot of good uncommons and 1-3 bomb rares, so you really need to sit tight on your removal, and up until this point I hadn’t played my demon. It didn’t take long, before my worst fears came true, evidenced by a Spectral SailorSpectral Sailor, a Risen ReefRisen Reef and approximately 8 elementals afterwards, spiraling the game out of control for me. Once again, I managed to get a 10-for-3 with Planar CleansingPlanar Cleansing, leaving them dead to milling – and game 2 was underway.

They did their thing in game 2, and it was over quite quickly, leaving us to the decider in game 3, and here comes my point. People like to talk about how luck-oriented Magic is and that it is hard to leverage skill. I would even go as far as saying, that people diminish the leverage that a good player has on a less good player, because they simply don’t understand what went on in the game, due to hidden information. But in this particular case, I went on to play almost flawlessly (from my perspective) and I had a plan in my mind, since I had the Planar CleansingPlanar Cleansing in my opener.

Shaping the game until collapse

How one tiny mistake toppled my game plan

Sanitarium Skeleton
Convolute
Vilis, Broker of Blood

As I wrote earlier, when you start off with one of your key cards in the opening hand, you get to dictate the pace, and this was what happened in this game. Having seen my opponent’s entire deck in game one, I had written everything down, and I knew that they had a ConvoluteConvolute in their main deck. Eventually it was time to cast Cleansing and leave me a massive favorite in the top deck war – there was only just one problem. I completely forgot about my Sanitarium SkeletonSanitarium Skeleton in the graveyard, due to the pile of cards on top of it. And with one little mistake, what would have become an easy victory became a top deck war. I finally drew my demon and was extremely happy, since they only had one card. But since I could only produce 1 extra mana, ConvoluteConvolute got me good and I still hadn’t resolved my demon even once, though I drew it in the best possible spot. I lost, remembered my Skeleton and was heartbroken. I went through it again, what would have happened, had I remembered, and shook it off. Just one little mistake with a pesky 1 drop, to dictate an entire game with so many decisions! It really showcased the complexity of a long and grindy game, how many things you have to account for, how much you can build up, and how fast it can crumble. So next time you say “I could have won, had I just done this” think about if that is as black and white as you may think at the moment, or if there was a lot of decisions/mistakes/bluffs that lead up to this place.

Regaining Composure

Even a costly mistake doesn’t mean it’s over

Planar Cleansing from Core Set 2020

Planar Cleansing from Core Set 2020

I did manage to beat my last opponent on GR in two very fast games, where I got them to tap out with a Bag of HoldingBag of Holding on the board, to then blow it up with my 6 mana white rare. Oscar Christensen wanted me to Mind RotMind Rot first, but then I had to tell him that the Bag actually puts all of the discarded cards underneath itself and agreed and appraised my heads up and play – gotta take them small victories! After this match I ended the day with a 7-2 record.

Overall, I went 12-3, so I managed to have a draft record of 5-1, leaving me good for 500$ and a cool 12th place. With no pro points, it didn’t really mean that much if it was 9-16th, but I still think 12th for me and 10th for Martin Dang, is a strong showing of our team. I thought I had the draft figured out but once again, I had a stupid loss to not doing the correct play in one situation. I would have won on the spot, but my play put me almost dead on board, and with that being my second misplay and not mulliganning against Elias Watsfeldt, my 3 tournament losses came down to not mulliganning, not remembering a card in my greaveyard, and not blocking correctly. All those mistakes are on me to try and see if I could have gotten another outcome.

Give yourself some Outs

Setting up for success in the games

Spectral Sailor
Inspired Charge

The situation in the draft was as follows. My opponent played the 4th untapped land, signaling an Inspired ChargeInspired Charges quite clearly (I saw it in game 2) and attacked with all of their creatures.
I was trying to solve the blocking in my mind, but so much was going on, that I had to try and lay it out, and I said “I’ll put the creatures in front, but it’s not my final blocking”. This was my first mistake since I should have played the Spectral SailorSpectral Sailor I had in hand and should have it report for blocking duty, too. By not doing so, I lost that opportunity for zero upside. Then I shuffled the cards around and finally I agreed on a block, that is good if they don’t have an Inspired ChargeInspired Charge. My second mistake, and even though I drew what I needed to get back into the game, I was dead two turns later.

Had I played the Spirit first, and instead of trying to optimize for them not having Inspired ChargeInspired Charge, blocked so that I would have killed a couple of creatures and chumping their big creature (negating 7 damage in the process), I would have been left in a favorable position with a blocker, and had I drawn a land, I would have been ahead in the game. Again, I reasoned myself into believing this was my only out, where if I had done just another thing, then I would have a won – super complex, easy to see in hindsight, but hard to master on the fly.

The only good thing about losing to yourself is that it is super easy to evaluate what you should/could have done differently, to potentially change the outcome of the match. There will still be a lot of variables, your opponent can play 7 bomb rares in a row, and then it wouldn’t have mattered win/loss wise, but it mattered if you wanted to do the right play and optimize your chances of winning. Overall, I was still extremely happy about the outcome and it really put some fuel to the fire before MC Barcelona.

Mini-Games with Team Mage

Brought to you by Martin Dang

Island
Island
Swamp
Island

To round this one out, I want to talk a bit about what we do in between rounds. “Tabletop” tournaments as they are called now, are often quite slow, and if you finish with anything from 10-20 minutes left on the clock you will have a lot of time to kill. Luckily, all of us on Team Mage have data roaming, which allows everyone who is done with the round to text an unoccupied table number to the group as a meeting point.
Slowly we will gather around the table, and lately we have been relying on Martin Dang to hit us up with a small in between game. For some time it was a game called “The Mind” that you should definitely check about (and proxy with 100 sleeves and Magic cards) but this time around it was “SKULLS”.

The game is proxied with 4 sets containing 3 islands and 1 swamp (3 good and 1 bad). It’s really simple but has a bunch of layers and metagaming in it: Everyone puts out a card, hidden. Then the player who starts (last one who lost) can either put a card down, hidden, or start the bidding.

The bidding works as follows: You have to say how many blue cards (good) you can hit. You have to flip all of your cards first, simultaneous (1,2,3 or 4 cards). You have to flip 1 at a time, from the opponent you chose, but always the top one first (if there is more than 1 in the pile). When you have put out a bid, the next player in turn order can now say “Pass” or bid higher. Eventually the max number of cards will be reached, and the flipping starts.

If a black card (bad) is flipped, you lose, and you discard one of your 4 cards at random. If you get to the number of blue cards that you bid, you get a point. The first one to get 2 point wins the game. Super simple, but an extremely nice way of spending your spare time with good friends. We all learned it during the weekend, and we literally played it everywhere.

 

Remember to enjoy hanging out with your friends and think about the things that you could do different when playing Magic instead of putting it all on luck or something else. That was it for now, hope to see you all soon, and until then – GL in all your endeavors.

Michael Bonde

 

This article was written by Michael Bonde in a media collaboration with mtgmintcard.com