Before the Tournament
MGM6 was no different to MGM5 in regard to deck selection: I was again pretty clueless. Everything I tried – Temur Kiki-Tempo, Esper Tempo, Mardu Lowrange – felt so close to eachother in powerlevel but also had weak spots I couldn’t ignore. I didn’t feel particularly good about any deck really. And that has been a continuing theme of the past few months: all color combinations feel interchangeable. Which is good I guess!? I am not sure. The power level of cards is so high and there are so many cards to choose from with similar strength that it is hard for anything to stand out, to be or „feel“ superior. To be clear: I am talking about Midrange/Tempo Decks only (this is where I feel most at home)– combo decks like Artifact Combo, Scapeshift, RDW (at its core that is a combo deck too, can you chain burn spells to complete the full 20, can you?) sure feel different from eachother.
Again we had a final test session a week before, with Gruulheart, T-No, Tabrys and myself. I played Temur-Kiki Tempo, which I felt had the most potential. What i liked about the deck especially were some new additions like Tireless Tracker, Sylvan Advocate and Duswatch Recruiter. Temur before lacked the Creature Quality Selesnya had and with those 3 Cards Temur seemed more attractive to me. Also I felt Mana Elves are well positioned, since I expected alot of combo decks and they often speed up your clock by a whole turn vs them (they leave the Elves untouched). The Testing Session went very well, in the end I had a winning record vs. all my testing partners decks (Scapeshift, Bant Fastbond Combo and 5c Aggro). I felt fine with Temur. Then days passed and I felt two things in particular:
Concern: I thought about Siege Rhino and Loxodon Smiter and Temur‘s Inability to deal with them effectively. Also I thought about Temur‘s lack of flexible answers: No Maelstrom Pulse, no Vindicate, no Council‘s Judgement etc. No Top-Notch Creature Removal and no flexible Removal left me concerned.
Passion: I felt very passionate about one card – Nahiri, the Harbinger. I was and still am deeply in love with that card and think that Nahiri, alongside Dack Fayden, are 2 Keys to the current format. They do things that are really important right now – they deal with artifacts (and other niche permanents like enchantments) really well AND they loot dead cards away. They do everything I ever want right now: disrupt and then find more disruption while making sure you are not staring at a Hand with dead cards. Highlander is in a spot where some decks need very specific answers, while others just need you to go toe-to-toe Valuewise. You cant have both really unless you have both types of cards in your deck (specific answers AND valuemachines) and ways to sculpt a hand that fights the one particular deck you are playing against. Dack and Nahiri allow you to do that.
So where did that leave me? I tried Temur with a white Splash- 4c Kiki if you will. I must say, I am not a fan of 4c decks in general because you can get punished hard and there is nothing you can do. You keep a hand and with the Information you have, you make the „right“ fetching-decision turn 1 and then you draw very unfortunately from the top and your deck tells you turn 5 that you misfetched turn 1 (which you didn’t). That is frustrating and always leaves me feeling vulnerable and not cozy. And if I want to feel one thing when sitting down Round 1 its this: Coziness.
One night before, I sleeved up Jeskai Twin. It is one of my pet decks and I feel I can always go back to it and at least feel decent about it. What I don’t like about Jeskai (and why I choose Grixis last MGM) is that Jeskai sometimes gets hands that have no Disruption AND no fast Clock (like 3 lands, Ponder, Soulfire Grandmaster, Restoration Angel, Lightning Bolt). That hand is superb vs. midrange decks but I am keeping those kind of hands with an uncomfortable feeling vs Artifact Combo, Scapeshift, Storm etc. Grixis gets those non-interactive hands more rarely – while Grixis has the same amount of counters, there is often a Discard Spell, Kholagan‘s Command, Crosis Charm, Recoil or something else found in your starting 7 and that makes a huge difference. But: Nahiri changed everything obv! (Not really, but she was the main reason I sleeved up Jeskai). Also I lost to RDW last MGM in the semifinals and unlike Grixis, Jeskai is quite decent vs. RDW.
This was the List I registered:
Temple of Enlightenment
Temple of Epiphany
Temple of Triumph
Chain of Vapor
Dig Through Time
Fire // Ice
Path to Exile
Swords to Plowshares
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Nahiri, the Harbinger
Figure of Destiny
Geist of Saint Traft
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Seeker of the Way
Soulfire Grand Master
Few Notes about cards that are maybe not found in every Jeskai List:Mirran Crusader – I am a big fan of Crusader. It is a 3 Mana creature card that can win the game totally by itsself (which is a rare thing, True Name Nemesis and Geist of Saint Traft come to Mind) and it has some nice synergy with Elspeth, Knight Errant (hit for 10 in the air, your turn) and Jeskai Charm (hit for 6 Lifelink, thank you). Its also often very good vs. Blood and other 3c+ decks. If they dont have one of their 3-6 answers (bolt, chain, path, swords, helix etc.), Crusader often stops their whole damn Team. Staggershock – That card just did well in Testing. The Curves in Highlander are getting lower I feel like and more 2 and 3 Mana Creatures with Utility but low Toughness are being printed (Tireless Tracker, Duskwatch Recruiter etc.). This often gives you the 2-1 vs Creature Decks and 4 Damage for 3 Mana Instant speed is absolutely fine vs the unfair decks as well (Jeskai does have the ability to burn Opponents out (Staggershock eot, Fiery Confluence mainphase, etc.) Eldrazi Displacer – While this Jeskai List only plays 7 Lands that produce colorless Mana, I thought an inclusion was justified. I think thats the minimum amount of Lands you need to make it worthwhile. You of course do not want to have a 3 Mana 3/3 but if you got one of these Lands (and chances are fine with 5-6 in Play) Eldrazi Displacer can do some ridiculous work. It impressed throughout the tournament and I would not cut it. Eldrazi Obligator – This card has become kind of a pet card of mine and I do not think it is a must play. I like that it is good vs combo decks (hitting for 3 turn 3 is basically a Mantis Rider and a good clock vs. those decks) and it can win out of nowhere later in game vs Creature Decks. Also it gives you some Play – it is often possible to manuever yourself into a spot (vs. blue decks especially) where they want to protect their only threat with Countermagic but the uncounterable ability of Obligator wins you the game.
About the actual Tournament, which had 35 Players and featured alot of known Names out of the Highlander Community
Round 1 vs. Thomas L. with 4c Twin
Game 1 – I played Thomas many many Times and I know he likes to play midrange decks. In fact, I talked to him before the tournament and we both confirmed to eachother what we were playing so when I sat down, there were no secrets. I kept a decent hand but at one point Thomas stuck a True-name Nemesis with the help of Spell Snare. That can be problematic since my answers to this card are quite limited (Council’s Judgement and Engineered Explosives). I took a hit off Nemesis and then stuck a Restoration Angel and started racing. When I drew Seeker of the Way off the top, I knew that was my way to victory (I was behind on life and Lifegain was key). I stuck it, Thomas responded with a Lightning Angel and 1 Mana up and attacked with Angel and Nemesis. I tried to play Path to Exile on his Angel, which was met by his Spell Pierce. I had one Mana left and Chain of Vapor in Hand – do I bounce the Angel and hope he does not bounce my Seeker? The other card left in my hand was Treasure Cruise, which I was able to cast for 1 or 2 (depending on whether I cast the chain) and that would trigger my Seeker for that much needed Lifegain. I decided to play Chain and Thomas, after thinking for a while, did not copy it. I untapped, played Cruise for 1, drew Mirran Crusader, Elspeth, Knight Errant and Mana Leak and attacked for 3 Lifelink and with my Restoration Angel. I stuck Mirran Crusader with 3 Mana up, I then Mana Leaked his Lightning Angel and played Elspeth for infinite Damage with Crusader.
Game 2 – Thomas unfortunately mulliganed to 6 and scryed to the top. Later I found out he kept one Blue-Mana producing Land and 1 Cantrip and scryed another Cantrip to the top. He resolved both cantrips but could not find a 2nd Land until turn 4 and that was Game.
Round 2 vs. Justus Karl H. with Jeskai Midrange
Game 1 – I think I am keeping a Hand with Vendilion Clique, Gitaxian Probe, Wasteland and some other stuff. My Clique resolves in his Draw Step and I see him having no Land drop after the 3rd. I remember I also see Fiery Confluence. I let him keep his Hand and Wasteland one of his sources in hope of that giving me a big Advantage. He draws Brainstorm off the Top, plays it and hits his Land Drop. He keeps hitting his Land Drops the next 2 turns as well and my Clique puts him to 9. I draw Ajani Vengeant but can not really play it effectively without Fiery Confluence 2-1 ing me (4 Damage to Ajani, 1 Damage to all Creatures killing my Clique). Just using the Lightning Helix-Option seems semi optimal as well, since I do not have any Gas left in my Hand to bring him from 6 to 0 and I know he has a Seeker of the Way and Spells in Hand. I wait with the Ajani and he uses the Confluence to kill my Clique and deal me 4 Damage. He also plays Seeker of the Way. I stick Ajani and am forced to kill the Seeker since him gaining Life is my Death (I can’t win the long game with the amount of lands I have drawn and need to hope for my own Fiery Confluence to kill him). He plays Cruise for 1 Blue, has 6 Cards in Hand while I have 2. I am at 11, he sticks a Thing in the Ice and immediately flips it next turn with some cheap spells he has (Mystical Tutor and Jeskai Charm were involved) and swings for lethal – 7 damage from the Thing in the Ice and 4 from the Charm.
Game 2 – On Turn 3 I notice a Marsh Flats next to my deck (in my graveyard basically) but I realized i have not fetched yet. I call a Judge and tell him that i think I forgot to shuffle a card back in after Game 1 or a Card slipped out of my Deck or something (I really did not know) and I receive a Game Loss since I presented an illegal a Deck Game 2 that does not match my decklist. That has never happened to me and I am still unsure how that could have happened. Either way, it was frustrating to lose the match like that.
Round 3 vs Christoph O. with Jeskai Midrange
Game 1 – Christoph is a Council Member and a strong Player. This is the first time to ever play him so I am hoping for a good match. I mulligan to 6 and I keep 4 Lands, 2 Spells. He plays Turn 2 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy in my open Mana and I can neither answer it nor punish that play by playing strong 3-drop. I draw 2 Counters but no answer for Jace. We play draw and go and his draw develops just way better because of Jace’s looting. I kill all of his 3 Monastery Mentor Tokens with my flashed in Sulfur Elemental but I just can not keep up with his resolved Dig through Time. In a rather hopeless Position I ask a Judge how much Time is Left, he tells me 32 minutes and I concede to have enough time to maybe win in 3 Games.
Game 2 – I, again, must go to 6 and keep Blue Scryland plus 5 spells including Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. I scry because of my mulligan and see no Land on top. I then play my Scryland and see no land on top again. This is where my tournament felt close to being over. First I have to find that Land Turn 2 and then my Jace has to survive. Both things happen and I am in this game! Jace sculpts a good hand, that has a counter, Gideon Ally of Zendikar, Splinter Twin and Village Bellringer. My Jace is becoming a Problem and I can wait until he taps out to create infinite Bellringers for the Win.
Game 3 – I am on the Draw and keep my starting 7 that has two RW-Lands and one Blue Source. I am not finding my second Blue Mana and I draw Mana Drain, which I am unable to cast. Turn 3 I get Wastelanded and I am left with no Blue Mana at all. I find one more RW land and finally Glacial Fortress that is immediatley met by Tectonic Edge. Also I face True-Name Nemesis, it did no look good. I can sense that Christoph is low on Action though and I find a Blue Fiterland and have finally access to Drain. I can stick Elspeth, Knight Errant into Chandra, Pyromaster and get some Value out of them while they absorb damage from Nemesis. I remember that later I can resolve an Aven Mindcensor, attack with it 2 Times and finish the Game off with 6 to the face off Fiery Confluence.
Round 4 vs. Anton V. with Grixis Control
Game 1 – I know Anton and played him a couple of times at FNMs in Berlin. I know he is on Grixis Midrange and I am ready for a Midrange Slugfest. I have a couple of flash Threats – Aven Mindcensor into Vendilion Clique – that pressure him early in the Game. My Mindcensor dies to some Removal spell. His draw is kind of clunky. He plays Tasigur, the Golden Fang into Jace, the Mind Sculptor while I draw another Flash creature in Pestermite. I have 5 damage on board to kill jace and I have Unexpectedly Absent to sent Tasigur back on his Library (he had an empty graveyard so to recast Tasigur would not be cheap). I continue to hit with Flash Flyers, draw a burn Spell and tempo him out to take this Game.
Game 2 – I draw a little too much land early in the Game but can get some Card Advantage by playing Repeal on my own Aven Mindcensor after it is targeted by a Dreabore.I hit with Mindcensor and Eldrazi Displacer (Displacer is always removed from Combat with Maze of Ith so my clock is slow) when Anton finds a 5th land to drop Goblin Dark-Dwellers (to flash back the Dreabore). I thankfully have the much needed Daze. I draw Ponder which finds me Snapcaster Mage, Wasteland and another Land. Snapcaster counters his next play,then I Wasteland his Maze and additionally start hitting with Needle Spires – suddenly my clock is super fast. Next turn he tries to find a solution to my army with Dig through Time but shakes my Hand after looking at his top 7 cards.
Round 5 vs. Karl Florian P. with RDW
Game 1 – I have never played Karl Florian but I know he is a Mathematician (which combines scarily with RDW) and a good player. He totally destroys me Game 1. He has Ash Zealot into Abbot of Keral Keep (revealing Land) + Monastery Swiftspear. I am waiting to draw Kitchen Finks and 2 Minutes later realize I did not include it in my deck. I die turn 5 after killing two of his Red Men with Staggershock to 2 Burn Spells.
Game 2 – I have everything I want in this Game: Mantis Rider into Vendillion Clique into Restoration Angel– Vigilance and high Tougness is what i need vs. his Lightning Berserker and Mishra‘s Factory. I can stabilize the Board at 9 Life or so and can finish the Game with my flying threats and a Staggershock.
Game 3 – Karl Florian is on the play and sticks Grim Lavamancer. I have the same exact Play (I also have a fetchland and Preordain in Hand to be able to shoot turn 2 and I know he does not play fetchlands so he can not put 2 Cards in the Graveyard AND shoot turn 2). He misses the 2nd Land drop and I know I could still be in trouble since he kept the first 7 cards and that means he still has a strong hand with lots of 2 Mana Spells and every Land off the top could be trouble for me. I kill his Lavamancer turn 2 with my own and continue to push the Advantage with a 3drop Creature and Chandra Pyromaster. He draws his 2nd Land way too late and I go to 4-1, which should put me in the position to draw into Top 8.
Round 6 vs. Steffen G. with Scapeshift
Just like last MGM I draw with Steffen G. last Round for a spot in the Top 8! Happy about my performance so far!
Quarterfinals vs. Hendrik H. with Mono Green RampHoof
Game 1 – I am on the Draw but can answer his Mana Elf turn 1. He develops his Board quite nicely but I can answer his scariest creature Scavenging Ooze with Electrolyze because of him focussing more on my Graveyard to prevent me from delving than leaving Mana Open to make his Ooze a 3/3. I can resolve a Vendillion Clique which shows me a Spike Weaver, another Mana Dork and a Westvale Abbey. I plan to let him create Tokens and wait for him to sac his Board away and then answer his Ormendahl, Profane Prince with the Path to Exile that I am holding. I start gaining some lost Life back with my Seeker of the Way, go to 12, he creates Ormendahl (I hold Memory Lapse in Case something goes wrong), he hits me once (I tapped my 2 white Mana last turn, also to incentivise him to go for it), I go to 3, then play Path on his Ultramonster and now have control of this Game (he has no Board and no Hand). He can resolve a Thrun, the Last Troll a turn later but I can win with Vendilion Clique and Grim Lavamancer.
Game 2 – A Gitaxian Probe shows me a scary draw: 2 mana Elves, 2 Lands, Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, Gaeas Cradle and Craterhoof Behemoth. I can answer his first Elf but his Second Elf as well as his Nissa resolve. Nissa goes to 4 and he has 2 Creatures already. Craterhoof isnt far away. I pressure the Nissa with Mantis Rider, it goes to 1, but can’t quite kill it. He creates another Token, plays another Creature and I have a huge Problem since I have neither an answer to the Tokens, The Cradle or the Hoof (I have Restoration Angel, Lightning Angel, Jeskai Charm and something else rather useless). I am in a bad spot since I can not tap out for Lightning Angel since then I am dead on Board – I try to kill his Nissa with my Mantis Rider but he has Beast Within to destroy it. I am in a terrible spot eventhough I drew Miscalculation for the turn (could not miscalculate his Beast Within because then I had literally no out – this way I can cycle the Miscalculation to find a Hard Counter – also killing the Nissa doesnt solve any problems, the damage is done). I just pass the turn with 4 Mana up and Restoration Angel and Miscalculation and must hope he does not go for it. He goes for it, has more than enough Mana to pay for Miscalculation (Cradle producing 6 I think), I cycle the Miscalculation away and find no hard counter and that’s Game.
Game 3 – I am on the Play which is huge. He has no Elves and I slow down his ramp by playing Deceiver Exarch on his Ancient Tomb in his Upkeep and then play Ajani Vengeant to keep that scary land tapped. I am pretty sure he has a hand with alot of Fatties so it is unfortunate that he can stick Courser of Kruphix and me having no answer for it. I can resolve True-Name Nemesis, can hit with Celestial Collonade once, can shoot with Ajani once, play Fire// Ice for 2 damage and finish this game before he can drop his big monsters.
Semifinals vs. Karl Florian P. with RDW
Game 1 – So we meet again. I am on the play which is obv. very important. His first Play is Shrine of Burning Rage which I can steal with my Turn 3 Dack Fayden! I always wanted to do that! I can stick Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, handle his Vexing Devil with Lightning Helix, while my precious Shrine is ticking up. Later my Vendillion Clique shows 2 Lands in his hand (he was already flooding) and the Game is over soon.
Game 2 – This is where I had to make an interesting decision. I am on the Draw and I am looking at a Hand of Scryland, some other Land, Unexpectedly Absent, Miscalculation, Brainstorm and two other cards I do no remember. I can not cast the Absent with the Mana I am looking at and I need to find 2 things with this hand: a clock (or a roadblock creature) and lands. I thought about this hand for quite some time but I decided to ship it back. It IS an absolute functional hand but considering the matchup and me being on the draw, I still think mulliganing is correct here. If that was the second Hand, I would probably keep it. The second hand I got was even worse, I had to mulligan to 6 and never found Blue Mana (with Scry and Scryland) and the Game was over turn 4.
Game 3 – An interesting Game. I keep a good hand with Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix and Soulfire Grandmaster, Mana Leak but only 2 Lands. I bolt his Turn 1 Goblin Guide and then can drop Soulfire Grandmaster, which I hope sticks around. He then plays Young Pyromancer. I untap and still can’t find my 3rd Land. This is where I think for quite some time: I can helix the Pyromancer and gain a ton of life with Soulfire Grandmaster (can then attack too) or I can hold up Mana Leak. Helix sure sounds better at first but I know he plays Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon and my Hand would totally crumble vs one of those cards and put me in a bad spot no matter how much life that Grandmaster would gain. Especially vs. Blood Moon I could basically scoop immediately since it is only a matter of time since he can answer my Grandmaster and I could not cast a single spell in my hand and might not be able to cast another spell until the end of the game. I passed the turn there and held up Mana Leak – he played Sin Prodder and attacked with Pyromancer. I helixed the Prodder, which seemed scarier than the Pyromancer. I found a tapland, attacked for 2, and thought I am in a good spot. A little later, Soulfire Grandmaster gets answered by a burn spell and Karl Florian has Mishra’s Factory, Rakdos Cackler and a Young Pyromancer Token to pressure me. I kill the Token with Chandra Pyromaster and hope he does not draw Gas from the top. He draws Ball Lightning and puts me from 14 to 4. Chandra‘s Zero ability shows little help and I just need to hope I can trade my flashed in Aven Mindcensor with his Factory and stabilize at 2 somehow. That works and I am at 2 with only facing Cackler. Chandra’s Zero Ability shows me Preordain, which I cast and finds me Snapcaster Mage. I Snapcaster back the Lightning Helix in his upkeep on his Cackler to go to 5. In the next 2 turns, I eat Arc Trail and Magma Jet to go 1. He scries to the top with Magma Jet so I must stick the Jace, the Mind Sculptor I have had for quite some Time and scry his Burnspell to the bottom. I continue to scry Burn Spells to the Bottom, stay alive on 1 and ultimate Chandra to tripple cast Unexpectedly Absent to deal with his then resolved Bloon Moon plus Ankh of Mishra to take away 2 of his draw steps and be able to kill him with my Wandering Fumarole. One of the most intense games I have ever played.
Finals vs. Justus Karl H. with Jeskai Midrange
Game 1 – I resolve Pestermite in his Upkeep to tap one of his lands to maybe allow me to stick a turn 4 Nahiri, the Harbinger. He indeed only plays a tapland and needs to have a specific Counter there to answer my Nahiri – he does not have it and I discard my Mirran Crusader (at its worst vs Jeskai) and put Nahiri to 6. Justus Karl has Council’s Judgment for Nahiri though which leaves me with little action. I can stick my Young Pyromancer (and forget one of it’s triggers, ugh) but am not able to finish him off. At one point he fetches and goes from 7 to 6 and I think I have Fiery Confluence as an out. I do not draw enough action to combat his forces and he kills me with Monastery Mentor and a flipped Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy.
Game 2 – That Game was a very long Game. In the midgame I find myself in a reasonable spot when I can answer his Young Pyromancer AND stick Jace, the Mind Sculptor in one turn with him only having a pesky Elemental Token. I tick the Jace up to 5 and again have an interesting decision: I see Ojutai‘s Command. I think this is a close call, but 4 Mana Pyromancer + Draw a card (thats the mode he would choose i am sure) is better than his average draw AND allows him to go wide again, which I wanna prevent, since I do not have an answer to Pyromancer and Jace is terrible vs Tokens. I scry to the Bottom. He plays his sixth land and plays Mantis Rider and Monastery Mentor in one turn! UGH! My Jace drops to 1 Loyalty and I am under the gun. I do not love my position here at all, his two 3 drops put tons of pressure on me. I try to stick Pia and Kiran Nalaar but he Dazes and I have to pay Extra and can’t hold up Countermagic. My Jace dies next turn and he is still advantaged on Board. I can kill his Mantis Rider with a thopter chumpblock and Staggershock and I get rid of Monastery Mentor and Seeker of the Way with Chain Lightning and a Copy of it. I can stick True-Name Nemesis and Mirran Crusader, he has Geist of Saint Traft. I am lower on life so attacking is kinda scary. When I draw Swords to Plowshares into Chain of Vapor I get more aggressive. I am scared of Fiery Confluence so I use the chain first to have the ability to Sword my own Creature to gain some life. In the end I draw better off the top and we are 1-1.
Game 3 – I resolve a Young Pyromancer turn 2 and can Daze his turn 3 True-Name Nemesis. I replay my land and have again an interesting decision: I can Mana Leak his Mantis Rider or I can bank on drawing a land off Thought Scour OR my draw step to answer the Rider more efficiently with Chain Lightning and still have Mana Leak backup. I decide to take that line but forget the Pyromancer Trigger of Thought Scour (it was a long day I guess) – I do draw the untapped land, can chain the Mantis Rider and still have Mana Leak. From there on i can ride the token advantage to victory (with the help of Grim Lavamancer and Mana Drain + Spell Snare backup).
I was really happy about my win, my personal and my deck’s performance. It was a great tournament and I would like to thank everybody that participated (especially the ones, that traveled to Berlin), my nice opponents, the Judge/Coverage Team and my MGM friends Gruulheart, T-No and Tabrys. My intense sessions with them prepare me well for a tournament like this and I would not be the player I am without them. Thanks and until next time!