Mid of February 2016:
The 5th Installment of the Metagame Master Tournament Series was coming up and I didn’t know what to play. Absolutely no clue. I had been playing twice a week and was still waiting to feel confident about one particular deck, to have that „click!this is it!“-moment. I had been testing Mardu Midrange, Esper Midrange, Jeskai Burn and everything felt very close to eachother in power level. I knew I wouldn’t be playing my „PetDeck“ Jeskai Twin since I felt Jeskai Twin was poorly positioned in the metagame I expected at the MGM5: a combo heavy metagame. I expected a few Artifacts Combo decks, Storm Decks, High Tide, maybe some Pattern Rector. It was lacking both the things I wanted to do in that particular meta: disrupt HEAVY or clock FAST. Jeskai Twin basically only works with Counterspells as its disruption and does generally not pressure the opponents lifetotal rapidly. To make it short: Jeskai Twin in my opinion lines up very well vs. other midrange decks, value creature decks like 4cBlood but does not fair well vs. combo decks.
Grixis wasn’t on my mind during the beginning of the year due to its lack of lifegain – if I wanted to feel good about one Matchup it was RDW. But Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet was becoming a force in standard and it catapulted Grixis back into my thoughts, which I appreciated – I have a soft spot for Grixis and every Reason to play/test Grixis is very welcome. Also I was comfortable with Grixis, I had made Top8 of a previous MGM with a Grixis Shell. Had I abandoned my love, that served me well, without a good reason? No of course not, my doubts about Grixis were real and justified. Apart from the “Lifegain-Problem” Grixis has a high card quality until you get to the about 90th card of your Highlander deck: then the card quality drops significantly unlike jeskai where you would have enough similarly strong Cards for a 120 Card Deck.
I started testing a more controlish version of Grixis with Talismans, an approach I tested due to the fact that Grixis lacks strength in the 2-Mana and 3-Mana slot – so why not just spend turn 2 casting a Talisman and turn 3 casting Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Pia and Kiran Nalaar? Also I wanted a deck that regurlaly gets draws that highly profit from being on the play since a lot of decks don’t do that (won’t get further into that, another topic, another article) – every hand with a Talisman is spectacular on the play. So Big Grixis it was? It did well in Testing, new Cards like Chandra, Flamecaller, Goblin Dark-Dwellers, Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher lived up to my expectations. I was pretty locked into playing this deck, I was missing early fast clocks but I played an highly disruptive hate package (For artifacts: Fiery Confluence, Sinkhole, Fulminator Mage, Dack Fayden – Additional discard and utility: Rise // Fall, Recoil etc. All that plus the usual Counter-/Discardspells). So I would accelerate and/or disrupt early and then outvalue my opponent? That was the plan, I was feeling good about my deck selection.
End of February – A Few Days before MGM5:
We had a final test session at my place – Gruulheart, T-No, Tabrys and myself spent an evening running our go-to-decks into eachother. T-No brought his new found love, 5c Combo Artifacts, a deck made popular and almost infamous by Berlin player Paul T., Tabrys was battling with Pattern Rector and Gruulheart played 5c Tempo-Midrange. I got nut drawn by 5c Artifacts twice (I remember: Fastbond and lots of lands turn 1 into Wheel of Fortune turn 2) but I would not let that irritate me. I could not beat the best draws of that deck no matter what I would build, so I didn’t let that be an indicator. The games where I kept up early and made a game out of it I was desperately missing a clock though – every game felt like it was easily winnable if I had at least a medium fast clock (3 damage a turn etc.). But I needed to go Toe to Toe with that deck until late in the game which was not only time-consuming but also nerve-wrecking cause of all those insane topdecks this deck can have (Yawgmoth’s Will, Time Spiral, just to name a few). Would I not only need a lot of disruption but also have a fast clock to feel comfortable going into MGM5? My doubts became more severe when I faced off vs. Gruulheart’s 5cTempo Deck and Tabrys’ Rector deck. I felt fine with my choice but nothing more than that – I felt like games could go either way and I was very much relying on my Talismans to gain a mana advantage early. I was even losing to the” abzan-value-draws” Pattern Rector sometimes gets – that was not a good sign at all! I should have absolutely dominated those draws. Though, I knew Tabrys is the best Pattern Rector pilot there is and generally a very skilled player – so maybe I was unlucky or maybe getting outplayed? What about my weakness to Gruulheart’s Tempodraws? Delver of Secrets into Mana Leak felt like way too much for my clunky Grixis deck. On the draw I felt slow, on the play I generally felt fine, especially when I had a Talisman/Signet: I had so many value 4-Drops on turn 3 and hasty 5-Drops on turn 4 (Thundermaw Hellkite, Stormbreath Dragon, Reality Smasher) that it was easy to push an advantage ONCE I gained it. But on the draw I often never gained that board advantage and could neither stabilize nor race efficiently with my minimumlifegain.dec. After this session, I decided I wanted to be the one attacking, I wanted to be the one to put the clock down first.
That Night, very late (I had already tried to sleep, but who has time for that when MGM Tournaments are coming up?), I sleeved up Grixis Tempo Twin.
I started with the usual Grixis Shell of Deceiver Exarch, Pestermite, Splinter Twin, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and the two tutors Demonic Tutor and Tainted Pact. I then quickly decided that Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker would be the only 5-Mana Card in the Deck and that I wanted my 3 and 4 Mana Creatures to either have Flash, Haste or an ETB effect (except for True-Name Nemesis obv.). No Vampire Nighthawk, no Countryside Crusher (which I am a huge fan of), no Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Nothing that feels not flexible, that feels just a little clunky. The clunkiest card I added was Goblin Rabblemaster which has semi-haste and is the fastest 3Mana clock vs combo decks like Storm or Combo Artifacts that do not have blockers(1 Damage, 6 Damage, 8 Damage etc, faster than Geist of Saint Traft even). I added a few new cards like Stormchaser Mage, Dimensional Infiltrator and Eldrazi Obligator and ended up with 21 Creatures, which felt fine for a Mid-Curve-Tempo-Deck in the Grixis Colors (Low Curve Tempo would include Goblin Guide, Monastery Swiftspear and Delver of Secrets in my opinion). My plan was to stick one thread, disrupt heavy but also have not diluted my deck with weak 1-Mana Creatures that are horrible topdecks later in the game. Also I would have that I-Win-Combo in my deck that has served me well in a lot of tournaments and is just very close to my heart. Additionally: to have access to the combo has a mental impact on games that I am losing on board – I feel like I always have an out, a feeling that would be great to have always regardless but is sometimes hard to achieve when you are far behind.
The next day I goldfished some, played a few matches against T-No’s Artifacts and generally felt more in my Comfort Zone. This is what I registered at the MGM5 in Berlin on February 27th in Berlin:
Temple of Epiphany
Temple of Deceit
Temple of Malice
Creeping Tar Pit
Inquisition of Kozilek
Chain of Vapor
Hymn to Tourach
Rise // Fall
Go for the Throat
Dig Through Time
Fire // Ice
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Venser, Shaper Savant
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Sword of Fire and Ice
About the actual Tournament, which had 52 Players, and featured a lot of known Players out of the Highlander Community:
Round 1: Vs. A Friendly Guy from Halle (I think) with Temur Midrange – 2:1
G1 – An early Gitaxian Probe reveals a hand of Thrun, the last Troll, Counterspell and another Creature. Thrun can be a real Problem if I do not find a creature early that can race efficiently since I have literally no way of getting it off the board. I remember I resolved a Stormchaser Mage early and then flashbacked Probe with Snapcaster Mage to have another Body on board. I started hitting for 3 or 4 a Turn while getting 4 a Turn from that pesky troll. I was losing the race by a tiny margin so when I found Tasigur, the golden Fang (one of only two creatures in my deck that can continually block Thrun) and could protect it with Mana Drain – my Stormchaser Mage closed out this game.
G2 – I missed Land Drop Number 4 and found myself in a bad position. I was racing True-Name Nemesis with Dimensional Infiltrator and Pestermite but couldn’t effectively get an advantage cause I could never cast 2 Spells a turn. In my final Turn Bounding Krasis tapped My Pestermite in my Upkeep and I had to find my 5th land to win with Eldrazi Obligator (steal his Krasis to deal exactly 6 = lethal) but did not draw it and lost to Nemesis.
G3 – My opponent mulliganed to five and then got Hymne to Tourach‚ed. Two turns later I flashbacked the Hymn with Snapcaster and he was working with so little cards that he a had tough time staying in the game. He topdecked Bribery though (I think he brainstormed it on top and knew it was coming) and got my Pia and Kiran Nalaar, which were awesome vs my Pestermite. I then, probably unnecessarily, topdecked Splinter Twin for the Combo Win.
Round 2: Vs. Marcus F. with Dimir Control – 1:0
We have a deckcheck and since both our Decks/Decklists are not correct we both receive a game loss. So we only play a final 3rd game.
G3 – I know Marcus from many Tournaments. He is a great Player, a HLCup Champion and generally not the opponent you want to face Round 2. Here we were though, playing only one game and me being on the Draw. He played Hangarback Walker on Turn 2, which was killed Eot on my Turn 3 in response to him activating it (Burst Lightning), he got one Thopter out of the Deal. On his 4th Turn he played Hymn to Tourach with 2 Mana up, I was holding Miscalculation. Unfortunate, but that Hymne resolved, I lost my only Land left in Hand (4th land) and another card I do not remember. I untapped, missed my land drop, said go and was not feeling good about the game. Good thing vs Control: You have some time to draw out of your Mana Misery, which I did. I drew 2 Lands while taking 1 Damage a turn from that Thopter, which I wasn’t very worried about. I tried to stick Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy which was met with hardcast Force of Will. His Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet was killed by my Go for the Throat. I played Kholagan’s Command to get back little Jace and let him discard which he countered with Mystic Confluence and Draw 2 – with that on the stack I could finally resolve my Dig through Time which found me Lightning Bolt and Tasigur, the golden Fang if I remember correctly. I then resolved Tasigur for cheap and started hitting with that. It was a tight race, Demonic Tutor found him Snapcaster Mage, who flashbacked Hymn. My Tasigur is met by his Go for the Throat. I started hitting with my Creeping Tar Pit, which kept me in the race. I then drew a Scry Land, saw Eldrazi Obligator on top (the card you want in a Race), bolted him Eot, and Obligator + Tar Pit swung for lethal.
Round 3: Vs. Antje H. with Abzan Midrange/The Rock – 2:1
G1 – I win the dice roll and Sinkhole her only land turn 2, turn 3 I tap her only land in her upkeep with Deceiver Exarch, turn 4 I stick Chandra, Pyromaster. At this point, she has no board since she had not more than 1 Mana to work with each turn. I push the Planeswalker advantage, handle Hero of Bladehold and Brimaz King of Orezkos and eventually stick a clock (Vendillion Clique) that finishes the game.
G2 – I get totally Abzan’d by her. My Young Pyromancer dies quickly, my Dimensional Ínfiltrator is no match for her Loxodon Smiter and Knight of the Reliquary, and my draw does not come together. The Abzan force is too overwhelming, she plays very thoughtful and clean and we are off to game 3.
G3 – This game was pretty complex and I do not remember all of it. She has an early Deathrite Shaman and my Gitaxian Probe sees Wasteland, Eternal Witness, Abrupt Decay and Vindicate : a scary land destruction draw. I only have 3 lands (1 in play, 2 Fetchlands in hand) and decide to fetch basics to at least not be vulnerable to double Wasteland. I stick a threat (do not remember what) in hope she vindicates that instead one of my basics. She does but the game feels edgy at this point and I do not feel favored since I am about to miss my land drop and I was sure then she would Wasteland me and leave me with 2 basics only – it goes exactly like that and I need to operate on Swamp and Island for 2 turns.
Thankfully I can cast Tasigur, the golden Fang with that little mana and I start pressuring her (I am not sure what her Witness brought back). I draw some land and Stormchaser Mage and win this close game with two burn spells and double prowess.
Round 4: Vs. Paul T. with 5c Combo Artifacts – 0:2
G1 – Paul is the one opponent that I do not want to face. In my opinion that deck is „broken“ and not all cards in it should be legal – it’s a turn 4 combo deck (it can win faster, even turn 2) that is hard to disrupt. I lose the dice roll and find a hand with heavy disruption like Sinkhole and Fiery Confluence but no clock. I keep this hand, destroy an early Tolarian Academy, destroy three artifacts turn 4 and still lose to a topdecked Yawgmoth’s Will, right before my Tasigur, the golden Fang finished him (yes, I, had Tasigur almost every game).
G2 – I am on the play so I don’t hate my chances. This time I have disruption in form of Remand and i have it twice because of Snapcaster Mage – so I go Remand into Eldrazi Obligator into Snapcaster + Remand. I then draw a lost card in Dismember but have 5 damage on board. He plays Toxic Deluge wraths my board away and goes to 9, I rebuy Obligator with Unearth put him down to 6 and have Burst Lightning for 4 damage next turn if I draw my 5th land. I don’t draw it, swing for 3 with Obligator and I can’t kill him with Burst Lightning. I feel like this is the turn he goes off and it is. He makes infinite mana with Rings of Brighthearth and Basalt Monolith and kills me with Staff of Domination + Braingeyser. I had cut Chain Lightning for Burst Lightning that morning! Chain would have put him to 0 instead of 1.
Round 5: Vs. Dion S. with Mono Green Ramp – 2:0
Dion is the Berlin Player, who won the Metagame Masters 4 Tournament. A dangerous and skillful player with a preference for Mono Colored Decks (he won MGM4 with Mono Blue Tempo). I knew he was playing Mono Green and that should be a very good matchup cause of all that Burn facing off vs. 1 Toughness Elves. Still, Dion finds unconventional lines of plays (often cause he plays unconvential cards) so I knew I had to be careful and play really tight.
G1 – I played very untight early in the game and had my biggest misplay of the tournament. He had one of the enchantments that makes a Forest produce an extra mana and when I tried to play Miscalculation on one of his spells, the only Mana he seemed to have is an Arbor Elf, that actually produced 2 Mana by untapping that exact Forest. I noticed it right away but it was too late – I threw that Spell away and found myself in a scary position. I only had a Deathrite Shaman on Board and he had ramped with a few Elves. My hand was not very good but Dion was low on cards – he decided to just slam down the Craterhoof Behemoth into my open Mana. Bad News for me. I played Chain of Vapor on one of his 2 Elves, so it could not attack and the Craterhoof and that other Elf would not get another +1 Power. Dion decided to copy Chain and bounce my Deathrite Shaman, which was good for me, since I could copy Chain again and bounce that other Elf, make the Craterhoof even smaller and only had to face one attacker (it still attacked for 6 or 7, I think he had a Wall of Blossoms and a Sylvan Caryatid, two Creatures that could not attack but pump). I replayed Deathrite and had to hope he would not topdeck an high impact spell. He replayed his Elves and attacked for 5 with Craterhoof, I went to 7. In my Turn I double fetched, went to 5, played Fiery Confluence to clean up all of his 1-Toughness Creatures (+ Deal him 4 Damage) and let my Deathrite Shaman live. I was planning on chump blocking the Craterhoof and again had to hope he would draw land or something uncastable on Top. I chumped and stayed on five. I then took care of Craterhoof with Tainted Pact for Go for the Throat and won this seemingly unwinnable Game with a followed up Pia and Kiran Nalaar. It turned out that Dion had drawn 3 Spells in a Row that cost too much Mana (he lost most of his Mana Sources to Fiery Confluence).
G2 – Dion started off with an Elf and I played Grim Lavamancer. I had 2 Fetchlands and Thought Scour, so the Lavamancer had enough amunition to shoot down all the elves while I played Remand and then Venser, Shaper’s Savant on his Deranged Hermit. I kept the Board clean, which is Key vs. Mono Green. I was attacking with Venser and another Creature and Chandra dealt with his Elves and dealt Additional Damage. He tried to stabilize with Ruric Thar, the Unbowed (he had a tiny red splash), but a Mystical Tutor in response to tutor up Fiery Confluence dealt enough Damage to finish him off.
Round 6: Intentional Draw with Steffen G. (RDW) to lock up Top8
Quarterfinals: Vs. Stefan P. with 4c Midrange – 2:0
G1 – Stefan finished higher in the final Swiss Standings so he was on the play. He played Voice of Resurgence on turn 2, which I felt like I had to Daze, so I returned my only land to my hand. Voice really does not allow me to let me play my Grixis Deck the way it is designed, so I still think that play was correct. I replayed my land and Stefan dropped Geist of Saint Traft. I was in bad shape. My Board was empty, I had one land and he had a Geist. Next turn I cast Memory Lapse on his Qasali Pridemage and took 6 from the Geist. Another turn later I let Pridemage resolve and cast Repeal on the Angel Token to only take 3. I was low on life and I needed to buy time, so I cast Mystical Tutor on Fiery Confluence, eventhough he had Karakas to bounce his Geist of Saint Traft. I cast Fiery Confluence, it killed the pridemage, he saved his Geist and I took no damage next turn, he just recast his Geist. I was back in this Game and played Pia and Kiran Nalaar, which is a good creature to deal with geist. He did not seem to have drawn much relevance, he just attacked with Geist, I blocked with Pia and a Thopter and he bounced it and replayed it and played a Mana Elf. Later in the game, I played Chain of Vapor on my Pia and Kiran, replayed it to get more Thopters. I started attacking but he played a Scavenging Ooze, which seemed super problematic. I drew Eldrazi Obligator, played it and announced the Cast Trigger and had to hope it would be enough if I steal his Scavenging Ooze and swing for lethal. He did not know Obligator and read it, then played Tainted Pact to find a blue card to Force of Will my Obligator, which put him to 6. He misread the Obligator, so he was surprised when I said I will still get to steal the Scavenging Ooze. He thought about making the Ooze bigger to gain life but realized it does not matter since I get to attack with it. I attacked with the 2/2 Ooze and 2 Thopters and dealt the final 2 damage with Deathrite Shaman, exactly lethal. That game was superclose and he would have won it if he had known the Eldrazi Obligator Card and Tainted Pact‚ed for another Spell. I got really lucky there.
G2 – My Inquistion of Kozilek takes away his Geist of Saint of Traft. He misses his fourth land drop, and I play Demonic Tutor to get Splinter Twin (to go with my Deceiver Exarch in my hand). I cast Sinkhole to get the Counter out of his hand, then wait until he taps out and then Combo win with Exarch + Twin.
Semifinals: Vs. Steffen G. with RDW – 1:2
This matchup is very difficult since I often can not race RDW due to the lack of really aggressive Creatures, also I have zero lifegain and my Creatures tend to have very low toughness so they are quite vulnerable to any burn spell. Though I am on the play and pretty optimistic!
G1 – I have a Stormchaser Mage and and Deceiver Exarch while he thankfully has a creature heavy draw. I honestly do not remember much of the early game, but late it is superclose we are both on 5, I cast Mystical Tutor twice (once with Snapcaster Mage) and have Lightning Bolt and Mana Drain in hand. My Mana is super awkward though (I have Island, Sulfur Falls and Red Black Filterland), so I can not even cast Lightning Bolt with Mana Drain Mana up. Uncomfortable, it feels like a Staring Contest. I basically can not cast this freakin Lightning Bolt comfortably. He at some point goes for Eidolon of the Great Revel which I decide to Mana Drain, since it is a problematic permanent and I want the 2 Mana from Drain to play and equip my Sword of Fire and Ice next turn for lethal. I untap, draw Forked Bolt and just deal him 5 Damage with Lightning Bolt and Forked Bolt.
G2 – I get pretty much destroyed. I have no clock at all, draw too many disruptive cards and absolutely have no way to race his hyper-aggressive deck. Again, I do not remember specifics, but it was not close. I have a Venser, Shaper’s Savant and some other Creature but he has 3 Cards in Hand and I am at 4. While he is at 16 or something. Two draw steps later I am very dead.
G3 – I take a free Mulligan and keep a pretty risky hand in Young Pyromaner, Brainstorm, Hymn to Tourach and 4 lands. One Fetchland is in there so the Brainstorm is good. I can not cast the Hymn with my current Mana Situation though. I play a Land and say Go, and he plays Grim Lavamancer, which is terrible News! I basically can not cast the Young Pyromancer and decide not to. I can not find a way to deal with the Lavamancer, the Brainstorm reveals no help (too much land), the 2. Black Mana arrives to late for Hymn to Tourach to have a big impact and I get run over by Monestary Swiftspear, a fury of burn spells and infinite Lavamancer activations.
4th Place! I was happy with my deck and performance. If I would change cards in the deck, the following 3 cards would be the first cards to go: Stormchaser Mage, Repeal, Goblin Rabblemaster. Overall I think this Deck is very strong and one of the strongest decks I have built in a long while. It has a lot of play to it (so it rewards good play), has a good shot vs. everything (I seriously believe RDW is its worst matchup and I do not say that because I lost to it) and most importantly is very fun to play! I hope you enjoyed this report and my first article for this website! I will put a report up every MGM Tournament I think so check back!
Video Coverage of this tournament can be found here.