Thoughtseizing the Opportunity: GPT Win!

Having announced on my local forum that I’m only going to one GPT and the other players will have to find their three byes somewhere else, it was obvious that I had to bring my A-game to the tournament. My opponents would be friends that are going to Madrid whether they get any byes or not and I know from experience that some of them are excellent players with new and innovative takes on the format, as well as a firm grasp on what’s currently being played. Before I get all excited and proud, though, a word of caution – there were only nine of us at the Trial…

I'm sorry for the large picture, but only one so large can show the true size of this fail.

Flash back to Thursday last week when, over much of Europe (and the whole northern hemisphere, actually), some of the heaviest snowfall in recent memory ground traffic to a stop, caused mayhem in the streets, and even took some innocent lives. Ljubljana wasn’t spared, of course, and the constant white curtain outside my window caused a hint of worry. You see, our GPT was to be run in Kranj, which is around 40km outside of my home town. As it just kept on snowing through much of Friday, I swept my worries aside – I’ll get the car out of the garage somehow! Unfortunately, my optimism was short-lived as my Friday-evening attempt at driving the 50 meters or so to the street failed miserably and concluded almost an hour later with the car back in the garage, a sweat-soaked me, and an annoyed girlfriend waiting. Almost deciding on not going, I checked to see the train connection and realized that I could still make it in the morning; I just had to hope that the tournament didn’t start on time (it never has). Thus, it is with no great surprise that I arrived at the venue on Saturday morning and find it nearly deserted, with people either refusing to drive out in the dreadful weather or participating in the Steiermark Open just outside the border. After a while, eight others managed to join me and we could begin the tournament, just one player over the mysterious land of single-elimination.

As you probably guessed, I took Vesper Green to the tournament. Not only was Kingdom of Heaven on the TV just the other night, I also really like the deck and find it has good chances against just about everything in the format, with a crippling discard suite backed by the most powerful beaters.

Vesper Green, as suggested by Mitja BosničMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
4 Tarmogoyf
3 Dark Confidant
2 Gatekeeper of Malakir
4 Hypnotic Specter
1 Vampire Nighthawk
3 Tombstalker

3 Umezawa’s Jitte
3 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Dark Ritual
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 Thoughtseize
1 Duress
2 Maelstrom Pulse

4 Wasteland
3 Polluted Delta
1 Bloodstained Mire
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Forest
3 Bayou
6 Swamp

I’ve obviously talked about the deck a lot before, but I’d like to take a minute to discuss some of the latest changes:
-Maelstrom Pulse over Putrefy: I’ve been a big opponent of Maelstrom Pulse up to now, but I have to admit it’s just better than Putrefy. The enchantments in this format are more numerous than they seem – from Counterbalance to Moat and the whole Enchantress deck – making the Pulse very good. My only concern is that it reduces the maindeck’s instant count to zero (not counting Dark Ritual), but I suppose that’s a price I’m willing to pay.
-Vampire Nighthawk: I wanted an extra beater, didn’t like Nantuko Shade or another Tombstalker and found that it shores up two of my worst matchups – Zoo and Burn.
-Leyline of the Void: it’s simply more powerful than any other graveyard-hating spell and works from turn 0 onwards (useful against very fast graveyard decks like Reanimator). It’s also good against Affinity (modular does nothing, meaning their only real threat is Cranial Plating) and will win you the game by itself if left unanswered against Dredge and the like, while other cards fail to do so.
-Mindbreak Trap: I wanted an extra card against ANT and Belcher, since it’s basically an auto-win if you ever draw it. They won’t Orim’s Chant against you on their turn (much better to do so on your turn when you could be hitting them with discard) and it stops them cold.

Round 1 – Mario with UGw CounterTop
Mario is a good friend of mine whom I was supposed to drive to the tournament but for my car now stuck in the garage, so it’s unfortunate that we were playing in round one. On the other hand, one of the peculiarities of a nine-player tournament with a cut to Top 4 is that 2-1-1 makes it in easily. This meant that it was better that we faced now rather than later, when the loser might be knocked out of contention. Anyway, Mario informed me that his deck sucked and he only put it together the evening before (it still carried him to the Top 4), but I had no idea what he was playing.

Game one was a long, drawn-out affair with him beating me down for a few turns with Rhox War-Monk and me beating back with Hypnotic Specter. After I got rid of his Monk, I started beating him down in two-point swings and killed him the turn before his one-turn-too-late Tarmogoyf would kill me.

I sideboarded in two Gatekeepers and a Duress for some Tops and a Confidant. I only found out in game two that he was running Counterbalance, since I would have brought in a few Krosan Grip otherwise.

Game two was painful for him, since I drew three Wasteland and locked him out of green mana for his creatures. Tarmogoyf and a Confidant with a Jitte took him down in one massive 14-point swing after I checked his hand for Swords, ending the game with both Maelstrom Pulses still in my hand.

Round 2 – Anze with Zoo
Zoo is generally a bad matchup for Eva Green so I was glad I got to do some more testing with my new version. This match, however, wasn’t a good prospect.

I mulliganed into a slow hand with lots of fetchlands, Wastelands, and a Tombstalker, since Zoo can have a very fragile mana base. But, obviously, he chose this game to be flooded a bit as well, which combined with me drawing (and I’m not joking) four lands and two Tombstalkers during the entire game, meant that I did a whole bunch of nothing.

I sideboarded in two Gatekeepers, three Deeds and a Duress (they have a lot of burn) for the Top + Confidant package. I already have enough card advantage in this matchup that Bob will do more harm than good.

Game two, I opened up on a Thoughtseize which saw three Lightning Bolt, one Lightning Helix and a Path to Exile. Since I was a little low on creatures, I took the Path. He proceeded to cast Kird Ape and Goyf on turns one and two, which played nicely with the multitude of burn left in his hand. I almost stabilized this game but he had enough reach to finish me off before my Jitte became active.

Round 3 – Kuncic with Merfolk
Merfolk has traditionally been a good matchup for Eva Green and the little percentage my build gives up here is still far from tipping the scales. The only really problematic play they can have is Vial into Standstill with Force backup for my discard. Other than that, builds without Goyf just don’t have enough beef to punch through.
The first game was interesting from the start, where my Thoughtseize took a Threads of Disloyalty before it could do any damage. He stalled on lands just long enough for me to discard his hand while Confidant kept refilling mine. A moment of excitement was the first blind reveal, which was a Tombstalker to take almost half my life in one fell swoop. The rest of the reveals were lands, thanks to a quickly deployed Top.

I sideboarded similarly as against Zoo, but left a Deed out for an extra Duress. This was largely irrelevant, however, as my first turn Hymn took his only land and it didn’t take long for me to mop him up.

Round 4 – Matej with ANT
I was looking forward to playing this match, as I was very interested in seeing how the singleton Trap would perform. It was not to be, however, as both of our tiebreakers were good enough that we could afford a draw. We were both in unless the Zoo player lost to Merfolk (unlikely, though he did try his best to throw the game away at a few points in the match), so we took the chance. We ended up as 2nd and 4th.

Semifinals – Mario with UGw CounterTop
Well, we’re back. The other matchup is Zoo v. ANT, so I guess I’ll get to playtest against the combo deck in the finals after all, presuming I can win this match again.

Game one is an excellent one, with him providing the early beats and me establishing card advantage. I eventually established control, let some damage through where it allowed me to kill of a guy or two and ran him out of cards. He still had enough to remove all my creatures, so it was down to a lonely Specter once more to get the job done. He was joined by a brother not a moment too soon, as he kept drawing Swords. Wasteland, once again, kept him off some crucial mana. We discussed afterwards that he should have fetched for basic lands, but it would have given him less flexibility in the early stages of the game.

I brought in two Krosan Grips, two Gatekeepers, and a singleton Deed this time.
An early Duress took a Spell Snare, leaving him some bad counters like Force of Will. He got some early beats going again, but I pretty much locked him down with a Jitte and a few creatures. A flyer did the job once more, taking him out. An important moment in the game was him Forcing a Gateekeper when he had a Tarmogoyf and a Vendilion Clique out. This meant that he couldn’t prevent my follow-up Tombstalker, but did allow him to swing for 8 damage right away. I’m still unsure on what I would have done in that situation, but I think the correct play was to allow the Gatekeeper to resolve and counter bigger animals down the road.

Finals – Anze with Zoo
Yes, I could hardly believe it myself. Anze beat ANT handily, so it was down to me to stop the aggressors from taking the throne.

He must have either kept a strange hand this game or drawn lots of Path to Exile, since he cast three during the first four turns of the game. I was getting a whole lot of land and quite a bit of damage as a result of this, but the third Tombstalker finally put an end to such shenanigans when I was at three life and he didn’t find a burn spell to finish me off before Jitte, insofar lying useless on the board, waiting for someone to pick it up, had done its thing and saved my hide once more.

See game 2 for my sideboarding.

My mulligan left me in a bit of a tight spot, but an early Thoughtseize took his Kird Ape and he didn’t get much pressure going. It was something carrying a Jitte, once more, that did the job and put him out of his misery.
4:1:1 – 1st place.

Well, that was that! Ready or not, good people of Madrid, here I come! The tournament win wasn’t as difficult to achieve as it might have been had the circumstances been different, but such is life. Sometimes, the weather is your friend and sometimes it makes you fall flat on your face. I’m lucky I didn’t let it spoil my day, of course. I learned a lot about the deck, its matchups, and sideboard plans, but I know I still have a lot to learn before I’m ready to take on the world’s best in a little over a month in Spain.

I noticed that I sideboarded Bob and his Top out a lot during these matches, but I’m confident this was a matchup thing. He shines where you need him to shine and is easy to replace where he turns into a liability. Even having a Top out turns one card into four when you’re digging for answers and a single fetchland will increase this number to seven.

Gatekeeper was excellent for me all day and is easily the most powerful new addition to the deck. Nighthawk only came into play twice, but it contributed mightily when he did and I would have been happy to draw him at almost any point of the tournament. Sure, he sucks against combo and traditional control, but he gives the deck a bit of extra punch where it needs it.

I <3 Jitte.
I’m in love with Jitte and am always excited to see it in my starting grip. Sure, running three means I draw a second one more often than I would like, but those cases aren’t that bad by themselves (you have a Jitte, remember?). Additionally, the increased likelihood of drawing the equipment of doom has been most welcome. I know the arguments for not running it (or not running as many), but it has done so much for me that I simply cannot agree with this decision. I’ll continue with three in the deck and will gladly take every free win they give me.

The deck has a lot of dead late game draws (Thoughtseize, Hymn, Top, extra Jitte), but I’ve noticed this trend in most Legacy decks. From Daze to Stifle, the format is so powerful that you simply need to run the strongest cards you can, even if they lose much of their value as the game drags on. Steps should be taken to perhaps cut down on the number of these cards or to increase their value – Brainstorm is an especially good example – but I have a feeling this is unavoidable from a certain point onwards.

I really like the idea of Leyline from the sideboard, not only against the numerous graveyard-combo decks, but also because it turns many of the top decks into staggering weaklings. Aggro Loam, for instance, has to spend at least a turn and two mana (Burning Wish for Reverent Silence) to get rid of it since all of his threats suck when it’s out. Knight, Vore, Crusher, Loam + Assault, etc. are pathetic until he gets rid of it. It gives me game against 42 Land.dec as well, which is a formidable opponent without it.

Worldwake thoughts
As I’m writing this article, there are only 13 cards spoiled so far. I expect they’ll come flooding in during the next few days, so the next article might be all about the new set and its application in Legacy. So far, only a few cards have sparked my interest: Joraga Warcaller, for probably being better than Imperious Perfect or Elvish Champion in aggro and aggro-combo Elves; Smother as a cool reprint; and Jace, the Mind Sculptor for being awesome, though probably mostly for T2, T1.X and various Highlander formats. You never know, however, since his power level is extremely high and he provides some of the best effects for Legacy we’ve ever seen in a Planeswalker. Elspeth, Knight-Errant]Elspeth sees play in white Stax builds, which is as much a consequence of the specifics of the deck as it being just perfect for the job.

Preparation for GP Madrid

Make plans and you won't be sorry!

I’ve begun extensive preparations for Madrid, with the GPT being just one of them. Other than looking at decks and card ideas, playtesting, reading tournament reports, and thinking about the format, there are also lots of other things you should put on your checklist as soon as you can:

A place to stay: This may seem painfully obvious, but it’s important to have accommodation reserved well in advance. Madrid is a big city (3 million inhabitants in the city itself and the metropolitan area houses over 7 million) and the choices are nigh endless, so don’t fool yourself trying to find the best one. Read some recommendations (I chose Lonely Planet for mine), check availability and place a reservation. Just make sure it’s not somewhere way out, as it can be easy to lose track of distance when you’re only seeing a map. If it’s near a metro station, that’s perfect! If my Googling has served me well, the line to take to get to the venue is Line 10 and exiting at station Lago. The site is somewhere on Avenida de Portugal, which is around 2km long, but the place itself is huge so it shouldn’t be too difficult to spot. You might also notice groups of geeks heading in the direction and I’m sure the locals will be all to glad to point you the right way, provided you’re being polite. If anyone has some better information on this, I’d love to hear from you either in the forums or in my PM box! Magic players are always hungry, so I think you’ll find something to fill your belly, but make sure to take at least some water, a sandwich and a chocolate bar with you on Saturday!

What to see: There are way too many sites of note in the Spanish capital to see them all, so I suggest planning ahead and choosing what you want to see. I expect most of you will stay in the city at least an extra day or two, so it should give you ample time for visiting Museo del Prado, a walking tour through historic Madrid, a tapas crawl, or just hanging out at one of the thousands of bars all over the city. There’s plenty to see and do for everyone, but don’t expect to just come there unprepared, as it will probably give you much less enjoyment than you could have had with as little as 30 minutes’ planning.

There’s still plenty more, so if you’d like me to write on about this, please let me know in the comments! I always like getting feedback, as it helps me to write what YOU want me to write about. And remember: Seize that opportunity! I did and look what happened to me …


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