Throwback To My All-Time Favorite Decks

by Simon Nielsen on 24 June 2019, Monday

Simon Nielsen

 

This time is a bit of a challenge for me, article-wise. I haven't played enough Modern or Standard lately to say anything confidently about the formats. Plus, my lovely editor is going on vacation for the next two weeks at the time of writing, so any advice I could give would no longer be up to date by the time this article is published anyway. A new exciting set is on the Modern Horizons, but as I'm typing, most of the set hasn't been spoiled, so I'm not sure what I could have to contribute aside from obvious statements like "Sunbaked Canyon is good for Burn" and "Scale Up will make Infect faster".

 

Instead of pouring useless words down your drain, I'll instead use the time to share some light-hearted and arguably more useful stories from my past. Specifically, some of my favorite Standard decks I've played in tournaments and the history surrounding them. I realized that these decks combined tell the tale of how I launched myself onto the pro scene, so not only do they paint a picture of how the Standard format evolved in the 2014-2016 era, it also shows how I grew as a player with the people around me.

 

We start in the summer of 2014, when I was still a hopeful FNM player who rigorously watched all the coverage. I was driven by the sudden early Pro Tour success of my good friend Martin Müller who would be the captain for Denmark at the World Magic Cup at the age of 17.

 

World Magic Cup Qualifer, August 2014

 

Simon Nielsen’s Green-Red Blood”

 

4 Elvish Mystic

4 Experiment One

2 Scavenging Ooze

4 Kalonian Tusker

4 Burning-Tree Emissary

4 Fanatic of Xenagos

4 Boon Satyr

3 Polukranos, World Eater

4 Ghor-Clan Rampager

3 Flesh // Blood

2 Aspect of Hydra

9 Forest

2 Mountain

4 Stomping Ground

3 Temple of Abandon

1 Mutavault

3 Mana Confluence

 

4 Domri Rade

3 Skylasher

1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

1 Flesh // Blood

1 Polukranos, World Eater

1 Scavenging Ooze

2 Chandra, Pyromaster

1 Aspect of Hydra

1 Setessan Tactics

 

Theros Standard was a time where I’d go to FNM every Friday and since the format was in such a way where the metagame didn’t really change that much for a year, everyone mostly stuck to their decks.


My good friend Lasse was very much into Red-Green beatdown decks at the time, and he was especially interested in using Flesh // Blood with Ghor-Clan Rampager to just combo-kill people out of nowhere. He had already played a deck like that before rotation, and Theros gave us the opportunity to use a devotion theme and play Reverent Hunter as a giant 3-drop.

 

Once Born of the Gods released, Gruul Spellbreaker-wannabe Fanatic of Xenagos entered our card pool and was a perfect opportunity to cut Reverent Hunter. That way, we could play Experiment One. With Aspect of the Hydra as a new additional pump spell, the deck was ready.

 

I played this deck nonstop in that format and absolutely loved it! I also got to know it very well, which was certainly an advantage in a format where most people had played their deck for the better part of a year. I didn’t have much success with Red-Green Blood except for winning an 80-player side event at a Grand Prix (back when those had Swiss rounds and a top 8), but I was still determined to bring it to the first of three World Magic Cup Qualifiers in Denmark.

 

It’s inexplicable how I did it, but in a field full of Lifebane Zombie, Tidebinder Mage and Supreme Verdict I managed to cruise to the top 8. My version had been tuned well over the months and I knew exactly what I wanted to do in every matchup. I defeated Thomas Enevoldsen in the quarters, won my semifinal and got to face off against another good friend, Mads, in the finals.

 

We had met so many times in the finals of our FNMs (back then we even had top 8s at our FNMs!), and since both of us were green to success, it was kind of surreal to suddenly play for a national team spot. This time I did best his Blue-White Control deck and I was overcome with joy that I’d finally be joining Martin Müller at a professional event.

 

This tournament win, however lucky it might have been, was the stepping stone to my career, and I’ll always cherish this deck for it. To this day I still love Llanowar Elves aggro decks, double strike combo and very proactive sideboards.

 

GP Stockholm, October 2014

 

Simon Nielsen’s Countless Tokens”

 

4 Seeker of the Way

4 Goblin Rabblemaster

4 Eidolon of Countless Battles

2 Wingmate Roc

4 Chained to the Rocks

4 Raise the Alarm

4 Lightning Strike

4 Hordeling Outburst

1 Ajani Steadfast

4 Stoke the Flames

1 Dictate of Heliod

3 Temple of Triumph

1 Mana Confluence

4 Evolving Wilds

4 Battlefield Forge

7 Mountain

5 Plains

 

3 Suspension Field

1 Elspeth, Sun's Champion

4 Hushwing Gryff

3 Ashcloud Phoenix

3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos

1 Magma Spray

 

Khans of Tarkir was released, the format rotated, and we geared up for the World Magic Cup in a couple of months. But first I had a Standard Grand Prix to play, and Lasse and I had found a sweet brew.

 

Red-White midrange decks with some token elements already existed in the format after Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir, but I realized that bestowing Eidolon of Countless Battles onto Seeker of the Way was a BIG GAME in this deck. It even gets pumped by your Chained to the Rocks!

 

And so Countless Tokens was born.

 

I played the deck a lot online and my list got posted, which led to a big surprise as a couple days before the tournament I got a message on Magic Online from one of my biggest idols, FFfreak AKA Brad Nelson. And he was interested in my list!


I was so starstruck and amazed back then, and we spent a solid couple hours just ping ponging back and forth with ideas, opinions and improvements on the deck. In the end he ended up not playing the deck, but it was a solid confidence boost nonetheless. The very next day I got paired against Gerry Thompson on Magic Online and he also asked what Brad and I ended up doing to the deck.


Later in time, Brad and I would become friends when we ended up on the same testing team. I think it’s funny to think about how history works its way sometimes.

 

In the end my friend Lasse and I ended up bringing the deck to the Grand Prix. Lasse was speeding up the standings while I was sitting with my back against the wall at 5-2 trying to win out. While I shuffle up for round 8, making small talk with my Swedish opponent, he gives me a salty bad beat story of how he lost to some stupid Red-White Tokens deck a couple rounds ago. It played so many bad cards like that white Eidolon he couldn’t recall the name of.

 

I must admit it wasn’t easy, but I had to keep my face straight and act surprised that anyone could even win with such a pile, well knowing that I was currently shuffling an exact 75 card copy of the deck he was ranting about.

 

Game 1 I have a draw that just looks like the usual RW Midrange decks, so he still has no clue. In game 2 I get to a spot where I can bestow Eidolon of Countless Battles on a flyer for a surprise lethal damage. As I go to do that, I triumphantly exclaimed: “That Tokens player you were complaining about. Well, he is my friend and we play the exact same deck. And just for your information, he is still x-1!”


My opponent was visibly surprised as I attacked for lethal, but just cast a Demystify on my Chained to the Rocks to get back a Siege Rhino, survive the attack and kill me on the back swing. He then also won game 3 to knock me out of contention. Why is there never any justice?!

 

Though he did find me during Sunday to say that he thought my deck was better than he initially gave it credit for and even asked for my decklist. I count that as a victory.

 

World Magic Cup, Nice, December 2014

 

Simon Nielsen’s Abzan Whip”

 

4 Elvish Mystic

4 Satyr Wayfinder

3 Sylvan Caryatid

4 Courser of Kruphix

4 Siege Rhino

4 Wingmate Roc

2 Soul of Theros

3 Hornet Queen

2 Commune with the Gods

3 Murderous Cut

2 Whip of Erebos

2 Banishing Light

4 Windswept Heath

3 Forest

2 Plains

1 Caves of Koilos

4 Llanowar Wastes

2 Temple of Silence

2 Temple of Malady

4 Sandsteppe Citadel

1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

 

1 Whip of Erebos

2 Nissa, Worldwaker

2 Glare of Heresy

2 End Hostilities

2 Reclamation Sage

2 Doomwake Giant

2 Thoughtseize

1 Duneblast

1 Read the Bones

 

Our team for that year’s World Magic Cup was staggering. Even back then before he was a Platinum Pro, Thomas Enevoldsen had a GP win under his belt. Martin Müller had played some Pro Tours and already seen success and our last member Lars Birch also had a handful of Pro Tour appearances.

 

I definitely considered myself the worst player on the team (and rightfully so), so I tried to make up for it by practicing a ton. I played through all the good Standard decks on Magic Online in order to gain an understanding of the format and figure out how to weave three decks into a Unified Standard deck selection.

 

Abzan Midrange and Jeskai Tempo were the two most popular decks, but if you showed up with both of those you basically didn't have access to a good third deck. Through our online play, Müller and I figured out that a version of Blue-Black Control by Adrian Sullivan with Perilous Vault was a very underrated deck that could fit well and let Thomas utilize his control skills.

 

A recent GP in Santiago was won by Eduardo dos Santos Viera with a Whip of Erebos deck that was Abzan colors with Soul of Theros rather than the usual Sultai builds with Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. I had the idea to add Wingmate Roc to that deck to give it more nut draws. It also fit snugly with Blue-Black Control and let Müller be on the recently popularized Mardu deck.

 

In the actual tournament you had to have a teammate sit over as the "coach" in each format, because only 3 people were playing the matches. Since I had played more Standard than anyone, we thought I might be more helpful sitting out in Standard so that I could give input to everyone. It ended up playing quite well where I'd mostly sit and play Abzan Whip with Lars. Thomas did not have time to play much Standard, so I could help out from time to time when he needed to know which cards his opponents had in their decks. And occasionally I'd move over and give sideboard suggestions to Müller.

 

Most teams were just three people playing and one person watching, but we got to leverage the full team pretty well and that, coupled with absurd luck, allowed us to succeed.

 

The Blue-Black Control turned out to be a crazy good deck choice, and as we won our match into top 8 it was such a big moment. My first time playing at the professional level and we managed to get a top 8, qualify for the Pro Tour and even did it all while representing our country.

 

For the top 8 matches, Lars was kind enough to let me play the Abzan Whip deck as I was trying to make a name for myself. That worked out pretty well, and honestly if you haven't seen the finals of this event, you absolutely should. Marshall Sutcliffe and I did a great breakdown of the match here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Epl12-hHH6o

 

Pro Tour Fate Reforged, Washington DC, February 2015

 

Simon Nielsen’s Living End”

 

4 Monstrous Carabid

4 Deadshot Minotaur

4 Street Wraith

2 Jungle Weaver

2 Architects of Will

4 Pale Recluse

2 Simian Spirit Guide

4 Fulminator Mage

3 Living End

4 Demonic Dread

4 Violent Outburst

1 Dismember

3 Beast Within

4 Grove of the Burnwillows

4 Verdant Catacombs

3 Blackcleave Cliffs

1 Blood Crypt

1 Overgrown Tomb

1 Godless Shrine

1 Stomping Ground

1 Vault of the Archangel

2 Forest

1 Swamp

 

1 Living End

3 Ricochet Trap

3 Shriekmaw

3 Ingot Chewer

1 Blood Moon

1 Boil

2 Damping Matrix

1 Slaughter Games

 

This segment is somewhat different as this is not a Standard deck, nor one of my favourites, but it is important for the story. The format was Modern and Birthing Pod, Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time had just been banned.

 

This led me to believe that Black-Green based midrange decks and Zoo variants would be very popular, so a handful of weeks before the tournament I locked in Living End to beat the expected metagame and spent my time learning how to play. I guess I could learn a thing or two from past me.

 

This was also the tournament where I realized just how bad I was at Draft. Us Danes spent a couple days in Washington to draft Fate Reforged with the Swedes, but in the first draft I went 1-2 including what I thought was a pretty lucky win. However, my metagame read was almost spot on, and I managed to close the day out at 3-2 to meet the bare minimum for Day 2.

 

On the second day, I once again went 0-2 in draft and got a bye this time. I was quite devastated, but Müller played a feature match against Zvi Mowshowitz so I spent my round in the viewing area watching this epic match (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7MVxi4A0sM). After seeing him win like that, I was pumped up and motivated to try and win my last five matches to secure an important 6 Pro Points. As fate would have it, I got paired against five Black-Green decks and crushed them all!

 

I missed prizes but was still very satisfied to go 8-2 in Constructed at my first Pro Tour. With 6 points from this event and 8 from the World Magic Cup win, I would only need to obtain 6 more points in the next 5 months on the GP grind to hit Silver and qualify for two more Pro Tours.

 

GP Paris, May 2015

 

Julian Felix Flury’s House Bant”

 

4 Elvish Mystic

4 Sylvan Caryatid

4 Fleecemane Lion

3 Den Protector

2 Stratus Dancer

4 Courser of Kruphix

4 Deathmist Raptor

4 Whisperwood Elemental

3 Mastery of the Unseen

2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion

2 Disdainful Stroke

1 Flooded Strand

4 Windswept Heath

2 Plains

1 Island

1 Yavimaya Coast

3 Forest

2 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

2 Mana Confluence

4 Temple of Plenty

4 Temple of Mystery

 

1 Den Protector

3 Dromoka's Command

2 Valorous Stance

1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

1 Negate

2 Hornet Nest

2 Glare of Heresy

1 Plummet

2 Disdainful Stroke

 

I really love this deck, and this tournament including my preparation for it was one of my most relished Grand Prix experiences. Dragons of Tarkir had been released a month prior, Martin Dang won the Pro Tour with Mono-Red splashing Atarka’s Command, Esper Dragons had a big breakout but was at time on a downswing as Abzan and Megamorph variants were taking hold.

 

For this event, I was working with my very good friend Julian Flury from Switzerland. I’ve met him through the Grand Prix circuit as we would often see each other around, and this was the year where we started talking more, also online and about other stuff than Magic. Since he seemed to be at about the same skill level as me, and just as motivated, he seemed like an ideal testing partner. So we put our thesis to the test for this event.

 

Julian came up with this variant of the Bant Megamorph deck that Craig Wescoe had done well with at the Pro Tour, but we leaned harder into the ramp element by playing Whisperwood Elemental and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.

 

Mastery of the Unseen and the megamorph package with Deathmist Raptor made it quite easy to leave up our maindeck counterspells while we develop our game plan. Julian is quite good at building creature decks that have inevitability, and this deck is a prime example of that.


We both ended up in the top 32 of the event, him at 11-3-1 and me 12-3. This gave me another 3 Pro Points, closing in on Silver.

 

The very next weekend I went to Florence to play a Team Limited GP with Martin Müller and Alexander Pasgaard (one of the unknown best Limited players in Denmark, he has two GP top 8s so far). Once again it felt like I got carried by a team event, but I’ll certainly take it. Having powerful Magic players in your friend circle is certainly one of the best resources you can use to get onto the big stage.

 

We did lose our win-and-in into top 4 of this tournament (where this situation happened: https://twitter.com/MrChecklistcard/status/1125606528688504833, though to be fair I still won my match), which left Alex and Müller a bit down. On the contrary I was ecstatic, because those 3 points were the last ones I needed to make Silver level! This meant I was qualified for Pro Tour Origins and had to spend a large amount of my World Magic Cup winnings to fly there.

 

Pro Tour Origins, Vancouver, August 2015

 

Team Thommo’s Mono-Red Burn”

4 Abbot of Keral Keep

3 Firedrinker Satyr

4 Lightning Berserker

4 Monastery Swiftspear

3 Zurgo Bellstriker

4 Exquisite Firecraft

1 Fiery Impulse

4 Lightning Strike

4 Searing Blood

4 Wild Slash

4 Stoke the Flames

21 Mountain

 

2 Chandra, Pyromaster

4 Eidolon of the Great Revel

3 Satyr Firedancer

2 Arc Lightning

4 Roast

 

Martin Dang and Martin Müller had gotten into an Austrian/Hungarian testing team for the previous Pro Tour, which Dang won with their team deck. And since the team transformed with people falling off and members were inviting friends, Müller managed to just sneak me onto the team. Neat!

 

The core of the group, named Team Thommo after the nickname of Tamas Nagy (even though he was no longer on the Pro Tour) was Austrians Immanuel Gerschenson and Oliver Polak-Rottmann, Swedes Magnus Lantto and Joel Larsson, Matej Zatlkaj and the two Danish Martins.


Some of us met up in Dallas two weeks before the Pro Tour to play the local GP and playtest Draft and Standard with the new set Magic Origins. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy was a huge new addition to Standard, and Müller had built a really sweet Sultai Megamorph deck that included both Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Den Protector to cast Dig Through Time about 4 times per game on average.

 

The big breakthrough came during the testing period in Dallas where we figured out most decks would have good targets for Searing Blood, even ones that previously had no small creatures, because of the printing of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Hangarback Walker and Nissa, Vastwood Seer. Paired with new Red deck printings of Abbot of Keral Keep and Exquisite Firecraft this allowed us to build a Standard burn deck with almost 20 lands, 20 creatures and 20 burn spells.

 

As we met up with the rest of the team in Vancouver, we split into groups to focus on each deck we were interested in. The Mono-Red camp kept winning every matchup, and one-by-one we got the rest of the team to transfer over to the Red side until Joel Larsson as the last person switched over the day before the tournament.

 

This deck choice was absolutely fantastic, the best deck I’ve played at a Pro Tour so far, and as you might know, Joel ended up winning the event. I didn’t do too shabby myself with a slightly better Draft record than last time (2-1 and 1-2) but yet another 8-2 finish in Constructed with this great deck. This got me to 11-5 and qualified me, with flights, to the very next Pro Tour in Milwaukee!


After this Pro Tour, the team underwent some drastic changes. Most people were no longer qualified, but the core remained, and we added a policy that as long as you remained qualified, you’d stay on the team. This was quite lucky for me, as I didn’t feel like I was as good as the other members, but the dice rolled in my favor and I managed to string some more invites together.

 

In Milwaukee we also added Fabrizio Anteri, Thomas Hendriks, Aleksa Telarov and Pierre Dagen, and renamed the team to EUreka. I didn’t do too well in Milwaukee, but I did watch Müller top 8 with the worst deck he had ever played at a Pro Tour. Team EUreka was a big stepping stone for me to improve, but I found myself in a situation where I did have a Silver invite for the next pro Tour Atlanta but was unsure if I could afford the flight.

 

Grand Prix Brussels, November 2015

 

Matt Nass’s Four-Color Rally”

 

4 Zulaport Cutthroat

4 Elvish Visionary

4 Nantuko Husk

4 Catacomb Sifter

4 Grim Haruspex

4 Sidisi's Faithful

4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

4 Collected Company

4 Rally the Ancestors

4 Flooded Strand

4 Windswept Heath

4 Polluted Delta

3 Evolving Wilds

2 Canopy Vista

2 Sunken Hollow

1 Prairie Stream

1 Island

1 Forest

1 Swamp

1 Plains

 

Sideboard

4 Arashin Cleric

4 Murderous Cut

2 Duress

2 Abzan Ascendancy

1 Valorous Stance

2 Dispel

 

The week before GP Brussels I lost in the quarterfinals of my RPTQ in Stockholm to miss out on that invite plus airfare to Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch in Atlanta. Having to turn my attention from Modern to Standard within a week, I sought out help from my usual source of genius strategy: Martin Müller.

 

He had been working on a deck that Matt Nass took to a 7-3 finish at the previous Pro Tour, and which Pascal Maynard recently top 8’ed a Grand Prix with, yet nobody was talking about it. I guess they thought that this graveyard-based creature combo deck would fold to the very popular Anafenza, the Foremost.

 

For those uninformed, this deck tries to assemble a big board with its many creatures and Collected Company, trade off resources until you can go for a lethal Rally the Ancestors by bringing back Nantuko Husk and Zulaport Cutthroat.

The manabases at this time were also admirable. With fetchlands and the dual lands from Battle for Zendikar, you could create very functional manabases by combining two basic lands with a dual of choice that’s neither of those colors (like fetching up Swamp, Island and then Canopy Vista).

 

The deck was utterly broken in an unsuspecting field. Nobody knew how to play against me. I had people attack with their Anafenza so I could just kill it with blockers and unlock my graveyard synergies. I had control opponents who’d tap out for a sweeper only to immediately die because all my stuff was now in the graveyard, and even opponents who didn’t block Nantuko Husk when it was lethal on-board.

 

We were 4 people who ran the deck on Müller’s suggestion: Myself, Müller, Lantto and Dang. We ended up 2nd, 4th, 5th and 11th. It was such a surreal way for a team to crush a tournament and provided me with my first GP top 8 as well as an invitation to Pro Tour Atlanta and prize money to be able to afford my Silver invite whenever I’d use it. Four-Color Rally ended up being the clear best deck in the format, especially once Reflector Mage was released.

 

Magic Online Championship Series Play-Offs, February 2016

 

Simon Nielsen’s Mono-GG Eldrazi”

 

2 Hedron Crawler

4 Rattleclaw Mystic

3 Whisperer of the Wilds

4 World Breaker

3 Thought-Knot Seer

2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

4 Oath of Nissa

4 Nissa's Pilgrimage

4 Explosive Vegetation

4 Hedron Archive

2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

1 Crumbling Vestige

4 Sanctum of Ugin

4 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods

14 Forest

1 Wastes

 

3 Winds of Qal Sisma

3 Hangarback Walker

2 Reclaiming Vines

4 Jaddi Offshoot

1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

2 Spatial Contortion

 

Pro Tour Atlanta did not go well. I got food poisoning when we were in Mexico City for the Grand Prix the week before (on an otherwise a great trip!) and was still not feeling well at the event. Despite beating Seth Manfield in round 1, I missed day 2 with Suicide Zoo.

 

Already the weekend after I came home, I had an online tournament to play, and an important one at that. It was Standard which I hadn’t touched since Brussels, and Rally decks were very popular. Since I’d never played a mirror in my life, I thought I needed a different tool - very wrong thinking, but I didn’t realize that back then. My friend Mads - who you might remember from last article as my WMCQ finals opponent - had brewed up a very consistent Mono-Green Ramp deck full of Eldrazi.

This deck was wonderfully clean and got away with playing very few threats due to Oath of Nissa and Sanctum of Ugin which were able to find me the goods. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon was an incredible card against Four-Color Rally, and even land destruction on their basic lands early enough can be a huge disruption, so I liked my matchup there. The other popular decks were mostly slow midrange decks that did not have the sideboard cards necessary to defeat this beautiful ramp deck, so it was the perfect weekend to play this exact deck.

 

I ended up in the finals, where both players would earn invites to the Pro Tour and the Magic Online Championship. The best part of it all was that I got to stream the entire thing, and the extra invite meant that I was now guaranteed to reach my goal of playing all the Pro Tours that season. I’m not sure if I can recommend just picking up a suspect brew days before the tournament, but at least I got lucky that it worked out this time.

 

Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, Madrid, April 2016

 

Pierre Dagen’s Goggles Ramp”

 

3 World Breaker

1 Dragonlord Atarka

2 Chandra, Flamecaller

3 Magmatic Insight

4 Nissa's Pilgrimage

4 Tormenting Voice

3 Traverse the Ulvenwald

4 Fiery Impulse

4 Kozilek's Return

3 Fall of the Titans

2 Hedron Archive

3 Pyromancer's Goggles

3 Cinder Glade

4 Drownyard Temple

8 Forest

4 Game Trail

5 Mountain

 

1 Chandra, Flamecaller

1 Dragonlord Atarka

3 Den Protector

2 Goblin Dark-Dwellers

3 Tireless Tracker

2 Draconic Roar

3 Rending Volley

 

For Pro Tour Madrid, Team EUreka had grown quite tight and we were becoming a very efficient testing machine, thanks in part to how good Magnus Lantto was at managing the team. For this Pro Tour we also added Brad Nelson to help with our Constructed game, and the two of us hit it off quite well, spending endless hours testing Standard together. Just from the weeks I spent with him I learned a lot about how to approach Standard testing.

 

This was another Pro Tour where I missed Day 2, but I just wanted to bring up this deck just for how cool it was. A weird rotation had happened, so Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged were no longer in standard, but Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins still were. Bant Company was the deck to beat and we tried to throw all sorts of things at it, but nothing stuck. At some point Pierre Dagen went to meditate on the couch for an hour and woke up to a brilliant idea for a deck. We had tried Pyromancer’s Goggles, but his breakthrough realization was that the card was also a ramp card and fit well into a reimagined RG ramp deck.

 

He found the deck on the Thursday before GP Barcelona, so a full week before the Pro Tour. That day we all stayed up to 2am just playing with this new deck and by the end of it, almost everyone was sure what they’d be on for the Pro Tour. As we picked up testing again after the GP, Brad declared that Monday was sideboard day and that if he saw anyone play a single preboard game, they’d have to do push-ups. It worked.

 

Let me break down all the synergies. Nissa’s Pilgrimage ramps you into Pyromancer’s Goggles. Magmatic Insight and Tormenting Voice are great Red spells to copy with Goggles, help you reach spell mastery on Nissa’s Pilgrimage AND are great ways to turn those extra Forests into more cards. They also pitch Drownyard Temple which can then turn into another way to ramp out Goggles.


Pyromancer’s Goggles also ramp you into World Breaker, which can wreak havoc on any board in combination with Kozilek’s Return. Fall of the Titans is always the best thing to copy and the most frequent win condition. Traverse the Ulvenwald is the weirdest inclusion, but it’s actually mostly used to get a basic land for mana fixing, spell mastery and a cheap spell for surge. Once in a blue moon you get delirium and can search up the one Dragonlord Atarka. Postboard when you bring in creatures, it’s live much more often and lets your Den Protector and Goblin Dark-Dwellers search up more value creatures.

 

Sadly, while the deck did line up well against Bant Company, it wasn’t good against Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Especially the Green-White Tokens deck that won the event was very troublesome, so Red-Green Goggles fell out of the meta and I was quite disappointed that I didn’t get to play it more. At least I can look back and revel in the genius that make all the little pieces of this deck come together so beautifully.

 

Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, Sydney, August 2016

 

Team EUreka’s Jund Delirium”

 

2 Pilgrim's Eye

2 Mindwrack Demon

3 Ishkanah, Grafwidow

2 Distended Mindbender

1 Emrakul, the Promised End

3 Liliana, the Last Hope

2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer

3 Languish

3 Traverse the Ulvenwald

4 Grapple with the Past

1 Ultimate Price

4 Fiery Impulse

3 Kozilek's Return

3 Vessel of Nascency

4 Evolving Wilds

4 Llanowar Wastes

4 Smoldering Marsh

1 Cinder Glade

6 Forest

4 Swamp

1 Mountain

 

1 Languish

1 Ultimate Price

1 Emrakul, the Promised End

2 Transgress the Mind

2 Den Protector

2 Pick the Brain

2 To the Slaughter

3 Nahiri's Wrath

1 Dragonmaster Outcast

 

To cap off the season I’d use my expiring Silver invite to go to Sydney. I was quite fortunate that I could borrow money from my parents to afford the expensive ticket to Australia, as there was no chance I’d pass up on the opportunity to see the other side of the world and participate in yet another installment of the great Team EUreka testing house.

 

Eldritch Moon was released and brought even more goods to the already well established Bant Company deck in the form of Selfless Spirit and Spell Queller. Beating the deck now was not at all easy, but there were also some scary Eldrazi released, most importantly Elder Deep-Fiend which enabled all sorts of combos.

 

Müller came up with the idea that it might be better to build around Distended Mindbender instead, because it would be better against other Emerge decks and with a Kozilek’s Return in the graveyard you’d get to snatch a Collected Company out of their hand even when they had mana up.

 

We tried all sorts of ways to cheat it into play quickly, some involving Haunted Dead. We figured out that these decks were very good at clearing all their resources but needed something to tutor for once you dealt with everything. I suggested Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger since we usually ended up with lots of mana. Then someone mentioned that it might be easier to cast Emrakul, the Promised End, a card that we, like most teams, previously had considered unplayable .

 

We tried it, found out we’d win all games with it and that maybe this card would be strong enough to build around. We didn’t even need to run more than a single copy, because you had Traverse the Ulvenwald to find it and Liliana, the Last Hope and Grapple from the Past to recur it. We still hung onto Distended Mindbender, made sure to have all card types present and had red for Fiery Impulse to better fight against Bant Company.


This is the story of how that monstrosity was born. The Pro Tour ended up being an Emrakul fiesta at the top tables, where the card got cast four to six times each game between both players.

 

This was also the Pro Tour where I felt like I leveled up in Limited. This time I really let go of my previous assumptions of the cards and actually listened to my teammates. I learned that having a draft preference is not a bad thing and that when a card is called “Unbeatable Wolves” by the team, I should just pick it highly. And so I did, drafting Red-Green and Red-White aggro around Brazen Wolves and putting up a 2-1 and my first 3-0 record. Since I also did well with our Standard deck, I found myself deep in a tournament within reach of Gold. I knew that I need to go 11-4-1 to make it happen but didn’t really consider it as a possibility. In round 13 I intentionally drew with teammate Thomas Hendriks as we were both in spots where a draw counted the same as a loss for our Pro Point goals.


At that point I was 9-3-1, so I only needed to go 2-1 in the last three constructed rounds to make it, with a shot at top 8 if I could win all three.

 

I lost the first one but won the last two and in the blink of an eye I could call myself a Gold Pro! Because the tournament was rather small (as many players had visa issues) that was enough to top 16, where 3 other teammates also ended up. It was a huge success for EUreka but an even bigger personal success for me because I finally did well in Draft and reached a new Pro Players Club level.

 

As I had also won a WMCQ a month prior with my beloved Suicide Zoo deck, I was looking forward to a great season where I’d be qualified for all 4 Pro Tours, the World Magic Cup and the Magic Online Championship. After Pro Tour Eldritch Moon I started to write for MTG Mint Card and take up their sponsorship, so this is where my Pro career really began.


Outro… And a farewell?


I enjoyed dusting off these memories, and I hope you enjoyed the journey too. Perhaps you might have found some inspiration or a useful tip along the way. Let me tell you this. I could not have gotten this far without Martin Müller, my other friends and Team EUreka. It really is a game of gathering, and the best thing you can do for your career (and any career, really) is to be respectful and friendly towards the people around you and make some good contacts and long-lasting friendships.


As for my current future in this game, it’s not looking great. I have been among the top 50 in the world before, but that is not top 32 which means that I’ve lost out on a lot of benefits. Going into this year I knew I was guaranteed qualifications until the end of 2019, but there is no system in sight that would keep me on the Mythic Championships unless I requalify for every single one. That’s a daunting task, and I’ve come to realize that Barcelona and Richmond will likely be my last two Mythic Championships and that I have to plan for a proximate future where I no longer play the game professionally. I’ll do my best to enjoy these last two Mythic Championships, it’s been a wild ride and I’m very proud of myself for having taken on this journey and succeeded as much as I have.

 

This article was written by Simon Nielsen in a media collaboration with mage.market.

 







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