Jamin's First Grand Prix Top 8

Jamin played a total of 33 Grand Prix before getting a Top 8 finish. But last weekend, his time had come and he crushed the competition using the recently banned Modern menace that is Hogaak. Join him in telling weird stories about an 8/8 trample that isn’t Hogaak, 13 card sideboards, and a minor laziness incident that ended up costing him.

Everyone who knows me to any degree probably knows by now: I'm incredibly happy about achieving my first Grand Prix Top 8. I've been grinding toward it for a while (my first Grand Prix was Utrecht 2015) and the grind has paid off. Achieving these milestones is something that motivates many Magic players and they're very rewarding to hit. And to top all of this off, I've qualified for Pro Tour Richmond. Yay!

Now I wanted to write something about this tournament as it featured many memorable moments, but we'll do something different this time around. Instead of telling you things round by round, I'll only mention the most intense (or funny) moments. This way you will still be able to gain an overview of my tournament without having to hear about every turn two Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis I cast over the course of 15 rounds (yes, I did that a lot and yes, it's good that Hogaak was banned).

Hogaak by Jamin Kauf Top 4 GP Birmingham

Decklist Submission Troubles

My biggest failure this tournament, by far, was my decklist. The decklist I submitted online is one of the worst Hogaak lists you could imagine - no, no, no, I don't mean Glowspore Shaman, that card's great, I'm talking about something entirely different.

Before the start of day two I was talking to Florian Koch and we were discussing the merits of the newest free spell that destroys artifacts and/or enchantments - only that he couldn't remember the name. "It's Force of Nature," I said, but Koch knew better: "Nope, that's an 8/8 trample for six mana with an upkeep cost."

...Oh...

I check my decklist and sure enough, I didn't register Force of Vigor. I registered an 8/8 Trample from Limited Edition Alpha.

Informing the Head Judge left me with the choice of either playing with Force of Nature or adjusting the decklist and receiving a game loss. Given that there were another six rounds of swiss, I decided to go with the latter - luckily I won round ten 2-0 vs Spirits, letting me carry on as normal.

Force of Nature Force of Vigor

There's More

You might think that does it for my decklist. Nope.

Before the Top 8, Frank Karsten messaged me, telling me to come to the main stage. Apparently I had only registered 13 Sideboard cards. While I did put Thoughtseize onto my decklist, I didn't specify how many copies I'd run. This time, I went on with the decklist as noted, only having access to one discard spell in the sideboard for Top 8.

Micro-Decklist improvements

My decklist was suboptimal in one more way. When playing fetchlands in a deck that only cares about one land type (Swamp in the case of Hogaak), you should split them evenly among all the available ones, to minimize the impact of cards like Surgical Extraction and Pithing Needle. Well, before the event, I owned neither Verdant Catacomb nor Marsh Flats, so I decided to cheap out and buy four Marsh Flats instead of two Flats and two Catacombs. Funnily enough, this cost me in round 13 against Stefan Schütz. After revealing one copy of Marsh Flats to Satyr Wayfinder, he played a needle to shut off the land and I promptly drew another one. Luckily, I still won the match by winning both games postboard.

I think in that specific spot, Carrion Feeder would've been a better name, but this way I was schooled on cheaping out on my manabase.

Interesting Gameplay

Let's move on from my messed up decklist and instead discuss actual gameplay. Hogaak's sequencing is often very similar and once you get used to the typical lines of play, they might become repetitive quickly. Yet there are always situations you need to adjust to on the fly.

For gameplay discussion in this article, I'd like to discuss three things: postboard mulligans, the power of Carrion Feeder and a specific Thoughtseize choice. Let's start with the latter.

A Turn Two Thoughtseize vs Bogles

Daybreak Coronet Curious Obsession Ethereal Armor

It's round 12 game three with my Bogles opponent on the play. He dropped a turn one Slippery Bogle and passed the turn. My hand has a Faithless Looting, two lands, some more graveyard shenanigans and a Thoughtseize that I decide to cast turn one. And for the better that is: my opponent reveals a stacked hand of Path to Exile, Temple Garden, Ethereal Armor, Curious Obsession, and Daybreak Coronet.

What do you take given you have no enchantment removal in hand? You do have three Nature's Claim and two Force of Vigor in your deck though.

My first instinct was to decide between Ethereal Armor or Daybreak Coronet. Afterall, those were the auras preventing me from double blocking and the auras that made his creature bigger than my Hogaak. After some more thought, I came to a different conclusion though, and went on to pick Curious Obsession.

What changed my mind? I figured out that no matter which enchantment they play, I will most likely lose the game if I can't find a Nature's Claim / Force of Vigor. With that in mind, Daybreak Coronet became a much smaller threat since if I could time it well, it would simply fall off if there are no other auras. Thus, the Obsession was the card that was the scariest, drawing my opponent towards the crucial amount of auras they needed.

The game continued exactly like I hoped. Through Looting I was able to find a Nature's Claim which took out both Ethereal Armor and Daybreak Coronet, giving me enough tempo to run them over with an 8/8 Trample.

The London Mulligan Minigame

Leyline of the Void Nature's Claim Force of Vigor

Since M20, we got a new mulligan that enables you to find specific cards much easier. The dynamic that evolves is something that is particularly important in graveyard mirror matches where both players board in Leyline of the Void but a similar minigame can be seen in other matchups.

What happens is that the player on the play will either keep seven or mulligan. If they keep seven cards very quickly, the opponent has to assume that there's a Leyline waiting, probably forcing them to mulligan towards an enchantment answer. The other way around is very similar. If the starting player thinks for a while before keeping a hand, you might not need an answer to Leyline at all.

And this brings me to my point about mulligans. I feel like right now when taking mulligans, it's incredibly important to seem weak when your hand's strong and the other way around too, make your opponent think your hand is strong when it is surprisingly mediocre.

You never know how many opponents you'll end up getting with this strategy, but at least one told me it worked. After game two of the Semifinals, Simon Nielsen explained to me that he kept a very mediocre hand because I tanked for a long time on my seven (I had the nuts for the mirror: a Leyline, an answer to his Leyline and some enablers for the graveyard).

An Unassuming 1/1

Carrion Feeder

Last but not least, I want to honor a card that does not get enough credit when people talk about the Hogaak deck: Carrion Feeder. This little zombie has so much going for it, it's incredible. Not only does it quickly become a sizeable beater when it grows with every land-drop if you have a Bloodghast, every Stitcher's Supplier, once a turn per Vengevine and so on, it also enables Gravecrawler, let's you mill deeper by getting rid of Stitcher's Supplier and protects Hogaak himself from being exiled or put on the bottom of the library.. Another great use-case is untapping creatures postcombat by sacrificing them and then returning them from the grave to convoke (Bloodghast and Gravecrawler) or block opposing threats (Vengevine and Hogaak).

This little guy has so much utility. It's simply incredible and without it, the deck would be much worse. So big shout outs to our small friend, the Carrion Feeder.

In Closing

Today's article was a little different, I didn't want to bore you with Hogaak as the deck is gone now and there are other resources for that. All in all, this was a great tournament for me with a very broken deck and multiple interesting stories.

If there's one thing you might want to take away from this article, let me ask you to double check your entire decklist an additional time before your next tournament, so you don't register Force of Nature in your sideboard.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.

1 Comment

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Support-Tobi(2019-08-29 12:28)

Congrats on the finish and the awesome article.

Sifting through lots of GP decklists, I have come across several W/U Control players with Force of Nature in their main deck even. Two players at GP Las Vegas also used your "tech" in their sideboard. It is kinda great how this card has become such a relevant factor in Modern. ;-)

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