The Most Important Tournament I Ever Played - 1
- Jamin Kauf
It sounds like clickbait, but it isn't. The Magic Online championship finals was the biggest tournament Jamin ever participated in and he's here to tell you all about his preparation, his decks, and the rest of the tournament.
My story begins on June 29th, 2018. On that day I played a MOCS monthly and went 6-2 to qualify for the MOCS playoff on August 10th that I went on to win which qualified me for the Magic Online Championship finals this year. I already wrote an article about my journey up until that point, so I’ll skip that part.
Quite some time passed before we heard back from Wizards about our tournament. According to them, they wanted to release details about the event (formats, location etc) rather soon, in 2018 even. On January 3rd, 2019 the competitors finally received an email telling us that the tournament would be held at the Wizards of the Coast headquarters in Seattle from April 5th through April 7th - no word on which formats we would play.
A month later we received another email, telling us about an "internal scheduling conflict" (which we went on to find out was the Arena Invitational) for which they had to reschedule the MOCS to May 17th-19th, a month later.
This very much felt like they were neglecting us - a lot. Let me explain: The Magic Online Championship is one of the most prestigious tournaments MTG has to offer. It is incredibly hard to qualify and the field consists of some of the strongest players on Magic Online (and myself, some people are bound to qualify by being lucky I guess). With a prize pool of $200,000 (plus Platinum status for the winner) distributed on only 24 competitors, even Brad Nelson wishes he could get back to that event. It’s one of the pinnacles of competitive Magic - except for this year, but we’ll get to that in more detail later.
Now for Wizards to simply reschedule an event like this felt wrong. Players (including me) had already booked their flights and had to schedule work holidays (shoutouts to Cardmarket for being very flexible about my vacation days in this regard). Wizards of the Coast also reimbursed any additional flight costs so it was fine for me money-wise but it still feels like Wizards didn’t care about the MOCS.
The tournament kept creeping closer and finally on March 30th we received word of which formats we will be playing - six rounds of WAR draft, four rounds of Modern, and four rounds of Standard.
I have to admit that my testing wasn’t the best. Earlier this year, real life started catching up with me - between a new relationship, starting to work for Cardmarket, and dipping my toes into competitive Pokémon, I had lost some of my drive for competitive Magic (not to mention all the changes Wizards introduced that disincentivized playing competitively).
All this caused me to play a very limited amount of Magic and even with the big day coming ever closer, I couldn’t find the motivation to grind Magic Online. That’s why I asked my good friend (and Standard master) Arne Huschenbeth to help me with a Standard deck list.
Modern was fairly easy since I played a lot of Humans already and the German testing house for Pro Tour London came up with a very solid list + matchup guide that I could use.
I took the list, played a few leagues on Magic Online as well as some PTQs and felt reasonably confident.
This leaves us with limited. And oh boy was my knowledge limited. I hadn’t done a single draft with two weeks remaining before leaving for Seattle and as kind of a panic reaction, I booked myself flights to a Pokémon TCG tournament happening the week before. Oops!
Luckily Arne was equally helpful for limited as he was in Constructed so we had a three hour call going over a lot of information like archetypes, single card powerlevels and play patterns.
After talking to him and actually starting to grind drafts, I felt a lot better about everything.
The Actual Plot
My flight to Seattle was a pain since I got sick the day before. Being worn out from the travel, being sick, and being in a different time zone all at once made my first two days quite a nightmare.
At least Arne had some good news for me: he broke Standard (or at least claimed he did). And after playing two leagues with the list he sent me, I was convinced he told the truth. The deck was good. Very good. Arne promised to keep quiet until after we had to submit decklists, by now the deck has gotten a fair bit of attention, but I’ll showcase it once more anyways.
Esper Planeswalkers by Arne Huschenbeth
|25Lands||22Other Permanents||13Instants and Sorceries|
|4Drowned Catacomb||2Dovin, Hand of Control||2Cast Down|
|4Glacial Fortress||4Narset, Parter of Veils||1Moment of Craving|
|4Godless Shrine||4Teferi, Time Raveler||2The Elderspell|
|4Hallowed Fountain||3Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor||4Thought Erasure|
|4Isolated Chapel||4Teferi, Hero of Dominaria||4Kaya's Wrath|
|1Swamp||1Liliana, Dreadhorde General|
|4Watery Grave||1Ugin, the Ineffable|
|3Oath of Kaya|
|2Duress||1Spell Pierce||1Dovin's Veto|
|1Moment of Craving||1The Elderspell||2Cry of the Carnarium|
|1Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage||2Ixalan's Binding||2Enter the God-Eternals|
|2Command the Dreadhorde|
At the time, this deck was insanely well positioned. It had answers to Esper Hero’s threats, a great lategame with Planeswalkers and The Elderspell to ultimate a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria out of nowhere. The Elderspell also easily wins almost every game that you cast it against Jeskai Planeswalkers and against Mono Red you had Oath of Kaya to gain back life, which was usually enough combined with your spotremoval.
If you want additional information on this deck, how to play it, and how to sideboard, I recommend you go check out Arne’s Twitter as he’s the genius behind this piece of art.
The Player Meeting
On Thursday, all players were requested to come to the venue for an introduction to the tournament and the organizers and some pictures for coverage. Usually I wouldn’t have to tell you about something this mundane, but at this gathering there were two more instances that made the whole thing feel less important and "pushed away" by MTG Arena. After arriving, we were informed about an involuntary 4h break on Saturday at 12pm.
Why, you ask? Because the pre-recorded MPL matches needed to be broadcast at that time. Just to be clear, Wizards interrupted a 24 player, $200,000 tournament with coverage to broadcast pre-recorded, weekly MPL matches.
For those who don’t know: The Pro Club system is being phased out with the end of the year. The MOCS awards the winner with Platinum status. Now, the prize pool already took a hit because you wouldn’t get benefits of a full year of platinum but with the tournament being delayed, as it was now after MC London, the prize pool got reduced even further.
When one of the players asked about this reduction in prizes, they were met with a clear answer along the lines of "We promised this event would award Platinum status, we didn’t say when or for how long you would get it."
While this is true, it felt harsh to treat your top players like afterthoughts.
Implications for the Future
To me, both of these actions were insults that were clearly in line with all the other changes Wizards made to Organized Play within the past months. Together with the rescheduling of the tournament and the low level of advertisement for coverage, Wizards has made one thing clear: they don’t seem to care about tournaments anymore if they’re not linked to Arena.
And that was how I felt going into the tournament. I was obviously nervous but at the same time it felt like this tournament was of no importance overall.
To be fair, we were still playing for $200,000 total.
Next time on Cardmarket Insight, I will tell you everything about the tournament itself. If you watched coverage or follow me on Twitter, you might already know the outcome but there are many stories left to be told.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.