The Most Important Tournament I Ever Played - Part Two
- Jamin Kauf
It sounds like clickbait, but it isn’t. The Magic Online Championship Finals was the biggest tournament Jamin ever participated in. This time he covers everything regarding the tournament itself: the two drafts, eight rounds of constructed and everything in between.
Last time, I told you everything about my miserable preparation, the decks I picked, and Organized Play failures. Today, let's get to the reason I flew to Seattle: to play serious Magic for serious money!
Being jetlagged does have advantages from time to time - I woke up at 6 am and was wide awake when arriving on site. The tournament was held in a huge Lobby at Wizards' headquarters. Alongside 24 setups of gaming laptops for us to play the tournament, there were lots free-to-use PCs and gaming consoles to pass the time with.
For the first draft, I was in the featured pod, together with Kenji "NumotTheNummy" Egishira, our featured drafter. After first-picking Kaya, Bane of the Dead over Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves, I ended up slotting into Green-White which was very open in my seat. As the skillful drafter that I am, I opened Nissa, Who Shakes the World in pack three and managed to end up with this deck:
My bomb rares carried me to a 2-0 score and so I had to face off against Kenji in the finals of the draft. Our games were interesting and if you care enough, you can watch them here.
Beating Kenji left me at 3-0, a record I did not envision given my preparation, but better lucky than good I guess.
I told you about how great my Standard deck was, so now it was time to show it off!
Unfortunately, my first two rounds were quick losses, one to Marcio Carvalho on Esper Hero and one to Andrew Baeckstrom on UR Phoenix, both very winnable matchups with poor draws on my end (and some potential misplays in the phoenix match).
Luckily I was able to bounce back by defeating another Esper Hero. The last round of Standard was against Jeskai Planeswalkers which was a cakewalk since I drew The Elderspell both games.
This left me at 5-2, a result I wouldn't have dared to dream about before. Still, I couldn't allow myself to celebrate yet since there were another seven rounds to be played and in tournaments with 24 competitors and 14 rounds - anything can happen.
Given how exhausted I was, I slept like a baby.
Day two started at 8 am so we would have enough time to play our rounds before the godfather of content, the MPL, started. The draft started and I was greeted by Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. After adding him to my draft picks, the pack was rather confusing with some decent black playables and another Kaya but no blue cards to be seen. During pack two I realized I should probably be black and red was the other color that felt very open.
And I got rewarded for reading the table in pack three! Not only did I (very skillfully) open up an Ugin, the Ineffable to first pick, I also got passed a Widespread Brutality as fourth or fifth pick. I liked my deck a whole lot better at this point and ended up with a solid black red deck, splashing white for Oath of Kaya which also helped me cast Nahiri, Storm of Stone and Kaya.
My first match was against a mediocre white beatdown deck which I demolished. My opponent had bad draws but their deck also matched up badly against the amount of removal and value engines that was my deck. 6-2
Second match was against Mattia Oneto, who would end up being our champion this weekend, who demolished me by being a blue/black deck which didn't rely on creatures too much and instead simply countered my big threats using two No Escape. 6-3
The third match was a nailbiter and required lots of hard decisions by me and my Pro Tour Champion opponent, Antonio Del-Moral Leon. In game two I was on the edge of stabilizing on a single point of life but ended up flooding out.
Game three however I didn't have enough lands to cast my spells properly. Luckily Leon's deck wasn't great and I could easily stop the beatdown he put on. He drew Toll of the Invasion the turn before I needed my Aid the Fallen to generate a lot of value, but I still ended up pushing through lethal damage by removing blockers with Kaya and Ugin.
7-3. This isn't funny anymore; we're getting into territory that's dangerously close to Top 4.
(If you wanna feel like a real Pro Magic Player, take a four hour break at this point and don't do anything productive during that time.)
I will not cover the matches I played here in great detail. Many of them can be found in the archives on Twitch but none of them were particularly interesting. There was one sweet play I had to do against Pascal Maynard in the Humans mirror where I had to let his Deputy of Detention trigger resolve to take two deputies of mine, so I could vial in another deputy to get back my original deputies to exile different targets than what they had exiled originally. That's about it in terms of interesting content during the Modern rounds.
Round one was a rematch against Mattia, Humans vs Phoenix which I won and put me to 8-3. It was at this point, that a single win would probably put me into top 4 but since that wasn't certain, I simply continued to play my best round after round.
(Note that at this tournament only the Top 4 advance to single elimination rounds)
Next round was against Tron, piloted by Kenji Egishira. He hit turn three Tron both games we played and my disruption didn't hold. 8-4
Round thirteen I played Pascal Maynard for the Humans mirror. Besides the play I mentioned earlier, nothing interesting happened, good curves were had by both players in games one and two and in game three I drew a plethora of lands. 8-5
Now before the final round of swiss, I started realizing I was probably in contention for the Top 4 and I was already nervous. I avoided looking at standings, I avoided my fellow players. That was until I came back from the bathroom and Marcio passed me while telling me that I was in the Top 4 if I won my upcoming match.
This had my nerves crash down on me. I was shaking and couldn't focus anymore. I believe I didn't commit too many misplays in the last round but I'm certain of two: one gameplay error (playing a second vial into my opponent threatening to Emrakul me turn three) and a kept hand that didn't have enough disruption.
So my last opponent was on Ilharg, the Raze-Boar with Griselbrand, Through the Breach, Goryos Vengeance and Generator Servant. Once again there were no great plays or outstanding moments, my opponent combo'd early in games one and three and didn't do so game two.
Final standings arrived.
8-6; 5th place.
The thing I fear most at tournaments happened again. Doing well up until the point where you're so close that you start getting your hopes up. And then crashing.
If someone offered me to place 5th in this tournament before, I would've agreed instantly.
But losing three Modern matches in a row, each worth ~10.000$ in equity if I win a single one, is pretty devastating. I started questioning my plays, I started being frustrated at being unlucky (though deep down I knew how lucky I had already gotten, getting this far in the first place).
It was not a great evening. It was also not a great morning after, but it started to dawn on me: "I finished 5th in what's one of the toughest tournaments you can play in Magic."
Objectively this is an incredible achievement. Incredible doesn't even do it justice, getting to the tournament itself is absurd, finishing 5th is absolutely mad.
And that's what I want to leave you with. For you reading this article, it's incredibly easy to see that finishing 5th is great and I simply got slightly unlucky during the last three rounds of swiss. For me, fully getting to the point of accepting it and being proud of my finish took much, much longer.
So the next time you lose five matches in a row, or get mana screwed, just imagine someone else writing an article about it and think to yourself:
"Objectively, in the big picture of everything: was the author of that article that unlucky? Or was it an average situation of Magic?" Because, in the end, losing three straight rounds is something that has happened to everyone at some point.
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