Three Magic Players Walk into a Bar - KCI At PT25A

After PT 25th Anniversary, it's come time to tell you about the journey of three fierce warriors, set out to conquer the lands of Standard, Modern, and Legacy. Join me for some storytelling about the tournament and how I came to pick KCI as my pick for the Modern portion of the event.

Three Players, One Pro Tour Entry

Thoralf Group Picture
A Physicist, Engineer, and Mathematician Top 4 a GP (All rights to this image are owned and copyrighted by Wizards of the Coast LLC.)

People who go into a bar, at least from a joke's point of view, must be distinguishable from one another because something is going to happen based on the characters differences; a mathematician, physicist, and engineer as an example. In jokes involving those three, the punchline is usually going to concern the mathematician – something I can personally confirm, as I'm a mathematician and do a lot of silly things. While playing a Pro TOur is no joke, playing with your friends is fun and full of joy. And with that, it's time to meet our heroes:

The Physicist of Standard (among other things): Arne Huschenbeth

An Engineer in Legacy: Jasper Grimmer

A Modern Mathematician: Yours Truly

This configuration was practically a given from the start. Jasper has played Legacy since the beginning of time, pretty much, and Arne has a whopping 65% win-rate at professional standard events, placing him 27th in the mtgeloproject worldwide. That leaves me with modern. I was, needless to say, very happy with my team. We had played some events before, ultimately qualifying through GP Amsterdam Top 4, and all of them were enjoyable and, for the most part, successful.

While we do play the same game of Magic, our approaches to attacking a format could not be more different.

Arne, the physicist, mainly starts with a deck and measures it though playing a lot of leagues. If he gets positive results, he'll run it again and if he gets bad results, he changes cards right away. It is not that he doesn't think about which cards should go in right off, but more about trying educated guesses. I think this is one of the main reasons he's so impressive in Standard, because Standard is about recurring board states, as the card pool and deck pool are generally much smaller than Legacy and Modern. By playing a lot, he gets to know all of those situations while also trying out a lot of different cards.

Jasper, the engineer, is more about making a distinct plan and executing it precisely. His deep knowledge of what already works and how to build a functioning legacy deck is key to such an open and unpredictable format. Jasper was one of few legacy players happy with the banning of Deathrite Shaman. He played a lot before Deathrite Shaman was printed and his experience ended up putting him ahead of the competition, since he remembered the, as he would put it, "good old days."

I, the mathematician, am more about the theory. I enjoy thinking of cards and solutions, building decks and interaction in my head and evaluating every single possibility, even through rather complex situations. That leads to a bit of the problem, that I don't enjoy endlessly testing a deck but the highest cash out in Pro Tour history provided ample motivation for me.

The Deck

So, we all started to explore the various formats and here is the one major issue I had with this pro tour: there was no real incentive to talk with your teammates about your format. Players probably end up playing the format they are most experienced in, and if not, they will reach proficiency quickly through testing. Since the other players need to play their format, they can't offer in-depth help unless they also happen to be very experienced in that format. That should only be true for a hand full of teams.

Solitary Confinement

As a result of this, I wasn't really interacting with Jasper or Arne except for some minor theory crafting. That also means I couldn't influence what they were playing, since they just knew way more about their format than I did. In the end, I had to trust that they were doing everything they could to prepare and that they would pick a good deck for the event. Nevertheless, I was fine with that.

My deck choice was not super complicated. I had experimented with an artifact deck at the end of last year for a team GP, but the deck did not bear any fruit. It was using the Interaction between Claws of Gix and Induced Amnesia to draw a lot of cards and ultimately killed your opponent by decking. It was, let's say, underwhelming:

But watching Matt Nass win tournaments left-and-right with Krark-Clan Ironworks (shortened to KCI) made my heart jump. I am a big fan of combo decks and this one seemed particularly strong.

KCI - Matt Nass - GP Las Vegas 2018

I was starting with reading the Loius Deltour article on reddit, where he shared his experience after making the finals of GP Barcelona. Other than the nice article, he also included an extensive sideboard guide with additional notes for all matchups. This helped a lot and I was very thankful for that.

Krark-Clan Ironworks Myr Retriever Scrap Trawler

Getting into the deck was not particularly hard, since I had a lot of experience with various "egg"-decks from previous Modern formats and German Highlander. The only minor issue I ran into was playing the deck on MTGO, since the combo requires a lot of repetition. That works perfectly fine in real life magic tournaments, but it takes a while to go through them online when people make you play it out. But I learned to move quickly and it wasn't an issue after a few games.

My overall win percentage online was around 60%, which I was pretty happy with. It became very obvious that the strength of the deck comes from winning the first game about 68% of the time. The main deck is just absurd and I wouldn't be surprised if it was close to perfect. The only improvement I made was changing out two copies of Aether Hub for Glimmervoid. I never lost a Glimmervoid to having no artifacts, but I did frequently need more energy counters to produce colored mana, especially after sideboarding.

Aether Hub Glimmervoid

It's so beautiful that your win condition is drawing cards, making mana, and also killing annoying creatures at the same time. Technically, it would be possible to remove a Pyrite Spellbomb since you only need one to kill your opponent and it is very unlikely that it gets removed pre-board, but that would mean you need an additional copy in the sideboard (or a different win condition), since a lot of the decks bring in graveyard removal and you can't afford to lose all of your win conditions.

Given all this, I was confident with the deck. But I also thought that there is amazing potential in the sideboard. If I could find anything that gives us a better plan against the four horsemen of KCI - Leyline of the Void, Rest in Peace, Stony Silence and Damping Sphere - it would break the format. I was burning with energy. I looked through all cards in Modern that were enchantments with an artifact theme, creatures with artifact support or just all the other artifacts. Just something, that gives me more game than hoping to draw exactly the right amount of Nature's Claim.

Sai, Master Thopterist The Antiquities War

Like a lot of the people at the Pro Tour, I tested Sai, Master Thopterist and Antiquities War and I came to the conclusion that they weren't good enough. Both cards were nice on paper but didn't play out significantly better than before. Sai was amazing on the battlefield, but it was a struggle to get him there. He either got discarded from my starting hand or showed up too late since Ancient Stirrings can't grab him. I was keeping my artifacts in case of drawing him, but then he was still sometimes not good enough. It is true that he could be very oppressive. Turning your artifacts into cards against all the hate options was sweet, but that didn't always solve the problem. Sometimes Sai was very helpful for going into the combo because he generated an extra two mana per artifact, but the problem of comboing off is mostly due to the number of cards, not the amount of mana.

I was trying to talk to some people, but they didn't want to play KCI at the pro tour, so I had nobody to really share ideas with. I am pretty confident that there is a solution - I just didn't find it.

Lightning Bolt Abrade

All of that made me basically run the same list. I did turn one Lightning Bolt into an Abrade because the one mana was worth the option of destroying an artifact and it might be correct to add a second Abrade. More often than not, it is not very important to save one mana, but this gives more flexibility against Damping Sphere and other artifact centric decks, where we wouldn't board lightning bolt.

KCI - Thoralf "Toffel" Severin - PT 25A

The Tournament

Goblin Chainwhirler Stoneforge Mystic

In the end, my "black box"-teammates chose B/R Chainwhirler for standard and blue-white Stoneblade for legacy, and I unfortunately can't really tell how they got there. But I can tell you that Arne made yet another impressive GP top 8 in standard last weekend with the deck he said he should have chosen: Esper Control.

The tournament did not really feel like a team tournament. I basically played all by myself, since none of them knew as much as I did about the deck. In the case I finished before Arne, I tried to help him. After that, I usually left the tables when Jasper was still playing, since I have absolutely no clue about Legacy and my interaction would probably do more harm than good. Arne is also quite experienced in legacy, so I had full confidence in the both of them.

We finished day one with a rather disappointing 3-4 (after starting 3-1) but managed to fight into an amazing 51th place with 8-6 for 1.000 dollars each. I personally played 10-4, winning 12 of 14 game ones.

The Aftermath

True Believer

There is a high chance, that I am playing KCI at GP Prague. I will still try to break the sideboard and if you consider yourself a KCI-aficionado, you can tweet me @ToffelMTG and we can go from there.

I personally think that KCI is the best deck and also not as hard to play as people think it is. It does take a little bit of practice, specifically getting to know the handful of board states that allow you to loop, but those can be taught in a few minutes. My best advice would be to just go for it when you aren't sure what to do. Usually the situation does not improve when they have access to more cards and more mana.

I hope you enjoyed this little journey and, as always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free and write them in the section below.


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

1 Comment

Andifeated(2018-08-21 13:37)

That top 8 picture of your team is so great!
Good read on that article, keep your entertaining yet informative writing style. :)

See you in Prague, i guess?