Winning the Modern MOCS Playoff
- Jamin Kauf
In a fortunate series of events, Jamin took down a Modern MOCS playoff. In this week's article he talks about his road to the MOCS, his experience in Modern and how he arrived at the deck he played to this impressive finish.
The Magic Online Championship
To set the stage, I quickly want to cover what the MOCS is and how I got where I am. While playing Magic Online you accumulate “Qualifier Points” by winning tournaments. Winning a draft earns you three, 5-0ing a constructed league gives five and so on… After gathering these points you can spend 35 of them and enter a “MOCS monthly”, an eight round swiss event with no playoff rounds. These happen regularly, covering many different formats and finishing 6-2 or better gets you some boosters and an invite to the next “MOCS playoff”, an event where only the top two finishers will get an invitation to the next Pro Tour and also receive one of 24 slots in the Magic Online Championship, a yearly event with huge prizes and complete coverage.
For some months I didn't have too much time to focus on serious Magic tournaments, so I didn't use my qualifier points for quite some time. After a while though, I had a free Saturday during which a Modern MOCS monthly took place for me to play. So I grabbed myself a Humans deck (at the time I took this list from Ondřej Stráský) and started getting into Modern, a format I hadn't played for a fair bit. The deck played smoothly and the sideboard guide Ondřej provided worked wonders in getting me on track to do well.
Saturday came and playing some interesting matches I went 6-2, qualifying for the MOCS playoff on August 11th.
Between the MOCS Monthly and the MOCS Playoff, M19 had come out and with it a very impactful Human had joined the deck: Militia Bugler is a value engine with nice stats to show for it and has quickly become a powerhouse in the Human deck. Given that I knew that Ondřej had played the deck for a while, I took his list from Pro Tour 25th Anniversary and started playing. I liked the main deck as it was but found Dire Fleet Daredevil out of the sideboard a bit lacking as it often didn't have enough impact. I also lost to burn a lot in Leagues so I decided I wanted the two Auriok Champions back, so that was an easy swap.
Another card I wanted for the Humans mirror, with applications in other matchups, was Hostage Taker. Costing four mana makes it too expensive to play in multiples, but replacing a single Sin Collector wasn't that costly since it only shines against U/W control - it's a bit too slow in most other matchups.
So, this is how I ended up on my final list, which looked like this.
|4Ancient Ziggurat||4Champion of the Parish||4Aether Vial|
|4Cavern of Souls||4Kitesail Freebooter|
|4Horizon Canopy||4Mantis Rider|
|1Seachrome Coast||4Noble Hierarch|
|4Unclaimed Territory||4Phantasmal Image|
|3Thalia, Guardian of Thraben|
|2Auriok Champion||1Damping Sphere||1Dismember|
|1Gut Shot||1Hostage Taker||2Izzet Staticaster|
|1Kambal, Consul of Allocation||1Kataki, War's Wage||2Reclamation Sage|
|1Reflector Mage||2Sin Collector|
Anyone who has grinded Magic Online can tell you the story of an average weekend PTQ. Around 200 players enter the event which leads to 8-9 swiss rounds. When your friends ask you if you're free to meet up, you tell them you can't make it and after going 3-2 drop you join them anyways.
The playoff started the same way for me. The event had 191 players, resulting in eight rounds of swiss, followed by a top 8. My first opponent was on KCI, which I like to play against with Humans as they don't have a lot of removal for Meddling Mage and Kitesail Freebooter. Pressuring them while also disrupting their combo has always been a potent recipe against these decks and that stays true nowadays as well. If only there wasn't this one card called Engineered Explosives. The Sunburst card from Fifth Dawn is probably the most important card in the matchup and in game one my opponent drew it the turn they faced down lethal, wiping my board almost completely, giving them an easy win.
Game two was a different story revolving around Sai, Master Thopterist creating lots of chumpers. My opponent bricked two draw steps giving me hope but my clock wasn't fast enough. Once they found their KCI, the game was over and I was left with an 0-1 start. At this point I'm already thinking about what to do with the rest of my day since I'll probably be done within the next two to three hours.
Not this time though. The next few matches flew by because I was pretty relaxed playing them. After round four I realized that I had fought back pretty well and suddenly I found myself at 6-1 facing down Pascal Maynard in a Humans mirror. Game one both of us drew extremely well: Pascal's turn one Aether Vial was followed up by two Champion of the Parish which became three at the end of our turn two. Facing down these huge threats my only chance was racing in the air with Mantis Rider and giving up ground creatures to stay alive barely. This lead to a situation in which Pascal is at five life and I have a Mantis Rider and a Noble Hierarch in play. I was dead next turn to what had become quadruple Champion of the Parish but my deck was packed with lethal outs: Another 3/3 flyer or another Noble Hierarch win, as do Thalia's Lieutenant and Phantasmal Image with Militia Bugler and Horizon Canopy being a redraw. Luckily I got there with my draw step, picking up the two mana clone from M12.
Game two involved another very explosive start with Pascal going Noble Hierarch into Mantis Rider, attacking for four on turn two but ultimately came down to him not picking up enough gas and me stabilizing with Izzet Staticaster taking down the mana dorks and multiple Phantasmal Images. Top 8!!
The Top 8
In the quarterfinals, my opponent was on the play and they started by mulliganing to six, a nice thing to see when so much is on the line. I felt even better when they put a Leyline of Sanctity into play before the game starts as that usually means they're playing Ad Nauseam which is another combo deck where cards like Meddling Mage combined with pressure lead to a favorable matchup.
All this hope was shattered within seconds as my opponent played a Horizon Canopy and paid a green mana for Slippery Bogle. Bogles is a terrible matchup for Humans. You do not interact with their creatures or auras and the second a Daybreak Coronet resolves it's nearly impossible to race them. Game one went down exactly as expected: a turn two enchantment was followed up by the Daybreak Coronet and I conceded rather quickly.
Still having Ondřej's sideboard guide in mind, I remembered him taking out all the Reflector Mages, but I disliked that plan a lot. Winning in Humans vs Bogles usually requires the Bogles deck to do badly on a certain axis. Mulliganing into oblivion, not having a lifelink enchantment or them not having a hexproof creature are our ways to victory and since they do run a playset of Kor Spiritdancer, I decided to board in my last Mage together with a Dismember and the obvious Reclamation Sages.
Game two played right according to plan as my opponent keeps a hand with only the Spiritdancer and I get to bounce it twice while attacking with multiple Champion of the Parish, never giving them a chance to get onto the board.
Alright, game three, here we go! Turn one Slippery Bogle was not a huge surprise, though this time, there was no Daybreak Coronet but only a Spirit Mantle which came down after my Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. In the meantime my hand had shaped up to be very aggressive. Champion of the Parish, multiple Thalia's Lieutenants and Thalia put on pressure and while the opponent blocked using the Spirit Mantle, their life total dropped fast.
That was until they found land number four to put Unflinching Courage onto the Bogle which by now also had other enchantments attached. They passed the turn and it wasn't looking great.
My board looked something like this: a 7/7, a 5/5, a 4/4 and a 4/3 with the opponent on 8 life, a big lifelinker in play and a Dismember rotting in my hand. For a moment, I dreaded what was coming: my attacks weren't great and once their creature would get too big, the game would be over. But then it hit me: if I didn't attack with my 7/7 I could dismember whatever creature they blocked before combat damage and push through the necessary damage without my opponent gaining life in the process.
Realizing this was intense and I cannot believe I was able to beat that miserable matchup in this important spot. “Only one more to go”, I thought to myself while my opponent went to 0 life.
The semifinals are the matches with the highest stakes in the tournament. The winners get to go to the MOCS, if you lose you're stuck with the Magic Online Boosters and M19 sets you receive.
My opponent was on Bant Spirits but besides some interesting interaction between Reflector Mage and Rattlechains giving Spirits flash and me vialing in a Phantasmal Image to copy a Spell Queller there isn't a whole lot to talk about here.
I remember the feeling when the opponent was on one life and Hellbent going into their draw and then me receiving the message “Congrats on top two”. I freaked out, I couldn't believe it. All the pressure that had built up over the past few hours was released, I had done it. It's difficult to describe how it felt, but many Magic players have had similar moments.
The final match was a joke. I couldn't stop laughing and smiling, I didn't care if I won or not. Nothing mattered anymore, yet I still somehow took down the final match against a bad matchup in U/W Control.
This is it. That's the whole story of how I qualified for my first Pro Tour. After years of trying and grinding I now don't only get to fly to Atlanta to compete in Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica, I also get to play the Magic Online Championship in 2019.
The playoff was an incredible tournament for me and yet it's only the start. I hope to see some of you at the Pro Tour, I'll certainly report back here with how it went!
Until then, I'll leave you with a Meddling Mage naming “Victory” in the finals of the Magic Online Championship Playoff.
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