Hi guys! Initially, I was not going to be able to attend the Lille GP since Bal only wanted to fit four people in his car but some swift negotiations changed that and secured me a seat. I travelled with Bal Samra, Manveer Samra, Ian Benett and mtgUK writer Ben Heath in the Micra mentioned in Ben’s report.
I had been feeling really rough for a week and exclaimed I would not be going if we hadn’t already booked the hotel. The journey was fairly uneventful and initially, I did the driving. On the ferry we took the opportunity to do some play testing and Ben explained his deck to me. He was running a weird blue black zombie Delver aggro-control type deck without Phantasmal Image. The first game we had I made a T3 Geralf’s Messenger and copied it twice on T4. Ben scooped and promptly added 3 Images to his deck.
We arrived in Lille about 3.30AM on Saturday and had about 3 hours sleep before the tournament. We went to the venue feeling tired and I kept coughing. Fortunately, we all had at least one bye so we went for some breakfast after which I felt much better. This may have been due to washing breakfast down with a bottle of Hoegaarden since it was cheaper than the water (?!?!).
I had decided to play Zombies some time before and took a work in progress version to Game day. I only lost 1 game all day which was in the final. This solidified my decision to play zombies.
The list I chose to play is as follows:
4 Diregraf Ghoul
2 Fume Spitter
4 Phantasmal Image
4 Geralf’s Messenger
4 Diregraf Captain
2 Phyrexian Obliterator
4 Tragic Slip
4 Geth’s Verdict
3 Mortar Pod
2 Liliana of the Veil
1 Sword of War and Peace
4 Darkslick Shores
I will go into further details about my deck in my next article so you guys will have more testing information for your upcoming qualifiers.
The Swiss – Day 1
Round 1 – Mr Bye
Game 1 – I played against mono black Zombies and won the die roll. I had a fast start and overran my opponent.
Game 2 – I thought I was going to win and had a definite advantage, then on T5, my opponent cast a Sword of Feast and Famine, equipped a guy and smashed me, after untapping he then cast a Phyrexian Obliterator. I had no removal and lost in two turns.
Game 3 – This game was really tight and I was down to 3 life. When my opponent passed the turn to me, I said ‘I think your dead’ since he was on 5 life and I had a Geralf’s Messenger, Mortar pod and a Gravecrawler in the bin with about 6 mana and he had tapped out.
Initially, I checked the life totals to ensure I was correct, I realised I could only deal 4 damage even though I had a Diregraf Captain in hand. I had a million ways of dealing 4 but not 5. This was strange because I was sure I could kill him. I played the captain, and reanimated the Gravecrawler, my opponent had no cards in hand and would lose on my next turn unless he drew a removal spell for my captain (in which case he would win). I passed the turn then re-read the life totals, cursing my messy hand writing I realised my opponent was on 4 life and not 5 after all, which I must have known at the end of his turn, and confused myself. Fortunately he didn’t draw removal and scooped after we had clarified he was on 4 life. I now wished I had not had that pint at breakfast!
Game 1 – We shuffled up and I lost the die roll, however, the game never took place because we were deck checked. My opponent mentioned something to do with proxies in his sideboard and that he was going to borrow the real cards later, with the language etc. It was difficult to decipher if my interpretation was correct and exactly what he was worried about. The decks came back and he got a game loss to do with miss registering his deck, I think he altered the amount of 2 sideboard cards and didn’t change it in the list.
Game 2 – I mulliganed to 6 and my opponent kept. He missed his T3 land drop and I overran him.
I was quite surprised to find myself in the feature match area playing against Tomas Sukaitis from Lithuania who resides in the UK. He was playing RG aggro.
Game 1 – I won the die roll and won pretty quickly. During sideboarding I let slip that I knew about the secret tech against Phyrexian Obliterator (Wrack with Madness). I thought it might create a little doubt in his mind as to whether he would board them in. I boarded my Obliterators out for G2 anyway. Tomas correctly did board the Wrack with Madness in, the downside is massive if I keep the Obliterators and he does not board them in, and the card still kills all my guys (albeit at 4 mana sorcery speed).
Game 2 – I got stomped all over by Huntsmaster of the Fellss and Swords.
Game 3 – I actually boarded 1 Obliterator back in which may have been a mistake but I never drew it. I came out pretty fast and Tomas had a slow start. Hence, I won which prompted Tomas to state he would have won, had he been on the play, he then revealed a Batterskull. However, I had a Geth’s Verdict in hand (his side of the board was empty) so I believe I would have won even on the draw.
I played against Satyam Schramm of Germany, he was playing Delver. He was another very friendly guy who had visited relatives in London several times and had perfect English. I can’t really remember the 2 games but things were pretty one sided in both of them.
Game 1 – I won the die roll and started with a T1 Gravecrawler, my opponent let out a sigh stating that Zombies was his worst match up (I would not agree with this and feel he has plenty of game). I can’t remember much of the game other than I won but we had about 4 judge calls throughout the match. I can’t remember what the first judge call was for, but I know it was a simple rules check, probably to do with Image and undying.
Game 2 – My opponent took out his notes for some time before sideboarding, he won this game quite easily, I never had much pressure and he blasted out early Titans turn after turn. He went to refer to the notes during the round (I was in a losing position and so was very conscious of the time) and I stopped him saying I didn’t think it was allowed during a match (again I was concerned with the time element). He put his notes down and we clarified the situation after the game with a judge, who stated that he COULD NOT look at the notes during the match, only during sideboarding.
Game 3 – I had a good start and got some Messenger beats in. He was on low life so I equipped a Messenger with Mortar Pod and shot him. After, I used a Fumespitter to remove the counter (ensuring I would have a board presence if he had a Slagstorm), this caused another judge call to take place since my opponent did not believe it would come back again with undying. The judge ruled that it would come back and the Head Judge was called. He then ruled that my Messenger should go to the graveyard!! At this point I realised there must be some misunderstanding and went over exactly what had happened with the Head Judge, stating the Messenger was never dying and I was simply removing the counter. This got the point across and the ruling went in my favour. This meant there was basically nothing my opponent could do to stop me from winning and he drew his card and scooped.
He was actually a decent guy and he was cheering me along on day 2.
Game 1 – He mulled to 5 but played T1 Doomed Traveller, T2 Doomed Traveller, T3 Mirran Crusader. I had a Mortar Pod on the table and 2 Geths Verdict in hand. Fortunately, Mateusz had no follow up play (since he mulled to 5) and drew land. This gave me enough time to shoot the Travellers and the tokens before casting both Verdicts to kill the last token and the Crusader. I had to shoot one token with a Doregraf Ghoul and another with a Messenger, but it was enough and without the Crusader the game ended.
Game 2 – He made a T1 Traveller, made a t2 play (think it was Honor of the Pure) and a Crusader on T3, the game was one sided and I died quickly.
Game 3– I kept a fast hand with Liliana and Geralf’s Messenger. He mulled to six and never cast a Crusader, consequently the game ended quickly.
This round I was paired against Ben Heath who was now running Phantasmal Image in his deck. I was unsure how things would go since he had plenty of card draw and Snapcaster Mages. You can read Bens report here.
Game 2 – Ben had a good start and I was never really in the match.
Game 3 – Ben mulliganed to 5 so I was feeling confident. However, Ben had a decent start and I drew a mixture of Swamps and blue cards. Ben could have won but made a slight error and I managed to get there with 2 Phantasmal Images and a Diregraf Captain stuck in my hand with no blue on the table.
Game 2 – Robe did not cast much this game, and had a deja vu experience when he flooded.
I had made day 2 I was pleased with my performance on Day 1 and was aware that I had the worst tie breakers off all the undefeated players since I only had 1 bye. I felt apprehensive since this was the second time I had gone x-0 on day 1 of a GP and last time I just made the top 64 with a 2-4 record on day 2. I did go out then and had more than a few drinks. This time, I had been sensible and got to bed by about 1AM.
The Swiss – Day 2
I was paired against Bas Vlaanderen of the Netherlands. He was running a GW deck with Mirran Crusader. He was also an incredibly nice and genuine guy. He was enjoying being in the feature match area and had lived in the UK for several years.
Game 1 – I shot his Birds of Paradise and copied his Blade Splicer. The following turn, I copied his Blade Splicer again and killed his in the middle of combat when our golems blocked each other. This gave me 2 golems to his 0 since mine still had first strike. He never managed to recover.
Game 2 – He cast a Mirran Crusader but I forced him to sacrifice it with a Geth’s Verdict. Later, he went to put an Angelic Destiny on his only creature and I had another Verdict, this was backbreaking and I won soon after.
Game 1 – I won the die roll and had a decent start. I was unsure how this was going to play out since he can generate plenty of card advantage and has a decent clock. The game was carnage but I was left with a strong board presence thanks to Messenger and Gravecrawler. I thought I had the game in the bag but Baart revealed after that an Inferno Titan would have won the game for him, fortunately he never drew it.
Game 2 – This game was really difficult, he cast an early Fiend Hunter removing a Gravecrawler. This was later copied by an undying Phyrexian Metamorph to remove a Diregraf Ghoul. He was unable to attack me since he only had the Fiend Hhunters (I had another Gravecrawler) and I had dealt some damage to him with Mortar Pod and a few early beats.
On T7 he cast a Wurmcoil Engine and confidently passed the turn back. I had flooded as well and had 6 land on t6. Fortunately, I was able to shoot his fiend hunter with a Gravecrawler on a Mortar Pod, reanimate said Gravecrawler, equip and shoot his fiend hunter with 6 mana to kill it. This returned my Diregraf Ghoul, that could be equipped to the Mortar Pod next turn to block his Wurmcoil and prevent him gaining life. I then played my 7th land and a Fumespitter and passed the turn. He attacked with the Wurmcoil which got blocked by the Fumespitter, I then removed the counter from his Metamorphed Fiend Hunter. On my turn I drew a Phantasmal Image and copied his Metamorphed Fiend Hunter to remove his Wurmcoil . Then next turn, I drew another Image to remove his Metamorph and attack, this, combined with the Mortar Pod and 8 mana killed him pretty quickly.
I was paired against Mates Vantuch of the Czech Republic who had an early draw day 1 but was still undefeated. He was playing Delver of Secrets.
Game 1 – This game was uneventful, I made a board presence and he made equipment then I used Mortar Pod/Geth’s Verdict to ensure he couldn’t get anything to stick.
Game 2 – He got a Sword onto an Invisible Stalker by turn 4 and smashed me.
Game 3 – I don’t remember much of this game but assume I ran him over.
I played against Grzegorz Kowalski of Poland who was running Wolf Run Ramp. The match was featured by Frank Karsten and is on the Lille Day 2 coverage. Feature Match Report here.
Game 1 – I won the die roll and had curved out, shooting his Bird on T2 and playing another 1 drop. He cast a Huntmaster of the Fells but I had the removal and won shortly after.
Game 2 – He got stuck on 2 land and the game was very 1 sided.
Kristof Benaets of Belgium playing RG aggro. He asks me to ID and I agree not wishing to dream crush.
Jonas Kostler of Germany playing RG aggro. Again I am asked to ID and do.
The Top 8
With the top 8 looming I felt quite anxious. In the past I would now be qualified for Barcelona, unfortunately, only the top 4 qualify now which seems pretty outrageous, I firmly believe at least the top 8 should qualify. It had been a gruelling 2 days and it seems unfair that half the top 8 would not get a ticket.
Up until now I had not been on the bubble or had a critical match all weekend, that had been massively beneficial because the pressure had been off me to a large extent. I spoke to Rich Hagon and explained that I felt like I was due for a double mull to 5. He told me I was undefeated and in the best position, and that what I had said was nonsense. This was helpful and allowed me to regain focus.
I am not going to go into any great detail about the top 8 matches since they can all be viewed on Wizards coverage here.
I was feeling the pressure but aware that I had previously beaten my opponent 2-0 in round 14 of the swiss, so however I was feeling it must have been worse for him. This settled me!
Game 1 went well and we went to game 2 which I felt I was winning despite making a few subtle errors. Then I copied his Ravager of the Fells instead of my Obliterator or Messenger thinking I would deal him 2 and shoot a creature. I knew once I had declared it that I had made an error since its only the front that says when it comes into play or transforms. I have never played using Huntsmaster and assumed both sides read the same.
After this error I went on tilt and eventually lost the game. He had a decent draw but I felt my deck had provided me with the tools to win and I made a few bad choices. Fortunately, I regained my composure for G3 and won.
I was paired against Krisof Benaets again and was pleased I chose to ID with him. The pressure was off both of us now since we had qualified and I certainly felt like anything else was a bonus although I obviously hoped I could win. I won both games pretty quickly and he was extremely gracious about losing, telling me I deserved to win.
I knew my opponent Simon Diaz was running Delver which gave me confidence and by this point I dared to believe I could actually win the GP. The games were both over pretty quickly and went to plan but he did not seem too disappointed with his loss. I think he felt resigned to losing before we rolled to see who would go first.
That night we went to a great pub that brewed beer on the premises and served it by the Litre. Here we also ran into Grant and the Scottish guys who also had the same idea. Quite a large group of us stayed out late and a kind French member of the group walked us back the 3 miles to our hotel since we left the car at the venue.
In the morning we had to walk back to the car (some 3 miles) with almost no sleep and an awful hangover. Unfortunately, there was a freak snowstorm which meant we were walking in about 10cm of snow, in blizzard conditions, Ben was wearing only a jumper which was still wet from the rain the night before. My cold had not improved (I wonder why!) and I loaded up on antibiotics when I got back to England.
Overall, the experience was amazing and I am looking forward to playing in Barcelona. The deck feels extremely powerful with undercosted cards like Phyrexian Obliterator and Geralf’s Messenger. Phantasmal Image allows the deck to win in situations where it has no right to win, VS Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite for example.
In my next article, I will be doing a Deck Tech and play guide on this deck so keep an eye out for it.
I look forward to playing you at the upcoming qualifiers.