Looking Back the Last Year
In this article I will take a look at my defining moments of the year 2018 in Magic. I will go over the mistakes, the heartbreakers, the fun moments and the lessons I learned. I hope you can learn from (or at the very least laugh about) the things I experienced along the way. Honestly I am excited myself to write this piece and I have no idea how this will go, bear with me!
Grand Prix London 2018 (RIX Limited)
2018 started with me being qualified for Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan via a 11-5 finish at the prior PT. Additionally I have not used my Silver Level Invite for the season, which meant I was for sure qualified for 2 Pro Tours in 2018. My goal was to reach Gold Status and most importantly get Hareruya’s attention and lure them into a sponsoring contract with me!
Let’s start in January. GP London, a week prior to the PT. I lost my “Win and In” for Day 2 and I lost the match for the PTQ Top 8 receiving 200 price tickets for my efforts in total (ChannelFireball.com acted accordingly and fixed the price payout after a wave of complaints). Overall not the greatest tournament for me.
In the evening me and my friends went to a nice looking Chinese restaurant, but I didn’t like the food much. To make things worse I lost the credit card game and had to pay for the whole dinner. Our flight to Bilbao, the PT location, was early next morning departing from London Heathrow, we went to bed early planning to take a cab at 4:00 in the morning to Heathrow.
Unfortunately instead of getting some rest, I was feeling really, really sick all night – food poisoning. Great. The cab ride in the morning was definitely the most physically painful experiences of 2018 for me, trying to keep everything in for an hour might have been my proudest accomplishment to date. We were also running late cause of traffic. In the end we narrowly caught the flight by literally one minute, what an experience that was.
I got well quickly in one of the most beautiful Airbnbs I have stayed in so far. It was a nice house at a hill with a view over the surrounding areas. And our host was extremely kind and helpful, ordering Cabs left and right for us non-spanish speakers. We were twelve Germans staying there, we made barbeque once (The German National Champion Philipp Krieger was a great cook) and we had a great time together.
Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan (Modern / RIX Draft)
Coming up next the Pro Tour, most of us decided to play Mono-Green-Tron with four 《Walking Ballista》 in the main deck. 《Walking Ballista》 is such a key card for Tron. An endgame finisher and a cheap interactive card in one. Flexibility is King.
4 《Urza's Tower》
4 《Urza's Power Plant》
4 《Urza's Mine》
1 《Sanctum of Ugin》
1 《Ghost Quarter》
-Land (19)- 4 《Walking Ballista》
2 《Wurmcoil Engine》
1 《World Breaker》
2 《Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger》
4 《Sylvan Scrying》
4 《Chromatic Sphere》
4 《Chromatic Star》
4 《Expedition Map》
4 《Oblivion Stone》
4 《Karn Liberated》
2 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》
Unfortunately I got a flu the Thursday before the PT, so I was drafting and playing with extreme headaches and was in pain. You will see, me being sick is a repeating storyline. I managed to 4-4 after a 4-1 start. I honestly was contemplating not playing the next day because I felt so poor and defeated. Eventually the next day came around and I was feeling slightly better equipped with a bunch of fruits and tea I somehow thought myself to 9-4-1.
One funny story is, that I drew a match even though we finished three games in time. How come? 《Karn Liberated》 Ultimate vs UW Control. Lee Shi Tian and I played extremely fast even Shota Yasooka would have been proud of us, but we just couldn’t get the fourth game done in time.
In the end I finished 10-5-1, one draw away from requalifying for the PT. Kinda sad you might think? But in the moment I was the happiest person ever (and also the most exhausted). Going 6-1-1 on Day 2 despite the flu. I couldn’t believe it. It doesn’t matter, How sick you might be, always try to find a solution, treat yourself with things that make you feel better and that help to minimize the effects of the illness. Ibuprofen is a great medicine to have with you for tournaments.
Seeing Gerry Thompson and Luis Salvatto in the finals the next day lightheartedly joking around as if nothing was on the line was also a beautiful moment I will remember.
Grand Prix Madrid 2018 (Team Constructed)
Next stop, my biggest defeat in terms of Magic. I was emotionally in pain even days after.
GP Madrid, Team Constructed. The typical Berlin Trio which established itself over the last year played their first event together. Also three great friends. Jasper Grimmer, Thoralf “Toffel” Severin and me. Jasper, being a Legacy player at heart, took the legacy seat. I went and grabbed my favorite format, Standard. And Toffel was happy “Karning” people in Modern. I had a cold yet again, surprising right?
We crushed and found ourselves playing a “Win and In” in Round 14. Jasper lost, Toffel won. So it all came down to me. (The match was recorded, you can watch it here) I was up a game against Sultai Constrictor. My opponent got me down to 1 via a 《Carnage Tyrant》. It was well beyond turn 20. We had only a few minutes left on the clock. Instead of calming myself down, reminding myself that I am up a game and I can take my time to think things through I played way too quickly. I wasn’t focused, I was playing on Auto-Pilot. I made a ton of mistakes and on the crucial turn when I finally managed to kill the 《Carnage Tyrant》 via multi-blocking it, my opponent cast a 《Bristling Hydra》 postcombat with two mana left open.
I was thinking that I had to win in time, chose to use my 3 open mana and counter it. My opponent put a 《Walking Ballista》 X=1 on the stack and ended the tournament for both of us. No time left to finish game 3. We drew ourselves out. I could have won the match in many different ways. I made a ton of mistakes. I let my teammates down. I was exhausted, sick and in tears. I couldn’t sleep well for a few days. My goal was to get these guys on the train, this was our tournament, our spot to do so. Our dream was to play together the Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. I felt defeated, ashamed and guilty.
After a match there is a winner and a learner, no loser. This is quite important. You learn the most from your biggest mistakes. Analyze what went wrong, talk to your peers, get advice and find solutions to prevent the mistakes from happening again. In my case it was fairly simple – Focus. Keep the autopilot in check via reminding yourself and taking a step back from the game. Re-focus. Check your gameplan. Beating yourself up doesn’t help much. I was beating myself up way too hard. My teammates were understanding, not complaining at all and appreciated me for who I am. This helped me a lot to get through this. I couldn’t ask for better friends.
The other big thing. I had to learn to take care of my body and my health. I was getting sick way too often. It was interfering with my performance at the table. Nowadays I am rarely sick. Changing my diet and eating fruits, as well as drinking more tea can help wonders. Also going outside (sunlight) and working out keeps things in check. There are obviously many benefits from doing these things, you are killing two birds with one stone.
I was staying at home grinding Magic Online mostly and didn’t care or know much about my health. I had to learn it the “hard” way, but I am happy that I learned it.
Grand Prix Amsterdam 2018 (Team Constructed)
Back to Magic. The next Team GP was in Amsterdam a few weeks after Madrid. Redemption time. By the way, I love Amsterdam. One of the most beautiful cities in Europe, if you ever get the chance to visit the city, do so! After a 7-1 Day 1 we found ourselves being able to draw into Top 4 on Day 2. We did it!
The joy was endless. I was immensely relieved, especially because it was short after the heartbreaking Madrid experience. We made a quick exit in the semifinals, but honestly we didn’t care, we reached our goal of getting together to the Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. What a roller coaster of events.
Grand Prix Amsterdam 2018 (Team Limited)
A few tournaments later, I was finding myself next to Daniel Graefensteiner and Sascha Schwarz in a Team Limited GP in Washington DC at 9-2 facing off against the famous Peach Garden Oath. We got destroyed, but I at least have a funny memory of Owen Turtenwald looking at me with disbelieve after I ask him straight-faced “Owen, are you qualified for the Pro Tour next week?”. Trolling the best in the world. Check.
Jokes aside, we won the next round after that and then being at 10-3, I was one win away from locking up 29 Pro points, which would basically lock Gold with the 6 additional points from the upcoming Pro Tours. We are paired against local players. Sascha’s opponent starts off strong via playing a 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》 on his fifth turn. After Sascha dealt with it using most of his resources, his opponent casually played a second copy. Ouch, unsurprisingly we lost. It was still a fun ride with Daniel and Sash.
Pro Tour Dominaria (Standard / Dominaria Draft)
A weekend after, the Pro Tour Dominaria in Richmond. Yet again, the “German gang” was having a great time in a comfortable house just outside of Richmond. We decided to play Mono-Red to get ahead against the Monster in the room, RB Aggro.
-Land (23)- 4 《Bomat Courier》
4 《Soul-Scar Mage》
4 《Earthshaker Khenra》
3 《Kari Zev, Skyship Raider》
4 《Goblin Chainwhirler》
3 《Ahn-Crop Crasher》
4 《Hazoret the Fervent》
Most of us went 6-4 in Constructed, my fellow Hareruya Pros Christian Hauck lost playing for Platinum unfortunately. I went 9-7 and got my one missing pro point to lock up Gold. It was weird to have such a medium tournament, but still be able to celebrate. I reached my first goal! Nonetheless I was unhappy with my testing process and my play at the PT. I didn’t put enough time into Drafting Dominaria and I also learned that I have to put the repetition in even with a deck like Mono-Red.
A year before I 10-0d Pro Tour Hour of Devastation in Kyoto with Mono-Red without testing the deck much. I was over confident in my ability to play red decks, I am a control player at heart, if you give me any control deck, I probably play it very well right away. The lesson I took was that I had to prepare more by just jamming leagues on Magic Online with a deck. I also believed after the tournament that BR Aggro was the better choice then Mono-Red, because it just had much better game against the various non-red deck then Mono-Red.
Pro Tour 25th Anniversary (Team Constructed)
Next up the biggest tournament of the year. Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. Huge price pool. Team tournament. And the best thing, the format is Constructed Trio, no Limited at all. Having the option to play the best deck in each seat is such a huge difference to a single player tournament.
I, again on the Standard seat, played a bunch of different Standard decks. In the end it came down to UW Gift, UB Midrange and BR Aggro. I decided to just go with the best deck, BR Aggro. My teammates Toffel and Jasper played 《Krark-Clan Ironworks》 (KCI) in Modern and UW Stoneblade in Legacy. Two great decks in their given formats. Jasper, a Legacy aficionado, was quite happy about the 《Deathrite Shaman》 ban a few weeks prior, so he could play with his trusty Stoneblade deck again.
4 《Canyon Slough》
4 《Dragonskull Summit》
2 《Aether Hub》
-Land (25)- 3 《Bomat Courier》
3 《Soul-Scar Mage》
4 《Scrapheap Scrounger》
2 《Kari Zev, Skyship Raider》
4 《Goblin Chainwhirler》
2 《Pia Nalaar》
3 《Rekindling Phoenix》
3 《Hazoret the Fervent》
3 《Unlicensed Disintegration》
2 《Cut // Ribbons》
2 《Heart of Kiran》
2 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》
4 《Grove of the Burnwillows》
4 《Darksteel Citadel》
3 《Buried Ruin》
3 《Inventors' Fair》
-Land (18)- 2 《Myr Retriever》
4 《Scrap Trawler》
4 《Mox Opal》
3 《Engineered Explosives》
4 《Chromatic Star》
3 《Chromatic Sphere》
2 《Pyrite Spellbomb》
4 《Mind Stone》
4 《Ichor Wellspring》
4 《Krark-Clan Ironworks》
3 《Volcanic Island》
4 《Flooded Strand》
3 《Scalding Tarn》
2 《Arid Mesa》
-Land (22)- 4 《Stoneforge Mystic》
3 《Snapcaster Mage》
3 《True-Name Nemesis》
1 《Vendilion Clique》
2 《Spell Snare》
1 《Spell Pierce》
1 《Council's Judgment》
4 《Force of Will》
1 《Engineered Explosives》
1 《Umezawa's Jitte》
2 《Jace, the Mind Sculptor》
1 《Gideon, Ally of Zendikar》
We went 3-4 on Day 1 with my individual record being 1-6. Ouch. That was tough to swallow. Did I let my teammates down again? I underestimated the BR Mirror. Everyone was prepared and when everyone is prepared for the Mirror, it’s super hard to get an edge. My list probably wasn’t optimal either and I wasn’t having my luckiest day. Next day went a bit better, I went 4-3 and we sneaked into the Top 64 with an 8-6 record. Definitely not what I had hoped for before the tournament. I was disappointed in myself and felt like a wasted a great opportunity. I beat myself up about my 5-9 record and tried to figure out what went wrong.
I couldn’t find a deck that consistently beats BR Aggro in my testing. I didn’t try hard enough, Turbo Fog clearly beats BR Aggro and Control is also ahead against BR. I scratched Control after a few loss-heavy leagues early in my testing, too quickly.
Grand Prix Brussels 2018 (Standard)
The week after the PT was a Standard GP in Brussels. I took Esper Control, a list that Oliver Tiu played at the last PT and instantly fell in love. The deck was fantastic against BR Aggro as well as the rising Monster in the form of Turbo Fog.
4 《Fetid Pools》
4 《Irrigated Farmland》
4 《Drowned Catacomb》
4 《Isolated Chapel》
3 《Glacial Fortress》
2 《Field of Ruin》
-Land (27)- 4 《Torrential Gearhulk》
4 《Essence Scatter》
1 《Cast Down》
1 《Forsake the Worldly》
4 《Vraska's Contempt》
3 《Glimmer of Genius》
1 《Commit // Memory》
2 《Search for Azcanta》
3 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》
Brussels was the smoothest tournament I’ve ever played. 12-1 and then double ID into Top 8. Unfortunately a quick exit in the Top 8. Nonetheless Brussels reignited my spark. I had gotten uncertain about my ability as a Standard player and this result gave me my confidence back. Additionally the tournament was so much fun to play, not only because I won a lot, because I hadn’t played 《Torrential Gearhulk》 in a long time. I got back to my control player roots and got rewarded. Esper Control was the absolute best metagame call for this particular tournament, Jeremy Dezani took the trophy home with the same deck.
2018 World Championship
The next lesson I learned came to me by watching the 2018 World Championship. Seeing my fellow Hareruya Pros Grzegorz Kowalski and Javier Dominguez utterly dominate the tournament made me think about what the difference between those guys and me is. What makes them great? How do I get to that level?
Grzegorz stated that he just plays infinitely, Javier I am sure also puts in a lot of work. That they are both extremely talented is a given. I realized, that if I really want to become the best I can be, I have to put in more time and energy. I already played a lot of Magic compared to other players, but I could still use more of my time to playtest. Put in work and you will reap the rewards. Hard work beats talent. Hard work plus talent is unbeatable.
I want to thank all my friends, especially Leo Cadoux, for supporting me throughout 2018 and I want to thank my Hareruya Overlords for accepting me as their loyal servant.
The Big Lessons I Learned over the Last Year
I hovered around multiple topics in this piece and I didn’t go into detail at each of them. If you want more information on certain things I have spoken about in this article, please ask me in the comments down below and I will try my best to give you a more detailed point of view. I appreciate any feedback and would love to know if you like this “blog-like” content.