What’s Happened in the World Championship

Grzegorz Kowalski

Grzegorz Kowalski

Hello, dear readers! It’s Grzegorz Kowalski here again!

I’m finally back home, after spending a great week in Vegas, playing Magic World Championship! I’m super happy and proud to stay with Hareruya, and with you guys, for another year!

World Championship

Today, I’d like to recap the World Championship somehow, but I’d also like to teach you something along the way and it’s not easy, given how the format we played in Vegas is pretty much outdated.

So, instead of talking about a stale format, let’s do something different! I chose two of my most interesting – I think – games recorded on Twitch, and I’d like to guide you through them, focusing on my thought process, the decision-making, the reasoning behind some plays and I will point out some mistakes I made.

It is the first time I’m attempting to use this format, so please let me know if you enjoy it, find it any useful, or in general – if you have any other comments or suggestions. You can do that on my Twitter, under the link to this article (I will tweet the link to this article as soon as it gets published).

As a bonus, at the end, I will also share with you my prediction of “Week One Standard” – what I believe will be good, what not so much, and why – so if you have any PPTQs soon, don’t miss that part!

What happens in vegas, stays in vegas

Well, not this time, I guess! For those of you, who missed the coverage, here is what happened – 23 of the best players in the world played for the most important title of the year – the World Champion! You can find more information about the event in general here – and the official coverage here – You can also replay all rounds here on the official Magic Twitch channel

At this point, you probably already know that I managed to finish this extremely stacked tournament on 2nd place! During three days of competition, I only lost four times – three times to the absolutely deserving World Champion – Javier Dominguez, and once to Matt Nass with his Turbo Fog deck. This is, by far, the biggest achievement in my Magic career, and in my life in general!


The Eldest Reborn

My first draft went pretty well. I first picked 《The Eldest Reborn》, and shortly after that I found out that white was open (I got passed 《Pegasus Courser》 on pick 5, which was a clear signal). I was probably the only white drafter on the pod, or at least on my side, so I was able to build an almost Mono-White weenie. I had only three black cards as a small splash – you can see the entire deck here:

Deck result:3-0

Merfolk Trickster

The second draft wasn’t that easy. I opened a bad pack and had to first pick 《Merfolk Trickster》, which is an OK uncommon, but not even close to what you wish to find in your first pack.

Tempest DjinnEviscerate

Now, the second pick was definitely the most important one in the entire draft. I was torn between 《Tempest Djinn》 and 《Eviscerate》. It might seem that drafting a (U)(U)(U) card after a (U)(U) one is a good idea, but I believe it’s a trap – you really don’t want to commit this early to any color.

In the draft, especially in a format as deep as Dominaria, your goal is to find open colors and draft them! Choosing the black removal allowed me to remain open. In the end, I drafted BG midrange and didn’t play blue at all. Meanwhile, picking 《Djinn》 would have pushed me further towards blue, and I could have ended up with many sub optimal picks, and the resulting deck much worse.

Unfortunately, I don’t have my decklist, but my entire draft was recorded and you can watch it here. If you like Limited, I highly recommend you to take a look, because I believe the draft was quite interesting – with some lucky moments, tough picks and interesting decisions. However, you probably won’t play a Dominaria draft ever again, so I don’t think me explaining every pick would be worth your time – instead, let’s move onto the games I chose for you!


Traxos, Scourge of KroogPhyrexian Scriptures

The first game I wanted to talk to you about is from round 10 vs. Brian Braun-Duin in Limited. Our match was really great, and I wish all three games had been on stream.

In game one, he killed me with exactly one card left in his library; in game two, I killed him with his 《Traxos, Scourge of Kroog》 picked up with 《The Eldest Reborn》, untapping it three times with 《Phyrexian Scriptures》 (my only historic spell left in the deck, after I played 《The Eldest Reborn》) and 2x 《Gift of Growth》.

Unfortunately, only the third game made it into the coverage, but I think it’s also an interesting one to tell you about – full of important decisions, all of which contributed towards the final score. The game starts at about 44:30 here.

Adventurous ImpulseLlanowar ScoutDeathbloom Thallid

First of all, after mulliganing to six, I found myself looking at a one-lander hand with 《Adventurous Impulse》. It was not a dream scenario, but I was on the draw, so with a free scry I thought I had to take the risk. My deck had a rather high mana curve, so going down to five cards would have been disproportionately punishing, and the initial six comprised a few cheap cards, such as 《Llanowar Scout》 or 《Deathbloom Thallid》.

The first real decision presented itself in turn 4 when I had to determine how to attack. We had access to our opponent’s decklist, so I knew Brian had 《Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage》 in his deck, and the fact he didn’t play a spell on his turn 4 was a clear red flag to me.

Gift of Growth

Since 《Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage》 was almost obvious then, and Brian knew I had 2x 《Gift of Growth》 in my deck, I just took a second to “consider” attacking with 《Llanowar Scout》. My intention was to make Brian think that I had a pump spell in my hand – which I didn’t – because I don’t think I would ever actually attack with a 1/3 creature into a 3/3 one just for the sake of a bluff. Early one point of damage is usually not worth risking a creature, even if your opponent is unlikely to block.

Another interesting turn is at about 48:50. At that point, Brian had 6 mana open, and a lot of stuff he could potentially cast. His options were 《Merfolk Trickster》, 《Icy Manipulator》, 《Pardic Wanderer》, 《Befuddle》, 《Adamant Will》, 《Urza's Ruinous Blast》, 《Blink of an Eye》, and some other, less important cards.

Merfolk TricksterBefuddleAdamant WillPardic Wanderer
Urza's Ruinous BlastBlink of an EyeIcy Manipulator

This meant attacking with everything could have easily put me into trouble, so I opted for a safe attack. Next turn, I finally drew my 7th land I needed to cast the 《Dragon》, but again – I had to factor in all of Brian’s possible plays. With 《Fungal Infection》 in hand, I settled on a conservative attack again and allowed Brian to act first, with mana open on my side, to avoid potential blow-outs. This strategy worked out perfectly for me – but it was also the first turn when I could have lost the game, had I gotten hyped and just slammed the 《Dragon》.

On the other hand, the very next turn. I made my first big mistake in this game. I was convinced I’d only attack with 《Grunn, the Lonely King》 (which was the correct play in terms of combat – I wanted to pressure Brian with as much damage as possible, while not risking losing the 《Grunn, the Lonely King》) – and it made me think there was no reason to play the 《Dragon》 in the first main phase, as I wouldn’t have attacked with it anyway.

Grunn, the Lonely King

I missed the fact that my big, green buddy might be tapped in the beginning of combat, and as a result, I lost 7 valuable points of damage… or maybe even an opportunity to win the game right then and there, because when BBD used 5 out of his 8 available mana, I might have considered attacking with everything for lethal – there weren’t that many tricks left in his deck for just three mana.

Either way, at that point I was so far ahead, that all I had to do was to just don’t let the game slip through my fingers. I had to consider all the worst scenarios that could possibly happen, and do everything in my powers to avoid them. A perfect example of this occurred at 56:00.

I could have attacked with everything for lethal, but with some insane combination of cards (like 《Traxos》 and 《Urza's Ruinous Blast》 for example, and then a removal spell topdecked by Brian), I would have lost the game. Let me tell you this: if there’s a 1% chance of losing by taking the more aggressive route, I prefer to take my 99,9% instead of 99%. There is no rush, there are no points for winning the game faster. All that matters is to find your win and secure it – making sure there’s no way to let it go!

Even the last turn had some interesting decisions. It might seem that after untapping 《Darigaaz Reincarnated》, my attack was so easy, but it wasn’t. If I had attacked with everything, Brian could have cast 《Blast》 and 《Merfolk Trickster》 targeting my 《Dragon》, exile the rest of my board, kill 《Grunn》 with 《Traxos》, chump block 《Darigaaz》 with 《Merfolk Trickster》 (now without flying nor trample), and again I would have been dead to removal from the top. Fortunately, this time he didn’t have what he needed, and in the end, I took the match.

Another game that I wanted to show you today is the game 2 of the final match (starts at 13:30) – It’s a Red-Black Aggro mirror, pre-board (in best-of-five matches, the first 2 games are pre-board, and then up to 3 games post-board).

Bomat CourierRekindling Phoenix

Turn 2 of this game was kinda obvious – you never kill 《Bomat Courier》, if you have 《Goblin Chainwhirler》 in hand, so I patiently waited for a better target for my 《Abrade》 and later used it to kill 《Kari Zev, Skyship Raider》. Turns 4 and 5 were when the trouble began. I was forced to spend a lot of resources to deal with the first 《Rekindling Phoenix》.

At 17:50, I made a mistake by not cycling the land in my turn, giving myself a chance to get a 《Magma Spray》 from the top, which would have been awesome in those circumstances. 《Magma Spray》 was not there anyway, but if you want to improve, it’s crucial to point out your mistakes and learn from them, even if technically they didn’t affect your game.

At 21:20, I was in a pretty bad spot; some people might think that attack was a bad decision – I didn’t have a way to kill 《Rekindling Phoenix》, so I was basically giving up a creature card from my graveyard for free.

Rekindling PhoenixHeart of Kiran

We need a broader perspective, though. Consider, for a moment, that you are Javier. You don’t know what’s in my hand; I have two cards, and any of them could be a removal spell or a 《Goblin Chainwhirler》. In such case, blocking with 《Phoenix》 puts you at risk of losing your best threat on the battlefield, for a measly creature card in my graveyard. That’s exactly what happened – Javier valued his 《Phoenix》 a lot, and decided to sacrifice 《Heart of Kiran》, instead of gambling with his red mythic – so, ultimately, my attack accomplished a lot.

After Javier drew his 《Hazoret the Fervent》 out of 《Bomat Courier》 the next turn, I honestly didn’t think I could have won that game… But when you find yourself in a spot like this, it’s not a time to feel sorry about yourself. You have to find a line of play – however unlikely – that could possibly win you that game, stick to it, and hope everything goes well. Even if you need three perfect topdecks in a row to win, it’s important to find that in your mind, make a plan, do whatever it takes to follow that plan, and then just hope you get lucky in that precise moment.

Here is what I’m talking about.

Being so much behind, I felt I had to squeeze maximum value out of each of my cards, and get some lucky topdecks in order to be able to put up a fight. That’s why I didn’t play 《Pia Nalaar》 that turn – because I wouldn’t have used the full potential of that card. That’s also why I decided to kill 《Rekindling Phoenix》 in Javier’s next combat, even without a way to kill the egg at that point.

I knew that versus 《Hazoret the Fervent》, I was very likely to lose the race, so I had to avoid taking more damage than absolutely necessary, and I had to factor in possible topdecks, instead of trying to turn the tide of that game with my hand alone – because that was impossible.

Sometimes you need to acknowledge that the result of the game is beyond your control, and wait for the situation to unfold, instead of trying frantically to solve an impossible puzzle.

Goblin ChainwhirlerCut // RibbonsPia Nalaar

After I got the best possible topdeck – 《Goblin Chainwhirler》 – it all came down to doing the math. We both had 《Ribbons》 in our graveyards, so I just had to make sure I’d be able to kill Javier faster than he kills me. I had 7 lands, which means 5 damage from 《Ribbons》, and 6 power on the battlefield and Javier was at 11.

It adds up pretty nicely, so I decided to not block, and give myself a shot next turn. He drew a blocker from the top, but I also got a 《Scrapheap Scrounger》 that I was able to sacrifice for 《Pia Nalaar》ability, allowing me to swing for those 6 crucial points of damage, and after that, all I needed to do was just to chump-block everything possible and hope to survive until my next main phase. That’s also why I used 《Scrapheap Scrounger》, in theory better creature than thopter, token for 《Pia Nalaar》 ability. I was very important to keep as many blockers as possible.

That’s exactly what happened, and suddenly it was 1-1. In the end, I lost 2-3, but we played 5 very interesting games of Magic, and I strongly recommend to all of you to watch the entire match. It was a great final, and I’m really proud that I was a part of it.

Congratulations to our new World Champion – Javier Dominguez! Well deserved!

Standard Week One

We have a brand new standard right now. I believe many of you might be lost with so many new possibilities, and almost no decklists available. For those of you playing a standard PPTQ anytime soon, I’ll try to show you my point of view on the new format. Just keep in mind, that I didn’t play a single game of new standard yet, and all I’m telling you below is just my theory.

Llanowar ElvesSteel Leaf ChampionGhalta, Primal Hunger

I believe there are two kings of the early metagame. Mono Green Stompy (probably splashing black) and Turbo Fog. Mono Green is a great deck to punish all other aggro, because you always have bigger creatures, than them, and usually bad versus control, but what’s important to keep in mind – controls in such an early stage of format are mostly untuned.

It’s very difficult to build, and play a control deck, when you don’t know anything about the expected metagame, how people will build their decks etc. That’s a great moment for green monsters to take advantage of the new format.

Nothing can go wrong, if you just play big creatures one after another, especially there are some new nice toys for stompy in Guilds of Ravnica:

《Nullhide Ferox》

Nullhide Ferox

I think it’s the best gift for green players. I remember testing for Pro Tour Dominaria, when we tried cards like 《Territorial Allosaurus》 or even 《Ripjaw Raptor》, to be able to play more high power creatures. Now you have access to 6/6 for four mana, with two great abilities. Insane deal.

《Pelt Collector》

Pelt Collector

Mono Green depends on 《Llanowar Elves》 so much. Now, if you don’t draw your best one drop, it’s easy to patch the hole with another good one drop and put a big pressure from the very beginning.

《Kraul Harpooner》

Kraul Harpooner

It’s not a great card, but it’s a three power two drop, with a minor ability. I’m not sure if it even deserves a slot in the deck, but we lost many good two drops due to the rotation, so it might be worth trying.

《Assassin's Trophy》

Assassin's Trophy

Perfect removal, and answer for everything. Being able to kill 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》 gives us a chance to fight against fog or control.

Cards that Mono Green lost

Resilient KhenraScrapheap ScroungerHeart of KiranRhonas the IndomitableVerdurous Gearhulk
Blossoming DefenseLifecrafter's BestiaryNissa, Vital ForceBlooming MarshHashep Oasis

It might look like a lot of cards, but we also have some good green creatures from previous set, that can easily replace those, such as 《Jadelight Ranger》 or 《Thorn Lieutenant》.

Teferi, Hero of DominariaSettle the WreckageRoot Snare

Another great deck for week one is a Bant Fog. I said already, that I believe control is a bad choice for early events, and now I’m talking about 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》 being the best one, but the truth is, Fog is not a control deck at all. There are cards like 《Teferi》 or 《Settle the Wreckage》, but you play a ‘proactive’ game.

You have your own plan, and don’t really care what opponent does. Almost entire deck is build around Ixalan, Dominaria, and M19, which means Fog didn’t lose anything but 《Haze of Pollen》 during rotation, while every other competitor lost a lot.

Cards that we get are not amazing, but since the only thing we lost was one fog, which is easily replaceable with 《Settle the Wreckage》, we are not really looking for anything special. Here are some nice sideboard options:

《Centaur Peacemaker》

Centaur Peacemaker

Might be a good card against 《The Flame of Keld》 burn deck, which should be the worst matchup.

《Knight of Autumn》

Knight of Autumn

Flexible sideboard option, decent versus 《Sorcerous Spyglass》, but not as dead as other 《Naturalize》 effects, when an opponent doesn’t draw it. If you draw multiple, beatdown plan might be real.

《Pause for Reflection》

Pause for Reflection

3 mana for a fog effect is too much, and I think 《Settle the Wreckage》 is a better way to replace 《Haze of Pollen》, but it’s good to know that card like this exist.

I don’t put full decklists on purpose. First of all, I didn’t play standard yet, and I don’t want you to copy bad lists, but second, and most important, I believe copying lists in such early stage of format is a huge mistake.

Now nobody knows what’s good. No one plays good and well tuned decks, and it’s the best time for you, to try your own ideas and dig into different directions. This way you will increase your deckbuilding skill, and get the bigger understanding of the format, which let you play better in the future!

If you want to get some cool ideas, check out our Hareruya Wayfinder. Me alongside other Hareruya pros will post there more than 20 lists in all competitive formats. Just remember, take it as an inspiration, not ready and well tuned deck!

Thank you all for reading, until next time!

Grzegorz Kowalski

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