This time we have a guest post from Martin Sahlberg, the runner-up in the first Swedish Nationals in Premodern, played last weekend. (See my previous post for a meta breakdown and top 8 decks from this event.) Enjoy! / Martin Berlin
I started playing in Stockholm, Sweden late ’94 and then left around Visions/Mirage if I recall correctly. Fast forward to ’09 and I was busy doing something close to nothing at work (something I still do even though the job has changed) when one day something just reminded me of Magic, prompting me to punch in the words on Google to see if the game still existed and if so what it looked like today.
Apparently they had just completed a bit of an overhaul regarding the rules and what not with the new upcoming set M10 being the first to adopt these changes. Some more browsing through various sites got me hooked and my almost 15 year old break (no one ever really quits right?) was over on the following weekend. The journey then started again with Standard through endless rotations, transitioning over to Modern when that came along followed by a big buy in to Legacy which is the format I’ve been mostly playing for the last 5 years although with longer and longer periods between playing actual games and tournaments. I’ve been glancing at “classic” old school in the form of 93/94 and thinking about perhaps making the jump, but knowing that I’m way too spikey to ever wanna play sub-optimal decks and not having the finances to afford P9 etc that never came to be.
However when Martin Berlin launched Premodern and a lot of my friends here in Stockholm started picking it up I thought I should give it a try at least and I’ve been liking it so far!
Since the format basically stretches from ’95 to ’03 when I was on my break I never really played with most of the cards that are staples in Premodern unless they’ve also shown up in Legacy (and the occasional cube) making it having a very new and unexplored feel to me.
Deck Choice for Nationals
I’m in no way a brewer so I almost immediately went to the “decks to beat”-section at premodernmagic.com/decks to find a deck I should start out on. I’ve always preferred to pilot aggro-control decks like Caw-Blade or Delver or more pure control like Miracles so the choice quickly fell on the beautiful 4-color control built by Internet Troll Extraordinaire Mr. Mikael Magnusson. Playing the deck at a few playtest sessions leading up to the tournament I realized that I didn’t really like the Wall of Blossoms, feeling green should just be a late game splash color for Gaea’s Blessing to ensure true inevitability. Also by not having to build your manabase to have early green (for the walls) but instead red, your blasts from the sideboard also gets online more consistently which seemed good for the various blue matchups. Overall I tried to shape it more to a UWR-shell trying to have a good match-up vs creature decks with more removal to stifle early aggression and then use the sideboard to improve the combo/control matchups. This is what I registered:
Comments on various card choices
1 Miscalculation: I wanted another 2-mana counter to be able to hit stuff like Survival of the Fittest, Argothian Enchantress, Sapphire Medallion and Standstill on the play, and it felt better than Mana Leak due to cycling when drawing late so it’s never completely useless.
2 Lightning Bolt, 2 Fire // Ice: As stated earlier I prefer killing opponents’ early threats over blocking them with Wall of Blossoms. Ice can sometimes be relevant vs other counterspell decks to tap a land end of turn in order resolve Fact or Fiction etc. Fire works well with Humility. Bolt is of course better against turn 1 plays like mana dorks or Goblin Lackey.
1 Clear: Enchantments overall feel like one of the most powerful card types in the format so I felt like a maindeck-answer should be nice, while still being able to cycle it if no targets were to be seen. I noticed that others at the tournament instead played Akroma’s Vengeance, a card that I didn’t know existed (format knowledge ftw!) but indeed looks much better so that’s an easy change for next time.
4 Meddling Mage: A good disruptive clock vs the various combo decks of the format. A disadvantage for me personally though is that I don’t know the key cards by heart for many archetypes. 🙂
Manabase: This is probably pretty far from optimal as I’m not very good at constructing them.
On to the games!
Match 1 – Jonas Lefvert, Enchantress 2-0, WIN
A deck I think looks quite the same as its Legacy counterpart which I’ve come across a few times.
Game 1: I’m fortunate enough to be on the play so I can answer turn 2 Argothian Enchantress with Counterspell. However he has a second one on turn 3 which resolves but I get to play Humility on turn 4 to shut down that engine. He doesn’t do much after that and a Decree of Justice for 4 soldiers is enough to win.
Game 2: I’m able to answer 3x Enchantress’s Presence with 2x Seal of Cleansing and 1 Counterspell without him gaining much card advantage from them. I then choose to Gaea’s Blessing back those 3 into his library out of fear for Replenish and after that I play a topdecked Meddling Mage choosing to name Enchantress’s Presence since I have Slice and Dice in hand to answer Argothian Enchantress. Jonas just draws and passes making a few land drops while I smash with Mage followed by a few Decree-soldiers until he dies. He then shows me 2 Enchantress’s Presence in hand, but says with a smile: “Usually when I place well at a tournament I start out with a loss”.
Match 2 – Andreas Lindblad, UW Standstill, 1-1, DRAW
Game 1: We both play land go for about 6–7 turns when he misses a drop and I feel I should go for it and cycle a Decree for 4 end of turn. His stumble doesn’t last for long though so in the end he is able to cycle 3 Decrees vs my 2 which is enough for him to win.
Game 2: Looks very similar to game 1 but I’m able to set up a profitable Slice and Dice to counter his Decree and then fire off my own for the win. However these 2 games have taken their time and with just 3 minutes left for game 3 the outcome is a draw – something I’m not too unhappy with.
Match 3 – Mikael “Åland” Johansson, Lands, 2-0, WIN
This match was featured on camera and can be seen on Wak-Wak’s Twitch channel here. (commentary in Swedish for this game and in English for the top 8 games linked below).
I like the Lands deck a lot and have the cards for it but I have never had the opportunity to play it myself so I was a bit curious on how this matchup would play out.
Game 1: He drops early Exploration and Standstill but never finds Horn of Greed, land destruction or manlands so the game progresses to draw-go. I’m breaking Standstill with Fact or Fiction and manages to find a Decree which I cycle for 4 a few turns later. I can then protect those soldiers from any drawn Wrath of God with various counters which he doesn’t find anyway before all his life are gone.
Game 2: Åland again gets a pretty good start with Exploration into Wasteland into Standstill. But exactly like last game his manlands doesn’t show up for battle and he doesn’t have Horn to get the engine going so I’m not under actual pressure. I need to break the Standstill with an Impulse to make sure I hit land drops which I then continue to do without much trouble. Fact or Fiction finds Shattering Pulse which lines up perfectly for his newly found Horn of Greed and Mishra’s Factory. A Meddling Mage naming Wrath of God protects Decree-soldiers and the win.
The games felt a bit too easy which I think had more to do with his subpar draws than anything else.
Match 4 – Per Rönnkvist, Goblins, 1-2, LOSS
Game 1: Per has no turn 1 play which gives me a bit of breathing room. I kill one Goblin Piledriver and he plays 2 more goblins afterwards (I don’t remember their actual names). However i resolve turn 4 Humility so their names don’t matter, and while he continues to hit me for 2 for a few turns it never gets close, Fire clears two of his guys and eventually I find Decree.
Game 3: I keep a sketchy hand with 5 lands, Swords to Plowshares and Impulse, Per mulligans to 6. He doesn’t have a great start with a single Goblin Piledriver as his only creature while stuck on just 3 mountains for land for a few turns. I however keep drawing lands except for a Meddling Mage which names Goblin Ringleader in anticipation of him finding land no 4, so not much is going on on my end either. Finally i draw a Fact or Fiction and pass to play at his end of turn. Per draws black mana and plays Duress and since Fact or Fiction is my only spell i play it in response. The 3-pile give me Humility and 2x 1-for-1 answers and he of course picks Humility with the now resolved Duress. He plays guys whom I either counter or play removal on at parity for a while. Towards the end we both have 2 cards each, 1 Counterspell and 1 Swords to Plowshares for me. Per plays a Siege-Gang Commander and here I think I made a mistake when my choice is to use Counterspell instead of plowing it with trigger on stack and then having my Meddling Mage as blocker for his 3 1/1:s. The turn after he instead resolves his other card—Recurring Nightmare (which I saw him playing in game 2)—which quickly takes over the game by looping Siege-Gangs. Would have been better to counter that one for sure…
Still a rough matchup it seems which doesn’t get easier when you make mistakes…
Match 5 – Daniel “Paddan” Sunhede, MUD, 2-1, WIN
Before round 5 the score keeping program shuts down resulting in quite strange pairings once its back up. Me and Joel Larsson were the only ones with 2-1-1 records and should probably have played each other. With Joel on the exact same 75 Goblin deck as Per the previous round that wouldn’t have been great for me but now its new and different pairings somehow.
Instead I get to face off vs MUD.
Game 1: Paddan plays aggressively with his turn 1 Mishra’s Factory opting to attack into Flooded Strand on turn 2. I off course fetch plains and plow it. However he keeps playing 3 new Mishra’s and sending with them and I only draw counterspells and card draw into new card draw and counterspells and therefore die to factory beats after a while.
Game 2: He starts strong with Sol-lands into Tangle Wire, and I can’t do much more than to drop lands for the first 4 turns or so. However he doesn’t have any pressure with creatures or manlands so eventually the wire fades away and I get to untap with full strength. Unfortunately my full strength is more or less only more lands as I haven’t drawn anything relevant. Then he drops a card I’ve never seen before—Null Brooch—which turns out to be quite troublesome for me. On my next turn I draw Fire // Ice so I pass the turn back. In his draw-phase i try to tap his Null Brooch with Ice, and he doesn’t want to discard whatever he drew so he lets it happen. I luckily cantrip into Fact or Fiction. End of turn FoF shows Shattering Pulse among the 5 cards and I ofcourse pick that pile. Untap, play my 10th land and then proceed to cast 2 buybacked pulses per turn first on brooch and then some other things and Paddan scoops.
Game 3: It starts off in the same way as game 2 with early Tangle Wires but no pressure. I draw both my Decrees so all I have to do is keep making landdrops which I do. I even manage to stick a Meddling Mage naming Powder Keg before the Decrees which I think is his only answer to the soldier tokens whom soon will be upon him. The first Decree for 3 followed by the second for 4 in response to Mishra’s Helix tapping all my lands in upkeep is enough to secure the win and a place in the Top 8.
Quarterfinals – Ander Turrez, Enchantress, 2-1, WIN
Another Enchantress-player surprisingly.
Game 1: He quickly gets his engine going, drawing a zillion cards and eventually wins with Words of War.
Game 2: Again he gets going with Enchantress’s Presence and Argothian Enchantress and plays a bunch of enchantments which draws him a bunch of cards. At some point though he plays Opalescence without having me dead on board for his attack. I drop to something like 5, untap and plays Wrath of God to wipe his entire board. A follow up Decree gives me the win but it somehow feels like a robbery.
Game 3: I start with a mulligan but get a quite nice 6 including 3x Meddling Mage. The first one names Words of War, the second Sacred Mesa and the third Replenish. I then just have to hold counters for Opalescence (which he afterwards showed me he boarded out, maybe because the Wrath-incident in game 2) and he won’t have any wincons. The mages go beatdown and just like that I move on to the semis.
Semifinals – Andreas Lindblad, UW Standstill, 2-0, WIN
This match was featured on camera and can be seen here.
Game 1: I actually don’t remember much about this game other than that we both seemed quite tired, and a lot of small mistakes were made on both sides. Eventually I Decree’d and he neither found Wrath or a Decree of his own to prevent the loss.
Game 2: This game on the other hand I think I played pretty well. The plan was to run him out of hard counters and then render his Mana Leaks useless as we enter the long game while having red blasts for his card draw. Also going for medium sized Decrees myself in mid-game to apply some pressure and then leverage my Gaea’s Blessings to regain those used Decrees, Blasts and FoFs. All this I managed to do while holding a Slice and Dice to counter any big Decrees from his side which never happened.
Finals – Jonas Lefvert, Enchantress, 0-2, LOSS
This match was featured on camera and can be seen here.
“Usually when I place well at a tournament I start out with a loss” was the last exchange of words after I beat him in the first round and now here we are…
Unfortunately I got pretty stomped in both games, the first one I probably misplayed when I chose not to counter an Argothian Enchantress, thinking I instead could go the route of countering all his (few) wincons and win from there. He however got so far ahead on mana with Wild Growths and Serra’s Sanctum that he eventually could double or triple spell those wincons on a single turn through counterspells and after that losing was easy.
In Game 2 I didn’t even have that option as he just raced past me pretty quickly.
This report got a lot more wordy than I thought so I think I’ll just leave it here with a big thanks to the organizers, it was a really fun day—but isn’t that always the case when you get to win more than you lose in this game? 🙂
/ Martin Sahlberg