In a time… where everybody was playing free 8/8s on turn two. In a place… where everybody was attacking for lethal on turn three. There were three brave Germans who decided to play a deck that supposedly died half a year ago. No new cards, no updates, no tricks. There was only hope. Hope and Ulamog.
Turns out, those two are a powerful combination. This is the story about one of those brave Germans. How Tron became the good guy… ish… With Modern Horizons and Core Set 2020 having been released since the last Modern Mythic Championship in London, there was a major upheaval of the whole Modern format. New decks were popping up left and right, and with the bannings of Bridge from Below, it seemed like it is anybody’s game.
I am not a very good deck builder. I would say, I am not even a decent one. However, I am pretty good at fine-tuning once a deck has some potential, so my strategy was to wait and see the Modern metagame settle down a little. Unfortunately, there were so many new decks that getting a good overview over all of them was pretty much impossible. Fortunately, a certain metagame-defining deck had a huge breakout at the Modern Challenge on Magic Online the week before the Mythic Championship, and that made metagame evaluation much, much easier.
Hogaak was so oppressive that it was beat it or join it. We did find decks that could beat Hogaak–they just needed to sacrifice a lot of their game against other non-graveyard strategies. Izzet Phoenix was still fine, as was Eldrazi Tron and Jund. I personally really didn’t like Humans anymore, and while I felt like U/W Control could be a decent deck, it needs the exact right configuration against the field paired with a lot of experience. At one point I tried out Tron again, because it does have the very nice upside of giving its pilot a lot of downtime. You know, I do like playing a lot of Magic and I do like playing control decks, but having those extra 20-30 minutes per round to eat and relax is amazing. Anyway, Tron played out pretty underwhelmingly. There were three issues that I could identify.
- There is not enough room in the sideboard;
- Wurmcoil Engine seemed too good to just run two copies;
- Karn, the Great Creator just kept dying.
I was very disappointed with the deck, even though I finished the MOCS with a 7-1 record. Tron was clearly in a nice spot, it was just not good enough. At last, at one point, we got to the solution: cut the little Karn. It was perfect. It solved all our problems. I played two leagues after that and won all 10 games. It was fate! Or luck. Mostly luck, but who can really tell. Honestly, it was very smooth. We were at a point where our deck was pretty good against all the non-Hogaak decks because they were focused on Hogaak, and we were also actually pretty decent against Hogaak as well. All matches included, we were definitely ahead against it.
This was my final list:
Mono-Green Tron at Mythic Championship IV
Thoralf “Toffel” Severin
All is Dust
I was playing this solely because MPL superstar Christian Hauck said he liked this more than the third Ugin. I found out, after submission, that he didn’t even play this card. I think I used it once, where it was pretty important on turn three, but this is definitely up for discussion.
I am a big fan of cutting a Sphere. The London Mulligan rule changes the mulligan process completely. While you kind of had to rely on math and cycling before, you can just now mulligan to turn three Tron. I have won games with a mulligan to three. That means that you don’t have to keep hands that have two Tron pieces and some card draw, because your six- and five-card hands can’t really get much better. You needed all this redundancy, because you had to keep hands that don’t guarantee turn three Tron most of the time. With this being not the case anymore, don’t rely on Sphere so much.
I think you could get away with four Forests. But I did realize that I pretty much never used the Ghost Quarter anymore. The decks it was really good against seemed to be gone. No Tron mirror, no Affinity, no Infect, no Hardened Scales. We did know that Hardened Scales was pretty good against Hogaak, but I didn’t think people would realize that in large numbers, and Hardened Scales was still pretty bad against U/W Control. In the end I can’t really say how important that fifth Forest was, but I would assume that Tron and Hardened Scales are on the rise again, so adding it again seems correct.
Veil of Summer
This card is just broken in the right spots. It is pretty much a one-mana Divination that makes your opponent spend mana. It has so many useful applications, from protecting from Cryptic Commands to Liliana of the Veil, from Fulminator Mages (especially in the same turn), from Vendilion Clique, from Assassin’s Trophy, from any form of discard and so on… you get the point. There is probably not enough room for a second one, but if you really want to have a card against Jund and U/W, this would be it.
When Plan A is going for Plan B
Constructed was locked. Fortunately, I was much less concerned about Limited. We have some excellent Limited masterminds in the German team and we had a very good plan for Modern Horizons.
Plan A: draft Ninjas or Snow if it is open. Well, to no surprise, those are the two best decks, but getting access to them was actually very difficult because everybody wanted to draft them. More often than not, those decks turned out to be terrible, because they were not open enough. We needed a good plan B.
Plan B: Answered Prayers aggro or Igneous Elemental midrange
Modern Horizons is a format full of playables. You can easily have a decent shot in a draft where you can’t use your first five picks. We felt like people were clinging too much to Plan A when one of the Plan Bs was a much better Plan A. In both of my drafts, I was able to draft a pretty good Igneous Elemental deck, because people fought over the other decks. I also think we had a pretty good idea of the best Answered Prayers deck, where some cards like Splicer’s Skill and Recruit the Worthy were just overperforming. A lot of the card choices were deck-dependent and that’s where a lot of experience with those decks came into play. Have you ever used Splicer’s Skill with Wing Shards? It’s pretty fun.
Hot, Hotter, Barcelona
Going to Barcelona had a somewhat bitter taste. All the recent shifts in professional Magic and the pro players club had left me feeling that I just wasn’t represented by the changes, and I was pretty much dealing with my fate of not playing high level tournament magic. Technically, I was qualified for Richmond with Silver, but that would have meant paying for all the travel by myself for a tournament I don’t even know what to play for, except for money. Magic is a tough game on the highest level and paying more than a thousand euros plus flying more so many hours didn’t excite me at all (I really, really hate flying).
So, my number one goal in Barcelona was to go to the beach at least once. I am not kidding. I love summer, I love the sun, I love when it’s really warm and I do love swimming. Spoiler alert: I didn’t make it. What a shame. So heading into Barcelona, I just felt that all of this was just a nice vacation for me that happens to also have a Mythic Championship. I really don’t want to downplay the honor, joy, and achievement it is to play in those tournaments, but I guess that kind of reflects my way of thinking about all the recent changes pretty well. We arrived very early on Thursday and quickly realized that we booked an apartment using the wrong venue information. The actual site wasn’t too far off and there could definitely be worse things in life than walking through Barcelona on a nice sunny day. After registering, we had plenty of time to do a practice draft with some nice Swedish people. I did with that draft and picked up a foil Fiery Islet. It looks amazing. I remember saying that this will be the highlight of my weekend–that ended up being a statement that didn’t age particularly well. After that, I really wanted a nice milkshake. We specifically looked for a place with milkshakes, but after finally getting to one we got notice that they can’t offer any, because it was just too warm. What a bummer. We did find a coffee shop in the mall, that really tested how much I wanted one–they offered a tiny milkshake for €7. After a long fight with my moral stance on paying €7 for a milkshake, I finally caved to my cravings. It was the worst milkshake I ever had. It was just not meant to be.
I have played my fair share of Pro Tours–oops, Mythic Championships–and being excited right before the first draft is pretty much a given. Will I open a good pack? Is the metagame as we thought it would be? Did somebody bring a new broken deck that we didn’t know about? But this time was different. I was happy to play in the tournament, but I did not care about how it would go. I was at peace with anything that might happen. I was at peace, because for the first time in my magic tournament life I didn’t expect anything from myself.
My draft went as well as it possibly could. I “stuck” to plan B and drafted a very powerful R/B deck with a bunch of removal. I handily won my first two matches, and after that I was facing Autumn in the finals and they had an awesome deck. I was sitting next to Emma Handy the round before and Emma was going off with Splicer’s Skill on Weather the Storm. It looked amazing. I was telling Autumn about it and they seemed to be a bit reluctant to talk about it. At first I was confused, but soon I realized that Autumn was drafting the same strategy. It was truly a Sam Black masterpiece to find this strategy, and incredible for all three of them to execute it so well. I was very lucky to draw pretty well, while Autumn mulliganed quite a bit–and even then, it was close. That was a decent start and somehow it didn’t stop. I played against Phoenix and won, I played against Phoenix and won, I played against Urza and won, I played against Phoenix and won again. Unreal. I was pretty happy, but still not putting anything into it. I lost the last round against Hogaak, which I gladly accepted, as I was running so well over the day.
One could assume that with such an excellent position after day one the excitement would finally kick in, but I didn’t really think about the possibility that this could be something major. I slept really well. In the morning, my second draft was also very smooth in the same fashion as the first. Most of it can be seen in the official coverage on Twitch. I had a great table position for a very synergistic R/G Land deck, again focused around three Igneous Elemental. I was lucky enough to not face the Snow deck and also won that draft.
That’s when it started dawning on me. You only need two more wins. Two more! I really, really wanted to fight those thoughts, because that would put any form of value onto winning and that would very likely just make me immensely nervous. I actually did play some of my best Magic, just by relying on my intuition and being really sharp. I did take another loss, however. I got paired against Jund–what a gift, you would say! Despite the supposedly excellent matchup, however, I just keep losing to Jund, and it wasn’t about to change now. But losing was fine: I remember thinking about how I already got into a better payout bracket, and how that was so much more than I thought I was getting out of the weekend. And look, worst case I lose all rounds to come, I will still make it to the beach!
After that, I played against Hogaak and mulliganed to three in the first game. Somehow, I won that. Unbelievable. Then, I won the second game. Just one more… no… don’t think about that. Alright, alright. Just two more rounds for the day. Let’s see what happens. I was up against Mono-Red Phoenix in what I found out later was the win-and-in. “One of the worst matchups” is what I would have normally thought to myself, but this time, it was just another deck. Anything that happens, just happens.
And it did happen. With some stumbles on his side and some timely Wurmcoils and Thragtusks on my side, it was done. Absurd. I was able to just draw into the Top 8, and there it was. One of the most important bucket list items, just done. People were going crazy. Over the whole weekend, I was so lucky to receive an outpouring of love and support. From all the stuff that happened, that overwhelmed me the most. I really want to thank all of you, because that means everything to me. Magic is the best game ever made, and this is because of the people that play it–because of the friends that we play it with. This is the single most important reason why supporting paper Magic is just so important.
I was done. I was seeing rainbows. No, literally, I was seeing rainbows because my contact lenses made my eyes too dry, which was pretty beautiful and frightening. That is why I switched to my glasses on Sunday. All I wanted was some nice food and go to sleep. My roommates Jasper and Arne volunteered to play my quarterfinal matchup for a while. They were nothing short of amazing.
I woke up to the news that my side of the bracket was very fortunate. I was playing against Jund and then potentially against another Jund and then potentially against Eldrazi Tron. I didn’t let this overtake my thinking, however–I just wanted to play as I was before. No expectations. Just a match of Magic, one at a time. Well, as you might have guessed by now, it played out reasonably well. Although I was facing Hardened Scales in the finals, it was just my weekend. That is something my dreams were made of, something that seemed like a fun thought exercise at so many times in my life. That Ulamog, at the end, was the pinnacle of it all.
Honestly, now I started to be really nervous. People started messaging me, a lot of them I didn’t even know. I am not a person that enjoys fame, and suddenly so many people were reaching out to me or talking about me. It is something new, that probably won’t change for a while, so I am trying to use this new platform as positively as possible. Please, when you read this: think about if you make the Magic environment a better place. It is easy to fall into a behavior that is preventing others from being comfortable, without realizing it. Magic thrives from the people that play it and denying anybody to enjoy it breaks the most important rule of them all: Magic is for everybody. Through the lens of Magic cards, we are all the same.
Playing the finals meant that I missed my flight home. Unfortunately, there was a strike at the Barcelona airport, and there were no flights on Sunday or even Monday. Luckily, two of my crazy friends decided to also ditch their flights to stay with me. Thank you, Jasper and Robin. We had to stay two more days in Barcelona–certainly not the worst case! But wait a minute, doesn’t that mean that our little hero gets his one and only wish to go to the beach? This is the point where I want to thank Riley for being so extremely euphoric. He was definitely putting up my share of excitement during the weekend, so much so that there were lots of hugs and after winning the finals even kisses. With Riley being pretty unwell over the weekend, this meant his contagion proliferated onto me a little, meaning that beach was out of the question after all. Sometimes you win some, sometimes you lose some. Honestly, I want to thank every single one of you who was with me during this weekend in one way or another. It means the world to me.
Sideboard guide (for free!)
With no Ghost Quarter we can’t interact with our opponents’ lands, and we don’t need Thragtusk. If you do have Surgical Extraction and Ghost Quarter in your sideboard, I would switch 3 Oblivion Stones for 3 Thragtusks.