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Magic World Championship XXIX – A Tournament Report

Hopefully you caught my last article about the deck I played. For reference for those of you that did not, here’s the list. 

I flew into Las Vegas on Sunday September 17th to join up with the rest of the (formerly known as) Channel Fireball team. I was one of the last to arrive to the house which included the likes of Reid Duke, Gabriel Nassif, Brent Vos, Ondrej Strasky, Seth Manfield, Jakub Toth, Jim Davis, Thoralf Severin, and last but not least, Sam Pardee – a super strong group that is one third Hall of Famers. The nice part being on this team is that everyone is a seasoned veteran of the game. 

Almost immediately upon stepping foot in the house, Brent Vos sought me out with all the strange brews he had already concocted for the tournament. Being a fellow brew lover myself, Brent knew who his correct audience was. Of all the lists he had come up with one in particular caught my eye, mainly due to the fact that it abused Up the Beanstalk. Beanstalk has been really tearing it up in eternal formats. 

The original list was a bit clunky, running four copies of March of Otherworldly Light and four copies of March of Wretched Sorrow as well. Greg Orange built his own homebrew list around the card utilizing Syncopate to be able to draw additional cards as well. In my opinion it’s all too cute. It’s nice to be able to draw more cards with Up the Beanstalk, but it’s not worth sabotaging your deck filled with prime goodies to enable it. The card works fine as a draw 2-3 over the course of the game. Turning it into a draw 7 comes with other costs that ultimately make the deck lose out in other ways. 

Not wanting to be overly invested without a backup plan, the team was also working a lot on Mono-White Aggro and Domain Ramp decks. The Ramp decks ultimately ended up being piloted by the Hall of Famers on the team: Reid Duke (Top 8’d), Gabriel Nassif, and Seth Manfield. Meanwhile the rest of the squad (minus me of course) opted into Mono-White for its consistency. 

We intertwined our standard testing with a bit of limited, but mostly we saved that for after deck lists were due. We also have a team limited meeting wherein we try to discuss the entirety of the limited format and strategize scenarios as best we can. This limited meeting started at Noon on Wednesday and didn’t wrap up until almost 7pm! These are some of the most grueling parts of testing for me. Adhd kicks in and wants me to tune out. This time around I forced myself to be hyper attentive and really internalized the material. Thankfully that part of testing did me the most good on the weekend.

I had the fortune of being the only undefeated limited player at Worlds. This put me within striking distance of the top 8 after the draft on Day 2 as I was 8-2. With four rounds left to go and only needing a 2-2 to make the cut, I started to get my hopes up. As many professionals will tell you (and Jim Davis always reminds me), you should only focus on the round in the front of you. Let the other details work themselves out when you get there. 

Because of being so close to the deadline the team ultimately abandoned my standard deck concept, but I decided to have a little faith and stick with it. Having gone 3-4-1 in constructed and 6-0 in limited, I am thinking I made a mistake there. Ultimately, I finished in 11th place and cannot be too disappointed. Obviously the level of competition at Worlds is on another level. I’ll always wonder what if, but soon this tournament will be in the rearview mirror as I prepare for the next Pro Tour. 

It was exciting to have my good friend and fellow teammate Reid Duke get to 10 wins so quickly. I knew we wouldn’t have to face each other and if I didn’t make it. I still had someone to root for on Sunday. Sadly, Reid’s deck didn’t come together in the quarterfinals despite getting one of his better matchups (Ramp vs Golgari Midrange). Overall, the team did pretty well having one top 8, two top 16’s, one top 24, and 7 out of 10 of us making day 2 (4-3 or better on day 1). 

I’ll certainly miss getting to test with Jakub Toth as his train ride came to an end with this World Championships. After playing professional magic for almost 30 years, I have come to appreciate how the names/faces/cards keep changing over time. I think it is one of the aspects of magic that keeps things interesting ultimately. Jakub brought a level of organization to the team that I have rarely seen in all those years however. He is a master of the spreadsheet and an excellent present of data. This vastly decreased biases in our testing and gave us direct analytic evidence to make the best decisions possible on several occasions. 

Wizards of the Coast ran a smooth event. The players lounge felt like a comfortable place to congregate for all the players. The commentators did an excellent job of being our hype people. The hall itself was wonderfully spacious and there was a plethora of dealers to enhance the entire scene. Las Vegas itself provided wonderful delights in the areas of food and entertainment. Always a pleasure to visit and enjoy the nice warm climates. 

There was a lot of internet speculation about the cheaters that have been caught cheating recently being allowed to play in Worlds. Yes, they were there – fortunately no reports of them continuing their shady proceedings. Most, if not all, were eliminated on day 1 even. The funniest thing I heard was actually from teammate Ondrej Strasky. He was paired into one of these individuals in an elimination round to not make day 2. At some point time was called and a draw would have them both eliminated. Typically at an event someone decides to concede as the honorable move of having one person proceed. Due to his opponent’s notoriety, he instead elected for them both to be eliminated (then tweeted about it in hilarious fashion).

For those unfamiliar with the subject matter of cheating in Magic. The quick 411 is it harms the integrity of the game. Even being a known cheater creates an atmosphere whereby as their opponent you need to summon additional resources just to be watchful of your opponent. This pulls from being able to zone into the game and gives them additional unfair advantages. In essence it is also stealing from the players that worked hard to honestly reach the level that they are at. I do believe in rehabilitation, but I do not believe real change happens quickly. That is why I am pro temporary banning’s with the hope that it gives those players time to reflect and change. Permanent banning’s for those players that were given the opportunity to reflect and have proven that they just are who they are. 

As I write this tournament report from the comfort of home with my internal reflections. My thoughts and feelings are mostly positive from this years’ Worlds. Good food, good people – it’s hard to ask for more, really. Thanks for being a loyal reader, hopefully next year you are reading about me eventually being on a magic card one day. That would be the sweetest feather in the cap to a very long career for me. 

@Eli_Kassis

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