So, Sunday morning, 8 o' clock... and I'm out of bed already! "What's going on?"
Well tournament time of course!

There's a tournament in Breda, The Netherlands, and it's always good to be
there. Regular tournaments, good atmosphere, good players, good support and not
too far away to drive. We, the Hasselt posse, are regulars at Breda and at least
one of us usually makes top 8.

I've been performing pretty well lately, getting several top 8s or at least
getting close... like 9th place. It had gotten to the point that I said to
myself: "It would be nice to finally WIN one!"
Since I don't have the time to regularly play Magic anymore, I've been going to
these events quite relaxed. Even though for some reason the first round is
always a little bit nerve wrecking, the goal has always been to at least make
top 8 and learn as much as possible. I've never had the confidence -or audacity-
to go for the win.
So, I did learn a lot and continued to regularly make top 8 but I never won a
tournament of Magic the Gathering in my life.

This time though, I changed my mindset a little bit; I would be happy playing
and learning and trying to make top 8 but if I would get there, I wanted to win!
Not to be content with 'just' making top 8 but actually try to win. Sometimes
you just have to go for it:"Yes I can!"

But first, I needed a deck. And that's not an easy thing when you cannot test as
much as you'd want/need to. So I'm relegated to scouring tournament reports for
decks that look and feel good.
I tried all forms of Jace Control lists but my results against Workshop decks
never gave me enough confidence to play such a list in a tournament. I always
felt that there was more to get out of the deck than I was able to, or that I
didn't understand it well enough to make top 8, let alone win the tournament.
I tried building a Painter deck but couldn't get it to work properly.
I made top 8 with Elephant Oath a while ago but I was not sure I could still
handle the deck well enough and I didn't want to put the deck to shame because
of lack of play skill. Last time I played the deck in Breda I had tested the
deck and was somewhat prepared. Not so now...
I've been trying to break Intuition into something good but I lack the time -and
maybe skill- to really get it to work. But I still think it should be possible.
I tried Spanish Gush lists a few times but I don't like playing with Gush
anymore. It's not the same when your list lacks 3 blue Demonic tutors all of a
sudden... Not that the lists aren't good anymore but it's a different ball game
now and I'm not used to it.
Then I came across Brian Demars' Control list! It had Ancient Grudge and one of
the things I liked about Oath lists: multicolor lands. Even though they hurt...
a lot. I like the deck, it feels really powerful -as one of my opponents would
showcase during this tournament- but I just am not good enough with the list...
But hey, I made top 8 with Meandeck MUD a while ago... MUD's not bad... No game
deciding, opening myriad ways of messing up tutoring... Play clever, play strong
and you'll get there...

... and then I saw Sam Berse's Grudge Match 2 decklist. What a beast of beauty!

Main deck

4 Lodestone Golem
4 Sphere of Resistance
4 Thorn of Amethyst
4 Metalworker
4 Tangle Wire
4 Chalice of the Void
3 Steel Hellkite
1 Trinisphere
1 Memory Jar
1 Crucible of Worlds
2 Duplicant
2 Karn, Silver Golem
1 Black Lotus
1 Sol Ring
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Pearl
4 Mishra's Workshop
4 Ancient Tomb
2 Mishra's Factory
2 Rishadan Port
1 Tolarian Academy
1 Strip Mine
4 Wasteland

1 Crucible of Worlds
2 Duplicant
1 Karn, Silver Golem
2 Wurmcoil Engine
4 Relic of Progenitus
3 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
2 Eon Hub

I liked the list instantly and even more so when I noticed that Sam made top 8
again at the very next event he played in!

So, here we go!


Round 1: Maarten with Aggro MUD

Game 1: I win the die roll and play first turn Hellkite. He matches it with a
first turn Hellkite of his own and then 'Sculpts his Steel' into another
Hellkite. I run my Hellkite into his and Duplicant his Sculpting Steel for the
win. Duplicant was amazing for me all day!

Game 2: He may go first but it's Hellkite again for me with a Duplicant for his
Sculpting Steel on my Hellkite. Game over!

Wow, these were the fastest games I've ever played in a tournament I think.
Especially for the first round. We have so much time left that we decide to play
one for fun, which he wins.

Round 2: Iso Been with GB Fish

I've played Iso before and know I better concentrate!

Game 1: He has to mulligan twice and I play a Chalice of the Void for two very
soon in the game. A beater comes down and he scoops. I didn't even get a good
look at his deck...

Game 2: Much of the same. He Swords to Plowshares my early Hellkite but at some
point I resolve Chalice of the Void on 2 and that's the game again!

Chalice of the Void was unbelievably good all day and I always put it on the
correct number, except for once... but that'll come much later.

Round 3: Roel Jans with Brian Demars' Jace Control

Usually Roel is the judge at these events but as Bram Snepvangers -recently
inducted into the Hall of Fame- was judging this time, Roel got a chance to play
himself. And I know he and his team mates are good players, top 8 familiars!

Unfortunately, I don't remember much of our games... except that Roel easily
won. One of both games I kept a hand that I maybe should have mulliganed. I made
good mulligan decisions all day, just not here.

I tested this matchup from both perspectives myself and it looked like a 50-50
thing but this certainly did not reflect in our games. I was never really in it.
Now, I have to acknowledge that Roel just is a better player than I am. It
sometimes felt like we were in different leagues... You can sense when certain
players really 'feel' and understand the fundamentals of Magic and I'm sure he
plays a lot more than I do. But even they can make mistakes... read on!


Round 4: Benjamin van den Broeck with UBR Painter

Here we go! One of my team mates, we playtest once a week. There will be no
quarter given as we both are very eager to win this one. He's good, so I'll have
to really play. I'm actually pretty relaxed and focused; while he's trash
talking me, I'm preparing myself for the showdown.

Game 1: Benjamin starts with a mulligan and I keep a decent 7. He makes a
mistake by opening with his Library of Alexandria, which I waste and follow up
with a Sphere. It's practically over from here...
There were some small mistakes on both sides with tapping the wrong mana at the
wrong time but those were not deciding factors. As a general advice: always
think about tapping lands, never take anything for granted, it WILL be

Trash talking is over now, as we're both completely focused on the game!

Game 2: This is a more of a fight! I cannot completely lock him out of the game
but I can put enough pressure on his manabase so that he cannot make any
dangerous plays. All the while I'm taking damage from my Mana Crypt; my life
total goes:


... and then it's the final turn! It all comes down to this: I have a lethal
attacker but I need to win the die roll to survive my Mana Crypt...



It ends up in my favor and Benji's dead!

Mana Crypt: I'm never totally confidant with this card. It's a tremendous boost
and most of the times it won't pose too much of a problem but every now and
then... I'm always considering boarding it out in matchups that take longer but
most of the times I don't because the speed boost can be game breaking.


Round 5: Twan Koperberg with Dredge

Twan was sitting next to me during the first round and I remember
thinking:"Whew! I dodged the first round Dredge player!" So of course, I have to
face him now!

Game 1: He gets to go first and he kills me with a horde of Zombie tokens. My
mulligan didn't help change any of it.

Game 2: I love the sideboard plan against Dredge! And it proves to work as I
have The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale and a Relic of Progenitus in my opening 7.
My opponent had to mulligan three times before he gets the Bazaar of Baghdad he
needs. Twan is a good player though and he won't give up; I have to stay focused
and deal the full 20 damage with a Wurmcoil Engine.

Game 3: My opening 7 is not as spectacular this time but I have a Wasteland and
a Relic of Progenitus and Twan has mulliganed to 5. I remove the first 'wave to
the grave' from the game and Waste his Bazaar but he has another! He also
proceeds to dredge the best combination of cards imaginable and I'm in dire
straits - but not beaten yet! Time is called though and the draw is unavoidable.
I think the game ended with a Golem on my side to block his couple of zombies
and Narcomoeba's, and a Wasteland for his second Bazaar. I'm not entirely sure
about the board state but I remember thinking at the time that I stabilized and
that I might have pulled it off... but it's always dangerous to predict outcomes
like that. Anyway, it's a draw.


Well, at least I don't have to consider my options now:  I have to win my final
round to make top 8!

Round 6: Arjan Bos with Gush Combo (aka Watskeburt)

This is cool! Arjan and I have faced each other before. We were both Gushing to
Grow-a-Tog then and I was able to 'make mine bigger than his'... Rematch! But
with different decks...

Game 1: He gets to go first. This game takes very long and he's building a whole
giant archipelago with all those basic Islands on his side of the board! I don't
like basic lands... but he's not doing any threatening with them, which is fine
by me. I'm not building much; I have some Spheres hindering him but not much of
a beater. The longer this takes, the better for him and I'm starting to get
I'm not even sure how he's going to beat me. I've seen him Brain Freeze somebody
out of a Library in a previous round, so I know it's all about storm but until
now, I haven't seen any enablers. And then he lands a Vedalken Archmage and it
all comes together, especially looking at those 2 Sensei's Divining Tops on his
side. But, he has made a mistake; he tapped one of the tops to my Tangle
Wire(s)! He cannot go off this turn and I can get enough pressure on the board
the following turn to take it down over the next couple of turns. Phew, close

Arjan made several mistakes during the game, which gave me enough of an edge to
win. For example, one turn he could have drawn all mane from his Islands in
response to my Tangle Wire trigger, float the mana, resolve my Tangle Wire
trigger and then cast Frantic Search. This would have left him with better cards
in hand and enough mana during his turn to do something broken. He also made
several tapping errors to my Tangle Wire triggers in my opinion. He was not at
his best: too much alcohol the night before he told me! Seems to happen to Magic
players from time to time...

Game 2: This one isn't nearly as exciting, as I know his game plan now. He
doesn't make mistakes this time but neither do I and I get enough pressure on
the board to quickly bring his life total to 0.

Vedalken Archmage... cool! Expensive -manawise- but cool.

4-1-1 and top 8! Yay!

Quarterfinals: Richard with Jace Control

Another regular and a guy I've faced a few times before. Best time I can
remember was beating him with TMWA (The Mountains Win Again) in the
quarterfinals of a tournament a long time ago... with him playing TPS!
I must have forgotten the games he beat me...

A lot of pleasant chatting and we're off!

Game 1: This game takes forever! I go first and after a few turns I'm beating
him to a bloody pulp... with a Metalworker... That really isn't fast enough! It
literally takes 11 turns and I'm drawing nothing! Well, I draw Tangle Wires
which prevent him from playing anything threatening but then he lands a Trygon
Predator and it all falls apart.
I never had that happening to me with my deck before but I may have misplayed my
threats in the early turns, I don't really remember. I think I played a
Lodestone Golem before the Metalworker and the Golem got countered. I should
have led with the Metalworker. If it happened like that, then that was stupid...

Game 2: This was easily the coolest game of my tournament! I have an insane
opener with Mishra's Workshop, Trinisphere, Lodestone Golem, Mox Ruby, Mox
Emerald, a Wasteland and a Duplicant... and he has to mulligan twice! So out
comes the Trinisphere, which gets Force of Willed but that means he's down to
three cards now and I still have some possibly devastating plays next turn! So
naturally he goes: Black Lotus (crack for 3 blue), Ancestral Recall into Force
of Will (as I would find out later), Mox Emerald AND Trygon Predator! Wanna play
Vintage? Better expect some very INSANE PLAYS! I'm in trouble...
The Trygon Predator starts to eat my board. At one point I'm left with Mishra's
Workshop, Mox Emerald = 4 mana and I need six for my trustworthy Duplicants!
Luckily, I draw an Ancient Tomb soon and try to Duplicant his Predator but he
has also drawn a blue card for the Force of Will! I'm in even more trouble...
I need to keep playing to my outs, I need him to not destroy my Mox Emerald so
if I would draw another Duplicant -I sided in all copies- I would be able to
cast it. So I keep casting Golems and Spheres to keep him from eating my
precious Mox Emerald and sure enough, I topdeck the Duplicant after two turns or
so and finally remove his Trygon Predator.  A few turns later, a Lodestone Golem
turns up and helps to finish the game. Close call!

Game 3: Third game is all about how your live got flipped turned upside down,
when a couple of Golems were up to no good, started makin' trouble in your

Semifinals: Matthijs Van Wageningen with UR Landstill

Game 1: I'm not entirely sure what I'm up against, I've seen him before but have
never played against him. Since all my later rounds took so long to finish, I
couldn't scout around. He obviously knows what he's doing as he's in the
semifinals. Also, I'm exhausted at this point but I really want to win today, so
I stay focused! He tells me he's more of a Standard player. That is a clear
warning because some of the best Vintage players I know, are also very good
Standard players. People underestimate what Standard -or Limited for that
matter- can teach you. All the small plays, the tiny advantages that eventually
lead to a win. Not as much broken as Vintage but the best learning school to
become a great Magic player in my opinion. And it will show because he ponders
his moves and makes almost no mistakes - to my knowledge.

He gets to go first and at some point I see a Spellstutter Sprite, followed by a
Mutavault, a Grim Lavamancer and a Standstill. Now I know what I'm up against...
but it's too late. It's a great deck that rewards tight play and he plays tight!

Game 2: This one is brutal as I have Golems, Spheres, Wastelands that I hide in
my hand for his manlands and a Chalice of the Void on 1. I'm still in it!

Game 3: This one is a true thriller! I keep a hand with a Wurmcoil Engine, two
Ancient Tombs -as I know 'real mana' is very important in this matchup- a Sphere
of Resistance, a Mana Crypt, a Thorn of the Amethyst and a Rishadan Port if I
recall correctly. I know it's key to resolve my Wurmcoil Engine so I play to
make this happen, all the while playing around Daze and a Gorilla Shaman, but
he's put down 2 Energy Fluxes before I get to attack with my Wurmcoil Engine! I
tell myself to stay focused and not forget to pay the upkeep costs for my angry
Engine. My life total goes like this:

18 (Ancient Tomb to cast the Thorn of Amethyst)
16 (Ancient Tomb to Port his land)
15 (Gorilla Shaman)
14 (Gorilla Shaman)
13 (Gorilla Shaman)
7 (casting of my Wurmcoil Engine and a hit from his Grim Lavamancer)
5 (upkeep on my Engine)
11 (swing with the Wurmcoil Engine, he takes the damage: 13 life left)
10 (Gorilla Shaman)
6 (double upkeep cost on my Engine)
12 ('swing my Engine', he's at 7, I play a Mishra's Factory and I start looking
for a second land or Mox for some Wasteland ensurance!)
11 (Gorilla Shaman)
7 (double upkeep)
13 (swing my Engine again, he's at 1 life now!!)
9 (double upkeep but he'll need his man to block mine from now on, please don't
draw a Wasteland!! He blocks with the Gorilla Shaman en shoots it with the
Lavamancer to deny me the life gain)
5 (double upkeep, he blocks with the Lavamancer, which shoots itself before
damage goes on the stack, so I wouldn't gain life again)

Then he draws a Wasteland and I know that my Wurmcoil Engine won't live to tell
the tale. Worse, my two tokens will have summoning sickness the turn their big
momma dies. So I'm still peeling away for a land or a Mox to animate my Mishra's

3: A few turns later I draw an Ancient Tomb so I can finally animate my Mishra's
Factory! I have to drop to three though, right into Lightning Bolt range! But
the turn before I draw the Tomb, he had signaled that he didn't have the Bolt
through the use of his mana. Or he tricked me into believing that...
No Bolt but he finds an answer, at least for a turn: Gorilla Shaman! I send in
my Mishra's Factory and he tries to 'eat it' but that's a no-go! So chump
blocking it is for the Shaman.

Please don't draw a Wasteland, a Lightning Bolt or... it's a chump blocking
Gorilla Shaman again!

1: I animate my Mishra's Factory he tries to 'eat' it again! Nono, you can't do
that! So the Shaman dies. But I cannot use my Ancient Tomb anymore...

Please don't draw... anything!?

He doesn't and I draw a Mox for the animate, attack and win! So intense!
We both kept our focus, played to our best and it all came down to the ultimate
draw. This was Magic at its best!

Finals: Roel Jans with Jace Control Brian Demars style

My only loss from the day! With the deck I was going to play if I didn't play
this amazing MUD list. Revenge!

But first, he asks if I want to split prizes. I agree on one condition: that we
play the finals to decide the tournament winner! I'm always annoyed when the
finalists don't play it out for whatever reason and I've voiced this opinion
many times. So, even though I'm totally exhausted, I put my money where my mouth
is and ask him if it's ok if we play. Besides, I want to WIN this one, really
WIN this one!

He agrees; he has beaten me before during rounds, he's the better player -he is-
and he's convinced that he has the better matchup. So he'll be able to dispatch
me this time as well, won't he?

Game 1: I get to go first but oh man does this game take long. I misplay the
order of my threats once more and so I have a Metalworker beating down instead
of a Lodestone Golem, again! It was a calculated risk though; he had the Force
of Will for my first turn Sphere but no counter for my Thorn of Amethyst, so I
try to go for the Golem on my second turn but there's another Force of Will
together with a blue card lurking in his hand!
I play some more Spheres and a Chalice of the Void on 0, which was my first
wrong number for the Chalice all day! He had flashed a Mox he couldn't cast
through my Spheres and Tangle Wires earlier, and I wanted to keep him off as
much mana as possible. But it could have been any number as I had more than
enough mana and it should have been 1. I knew it as soon as I played it on 0!
The crowd agreed...
Sure thing, a Sensei's Divining Top and a Welder come down and my freshly pealed
Steel Hellkite doesn't impress as much.
As soon as I attack, Roel makes a strange play by Welding the Hellkite for
another one in my graveyard that had met an Ancient Grudge before, reasoning
that this fresh Hellkite wasn't going to do much anyway...
I don't mind! I have a new Hellkite next turn, so he'll have to use the Welder
on the beast again next turn as he's at 1 life! I need one more attacker!
This game just won't end as that Welder controls my board and Mindslavering me
in between doesn't help me either. Duplicant to the rescue again and I finally
take the first game.

This game took forever! It was insane to see how Roel managed to keep me from
killing him as long as he did, all the time on 1 life.

Game 2: Roel demonstrates that he knows how to play Magic; he takes all the
turns he wants while I'm still at 20 and I haven't done a single point of damage
to him! And it wasn't anything straightforward: Force of Will my threat, Tutor,
search, Jace, draw, Time Walk, ... I haven't done a single point of damage but
he's at 2 life all of a sudden! But as long as you win, it doesn't matter 'how
low you had to go'.
We talked during shuffling that the control deck can really put the hurts on the
controllers life total and this was clearly demonstrated here.

Game 3: Final game to decide it all! I'm close to physical death from exhaustion
right now but my mind is still focused. I really want to WIN this!
We both mulligan and I draw Mishra's Workshop, Mox Ruby, Lodestone Golem, Thorn
of Amethyst, Mishra's Factory and Trinisphere! The Trinisphere meets a Force of
Will but the Thorn of Amethyst and the Lodestone Golem come down. The Golem dies
to a Doom Blade -I like that card a lot, just not now!-but I have another one to
continue the beats.
He's playing a lot of lands and has Vampiric Tutored something undoubtedly evil
and I realize by his calm and focused composure that he's brewing something
that's about to take the game away from me: Time Vault + Voltaic Key. The only
way I can stop it, is to bottleneck his mana, as I cannot kill him before he'll
be able to put the combo pieces together.
So when I have the choice of attacking with my Mishra's Factory and my Lodestone
Golem or attack only with the Golem and cast a Sphere of Resistance, I make the
right call and cast the Sphere. He's got one more turn and some extra expensive
spells to pull it off!
He needs to peal a Black Lotus now to have enough mana to play his combo pieces
AND activate the Voltaic Key, winning on the spot. He doesn't and I get to
attack for my first tournament win!

In hindsight, apparently he could have played it differently. He also had a
Mystical Tutor in hand and he could have used it to buy an extra turn with Time
Walk, play an extra land, thus having enough mana in the extra turn to take all
my turns. I'm too tired and too happy with my win to calculate if this scenario
would indeed have worked through all my sphere effects and my Golem. It probably
would have but he didn't play it that way and I'm happy for it.

As for my deck

It was simply amazing! Just remember to always consider your opening hand
carefully, play lock pieces first and play to your outs. I always kept my Tangle
Wires untapped if possible -over for example 'unnecessary' lands or Spheres- so
a top deck Karn, Silver Golem would do as much damage as possible the turn it
came down. You have to count your mana wisely when doing this but it mattered in
at least one of my games. It's also something to try against 'the better
players': threaten Karn.

Top performers: Chalice of the Void, Duplicant and... Mishra's Workshop!
Questionable: Mana Crypt, even though I realize it's insanely fast mana, just be
careful in timing when to play it.
As for the sideboard, I didn't really get why the extra Karn was there and it's
probably a good idea to bring the Eon Hubs in against decks that bring in Energy
Fluxes! But you can beat Energy Flux, even two, as I showed in my semifinal
match. I saw a friend of mine do the same thing during rounds, he won with a
topdeck Mishra's Factory against a control player! The Factories are very good
and a very clever addition to the deck.

As for me

I played pretty well this tournament, even if I say so myself. I definitely made
mistakes but not as many as I have before. Making mistakes is part of playing
Magic the Gathering and the one who makes less, has a better shot at winning.
So, if you make mistakes, notice them, acknowledge them and learn how to avoid
them, even during testing! That's been my attitude for a long time now and it's
great to see that it paid off -even though I realize this wasn't the largest
tournament of all time. Nevertheless, it was my first win ever and it just feels

So I've done it; I've finally won a tournament! After all that time playing
magic and several top 8's, I finally finished first! What a great feeling!
Everybody -well, everybody that stayed that long- congratulates Roel and me and
we rush home as the hour is late.
I drive home, a little bit 'dazed' from concentrating and contemplating so many
insane plays all day long.

And as I finally get home, after a one hour and a half long drive, I still have
that tired, happy grin on my face: Smile

Thanks for reading!