Good morning all, my name is Brandan Bremont and I am coming to you fresh off of a fourth GP win in Caseyville, Illinois. I participated as one of nineteen Moojdart/Fiethsing players attending, the highest represented deck in the field and the most decks to place in top eight. The competition was tough and I had a very challenging road to get here, so allow me to walk you through my matchups and talk about some of the critical cards that ended up making the difference in my deck.
A quick and necessary shout out to Issac Rancic whose 1st place list in Parma served as a foundation for the original list (editor’s note: do check out Isaac’s in-depth article about the deck list and how it evolved during playtesting before the Italian GP), and Ryan Miles who was instrumental in tuning the deck the night before the event.
I ended up on the Tsuiya, Cursed Spawn of the Star // Curse of Ragnarok (EDL-094) version of the deck because I believe the card is critical to both the mirror and the Violet, Atomic Automaton (ADW-030) // Violet, Atomic Automaton [J-Ruler] (ADW-030J) matchup. Being able to use Lykeion, the Magic Academy (EDL-062) proactively instead of passively gets extra value against Dispelling Stone (EDL-001) and Aegis (ADW-076). The core combo of the mirror is somewhat fragile; it is difficult to “combo off” with Melfee, Traveling Sorceress (ROL-017), Pricia, Seeker of Friends // Pricia’s Big Show (ROL-018), and Lykeions while your opponent represents Necronomicon Barrier (ADW-066) and Welser, Master of the Six Sages // His Last Lecture (MSW-064). While preventing these things, you can also proactively Curse of Ragnarok your opponent repeatedly to assure that you will win the cancel spell war in the late game over who gets to make a big board with Pricia (after the Fiethsing (MSW-053) // Fiethsing [J-ruler] (MSW-053J) flip of course). Additionally, the Violet matchup is all about matching up your ways to remove Atomic Bahamut (ADW-016) with their pressure to go off with it. Because your Lykeion will rarely survive more than a turn against Aegis, it is important to have something to do with it immediately, and adds to your count of potential ways to deal with early Bahamuts.
A quick note on the Welser count, I ended up on three mainboard with an additional one in the side. The card is just so pivotal to the Violet matchup that it is hard to justify less than 3, and it can occasionally come up against belligerent mirror players. The other nice thing about the card is that in the late game when it turns into a liability, you can trade it away with Moojdart (MSW-042) // Moojdart [J-ruler] (MSW-042J), so the downside is deeply mitigated. It is a difficult card to analyze, as sometimes it was the only reason I stayed alive against a Violet comboing off on turn 2, and other times in the late game mirror it was a liability to draw. In the end, I would stick with my count of three, keeping one in the sideboard to bring in against Violet. I wouldn’t fault someone who was playing in a GP where they expected less Violet to go down to two copies, although less than that is just asking for trouble.
Alright, ramblings aside, let’s get into my matches
Round One: Joseph Cuevas
Poetically, my round one opponent would also turn out to be my finals opponent. I consider my deck to be more heavily tuned for the mirror, but I have a thick sideboard for this matchup and think that can bring me there. I get easily destroyed in game one to a fast start with Atomic Turbulence (ADW-020) and Atomic Bahamut (ADW-016), and I am unable to answer both.
Post board, I side into the Almerius (MSW-002) // Almerius [J-ruler] (MSW-002J), Satan’s Phantasmal Body // Flame of Outer World (MSW-091), Optical Camouflage (GITS2045SD-008), Welser #4, and a A Duet of Light (MSW-001). The extra life buff from Almerius, in addition to well-timed Curse of Ragnaroks and an unlucky lack of early Bahamuts from my opponent, brings me to a 2-1 victory, leaving me 1-0 on the start of the day. It is a nice confidence boost to win the scariest matchup against one of the scarier players in the room on round one. At the time, I didn’t know that I hadn’t seen the last of Joseph, and he would be back with a vengeance on day two.
Round Two: Gerardo Nunez
Just my luck, I would have two back to back Violet players on basically the same list. Also back to back players who would eventually make the top cut. Something about playing against me must just inspire hot streaks I guess (three out of my first four opponents ended up topping the event, so no one can say I had it easy).
This matchup went curiously opposite of the first game with Joseph. I won the first game with Fiethsing and Moojdart, after getting an early Bahamut off of Curse of Ragnarok then decking my opponent out after they couldn’t find early pressure. I did the same sideboard as in round one, then lost the first game as Fiethsing/Almerius. A Bahamut stuck early and I simply could not find a way to remove it, and eventually he simply swung Bahamut through enough Lumia, Princess of Rebirth // Wings of Light and Darkness (ROL-005) to get the job done. Because the first game went to decking, we did not have time to finish game three, and I ended round two with a disappointing 1-0-1 start. I think this match confirmed for me the value of siding Optical Camouflage. I needed to find more ways to remove Bahamuts that resolve while I’m playing as Almerius. Even though the ruler permits me one hit from the dragon, it does not permit me a second, and part of the Almerius sideboard plan needs to involve slotting in removal. I would update my sideboard in the future to have additional Crystallization (AO3-006) or Optical Camouflage in the sideboard.
In any case, I enter round three with a disappointing start, which is exactly what you don’t want to have when you are paired up against…
Round Three: Jalen Rojas
Don’t let my matchups fool you, there were plenty of newer players at the event and many easy opponents I could have seen. But just my luck, I am now three for three on former world competitors, consistent toppers and solid players. Jalen Rojas was a former teammate of mine as well, and I knew this game was going to be absurdly rough.
The game starts with Jalen going off with Melfee into a Pricia’s Big Show into a Dark Alice’s Smile (PofA-052) into Lykeion, all completely uninterrupted by me. Not a great start for me as I lose my Pricia and look at a hand in complete shambles. From turn one I was pretty certain the game was over. Luckily, after a pass, Moojdart came in clutch with a filter into a second Pricia, allowing me to use my one mana advantage to Welser the Number Thirteen, Anti-Magic (ADW-088) off of his Lykeion, stick my own double Lykeion, and Curse of Ragnarok away both his Pricia and a second card. We are both now staring down each other’s boards of Lykeion and Melfee, but I have the critical Pricia and he does not. He tries to find it off of his Moojdart as well, but luck is not smiling on him the same. Once he passes to me and I get a recovery step, the game is pretty much over as I can shape my draws for Number Thirteens, clear his hand with the next Curse or Smile I see, then combo off with Pricia while the coast is clear all the while being backed up by my own Number Thirteens. Despite the speed of this description, the entire endeavor ended up taking nearly 35 minutes, leaving only 12 minutes remaining after sideboard. Jalen was not interested in trying to force a tie that he knew would not be beneficial to either of us, and kindly conceded after game one concluded. The matchup was very stressful and started off with me certain I had lost, so the miracle come-back was greatly appreciated and certainly thanks to the Curse of Ragnarok copies I had mained (In addition to a very lucky Pricia rip).
Confident I had finally run out the string of strong opponents, I enter round 4 at 2-0-1
Round Four: Tom Graham
And of course I was wrong. Round four comes up against future 1st seed topper (which I guess is sort of a spoiler) Tom Graham, piloting the same deck he topped the last online GP with; Dolly, Olivia’s Electric Dolphin (ADW-032) Lykeion. Now, in my personal opinion, I prefer my deck in this mirror. I think the Curse of Ragnaroks go a long way in helping the mirror play out in my favor, and Pulsing Thunder (ADW-089) still can’t kill through Neverend, Fairy Tale Dragon (MSW-043) activations, which leaves several potentially dead early draws that demand Moojdart filters. I entered the match feeling very confident. The first two games are uneventful, both involving one of us making an early board the other cannot crack, so we enter game three both hoping to pull this out and virtually assure a place in top cut.
And this is where I encounter one of my most heartbreaking losses of my career. After long exchanges of hand hate and cancels, I eventually put Tom down to zero cards in hand, then flood the board with Pricias and Neverend. I confidently pass knowing he has exactly one turn to pull out an answer to my board…
Which he finds, in the form of Melfee producing double blue into the top deck Valentina, Owner of the Theater (ROL-015), to steal my board and the win.
It was a heartbreaking loss, but it couldn’t have been to a stronger or more well deserved opponent, who is always a pleasure to play against.
I enter round 5 determined, if not slightly dejected, 2-1-1. Time for the heartbreaker round.
Round Five: Matt Davis
As the world cannot permit me a break even at my weakest, I am paired with yet another Violet in round five. I had built the deck with dreams of crushing the mirror, which was the most represented matchup at the event, but instead got three Violets. I wasn’t aware of who Matt was at first, but he later identified himself as someone I was actually aware of as a friend on facebook. He had come down from Minneapolis and had attended this GP last year, getting knocked out on the last round then as well. As sympathetic as I am to the classic heartbreaker round loss, only one of us can take this W, and I’m ready to make sure it is me. Game one opens with a convenient double Lykeion start from me, knocking a quick Bahamut down off of a Curse. Despite multiple Aegis (ADW-076), huge Brave Force (ADW-078) flips, and strong Turbulence+Bahamut turns, I am able to deliver an answer to each of his threats and end up finding a win with the mainboard Moojdart, which is more than I can typically ask for from my deck.
Game two sees my trusty Almerius enter the ruler slot, a decision which I am at this point still unconvinced is actually correct, but more on that later. Matt played very well, but I once again was able to stop the key threats the deck had. He played Academy Guard of Lykeion (EDL-039) which was brutally annoying for my deck in the early game, forcing out an early Lumia that I didn’t want to have to waste on a card not named Tiny Violet (ADW-029. Ultimately, the same situation occurred in this game as all of my Violet wins; I removed all of Matt’s threats and held up cancels and Fiethsing until he ran out of ways to produce damage. Then after that point, there was no difference between letting him deck out and attacking with Neverends. He was a good opponent and a nice way to end day one, putting me into the 3-1-1 standing tier.
In the end, only three 3-1-1 players made it into top while four 3-1-1s did not, but I had absolute confidence that I was going to be one of them thanks to my absolutely stacked tie breakers and brutal swiss opponents. Indeed, I ended up being the highest seeded 3-1-1 and got in at 6th.
Now to spend all night testing my top 8 matchups and grinding out games…just kidding, we went back to the B&B and played cube all night.
I was lucky enough to be matched with the talented Paul Martinson in round one, who already had a paid invite to worlds. He graciously conceded the first round, as the money was already split. His kindness was not in vain, as I did proceed to take the event down.
SEMI-FINALS: Victor Harris
One of my favorite players in the game and a terrifying opponent to boot. Victor is playing Fieth/Mooj with no Curse of Ragnarok, but featuring the scary mainboard Valentina. Game one features Victor off to the races with a scary Melfee, Pricia, Smile, Lykeion start: the best the deck has to offer. He is also able to cancel my Melfee enters and disrupt me on my first turn, a play that typically spells doom for the mirror. Luckily, the Curse of Ragnaroks came in clutch once again as I was able to eventually stick a Melfee and a Lykeion, Cursing away his Pricia and running him out of the gas advantage he started with. The whole matchup comes down to Curse of Ragnarok it seems. Eventually I make a brutal misplay, and tap out for a Big Show forgetting he has just drawn a Pricia. This gives him a window to combo off and get a board despite my early lead. This was a big mistake on my end and I thought it might cost me the match. Luckily, the card advantage I had gotten up to that point still allowed me to get my Pricia out and get over his Neverends, constantly threatening to Lumia, Princess of Rebirth // Wings of Light and Darkness (ROL-005) the Neverends in his end step and demanding he keep his Fiethsing up to respond to them. Eventually this pressure advantage allowed me to push through the damage I needed to win.
Game two was considerably less intense, as Victor sided into the difficult to beat Resistance of the Twelve Protective Deities (AO3-078) + Nidhogg (PofA-101) combo. He has the perfect combo on turn 0, before I even call a stone, and I lose my Pricia and Melfee. Despite all of my digging, I am unable to find any answer to the Nidhogg before it gets to me. I was made aware of the Nidhigg combo by Rogue’s Guild player Josh Patton the night before the event, but I didn’t take it seriously until now. I might consider siding it in for the mirror in the future, as it felt very difficult to beat with my current deck and sideboard set up. Luckily, it’s a combo that only really works on the coin, so I wouldn’t have to worry about it going into game three.
In game three, we are deep in time and the clock is going to determine this game with life total almost certainly. I have the distinct advantage of having an Almerius in the sideboard while Victor does not. I mulligan my whole hand for cancel spells and Necronomicon Barriers, just wanting to ensure that Victor cannot get an early Pricia turn or resolve his copies of Duet of Light. Not the most relevant or exciting aspect of the mirror, but ultimately I’m able to assure that I have more life going into the last turn and clutch it out.
Victor would have deserved the win as much if not more than me, and it was a pleasure to play such a talented opponent in the semis. The stress of that game really fired me up to be at maximum focus going into the final round.
FINALS: Joseph Cuevas
And as it all comes full circle, my final opponent of the tournament is the same one who started it off. I have the confidence from our swiss win under my belt, as well as having gone against three Violets over the course of day one.
I managed to take the first win down on the Fieth/Mooj side, which is a great bout of confidence given that I have a 10 card sideboard for this matchup. My answers lined up with his threats in the right order, and I managed to take him to decking out in game one. His life total was arbitrarily huge after resolving an Improved Healing Robot (ADW-037) as well as getting off a Violet Drain attack, so my only option was to run him out of cards. Doing that successfully, I entered game two with high confidence that I was on my way to the GP win.
Game two with Almerius didn’t work out as well for me. The risk when you side into Almerius is that your hand will not be able to be sculpted after you draw Pricia combo pieces. I sadly drew one of my Neverends early, forcing me to combo off with Pricia and only get the single Neverend in deck. I made the mistake of trying to push damage through with a Last Lecture to untap Almerius and buff a Melfee to lethal, but that was swiftly answered by the last Gradius (ADW-022) my opponent had in deck. He would have also been fine with a Dark Prominence (ADW-080) or a White Garden (ADW-015), but I thought the gamble to try and force lethal might be worth it. In hindsight it was a blunder, and I ended up losing that game due to overextended resources and a wasted Welser.
Game three featured one of the greatest miracle comebacks I have ever gotten to experience. My opening hand was downright abysmal, featuring four Lykeions and practically no answers to the ruler flipping or the Bahamut. I thought for sure I was doomed at many points, the stream commentators assured audiences I had lost, and even my little brother who was watching at home told my mother I had lost the match. But in the greatest string of miracle top decks ever, I managed to find cancel into cancel into removal, answering the couple Bahamuts he had and finding a Flames of the Outerworld on literally the turn before he judged. Additionally, Joseph’s final Bahamut ended up on the bottom three cards of his deck, alleviating that pressure substantially. In the end, this game came down to life totals just like the semi-finals, where I was able to loop two Lumias in a single turn to put me at a high enough life total to win after a grueling hour and a half match process.
Joseph was a terrifying opponent on a terrifying deck, constantly threatening me on every turn and challenging every tapping of stones.
This was one of the toughest series I had ever fought through, engaging with numerous people who were just on the border of knocking me out. It was an exciting experience, and I look forward to seeing several of these players in Japan for the worlds tournament.
Thank you all for reading!