What's your favorite kind of Magic tournament?
The Grand Prix with its ridiculous turnouts? Perhaps a Pro Tour—even if you're not qualified it has the sickest side events one could possibly imagine (oh but they're closed to the public now).
What's more I live in South Africa. Yes that's right: we play Magic in Africa! To answer your next question no there are no lions roaming the streets. Although they can be found at one our many wildlife parks.
Magic is a favorite past time of a niche group of gamers in South Africa though the financial burden attached to it makes it inaccessible to a vast majority of the population as boosters retail for the equivalent of almost $6 a pack. This of course is a huge barrier to entry as many gamers and particularly the students who make up a large percentage of the player base cannot afford the outlay that is required to get started.
Standard tends to be the most popular format across the country although the advent of Modern seemed to spark a bit of interest at most venues. Draft sadly is the least popular format due to the exorbitant booster prices.
In the past couple of years however Magic has seen a growth spurt of sorts with various new venues popping up all over the country; additionally attendance figures seem to be growing too. Depending on where you go a small FNM can attract twelve-to-sixteen players while the bigger venues can attract up to 40 players.
The majority of our player base is situated in Johannesburg and as a result the majority of PTQs are held here too. Many a road trip is made here by keen Magicians from various cities in SA as they seek gold. In terms of PTQ attendance the last three that took place in SA had turnouts between 63-80 players which compares favorably to many European PTQs. This really is impressive when you consider we don't have neighboring countries that have a travelling player base to boost our attendance figures.
In terms of competitiveness I believe that we are comparable to any of the smaller Magic playing nations in Europe. The only difference is that we have not had many South African successes at a Grand Prix or Pro Tour level. This however is not due to lack of ability but rather our geographic location.
Apart from GP Cape Town in 2001 the closest GPs or PTs to South Africa are in Europe which is an 11 hour+ flight away. Furthermore up until the third quarter of last year PTQ winners did not receive tickets to PTs which often resulted in the stronger players either not attending or scooping those with a healthy bank balance.
Back to my opening question: if you played Magic in South Africa over the years your favorite tournament was usually Nationals or perhaps Iron Man. Iron Man was an event that was held over three days which took place at one of our gaming conventions (Icon). Each day would be a different format usually two Constructed formats and one Limited format and after three days of grueling Swiss play the player atop of the standings took home the glory along with the Iron Man trophy.
Why were these tournaments the favorites of South African players?
- Both of these events were multi day/format events which meant several facets of your game were put to the test.
- Both of these events attracted large turnouts due to their marquee nature which meant catching up with old friends and making new ones. After all one of the biggest appeals of Magic is its sense of camaraderie and community in which each of us plays a part.
- You got to test yourself against the very best in the land to become the National Champion.
- You had the opportunity to represent your country on a global stage at Worlds.
These events truly were unique in the South African landscape; unfortunately Iron Man fell by the wayside several years ago. To the global Magic community's shock and dismay WotC decided to pull the plug on Nationals/Worlds last year—a decision that sparked a unified protest by gamers across the globe. Fortunately WOTC heard our voices and decided to introduce the Magic World Cup as a replacement for the now defunct Worlds.
With the new competition came a new qualifying system which incentivized frequent play; looking at the South African qualified list I noticed several stalwarts that were omitted due to the rigors of the real world hindering their ability to attend tournaments.
The corporate world was beginning to take its toll on me as well and I was unable to game much at all. I was lucky to qualify as I managed to post strong results in a couple of Grand Prix Trials as well as a PTQ to earn my invite.
Over the last month or two I began my journey on Magic Online as it allowed me to get in a bit of game time when my schedule was kind. Magic Online was everything I needed: tournaments on the go 24/7 easy access to cards and decent opposition. I began grinding with various staples and experienced a mixed bag of results. Eventually I got to a point where I was comfortable enough with the format to start experimenting with various home brews. I call my favorite Chetty Delver:
This bad boy was incredibly fun to play and as much as I wanted it work I couldn't get it to the point where it would be able to handle a grueling field such as that which I anticipated at the WMCQ. Although if you want to have a bit of fun I highly recommend it.
At some point during my journey I came to the realization that a well-built Wolf Run Ramp deck was the best way to tackle Standard. I settled on G/W/R fairly early and started grinding the eight-mans and Daily Events; over the course of five-to-six weeks I was able to perfect my deck to provide me with all the tools needed to beat the field. Most importantly I had a very good match vs. Delver (with a good pilot) which regular ramp decks could not do.
- 3 Solemn Simulacrum
- 4 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 2 Inferno Titan
- 4 Primeval Titan
- 2 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
I call this deck Chetty Naya Ramp. You may ask why my surname is in all my deck names; well it's something that started a few years back by my teammate Russell Tanchel. But I digress.
On to the interesting card choices!
- Delver: Swords and Pikes
- G/R Aggro: Swords and Metamorphs
- Birthing Pod: Pod
- Ramp: Inkmoth and Sphere of Suns
These cards were able to deal with all of these problematic artifacts in an efficient manner.
Question time: what do Humans Tokens Delver and G/R Aggro have in common? That's right they receive a beating from Gideon Jura and Elesh Norn. These cards are ridiculously good in the current metagame; in fact these decks are pretty much kold to the Grand Cenobite particularly when it sticks as early as turn 5. Elesh Norn and Gideon are surprisingly good against Wolf Run Ramp too.
Can you think of a match in which Huntmaster of the Fells is inefficient? Think about it for a second…that's right there aren't any! I think it's important that I touch on Huntmaster of the Fells. In my opinion it truly is an absurd card; it really is everything a Wolf Run Ramp deck could want and more. I am positive that playing any number less than four is incorrect (even if you have Zeniths). I never side out Huntmasters. To me Huntmaster is a four-mana Titan so please sleeve up four in your Wolf Run Ramp decks. Anything less is criminal!
On to the noteworthy omissions.
Galvanic Blast Slagstorm and Oblivion Ring. Blast was underwhelming in many matches. Slagstorm seemed excellent; however it made the deck vulnerable to control vs. a card such as Ratchet Bomb which has its uses across the board. Additionally Bomb allows for a more consistent mana base.
Oblivion Ring is not good in the format as it is susceptible to Acidic Slime and opposing Rings. Additionally its sorcery speed makes it horrible vs. Delver. You need to have an instant speed answer to their equipment or you could get beaten by a Runechanter's Pike in one fateful swing.
Blast does nothing in most matches really nothing; Beast Within does everything. Beast Within is a superstar in this deck as it allows one to keep a blue mage off counter mana EOT in order to resolve the requisite threat or kill one of my permanents in order to block a Geist of Saint Traft. An instant speed Vindicate in a deck that can deal with the token is a boss.
As a result of the versatile removal that I was running I felt it unnecessary to run Acidic Slime. The singleton Birds of Paradise ran the risk of turning on Delvers otherwise dead Gut Shots. With these two omissions Greens Sun's Zenith ended up received the chop and so did the singleton Thrun which seemed underwhelming in any event.
The sideboard is pretty straightforward.
Ray of Revelation is backbreaking against Tokens. Humans not only do you shut down their Anthem effects but you also stop the inevitable Rings.
Oblivion Ring is a safety net a bit of insurance against just about anything one may encounter.
Timely Reinforcements is the bane of every creature-based strategy known to man.
Russell and I ran the same 75; when someone such as Russell (a previous national champion and one of the most consistent performers in SA) buys into your idea you know that your concept is pretty solid. The two of us were pretty confident heading into the event as the deck seemed extremely well positioned.
The event itself had 109 players present though several did not make the journey as they can catch the qualifiers in Durban and Cape Town instead. To me the event had the feel of a PTQ instead of the excitement that I was accustomed to with Nationals; when you think about it that's exactly what it is. On to the event...
Round 1: Andrew Cullen - U/W Delver 2-1 W
Round 2: Rudolph Cloete - U/W Delver 2-0 W
Round 3: Herman Potgieter G/W/B Planeswalkers 1-1 D
I took the first game fairly easily and fancied my chances heading into game 2; unfortunately my deck had other ideas. I ended the game with all my basic lands in play vs. zero non-basics and a pair of Rampant Growths stuck in hand. To be fair his deck tried it's best to give me the game as he was also flooded but it was not enough.
In the decider I kept a decent six but his draw was far too powerful. I seemed destined to lose until he punted in his final go in extra turns as he forgot about my mighty Inkmoth Nexus which was able to block his Gideon. I managed to hang on for the draw with him having a Mortarpod in hand.
Round 4: Alwyn Cloete - Wolf Run Ramp 2-0 W
Round 5: Alon Chamers - U/W Delver 2-0 W
I mulled to six and kept the following:
Bizarrely I proceeded to draw the remaining four colorless lands in my deck as well as another Elesh Norn. I was pretty much dead in the water to any combination of counters and Vapor Snag as I would be unable to cast more than three spells. I ran out my Titan which got Leaked.
I tried Elesh Norn but Snapcaster ensured that he got countered. I removed my final two counters off my Spheres to cast my second Elesh Norn; I looked at him and saw the fear in his eyes. Elesh Norn landed wiping out his board. He did not have Snag and my four mighty Inkmoths made short work of him.
Round 6: Christophe Cleghorn - Wolf Run Ramp 0-2 L
Round 7: Wesley Lampbrecht - G/R Aggro 2-1 W
I was in the win and in round due to my strong breakers. After splitting the first two games we reached the decider. Game 3 was an epic; for the third time in the day I mulled to five cards prompting my opponent to do a little fist pump of sorts. I did however warn him that twice in the day my five card hands led to victory. This is one of those games in which everyone watching including myself left wondering how I managed to escape with the W.
I can't do it justice by retelling the tale but I feel as though I played myself into a position to win and my opponent made several questionable plays. The pressure of a crowd converging on your game as well as the Top 8 that was on the line clearly affected him; fortunately I have been in those situations on far too many occasions to get ruffled and took advantage of my opponent's inexperience.
5-1-1 is what Russell and I finished on; unfortunately Russ ended up ninth due to his breakers taking a nosedive in the final round. My record was good enough for fifth as I had the best breakers of the 16 pointers. It was my duty to keep the team flag flying high.
QF: Herman Potgieter – G/W/B Planeswalkers 2-0 W
I steamrolled him in game 1. In game 2 I mulled to five for the fourth time in the day causing Herman's confidence level to elevate. I of course chirped about my unblemished five card record for the day. Wesley my previous opponent who was spectating added in a "True story" for good measure. True to form my deck did not disappoint as I took down another game even though he Distressed me twice in the opening few turns.
SF: Richard Soldin - Wolf Run Ramp 2-0 W
Finals: George Lee - U/W Delver
I was pretty pumped heading into the final; after all I was 3-0 vs. Delver for the day. I have known George for a while now and go back many years with his brother Peter. To my surprise they asked me if I would definitely attend the World Cup and I replied with a resounding "YES." George graciously conceded as he was unsure whether he would be able to attend. A rather anticlimactic end to the day but I was extremely pleased to be the first South African on the World Cup team.
Excluding IDs and the concession Russell I had a combined record of 12-1-2. More impressive was our combined 6-1 record vs. Delver. I really do believe that the deck is an excellent choice for the current metagame; I don't think I have ever played a deck where I have been completely satisfied with all 75 cards after an event. In fact I took the exact 75 to a PTQ the next day and posted a respectable 5-2 record. Unfortunately I just missed out on the Top 8 due to my mediocre tiebreakers.
I would definitely recommend this deck to anyone looking for a competitive edge so do take advantage of this bad boy before the rotation.
For now I am going to enjoy a break from Magic whilst eagerly waiting to find out who else will join me on the World Cup team.
Beast Within for being an all-star.
The Durban crew for turning up in such large numbers.
Albie for practically supplying me with a deck yet again.
All my friends in the community who supported me throughout the day: you guys rock.
The Donkey Slayers (my team): even though we don't really practice we are still some of the best guys in the game.