By Niels Viaene
Due to a lack of interest and some unlucky planning on my end, both Episode 17 and 18 ended up being canceled. That would have made for an awkward ending to the season if it weren’t for me being in the lead… Or that makes it awkward, I guess that depends on your perspective. Whichever way you see it, no extra bye for the April Gentry Open will be given away, and we can look forward to the second split, marked by the introduction of Kaldheim.
On Seasons and Splits
The terminology can get confusing, especially after what we did with Zendikar Rising. Technically, a season is the time between two Gentry Opens. With the monthly leaderboard events we had in paper, that was fine, as there were 5 to 7 events each season. With the transition to Weekly Gentry events, that needed to change. We introduced splits, which reset the leaderboard with every set that comes out, and also gave out the rewards twice as much (the bye at the Open).
But then the September set hit, and that came with the need to introduce another split because it ended up being 18 events long, way too much for the rules set in place. Se we Split the Zedikar Split in two (you see where this is getting confusing).
So to tie things together like a certain rug did to a room: Kaldheim marks the beginning of the second split of Season XII and will be marked as XII.2 to keep the name short. (Zendikar would have then been XII.1a and XII.1b (I know, I am making things conmplicated)) (editor’s note: No one cares, just tell them we are rebooting and get on with talking about the most recent event!)
The pre-XII.2 event
The first event with Kaldheim cards was a special one:
1. It does not count for the leaderboard
2. Decks had to feature at least 20 cards from Kaldheim (basics do not count)
This was done for multiple reasons:
1. Giving new cards a place to shine
2. Giving players some extra time to test and get enough cards and wildcards for the deck they end up playing
All in all, the event was a success. People enjoyed deckbuilding in a fresh environment and getting the opportunity to test a few new things without having to fear tuned decks coming in to ruin their fun. Let’s have a look at some of the decks and see if we can learn something from them.
4-0 Jens Alden
This deck already existed before, and focused on getting a Silversmote Ghoul + Cling to Dust cycly going. Polukranos, Unchained was the alternative plan there. Now they get Narfi, Betrayer King as both a more resilient and cheaper finisher but without some of the flexibility built in.
The deck fills the board and can actually pose a problem for many decks as their threats are often slightly bigger than the 2-point sweeper options. After you have dealt with those, they now have a full graveyard to play with. There will be versions with Underworld Charger or Loathsome Chimera as well, but just getting Narfi’s going might straight up be better. Cling to Dust is a great card to have in your deck these days, with the graveyard housing a lot of threats.
All in all this a great deck. Game 1 is very easy to play. Using and building the sideboard correctly is likely to be one of the most challenging parts of this strategy and the one where many less experienced pilots will feel a lot of stress as people will be adjusting their sideboards to better fight graveyard strategies from now on.
In that same vein, playing against a well set up red Control deck will be a struggle as they already had the best Exiling removal, they are ready to fight back in a way that makes you deck ‘fair’ and that might ot feel so nice. Just remember to rely more heavily on 3+ toughness creatures so you at least do not give them free advantages with their Crush the Weak, another big impact card coming out of Kaldheim.
3-1 Karl Lister
Karl brought wizards, some of them pretty oversized, to the event. My first impression is that it was a great and fun showcase for this Kaldheim event, but will not be able to co-exist with versions relying on Improbable Alliance and Ominous Seas or Sprite Dragon. I would love to be proven wrong in this assumption though, as it seems like a really fun deck to play.
3-1 Peter Jönsson
Yes, you are reading that correctly, Rakdos Control!
Peter came into the tournament with a discard and pressure based strategy. Up to now this strategy was plagued with an inability to put enough pressure on opponents once their hand was empty and just ended up losing to top decks. With Kaldheim, they got a few really interesting cards: Kardur’s Vicious Return interacts in different ways, two of which put pressure on the opponent. Keeping cards in hand to be able to interact with the creature coming in with the third act is not going to be an easy feat, for sure. The second is Immersturm Skullcairn allowing you to pocket an effect and hide it in your lands for when you get a bit more flooded. And finally, we have Skull Raid, a discard spell that does something when your opponent is just playing off the top. This means that every… EVERY effect that Peter has to make you discard is attached to a body or a different effect and does something even when it is not making you discard, be it attacking for 1 or drawing him more cards.
3-1 Yens Goethals
BG Elves is probably the most obvious deck hiding in Kaldheim Gentry, as shown by the fact 4 players brought it to the table, even if 1 tried to hide behind the name Gruul Tempo (you are not fooling anyone, Elf, if not Gruul….? SMASH!) The interesting aspect is that everyone tried different configurations, with the versions looking a little hard at reanimation coming out on top of the pack.
The future will tell which version reign supreme, as both aggro versions and more Midrangey versions will be able to show their mettle in the future.
2-2 Jeffrey Tiberghein
It came as a surprise to absolutely no one to see Jeffrey rock up to the event with Esper in tow. Known for his love of UW(x) decks him turning up for the event was more of a surprise than his choice of deck, but that did not make it less interesting.
He chose to lean heavily on Niko defies Destiny and hence, the Foretell mechanic, of which he had 17 in the maindeck! He did seem to struggle, only managing a 2-2 finish, but I feel that might be due to a slight lack of optimization in his deck (which makes sense considering most players made their deck in a single day).
Pushing for 17 Foretell cards might be a bit much, and especially Iron Verdict seems like a card that should live in the sideboard. Playing so many conditional cards main-deck made him reach for draw options that allow him to discard, especially in game 1. By streamlining his selection, he could probably drop Thirst for Meaning in favor of Opt, a card that fits way better in his mana development considering foretelling costs 2 and most of his spell also cost 2 to cast when foretold.
This version was pretty good for this event, as it needed to focus more heavily on creature interaction, but once we turn back to full Gentry to will need to slim down that game 1 to be able to compete.
The rest of the event
An adaptation of mono-Red Sacrifice went 3-1, but that was mostly a powered down version of the currently legal deck. A little favourite of mine was the snow/zombie themed deck we saw taking full advantage of Narfi, but playing only 2 copies of him. Other decks are Selesnya aggro, and Mono-Black Devotion. If you want to see every decklist, you can find them here.
Next week, we start a new leaderboard, the XII.2 Split. The events will be available soon on MTGMelee, and don’t forget, Magic Arena is now on android, so people with an (apparently pretty new and beefy) smartphone or (reasonably modern) tablet can now join in on the action!
Besides that, all of us are of course looking forward to being able to slings some actual cardboard in real life, but it seem that is still some time away. I am in the meantime renovating my very own bar in Ghent, the hometown of Gentry, where I will definitely feature our beloved format! For updates you can go to the facebook page for now (more sources to appear in the near future)
Happy brewing, Vikings, and thanks for stationing yourselves at the oars for this adventure,