2011 Germany National Championship

Posted in Event Coverage on August 12, 2011

195 players have gathered here in Iserlohn for this year's German Nationals. All the big names are out in full force. Kai Budde is looking to add some more to his already unrivalled résumé, while on the other side of the spectrum, Rookie of the Year hopeful (and current leader) Fabian Thiele wants to pick up some additional Pro Points. Between the old and the new guard, all number of players, famous and as-of-yet unknown, are competing for their shot at the Top 8, the trophy, and the glory.

Today, there are four rounds of Standard, followed by three rounds of Booster Draft. Last weekend, newly-minted US champ Ali Aintrazi put blue-black control back on the map, front and center, and we'll see how the metagame responds to the rise of this alleged Squadron Hawk-Sword of Feast and Famine killer. Meanwhile, Birthing Pod decks are showing up in greater numbers and may have learned some new tricks. As for draft, previous championships have established the M12 format as rather aggressive. We'll see whether this trend continues or if someone can come up with a successful strategy for a more control-oriented draft archetype.

Check back to DailyMTG.com throughout the weekend for all the insight, deck tech, and news from German Nationals!

Friday, 5:14 p.m.
Drafting with Florian Koch
by Thorben Thies and Hanno Terbuyken


Friday, 12:30 p.m. – Last Chance Qualifier Decklists
by Tobi Henke

Adrian Rosada (Last-Chance Qualifier Winner)

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Christopher Budde (Last-Chance Qualifier Winner)

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Jasper Grimmer (Last-Chance Qualifier Winner)

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Florian Hofmann (Last-Chance Qualifier Winner)

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Bernd Fritsch (Last-Chance Qualifier Winner)

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Andreas Lesch (Last-Chance Qualifier Winner)

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Emanuel Sutor (Last-Chance Qualifier Winner)

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Patrick Strohbach (Last-Chance Qualifier Winner)

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Christian Schmelz (Last-Chance Qualifier Winner)

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Mathias Wigge (Last-Chance Qualifier Winner)

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Philipp Helle (Last-Chance Qualifier Winner)

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Round 1: Feature Match – Andre Müller vs. Denis Sinner
by Tobi Henke

Both these players are no strangers to the limelight. Andre Müller made it to the Top 8 of two Pro Tours, once in Philadelphia in 2005 and in Valencia in 2007, while Denis Sinner got his sole PT Top 8 in Berlin in 2008. Both took some time away from the PT, but are currently working on their comeback and have qualified for the upcoming PT Philly.

For this event, Müller chose blue-black control, whereas Sinner brought Squadron Hawk-Sword of Feast and Famine.

Game One

Müller took a mulligan. "Huh. I had the exact same cards," Müller said. "Only one more. Guess, I'll take another mulligan."

As he shuffled, he mused: "You're pretty far ahead then already."

Sinner offered a shrug and muttered something along the lines of "Kind of."

"Nah, I heard, in the end, the best player always wins. There really is no luck in Magic," said Müller and stuck out his tongue. He kept his five cards.

Denis Sinner

Sinner started fast, with Mirran Crusader and another Mirran Crusader followed by Sword of Feast and Famine. Müller bought some time with Solemn Simulacrum, but quickly succumbed to the black-protected masses.

"Yeah, I heard that's how you win this match-up: double-mulligan for your opponent. double Mirran Crusader for you, plus Sword of Feast and Famine." Quite the beating indeed.

Andre Müller 0 – 1 Denis Sinner

Game Two

Müller had Inquisition of Kozilek for Sinner's Mana Leak, leaving him with Preordain and Gideon Jura in hand. Sinner made his Preordain and reached for his library to resolve the spell. "That's right. When I have Mental Misstep, you will instantly know it, because I'll sit on the edge of my chair waiting to stop you from resolving your spell," Müller joked.

Müller's Jace Beleren was stopped by another Mana Leak, Sinner's Mirran Crusader met the same fate. Next, Sinner resolved Gideon Jura, but Müller didn't even have to resolve his two Creeping Tar Pits. The lands attacked twice and took Gideon Jura down. Since this had worked so well, Müller shrugged and simply continued in this line of play. His Tar Pits smashed in for 6, 6, 6 ... and the rest.

Andre Müller 1 – 1 Denis Sinner

Game Three

The action started on turn four, when Sinner tried for Squadron Hawk which, much to Müller's chagrin, resolved and searched up two more.

The Squadron Hawk attacked and was joined by Mirran Crusader after the players had traded Mana Leaks to stop and save the Crusader, respectively.

Andre Müller

Müller cast Inquisition of Kozilek, seeing three more Squadron Hawks as well as two copies of Gideon Jura. "But no more land, huh?" Müller said as he used his Tectomnic Edge to keep Sinner off five mana.

Still, Mirran Crusader and two Squadron Hawks put Müller on the clock. On 8 life, Müller used a kicked Into the Roil on Mirran Crusader during Sinner's end step. Three Squadron Hawks brought Müller down to 5. During this turn's end step, Müller cast Consume the Meek, but Sinner had the Mana Leak.

Müller summoned Grave Titan, passed the turn, and fell to 3 life, while Sinner re-cast his Mirran Crusader. "Best top deck ever, now please?" Müller knocked on the top of his deck. Black Sun's Zenith or Consume the Meek were just about the only cards which could help him out of this particular pickle. He did't draw either and extended his hand in concession

Andre Müller 1 – 2 Denis Sinner

Round 2: Feature Match – Merle Barkowski vs. Thomas Steeger
by Hanno Terbuyken

It is a rare sight to see a female presence on the games floor at German Nationals. Typically, the judges staff includes more women than the players list. However, there have been women who hold their own during Nationals, most notably Claudia Loroff, who put the average record of female Nationals players at 29th with her two appearances – which is notably better than the average finish for male competitors (obviously).

While Thomas Steeger had qualified for Nationals via the Nationals Qualifier tournament in Hamburg, Merle had to wait until yesterday to punch her ticket to Nationals, drafting her way to victory with M12 in one of the Last Chance Qualifiers yesterday. Thomas played the popular U/B Control deck, Merle brought Vampires.

Thomas Steeger came prepared: These were his 2/2 Zombie tokens.

Game One

Merle won the die roll and led off with a Swamp, soon to be followed by three more and Gatekeeper of Malakir. While she had decided to go aggressive with Vampires, Thomas had little to offer in terms of resistance – until he used Mana Leak to counter Lashwrithe.

Despise from Merle saw Go for the Throat and Into the Roil plus four lands in Thomas' hand, and she knew that the way was clear for a second Lashwrithe. The accompanying token fell victim to Into the Roil, but with Thomas on 12, he wouldn't have long to live.

Merle equipped Lashwrithe to Gatekeeper of Malakir and drew out Thomas' Go for the Throat with it. She played Grave Titan in a move to seal game 1, but Thomas had Grave Titan of his own! Lashwrithe's +9/+9 bonus, equipped to one of the Zombie tokens, gave Merle the advantage in the war of the Titans. And for a moment, it looked as if that would be enough: Thomas had to block the attacking Titan and the huge Zombie with his own Zombies, leaving his own Grave Titan open to Gatekeeper of Malakir with kicker.

Close your eyes and hope? For Thomas Steeger, planeswalkers came to the rescue.

But on an empty board on his side, Thomas clawed back with Black Sun's Zenith and Karn Liberated. The planeswalker exiled Lashwrithe, and a second Black Sun's Zenith killed the Grave Titan for good. Thomas followed that up with a second planeswalker: Liliana Vess. Though at merely 5 life, Thomas had turned this game around on the back of two very powerful 'walkers. Liliana Vess quickly gave Thomas a Grave Titan and Merle's life total dropped steeply to below zero.

Merle Barkowski 0 – 1 Thomas Steeger

Game Two

Thomas had the early action with Inquisition of Kozilek, seeing Go for the Throat, Inquisition of Kozilek, two Vampire Nighthawk, Dismember and two Swamp. He chose the Inquisition of Kozilek for Merle to discard.

Merle's pair of Vampire Nighthawks whittled Thomas down to 12 before he dispatched them with Black Sun's Zenith. Lashwrithe came from Merle the turn after, Thomas answered with Jace Beleren, but Merle chose to attack Thomas with her 7/7 token. Thomas staved that off with Go for the Throat, but Merle had a second Lashwrithe!

Merle Barkowski had won her way into Nationals via M12 draft. Standard did not favor her.

But once again, the token from that fell victim to Karn Liberated and Merle was left with two Lashwrithes and nothing to attach them to. Duress from Thomas showed him Go for the Throat and Dismember – both nothing to fear for his two Planeswalkers.

Jace kept drawing cards to his death, giving Thomas Grave Titan and Merle yet again nothing to work with. Thomas also held Mana Leak to stop any imminent threat. Reloading with Sign in Blood gave Merle nothing. Thomas' attack took her to 2 life, and her next card held nothing to save her.

Merle Barkowski 0 – 2 Thomas Steeger

Round 3: Feature Match – Klaus Jöns vs. Jörg Unfried
by Hanno Terbuyken

Klaus Jöns and former Nationals champion Jörg Unfried are well known in Germany, have been testing together and would be expected to post a good result. So far, neither of the two did, though. "I keep drawing worse than in testing", Unfried complained as the players bantered before the match. "We've played this match a hundred times!" said Jöns. "Today is not my day. If I lose against Jörg, I'll have to drop."

Jöns had brought Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle to the table. Unfried had decided on Mono-Red Goblins. Both players came to the feature match area with an 0-2 record, already on the brink of elimination from Top 8 contention.

Game One

Jöns kicked off with two mulligans, neither wanting to keep a hand with double Titans nor a hand without lands. His five cards he kept. Unfried had the first play, though, with Goblin Guide giving Jöns a land – and another one, and another one. Unfried kept killing Jöns' mana walls with direct damage, Arc Trail and Searing Blaze, and plinked away at his life total to take him to 10.

After Jöns played Pyroclasm to kill the Goblin, Hero of Oxid Ridge gave Unfried 4 hasty damage and took Jöns to 6. Stormblood Berserker and Immolating Souleater completed Unfried's side of the board. Jöns had Primeval Titan to search out Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, but even three damage wouldn't save him.

After the game, Jöns mulled over if he should have used his Pyroclasm earlier to kill the Goblin Guide. He concluded that after a mulligan to five, he needed the extra chance for lands. Overall, his deck just had not delivered fast enough – thinking back, Jöns saw no out he could have found to win this game.

Klaus Jöns 0 – 1 Jörg Unfried

Jörg Unfried

Game Two

Jöns decided to play first again, but once more, Unfried had Goblin Guide from the start. "Can you start just one game without Goblin Guide?", Jöns complained. Unfried smiled. "No", he said, "especially since you are so annoyed about this."

This time, though, Jöns had no reason to hope for land draws off the Goblin Guide and kept the 2/2 at bay with Tumble Magnet. Rampant Growth helped him find more land, and Pyroclasm killed the Goblin Guide and an Immolating Souleater Unfried had just played.

Grim Lavamancer from Unfried continued to beat down, taking Jöns to 13. Manic Vandal from Unfried took away Jöns Tumble Magnet and sent him raging: "I am playing just two Tumble Magnets! You only boarded those in because you knew I'd play those Tumble Magnet! I'll never test with you again." But things looked up für Jöns, as he drew Primeval Titan, bringing his Mountain count to four and his Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle count to three.

One attack from the Titan would allow him to search for the last Mountain and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and outright kill Unfried – who had Act of Treason to draw out his loss, but that wasn't enough to turn the game around at the last minute.

Klaus Jöns 1 – 1 Jörg Unfried

Klaus Jöns

Game Three

"So, Jörg, what do you say to this: No Goblin Guide for you, no Pyroclasm for me?" Unfried did not agree to that, while Jöns took his third and fourth mulligan of the match: "Double Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, double Titan, there's no way you can keep that."

And once more, Unfried opened with Goblin Guide, following up with Sparkshot Elder, only to have both fall to Pyroclasm from Jöns. Immolating Souleater came down, as did Tumble Magnet on Jöns' side of the board. Unfried had gone to 18 from his fetchlands, so Jöns had to comment: "The magical 18 has been reached! You are already dead!"

Of course, Unfried wasn't actually dead yet. Hero of Oxid Ridge dealt four damage to Jöns who decided to use his Tumble Magnet on Immolating Souleater instead of the Hero. Looking at his cards in hand, Jöns figured out a plan. Rampant Growth and Terramorphic Expanse enabled him to get exactly to Titan mana. He played Primeval Titan with a second one in his hand. But he was on a mere 8 life, and Unfried had Act of Aggression out of the sideboard to steal Jöns' Titan. The single Tumble Magnet could not hold off Jöns' own Titan, Hero of Oxid Ridge and two Immolating Souleaters, and Unfried took the third game for his first win of the day.

Again, Jöns mulled over his play choices. He debated the wisdom of his early Pyroclasm, but saw clearly that "I had no other play". Starting on five cards had severely hampered the speed of his deck. Jöns wasn't happy with that, but had to accept it nonetheless and took his third loss of the day. He didn't drop from the tournament, though – testimony of his competitive spirit. And Magic is fun,

Klaus Jöns 1 – 2 Jörg Unfried

Round 4: Feature Match – Kai Budde vs. Helge Nelson
by Tobi Henke

Kai Budde really needs no introduction. He basically won every type of tournament in existence, most of them a couple of times. And he came well prepared and in full juggernaut mode into this tournament. He was still undefeated, coming into this round.

His opponent, Helge Nelson, on the other hand didn't even know he would play this tournament yesterday. He won a Last-Chance Qualifier and proceeded to win his first three matches as well.

Game One

Nelson won the die-roll, but had no one-drop, while Budde led with Birds of Paradise off a Copperline Gorge. Nelson had Kargan Dragonlord on turn two, Budde had Lotus Cobra, then played Misty Rainforest, Preordain, and passed the turn.

Nelson killed Lotus Cobra with Burst Lightning, summoned Goblin Guide, and attacked for the first 4 points of damage. Budde revealed Sea Gate Oracle. On his turn, he cast the 1/3 and shot Kargan Dragonlord with Forked Bolt.

Nelson retaliated with Searing Blaze. Budde went to put his Sea Gate Oracle away, but was stopped by Nelson: "No land, so 1 damage to the Birds of Paradise and 1 to you." Nelson had no attacks and passed the turn.

Budde cast Birthing Pod, paying full price in mana, no life, and passed the turn. Nelson had Lightning Bolt for Sea Gate Oracle, attacked with Goblin Guide, revealing Lotus Cobra on top of Budde's library and putting him opponent at 13.

Budde summoned Lotus Cobra, played and cracked Scalding Tarn and cast Urabrask the Hidden. Lotus Cobra attacked for 2, while Urabrask stayed on defense.

Nelson, still with no third land, cast Shrine of Burning Rage and passed the turn. Budde's Birthing Pod turned Urabrask the Hidden into Inferno Titan, and when Nelson had no play, the red Giant finished him off on the next attack.

Kai Budde 1 – 0 Helge Nelson

Kai Budde

Game Two

Nelson had a one-drop this time, but Goblin Guide still eluded him. He had to settle for Grim Lavamancer instead. Budde matched his one-drop with Birds of Paradise.

Searing Blaze killed the Birds of Paradise. Budde summoned more Birds of Paradise, but had no second land. Nelson sacrificed Arid Mesa, cast Shrine of Burning Rage, and killed the new Birds of Paradise with his Grim Lavamancer.

Kai still didn't have a second land, and no more Birds of Paradise. Nelson played a second Grim Lavamancer. Shrine of Burning Rage went to two counters, Budde to 11. On his next turn, he attacked with one of his Grim Lavamancers and passed the turn.

Finally, Budde drew Island and summoned the Sylvan Ranger, which had been on his opening hand, searching up Mountain. While Nelson seemed to be out of gas, except for his Shrine of Burning Rage, Budde had more: Next up were Lotus Cobra, the aforementioned Mountain, Preordain, and Flame Slash for one of the Grim Lavamancers.

But Shrine of Burning Rage had accumulated five counters already, and Budde was at 9. He changed that with Obstinate Baloth, but Nelson's kicked Burst Lightning at end of turn changed that right back. Also, this brought Shrine of Burning Rage to six counters. On Nelson's turn, Shrine of Burning Rage went to seven and together with Grim Lavamancer shot Budde dead right there.

Kai Budde 1 – 1 Helge Nelson

Helge Nelson

Game Three

This time, Budde had to do without Birds of Paradise, whereas Nelson had the first turn-one Goblin Guide of the match. Budde got 2 damage and a Misty Rainforest for free. He cast Sylvan Ranger, while Nelson summoned a second Goblin Guide as well as Grim Lavamancer, beating Budde down to 13.

Budde made Lotus Cobra, used another Misty Rainforest, cast Preordain and a second Lotus Cobra. Nelson played Teetering Peaks, pumping one of his Goblin Guides, killed one Cobra with Grim Lavamancer, and attacked. Budde traded the Teetering Peaks-pumped Goblin Guide against his one remaining Lotus Cobra and took 2 (down to 10).

Budde frowned at his options, then summoned Phyrexian Metamorph to make a copy of his opponent's Goblin Guide. Staggershock killed the opposing Goblin and Nelson's own Goblin brought Budde down to 8. Obstinate Baloth made that 12. But the Staggershock rebound and a Grim Lavamancer activation killed the 4/4 body. Nelson cast another Goblin Guide and hit Budde for 4.

Budde made Sea Gate Oracle and a copy of it with Phantasmal Image. Nelson killed the latter, ensuring at least some combat damage, and that was all it took. He had enough burn to finish him off.

Kai Budde 1 – 2 Helge Nelson

Friday, 5:14 p.m.: Drafting with Florian Koch
by Thorben Thies and Hanno Terbuyken

Florian Koch was one of the twelve players who sat undefeated on top of the standings after four rounds of Standard. The winner of last year's GP Lyon stands poised to do well here, but champions are not made on constructed decks alone. In an era of Pro Tours split between Limited and Constructed, owning the draft format is an important skill. How did Florian fare in draft, then?

Flameblast Dragon

Opening his first pack, a pleasant surprise stared Florian in the face: Flameblast Dragon. Pacifism and Rampant Growth couldn't come close to this solid first pick. The second pack held no red cards for him, though, so Florian agonized over Cudgel Troll and Griffin Sentinel. He likes red-white more than red-green in M12 draft, but this early in the draft, Florian decided to just take the better card – Cudgel Troll. Next he took Blood Ogre over Oblivion Ring, but Florian saw a fourth booster with Stormfront Pegasus and Goblin Arsonist and decided that white would be open enough to consider taking his preferred color combination. He picked the Pegasus.

Elite Vanguard

The next picks cemented his decision when Florian took Elite Vanguard instead of Goblin Piker or Fiery Hellhound, then Auramancer, Benalish Veteran and Alabaster Mage. Other than a Bonebreaker Giant as eleventh pick no more red came through for Florian.

But of course, that Flameblast Dragon wanted to be played. So when Florian saw Shock, Royal Assassin and Gravedigger in his second booster, he picked the Shock. Red looked okay in this round of pickings, but White did not flow. Small wonder, since he let Oblivion Ring through and someone surely scooped that up. Florians picks went accordingly: Gorehorn Minotaurs second, then Auramancer over Bangchuckers, as Florian felt that the 2/2 body of the Auramancer would be playable even without targets.

Frost Titan

Divine Favor was the only playable card available as fourth pick, and pick five gave him late Gorehorn Minotaurs. Manic Vandal, Elite Vanguard and Kite Shield complemented his deck as picks six to eight. The last six picks gave Florian nothing of notable value.

In the third booster, Florian opened a Frost Titan, but passed it on in favor of Armored Warhorse. In this Swiss-style draft, he wouldn't necessarily have to face the Titan, Florian explained, so hate-drafting it would have essentially wasted a pick. His second pick also proved contentious, as Florian took Stormblood Berserker over Incinerate and Chandra's Outrage. The GP champion had good reason, he said, as good Bloodthirst creatures are more important than Removal in a draft format this fast. Gideon's Lawkeeper joined his pile as third pick over Blood Ogre.

Crimson Mage

The rest of the booster went by in a blur, giving Florian (in that order) Crimson Mage, Slaughter Cry, Goblin War Paint, Tectonic Rift, Demistify instead of a second Goblin War Paint and Goblin Tunneler.

With the draft done, Florian was content with the result. Both Auramancer, Divine Favor and Goblin War Paint all made his final deck, but not out of desperation, but as playable picks.

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