Pro Tour–Berlin Feature: Rogue Roundup

Posted in Event Coverage on November 1, 2008

By Rich Hagon

Rich Hagon combines a deep knowledge of the players of the Pro Tour with a passionate love of the game. He's a regular commentator for Pro Tour and Grand Prix live video coverage, and is the official Pro Tour Statistician. He has been covering Magic events since 2006.

With 160 decks still being shuffled and cut here on Day Two, you would naturally expect a bucketload of duplication, and you'd be right. But for every copy of another tired Zoo list, or yet another 'we've-got-a-secret-Elf-deck-that's-like-everyone-else's-secret-Elf-deck' there are players who are plowing a lone furrow. Here's four of them.

Johan Sadeghpour of Sweden is used to being the highest-placed representative from his Scandinavian country. Not here in Berlin, where Kenny Öberg came into Day Two with a perfect record.

"Kenny is the coming thing in Swedish Magic," says the affable Johan. "He constantly wins the Swedish PTQs, and then builds his own control decks—he just loves control. Unfortunately his studies mean that he isn't always able to devote time to test for big events."

Goblin Sharpshooter

As for Sadeghpour, he finds himself at 7-2 after a Round 9 victory this morning. And his deck? Well, it's been around forever, it's popular with every level of player, with something to offer Timmy, Jonny and Spike. Here at the Pro Tour of course, Spike is the one that matters. And for Sadeghpour, the arrival on the scene of Elves! in such high numbers is music to his ears.

"I'm running Goblins," he says, "and that means I have the silver bullet against Elves, thanks to Goblin Sharpshooter." Ouch. For those of you not familiar, this terrifying Goblin is known in the trade as a "machine gun," because it gets to untap whenever a creature is put into the graveyard from play. Since it taps to deal 1 damage, and almost every Elf in the building has 1 toughness.... It ain't pretty. Sadeghpour was working for this PT with Frenchman Gabriel Nassif and American Mark Herberholz, and was set to play Goblins about a week ahead of the event. But the main reason for playing the only red men deck in the room?

"That's easy," he replies. "Fun!"

Mateusz Kopec is a name that keeps cropping up. That's because he's good. The star Polish player is playing Swans, based around a two-card combo of the eponymous Swans of Bryn Argoll and Chain of Plasma, a combination that allows him to draw his entire library before aiming a flashback Congregate at his opponent. Like Sadeghpour, finding a deck that was fun to play was high on Kopec's list.

"The deck has a good matchup against Zoo and Elves, for a couple of reasons," Kopec says. "On my side, my deck has a pretty fast combo which is hard to keep pace with, and on their side they don't have a huge amount of disruption to get in the way." In addition, having multiple copies of Firespout in the maindeck gives him a big leg-up against Aggro decks. Kopec is no stranger to the winner's circle in Extended, but things have changed a lot since he defeated Nikolaus Eigner in the Finals of Grand Prix–Vienna.

"Sure, Extended is a very different Format now," he allows. "Going into Vienna I had done a lot of testing, and although I wasn't necessarily expecting to win, I certainly hoped to do well with a deck I had great confidence in. My expectations were lower for this weekend, so I'm happy enough to still be playing Magic here on Day Two." A round 9 loss to American Luis Scott-Vargas wasn't the ideal start, but Kopec remains on a strong 7-2.

Battlegrace Angel

Geoff Fletcher from England is here at his first individual Pro Tour, having previously tested the waters in the Two-Headed Giant Pro Tour–San Diego last year. To put it mildly, Geoff's deck is a little bit... unusual, containing Sarkhan Vol, Rhox War Monk, Battlegrace Angel, and some other cards that don't at first glance mesh together.

Geoff explains, "I began by thinking about the deck called The Solution that Zvi Mowshowitz used to win Pro Tour–Tokyo in 2001. That deck had all sorts of apparently bizarre cards in, like Silver Knight, but it was designed to look at the format and work out, literally, a solution to it. I started off with a core of Stifle, Kataki, War's Wage, Bant Charm, and Tarmogoyf. That meant I could go either midrange or outright control, and I knew the format was going to be very aggressive, so it felt like control was going to be just too slow. That led to Rhox War Monk as an option for going on the front foot, and Wild Nacatl could work hard on offense as well as defense." (Although he said both of those with a 'c' of course!)

When Geoff saw the likely field the night before the event, he realized that Kataki, War's Wage was surplus to requirements. "That meant there was room for Firespout maindeck," he beams, clearly pleased by this last-minute substitution.


Of course, us Brits are notorious for running ourselves down. As Geoff is carefully explaining his master strategy, fellow Day Two Brit Richard Bland steps in. "Basically, he lost his deck on the plane over here, cracked open three Tournament Packs, and at the last minute decided that fetch Lands were better than Panoramas." With friends like these...

But the last word of this Rogue Roundup goes to former Player of the Year Shouta Yasooka. Using the heir apparent, Shuuhei Nakamura, as translator, I asked Shouta why he ended up playing Blue-Black Tron. To much laughter, the translation comes: "I was meditating, and received divine inspiration!" he grins.

Reading between the lines, that means a two-hour brain session first thing Friday morning in the hotel before a last-minute struggle to find the last cards for his brand-new, fresh-out-of-his-head deck. There's nothing like being prepared for a Pro Tour, and this is nothing like being prepared for a Pro Tour.... First-timers, don't try this at home!

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