Team Karsten/Vos/Melis' Deck-Building Journal

Posted in GRAND PRIX ROTTERDAM 2016 on November 13, 2016

By Chapman Sim

Brent Vos and Bas Melis are two local players whom originally had their team assembled months ago. However, at the eleventh hour, their third ended up not being able to attend. Since everyone within the local community had already decided upon their own teams, this left Vos and Melis in a rather unfortunate position. If they failed to find a third, they would be force to sit out of a Grand Prix hosted within their own country. Not wanting to miss out on the action, they posted on social media that they were looking for a third and they received eight 'applications' in total.

Melis: To be honest, I was pretty surprised that anyone responded at all. We're not big name players and we didn't even know four of the eight players. Since a team event requires us to have rapport, we turned them down and spoke to the other four players instead. However, not everyone lived near us which meant that meeting up to practice could be a real problem.

Vos: I also heard that Frank Karsten has not confirmed a team yet and he was possibility waiting on job assignments. We knew each other and have traveled together to Pro Tours in the past. Because of that, we decided to shoot him a message and we were surprised that he was available to play.

Just like that, both Brent Vos and Bas Melis found a Hall of Famer as their third and they've been crushing in the tournament ever since. Finishing 8-0-1 in Day 1, they're naturally very close to the top of the standings and in contention for the Top 8.

Karsten: I had agreed to be part of their team because we've known each other for a long time. All three of us live in Eindhoven and it is very important for us to be able to meet up to practice. It also makes a lot of sense because we get to make travel preparations together. Most importantly, I also felt that the three of us could work well together.

Let's take a look at the inner workings of Team Karsten/Vos/Melis and how they are about to tackle their second sealed deck of Grand Prix Rotterdam!

Entry 01, 09.10am: 60 Minutes

Upon receiving their stamped and preregistered card pools, the trio get to work and lay out all the cards of each color in neat rows. Before diving in and commencing work on decks, the team has a process that other teams rarely practice.

Karsten kicks off the one-hour deck-building process by analyzing the card pool in front of him, pointing out key cards of each individual color. Then then go around the table where Vos highlights the best green and artifact cards, before rotating to Vos who provides a rundown of all the white and blue cards. Last but not least, there is also a short amount of time verifying the mana fixing options and they then discuss the possibility of splashing gold cards.

There is no discussion during this time. When one person speaks, the others listen attentively, reserving their feedback for a later stage. This process takes a lengthy fifteen minutes but it is well worth the time because everyone is able to grasp the strengths and weakness of each color, such that all future input is useful and relevant.

All this time, Karsten dutifully notes down some thoughts and begins draft out some possible color combinations on a score pad.

Entry 02, 09.25am: White-Blue is Deck #1.

The presence of Dovin Baan, Cloudchaser and Fumigate have nudged them into the first archetype and Melis quickly puts together a rough product. Despite Insidious Will being potentially game-changing, it is quickly moved to the sideboard while certain cards that other teams rarely play make the maindeck, for example, a pair of Skyswirl Harrier.

Melis states that “Skyswirl Harrier is a card that other teams dislike because it is a little expensive, but we like to build 'attacking' decks in general. It's also frequently the biggest flier on the board and there are just so many cards with three power. It's a great card and not for a single moment did we consider cutting either.”

Entry 03, 09.28am: Mono-Black is Deck #2.

Dhund Operative is one of the best two-drops in the format and the pool of black cards is very deep. In combination with Foundry Screecher and two Tidy Conclusion, it is only natural for them to want to play with a healthy number of artifacts.

Karsten quickly throws together a framework consisting triple Prakhata Pillar Bug and a handful of fabricate creatures. The deck is solid and the possibility of adding a second color is left open.

Entry 04, 09.32am: Everyone Works on Deck #3.

Now that the scaffolding of Decks #1 and #2 are present, the trio focus on the biggest problem of all, Deck #3. Vos has assembled a Red-Green Aggro deck that is not totally focused on energy.

“Our pool doesn't have Thriving Grub or Thriving Rhino, and only a single Voltaic Brawler and Servant of the Conduit, but we do have Bristling Hydra and triple Riparian Tiger as the payoff.” Their Red-Green Aggro deck isn't as linear as others and they supplemented their strategy with two each of Kujar Seedsculptor and Peema Outrider as well as some efficient combat tricks.

Karsten and Vos discuss the possibility of playing Decoction Module and Fabrication Module while Melis looks through all the red and green cards once again to see if they can uncover more options.

Entry 05, 09.37am: Shifting Clockwise

With all three archetypes looking solid and non-conflicting, everyone shifts one seat clockwise and continue to polish the decks which their teammates have built. For example, Karsten steps away from his mono-black deck to fine-tune Melis' Red-Green Aggro deck, while Melis and Vos work on the white-blue deck and mono-black deck respectively.

Each player then takes turn to propose some suggested changes, just in case anyone has encountered a blind spot.

Entry 06, 09.40am: The Esper Conundrum

During this time, Vos and Melis wonder if the white-blue deck would fare better with a black splash. If the black splash is “approved” by everyone, it will pave the wave for the inclusion of Restoration Gearsmith and Dukhara Scavenger. Together with Wispweaver Angel and Aviary Mechanic, it provides the Esper deck a lot of recursive power in the late game.

Vos: We have too many cards in the Esper deck though. There is still Gearseeker Serpent, Glint-Nest Crane and two Malfunction we cannot find room for. We need to see how it goes before deciding to complicate the deck's mana base.

Entry 07, 9.42am: Shifting Clockwise Again

The great number of moving parts in the Esper deck proves to be a great challenge and players decide to shift another seat clockwise. This positions Karsten in front of the White-Blue-Black deck for the very first time, allowing him to get a really, really clear view of the deck.

All players continue to sandpaper the products and make the final cuts for each of the decks in front of them.

Entry 08, 9.47am: Experimenting with White-Blue

Bas determines that the Red-Green Energy deck is good to go and he makes his way across the table to sit next to Karsten and both players work on the most challenging deck ever. They discuss another approach where they shave Black to make way for more artifacts as well as Glint-Nest Crane and Gearseeker Serpent.

Karsten calls upon a judge and requests for him to punch in “some algorithm” in a calculator. Typical Karsten. Glint-Nest Crane is going to miss around half the time and they decided to scrap that plan.

Prophetic Prism is moved to the nearly mono-black deck to assist splashing white. Last minute additions such as Fragmentize were deemed to make the deck more consistent.

Entry 09, 9.55am: Sideboard Splitting

With around 10 minutes on the clock, the three players decide to divide the s sideboard cards among each other. In particular, the artifacts take the most time since any player can use them. They also quickly select the deck they wish to pilot and each player begins registering their deck.


Karsten has decided to pilot the mono-black deck with a White splash while Vos is going to jump on Red-Green Aggro, leaving Melis on the white-blue deck.

Entry 10, 10.05am: Last-Minute Verifications

With under five minutes on the clock, all players verifies that they've added the correct number of basic lands into their respective decks. When all was said and done, Karsten mindfully takes a picture of all three decklists just in case any player does some intensive sideboarding and forgets his maindeck!

As we speak, the trio of Karsten/Vos/Melis are playing a win-and-in match in the featured match area. If they succeed, it will make Karsten's first Grand Prix Top 8 in over a decade as well as Vos' and Melis' first trip to the elimination rounds!

Frank Karsten's White-Black

Brent Vos's Red-Green

Bas Melis's White-Blue

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