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By: Pyrosin, Matt Rossi
Nov 12 2008 10:54am
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Pro Tour Berlin


The Brandenburg Gate,
former entrance way to the Prussian monarch's Palace.

Welcome to the Highlight Reel, where today we'll take a look back at the new Extended format that was Pro Tour Berlin.  451 players showed up in Germany to do battle, making it the largest Pro Tour event to date.  We've got old decks, we've got new decks, culminating in an impressive Top 8 chalk full of big names and one of the silliest combos you've ever seen.  So let's go.


Goodbye Top, Hello Wild Nacatl

When we last left Extended back in March, we saw a diverse, balanced format with everything from Goblins and Zoo for the Aggro Player, Dredge and TEPS for the Combo Player, or Next Level Blue and  Tron for the Control Player.  There were all kinds of mid-range  Rock decks, and at any given tournament any of these decks could come out on top depending on where the hate was aimed.  Well, with Invasion and Odyssey rotating out, the banning of Sensei's Divining Top, and Shards of Alara coming in, that all changed. 

Colors Deck Name Placings Percentage
Zoo 27%
Elves! 15%
Storm 8%
Next Level Blue 7%
Doran Junk 5%
Faeries 5%
Death Cloud Rock 4%
  Affinity 3%
Burn 3%
All-in Red 3%
Dredge 1%
The Tezzerator 1%
Swans Combo 0.4%
Bant Aggro 0.4%
  Other 8%

  - Made Top 8  - Made Day 2

You can check out all of the Day Two decklists here: A-J ; K-P ; R-Z.

With the additions of Wild Nacatl from Shards and Figure of Destiny from Eventide, everyone had their eyes focused on the Zoo deck coming into this tournament.  So it was no surprise to see it made up 27% of the Day One field.  Here's a typical list played by PVDR:

A little disruption, a little burn, and a whole lot of beatdown; the manabase is painful, but this deck is the model of consistency and we'll be seeing it for another year until the Onslaught fetchlands leave us during the next rotation.  So everyone else not playing Zoo had to decide how they were going to beat it, either 1) slow Zoo down or 2) be faster than Zoo.  Choosing the former option, we had Kenny Oberg with one of the most interesting decks of the weekend featuring the new Planeswalker Tezzeret the Seeker.

 To see how this deck works, you can watch a deck tech here.  But in short, its bascially a Trinket Mage toolbox deck; with Tezzeret acting as your 5th, 6th, and 7th uber-Trinket Mages in the deck.  Chalice of the Void, Ensnaring Bridge, and Engineered Explosives can completely shut down most strategies, until the Tezzerator builds up to his Ultimate and turns a bunch of 0 and 1 cost artifacts into 5/5s that smash FTW.  Coming out of left field with his creation, Kenny Oberg was the last undefeated player at 9-0, and after 16 rounds of Swiss, he was still on top with an impressive 14-2 record and ranked #1 going into the Top 8.

The Wizards staff had a total of 6 deck techs over the weekend, including one on Patrick Chapin's newest version of Next Level Blue which he played to a 50th place finish.  You can check them all out here.

Another player to make Top 8 was Denis Sinner, a relative unknown who tuned his Faerie deck to beat one other deck.  That one deck he wanted to beat was Elves!, which lucky for him was the second most prevalent deck on Day One, the most prevalent on Day Two, and filled the remaining 6 spots of the Top 8.


A Funny Thing Happened...

A funny thing happened to that silly combo deck Hall of Famer Alan Comer played at Pro Tour Hollywood, it got really good do to the printing

 of one little common card:









And when you combine him with:



Then you create a quasi-infinite loop that lets you do just about whatever you want with your deck as early as Turn 2.  So you repeatedly tap the Sentinel to pay the cost of the Druid, play a green spell, untap the Sentinel and repeat, using Symbiote to bounce and recast creatures were necessary to keep the loop going.  The deck also plays four copies of both Llanowar Elves and Birchlore Rangers, providing additional mana to drive the engine and the latter providing the color mana needed for the kill spell, which vary greatly.

Some, like Matej Zatlkaj, chose to go with Predator Dragon:

The deck also utilizes the Wirewood Hivemaster/Essence Warden combo to produce a lot of insect tokens along with a high life until you use Chord of Calling to find Predator Dragon, which then eats all the bugs and attacks FTW.

Others, like former US Nationals Champ Luis Scott-Vargas, decided to go with Grapeshot:

 LVS skipped the Wirewood Hivemaster/Essense Warden combo, and instead chose a more sleak version of the deck.  He used more mana elves and the max number of Summoner's Pact to ensure the combo was as reliable as possible.  Elvish Visionary and Regal Force provide more card draw, lessening the chances of the combo fizzeling.  After playing over 20 spells in a turn, you draw into the Grapeshot, and cast it FTW.

Besides  Matej Zatlkaj and LSV, we also had reigning Player of the Year Tomoharu Saito, former Belgian Champ Jan Doise, 2006 Rookie of the Year Sebastian Thaler, and 2 time Czech champ Martin Juza all making Top 8 with their own versions of the Elves! deck.  To see their profiles and decks, click here and here.


Top 8

Quarterfinals (Video)

Kenny Öberg (The Tezzerator) vs Luis Scott-Vargas (Elves!)

Oberg showed off the power of his deck has against Elves! with a Turn 2 Chalice of the Void set to one.  That meant LSV would have to find one of the two Viridian Shaman in his deck, and fast.  He did not and quickly found himself down 1 game to 0.  The second game looked even worse for LSV as a Turn 1 Chalice of the Void for Oberg off a Chrome Mox looked to lock LSV out again, but this time LSV had the Viridian Shaman allowing him to play all of his one mana elves again.  That was until Oberg used a Trinket Mage to find the second Chalice of the Void, set it to one and turn off the 28 one-drops in LSV's deck, and they were on to Game 3. 

LSV had 3 elves by Turn 2, and when Chalice of the Void set to one came down from Oberg, it looked like this would be an incredibly quick match.  But then LSV revealed his sideboarding plan as Umezawa's Jitte came down and his elves started the beatdown.  Engineered Explosives off a Trinket Mage took care of the Jitte, and then a Firespout cleared the board of creatures.  Double Viridian Shaman removed the first Chalice of the Void, then Trinisphere.  Oberg found another Explosives, but before he could play it, LSV got a smattering of 1, 2, and 3 cost elves on the board from a Glimpse of Nature, effectively neutralizing the Explosives with Oberg on only 8 life.  Another Jitte ensured at least one of LSV's creatures would survive a Firesprout, allowing him to get back in the match now down 1-2.

Oberg had to mulligan to four to start Game 4, but still looked like he would make a game of it when LSV could not combo out on Turn 2, and a Turn 3 Vendilion Clique from Oberg got rid of Mycoloth from LSV's hand.  Oberg had to use Explosives then Firesprout on consecutive turns to remove measly 1/1s to stop the accumulation of Jitte counters.  Summoner's Pact got LSV his Mycoloth back, which Oberg stole with Vedalken Shackles, but by this time there were too many elves on the board and LSV was able to alpha strike to tie the match.

An early Jitte from LSV put Oberg on the back step to start Game 5.  Oberg used Trinket Mage to find Great Furnace so he could play Firesprout.  But LSV got rid of the Furance with a Viridian Shaman, leaving Oberg without access to  mana.  A Pact found another Shaman to remove Oberg's Shackles.  Oberg finally found the Steam Vents he needed to set Explosives to 2 to blow up the Jitte, but LSV had the trump card in the form of Mycoloth, which was too big for Oberg to deal with.  Luis Scott-Vargas comes back from 0-2 to defeat Kenny Oberg 3-2 and advance to the semifinals.

Jan Doise (Elves!) vs. Tomoharu Saito (Elves!)

Both players dumped a bunch of elves on the board over the first couple of turns, but Saito was the first to have Wirewood Hivemaster, allowing him to stay ahead on creatures with a swarm of insect tokens.  Then on Saito's third turn, the elf combo went BOOM!  Regal Force netted 9 cards, which turned into more cards from a Glimpse of Nature into a Chord of Calling for Predator Dragon, and a hasty 20/20 dragon gave Saito the 1-0 lead.  After a Game 2 opening of Llanowar Elves, Doise spent his next two turns playing only land, giving Saito the green light to try and go off on his own third turn.  Two Glimpse of Nature turned into 12 cards, but Saito couldn't find the Nettle Sentinels to keep the engine going, giving Doise an oppurtunity of his own to go off, but his combo also fizzled.  Saito used a Chord of Calling to get a Birchlore Rangers to hardcast an Orzhov Pontiff, clearing Doise's side of the board and take a 2-0 lead.  Turn 2 of Game 3, Doise decided with an opened draw of double Summoner's Pact and a Turn 1 Nettle Sentinel, that he was going to go off or lose.  He went Pact, Pact, BOOM! Doise's win condition, Mirror Entity, came into play, turned the Turn 1 Sentinel into a 20/20 and attacked FTW.  Onto Game 4, where Saito tapped out on Turn 3 to play Chord of Calling into Orzhov Pontiff to clear Doise's side of the board.  Seeing the writing on the wall, Doise tried again to go off with double Pact.  He fetched Sentinel, Heritage Druid, played Glimpse of Nature, followed by the two elves, and then... ran out of gas and lost during his next upkeep.  Tomoharu Saito advances 3-1.

Denis Sinner (Faeries) vs. Matej Zatlkaj (Elves!)

 Zatlkaj's Elves!' deck went BOOM! off a one land hand that gave him 10 elves and a 68-5 advantage in life over Sinner after four turns.  But Sinner came back with an Umezawa's Jitte to start killing the elves, then a Mistbind Clique got rid of Bitterblossom, followed by a Spellstutter Sprite/Riptide Laboratory combo that stopped Zatlkaj from playing any more elves; Sinner takes a 1-0 lead.  Sinner's sideboard cards combined with Smother kept Zatlkaj elf army in check over the first few turns of Game 2.  But after three tries, Zatlkaj went BOOM! and made more insect tokens than Sinner could block and tied the match.  Zatlkaj mulliganed twice to start Game 3, then had two elves countered by Spellstutter Sprite and Mana Leak.  Then a couple Vendilion Clique kept the cost clear, while Bitterblossom built an army and won through the air.  For Game 4, Sinner mulliganed to four and got stuck on two lands, allowing Zatlkaj to simply play out a couple of elves, go on the beatdown, and even the match.  In the decider, Sinner got stuck on two lands again, but at least had a Bitterblossom to provide blockers against the elves.  But Zatlkaj went BOOM!, leaving him 13 creatures in play.  Off the Wirewood Hivemaster, Zatlkaj's army overwhelmed his opponent and took the match 3-2.  And just like that we were left with a Top 8 where the only deck type that remained was Elves!

Martin Juza (Elves!) vs. Sebastian Thaler (Elves!)

Juza and Thaler, along with fellow Top 8er Matej Zatlkaj, playtested together in preparation for PT Berlin, giving us what promised to be a drawn out mirror match with both playing the Wirewood Hivemaster/Essence Warden combo.  In Game 1, Thaler went BOOM! first, but with an Essence Warden on both sides, the life totals spiraled out of control.  Thaler ended up with over 100 creatures, 359 life, and only 3 cards left in his library when he played his Predator Dragon and made it a 278/278, which attacked and took Juza to 35 life.  When Juza did not draw a Glimpse of Nature off the top, he passed back to Thaler who attacked to take a 1-0 lead.  Thaler got stuck on one land to start Game 2, while Juza had the Heritage Druid and Hivemaster to put more than a dozen creatures on the board.  A couple attacks from the team evened the match for Juza.  Onto Game 3 where Thaler went BOOM! on Turn 3 with Juza stuck on one land, ending the game with Brain Freeze.  Turn 1 Heritage Druid from Juza allowed for an explosive Turn 2 that built a large creature advantage.  As Thaler started to play creatures for his third turn, Juza played Chord of Calling to fetch one of the trump cards in the mirror match: Ethersworn Canonist. Unable to remove the Canonist, Thaler fell to superior numbers over the next couple turns.  In the decider, both players had quick Hivemasters giving them each Chord of Calling fodder to get whatever the wanted.  Juza was the first to Chord for Orzhov Pontiff, wiping away Thaler's team, then followed that up with Canonist, looking to lock Thaler out of the game.  But Thaler untapped, played Viridian Shaman, and was right back in it.  Banking on the Canonist lock, Juza was out of gas.  Thaler untapped, played double Glimpse, drew into triple Nettle Sentinel, and Juza conceeded.  Sebastian Thaler advances 3-2.


Semifinals (Video)

 Tomoharu Saito vs. Luis Scott-Vargas

Game 1, Saito went BOOM! on Turn 2, and grabs the early lead.  A couple of Thoughtseizes accented two quiet turns from LSV.  Summoner's Pact for Regal Force allowed Saito to go BOOM! again and for the second match in a row, LSV found himself down 0-2.  LSV got back in the match by going BOOM! himself on Turn 3, with the game ending on Thoughtseize (to make sure the coast was clear), and then Grapeshot for 20+.  Saito's double mulligan to start Game 4 looked even worse after Thoughtseize from LSV removed Saitou's only remained creature in hand.  LSV built up an army, and simply attacked with a bunch of elves over a couple of turns to even the match.  Both players started the decider with Heritage Druid.   But where Saito had Wirewood Hivemaster for Turn 2, LSV had Nettle Sentinel and Elves of Deep Shadow, which combined with the Turn 1 Druid meant...BOOM! And with another stunning comeback from 0-2, LSV advances to the Finals 3-2.

Sebastian Thaler vs. Matej Zatlkaj

With all their specific answers stuck in the sideboard, it was likely that Game 1 would look like the first game of the Juza vs. Thaler match from the Quarters.  Thaler went BOOM! on Turn 3, but double Essence Warden from Zatlkaj on Turn 2 meant that Thaler's 116/116 Predator Dragon only took Zatlkaj to 27 life.  Now it was Zatlkaj's turn to go BOOM!, making a 118/118 Dragon and leaving 4 cards in his library.  That meant Thaler, with only 3 cards left, would simply deck himself.  Zatlkaj takes a 1-0 lead.  Thaler tapped out to play an Elvish Champion, in hopes that his elves could survive an Orzhov Pontiff, but that gave Zatlkaj the opening for... BOOM! and Zatlkaj went up 2-0.  Thaler had disruption in the form of Thoughtseize to begin Game 3 and remove some of Zatlkaj's hate.  That did stop Zatlkaj from going BOOM! a few turns later.. but he ran out of gas before completing the combo, and used the Summoner's Pact in his hand to fetch Ethersworn Canonist, hoping to lock Thaler out of the game... but at the End of Turn, Thaler tapped a couple elves off a Birchlore Rangers to make  and cast the Brain Freeze he had drawn in his opening hand, forcing Zatlkaj to deck himself.  There was no BOOM! in Game 4, instead Zatlkaj played a couple elves followed by the Pontiff to wipe Thaler's side of the board clear.  Zatlkaj followed that play up with a Canonist meaning Thaler could never catch up without removing the little artifcat.  When no Viridian Shaman appeared for Thaler, he conceeded, and Zatlkaj advanced 3-1.


Finals (Video)

Luis Scott-Vargas vs. Matej Zatlkaj

So the finals of Pro Tour Berlin come down to a mirror match of featuring the defining deck of this tournament, Elves!  But as you saw above, the decks were not identical.  Turn 1 Heritage Druid from LVS was met by Essence Warden from Zatlkaj.  But that only meant that when LVS went BOOM! on Turn 2, that he had to finish of Zatlkaj by going Grapeshot, Eternal Witness to return and then recast Grapeshot.  Turn 1 and Turn 2 Thoughtseizes from LSV in Game 2 removed double Essence Warden from Zatlkaj's hand to ensure he wouldn't have the problem of escalating life totals from his opponent as in Game 1.  Then LSV's Turn 3 went Glimpse of Nature, Summoner's Pact for Nettle Sentinel, followed by Birchlore Rangers, and ...BOOM! LSV was up 2-0.  Game 3 saw LSV strip a Glimpse from Zatlkaj with another Turn 1 Thoughtseize.  LSV dumped his hand of elves on the board, and after Zatlkaj played only a single elf on two consecutive turns, LSV went for it.  Weird Harvest for 5 let LSV go infinite on mana into a big old Regal Force, at which point Zatlkaj conceeded.  Luis Scott-Vargas defeats Matej Zatlkaj 3-0 to win Pro Tour Berlin, making him the third American of the year to win a Pro Tour event this year.

Congratulations to Luis Scott-Vargas, Pro Tour Berlin Champion!

Top 20 in the 2008 Player of the Year Standings 
Following Pro Tour Berlin

Ranking Player Points
1 Shuuhei Nakamura *


2 Tomoharu Saito 44
3 Olivier Ruel 43
4 Raphael Levy 39
4 Marcio Carvalho 39
4 Luis Scott-Vargas * 39
7 Mario Pascoli 37
7 Martin Juza 37
9 Yuuta Takahashi ** 34
10 Guillaume Wafo-Tapa 33
10 Jan Ruess 33
10 Robert van Medevoort 33
13 Manuel Bucher 32
14 Paul Cheon * 31
14 Joel Calafell 31
14 Gabriel Nassif 31
14 Matej Zatlkaj 31
18 Yong Han Choo 30
19 Brandon Scheel 29
20 Jon Finkel * 28

* 2008 Event Winner


Player of the Year Race

Olivier Ruel and Shuuhei Nakamura finished 42nd and 44th, respectively, both earning 5 Pro Points.  But between them is now reigning Player of the Year Tomoharu Saito after his impressiveTop 4 performance catapulted him to second in the standings.  Martin Juza and LSV also moved into the Top 10, but its going to be near impossible for any of them to caught Nakamura, what with all the consistent finishes he's been putting up this year.

States are this weekend, followed by four straight weekends of GPs leading up to Worlds in Memphis on Decemeber 11th.  I can't wait to see what Standard will look like now with Shards of Alara in the mix.

See you next time.





by Anonymous(Unregistered) (not verified) at Fri, 11/14/2008 - 09:56
Anonymous(Unregistered)'s picture

You are both right.  I apologize for being rude.  I guess my frustration comes from the fact that now everyone and their mom is playing this deck everywhere online, even in the casual room.   BTW - your article is formatted well each week, regardless if I like the content or not.  Once again, I'm sorry.

Your percentages.... by Anonymous(Unregistered) (not verified) at Fri, 11/14/2008 - 00:43
Anonymous(Unregistered)'s picture

Are off aren't they?  I guess I missed something.  Good article though.  It looks like you are saying Zoo made day 2 about 30% (which looks about right) but then you have elves only 15%.  Please clarify. 

by Pyrosin at Fri, 11/14/2008 - 04:18
Pyrosin's picture

The percentages represent the proportion of decks on Day One.  As far as Day Two, there were 38 Elves! (24%) decks versus 37 Zoo's (23%) decks.  Since Zoo started Day One with a 2:1 advantage, you can see how much better the Elves! deck did versus Zoo.

by Anonymous(Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 11/13/2008 - 11:16
Anonymous(Unregistered)'s picture

You're welcome Mr. Steal Other People's Work and Use It As Your Own.

feedback by mtgotraders at Thu, 11/13/2008 - 12:11
mtgotraders's picture

re: anonymous

 Please keep your comments constructive as they do nothing to add to the conversation.  There is a nice way to tell someone what you said.

by Lord Erman at Thu, 11/13/2008 - 12:22
Lord Erman's picture

I liked it. A clean, nice and enjoyable article.

I for one, am not interested in this format but I do read such stuff when it's on So most part of it was new-ish for me. I'm sure most players did knew everything about what's been said in the article but still, there are some players just like me.

So thanks for posting it.

by Bazaar of Baghdad at Thu, 11/13/2008 - 10:38
Bazaar of Baghdad's picture

I'm not sure if that chart is of your design or not, but it is by far the most impressive lucid breakdown of a pro tour event I have ever seen.

I, too, am wanting to hear a little less of the 'what' of the deck - we've seen the lists.  But now, let's analyze the 'why' this card over that card.  Was the winning deck a fluke version of Elves?  Was the 9-0 a fluke (40% of Tez didn't day 2)?  What card choices are going to optimize my chances of success in future events?  I want to hear the reasoning behind the choices.

Thanks for the breakdown!

by Pyrosin at Thu, 11/13/2008 - 08:34
Pyrosin's picture

Well it was relevant when I wrote it a week and a half ago.  Unfortunately it got lost in the submission process.  But thanks for the constructive criticism Mr. Anonymous.

by Anonymous(Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 11/13/2008 - 06:57
Anonymous(Unregistered)'s picture

Been covered a hundred times everywhere else.  No value added.