2, Aug, 23

The Best Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Pro Tour Moments

Article at a Glance

Pro Tour coverage has majorly upgraded its game. Not everyone would agree, but the past few Pro Tour events have been a blast to watch. Despite playing a lot of online competitive Magic myself, I never really tuned into these events because of how slow-paced and difficult they were to watch. Pro Tour March of the Machine and Lord of the Rings changed that.

With time-delayed games, clean cuts when necessary and sped up footage to fill in a lot of what may have used to be dead space, the Pro Tour broadcast isn’t constant action, but definitely has a lot more of it now than in seasons past.

Modern, to top it all off, is a fantastic format for entertainment value. There are some incredibly nasty plays that some players may not even think possible until they happen. Jake Beardsly won a Pro Tour finals game with an opponent’s Ulamog that he resolved on turn three. How on earth did that happen?

While there were indeed some splashy plays to be had, they may not make sense to players who are unfamiliar with some of the cards involved. For that reason, we want to show off some of the most popular Pro Tour moments while explaining what exactly is going on.

Here are some of the most viewed moments that occurred at the Pro Tour!

Jake Beardsly Casts a Turn 3 Ulamog

To backtrack a tad bit, Jake casted a Dauthi Voidwalker last turn, and is now moving to Thoughtseize Christian Calcano who, much to his dismay, has an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in his hand. The card is Mono Green Tron‘s most powerful closer, with the deck commonly able to cast it on turns 4 or 5.

Its a shame that this clip starts where it does, because just a few moments earlier, Calcano flings the Ulamog across the table Chaos Orb style for some brilliant showmanship points. Basically, Calcano already knows what Beardsly is going to take.

To explain this interaction to those who may be unfamiliar, Dauthi Voidwalker truly has a suite of terrifying abilities. While this card functions as a fantastic piece of graveyard hate, it also marks the cards exiled by it with Void counters. As long as your Dauthi Voidwalker can tap, you can play a card exiled with a Void counter that an opponent owns and play it without paying its mana cost.

Thoughtseize would normally strip Calcano’s Ulamog out of his hand into the graveyard but thanks to Dauthi Voidwalker, it instead gets exiled with a Void Counter. Since Dauthi Voidwalker can tap, Beardsly cashes in their Voidwalker for Ulamog, exiles both of Calcano’s lands, and the game ends on the spot.

Wojteck Kowalczuk’s Miracle Draw

This Modern matchup has been commonly found amongst top tables of various tournaments. Golgari Yawgmoth and Living End were not the most popular decks at the Lord of the Rings Pro Tour, but they both still had multiple copies in contention. Living End tries to Cycle a bunch of creatures into their graveyard before resolving a Cascaded Living End (because Living End doesn’t have a mana value, it is treated as though its mana value is zero. Cascading Living End can bypass its Suspend cost) to reanimate everything in their grave.

Golgari Yawgmoth is a creature combo that wants to utilize an infinite with Yawgmoth and two Undying creatures to draw out their deck and, with something like a Zulaport Cutthroat, drain your opponent to death. This combo is explained in more detail here.

Notably, both of these players are considered elite pilots of their respective archetypes. Kowalczuk is known as Xerk on Magic Online, and is commonly seen taking down Modern events. Gabriel Nassif, also known as the streamer Yellowhat, is widely considered one of the best players in the world. He is mostly known for his prowess piloting the UW control archetype, but can, honestly, pilot just about anything.

Nassif is trying to resolve a Cascaded Living End to reanimate his grave, which will likely mean the end of the game. The only way out of the situation that Kowalczuk has is to sacrifice his two creatures to Yawgmoth, Thran Physician and draw an out.

Only one out exists, and that’s an Endurance. For three mana, Endurance shuffles a target player’s graveyard back into their deck. Another problem, however, is that Kowalzcuk does not have three mana to cast Endurance.

Endurance is part of the Modern Horizons Two cycle of Evoke Elementals. This means that you can play Endurance for free as long as you pitch another card of the same color from your hand. For Endurance, that’s green. Endurance will die after it enters the battlefield, but it will still put Nassif’s grave to the bottom of his library, preventing Living End from reanimating anything. The Endurance will also, ironically, be reanimated.

Kowalzcuk did not have Endurance or a green card in hand, so he had two draws to find that exact response. Of course, he did, which is incredibly unlikely.

The best part about all of this is how stone-faced Kowalczuk is. It appears as though he had the Endurance the entire time. This, in contrast with the hype from the casters, made this moment memorable.

While Kowalczuk won this game, he did sadly go on to lose the set.

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Kai Budde’s Insane Topdecks

While Modern was, arguably, the main event for Pro Tour Lord of the Rings, there was also six rounds of Limited as part of the event. Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Limited, while terribly balanced, is an absolute blast to play. Rakdos is definitely the best thing to be doing, and green has largely been considered terrible. Green really got a chance to shine at the Pro Tour, proving that, if you know how to use it, green is really good.

Digression aside, the above clip showcases a spot where Budde was facing a lethal attack thanks to a massive Fear, Fire Foes! clearing his board. This is considered by many to be one of, if not, the best uncommons in Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth limited.

With two 1/1 creatures ready to swing in on a blocker and a Zachary Kiihne with two life, Budde either needs a piece of removal or some way to push through damage to end the game. Sitting on top of his library is the best card in Lord of the Rings limited, which ends the game on the spot in his favor.

This wasn’t the only top deck that Budde would have to change the fate of a match. Against the card that won him the earlier game, Budde is, once again, facing a lethal attack. Fortunately, he draws the best card in the current situation: Shardless Agent. Cascading into a Crashing Footfalls means Budde now has three blockers to the lethal attack. Budde, eventually, manages to pilot his way to win the game from one life because of this topdeck. Budde would later go on to top eight the entire event.

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This is the Smallest of Snapshots

These clips represent some of the most watched moments from Pro Tour Lord of the Rings, but there are so many other intricate puzzles to watch play out on Magic’s Twitch channel if you so choose. Personally, I love watching players go into the tank and taking a completely different route from what many would expect.

I personally recommend watching the match against Zachary Kiihne and Simon Nielson that occurred on day one around the nine hour mark of this stream. Tron mirrors aren’t exactly the most interesting thing to watch, but this set does present a very interesting question that won’t take too much of your time. Game three ends on turn three after Kiihne activates The Stone Brain, but he is the one that’s conceding. Kiihne is regarded as the Tron wizard by team Handshake, the best group of MTG players in the world, which makes this spot an even more interesting consideration. What would you have chosen to name?

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