PTQ Berlin 2008: Staid Ukrainians, inventive Belgians, and Greek Transformers

Giant leading edit: I apologize for my geography flub. Odessa is in the Ukraine. I just noticed that I gifted it to Russia. I’m definitely too much of a child of the cold war.
As we head into the middle span of the PTQ season for Berlin 2008, forums ring with complaints that the combined Lorwyn – Morningtide – Shadowmoor qualifier format is utterly stale. Of the 32 top-eight decks reported from the latest PTQ (as always, not including any Northern California PTQs as they consistently don’t make it into Wizards’ hands), just shy of half (15) were Faeries. More to the point, perhaps, three of the four blue envelopes went to Faeries.
As always, you can check these results yourself here.
Over on Star City Games, I noticed top eights from three recent European PTQs, held in Odessa, Antwerp, and Thessalonika. I took a quick look through the lists to see what jumped out at me.
The Ukrainian top eight was the most conventional, with the top four (and the eighth) places going to Faeries. Of the remaining three slots, two went to Kithkin, and one to Elementals. All the builds cleaved close to the known designs.
The Belgian top eight was oddly Hobbit-heavy, with three Kithkin decks making the cut and only two Faeries. The remaining slots went to a Doran deck with a guest appearance from Brion Stoutarm, the winning Merfolk deck, and “Swan Command.”
Say what?
Sung Kocks’ Swan Command build (click here to see it) is a basic five-color control frame with the addition of three Swans of Bryn Argoll, triple Tarfire, a full quartet of Firespouts and double Incendiary Command. Let’s take a moment here to remember how Swans was going to be an incredible and dominating combo card. Ah, well. In this build, I imagine the Swans are there to turn your Incendiaries and board-sweeping Firespouts into card-drawing opportunities — until someone Inversions them. The Swans version of five-color control was good enough to power Sung into seventh place, which isn’t bad in Antwerp.
The other deck of note from the Antwerp PTQ is the Faeries deck piloted by Mark Dictus (click here to see it). Following in the footsteps of fellow Belgian Marijn Lybaert, Mark ran a Faeries deck with eight Vivid Lands and four Firespouts. Main. With three Kithkin decks making it through to the top eight, that seems like a metagame call for the area, and perhaps one that paid off. Mark’s build loses strength against the mirror to pack in those Spouts, as it has neither Peppersmokes nor Thoughtseizes, but it is otherwise not particularly hampered — and maybe the Antwerp metagame took out many of the other Faeries decks.
The Greeks ran the farthest afield, although I almost missed one of their two weird decks. As listed on Star City, the Thessalonika top eight consisted of double Kithkin, double Faeries, double Elementals, Ten Commandments, and a deck labeled “Optimus Prime.”
We’ll take that one second.
First off, let’s take a closer look at Kostantinos Karafotis’s woefully mislabeled “Ten Commandments.” It’s a given that a stock Commandments (now just as likely to be thought of as block Quick ‘n’ Toast, or five-color control, or whatever) doesn’t run ten actual Commands. One might have chosen to rename this deck, however, when it fell to just four commands. Two Primal, two Austere. That’s it. Take a moment to click here and read the decklist.
This deck runs a host of chunky creatures, with triple Grim Poppet, a singleton Arbiter of Knollridge, quadruple Thresher, and quadruple Oversoul of Dusk. Man. That’s all accelerated out with Druids and Fertile Grounds, and backed up by triple Garruk and the ubiquitous playset of Firespouts. Its mana base is also shockingly clean for all that it’s trying to do, with twelve Basic Lands, six hybrid duals, four Reflecting Pools, and no Vivids.
Fascinating, and good enough for sixth place.
The cutely named “Optimus Prime,” run by Petros Apotsos, is a sort of “boot to the head with big stuff” build (click here to see it). Perhaps thinking of it as a way around the highly reactive Faeries decks, Petros runs a full set of Dramatic Entrance. The Entrance lets him play out all his creatures as Instants, and provides a one-mana discount of the Threshers and a whopping three-mana discount on the Woodfall Primus.
And see, now you know where the deck gets its name.
On top of this, he has triple Primal Command (also playing into the name), triple Incendiary, and quadruple Firespout. He has quadruple Garruk as well. Like Karafotis, Apotsos loves the Oversoul, although he keeps his in the sideboard. And again, the mana base is entirely clear of Vivids, although he does run comes-into-play-tapped lands in the form of four Mosswort Bridges.
And he wins. Petros and his wacky R/G build took first place. How cool is that?