Regional Championship

Australia/New Zealand Championship

Tournament Report

Author: Zen Takahashi

Hello everyone!

At the end of last month, I competed in the Australia/New Zealand Regional Championships, and once again, I had an incredible time! Although I did not do particularly well in the main event, my teammate Ben Kemp ended up taking down the whole event, playing the same deck as me – Mono White Humans

In this article, I will go over our preparation for the tournament, the Mono White Humans deck that we settled on with some keynotes on our card choices and how to pilot the deck, and then a recap of how the weekend unfolded! 

The Team

Since I was already qualified for both the upcoming Pro Tour and the World Championships, my primary goal was to finish in the Top 16 of the main event, or the $5k side event on Sunday, so I could qualify for the next Regional Championships in October. I initially thought about skipping the tournament entirely, since I wanted to just focus on preparing as much as I could for the Pro Tour. Ultimately decided that it was still worth attending just to hang out with friends and play some high level Magic! 

Over the past year, we have established a consistent team roster, as most of us have been able to repeatedly qualify for these tournaments. A few of us had to skip this one for personal reasons, but we still had a strong roster of twelve players. Our team was as follows:

Ben Kemp

Callum Howes

Calum Gittins

Connor McGillivray

Ivan Sanchez

Michael Russell 

Slava Sheynin 

Tyler Visser

William Li 

Zen Takahashi

Jaeseok Cho (competing in the Japan/South Korea RC on the same weekend)

Lee Shi Tian (competing in the Japan/South Korea RC on the same weekend)

In addition, we had Matej Zatlkaj and Paul Jackson helping us prepare, though neither competed in the Regional Championships, with Matej commentating the European RC instead.

Our collaboration was done over Discord, as we were all geographically spread out, though a few of us did meet in-person to test. One of the major differences we made from the previous Regional Championships was the way we structured our preparation. We introduced a “testing matrix” system, in which all the decks we were considering were tested thoroughly against the top decks of the format. We used a set number of pre-board and post-board games, with both players then writing up a report about their learnings from the games played, so we had in-depth perspectives from both sides of each matchup.

This drastically improved the efficiency of our testing, as we no longer had to waste hours playing Magic Online leagues where half our matches were against random decks, as we could instead focus solely on learning how to beat the top decks. 

One Team, Many Decks

Funnily enough, although our preparation was more structured than the previous two Regional Championships, we ended up being very spread out in our deck choices. Whereas in the two previous events, most of us played the same deck (Rakdos Midrange in the first RC and Grixis Midrange in the second RC). I think this was due to the open nature of Pioneer, but also the matrix testing led to each of us being incentivized to try to master certain archetypes, to be a more formidable testing partner. That naturally steered us to developing a preference for those decks. 

In the end, we split across the following archetypes:

  • 4 Rakdos Sacrifice
  • 2 Mono White Humans
  • 2 Azorius Spirits 
  • 1 Mono Green Devotion
  • 1 Golgari Elves
  • 1 Izzet Phoenix
  • 1 Rakdos Midrange 
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben SLD

I personally settled on Mono White Humans quite early in the process. As I didn’t have much time to devote, I decided to just play either Rakdos Midrange or Humans, as they were the two decks I had the most experience with. After playing multiple sets with Rakdos Midrange in our matrix testing, I found myself losing badly to Rakdos Sacrifice and Mono Green, while not convincingly beating the creature decks, which is what Rakdos has traditionally preyed on. This made it a pretty easy choice for me, especially after both Ben and I came out even against Rakos Midrange in our testing sets.

The two of us were the only ones interested in the deck from the beginning, so we worked closely together on it, as we collaborated and shared our thoughts on the deck almost every day. We went through multiple iterations of the list, but by the time we reached the final version of the deck, we were happy enough with it that we didn’t change a card in the last two weeks leading up to the Regional Championships. I ended up submitting my deck about a week before the tournament, and it remained unchanged by the time the weekend rolled around!

Building Mono White Humans

What stands out about our list is that there is absolutely nothing unique about it!

The more we played the deck, the more we realized that all we wanted was to be as consistent as possible. That allows us to maximize the amount of pressure we put on the board in the first three turns of the game. Any cards that didn’t directly contribute to that had to be considered cautiously. 

We tried most of the flexible cards that people were playing, such as Giant Killer, Invasion of Gobakhan, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, but they all had the same issue – they didn’t pressure the board in a meaningful way in the first three turns. Giant Killer was a bad creature on turn one, Invasion got in the way of you putting pressure on the board, and Gideon cost four mana. 

Building the Sideboard

The sideboard was a similar story. Half the cards in the sideboard are more efficient ways to pressure the board in certain matchups: (Brutal Cathar, Wedding Announcement, Reidane, God of Worthy). The other half are cards that could significantly improve your chances of winning if you draw them: (Portable Hole vs Witch’s Oven and creature lords, Destroy Evil vs Temporary Lockdown, Rest in Peace vs graveyard combo decks). 

We also made sure that in any given matchup, we had a cap on how many creatures we were boarding out. Except for Rakdos Sacrifice and Mono Green Devotion, we never cut more than one one-drop creature, and very rarely cut more than one two-drop creature, unless Thalia, Guardian of Thraben was specifically bad in the matchup. 

Reidane God of the Worthy ELD

We found that when we had four Brave the Elements or three Knight-Errant of Eos in our deck, our matchups vs. Mono Green and Rakdos Midrange only marginally improved. Both these cards have steep diminishing returns. But our matchups elsewhere were hit significantly as we become much less consistent at executing our game plan.

This is why in the main deck, we chose to play a split of three Ossification, two Brave the Elements and one Knight-Errant of Eos. In the matchups where these cards are bad, we wanted to minimize the chance of drawing multiples of them. It also made our sideboard mapping a lot cleaner.

To Keep Or Not To Keep

The deck has been designed to have a lot of redundancy, with thirteen one-drops, twelve two-drops and eight three-drops.

Your aim is to consistently curve out one-drop → two-drop or two one-drops → three-drop or a two-drop and a one-drop. A big revelation in testing was realizing that we had to be extremely disciplined when it comes to taking mulligans, and to not be afraid to go down to five cards.

I am very hesitant to keep a hand seven or six card hand without a one-drop creature.

I would basically never keep a hand on the draw without a one-drop unless it was against Rakdos Sacrifice. On the play, it would require a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and for it to be a matchup where she shines. This does change post-board when you bring in cards like Wedding Announcement, but the general rule of thumb still remains true in post-board games in most matchups.

Adeline, Resplendent Cathar MID

I am also reluctant to keep any hand with four lands in it. Second to not applying enough pressure early, flooding out is one of the most common ways to lose. For me to keep a four-land hand in a pre-board game, it would likely need to curve out perfectly: (Hopeful Initiate, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Adeline, Resplendent Cathar for example), and for one of the lands to be either a Mutavault or a Castle Ardenvale

On the flip side, though, the deck also cannot keep one-land hands. Since you want to curve out every game, you cannot do so if you miss an early land drop, especially if you are on the draw.

The strength of this deck lies in the two-drops and the three-drops, and so repeatedly playing one-drops while you’re stuck on lands won’t be enough to win the game. 

Thalia's Lieutenant SOI

All these limitations may sound like you’ll end up mulliganing to oblivion every game, but in practice, that isn’t the case. The deck has so much redundancy and so the chances of starting with a hand that curves out well is high, especially when you get one or two shots at finding it via mulligans. The deck also mulligans well because it doesn’t need many cards to win – if you curve out well, five cards are more than enough. One of my wins over the weekend was on a mulligan to four against Rakdos Midrange, where I curved Thalia into Adeline into Thalia’s Lieutenant for the victory.

Hopefully, this also further explains why we were so strict about adding cards into the deck that weren’t aggressive bodies. Since we’re looking for a hand that curves out with creatures every game, any additional spell like Brave the Elements or Invasion of Gobakhan, or a clunky threat like Knight-Errant of Eos or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, only leads to having more unkeepable hands. When we decided we needed to be disciplined in how we keep our hands, it meant we had to be strict about the type of cards we added into our deck. 

Gameplay and Sequencing

Although it may seem like most of the creatures in this deck are fairly replaceable with one another, and that is largely true, you still need to think carefully about how you sequence them. You may be throwing away percentage points here and there by not casting them in the right order. Over a tournament, these mistakes will add up and can be costly. 

Which one-drop creature you lead with depends on the matchup. Against decks with a lot of removal spells, you want to hold your Recruitment Officers and Dauntless Bodyguard, so starting with a Hopeful Initiate makes sense. However, against decks where you want to just maximize damage, such as Lotus Field or Neoform, you want to lead with a two-powered creature. Also on the draw, you often lead with a two-powered creature. So, that you can attack into their blocker on turn two, for example, a Recruitment Officer can attack into a Bloodtithe Harvester, but a Hopeful Initiate cannot. 

Dauntless Bodyguard DOM

Against attritional decks, I will usually play Recruitment Officer ahead of Dauntless Bodyguard on turn one. While Officer’s effect is powerful, it’s not guaranteed that the game will get to a point where you’re making the most of its ability, while Dauntless Bodyguard’s protection effect is almost guaranteed to be relevant.

On turn two, casting two one-drops is usually better than casting a two-drop. Unless Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is particularly disruptive in that matchup, for example, against Mono Green Devotion on the play, where a Thalia may prevent them from playing a Wolfwillow Haven. Generally speaking, Thalia is the two-drop you want to play first. Both Coppercoat Vanguard and Thalia’s Lieutenant are at their best when you already have creatures in play that you can immediately pump. 

In terms of which lord to play first, I mainly like playing Coppercoat Vanguard if my opponent is tapped out and/or my turn three play is a Brutal Cathar or Adeline, Resplendent Cathar, where the ward will be taxing for my opponent. If I think my opponent has a removal spell up, I usually prefer playing Thalia’s Lieutenant, as you get to still pump your team even if they kill the Lieutenant.

Coppercoat Vanguard MAT

While the deck’s curve does end at three, it’s important you still keep making your land drops, because you have Recruitment Officer and Castle Ardenvale in your deck. Later in the game, you may topdeck a Recruitment Officer, and want to activate it straight away and cast the Thalia’s Lieutenant you find off it. You may then regret holding the two lands in hand and not be able to make your seventh land drop to do that. So if possible, always just make your land drops. 

The final thing to note about piloting this deck is that the hardest aspect by far is around planning out your combat phases over multiple turns.

This isn’t too difficult when you’re only concerned about removal spells. You can generally calculate it on the assumption that they kill one or two of your best creatures over the next few combat phases. But it is harder when you’re facing down a cluttered board with multiple creatures on your opponent’s side

Brave the Elements ZEN

A good reminder that I’ve come up with for myself is to always remember that the deck has sixteen “key” topdecks – the eight lords (Coppercoat Vanguard, Thalia’s Lieutenant), the six removal spells (Ossification, Brutal Cathar) and the two Brave the Elements.

These are the cards that, if you topdeck any one of them, can make an immediate impact on the board and/or around how you attack. 

Therefore, when I’m planning out my turns, I always think about what would happen if I topdeck one of these cards over the next turn or two, and what that would look like. For example, against Mono Green, if I topdeck a Brutal Cathar next turn I could exile their Cavalier of Thorns and kill their Karn, Great Creator. If I topdeck a Brave the Elements I could attack and get them to one life, and then unless they play two more creatures on their turn, I could win the following turn as they will be short one blocker.

When you’re thinking about these scenarios, you’ll often find that you may need to get in for chip damage here and there. That may involve suiciding one of your smaller creatures into their bigger creature, so you can get through with another one of your Humans.

This may then put you into a position where either topdecking a Brave the Elements or a lord will be enough to win the game. When playing this deck, you always have to think about what your outs are, especially if you’re behind, and then play to those outs. 

Brutal Cathar MID

For a full sideboard guide to the deck, Ben has now posted ours on Twitter!

Friday – Day 0

As mentioned earlier, I submitted my deck on Monday because I was happy with the list as it was. On Wednesday night, I had a quick last minute call with Ben as we discussed potentially playing Anointed Peacekeeper over Reidane, God of the Worthy and a third Brave the Elements over the fourth Portable Hole in the sideboard. After going through our sideboard mapping, decided to stick with what we originally had as we expected Rakdos Sacrifice to be popular, and both these changes would position ourselves worse in the matchup.

As I didn’t want to take any time off work, I took a Friday evening flight with Slava and Calum. Before the flight, we feasted on delicious curry, as well as cheese and crackers, in the airport lounge, and I felt quite bloated as I got on the plane. However, when we landed in Sydney, we were informed by Ivan that his partner had cooked us dinner, and it would be ready by the time we arrived at the Airbnb. Since I’m never one to say no to a home cooked meal, I ended up having two dinners! Needless to say, by the time I went to bed, I felt like someone could roll me down a hill. 

Zen Dinner

Saturday – Day 1

I personally prefer sharing a big Airbnb with friends over splitting up in different rooms at a hotel, as it just feels more lively, and you get to enjoy the social interactions more. That said, this does often come at the cost of a good night’s sleep, as the bunk bed I was sharing with Slava was both uncomfortable and noisy, and I woke up feeling extremely groggy. However, I was able to quickly recover as William’s partner, who is a chef by trade, cooked us all a lovely breakfast! I don’t usually eat breakfast, but a big meal was exactly what I needed to get myself up! 

This was the biggest Regional Championships in our region to date, with 180 players. This meant that the event was going to be eight rounds of Swiss, followed by a cut to Top 8, which was to be played the next day. The weather was great, and it was nice to see the energy in the venue, as players sprawled out around the hall and the quad outside – everyone excitedly conversed with their friends before the first pairings went up.

The event started well for me, as I found myself at 3-1 before the lunch break, defeating UW Control, Jeskai Ascendancy Combo and Rakdos Midrange, while losing to the Mono White Humans mirror. However, straight after lunch, I lost to Rakdos Midrange in a close-set of games and the dream to make the Top 8 was dead

That said, I was still live to make the Top 16 for an invite to the next Regional Championships, so I drank lots of water, ate some muesli, and did my best to stay focused. Over the next two rounds, I beat another Rakdos Midrange and Lotus Field, and found myself at 5-2 going into the last round. Unfortunately, I was then paired against Rakdos Sacrifice, my worst matchup, and lost in two one-sided games

Although it was gutting to just miss out, my opponent, Henry Sams, managed to scrape into twelfth place to qualify for the Pro Tour! I don’t know him well, but I played against him in the first Regional Championships as well, and both times he played excellently and was polite throughout both matches, so I was happy to see him get there

Zen Day 1

The highlight of the day though was that Michael and Ben from our team made the Top 8, playing Izzet Phoenix and Mono White Humans (same 75!), respectively.

I was absolutely stoked for both of them. Michael has been on an absolute tear with Phoenix over the past year, having also come 9th place with it at the first Regional Championships to qualify for Pro Tour Phyrexia earlier this year.

Meanwhile, all of Ben’s hard work he put into the Humans deck paid off. He qualified for his first Pro Tour, which was also perfectly timed, as he’s due to have his first child in a few months’ time, which will put a pause to his Magic endeavors. 

To celebrate, the team decided to all go out for dinner together. There was a tavern that Tyler had initially suggested we go to, but he got the name incorrect, and by the time we found the correct one, it had already been filled up with other Magic players. I then googled on my phone and found a highly rated Italian restaurant just nearby, so we decided to walk over and try our luck. 

When we got there, the restaurant was full, but they had tables outside, and we asked if we could combine them and just sit on the streets, which they happily agreed to. Since there were thirteen of us, they said it would be easier if we just paid a fixed price, and they’d serve us a range of food, which we happily obliged. 

This ended up being far and away the best decision we made on the trip, as the food was simply amazing. Highlights included the truffle pasta, the slow cooked veal with Parmesan, and the baked cheese with honey. The amount of food they served us was unbelievable for the price, and the service was excellent. At the end of the night, we all decided that for the next Regional Championships in Sydney, we would definitely book a table here in advance for the team dinner. 

Sunday – Day 2

On Sunday, the plan was to compete in the $5k side event, where the Top 16 would get invited to the next Regional Championships. The event had just over 100 players and was going to be seven rounds. 

Like the previous day, I started off well at 2-1, beating UW Control and Mono Green Devotion, while losing to Grixis Archfiend combo. However, the wheels then fell off, as I lost to the mirror and Rakdos Sacrifice

The Humans mirror was against Justin Cheung, a top Australian player that had a lot of success in the Grand Prix circuit back in the day. In the third game, he just completely outplayed me. I was far ahead on board with an Adeline, Resplendent Cathar, a 3/3 Thalia’s Lieutenant, a Mutavault, a 2/3 Hopeful Initiate and a Brutal Cathar that had exiled his Brutal Cathar and Coppercoat Vanguard. On the other side, he had just two Mutavaults and an Adeline, Resplendent Cathar. However, I was also on seven life.

It was currently nighttime, so my Brutal Cathar was flipped into a Moonrage Brute. He had been holding one card in his hand for quite some time. I guessed it to be a Brave the Elements or an Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire, as so far he hadn’t had a good window to cast either card.

On his turn, he chose to attack with his Adeline, made a token, and I quickly offered the trade with my own Adeline. I figured that this was a way to get that last card out of his hand. However, he instead activated both his Mutavaults and let the trade happen. On my turn, I knew I was going to be attacking with the Hopeful Initiate and Thalia’s Lieutenant. However, I was unsure about whether to attack with the Moonrage Brute as well. Doing so would make it a two turn clock, while not attacking with the Brute meant giving him an additional drawstep to topdeck an Ossification for my Moonrage Brute.

Brutal Cathar MID

After much deliberation, I chose to attack with the Brute, and it turned out the final card in his hand was in fact the Eiganjo. He killed the werewolf and got back his Brutal Cathar and Coppercoat Vanguard mid-combat. Since the Cathar came back as a 3/3 first strike, he got to eat my Thalia’s Lieutenant.

On his turn, he then activated both his Mutavault and swung for lethal. In hindsight, I should have still played around the Eiganjo. After thinking about it more, I realized that it was right for him not to Eiganjo my Adeline when I made the block. While Adeline is great, with his current board, he wasn’t going to be winning with Adeline on its own.

The only way he was going to win this game was either to topdeck Ossification for my Brutal Cathar, or to trick me into attacking with it. I’d convinced myself that he would definitely use it on the Adeline if he had it. In reality, he just couldn’t afford to do so, and massive kudos to Justin for being so patient with the Eiganjo. I think most people would have cast it on my Adeline there and would have successfully bought a few more turns, but then would have lost unless they topdecked an Ossification

After picking up my third loss, I decided to just drop from the event so I could watch Ben, who was now in the semifinals against Boros Convoke. I got to watch him win that match, and then go on to win the Humans mirror in the finals in a grindy set of games! 

It was amazing to see Ben take down the event, and it was well deserved after all the work and preparation he put into this tournament. Furthermore, I was extremely proud about just how successful our team was over this first year of Regional Championships. We made the finals of all three of them, won two, and took up 25% of the Top 8 slots (6/24). But more importantly, all of us worked hard, got along really well together, and I felt our preparation process improved event-on-event. 


Up to this point, we didn’t officially have a name – we just had a Discord group that was named after the location of the upcoming Regional Championships. But for coverage purposes, we had to come up with one. None of us had any real ideas, so we were aptly named Team Vents – a terrible name suggested by Connor. It was literally just Steam Vents without the S. Most of us thought the name was bad, but we also couldn’t come up with anything better on the spot, so it somehow stuck


Although I didn’t do well in either events, I had an amazing weekend, as once again our team performed well, putting two players into the Top 8 and taking the event down! In addition, Slava also made the Top 4 of the $5k side event on Sunday with Azorius Spirits, which was pretty awesome to see as he’d prepared a lot for the tournament with multiple coaching sessions from top players. 

For now, it’s time for me to focus on preparing for Pro Tour Lord of the Rings, which is only a few weeks away. I am working with Worldly Counsel again, and I’m happy to also get to prepare with Michael and Ben for the tournament! 

Till next time!

Zen Takahashi

@mtgzen on Twitter 

About the Author

Zen Takahashi is a seasoned writer and mainstay on the Three for One Trading writing team. He is an avid Eternal player from Auckland, New Zealand and enjoys competing in local Legacy events and playing Old School over webcam with friends.

Previously, he was a Silver Pro for multiple years and his results included five Grand Prix Top 8s, a 27th place at Pro Tour Amonkhet, three consecutive online Regional PTQ wins, and he co-created the Modern Dredge deck.

Nowadays though, he primarily plays Legacy, his favorite format, but he also branches out into Pioneer and Modern.

Zen Takahashi

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Rainbow Dredge in Modern

February 16th, 2022|Constructed|

Today’s article is all about Dredge in Magic: The Gathering, more specifically, Dredge in Modern. Zen Takahashi, one of the creators of Rainbow Dredge, took a look at the history of the deck and its current state in the meta. He’s also going over different iterations of the deck, as well as all the current sideboard options available.

Best Cards in Modern – Blue [2022]

February 4th, 2022|Constructed|

We asked our seasoned team of authors a tough question: What do they think are the best ten blue cards in Magic the Gathering's Modern format. We then went a step further and created a top 5. Learn what they think about the very best cards of one of the game's most popular formats.

Blue Zenith in Legacy

January 14th, 2022|Constructed|

Zen takes a look at a new deck that did surprisingly well in recent Legacy online events. Green Sun's Zenith and blue Counterspells are the engine in this midrange powerhouse.