Well that was amazing. And it was fun and exciting, stressful, bittersweet and ultimately my best Magic showing so far. But if it could have been better, I'm not sure I could have had any more influence on the final outcome. Grand Prix came to town; well, relatively close anyhow, so I made the effort to make it the other 100 or so miles. Charleston SC was where 661 people gathered for a Standard Grand Prix. Only 81 made the cut for day 2, and I was ecstatic to be one of them. I finished only 76th however, and that leaves something to be desired and provides us here with the meat of the story, it really was a tale of two very different days.
First off, I had been looking forward to some constructed high level Magic for a while now. I've been busy, having recently retired from the military and started a new and very demanding job, so I have remained content to stay local and get my Magic fix at FNM. I'll take this time to give a shout out to Dale and the gang at Scarlet Moon Gaming, a great place to battle each week, and a stone's throw from my home! Anyhow, post rotation the format seemed pretty sweet, a little Tusky maybe, but sweet nonetheless, so I was looking forward to playing on a bigger scale. I admit that my preparation for something like this is very limited, as there were some decks at the GP that I knew existed but had never played against, and then some that I had never seen. That being said, I feel that day one luck was on my side.
I was playing a 4 color rites deck, using red for things like Faithless Looting and Dreadbore in the main, with Slaughter Games in the sideboard. I felt that Slaughter Games was the real reason that I chose this build over the 4 color with blue version, as it made it better in the mirror matchups. However after having now played in some of those mirror matchups, I think my statement is more one of those “I felt more comfortable playing that” then being technically correct. At any rate day one of the GP was to be 9 rounds, so here we go.
Round one I feel I was fortunate to be paired against a Mono-Red deck, featuring a slew of unleashed one-drops and Hellrider . Both games Centaur Healer kept me in it long enough until Thragtusk or Angel of Serenity could stabilize me for good. Game 2 I found out just how hot I was running, as with 5 life, staring down triple unleashed Rakdos Cackler s and an Ash Zealot , I top-decked a Rolling Temblor . I pretty much just won after wiping his board.
Round two I was paired against a really nice guy Matthew, who is from the Atlanta area, and still a high school senior. He was playing the blue version of the 4 color reanimator, which showcases Forbidden Alchemy and had more access to more copies of Cavern of Souls , which is something I would later wish that I had access to more of. This match was a grind, and we both played very quickly to try to avoid a draw in only the second round, however it was not to be. He took game one, and I beat him game two, but with only 12 minutes left, game three went to turns and it was too early for either of us to concede to the other, so we took our chances with the early 1-1-1 draw, and both went to 1-0-1 on the day.
Round three I was paired against another nice guy that was again about 20 years younger than me. He also was playing an Unburial Rites deck, but his turned out to be the 3 color version (Junk, as they call green/black/white). I won the match in two games, finishing him with spirits boosted by a Craterhoof Behemoth .
Round four I broke away from the mirror to face a different mirror match. His name was Christopher too. (feel free to groan) But I digress… He was playing Jund, and this proved to be a tough match for me. For one thing, I realized at the beginning of the match that it was 2:40 and I hadn’t had anything to eat. No sooner had that seed of thought been planted and I was hungry, and mind out to lunch! I made some embarrassing play mistakes and really felt like I was gonna pass out toward the end of this one. I managed the victory, apologized for my sloppy play, and don’t remember too much more about the match, other than my opponent being upset about his game three keep, and lack of land.
After a hot dog, pretzel and some water I was ready for round five. I was sitting at 3-0-1 and sat down across from Mario. He turned out to be my one and only match against green white aggro and he didn’t draw very well. I never saw a Silverblade Paladin and in each game I stabilized with 23 points of life gain in each, making it very hard for him to kill me without the fast starts that he should have had.
Round six was against my first blue white red midrange opponent. Kenneth beat me solidly game one, and I thought that this would be my first loss of the tournament. I took out as much sorcery speed removal as I could and brought in Slaughter Games and Rolling Temblor , mostly for Geist of Saint Traft . Games two and three were both battles, and somehow I pulled them out to go to 5-0-1 for the day.
Round seven I was paired against Shahar Shenhar. His name sounded familiar in that kind of way that someone’s name sounds like it is someone you should know. Turns out my instincts were right, and I should have known who he was, but I don’t know every Magic pro, or 2 time Grand Prix Champion, as was the case this time. So my apologies to Shahar, I know who you are now. :-) To the match we went and I believe I won game one with a Craterhoof Behemoth alpha-strike. Post board I was done in by Rest in Peace both games. In one of the games (I think game three) I Duress ed away one of them only to have it draw his second and only other copy 3 turns later. I dug hard through the deck with Grisly Salvage trying to find Acidic Slime or thin it enough to draw the one Abrupt Decay that I had sided in, but it was only a matter of time before he finished me off. At least one of the games he won with Nephalia Drownyard running me out of cards.
Round eight I was paired against another up and coming pro from Team Canada at the worlds championship that occurred earlier this year. I learned that fact following some chit chat after game one, but just learned that he won GP Barcelona this year. My competition was definitely the toughest I had ever had to play against now. Alexander Hayne was his name, and his deck was the same I faced in round six. This time I won the first game, and sideboarded in the same manner, and won a grinder of a match in two straight games. Someone asked him afterwards if he thought it was his inexperience with the deck, and he thought it might have been. I guess they (the Canadians that came to Charleston) thought it was a good matchup against the scores of Rites decks that would be out here, and I believe they were right. I was now 6-1-1 with 19 points, and day 2 required 21 to get in. (edited 11/20)
I sat down across from Bruce, who offered me a draw. I’m not sure if he was trying to get me to draw my way right out of a day 2 chance, but I saw his points when I checked the pairings, and he was at 20, meaning a draw got him in, a loss would not. His record was 6-0-2, making me sure that he was some sort of mirror that makes the games go long. I was determined to not have come this far and take a chance on a draw, so I politely declined, and added an apology, stating that fact as my reason for choosing to play. He said that he knew I “had to do what I had to do”, and off we went. Game one was pretty epic, both in length and in the way I finally won. The life totals were 22 for him, 2 for me. I have to tell you, Craterhoof Behemoth was my hero! Game two was long as well, and I thought I would win the match 1-0-1, but on turn 5 of extra turns I landed that beautiful behemoth again, and signed the match slip a 2-0 winner.
That was it, everything I had hoped to do! I finished 7-1-1 after nine rounds in 26th place. Most important fact was that I would be returning to play in the main event on Day 2. It was what I set out to do and having done it, breathed a sigh of relief and went home happy. No matter what happened the next day I would be happy to have made day 2 of a Grand Prix, only the second one that I have ever participated in, and the only constructed format one.
Day 2 could not have been more different! I understood that the level of play was to be higher, and that I could live with. The thing that struck me was that most of the decks I played against day 2 were more of what I lost to in the Shanar Shenhar match, with pilots of the same experience. They were the decks of Alexander Hayne, with pilots more familiar with the deck. I could only manage to win one round against a midrange deck, and was otherwise just decimated. I kept smiling the whole time though. Here’s the brief highlights and wrapup of the day.
The first round was against Channel-Fireball’s own David Ochoa. Great guy, amazing Magic player, he beat my face in. I was Tamiyo, the Moon Sage d to death with a Thought Scour in the second and final game. He answered some questions though, and I got a picture with him that Gerry Thompson and Joshua Cho took with my phone. Funny story that you can follow here: twitter.com/G3RRYT/status/27034754531263...
I didn’t want to seem like too much of a tourist, and so I would only ask to get a pic with those people I played. Sorry Gerry, but thanks again for the content on SCG and the picture you took of yourself!
I played Andreas Ganz, the 2010 Swiss National Champion in round thirteen. I didn’t know it until today actually, after I googled his name. The third game, which went to time on the fifth turn, I could not win, so I instead offered the concession, as I was behind on life totals, and a draw did neither of us any good. He played very slowly, and I think I could have won under different circumstances.
My last round was finally against the blue mirror version of the deck, but this time it wasn’t close. It wouldn’t have mattered anyhow, as my opponent finished 65th and just out of the prize money after beating me. I could live with 76th but it could have been very different.
I think for the immediate future, what I would change is to not just be happy to be there. I think I was somewhat done on day 2 before I got started. I know that sounds like a cop-out, but if you think about where you are mentally sometimes, it really does make a difference. I am fairly certain that I never made a play error; it just felt like the white blue decks that I faced most of the day severely out classed me, and their pilots were definitely more in their element. Nerves were a slight issue too I suppose, as I made the same mistake twice in separate matches. Once while drawing I put the card down next to the deck, and it caught the side of the top card flipping it. I received a warning for looking at extra cards. Then in the last round I took the top of my deck to deal 7 cards and again some number of cards flopped off the top, earning me another warning. Both were honest mistakes and I was pretty shook up by both of them. So whether I thought so or not, I guess day 2 affected my usually cool demeanor.
Well that’s it. I’m looking forward to the next high level nearby event. That looks to be GP Charlotte, NC in February, format to be determined. I had a blast, learned a lot of things about professional Magic and myself, so until my next blog…