GP Toronto Battle Report
I've always wanted to try to get into the more competitive side of Magic. There have been a couple problems with that along the way, however.
1) The time/money commitment required is pretty prohibitive when you're an old man with a job and a family. Sometimes I wonder if it was a blessing or a curse I didn't rediscover Magic early in university. I probably would have dumped a lot of time and money into it ultimately amounting to not a hell of a lot (and knowing how much time I spent on stuff like WoW, probably for the best).
2) The vast majority of events held (at least in Toronto) are Constructed in nature, and I've never been the biggest fan of it versus Limited. Not really going to go into my reasoning here, but suffice it to say preconstructed decks just aren't my focus and where I have fun.
So when they announced the Grand Prix schedules last year and I saw this year's GP Toronto (which I couldn't attend last year) was not only going to be on a date seemingly not interfering with anything else in my life (at the time), but ALSO the Sealed format, I knew I had to at least attempt to go. I told my wife about it months in advance, we made a couple deals revolving around birthday/anniversary presents and I was good to go. She's generally pretty great as long as I'm reasonable about free time/hobby stuff. I don't tend to ask for much for myself---we have two kids and I really do my best to balance things accordingly.
I set a goal for myself going in which was to win 4 matches. Not the loftiest of heights, I know, but for a first timer in a cutthroat environment I think it was reasonable. I spend about two weeks before practicing the hell out of the format on MTGO and building various pools online (thanks for all your help Yangers!), and before I knew it, July 22nd had rolled around and I was off!
+ Show Spoiler +
I could probably write a whole other blog on the fun we had playing online and what we learned. Maybe another time.
Main Event start time called for 9:00 AM. I live decently far north of the convention centre where it was being held so I made sure to leave fairly early to get there on time. Evidently I didn't leave early enough because I got stuck at about 8:45 in a long line trying to get to underground parking. I was freaking out in my car that I was going to miss deck building/registration time but I just manage to get into the hall and find my seat with 4-5min to spare....only to find out that 9:00 wasn't even close to what time things would be starting. First the Judges go over how the event works, they have to hand out all the product, make sure people find their seats...all of that alone took like 45 min. Eventually registration of pools and deckbuilding began.
I really have to hand it to the few people around me who were vets at this sort of thing. I've never attended anything at this competitive level (Comp REL) so I was extremely nervous about fucking something up and getting penalized somehow. The guy sitting across from me especially was pretty nice and explained stuff whenever I had a dumb question. Essentially we open our own pools in front of the other guy, taking turns, then we pass them across the table to register them in a big huge checklist. Opening my packs I felt pretty decent about where I was gonna be, and then I watched the guy across from me...man. I felt really bad for him. He opened some hot garbage---rares like Drake Haven, Reason//Believe, Refuse//Cooperate...I can't remember all of them right now but I could see how frustrated he was at opening probably one of the worst sealed pools I've ever seen. Guy next to me hit a Bolas, another one hit a God...pretty expected that this is gonna be the stuff I'll be seeing all weekend.
Anyway, without further adieu, here is my pool and my build that I had about 25 min or so to construct:
+ Show Spoiler +
Samut, Voice of Dissent
Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun
Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun
So. Not the most amazing pulls in the world, and not the easiest pool to build either. White seemed by far my worst color so it looked like Temmet was out, or at splash at most. Fraying Sanity is useless, and while Obstructionist is nice, I don't think there was enough in blue to pull me in. That left that solid green bomb I opened and the amazing red and black removal suite I pulled. As hard as I tried not to flat out go three-color it really just seemed like the most powerful option overall. I built a GB pool around my double Obelisk Spiders, attempting to splash red and white for Samut and Sovereign but it came off much weaker than simply adding the solid red removal and creatures I had as well. My fixing wasn't fantastic but attempting to add in a Plains for activation costs of my rares messed up the mana base too much so I'd have to rely on Manalith for white. The final build ended up looking like this:
Basically the gameplan was midrange them to death. Play dudes, remove their dudes, try to win with bombs. I had solid midrange creatures but not much of a top end so I had to be a little more on the aggressive side I think. I had a few sideboard options if I needed to go slower or more aggressive but they weren't super amazing or anything. I think if I had more time I could have thought up a build that involved blue in some way, but ultimately I think this was the best way to go.
I wrote down a little blurb about each match after the fact but since it took me two weeks to finally type up this monstrosity, I might be losing some of the finer points to faulty memory. I apologize for that. I think ultimately most of these match summaries might be more about the people I played against than their decks, which is kind of interesting as I found that more memorable. And it's kind of a nice change from my usual.
+ Show Spoiler [So as not to spoil how I ended up doing!] +
Match 1 vs RWg
+ Show Spoiler +
First opponent was a nice guy. We chatted on and off throughout the match, which was sort of good for me because I was terrified. I'm not one to let nerves get the best of me in many situations but for whatever reason I was extremely on edge. I was worried that I was going to get rules lawyered out of games. I was worried I was going to make dumb misplays and throw constantly. I was worried I'd get disqualified for something dumb. I was worried I'd be up against antisocial jerks. It seemed though that most of these fears were unfounded. I say most because throughout the day there were some issues here and there, but I'll get to those eventually. Game 1 we midranged each other a bunch until he flashed out his own Samut and blew me out. I was on the back foot from then on At one point I tossed a Torment of Venom during combat onto his Samut which he then saved with a trick---or so I thought. We resolved combat, he tossed Samut into the graveyard I tossed my guys---wait what? What happened there? I was too nervous to speak up for fear of sounding like an idiot or getting disqualified or something. Turns out we resoled the spell improperly and Samut should not have died. For some reason OP thought Torment gave -4/-4 when it didn't. We figured that out after the game ended after he top decked me just barely. I don't think there was anything a judge could or would do at that point, and since he won anyway I don't think there were any issues. I got the feeling from him that had I won from this mistake he would have been pretty forgiving about it after the both of us would have called a judge over to ask what to do. Just my thoughts anyway. Game 2 he played the 3/3 Angel that gains life and tossed a Cartouche of Solidarity on it. I waited till combat to kill it on his turn with Torment of Venom---oh wait. -3/-3. not -4/-4. Somehow his mistake from last game got into my head and I made the exact same mistake! I showed the Venom only realizing my mistake after it was shown to him. Since I didn't drop the car (I guess that's maybe how it works?) he let me 'take it back,' but the damage was done since I would have been able to block it with a Reach dude and kill it had I not been an idiot. Eventually he went on to pull consistent gas against me and I lost. I'm chalked this loss mainly up to nerves, and I fully place all blame upon myself, though I can't be certain if I could have beaten his deck anyway. It was just a little smaller and a little too aggressive with a better top end than my deck it seemed.
Match 2 vs Mardu
+ Show Spoiler +
Alright not off to a great start. The ice was broken, however, and for whatever reason that first loss made me feel better. This guy was also pretty friendly, we got to talking and it was his first GP as well. Game 1 we both played creatures, but he hit a few more faster than I did. The board state was absolutely in his favour but he was afraid to be aggressive, possibly due to Obelisk Spider. I started to grow my board and was able to create a few favourable attacks. Then I dropped Pride Sovereign and since he was giving me the time, I created cats until it grew to 9/9 and eventually just overwhelmed him. Game 2 He drew Grind//Dust and exiled my Cat and another creature on the ground, but left a Blighted Bat that was already beating him down alive for whatever reason. I think that Bat did about 12 damage over the course of that game. He never drew another answer for it and once I grew my board with better creatures than his I won.
Match 3 vs Grixis
+ Show Spoiler +
Here was the match I knew was coming. My first Spike. (For those who don't know a Spike is a nickname generally given to hypercompetitive players. There are some negative connotations attached here I suppose due to my own 'leaning-towards-the-casual-side-of-things,' and due to my experience with these players in local game stores. I find for the most part, players like this are interested in one thing only---winning---which is fine, but it's often to the detriment of sociability, and sometimes fun.) This guy had no interest in socializing with me. I knew this sort of thing would be a possibility, but if playing games against faceless opponents was all I cared about, I wouldn't bother collecting in paper and trying to scrounge up time to draft once a month or whenever I can barely manage it. I shut my mouth and played the game. Game 1 I played control for the most part---he played stuff, I removed it. Board stall happened, then opponent drew Sunset Pyramid which let him dig through his deck for cards to beat me. With nothing for me to do about it, he eventually drew into a Scarab God (his blue splash) and I scooped up my cards. Game 2 I knew I wouldn't be able to stall since his deck had inevitability so I played a little more aggressively. I dropped a bunch of creatures which were summarily removed with Hour of Devastation. I ended up very low on life but eventually stabilized with Scrounger of Souls and won before he could do anything else. A friend watching me told me after the match that I misplayed at one point in this game by not hasting out a Blighted Bat that I didn't plan on blocking with regardless, and he was right. Gotta watch those misplays. Game 3 I hold onto a hand with Puncturing Blow and successfully play around Hour of Devastation early. He drops the God, I immediately exile it. For the next 5 turns I proceed to top deck like crazy including my first time playing Samut(!!) but he hangs on, eventually finding his Pyramid. I then top deck one final time---Open Fire for the win. He was VERY unhappy after that final game and certainly let me know about it, and I definitely don't blame him given the sheer power of his deck. I just had all the right answers exactly when I needed them. Overall not a particularly unpleasant experience but I think if I had to go the rest of the day playing against opponents like him, I may not have enjoyed myself very much.
Match 4 vs GR
+ Show Spoiler +
Checking up with some friends here I seemed to be on par with one guy who actually had a Bye first round and is attempting to grind to the Pro Tour. Not that that means much 3 rounds into a huge tournament like this, but still, i felt good about it. That guy had Mirror, Glyph Keeper, Obstructionist, Earthshaker Khenra and a bunch of other really solid stuff for a UR deck. Anyway I digress. After the last game, facing another super friendly guy was nice. At the start of the match he says to me he is currently 2-0 in matches against Dans. I say 'Well I personally go by Daniel, so I don't think that counts.' Pretty amusing that he's played against 3/4 guys so far with the same name. Game 1 guy drops Planeswalker Samut. I had kept a hand of 4 lands, Shefet Monitor, Manalith and Scrounger because I didn't want to risk drawing a worse hand. I took some hits early with Samut giving somebody double strike but I managed to get Scrounger down. I had a bunch of Deserts on the field already so to stabilize I buffed my Scrounger with Hashep Oasis to gain life and attack Samut, he chumps to protect her. Eventually she goes down and there's a board stall. The typical cycle of him playing stuff and me removing it goes on; a particularly good play was with him having two creatures on the board I used Lethal Stong to remove one, then Doomfall to force him to exile the 6/7 Hexproof crocodile I would have otherwise been unable to deal with. I topdeck Sovereign, he topdecks Ramunap Hydra. I topdeck my second Lethal Sting to kill his Hydra and prevent my death but after a fun sequence of super topdecks from both of us, I hit 3 lands in a row and lose. Game 2 I mulligan to 6 and manage to never draw a green source and get crushed. I actually sided in Torment of Scarabs for some reason in this game while taking out Cartouche of Ambition and I proceeded to draw it when it was useless. I think I threw it in because I had heard some commentary at GP Kyoto that was going on at the same time that a lot of players were running it. That was the first game out of 9 I actually had to mulligan despite my mildly greedy manabase so I definitely couldn't complain too much. Looks like the dude's winrate versus Dans increased to 3-0!
Match 5 vs BR Burn
+ Show Spoiler +
This guy was another Spike. Was somewhat friendly it seemed except he kept calling me 'brother.' An odd idiosyncrasy that seemed innocent enough but also sort of condescending? I didn't know what to make of it. During shuffling/cuts at the beginning of Game 2 or 3 he also called me 'little brother' which is definitely condescending. Maybe I'm overly sensitive but I don't know. Whether I'm physically bigger/smaller or older/younger than him, I feel like it's sort of rude. I've got two kids and I'm the eldest in my family,. I'm nobody's 'little brother.' In any case, from Game 1 it was already pretty evident what this guy's gameplan was. He was hardcore burn, having 4 on colour rares in his deck. I can't remember what they all were but they included Cut//Ribbons and an Invocation Diabolic Intent. I missed two land drops in this game and got burnt out by a bunch of Firebrand Archers and aggro cards. Didn't even need to play the Inferno Jet he was running. Game 2 I managed to keep my life up with Cartouche and Scrounger. He never drew a second Swamp he seemed to need and lost. Game 3 this guy flooded more heavily than anything I've ever seen. I think he had drawn 11 lands in 17 or 18 cards and I just crushed him.
Match 6 vs GR Bombs
+ Show Spoiler +
So the Day 2 dream was still alive at this point, needing 3 more wins out of my next 4 matches to go 6-3 and make the Draft portion of the Grand Prix. Again, my hopes weren't particularly high but it was nice to have something else to fight for. Anyway, Game 1 I had a disgusting start. Turn 2 Bitterblade Warrior into Cartouche of Ambition to remove a 2/1 from OP's board. Looked like maybe I could have won right there but OP drew a couple Puncturing Blows while I couldn't draw mine when he pulled a 6/6 Hydra on me. And then a Samut planeswalker. Then right after he played the 7/7 Sandwurm, and while I topdecked Lethal Sting there was no way that would be enough. Game 2 he plays Samut, Hydra, and surpise! Rhonas. I manage to deal with Samut but I can't deal with both the trampling Hydra and keep creatures off the board to avoid Rhonas activating. I also made a really stupid play here by using Puncturing Blow on Rhonas (since dealing 5 damage to Hydra wouldn't kill it) even though I KNOW full well the creature has to die to be exiled. No idea why I did that, but there was no way I was winning that regardless. Just too many huge on-colour bombs for me to deal with.
Match 7 vs RW Aggro
+ Show Spoiler +
Now I had to fight to stay alive. Any loss from here on meant I'm out of the tournament. Even if I lost this match I could keep going and play my remaining matches for the day but it was getting late and it was a lot of Magic already. This guy was super nice. He was disabled and so had his wheelchair at a set end of a table where he didn't have to move around between matches. Kinda cool that they can do that for people at these events. Game 1 he played three Thorned Molochs and not a whole lot else? I was afraid of Prowess triggers when he attacked but he just really didn't...do anything. Especially when I played bigger stuff and he was forced to chump and just won without much effort. Game 2 I got screwed off of red mana and lost. Game 3 I got screwed again but managed to survive thanks to buffed Scrounger yet again and drew into Samut for the blowouts and eventually the win. Felt bad to be the one to knock someone out of Day 2 contention but he wasn't particularly broken up about it. Another awesome opponent. A fun little interaction we had to call a Judge for at one point was when I had both of my Obelisk Spiders on the board at once. Turns out when they block each one sees the other put a -1/-1 counter on something and they trigger twice each for 4 triggers total! No wonder Jon Finkel's insane quadruple Obelisk Spider deck did as well as it did at the Pro Tour. Card is super nuts.
Match 8 vs Jund
+ Show Spoiler +
This match was to continue to stay alive. I recognized my opponent here from one of the stores I frequent, and he recognized me as well as the guy who beat him during Shadows Over Innistrad with a Triskadekaphobia draft deck! Game 1 I beat him with Blighted Bat essentially as I removed threats and had good blocks on the ground until late in the game when he dropped a Sandwurm on me and threatened lethal. I pretended to think a while, said something along the lines of 'Hmm..ok this'll work' (lol) and swung out with an exerted Bitterblade Warrior and my Bat, threatening lethal if I had a pump spell. All my opponent had to do was not block to win.....and the bluff paid off! Maybe an obvious play but one I was fairly proud of. Game 2 I mulled to 5 so hopes were not high. I managed to stabilize just barely with some my old friend the Scrounger but at 4 life he topdecks a Trial of Zeal and pings me for one with Fervent Paincaster which I wasn't able to deal with for the entire game. That one was nailbitingly close. Game 3 he draws multiple cartouches and Trials and just removes and outvalues me off the board immediately. GG. We shake hands. If I had to get knocked out by someone, I was happy it was him. I wished him good luck in making Day 2 and I dropped. Probably could have just played my last match of the night for fun, but like I said, it was getting late and a full day of Magic can get pretty grueling.
+ Show Spoiler +
Odds and Ends:
- I truly enjoyed playing in this GP and hope I get a chance to do it again. I managed to meet my goal without 'cheating,' that is, I reached 4 wins before I was officially knocked out of the tournament. Yes, I could have played WAY better but there's always ways to work on that. I also just had a lot of fun playing with and against the majority of my opponents. I really didn't expect everyone to be as sociable as I was for the most part, which was really great and left me with good feelings after each win or loss.
- MVPS: Scrounger of Souls. Such a great blocker and the lifelink kept me alive in so many situations. Blighted Bat. Who would think a little 2/1 flier would do so much work on his own? Obelisk Spiders. Those guys are nearly impossible to get by.
- Underwhelming: Samut. And Pride Sovereign. Maybe because I barely got to do anything with them? I dunno. Shefet Monitor was also more or less useless for me despite the need for fixing I had.
- I did not play against a SINGLE blue deck the entirety of my matches. Could be coincidence but I feel like it must have more to say about how the Sealed format plays out. Definitely played against a lot of green and red. Speaking of the Sealed format, I love it. There are huge ridiculous bombs, sure, but there are also multitudes of answers to them in every colour. You can play slow decks and get away with it. You can play as many colours as you like provided you have some fixing and get away with it. You can play super fun cards and have them actually be effective.
-Other friend ended up going 7-2 in matches and made Day 2! Not that any of us were surprised. On Day 2 he flubbed out pretty quickly and was just trying to play for cash. He showed us his first draft deck...Liliana's Mastery and TWO Lord of the Accursed. That's THREE Zombie Lord effects, plus Binding Mummy amongst other things, and somehow he went 1-2. That's an insane level of competition right there.
-The guy I played in Round 8 went on to lose Round 9. I found him the next day and told him I was disappointed in him. We had a good laugh. Awesome dude.
- After one of finished my matches I went on to watch my friend play one of his. He was in Game 2 against a guy with both Glyph Keeper and the 4/4 uncommon Sphinx on the board as well as the Mirror. I watched him misplay by not copying his Glyph Keeper the turn it came down to fly overhead for lethal. He ended up winning anyway, but one the game ended I wanted to explain to him where he could have won sooner and I basically got yelled at by his opponent because the Match wasn't done. WHOOPS. There was a guy in one round I sat next to earlier on who apparently earned himself a Match loss previously by doing more or less what I just did, so I was terrified and just jetted the hell out of there, feeling really guilty. Thanks dude, wherever you are, for not calling a Judge on me.
Feeling great about how things went down, I was all ready to play some relaxing side events with friends the next day and maybe earn some prizes.
I suppose I'll post the Day 2 stuff in a separate post right after this because this is getting obscenely long.
As always, comments/questions are more than welcome, and in fact encouraged. Any mistakes in my building or advice is always up for discussion. If there's anything anyone reading this does not understand I'd also be more than happy to explain some of the terminology or choices I made.