Hello, everyone! My name is Orrin Beasley, and I’d like to share with you my recent experience at Grand Prix Dallas. I played in the finals for
the title but unfortunately didn’t end up taking it down. Here’s the list I played on the way to my second-place finish.
RUG and I go back a ways leading up to GP Dallas, so here’s a brief history of my experience with the deck. Pro Tour San Juan was my first real
introduction to RUG. A couple days prior to the start of the tournament, I figured out it was likely the best deck, but since the deck was very
difficult to pilot, I didn’t feel completely comfortable playing it. I chose to play Eldrazi Ramp instead and did terribly.
Several months later, after becoming more familiar with the deck, I played RUG at the StarCityGames.com Standard Open: Richmond and lost in the last
round playing for Top 8. More recently, I won a local Grand Prix Trial for Dallas playing RUG where I had to play against my own girlfriend Kaitlin in
the top four! She is a formidable rising magician, and I was lucky to have won against her, since having three byes is so important.
Pat: you aren’t really going to play cawblade at this tournament are you?
Pat: that’s a yes
you’ll just draw
me: well wtf should I play
Pat: literally any other deck
you can play rug
im not saying you can’t play control, you just can’t play cawblade bc the mirror takes too long
me: I could play rug I suppose
I felt like and still feel like Caw-Blade is objectively the best deck. At StarCityGames.com Standard Open: DC, I played Caw-Blade, started off 5-0,
and then picked up three unintentional draws in the mirror. I wouldn’t say that I’m the slowest of players, but it wouldn’t
be a stretch to say that it’s something that I could work on. The Caw-Blade mirror can often lead to marathon matches that even the fastest of players
struggle to complete within the allotted time. David Shiels received three unintentional draws on his way to the Top 8 in Dallas playing Caw-Blade, and
many other draws took place throughout the tournament.
So taking Pat’s advice, I decided on RUG for the StarCityGames.com Standard Open: Atlanta. The deck I played was the same one Luis Scott-Vargas
had been writing about and the same one I would play in Dallas. I practiced some on Magic Online to get comfortable with the current configuration and
was confident in all the card choices. I ended up losing another win-and-in situation for Top 8 but gained a good feel for how to pilot the deck in the
After Atlanta, I wasn’t set on playing RUG at Dallas but couldn’t find a better alternative, so I decided to stick with what I knew best.
On to the matches!
Rounds 1 – 3: Byes
It really can’t be stressed enough how important these are at Grand Prix these days. Having an extra bye or two can make all the difference
between hitting the threshold for Top 8 or Top 16.
Round 4: Eduardo dos Santos Vieira with U/B Control
In the old days before U/B started playing Inquisition of Kozilek, this matchup used to be a breeze. Now they’re a little better equipped to interact
with your Cobras and acceleration. The matchup really hinges on being able ramp up and being able to stick a threat, usually having to force it through
with a Leak or protecting it with one. They’ll be looking to take the control role in the matchup, so even if you’re tapping out and giving
them a window to resolve Jace, the Mind Sculptor, they’ll usually have to fateseal to avoid losing it to Bolt, which doesn’t net them anything if
you drop your own Jace or come over the top with a Precursor and catch them without a Doom Blade. Basically, just make sure you have a way to handle a
Jace if you’re trying to wear down their counters.
There was little interaction in our two games, and I ended up losing after taking a mulligan in both games and failing to draw lands in one and having
my hand not develop in the other.
Round 5: Wes Blanchard with Metalcraft Big Red
Game two I got a solid draw and ran him over. He showed me a Kuldotha Phoenix before we moved to game three.
Game three he got stuck on two or three lands, and I landed an early Jace and started fatesealing the Mountains away.
Round 6: Haibing Hu with Aggro Valakut
Haibing was playing an interesting deck that had the Valakut endgame combined with early aggression in the form of Lotus Cobra, Viridian Emissary, Hero
of Oxid Ridge, and Bestial Menace. Game one I wasn’t really sure what he was up to after he led with Valakut, but he didn’t have much else other
than a Hero and a Bestial Menace. I was able to ramp out an Avenger of Zendikar and, despite missing a trigger on a fetchland, took it down.
Game three he had a slow start, and I was able to land a Titan with double counter backup. He had three Bolts, and I countered both, since even if he
had Titan, he couldn’t trigger his Valakut due to not having enough Mountains in play.
Round 7: Clinton E. Henry with Mono-Red
Game one he got me down to one life with a Koth in play before I stabilized with Precursor Golem and started controlling his draw steps with Jace.
Fortunately I was able to keep him off the burn spell he needed and won a close one.
Game two he had a burn-heavy draw. I drew and played two Obstinate Baloths and started bouncing and replaying one with Jace to seal the deal.
Round 8: Juan R. Loya with G/W Aggro
Round 9: Wei Jian Ong with Eldrazi Ramp
Eldrazi Ramp has no way of interacting with Lotus Cobra, which gives you a huge advantage if you have one. He was smart to play around Bolt by not
leveling his Joraga Treespeaker on turn 2, but when he did eventually have to, I had the Bolt. I was able to leverage a lot of pressure by accelerating
out threats with Cobra to the point that when he did get to Primeval Titan, it was too late.
Round 10: David A. Palmer with U/B Control
Game one I mulliganed into a solid Cobra draw, and he didn’t have the removal, which let me force through threats to take it.
Game two he mulliganed this time, and I kept a six-lander with Preordain and Raging Ravine. I Preordained into Deprive and Lotus Cobra, drawing Deprive
and leaving Cobra on top to play around Inquisition, which he had on his turn. I dropped Cobra and had a good series of draws, which led to my
resolving a Titan with Leak backup. He was able to stabilize just in time after playing Grave Titan to trade with my Inferno Titan and went to three
before playing a Wurmcoil Engine. I failed to draw the Lightning Bolt/Titan/Jace I needed, and we were on to game three.
Game three I had a slower draw but started applying pressure and ended up in a situation where I’d made some beasts with Garruk Wildspeaker, but he was
able to kill him with his Creeping Tar Pit and had Mystifying Maze to prevent future attacks from my tokens. I had an Inferno Titan in hand ready to
play next turn, but he Inquisitioned and Memoricided to strip it. I ended up drawing a Jace and fatesealed to protect it from the Tar Pit and then
brainstormed the next turn into a Precursor, to which he didn’t find an answer.
Round 11: Matthew L. Nass with Caw-Blade
In both games, I was able to leverage a mana advantage, and while his Ousts held me off for a while, he wasn’t able to develop his board while I
played my threats.
Round 12: Ari M. Lax with Caw-Blade
This was my first time playing against Ari, and I don’t know if it’s just his in-match persona, but he was a bit abrasive to play against.
I could tell he was trying to dictate the pace of the games, but unfortunately for him, his draws would not cooperate. Since he missed land drops both
games, I was able to take over with Jace.
Round 13: Josh W. Utter-Leyton with Caw-Blade
I feel the most mistakes I made in the tournament were during this match.
Game one I had planned on trying to force through his counters, since I had three or so threats in hand; after cracking a fetchland, I remembered that
my friend Billy P had said earlier that he thought Josh was running a lot of Spell Pierces and Mana Leaks, so I talked myself out of playing Jace and
just Explored. I ended up losing on tempo, with lots of threats left unplayed.
Game two I was able to trump his early advantage with an Avenger of Zendikar.
I don’t remember much about game three but do remember that I messed up a couple Jace activations and ended up discarding cards to Sword of Feast
and Famine that should’ve been on top of my library.
Round 14: Steele M. Pastor with Valakut
A win here would let me likely draw into Top 8 in the next round, so the pressure was on.
Game one I had a solid opener with some lands, Preordain, Explore, Precursor, and Titan. I Preordained two lands to the bottom and drew no non-land
cards by the time he was about to untap with six mana, and things were looking grim. Unfortunately for him, he untapped and just passed the turn. I was
in awe because, really, if you’ve ever played against Valakut, you know they never just don’t have the Titan. He drew a Summoning
Trap next turn, but it was too late, and Precursor and Inferno Titan took it down.
Game two I was able to ramp out my threat and had Flashfreeze for his.
A wave of relief washed over me as I felt like I was finally going to Top 8 a Grand Prix! This felt really good after grinding it out for the last
couple years with little result to show. But it wasn’t over yet; there was a chance I wouldn’t be able to draw the last round.
After the standings went up, I was in seventhand paired against the eighth-place player. After checking the tiebreak percentages, it seemed
as though I’d be safe with a draw with a 1.5% lead, but my opponent wouldn’t be if the top three tables also drew. We sat down for the match, and I
informed my opponent of what I thought. I told him that if the top three tables drew, that breakers would determine who got in and that I was currently
ahead. He asked if he would still make Top 16 with a draw, which I assured him that he would. He agreed, we drew, and that was that. Unfortunately
about five minutes later, my opponent approached me with remorse about drawing. I didn’t feel bad because I think I represented the situation
accurately and thought that he just wanted the Top 16.
It wasn’t until they actually started announcing the Top 8 that I started sweating the outcome. The moment of suspense before the eighth name was
announced was incredible. After hearing my name, a second wave of relief hit me, and I realized I had actually done it.
Going forward, I can’t think of many changes to make to the list. I felt Garruk underperformed, so I could see switching him for a Precursor or
Twisted Image, like the other players in the Top 8 had, or even Tumble Magnet. I’d like to have a third Magnet total between the main and the
board, so I would look to go down to three Pyroclasms.
Some people have said that if you’re satisfied with second, you’ll never get first, but it’s pretty hard for me to be anything but happy
with this finish. We ended up splitting the finals prize, and the result qualifies me for the next four Pro Tours with a good chance of getting me on
the train for next year, which has been a goal of mine for the last year or so. In reality, I owe no small part of this finish to my local and greater
community of players and friends. I’ve received so much support leading up to and following this finish that it’s really overwhelming to
May your Cobras always live!