A Grand Prix: St. Louis Report

With the PTQs for Pro Tour: Kobe continuing apace, Nick Eisel presents his Ravnica Cardpool and Coldsnap Drafts from GP: St. Louis. He chronicles his performance in the event with detailed match data, and shares some handy tips for those hoping to do well in their upcoming Limited tournaments. Looking for an edge in your PTQ field? Nick can help…

Before you ask, the answer is yes. By that I mean yes, this report is extremely overdue.

My entire month of July was essentially spent playing Magic, with a little poker in between duels. The most entertaining weekend I had was certainly Grand Prix: St. Louis.

The weekend of the tournament for me began on Thursday afternoon, when I flew into St. Louis early to hang out with my longtime friend John Eardley. Shortly after landing I learned that there had been a massive power outage in the city, and despite the fact that the Eardley house is gigantic, they too were affected by the power loss. The first thing we did after he picked me up at the airport was head over to Harrah’s to get some food and then play some poker. I jumped into a $1/$2 No Limit game, since I didn’t have that much cash on me, while Eards played $2/$5. A few hours into the session Eards came over to me and said that he wanted to leave… because he got stacked by someone who called a raise preflop with K2o. Oh well, that was short-lived. After that, we headed to a local shop that sold Magic to buy some practice Sealed Decks, since Eards hadn’t played many with Dissension included. The rest of the night involved drinking and drafting Coldsnap on the Beta server, which ended up not helping much. Nobody on there had a clue what they were doing, and every deck we drafted had at least four copies of Skred.

On Friday, we headed over to the site. Eards played the Grand Prix Trial, while I got in a few Team Drafts. Chris Fennell was on my team in a couple of them, and was drafting the Icefall deck (and doing quite well with it). The basic idea, of course, is to use multiple Icefalls in combination with Martyr of Ashes. The land destruction wrecks the control decks, and the Martyrs handle anyone trying to attack on the ground. At any rate, we talked about drafting the deck on Day 2 of the Grand Prix, and ultimately decided it was probably too risky. There are some other interesting stories to tell – such as how Eards and I took a combined fifteen minutes to get two cans of pop out of the machine – but I’ll spare you all and get on with the actual report.

I also played in the Ice Age/Alliances/Coldsnap Sealed event on Friday night, covered by BDM, and I managed to make Top 4 going 2-0-2, which was humorous. He and I ended up playing heads-up Sealed with the packs we won on Sunday, but it was rather uneventful.

The Deck

A total of 402 players showed up to play in this event, with Day 1 Ravnica Block Sealed and Day 2 Coldsnap Draft. Below is my cardpool, as well as the deck as I played it.

This build shouldn’t be too hard compared to the normal card pools I see in this format.

Okay then, have a look at how I built this cardpool:

One thing definitely worth mentioning is that I played Gnat Alley Creeper maindeck over the more mana intensive Goblin Flectomancer. The difference in card quality is huge, but my thinking was that I had a lot of good bounce and removal, and if I can get an attacker down and just clear the way I should be able to take control of the game early. I also considered my deck to be below average, and felt that I’d need to get lucky and didn’t want to press my mana. The rest of the build seemed pretty simple to me, since the card pool was not very deep at all.

Round 1 & 2 Byes

Round 3 against Ervin Tormos
This was a humorous pairing on a number of levels. First off, Ervin plays with us sometimes at CMU, and we talk online a bit as well. Playing someone you’re friends with in the first round you play of a 402 person tourney is a little odd. Even stranger was that we were talking together about poker or something as we were walking to get our pairings, and neither of us could believe that we were actually playing.

Game 1 we both played our Gnat Alley Creepers, though his was clearly better because it was foil. In addition to this early blowout, he also cast Ribbons of Night on one of my guys, and then fetched the spell back with Izzet Chronarch. I nailed that guy with my Keening Banshee, and then Repealed in response to his second casting of Ribbons. I ended up getting board advantage with a couple of extra guys, and eventually finished him off.

Game 2 he kept a risky hand of just two land, and failed to get there on the draw. I won this one pretty easily


Round 4 against Todd Maddock
Game 1 I was seriously flooded right out of the gates. I started with Ickspitter and Creeper and pushed through just enough damage to let my Sewerdreg get in for the win. He gave me quite the scare in the later stages of the game, though as it looked like he’d be able to kill me first after starting out slowly because of my Ickspitter.

Game 2 we both mulligan, and I had the best Gnat Alley Creeper ever. After using my bounce guys and Repeal, the Creeper got in for a total of twelve damage before Todd finally had to slow it down with Pillory of the Sleepless. I remember thinking that I couldn’t possibly lose this game at one point, but then a bunch of things happened and surprised the hell out of me. First off, Todd had Paladin of Prahv that he forecasted on some random guy, and then he killed my Ickspitter and got his own into play. This was after dealing with my Savant and Dismisser of course, but I had upgraded to a Sewerdreg that threatened to kill him quickly. That is, until a bounce land returned his only Swamp! It was one of those games where you are so sure that you’re going to win that you kick it into autopilot, and then get a rude awakening when your opponent threatens to comeback from such an unlikely position. I eventually managed to push through, but Todd certainly played this game very well and almost got me with a sneaky Lightning Helix when I was at five.


Round 5 against Joe Nudelman
Before we start playing, I asked Joe how many byes he had, and he said that he had none. John Fiorillo was playing next to us and agreed that this was probably bad times for me.

Game 1 Joe mulligans into a slow draw, and I punish him with a couple of early guys followed by Ogre Savant and Vedalken Dismisser. Quite the uneventful game, and he was never in it.

Game 2 Joe mulligans to five, and still puts up quite the fight. His deck was insane as I’d imagined, but being down two cards to start was too much to overcome. I can’t remember the exact details of the game, but I do remember being surprised by how close it actually was.


Round 6 against Gabe Walls
This was an epic match if there ever was one. It probably should’ve been featured on MagictheGathering.com, but I think BDM took a break to eat. It’s a shame, because the games really were worth covering. I guess I’ll just have to settle for my summaries here. I want to note that I thought I was a definite underdog in this match, as Gabe’s deck was an insane G/R aggro build with Rumbling Slum, Demonfire, and a bunch of other removal.

Game 1 I come out slow, and Gabe starts with Sell-Sword Brute and some other dorks. I finally manage to get a handle on the game at five life, with Gabe dead on board to my next attack. He untaps and shows me the Demonfire he was holding.

I boarded in Frazzle, Torpid Moloch, and Goblin Flectomancer in an attempt to stop some of his better spells, and possibly end the Demonfire plan if I could keep Flecto in play. The Moloch (of course) was for his Brute, Scab-Clan Mauler, and other early men.

Game 2 my draw is much better, and I use some of my 187 guys to slow Gabe down. I also managed to get Flectomancer into play on turn 3, thanks to the help of my Boilerworks. When Gabe finally drew something to kill Flecto, I had the mana up for Frazzle and stopped that nonsense. Eventually I got Illuminatus into play. I used Cackling Flames on my upkeep and copied it to deal ten to the dome.

Game 3 was very frustrating for me. I mulliganed to five on the play and started with Torpid Moloch and something else, while it immediately became evident that Gabe had kept a marginal hand as he didn’t have any Green mana and couldn’t cast anything at all. This went on for quite a while, and the only reason I actually lost this game was because Gabe had Macabre Waltz to run his Sparkmage Apprentice into my Moloch and then get it back to shoot down my Ickspitter. I actually attacked him with Moloch twice during the game after mulling to five, and still only managed to get him to three before he drew Green mana and came back to win. At that point I had two turns to draw either Cackling Flames, Dimir House Guard, or Clutch of the Undercity since he was at three life, but I missed.


Round 7 against Bill Stark
Game 1 was a flurry of removal from both of us, with him playing Last Gasp, Seal of Doom, and Minister of Impediments, while I played Keening Banshee, Disembowel, and Cackling Flames. He entered Dredge mode with his Stinkweed Imp, which allowed me to see that he also had Twinstrike and other goodies in his deck.

Game 2 started with us having only about twenty minutes left on the clock, so we had to start picking up the pace. While I thought I had it in the bag early on, Bill had plenty of action left in his hand and eventually got Sisters of Stone Death online to cause lots of problems. I tried my best, but I simply couldn’t get the last few points of damage in.

So it was all down to game 3 to decide if I was a lock for Day 2, and thankfully my deck didn’t disappoint. Bill’s hand was somewhat manaflooded, and my deck came out pretty quickly with all of my 187 guys in attendance.


Round 8 against Aaron Tobey
Aaron tried to convince me to draw with him since he wanted to be sure to make Day 2 and have a shot at some big amateur money. Unfortunately for him I could afford to play, and a draw was the same as a loss to me since I was playing to make Top 8 and couldn’t miss Day 2.

Game 1 I get some beats on early, and then eventually make an Illuminatus when he is at ten life. Guess what happened once I hit Hellbent? Yep, ten to the dome.

In game 1 I saw that he had multiple Signets, Evolution Vat, and Bloodletter Quill. I immediately boarded in Smash.

He played an early Frogling and Evolution Vat, but I had Dismisser in hand and played the game in a way that I was trying to convince him to go all in and make a 10/10 Frogling. He didn’t disappoint, and I happily Dismissed his Frog to the top and then Smashed the Vat the next time he tried to use it. Because he was using his mana on it, he was way behind on the board after the Dismisser, and I won pretty easily from there.


I was very happy to do as well as I did with this deck as I felt like it was pretty mediocre overall. A bunch of us went back to Eardley’s place and did a Cube Draft with Gabe’s Cube before falling asleep at some absurd hour. Gabe also slept with Eardley’s dog on the couch, which was the topic of conversation before falling asleep.

Coldsnap Draft 1

3 Boreal Centaur
2 Orcish Bloodpainter
4 Goblin Rimerunner
Earthen Goo
2 Simian Brawler
Karplusan Minotaur
Ohran Yeti
Stalking Yeti
2 Lovisa Coldeyes
2 Ronom Hulk
Into the North
Surging Flame
Magmatic Core

Highland Weald
Snow-Covered Mountain
Snow-Covered Island
7 Mountain
7 Forest

Relevant Sideboard
Mystic Melting
Rimehorn Aurochs
Lightning Storm
Greater Stone Spirit
Phyrexian Snowcrusher

I was extremely happy with this deck, and was sure I’d at least 2-1 with it, and very possibly 3-0. With double Lovisa and ten Warriors, backed by removal, this was definitely one of the better Snap decks I’d drafted. Also, four of my Warriors were Goblin Rimerunners, which are about as good as it gets in G/R.

Round 9 against Brian Fox
Brian and I get deck-checked immediately and so we got to talk for a bit which was cool. We talked some about the draft and how Antonino passed him a sixth pick Skred, so something crazy was obviously going on.

Game 1 I mulligan, and Brian Rune Snags my first creature and then Skreds the next. I get stuck on four land with two Ronom Hulks, and Lovisa in my hand with two Warriors in play. Brian gets to seven and plays Rimescale Dragon. After a couple more turns of not drawing land to get my Hulks out and win, I pack it up.

Game 2 we both mulligan to five, and his draw is simply much better than mine. He gets an early Chilling Shade and Blizzard Specter, and also kills two of my guys with Feasts of Flesh. I can’t stop the Specter from shutting down my lands, and my Magmatic Core is simply too slow.


Round 10 against Antonino DeRosa
From what I heard, Ant’s deck is ridiculous, and the only reason he passed the Skred was because he was taking a fifth pick Stalking Yeti!

Game 1 I mulligan, and we jockey for board position. I eventually start to flood, and Ant has some fliers that finish me off. We both played Stalking Yeti this game and traded it with a 3/3, but he drew two Skreds to my one, which was key in one situation.

Game 2 I mulligan and later learn that Ant kept a four-land hand with three five-drops on the draw! Now, in game 1 he’d seen how aggressive my deck was, so I think that hand is probably an auto-mulligan if I’m in his shoes. I realize that he had all of his colors, and that he can draw a lot of good stuff there, but I still think the hand is a mulligan. Anyway, as you can probably already tell from my tone, I lost this game. My opening hand was three lands, Boreal Centaur, Goblin Rimerunner, and Simian Brawler. Seems like I should be able to beat an all five-drop hand… except that I didn’t mention that I never got past three lands. Those are the breaks sometimes, and I guess I’ve gotten used to it thanks to poker.


Round 11 against Nathan Baum
Nathan’s deck was a three-color mess, and didn’t even have good card quality.

I honestly think I could mulligan to five and still win every game in this matchup, but of course my deck taunted me by giving me insane draws in this round and terrible ones when I really needed some help. I won both games pretty easily, and now needed to win out for a shot at Top 8.


Coldsnap Draft 2

Martyr of Ashes
Survivor of the Unseen
Orcish Bloodpainter
Phyrexian Ironfoot
Frost Raptor
2 Ohran Yeti
3 Thermopod
Adarkar Windform
2 Ronom Serpent
Greater Stone Spirit
2 Rimefeather Owl
2 Skred
Coldsteel Heart
Perilous Research
Surging Flame
Frozen Solid

3 Snow-Covered Island
Snow-Covered Mountain
Snow-Covered Plains
Boreal Shelf
4 Island
7 Mountain

Relevant Sideboard
Greater Stone Spirit

This deck was worse than my first one in almost every way. I got shipped both of the Owls early in pack two, but my overall curve was slow in a fast format, and I wasn’t sure this deck had what it took to get to 3-0. After talking to some people in my draft, I learned that the packs were just not very good all round, and I started to feel like my deck was much better than it actually looked on paper.

Round 12 against Paul Rietzl
Paul was complaining about his deck quite a bit as we were shuffling up, and this made me feel a lot better about my chances.

Game 1 Paul got stuck on two lands, and I played out some dudes and beat him pretty quickly. I guess that’s one way I could 3-0.

Game 2, Paul got an early Vexing Sphinx and was also drawing a million cards with multiple Perilous Researches and then the Sphinx’s ability. I eventually got an Owl into play, as well as my Adarkar Windform to clear the way for it, and it flew in to victory.


Round 13 against Jeremy Kunkel
If ever there was a bad beat in Magic, this round was it.

I mulled to five on the play this game, and it pretty much set the tone for what was going to happen. My start was pretty good, with Ohran Yeti and Adarkar Windform. Jeremy amassed some guys on the ground. Then he cast Sheltering Ancient. In his G/R deck! Nice card. Nothing happened for a while except my creatures kept getting bigger, but as Jeremy kept adding more guys to the board, it looked like I might get swarmed. Just as I had almost resigned to losing the game, Jeremy made a terrible attack based on the board positions and allowed me to wreck him if I had any removal or tricks in the three cards in my hand. I did indeed have a Skred, but after figuring everything out, it was still bad for me assuming he had a chump blocker to cast after combat.

You see, he was at ten, but my three guys had a total of ten power thanks to some help from his Ancient, and if he didn’t have a blocker then I’d simply swing for the win. While I didn’t think he was a particularly good player to begin with, I decided he wasn’t dumb enough to make this all out attack without having some way to stop me from killing him on the swing back. So I blocked, and used Skred to kill a guy. And then we went to damage, and he cast Resize on his 5/5 Ancient that had eight damage on it since I had to double block. Let me say that again. He had a 5/5 with eight damage on it, and gave it +3/+3. As if this wasn’t already the worst play ever, he tapped his only Mountain to do so, and then couldn’t cast a chump-blocker. He realized it and immediately packed up his cards. So I had just been given a game win in a situation that I felt was completely unwinnable.

At this point I could taste the Top 8. I figured I had this match in the bag, and only had to win one more round.

Game 2 started with Jeremy casting Sheltering Ancient on turn 2. It headed immediately to the bin as I had no creatures in play yet. Did I mention that I lost this game? The card that actually killed me was Fury of the Horde, in combination with multiple Aurochs.

As if games 1 and 2 weren’t bad enough, game 3 set me on complete tilt. Jeremy started with Boreal Druid and three Bull Aurochs. My hand contained Martyr of Ashes, Perilous Research, Adarkar Windform, and lands. But I had plenty of time. If you haven’t figured it out yet, after multiple draw steps and casting Research, I failed to find a single Red card to Wrath his board. The worst part about it was that he had nothing left in hand, and one Red card would’ve given me the match as I’d drawn into some bigger guys.


Round 14 against Kyle Largent
Despite being slightly on tilt, I had to win this round to make Top 32. Thankfully, Kyle’s deck wasn’t very good, and I made the match that much quicker by playing Owl off of Thermopod a turn early both games, and then simply outclassing his W/R weenie deck.

Kyle was a nice guy though, and we got to talk for a while we were waiting for the judge to take the match slip. He was still very happy with making some amateur money, and didn’t mind losing so much.


All in all I had a great time at the tournament, despite losing some key matches to rough beats. I was glad to get to hang out with some friends that I hadn’t seen in a while, like Eards and Chris Fennell. Sunday wrapped up with dinner and some Team Drafts for me, and I ended the weekend 7-0 in those. It was at this point that I started to get sick, and it made for a crappy week and a crappy Nationals.

If you made it this far, I hope you enjoyed the report. I’ll be back to some normal strategy writing for next week.

Nick Eisel
[email protected]
Soooooo on MTGO