I-375 is an odd road. If you’re going to the Marriott Renaissance Center, where Grand Prix: Detroit was held, you don’t so much exit I-375 as it suddenly becomes a street in the middle of the city. There are many differences between a highway and a city street, and one should be prepared for these changes.
My friend Jeff, who was driving the car we took from our Motel 6 to the site Saturday morning, was not prepared. As a result, we took the hard right turn at the end of I-375, not at the recommended, leisurely thirty-five miles-per, but at a highway-standard fifty-five to sixty.
Some clever readers may already know what’s coming up next.
From my vantage in the rear passenger-side seat, I was looking through the windshield at the upcoming cement barrier marking the outside of the turn. Then I was looking at the hillside on the inside of the turn. Then I was looking at the Renaissance Center, then back the way we came at a quickly retreating underpass.
Then the underpass abruptly and violently stopped retreating.
“Well, that was good,” said Jeff. An understatement, to be sure.
We took a moment to survey the damage. The four of us had sustained no injuries, and the car itself had suffered a fair-sized, but purely cosmetic, dent in the rear driver-side door. The majority of the damage had been inflicted on the innocent Traffic-Light-Ahead sign that had previously occupied the portion of the hill where Jeff’s car now rested. The sign had been absolutely obliterated, laid out completely horizontal with one post broken clean off. The sign face and other post were mangled beyond any reasonable expectation of repair.
Jeff’s car: 1. Public property: 0.
We got back in the car, backed up onto the hill and pulled back out onto what was now Jefferson Avenue. We parked, assembled our belongings and headed upstairs to a tournament that suddenly seemed much less intimidating. If you are worked up about a Magic tournament – or anything, really – I recommend a brush with death to start your day. It takes the edge off like you wouldn’t believe.
Anyway, the original idea was for me to post my entire Sealed Deck pool here, and you could all comb through it and choose your build, etc., but this is no longer possible. You see, after the Grand Prix was over for the day, I put my deck and sideboard in my backpack with my match notes, trade binder and five-hundred-fifty card Highlander deck. That very same backpack was later swiped from off a chair while my friends and I stood not five feet away watching a money draft.
To the perpetrator: Bravo, sir. That took some stones.
May you choke on them and die.
This site has seen more than one diatribe regarding certain less-than-sterling aspects of this game, such as stalling and other cheats, but theft? It hardly seems worth putting the words down. Anyone who would actually just grab someone else’s bag and make off with it isn’t going to be converted by words on a website and if you need an internet writer to tell you that stealing is wrong, you’re probably beyond my ability to help. I suppose that if you know your friends steal and don’t care enough to do something about it, the Magic community is in much direr straits than I imagined, but I’m willing to give the majority of you the benefit of the doubt. I’ll leave it at this: Hopefully thieves are already ostracized and generally despised. If they aren’t, they certainly should be.
Regardless, it was soon enough after the fact that I was able to jot down the contents of my maindeck:
Child of Thorns
Kami of the Hunt
Seshiro the Anointed
Genju of the Cedars
Potential sideboard options: Traproot Kami, Nezumi Bone-Reader, Stir the Grave, Waking Nightmare
Mike Patnik, a friend of mine who is much better at playing Magical cards than I am, said I should have dropped the White and the Skullsnatcher for Traps and Waking Nightmare. He may be right about Skullsnatcher – it’s really just another Akki Raider or Orochi Ranger, neither of which I’m incredibly fond of. I usually like Nightmare too, but this time I shied away from it due to my nine other three-mana spells. The splash, however, never gave me any problems and it was nice to have a second flier.
I was going to joke that my first round was against Croissan’wich, who was playing sausage, egg and cheese, but it turns out this isn’t nearly as funny when you no longer have the names of your other opponents. I did manage to sit around and get in a few games against other players with byes, and I was reasonably pleased. Three pieces of removal isn’t too bad, and with Scarmaker as a potential gamebreaker, I felt confident that I could work something out. I wasn’t too happy about the random, textless Bloodthirsty Ogre, which I’m beginning to think should have been that Waking Nightmare, but it is Sealed Deck after all. Anyway, Round 1 came, Round 2 followed, and it was time for me to go play an actual match.
I was paired against a very nice Japanese guy from Ann Arbor who was playing Blue/Black. The first game saw me play out Takenuma Bleeder, Kami of the Hunt and other medium beaters, which walked over my opponent’s tiny moonfolk without much resistance. Game two was practically a carbon copy of the first, but the beats started a turn early with a Skullsnatcher. My opponent’s deck looked alright – at least, I didn’t see any awful cards in it – but just didn’t seem to deliver at all.
I could certainly deal with matches like that one for the rest of the day. Who says Grand Prix are hard?
This time, I played against a dude playing a very aggressive Red/Black deck, but when his Okiba-Gang Shinobi leaped right into a Rend Flesh, I managed to get the tempo back. Rend Spirit and Sickening Shoal both showed up as well, clearing enough space for my generic creatures to seal the game up.
Game 2 saw us summon many small men and trade a couple of them off, but he also had a splashed Island to create Keiga, the Tide Star. Roar. I failed to draw Rend Spirit for three turns, so it was off to game 3, in which my opponent failed to draw a third land for about three years. I hadn’t quite killed him by the time he hit it, but I had managed to create Scarmaker, who waved through lethal damage.
I want to mention a misplay that this opponent committed a couple times, and that I saw in several other instances during the weekend. It involves a Frostling in combat with any other X/1, which in my case was always Bloodthirsty Ogre (Your one-drop for my three-drop? Yes, please!), but could be anything. The player with Frostling would always stack damage, and then sacrifice it to shoot the X/1. Maybe it seems to them like they’re being really tight and not missing a single point of damage, but this is terrible. All this does is give the other player a chance to use any combat trick they have. Kodoma’s Might or Uncontrollable Anger or something else could now be used to save the X/1, whereas if the Frostling player just sat there, they would be able to respond to any trickery by shooting the critter. So you miss the ping… it doesn’t matter! The other creature is dead anyway! By acting first, you give up the advantage.
Sometimes being tight isn’t just maximizing your damage, it’s keeping your options open. If you have to play chicken with the other guy, do it.
I have no idea if this opponent had the three byes or not, but I suspect not. The deck certainly looked good enough to run off three wins to get him to this point, and he made a rather silly mental error that I’ll get to later.
Anyway, he was Green/Red with a Black splash, and busted out an Ogre Recluse in game one that I found myself ill-equipped to deal with. Looking at my list, I apparently have a few cards that could handle the 5/4, but they were quite absent. I should probably have double-blocked long before I did, but I was (overly) concerned about the collection of small men that were being held off by my few medium-sized ones, for which I was drawing no replacements. I ended up spending too many life points and most of my few resources on the big Ogre, leading to eventual defeat.
Game 2 saw another fatty, this time a Moss Kami, come barreling at me, but I had Rend Spirit to handle this one. Rend Flesh also showed up to help me stabilize below five, and I played Seshiro to pump up my Kashi-Tribe Reaver, which started swinging past and through the smaller men my opponent had summoned. Victory went, once again, to the man with the 5/4 beater.
The final game went back and forth at first, with creatures running into and slaying each other and Moss Kami meeting with a large Sickening Shoal. I got Seshiro out there alongside the Reaver once again, and my opponent responded with Iwamori of the Open Fist. I wasn’t too concerned, as I also had Genju of the Cedars in play along with a pair of Kami (Hunt and Gibbering varieties), so blocking would definitely be a possibility. However, when he swung and I activated my tree, he played Wear Away on my Genju and spliced on a Glacial Ray to kill the Gibbering Kami. Of course, the Forest still came to life, which he didn’t even seem surprised about. That seems to make playing the spell before blockers a weird mistake.
Regardless, I was now stuck with a 4/4 (non-recurring) Forest, Kami of the Hunt and Seshiro against the oncoming Iwamori. I would have loved to kill it with the Forest and Kami, but the Glacial Ray he still had in hand meant he could still knock off the Hunt after blockers, and I really didn’t want to lose Seshiro. It was while I was considering these options that I noticed that Glacial Ray, and not Wear Away, was in the graveyard.
Now, my opponent had obviously and clearly spliced Ray onto the Wear Away. He had tapped four mana total, declared the Wear Away first, done everything properly, but just inverted the placement of the two cards afterwards. It was obviously a simple mistake, not the heinous misplay that would have been splicing the Wear Away onto the Ray. I’d be a liar if I claimed I didn’t think for a second about letting it go unnoticed, but the thought practically made my brain jump out of my skull. I guess I don’t have it in me to run the cheats. I wouldn’t have thought I did, but I suppose it’s nice to be reminded. I pointed out the error, allowing my opponent to fix the situation and seal my fate.
I imagine now that I should have at least called a judge for this. Of course, I think that the penalty, if there even was one, would have been for a simple procedural error, so it’s not like I would have suddenly mised the game win. Still, it was REL 4 and who knows, maybe he had a warning from an earlier round. Would I feel any better about the situation? I doubt it. I can deal with calling a judge for presentation of a 39-card deck, but somehow I can’t make peace with raising my hand for reversed Arcane spells.
Anyway, I decided to just throw my Forest at Iwamori, which was a mistake. Even if saving Seshiro was the right play (which I’m not totally sure of), I should have at least forced my opponent to use the Glacial Ray up by blocking with the Kami as well. Seshiro got Pulled Under the next turn and Kashi-Tribe Reaver was unable to hold the fort.
This might go without saying, but after being slain by multiple gigantic men, I was pining for anything that could play big, with Moss Kami or Scuttling Death being at the top of the list. Some might have you believe that in Sealed Deck, your creatures don’t matter so much, but 5/5 trampling men are a serious force to be reckoned with. It’s unlikely for anyone to have more than two or three good answers, and they may not have even been able to play those due to depth problems. Anything larger than 4/4 has a better-than-even chance at trading with two opposing drops, especially since opponents can’t afford to simply not block for long.
I was wishing for a three-byes player who had just gotten an awful deck and wouldn’t be able to ever win a game. I got exactly one-third of my wish.
My opponent was Jon Sonne with White/Black/Green, and he played the dreaded turn 3 Kabuto Moth in game 1. I was hoping the Rend Spirit in my hand would keep me on top of things, but a turn 4 Burr Grafter denied even that. I went through the motions of playing creatures, Rending the Moth and blocking for as long as I could, but the Best Common in Champions earned that title for a reason.
Game 2 saw Jon completely without White mana, leaving me to Rend a Burr Grafter. Jon had more quality men, though, in the form of Scuttling Death and He Who Hungers, while a sacrificed Kami of the Hunt let him pluck a largely useless Rend Flesh out of my hand. I made another mistake here: I allowed my team to be held off by Scutts while accepting beats from He Who Hungers, even though I could have blocked with Gibbering Kami. This would force either the loss of the flier or the sacrifice of the Death, letting me hopefully attack through the recurred Burr Grafter. I instead decided to attack back exactly once before blocking anyway, suffering six extra damage and only returning two.
It didn’t end up mattering too much – eventually Jon hit a Plains and began casting White creatures, including the Moth and a Kami of Ancient Law to take down Genju of the Cedars. At that point, my life total was pretty much irrelevant.
So, drop or no? I understood that many X-and-2s could be expected to make the cut to Day 2, but also that the three-bye players would likely make up the majority (if not the entirety) of that group. The tiebreakers I would surely be inflicted with in the two-loss bracket made me all but mathematically eliminated already, but I decided to battle on. If I reeled off three wins, there would still be a sliver of an outside chance for me to squeeze in at number sixty-four. No problem, no sir.
What can I say? Hope springs eternal. It’s what keeps me coming back to these tournaments, at least.
Game 1 had to be the dumbest game I played in all weekend. Literally, I played a few men and attacked until my opponent was dead. He played not a single creature all game. The cause was revealed in game 2, when he played a few Plains that had been suspiciously absent in the previous duel.
I don’t recall very much of games 2 and 3; only that my opponent’s card quality seemed to be on a level above mine. Kabuto Moth, Glacial Ray and Torrent of Stone all made appearances, with Indomitable Will powering up a Mothrider Samurai that was supposed to have died to the Gnarled Mass it was blocking. I lost both, and I don’t recall anything that makes me think they were particularly close.
With that, I scrawled my initials in the drop column and made my way to the food court for some dinner. I was/am somewhat disappointed in my results, especially considering that the only games I seemed to win were those when my opponent’s deck simply failed or I happened to draw all of my removal and/or Snakes. Even with Bleeder and Mass to help jump the normal curve on turn three, I seemed to be lacking in any way to really drive the nails in. Though it was an ignoble end for a deck that I originally thought wasn’t too bad, I consoled myself with the thoughts of the next day’s PTQ. With the best players in the room playing in Day 2 (or already qualified), I figured that the player base should be sufficiently diluted to give me a good chance at the envelope.
Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.
TO BE CONTINUED.