An American Dragon-Lover In London

CVM almost went with his heart and played Stormbreath Dragon at Grand Prix London, but instead he went with the safer calculated choice and played Bant Heroic. Read about his entire weekend within, and what he’d do differently if he could do it all again!

Being reflective is something that I feel like I excel at. I have found that I am always able to look back at an event and pinpoint things that went wrong or went well so that I can take that information and use it to correct something that didn’t work or continue to build further on something that did.

Last weekend I had the privilege of getting to travel to London for the Grand Prix as part of the VS Series crew and put on a Standard seminar and participate in a Meet and Greet that went along with the re-release of our tokens. On top of all of this, imagine just how excited I was when I talked with Brad early in the week and he was working on a G/R Dragons deck that he felt was well-positioned for the weekend!

I had been working on a list of my own of course, and had traveled through many of the same thought processes that he did. Stormbreath Dragon was well-positioned (much like it always is) and if Searing Blood is good, then so is Draconic Roar.

It was all coming together. I would get to travel to London to play Magic. I would get to play Stormbreath Dragon in the Grand Prix, and just have the time of my life. It was perfect.

Well, actually it was far from perfect.

Brad couldn’t come up with a build that he was confident in. We were on Rattleclaw Mystic with Raptors and Rabbles, then we were on Sylvan Caryatid with Coursers and all four Xenagos along with a bunch of one-mana removal spells.

We identified early on that Hangarback Walker was so good that it could go into almost any deck. In fact, we even had Hangarback Walker and Evolutionary Leap in our sideboard to combat Languish at one point. This made switching Magma Spray into the maindeck an important way to gain valuable tempo against the decks that were playing Hangarback Walker.

Brad was working on the deck on Magic Online nonstop as the event got closer, and while we were in the airport heading across the pond I battled some games against him with Bant Heroic and it just felt really good. I have some experience with the deck, and he kept saying that if he had any clue on how to pilot the deck he would just be playing it nonstop and that I should play it if I could.

I agonized over this decision. Passing up on the chance to play a Stormbreath Dragon deck while I got to London just seemed wrong to me, the idea of winning that trophy with Stormbreath in my hands seemed too perfect to pass up.

Ultimately I did though, even though I regretted it during the event… and not just because Brad went undefeated on Day One and Martin Juza made Top Eight with the deck. My gut told me to just jam the Dragon and I talked myself out of it. I had wanted to do well in the GP so badly that I went with the safe choice. Bant Heroic was a fine choice for the GP; Tom and Todd both did very well with the same list (Todd and I played the same 75 while Tom was like two cards off), but I knew in my heart of hearts when I sat down to play round three after my byes that I should have been playing Stormbreath Dragon.

I had signed close to a hundred Stormbreath Dragons on Friday at the Meet and Greet. I would likely never get the chance to play G/R Dragons in London ever again, I passed on it, and I regretted it.

I have never really regretted a deck choice before and it was a weird feeling. It wasn’t something that I could logically lay out and explain why I should have picked one deck over another for reasons A, B, and C. It was more that I just knew that I should have been playing that deck and that card.

Thankfully I was quickly able to push that notion out of my head and focus on the event. Sadly, I started out 0-2 after my byes losing to Abzan Control twice. Abzan Control is actually a decent matchup for Bant Heroic, but sadly we had cut our fourth Treasure Cruise, and after mulliganing to 6, 6, and 5 in one round and then 6, 5, and 6 in the other without ever casting a Treasure Cruise in any of those six games, I was overpowered by the Thoughtseize-driven machine.

I battled back, though, and won three matches in a row before falling to the mirror in the eighth round and dropping. There was an interesting point in the third game where I had a long turn that started with playing a land and then deciding to use all my mana to Treasure Cruise. Seeing an Ordeal of Heliod and another land in my Cruise after tanking a bit, I decided to just play the land and put the Ordeal on my Hero of Iroas that already had an Aqueous Form on it, attacking with both it and my Seeker of the Way who was a 4/4 thanks to Prowess. After scrying to the bottom and my opponent tanking on how to block, since he had two Seeker of the Way and a 0/4 Lagonna-Band Trailblazer with no mana available, I noticed that I had six land on the battlefield to his four, and while I was on the play, he hadn’t missed any land drops.

I stopped the match and explained what had happened to the judge who was sitting there with us watching (we had am eleven-minute time extension from a mid-round deck-check). After backing things up, we went on to finish the game and I was slaughtered as he kept drawing sweet spells to trigger his pair of Seekers and outraced me.

I wanted to point this out because I think that it’s extremely important to be honest when playing. Things like this happen all the time without being caught, or the person who makes the mistake noticing and not pointing it out. It’s very easy to just not say anything when your tournament life is on the line, but cheating is cheating no matter how you slice it up.

After losing and dropping I ended up hanging around the site for a little bit, trading off the rest of the Tasipurr mats that I had brought with me and chatting with fans. It really was humbling to see just how many people were excited that we were there and to meet us. I never really imagined that this was something that I would ever get to do.

I wanted to do something, even if it was small, for everyone who wanted to follow along with our adventures even if they weren’t able to make it out to London, so I recorded some video blogs while I was there to kind of document the trip, so make sure you check them out here. The feedback on these was out of this world, so I think that I might try to do something like this for each event that I travel to. Just have to hope that I can access WiFi in the tournament hall.

Being as this was my first time being in the UK, I wanted to share some of my observations.

  • All automated voices had British accents. This is something that is pretty obvious when you think about it, but not something that you would actively think about so I noticed it and it stuck out to me. (GPS, Elevators, etc)
  • I heard a lot of words being used excessively that I didn’t expect. Mainly cheeky and scribble (used to refer to getting an autograph). I also heard cheers a lot, which I did expect, but not to the amount that I noticed it.
  • There was some kind of convention happening at the ExCel Center while we were there so I got bombarded with Junior and Senior High fashion. Lots of high-waisted jeans (and cutoffs) and cut off shirts for the girls, and lots of skinny jeans and hair color for the boys. It really just made me feel extremely old (which was well-deserved to be honest).
  • I noticed that there was a good number of ladies there playing Magic – both in the GP and in side events. I’m not sure if that’s a European thing, but it was pretty awesome to see so many Lady Planeswalkers battling.
  • Ketchup was everywhere. Likewise, Ranch dressing was nowhere to be found.
  • Full English Breakfast was delicious. Back Fried Bacon is now my actual religion.
  • I learned that I am so American that I laughed to myself whenever I read “crisps” on bags of potato chips. On the other hand, I caught onto calling fries chips quite easily.
  • It doesn’t matter what country you’re from, everyone loves Dragons and that’s just fine by me!

Overall, it was one of the best experiences that I’ve ever had with Magic. London was great, and I hope that someday I get to go back and actually vacation there. The city was great, the people were great, and I’m sure if given the chance, Nicole and I will make a trip across the pond.

I actually only had one poor experience with the entire trip, and that was traveling back through Dublin. Having to go through security, and then go through security again and go through customs was an extremely long ordeal. The way everything was set up wasn’t very intuitive, the signs didn’t really explain where and what you needed to do, and once it was all said and done the bag that I gate-checked when we flew out of London wasn’t in Washington DC waiting when we arrived. Thankfully it was only clothes and chocolates that I was bringing back as a gift, but it’s still quite inconvenient. I’m just hoping that they can find my bag.

This all brings us to right now. The Open Series in Charlotte is this weekend, and all I can think about is getting prepared for Modern. Jetlag is still kicking my butt, and I think that I might have caught a bug from all the hand shaking and traveling, but you know I want to play. I’m likely to be on Amulet Bloom still, but with so many Grixis decks around I might need an extra card for Blood Moon in our sideboard. I know for sure that I’m going back to two copies of Cavern of Souls in the maindeck, but outside of that I’m not quite sure what I want exactly. If I’m feeling better, you can catch me on my stream trying to work out my list when I’m not packing for my cross-country move in two weeks.

I really can’t believe that we’re getting this close to the Season Three Invitational in New Jersey. I’ve got a lot on my plate between the move and the points race, but I think I’m up to the challenge and I plan on giving it my all.