Listen, here’s the thing.
If you can’t spot the sucker in your first half-hour at the table, then you are the sucker. Guys around here’ll tell ya… you play for a living. It’s
like any other job. You don’t gamble. You grind it out.
Your goal is to win one extra Pro Point a tournament; that’s it.
Keep your hand when you have lands, and mulligan it when you don’t.
Don’t give anything away. That’s how I paid my way through half of Harvard Law School. A true grinder. (Who am I kidding? I never mulligan.)
Regardless, first prize at Grand Prix Atlanta is thirty-five hundred bucks. Does it have my name on it? I don’t know. But I’m going to find out.
The format is Extended . The Cadillac of Constructed Magic. Some people look at Constructed as a part of Magic that just comes down to testing, but as
truth has it, I’ve had the most success with decks that I picked up on the fly after I fully understood the metagame. You see, Magic is a lot like math
homework: sure, you can copy it from a friend, but understanding it will allow you to solve almost anything the professor tries to throw at you.
Testing for Grand Prix Atlanta started off like most other Grand Prix: lose all my matches on Magic Online practicing for it and try to mise. Since
Atlanta isn’t too far and tickets went from $200 to $500 in a week, we decided to make the drive. After a ten-hour car ride with some friends, we
finally got to the site.
I’d been looking forward to this GP for a while, ever since I heard that TheTacoMaster from the GGsLive chat would be making his debut appearance. I
decided to specifically buy a hat that read “I’m Pro” so he would recognize me. (If you’re interested in a hat such as this but are not quite pro,
might I suggest a semi-pro headband from the movie Semi-Pro.) The only problem with my plan was that Dan Jordan (being the hotheaded rookie he
is) decided to buy one as well, giving TheTacoMaster a 50/50 shot of recognizing me. Dan assured me that TheTacoMaster would recognize me. However, I
was still skeptical, since I’d seen movies where a homeless dude switches jackets with the guy trying to get away; then the bad guys jump on the
homeless dude and sucker punch him. Seconds later, the buffoonish bad guy yells out “we got the wrong guy.”
I mean, who wants to get sucker punched?
After testing a few terrible decks and learning the metagame, I figured that U/W Control was pretty well positioned. This also allowed me to play my
two favorite cards in Extended (Preordain and Jace, the Mind Sculptor).
The final list I played looked like this.
Notably, I decided not to play Kitchen Finks, Vendilion Clique, or Wall of Omens. Instead, I decided to maindeck Kor Firewalker, Stillmoon Cavalier,
and Glen Elendra Archmage. Some people, pros even, won’t play maindeck sideboard cards. They can’t handle the swings. But for me, I just don’t care. I
didn’t want to just try to grind out the extra point. I wanted to take a risk. I pictured myself playing against Mono-Red round after round, scooping
up free wins.
You see, I do remember a time I cared about what other people were playing and tried to get some tech. Now, I’ve come to the realization I couldn’t
care less about your secret deck, your playtest team, or your sideboard plan that isn’t even good, because copying someone else can only get you so
I figured that, in the format, Wall of Omens didn’t do much except cycle. Against the decks where it did do something, Kor Firewalker was just miles
better. Finks is very good against Mono-Red, but since I had maindeck Kor Firewalker, I figured I didn’t need the Finks.
Finally, there was Glen Elendra Archmage over Vendilion Clique. I don’t really like Cliquing my opponent because I feel it does a lot less than people
think. If you take something, they get to draw a new card, and you don’t really know their hand. Sometimes, you actually help them. Glen Elendra
Archmage is great against the Valakut decks as well, which turned about to be very popular and will remain so for the rest of the season.
The rest of the deck is pretty straightforward. However, I find it comical that most decks weren’t playing Baneslayer Angel or Jace, the Mind Sculptor
(deckbuilding tip for everyone out there: if you don’t know which cards are good, ask the dealers; the ones that are marked “high society” I suggest
putting in your deck). People were trying to tell me Jace Beleren is better than Jace, the Mind Sculptor (I even heard people say Jace, the Mind
Sculptor wasn’t even good in Extended). As for Sun Titan, Sun Titan doesn’t do what I want compared to Baneslayer, but it’s still good enough to
deserve one slot in the deck.
Why? What doesn’t it do? You might ask. Well, this somewhat goes back to knowing the metagame. Naya decks were running rampant, and Sun Titan really
doesn’t cut it against them. Going all the way back to Nationals last year, Baneslayer was the best card against any deck with Bloodbraid Elf and
Vengevine. Also, given the way people were building Faeries, they didn’t really have many answers to Baneslayer, which could control a damage race
where Sun Titan just can’t; besides, five and six mana is a big difference. Those reasons and a few more are why I’m partial to Baneslayer and went
with the three-to-one split.
For this tournament, I had three byes, which was the first in a while ever since Ben Lundquist stop showing up to events/splitting with me. I decided
to put in some effort and try to win. You see, when you split with someone as good as Ben, you get sloppy and fall off your game, since you know Benny
B will bring home the Bacon for you.
I check my pairings and head to my table. It turns out my opponent is playing U/W as well, which I figure is a good matchup for me, not just because of
the Stillmoon Cavaliers (which do help) but mostly because I have four Jaces main and another one after board. In my experience in the U/W mirror
match, the only thing that’s really important is Jace.
We split the first two games, and when game three starts, we’re low on time, but I manage to pull it out right before extra time starts. Looking back
on the match, all the games might’ve not exactly come down to Jace, but it played a big role in every decision I made.
I get paired against another U/W deck; this time, I win on the back of Stillmoons, as one is able to stop a Baneslayer from attacking, while the other
gets in damage. The Spell Pierces and Negates out of the board were key as well.
I also learned my lesson from the first round and bring in Sower of Temptation. For one, they are most likely boarding out their removal spells, and
two, almost every U/W deck boards into Coralhelm Commander. You see, a “surprise” sideboard plan doesn’t really work when you just get a list off the
internet. So bringing a brew to a tournament can be a risk, but you can’t win what you don’t put in the middle.
I’m pretty pumped to be 5-0. I then get paired against a Naya deck and lose the match in three close games. This is where having the fourth Oust
would’ve come in handy. People just don’t understand how devastating a turn 1 Oust on a mana ramper is. It turns out I didn’t really draw any of my
sideboard cards and lost to a Realm Razer.
I’m against R/G Valakut. I manage to win due to my plan of early beaters (Kor Firewalker and War Priest of Thune). War Priest of Thune also is good
against Prismatic Omen and Khalni Heart Expedition. I lose game one due to a play mistake, but games 2 and 3 play out well for me, as Glen Elendra
Archmage is great in the matchup.
Round eight was a feature match against Osyp Lebedowicz. Osyp is a good friend of mine who
I’ve known since I was in high school. He and I started on the Pro Tour together,danced together, and tried out for the Amazing Race together.
Playing friends is sometimes rough; might I suggest a prize split to make it friendlier? Osyp and I decide on a prize split, and I manage to take it
down in three games. In the third game, Osyp keeps a one-lander with two mana-ramp guys but fails to draw any more lands, and after a Sower on one of
his guys, Osyp concedes.
In the final round of Day 1, I’m up against Naya one more time. This time, I punt and lose because of it, so I ended the day with a 7-2 record.
I rounded up some troops to go to dinner. I was with Kyle Boggemes and his girlfriend Tatyana Dobreva, who happens to also be Osyp’s younger
half-sister. Once Jason Ford was ready, we threw on our jackets and headed outside. The only problem was Kyle and Tatyana didn’t have their jackets, so
being the gentlemen I am, I told Tatyana she could have my jacket. She gave me a polite “no thanks,” since Osyp is the older jealous brother no one
wants to deal with. The only reason she’s allowed to date Kyle is because Kyle scooped to Osyp in a Standard 8-man Win-a-Box. So Kyle insisted that
they would have to go upstairs to get their jackets. I asked Kyle if he wanted to trade jackets, since Kyle is known for his Rico Suave style, as seen
He accepted and showed up wearing this:
The deal was made, and I didn’t want to try to run the takeback; besides, I figured no one would want to mess with a man wearing a yellow parka and an
“I’m Pro” hat even if Atlanta is a little on the ghetto side. When walking home from dinner, I was approached by a man asking me about going to a club;
now normally, I wouldn’t be too worried in a spot like this, but everyone else happened to somehow be on the other side of the street. So I decided to
take off into the night and run as fast as I could back to the hotel. At one point, the yellow parka almost flew off me but held a position that looked
like a yellow cap. I made it back to the hotel a few minutes later, and Day 2 came faster than expected.
Day 2 started off well; in my first three rounds, I beat G/W Trap, Faeries, and U/R Counterburn. At 10-2, I was looking to be right on track for Top 8.
Then it happens for the first time in the tournament; my opponent opens up with a turn 1 Teetering Peaks. Mono-Red — my best matchup — a “free win,” some would say. Now, on turn 2, I take some time before I do anything. I want him to think that I’m pondering my play, but all I’m really thinking about is Nagoya and the Pro Tour.
It turns out I somehow lose game one due to my playing too aggressively and his topdecking the turn before I can attack for the win. Game two is another close one; it gets to a point where I’m at one with a Kor Firewalker in play. My opponent’s down to the felt with a board of just six Mountains and a Mimic Vat with nothing imprinted on it. He has one card in hand, but it’s probably a Teetering Peaks at best. My hand’s a couple of counters and a Baneslayer that will be coming out next turn. I’m tapped out, since I had to handle a Koth that was on five counters. So my opponent pretty much has a one- or two-turn window to draw a burn spell. He topdecked game one, so I just need him to brick this time. He draws his card, taps a mana, and before the card is even turned over, I know I’m beat.
10-3, and it felt like my tournament was over; the last two rounds were a blur to me. I ran my “patiently check the pairings, fart, and vacate” maneuver a couple of times, then headed off to the GGsLive booth after coming in 43rd place.
Overall, the trip was fun, and the deck in my opinion is the best one to play right now. It has game against pretty much everything, and there’s really a lot of play to it.
Here is a rough sideboarding rundown against the top decks.
This matchup isn’t the best, but you definitely have game against it. Game one, your plan should be to try to get aggressive with Kor Firewalkers and Stillmoons if they happen to have resolved a turn 2 Bitterblossom. If not, you can out-card advantage them and cut them off from some of their land resources with Tectonic Edge. For sideboarding, you’re looking to bring in:
Game one, your plan is straightforward; Day away some guys, and play a Baneslayer. Your boarding should look something like this:
Should be the best matchup you can hope for with this deck. Sideboarding is as follows:
This is another really good matchup.
The R/G Valakut deck is just really good and isn’t really a great matchup for U/W. You do get some really good sideboard cards that make it tough for
So, there you have it and thanks for reading.
My opponents for being good sports
Jford for winning it all
Allen Jackson/Donnie Noland for deck advice
Gavin Verhey for loving all my stories
GGsLive and the fans and Guillaume Matignon (James Carter)
Tom Ross for being Pro
And obv everyone else I forgot