I’d like to start this article out with an excerpt from Mark Zajdner that I heard about twenty times over the course of the GP.
I do in fact feel blessed now. Coming into the event, I had very high hopes for our team’s chances at Day 2 and money, but never really thought about winning it or even Top 4. If you didn’t already know, my team for this and last season is Gadiel Szleifer, professional magic gatherer Tim Aten, and myself. Originally it was going to be Tim, Gerry Thompson, and myself, but Gerry decided he had insufficient funds for GP: DC last season. Since I already had a plane ticket I was still going, so Tim and I needed to find a third fast. At this exact time, Gadiel asked me on Magic Online if he knew anyone that needed a third for team season. I didn’t know him very well personally, but I knew he had to be a solid player, so we ran it and that’s how our team came to be. We finished 8th at GP: DC and the slot got passed all the way down to us. We then attended Pro Tour: Seattle together and happened to finish 7th. (You can read about that here.) Anyway, back to the present.
The car ride down was nothing spectacular except for one Mike Abraham mooning the same car multiple times. We arrive at the site around 6:00 and I find Tim and we do a draft for “fun” against Andy Stokinger and anyone of his choice. This turned out to be a drunk guy that was ready for some fun. I actually lost to him in the draft, but we still won. The draft actually took an hour to finish because the guy had to introduce himself to everyone that walked bye. He had to write our names down to remember them and it was fun giving fake names. Tim said he would make it up to me in some way over the course of the weekend and we all know the psychic that Tim is… On to the report.
Our first card pool was very good I thought. We actually had our decks featured here. Gadiel ended up with one of the most insane U/G decks I’ve ever seen and Tim ended up with Kokusho, the Evening Star, Horobi, Death’s Wail and 2 Kabuto Moths to go with it. Here’s the deck I had:
Deck Name: City of Compton
3 Ashen-skin Zubera
1 Cruel Deceiver
1 Wicked Akuba
1 Pain Kami
1 Villainous Ogre
2 Ronin Houndmaster
1 Kami of the Warren Moon
1 Brutal Deceiver
1 Kami of Fire’s Roar
1 Gutwrencher Oni
1 Kiki-Jiki Mirror Breaker
1 Scuttling Death
This is very good for a R/B spirit-based deck. It has a solid curve with some bombs and solid removal to back it up. Ashen-skin Zubera is underrated and “combos well” with Kiki-Jiki. I especially like it because it shuts down Nezumi Cutthroat, which is one of the top commons in the set. The deck could potentially have had mana issues with Kiki-Jiki, Wicked Akuba, and the 2 Hanabi Blasts, but it was rarely a problem. I think that Red/Black spirit based decks are the best archetype in this format. There is so much synergy in the deck and a single Devouring Greed or Rage easily ends a game. I said it in my Austin article and I’ll say it again here: Kami of Fire’s Roar is the most underrated card in the set, especially in Black/Red where the Kami shines.
Round 1-2: Byes
Byes are real nice. Having to go 4-2 instead of 6-1-1 is a big deal. They also give you time to relax and to get something to eat and possibly test your deck for sideboard options.
Round 3: Re-elect Mayor Daley
My Opponent: Ben Huguenard
Game 1 – Hard to remember what happened in the first game of the first round we played. I remember me Hanabi Blasting a couple of his guys after getting a fast draw. He has to use both of his Cedars as removal and I kill him in short order.
Game 2 – The next game he gets a better draw and I make a questionable attack just to get in some damage with Blast in my hand. He uses 2 Kami of Fire’s Roar to make it so my two-power guys can’t block, so I block with my Ashen-skin Zubera leaving me one attack phase from death. He actually should have made my Zubera not able to block, because I end of turn Hanabi Blast him not discarding the Blast, untap Blast him, and attack with all my two-power creatures dealing him just enough. Gadiel loses a bad matchup and Tim wins a close match making us 3-0.
Round 4: Hareeb al-Saq All-Stars
My Opponent: Corwin Marsh
I don’t recognize any of them except for the one in the middle from GP: Austin. They probably had the one team with an average age less than ours. My opponent was R/G again, but his deck seemed very slow. It had some fat creatures and good removal like Yamabushi’s Flames. The first game I get a fast draw with Ronin Houndmaster and a turn 5 Kiki-Jiki. He eventually kills my team, but I put him at one with Honden of Infinite Rage in play. Game 2 he gets a really bad draw and I overrun him with my fast draw again. Gadiel loses to another W/U deck and Tim wins his matchup.
Our second set of sealed decks were definitely not as good as the first ones, but they were still good. We couldn’t play R/B this time around to my demise, but I ended up with my second favorite deck, which is W/R. Our Blue strangely ended up being very deep, so we split it with Black and Green. Gadiel ended up being U/G again with 3 Restraints this time and Tim had a solid U/B deck. Here’s my second sealed deck.
Deck Name: City of Compton
1 Devoted Retainer
2 Battle-Mad Ronin
1 Hearth Kami
2 Kami of Ancient Law
1 Brutal Deceiver
2 Ronin Houndmaster
1 Kitsune Blademaster
1 Kabuto Moth
1 Nagao, Bound by GFG
1 Kumano, Kristi Yamaguchi
I had another Candle’s Glow in my sideboard and another Call to Glory. It was a very hard decision for me to make. Call to Glory can be nuts in this deck, with 7 Samurai and more importantly 3 Frostwielders and the Kabuto Moth. I decided on 1 Glow and 1 Call, because my deck can potentially not draw any samurai or Frostwielders and the Call would be almost a dead card. I also love Battle-Mad Ronin in this deck. It speeds up the deck greatly and makes the Call to Glory so much better. The deck also has its bombs in the form of Nagao and Kumano, which I drew way too many times.
Round 5: YMG Inc.
My Opponent: Rob Dougherty
Game 1 – I start with a very fast draw that includes a turn 4 Nagao and turn 5 Kumano. Hulluh? He Pain Kamis the Nagao, but has no answer for Kumano and we go to game 2. Game 2 I get a very similar draw as game 1, minus the Nagao. Battle-Mad Ronin and Frostwielder come out with Kumano for some good beats. One turn after he has Flamed my Frosty, he double blocks Kumano and I use Blessed Breath to save it. He rips Pain Kami and kills Kumano, leaving me with just Battle-mad Ronin in play and him at eight. Thankfully he doesn’t draw any spells after that and I kill him with Frostwielder and Nagao. Gadiel loses with his U/G deck against Darwin’s Mono-Black deck featuring 2 Nezumi Graverobbers, but Tim wins again so we move to 5-0.
Round 6: RIW Redux
My Opponent: Jesuale, Peter
Game 1 I miss my third land drop multiple times, but I manage to play Devoted Retainer and Battle-Mad Ronin. He stalls the board with River Kaijins and eventually wins with Soratami Savant and Teller of Tales. Game 2 is the only real game we play, as I get a solid draw and win with Nagao + samurai. Game 3 I think I have in the bag when he misses his second land drop on the play and my hand has 3 lands and 4 creatures. However, He Doesn’t Miss Another Land Drop and I draw one spell the entire game. I felt like I was playing Magic Online. They were a good team though, so losing doesn’t feel that bad. Gadiel loses to mana screw, Tim wins against lobotomy hat guy, but we lose and move to 5-1.
Round 7: Clair Jordan (nice name)
My Opponent: Paul Jordan
I recognize Paul Jordan name and Michael Clair from his “controversial” article on rules lawyering. The article wasn’t controversial at all. It was calling a judge when your opponent makes mistakes. That was it. Counting someone’s deck is really the only thing from the article I thought constituted being a “jerk”. Anyway game 1 sees me get a fast draw and I wreck his team in a combat phase involving Frostwielder and Call to Glory. Game 2 I get the Nagao/Kumano draw and he loses in short order. Gadiel loses to the U/G mirror match because he had North Tree, but Tim wins another match so we move to 6-1.
Round 8: Gratuitous Poker Reference
My Opponent: Lucas B Hager.
I know my opponent’s name from somewhere, but couldn’t remember where. I also know Conrad from PTQs and GPs. They offer us the draw and I think my teammates wanted to draw also, but I wanted to play it out. I had enough confidence that we would win, so we play. He has a very good G/B deck with spirits backed up by Devouring Greed.
Game 1 sees me getting a poor draw and I lose to Soilshaper, spirits and eventually Greed. Game 2 I get a better draw and he loses to multiple Frostwielders, which were nuts against his deck. Game 3 is similar to game 2. I fall behind early, but battle back to the point where he has a Sakura-Tribe Decoy and Rootrunner to my Frostwielder. He attempts to Swallowing Plague my Frostwielder, but I have the sideboarded Sideswipe. I change the target to his Decoy, thinking for some reason I would gain the life and not him. I should have changed the target to the Rootrunner, but the outcome of the game was not changed. By this time my teammates have both won, so a lot of the pressure is off. I eventually remove his Rootie and Frostwielder goes the distance. Gadiel beat one of the best decks I’ve seen that was a U/W/r Dampen deck that had 2 Glacial Rays and all the good Dampen cards including all 3 Shrines! Luckily for us, Gadiel had 2 Dosan in the sideboard, which actually won him the match along with Humble Budoka. Tim can’t stop winning and we move to 7-1 on the day.
We do a “practice” draft against the team we played last round and Matt Shmaltz as their third. The draft really didn’t teach us anything except for R/B seemed like the right call for the C seat. I get called BLESSED! a couple of times and we head back to the room and get some sleep for the next day.
Well, there you have it, part 1 of my two-part GP: Chicago article. See you next week.