Constructed Criticism – A Grand Prix: Oakland Report, Part 2

SCG Open Richmond!

Tuesday, February 23rd – In continuation from last week’s article, after starting the Grand Prix off 7-2, I was pretty happy to make Day 2 but very disappointed that I wasn’t able to break through at 8-1. With an 8-1 record, it is much more likely that I can Top 8, as I have a bit of breathing room. With two losses, I’m in pretty bad shape with my back against the wall, and I will likely only make Top 8 if I go undefeated.

In continuation from last week’s article, after starting the Grand Prix off 7-2, I was pretty happy to make Day 2 but very disappointed that I wasn’t able to break through at 8-1. With an 8-1 record, it is much more likely that I can Top 8, as I have a bit of breathing room. With two losses, I’m in pretty bad shape with my back against the wall, and I will likely only make Top 8 if I go undefeated. After the end of Day 1, a few friends of mine went out for food at an awesome gourmet burger place near Berkley, and I ended up gorging on a Chili Bacon Cheeseburger. I had not eaten all day.

After getting another great night’s sleep thanks to Kenny Ellis having a hotel room at the event site, I got to the player meeting a little early, carrying a cup of fruit and downing a Red Bull (breakfast of champions). After getting some new sleeves for my deck, since they were destroyed from 7 rounds of play, I was ready to battle with the following 75…

Round 10 against Zoo

My opponent this round ended up stumbling pretty hard in the mid-game after I got stuck on just two lands for most of the game. However, that meant I drew a ton of cheap creatures and cheap removal, and ended up rolling him over when I got to three lands. He was afraid to use Path to Exile on my creatures in the early game, so my Ranger of Eos suited up after my guys were Exiled, giving me enough gas to take a game that didn’t look like I could possibly win, until he drew about 10 lands.

Game 2 was not much like the last, as we both had plenty of lands and creatures, but there were a few points where I was dead to a Tribal Flames (which I didn’t know he was playing). He ended up never drawing the Tribal Flames, and I was able to alpha strike after using two removal spells on his blockers after setting up a solid board position.

Round 11 against Tribal Zoo

This matchup was a bit tougher than I expected, since he had a lot of cards that I wasn’t aware of. He leads with Steppe Lynx on the play while I just played a Nacatl and Kird Ape. After a pretty sick double block with a fetchland open on my side, he shows me his trump: Might of Alara. However, my Path to Exile hurt him pretty badly, but he was able to follow it up with a Tarmogoyf. This game ended up boiling down to me being at 4 life with two Knights of the Reliquary, and me making them bigger than his Tarmogoyfs. After putting him in a Topdeck or Die board position, he topdecked a lethal Tribal Flames to finish me.

Game 2 was pretty standard, with me opening with a few guys and just removing his blockers while I bashed him. Being on the play is pretty good in the Zoo mirror.

Game 3 came down to a similar state as Game 1, and I put him into the exact situation where I was crashing in with 7/7 Knights of the Reliquary. He ran out of chump blockers, but I made a crucial mistake in pumping my Knights with a fetchland going down to 7 life. He topdecked a burn spell, and used Tribal Flames for 4 on top of his Lightning Helix, killing me exactly. I was pretty mad at myself for misplaying so badly, and knew I had probably just knocked myself out of Top 8 contention.

Round 12 against Scapeshift

This round was pretty awkward, as my opponent informed me that I have previously asked him to scoop in the first round of an online PTQ. I promptly apologize and offer him a good luck, but it is apparent that he does not like me. I don’t really blame him I guess, as I am not famous for having great character. However, I will argue that I have been trying really hard to be a better person lately, and not seem like such a jerk. We all do stupid things sometimes, and mine are a bit more apparent than most.

Game 1 I open with a Wild Nacatl, and follow it up with a Kird Ape which gets Condescended, and a Hallowed Fountain to maximize my Cat. He plays a few search and draw spells, and counters a Tarmogoyf the next turn. I use all this as bait to stick my Gaddock Teeg, which he literally draws no outs to and I end up going all the way with Nacatl and the Hobbit.

Game 2 I mulligan into a hand with Negate and Meddling Mage, but just draw lands for a while when he kills my Meddling Mage. He has a few Remands for a late-game Tarmogoyf, but I have to keep Negate mana up so that I don’t just lose to Scapeshift. Unfortunately, he just destroys me with Cryptic Command on my Negate and searches his deck for some Valakuts.

Game 3 I nut draw him pretty hard, and use a combination of Meddling Mage, Negate, Bant Charm, and Gaddock Teeg to take him down. He can’t handle all of my threats and counter-magic, and succumbs to the little beaters. My opponent, while he was shuffling my deck after a fetchland activation¸ finds a busted sleeve and asks a judge to check to see if it is a warning for marked cards, and also if I have any previous warnings for marked cards, pretty obviously fishing for a game loss. This came early in the game, pretty much right after we presented decks to each other before the match, and he was shuffling my sleeves backwards, which usually busts sleeves pretty easily (it is hard to describe but happens pretty regularly). I was angry, to say the least, since he was in such a bad position, and I called him out on it pretty hard. After the match is over, he says nothing, and leaves quickly after signing the slip.

Round 13 against Dark Depths

This round was actually pretty difficult, and I just ended up dying when my opponent had both combos early on in Game 1. I had the answer for his 20/20, but not his Thopter Foundry, and was quickly overwhelmed.

In Games 2 and 3, I landed Damping Matrix, and he didn’t have very many outs. I used Negate and Bant Charm to counter his answers to Damping Matrix, and just 20’d him with Wild Nacatl. Who needs 20/20s when you have 3/3s!

Round 14 against Zoo

I actually don’t remember much about this Zoo matchup, since all of them begin to blur after a while. Zoo on Zoo is pretty boring, and is almost always an attrition war that ends in an unanswered Reliquary, or Ranger of Eos backed by a bit of removal. I know I lost this match because my opponent drew more Rangers of Eos in both games, and I remember thinking that I really wished the anti-dredge cards in my sideboard were more cards for the mirror match.

Round 15 against Teferi Teachings

This match was against Lino Burgold, who beat me in Round 1 of Worlds last year. LSV started to bird my match, as his opponent scooped to him so he could make Top 32 and get more pro points. It was weird how his presence actually made me play better, mostly because I hate making mistakes when people are hawking me. I win Game 1 on the back of drawing all 4 Lightning Bolts, and Lino casting Extirpate on Bant Charm instead of Lightning Bolt when I had three Bolts in hand. I called his bluff and 9’d him in his upkeep, with mana to spare for Mana Leak, and he scooped.

Game 2 I landed some Meddling Mages, and eventually a Ranger of Eos when he tapped out for Baneslayer Angel. I had Path to Exile on top of that, and was able to run him over with some 2/2s and 3/3s. Treetop Village made an appearance, and nailed the coffin shut. We chatted a little after the match and I laughed at drawing the Quad-Bolt in the first game, but as he said, “that’s Magic.”

After this round they cut to Top 8, and I end up placing 33rd, which is awesome because I get money, but bad because 32nd place paid $200 more and gave out another pro point. This was my first Day 2 out of 4 Grand Prix attempts, so I can’t complain too much. Making money at Magic tournaments is always good, and helping pay for the trip will be much appreciated by Kali, I’m sure. I wish Adam Yurchick and Pat Cox luck in the Top 8, and go off to grab some food.

This night was much more awesome than the previous nights, because I don’t have to wake up early. However, the guys I’m supposed to be staying with aren’t answering their phone, but I find a place to stay with some other friends, and we go off to get hammered at The Trappist. This was a small bar with a ton of different awesome beers, both high alcohol content and high quality. My favorite of all the ones I tried, and I ended up drinking about 3 pints of it, was St. Bernardus Prior 8. If you have not tried it, I think it is my new favorite beer, and you should have some.

With good friends, great conversation about Magic stories and life, great beer, and playing Magic, there isn’t much else you can ask for in a weekend of travelling. We ended up getting some late-night Cantonese food and made a mockery of some pedestrians, on top of buying “Blue Drink” from a store. I think we ended up a bit more drunk than we realized, as all of this sounds much less hilarious now I’m writing it than it did the other night. Nestle’s Dibs joined the party along with the Blue Drink, and we walked back to the hotel with delicious treats in tow. We called it a night shortly thereafter, and I slept on the floor (but at least I had a place to sleep).

The next day I realized I had yet another day to kill before my flight left on Tuesday, and I bummed a hotel room with a Judge friend of mine near the airport, woke up around midday to get to the airport, and flew to San Diego in order to grind into the Pro Tour. After getting asked about 20 times, “What are you playing in the main event,” I decided I was going to make a T-Shirt that said “I’m Not Qualified,” so that I could avoid all the awkwardness. My sealed pool was literally one of the worst I’ve ever opened, but it was mostly my fault for just misevaluating what my pool was supposed to do. The tournament was Swiss+1, where you had to make Top 4 in order to get into the main event. 9-1 was not guaranteed to get into the Top 4, which made me having a bad pool pretty awkward. I signed up for the Magic Online Live Draft Series, in hopes my name would get called.

Luckily, my Round 1 opponent in the grinder got a free win when they called my name, and I ended up just crashing the draft with double Marsh Casualties and double Plated Geopede, on top of Mordant Dragon and other solid removal. In the second round of the draft series, I drafted a pretty mediocre Black-Blue deck that ended up getting rolled by Kor Skyfisher and Goblin Bushwhacker. In game 1, I opened with Trusty Machete and the Black Zendikon. However, my opponent literally destroyed me with Journey to Nowhere on my 3/3 land, which didn’t come back to my hand, and my enchantment went to the graveyard. It was not a fun time.

I went 2-2 drop in the PTQ because I still had a few Dredge sideboard cards for some reason, but I’m pretty sure having them is just wrong. All of the Thopter decks play 4 Leyline of the Void, which is really hard for the Dredge decks to beat, and since Thopter Depths is one of the most played deck, Dredge shouldn’t really be an issue. I’m considering switching to a different deck for upcoming PTQ’s, since attacking with Wild Nacatl seems to be okay, but just not quite ridiculous enough in a format where you can do broken things. I have a few ideas which I will be talking about in the coming weeks, so keep your eyes open. I’ve watched a lot of Magic, and made a lot of new friends on this trip, and learned a lot about Extended and Standard, and even Legacy in the process.

Speaking of Legacy, the last event I played was a $15 Legacy tournament for a set of Dual Lands, and I borrowed an entire deck from a friend that revolved around Counterbalance and Sensei’s Divining Top. This version was set up to help combat Zoo, with maindeck Firespouts and Rhox War Monks, but I’m not entirely sure these were at all necessary. I played 6 rounds in the tournament, and went 4-2, losing to a pretty sweet Enlightened Tutor deck, as well as an Enchantress deck when he resolved Choke. Both matchups seemed like I could have easily won had my deck contained a few more counterspells instead of the really weak Firespouts and Rhinos.

I’m leaving to go home tomorrow, and I haven’t seen my wife in 10 days, so I’ll be pretty busy doing chores and working to make up for having a 10-day vacation. Thanks for reading, and have a fun grinding.

Strong sad on MTGO