Double Q

Read about how Frank Skarren was able to secure his second Grand Prix win in Philadelphia last weekend playing Theros/Born of the Gods Limited!

How long is the power of the white peacock going to last? I’m not sure, but it doesn’t seem to be weakening any time soon.

Thanks to my win at the Theros/Born of the Gods Limited Pro Tour Qualifier a couple of weekends ago, I was feeling pretty good heading into Grand Prix Philadelphia. After a week full of practice drafts, I hopped in my car with a couple of friends to do battle in the City of Brotherly Love.

Fortunately, the extra thousand Planeswalker Points I earned from the PTQ win were enough to boost me back up to three byes. Because of this, I decided to opt for a sleep-in special and spent the early part of Saturday morning walking around and going over other people’s pools.

Since Born of the Gods came out, I’ve felt like there is a huge amount of variance in the playability of the sealed pools it produces. Seeing such a large cross-section of them really drove this point home. Some pools have all the heroic cards and nothing to trigger them with, while other pools are the reverse. Some pools lack the powerful bestow/monstrosity cards that give decks great late game mana sinks, and some pools just straight-up lack interaction (bounce and removal).


With this in mind, I couldn’t help but cringe when I finally got the sealed pool that would be mine for the day:

This pool is about as a big of a tease as you can get. White seems to have it made in the shade: double Wingsteed Rider, Akroan Skyguard, and Eidolon of Countless Battles! Unfortunately with five of the white slots being taken up by Silent Artisan and Griffin Dreamfinder, there’s not much room left for good cards to actually trigger heroic. Similarly, there are three very powerful multicolored cards that all have their foot in one extremely shallow color.

After laying out every possible color combination the pool had to offer, I finally decided to go the route that let me play the most powerful cards while also playing the smallest amount of filler.

Although this was the best possible way to build the pool, I was far from happy. Even with dipping into black for double Nyxborn Eidolon, this deck wasn’t very good at making use of its heroic. Even worse was that B/W is my least favorite color combination in this format after R/G because the mana is always terrible and none of the creatures are very good on their own.

The best thing this deck had going for it was its sheer amount of evasion. As long as I could get ahead in a damage race, I had no problem closing out the last few points of damage. Not to mention I got to play Necrobite, so how could I actually lose?

Thankfully, the deck decided to have my back all day long. I didn’t have many mana problems throughout the day, and my opponents mulliganed more than average. I won a majority of my die rolls, and I was able to curve out and stay ahead of my opponents for the most part. Multiple games I played Akroan Skyguard or Wingsteed Rider, pointed Battlewise Valor and Boon of Erebos at it, and prayed my opponent didn’t have anything to interact. (Spoiler Alert: They didn’t.) Add in the fact that Eidolon of Countless Battles was never far from the top of my deck and my 8-1 record makes a lot of sense.

My one loss came round 5 against an aggressive R/W deck.

Game 1 my opponent had a one-drop into Ordeal of Purphoros that my deck had no real chance of beating. Game 2 came down to some overzealous sideboarding on my part. After we both kept our opening hands, my opponent stumbled on mana and had a very slow start. Normally, this would have been the perfect weakness for my deck to capitalize on. However, as he spent his early turns going to his discard phase, I was left staring at a hand of Viper’s Kiss, Eye Gouge, Black Oak of Odunos, and Ray of Dissolution. While his deck had the potential for some fast starts, I diluted the strength of my own deck too much, and it came back to bite me by giving my opponent time to draw out of his mana screw.

Getting out of day 1 with an 8-1 record landed me in the fourth draft pod for the start of day 2. On one hand, I didn’t recognize six of the other names that I would be drafting with. On the other, the seventh name was my friend and car mate Pete Ingram. The battle for who would 3-0 the pod was on!

Draft 1

When drafting this format, my main strategy is to stay open. Pretty much any color combination can work out if you get the key cards and aren’t fighting too many other drafters for playables. As such, I like to take the most powerful card out of my first pack while avoiding cards with a heavy color commitment.

Pick 1



For this pick I ended up going with the big blue flier. While Swordwise Centaur is the better card overall, it commits you to playing a deck with a heavy green base. Although Siren of the Fanged Coast is pretty much a worse version of Air Elemental, it at least fits in every blue archetype, from U/B Control to U/W Heroic.

Pick 2



Without a strong Mono-Blue pick in this pack, I decided to take Ephara, God of the Polis. Even though the God is a little weaker in Draft than Sealed, it still brings a unique and powerful effect to the table that some decks just can’t beat.

As the pack progressed, nothing else too exciting came my way. Although I was able to pick up a second Siren of the Fanged Coast, white clearly wasn’t as open as it had first seemed. I was able to get a few black cards, including Drown in Sorrow, and I went into Theros looking to build a controlling U/B deck. While that’s not how things played out, I ended up with my best deck of the tournament:

Did I go into this draft hoping to draft a U/B aggressive deck? Of course not. It isn’t exactly a premier archetype of this format. However, after the first pack of Theros, I had picked up a few bounce spells and bestow creatures. I was set up to play a powerful tempo game, and all I needed was some good early drops to back it up. In the last pack I prioritized picking up cards like Tormented Hero and Vaporkin, and viola—U/B Aggro it was!

The first two rounds of the draft were pretty textbook. I played against a pair of R/W aggressive decks that weren’t very powerful or well set up to beat what my deck was doing. The first was all-in on Voltroning up a creature with Ordeals and Auras and was very susceptible to my multiple bounce spells. The second was playing a bevy of cheap and low-impact creatures that didn’t match up well with my more defensive creatures and especially did not match up well against the Drown in Sorrow I five-for-oned him with after sideboarding.

As fate would have it, I of course had to play against Pete to determine who would 3-0 the pod. He had drafted a solid U/G deck, and our match was one of the most intense of my tournament.

Games 1 and 2 saw one of us having just enough mana troubles for the other to close out the game right before the other was able to stabilize and turn things around.

Game 3 is where things got really exciting. The early turns of the game involved me trying to mount an offense while Pete deployed a few defensive creatures to get in the way. Although I was a little flooded, I was able to use the bestow from Thassa’s Emissary and Cavern Lampad to generate pseudo card advantage and keep him on the back foot. As usual, Shipwreck Singer was an all-star, and although I wasn’t using it to kill any of his creatures, I was able to force his defensive creatures to attack and leave him vulnerable on my turn.

The game finally culminated over the last few turns when Pete repeatedly tried to play and monstrous Shipbreaker Kraken, only to be met by Voyage’s End and Griptide from my end. Although he had no better play, you’re not likely to win a game when you invest fourteen mana into a single play and have it undone by your opponent’s two-mana play.

Draft 2

My second draft of the day was more high profile than the first, featuring Reid Duke, Christian Calcano, Michael McGee, and Adam Jansen, and it was going to take a record of 2-1 or better to get me into the Top 8.

Pick 1



I’m not even close to kidding when I say I really wanted to take Bile Blight from this pack. Not only is black my favorite color to draft in this format, but it’s incredibly underdrafted while white is usually very overdrafted. In the end it felt too heinous to pass up the mythic Leonin, and I begrudgingly took it.

My next two picks were Vanguard of Brimaz and Elite Skirmisher followed by Aerie Worshippers over Rise to the Challenge. I rounded the pack out with a second Aerie Worshippers, a Temple of Enlightenment, and an Akroan Phalanx. I felt very good moving into the first Theros pack, fully expecting to get a plethora of white and blue cards to build an easy 3-0 deck.

Naive of me, I know:

As it turned out, there were two other people at the table drafting U/W, and we all fought for the few cards available to us in the second and third packs. Because of this, although my deck had some winners like Brimaz and Dauntless Onslaught, it also had some cards I would pray to never have in my deck, like Decorated Griffin and Fleetfeather Sandals.

Things were so bad that during deckbuilding I was actually weighing just how bad it would be to play Heroes’ Podium with the singular use of digging for Brimaz.

My first round of the draft was against good buddy Christian Calcano and can be summed up pretty easily by this excerpt from his player profile:

What was the most interesting/craziest/most noteworthy play that you saw or accomplished this weekend?

Beat Frank Skarren in round 13 when he cast Brimaz on turn 3 all three games.

Calcano was also playing a U/W deck, and his was a fair bit better than mine. He had access to Prognostic Sphinx and a bunch of other high-toughness fliers that were able to completely brick wall my deck.

For the second round of the draft, I was paired against Adam Jansen, who was also playing U/W and also had a Prognostic Sphinx in his deck. After splitting the first two games, I was able to produce a very strong hand for the third. Not only did I have the turn 3 Brimaz, but this time I was able to back it up with a few fliers and an eventual Dauntless Onslaught to punch through even after Prognostic Sphinx hit his side of the board.

Just like that, I was one win away from achieving my second Grand Prix Top 8. My deck was average at best, and I knew I was going to need a little bit of luck to get the win. Little did I know, my luck would come before I even had to draw my opening hand. As soon as the pairings went up, Michael McGee hunted me down and informed me that we had been paired against each other. He told me that he already had three losses and had no chance of making Top 8 and was going to scoop to me.

I’d like to take a moment to thank Michael for being such an awesome guy. He didn’t know me from a hole in the wall going into this tournament and was still ready and willing to concede to me just because it was the nice thing to do. I will forever be grateful to him for doing me a favor when he had no obligation to do so.

Top 8

The Top 8 draft started out as a mirror to my first draft of the day. I first picked a Siren of the Fanged Coast over a Swordwise Centaur and Kiora’s Follower and was promptly passed an Ephara, God of the Polis. This time however I decided not to go for the God and picked a Swordwise Centaur over it. Although I knew this meant I might get cut by Calcano, who was to my left in the second pack, I’d had enough of U/W for the day. My third pick was between Nyxborn Triton and Sudden Storm, and I ended up taking the Triton. Although Sudden Storm is a great card, the tempo and utility from Nyxborn Triton are too much to pass up on.

As it turned out, Calcano ended up going U/W, and green was completely open from both sides, leaving me with an almost mono-green deck:

The deck ended up being pretty good, although it was missing a few key cards I would have really liked to have. A second Voyage’s End, a Griptide, a Refraction Helix, or a Time to Feed would have all made this deck significantly better. As is, it still had a proactive game plan backed up by a few fliers and bestow creatures.

Since about half of my games were on camera, I’ll just go over a few highlights:

  • In game 2 against William "Huey" Jensen, he had a slow start and needed to use Chosen by Heliod on my Satyr Wayfinder to hit his third land drop. I was able to punish him with double Aspect of Hydra on my Setessan Oathsworn to win on turn 5.
  • I was almost positive I was going to lose game 2 of the semifinals to Adam Mancuso and get eliminated from the Top 8. Winning involved me chump blocking his eleven-power Nessian Asp for four turns while I dealt the last two-thirds of his life total with an Agent of Horizons.
  • Game 1 of the finals against Reid Duke was my absolute favorite of the tournament. On the play he had a turn 3 Courser of Kruphix, which could have easily singlehandedly beaten my deck. Fortunately, although I didn’t have a two-drop, I did have an end of turn Unravel the Aether to kill the Courser in surprising fashion and put me right back into the game.

The next thing I knew not only had I secured my second Grand Prix Top 8 and beaten two-thirds of the Peach Garden Oath, but I had another Grand Prix win under my belt. I gotta say it felt pretty good to earn my second big finish and further establish myself as a professional player.

All thanks to seeing a white peacock a few weeks ago. Crazy, right?