From Zero To Hero In Under a Week: How I Lost It All On MTGO, Then Won a GP

The best player in England, one Mr Sam Gomersall, recently triumphed over all comers at Grand Prix: Hasselt. Today, we present his report, packed with tips and tricks from this acknowledged Limited maestro.

Don’t let the title of this article put you off.

The Magic Online Empire Strikes Back

It is true that I have lost my Magic Online Empire, down to the very last set. It’s all because of triple Ravnica Drafts, but I did have a hell of a good time doing it. It was a conscious choice: every time I entered a Draft, I’d force my new favorite archetype: GUrwb aura.dec. I know that Guildpact is out now, so this article won’t be relevant for too much longer, but my recent downfall means I now have nothing to occupy my days but spill my thoughts out onto the page. Seeing as I lost it all over a matter of weeks, I can’t really suggest this as a solid deck to draft if you are practicing for a Pro Tour, or looking to make some extra packs on MTGO. However, if you have a few spare hours, and an extra $13 on your credit card that doesn’t seem to be doing anything important, then you might find a fun deck to draft that is capable of some of the most obscene things I’ve ever done in Limited Magic.

It all started when I asked Richard Hoaen: “ what’s the best deck to draft in this format?” I had not been privy to the beta server for Ravnica, and I had not even begun drafting on the normal server until it had been out for a week or so. I figured he would have the heads-up on what I should be doing, and he told me to try a four-color Green deck which brought him some success, splashing all the most powerful cards regardless of color. The first few times I tried this I had meager success, but I kept going nonetheless. Soon the Drafts turned into nothing more than “me taking all the Auras and trying to put them in the same deck,” with every other card that said “enchantment” included. It is surprising how happy one man can be…

However, while these drafts were fun to play, I found myself losing more often than not. Eventually, Limited was little more than a pack-sapping nightmare. This is when I decided I guess I should start playing some Constructed on MTGO, as this is where all the profit is.

Going into the Grand Prix, I didn’t have much confidence, but I wasn’t too bothered. I had great plans to go out boozing the night before with Eddie Ross and David Jensen, so all would be well. This plan fell through, as Eddie turned up too late and David didn’t even get there, but I found some Dutchies and Scandies to get some food and booze with, and then headed off to a hotel. There was nothing exciting about the start of Day 1 until I got to look at my Sealed Deck. I won’t list the whole pool, mainly as I threw it away after the last round but I will try to mention notable sideboard cards.

The only sideboard cards that might have made it were Elvish Skysweeper, Putrefy and Last Gasp. I didn’t board in the fourth color, as my mana was quite bad already — a lot of Boros cards that were hard to cast — but the Skysweeper saw a fair amount if play. In retrospect, he should be maindeck, but I do not know what to cut for him.

I was very happy with my deck, and thought, with three byes, I should have an easy time making the 128 player Day 2. I walk over to Jeroen Remie, declaring that I have the best deck in the room, and that there was no way for me to lose. He proceeds to bash me 4-0 in about 30 minutes, with a deck that is possibly even better than mine. I wasn’t too bothered.

We get some food, blah blah blah do boring stuff in between the byes, and generally sit around being bored, waiting for round 4.

Round 4: Dara Butler
It’s nice to go to a foreign Grand Prix and play versus someone whose first language is English. Dara is from Ireland, so we were able to communicate fine and were always checking up on each other over the weekend. This was one of the nicest rounds of Magic I played all weekend, and he seems to be a wicked guy. His deck was totally insane — even better than mine — as he was featuring Gleancrawler, Vulturous Zombie, Tolsimir Wolfblood, two Golgari Rotwurm, Brainspoil and infinite other good cards that made it a real struggle. I can’t remember most of the games, apart from one huge mistake he made in game 3 which cost him the match. He sacrificed his Zombie, neutered with Faith’s Fetters, to a Golgari Rotwurm in my end step, rather than his main phase… so he didn’t get it back with Gleancrawler, and I eventually killed him with fliers. He just didn’t know the exact wording on the card (I guess MTGO is good for something).


Round 5: Petr Haka
Unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea what happened in these games, but I think he might’ve been a bit screwed.


Round 6: Antoine Ruel
This was covered in a feature match, so you can look it up there if need be… but it wasn’t actually a match at all. Game 1, I mulligan while on the draw, and I kept three Forest, two Mountain and Three Dreams. It seems a fine keeper, as the Dreams can get one of my Galvanic Arcs and Faith’s Fetters so I can recoup the card lost… if I draw a Plains [That’s a keeper?! Good lord. — Craig]

Of course, my first draw is the one Faith’s Fetters in my deck… so now my hand has turned to poo.

Game 2, Antoine is totally screwed. He played a turn 6 Darkblast as his only spell.

Game 3, I cast three spells throughout the whole game. As they were Loxodon Hierarch, Centaur Safeguard, and Faith’s Fetters, I survived for ages without really being in the game.


Round 7: Luc Ta
I know Luc from MTGO, and we play each other in virtually every single Grand Prix. He is a nice guy and we had a relaxed match.

Game 1 wasn’t close, as he only drew one removal spell for my many huge monsters, and it was onto game 2. This time he complained about me drawing four big creatures, even though his draw contained Putrefy, two Devouring Lights, and a Brainspoil… it seemed fair to me.

Game 3 wasn’t close, as I attacked with 5/5’s while he made more land than is ever necessary.


Round 8: Bjorn van Hecke
No clue again … sorry


Round 9: Alexandre Riviere
I could tell instantly that he was an inexperienced player, which meant that his deck was probably very good to be on 7-1. This was true, as game 1 was over before other matches had even started. He curved out perfectly, and I had a very clunky draw.

I remember game 2 being very close indeed, and I think he may have screwed it up somewhere… but it was quite complicated. I attacked him to exactly one life, with no cards left in my library, with my last creature in my deck.

Game 3 was a letdown, as he flooded very badly and it wasn’t fair at all. There was an interesting turn where he cast two spells after obviously only drawing one card for the turn. This meant he had previously decided not to cast a creature, for no reason at all.


Eight wins and one loss was a very nice record to be on, as it allowed me to lose a match on Day 2 and still make it to the Top 8.

Yadda yadda went for food then slept in preparation for more gaming on the morrow.

Day 2

Draft 1:
I had no real plan as to what I was doing, although I said to myself that I wasn’t going to draft the enchantment deck I mentioned earlier… I knew it wasn’t good, and this was time to get serious.

My opening pack was relatively boring with no rares or uncommons to take, but I got a Vedalken Dismisser — which a friend of mine had declared as the best common a few days earlier — so that was fine. I ended up with a very solid yet unexciting G/U/b deck, but I liked it a lot. The highlights were three Dimir Aqueduct, two Civic Wayfinder, and two Elves of Deep Shadow, which allowed me to play a three color deck with awesome mana and still a low land count so as not to flood out in late games. I had only one rare (Gleancrawler), but the three Dismissers got it done most of the time.

I made a pretty bad mis-pick at the beginning of pack three. I had the choice between Dream Leash and Selesnya Guildmage. At that point in time, I thought it was possible that I might be able to fit a Plains into my deck. I didn’t however think about the fact that, with so many mana fixers, I could play fifteen lands. Having one of those fifteen being a totally off-color land was impossible, so maybe Dream Leash was the better choice. Either way this was a pretty bad pick, looking back at it.

Round 10: Antoine Ruel
This was even less of a match than when we played in the Swiss. He mulliganed both games, and I cast Vedalken Dismissers while he only had two lands in play. He was understandably annoyed, but he went 2-1 with his deck. My deck was excellent, as I showed him after, which dulled the pain a little.


Round 11: Bert van der Auwera
Again no clue. I won the round. I don’t know how. I wasn’t planning on winning the Grand Prix, never mind writing a report, and I forgot a lot of rounds as soon as they were finished. Sorry, Bert.


Round 12: Helge Nelson
This was to win the pod, so Helge’s deck must have been good to be on 2-0 at this point. I was passing to him in the Draft, so once I saw his colors I thought I’d be able to remember most of his deck. It turns out that he was playing the exact same colors as I was, and he let slip before we started playing that the only reason he was 2-0 was due to the powerful rares that he had opened up and kept drawing.

Game 1 we are both very flooded, but I eventually draw Mark of Eviction to go with the Dismisser I have in play. He scoops it up to save time.

For game 2 I take a mulligan on the draw, and keep Forest, Farseek, Civic Wayfinder, and three other non-land cards that don’t really matter. At some point in this game, my opponent casts Szadek, Lord of Secrets while my only permanent was a lone Forest. One-land hands…

For game 3, I made a pretty bad mistake by not mulliganing this six card hand on the play: Forest, Selesnya Guildmage, Civic Wayfinder, Compulsive Research, and two other more expensive cards I can’t remember. The reason I kept is because I had 3 Dimir Aqueducts and 2 Elves of Deep Shadow that would’ve been good draws, plus just hitting some land off the top. I’m still not sure that it is wrong to keep, but it turned out that my opponent’s draw was very slow and I would’ve had time to recover from a double mulligan while on the play.

The game played out badly. At one point. I had a single land in play when he cast Vulturous Zombie — a single Forest is no real match for this.


At this point I was kinda mad, as my deck was a lot better than his. I naturally felt I deserved to win. It was also my second loss, which now meant I was in elimination mode, and both my loses were as a result of double mana-screw.

Draft 2:
This draft was of a very high standard, and had lots of known pro players in it. From this, I decided that Boros might be a good choice, as it was very under-drafted amongst the top tables with Viashino Fangtails going round very late in the first Draft.

As it turned out, I started by drafting Dimir, looking to go for the “unblockable” deck with as much evasion as possible. This plan wasn’t working out too well, and I got a late Vedalken Entrancer in pack one, so I switched into the Mill archetype from there. I ended up with three Entrancers, two Tidewater Minions, and two Drift of Phantasms, with (mostly) solid other cards.

Round 13: Petr Haka
This was covered in a feature match, and although there is not much written about the games, not much actually happened.

In both games he hit a nice mana-curve of creatures on turns two through five, but then never played another spell until he died. Meanwhile, I too made guys on these turns but had plenty of spells left to take the spoils. Sadly, these were both boring, one-sided affairs.


Round 14: Jan Ruess
So this was it: playing for Top 8.

I had been very lucky not to play one of the three other pros at the table in the two relevant rounds that I had to play. Of course, I’m not saying that “random guy on 11-2 in a Grand Prix” is necessarily any worse than someone I might’ve heard of… but it is nice to think that you might have the upper hand if they recognize your name and you don’t recognize theirs.

Game 1, I was on the play. I missed my third turn land drop, and was thinking, “come on, don’t do this now! Don’t screw me into a third loss I can do nothing about!”

Thankfully, I drew plenty of land after this small hiccup and was able to draw out trouble. I decked my opponent when I was on five life. Later, he told me that he had a Netherborn Phalanx in his hand: unbeknown to me, I was technically on one life for those last few turns.

Game 2 was so close, as he was aggressively Dredging his Shambling Shell to make a huge, unblockable Dimir House Guard. Luckily, I had two copies of Clutch of the Undercity in my deck, and was able to draw one in time to seal the slot for the Top 8.


Round 15: Julien Goron
This was simply a matter of intentionally drawing into the Top 8, although we did play two games versus each other to pass the time. He thanked me for the ID, as I crushed him very quickly.


Top 8 Draft:
This was covered by Rogier Maaten, and he did a good job, but there are some things I would like to clarify. When I picked Bathe in Light over the Veteran Armorer, I knew that there were two Sell Sword Brutes that were hopefully lapping the table to come right back to me, so I wasn’t too bothered about getting two-drops at that point in the Draft. When I took the Mindmoil over the Selesnya Sanctuary, I knew I wasn’t going to be playing the Moldervine Cloak in my deck… I had some Viashino Fangtails, so wanted a lot of Red mana, and a Firemane Angel, so I needed a significant amount of White too. This would have made it very hard to splash, so I had decided not to bother.

Again, I had it in mind that forcing Boros would be a good choice in the Top 8, and when I received fourth pick Galvanic Arc I knew my deck was going to be very good if I stuck at it.

Quarterfinals: Helge Nelson
For those of you who have been following closely, you will see that this is the guy who screwed me out savagely in round 12 — through no fault of his own, I might add — so I felt like I deserved to screw him a bit in this match. My wishes were granted, as I made a huge mistake game 1 and still won, by drawing my only out on the last possible turn it mattered. This might seem unfair, but he made loads of mistakes too and I think I only made one — although it was a howler. Every turn he would Dredge his irrelevant Necroplasm, flipping two ridiculous spells into his graveyard, either of which would have won him the game.

Game 2, I think screwed up too, this time by not Dredging his Shambling Shell when he had no play in his hand, versus a very aggressive start from me. The game went:

Turn 1: Him, land. Me. Land, War Torch Goblin.
Turn 2: Him, land. Me, land, Veteran Armorer.
Turn 3: Him, land, Shambling Shell. Me, land, Galvanic Arc.

On his next turn 4 upkeep, he chose not to dredge his Shell and passed the turn without playing a land or a spell. I assume he had a four drop in his hand that he was trying to cast, but if you think about it, there is no four drop that my first-striking 2/2 (with the help of the War Torch Goblin) can’t kill. Whatever monster he casts will trade with the Goblin, unless somehow it has five on the butt. You might as well Dredge, and be sure to trade with the Goblin next turn.

He didn’t, and next turn I cast Flame-Kin Zealot and attacked for infinite damage, basically sealing the match. He spent his next turn doing nothing, and then he died.


Semifinals: Maurice Palijama
He had just defeated my mate Quentin Martin in the quarters, whom I know to be a good player. His deck must have been quite good, and he must be at least competent.

I was quite relieved when he mulliganed to five, on the play, for game 1 (I guess I’m just blessed), as it wasn’t even close. He cast no spells, and I kept attacking for two until he died.

Game 2 was a very good one that went on for ages, and I again made a few small mistakes and one huge one. The coverage gets the game down pretty well… I will just tell you what my mistake was, although the more I think about it the more I think it might have have been the correct play.

Moily Moily

The turn that Maurice sacrificed his Divebomber Griffin to kill my Skyknight Legionnaire, I used Bathe in Light to save it. This, of course, seems like a good play… but I had Firemane Angel in my hand, and Mindmoil in play, so I would lose the Firemane if it was not the first spell I played. If I keep the Legionnaire alive, I get four fresh cards and four mana to use in my turn. Whereas if I let him die, I cast the Angel this turn, still get my four fresh cards but have no mana spare with which to cast them until next turn.

It turns out that I drew Wojek Embermage from the Mindmoil, which was the absolute stones in the board position as he had a lot of 1/1s. I already had a Viashino Fangtail, so I could now finish off his Evangel. All in all it was probably the wrong play, but it turned out fine as I was fortunate enough to draw the Embermage.

It might seem very unfair that I am winning this Grand Prix after making one or two mistakes a game, but I have no idea how many my opponents are making. It probably all works out in the end.

Finals: Julien Goron
Again, the coverage here is very good, and as I re-read it I find out things I forgot myself: I will be brief with what else happened.

The games were not very close, as he was flooded in game 1. He then drew the nuts on the play for game 2, which I could never beat even if I chose my draw every turn.

Game 3 was looking bad for me, as I didn’t have many spells on my upkeep of turn 5… until I drew Firemane Angel with six mana in play and my opponent without the mana to counter or remove it over the next few turns.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a great final, even though it went to three games… but I thank Julien for being a sincere loser, and I hope to play him in the final of another Grand Prix soon.

So that’s my report. I hope it wasn’t too long or boring. I don’t profess to be any good at writing, and my English is worse than most Dutchies, but if you have learnt anything from the difficult decisions I faced (and inevitability got wrong), or have some helpful hints as to where I might improve, then please reply in the forums.

Sam Gomersall