GP Boston-Worcester And Looking Forward

Find out how Sam went 10-0 in Sealed on Day 1 at GP Boston-Worcester, how he did on Day 2, and his thoughts about Standard as he starts to prepare for the upcoming SCG Open Series: Atlanta featuring the Invitational.

Grand Prix Boston-Worcester was extremely disappointing for me. After finishing Saturday 10-0 and moving into a Draft format that I felt comfortable and experienced with, I expected great things. Winning only a single match on Sunday and finishing out of the money was pretty devastating.

What happened?

Well, first of all, Saturday. My pool was excellent. It wasn’t all that flashy—I had no mythics and not very many bombs, basically just Krenko, Mob Boss. But it was a straightforward pool that let me build a very good deck.

I had a pretty good curve with good creatures at every cost and a solid mix of removal. I made a point of not playing Yeva’s Forcemage despite having Roaring Primadox because I just don’t think a 2/2 body really does anything in this format. I wasn’t trying to attack as early and often as possible to really care about the pump effect. I just wanted all my cards to matter.

Late in the tournament I kept playing against white aggressive decks with Silvercoat Lions or large numbers of cards that would die to Chandra’s Fury.

The hardest choices for me were whether or not to splash Pacifism—I decided not to because I didn’t think my mana could support both a Plains and Hellion Crucible—and the what to play as the 23rd card: Naturalize, Farseek, or Duskdale Wurm. I didn’t really feel like I had enough mana for Duskdale Wurm, and I also felt like I remembered too many times when he just didn’t pull his weight. I didn’t really want two Farseeks without the Duskdale Wurm, and I didn’t have room for both. I figured Naturalize would probably be pretty good in Sealed since more Sealed decks have artifacts than Draft decks.

In the end, Naturalize was fine; it killed some things I needed to kill, but it was a blank sometimes. I left it in my deck more often than not. The only sideboard cards I used were Duskdale Wurm, Farseek, Phyrexian Hulk, Ring of Xathrid, and maybe Wild Guess. The first three came in together against a R/G deck full of 3/3s where I just wanted to go bigger, and the Ring of Xathrid came in against a U/B deck with a bunch of Giant Scorpion type cards after I didn’t see any targets for Naturalize.

I felt like the only wisdom I had on this format in particular was “don’t play vanilla 2/2s.” The reason I don’t like them in this format is that that they trade with cards that cost one mana like Goblin Arsonist or War Falcon more often than they trade with three-mana cards like Servant of Nefarox (the player with the Servant can just leave it back and take the exalted bonus). There are almost no three-mana creatures that people play that regularly trade with 2/2s.

Instead, people have cards like Attended Knight, Giant Scorpion, Centaur Courser, Water Courser, or Scroll Thief. It didn’t always used to be this way. 2/2s or 3/2s for three with abilities used to be extremely common in Limited, but that’s just not how M13 is built. It’s extremely hard to get any value at all out of such a creature, so I’d much rather just not play them.

The drafts went horribly for me. My first draft was covered here.

I simply never saw cards that would let me have a real deck or beat the draws my opponents had in the first two rounds. It felt completely hopeless. Looking at the draft to discuss ii on GGsLive and reading through the coverage again, I just don’t see anything I could have done differently. I was just in a horrible spot.

I finally had a good matchup in the last round of the draft at 0-2 to save my tournament, but game 1 I kept two lands and a Chronomaton and couldn’t draw a third land, and game 2 I kept Swamp, Evolving Wilds, Ravenous Rats, Searing Spear, and some green cards and again couldn’t draw a third land (after siding in an 18th land).

The second draft felt similar. My first pick was very difficult: Predatory Rampage, Rancor, Oblivion Ring, and Serra Angel were all in the pack. I took Rancor which, based on my asking people after the draft, you probably disagree with since opinions were pretty split on what the picks is there, with Oblivion Ring being the least popular. From there, I tried to figure out what colors I was supposed to be in and stay open, and I ended up settling in R/G based on cards I saw relatively late in pack 1.

Then in pack 3, I saw no red or green cards and just got passed amazing black cards every pick, but, being pretty close to finished with a red/green deck and having zero black cards in my pool, I couldn’t move in. I got almost nothing out of pack 3 and ended up needing to play two Wall of Fires and a Trumpet Blast in my creature light R/G aggro deck with two copies of Ring of Valkas. This deck wasn’t good, but it could win.

In the first round, I played against U/B. Game 1, I had a reasonably aggressive draw with Ring of Valkas and some Goblins, and I set about racing a pair of Welkin Terns. He had some blockers, but it was still looking pretty good. When I was one turn away from killing him, I passed at six life. I’d win if he didn’t have anything or if I drew well. Instead, he played Liliana and powered up one of his Terns to hit me for lethal.

Game 2 he played two Master of the Pearl Trident and three Scroll Thieves, which successfully locked up the board, and then set about the slow process of killing all of my creatures with Liliana.

I won the second round, which was something of a relief, but I have absolutely no memory of how or really anything about that round.

In the last round, I could still make Top 32 if I won because I had the best tiebreakers at my record, but I’d have nothing if I lost. I played a Goblin Arsonist, and my opponent Duressed me. He thought for a long time about whether to take my Searing Spear or my Ring of Valkas. He said he lost Ring of Valkas the previous round, but he ended up taking my Searing Spear. I then drew Krenko’s Command. When he played Vampire Nighthawk, I couldn’t believe he’d thought for that long—of course he wanted to take the Searing Spear if it was going to let him have a Vampire Nighthawk. But somehow, the Ring barely let me win the race, and he ended up losing to the Ring just as he predicted.

In the second game, he just crushed me with fliers. I don’t remember the details, but I think the game wasn’t at all close.

I led with a Goblin Arsonist, and he Duressed me again to start off game 3. This time I showed him three lands, Rancor, and Plummet. He thought for a long time again. A very long time. He started tapping out combat math with his fingers, clearly indicating that he was counting out how a Rancored Goblin Arsonist would race his Vampire Nighthawk. He eventually decided to take my Rancor and asked if I thought that was right. I admitted that leaving me with one damage a turn and a single removal spell would probably work out for him. However, I drew Mogg Flunkies on my turn, and suddenly I had a game again.

He decided to just pass on turn 3, and I drew a Fire Elemental (my draws this game were Mogg Flunkies, Fire Elemental sometime before turn 5, a Searing Spear on the last turn, and lands every other turn). On his fourth turn he played a Liliana’s Shade. I attacked him down to seven and cast Fire Elemental. He played his fifth land (fourth Swamp) and cast Mark of the Vampire on Liliana’s Shade. I attacked with just the Fire Elemental, offering to trade it for his lifelinking Shade, and he decided to take it and go to two. All I could do was pass again.

He played a Guardians of Akrasa, attacked, and pumped his Shade up to seven to go to nine. I attacked with everything, and he blocked Mogg Flunkies and went to three. I passed, and he played a land, hit me with the Shade, and pumped it to ten, putting me down to three and going back to thirteen. On my turn, I drew searing Spear, killed his Liliana’s Shade, and hit him for another six. Suddenly, despite all the lands I’d drawn, I thought I might actually win.

My opponent lamented his decision to pump his Shade all the way, saying he should have left one Swamp untapped, even though I clearly hadn’t had the Searing Spear since I’d passed when he was tapped out and at three life the previous turn. He frustratedly considered his plays, and a spectator, who looked to be a friend of his, said something. I think maybe he asked what life I was at. My opponent then said, “Oh, you’re at three. Essence Drain you,” and apologized for taking so long, saying he forgot it could hit players.

In hindsight, it really does look kind of like he might have remembered that because of the “unrelated” question the spectator asked, but there was really nothing I could do about it at the time. It was a really frustrating way to end the tournament with nothing though.

Despite a miserable Sunday, I still love the format and still feel comfortable with it, and I’m really looking forward to getting another chance in San Jose, Costa Rica. To be honest, the second chance I’ll get with M13 isn’t the thing I’m most looking forward to in Costa Rica. When researching the trip, I found out that the Grand Prix is at the perfect time to go to Ostional on the west coast of Costa Rica to see thousands of sea turtles come on to the beach at the same time, which seems like one of the most unique views the world has to offer.

The week after that tournament, I’ll be playing in StarCityGames.com Open Series: Atlanta featuring the Invitational, so I’m going to have to keep an eye on Standard and Legacy while I keep my Limited game sharp for Costa Rica. I haven’t been playing Standard competitively lately because I’ve just been drafting, as you can probably tell from my recent articles and my stream if you watch it.

Looking at how it’s evolved since I last played, I still feel completely bewildered. The G/W Aggro deck that won the SCG Standard Open in Denver just looks like an arbitrary collection of green and white creatures to me, which is fine if that’s what you’re into, but it doesn’t seem like “best deck” material—it’s too focused and easy to beat if you’re trying to. I guess I can imagine Delver not being properly prepared for it, and Zombies and Infect can have trouble winning through Blade Splicer, particularly when you have cards like Thragtusk and Melira to really shut them down.

Every time I look at the format, I just feel like I want to draw cards and kill creatures, and I can never figure out why U/W Control decks with Day of Judgment aren’t more popular. I guess Delver of Secrets is to blame, as always.

Standard seems healthy, but it’s starting to feel like Eternal formats. There are so many options, you can do a lot of things, but most of the cards that define the format have been around for a long time. It’s all so explored that it’s just not that exciting anymore. I’m really looking forward to Return to Ravnica and rotation, especially the way the mana in the format will change so that different color pairs have a chance to shine.

Thanks for reading,


@samuelhblack on Twitter