Grand Prix: Oakland — In Short, I Told You All *20th Place*

“If you see a Fangren Hunter in your pack, take it! Put it in your deck, add lands, and shuffle up — It Is Awesome.” — Random Magic Online Quote

Translation: Avoid Green and win!

“If you see a Fangren Hunter in your pack, take it! Put it in your deck, add lands, and shuffle up – It Is Awesome.” – Random Magic Online Quote

Armed with the knowledge above so graciously bestowed upon me by one Tim Aten (who, I’ve been told, is quite popular around these parts), I felt ready to take on Oakland and the corresponding Grand Prix. While it’s been a long while since I’ve written one of this tournament reports (since Mercadian Masques Block Constructed, really), that’s largely due to my hiatus of playing the game as competitively as I’d like to and/or my disappointing finishes at various Grand Prix (6-2 in Atlanta and Kansas City, both times missing the cut to Day 2) and various Pro Tour Qualifiers. It’s very likely that it is a combination of both.

That being said, I suppose this is the part where I give you a rundown of my thoughts on the tournament site, how it was run, and the players in general. Well, my love for the Bay Area holds no bounds, so when I heard that there would be a Grand Prix in Oakland, I was ecstatic, to say the least. Being able to escape the constantly overcast and sickeningly cold weather of Cleveland, Ohio, play some magical cards in a Grand Prix where I had three byes (thanks to Jason Opalka conceding to me in the finals of a Grand Prix trial for the prizes, since he already had two byes on rating), and get some quality time in with the locals at their Indian casinos, I booked my tickets instantly for the very fair price of $266 through Continental – roundtrip and a direct flight.

About two months before the event, I promised myself that I would prepare for this Grand Prix by putting in the time and effort at the local gaming store (Compendium Collectibles, or as most people know it,”The SS”) by drafting Mirrodin and Darksteel several times a week and reading strategy articles. While I kept my word for the first few weeks, attending at least two times a week and getting in valuable practice (and of course, good times with the local gamers here), my enthusiasm for Magic began to decline.

Much of my time was spent at my desk in my apartment, logged on to IRC and chatting while playing online poker instead of reading articles and drafting on Magic Online. I succumbed to the disease that is known to many as”Poker Barns, Dude.” I didn’t make it to the Darksteel prerelease, even though it was being held a mere two hours away right by where my girlfriend goes to school – work was a priority and I was unfortunately bound to it. I hadn’t even read over more than twenty of the Darksteel cards on the spoiler list, and as such, only knew cards like Skullclamp, Sword of Fire and Ice, Sword of Light and Shadow, and, well, that’s about it. I figured the rest would come naturally, and that I would eventually get around to practicing for Oakland, in time.

As you astute readers could have figured out by this point, I hadn’t actually done anything by the time my flight left. I planned on printing up a spoiler list and reading all of the cards, memorizing the promising cards and remembering them for the Day Two drafts, but I was too busy…sleeping?

Yeah, we’ll go with that.

So Friday was upon me, and my roommate dropped me off at the airport where I had a rather uneventful (read: slept the entire five hours) flight to San Francisco International, where the IRCer named Jules- (Phillip Rhodes) picked me up. We headed out to the tournament site, which was about forty-five minutes away, and we scoped out the city and found a few places to eat. Remember how I was saying how much I loved the Bay Area? Well, apparently I was mistaken. Oakland is definitely no walk in the park, no pleasure cruise. Heck, it’s not even a day at the beach. Basically, it is everything that is bad about Cleveland without any of the good – with the exception of decent weather.

Parking was exorbitantly high, and so were the local hotel rates. We eventually settled on staying on site for $99/night because the alternate options were staying thirty miles off site for $89/night or staying in a place that was reminiscent of the motel from Big for $60/night. Friday night consisted of me looking at the various Darksteel cards and getting and learning which cards were decent from Jason”The King” Opalka and Tim Aten. I did a few eight-man drafts and money drafts, and while my play skill had only deteriorated a small bit, it was clear that my unfamiliarity with the cards could prove to be a huge liability in the following days to come.

While Phil entered the Grand Prix Trial, I watched several money drafts and studied some of the lists in an attempt to cram some last-minute knowledge in my brain before, at last, I could stand no more. I ended up getting to bed at a respectable time to ensure that I would have eight hours of sleep before waking up for the player’s meeting at 9:30 AM.

The morning came fairly quickly, and despite my friend’s incessant snoring problem, I woke up very refreshed – more so than any other time I’ve stayed in a hotel for a Magic tournament, that’s for sure. I grabbed some coffee and Burger King in the morning to get my blood sugar going, and after exchanging decks, I sat down and looked at my card pool. It was balanced, and the both the green and the black were obviously unplayable, which frustrated me to some point. I’ve always believed that Green is one of the colors you want to be playing in the sealed deck, since it has the larger creatures and combat tricks that make a consistent deck with a clear goal: Attack and win. However, the rest of the cards more than made up for it, especially some of the Darksteel cards I was lucky enough to open up. I did not save my full card pool, but I did save the deck and the relevant sideboard cards. Without further ado, here is the deck I registered and played for the first five rounds of Grand Prix: Oakland.

Sealed Deck – Day One

Hoverguard Observer

Somber Hoverguard

Neurok Prodigy

Ogre Leadfoot

Spikeshot Goblin

Leonin-Den Guard

Auriok Glaivemaster

Pteron Ghost

Iron Myr

Arcbound Stinger

Soldier Replica

Spire Golem

Wizard Replica


Solar Tide


Stir the Pride


Vulshok Morningstar

Icy Manipulator

Vulshok Battlegear

Pyrite Spellbomb

Lightning Greaves

7 Island

6 Plains

4 Mountain

Notable Sideboard / Unplayed Cards:



Razor Barrier

Darksteel Ingot

Darksteel Pendant

Vulshok Gauntlets

Yes, many of you may notice a few problems with the deck – the mana seems shaky. However, the double White is only necessary for Solar Tide, while double Blue is required for Hovergaurd Observer and Domineer. Red is a fine splash with the cards I included, however, there are some obvious problems I made while building the deck. First off, both Thunderstaff and Unforge should definitely be in the deck. In fact, they came in every second and third game I played on Day One with one or two exceptions for Unforge. I took out Ogre Leadfoot and Pteron Ghost every time I did this.

While the deck only has one bomb, the rest of it is extremely solid and played very well for me all day. The mana was never a problem – in fact, I mulliganed only one time on Day One! As for the choices of cards I did not play, here are my reasons:

Darksteel Pendant

I am not convinced this card is really any good. While I’ve seen it in play before and was extremely impressed with the action of the card, it never beat me in the times my opponent had it. As a 23rd card when your deck doesn’t need another mediocre creature, I could see this card being used. Another time this card would make the cut would be when I had two or three bombs to get to (Loxodon Warhammer, Solar Tide, Leonin Sun Standard, etc) and my deck required me to draw those cards in a timely fashion or lose without them.


I (wrongfully) assumed that this format would be like Mirrodin-only sealed, where Equipment wasn’t always abundant and usable. Clearly, this is not the case. In Darksteel, there are several playable Equipment spells, and many excellent ones that need to be killed. Seeing as though my only artifact kill was Shatter, I definitely should have played Unforge maindeck.


When I first looked at this card, I failed to realize that it was Urza’s Armor for only three mana with an alpha strike ability. Basically, I blew it. Moving on…

Here are some brief comments about the cards I did play and found to be excellent:

Hoverguard Observer

Easily the best creature in my deck, and quite possibly the best card in my deck overall. Stronghold Zeppelin was amazing in Masques Block, and in this format, where 3/3 ground creatures for five mana are playable, this card shines.

Vulshok Morningstar

I said it on the tournament site, and I’ll say it again – this card proved to be better than Bonesplitter every time I had it. However, this may be because I had the Blue/White deck where toughness is a precious commodity. I’ll have to play with it more often to determine whether or not this is true. As of right now, though, I treat it as a first pick.

Stir the Pride

This card isn’t even real. Casting it and giving all my fliers +2/+2 was one thing, but when you cast it with entwine, your opponent cannot feasibly come back from such a crushing blow to the life total swing. It effectively triples the damage your fliers do in a blue/white deck by giving them +2/+2 and swinging the life race in your favor.

Spire Golem

Wind Drake, anyone? This card usually cost me four mana to cast, and sometimes was only three. This card is an amazing creature that holds back the majority of mid-game drops and gets in there for two.

Unfortunately I did not keep detailed notes of Day One play, and I find sealed deck discussion to be rather tedious and boring, so I’ll briefly skim over how the first day of Grand Prix: Oakland went for me.

Rounds One – Three: Byes Awarded

While many say that the current bye system is flawed and needs to be replaced (I was at one time of the same opinion), I now respectfully disagree. Many byes are earned by trial winners, and the Grand Prix circuit would all but fall apart if they were reduced to large open-enrollment tournaments where pros had no incentive to attend. It gives everyone a chance to play with the pros and prove their worth.

Round Four: Donald (Scott) Sinclair

I honestly don’t remember much of this match, except for the fact that he was a fellow amateur and ended up finishing ahead of me and most likely clinching a spot for Pro Tour: San Diego. My notes show his life going down in increments of three, and in game one it was due to a flying Hoverguard Observer pecking away his life total while Solar Tide wiped out his smaller ground creatures, and in game two it was due to my Spikeshot Goblin equipped with Vulshok Morningstar and Lightning Greaves.

Donald (who goes by the name Scott) was a very nice opponent, and when I got the God draw in game two (active Spikeshot Goblin with Morningstar on turn 4, later followed up by Lightning Greaves, Domineer, and Arrest), he did not complain. We ended up staying in contact for most of the weekend, and he came back from a round four loss by winning out and taking a draw in the last round, and performing extremely well on Day Two. I wished him luck in San Diego if he decided to attend!

Matches: 4-0, Games: 6-0

Round Five: Mitchell Tamblyn

In game one, Mitchell Tamblyn fell to a horde of flying creatures after getting his Tel-Jilad Archers Arrested. In game two, he mounted a quick offense with his Green-based deck, getting me to a precariously low life total before I was able to come back with a timely Solar Tide destroying all of his creatures due to his Wurmskin Forger and take the match. Observers said that I played game two extremely conservatively and kept Thunderstaff untapped and refused to use it to get in one or two more points of damage, but since I was at four life and he had three cards in hand, I could have ostensibly lost to a combination of Raise the Alarm and Predator’s Strike if I didn’t keep a creature back to block and leave Thunderstaff untapped. I feel that I played the match correctly, but others took issue with it. Regardless, Mitchell’s only loss in the entire tournament was to me – he proceeded to win out on Day One and Day Two before accepting draws to clinch a spot in the Top Eight.

Matches: 5-0, Games: 8-0

Round Six: Noah Weil

Game one featured both of us being mana flooded and my Arcbound Stinger and Pteron Ghost being good for the full twenty points of damage. In game two, Noah and I both stumbled on mana early, but the low cost of my deck came out of the stunted mana development before his cumbersome Green/Black deck could. He was visibly and audibly upset with his luck, and while I sympathized some amount, much of it was directed at me. Note to players out there: Your opponent didn’t cause your mana troubles, so it’s pointless to be a jerk about it. Perhaps you should have built the deck differently or mulliganed more aggressively?

Matches: 6-0, Games: 10-0

They posted standings for the first time on the day after Round Six, and I was pleased to see that I was in first place, tied with Ben Rubin. This would be my first Day Two appearance at a Grand Prix, and while I was happy, I knew that a win in either of the next two rounds would put me in a great position to finish in the Top 16 or possibly clinch a Top Eight berth. My goal at this point was to obtain a PT: San Diego slot and finish first or second in the amateur standings, as I suspected I would finish in the top 32 and wanted to get the most out of my amateur status as I could!

Round Seven: Jonathan Stocks

How interesting – playing versus another amateur at table one as the top seed! When Jonathan opened up with a Swamp and Plains, I couldn’t imagine a better matchup. It seems that Black/White is a rough combination in Mirrodin Limited, especially in the Sealed Deck portion of any Grand Prix. Unfortunately, my deck ran a little light on threats over the duration of the match, and his deck was definitely above average. I remember playing faster than normal at his request because he had to feed his guinea pig that he brought with him. I was more than happy to do so.

Matches: 6-1, Games: 11-2

After taking a look at the standings after round seven, I noticed that I was the highest ranked player with 18 points by a very wide margin over Dan Cahir and David Humphreys. With a tiebreaker of 85.71%, it only made sense to play this round without fear of being cut from Day Two contention. However, if I played this round and won, it was extremely likely that I would be seated at table one with the top seeded players of the day. I was not very confident in my drafting skills and seeing that my competition would likely include Mike Turian, Ben Rubin, Phil Freneau, and Ken Ho, I decided that I would offer my next round opponent a draw in the hopes of getting into a middle draft table where the competition might be little bit softer.

Round Eight: Brent Kaskel

As I approached table eight, I spotted a colorfully dressed Brent in a purple velour suit, already shuffling up with a game face on. I knew what that meant. I sat down, introduced myself, and offered the draw. He turned me down, but not out of malice – he said that it made sense mathematically to play this round for both of us, and I couldn’t disagree. After my deck came out quickly and my fliers were able to take game one from him, I again offered the draw – and he declined again! His reasoning went further beyond the fact that it mathematically made sense to play – he apparently would have no room to stay in because Dave Williams told him he would not let him share a room if he took a draw!

In game two I kept a very sketchy hand on the draw, and led off with a Plains and a Mountain. Brent took his third turn and played a talisman, but failed to drop a land. My hand contained large casting cost creatures and inaccessible ones due to my lack of Blue mana, and I thought for two minutes before deciding to Shatter his artifact land in the hopes of stunting his affinity acceleration. This turned out to be the right play, as Brent missed his next two land drops and could not play the three-casting cost cards in his hand to accelerate him to Myr Enforcer. Brent made it clear that he refused to take the draw based on mathematics and outside circumstances, and he was extremely nice throughout the entire game as we chatted.

Matches: 7-1, Games 13-2

Well, my 7-1 record on Day One definitely put me in good position to attain my goal of Top 16 and a PT slot. When I checked the final Day One standings, I was sixth. I figured that if I could go 2-1 in each of my drafts that I had a lock on a PT slot and a good chance at Top Eight. When asked by several players how I was doing, I told them I needed to go 4-2 to possibly make Top Eight. One response stood out from the crowd, said by Josh Ravitz:”Take it one match at a time.”

At the behest of Tim, I got into an eight-man draft where my ridiculously good g/w deck managed to lose to a u/r affinity deck because I was attacked for twenty two games in a row due to Savage Beating. Thanks for that name, by the way, Magic R&D. I have a feeling Worth was involved.

I checked sideboard.com on the hotel’s internet-enabled computer (that didn’t have a working mouse) and noticed I was mentioned on the front page briefly for making the first draft pod. That was a nice feeling.

I got back to the room and fell asleep after reading a bit of P.J. O’Rourke’s new book, All the Trouble in the World. Nothing like a rousing dose of political and economic commentary with a bit of humor thrown in there to make someone fall asleep in short order.

The next morning the hotel alarm and wake-up call failed to get me out of bed immediately, so my helpful roommate yelled at me and forced me out of my slumber. I took a quick shower and headed downstairs for the player’s meeting and deck registration. After checking my pod assignment (I hadn’t really thought to do that on Saturday night…) I noticed that I was sitting at table one with several pros. Our assignments put me right in the middle of David Humphreys on my right and Ken Ho on my left. While many would consider this to be bad positioning, I find being between two people that are familiar with the format to be an advantage, as my cutoff signals will have a greater chance of being picked up.

After much idling around, Sheldon got to timing the draft and the first pack contained several cards along with a Somber Hoverguard and Neurok Spy. I took the Hoverguard, a mispick I would later regret, as many berated me for taking it over a better card, but I hoped the declaration of me wanting to go Blue/Red affinity would pay off in pack two. It did. Several notable picks included me getting two Bonesplitters, opening up Hoverguard Observer in the Darksteel pack and taking Barbed Lightning over it, only to get another one fifth pick, and the general feel that my deck was the second or first best at the table.

Draft Deck One

2 Somber Hoverguard

Neurok Prodigy

Quicksilver Behemoth

Hoverguard Observer

Vulshok Berserker


Spikeshot Goblin

2 Frogmite

Spire Golem

Copper Myr

Arcbound Bruiser

Steel Wall


Barbed Lightning



Lifespark Spellbomb

Mindstorm Crown

2 Bonesplitter

Talisman of Impulse

Banshee’s Blade

My thoughts on the deck are pretty clear: I believed, at this point, that I had the best deck at the table. With two Bonesplitters with a Spikeshot Goblin and several amazing fliers, not to mention decent removal and creature control, who wouldn’t be extremely confident? Here are some specific thoughts on some of the cards I played:


Much better than anyone gives it credit for, especially in the U/R affinity deck. This card is essential, because it keeps board position in your favor in the mid-game against the White equipment deck and gives you a way to deal with Tel-Jilad Archers.

Quicksilver Behemoth

Amazing against the White equipment and G/x decks out there. It often comes down on turn 4 to hold the fort, or can even get in there for some damage. Surprisingly good.

Time to get on to the draft matches – and this time I have better notes and much more specific memories of what happened!

Round Nine: David Humphreys

Since David was on my left feeding me ridiculously insane Blue cards but little in the way of Red ones, I had to assume that he was at least partially Red. I suspected he was also playing White cards from the early signals I got in pack one of Mirrodin. As we shuffled up, we talked a bit about the draft, and he felt that it went fairly well, with pretty clear signals to his left and right.

I won the coin flip and chose to play first, and neither of us mulliganed. I kicked things off with a Steel Wall and a Copper Myr, while David started off with a Gold Myr of his own and two Mountains. I then played my second island and played a turn 3 Hoverguard Observer, and David played out a Talisman of Impulse and a Darksteel Ingot. I untapped, attacked for three, played a land and cast Neurok Prodigy. David called a judge to check a ruling, and after what felt like an eternity, he got the information he needed. I figured my five power worth of fliers to his undeveloped board was looking pretty good, but then I found out what question he had to ask the judge – it related to Grab the Reins. On his main phase, he played it entwined killing both of my fliers. Please note that this was on turn 4 that David cast Grab the Reins with entwine. Yep. Turn 4. He then cast a sixth turn Furnace Dragon when I tapped out to play Arcbound Bruiser. Right….

Game two saw me get a less explosive start, while David was able to lock down my blocking team with Blinding Beam and used combat tricks with his Fireshriekered Clockwork Condor, Arcbound Slith, Arcbound Worker, and Krark-Clan Grunt to deal me exactly enough damage for the win. I had been holding onto Regress in fear of Furnace Dragon, but tapped too low on one turn to play a threat, so he played the Fireshrieker and killed me with the aforementioned play.

I’m not sure why people say he plays unbelievably slow – in our match, the pace of the game was average on both our ends.

Matches: 7-2, Games: 13-4

Round Ten: Jonathan Stocks

It was time for some revenge after being handed my only loss on Day One, and my deck fully agreed with me. Jonathan’s deck didn’t seem to be very good, and he was hard pressed to beat two Frogmites attacking on turn 3 and a Somber Hoverguard with a Bonesplitter on turn 4. Game two featured my fliers attacking him low and accumulating counters on my Banshee’s Blade while my Steel Wall held off attackers, and then my Spikeshot Goblin equipped with said blade and Bonesplitter finished him off rather quickly.

Matches: 8-2, Games: 15-4

Round Eleven: Alex Alepin

Alex started off 8-0 in the sealed deck portion, but was in the unenviable position of possibly going 0-3 in his first pod if he lost this round to me. My deck came out extremely fast in both games with a turn 3 Somber Hoverguard making appearances in both with Bonesplitters to match. His G/B deck seemed to have some powerful cards, but nothing that could keep up with the quick rush of a u/r affinity deck.

Matches: 9-2, Games: 17-4

After this pod finished up, I counted my blessings since I was able to dodge some of the pros in my pod and was very happy with my 2-1 finish in the first draft. If I could win the next two, I would be in a position to draw into the Top Eight, and if I lost one of the next two, I could possibly go 2-1 and clinch the eighth spot. I noticed that I was still the top ranked player in my win/loss bracket, this time with 27 points. After picking up some Burger King (much to my chagrin, nothing else was open on a Sunday in the downtown area), I reviewed what my second draft pod would be and cringed – I’d be sitting at table one again with an extremely stellar set of opponents

As we sat down to draft, Mike Turian figured out what pairings would be and examined what several players would need to do to make the Top Eight. My suspicions were confirmed – I would have to go 2-0 in the pod to guarantee a spot in the Top Eight. Mike was sitting on my left along with Ben Rubin, while Donald Sinclair was on my right. As the draft got underway, I struggled to find a good place to be, and my early picks went wasted on cards like Barter in Blood, while all the Black ended up in various other decks. After all was said and done, my deck ended up being a very average Green/White deck with a low creature count.

Draft Deck Two

Tangle Spider

Tel-Jilad Outrider

Fangren Hunter

Tel-Jilad Chosen

2 Razor Golem

Arcbound Bruiser

Death-Mask Duplicant

Skyhunter Cub

Slith Ascendant

Awe Strike


Blinding Beam

Roar of the Kha


Journey of Discovery


Vulshok Gauntlets

Talisman of Unity

Whispersilk Cloak

Ur-Golem’s Eye


9 Plains

8 Forest

It’s ugly, isn’t it? I ended up sideboarding in two Swamps, Pewter Golem, and Essence Drain every round because I simply needed some way to get lucky and hope it was good enough for a win.

Round Twelve: Ian Spaulding

Ian talked about how he hadn’t played in awhile, but when he found out where I was from, took a keen interest in Jason Opalka – wondering if I knew him and where he was today. I replied that I did know him, and gamed with him often, but that I did not know where he was today. He then told me,”Well, if you find him, let me know. I let him borrow money for poker and he hasn’t paid me back yet!”

Game one started off the game with early plays for me, but Ian simply had the better G/W deck at the table. He was able to fly over with his two Skyhunter Patrols and larger ground creatures. I never had a chance in the first game.

Game two was a very long affair as we both developed difficult board positions and kept trading creatures for value. At one point I got him to one life point, and was able to keep pressing the advantage. I attacked with Death-Mask Duplicant amongst others and when he blocked the Death-Mask Duplicant with Fangren Hunter alone, I imprinted my own Fangren Hunter and trampled over for one point and the win.”Oh, I didn’t realize it worked for trample, too…”

We resolved to get game three underway as quickly as possible, and I got Skyhunter Cub with Bonesplitter attacking as quickly as possible. He Battlegrowthed his Auriok Bladewarden and when I attacked in the air, he Oxidized my Bonesplitter and blocked and pumped to kill my Skyhunter Cub. What I failed to realize (since we were playing quickly, but I’m not sure that was the sole reason) was that my Razor Barrier would have saved the Bonesplitter from being killed. As a result, I lost too much board position and card advantage, and he was able to build up a large enough flying army to overtake me.

Game three hurt because it was the first major play error I had made (in my eyes) over the weekend. Had I saved the Bonesplitter, it is very likely that I would have won that game, or at least forced a draw.

Matches: 9-3, Games: 18-6

Feeling dejected and slightly angry at myself for missing that opportunity to take the game over, I de-sideboarded in quiet contempt. Tim came over and calmed me down, fortunately, and I went into the next round realizing that it would take two straight wins to have an outside shot at the Top Eight or a slot for San Diego.

Round Thirteen: Brian Plumb

I thought my deck was the worst at the table, however, Brian ended up a B/R variant that didn’t feature a whole lot in the way of good cards. He echoed my sentiments about being unable to feel out a good spot and being unsure of where the other drafters were going with their picks.

We shuffled up for game one and he kicked things off with a Disciple of the Vault and two Dross Prowlers, while I responded with Razor Golems and Slith Ascendant, which traded with a Grimclaw Bats that had a Bonesplitter on it. My Razor Golems became equipped with a Bonesplitter and a pair of Vulshok Gauntlets, and they were good enough for the win.

Game two featured Brian stalling on three land early and never recovering, while my early pressure turned into my mediocre mid-game. A timely Essence Drain made sure that Brian wouldn’t be able to come out of his land stall.

Matches: 10-3, Games: 20-6

I hurriedly checked the standings when they posted them, and it was extremely clear to me that I wouldn’t make the top eight even if I won my next round. However, I would probably finish ninth or tenth which would definitely be good enough for a slot to San Diego. I mentally prepared myself and got ready to play, and imagine my surprise when they posted the pairings and I was against….

Round Fourteen: Ben Rubin

Based on some quick math, I knew that if I won here I would have a very good shot at making the top eight as the eighth seed, since Anthony Consilvio was paired against Gabe Walls who could not draw in! If Gabe Walls won and I won, it was very possible for me to take the eighth spot over Anthony!

Ben sat down and politely if would consider conceding to him, since he was clearly going to make the top eight if he won. I replied that I could not, because I had a very good shot at making the top eight based on the math I did, plus an invite to San Diego and a greater cash prize was on the line for me. He respected my position and didn’t try to argue me off my point, and we got our game underway.

Game one his deck failed to produce a whole lot of threats, and my early Razor Golems backed up by minor combat tricks were enough to get the job done. His deck seemed to have a u/x affinity theme to it, but included double Black spells. I felt his deck could have been weaker than mine.

Game two was a long and excruciating process, as my attacks brought him to a lower and lower life total as he amassed a large flying army that could not yet attack for the win, since they needed to sit back and block. He eventually played Arcane Spyglass and Vedalken Archmage, drew the majority of his deck, and was able to kill me with about six minutes left on the clock.

In game three, we both agreed to play quicker and Ben said that if I was in an advantage position that he would concede, and I replied that I would do the same. We played quickly and I got a very bad mana flood, and was unable to escape his very good draws at the end to produce several large fliers and beat me in the extra turns. Had I drawn a temporary out to the fliers to force a draw, I still would have conceded to Ben, as a draw only hurts him and could only possibly help me. I know that I would have wanted him to do the same if I was in his position.

Matches: 10-4, Games: 21-8

Checking the standings, I ended up 20th and the third highest ranked amateur in the tournament, giving me $950 for my troubles. The slot would pass down to about the 15th spot, and it turns out a draw definitely would have been good enough for that plus a top sixteen appearance. Like I said before, however, I wouldn’t feel right forcing a draw in a disadvantaged position where my opponent had so much more to gain from a win that he was probably going to get.

After the tournament was done and all the paperwork was filled out, I said my goodbyes to everyone on site and Phil and I headed out towards to Cache Creek Casino where we spent all night playing poker in the quaint, if not small, card room there against some real characters. I ended up forty dollars richer for the night, while Phil did a little bit better by winning $300 and covering all of his travel expenses for the weekend.

Overall, I had a great weekend and while I was slightly disappointed with my 20th place finish and not being able to secure an invite on the Pro Tour (which has been my real focus for the past year), I certainly won’t complain about a money finish at a Grand Prix where I was unfamiliar with many of the new cards.


Tim Aten and Jason Opalka for making the trip out to Oakland, cheering me on, and believing in me when others didn’t

-The gamers at Compendium Collectibles for preparing me to the best of their ability in the Mirrodin limited format, especially Joe Gagliardi and his tireless efforts to keep the store open late (uncompensated!), often past 3 AM, just so we can draft

-Phil (Jules-) for picking me up and carting me around the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and Vallejo

-Katie, my girlfriend, for keeping tabs on me over the weekend via cell phone and Sideboard.com

-The dudes in #teamgridlock and #pinks, for giving me something to do at night instead of study


-None this time.

Your comments, questions, and general mail is greatly welcomed.

Kyle Boddy

kyleb on IRC and MODO

[email protected]