Grand Prix Salt Lake City *9th Place*

The hilarious Mr. McLaren reflects on his weekend of on-camera missteps and the futile comfort afforded to those who finish with Magic’s best worst final standing.

Let’s get the obligatory “Finishing in ninth place sucks!” out of the way seeing as that’s exactly the place I finished this past weekend at Grand Prix
Salt Lake City.

Don’t get me wrong, ninth is certainly better than say… 517th place, but there’s always an extra little sting when you miss a threshold by a pip.

So what trials and tribulations did I face along the way to go from 9-0 on day 1 to end up sitting in the dreaded ninth place slot? What horribly
embarrassing play mistakes did I make during my feature matches? Did I really only get two pro points for going X-3 and finishing in ninth place? And
finally, is asking a bunch of questions really an appropriate way to start an article? Read on to find out!

Day 1

My sealed pool was quite good. Here’s what I built:

There were not many directions to take this build since the Green and Red were too strong to ignore. I was a just a few playables short from having the
nuts without a splash and ended up having to run the underwhelming Ranger’s Guile and Verdant Haven to stay straight R/G. I wanted to focus on consistency
since I thought my pool was strong, and having more Forests would help Kalonian Twingrove. Still, I feel I should’ve included a black splash in the
maindeck for Stab Wound and Gravedigger, and I ended up siding them in in almost every match, usually awkwardly siding out my Verdant Haven to bring in the
splash. The two Evolving Wilds and the Llanowar Wastes were fixing enough.

The first few rounds went smooth as butter as my bombs showed up and overperformed. Satyr Wayfinder was the only lollygagger and missed three out of the
first five times I used it. Yisan, the Wanderer Bard did good work, including searching out a Forge Devil to kill a Bronze Sable trying to be enchanted by
Divine Favor and finding an Invasive Species to save himself in response to removal.

Yis, We Can!

Round 6 I beat a Burning Anger on Siege Wurm that was active for a few turns thanks to Phytotitan, a bunch of pressure, and a timely Hunt the Weak. Next I
ran face first into Ben Moir and his Soul of New Phyrexia on a streamed feature match. Game 2 involved quite the blowout involving his milled Soul giving
his team indestructible and plague winding my board.

A milled Soul that is forgotten can lead to quite the embarrassing situation. I lost that game but kept my cool and took the match. Round 8 I was up
against a wicked sick R/W aggro deck with a bunch of token generators and one toughness creatures. Chandra, Pyromaster made an appearance both games which
made things a bit easier.

Round 9 I faced a U/R control deck featuring Chasm Skulker, Jace, the Living Guildpact, Soul of Shandalar, and Scuttling Doom Engine. The game involving
Soul of Shandalar didn’t go so well but the beatdowns I tossed out in the other two were barely enough to take the match (along with a topdecked Lightning
Strike for the win game 3 right before I got Scuttled to death0/)

And just like that, I had my first undefeated day 1 at a Grand Prix (along with my third GP day 2 ever). I was confident going into the Draft portion, as I
had been crushing the 8-4’s online and felt I had a solid handle on the format. My preferred strategy was to draft a bunch of efficient, aggressive dudes.

Day 2 – Draft 1

I opened Master of Predicaments and Kird Chieftain. I took the Master but wasn’t particularly happy to have a blue card since I wanted to beating down with
white, green , and/or red critters if possible. Here’s what I ended up with:

I’m a little disappointed with this deck. It’s tantalizingly close to very good, and adding a couple Raise the Alarms would push it over. Green was open
and would’ve likely yielded the best deck in my seat, but in pack 1 that wasn’t apparent to me.

If you want the easiest and simplest advice/generalization for drafting M15 (and drafting in general) it is this: draft more creatures! Creatures keep
getting better and spells have been weak and keep getting weaker. Presenting threats that need to be answered has been the winning trend of late. This is
obviously a massive generalization, but hey, that’s what you just asked for!

I took the first round against fellow undefeated Albertan Ian Robertson’s U/R deck. I lost the next round to Allen Sun’s aggressive Burning Anger Jund
deck, which you can read about here. I rounded out the draft
with a thorough trouncing from Nathan Holiday’s bonkers G/W bunch of dudes deck featuring three Elvish Mystics, Yisan, the Wanderer Bard, Genesis Hydra,
Kalonian Twinblade, with a little Roaring Primadox/Invasive Species recursion thrown in for good measure. It felt like he went through his deck multiple
times with a Genesis Hydra in game 1.

I was happy to still be in contention at X-2 and hoped to redeem myself. Despite picking up two loses, I was still in a stacked Pod 1 for draft two with
Efro and Jamie Parke on my right and Paul Rietzl on my left.

Draft 2

Removal, combat tricks, and random dudes. I was happy with this deck. I first picked a Raise the Alarm but quickly jumped ship when I didn’t see anything
else. Once again it felt like White was only open all of pack 2 and 3, and it would’ve been hard to guess from what I saw. In pack 3 I got passed a pack
with foil Nissa Worldwaker and Frenzied Goblin and ended up taking the Nissa. My reasoning being that I would have to 3-0 the draft (which wasn’t the
case), and I didn’t want to play against it. If I could do it again I would just take the Goblin.

Unfortunately, my brain got distracted by shiny value which doesn’t always lead to making the correct decision. My brain is also constantly trying to tell
me Witch’s Familiar is better that Aeronaut Tinkerer in a conversation like this:

Me: Aeronaut Tinker is clearly the better card. They are exactly the same except Tinkerer can sometimes fly.

Brain: But Witch’s Familiar is a giant frog.

Me: While that may be true, it isn’t a good argument. Tinkerer is literally all upside, you dumb brain!

Brain: Yeah, but Black is a better color than Blue. Also what if they have Plummet? Also, Aeronaut Tinkerer is lame and not a giant frog.


Round 1 of the second draft I face off against U/B control where it took looting through nearly my entire deck with Rummaging Goblin to finish things.
Playing for Top 8 the next round, Nathan Holiday once again trounced me with his efficient nearly mono-white deck thanks to a timely Avacyn, Guardian Angel
in game 3.

But things weren’t over, I had some sort of shot of sneaking into Top 8 if things broke my way, and I faced off against Efro.

This led to my second huge play mistake on camera when I missed onboard lethal by instantly looting with Rummaging Goblin before actually doing some simple
math. I will say that drawing cards and winning the game are very close in enjoyment factor for me. Efro almost scraped his way back to victory, but I
managed to outdraw him thanks to the power of my Rummagination.

Game 3, a turn 3 Rabblemaster into Efro’s manascrew made Rabblemaster my MVG with Rummaging Goblin a close second.

Even with the win, I still didn’t quite make Top 8, and my streak of Top 8-ing every GP I made day 2 of was broken.

Mistakes Were Made

Reviewing what went right and more importantly, what went wrong after a tournament is one the best skills a player can use to get better. Know that you
will make mistakes and that it’s your job to notice and correct them.

In each of my two on-stream matches, I made a huge mistake. When that happens on camera your mind immediately imagines the worst.

I could almost picture the chat on Twitch exploding:

“Lololol lethal.”


“Dumb missed lethal.”

“This guy won a Pro Tour?”

The mob wants blood. They want a show. They want to see you sacrificed to the God of RNG on the altar of bad play.

Sure, if you make a mistake or play poorly like I did you’ll feel embarrassed. But you shouldn’t. Embrace your mistakes. They are how you learn and get
better. Everyone makes mistakes and they are a ridiculous thing to feel shame about. You might have these bad feelings but realize they are useless. They
won’t help you win going forward so just drop them.

Your attitude is your most powerful tool in Magic and in life. It also happens to be one of very few things you have control over.

So what can I do in the future to prevent these types of mistakes? Play slower in feature matches on camera. They were obvious mistakes and I knew I was
playing faster than I was comfortable with but just got caught up in it. Slow down a little and think!

Pro Points at Grand Prix

As it stands now, the difference between Top 8-ing a Grand Prix and not Top 8-ing is substantial. Finishing with three losses in ninth place only got me
two pro points which pretty much makes Grand Prix either Top 8 or bust when it comes to grinding pro points. I think, along with many other pros, the
thresholds for getting pro points are too high as it stands. Is the fix as simple as bumping the pro points awarded up by one at each threshold? That would
certainly fix the problem in my eyes but might possibly lead to more pro points being given out than they’re willing to risk. Another solution would be a
guarantee of three pro points to the top 16, two points to the top 32, and one point to the top 64. Needless to say, some minor tweaks would go a long way
here since right now the system is demoralizing for anyone wanting to grind GPs for pro points.

I feel Wizards will hear the feedback in this regard and adjust things accordingly, hopefully sooner rather than later (possibly even retroactively?)

Closing Thoughts

All in all, it was a very well run event, and I had a great time despite not finishing as strong as I’d hoped. Props to everyone from Alberta who drove
down, especially Tyler Blum, Ian Robertson, and Ben Moir who were all making a run in day 2 as well.

So, is asking a bunch of questions really an appropriate way to start an article?

Yes. Yes it is.

It is also an excellent way to finish one, don’t you agree?