The extra card was only in my hand for about 0.5 of a second before Amos and I both noticed – but it didn’t matter- it had been in my hand. I’m sure there are parts of his job that Mr. Donais doesn’t like, and telling some poor guy from Sarnia that he’s getting a game loss in Day 2 of his first ever Grand Prix (first ever big event, really; I’ve never been to Regionals, Nationals, or a Pro Tour) probably isn’t something he enjoys, but you know that Mr. Donais. He’s a trooper.
There is no way to accept a win like that graciously, but I give Amos points for trying- he shook my hand when I offered it and apologized, almost successful in hiding his obvious relief to be out of a tough matchup.
Now I was depressed – I went 1-2 with a great deck! The part that drove me mad was the fact that it COULD have been 3-0, if I hadn’t tried to get fancy with that Rout against Reggie, and if I’d not drawn that extra card because of sticky sleeves. It was hard for me to accept, and 7-3-1 isn’t as pretty a record as 9-1-1. My friends arrived from Sarnia just in time to hear the bad news.
Now it’s important that I not lose my mental game. I want to go 10-3-1, make some money, and tell everyone that I was Top 32 at my first Grand Prix. My mind doesn’t co-operate well sometimes.
Me: "Okay brain, stop feeling sorry for yourself- we have to suck it up and draft a 3-0 deck!"
Brain: (sulking) "I don’t want to. We suck- we could pull a player out of our ass who’d perform better than that."
Me: "Dammit, brain- get a grip! We NEED to 3-0 this table!"
Brain: "Stop writing checks your organs can’t cash- we couldn’t 3-0 this table if the other seven players were wax dummies."
Me: "All right – I’ll do it without you!"
Brain: (sulks) "Fine with me!" (slams door in head)
I’m in Pod 7 again- surprising. I’d figured I’d be in Pod 8.
Tait, Geordie R
I recognize a few of these guys. This is going to be a tough table to crack. I resolve to go G/W again – I like the type of mechanic that deck offers, especially with Acolytes. Without Acolytes, the deck is strictly average – mediocre, even.
After a quick spiel from some judge or other, we open our first packs.
Next pack I get no good red cards, but there is a Benalish Trapper, Exclude and another Galina’s Knight. I make a big mistake and try to go B/R by taking the rat. Dumb.. So I’m abandoning my strategy after the first pick? My deck would have been so much better with that extra Trapper. I don’t remember correctly, but I believe I was smoking crack during this draft, an infraction not specifically outlawed by the DCI.
The third pick ALSO has crap for red and black, as well as ANOTHER Benalish Trapper. I figure the guys on my right are all playing B/R so I take the Trapper finally… But I essentially wasted my first two picks, and the rat pick was especially stupid. I grab a Crimson Acolyte and an Obsidian Acolyte next, then someone passes what would be my sixth pick – Kavu Climber. After that I get Sunscape Apprentice and Ardent Soldier, then a Fertile Ground. The rest was rags.
Second pack I open a total POS of a pack – the best card is Thornscape Apprentice, so I take it. Despite passing Benalish Trapper and Galina’s Knight on my first two shots in pack 1, I am AGAIN PASSED SECOND-PICK ROUT! I stifle a bewildered laugh and take the bomb. I get a shot at another Obsidian Acolyte but take a Charging Troll instead, then I take Sabretooth Nishoba, thanking heavens that it reached me. My next four picks are Explosive Growth, Canopy Surge (surprisingly late, I thought), and two Prison Barricades, a creature I don’t mind having in my deck at 2/4 for four mana. Strength of Unity comes after than, then I defensive draft a Ravenous Rat (observing the no-Dose, no-Charge rule). The rest was rags.
Planeshift I bust open another POWER HIPPO! Again I have to stifle a laugh, and I put the Hippo on my pile, knowing there will be Primal Growths a-plenty in the coming pack, and this time I have Fertile Ground. My second pick is Hobble, then Thornscape Battlemage, for which I plan to include a mountain in my maindeck. I pick up another Hobble (nice!), and then a Quirion Explorer who can help fuel both HIPPO and Battlemage casting costs against the decks I’m liable to face. I grab a Pollen Remedy (you always want one!) Amphibious Kavu, and then I get my two Primal Growths in back to back packs. The rest was rags.
From my cards I construct the following deck:
2x Prison Barricade
Questing Pheldagriff (POWER HIPPO!)
Obviously not as strong as my first pod deck – thirteen creatures is a bit low for me, I usually prefer fourteen or fifteen. It still has Rout, though, and three guys in the maindeck who are Protection From Red or can give themselves Protection from Red. I’m hoping to play R/B/U and R/G players in all three rounds.
Imagine how much the above deck improves if I had taken that first Trapper instead of the Ravenous Rats!
On to the matches:
Round 12 vs. Philip Freneau (U/R/B)
Well, if it isn’t Phil again. This time he’s got a U/R/B deck with Fact Or Fiction and lots of staple U/R/B cards.
I start the beatdown early, but it gets stopped by his horde of Kavu. Luckily, my Acolyte comes out to play, and my draws are better than his. I think we trade creatures for a while, and a Prison Barricade comes over for the final two points after I Canopy Surge (w/kicker) away his blocker when he’s at six life.
I think I have this game in the bag, but he just keeps playing threats! The Pheldagriff comes out on turn four with W untapped due to Primal Growth on turn 3, and while the Hippo hits twice, Phil doesn’t balk – he plays a nonstop stream of creatures, including two kicked Pouncing Kavu. I try to stall the ground, but he gets out Hooded Kavu and a Phyrexian Slayer, both of which I can’t block with the Hippo (I can block the Slayer, but the Hippo will die as a result). When he’s serving for four a turn, I make a poor play and tap mana incorrectly – he capitalizes and kills the Pheldagriff with two removal spells he’d been holding. My tappers nowhere to be seen and my Hippo dead, I scoop and we go to game 3 with about eight minutes to go.
My life goes from 20-18-16-14, but that’s as far as it got. My draws were the nuts and I busted Nishoba out early on after establishing my ground defenses. He plays Mourning on the Nishoba, but I topdeck the Strength Of Unity and come over for seven (I have four basic land types out) to put him at 13. I have Crimson Acolyte, Prison Barricade with kicker, and Thornscape Apprentice in play, while Philip has three miscellaneous red creatures. My nerves are rattled though when Zvi walks up, pulls up a chair beside me, and starts watching me play.
Wanting badly to impress Zvi with my elite skills, I proceed to make numerous play errors ^_^
On the my turn, time is called. With Philip at thirteen, I attack with just the Nishoba, despite the fact that I can easily give all my creatures pro red, attack for eleven, and Canopy Surge with kicker for the win.
Luckily for me, Philip draws something useless and says go, and the Nishoba goes all the way.
I introduce myself to Zvi (who, unlike Dave Price, looks exactly like he does in pictures I’ve seen of him), telling him that I didn’t have the nerve to come and say hello myself and I’m glad he happened along. I congratulate him on Tokyo. Zvi seems like a nice guy.
In between rounds, I see Flores at one of the tables in the second play area, talking about his deck in the PTQ. He says he’s got two broken decks, and flip-flopping between a G/R/W build with Rith and Eladamri’s Call as well as Crimson Acolyte, and a more traditional U/R/B build. It’s fascinating to see these pro players go about their deckbuilding discussions in much the same manner I would… It makes me feel more at home, in a way, to know that Pros are just as human as you and me, and make their Magic-related decisions in much the same manner.
Again, however, I’m too chicken to say hello to BPFlores.
On to round 13.
Round 13 vs. Andrew Bonham (w/ U/W/G)
I’m going to skim over this round, because it was over before you could blink. My deck is not so hot against people playing colours that are not Black and Red.
He lays a Trapper and so do I. He starts laying some beating sticks like Nomadic Elf, while I draw useless crap like Obsidian Acolyte. I do manage to get a Questing Pheldagriff down, but he trumps that with Armored Guardian, and it becomes apparent that I need to draw Rout to win. I don’t, and he beats me down.
I side out both Acolytes for Sunscape Apprentice and an Aura Shards, because I’m betting he got all the cloaks at the table. This game he draws three tappers and the beating creatures while I draw…Three creatures, and that’s about it. The match was over before our respective asses had warmed the chairs.
I learn later that he only has three tappers in his whole deck, and drew all three. Ouch!
Ouch! 8-4-1…I’m not too upset about that bonecrushing loss (my deck had no chance in hell against those draws unless it drew Rout) I definitely want to win the last round to finish my first Grand Prix at 9-4-1.
I walk out to the PTQ area in between rounds and see Flores dropping some elbows at the top tables. Things aren’t going to well for him when I peer over at the current game though- he really needs a sixth land to cast Rith, The Awakener…and when he gets it, his opponent plays Plague Spores and blows Rith away, along with BPFlores’ only plains! No, he didn’t win that one, America.
Time for Round 14- hoping to go out on top.
Round 14 vs. Francis Cormier (w/ B/R/U)
Yes, someone playing black and red! Time to show my deck’s full power!
This is a rough game for him – he gets out a Plague Spitter, but it was a mistake to play it in the first place, since I have an Obsidian Acolyte in play. He does a bit of juggling of his creatures to get around this problem, but it doesn’t turn out well for him. I manage to get the Nishoba out but he topdecks the land he needs to kill it with Bloodstock/Nightscape Apprentice when I’m tapped out. Even so, my Charging Troll is unstoppable, and after his Spitter dies and it kills two of his creatures and none of mine, he knows it’s over and scoops.
First-turn Apprentice, second-turn Obsidian Acolyte, third-turn Primal Growth, fourth-turn Questing Pheldagriff with W untapped, fifth-turn Charging Troll with W untapped, 6th turn Sabretooth Nishoba with W untapped. Meanwhile, he draws no islands. After looking at his hand, we both agree that he would have been dead even if he did have islands- my draw was the sugar AND the nuts…Honey roasted.
9-4-1 at my first Grand Prix…I capture the second flag prize of $1000! Not only that, but I had an absolute blast!
Guys I met briefly:
Guys I wanted to meet but didn’t have the guts to say hello:
Scott Johns (I wanted to tell him I liked his website)
Kurtis Hahn (though you get a sense of having met him without having actually spoken to him- just watch him for a while)
There were a bunch of others but those were the main ones. I can’t believe I didn’t say hello to Mike Flores– he’s one of my absolute favorites!
Try to take this long, meandering report for what it’s worth – an inspirational story. I was and still am an unknown, but I went to Grand Prix Detroit, saw some of the best in the world, played some of the best in the world, and I came out a richer man than when I’d left – and I’m not just talking money.
I hope you enjoyed this report, which took me a ridiculous NINE hours to write. No worries. I had so much fun at Detroit that I want it down on paper, so I never forget.
The judges and event staff
John Labute and Trent Rogers- for going out of their way to help me
Jean-Marc Babin- for keeping me company and cheering me on
The rest of the guys- For your words of encouragement
My sleeves, for adhering to each other like two people trying to cop a feel
The RenCen McDonalds- it’s pretty hard to screw up a BURGER – but hey, it just goes to show that you never know what you’re capable of until you try… And get some new coke machines
Me- For eating the warped burger
Canadian T1 Player
35th at GP Detroit 2001