Grand Prix: Vanilla Ice Cream
That about sums it up.
This weekend #GPATL was as much of a success for me as much as it was also a failure. On one hand I was able to rally a severely misbuilt Day One pool into
a Day Two conversion, which for all intents and purposes is a win in my book. Once we talk about that later, you’ll see exactly what I mean. However, I
left myself in a rather poor position due to the hang-ups I have when it comes to drafting BFZ. We’ll get to that in a bit as well.
Atlanta, as far as food goes, is one of my favorite places out there. I’m a huge fan of southern barbeque and all the greasy and otherwise terrible
offerings for you the city is home to. Pick one pack one, I went with Gladys Knight’s Signature Chicken and Waffles. Despite being told it was mediocre, I
found the sides and white mean breasts to be delicious and a true contender to Roscoe’s crown. For the first time I also partook in The Varsity for chili
dogs and chili burgers and chili fries and chili frosted orange drink.
It was delightful. That kind of nonsense brings me back to my days growing up in Pittsburgh, where cholesterol and taste trump health consciousness and all
the time I’m going to have to spend in the gym working this food out of my system. Of course, no trip to Atlanta would be complete without a pilgrimage to
The Vortex, which we ended up eating at twice. The first adventure was a burger smothered in a spicy teriyaki sauce and topped off with pulled pork, bacon,
and cheddar. The next night was the famed peanut butter and banana burger. Both cooked medium rare. Both fantastic.
There was a Magic tournament going on. I know some of you kiddies come here for the food stories, and I’m happy to oblige. But for those of you who want to
help understand Limited a little better, I’m also here for you.
I arrived to the site pretty early in order to get a jump on the construction of my Sealed pool. I’ve found BFZ to be rather complicated and wanted the
extra time to assess my options as far as construction goes. It was a rather complex pool with two options:
1- A very safe, somewhat removal-heavy U/B control deck with a very mild Ingest subtheme and fliers.
Opting to go the safe route, I learned a lesson very early in the tournament after I came off my two byes.
Lesson #1- Safe Isn’t Always Best
- 2 Dominator Drone
- 2 Mist Intruder
- 1 Benthic Infiltrator
- 1 Culling Drone
- 1 Bane of Bala Ged
- 1 Cloud Manta
- 1 Coralhelm Guide
- 1 Malakir Familiar
- 1 Ruination Guide
- 1 Ulamog's Reclaimer
- 1 Oracle of Dust
- 1 Silent Skimmer
- 1 Wave-Wing Elemental
- 1 Complete Disregard
- 1 Adverse Conditions
- 2 Clutch of Currents
- 1 Grip of Desolation
- 1 Demon's Grasp
- 1 Mire's Malice
- 1 Spell Shrivel
Right off the bat you’ll notice there are no bomb rares…or any rares for that matter, but the removal and disruption suite was very, very good. This was
what initially lured me to playing this combination. My first mistake was playing Coralhelm Guide over Dampening Pulse, which I often sided in. Also, I
should have almost assuredly played eighteen lands. The issues were minor, but still apparent.
I was beaten in round three by a very nice opponent with a deck several metrics stronger than mine. I hit a few land pockets in game 3, but otherwise felt
like the people around me were doing a lot more than I was. I was able to stall the battlefield and mount a fairly good offense before succumbing to a
better deck. It’s no excuse, though. I’ve done better with worse.
After conversing with some friends, we laid out my pool and I showed them the W/R and R/G decks I had prepared just in case when pal Jimmy Bishop said I
should just combine them.
This is what we came up with:
- 1 Omnath, Locus of Rage
- 1 Lantern Scout
- 1 Munda, Ambush Leader
- 1 Akoum Firebird
- 1 Snapping Gnarlid
- 1 Bane of Bala Ged
- 1 Kor Castigator
- 1 Kor Entanglers
- 1 Lifespring Druid
- 1 Shadow Glider
- 1 Shatterskull Recruit
- 2 Tajuru Beastmaster
- 2 Tajuru Stalwart
- 1 Valakut Invoker
- 1 Vestige of Emrakul
As you can see, this deck is packing much heavier hitters like Lantern Scout, Omnath, Munda, and Akoum Firebird. You might be saying to yourself: “You’re
an idiot! This deck looks bananas!” You’d be right for the wrong reasons, and wrong for the right reasons.
The Naya deck is quite good, but how many times have you played against a person playing three colors and they never hit their third? It happened to me
multiple times this weekend against the people I battled against. With very little in the way of fixing, I fell victim to my own neuroses about
deckbuilding and went with the two-color control deck.
Which would you choose?
Lesson #2- Take Risks
Each round I would lose game 1 (except in one case) and switch to the Naya deck and demolish my opponents. I was only beaten once with it when my very
pleasant opposition, dead on board, topdecked an Evolving Wilds with an Oran-Reef Hydra on the battlefield to kill me with exactsies when I had lethal in
my hand if I could just untap. Other than that, I went 7-2 in the ugliest way possible: never winning game 1s and having to sweep matches with my
You see, I spoke to a few players over the weekend who died early in the event. Upon looking at their pools, I noticed that they could have either
registered a completely different and more potent deck, or at the very least sideboarded into it for games 2 and 3. Their responses were usually “I didn’t
think it was good enough” or “I never do that.” Switching a few cards up? Sure. An entirely different deck seems like an alien concept to some people.
When we register a Sealed deck, it’s because we believe it will give us the best chance to win, otherwise we’d put together something else entirely. We
might change up one or two things, but it’s something that many players…even myself…struggle with.
A few friends on the bubble with two losses decided to replicate my switch and, after working on things, we were able to come up with decks that got them
into Day 2. It might sound silly, but your sideboarded deck allows for trial and error–essentially continuous deckbuilding to make sure you have the best
iteration of it when you change things up.
Nothing takes the place of practice, however. I spent weeks battling Sealed online to understand things better. Unfortunately, I initially got caught up in
playing the safer alternative, but righting the ship is what counts.
If you lose, you can’t take it with you.
As far as the draft went, my first pod was massively confusing. Stu Somers was the only name I recognized, and with all the drafting I have done, I felt
really good going in.
Lesson #3- Always Listen to Gerry T
As discussed last week
, Gerry’s theory of drafting the most powerful cards the first several picks in BFZ draft before settling on an archtype is almost certainly correct.
Usually I try to force some form of Devoid, be it Grixis, U/R, U/B, or R/B, as I feel like they are the most potent and flexible strategies. This would
prove impossible in this pod, as the signals were nonexistent, cards didn’t wheel that should have, and cards that shouldn’t have did, no color felt open,
and at the end of the draft there were something like four people in white, three in red, and all the other decks sporadically three or four colors.
I ended up on a ridiculously aggressive R/W deck with a ton of two- and three-drops capped off by double Stonefury, Resolute Blademaster, Firemantle Mage,
two Outnumber, and Ghostly Sentinel. It was remarkably fast with no late game, so my gameplan was simple: kill them dead real fast.
Unfortunately, I went 1-2 in the pod, beating Stu Somers’s Sultai Midrange deck after his mana betrayed him in game 3. After that, I was in a great
position to go 2-0 when my next round opponent stalled on lands on turn 3. I dropped him to four life and committed the rest of my hand to the battlefield
to ensure lethal next turn before he topdecked his second Plains to cast a Planar Outburst. I bricked and drew lands for five turns in a row and died
rather unceremoniously. The next match was similar as my sixteen-land deck proceeded to cough up nine in game 1 and nine in game 3. My second draft was
more for decorum. My tiebreakers were unbelievably bad, and once I picked up my fifth loss I stayed in just for not just the planeswalker points and
experience but also because I was having a blast.
Lesson #4- Being Gracious
I’ve been learning a lot about mindfulness over the last few months. For those of you not familiar:
A state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them
good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.
It has become the cornerstone in my getting better at Magic recently. Basically it can be summed up as such:
1- Something happens.
2- It means nothing.
3- We make up a story in our minds about what it means.
4- That story is how we dictate what we are going to feel regarding what has taken place, and since we are the narrator, it is our choice how we feel about
My opponents over the weekend were nothing short of kind, funny, respectful, empathetic, and above all else, they were gracious. In defeat they were
graceful, shook my hand, and said plenty of nice words. They made me actively want to keep playing and helped me have a good time. When they won, they
encouraged me to keep battling and were complimentary regardless of their luck or my lack thereof. They made the weekend what it was.
I think that’s the most important lesson of them all, and will lead to you and the people you play to have a tremendous time. We all deserve that escape
from reality and indulgence in the hobby we love.
Overall my weekend was one of the best I’ve had in many a Magic trip. I learned a lot about myself as a competitor and hopefully, I’ll have plenty of
experiences to draw from to keep improving my general level of play.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going out to get some gelato. I need something covered in fudge with sprinkles…and brownies. I want brownies, too.
My diet starts again tomorrow. Tonight I shall dine like a god.