How to Almost Break a Grand Prix

In case you missed it, Gabriel Nassif has been posting results again. He finished 12th at Pro Tour: Los Angeles and 12th again at Grand Prix: Lille recently. Today he covers his deckbuilding hits and misses and discusses just how close he was to breaking the Legacy format with Solitary Confinement.

It’s been a while since my last article, but I did not feel like writing about anything lately. I had a deal with Ted that I’d write whenever I did well, but I couldn’t even stick to it since I didn’t write a report after Pro Tour: Los Angeles where I came in a very quiet 12th, which isn’t too bad. Here’s what I ended up running there:

I couldn’t break it despite trying a few rogue builds and I didn’t really like any deck a week before the PT. I was staying at Huey’s place and one day a friend of his who was qualified for the PT (Matt Sperling) showed up with some Life from the Loam/Seismic Assault deck. I can’t remember if it already had Balancing Act in it, but eventually I found myself playtesting ‘Tings with Life from the Loam in it and it seemed pretty dg. [Der Gas. This is a good thing. – Knut, keeping Hat’s lingo] I didn’t bother playing that much, but I liked the deck and it seemed like it could beat anything.

I went 5-3 Day 1 after being 3-3 but Matt and Efro, who had won the LCQ with Battle of Wits both dropped after a few rounds and I kinda felt bad, but I guess the deck wasn’t that bad since I went 5-1-1 Day 2 which was good enough for the aforementioned 12th place. It was a pretty good feeling finishing that well, even though my few losses were all pretty frustrating. On the other hand, I felt like I got lucky against the two Scepter Chant decks I played, as they never got a fast Scepter out against me. It was nice that Antoine finally got his PT win, and it was very amusing to see the reaction of the crowd at Billy’s mistakes during Top 8. People just get so jealous and stupid, it’s unreal.

I had had a great October month poker-wise, winning a couple of tourneys and doing well whenever I played cash games, but it all fell apart after PT LA. I had my worst week, losing infinite, and didn’t feel like doing much, especially not writing. I figured I’d start playing a lot of Magic – especially on MODO – to prepare for GP: Bilbao and Worlds. That didn’t go well either, as I just stuck to Blue/Green Madness in Extended for some reason. I really thought it was good – I was doing well on Magic Online, but things didn’t really go my way in Spain. After starting 2-0, I threw away at least game one, maybe even the second game vs. ‘Tings, which is pretty much the best matchup, then got unlucky vs. Boros (which is always a close matchup but she had FTK’s and Fledging Dragons in sideboard, which is bad for me), and lost to Affinity playing for Day 2, despite never having lost to it Online (thanks to 4 Kataki after board).

The beatings continued as I scrubbed out at Worlds too, playing Battle of Wits in Standard since I didn’t like anything else. I played five 8-man tournaments on MODO the day before Worlds started, won four of them and finaled the fifth one, which was enough to convince me. Unfortunately, I lost to the Blue deck I played (which is suppose to be in my favor) and got two pretty bad matchups (Gifts and U/R Wildfire), and only managed a 3-3 record in the swiss portion of Type Two. I went 2-1 twice in draft, going Blue/Black twice, but threw away the third round and I was pretty mad at myself. The fact that in game three, I had him down to four life, no board, and no cards, with a 2/2 and a 4/4 on my side obviously didn’t help.

Then came the Extended disaster. I ran U/G Madness again, and 0-4 dropped. I didn’t really care anymore, since I needed Top 8 to level up to level 5 anyway, but I felt really bad for Rich and Antoine, who also ran the deck and went 1-5 and 0-4 respectively. I really don’t think the deck was that bad, but it was a bit underpowered I guess. All my matches were really close, so were Antoine’s, and the only match I saw Rich lose was just the unluckiest thing ever. Despite a poor showing, I had a good time hanging out with the Americans, the Frenchies and the Dutchies. The karaoke with the Star City crew was also absurd.

I was almost going forget the Japs, especially Tomohiro and Kenji, but props to them for a great year and being all around awesome guys.

So after a pretty disappointing year, having placed only 20th in the Player of the Year race (after winning last year), and not being level 5, I felt pumped up for the coming year, and started thinking about the Legacy format. Since GP: Lille was only days away, it seemed like a good way to get right back in the game. I haven’t been playing all that great this year, and made poor deck choices a few times, maybe cause I didn’t take Magic seriously enough anymore, but I really feel like I want to do well again. Anyway, it seemed like some Zombie Infestation/Life from the Loam deck could be gas in Legacy, and Josh Ravitz mentioned that this deck existed in Type One and that it was pretty good, but after a few attempts, it seemed like the deck was way too clunky in Legacy, due to the lack of Bazaar of Baghdad.


I really liked Life from the Loam though and wanted to combine it with Exploration, so I started building a W/G deck with Rectors and stuff, with some Witness action and cards like Astral Slide. I added black essentially for Cabal Therapy, and when I posted my deck on IRC, Dan Place suggested Solitary Confinement right away. I didn’t like the card, but it seemed too good not to play, and from there, the deck just pretty much became a Confinement deck. The first version looked something like this:

4 Wall of Roots

4 Cabal Therapy

3 Eternal Witness

1 Genesis

3 Academy Rector

1 Solitary Confinement

1 Sylvan Library

1 Pithing Needle

1 Rule of Law

1 Seal of Cleansing

4 Swords to Plowshares

4 Life From the Loam

2 Enlightened Tutor

2 Abeyance

and a few other cards. Then I cut the tutor engine and the deck became something more like this:

4 Wall of Roots

4 Swords to Plowshares

4 Vindicate

4 Duress

4 Cabal Therapy

3 Eternal Witness

1 Genesis

3 Solitary Confinement

4 Birds of Paradise

4 Life from the Loam

1Cranial Extraction

24 lands


The deck was okay, but it didn’t really kill and it wasn’t even winning that consistently against Goblins game one. I think I first added Blue only for Intuition because it looked so sick in the deck and eventually decided to cut Black and try Blue instead, to have access to counters, which were a bit more versatile than discards and better against Goblins, since you could Force their turn 1 Lackey or Vial. I added Exploration back in and cut the Birds and the Walls for a few more lands and more active cards. Antoine and I started tuning the deck, but the most part of our games were pre-sideboard.

The deck was winning a lot, but I was worried about game two and three for obvious reasons. It was one thing to just drop Confinement with Squee or Life from the Loam back up game one when we knew very few people would have any answer at all, but it was a very different problem after board when people got to bring in Confinement removal (Disenchant, Anarchy, Naturalize, etc.) with Pyroblast back up most of the time. Until the night before the GP, we hadn’t really figured out our sideboard but we knew we wanted Vinelasher Kudzu and Meddling Mage backed up by some extra removal to be able to win game two and/or three if things didn’t go well. The removal consisted of Last Breath, Hydroblast and Massacre (we added a Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrubland[/author] and a Scarab main along the way), but the sideboard was definitely clunky. I went through all the possible sideboard cards, and Chalice of the Void suddenly became a pretty obvious choice. Antoine had already mentioned it, but more like an anti-combo card, and I dismissed it at first cause I didn’t think there would be enough combo decks to be worth it. I missed “hidden” potential at first, and kept thinking that we already had the Mages. The truth was, it was the perfect card to complete the Confinement lock, since we could just use it to stop sideboard hate as most of the cards cost two: Disenchant, Flaring Pain, Naturalize etc… The final decklist can be found here:

I’m not going to go through a round by round detail, but I’ll just say the deck was simply amazing. Almost every round I drew or lost was due to very bad luck. I think same goes for Antoine, even if I didn’t get all the details. I think he was 10-2 and lost the last three rounds, somehow losing to the Salvagers deck (amongst others), despite Chalice, Null Rod, and Meddling Mages access after board.

The few rounds I didn’t lose or draw due to bad luck, I did because I played or boarded poorly. I would board in my guys right away for game two when I had won game one when what I should probably have done was stick to the lock+Chalice for game two, and switch to creature mode if game two didn’t go well. Also, I’m pretty sure I won 13/13 game ones, very few of them being remotely close except for two or three matches including last round, where I got lucky to rip a Confinement in one of my last possible draws.

Speaking of last round, I don’t think the MagictheGathering.com coverage really mentioned that Helmut Summersberger, who was a lock for Top 8, decided to try and knock me out, something very rare at this level. He did so because he didn’t want me in Top 8 and thought he had a bad matchup against me (which he probably had), but still, people will usually scoop to you there. We played it out, and drew unintentionally, which gave me a very slim shot at Top 8 (I ended 12th on breakers), but I knew I was probably out and was pretty mad. I tried to take it with a smile but couldn’t really, and was disgusted at what a jerk Helmut had been. The fact that the games were really close added to the matter and I might even have f***ed up by not sticking to the lock plan for game two, as I mentioned earlier, which didn’t help either since there is pretty much nothing I hate more in Magic then losing due to my own poor play.

In retrospect though, I wondered what I would have done had I been in his spot, and couldn’t help thinking that he had made the right choice, especially given the fact that he won the whole thing, as I probably would have won the GP myself had he scooped to me. Most people told me they’d scoop most of the time there to almost anyone, but I’m just not sure I would (and will) if it happens to me, especially this year, in my run back to the glory, the titles and the mobney (sic). Whereas whether the deck is still playable, I don’t really know. Simply adding a Seal of Cleansing to maindecks or whatnot might make some matchups infinitely harder game 1, even though you can still try and waste all their lands or just get in a good enough position to draw enough counters to keep the lock on board. Legacy is so vast that hopefully, I’ll be able to come up with something new for the next tourney if they ever run more Legacy events, which I hope they will. Even though 12th isn’t great, it’s still a decent start to the new season, and its nice to see I haven’t completely lost my touch as a deckbuilder. Hopefully, I’ll be inspired and motivated for Hawaii (and the format won’t be complete cuttinos) and I can go di at Constructed again, just like in the old days.

Hope you enjoyed the article, and I wish everyone a Happy New Year (a bit late for X-Mas) and lots of good beats in 2006.

Gabriel Nassif

a.k.a. Yellowhat

a.k.a. HowRDosPastas