There’s fourteen of us, but is this place going to let us bring a camera crew in?
Let’s back up. Grand Prix: Indianapolis was this past weekend. It was freaking awesome. Let’s talk about it.
Thursday evening, I drove to pick up Mark Herberholz, Sam Gomersall, and two close friends of mine Chloe and Lia. Chloe and Lia have never been to a Magic tournament before, but the plans for this particular tournament were kind of special. Chloe and Lia were supposed to be helping with a very special project that I might get to discussing in a minute.
Suffice to say, they know about Magic only from what they have seen and heard second hand, as a result of its impact on my life. Still, they were interested in experiencing this side of my life, and took the weekend off of work.
We decide to spend the night in Mark’s hometown and take off first thing in the morning (and by morning, I mean noon). First, though, we take it to the streets and run some high energy three-on-three basketball. Obviously my team beats Mark’s. That is just how we roll.
We depart at noon and begin the four-hour trek to Indianapolis. The drive was rather uneventful, though we did discover a KFC with an all-you-can-eat buffet. (I’m not sure they will be making that mistake again…)
When we arrive in Indy, we decide to hit up the convention center. We find a spot that will charge us (only) $54 for the weekend, and park. A short walk to the convention center, and we are in. The site looked good, and it was obviously going to be a huge event.
Chloe, Lia, and I walked around the site, with me introducing them to various friends of mine and trying to explain a little of what was going on. It can certainly be a daunting task to explain to new people what this world is like. Picking the largest North American Grand Prix ever to do so is doubly so.
Chloe and Lia took off for a few to grab dinner, so I got into a draft. My deck was a pretty sick U/W/r double Power of Fire deck that I thought looked great, though my team, which included Bennie the Kid (Lundquist), doubted me. Obviously I ran 3-0. It helped my confidence in my ability to draft this format.
I met back up with Chloe and Lia and we walked around more, eventually meeting up with Efro, who let us crash in his room for the night (the Crown Plaza was booked until the following evening).
The next day started early, though it was definitely a little annoying to not get to play my first round until 3 or 4 pm. I ended up with a solid U/W deck that wasn’t particularly exciting, though it looked to have the tools to get some wins.
I spent a lot of time toying around with various builds, most involving my Black. Two Kulrath Knights and two Gloomlances were definitely very enticing, though I felt strongly that the mana would be terrible if I played 3 colors. In the end, I decided to stick with U/W, as it gave me the best mana curve and let me play great cards like Mistmeadow Witch.
I finished deck construction with seconds to spare, and then met up with Gabriel Nassif (of velociraptor walking fame). We played some games, and on the whole I was pretty pleased with how my deck turned out.
The most interesting thing about these games was that I chose to draw every time, whereas Nassif chose to play. I usually choose to play in Draft, but feel Sealed is slower, and often card economy is more important than tempo.
Twelve games in, Nassif decided to try drawing. He won the game by topdecking the card he needed at exactly the right time, and never looked back.
I played against a G/W Aggro deck. I was mildly concerned when he opened with turn 3 Farhaven Elf, turn 4 Oversoul of Dusk. However, I played a turn 5 Wicker Wallcrawler and stabilized on five life. Eventually a Ghastlord of the Fugue did twenty while I held off the ground.
I have a feature match against Mitchell Tamblyn. He is playing R/W Aggro, powered by Knollspine Invocation and a cheap curve.
The deciding point of this game was when I cast Flow of Ideas for seven to gain incredible card advantage, but I was racing a Knollspine Evocation. Mitch had to deal sixteen damage to me with the card in his hand and his next three draw steps. As fate would have it, he drew a Loamdragger Giant and managed to get the requisite amount of burn.
My opponent is playing a very aggressive R/B deck. One game he doesn’t play a land on turn 2. The other he can’t beat my bears backed by tricks like Aethertow. Unfortunately, not a very exciting match.
This time I am matched up against a U/W control deck. We have a very exciting match that comes down to a game 3 in which I play around Plumeveil (which he ended up having), Aethertow (which he ended up having), and Glamer Spinners (which he ended up having). In the end, had I walked into anyone of these tricks, I would have gotten blown out.
Instead, I ended up winning by exactly one point on the last of the extra turns. Immediately afterwards, my opponent shook my hand and thanked me for the best game he has had in a while. I had to agree, this one was a classic.
My energy was high, and there was no question that all seemed right in the world. For once in my life, a little justice. (Okay, so maybe things have worked out reasonably well once or twice before…)
It was definitely encouraging to see my tight technical play and sick reads lead to a match win. This was what I hoped my tournament would be about.
My opponent was playing a fairly typical U/B deck with evasion, removal, and tricks. The deciding point of this match was when he lead with Pila-Pala, which I upped with a Bear. He played a Gravegill Duo. I then had the choice of playing an Elsewhere Flask, which I needed to cycle at some point, or holding up Turn to Mist. I knew that I was going to play Spectral Procession next turn and didn’t need the Flask to do it. What do you do?
The worst part is that I just knew he had the Helm of the Ghastlord, but for some reason thought that even if he did have it, I would still be okay. Turns out he did have it, so I had to take six damage plus discard a card while he drew a card, plus I didn’t get to play my Spectral Procession next turn. The combination of all of these disadvantages ended up costing me, as I lost a race by one turn/business spell. I totally punted, and was definitely not thrilled with this particular display. I am better than this. I had the sickest read. Why did I not go with my gut? What happened?
So this was it. I went into the last round against Thomas Drake knowing I needed a win. He was playing a very powerful U/W deck with a lot of great cards, ranging from Plumeveil to Silkbind Faerie to Grim Poppet.
I worked and I worked and I worked, losing game 1 in 35 minutes, winning game two in three minutes, and having game 3 come down to my Flow of Ideas, cast to gain the card advantage needed to come back from a bad board position. I stabilized with Mistmeadow Witch, but unfortunately was unable to gain enough momentum to secure the game before being overwhelmed with fliers.
So that was it. How very unexciting… a damp end to a tournament for which I was reasonably well prepared (despite it being Limited, which is not exactly my specialty). Was this the end? Is this how the story is to conclude for our hero?
As anyone who is familiar with my Hollywood exploits can tell you, mere elimination from the main event is not going to stop me from having a blast and getting into all sorts of trouble.
Immediately after being eliminated, I walked over to Eric Danger Taylor and challenged him to some Chess. EDT was carrying around a board, pieces, and a clock, and looking to play some 5 minute Blitz. I was looking for blood.
EDT is a formidable adversary on the chess board, but I was in the zone. I realized that 5 minutes is not a long time for someone as thoughtful as EDT, and quickly adopted the strategy of never taking more than a second or two per move, constantly passing priority to Eric.
My strategy paid off, as Eric was eventually under so much time pressure that he was forced to make poor moves without proper planning, so I was able to win material and take a commanding lead in the games.
After a few games of chess, EDT tapped out, and a group of us hung out for a while, calculating our next move. Eventually, we decided to go grab food, but not before EDT was ready for a rematch. No longer in the zone, I was unable to keep my streak alive.
A reasonable dinner later, the night was nearly over. One thing I should point out… when the menu says Triple Cheeseburger, make sure of whether they mean three pieces of meat or three types of cheese. Let’s just say, my burger had 1/3 the meat I was hoping for.
Saturday Night, Nassif and I battled against Efro and two friends of ours, Liz and Megan, in some wild 2HG sealed. It was exciting match that went back and forth, until eventually we succumbed 2-1 to Efro’s Mono-Red triple Jaws of Stone deck.
It was at this point they clued us in as to their strategy: savagely cheat and add cards to their card pool. They said their Sealed decks were so bad they couldn’t possibly make it interesting, so they decided to spice things up.
Tough, but fair.
Sunday, I woke up in the early afternoon and made my way over to the convention center. It was promising to be a big day. I called up the troops and made plans to meet up with everyone auditioning…
Auditioning? You know, for the TV show this fall.
Oh, I didn’t tell you about that…?
Chloe and Lia – Thanks for visiting this side of my life.
Pam Willoughby – Thanks for making RIW Hobbies the best game store in the Midwest.
Mountain Dew Amp – Thanks for helping me achieve better living through chemistry.
Mike Heup – Thanks for being one of the first to invest in the Props and Slops sections of my tournament reports.
Lan D Ho – Thanks for stealing the show. You are totally insane.
Jelger – For being the actual stone blade.
Wizards of the Coast Legal Department – For giving me the green light on House of Cards.
Truth – Thanks for being such a great cameraman. I look forward to working with you in the house before Nationals.
Everyone who asked me to sign a playmat or Dragonstorm or Incendiary Command or Mulldrifter – You guys are awesome.
The girl who asked me to sign her chest… and then nosir-ed the extended version of my signature.
Indiana Laws that restrict what you can do on Sundays.
Osyp – For not showing up. Where’s your heart?
Me – For not being better at Sealed Deck
Bonus Block Constructed Decklist
- 3 Austere Command
- 4 Broken Ambitions
- 4 Cryptic Command
- 1 Incendiary Command
- 2 Makeshift Mannequin
- 1 Mind Spring
- 4 Firespout