Perhaps you’d heard?
Grand Prix: Minneapolis: Final Standings
13 – Phillips, Cedric A – $500- 3
Mission accomplished! And in a big freaking way! I upgraded to Level 4 and qualified for the World Championships! Rome, here I come!
Not so fast…
A quick look at my bank account, and reality hit me. Hard.
Wonderful. How am I supposed to get there now?
Enter Zach Efland. The pride point drafter from Orlando, Florida jokingly said that if I made Top 32 at Grand Prix: Minneapolis, he would happily buy my flight to Rome. $1,029 later, and Mr. Efland was sleeping on my shoulder halfway into our flight from Philadelphia to Rome. Was it uncomfortable? More than words could possibly express. Was it worth it? You’d better believe it.
Thanks again, Zach!
Wednesday, November 18
Zach and I touched down in Rome around 8:00am, gathered our bags, and prepared for our journey. We figured out how to take the train to Rome, and after some buffoonery, tomfoolery, and ballyhoo, we made it to the hotel where Ben Stark and his awesome girlfriend Michelle were staying. And by “found Ben Stark,” I mean we were greeted by him as soon as we walked into the hotel door, with his laptop in hand and an MTGO match fired up.
One of the great things about BenS, and there are plenty of them, is that his hunger for gaming is insatiable. He will game anytime, anywhere, against anyone, for anything. I’ve never seen the man say no to a match of Magic in his life. Cheers to BenS for being a true gamer. I hope there are more out there like him.
Once I dropped my bag off in Ben’s room, it was time for the four of us to go sightseeing. And did we ever! I’m sure most of you have seen the video footage Evan Erwin put up over the weekend, but that video does not do Rome the justice it truly deserves. I was blown away during my visit to the Coliseum and Trevi Fountain. My stay in Rome was simply amazing, and I hope I have the opportunity to go back. The slogan “Play the Game, See the World” really does ring true for me.
After sightseeing and enjoying some fine Roman cuisine, the four of us decided to head to the site to enjoy the players’ party and get in some test games. Did I mention I didn’t have a place to stay or any money to go on this trip?
Oh, I didn’t?
Yeah, that $125.43 had to get me to the airport, feed me, and pay for my sightseeing. It reduced itself to about 27 Euro in no time. So, with 27 Euro, no place to stay (remember that I qualified a mere two days before I was supposed to leave), and five days in Rome ahead of me, would I be able to mize again?
Enter Gabriel Nassif. There is nothing I can say here to quantify just how awesome the yellow-hat is. The man, myth, and legend was kind enough to float my poor pathetic butt some Euros until I was able to get on my feet. I’m not sure how this weekend would have been without his kind gesture.
Thanks again, Gabriel!
BenS was interested in seeing how my GW Token deck would fare against the extremely popular Eldrazi Green deck that was sure to see a lot of play that weekend.
Wait? GW Tokens? Wasn’t that a deck from the previous Standard format? Yeah… and it’s back!
- 3 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Qasali Pridemage
- 3 Master of the Wild Hunt
- 4 Emeria Angel
- 4 Lotus Cobra
I am going to go super in-depth about this in the coming weeks, but to make a long story short, this deck smashes Jund and is, in my opinion, a better version of the Eldrazi Green deck. I tried to get quite a few people to play the deck at Worlds, but no one was comfortable playing the deck on such short notice. During the six rounds of play on Day 1, I honestly felt like I had one of the best decks in the room, and I have not had that feeling since Pro Tour: Kyoto. Be sure to check back next week for the primer and everything else involving this GW Token deck. I promise it will not disappoint.
Now on to the search for my hotel room… After playing a few games and getting a student loan from Nassif, I was ready to try and find a hotel. One problem:
Everything close by was booked.
I am not very useful when I am in another country, so I had no idea what to do about finding a reservation, but the Junktroller (Sam Black) saved me. He did some surfing of the interwebz and found a place for me, AJ Sacher, and Brandon Scheel to stay.
And what a place this was…
Hotel Cressy was a hostel near the train station that Zach and I arrived at earlier that day, so I was actually quite comfortable with my surroundings once I figured out where I was at. What I wasn’t comfortable with was what the three of us were getting into when we got buzzed into the place. Here is the visual as Scheel, Sacher, and I walked in:
To your left, at least 15 bags of destroyed asbestos.
Straight ahead, the oldest lift you have ever seen, covered in dust.
To the side of the lift, steps that I quickly chose to walk up.
It was like we walked into the final scene of a Jason Bourne movie. The walls were destroyed, the place was covered in dust, and the lift was just not an option for me. I was 100% convinced that I was either going to get stuck in it or die in there. I’ll pass.
Eight floors later, and we were knocking on a shady locked door from which I was sure the Big Boo the Ghost from Mario was going to erupt. What came next surprised all three of us:
The place was… nice?
You see, Hotel Cressy was a hostel on the eight floor of a building that was being reconstructed. Our room, although small, had three beds, a window, sufficient lighting, and was pristine upon our arrival. And it only cost 45 Euro between the three of us per night.
Is this real? Could I mize any harder this weekend?!
Well, I did finish Day 1 4-2, didn’t I?
Thursday, November 19
Round 1 versus Squire, Gregory [ENG]
Gregory was a kind Englishman who was familiar with my work on this very website. He was piloting Bant, which is one of the best matchups for my GW Token deck.
Game 1 was a very long drawn-out affair that saw me activating Elspeth, Knight-Errant’s ultimate and then winning the game with another copy. The game state was so cluttered by my tokens that his Baneslayer Angel could never attack even though he had a Rafiq in play, but my Qasali Pridemage could happily attack right into the face of said Baneslayer Angel.
Game 2, Gregory mulliganed to five and the game was over in short order due to me curving out with Noble Hierarch, Knight of the Reliquary, Master of the Wild Hunt, and Eldrazi Monument.
Round 2 versus Liin, Vahur-Peeter [EST]
Peeter was the enemy for this tournament. He was piloting my favourite deck: Jund.
Game 1 was a pretty comical beatdown. I started making tokens quite quickly with an Emeria Angel, and played an Eldrazi Monument to present a board state that demanded a Maelstrom Pulse. He had one and was able to get himself back in the game. When I showed him another Eldrazi Monument, he begrudgingly packed it in.
Game 2, I kept an opening hand of Noble Hierarch; Great Sable Stag; Elspeth, Knight-Errant; and four lands on the draw. My Great Sable Stag was struck by Lightning, and Elspeth met an untimely death. The only other spell I drew that game, Emeria Angel, threatened to win the game all on her own for a while, but Peeter was finally able to find an answer and wrap the game up.
Four spells, a lot of land, and he had to topdeck to beat me? I was feeling pretty confident.
Game 3, I kept a double White hand on the play with two Knight of the Reliquary; Elspeth, Knight-Errant; Emeria Angel; and some other stuff. I was discarding by turn 4 and getting my brains beaten in by two Putrid Leeches. Annoying!
Round 3 versus GonÃ§alves, Tiago [PRT]
Tiago was also piloting Jund at this tournament. Boo!
Game 1 saw Tiago get stuck on two lands and me give him a silly beating. GW Tokens is a deck that can overwhelm an opponent very quickly given the opportunity. You simply cannot stumble against this deck or there is no catching back up.
Game 2, Tiago sided in a bunch of Pyroclasms, but I sided out my Conqueror’s Pledges in favor of the indestructible Thornling. At the end of the game, Tiago showed me the Jund Charm in his hand, and I pointed to the Thornling in play. Surprise!
Round 4 versus Lee, Shi Tian [HKG]
Tian was piloting Boros at this tournament. It is a very close matchup for GW Tokens, but becomes much more favorable after sideboard.
Game 1, Tian started with a Steppe Lynx into Plated Geopede. I had a few men on the table, but after some quick math, Tian was able to Kor Hookmaster (!) my Knight of the Reliquary, Lightning Bolt my Qasali Pridemage, and attack me for something like 11 damage in one turn. I packed it in shortly thereafter.
In between games 1 and 2, Tian took a very long time to sideboard. He kept going back and forth and finally presented his deck. Just as I went to grab it to shuffle, he took it back and resideborded again. I considered calling a judge since he had already presented his deck, but I wasn’t really in the mood to be a giant jerk for some reason, and simply let him agonize over his decisions a little longer. When Tian finally presented his deck, I shuffled it and found…
That, ladies and gentleman, is a free win. And at the World Championships, I will take a free win.
Game 3 began with Tian on the play. He didn’t have a one-drop, and I knew at that point that I had him. I played a turn 3 Wall of Reverence into a turn 4 Conqueror’s Pledge to really gum up the board. Another Wall of Reverence came to play, along with a Knight of the Reliquary, and eventually my life total was so high that Tian simply conceded instead of going through the motions. Normally I am not a fan of conceding, but it was understandable. He was clearly frustrated about the game loss, and there was no way he was coming back from the game state I presented.
Round 5 versus Guiffault, David [FRA]
This was easily my most fun match of the day. David was a very talkative player who was piloting Jund. While I despise the Jund deck, David was a very fun guy to play against, as he did a lot of trash-talking about my deck and tried to mind-trick me numerous times.
Game 1, I pulled far ahead with Conqueror’s Pledge; Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and Emeria-Angel, but I was having trouble finishing. Broodmate Dragon came down for David, and the game became very close very quickly. I couldn’t profitably attack, so I played a Master of the Wild Hunt and passed it back. David made a very good attack with both of his dragons. I could do some blocking or I could take it all and hope he didn’t draw a three damage spell or removal spell. He was goading me into blocking the whole attack, but not blocking would be such a bad decision. If his spell was another Broodmate Dragon, I actually would win the game because I would sneak through the five points of damage I needed, but if it was any removal spell, I would die a horrible death. I decided to chump block one of the dragons with a bird token, and David slammed down another Broodmate Dragon. Ugh…
I was still in good shape. Eldrazi Monument would win me the game at any point (boy, is that card good) as would an Elspeth, Knight-Errant. However, it was not to be. I drew an irrelevant creature both turns and lost a game I was pretty sure I was going to win.
I was a little shaken by this loss, as David did some nice verbal bluffing that normally doesn’t work on me. I really couldn’t believe I lost a game where I was so far ahead, but Jund has the ability to catch up quickly given the correct draw steps/cascades. I took a deep breath, chalked his win up to being a fluke, and got on with business.
Game 2, David was stuck on two lands and I did some very broken things with Lotus Cobra quite quickly. The game was actually over before it started.
Game 3 was probably the most interesting game of the tournament for me. David was on the play, and snap kept his hand. My hand was perfectly acceptable, and I kept as well. On turn 1, I played a Noble Hierarch. David played his second land and simply passed the turn. On turn 2, I played a Lotus Cobra and a Graypelt Refuge instead of a fetchland, and passed the turn. On turn 3, David played his third color of mana and passed the turn. Now I knew what was up.
David had a Jund Charm. He saw Conqueror’s Pledge game 1, so I knew where this was going. And boy, was I happy that it was going here.
I played a Marsh Flats and sacrificed it. David let it all resolve. It was at this point that I played a THORNLING with a Graypelt Refuge up, and not a Conqueror’s Pledge. To say David was surprised is a bit of an understatement. At the end of my turn, David cast a Lightning Bolt on Lotus Cobra, and I had to try and hold back my laughter. The damage was already done. Thornling was here to stay, and it wasn’t dying anytime soon. I’ll never know if David had that Jund Charm or not, but it really doesn’t matter. He learned a valuable lesson about how powerful Lotus Cobra can be.
Round 6 versus Larsson, David [SWE]
David was playing Boros, and we were both vying for a 5-1 record after Day 1.
Game 1, David got started with turns 2, 3, and 4 Plated Geopede. Normally I wouldn’t mind this start, but I got off the ground a little slowly. My Knight of the Reliquaries were taking some time to get large, and most of my blocks were unfavorable. The thing to note this game was that I was thinning my deck with a Knight of the Reliquary in order to keep it large enough to handle one of his three gigantic Plated Geopedes. With the thinning taking place, I was never able to draw a fourth land so that I could cast one of the two Conqueror’s Pledges in my hand. Resolving one of the Conqueror’s Pledges would have quickly turned the tide of the game, but I just couldn’t find the mana to get it done.
Game 2, I did the following:
Turn 1, Noble Hierarch
Turn 2, Lotus Cobra, play and sacrifice Verdant Catacombs, Knight of the Reliquary
Turn 3, play Marsh Flats, Emeria Angel, sacrifice Marsh Flats, activate Knight of the Reliquary to get Verdant Catacombs, sacrifice Verdant Catacombs, Wall of Reverence (target Knight of the Reliquary)
David saw enough and conceded.
While those aren’t the draws I demand, those are the draws that can occur. And I love it when they do!
Game 3, much like game 1, was a game of frustration. Again, David didn’t start until turns 2 and 3 Plated Geopede. I had a turn 3 Wall of Reverence, but David had a Path to Exile. The frustrating thing about this game was that I was sitting on a Master of the WIld Hunt the whole game, but I was never able to cast it because it would just get run over, or I would have to take a heap load of damage in order to obtain the wolf token. There was never an ideal time to cast it. There was an opportunity for me to cast Conqueror’s Pledge that would have caught me back up quickly, but I never drew one. In the end, I lost this game to those two Plated Geopedes, timely removal, and a game-finishing Burst Lightning.
I feel like Boros is a 50-50 matchup for GW Tokens, but I never realized just how much of a pain Plated Geopede was until that match. I really felt like I should have won that match based on how he didn’t exert a ton of pressure in the two games he won, but it was just not to be. It was a disappointing way to end Day 1, but 4-2 is certainly not a bad record.
After Day 1, Scheel, Sacher and I did a draft against the LSV and crew, and won fairly easily. LSV and Wrapter didn’t really have a deck, and David Ochoa couldn’t get five wins on his own (because that isn’t possible). The three of us found some dinner, headed back our hostel, and called it an evening.
Friday, November 20
Day 2 started off in the worst way possible.
The bus took forever to get us to the site. So long, in fact, that we had to run to the site from the bus stop. I was convinced I was going to miss the first draft, and the anger within my body was building with each step I took. If I missed the draft after starting 4-2 at Worlds, I was going to be furious. As I entered the site, I saw each player sitting there patiently.
Apparently, I had about three minutes to make it, but boy was I worried. I’m not sure I could look at myself in the mirror if I missed that opportunity.
Anyway, the first draft had Rasmus Sibast and Raphael Levy as notable players in my pod. I was passing to Rasmus, so I was more than prepared to send clear signals and hope he sent them back.
Pack one, I opened with a lot of good cards, but what is notable is that I took Steppe Lynx over Disfigure. I know a lot of people like Black in this format, and I am a big fan as well, but I felt like I didn’t want to fight with people over Black cards. I was more than happy passing an overdrafted color like Black for an underdrafted one like White. I was very happy with my pick.
What I wasn’t pleased with was when I saw Marsh Casualties come to me third pick. That made me question my earlier decision. However, I decided to stay the course, passed the Marsh Casualties to Rasmus, and selected a Kazandu Blademaster.
Pack two and three went fine for me. Pack three, I of course opened a Malakir Bloodwitch, and had to ship it along to Rasmus. I’m sure he had to be wondering what on Earth was wrong with me, but I did have a plan. I had a good Green/White deck that I felt would be able to get a 2-1 (or 3-0 if Rasmus lost early).
An interesting pick came up in pack three that I’d like to discuss. Going into pack three, I had two Kazandu Blademasters and an Oran-Rief Survivalist. Pack three pick three, I was stuck with the decision between a second Oran-Rief Survivalist or a second Kor Skyfisher. Kor Skyfisher is just a very good card on its own, and a green/white deck could certainly use another angle of attack.
What would you do? Let your voice be heard in the forums.
Here is the deck:
1 Steppe Lynx
2 Kazandu Blademaster
2 Kor Skyfisher
1 Oran-Rief Survivalist
1 Bold Defense
2 Cliff Threader
1 Nimbus Wings
1 Shepherd of the Lost
2 Windborn Charge
1 World Queller
1 Kor Hookmaster
1 Baloth Cage Trap
2 Mold Shambler
1 Vines of the Vastwood
1 River Boa
1 Territorial Baloth
1 Stonework Puma
1 Graypelt Refuge
1 Soaring Seacliff
1 Nissa’s Chosen
1 Pillarfield Ox
1 Turntimber Basilisk
I didn’t play the Nissa’s Chosen or the Turntimber Basilisk due to mana issues. I felt playing a turn 2 Kazandu Blademaster was just much better than playing either one of those creatures.
Round 7 versus Fedon, Antonio [VEN]
Game 1 saw me get stuck on mana for a turn or two, break out of it, and easily take the game down. Antonio had a Black/Red deck, but from the cards he played game 1, his deck didn’t seem all that great. Furthermore, I felt my White/Green deck was well suited to beat a mediocre-to-good Black/Red deck.
Game 2, we both mulligan to six and I keep a one-land hand on the draw with three two-drops. I draw my second land in time and decide not to block his Teetering Peaked Goblin Bushwhacker or Blood Seeker with my Cliff Threader. Looking back, this was a gigantic mistake, and it cost me the game straight up. My thinking was that since I had two three mana 2/2’s in my hand (Stonework Puma and Kor Hookmaster), I would be able to stop his team dead in its tracks the next turn, and Cliff Threader would be able to get a bunch of damage in. Unfortunately, I forgot for a moment how fast this format is, and that when you get the opportunity to block, you had better block. I took four points of unnecessary damage, and then I lost a race much later down the road that I had no business losing.
Game 3, I had to mulligan to six again and kept another one-land hand with three two-drops. I never drew a second land until it was much too late, and got beaten down by Plated Geopede and Hagra Crocodile.
Round 8 versus Levy, Raphael [FRA]
This match report is going to be very quick, because that is how long our match took. Raph was a Green/Black mid-range deck that I don’t think I could beat in a million years. We both laughed when he played a Giant Scorpion, because it actually stopped my whole team kold in their tracks. I couldn’t get through that, or any of his other giant Green idiots, and got dispatched quickly.
At this point, I’m wondering what went wrong. I know Green/White isn’t a strong color combination in this draft format, but I felt that, as far as Green/White decks go, this surely was a good one. It was at this point that I was just hoping to get one win.
Round 9 versus HedbÃ¤ck, Tore [SWE]
Unfortunately, I do not remember much about this match. I know that Tore was Red/White and had three Plated Geopedes since we exchanged decks after our match. He admitted he didn’t like his deck very much, and was just looking to squeak out a win, much like me. Neither game was very close, as I curved out both games and my deck finally did what it was built to do: attack quickly and finish the opponent off with Windborn Charge.
It felt good to get a win, but I had a heck of a lot of work to do to stay in Top 8 contention. Next week, I will talk about the other draft from Worlds, the Extended portion of the tournament, and why I feel that my GW Tokens deck is a deck to strongly consider for the State Championships coming up soon.
Until next week…