My Grand Prix: Salt Lake City Report *T8*

In this whopper of a tournament report, Gadiel thoroughly recaps his Grand Prix: Salt Lake City T8 journey, answers some key strategy questions and speaks on a series of hotbutton issues that are sure to have people talking!

Have you ever started off back-to-back Grand Prix X-0 on Day 1 and Top 8’d neither? No? Neither have I, if you were wondering. Neither had anyone on the planet, in fact, until GP Salt Lake City, when one of the top Russo-American Magic prospects in ages achieved this enviable feat. But this is not that man’s story, and his identity is not mine to reveal. This is, as you may have guessed, my story about my experience in beautiful Salt Lake City.

The week before the GP, a rather large tragedy occurred in my life which prevented me from testing as much as I would have liked for it. No, I didn’t weigh in four pounds heavier than the week before. And no, my pet badger didn’t lose three limbs in a mining accident. I did have school for the first week in months, though. This meant that I had to go off strictly theory and chats to come up with a decklist, but it still wasn’t that big of a problem. I was actually fairly set on the following list before going to the Grand Prix.

4 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Gifts Ungiven
4 Sickening Shoal
4 Kagemaro, First to Suffer
4 Kodama’s Reach
4 Sakura Tribe Elder
2 Kokusho, The Evening Star
1 Meloku The Clouded Mirror
1 Hana Kami
1 Myojin of Night’s Reach
1 Soulless Revival
1 Death Denied
1 Goryo’s Vengeance
1 Cranial Extraction
1 Hideous Laughter
1 Wear Away
1 Ghost Lit Stalker
4 Tendo Ice Bridge
1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
1 Island
8 Forest
10 Swamp

3 Pithing Needle
3 Isao, Enlightened Bushi
2 Kokusho, the Evening Star
2 Hideous Laughter
2 Rending Vines
1 Goryo’s Vengeanec
1 Death Denied
1 Joyous Respite

Still set on that list, I set out for Salt Lake City on Friday with popular StarCityGames Translator Takanobu Sato and official Classic BIG OOOOOOOOOOTS (Rasmus Sibast). Tired and hungry, we arrived in Salt Lake City after a long flight with nothing but Mental Magic to entertain us. Our master plan was just to go to the hotel and crash. Doesn’t seem too hard, but to our idiot cab driver it was. I told him to take us to the South Towne Expo Center, the one where the GP was held, where we could meet up with people before hoteling. He told us that no such convention center happened to exist. I tried to argue that I was very confident that that was, in fact, where we had to go. But no, the driver persisted. The only convention center, he said, was the one he proceeded to take us to. It was not the South Towne Expo Center, and there was no sign of Magic or of our kind. We asked about this little problem at a nearby Marriot, and we were informed that the South Towne was a cool thirty to forty minutes from where we were. Sigh. It was a rather close decision, but we decided to take the forty-dollar cab rather than cut. We got there, paid a million billion dollars (Yes it’s a number), and went to sleep. The end.

Oh wait. I still had to write my bit about actually playing cards. Yeah. When I woke up the next morning, I met up with some people at the site. Gerry Thompson and myself (with a little influence from others) went over our list for about an hour while we registered it, and came up with this final list. He might have played one a few cards off, but everything important was the same.

The only change to the main were removing the Extraction for Ink-Eyes and adding the Shizo that goes with it. Everyone has played Ink-Eyes forever, but for a rather long time I thought that while it is a good card in the abstract, it was just not good enough to make the cut. There were just more specialized matchup cards I would have rather had. The reasons I went back to it at the last minute were two-fold. To begin with, I wanted to cut Cranial Extraction from the maindeck (more on this later.) Second, and more importantly, it seemed that a large amount of Mono Blue Control was going to be present in Utah.

The sideboard, though, underwent some major transformations. The Cranial Extraction was moved there, but more noticeable is the removal package. It was due to our fear of Deck X, which turned out to be unfounded as not very many were present in Day 2 or at all. The second Ink-Eyes and Stalker are about the Mono Blue situation that I mentioned before. The third Isao never should have been there as drawing two is really bad. Cutting the Needle, which is also good against Blue, was not ideal but we had broader cards this way. Gerry also convinced me to cut the Joyous Respite because of how narrow it is. Ironically, he lost to two Mono Red decks. Luckily, I didn’t face any myself. For a few minutes, we toyed with the idea of Hisoka’s Defiance for the mirror, but chose not to run it without testing. It turns out the Dutch ran one.

The tournament itself was quite strange. There were only 250 players or so, but a very large percentage of those 250 were in the range of competent to very good. Our estimate was that 10-15% of the players fell under this category, while at your average American GP (500 players and only American “pros”) only 2-3% of the players are good. This overabundance of skilled Magicians, caused by the Dutch and Japanese deciding to show up and play some Magic, meant that the easiness of seven-round GP was somewhat limited. When I saw I was playing a random in round four, I was excited, since this was the time when it was most likely of all to play a tough opponent.

Round 4 vs. Regan Fish w/ Deck X

Game one he played first and started off with a fairly fast draw but it lacked the two best cards against Gifts: Hokori and Yosei. On the other hand, I didn’t lack my best card against him, and Kagemaro put me ahead quickly. After that, he was full out of gas but peeled a Hokori. I killed it with one of the multiple Shoals I had been holding and won quickly.

Game two was a sort of mockery to both players. Personally, I kept a hand of two land, Top, two Reaches, Hana Kami, and Tribe Elder. He kept a land-light hand himself. At the end of the game, the only spells I had seen were two more Reaches, two more Tribe Elders, and one Shoal. Unfortunately, this game took a really long time since I did a lot of blocking, a lot of shuffling and a lot of Topping. To compound the problem, my opponent did everything very slowly, and his clunky draw didn’t put me away as fast as a good draw would have done. As we shuffle for the third game he tells me how it’s kind of cool to play against someone he read about online.

Game three seems close when I look back at my life total pad, but it never really was. His draw lacked Blue mana, so he never got to cast a Defiance he held forever. Additionally, he never got to six mana to cast Yosei before I Extracted them. I made sure of this by using Rending Vines on his Paddle when he also had a Jitte, only after doing the math and deciding that I had time to do what I needed to stabilize before I lost to the Jitte. I cast Gifts and did stuff the Gifts deck does. Meanwhile he was bashing me this whole time but I stabilized at two.

At this point there was a large problem: Time had been called. I had the full lock going, infinite everything, the creatures in place to kill him (but not in the two turns I had), and most importantly all his outs to the lock were removed. I asked him to concede but he refused to do so. I asked why and he said because he might win and he would only concede if he was absolutely drawing dead. Huh? I was pretty confused, and he explained that he could draw Meloku. I still don’t understand his logic there; quite obviously Meloku would just be another speed bump on Kagemaro’s path before it got to my opponent himself. I might as well mention that he still didn’t even have Blue mana. But hey, I guess I don’t know much about Deck X, so maybe he could get me. Regardless, we drew. I was very frustrated and everyone watching understood but also said that he had no reason to scoop at this point in the tournament regardless of whether he was kold or not. From the point of view of trying to win the tournament, that makes sense. However, from a practical and financial standpoint, it certainly doesn’t. Clearly, I offered him nothing for a concession. However, everyone who pays any attention to the tournament scene and knows anything about it is aware that a concession in a situation like that would not go without notice, if you know what I mean. But meh, it happens.

3-0-1, 1-1-1

Round 5 vs. Takanobu Sato w/ Gifts

Sucked to play someone I came with this early in the tournament. Luckily for me though, he was taking sideboarding advice from Adam Chambers, who boards out some Tops and Gifts against everything. Not kidding.

Even in Mexico, Gadiel is too young to hang out at topless places.

Game one he played first but mulliganed. He had a Topless (no pun intended) but still decent draw. I was starting to get ready to do stuff until he asked me how many cards I had in my hand. Uh-oh, I thought. I had three. So he said go and after I drew he channeled his Ghost-Lit Stalker to ship my hand. Gaaaaaaaawd. I hate it when people get lucky against me. Why am I so unlucky? Just kidding. I actually informed him regretfully that you had to play the effect as a sorcery. While it was still good on his next turn, I was able to use Death Denied to get up to like six cards in hand which allowed me to keep two: Kokusho and Black Myojin to go with my seven lands. I won quickly thereafter.

Game two started as a back and forth affair where we traded Kokushos several times and kept trying to bring them back. He played Godo for Tatsumasa, which shut my remaining Kokusho down. Luckily, I had one of my Goryo’s Vengeances and a Meloku he had killed in the graveyard. I brought it back and made DI tokens to put him on a two-turn clock. Since he had no hand, he only had one out – Death Denied – which would allow him to get Kagemaro back and have a hand so that it would do something. He didn’t catch quads on the river and it was over.

4-0-1, 3-1-1

Round 6 vs. Jon Fiorillo w/ MUC

Game one he played first but stalled on four lands for a long, long time. Meanwhile, I mulliganed and also stalled on lands. Eventually, he didn’t counter a Kodama’s Reach, which let me cast everything I was gripping. I think if he could have countered that he should have and would have won. But right when I started doing stuff, he drew some lands as well and also was able to do stuff. I baited counters for a while until I could resolve Gifts, which was pretty much good for the game. Kagemaro cleared his Meloku tokens that were two turns away from killing me and Goryo’s Vengeance for giant guys did him in. That was just the oversimplified version of a thirty-five minute game, but the majority of it was us jockeying for position while both manascrewed so the actual playing part wasn’t as long as the game itself.

Game two I could have easily stalled him out. However, I chose not to do so. My draw was bad, his was good, and I lost. I might have had a chance if I saved my Rending Vines for Jitte instead of using it on a Needle that was on Top, but since when I lost he was still holding multiple counters I don’t know if it would have changed the outcome.

As we shuffled up for game three, time was called. Vomit. After some quick chats, we decided a draw was almost as bad as a loss. In retrospect, a draw wouldn’t have even been that bad. With so many control decks in the field, there was a very large chance of just picking up a third draw and a record of 9-1-3 could make Top 8. Since we didn’t think of it at the time, we decided one of should concede. We couldn’t roll a die since it was a feature match and everyone was watching. Actually, we couldn’t do it anyway because It’s Not Allowed And I Wouldn’t Ever Do Anything Against The Rules No Sir. I decided to be the one conceding since Jon is a friend and he was not yet qualified for Pro Tour–Los Angeles. I really hoped the concession wouldn’t be wasted, and sure enough Jon finished eleventh and got the slot he needed.

4-1-1, 4-2-1

Round Seven vs. Jorg Kuo w/ MUC

Game one I lost the die roll for the fourth time on the day but he mulliganed. I played a turn 4 Kagemaro which resolved and literally just killed him in five turns. All my other attempts at animals were Hindered or Defied or Meddled with, but he had nothing to stop the Kagemaro that had already hit play.

Game two he mulliganed to five and well, I was just lucky this match that he mulliganed a lot. I mean, that’s not to say I couldn’t have won a real game, but my lucky shuffling of his deck just made things much simpler. I felt a bit bad since he had come from Switzerland for this, but that wasn’t something I could dwell on. Another thing I had noticed by this time was some stuff I hadn’t known about the Mono Blue matchup. To begin with, it seems that MUC players just blind Needle Top regardless of if you have it or not. For this reason, I started boarding out two in this matchup and this matchup only. Additionally, I found that Kagemaro is a lot better than one would think because it can serve the dual purpose of being a must-counter threat early and having the ability to get you back in the game if you got behind to their giant flying creatures.

5-1-1, 6-2-1

This record was good enough to place in the second day somewhere around thirtieth place. This didn’t seem exactly ideal as I was really hoping to have more than just five wins after Day 1 of a seven round GP, but there was nothing I could do but make sure to play tight the next day. At least this time if I 5-1ed the second day I was a lock, unlike Minneapolis where I did just that but missed on tiebreakers.

Round Eight vs. Rijal B. St. Michel w/ Gifts

As we sat down to fill out tax forms, I was confused when Rijal didn’t say he was from out of the country so I asked him about it. He informed me that, well, his mom was a hippy, hence the name. Shrug.

Game one I played first and got turn 6 Black Myojin. He didn’t even have the Shoal to potentially get back in the game and didn’t peel. That’s the bad part of the mirror match – sometimes it’s just lucky like that. The good part is that this particular game, I was the lucky one.

Game two I mulled and he pressed his advantage with Honden of Night’s Reach. Since he didn’t have much pressure, I had some time to set up a nice position where I got ready to Gifts for the goods, but just at that moment he drew Ghost-Lit Stalker and channeled it for my grip. Godo followed shortly after on his side of the board, and I was going to have to try and win game three in about five minutes.

Game three I boarded out the combo stuff like Hana Kami, Soulless Revival and some Gifts just because I had to go full blown aggro to have a chance to win the game. A turn 3 Isao (put in only because of time constraints obviously) started laying the beats followed by a turn 5 Kokusho. He had a Kokusho of his own but I had a second as well as a Shoal for his Ink-Eyes. I got him to seven when I attacked with Kokusho and Isao and then Goryo’s Vengeanced the other Kokusho for the win.

6-1-1, 8-3-1

Round Nine vs. Chad Kastel w/ MUC

Game one I got to play first and we traded threats for counters for a while as is normal in this matchup. This whole time, I was holding Shizo, Death’s Storehouse but I didn’t want to play it in order to hopefully surprise him later when it actually did something. That is exactly what happened. Eventually, when I played out a Kokusho, he thought for a very long time before allowing it to resolve. On his turn, he played out Meloku. I played my Shizo and started coming through with Kokusho, which at that point was a three-turn clock. To compound to his problems, he had already blown three of his four Consuming Vortexes to try to deal with an Ink-Eyes earlier in the game, so he was drawing slim. He didn’t catch one of his few outs and we were shuffling up for game two.

Game two he mulled on the play and I had a nice hand with Forest, Swamp, Top, and Reach. It wasn’t so nice when many cards later I hadn’t seen a third land yet and was getting bashed by Meloku or Keiga or whatever he ended up actually winning with.

Game three I had an early Isao but not much else. Some stuff got countered but soon enough I was able to get Gifts through and he gave me Ink-Eyes. Then, on his turn, he had six mana available and played Meloku as well as an unexplainable Pithing Needle on Kagemaro. Huh? I had no clue what was going on; I didn’t have a Kagmero and he knew I had Ink-Eyes… But immediately after he did it it was obvious he noticed what he had done. So I attacked with Isao, he didn’t block, and Ink-Eyes jumped into the fray, grabbed the other Meloku in his graveyard, and all but sealed the game. He immediately started kicking himself for not blocking with Meloku. I suppose that’d be better than what happened, but it also would have been terrible. All he needed to do was name Ink-Eyes with his Pithing Needle. Since he ended up peeling and playing a Keiga a few turns later, he would have won. Instead, I used a stolen Meloku to make a bunch of guys and run him over.

7-1-1, 10-4-1

Round 10 vs. Jon Sonne w/ MUC

Game one he was on the play but stuck on three lands for a rather long time. His infinite supply of counters, including Disrupting Shoals that enabled him to counter two spells in the same turn despite his limited mana, held me back for quite a long time. I had resolved a Gifts which had, most importantly, given me a Goryo’s Vengeance that I kept splicing onto spells that got countered. The exact turn on which I was setting up to be able to play it twice during his endstep to make sure I got Meloku, thus leaving him dead in two turns with no outs, he played a Pithing Needle. Since he already had one on Top, I couldn’t really take the risk that he named Meloku, so I blew the Vengeance to make some Meloku tokens. The mono Blue deck really doesn’t have any good answer to a bunch of 1/1 flyers save their own Meloku, which he was two lands short of and I had a Shoal for. The 1/1s went all the way.

It's like, watery or something.

More importantly, though, I came to an important realization about the Mono Blue deck that I probably should have realized earlier: The deck is very prone to missing land drops. Without Top, Reach, or Tribe Elder, they only have Jushi Apprentice (and Journeyer’s Kite in the sideboard) to draw cards and those aren’t even that effective when you are land screwed since you will likely get far behind when spending your turns to draw a card. For all effective purposes regarding land consistency, it seems to me that the Mono Blue deck basically runs twenty-five land but no more than twenty-five mana sources and no cheap way to draw cards and find land. Sure, lots of decks are like that; some even have less mana sources and no ways to draw cards or find mana. However, these decks do not need a bare minimum of five mana to operate. The Mono Blue deck just full blown cannot run without five mana, and the sixth land is rather important as well. I am sure I will get some die-hard MUC players telling me that these are just flukes but I really think the deck is cheating its land count and that is probably its biggest weakness.

Game two I had a Ghost Lit Stalker on turn 1 and an Isao on turn 3. Luckily for me he had played a blind Needle on Top on his own first turn and he didn’t have a second one to stop the Stalker from going nuts on his grip. Since I killed his one Jushi and he didn’t have Azami, he was in big trouble. When I drew Ink-Eyes he packed it in.

8-1-1, 12-4-1

Round 11 vs. Frank Karsten w/ Gifts

Game one we both mulled and I got to play first. My hand was weak – just four lands of the right colors, Tribe Elder, and Ghost Lit Stalker. I decided to just run the Stalker on turn 1. This is a questionable play that I am still a bit unsure of. The fact that he had mulliganed also is what convinced me to play it out, along with the fact that I had nothing to do from turns one to seven when I would channel the Stalker. I felt that if he didn’t have one of his Shoals, I would win for sure. He did have one, along with the rest of the stone nut draw, and I lost quickly.

Game two I did nothing until a Kagemaro on turn 5 while his draw was again quite good. I thought I had a fighting chance when he cast a Gifts that seemed subpar, but actually he had just drawn the whole combo naturally so he could find all gas. I did some stuff too but it really didn’t matter and I got crushed. But hold on a second. I did nothing until fifth turn Kagemaro? That’s right. And yes, there has to be something sketchy going on there. To be perfectly honest, this little anecdote has to be the biggest piece of buffoonery in my career to date. Basically, I either misread my hand somehow and made a bad keep, or just like missed a drop and forgot to play a card. Regardless of which of the two it was, it was the absolute worst play I’ve ever made. I don’t think it cost me the game since I highly doubt I could have beaten his draw, but that is a bad excuse. When I looked back on the game, I questioned as to why I kept. So I thought, well, my hand is Tendo, Forest, Swamp, Gifts, Kokusho, Goryo’s Vengeance, something else on the draw. That hand is basically a million outs to the nuts. While the fact that it lacks Sakura, Reach, and Top makes it just barely keepable in my book and a mulligan in others, it is still a keepable hand. But if so, why did I not play Gifts on turn four for Gifts, Top, Reach, Sakura? Maybe because…I just forgot to? Or maybe because I actually didn’t keep that hand at all and instead kept a different hand. I have no clue as to which happened but I suppose it had to be one of the two since I can’t think of any other way that what happened could have happened. Hopefully it will never happen to you. On second thought, it probably has and you just never noticed it. Meh. We’re all terrible I guess.

8-2-1, 12-6-1

At this point I witnessed just about the worst bit of judging I’ve ever seen. I was watching my friend Adam Chambers in a heated battle against an unknown player piloting Mono Blue Control. It seemed like Chambers was in control, and he was getting ready to ninjitsu an Ink-Eyes into play. When he went to do it, his opponent’s friend who was watching the match, audibly and obviously whispered “Squelch It!” Chambers’s opponent proceeded to put Ink-Eyes’ reanimation trigger on the stack and Squelch it. Tim Aten, also an interested spectator, chose this point to call a judge and tell him about what had happened. The judge ruled that the guy was able to Squelch the effect but that his friend was banned from watching matches for the rest of the day. Wow. Nice ruling, but it doesn’t end there. Neither the judge nor Tim had yet realized that you cannot, in fact, Squelch Ink-Eyes’ reanimation trigger, since it is just that: A trigger, something Squelch has no effect on. Remember, we are not talking about the all-powerful Stifle here. By the time Tim realized this and told the judge, he simply ruled that they couldn’t go back and the guy got a warning for using his card illegally. Crazy stuff. Why didn’t I do anything about it, you ask? Well, I wish I could have. Unfortunately, I wasn’t actually there. I was just told about it immediately after it happened and I promised to include it if I wrote about the event since people should know about the injustices. If you would like to know the names of the judges at hand, Tim actually collected them. While I don’t think it is that important, I am willing to get them if someone cares. Rant on bad judging over.

Round 12 vs. Peter Johnson w/ MUC

What do you know? Just the guy that cheated Chambers out of the last match. I better not lose this, I thought.

Game one he got to play first and had an excellent draw. Mine was fine as well but he had the Needle for my Top, the counters for everything I could muster, the Azami on turn 5 and the Disrupting Shoal for my spell that I played when he was tapped out for Azami. Yep, game. That is one thing in MUC’s favor: even if it’s a lot more unlikely for them to get their nut draw than for Gifts, their nut draw does beat mine.

Game two was probably the best game of the tournament for me, and by best I mean the closest one. I had an early Isao which laid a lot of beats on him, but I didn’t have much more. Any attempts at increasing my offense were stopped in their tracks. His life total literally went 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 until he stopped my offense with a Keiga. For many turns we just sat and responded to what the other did. Neither of us seemed to be able to gain an advantage, yet either could swing the game a ton with any peel at any time. I drew Sakura-Tribe Elder, which he chose not to counter. If he had nothing, this was a two-turn clock together with the Isao. He grimaced and played a second Keiga targeting and used the effects to target my two creatures. I sacked the Sakura and Shoaled the Isao. I then played another Isao that I had been holding, but he had a third Keiga. I then peeled another Tribe Elder, which he chose not to counter. When he got nothing, he had to sack his Keiga to Miren, the Moaning Well so he could steal my Isao and not die. I drew Ghost-Lit Stalker and used it to empty his hand of exactly four cards. He just passed and I peeled and played a Kokusho, which was quickly countered. On the next turn, I drew an Ink-Eyes and he hadn’t drawn a counter. When he once again drew nothing, I won the game. I felt lucky to have won a topdeck war that could have easily gone either way, even though I had more good cards I could rip than he did.

This left me with the challenge of having to win the third game in five minutes – not an easy task. I sideboarded accordingly but being on the draw I still was not entirely confident that I could finish the game. Only due to the time constraints, I decided to keep the following hand: Tendo, Tribe Elder, Reach, Goryo’s Vengeance, Sickening Shoal, Isao, Ink-Eyes. My reasoning was that this was one of the few hands that could win in the allotted amount of time. It is true that it is also one of the few hands that can actually lose in that little time, but it was a risk I was willing to take. A draw eliminated me from Top 8 contention, and that was the only goal so I just wanted to go for it. No, I did not draw a land for several turns, but my savior was that my opponent had thought in the same way as me and kept a sketchy hand himself. He was stuck on two lands and I killed his Jushi Apprentice. For a few turns, we both discarded. With Ink-Eyes in my yard and Meloku and Keiga and his, I knew if I could just get Vengeance through on my Ink-Eyes I could take the game. The turn before I drew my second land, he drew and cast Needle on Tribe Elder. With the second land I went for the Vengeance, but he had the Disrupting Shoal. Frowns. He drew a third land on the following turn but I did too and cast Kodama’s Reach. It was countered but the one on the next turn wasn’t after he thought for a bit. He then drew his fourth land but now all my guys got online and I pulled out the win on the first extra turn. Whew.

9-2-1, 14-7-1

Round 13 vs. Karl Briem w/ MBA

Karl was a lock for Top 8, with thirty points and the nut breakers. He had just scooped in Frank the previous round and could scoop me in as well. Unfortunately, Karl had other ideas. For some incomprehensible reason, Karl was just unable to figure out how he was a lock even with a loss. I was seeing flashbacks of GP Detroit already. There, I played Jordan Berkowitz in the last round. He said if he could scoop me in, he would. It turned out that yes, he could, so I went to show him on the standings. The judges, however, decided that I should get screwed and wouldn’t allow us to look at the standings. Without proof, Jordan couldn’t concede and I couldn’t really blame him. Naturally, I got land screwed twice and only made the Top 16. When the final standings came out, it turned out that he could have surely scooped me in. Anyway, Karl was the opponent at hand and he refused to concede.

Game one he got to play first and started off by Distressing my Hideous Laughter. I had a decent draw with many good cards, land, and Top but no acceleration. His turn 3 Nezumi Cutthroat, turn 4 Razorjaw Oni, turn 5 ninjitsu Ink-Eyes was good for the game since I was on five mana and the Kagemaro I could cast was unable to block because of the Oni. I think if I drew any Sakura or Reach it was my game to win, but it was not to be.

In the second game I started things off with a bang by quickly mulling to five. As I started to try and force myself to accept that I’d have to settle for another Top 16, my turn 3 Isao turn 5 Ink-Eyes won me the game.

Game three was really no contest, as Karl was stuck on two lands the entire time. He had a play every turn, but Wicked Akubas just aren’t really a match for Kokusho’s, Melokus, and Kagemaros. As you surely know by now, Karl obviously did make the Top 8 despite the loss just as I had said and proceeded to finish ahead of me anyway.

10-2-1, 16-8-1

Ding. Top 8 and stuff. The Ambien. Or AmbienT as Eric Cunningham would say. EEEyaus. Hmm. Right. As for best Top 8 ever, I’m not sure. I think two can be put ahead of this one: the one that Flores talked about with Kai and Finkel and the one in GP Detroit, with Detroit coming first. In my opinion, a Top 8 is only as strong as it’s weakest link (or player) and Detroit definitely wins out in that category. I mean, the most random guy in that one was Mike Krumb, and not only did he have another GP Top 8 before that, but he also happens to be my friend. So I mean. Anyway, I had a match to go play in and a flight to change.

Between winning my match and starting the Top 8 I watched a bit of a match between EDT and my friend Rasmus Sibast (Big Oots for the laymen.) Time had been called, and both players agreed that Rasmus was winning for sure. He had the full Gifts combo and about ten cards in hand thanks to Blue Honden. He had infinite of every relevant spell and creature and all EDT had was a Jitte with some counters. EDT claimed he could win if he drew Goryo’s Vengeance to get back a legend and put Jitte on it, but Rasmus showed him the Hero’s Demise that made the game literally unwinnable for Eric. It should be noted that the winner of this match would make Top 32, while the loser would get nothing. In addition, a draw would leave both players out of the money. As one could predict, both players started asking each other to concede.

All the spectators, including myself, were fairly sure that EDT would do the conceding, since he had agreed that he couldn’t win the game. He seemed unwilling to do so, however. He wanted the pro points because he had seven. Hmmmmm. That makes a lot of sense. Gotta get to that level two. But Rasmus had him trumped in that argument as well, as he had fourteen pro points and was working on level three. In fact, Gabe Walls literally told EDT that his opponent had fourteen points in case he was unaware. But Eric wouldn’t budge. For some reason, he had tricked himself somehow into really honestly feeling that he deserved this match win. If he had refused to concede for some kind or reason like “I just don’t concede” I would think it stupid, but I would have to respect it. Everyone has the right to their own principles. However, it wasn’t only that EDT wouldn’t concede, but he fully expected and felt that he deserved for Rasmus to concede to him. Obviously, Rasmus would not do so since he would win the match for sure if it got played out.

For those who don’t know, it is simple etiquette in Magic in a situation like that where it only makes sense for a player to concede and a draw is terrible that if someone is in a clear losing situation that they be the one to take on for the team. I’m sure by now you can see where this is going. Both players kept refusing to concede and they took a draw. Not only that, but after it was over EDT, was overheard telling his friends that he had tried everything to get his opponent to see the light and concede but he was just a scumbag and there was nothing he could do (that is paraphrased by the way, not a direct quote.) I didn’t really know what to think. I talked to EDT for the first time just the week before at Gencon and he has seemed like an ok guy. But more importantly than that, this is a guy that’s been around the game for a long, long time. I am very confident that he was aware that the proper thing to do was to be the one doing the conceding. It just so happens that I wrote several different times in this article about people conceding matches or people who should be conceding matches. I am almost one hundred percent certain that I will get flamed for it, but since I did some conceding of my own, call me anything but a hypocrite. [And he also scooped Big Oots into the Top 8 down here in Mexico City as well. — Knut]

Top 8 vs. Mark Ioli w/ Gifts

When I saw I was playing one of the two randoms in the Top 8, I was pretty happy. That feeling faded pretty quickly when we saw our opponents’ deck lists and I checked out his presideboarded monstrosity. Not only did it still have Extraction main, but it had all four Kokushos main, a random Keiga, and a Footsteps in addition to other reanimation, but it also didn’t have cards like Wear Away and Hideous Laughter which are subpar in the mirror but good tools to have one of in the deck. On the bright side, we had almost the same deck post sideboard and I felt at that point I had the experience advantage. Oh, how ironic it was going to be.

Game one I played first and we both mulliganed. My draw was very good as I got to quickly empty his hand by cycling Ghost-Lit Stalker, but not before he got a Keiga into play. It was quickly dispatched with Shoal. He had Gifts, but a Black Myojin on my side nutted on his hand again and gave me a beater. My hand still had some gas in it; my draw had been that insane. He drew running Kokushos, though, to somewhat get back in the game, as well as a Black Myojin of his own. Luckily, I had enough guys left to finish him off, with Meloku being the most important. At this point I was very happy that I had gotten lucky to win the bad matchup that was game one and confident that I’d win one of the next two.

When he mulliganed to five on the play, I was even more confident. Unfortunately, my hand of Swamp, Swamp, Top, Reach, three more good spells on the draw was no good. He had a very good five and was able to apply pressure, and I didn’t draw a land at all. I put up a little bit of a fight by discarding Ink-Eyes and Goryo’s Vengeancing it back to steal one of his guys, but like I said his draw was quite good and that it wasn’t a problem to deal with that.

Game three we both had Tops and plenty of mana. I started to gain control but he played a Black Myojin and knew to use it on his own turn. I was so mad at Eugene Levin because my opponent had apparently not known about the “Death Denied these guys in response kill your Myojin” trick until Eugene got him with it. Eugene didn’t even put it to good use, as he lost anyway. Even with an empty hand, I was in ok shape as I had set up the top of my deck nicely with Top. I had an Ink-Eyes and a Meloku. The Meloku died right away but left some tokens behind. The Ink-Eyes got through, but didn’t grab anything better than Tribe Elder twice before it got dispatched by his Ink-Eyes. At this point, the tides started completely turning as he drew legend after legend and I drew land after land. I had about eighteen when the game finally ended. For a while though, I still had control. Believe it or not, I was still winning when he Death Denied for four, but the three running legends he drew after that did me in. I’m not exaggerating; it was actually that insane. But meh, as I mentioned before – some of my opponents got screwed too, so whatever. I was mostly just mad about the fact that he had played so ridiculously slow that even though I lost, I missed my flight (if the match had taken a normal amount of time, a loss would let me make my flight).

10-3-1, 17-10-1

Yep. So I was down on the weekend. Four hundred for my original flight, four hundred for my new flight, some arbitrarily large amount of money for hotel and food, and my $1050 I won ($800 for sixth place plus $250 for showing up) didn’t look like so much after all. Not only that, but I also lost a cool five ratings points. The three pro points are a little something to be happy about, but unfortunately I don’t see myself competing with Kenji or Masashi for player of the year, even if we are almost in a dead heat right now.

So I took an overnight flight and arrived in Chicago at 4:30 am. Yup, the P’s wouldn’t let me miss school for a little reason like Top 8’ing a GP. At least I had fun there, that was lucky.

I had considered writing a bit more about the Gifts deck, but it seems quite useless. Not only is the format almost over but the Champ himself just covered it today and I don’t know how much more I can really add. I’m hoping I can improve on the performance this weekend in Mexico, but I won’t be too upset with a repeat. Until next time,

I’m Gadiel Szleifer. Peace out.