One Step Ahead – GP Nashville Report *1st*

Thursday, November 25th – Gerry Thompson’s well-deserved Grand Prix Nashville win has been recorded in the annals of time. Is there a lesson to be learned here? That’s for you to figure out.

Author’s Note:

A number of you said that you were looking forward to my report (which I‘m obviously happy about), but unfortunately, I don’t think I can top my
SCG Open: Boston report.

Nothing too crazy happened this time, as I was too busy winning!

After the Kentucky Open, I had a quick couple of days to relax before the big guns started showing up. Gabe Walls and I sped down the highway toward the airport, which was filled with giant orange and white construction cones more than actual highway. We took the exit, and the car in front of us was driving toward the right side of the lane, hovering over the white line.

They were on a collision course with a cone but showed no sign of slowing down, even after crashing into it. Gabe passed them with surgical precision, careful not to collide with anything himself. As we passed, I curiously glanced over and noticed the cone was stuck under the front bumper of the car, and they were still driving along as if nothing had happened.

Luis Scott-Vargas and David Ochoa were the first to arrive, which was relatively painless. In order to kill some time, Gabe took them to a restaurant that was part of the Man vs. Food challenge called Bub’s, which stands for the Big Ugly Burger.

If you finish one of their 1.5 lb burgers in one sitting, you get a small picture of yourself on the wall. Two and three grant you larger pictures that stay up forever. If you manage to finish four, a feat never before accomplished at that location, you get a life-sized picture on the wall.

Gabe has a bet going with his roommate that he’ll eat four at the end of six months and told the waitress as much. When he was unable to finish his first burger, we informed the waitress that he was merely training, and she could expect him to complete the four-burger challenge.

She took the under.


Martin Juza was up next, and we hustled to the airport to get there in time but ended up forty minutes late. LSV hadn’t gotten any texts from Juza, so we thought that maybe his flight was delayed, but then Gabe realized that Juza got in an hour later than he thought, so instead of being forty minutes late, we were early!

I volunteered to enter the airport and search for the Frenchie. While I waited, I purchased the ole $3 Coke, which I tend to do. Yes, it’s probably a terrible decision, and added up over time, it ends up being quite the leak. Still, life is short, and if I want a Coke because it’s delicious, I see no reason to deny myself that pleasure.

The terminal he was landing in was easy enough to find, and I camped out at the entrance. Yeah, that’s right, not the exit. What the hell is wrong with me? Somehow, I managed to notice that a crowd of people were walking behind me toward the baggage claim, and I stuck around to see if I could see any crazy Euros, but he was nowhere to be found.

I saw him immediately when I hit the baggage claim. His beret made him stick out like a sore thumb. Rather than just walk up and say “Hi,” I snuck up beside him, sat down, and waited to see how long it would take for him to notice me. With his giant headphones and my sleek ninja-ness, he didn’t notice until I bumped his leg with mine.

Mission accomplished! Now we were just waiting on Ben Stark, who was supposed to get in earlier but took two free flight vouchers rather than get in on time and hang out with his friends. The nerve…

It was around 10 pm, and we headed to a dive karaoke bar that was Nate Price’s favorite hangout. Gabe was on the phone, trying to contact a limo service to pick Ben up, since he didn’t want to take a third trip to the airport. As it turned out, they were all closed, which was pretty unfortunate.

Nate is an absolute karaoke monster. He was about twenty deep in the queue though, as the place was pretty packed, so we found a giant, round table to sit down and ordered some drinks. I figured that the night would have a chilled, relaxed atmosphere with some song and drink and then probably retiring for the night.

I have no idea why I thought that. Tom Martell feature match entrance song (“Shots, shots, shots”) came on, and soon, Gabe and Kyle, his roommate, were ordering rounds for everyone. I remember everything that happened, but in doing so, it feels like it was all moving in fast forward.

Gabe was utterly shocked and somewhat offended when Ocho challenged him to a drinking contest. Their weapon of choice: The Long Island Iced Tea. Ocho took a break after six, while Gabe was already up to eight, had a few shots, and still showed no sign of slowing down.

The Ocho disappeared halfway into the night, and I investigated, although only within the walls of the bar. In my stupor, I couldn’t think of a reason for him to be outside, so I didn’t bother. Luis found him later, leaning against the side of Gabe’s Escalade, most likely feeling like he got in over his head.

BenS eventually showed up, and I felt bad for him. Typically, I hate being around a bunch of inebriated people when I’m sober, but it didn’t looked like he minded. Soon enough, we were heading home with BenS as our DD and a $600 bar tab that Kyle and Gabe were nice enough to split.

Robert, Gabe and Kyle’s roommate, was going to drive Kyle’s car home but couldn’t find Kyle’s keys. Everyone except for me, Kyle, and Robert were in the Escalade already, and Kyle and I could see where this was going. We both jumped into the car through the windows as Ben was driving off, stranding Robert at the bar with no money, keys, or cell phone.

He arrived home after us in a taxi and asked Kyle to fork over the $60 for fare, which he did without question.

Now, I don’t want to act like I glorify this type of activity. If you’re a child, I’d recommend against it, and if you’re not, I’d advise keeping it under control. It’s all fun and games until you end up back in a house full of gamers, each talking over each other while the ones who aren’t are throwing up in trashcans.

gerry + trashcan

Wednesday was a mock Thanksgiving at the GWalls estate. Juza couldn’t believe his beady little Frenchie eyes. Typically, they get a croissant for each meal, and that’s about it. Filet (over turkey, obviously – the Walls family isn’t composed of amateurs), two casseroles, multitudes of delicious dinner rolls, and plentiful deserts among other things.

Gabe’s mom, dad, uncle, grandma, and a couple of other ladies joined our merry band of hung-over gamers for Thanksgiving. Gabe’s grandmother especially, who we were told used to be quite the playa back in her day, was very excited to have, in her words, “such a nice group of young, good-looking men” joining her for dinner.

After the requisite Thanksgiving food coma, we all retired back to Gabe’s where we all just kinda slothed out on the couches. We talked about doing a thing or two, but no one could really expect to move in our state.

Thursday was another lazy day; although that one did involve a little Extended testing. Friday came quickly, and Ocho, Juza, BenS, LSV, Gabe, and Nate all hopped in Gabe’s Escalade that seats seven. Kyle and I were left to fend for ourselves while they durdled their way down to Tennessee. Kyle and I proceeded like adults and had intelligent conversations about world affairs.

The drive went quickly, as Indianapolis is roughly the perfect location to live in if you intend to travel to multiple Magic tournaments in the Midwest. Megan Holland, always vigilant, warned me that the restaurants seemed to be closed, so Kyle and I ate at a McDonald’s before we got to the event site.

Finding parking was a chore, and the guards working outside had no idea where to direct us. Kyle had a simple solution: Drive around until you spot kids with backpacks. The plan was foolproof, and soon enough, we spotted the site and found a parking lot nearby, but it was only for vendors.

Kyle approached a nearby security guard and asked him for directions to a parking spot and pointed in the direction of where we wanted to enter. The guard looked around and, content that no one was watching us, told us to just park in the vendor lot but not to tell anybody. Deal!

Once there, I registered (which sucked, because Gabe and co. had already gamed for it) and took a peek at Jarvis Yu’s absurd GPT Sealed deck with two Oxidda Scrapmelters, Venser, Koth, three Revoke Existences, and Liquimetal Coating. As far as decks go, that one would basically be the perfect one to open, both because of the quality of the cards but also because of the jacka** factor. I can only imagine how many games you get to leave your opponent permanent-less, which I think is critical to my enjoying myself at tournaments. It’s not Magic if I’ve allowed them to keep a permanent.

Chris Andersen and I played Iron Man with his leftover M11 packs. When I was about to lose my third game in a row, I peeled Stabbing Pain for my Birds of Paradise, so I got to rip that one up in front of Paulo. I turned my back for one second, and when I looked back, he had a single tear running down his cheek, collected the pieces, and ran away in search of some tape.

I was staying with Andrew Lipkin, Julian Booher, John Penick, and Korey McDuffie. I tried to stay across from Ian and Reid Duke, Ben Hayes, and Nick Spagnolo, but Reid sent me a link to “his” hotel, I sent that link to Penick, and he booked from there. We still ended up being booked at a different Days Inn.

I left the site with Ben Hayes in order to find some food. In order to check into my hotel, I had to wait for Penick to get to TN anyway, so I figured I could just crash at the Days Inn for a bit while I waited, since that was my final destination anyway. Andrew was busy opening nut-low Sealed decks in GPTs while Julian was drafting.

We were supposed to meet up with the Dukes, Stephen Hicks, and Christian Calcano, who was also staying at the Days Inn. First, we attempted to navigate through the monstrous Gaylord Opryland Hotel. It was literally a city within a building. I think in my time spent walking through that place, I probably covered 1/20th of it, if that.

At the Days Inn, we ordered Dominos, and Penick sent me a text saying he was at the Days Inn, knocking on our room. I went outside and realized he must have booked us a room at the other Days Inn somehow. I told him to check in, we’d finish eating, and then Calcano and I would book it over there. As it turned out, he was staying at the other Days Inn as well. We all need a personal Megan Holland to make sure these things don’t happen.

Once Penick and I got situated, Calcano hung out for a bit, we watched parts of Avatar (which looked terrible), and then my roommates showed up one by one. I attempted to corral everyone into bed and fall asleep, as I wanted to get to bed early for once. Despite my best efforts, we kept talking, and by that I mean I kept telling stories. Once I realized I was probably to blame for getting to bed so late, I shut my trap and closed my eyes.

The Sealed deck I opened contained a mono-white deck with thirty awesome playables, while the deck I got shipped wasn’t very exciting. I was obviously playing red for:

2 Galvanic Blast
Oxidda Scrapmelter
Barrage Ogre

And might play:

2 Blade-Tribe Berserkers
Furnace Celebration

With solid support from:

3 Wall of Tanglecord
2 Rusted Relic
2 Silver Myr
2 Iron Myr
Panic Spellbomb
Culling Dais
Tumble Magnet
Snapsail Glider
Heavy Arbalest
Accorder’s Shield
Horizon Spellbomb

With some looser support if I needed it:

Liquimetal Coating
Clone Shell
Lux Cannon

My blue was:

2 Sky-Eel School
Grand Architect
Volition Reins

Sky-Eel might be underrated in general but also just good in Sealed. Cards like Sky-Eel are great since they encourage you to play a lot of lands but don’t punish you for doing so.

My black was:

2 Instill Infection
2 Moriok Replica
Bleak-Coven Vampires

I figured that any matchup that was attrition-based would be a good place to side in Instill Infection. Otherwise, I just wanted to out-card-quality them with Rusted Relics and Sky-Eel Schools. That didn’t work out. One might think that the two Silver Myr and two Iron Myr were a sign that I should be U/R, but while I was building my deck, I actually thought of it as the universe testing me. I failed.

Most matches turned out to be attrition-based, weak to Instill Infection and Furnace Celebration, but it seemed wrong to build my deck so gimmicky. In the end, I lost most game ones but won most of my matches with R/B, so who knows?

I had two byes on rating and Pro Points, and after a quick breakfast courtesy of Steve Sadin, we were onto business! Sorry Steve, I needed to get unstuck after that Kentucky Open fiasco.

Round Three: Matt Stroh

I sat down and introduced myself, but he informed me that we already played a couple times. Apparently I got a little mad when he played really slowly with Dredge in a PTQ and got us both a draw when I was about to win with Counterbalance.

He said that he didn’t know who I was at the time, but I stopped him right there and told him that it doesn’t matter who I am. If I’m being a douche, I deserve to be treated like a douche. There’s no reason to forgive me if I haven’t atoned for my sins. I have some moments that I’m not proud of, but Matt said that we all do, and there were no hard feelings. He’s a good guy.

I thought there was some sort of karmic justice when I mulliganed to four in game one, but I sided into white and beat him games two and three when he drew the bottom half of his deck. My True Conviction seemed like it would beat his deck straight up, but it never came down to that.


Round Four: Sam Black, Poison, GGsLive Feature Match

He mulliganed to five in game one, while I mulliganed once but had only my do-nothings like Accorder’s Shield, Iron Myr, Wall of Tanglecord, and Horizon Spellbomb. Galvanic Blast killed his first play, a Hand of the Praetors, but Corpse Cur was a huge dagger. I drew nothing past that and eventually succumbed to a zoo full of poisonous animals.

I had a Rusted Relic in game two, but Trigon of Infestation plus Blight Mamba were giving me headaches, causing me to Volition Reins his Trigon. Contagion Engine once again put Sam in the driver’s seat, and I drew enough nothings that I couldn’t come back.


It was after that round I strongly considered siding into black, since neither of my colors had anything going on, but at least R/B could kill some things and draw some cards. Ben Hayes pointed out that I should definitely be playing the Liquimetal Coating because of Rusted Relic and Barrage Ogre, and I agreed with him, especially after I started siding in Ferrovore and Furnace Celebration.

Round Five: Chris Andersen

Chris (with an “F”) told me that he was about to ask me to help him with his Sealed deck, but I was nowhere to be found. I lamented my laziness and lack of scouting.

He chose to draw when he won the die roll and then sided into an aggressive W/R deck with Gaveleers and whatnot when he knew I was going to draw.

On the draw in the second game, I had Embersmith but only two lands, and by the time I had three, he was attacking me with a doubly equipped Flameborn Hellion. I peeled a fourth land and Scrapmeltered his Lifestaff, chump-blocked, and then managed to trade two of my guys for it.

From there, I was at four life while he had a Necrogen Censer with a counter on it, so basically anything he drew killed me. I did my best to cut his clock as best I could to give him the least amount of draw steps, and I got there before he did.


Round Six: Jesse Hawkins

I know Jesse from MTGO and living near in Iowa. He’s a very skilled magician; although his skills with forty cards were questionable. In addition, he was out of practice, but I knew I had to play tight regardless.

Game one was off to a slow start thanks to his Neurok Replicas, but I stabilized with Sky-Eel School and then Barrage Ogre, while he went to work making tokens with Myr Propagator and Grand Architect. The race was on, and since I wanted it in my maindeck so badly (and he didn’t have any good targets), I Volition Reined his Liquimetal Coating. I was dead if he had Galvanic Blast, but he didn’t, and my flier plus Ogre raced him.

Second game wasn’t very close, as I got off to a fast R/B start, killed his blockers, and played around Halt Order (which he didn’t end up having but got to represent it on numerous turns).


Round Seven: Brazilian Ringer Rafael Coqueiro

His deck was everything you’d imagine a good W/R deck would have in this format. To top it off, he curved out with Myr Battlesphere. I figured that even though Instill Infection wasn’t the best against his deck, I needed Furnace Celebration to have a shot.

His card quality was too good, and I needed some sort of engine to get a lot of value out of my cards. I also sided out a Myr, the Horizon Spellbomb, and a land, both because my curve was low and because I needed to draw multiple spells to beat him. I couldn’t afford to get flooded.

It worked! In game two, I kept a loose one with only a Swamp but drew Silver Myr, missed a land drop, and then drew three straight lands. Embersmith plus Instill Infection picked off his smaller guys, and even though I had taken some early damage, my card advantage pulled me through.

The final game was pretty exciting, as he was able to use his tempo advantage to get me down to one. Bleak-Coven Vampires brought me back to five and out of Galvanic Blast range. His Myr Battlesphere was promptly Shattered, but now he had enough creatures that an alpha strike plus Galvanic Blast would beat me.

I started machine-gunning him with Heavy Arbalest, and when he went for Blade-Tribe Berserkers plus Bladed Pinions, I had Liquimetal Coating plus Shatter. A topdecked Celebration expedited the process, but I was probably going to win anyway.


Round Eight: Phil Napoli

Again, I felt like I should have scouted better! I sat two seats down from PNaps last round but only remembered seeing Wurmcoil Engine. Granted, that’s a good one to see, but still.

In the first game, he started off nicely with a pair of Sylvok Replicas and a Skinrender. I matched a Sky-Eel School to his Necrogen Scudder and snap-blocked. I figured the game would come down to attrition, but suddenly, I was on a clock when Engulfing Slagwurm came down.

I stared at the Galvanic Blast and Volition Reins in my hand, his Sylvok Replica in play, and my lack of metalcraft. I couldn’t find an out and conceded, wondering where I messed up.

The next two games were epic grind fests. Once again, B/R came through, and I was able to burn him out both games.


Round Nine: Cory Hill, R/B nuts

Molten-Tail Masticore made an appearance, but I quickly forced it to kill itself rather than do my bidding with Volition Reins. From there, he didn’t draw a whole lot, and I peeled some threats. Easy game.

Second game, he put me on the play, so I came out with Embersmith and Iron Myr. He drew for his third turn, said, “Well, I didn’t draw a land, but I drew this Arc Trail.” Two turns later, I got Arc Trailed again.

It was unfortunate, but I made it up when I Scrapmeltered him a turn later. He played out a Leaden Myr, leaving his board with an Iron Myr equipped with Sylvok Lifestaff, three Mountains, and a Swamp, and two cards in hand to my five lands and Scrapmelter.

He thought for a moment, Blasted my 3/3, and I Blasted his Leaden Myr to put him off metalcraft. My opponent lamented his luck for a bit but was especially displeased that at the end of the game, his hand was two Grasps of Darkness and a Skinrender.

If he moved the Lifestaff to his Leaden Myr before Blasting, it’s possible that I would’ve shot his Iron Myr. I assumed that the game was going to be won by inches, and by Blasting his Leaden Myr, I give him the life necessary to draw into more black sources anyway, so it didn’t feel like I would be color-screwing him.

Regardless, I’m glad I didn’t have to make any decisions and was able to skate by a matchup that was probably really terrible for me.


Round Ten: Todd Anderson

Juza was sitting next to me and discussed the possibility of a draw with his opponent. I kind of liked the sound of that, since my deck was bad, and Todd’s was probably pretty good. He liked the idea as well, and instead of snap-agreeing, I wanted to verify how many X-3s would make Top 8. If we needed a draw to reach Top 8 regardless, I would much rather test my luck in a match of Draft than Sealed, especially since I already knew the contents of mine.

In that time, Todd changed his mind, and we just played it out. I started with Embersmith, and he sighed and then Arrested it on turn 3! I laughed at him but told him that it either meant his hand was absurd, or that he didn’t have any brain cells.

Sure enough, he Acid Web Spidered my Accorder’s Shield, cast Indomitable Archangel, and then Contagion Engine, which I Shattered. Naturally, he had the Razor Hippogriff just waiting for such an occasion. Volition Reins on the Archangel seemed like the best way to hold off his squad, but when he cast Glint Hawk and Engined me for the

time, I packed ’em in.

Thankfully, my R/B deck was way better than my U/R deck, and Todd didn’t draw all of his bombs in the next two games. Fifteen lands was incredibly key, as I never felt the sting of being flooded and peeling a land every turn.


Somehow, after getting crushed with my absurd Toronto deck, one of the biggest piles I’ve opened carried me to a 9-1 record. I always said that I just wanted to make it to the draft portion of the tournament while still drawing live for Top 8, and it was about time to put my money where my mouth was.

I was asked to join some friends at the bars, but I was still recovering from my Tuesday night, and I had a tournament that I wanted to win!

This year, I’ve been pretty upset that I had two Top 16s at X-3, and years ago, those would’ve translated into Top 8s. Most of my Grand Prix Top 8s were on the back of X-3 records after all. It means that you have to run a little better to Top 8 a tournament that has 1500 people in it, but it should also strengthen your resolve and allow you to tighten up in the face of adversity.

I’m honestly not sure if that happened to me, as I played tight in some spots but certainly loose in others. I can also say that, with 100% certainty, I was running good nearly the entire tournament.

Draft One

My buddy Eirik was on my left, and I know he prefers poison, so I knew that was probably not an option. I don’t particularly like poison, so I was more than fine with that, knowing that he would ship the goods in pack 2. Hopefully, one of us could 3-0 and be in a great position to make Top 8.

Pick 1 was difficult because it contained Golem Artisan, Chrome Steed, and a Myr. I was unsure how highly the people at my table would value the Myrs and knew that if I were to end up in metalcraft, I’d want plenty. Things like Chrome Steed or other random beaters tend to be easy to pick up, so I went with the Myr, which is different from what I advocated in my blog


on drafting metalcraft.

Second pick was another metalcraft card, while third pick had a True Conviction staring back at me. I wasn’t sure why, but it felt like a trap. However, the rest of the pack was Neurok Replica and Sylvok Replica, so I wouldn’t be missing out on a great card for my deck regardless. I slammed it. I finished out the pack with some artifacts but didn’t really have any direction.

I opened another relatively blank pack but got passed Oxidda Scrapmelter, Volition Reins, and Sunblast Angel with a common missing. Based on that and what I passed Eirik in pack 1, it was pretty clear that he was poison. I happily took the Sunblast, especially since only Eirik would know that I had it.

I ended up with Barrage Ogre, a Shatter, some late blue pickings like Vedalken Certarch, and my two white bombs at the end of pack 2. I was pretty sure that despite Pat Price on my right being white with either blue or red that I’d be able to select the open color and roll with it.

Pack 3 was weak again, and I ended up with a deck that looked like:

1 Sunblast Angel
1 True Conviction
38 filler

You could certainly do worse in this format, but I was hoping to either ride the backs of my rares or else be very happy to escape with a 2-1 record.

Round Eleven: Dustin Faeder, W/r

Dustin is an MTGO ringer who recently made Top 8 of Grand Prix Toronto in the same format, so I knew I was in for a tight match. His W/r deck looked like it was lacking in the removal department, but it was still solid with lots of good threats.

He crushed me in the first game when I didn’t draw any of my big cards, but in the second game, I stabilized quickly. I was just waiting to draw one of my sweet game enders while sitting behind two Vedalken Certarchs and drawing cards with Trigon of Thought. His Golem Artisan broke the game wide open, but thankfully, I peeled Arrest.

This wasn’t Dustin’s first rodeo though, and he cast the Glimmerpoint Stag he’d been holding just in case of something like that. The next turn, I found True Conviction and attacked. He put Soliton in front of my Strider Harnessed Palladium Myr and used all of his mana to save his creature. That allowed me to use my last card, a Heavy Arbalest, to gun down his Golem Artisan and pad my life total some more. He conceded, both in the fact that he probably shouldn’t have blocked but also the game to ensure he had enough time to beat me in game three.

He hadn’t seen Sunblast Angel yet, which was an absolute powerhouse against his seemingly all-creature deck. When I drew my opener and it had Sunblast Angel, I kept it despite having only one land. I spiked a land on turn 2 but missed for a couple other turns. Vedalken Certarch, and then a second, held down his squad with the help of my Accorder’s Shielded Perilous Myr.

Dustin was quietly sneaking in for a few points a turn, while I secretly hoped to draw my sixth land to blow him out. When he finally all-ined, getting me to one, I had the sickest sweat of the tournament. I should’ve dropped the Sunblast Angel on the table and slow-rolled the top of my deck, but instead, I squeezed it, making him wonder what it was I was hoping to draw.

It was an Iron Myr. Oh, the irony. I flashed him the Sunblast Angel; he looked at his board of tapped creatures in horror, but then I scooped up all my cards and wished him good luck.


Round Twelve: Sam Buchanan

Sam quickly admitted that his poison deck wasn’t the greatest, and it certainly didn’t help that he mulliganed each game and had weak draws. Game one was a relatively simple affair, as I quickly took control with True Conviction, but even after he double-mulliganed on the play in game two, I was on the back foot.

His aggressive draw combined with Tel-Jilad Fallen and a mid-game Genesis Wave for two additional beaters meant that I was in trouble. But that’s what rares are for!

Trigon of Thought served up Sunblast Angel, and he couldn’t come back from it.


Round Thirteen: Pat Price

I heard that Pat was U/W fliers, so I wasn’t exactly happy about the matchup. He was feeding me during the draft, and my deck was alright; although clearly lacking in some departments. I could only imagine what he was taking over the decent cards that I got, especially after I shipped him a Volition Reins in pack 2.

I stabilized the ground in game one, but as expected, he started hitting me in the air. True Conviction and Sunblast Angel were pretty nice midgame draws, and I almost got confident enough to throw the game away. I declined to attack into his Clone Shell for fear or something sick like his own Sunblast Angel being underneath it (again, why didn’t I scout?) and was content to sit behind my double-striking flier. He had a few chump blockers, but then Trigon of Corruption cut my clock immensely.

He cast a Glint Hawk to reset his Trigon, and I debated whether or not to use my Stoic Rebuttal. In the end, I decided, albeit poorly, to save it, since I thought I could attack through the Hawk regardless. That, combined with his Glint Hawk Idol, meant that I couldn’t kill him the very next turn and would have to counter the Trigon anyway.

As I should have expected, I drew my splashed Shatter for his Idol, Arrested his Glint Hawk, and attacked for the last points. I could hear Andrew Lipkin throwing up in his mouth behind me while watching me play.

As a nice confidence booster, I played game two fairly well and certainly better than game one. Giddy up, Sunblast Angel! Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!


Escaping with a 2-1 record definitely felt nice. A 2-0 should put me in a position to draw into Top 8 which would be pretty sweet, and I had to pick up a meager one victory to get enough Pro Points to qualify for Worlds, despite what Bill Stark said in the coverage. Still, Top 32 wouldn’t be enough money or Pro Points to realistically consider me going to Worlds. I told Jason Ford and Korey McDuffie that if I made Top 8, I’d go to Worlds. Anything less would be a failure.

I tend to regret my words a lot.

Draft Two

I knew literally everyone at my draft table. For one thing, it sucks because I know that all of my opponents will be competent, but it also means that all the baby-whining done by those who didn’t make Day 2 about how luck-based the format is are probably wrong.

Or maybe the Sealed format is really bad, and the Draft format is great.

The second draft was a decent amount of me pussyfooting around. I took Vedalken Certarch instead of Neurok Replica third, as I figured if I ended up in blue, I’d want the Certarch more. It could table, and the Replica wouldn’t, but the pack was kind of weak, and I didn’t want to risk it. Sixth pick, I took a Panic Spellbomb over Turn to Slag because I figured that since I hadn’t seen a red card yet, it likely wasn’t open, but the Spellbomb could be splashed or used to hedge.

I ended up getting two Embersmiths in pack 2 and didn’t see any other blue, so I abandoned that plan. After all, I’m drafting Mirrodin, and W/R is exactly what Mike Turian would draft, so it can’t be wrong.

Prototype Portal was a card I selected early in pack 3, both because I think it’s sweet and because I had a lot of cool interactions with Tumble Magnet and my plethora of Panic Spellbombs.

My brew:

Accorder’s Shield
4 Panic Spellbomb
2 Revoke Existence
2 Arrest
Tumble Magnet
Strider Harness
Prototype Portal
2 Embersmith
3 Auriok Edgewright
Sunspear Shikari
Iron Myr
Gold Myr
Snapsail Glider
Moriok Replica
Ghalma’s Warden
2 Blade-Tribe Berserkers
8 Plains
7 Mountain

Ideally, Moriok Replica would be something good, and maybe I’d have a couple more artifacts instead of colored metalcraft guys, but the deck was pretty awesome. Even though I was very much a beatdown deck, I wanted to draw first to increase my chances of hitting metalcraft on key turns but also to have artifacts for Embersmith when I needed them. I had a lot of removal, so it didn’t seem all that unlikely for the games to become attrition-based as well.

Round Fourteen: Joseph Keaveny, G/b/u Poison

He got to play first (either by me letting him, or him winning the die roll, I’m not sure) and led with Ichorclaw Myr, Mimic Vat, Trigon of Rage. I stabilized at nine poison, but my board position was crumbling, and if he had literally anything I was dead.

End of my turn he made a Necropede token with the Vat, made another token, and Instill Infectioned my Sunspear Shikari with a -1/-1 counter on it. I only had a Gold Myr and Ghalma’s Warden left to block his three guys, so I was dead, right?

Nope, apparently Joe forgot about the Accorder’s Shield on my Shikari and had he infected my Myr instead, I would’ve been dead. As it was, my guys got a couple counters on them after the Necropedes hit me, and I was empty-handed but alive.

My draw step was a land, and some quick math revealed that I needed to draw Blade-Tribe Berserkers off my Panic Spellbomb to kill him. If I didn’t, I would almost certainly lose.

I cracked the Spellbomb, and obviously it was there.

Second game, he got flooded badly. My draw wasn’t spectacular, and I was somewhat flooded myself, but I stopped drawing lands around number nine while he kept going. It wasn’t hard to push through lethal at that point.


Round Fifteen: Logan Mize, GGsLive Feature Match

Before the match, I breached the idea of a small prize split, considering so much was on the line. We settled on 10%, capped at $200, just in case the winner made the finals. Wishful thinking, I know, but good to be safe just in case.

Logan had just defeated Paul Rietzl, so I knew that he had a Wurmcoil Engine. In order to beat that thing, I was probably going to have to sandbag a Revoke or Arrest. He started with a Myr, but I blew that up with Embersmith. Darkslick Drake and a pair of Sky-Eel Schools followed, and it seemed like he would stabilize, but he got really aggressive instead.

A Panic Spellbomb and some more combat math (I hate that stuff) revealed that if I drew a land on my next turn, and he kept only one creature back, I could attack him for lethal. Sure enough, the second Eel came down, and he attacked me down to eleven. Like clockwork, I peeled a land, played Tumble Magnet achieving metalcraft, shooting him for one in the process, then Blade-Tribe Berserkers, and attacked for exactly twelve, his life total.

In the second game, Logan set up some defenses with Wall of Tanglecord and Darkslick Drake while I played out a pair of Embersmiths. When it was clear that he might miss his sixth land drop, he played out the two Myr he was holding in an attempt to get there. My turn of “Strider Harness, kill your two creatures” didn’t seem all that bad, and he bricked on land again.

I could tell the Engine was forthcoming, but I felt like I had enough gas to push through it even after Arresting his Darkslick Drake and Revoking his Wall. A Dispense Justice and Stoic Rebuttal slowed me down, but Panic Spellbomb cleared the way when the Wurms finally made an appearance.


Round Sixteen: Ari Lax

“Well, at least you get to let a fish into Top 8.”

Ari Lax


We did it! And by that I mean, I was now committed to going to Worlds. I was hoping to at least make the finals in order to not incinerate all of my money.

Sadly, Steve Sadin lost playing for Top 8 against Ari, but at least he won his last match and qualified for Paris. Even after just getting daggered, he was still down to pose just like his Pro Player Card, Goblin token:

steve sadin goblin

Congrats to Steve and Eirik for making Top 16 and condolences on barely missing Top 8. At least I’ll see you guys in Paris!

Kyle Stoll was the unknown quantity in the Top 8, but he’s one of the dudes that I draft with on the regular, at least when I’m in town. The kid is a stone-kold ringer, and I assure you that you’ll be seeing more of him in the future.

I’m glad to see Wrapter finally get his dues. I remember him posting twice in the Counterbalance thread right here on StarCityGames.com, and based solely on those two posts, I knew he was a master. His constant winning on Magic Online further cemented that. He’s the real deal, and it’s always nice when justice is served.

As I said earlier, Conrad gets a lot of flak, but if you’re cool with him, he’ll be cool with you. Despite his sometimes-rough exterior, he’s a good dude.

Similarly, Ari Lax and I have had our disagreements, but he’s a good kid, too, although somewhat misguided regarding certain things.

Gerard is hilarious, putting out some great content right now, and one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. During Grand Prix Kansas City, he was one of the pros that was easily approachable and was very kind and cordial during our matches. He beat me in the first draft, and when we played the second, he said that whoever won the match had to promise to make Top 8. My experiences with him were incredibly pleasant, unlike some of the ones I had with his other friends and teammates.

Conley Woods is like the everyman’s Brad Nelson. At times, it doesn’t seem like he knows how to lose, but he does it with bad cards instead of good ones. I like to give him crap every once in a while, but he deserves the results he’s getting and is a nice guy who cares about the community to boot.

What can possibly be said about Martin Juza? He may not know what a Whammy is (while simultaneously screaming, “NO WHAMMIES” all night in a drunken stupor), but if he cared enough, he could be put into the same echelon of players as Kai, Finkel, Nassif, and Kenji. He’s just that good. It looked a little shaky there for a minute when he couldn’t Top 8 a Grand Prix to save his life, but once he got over that hump, it looks like GPs are his new stomping grounds. If there was anyone I didn’t want to play against in Top 8, it was him.

Sharing a Top 8 with your friends is always great, and just like my second draft table, I knew everyone in the Top 8 draft! Granted, I know a lot of people, but still. Overall, a great Top 8 to be a part of. While clearly I was rooting for myself, I wouldn’t have been upset to see any of those guys win the Grand Prix.

Before we could get to drafting, the coverage team wanted to get a picture of us on the little kid’s train in the hotel. That meant we had to wait around for thirty minutes while the kids who were in line got their turn. After a few awkward moments, like trying to squeeze Conrad Kolos and Wrapter into the same seat, which was physically impossible, or Conley Woods yelling, “Shotgun caboose!” as if he were there for the Ram-Gang, it was pretty cool. It felt like the type of thing they did for a Pro Tour and not a Grand Prix.

While filling out the Top 8 profiles (which are by far my favorite part of the event coverage, it’s a shame they discontinued those for the SCG Opens), I put down the following:

What is your preferred draft strategy

U/R Metal, but I can draft whatever.

What is the card you MOST hope to open during the draft

Probably Scrapmelter; I’ll rely on everyone else to ship the Volition Reins and Golden Urns.

It was almost prophetic.


I opened Grand Architect, got passed Volition Reins, followed by Riddlesmith, and never really looked back. Heavy Arbalest and Mindslaver were two cards that I picked up in pack 1 that combo-ed well with Grand Architect, and the Kuldotha Forgemaster and Soliton I picked up later fit in perfectly.

Surprisingly, Vedalken Certarch didn’t table out of pack 1, but that’s only because Ari Lax D-drafted it from me. Sucker, I’ll always have two Certarchs, no matter what you do!

I opened pack 2 and had Oxidda Scrapmelter and Volition Reins looking up at me with goo-goo eyes. They both shouted, “Pick me!” It’s difficult to choose a favorite among your children, but I didn’t have a second color, had an Iron Myr, and already had two six-drops in Volition Reins #1 and Mindslaver, so I felt like drafting more of a curve might be necessary.

Chimeric Mass followed by Trinket Mage was awesome, but I needed more mana Myr. Going into pack 3, I told myself I wouldn’t take anything over a Myr if I opened it, and I opened three, flipped to the back of the pack to take note of what I was passing, and saw Sword of Body and Mind.

It wasn’t particularly good in my deck, but it’s more powerful, and because of the plethora of Myr I’d seen otherwise, it didn’t seem like I needed to prioritize them that highly. I’ve been known to pass Wurmcoil Engines when I’m poison, but in order to win the tournament, I couldn’t afford to drop a match. Having another bomb that can steal games (despite BenS saying that it’s worse than Darksteel Axe) seemed like a good choice.

I looked at Gerard, sent him a telepathic message that said, “Sorry buddy, today just isn’t your day” and put it into my pile. On the bright side, Trinket Mage #2 tabled out of that pack, but Ari was hoarding all the Myr on my right, so I only ended up with two.

The final decklist:

13 Island
4 Mountain

1 Copper Myr
1 Grand Architect
1 Iron Myr
1 Kuldotha Forgemaster
1 Memnite
1 Neurok Replica
1 Oxidda Scrapmelter
1 Riddlesmith
1 Soliton
2 Trinket Mage
2 Vedalken Certarch
1 Wall of Tanglecord
1 Chimeric Mass
1 Flight Spellbomb
1 Golden Urn
1 Heavy Arbalest
1 Mindslaver
1 Rusted Relic
1 Sword of Body and Mind
1 Sylvok Lifestaff
1 Volition Reins

My sideboard options were:

Stoic Rebuttal
Bonds of Quicksilver
Lumengrid Drake
Halt Order
3 Turn Aside (very underrated)
Nihil Spellbomb
Sky-Eel School
Darksteel Sentinel

That’s right, if I didn’t take Scrapmelter over Reins in pack 2 (not that it would have been correct), I could have been mono-blue! I also could have (and should have) played a 14th Island instead of the fourth Mountain. During deck building, I was thinking how I never wanted to get stuck with the Scrapmelter in my hand, but it’s far more devastating to not have enough blue mana.

I played “crappy” cards like Memnite and Golden Urn mostly because of the Vedalken Certarchs, but having a plethora of Trinket Mage targets didn’t hurt either. The Urn is vastly underrated, much like Turn Aside.

Other than those last few slots, I was very happy. Much like in the first draft, after passing Volition Reins, I made sure to grab a few things that either countered it or mitigated the damaged it did to my board position.

Top Eight: Martin Juza


Before the draft, Juza offered a split where the winner gives the loser $300, but that creates situations where the winner makes less than the loser, so that didn’t seem right, especially after splitting with Logan. I counter-offered with $200, and he accepted.

We both durdled along in game one until he cast Wurmcoil Engine. I thought I was fine because I had a 1/7 Wall of Tanglecord thanks to Grand Architect, but apparently Wurmcoil Engine has deathtouch. Can you tell I’ve never had that card in play before?

Chump-blocking wasn’t the worst deal though, as I needed to buy some more time to find my Volition Reins, which came rather quickly. To say I was running good might be an understatement. Sadly, Martin has been on a tear of his own lately and came right back with a Disperse.

Still, some crappy Wurms are no match for Soliton plus the Heavy Arbalest I Tinkered for, which gunned down his creatures, and then his life total, until he drew his own Volition Reins. He had to take the Arbalest, but that left him with one creature, locked under it, to my full board.

I’d like to say that soon after, we were reaching for our sideboards, but Martin doesn’t exactly play quickly. He did accumulate three unintentional draws in the tournament after all.

I did a bit of sideboarding to account for the cards I saw out of his deck and ended up cutting some of the weaker cards like Memnite, Golden Urn, and one Vedalken Certarch (because I’d have less artifacts). The counterspells both seemed valuable, as did Bonds of Quicksilver for his Darkslick Drake and Engine.

I turbo-ed out Chimeric Mass for nine on turn 5 thanks to Grand Architect, which he stole with Volition Reins. I peeled an Island for my own Volition Reins, and I was once against in the driver’s seat. His Golem Foundry did little to stop my assault, and soon he was chump-blocking while drawing dead.

Top Four: Conrad Kolos

He was the only poison drafter in Top 8, which can be pretty scary. In game one, I was tapping down his Plague Stinger with Certarch until it was clear he didn’t have a fourth land, then I pounced on his mana base. My curve followed up by Grand Architect into Kuldotha Forgemaster was probably going to be good enough, but I Tinkered out Mindslaver just for value.

Second game, I had to mulligan and kept a sketchy hand with a bunch of five-drops. I set it up so that Trinket Mage could get a whack in with Sword of Body and Mind if fetched a Flight Spellbomb but had to use it without drawing a card so that I could play a Forgemaster in the same turn.

Conrad jammed his Cystbearer into my Forgemaster, as it was basically useless considering I had the Sword, plus he already had maximum Corpse Cur recursion going. If he had Untamed Might, my Forgemaster would die, but I needed to peel a cheap artifact to get it active anyway.

If there was any doubt at this point, I drew a cheap one and fetched out the Arbalest combo once again. I’ve literally never seen a better Kuldotha Forgemaster in my entire life.

I shotgunned his team down and started to work on his life total, but he made me sweat a little when he cast Instill Infection on it, playing to his outs, which at that point was a lone Skinrender. He didn’t have it, and the turn he died, Conrad flipped up the top card, and obviously it was Skinrender.

Finals: Ari Lax

Always one to hedge, I negotiated a split with Ari as well, this time with $500 going to the loser.

The first game I had Trinket Mage into Chimeric Mass, which killed two of his creatures. Trinket Mage then picked up Sword of Body and Mind but was stopped cold by Steel Hellkite. I was still probably okay, because I think he had to chump my Rusted Relic with it if I moved the Sword over, but to add insult to injury, I peeled Volition Reins and stole his Dragon instead.

Second game was by far the worst game I played the entire tournament. If you want to play a game yourself, go watch the GGsLive coverage, and try to find a turn where I

make a colossal mistake. I lost, and rightfully so.

I thought it was fitting that the last game of the finals started by an absurdly fast, Grand-Architect-fueled draw on my part, which eventually ended with a turn 6 Mindslaver plus activation. Had he not conceded, I would’ve attacked for exactly twenty.

As Shuhei said, “Champioooooon!”

Like Brad Nelson in DC, all I did was play Magic until someone told me to stop. I wasn’t thinking about what record I needed to Top 8, or whether or not I would go to Worlds, or how I would afford it if I merely made Top 32. All I did was sit down and play the current game of Magic the best I could and not worry about anything else.

I tried to explain to Calcano about tilting and how after years of suffering unimaginable beats in both poker and Magic, tilt doesn’t affect me anymore. I don’t think there’s anything that can happen to me that hasn’t already happened before, so what’s the point of stressing over it?

The game we play is mostly a game of skill, but clearly there’s some luck involved. Sometimes it swings your way, and you don’t notice it because winning is the expected outcome for most of you out there. Losing is when you suddenly start realizing something is wrong with the situation, and you start picking out all the “abnormal” things that happened, but barely notice when you one-outered your opponent the game before.

None of it matters. Push it out of your mind, and focus on what matters. Keep playing until someone tells you to stop. Even sitting here now, writing this article, and reliving all the events that transpired, winning the Grand Prix seems like something I’ve imagined. I vaguely remember feeling the same way in Denver, and at some point, I just got used to it and realized that it was reality.

I can’t thank the people that congratulated me enough. You guys rock.



for my sporadically updated blog.


for live tournament updates!

P.S. Big thanks to Adam Shaw, Donnie Noland, and everyone else who was involved with making Grand Prix Nashville run so smoothly. You guys do good work!

P.P.S Victory breakfast!