It has been a while since my last article. Frankly, between Grand Prix – Dallas, the Magic Invitational in Sydney, Australia, and Grand Prix – Florence this past weekend, I’ve been plenty busy. Not only have I been to three continents in the past three weeks to play Magic, but somewhere along the way I picked up a killer cold, so the days that I haven’t spent traveling have seen me lying in bed.
First off, thanks to everyone who sent me card and deck ideas for the Invitational. I ended up going with a card sent to me by Brett Reid, which I renamed and made into a goblin:
Casting Cost: R
Creature – Goblin
When Goblin Hordes comes into play, you may discard a card at random from your hand. If you do, put a +1/+1 counter on Goblin Hordes.
This card is simple and balanced, and it was my best hope for pushing another two-power creature for one mana through Wizards of the Coast R&D. If anything, I think the Goblin Hordes are a bit on the underpowered side and would need some improvement in the R&D process, but the members of Wizards R&D might have had some differing opinions on that. However, it was not to be. I finished in 3rd place (out of 16) at the Invitational, missing out on the finals because of tiebreaks to Ben Rubin. Not a bad performance, but not quite good enough. Maybe next year…
If you are interested in hearing more about the Invitational, stay tuned to the Sideboard (www.sideboard.com) where tournament reports from all of the participants of the Invitational will be posted.
Grand Prix – Dallas was a disappointment, the Magic Invitational was a blast, and this past weekend, I picked up and flew to Grand Prix – Florence. I had done a bit of playtesting with Lauren Passmore, Thomas Anderrson (of former Pro Tour fame), and two other Colorado Magic players, Caroline Kert and Terry Welty (who recently top 8’d at Grand Prix – Phoenix). Since Pro Tour – Chicago is right around the corner, I had focused most of my energy on Standard and this Extended practice was largely an afterthought. I knew that Trix was the deck to beat, and I had an inspiration to make a three-color Merfolk deck that could beat it. Unfortunately, after a night of playtesting, we discovered that Merfolk only went about 50/50 with Trix and Oath, and did even worse against most other decks in the field. Not the right choice for the Grand Prix, it would seem.
So I settled on my old standby, red beats, but this time with a twist. I added black for Demonic Consultation, while trying to keep it from straying too far from its mono-red roots. It beat Trix, Countersliver, Stompy, Hatred, and 5-color Blue more than half the time, only having losing matchups against Tradewind Survival and some versions of Oath. Here’s the deck, referred to simply as "The Agent of Stromgald deck" by the other players at the Grand Prix:
4x Agent of Stromgald
4x Jackal Pup
4x Mogg Fanatic
4x Ball Lightning
4x Price of Progress
3x Demonic Consultation
3x Cursed Scroll
I had three byes and I ended the first day at 6-2, winning the first three right out of the gates and then losing my last two. Over the course of Day 1, I defeated Alexis Dumay playing Replenish (2-0), Martin Zuercher playing Trix (2-1), and Joao Duarte playing Mono-red Beats (2-1). My match against Alexis Dumay was a featured match and you can read more about it on the Sideboard at http://www.wizards.com/sideboard/article.asp?x=GPFLO00895fm4. In the 7th and 8th rounds, I lost to Bram Snepvangers playing Oath (0-2) and to Renato Fillinich (1-2) playing Tradewind Survival.
Going into the second day with a 6-2 record, I knew that I had to do a lot of winning in order to make top 8. Most likely , I needed to go 5-1. Unfortunately, I started off the day by losing to Ricardo Duarte, playing Trix (1-2), in a close match. He was the brother of Joao Duarte whom I played the day before and he had his revenge. Knowing that I could no longer lose if I was to make top 8, I won the next three matches against Giulio Petri playing 5-color Blue (2-0), against Alessio Angeli (2-1) playing Countersliver, and against Christian Piottoli playing Trix (2-1). With two rounds to go, I still needed to win both matches in order to make top 8.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. I was matched up against Olle Rade, playing Stasis, which I had a decent sideboard for but had a horrible main deck against, with Price of Progress and Cursed Scroll being essentially dead cards. In the first game, I mulliganed to a weak five-card hand and came surprisingly close to winning. In the second game, after bringing in Ankhs of Mishra, Pyroblasts and a Mage’s Contest, I had to mulligan again and lost a close game at the hands of Olle’s four sideboarded Masticores. I lost 0-2 and I hoped the best for Olle, as it would be great to have him on the Pro Tour again. If you are interested, you can read more about my match with Olle Rade on the Sideboard at http://www.wizards.com/sideboard/article.asp?x=GPFLO00881fm13a. Out of contention for the top 8 and possibly the top 16, I was paired against Ed Fear in the final round, playing Hatred. I knew both decks inside and out, having played Hatred through much of the previous Extended Grand Prix season (when Dark Ritual was legal) and Red Beats since the beginning of time and I won fairly easily, 2 games to 0.
In the end, I finished with a 10-4 record and ended up in 19th place. Not too bad considering the quantity and quality of Magic players present, but a bit disappointing nonetheless. Olle Rade, too, failed to make the top 8, losing in the final round. The Top 8 did feature plenty of the top European Magic players, including Kai Budde from Germany (apparently recovered from his losing streak at Grand Prixs), Ben Ronaldson from the UK, Bram Snepvangers from the Netherlands, with Benedikt Klauser from Austria winning the whole thing. Congrats to all the top 8.
Thanks to Peter Norris and two unknown (to me) Italian Magic players who gave me Pyroblasts for my sideboard. My only complaint about the Grand Prix (besides not making top 8, of course) was the lack of ventilation, which made it hard to breathe at times, but overall it was a great show. Cyril Grillon did a tremendous job as head judge, even cracking down on one of his own countrymen, Antoine Ruel, for drawing an extra card. Also, thanks to all the local Italian players who greeted me and gave me encouraging words; it was pleasure meeting you.
Now I’m off to Chicago to try my hand in the Invasion Limited Masters Gateway tournament and in the Standard Pro Tour. Stay tuned to StarCityGames.com next week for a full report.
King of Beatdown