Tales From The Great Grand Prix

Mark Nestico had a great time at last weekend’s #GPDC! Today he revisits a few unusual circumstances, including one instance where his competitive nature almost got the best of him!

SCG Tour <sup>®</sup>Indianapolis: March 11-13!” border=”1″></a></div>
<h2>Picture This at #GPDC</h2>
<p>It all started with a song by <a href=Shaggy, as most truly good stories do. We dare not speak of the lyrics, for they are far too risque, but it was the first thing that helped me relax before I fell asleep the night before #GPDC. Truth be told, I was nervous!

This was my first team event, and despite hearing it’s the most fun format in all of Magic, I didn’t really know what to expect. I choose my teammates entirely based on the fact that their names were Sean and Shawn, and with that kind of diversity, it helped create a Mark sandwich with two slices of Sean/Shawn as the bread. Teamwork can be delicious.

The trip began by the near-completion of foiling out my Narset, Enlightened Master Commander deck, which in and of itself was a triumph. Don’t worry. It’s not that kind of Narset where I take infinite turns. You don’t have to call me scum just yet.

After making sure my deck hurt your eyes if you spent too much time looking at it, we prepared for either the agony or the ecstasy of opening the Sealed pool.

Sidebar #1: The Registration

To say that the registration process was easy and a delight would be a cartoonish understatement. Instead of a sheet with every single card from multiple sets on it, the paper for #GPDC only had the cards for your specific pool with a “total” and “played” category. This made things go remarkably smooth and gave plenty of time for the building process. I can’t fathom how much work went into it, but it took the entirety of annoyingness out of deck registration. Whoever thought of that idea is a genius and should be appointed to some sort of higher office. Maybe given a raise. I hope they know that they’re my hero.

Sealed Magic

Opening your Sealed pool is a lot like going on your first blind date. You have to hope and pray that things are going to go well, because if they don’t you know you’re stuck for at least a few hours in one of the multiple levels of hell. Thankfully we were blessed by several strong cards like Fall of the Titans, Thought-Knot Seer, Gladeheart Cavalry, Sifter of Skulls, Quarantine Field, and a couple of others. There wasn’t anything outrageous, but it was consistent enough to put us into Day 2.

I fielded a stock U/R Devoid deck with a lot of removal like Touch of the Void and multiple Reality Hemorrhages. The creature base was compact but excellent: Herald of Kozilek, two Blinding Drones, and double Thought Harvester. My friend Sean packed our best deck, a G/B Rock build with a lot of excellent removal, huge creatures, solid ramp, and finishers. Shawn French took our W/R Ally deck that was stuffed with tons of synergies, fast creatures, and Quarantine Field to get past any big blockers.

Our losses came from Ross Meriam and BBD’s team, the latter of which stung the most because a judge was sort of rushing me along to make blocks despite our extremely reasonable pace of play and the fact that we were in the single most important turn of the match. If I block correctly, I win. If I don’t, I die.

The outside pressure to come up with an answer in under 40 seconds prompted me to tunnel-vision and I screwed up. I took it pretty hard, but mistakes happen. I had made a few questionable plays in the second game against my opponent and the third game shouldn’t have even happened, so it was a win they definitely earned, so I wasn’t too down. The judge was just doing his job.

I drowned my losses in burgers and hot dogs, because when a carnivore needs comfort, it turns to delicious meat for a shoulder to cry on. Or bite. I ate that shoulder. It was great.

The next day we held the same hopes that our pools would be incredible, and we were immediately rewarded with Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet; Reality Smasher; Endbringer; Eldrazi Mimic; Endless One; Linvala, the Preserver; Mina and Denn, Wildborn; and some solid supporting casts.

Sidebar #2: Your Pool Only Goes So Far

No matter how insane your Sealed pool might be, that doesn’t mean you are entitled to automatic wins. A few of the opponents we beat over the weekend had Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet; Chandra, Flamecaller; Drowner of Sorrow; and other “unbeatable” bombs that we were able to run over with relative ease. It didn’t come down to their rares and mythics overpowering us, but we were able to maneuver around them. Don’t lose hope when you see that seemingly unreal card across the table from you. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, think things through, and figure out how your deck can beat it. Usually, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Moving On

I built myself a savage R/B Eldrazi deck that was able to function similar to a Modern deck in the sense that it played Mimic, double Flayer Drone, Reality Smasher, Endless One, and Endbringer. The deck had just the right mix of removal and a lot of synergistic creatures. I was immensely confident. Sean took U/W Flying with Linvala, and Shawn went with G/R Dinosaurs capped off by the twins, Boulder Salvos, and plenty of beef. Overall, I would say my deck fell in the middle of the spectrum in terms of power compared to the incredible consistency of U/W, while Shawn’s might have been our weakest but most well-built, considering what we had.

Sitting down for Round 10, when my opponent realized I was a part of the Eldrazi menace, he called In the Felidar Sovereign and Walls of Resurgence, and he brutalized me with high-toughness creatures that I could never punch through, but it didn’t really matter because I was stricken by mana flood as his incredible deck punished me. My team didn’t fare better, and we kicked the day off with a loss.

Sidebar #3: Extra Salt, Please

I hate getting salty when I play Magic. My match was pretty tough to swallow because I think I cast four or five spells during it, flooded out both games, and didn’t get to do much. My attitude soured and I was extremely bummed out. I’m lucky that I caught myself immediately, shook my opponent’s hand, wished him luck, and joked a bit about how badly he taught me a lesson.

Corrective behavior is paramount. It’s not his fault I drew more lands than John Avon, and even though you may get upset involuntarily, being able to assess the situation immediately can help defuse a bad situation and get you back on track. If you’re reading this, opponent from Round 10, thanks for being a good sport and laughing with us after the trashing you gave me.

We rebounded quickly by sweeping our next opponents, who were all really nice people. The next round blessed us with Kenji Tsumura’s team. Kenji was stuck in a dogfight with Sean’s U/W deck with Sean pulling ahead in Game 3. Shawn to my left lost in a quick three games, while my opponent topdecked an answer for my freshly-played Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and followed it up with a few creatures while I added a couple more lands to my stack. An unfortunate end to the round, but it’s absurdly invigorating battling such awesome players. I felt nothing but a rush, because we came within a hair of taking them out and continuing our tournament.

At that point, Shawn commented that he’d like to play in the 2pm Vintage tournament and Sean and I wanted to get into the Two-Headed Giant event as well, so we dropped to pursue other fun endeavors. If you’ve been reading my articles for years, you know that 2HG is my absolute favorite format, so signing up for one of never something you have to talk me into.

A quick 4-0 later through 103 teams, and I felt like a million bucks. Follow that up with some delicious Mexican food, and I believe we had a successful tournament.

As far as BFZ/Oath Sealed goes, I have found this format to be tough but rewarding for playing well and proper sequencing. It did, however, further expose the biggest weakness in my game, which is Limited. I’ve resolved to work on this problem a little more fiercely over the next few months as Khans Standard winds down. I want to get myself to a point where I don’t have the constant doubts I do when I play a in a Draft or Sealed event.

How was your #GPDC? Let’s talk about it.

SCG Tour <sup>®</sup>Indianapolis: March 11-13!” border=”1″></a></div></p>
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