The Beautiful Struggle: Fun With Ravnica Limited

My Team Standard Pro Tour Qualifier didn’t turn out too well. I just found out that I won’t be doing Regionals because it’s on the exact same day as my sister’s wedding. Playing qualifiers in That Other Game tends to put me on full-blown, yelling-at-people-for-no-good-reason tilt. So how do I get enthusiastic about gaming again? Why, at a Grand Prix Trial for Toronto, of course!

My Team Standard Pro Tour Qualifier didn’t turn out too well. I just found out that I won’t be doing Regionals because it’s on the exact same day as my sister’s wedding. Playing qualifiers in That Other Game tends to put me on full-blown, yelling-at-people-for-no-good-reason tilt. So how do I get enthusiastic about gaming again?

Well, there’s the Deckade book signing, of course, and by the time you read this I’m sure I will have had tremendous fun there. However, a week before the signing there was also a Grand Prix Trial for Toronto that was inexplicably being held right in the middle of Team Standard season. The format was to be Ravnica/Guildpact Sealed Deck. I haven’t had fun at a Sealed Deck event since the Guildpact prerelease, but I figured that I was due.

Thanks to the various Team Standard PTQs going on the same day, only 32 people entered the GPT. However, the Magic scene in Maryland is such that this was still a pretty tough event; I counted four people who had top 32’ed a Grand Prix in the last six months, and at least four more who I figured were capable of such a feat. Fantastic. Here’s the cardpool I opened:

My Pro Player Card: Jeroen Remie (omg JerOWNED)

The first thing that’s clear to see about this card pool is that it is not one that will cause you to fall into a Green Trap. You’ve got every reason to go Green here, thanks to your three giant monsters. With Streetbreaker Wurm, Skarrg, and Pyromatics, putting Red with the trees seemed obvious also.

I did briefly wonder what the third color should be, however. White was pretty tempting; although the Boros cards are generally thought to be unspectacular in Sealed, Trumpeter, Legionnaire, and Sunhome Enforcer are three of the best you could hope for. Running White would also allow me to add a second bounceland and possibly splash for Pillory of the Sleepless.

However, stretching my mana base just for a Pillory and some Boros men didn’t seem nearly as good as going with Blue. The triad of Dismisser-Chronarch-Peel was just too powerful to resist, especially when backed up by Train of Thought and with Entrancer on the team to serve as an alternate win condition. So I built this deck:

Some notes about the deck:

* The two Ledgewalkers were the final creature cuts, and they were tough ones. Unblockable guys are good, derf, plus they wear Infiltrator’s Magemark well. However, I didn’t want to cut any more spells or fat men to fit them in. I guess maybe I could have cut Terrarion, but I have been burned by my mana too many times in Ravnica Limited to risk it.

* Leap of Flame and Gigadrowse were the last spells to be cut. Between those and the Ledgewalker cuts, I was concerned about not having enough ways to force through damage. Eventually I decided that Entrancer would be a good enough backup win condition, and it did win me a duel or two that the giant Wurms could not.

* The Terrarion or the Magemark were usually sideboarded out, to make room for either Voyager’s Staff (look how many 187 abilities I can abuse!) or Leap of Flame (usually came in if the board stalled on the ground during game 1).

* Signets are not nearly as important as bouncelands, because the bouncelands help you make land drops. Thus, I cut Dimir Signet because I decided I didn’t need a second signet, especially if it is half off-color. However, I did ponder running the completely off-color Orzhov Basilica. In the end, I came to my senses and realized that Pyromatics and Train of Thought would suffer if I did so, but that I even considered it says something about how good the Karoos are.

As always, most names have been omitted to protect the innocent.

Round 1 versus G/W/B
My opponent went 7-1 with no byes at GP: Richmond and eventually won an amateur prize. Plus, he opened a pretty saucy deck at this event, with Vulturous Zombie, four Magemarks (including two copies of the White one), and Sword of the Paruns. However, I was able to Gaze his Zombie to death in game 1 – I love Gaze of the Gorgon because I almost always trade it for a creature with a silver or gold expansion symbol – and after that he hit a horrid mana pocket, while I drew Wurms.

In game 2 my turn 2 Gruul Guildmage proved decisive, even after I misplayed by forgetting about the Sword’s "untap" ability. He was pretty badly mana flooded in this game also, and complained bitterly about it. Hey, the same thing was happening to me in side events while you were playing against Kenji in Richmond, man; bad streaks happen. 1-0

Round 2 versus G/B/R
My opponent had one of those "Savage Twister and not much else" decks. He had some kind of mannerism that caused me to put him on Hex in game 1, though, so I was actually relieved when it turned out to be Twister, and I still had gas left in hand and a Skarrg on board to force damage through. In game 2 he Twistered very early to kill my lone Starfletcher and one of his own guys. I didn’t understand that play, and still don’t, but I was grateful to play an Entrancer afterward and win that way. 2-0

Round 3 versus G/W/B
My opponent eventually made Top 8 on the back of a very saucy deck: he had Selesnya Evangel, Tolsimir Wolfblood, Last Gasp, Putrefy, and Mortify (before the forums get too fired up, yes, he was deck-checked during the tournament). In game 1 he kept a one-land hand, however, and it didn’t really work out for him; in games 2 and 3 he simply used his spot removal judiciously and let his bombs take over.

In game 2 I had a chance to win by playing Vedalken Dismisser on his Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi, and then using Peel from Reality to bounce his Selesnya Sagittars and the Dismisser. This would clear the way for my other dudes to put his life total too low to recover from the Dismisser bounce that would follow. He had only a Plains and an Orzhov Signet untapped, so I went for it figuring that there were exactly two cards in the format that would save him, and one of them was an uncommon (Bathe in Light). However, he had the other one in hand (Last Gasp), so I lost my Dismisser and eventually the game. In game 3 he had a turn 2 Selesnya Guildmage when I was without removal, and that was all she wrote. 2-1

Round 4 versus Five-Color Green
My opponent was a talented local junior whom I have faced many times before, with a reasonable record in my favor. His deck might have been only four colors, but he was running four bouncelands that together gave him full sunburst if he needed it. That kind of mana base would make Woodwraith Corruptor bad, you’d think, but an army of trees swung game one in his favor nonetheless.

We had only 25 minutes left for the next two games, but he kept a hand in game 2 that was heavy on bouncelands and light on action. I Sparkmaged his first creature and assembled a considerable army by the time he played a second man; at that point Dismisser made a hole that my Savage was happy to run through.

So we had just under 20 minutes for game 3, and he seemed very confident about his opening hand. I decided to make a turn 4 Entrancer and win that way. Things were working well until he played the Corruptor again; there were some tense moments when he went all-in with Forests and I had to make blocks that would have been destroyed by Wildsize, but he didn’t have it and I decked him with two minutes to spare. 3-1

Normally 32 people causes a problem: the cutoff for six rounds is 33 people, which means that at 32 people and five rounds, not everybody at 3-1-1 gets into the top 8. However, there were infinite draws in the early rounds of the event, so it turned out that I could intentionally draw in round 5 with John Moore, a local pro who started 10-1 at Richmond before a late collapse. I thought John was the best drafter in the GPT by far, and I was pretty sure he would be in the finals. Now I just had to draft a deck to get myself there. 3-1-1

Here’s my tech for Ravnica block draft: open Glare of Subdual in pack one and get the two guys on your right to move into U/B. This led to some ridiculous picks for me in pack one, such as Master Warcraft fourth and Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree seventh. After a first-pick Conclave Equenaut in pack two, I picked up Fists of Ironwood, Scatter the Seeds, and Crown of Convergence, and my deck was shaping up to be insane. I opened Burning-Tree Shaman in pack three, picked up a Gruul Guildmage (again!), Streetbreaker Wurm, and Belfry Spirit to go with it, and tabled a couple of Wild Cantors and Scab-Clan Maulers to fill out the low end of my curve.

I went to sit in the wrong seat during deck construction, and my top 8 opponent mock-yelled, "stop cheating, Mark!" I replied, "when you see my deck, you’ll think I was cheating," and I knew it would be true:

2 Wild Cantor
1 Elvish Skysweeper
2 Scab-Clan Mauler
1 Gruul Guildmage
1 Courier Hawk
1 Nightguard Patrol
1 Burning-Tree Shaman
1 Conclave Phalanx
1 Belfry Spirit
1 Streetbreaker Wurm
1 Conclave Equenaut
1 Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi
1 Selesnya Signet
1 Crown of Convergence
1 Fists of Ironwood
1 Scatter the Seeds
1 Master Warcraft
1 Glare of Subdual
1 Selesnya Signet
1 Vitu-Ghazi the City-Tree

Relevant sideboard cards: Sundering Vitae (which I expected to bring in, but never needed), Burning-Tree Bloodscale (who came in for the Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi against Blue decks).

I cannibalized the deck for basic lands during post-tournament moneydrafting, so there are a couple of cards missing and I’m not clear on the mana base. It was close to the same mana as my Sealed Deck, 6-4-4 or something like that.

Top 8 against U/B/W/R
Maybe he had bad draws, but this was an absurdly easy match. In both games he didn’t have a play before turn 4, while I hit my 1-2-3 drops and laid a Crown on turn 4. The Red in his deck was a splash for Flash Conscription and Rally the Righteous; in game 2 there was a tense moment where, if I had "missed" with my Crown, he would have been able to break me with Rally. However, I was able to "push" into a Green/Red creature, forcing him into awful chump-blocks, thus averting disaster.

Top 4 against G/W/B
He also thought his deck was cheating, and I could see why when he got Giant Solifuge and Oathsworn Giant in game 1. However, I traded off the Solifuge and then dropped Glare, at which point he was singing a different tune. He drew way more creatures than me, and I’m sure he thought he had a chance to swarm me through Glare for the win, but what he didn’t know was that I had Master Warcraft since the opening hand. I finally had lethal Warcraft on the turn before he would have killed me.

In game 2 he had Golgari Guildmage on turn 2 and Mausoleum Turnkey on turn 6 after I traded off his Golgari Rotwurm, which had me a little nervous. However, he decided to trade off the Guildmage on my first attack after he played the Turnkey, which seemed to me a bad play. Then I started hitting Green creatures with my Crown, and again I completely blew him out with another trick that had been in my opening hand (Scatter the Seeds this time). This game was not particularly close.

Finals against John Moore, U/B/W
Well, I predicted it, but I was still cursing the bad luck: there was exactly one guy in the Top 8 who would not accept any deal where I get the byes, and I met him in the Finals. Still, my deck was insane, so I thought I had a shot. I was wrong. In game 1 I kept this hand:

Wild Cantor
Courier Hawk
Fists of Ironwood
Conclave Phalanx
Conclave Equenaut

So my plays for the first five turns are planned out: use the turn 1 Wild Cantor to play turn 2 Courier Hawk, who picks up Fists on turn 3 and then convokes out Phalanx on turn 4, followed by Equenaut on turn 6. John then kicked me in the nuts by going turn 1 "Swamp, Darkblast your Cantor." Owned. I quickly lost.

I kept a hand in game 2 that I probably should not have kept because it had turn 2 Gruul Guildmage. When John had Douse in Gloom for the mage, I was stuck playing 1/1 Scab-Clan Maulers, or something similarly awful. As badly as I blew out my other two opponents in the Top 8, that’s how badly John blew me out here.

So, second place. I can’t complain, but at the same time I know how important byes are to Grand Prix competition, so I am still upset that I didn’t get them. At any rate, I hope that my misadventures have taught you something useful for the Dissension prerelease this weekend.

Until next time, here’s hoping you have three byes for Grand Prix Toronto.

This article written while listening to "Rearviewmirror: The Best of Pearl Jam 1991-2003."

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