The Daily Shot: My Amazing Grand Prix Trial Win, Part One

Most games involve a lot of swinging with tight men. You know how this deck works: Get threshold, beat face, end game. Sideboard. Repeat. It’s rock-solid, and all you need is one island and one forest. It’s great against other U/G decks because it’s faster, and it’s great against Monoblack because of the sideboard and the fact that it can take Game 1 on a semi-regular basis.

I’d had it. No more trying out the newest thing, no more rogue decks, no more tier 2 stabs at glory. I decided I was going to take the deck that won GP London, played by Jakub Slemr, and learn everything about it. Then, I was going to play it as best I could, and hope for the best.

That’s how I started with R/G and went through the good, the bad, and the ugly before finally deciding on my choice for GP Cleveland, and here it is:

U/G Threshold (GP Cleveland, Geordie Tait)

4 Basking Rootwalla

4 Mental Note

4 Nimble Mongoose

4 Careful Study

4 Wild Mongrel

4 Werebear

4 Aether Burst

3 Standstill

3 Roar of the Wurm

3 Wonder

1 Breakthrough

11 Island

8 Forest

3 Centaur Garden


4 Squirrel Nest

4 Envelop

2 Moment’s Peace

2 Krosan Reclamation

2 Upheaval

1 Forest

It’s a nice change of pace from everything else I was playing. There are no tutors. It’s not a reactive deck. You hope to draw your land (the wrong land will beat you more often than any opponent, I’m now convinced) and when you do, you play out your gang of dudes and just swing.

Mmm…Flores lingo.

Most games involve a lot of swinging with tight men. You know how this deck works: Get threshold, beat face, end game. Sideboard. Repeat. It’s rock-solid, and all you need is one island and one forest. It’s great against other U/G decks because it’s faster, and it’s great against Monoblack because of the sideboard and the fact that it can take Game 1 on a semi-regular basis. It can beat Punisher with the right draw and solid play, and the matchup with U/B Braids is 50%.

Before I get into the report, though, it’s time for another aside.

Aside – MTG Anagram Contest

Thanks to everyone who participated in the first ever MTG Anagram Contest over at MiseTings! Many of you managed to get all thirty answers, so I’ll have to judge the winner on his speed of submission. Here are the anagram champions, who submitted the answers the fastest after the contest was posted.

1st place – Mark Rivera

2nd place – Andrew Levine

3rd place – Ryan Soh

4th place – Rafael Le Saux

5th place – Antoine Menard

Congrats to you guys.


These are anagrams of cards from a popular OBC deck. Can you get all six?

Feces Hater’s Club

Hot Naked Anus

Non-Debit Colon

It Hides Cancer

Cairo Butt Idol

Scab Raffle Co.

Back to the action.

I register, I hand in my stuff, I get myself a scorepad, I wait for pairings to go up. They do. We have 152 people. Do or die time.

Round 1 vs. Allen Ward w/ Gravestorm MBC

Allen is probably about forty years old and a nice opponent to start out against – he’s friendly, he knows the rules, and he’s probably just as nervous as I am. He’s playing Monoblack control, but without Nantuko Shades in the main. Instead, he’s playing Gravestorm; a nod towards the mirror match. I’m going to have plenty of graveyard fodder, however.

Game 1:

Allen has to mulligan, going first. My draw is solid, with both colors of mana. I play Mongoose, it gets Blooded. Werebear? It gets Blooded too. My second Werebear sticks around, and I end of turn Mental Note into a graveyard Roar. I play the Roar with the Werebear.

Allen is up to four mana and doesn’t seem to have the answers – he drops a Gravestorm. I untap, swing for seven, and Careful Study some junk into the graveyard including Wonder. During his upkeep I deny him his Gravestorm draw by removing the Werebear, which I don’t want to get hit by Haunting Echoes. He’s got five swamps but still no answers, and passes the turn.

Now, I’ll be honest – at this point I’m wondering what sort of candy-ass draw he got, and mentally shuffling up for game 2. He seems to be having serious trouble answering my creatures following the double Blood, and on turn 4 he didn’t have Tutor OR Mutilate. What could Allen have in hand? He played Gravestorm on turn 3 and not Rancid Earth, so I know that isn’t it. I would later learn that he has two maindeck Morbid Hunger and a Mirari, so I bet those were the hand-clogging culprits. Nothing like a Mirari in hand to stop those beats.

Anyhow, it’s clear what the problem is: He started two cards down, drew one card that didn’t do anything (Gravestorm), two one-for-one removal spells, a bunch of land, and three dead cards.

I untap and keep the pressure on with a Wild Mongrel, attacking him down to six with Werebear and Wurm. During his upkeep, I again deny him his Gravestorm draw by removing a Nimble Mongoose, and he has to settle for one card. He has nothing, and has to pack ’em up in the face of Wurm beatings.

I sideboard 4x Squirrel Nest, 4x Envelop, 2x Upheaval, 1x Forest. I side out 3x Wonder, 3x Roar Of The Wurm, 4x Aether Burst, 1x Breakthrough. This would be my standard boarding procedure against MBC throughout the day.

Game 2:

This game I’ve got a nice draw of Squirrel Nest, Envelop, and some supporting cast. I protect the Nest from Rancid Earth (playing it on turn 4 on an untapped island), and my early creatures get Edicted, which along with my 2x Mental Note gives me ample fodder for his two early Gravestorms. Midgame, a bunch of Squirrels, a Mongoose and a Wild Mongrel are swinging, and he’s stuck with a handful of Edicts.

A key point is the turn when he’s forced to Mutilate – it ends up filling my graveyard enough to again stymie his double Gravestorm, which was just about to start drawing him cards. The Nest gets going again and I play out another creature, denying him his draw by removing the lost Mongrel and Mongoose from the game. He’s at nine life and has nothing, passing it back. I make a Squirrel and swing for four with a Mongrel and a Squirrel, throwing out a land that I would later use to deny him a Gravestorm draw. He’s at five, draws, and has the Rancid Earth for the Squirrel Nest… But he doesn’t have threshold, so my Squirrels stay alive. I make a second one in response, and on my turn I can swing for the game with the card I draw, a Mongrel, and two Squirrels.

I don’t know about Gravestorm. Against U/G they’re going to be able to prevent you from drawing – there’s always lots of graveyard fodder to go around. The idea is to recapture the functionality that Phyrexian Arena had in the T2 version of the Black deck, but any U/G deck running on all cylinders is going to have a few extra graveyard cards to spare. As far as the mirror goes, if the opponent plays a spell every turn, all the Gravestorm does is screw over your own Haunting Echoes. It might hamper an enemy Skeletal Scrying, but that’s about it.

Record: 1-0

Aside – OMC

I ran into Josh Bennett somewhere around this time, and it pleases me to note that he hasn’t changed a bit since the first time I got to talk to him at Canadian Nationals. See, there’s this guy who pokes his nose in at Magic events all over the continent, scrambling to the keyboard to hammer out every scoop that’s fit to print. He’s looks like he’s built out of breadsticks, and he’s got a snaggletoothed smile that says”Hey, I may not know the secrets of the universe, but it doesn’t bother me.”

Between Rounds 1,2 and 3 of the Trial, he could be seen scampering about the venue, dragging a case of Dr. Pepper, garnished with a small bag of chips.

“Yes,” he said, with miniscule bag of chips and massive case of Dr. Pepper in hand, “I have the right proportions of food and drink.”

And so I was reintroduced to Josh Bennett. With regret, I have to admit that the camaraderie between OMC and myself hasn’t blossomed to the point that I can engage him in a full conversation without getting the feeling that I’m rapidly running out of things to talk about. (He always looks so busy, and somehow I can’t help but get the impression that trivialities would do little but delay him in saying hello to the next of his many acquiantences.)

Nonetheless, I had to try, so spent the weekend regaling him with stories of my Magic exploits whenever the opportunity presented itself. On one occasion I was cut off by the arrival of Adrian Sullivan (who interrupted my tale of the fine Squirrel Nest rip that put me into first place… Who interrupts a rip story?), but for the most part I think I kept him reasonably entertained.

OMC split the feature match duties with Brian Kowal and my editor, The Ferrett, over the course of the tournament – so if you want a taste of his the happenings at GP Cleveland, make sure you check out his match coverage. He also returned to article writing with a piece on the Onslaught”Pit Fighter” legends – cards that are perfect examples of”rares for limited.” Limited is the true home of the legend.

You can find that article here:

As far as GP Cleveland goes, OMC was all over the place. I’m not sure if he polished off the entire case of Dr. Pepper. I think the chips got finished pretty quick.

Time for Round 2, for which I have lost my notes. This is annoying. I had such a good momentum going, too. I’m sailing along…and out of the blue, my notes skip from Round 1 to Round 3. All I can tell you is that I won. I guess that’s good, though I’d rather have a few details to give you.

Oh, wait – I found them.

Round 2 vs. Kai Budde w/ U/B Infestation Combo

Before the match, Kai says that he reads the column every day and that he wants some pointers.

Game 1:

He draws better, but I outplay him and win.

Game 2:

See Game 1.

Okay, I didn’t really find them.

Record: 2-0

Aside – How Could I Forget The Other Guy I Met

I finally got the meet the Ferrett at GP Cleveland, an experience for which I consider myself the better. He’ll be editing this whole report, so don’t be surprised if you see some glowing reviews of his manliness and virility start to pop up amongst the match coverage. Likewise, I don’t expect that my referring to him as an ugly hermaphrodite would make it to print, should such description be called for.

Luckily, I’ll be traveling neither of those roads, as he is not, to my knowledge, a hermaphrodite. How many of you, out there in readerland, have met the Ferrett?

Anyone? I see a few hands raised.

Not very ferrett-like, is he? Animal-wise, I mean. If you’re wondering if he acts as he writes, though, the answer would seem to be an unqualified”yes”. What’s in a name? It’s the meat of work that shows you the real person behind it all.

Prior to my arrival at GP Cleveland, I’d had a picture in my mind, formed from reading all of his Magic articles, and everything on his personal website. It wasn’t a disappointment then, but a welcome relief, when he introduced himself and I found him to be exactly as I expected. I didn’t get to spend as much time with him as I would have liked, but the precious few moments I had were telling. Now that I have a face and a voice to put behind the words I see, but very little else has changed.

If you’ve ever thought about writing about Magic, you owe it to yourself to track down The Ferrett at an event, if for no other reason than to pull back the curtain of the mighty and powerful Editor-Oz. This man who has the fate of your submissions in his hands? He’s just a guy like you and me.

With a cape. And he’s named after a rodent.

Okay, he isn’t like you and me at all. But it’s a good kind of different.

Ok, this time I really did find my Round 2 notes. I’m at the mercy of a PES mislaid scorepad over here.

Round 2 vs. Phil Moore w/ U/G Threshold

It’s a near-exact mirror match – he’s playing the same deck as I am. The goal, then, is to keep a solid draw and play tight. No mistakes.

Game 1:

I keep the Island, Careful Study, Mental Note, 4x green card hand. I don’t know about you, but I always keep that hand, even going first. The first-turn Study yields nothing, and he passes the turn. I draw, still no land, and fire off a Mental Note, milling past a Centaur Garden and a Mongrel. I draw from the Note… No land. I pass the turn, he casts Mental Note end of turn and untaps, dropping a Mongrel.

I draw, still no land. I can only pass the turn. He comes over for two and plays another Mongrel. I draw a Careful Study, casting it to draw into a Centaur Garden, which I play. He swings for four and passes the turn. I start trying to play some creatures – Werebear, for starters – but I know in the back of my mind that it isn’t going to be easy to get back in this game. Sure enough, he has Aether Burst and keeps swinging with the Mongrels until I’m dead, which doesn’t take very long.

No regrets about keeping that hand – I always keep the one-Island, Study hand when playing this deck. More often than not, I get rewarded with a very threat-heavy, vicious draw.

I sideboard in 2x Moment’s Peace, 2x Krosan Reclamation, and side out 2x Roar of the Wurm, 1x Standstill, and Breakthrough.

Game 2:

This one is looking ugly, too. I keep a draw with 2x Aether Burst, 2x Mongrel, Rootwalla, my one Roar, and two Forests. Phil mulligans and seems happy with his six-card hand. I have a great tempo start, and I’m putting pressure on with double Mongrel and Rootwalla, but I only have three forests for land! I’ve drawn a Werebear, but so what? It’s only a matter of time before the useless Blue cards start piling up, and when that happens, the game will slip away.

Phil has matched me with a Mongrel of his own, but he actually has mana and a Wonder, and he throws out a Roar of the Wurm and casts it. I draw a non-island and make my own Roar, and pass the turn. He casts a Werebear and another Mongrel, and swings for eight flying damage.

I draw…. Island! I lay it and swing with my Roar, bringing him to eleven (one Wurm hit and some Centaur Garden damage). He tries to attack and pop a Garden for the win, I throw out Wonder to my Mongrel, Burst his Wurm, and do some blocking, trading a couple of guys. On my turn I cast a Werebear and attack with my Wurm again, drawing a chump block from a Nimble Mongoose. I know I’m in great shape now, with the Aether Burst in hand, but he’s got one as well and tries to clear my guys out of the way. I let his Burst resolve and then clear his guys out with a Burst for three, resetting the board. He casts a Mongrel and passes the turn.

I bring my entire side back down, along with yet another Werebear. I’ve got him outnumbered now – Mongrel and double Werebear against his smaller team. He lays Mongrel and Goose on his turn, but I have the two Werebears and a freshly-drawn Centaur Garden when my turn rolls around, so I attack into them and reduce him to five. He draws and has nothing, and I draw Krosan Reclamation for the sure win on my turn.

Going second, I sideboard out the Standstills and put the Roars back in. Nothing is more useless than a Standstill going second in the mirror… Unless you’re really good at drawing Aether Bursts.

Game 3:

I had a very nice draw this game, with everything you need to win the mirror. I keep the one island, Study hand again – and it pays off in a big way, dropping Roar and Wonder into my graveyard on turn 1, and drawing me into a Krosan Reclamation and the forest I need to play my turn 2 Werebear. The Werebear does indeed come out, and he plays a Basking Rootwalla off a Study of his own. I play the turn 3 Roar and pass it back. He plays a Mongrel and says”go.” On turn 4, I cast Mental Note and Careful Study, putting another Roar into the grave, grabbing threshold and drawing into Moment’s Peace. I swing with my 4/4 Werebear and 6/6 Wurm, and he trades the Mongrel for it, putting Wonder in the grave to facilitate the blocking. I Reclamate, but he has another. He goes to fourteen and swings back with his Rootwalla on his turn for three, also playing a Werebear.

I flash back the Krosan Reclamation, getting rid of his Wonder, and swing for six, then drop a Mongrel. Phil untaps and plays another Mongrel, holding back on defense. When I try to send for the win, he has yet another Wonder… But I’ve drawn my second Krosan Reclamation, and my team flies over for the win.

Failing that, I also had two more creatures, Moment’s Peace, and an Aether Burst in hand.

Probably the most telling thing about his draw that game was that he didn’t miss a land-drop. The game lasted maybe eight turns, and he played probably six lands and even discarded a few to Careful Study. That’s land flood, no other word for it. There’s no way you can get a land flood draw against a strong, double-Krosan Reclamation draw in the mirror, and win.

Record: 2-0

Two wins, no losses, and one long way to go. Mise well head right to Round 3, am I right?

Round 3 vs. Dave Fitzgerald w/ Monoblack Control

This space is where I would write something nifty about Dave and his deck – but his deck is MBC, and I don’t remember enough about Dave to comment one way or another about his niftyness or lack thereof. Is he a poet? A madman? An officer? A gentleman? Does he eat that chunky soup with a fork or a spoon? And then there’s Miller Light – does he believe it tastes great first and foremost, or does he believe that the chief selling point is the fact that it’s less filling?

I guess we’ll never know. Let the games begin.

Game 1:

My notes say “Wurm beats,” so you can probably imagine what type of game this was. If you playtest this matchup enough, you’ll find that the”Game 1 Wurm tries to go all the way!” scenario is a common one. If not, here’s how it works: The key is to stay one creature ahead of the Bloods and Edicts, and then drop a turn 4 Wurm. I assume I won the roll this time, which is important. You’ll want to have a couple of sacrificial creatures to throw in the way, which I did. It’ll be Blood, Edict, and then the Wurm comes out.

Hopefully out of Edicts, the Black deck will have probably have a Mutilate in hand, but only four swamps. They’ll have to tutor for Edict and get nailed for six, or, if you’re very lucky, they won’t have the Tutor and they’ll still take six. They’ll have one-two Mutilates and they’ll be hoping to hell that they can get up to six swamps in time. In this particular game, I managed to protect the Wurm from Edicts by throwing out some fodder, and it hit Dave twice, bringing him to six life with the help of some random Mongoose beats.

When he finally did Mutilate, I was able to bounce back the next turn with an instantly-lethal Werebear, and a Rootwalla to be Edict fodder for his impending flashback. He had to Mutilate again, so I cast a Wild Mongrel and protected it from the aforementioned Edict flashback with a Rootwalla. On my turn, I was able to swing for three, bringing Dave to three, and pass it back. He drew, and all he had was a Nantuko Shade and a couple of Mind Sludges. With Wonder in the yard, it was over.

The usual sideboard – in go four Nests, four Envelops, two Upheaval, and some extra land.

Game 2:

Upheaval takes care of business here. I drop the monoblack mage to thirteen with random early beats – and just when Dave is starting to get rolling with a turn five or six Mirari, I ‘Heave and lay the first land, dropping a Mongoose with threshold and a Rootwalla during my discard. He lays a swamp and has no play, and I come back with a swing for four and a thresholded Werebear. He plays swamp and Nantuko Shade, but has to chump with it (making me pump by Rootwalla) – and from there’s it’s academic since Perish isn’t legal.

I love Upheaval in aggressive decks, because Armageddon isn’t around and it’s the closest thing to a ‘Geddon that we’re going to get. If nothing else, an occasional payment of 4UU keeps those pesky, pervasive Monoblack control decks honest. Monoblack is addicted to mana – massive,”power overwhelming”-style amounts of mana, and Upheaval creates a situation where the already slow and vulnerable control deck has to set up all over again. While I don’t like the fact that Upheaval handles every permanent on the board in a color that shouldn’t be able to do that, it was printed and now we have to live with it. We should use the power of Upheaval for good instead of evil.

Record: 3-0

Round 4 vs. David Irvine w/ Monoblack Control

What a beating – I’m playing against another Monoblack deck! I practiced this matchup more than any other, a fact to which my friends and playtest partners can attest, so I know it inside and out. I’m hoping for another textbook”Wurm beats” win in Game 1.

Game 1:

I win the roll, but things don’t go precisely as planned. I start sneaking damage through early on when he doesn’t have an answer to my Mongrel, and he has to break my Standstill in order to try to slow me down with Rancid Earth. With David at sixteen after two turns of Mongrel beats and sacrificial Edict helpers, his breaking of my Standstill has me with eight (!!) cards in hand as I swing with a Mongrel. Five of them are land, one of which I have to play in order to cast a previously-pitched Roar of the Wurm. I attack and choose to have him take only two damage, then lay my land and flash the Roar.

David is at fourteen.

Now, how much damage does Roar of the Wurm do? Six. I should have pitched two of my useless land to the Mongrel to leave him at twelve. On his turn, he lays a fifth swamp to go with his Coffers, and taps all his mana to uncork a Mind Sludge and Chainer’s Edict, pretty much devastating my hand. I keep a Werebear in hand and the rest goes bye-bye. On my turn, I swing for six, dropping David to eight, and lay the Werebear. He lays a sixth Swamp, but doesn’t have the Mutilate (!!), choosing instead to flash back the Edict and play a Nantuko Shade. My Werebear takes it for the team. On my turn, I fly over his Shade with my Wurm, bringing him to two, and play a Nimble Mongoose.

On his turn, he finally draws a Mutilate and casts it after attacking me down to twelve, then plays another Shade. I have no blockers and I have to scoop.

Listen up, ladies and gentlemen – it’s simple combat math. You’re playing against Monoblack and you have five useless land in hand. You’re about to flash a Roar, but you can bet there will be an Edict coming. You want your Roar to go all the way, right? The right play is to chuck enough extra land to put your opponent on a two-turn clock instead of a three-turn clock. Leaving David at two life cost me this game, and it was mine to win.

You’d think that with all the endless, endless testing I did for this matchup, including dozens and dozens of unsideboarded Game 1’s, I wouldn’t make a mistake like that. It was just a poor play, plain and simple.

I sideboard in the usual.

Game 2:

This was just an asskicking. He goes to his Braids sideboard against me, casts Rancid Earth on my single green mana, Edicts my Werebear, Mesmeric Fiends my Squirrel Nest for good measure (and with my Aether Bursts on the bench, that means I’ll never see it again unless I Upheaval), and keeps the pressure on with Braids. I’ve got no momentum and no flow going with my draw, and locked at two land, I know it’s over. Even if I’d managed to cast the second Nest I drew, he had the Rancid Earth.

I did manage to draw both Upheavals while landlocked, though. He finishes it with a Shade in short order, handing me my first loss. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I’d now have to win my next five matches in order to get some byes.

The Braids sideboard is an interesting audible against U/G: I think MBC decks that sideboard in the full compliment of Fiends and Braids against U/G may be on the right track. While the Braids plan can roll over and die to Squirrel Nest just like any Braids deck, the untouchable Mesmeric Fiend often grabs any opening-hand Nests. Since the matchup after sideboarding is in favor of U/G when a Monoblack deck goes to the usual sideboard of Butchers, Slithery Stalkers, or Ghastly Demise and the like, why bother with it? Braids decks tend to go 50/50 with U/G, and a Braids deck backed by bigtime Coffer power for the Shades might even improve on that number.

Record: 3-1

Round 5 vs. Adam Fronsee w/ U/B Infestation (+ maindeck Finkel x2, Wonder, Psychatog, and Grotesque Hybrid)

Adam was a cool guy and I had a lot of fun during our match – though knowing me, I probably say that because I won. I’m happy that Adam got to see me having a good day, and not when I was losing. When I’m losing, you want to lob me a hanky. Or a pacifier. I’m awful.

One of the U.N. security council pledges that Saddam broke was a resolution not to torture Iraqi dissidents by making them sit next to me at events where I’m 2-3.

Game 1:

My draw is something ridiculous like 1st turn Study, toss a Roar and a Rootwalla. 2nd turn Mongrel. He passes; end of turn, I cast a second Rootwalla, attack for six and lay a Mongoose. I see him tap four mana, one of them a Tainted Isle, and I think there’s a Faceless Butcher coming.

Instead, he hard-casts Wonder.

Adam can only shrug. “This isn’t the draw I wanted to see,” he says. I don’t doubt it. I attack with everything and he chumps, then plays a Grotesque Hybrid on his turn. I’ve got the Aether Burst to clear the way, and he packs.

I sideboard in Upheaval, not sure what I’m facing, but expecting possible Butchers and Fiends in Game 2.

Game 2:

I get a strong creature draw, with plays on turns 1, 2, and 3, followed by a turn 4 Roar of the Wurm. Adam is trying to hold his own and gets a Psychatog out, but Dr. Teeth is having trouble keeping up with the beats, and Adam’s having to toss a lot of cards to whittle down my creature forces, including the Roar, which is the first thing to go, beaten down by a 6/7 Psychatog.

Next, the Tog tries to take on a 4/4 Werebear that goes up to 7/7 with help from a Centaur Garden, but I have the Aether Burst after he pitches some cards and cleans out his graveyard. The ‘Tog coms back down, but it’s much less threatening. This was the turning point of the game, as he is no longer able to effectively block – my forces keep on coming and eventually the ‘Tog has to chump, an event which I celebrate by casting another Werebear.

With only five mana on the table, Adam’s Upheaval won’t do the trick, and he has to extend the hand.

Record: 4-1

So far, so good. Only four high-pressure, verge-of-elimination matches to go. This is what competitive Magic is all about.

Round 6 vs. Brian Dale

Brian is playing a W/G deck, and we’re dangling precariously from that elimination ledge, so this is going to be a seriously intense match. It didn’t disappoint on drama or anything else. This match, in retrospect, was a treat to play – I think I played better here than I ever have, and Brian made no mistakes that I could see.

Game 1:

We’re swinging back and forth – he with his gang o’ dudes, and I with my Wonder and company. The game is a real slugfest for the better part of the earlygoing, and though he’s low on land, Brian is steadily digging his way back into the game by forcing me to keep blockers back to blunt his offensive. This, in turn, blunts my own offensive as I have fewer and fewer men with which to swing.

At the end of the game, though, Brian comes up short. With three land in play, Brian has to make the tough racing decision each turn of either leaving mana open to use his Glory, or casting whatever he has drawn. To compound his troubles, I have the best possible defense against a Glory that can only be activated once – a pair of Wild Mongrels, and a pair of cards in hand. Eventually, his lack of land and his increasing need to activate Glory leaves him behind on creatures, and facing a lethal flying attack on the next turn.

He gives his creatures protection from green and swings for lethal damage, using his three mana. I give both Mongrels a color makeover, and block – and that’s game. With a few more land to play his spells while simultaneously being able to use Glory, he might have kept up with me. He kept a Sungrass Prairie hand going second.

I sideboard in my racing cards (Moment’s Peace and Krosan Reclamation), along with Upheaval – a card that W/G can’t do anything about.

Game 2:

This was a vicious game that I managed to win due to not making a mistake despite there being plenty of opportunities to do so. I was proud of how I played during this game, and Brian certainly didn’t make any mistakes… So anything less than perfect play would have resulted in a loss.

Trouble starts in a hurry when he plays a turn 1 Spurnmage Advocate, undoubtedly sideboarded in. I play a Nimble Mongoose and pass the turn, but it looks like the Mongoose won’t be much more than a 1/1 this game – I have to play the empty graveyard game, and my hand is set up to do it – I have Roar, Wonder, and Mongrel. Brian plays his Mongrel and Tireless Tribe and ships it back, and I play mine. On my turn, I lay a land, throw out Wonder and swing for four, and pass the turn. Brian likewise swings for four, bringing us both to fifteen.

I play my Roar and send the Mongrel in, taking him to thirteen, and pass the turn. Brian is starting to build up his side of the board now, and it won’t be long before he overwhelms me with his superior creatures – I can only draw so many 1/1 Werebears and Mongooses (yes, this is in fact the plural) before I give up the ghost. I’m playing a threshold deck that can’t ever put anything in the grave for fear of Advocate, and that deck breaks down in the late-game. I have to press this advantage now, while I have it.

Or maybe not. When I played that Wurm, Brian seemed upset with his draws, like he didn’t have anything to stop the nine flying damage coming over next turn – no Krosan Reclamation, no nothing. Now, I have another Wonder in hand, so I’m not too worried about Reclamation if and when I do decide to swing big… But I just can’t bring myself to believe that he’s got nothing in hand.

It all looks very favorable, but something isn’t right. And with all the reading I’ve done, all the research and the poring over tournament reports, with all of that starting to go through my mind, I start to feel a little apprehensive. Brian has WW untapped and he’s acting like he’s about to take a bunch of damage.

Suddenly, I know – I just know – that he has Vengeful Dreams, and he wants me to attack with everything. I realize this just as I’m hovering over my creatures, about to declare attackers. All of a sudden, I just… stop… and consider my options. Even though the Wurm is rarin’ to go, I decide to keep swinging with just my Mongrel and Nimble Mongoose. The only card in my graveyard is Wonder. He chuckles to himself and takes the damage.

The next turn, he knows the jig is up, and uses the Vengeful Dreams I knew he had to remove the attacking Mongrel and put Glory in his yard. I replace it and pass the turn, with his life at nineteen.

Over the next several turns, I keep the pressure on. When he reaches five life, he tries some surprise blocking by Krosan Reclaiming my Wonder, even flashing it back when I throw out another one. I try to Mental Note into a replacement Wonder to win then and there, but it’s unsuccessful, and my Roar bites it. We’re stalemated again, and I have three cards in my graveyard…. But one is Roar of the Wurm. I flash it back, leaving me with two cards in the yard, and pass the turn.

He has Glory and starts trying to push a little damage through while maintaining good blockers and his Advocate, and reduces me to eleven. I draw Krosan Reclamation and he attacks me to nine, using Glory to force a bad trade, and taps out to summon a Mongrel. At the end of his turn, I put the Glory and a land back into his library, trying to stop him from busting through on the following turn.

On my turn, I draw…Wonder.

He’s got an untapped Advocate and a bunch of blockers, while I have a Mongrel and a Roar. I have three cards in the graveyard – two unimportant ones and a Krosan Reclamation. I flash it back and shuffle my own two cards back in, leaving me with none in the yard. I throw out the Wonder, leaving me with one card in the grave, and his Advocate can do nothing. I swing for the win with the Roar.

Whew – what a game!

Record: 5-1

Aside – Adrian Sullivan (Necro Hut – Pay the life!)

About this time, I go over to where Allen Pengelly and Scott Larabie are playing Scrabble, and pull myself up a seat. I’m all set to watch these guys go head to head in an exciting Scrabble match, (and remember,”Vav” is a word – it’s a letter in the Hebrew alphabet) when I hear:

“Who steals a chair?”

Looks like the seat I pulled was spoken for. So begins my first encounter with Adrian Sullivan.

Now, I’d heard of Adrian, certainly. He used to write for the Dojo, back in the day, and he helped design the”When Sorceries Attack” deck that I played at Canadian Nationals. Most recently, I’d heard his name crop up in articles written by Kurt Hahn, who saw fit to opine that “Kowal and Sullivan, put collectively into the same paper bag, couldn’t draft their way out of it.”

Note that I would steal Hahn’s joke for a rant about Stern Judge.

Anyhow, Adrian Sullivan is a colorful character. First of all, his hair looks like the mane of a young lion. I don’t know whether this is by design or because he hasn’t found the right barber, but it’s true regardless. In addition to the hair, Sullivan garnished his outward appearence at this GP by adorning his upper body with a black shirt, upon which was emblazoned a scantily-clad, hot lil’ spicy salsa number.

That isn’t all that makes him stand out. If you haven’t seen Adrian play, it’s a sight to behold – he plays Magic like no one I have ever seen. He has a lunch-box looking sorta deal that he carries around with him, and the pen he uses to keep score is roughly the size of the vibrator that Alex Shvartsman once tried to carry though airport security. Perhaps the strangest of Adrian’s peccadilloes is his tendancy to play all of his cards backwards, so that they are facing his opponent. I have never seen any other Magic player play his or her card in that manner. If I get a chance, I’m going to ask him why he started doing that.

He is an animated guy, too. While waiting for my opponent’s (stolen) deck to be replaced during Round 7 of the Grand Prix itself, I was treated to the site of Adrian playing a match against U/B Braids at my table. It was a terrible matchup for his Wake/Stretch control deck, and try as he might he couldn’t do anything to turn things in his favor. Even the massive Sullivan penny seemed helpless to stop the slaughter, and our hero was hoping for a topdeck.

“Oh boy, I need a Christmas miracle right here!” said Adrian in his distinctive voice, knocking on his deck once again with the big penny. I have never heard another Magic player say that, so I figure it’s a Sullivan-ism.

Adrian used to write for the Dojo, which was once upon a time the cadillac of Magic sites, so imagine my delight when he told me on the day of the Grand Prix that he liked my writing.

“It’s fun,” he said.

I don’t know about you, gentle reader, but I store props the way a squirrel stores nuts for the winter, and once given they are never forgotten. I set them aside and let them propel me. When I feel down and I don’t feel like writing, I take out those props and they give me a boost. So thanks, Adrian.

I got to thinking, maybe it’s time I got better acquainted with Adrian’s writing. Of the old Dojo writers, I mostly read Flores, Zvi and the Vermont-dumbass-who-I-dare-not-speak-his-name. Flores was amazing, Zvi was always an interesting read, and I thought Wakefield was pretty cool though I now can’t even stand the thought of him (with apologies to his former Cabal Rogue teammates). Unfortunately, I skipped out on guys like Adrian and Aaron Forsythe because I hadn’t heard of them. Now that I write, I can only scold myself for not giving them a chance.

Come with me then, and let’s check out the Sullivan Library, complete with retro-Adrian photo:


I’m going to take a break from writing this and read through his stuff. You should, too. Come back when you’re done. Actually, come back tomorrow, and I’ll go over the rest of my Amazing GP Trial Day.