Even after making money at Grand Prix: DC and Pro Tour: Seattle, the future of :B was dubious, since originally I was just a substitute in the Tim Aten, John Pelcak, Gerry Thompson super team. But after some unexpected events occurring with now infamous McNuggets, I was back on and John, Tim and I had high expectations for GP: Chicago.
We drove up on Friday night, which was awesome compared to flying, and after dealing with some barns we registered card pools and went to sleep. It was great being on-site because we could maximize on sleep, but they need to work on the food selection. Their coffee was so bad I put literally twelve packets of sugar in it to blunt the taste. Even better, their bagels featured bugs in them, which in some countries might be considered a delicacy, but in Chicago is just gross.
Our first sealed deck gave us decent decks which we thought at the time were really good. Cak had a really good Red/Black spirit deck with Devouring Greed and a pair of Hanabi Blasts. Tim had a decent Black/White deck with two Kabuto Moths, Kokusho, and Horobi but also some bad cards. We thought my deck was the best, featuring triple Reach Through Mists and triple Kodama’s Might. However, that makes it Blue/Green, and in fact the worst of the three decks. I had had a lot of success as of late online with Green-based decks with guys and a bunch of tricks, but they were mostly with White or Red. We didn’t think it’d be that different with the Blue, but it was in fact a terrible match. After playing with it, I learned the deck wasn’t very good because it needed to draw a good curve and multiple Reaches and Mights to win. In addition, it had very few creatures that actually attacked, with lots of random one-power dudes like Soilshaper and Matsu-Tribe Decoy and Wirewood Elf that did nothing.
So we thought our decks were insane, when they were actually just good… Regardless, the first thing we did was give up our Byes, which we happened to have on rating and pro points, since rating is very important to JP. He likes being able to say “Hi, Ashkar on modo, 1947,” and thought it’d be nice to be able to say something similar regarding Team Limited rating. Well it worked out in the end, and now we can say “Hi, :B, 1923, #1 in the World Thanks, B.”
Here’s how it went down.
Round 1 v. some guy on Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Line
Of course they weren’t actually named that, but if you were at the tournament you would know what I mean.
Game one I draw well with a curve and multiple Reaches and Mights. As I said earlier, that is one of the few game-winning formulas in this deck.
Game two I didn’t really get manascrewed, but I could not possibly beat his draw: turn 1 Kitsune Diviner, turn 2 Samurai of the Pale Curtain, turn 3 Moth, turn 4 Nagao, turn 5 Hikari, turn 6 Yosei. Wow. I don’t recommend getting on the wrong side of this Willie Roaf look-alike.
Game three we both got good draws, with mine not being as great as game one and his not being as great as game two. He should have beaten me, but he got bored on about turn 10 and started attacking with his Kabuto Moth. This allowed me to counterattack for more than enough damage to win the race and he died. He was totally unaware that he could have at least not lost and probably won. It didn’t matter though, since both of my teammates won also.
Round 2 v. Kyle Smith on Smug, Snobby, and Arrogant
Since this team name describes all Canadians with (maybe) the exceptions of Paul Russell and Mark Zajdner, it certainly described them too. However, this threesome definitely had nothing to be arrogant about. Kyle and I have a history too, which mostly involves him agreeing to draft against me and then backing out at the last second.
Game one we just kind of played for a while, trying to find a critical turn. We both have a bunch of creatures. On his turn, he attacks me with some guys and I let it all through, going down to three. During his end step, I Kodama’s Might splicing Consuming Vortex onto it. This would allow me to have enough guys to get through for the win. He shows me Blessed Breath, and I’m devastated. I know there’s still hope though, and ask what color he names. Luckily, he quickly named Blue without thinking. Of course, since it was spliced onto the Might, it was Green that he should have named. Thus, instead of getting my Vortex countered, he got to discard his Blessed Breath and I got to attack for the win.
Game two he was still on tilt from game one and mulliganed down to four trying to find a nut hand. My draw was bad and I mulliganed once myself, but it easily bested his four cards. He complained a lot, but it didn’t matter since once again both of my teammates crushed the opposition. I, however, would do it a little less often. Kyle challenged me to a draft that night, and as soon as I got teammates, what do you know, he was busy all of a sudden. Classy. They would do that a lot this weekend.
Round 3 v. some guy on some team
This was a feature match because my deck was supposed to be insane. However it played out terribly in this match, just like it would all day. I got flooded game one after keeping Reach, Might, Wirewood Elf, Tribe-Decoy and three lands. I literally drew nine lands in a row before conceding despite the fact that my random idiots had held the fort for a while until his draw steps went something like Kabuto Moth, Teller of Tales, and another flyer.
Game two he got double Moth quickly. Unfortunately for me, this player failed to attack with them like my other opponent. Instead he won with them, just like he should have, despite being terribly nervous at having a feature match. I could have killed the first one with a Matsu-Tribe Decoy and Kodama’s Might, but instead I chose to hold the Might in an effort to wait for a Reach Through Mists, a second Might, or one of three Mystic Restraints that I had boarded up to for his Moths. My logic was flawed for multiple reasons and I should have just killed it. The fact that he had the second Moth made it all irrelevant. For the third time my teammates won, thanks in large part to the opposing team’s array of mistakes.
Round 4 v. some guy on some team
This team was something like three copies of me, except that they were even worse than I am, but they were still small children.
Game one started out slowly, with me playing a turn 3 Kami of the Hunt. During my end step, he used Consuming Vortex to return it to my hand. I replayed it on the following turn, and again it was returned with another Vortex. This happened a third time before I went on to crush him, since he was down three cards. At one point he tried to make a tricky play by returning lands to his hand with one of the Soratami creatures when it was unnecessary. Instead, he added an extra mana and started to attack, where I asked if he was burning. He got kind of mad and called a judge, and of course the judge ruled for me and he burned. Later he explained that he had seen someone do that earlier and the judge let him take it back, so he wanted to try it.
Game two I mulliganed, and he beat me with a good draw that I don’t remember. I think it included Moth and Keiga and tricks and anything else insane that you can think of while I was stuck playing with undersized dorks, as usual.
We started game three and I mulliganed again, but a few turns in my teammates announced that they had both won, so I conceded to go eat. The following times when this happened (they both won before I was done) I actually played it out half-assedly and ended up losing.
At this point we received our second set of sealed decks. They were pretty good, but once again, the best build had to have a Blue/Green deck in it. After building in a half hour, we tried for the other half to find a build without a U/G deck, but there simply wasn’t one. The other two decks were quite good including triple Frostwielder and Kumano for John, and lots of spirits, double Teller and Greed for Tim. This time, though, we knew the U/G deck was the worst. In fact, the deck was simply atrocious. It had bad creatures and not even enough tricks to be able to pull out wins. Tim tried hard to convince me to take the Spirit deck and have him take the U/G, and I should have done so in order to not get mad off after the losses that were sure to come. For some unexplainable reason, I once again took the terrible U/G deck into battle.
Round 5 v. Darwin Kastle on YMG
Game 1 I mulligan and he starts with an early Nezumi Graverobber, which of course a U/G deck cannot beat. When he just traded it for the Kami of the Hunt, I couldn’t believe my luck. Of course, he just plopped down a second Graverobber. He sat on that one for a few turns, flipping it and playing some more guys. A few turns later, he attacks his 4/2 Graverobber into my River Kaijin and my four open lands. He has a Scuttling Death, but I figure I have to hope he’s dumb since it was my only chance to win, so I block with the Kaijin and put Serpent Skin on it. Quite obviously if he just sacrifices his Scuts to make my Kaijin deal one damage to the Graverobber, it lives and he can just recur his Scuts soon and eventually overwhelm me with the Graverobber. But for some reason, he just yards his Nighteyes. I had no clue what was going on, but managed to keep it on the hush and said nothing.
Despite all this, he is still in good shape with Cursed Ronin and a lot of other creatures. I am also getting very mana flooded, which compounded with the fact that my card quality was inferior, meant that I was in bad shape. I managed to stay in it thanks to some bad attacks on his part until he drew five creatures in a row while I hit lands on every one of those turns. At that point he just attacked with everything a few times in a row and killed me.
Game 2 I mulligan again and am quickly informed that my teammates both won. I play it out and lose to his ridiculous draw rather quickly. At that point, I ask him what the hell he was thinking when he threw away his Graverobbers. He’s like “What?” and I remind him of the fact that he shouldn’t have needed to get really lucky to win the first game. He asks me why and I kindly inform him that in the great format that is Champions Team Sealed, and the U/G deck has literally no way to deal with Nezumi Graverobber. He then frowns, looks me in the eye, and says “You coulda bounced it… to my hand,” and walks off looking like he can’t understand what I am thinking. The funniest part was how he paused before saying in a much louder voice with much more emphasis “to my hand.” I mean, where else am I going to bounce it to?
Round 6 v. Aaron Breider on RIW Redux
Before this round nature called, so I went up to the room to drop an enormous deuce. This took longer than expected, and as I ran back to the room of the tournament I was unsure if I would make it on time. Sadly I did not. I received a game loss for being precisely fourteen seconds late. It hardly mattered with my deck, but these things still anger me. I proceeded to mulligan to four (six lands and Soilshaper, six lands, five spells) and get destroyed for the match. For the first and last time this weekend, my teammates failed to bail me out of a loss and we were defeated. Revenge would be had the next day.
Round 7 v. Michael Clair on Clair Jordan
Just like he advocated in his recent article, Mike was a jerk right off the bat. I was in a bad mood and wouldn’t stand for it. I warned him, but he just would not back off, so I got up and threw a chair at him. He was out cold, and the idiot judges wanted to disqualify our team. What a joke, I thought, it was just self-defense…I felt threatened. The judges agreed after a while and gave him a match loss, since he was still out after ten minutes of the round had gone by. At this point, his teammates got angry, could you believe it? They appealed to the head judge, who reversed the penalty to just a match loss for me, but not a disqualification for the team. Luckily, my trusty squadron took it down and we were in Day 2.
Actually, Mike just beat me with turn 5 Kodama of the North Tree twice, while I drew horribly, but that tale isn’t nearly as exciting. The part about the teammates was true.
Round 8 v. Aaron Hauptman on Gratuitous Poker Reference
I was warned about his ridiculous Dampen deck with three Shrines, three Glacial Rays, two Dampen Thoughts and an Eerie Procession before the match, and game one he played turn 4 and 5 Shrines, so I had no chance.
Flashback to the second sealed deck build, and I had cursed loudly upon seeing double Dosan the Falling Leaf wasting our rare slots. Cak half-joked that they would at least allow me to dominate a Dampen deck if it came up. Both Dosans came in, along with a Humble Budoka and some counters, and the matchup went from unwinnable to positive.
Game two I got Humble Budunkadunk down on turn 2, which made all the difference in the world. It ended up going all the way together with random hits from other guys that died to Glacial Rays.
Game three I got the anti-Dampen nut draw with Humble Budoka, Dosan, and a quick Uyo. He lacked one of his Rays, and Dosan shut off his Ethereal Hazes. My win combined with Tim’s meant that I had finally pulled out a match for us with the worst deck of all time.
Our 7-1 performance was good enough to put us in second place going into the draft day. Despite having completed zero practice drafts, we were still confident, since we had had no practice for GP: DC or PT: Seattle and did well anyway.
In high spirits (for us – other people might not have noticed the difference) we went to Denny’s where JP ordered a triple delicious. The typical Denny’s waitress impolitely let him know that there was, in fact, no item on the menu with that name. After that, we discussed some draft strategy, and along with Conrad’s team Gratuitous Poker Reference and all-around Magic champion Matt Schmaltz, we agreed that you had to draft matchups and not specific cards in this format. For example, we were looking to put Red against Black, Black against Green, White or Green against Red, and a few others. After dinner, we did one practice draft where we learned absolutely nothing and then got some rest before Day 2.
To begin the day, we get the bad news that it is four rounds of draft instead of three. Even though I’d rather play Draft than Sealed, we’d be able to 2-1 or 1-1-1 in if it was three rounds. This way, it’d be a little harder.
Round 9 v. Antonio De Rosa on Captain Jack’s Buried Treasure
The first draft went a lot better than expected as we all had good matchups. Tim had Green/Black against Red/White, and the R/W deck wasn’t fast enough to cause problems. I had U/W against U/R without Frostwielders, but my deck was just better overall. John had a good R/B spirit deck and his opponent had no deck.
I don’t really remember what happened other than I won, and that he accidentally drew a card off his Floating-Dream Zubera when I had a Samurai of the Pale Curtain in play. Nothing came of it since he just got a warning, but I won anyway. My draws were pretty good but his were fine too, and my superior card quality won me that one. We swept the match 3-0.
Round 10 v. Aaron Breider on RIW Redux
This draft went even better than the first one. I had ridiculous U/W in the mirror. My deck included two Nagaos, Keiga, and a great supporting cast. Cak had a great B/R with no less than double Kokusho and Tim also had a really good B/G spirit deck that had a great matchup against the guy that loves Sensei’s Divining Top and his G/W deck.
Game 1 I mulligan (making it four against this guy), and start really slowly, but he does too and I eventually I get out a Samurai Enforcer. He has Hankyu and he builds it up to four on his Sire of the Storm instead of attacking me, while I beat him down with the Enforcers. When he uses the Hankyu on my Enforcers, I Blessed Breath and splice Vortex onto it returning his Sire. If he had attacked it might have been close, since he did have some other dorks that he ended up chumping with near the end.
Game 2 I finally keep a hand against him and win easily with a curve that includes Nagao. Tim loses to Top Guy, but Cak wins putting us in first place with two rounds left.
Round 11 v. Jon Sonne on the team with Sonne Krempels and Kate on it
The draft again goes well, as our B/R, U/W, G/B strategy is giving us favorable matchups each time. Cak has a great matchup in the B/R mirror, since he had an aggressive spirit deck against a more controlling deck with lots of Waking Nightmares and few creatures that were mostly terrible. I have a toss up. My U/W deck usually has a good matchup against R/G, but he has two Glacial Rays and good creatures, making it about even. Tim had a decent matchup (probably slightly favorable) with his B/G deck. He certainly had some strong cards with a dragon and a splash for three Blind With Angers.
Game one I stall on two lands, but still have some plays. Eventually I lose to the 3/2 regenerating Troll and some other guys. Had I played a third land before turn 5, I probably would have had this one since I could have raced with fliers. Meanwhile the Cak got a game loss against Krempels for presenting forty-two cards.
Game two I mulligan to five, but he goes to six and I hide behind a Moth. I have Samurai Enforcers and Takeno, Samurai General in my hand with three turns to get a sixth land, but instead I get the only cards I can’t cast in Keiga and Myojin of Cleansing Fire. I eventually get the sixth land on turn 8 or 9. It would have stabilized me if he lacked for burn, but he didn’t and I died.
Of course, there’s a reason teams is a nice format, and that’s because it’s the only format where you can get land screwed and win the round anyway, which is exactly what happened when John won two in a row to bounce back from the game loss, and Tim drew his Jugan twice. This put us in the Top 4, and the next round we’d face the very hard decision of drawing in, or playing just because we’d be in with a loss anyway, or conceding to get someone in.
Round 12 v. Mike Hron, Paul Artl, and Bob Allbright
Intentional draw. In the end, laziness won out and we chose to just draw in and get some bad pizza. Going into the Top 4 we were pretty confident and our draft strategy was working out really well.
Top 4 v. Mike Hron on the team from Round 12
The draft once again went well, but not as well as some of the previous ones. On the third pack of the draft, I got a wheel of Dampen Though and Eerie Procession and we decided I’d run the Dampen Thought deck. It turned out to be nuts because they didn’t even try to stop me from getting it. All my opponent had to stop me was one boarded-in Distress, and that matchup was great. Tim and John also had good matchups, since somehow our opponents just didn’t have decent decks, but anything could happen since no one’s deck on our team was all that great either. Before playing the match out, we actually felt that the draft had gone badly because Tim and John’s decks were really bad, but in retrospect they were much better than their opponents’ decks and that is what matters.
Game 1 he starts with some early creatures and I use Eerie Procession to get the Dampen Thought. I then miss my fourth land drop, then my fifth a few times. Meanwhile my life total is getting beat on by random stuff like Lava Spike, but I am Damping him down and staying alive. Had I made the land drops, this game wouldn’t have been close. It comes down to the last turn where I can stabilize at one and then deck him on my turn if he has no way to deal the additional point, but he has several outs and draws Hanabi Blast.
Sideboarding was a big show and the judges make a lot out of nothing. They see us both sideboarding several cards and have us move to different places to sideboard because they say we should not be sideboarding based on what we think the other guy is sideboarding. This was one of the stranger moments in a whole weekend full of odd judge decisions, most of which I wasn’t involved in, thank God.
Game two he keeps a hand with his Distress but no Black mana sources. All he had was two Swamps and a Kodama’s Reach to find them, I think. This time with me being on the play and not missing land drops, the damage race isn’t close and he ends up having a one in ten or so chance of beating me on the last turn by drawing his second Swamp to Distress me. He doesn’t and we start shuffling for game three. At this point both of my teammates are finished winning their matches, but Mike wants to play game three just because. Not really caring, I keep two lands on the draw and get bashed when I don’t draw any more. However the hand had Reach Through Mists, Dampen Thought, and was basically just the best possible draw if lands were drawn, so it was probably a keeper anyway.
Even though we won, it probably should have been 3-0. We built my Dampen deck wrong – it should have had another land if not two. This was because missing land drops can really kill you with that deck, and also because Mike ran some Stone Rains and we knew he was going to. Had I played the extra land or two, I may not have encountered land problems and gotten the irrelevant 3-0. If you draft the Dampen Thought deck in the future make sure to run at least eighteen lands.
Finals v. Zach Parker on Gindy’s Sister Fan Club
It was a good thing we didn’t have to play them in the semifinals, because as everyone knows, Gindy always makes the finals of Team GPs. Luckily, he doesn’t necessarily win them, so in the finals we had a perfectly fair shot. Also to note is that in the coverage they made a huge deal about their players being sixteen and eighteen, yet fail to mention that players on my team are fifteen and eighteen. Not that it’s a big deal, but I never ever get credit for being a small child like Garza, ColeS, or the champ do. [It’s assumed that everyone knows exactly what a punky little kid that Gadiel is at this point and :B has only been referred to as “Tim Aten and his children” about a billion times before, but perhaps I should play up his infancy in the future. Gadiel only looks twenty or so years older than everyone on Gindy’s team except Chambers, so maybe that clouded my judgment. – Knut, responsible for the coverage that Gadiel is referring to]
Anyway, once again the draft went very well and we were confident in our chances going into the match. Cak had a pretty even matchup. It was the spirit mirror and neither deck really stood out as better than the other. I had a great matchup again with U/W against U/R without Frostwielders. My three Indomitable Wills and three Kami Of the Ancient Laws would make sure he was on the defensive and Yosei, the Morning Star is always nice. Tim also had a good matchup with his B/G deck against like U/G/W or something, but could lose if his opponent got double Shrine out.
Game one I stall on two lands but I still get a one-drop, a pair of Kamis Of The Ancient Law, and two Indomitable Wills, so I had plenty of action. After I used the first Indomitable Will to knock out one of his guys and save mine, he put Mystic Restraints on my Ancient Law and I used the other one to kill the Restraints. He then double-blocked it and I used the second Will to kill both guys and save mine. When I drew my third land, it was actually irrelevant and I got the game quickly.
Game two we both get decent starts, but his flyers are looking like they will get the better of me. One turn I draw Yosei, but he has mana open to use his Soratami Savant so I cannot play. Luckily he taps out in for something and lets me play Yosei the next turn. On his turn he taps out again, and I attack with Yosei then play Masako, the Humorless mainphase so he can’t use Savant on it. If you’re all as bad with card names as I am, Masako is the 2/1 that you can play as an instant and when she is in play, your tapped creatures can block. This meant he had to sit there, since he couldn’t attack into my Yosei and couldn’t kill it by blocking it, since I would tap him out and kill him with my ground creatures. Pretty soon he had to chump the big guy and I won soon thereafter. At this point Cak was down a game, but Tim was up. Unlike others, who leave after their match because they say they don’t want to see their teammates mess up, I stuck around. A few minutes later Tim won his match, and we joined the ranks of Valentin Moskovich and other greats as Grand Prix champions.
If you have any questions at all about the Grand Prix Chicago experience or anything else, feel free to message me on MTGO (Gadiel) or on aim (Hoopguy7). Also, vote for me for the invitational, whenever that is.