I woke up to the tune of “Jubilation,” a custom ring tone that I use in the early hours of the morning
to wake myself. It’s annoying, and it grabs your attention, much like when a stranger splashes coffee in your face and
runs away. I answered the phone and it was none other than William Moreno IV, known to his friends and foes and Billy.
He informed me of an upcoming Grand Prix, which was to take place in Toronto. My previous Grand Prixes have been
disastrous. In Richmond, not only was my card pool complete dog feces, but I had also lost my backpack containing
nearly every card ever drawn by the artists attending at the time. And before that, in Charlotte, I battled through
seven rounds of play to a record of 5-2 only to have Billy knock me out in the final round of contention. I was
skeptical about the chances of my appearance at the tournament; however, something inside me wanted to attend.
Billy is also a very close friend of mine, as we took on 126 heads at the States Two Headed Giant tournament and
emerged victorious, and something deep within my loins urged me to attend, or rather urged me to use the restroom. I
wiped the crust from my still swollen eyes and responded, “I’ll think about it.” I closed the phone
abruptly, checked my clock 7:13 AM, arouse from my worn mattress and stumbled into the restroom opposite my room.
After a solid 32-second stream, I wandered back into my cold damp room, and stubbed my pinky toe on my oversized
humidifier, cursed briefly, and crashed my head into my lumpy pillow…
FACT: Jon Sonne has made finals of two-thirds of the GPs I’ve been to up to this point,
and has made finals of both of the Limited ones.
My travel buddy for this event was Jeff Meyerson: he finished 65th in Nagoya, and made Top 32 at Grand Prix
Richmond. We left my house at 10am Central Time, and arrived at the Airport around 5:30pm (whatever time zone they are
in). Our ten-minute cab ride over to the Radisson saw me somehow anger our Arabian cab driver at least three
One time, in 7th grade gym class, a Muslim/Arab friend of mine — Yousef – was running besides me in the One
Mile Run. Does anyone else remember the pressure and anxiety before that? I wasn’t fat back then, but I was tall and
awkward and always felt like I was supposed to keep up with the all the little skinny kids at the front. Yousef, who
was a chubby fellow around 5’5, started sneezing rapidly… and didn’t stop for over a minute. He was slightly
behind me at the time, so when he stopped sneezing I turned around and asked him if he was okay. He lifted his shirt,
and blood was gushing out of his nose. I called the coach over, and helped escort Yousef to the Clinic. Thank God for
Yousef… as I didn’t have to finish the three-quarter-mile I still had to run.
At the hotel, our room included Steve Sadin, Billy, Jeff, Taylor Webb, Arthur Morris, and myself. To top it off we
got a room with only one bed and a pullout. To settle things we agreed Billy, Jeff, and I would sleep in the huge bed.
Arthur and Sadin would take the pullout couch, and Webb, being the last to arrive, got shafted and stuck with the
First things first: as soon as we checked in, we headed down to the bar to indulge in my first legally-bought
alcoholic beverage. I could taste the sweet Bacardi and Vodka on my tongue already. I sat down at the bar put my
elbows down like a pro – like I’ve been doing it for years – and asked the bartender for a drink list. He looked at me
oddly, and said, “Sorry, no drink list… what can I make you?”
Being unfamiliar with any drink names at all, I said the first thing that popped into my head…
“Uh, what do you recommend?”
That was my tell.
He muttered some random drink, and made a square sign with his index fingers and thumbs. At first I thought it had
worked and he was describing the size of the drink, but instead he was making a cute gesture to ask me for my ID. I
pulled my wallet out and slammed it on the table confidently, and tossed him my driver’s license. He eyed it for
a moment, looked at me, and said, “So, you’re eighteen?” I responded with, “Yep!”
… and he informed me that the legal drinking age in Canada is nineteen…
But I was not to be denied…
After the gang arrived, we went to the closest restaurant to the site, a little place called Kelsey’s. (Kelsey
Count: 1) It’s in the same genre as Bennigans, TGIF, and Apple bees. The food was alright, but nothing to
write home about. While there, I asked a twenty-year-old buddy to order a nice-looking Strawberry Vodka Lemonade for
me. Once drinking it, I found out that this particular drink had something like .02% alcohol in it… a nice $5
lemonade, and the worst part is I didn’t get a refill. Bad beats.
Friday brought a new day and new opportunities. On the way back up from a bad breakfast, there was a hotel lady
carrying a delivery tray up to the VIP room. The tray had some alcohol on it, and I asked, “We can have alcohol
delivered to our room?” She replied with “Yes… but you guys are the underage kids, right?”
We’d been red flagged in Canada after only a mere sixteen hours.
Around four, we all headed over to the site and drafted a couple of times with the master known as BDM. I didn’t
get to play on his team, so he wrecked me twice and I watched as they Italian Gamed the cards. He picked up every
money rare in both drafts; thank god he only does the coverage. I watched a couple of the pros draft, to get a feeling
for their pick orders, and then headed back to the room for another draft on MTGO before falling asleep.
Onto the tournament…
- 1 Centaur Safeguard
- 1 Conclave Phalanx
- 1 Courier Hawk
- 1 Dimir Guildmage
- 1 Oathsworn Giant
- 1 Screeching Griffin
- 1 Terraformer
- 1 Vedalken Dismisser
- 1 Ostiary Thrull
- 1 Helium Squirter
- 1 Isperia the Inscrutable
- 1 Vigean Graftmage
A good Sealed deck… a little on the slow side, but the overall power of all the cards more than makes up for
I only had one bye on rating, so I spent that time playing with my deck and asking for suggestions and ideas on my
card selections. In the actual building process I had a lot of options, but due to the lack of Signets and karoo lands
I had to use this version. The mana was stable, and the card draw could pull out a lot of games.
I don’t have a round by round game overview but here were the highlights from day 1.
Round 4 I played against a guy with Glare of Subdual and Leafdrake Roost. He dropped Glare on turn 4 and looked at
me with that “I can’t lose this game” face. I put Faith’s Fetters on it the next turn, and he
couldn’t keep up with all my card draw despite his turn 5 Leafdrake Roost
Round 5 my opponent presented me a deck without sleeves, I looked at the sides of the cards and called a judge. He
had a foil card in his deck that was clearly visible from the side. Whether or not it was intentional is up in the
air, but I got a match win for it.
Round 7 I got paired down against a 4-0-2 opponent while I was sitting at 5-1. We go to time in game 3 and play
out all five turns. The game is an apparent draw and virtually even, him with Sisters of Stone Death, and me with
Invoke the Firemind and Bottled Cloister active. He concedes to me when I pass on the fifth turn. He was a real
stand-up guy, and nice to play against. Major props to him.
Round 8 I sit down across Frank Karsten. I know him from GP Richmond, where we shared a shuttle to the site and
discussed the RRG format, so I thought naturally he would draw with me… man, was I wrong. I don’t blame him for it
though: he flew across the Atlantic Ocean to avoid a 1200 person Grand Prix in Torino the same weekend. Turns out only
650 people showed up in Torino, so his Toronto excursion was in vain. Regardless, we played, and he got game 1 despite
mulliganing to five on the play. Game 2 I buckle down, and things look grim for him when I attack with Isperia naming
the Forest he played turn 1 and forgot to replay after bouncing it with a karoo – a rare mistake from him. It gave me
the opportunity to fetch out a Screeching Griffin, which eventually put him down to five life. He actually managed to
stabilize with a Chorus of the Conclave enhancing his Blind Hunter and other dudes. He was also attacking each turn
for four, with the 4/9 Chorus, so I was on a short clock. I had Oathsworn Giant out along with Screeching Griffin,
Ostiary Thrull, and a few other random guys, and he makes another mistake (how lucky) by tapping out to cast a Elves
of Deep Shadow pumping it some absurd number. I Remand it back to his hand, and he was 1 blocker short once I attack
and tap one of his creatures with my Thrull. Game 3 starts with 10 minutes left on the clock, and I realize I can
always have the draw if I don’t have a fast start. We both have pretty fast starts, and I get stuck with Isperia and
Invoke in hand with only 1 island out. Time is called and I am active player. The ground is stalled, with him having
lethal damage in the air in 2 attacks with his Conclave Equenaut. I drew Compulsive Research for my turn with six mana
out, so I cast it discarding Isperia and Invoke. I play a land, then Bottled Cloister, with only Twinstrike in my
hand. On my upkeep I Twinstrike two of his fliers and draw land, land. On his turn he plays Blind Hunter putting me to
two life and passes. I draw Wrecking Ball and Courier Hawk, and the match is a draw.
Whew, that was a close one. Drawing with one of the Top Five Players in the World is a huge confidence boost. I
retired to good ol’ Kelsey’s (Kelsey Count: 2) and ate a lovely sauteed chicken over a blanket of mashed
potatoes to reward myself. We played the credit card game between Taylor Putnum, J Evan Dean, Jeff Meyerson, Billy,
and myself. The Canadians were the first to go – naturally they rigged the game – so it was between the three sucker
Americans. I was next off, and breathed a sigh of relief. Billy was stuck with the bill.
We then went back to our hotel and drafted in the lobby, with the above five and Webb. I drafted an almost
mono-Green deck, splashing Blue for Infiltrators Magemark and Assault Zeppelid and Red for Flame Kin Warrior and
Streetbreaker Wurm. It had other hits including Moldervine Cloak, three Aquastrand Spider, two Ghor-Clan Savage, Civic
Wayfinder, and double Wildsize. I 3-0’d the draft, and built up my confidence for the next day.
Another awkward morning waking up with Billy sprawled out across the bed wearing nothing but skimpy pokey-dot
boxers. After we showered, Billy and I headed down to the site for Day 2, stopping by Tim Hortins for a disgusting
sprinkled donut. The donut was not satisfying at all, but I needed substance if I was going to do well today, so I
shoved it down my throat. The sprinkles were hard as rocks and a few got stuck in my teeth, but they eventually fell
out as the day progressed.
In the first draft, I started off with Blue, Green, and Red cards in Ravnica; more specifically, Compulsive
Research, Peel From Reality, Vedalken Dismisser, Galvanic Arc, Drake Familiar, and Fists of Ironwood. As it turns out
in the majority of drafts that I’ve done, it is rare to get more than six playables out of the Ravnica booster.
It’s generally a good idea to pick all mono colored cards. The Ravnica guilds aren’t especially strong,
and can’t be picked consistently.
Guildpact comes and I get a pair of Streetbreaker Wurms along with a Steamcore Weird, Gruul Turf, an Izzet Signet,
Gruul Signet, Izzet Chronarch… and oh yah, I opened a Savage Twister. Dissension gave me a Simic Signet,
Cackling Flames, three Helium Squirters, a Silkwing Scout, and a late Cytospawn Shambler.
My deck ended up looking something like this…
- 1 Drake Familiar
- 1 Junktroller
- 1 Surveilling Sprite
- 1 Vedalken Dismisser
- 1 Izzet Chronarch
- 1 Steamcore Weird
- 1 Streetbreaker Wurm
- 1 Aquastrand Spider
- 1 Cytospawn Shambler
- 3 Helium Squirter
- 1 Silkwing Scout
- 5 Forest
- 5 Mountain
- 5 Island
- 1 Gruul Turf
The deck is obviously insane, so I expected a 3-0 for sure, leaving me just two wins away from making Top 8. I won
my first match with Savage Twister both games. Match 2, however… it turns out I forgot to mark a “1”
next to my Gruul Turf. I did mark it in the total played column, but I got a game loss anyway for only
registering 39 cards. Game 2, I play first and get a nutty hand of Forest, Island, Simic Signet, Savage Twister, Train
of Thought after mulliganing to five, and am forced to play Train of Thought for one after not drawing a third land.
My opponent lays a bunch of guys, and I Savage Twister them away. Then I play Chronarch and get it back, and when he
plays a bunch more guys I Savage Twister again. He lays a Halcyon Glaze and Guardian of Vitu Ghazi, and has a active
Windreaver that I have no answer to. I’m at one when he attacks with the Glaze and Guardian. I block with Junktroller
on the Guardian, and block with Helium Squirter on the Halcyon Glaze (and then pay a mana to give it flying). My
opponent becomes angry about it, and calls a judge that rules that Helium Squirter is an illegal blocker, and I lose
the match. I was dead anyway.
I win my next match and go into the final pod needing a 3-0 to make Top 8, with my record sitting at 8-2-1.
I talk to Bill after my third match, looking for some words of wisdom, and he tells me of the worst play he’s ever
made. He kept a two-land hand featuring a karoo land, forest, and Utopia Sprawl, and did the unthinkable by casting
first turn Utopia Sprawl, setting him back three turns by being unwilling to bounce the enchanted land. It comforts me
to know that he made a game blowing mistake, just as I did the previous round. At this point he is sitting at 8-3,
needing to 3-0 to have a chance at Top 8 just like me. My goal was to make Top 16, so I would be able to attend PT
We both go into our second pods with our heads lifted and our hearts held high. I don’t know what that means, but
it sounds poetic.
In this pod I had draft master Anton Jonsson passing to me, so I looked for a quick signal for him to put me into
a color. This was a bad idea, since signals are so irrelevant in this format. I’m not too surprised it didn’t work.
I open my first pack and it contains Golgari Rotwurm, a couple of karoo lands, and a Dismisser. I take the
Rotwurm, as I really like the GBR archetype and it is usually underdrafted. I get shipped a Keening Banshee, along
with a Putrefy, and I’m off to a good start. I also get two Selesnya Sanctuaries, a Galvanic Arc, and a Golgari Signet
as my notables from this pack.
Guildpact gave me a first pick Streetbreaker Wurm, along with a second pick Rumbling Slum, followed up by hits
such as Scab-Clan Mauler, Burning-Tree Bloodscale, Blind Hunter, a Wildsize, a Gristleback, and two very late Feral
In Dissension I opened a Wrecking Ball, and quickly grabbed it over a Cackling Flames, which may have been a
mistake… but Wrecking Ball deals with the creatures Cackling Flames doesn’t. My second pick I get a Seal
of Fire, followed up by a Cytospawn Shambler and a Aquastrand Spider. After that the packs dry up, making me think
Anton is snatching my Rakdos cards. I do get a pair of very playable Psychotic Furies, and a Rakdos Signet fairly
Here is my deck:
- 1 Elves of Deep Shadow
- 1 Golgari Rotwurm
- 1 Keening Banshee
- 1 Blind Hunter
- 1 Burning-Tree Bloodscale
- 2 Feral Animist
- 1 Gristleback
- 1 Rumbling Slum
- 2 Scab-Clan Mauler
- 1 Streetbreaker Wurm
- 1 Aquastrand Spider
- 1 Cytospawn Shambler
- 1 Entropic Eidolon
- 1 Kill-Suit Cultist
Match 1 I played against a guy who said his deck was awful. This was confirmed when he played an Aetherplasm
against me and blocked my Rumbling Slum, putting a Vigean Hydropon into play (tech). I had the Psychotic Fury and won
game 1. Game 2 I saw the Aetherplasm again, and he ended up putting a Niv-Mizzet into play this time, and then Gather
Couraged it to survive my Rumbling Slum. He stabilized with a Sword of the Paruns with Niv, at around five life. Game
3 was simple enough – I got a very good hand, and won. Sometimes that just happens.
The next match saw me defeat my opponent in game 1 around turn 6, with a Psychotic Fury on a Streetbreaker Wurm
after he was manascrewed. Game 2 he again had mana problems, and my Wurms finished him.
I’d secured myself a spot at Kobe now, along with at least $500, so I went into the final match with no
pressure. My opponent, however, had the jitters, and was visibly nervous. He claimed his deck was garbage and should
have won both matches easily with his Simic Sky Swallower, if it had not been for his two procedural warnings – one
for playing an extra land to put his Sky Swallower in play, then again in game 2 where he put a Shielding Plax on his
Enemy of the Guildpact and drew a card. How lucky. Turns out he had 2 former warnings before the match, so I got a
game win in game 2. Game 3 saw me with a very good draw, involving turn 2 Mauler with Riot Spikes, and a hand packed
I gave the Top 8 players some Eclipse gum while waiting for them to set up, which is something I always used to do
in High School as an ice breaker to talk to girls – along with “Do you have a pencil?” and “Can I see
your notes?” As my reputation as Mr. Smooth grew, so did the creativity of my open-ended openers, or OEO’s. Any
sort of open-ended question is best, as they can’t not talk to you if you ask them a question. I don’t know
where I’m going with this, so I’ll cut to the draft.
My first pick was a Moldervine Cloak, followed up by a Golgari Guildmage. Then I got passed a third pick Selesnya
Guildmage, and I knew I was set up well. I then got a fourth pick Selesnya Evangel and fifth pick Conclave Equenaut,
along with a Golgari Rot Farm to round out the good playables. Normally, drafting GWB goes against all RGD logic;
however, in the last pack you get a lot of mono-colored good playables that always go late, due to the guild cards
being picked over them. I’ve drafted this deck once before, so I was familiar with the plethora of playables I was
able to receive in the last pack.
Guildpact gave me tons of goodies; Gristleback, Orzhov Euthanist, Ostiary Thrull, Gristleback, Blind Hunter,
Orzhov Signet, Ghor-Clan Savage, Ghost Warden, Wildsize, and a 10th pick Teysa, Orzhov Scion. In Dissension I got a
lot of the aforementioned mono-colored playables. My deck ended up like this:
- 1 Conclave Equenaut
- 1 Golgari Guildmage
- 1 Selesnya Evangel
- 1 Selesnya Guildmage
- 1 Blind Hunter
- 1 Ghost Warden
- 1 Gristleback
- 1 Orzhov Euthanist
- 1 Ostiary Thrull
- 1 Teysa, Orzhov Scion
- 1 Aurora Eidolon
- 1 Beacon Hawk
- 1 Demon's Jester
- 2 Freewind Equenaut
- 1 Minister of Impediments
- 1 Sporeback Troll
I liked this deck a lot, though it didn’t have the removal that my previous two had. It did have a very
good curve and a couple of bombs.
My first opponent was the other amateur in the Top 8, Jay Z. He was a nice local player who had not drafted RGD
prior to this day. He played very well considering his lack of preparation, and was a good guy in general, humble and
quiet, unlike the majority of people you will play against in tournament nowadays. Also, whoever won this match was
guaranteed to take home more than the 1st place finisher, as the amateur prize would be $1,500 plus a minimum of
$1,000 for 4th. Thankfully, I did the business and took the match in three.
The semis saw me face Jon Sonne. As I mentioned before, he has made finals of each Limited Grand Prix I’ve
attended. It was almost like I was destined to lose to him. I told him about this when we sat down, and he
told me that a Kyle made Top 8 of the first four Pro Tours he attended… weird much?
The coverage is all here. They did a
good job of covering our match. However, in the semifinals, game 1 was much more complex than described. Jon missed
returning his Entropic Eidolon when he cast Twinstrike against me, and that would have won him the game. Game 2 I kept
a hand of two Swamps, Orzhov Signet, two of my White fliers, and a couple of Green cards. I didn’t draw a non-Swamp
land the entire game. Game 3 I mulliganed to five and couldn’t keep up with all his removal.
Jon was also a very good guy to play against. I definitely had no problem losing to him, as he is a much better
player than me, and his deck was also insane. I just wanted some closer games, like game 1. Who knows… maybe
In the end, I finished in 3rd place. This netted me $1,200, plus my $1,500 for Highest Amateur, so I banked in a
cool $2,700. $50 more than Ant: $2,400 plus his $250 appearance fee.
Thanks for reading,
Top 5 Pick Order
1. Scary by Bjork
2. Transatlanticism by Death Cab for a Cutie
3. Step Into My Office, Baby by Belle & Sebastian
4. Rebellion (lies) by The Arcade Fire
5. Cowboy Dan by Modest Mouse