Undefeated On Day One Again, Knocked Out Of The Top Spot Again – Grand Prix: LA Report

I wouldn’t advise playing Weird Harvest in every deck… But when you luck out and get the strongest sealed you’ve ever seen with Rorix, Butcher Orgg, Starstorm, AND Slice And Dice, you know your critters will be better than theirs. And let me tell you how the Top 8 Draft would have been entirely different IF one of the players had known how to play Magic…

Phew! What a weekend. Well, at least I have a lot to write about, and actually feel like writing despite the fact that it’s 12:30 a.m. and I really didn’t get enough sleep this weekend to warrant my staying up. But hey, I was on a plane for most of the day (and lost three hours because of the time zone change), so I figured I might as well actually get something done.

So where do I begin?

My flight to LA was early Friday morning, and I arrived around 11:30 or so, and was picked up at the airport by my good friends Brett and Alan Tarr and Alan’s friend Con. The weather in LA is so beautiful that it just reminds me how much I hate the awful weather we have here in Pittsburgh, as I’m sweating my ass off in sweat pants and long sleeves. Anyway, we head back to Brett’s college, USC, and go get something to eat and play some games with random Sealed decks that I bought and built on the plane. Mine is far better than Brett’s, but he still wins a game here and there, and eventually we decide to head down to the site.

As soon as we get there I hear Antonio DeRosa yelling Eisel will draft, Eisel will draft – and sure enough, a money draft starts ten minutes after we’ve arrived. It’s me, Alan, and Brett against BenS, Antonio, and Ken Krouner. Alan somehow 3-0’s with a White/Green pile that sports two Catapult Squads and three Daru Cavaliers and not much else, and I 2-1 with a WB deck with Jareth and splashing Lightning Rift.

We hang out and watch some other drafts for a bit before drafting again against Terry Tsang, Bob Maher, and Jeff Fung. My deck this time is an aggro white blue with lots of fliers, but nothing really great except the Glarecaster that never did anything. This draft is a hose, as I either mulligan to five and/or get mana and colorscrewed every game, as my deck obviously hates my guts. Jeff Fung 3-0s us despite not using the abilities on his Skirk Commando and Silklash Spider, along with other randomness. So we hang out for a bit and it’s getting kinda late so we get something to eat and head back to the dorm for some sleep.

I’m awakened by Brett’s cell phone alarm at 7 a.m., and my neck hurts like hell from sleeping on the rock hard floor. Regardless, I get up and get a shower. Now, for some reason, some idiots at USC decided to open all the windows in the bathroom and it is freezing cold in the showers, causing my teeth to chatter even while showering in the hottest water the shower could produce. Anyway, we get ready and head to the tournament and arrive early enough to do some chatting and whatnot.

The deck I open and register is a monster pile, with four Words – none of which are red. Two Black Words, and a Blue and Green, and the fifth rare is Unholy Grotto or something awful like that. Anyway, the rest of the deck isn’t good either, with the best colors being green and white which is obviously not a good thing. NeilR is sitting right next to me, so we’re chatting most of the time anyway which takes away the boring feeling you always get when registering sealed decks. Anyway, I take a bathroom break and come back and we finally get the decks back that we’ll be playing.

Now, for some reason they allow us to look at the decklist and put our name on it, but not to take the cards out of the box – which really makes no sense as you’re basically looking at the cards anyway if you’re looking at the list. So I take a quick glance and see two Sparksmiths before me and Neil start chatting again, and I really don’t look too closely at the list. Josh Bennett comes over and asks Neil and I how our decks are, to which Neil replies”awful” – and I say”decent,” since I’ve seen the two Smiths but not really analyzed the deck yet.

Then they tell us to begin deck construction… And then my eyes practically jump out of their sockets.

I’m flicking through the deck and see Rorix, Starstorm, Slice and Dice, and Butcher Orgg. Add to this one of each common red removal and two Sparksmiths, and you have a recipe for ridiculous. The second color wasn’t as obvious, and there were actually a few crucial decisions in building the deck that I think I should explain to those who just saw the list.

First, I would not have been 8-0 without the Weird Harvest in the deck. It won every game I cast it except one, and was certainly one of the most important cards in the deck. Not that I’ve ever ran the card before, but it definitely had a place in this deck – and I don’t think many people would have played it. Second, Green was clearly the strongest color to go with the red, with good fatties to survive my two Wrath effects, as well as a Wirewood Savage to fill out the manacurve. The Fallen Cleric made the cut because it was the best morph creature for the Erratic Explosion, and also could be flipped up late game with Birchlore Rangers. Everything else is pretty much explanatory, I think; I didn’t splash the Armor because I wanted a more consistent manabase and figured I’d be cycling it most of the time anyway which isn’t what I wanted. I must say, though, that this is the best sealed deck I’ve ever had by a longshot. I’m not gonna provide lists here, since they’re on The Sideboard, so check them out if you feel like it.

Rounds 1 – 3 BYE

Me, Turian, Brett, and Alan head down to Carl’s Junior, which Brett claims is the place to eat. I really don’t see why, as it seems just like any other fast food place to me – but whatever floats your boat, I guess. Anyway, it feels good to eat something, and we play some games at the place and then me and Mike play some more back at the site. I learn from this that I am extremely happy that I played the Weird Harvest, as it’s winning me virtually every game that I drew it. Not that I’m advocating this card for any old deck – but when you’re getting Rorix and Butcher Orgg and the things your opponent is getting aren’t even in the same league, it’s not very hard to win. Anyway, I feel very confident in a repeat 8-0 as the pairings go up for round 4.

Round 4: Eric Taylor

Well, might as well start off against another pro, eh?

Game one is a very normal game, with us both playing guys for the first few turns. I play out a Savage on turn 3 and he has GGRR mana up when he swings with his morph; I gun it that it’s not Skirk, and it is, so my Savage Gets Nuked. Anyway, the turn after, I play a morph and he plays a Symbiotic Elf and passes back. I swing and trade with the elf, and then cycle Slice and Dice to kill his team. He taps out for Centaur Glade and I’m unphased. I have a morphed Slateback and then a face-up Treespring Lorian. I swing and he blocks the Lorian with a Centaur token, then Vitality Charms it for the trade – which is also fine with me, as I cast Weird Harvest for two, getting Rorix and Butcher Orgg, while he gets Krosan Tusker and Symbiotic Beast. Rorix comes down and the game ends after a few Rorix hits with me Exploding him when he’s at four and hitting a Symbiotic Elf (I ran it because I have lots of high casting costs in my deck; it really didn’t matter if it didn’t kill him, since I was going to win regardless and the chance of killing him is better than just automatically giving him another turn)

I sideboard in a Taunting Elf for the Fallen Cleric in case there is a huge ground stall with his Glade and other huge monsters.

He chooses to play first again, and I deliberate over my opening hand: It is Forest, two Sparksmiths, Birchlore Ranger, Wirewood Savage, Rorix, Slice and Dice. I eventually decide to keep it due to having ten Mountains in my deck, and if I draw a Mountain or two lands in the first few turns the draw is just ridiculous. My deck doesn’t disappoint, delivering a mountain on turn two, and then another land. The game is fairly degenerate, with him killing my first ‘Smith, but not being able to deal with the second. His board cannot compete with the Sparksmith – and soon enough, Rorix swoops in to do what he does best. On the last turn, when he’s at seven, I have a Weird Harvest in hand and am going to go for Goblin Sledder to pump Rorix and kill him – but instead I draw it for my turn, greatly reducing the style points.

Round 5: Harry Ward

Harry is a nice guy, and we chat for a little when he sits down, with him saying that he enjoys reading my strategy articles, and me thanking him for the positive feedback. Soon the round is underway, and game one is not really a game at all. I play some guys and Harry is brutally manaflooded, dealing as best he can, but never really drawing enough spells to get in the game. I have Rorix in hand and don’t even play it, deciding to keep it secret so he can’t sideboard against it.

Game two I didn’t take many notes on, but I know I stumbled off the blocks a little and he had a much better draw this time around. At one point I cast Weird Harvest for Rorix and I think Barkhide Mauler, while he gets Haunted Cadaver and Sparksmith, and on his turn he reveals his morph to be a Silent Specter. I have three turns to draw my third mountain to drop Rorix and stop the Specter – but it’s not to be, and soon we are shuffling for game three.

I am drawing again for game three, and keep a bothersome opening hand of 3 Forest, 3 Mountain, Shock. My first draw step is Spitfire Handler, but it is followed by more lands. Finally, on turn 4, I peel Weird Harvest. On the next turn I draw Starstorm and I cast Harvest for three, getting Rorix, Butcher Orgg, and Symbiotic Beast, while Harry gets Sparksmith, Silent Specter, and Elvish Riders. His board at this point is Nosy Goblin and Snarling Undorak to my empty board. He beats me down to ten and taps out for Silent Specter. I untap, drop my sixth land, and Starstorm his board. He comes back with a seven land and the Rider and ‘Smith.

I do some thinking on my turn, debating whether or not to play around the Searing Flesh he could possibly have to steal this game from out from under me. I decide to do so, and cast Rorix and pass back the turn without attacking. He Wave of Indifferences it and hits me for four, down to six, and I’m starting to get nervous about the Flesh he could possibly have. Regardless, I cast Butcher Orgg and pass back, again without attacking. He swings the Rider into Rorix, shoots with ‘Smith, and cycles Solar Blast to finish off Rorix. This makes me feel better that he doesn’t have the Flesh, but I know I’ve gotta work fast. This is easy, however as I swing with the Orgg and kill the Smith and hit him for five. I tap out for Symbiotic Beast and a morphed Lorian. He plays a morphed Battering Craghorn and Crown of Suspicions my Symbiotic Beast, hoping to ambush it. I show him Pinpoint Avalanche and he scoops.

Phew! A close match.

Round 6: Ryan Takeoka

Brett had lost to Ryan in an earlier round, so I knew some of the stuff he had going into the match. He was UR with Mistform Skyreaver, Lightning Rift, Lavamancer’s Skill, and good fliers. Game one was ludicrous, as he gets down two early Biologists, and all my guys are Beasts. I wait a few turns for the seventh land for Butcher Orgg – but when I finally cast it, all that happens is it gets Cloned. I fail to draw removal for his Skilled Biologist, and he beats me down with fliers despite many possible cards I could draw for the save.

Game two is an exercise in the raw power of my deck. He gets out an Imagecrafter, Biologist with Skill again, and a Sparksmith early in the game, and I Starstorm them away. Then he empties his hand with Goblin Taskmaster and Embermage Goblin and I simply cycle Slice and Dice. His final effort to Lay Waste my Forest proves irrellevant as I beat him down with random morphs and finally Rorix on the last turn to kill him.

Game three my hand isn’t looking so stellar for the first few turns, but I can tell by the way he’s acting that his draw isn’t very good either. Then I peel Rorix about turn 3 or 4 and I’m feeling good about things. Rorix comes out and his draw is not good enough to deal with it, again proving how dumb Rorix really is.

Round 7: Alexander Alleppe (sp?)

I didn’t really take notes on this match, as Alex’s draws were not amazing. Game one I play Savage early, and we both start playing beasts, allowing me to draw tons of cards. He draws a lot of land, but I doubt it mattered as my hand was packed with removal and I had total board control with Smiths.

Game two he stalls on three land, and in frustration he throws his hand on the table and concedes. Apparently he was splashing for Insurrection in his GB deck or something, but whatever; I had a decent draw again and I doubt I could lose as I was going to run the Harvest and I don’t think there was much he could do.

Round 8: Ed Fear

Ed Fear is a great guy, and to call him hilarious would be an understatement. A true pleasure to play against and hang around with always, Ed is always packing the comedy. This match was covered on sideboard, so I’ll just say a few things; you can read the details over there.

My deck was definitely far more powerful, though his wasn’t slacking in ways to deal, with double revival and good green beasts. It still was a completely uphill battle for him, and at least he is laid-back enough to joke around and still manage to have fun. Don’t quit, Ed, you’ll be sorely missed!

Well, I did it again, 8-0ing the Sealed Deck portion – although admittedly, this deck was completely broken while my Philly deck was only really an X-1-1 deck. I went back to the dorm a happy man, and we did a quick Rochester on Modo, and Con played it out while we went to sleep.

I awakened to the same sore neck: Stupid floor! Regardless, we got ready and headed out to the site, getting some actual breakfast this time at the Starbucks upstairs in the hotel. Soon the pods go up and we begin the gaming.

Draft 1

Gary Wise covered this table on sideboard, so if you want complete detail you can refer to it there. My thoughts on the draft were that I felt like maybe I should have gone white and cut Williams off, or even go for a green splash by taking the splashable morph beasts pretty high. Regardless, my deck was fine, and very consistent, the highlights being Triple Cruel Revival, Triple Swat, Infest, and a very good manabase due to a sacland and two red cycling lands.

Round 9: Gerardo Godinez

Game one was one of the weirdest games I’ve played in quite a while. It was almost impossible to tell who was winning, as I was hitting him with a Severed Legion and him hitting me with a Dive Bomber. During this time, he kept casting Dive Bombers and I kept Swatting them. There were definitely a few turns where the exact same thing happened.

Anyway, it gets to the point where I’m visibly manaflooded but I have a Festering Goblin with Crown of Fury and a Frightshroud Courier locked on it, and he’s at nine. I bash him to five, and he hits me down to two with his Dive Bomber.

At this point, the board is my Goblin, Shepherd of Rot, Sandskinned Severed Legion, and tapped Frightshroud Courier to his Bomber and he has one card in hand. He casts another Bomber and then the Pacifism he topdecked for my goblin. Now I’m in a pickle because I have to either kill both Dive Bombers, or draw a Zombie to draw the game with Shepherd of Rot. The other option is to draw Crown of Suspicion, pump my Shepherd, and put the Crowd on him for the kill. My deck decides this is the best option and offers the crown off the top. Yes!

Game two he plays a turn 3 morph which I’m pretty sure was Grinning Demon by the way he was fondling it. Regardless, when he plays a fourth land and visibly taps each one as if he’s counting them to completely make sure he has four before he attacks, and I get the feeling that he is just bluffing me. My morph guy is inconsequential, because I can just Revival it back later, so I block – and he does have the Demon.

Now, at this point I was still giving the guy some credit as a magic player, regardless of his many mispicks in the draft, and his consistent showing that he didn’t really understand the format. But this was too much – and I knew I couldn’t lose now, because reading him was like reading an open book. My draw is pretty good this game regardless, and I Revival the Demon, and then beat him down with Wretched Anurid and a morph while swatting anything that gets in their way.

Round 10: Brian Hegstad

Again, this match was covered. Brian is a great guy, but dispite getting him to play into a monster Infest, I’m still too flooded and can’t draw a Revival to kill his Tephraderm and swing for the win. Also, the match coverage is wrong when it says I had Slice and Dice in my deck – and you can check the decklist if you don’t believe me. I wish!

Game two is also a debacle as I mulligan a no-lander into a one-land, double-cycling hand, and my draws are basically worthless as I get stuck with all three Revivals in hand and can’t find the fifth land.

Round 11: Alex Shvartsman

Lets just call this the luckiest match of Magic I’ve ever experienced in my life. Game one goes normally, with him playing guys and me removing them – until he starts breaking out these huge monsters. I didn’t take many notes on the early game, but in the late game the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever witnessed happened: The board is reduced to his Tempting Wurm and my Wretched Anurid with me at two life and a guy or something in hand, nothing really good. At this point, I’ve already used two Revivals so I’m not feeling very good about my chances. Alex is clearly smart enough to just sit back instead of letting me chumpblock with the Anurid that is gonna kill me as soon as two creatures come out. Regardless, for six straight turns Alex draws and says go. I use this time to cycle through my deck like a madman, looking for that third Revival. Finally I find it on the sixth turn of this or so, and kill his Wurm, getting back Severed Legion. I attack him to thirteen and pass back the turn.

When he draws and says go, I almost fall out of my seat in disbelief.

On my turn, I attack him to ten and play a Festering Goblin, then Infest away both of my guys, getting rid of the Anurid. Then I play out Courier and Anurid Murkdiver or something. Anyway, he draws again and still passes back, and somehow I win the most unlikely game ever.

Game two is almost as bad. I get a good draw of guys and land and start curving them out. I kill what few spells he has actually drawn and ramp to two Murkdivers (which aren’t even really good, since he’s GR). He’s flooded again and quickly succumbs to my dorks. Wow, that was lucky.

Draft 2

Gary covered this one also, and the draft went a lot better for me this time around. Despite being in the 8seat, I was in a great position for Blue/Red. My deck was very very good this time around, and definitely good enough for the 1-1-1 I needed for Top 8. Highlights being Sparksmith, Skill, Lightning Rift, and good burn.

Round 12: Brian Hegstad

Round Two – Fight! Game one Brian experiences the problems that plagued me the last time we met, mulliganning to five before getting beat down by my Goblin Machinist and fliers. Game two is the other way around, with him getting a lightning fast start, and me Sage Avenning into four lands at a crucial point in the game. I fight the good fight regardless, and die with a land still on top.

Game three, a million people are watching and I’m really concentrating on the game and didn’t take very many notes. I do know that his deck just overpowered mine, though, killing my Biologists and plowing through. Brian threw away a Treespring Lorian face-down in combat for no reason, and it hardly mattered; his board was just ridiculous in comparison to mine.

Round 13: Robert”Thunder of Hooves” Bayardo

Phew. Bye into the top 8, heh. This match was covered, but Robert was never really in the match, as I got a guy with Skill game one and a Sparksmith game two, and his awful deck couldn’t compete. He also managed to cast Cemetery and never use it, which was laughable.

Round 14: Allen Sun

We draw and I’m happy, as I’m in my 2nd Top 8 in two Grand Prixes!

Top 8 Draft

This draft could have been entirely different, if Gerardo Godinez knew how to play Magic. He cracks the first pack and sees Lightning Rift, Screeching Buzzard, and Erratic Explosion as the possible picks. Of course, he takes the Buzzard for no reason at all, and completely screws my draft from there on out. Being in the 3seat, if he took Rift like any competent player would, I’d get the explosion in Seat 3 instead of having to take Akroma’s Blessing and shipping the red to KK. Rift is like one of the best cards to open early in the draft, considering how long you have to assemble a critical mass of cycling cards.

Anyway, I was still in a great position for White Black as the first White was three to my right, and the black two away on either side. However, the packs contained no good black, with me getting the only Revival, and Phil getting the only Swat(s).

All of this became even worse when I cracked my second pack. Now, keep in mind that my first-round opponent was Bob Maher and he was basically getting the nuts deck thrown on his lap with third-pick Centaur Glade, second-pick Sparkmith, and then cracking Insurrection before getting tons of Undoraks, another Smith, and lots of good removal. To win this matchup, I was going to have to get Very Lucky. Because of this, I made the on-the-fly decision to take Rorix and play monowhite with a splash. I got a Skill to deal with his two Smiths, and my mana was nine plains, six mountains, and two swamps as I splashed in 3 black morphs and a Cruel Revival with the only red cards being Rorix and Lavamancer’s Skill.

I wish I had more time to go into detail about the draft and everything else, but I have a ton of stuff I need to finish up for the end of the semester for school, and I just got home from LA last night. If you have anything you’d like to ask me, though, I’d be happy to answer you in email or on AIM or something, so drop me a line.

I also cracked Contested Cliffs in pack 3, pissing me off even more about Godinez, as my deck would have been nuts if he just made one good pick.

Top 8: Bob Maher

As I already said, I didn’t feel good about my chances in this matchup against Bob’s nuts RG. The match ended rather quickly, with him mulliganning game 1, but still managing to go Goblin Sledder, Sparksmith on turns 1 and 2 both games. My deck offered up no ways to deal with that (though admittedly I had very few to begin with), and despite my efforts I was quickly steamrolled.

Ah well; a Top 8 Draft will work out for me sometime, I’m sure.

Nick Eisel

Team CMU

[email protected]

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