After a strong finish at Grand Prix Tampa, I was looking forward to playing in another Zendikar sealed Grand Prix. I was happy that the tournament was Limited instead of Constructed, since this would normally mean that I wouldn’t have to bring much in the way of cards for the trip. The bare necessities would be some sleeves, draft sets for 3v3s, along with whatever I wanted to get signed by the artists on site (Franz Vohwinkel and R.K. Post). However, Grand Prix Minneapolis was the first leg of my trip to Worlds in Rome, and thus I had to pack an additional week’s worth of clothes along with cards for Standard and Extended decks. Needless to say, I was getting quite a workout by carrying my bags around. After everything was said and done, I had about fifty pounds of baggage.
The usually suspects were coming along for the trip. Luis and I flew in on Thursday to stay with his grandmother for the night. GerryT was showing up with Gabe Walls later. Another friend of ours, Eirik, was flying in to play in the Grand Prix as well. He’d been itching for some high-level events and normal PTQs have been too boring for him. Josh Utter-Leyton (Wrapter) was taking his normal covert overnight flight and would be joining us on Saturday morning.
I figured that Minneapolis would be cold because it’s literally in Canada’s basement. Little did I know that there was a heat wave going on in the area. The temperature was a “blistering” 50 degrees F. I wish I had brought along one pair of shorts. Thankfully it cooled off during the weekend.
Like I said earlier, we stayed with Luis’s grandmother on Thursday night. We made our way to our hotel next to the site on Friday, found the actual site area within the convention center two floors below ground level, and went looking for drafts. Normally we don’t have enough time to get our fill of drafts. This time we were prepared. However, when we arrived, we found a lack of opponents. It seemed like Murphy’s Law was still true.
With an abundance of time on our hand, we decided to talk with friends about Worlds next week. We had been testing Standard with mixed results. We had been brewing a Green/White deck, but the results against Jund weren’t too our liking. I was set on playing Jund barring some breakthrough because I thought it was the best deck.
We met up with Eirik and went to dinner with Paulo in tow as well. I had heard that there was a Fogo de Chao (pronounced “Show”; thanks PV) in town and needed no excuse to go hunting for it. I would normally not go to a Brazilian Steakhouse because they’re just too expensive to maintain in a regular schedule. However, on trips I can convince myself to shell out the money for it.
The service at Fogo de Chao was the best I’ve encountered. Their meat is also top notch and can be seen here. After having eaten our fill, we managed to crawl back to the site, find a draft (how lucky), and get to sleep at a reasonable hour (before 1 AM).
Many more people came out of the woodwork for the Grand Prix than I had anticipated. I had been expecting about 800 people. In total, 1183 people showed up which meant a long day with nine Swiss rounds. Here’s the card pool that I received.
Sealed Deck Card Pool:
Black is the best color in Zendikar in both draft and sealed. The shortage of black cards in this pool is unfortunate and means that black will only be able to be a support/splash color. Mire Blight, Feast of Blood, and Needlebite Trap are unplayable leaving us with only a Disfigure to go along with an average creature assortment. Hagra Diabolist is better than average in this pool because of the high number of allies available.
Blue is shallow but still has some good things going for it. Three Umara Raptors make Blue quite attractive, though it’s all downhill from there. I’ve become less impressed with Whiplash Trap from my initial evaluation. It’s still a fine card, but not on the level of Undo. Paralyzing Grasp is often underwhelming. It’s situational and a tad slow. If you’re on the offensive, then it’s harder to use Paralyzing Grasp effectively unless you’re forcing the opponent to race because you’re attacking in the air. The format is too fast and lands too valuable for Reckless Scholar to be a powerhouse like Merfolk Looter was in M10 limited. Hedron Crab is a virtual mulligan in most matchups. There will be times when you’re paired against a slow deck or one without removal. If you stick a Hedron Crab in the first few turns, you’ll probably win the game. If not, it’s not good. Cancel is ok, but slow. Spreading Seas is fine. At worst it cycles; at best it locks the opponent out from a color.
Green is usually not good. Green cards are usually not as powerful as the other colors’ and it’s no exception here. Nissa’s Chosen is good offensively and defensively. Oran-Rief Survivalist is the best Green card available because of the high Ally count in the card pool. Most of the other green cards don’t do anything and are too slow. Oran-Rief Recluse and Mold Shambler are okay because of their flexibility. They can be played as two-for-ones or earlier to support against a rush.
Red has some nice cards and is the deepest color in this card pool. Plated Geopede and Bladetusk Boar are excellent, though Bladetusk Boar loses value in sealed compared to draft because Red is more commonly played. Slaughter Cry, Mark of Mutiny, and Goblin War Paint allow you to construct a very aggressive deck. Seismic Shudder is an excellent card for slower decks. It’s easy to create board situations where you can kill multiple of the opponent’s creatures with it at no loss to your side.
White is too shallow to play as a main color. The curve starts off nicely with Steppe Lynx, two Cliff Threaders, and a Kor Skyfisher, but doesn’t have much else. Ondu Cleric isn’t good by itself and would only be good if paired with the Umara Raptors/Oran-Rief Survivalists. Caravan Hurda is playable, but only in a defensive deck as one of the last cards added. It’s just too slow for the format. World Queller is usually very good. It’s excellent when the opponent has card-types that you don’t like enchantments, artifacts, etc. It’s also good when you have an abundance of bad creatures compared to their few good ones.
Blazing Torch is fine. It’s not very good removal but is playable in every color. Carnage Altar isn’t good either. The only time where it would be useful is against a deck with lots of removal. Eternity Vessel isn’t very good. Despite being a mythic rare, it’s very hard to use it effectively because of the way games play out. By the time you cast it you’ll most likely be at less than ten life, at which point it turns into a Healing Salve.
Teetering Peaks makes an aggressive deck look more attractive. Kazandu Refuge and Verdant Catacombs would allow a red/black splash respectively become easier. Playing Inferno Trap/Disfigure becomes an option without having to play the other less powerful spells in the color. Verdant Catacombs doubles up on Landfall triggers which can be very powerful. Being able to lure two creatures with Turntimber Basilisk is awesome.
This build takes full advantage of the +1/+1 counter Allies. The Kazandu Refuges and Harrow make the red splash almost free. It is possible to play more red cards like Bladetusk Boar if desired. Teetering Peaks would become an option also. The weaker cards in this deck are Joraga Bard, Hedron Crab, and the second Paralyzing Grasp. Two Bladetusk Boar or other red cards could be added without making the manabase much worse. The reason why there are ten green sources and only seven blue sources is because of the Harrow, Nissa’s Chosen, and Turntimber Basilisk. It’s more important to have green mana on turn two than it is to have blue mana on turn three. Black could be splashed (for Disfigure and Hagra Diabolist) instead of red, but that would make the mana slightly worse. Paralyzing Grasp and Joraga Bard are good in this deck because it has the ability to win in the late game with the +1/+1 counter Allies.
This is another midrange deck. It doesn’t have many one/two-drops available which makes Goblin War Paint much worse. There are many evasive creatures in the deck which makes Paralyzing Grasp better than it normally would because the opponent won’t have the option of trading their creatures with yours. I wouldn’t include Hedron Crab because there aren’t many high-toughness creatures to muck up the board.
This deck is similar to the Red/Blue deck. The difference between Green and Blue is that Green provides better defense against faster draws. Oran-Rief Survivalist and Nissa’s Chosen are both good at halting the initial rush from the opponent.
Red is the only color to successfully pair with White in this pool because of the depth and overlapping aggressive theme. Goblin War Paint and Slaughter Cry makes up for the lack of three-drops. Against a Red deck, this deck will have more problems because the Bladetusk Boars are much worse. There isn’t an Adventuring Gear, Trusty Machete, or Windborne Charge to push through damage which will create board stalls.
When going back to look at a sealed deck pool, it’s much easier to see all the options (or at least more of them) than when you get the pool initially and have only thirty minutes to verify, build, and register your deck. If I had the choice of going back and doing it again, I’d be likely to play the BLUE/GREEN/red deck or the BLUE/RED deck. I’d consider playing Cancel over Hedron Crab also. I’m still not sure which is better overall. Here’s the deck that I registered at the Grand Prix.
I sideboarded Greenweaver Druid and Quest for the Gemblades out for various cards a lot. I hadn’t played with Quest for the Gemblades much and didn’t evaluate it well enough. It wasn’t as good as I’d hoped for. The reason why I wanted to play with Greenweaver Druid is because the curve of the deck was higher than average and I wanted to have the ability to play multiple spells per turn.
During the sealed rounds, some of the cards that I sideboarded in often were:
3. Zendikar Farguide against decks with Forests.
I had three byes due to my performance at Pro Tour Austin. One would think that the time would be used constructively to test out my card pool. Alas, I didn’t end up doing that. Instead, I figured everything would be fine and did a team draft instead. I’d like to write about each game in the match, but I simply don’t remember enough details to do so accurately.
Round 4: Greg Hatch
Round 5: Adam Dyga
Round 6: Walter Henderson
Round 7: Justin Stone
Round 8: Brandon Burks
Round 9: Paulo Vitor Dama da Rosa
I was happy with a 4-2 record in the sealed. After round nine, we all went out to downtown Minneapolis looking for a place to eat. There were many more places to chose from than I had guessed would be there. The downtown area is very lively. We found a restaurant bar that was good enough after having walked for about half a mile. After chowing down on some pasta with figs, bacon, carmelized onions, and brown butter, it was time to head back to the hotel and sleep.
Morning came too quickly and Luis, Wrapter, and I were off to day two. Eirik and Gerry hadn’t made it past the sealed. Eirik was playing in the PTQ. My first pod didn’t seem particularly difficult.
Draft #1 (Pod 7):
Matteo Orsini Jones
I opened Living Tsunami (like I normally do) and drifted around looking for a second color for a bit. It took a while, but after a late Punishing Fire, I settled down into Blue/Red. Pack two was better. I opened up a Burst Lightning and got passed some mediocre creatures and good spells like Molten Ravager and Into the Roil. I wasn’t too happy with where this draft was going. My deck was a bit awkward. I had more Blue spells than Red but had cards like Molten Ravager. Pack three yielded an Inferno Trap, a late Obsidian Fireheart, a second Living Tsunami, and some more bounce spells. In the end I was satisfied.
Draft #1 Deck:
Round 10: Tyler Mantey
Round 11: Matteo Orsini Jones
Round 12: Lance Gehring
Draft #2 (Pod 3):
I was ecstatic that I had 3-0’d the first pod. I’d need to go 2-0 before maybe being able to draw into Top 8. The second pod was understandably more difficult than the first. I opened Hideous End and then started taking White cards like Kor Hookmaster and Kor Skyfisher. I soon realized that Black was being cut and stuck with White until a second color presented itself. Nothing seemed to be open and I continued to take only White cards. Pack two was somehow worse than pack one. I hadn’t passed many White cards in pack one. There wasn’t much to take and I only ended up playing six of the cards from pack two. In pack three, I opened Vampire Nighthawk and Kazandu Blademaster. While I would have liked to take the Nighthawk, play it and the Hideous End from pack one along with seven Swamps, the Blademaster felt like the better choice. Pack three was a monster as I was able to also get Kor Aeronaut, Kor Skyfisher, Kor Hookmaster #3, Journey to Nowhere, and Kabira Evangel. This deck was certainly one that could go 3-0 without much trouble.
Draft #2 Deck:
I chose to play Ondu Cleric despite its poor combat abilities because of Kazandu Blademaster and Kabira Evangel. The benefits of being an Ally outweighed the lack of board presence. The other option was to play Hedron Scrabbler along with Marsh Flats or Noble Vestige. I didn’t want to play Celestial Mantle because I already had two Nimbus Wings and only fifteen creatures. Nimbus Wings would allow me to evade the opponent’s creatures which was more of a concern than gaining life. The mana cost of the enchantments was also a big factor. If I didn’t have Armament Master, then I wouldn’t have played Spidersilk Net because it wouldn’t do much in the deck.
Round 13: Brendan Carlson
Round 14: Gaudenis Vidugiris
Check out my feature match here.
Standings were put up before the last round. After doing some math, it became clear that the last four slots were being fought over by eight people which meant that I would have to play next round.
Round 15: Tomoharu Saitou
Check out my feature match here.
I finished the Swiss in second place. The Top 8 was reasonable and we were soon ushered back behind the curtain dividing the hall in two. With the final table seated, we began the draft. I opened Journey to Nowhere and got passed some mid-range white cards like Kor Sanctifiers and Kor Cartographer. I got a late Murasa Pyromancer and Torch Slinger which put me into red. I started to take Allies as my deck wasn’t terribly fast and Murasa Pyromancer is a good card to build around. Pack two was slightly better than pack one. I opened Shepherd of the Lost and got passed Hellkite Charger. I managed to pick up a pair of Kor Aeronauts and some more Kor Sanctifiers and Kor Cartographers to make my Steppe Lynx okay into the late game. Pack three was atrocious. I think someone had switched into White because I didn’t see many cards. I opened a second Murasa Pyromancer and got passed Punishing Fire. After that I didn’t see anything worthwhile and was stuck hating Gatekeeper of Malakir and Living Tsunami. My deck ended up being okay even though I didn’t like it. It would be able to beat the more aggressive decks but would have problems against flying creatures.
Top-8 Draft Deck:
Top 8: Brian Kibler
Check out my feature match here.
Brian’s deck was a bad matchup for mine. He had Mind Sludge, Marsh Casualties, Vampire Nighthawk, and other creatures that were good on their own like Crypt Ripper and Kazuul Warlord. He was able to win in two games without much trouble. I was always short on Red mana which leads me to believe that I should have run at least one more Mountain. Playing Kor Aeronaut on turn two would become much more difficult, but wouldn’t have been much of a problem with the way the deck wanted to play out.
After the tournament we went out to eat and do some more drafts. There’s always time for one more. Our flight to Europe wasn’t until the mid-afternoon on the next day which let us get ready at our leisure. After a lunch at Panera, we were off to Worlds in Italy via Amsterdam. Hopefully fortune would be on my side there as well.