I didn’t get an a lot of time to prepare for this Grand Prix, so I was very happy to get on an early flight out to Toronto on Friday and get in some practice drafts with some of the best. Getting there early also meant that I would be able to pick people’s brains about the format. I met up with Chris Lachman and Jake Van Lunen at our hotel, and we headed over to the site. They might not know this yet, but I think those two are my lucky charms.
I ended up getting a few drafts in, and learned a decent amount about the format. The best part was that I did not win a single match during my testing. I never really do. I have been testing with Team Channelfireball for almost a year now and never win any of our drafts. I don’t know why that is, but I like to think that I learn way more by losing then I do when I crush the draft. Thanks guys!
Before I came on this trip I didn’t think that poison was a very good strategy. I never really knew how to draft it, so I never did, and I never lost to the deck unless it had 1-2 rares/mythics. I soon found out that Kazuya Mitamura was forcing the deck the entire time and almost never lost. This really interested me so I asked pretty much everyone what makes an infect deck good.
Infect seems to win when its curve is very low. Given this, It is important to value any of the two drops higher than almost every other infect creature (including rares). When the deck can start off very aggressive, it can be hard for the opponent to stop any trick the deck might have. I have never really seen an infect deck come back from a slow start or gain board position over the course of a long game without some great spells. Even though I had this information and I knew how to win with it, I had no clue how to put it in motion. My hope for the weekend was to never have to draft it.
I also learned that blue isn’t that good. Right when I started playing this format I valued some of the blue cards very high. Trinket Mage seemed so good, but the more I have been playing this set, the more I see White/Red and even Black/White doing better then expected. This information made me not want take blue cards as high as I was used to doing so.
I got food with some wonderful people, and then it was time to go to sleep. I was ready for the battle.
Brian David Marshall did a great piece with me about my sealed pool, which you can read here. For those of you who don’t like links, here is my decklist and sideboard:
Besides three of the colors being unplayable, I thought this was a very deep pool. That is usually how these things go; when the pool gets to far stretched-out, there are fewer options. I didn’t have many artifact infect guys, so the pool just got that much bigger.
The card pool had a ton of tricks and could outplay opponents, which is the type of deck I want to have in a room full of hundreds of players. There are often a ton of good decks in a large field, and I think it is easier to beat them with synergy than with a clunky deck full of insane spells.
The problem I had was figuring out how to build the pool correctly. I was unsure how good True Conviction and [card]Mox Opal[/card] would be. They could both be great cards given the correct deck, but was this a good deck for either of them?
I know that my first mistake was not playing Panic Spellbomb in the maindeck. That card is just great, as are the other spellbombs, but at the beginning of the weekend I thought of them as filler. This was before Gaudenis Vidugiris and Sam Black lectured me on how good they really are: they cantrip at worst, but can set up devastating turns, and they also help out with metalcraft.
The other question I had was if three Tumble Magnets[/card was too many. The deck did not have an abundance of threats, and I was scared that I might stall out with too many spells and not be able to apply any pressure. I still don’t know the answer, but I believe that three is the perfect number for this type of deck.
I built the deck, got some grub, and waited it out until round 4. I got my pairing and was ready to battle. I really wanted to win this event. Early in the week, I had told my dad that I would be bringing him home a Grand Prix trophy since I was missing his birthday to play in the event, which he found to be an even trade.
I sat down to battle and won the die roll.
………6 minutes later.
I was in shock. My opponent had mopped the floor with me. I had great opening hands, or so I thought, and I didn’t stand a chance. All he did was play Shriekmaws, Flametounge Kavus, and bomb rares. I started walking for the exit so I wouldn’t throw up in the site, and I saw Gabe Walls packing it in. I went to see if he had just crushed his opponent, but he got smashed as well.
We walked to find a table and ran our decks into each other. I was making mistakes left and right and completely lost the fire to compete. After 20 minutes of making a fool of myself, I decided to go have a smoke and try to get back into the game, even though I didn’t think it was possible.
I don’t know where my fire went but I knew I would need it to win. I can’t just walk into an event and take it down. I need to be as focused as humanly possible and always thinking about the next step. Without that focus, I am just lost.
Gerry Thompson was outside as well and we started chatting. He gets the impression that I am cold as well and he was the one to give me the speech. It’s one you guys might not know out there. Most people think a good inspirational speech would go something like this:
“Don’t let one match get you down. You have been having a great year, and sometimes these things happen. Just get your head back into it and take it down.”
If you think I heard this, then you obviously don’t know Gerry. This is close to what he told me:
“Stop being an idiot. Come on man, if you stop caring about how you’re doing, then you are going to pick up bad habits. I don’t care what you do, but why be so dumb. Look, you’re not going to do well unless you mean it. Stop being such a @#%$ and get your head back in the game.”
This was the fire I needed. I took Gerry’s speech to heart and decided to give it my all until the day was over, and I didn’t drop another match on Day 1. If anyone deserves any credit for my weekend it would be that man. I owe you a big one, Gerry. Celebratory POY drinks are on me!
I don’t feel like getting into a round-by-round since I can’t remember all the plays, but I do know how I ended up going 6-0 to finish the day. The first thing I did was sideboard around 4 cards every match. Even though [card]Rust Tick[/card] is a very good card, it did not need to be in my deck. I took it out every time my opponents were not heavy artifacts or did not have bombs like Steel Hellkite. I also took out Blade-Tribe Berserkers every time. I thought having a 3/3 body on the ground would be good, but it never was. The boards would get mucked up and I would never get to metalcraft early enough to push the 6 damage through. I sideboarded in Mox Opal, Panic Spellbomb, and Barbed Battlegear all the time. I should have been maindecking those three cards from the start.
The other important thing that happened is that I played against a hand full of decent players. This is something I always want to do in a sealed format. I would much rather play LSV in round 10 if I am undefeated than some kid I have never met. The reason is that the better player can pilot weaker pools to a higher finish. This means LSV might not have a great deck and I can simply just play better Magic. I am not saying it is easy to play better Magic than LSV, but it would be much easier to beat him with a weaker pool than to beat some kid with 6 rares in his deck.
I never beat a bomb rare, but only had to play against them a handful of times. When my opponents drew their nut cards I usually lost, but when they didn’t I steamrolled them with a very efficient deck. I love the pool I opened because it was just very hard for people to out play me since I had so many more options than they did.
I went into day two at 9-1, and my draft pod was stacked. It had David Williams, Josh Utter-Leyton, Ben Stark, Josh Ravitz, and Josh Jacobson. I don’t know if you guys know this, but I am scared to draft with Ben Stark. I have Ben to thank for the limited player I am today. I never felt that great at limited but he has helped my game go from good to great in a short 6 months. He is the sole reason I top 8’ed San Juan by teaching me to 6-0 a pro tour where I never 3-0’d an 8-4. I did not want him anywhere near my pod.
I did like my seat at the pod since Josh Utter-Leyton, Ravitz, and Stark were all stuck to each other. I had Josh Jacobson feeding me, and even though I didn’t know what kind of player he was, I still felt I would be able to get a good deck. I was wrong. I was able to draft the best deck at the table.
The packs Jacobson passed gave me a green light that red/black was very underdrafted, and I wound up being the only one picking up on it at the table. The deck had eight removal spells, 3 three smiths, and a ton of good artifact guys. I quickly smashed Jacobson round one before having to play Josh Utter-Leyton.
Getting paired again Josh sucked because I love him and know that he only needs one point to level up, and I want to see him get level 7 or 8 this year. Even though I want him to do very well, I still wanted to win POY and take down the event myself. I sighed and tell him I wanted to do battle. His deck wasn’t the best and was able to easily 2-0 him. I just needed one more.
Brad Nelson [CAN] 33 vs. Kai……..!!!!!! Burnett(phew) [CAN] 33
I was from Canada at this event I guess.
I might have been able to take down the German Juggernaut, but this Kai was too much to handle. I never really got to play a good game against him since his draws were very good, and I stumbled on mana the entire time. I was really beat up after this loss. I think I made a mistake and should have mulliganed one of the hands but I can’t go back in time. I now needed to 2-0 my last pod to make Top 8.
Standings were put up and I was 8th place by a sliver of tiebreaker points. Draft two looked so much easier to pilot through! I have to give credit to my ability to sneak into top 8 of all the standings I’m close to, but this one was a bit much. I guess I never know when 9th is better than 8th, but, in all honestly, I only neede to 2-0 this draft pod where I would have to 3-0 the other. The problem: Ben Stark was feeding me.
I now had one of the scariest players to my right, which was both a good and bad thing. The bad part is he doesn’t make draft mistakes, meaning that I would not get cards later then they should go. The good: we are teammates, and I know that he wouldn’t screw me out of anything. I even passed him a sick rare in pack two since seeing him in the Top 8 is almost as good as seeing myself. I would not have said this at the beginning of the year, but I really love the man and would love to see him level up.
I opened a pack with Oxida Scrapmelter and Necropede, went back and forth, and ended up taking the Scrapmelter. I don’t know why, but something told me that I would be able to go into infect. Sure enough, the next couple packs were filled with infect cards, and I ended up with an awkward infect deck that did not look like it was going to get there. I wasn’t too happy but I have never missed a top 8 when I was this close and didn’t want to start now.
I was paired against Kyle Boggemes in round 1 of the draft. We have some past history at Grand Prix D.C. I beat him there, but we both ended up Top 8ing the event. Seemed like a good sign.
Game one started with him controlling most of my board. The problem was that he was running out of gas and couldn’t top deck enough spells to stay in the game. I easily took the game since I played about 1.5x more spells then he did. Game two was much closer since he was able to out spell me. It didn’t help that he took the draw.
Most of the time a poison deck wants to play because it is very aggressive and its creatures are not as good on the draw. In this match that was not the case since Kyle had pretty much every removal spell in the format. I topdecked Untamed Might on the last turn before he would have taken complete control. I attacked with two fliers, he killed one, and the other one turned him into stone.
It was a relief to get out of that match alive. I went outside for some fresh air since I was very pumped. It felt good to be excited but I wanted to get into a much better mental place. It was at this point that Rashad came outside to ask me to do some GGslive since they recorded my draft. This is was good.
See, every time I am doing well in an event, someone from coverage wants an interview, and everytime I do one I lose the next round. It is not a superstition, but I think I lose a bit of my concentration. You will know when I am in the zone because it is hard for me to make complete sentences. I am so far deep into thinking about the tournament I can shut off other parts of my brain, but when I have to do coverage I lose that power. I jump out and talk for the camera and then can’t switch back.
I sighed and did the interview anyway because I love GGslive and want it to grow. I also felt I should since they spent 30 minutes watching me draft. I wanted to raredraft that Koth so bad and would have if I wasn’t in the spotlight.
I played Kai again in the next round and really didn’t want some guy to beat me out of a top 8 twice. This time I had the advantage. He was also a poison deck, but was on my left during the draft. I ended up ruining his draft and his deck was unplayable. Poison mirrors are very easy if your deck is better than your opponent’s.
I drew in with Eric Froehlich and I was in another Top 8! This is when I had to go let my number one fan, Paul Vitor Damo da Rosa, know I am in the Top 8. He was so happy I made Top 8 that he looked to be in tears. I let him know it isn’t that bad since all he has to do is top 2 the next PT while I scrub if he wants Player of the Year. I think he is excited for the challenge.
For Top 8 I got a decent seat and ended up with an okay deck. It was not going to beat any bomb rares, but could get there if I could dodge them. I don’t remember what pick it was since I was exhausted, but I missed out on a Turn to Slag. I should have picked it up but the entire draft was weird. I had no direction and didn’t know anything but that I was probably in RW.
All three of my rounds were covered over on the official site, so I won’t get into the actual games. I did learn a lot about this format though. The bombs that have an impact on the game right away are the most powerful. Sunblast Angel and Contagion Engine are the sickest cards in the set, but everything else can be killed by many spells. Turn to Slag is a very good card at beating most of the bombs and it deals with the sick equipment as well. Even though it is slow it can be very important for winning a match.
I am very happy with my finish even though I really wanted the win. I Top 8ed six events this year and only have one win to show for it. I am not complaining, but if I am going to get there I should learn to close. I am going to close out early this week since I have a million videos to make and upload this week. You guys are keeping me busy. I hope you appreciate and watch all of these videos. I make them for you!
-Nicole Leister for being the highest finisher from Madison, even though she has only came back to the game over the last 3 months. Virtual top 64 isn’t bad.
-Ben Stark for getting there once again. This man is the real deal and will soon be rocking as hard as the other members of the team.
-Paulo for making it very easy for me to get to the finish line in first. I sleep better because you’re such a nice friend.
-The organizers for finding the one location where food is not an option. I lost 5 pounds on this trip and we all know that I should watch my figure.
-Gabe Walls for knowing exactly what to say to get me motivated. Even when your saying mean things I still love you.
-Gerry for being Gerry.
-Judges that left full waters on tables. I was very thirsty all day and that was the only water I could find.
Yeah right. I run way too good for anything bad to happen.