I thought this would be an appropriate article since GP Nashville is coming up this weekend. I am sure that not everyone who is attending will be a seasoned pro so I want to go over my rituals as well as drop some knowledge on you.
Even if you aren’t planning on attending, this article will help you in any big tournament you play in the future. Many of these types of articles are for prereleases, and I have seen very few that focus on competitive events.
The first thing you have to realize about this tournament is that it’s going to be gigantic. The United States Grands Prix have been monstrous over the last couple years. I suspect that the event will have about 1600 players since Tennessee is surrounded by land on all sides.
Many people dread the fact that there are so many players, but I welcome it. The best mentality to have at an event such as a 1600 player GP is that you are better than a majority of them. An extra round will be played, but you will face weaker opponents for most of the rounds. The number of players should not impact your play because defeating them all is an overwhelming task. I Top 8ed a 1,937 player event and the last thought that popped into my head was that I had to beat 1,936 other players. I took it one round at a time and focused on the game at hand.
I like to travel to the event a day early to hang out with friends that I rarely get to see. It’s also good to get in some drafts, especially at a limited Grand Prix. Discuss with players you think are better than you about tough situations that may come up in the tournament such as draft picks. At Grand Prix Toronto, I discussed with many people about Myrsmith vs. Arrest. I did not get a general consensus, but I got many different viewpoints which were helpful.
I have three byes for the event so I am obviously not going to be playing in any Grand Prix Trials, but I would still not if I had to. They are expensive and difficult to win. It is no easy task for anyone to win five rounds of sealed deck in a row. I would much rather buy a nice steak and tough out the first couple of rounds because the level of skill is lower. If your deck is not strong enough to beat the players at the beginning, the odds that you make day two will be bad anyway.
Make sure to have the correct fundamentals for the sealed format since the cards are rarely the defining feature of a winning deck. I have done well at every sealed GP in the last year because I have built good control decks. Assume your deck will be on the draw every game since the format is so slow. Most players that have strong records at the end of day 1 will just be playing the best cards in their sealed pool, which includes a ton of removal spells. The early turns will be spent developing mana and playing artifacts that do not put a fast clock on you. I prefer to just start with an extra card since there is a very small downside in doing so.
I like to still play some aggressive creatures that are good at blocking in case my opponent puts me on the play. Cards like Kemba’s Skyguard usually make my deck because they can slow down an offense as well as be aggressive if on the play. When I go second, I think of creatures as removal spells that trade with creatures that are attacking me. I adopted this strategy in Zendikar sealed and I got 9th at GP: Minneapolis as well as getting second at an eight round PTQ. It continues to work in Scars sealed as well as draft, especially against poison.
An underrated card in the sealed format is Turn Aside since every deck will have so much removal. It counters the Turn to Slags that you will assuredly see. Turn Aside is a trick that is hard to play around because it’s only a single blue mana.
If I win the die roll and elect to draw, my opponent usually draws in the second or third game because they assume they are missing out on something. A trick I like to use is asking my opponent if they are going to play or draw before I am done sideboarding since I can adjust my deck accordingly. It is legal to go back to sideboarding as long as you have not presented your deck. Some people may think such a tactic is sneaky, but I would suggest getting any edge possible that is within the rules.
Another trick I like to use that I failed to mention in the Toronto report is having a “Rockstar Mentality.” If you think you are going to win then you will perform better. Is it any coincidence that I have had the best results this year after my PT Top 8? I realized that if I could think it, I could do it. There are plenty of players that have their breakout event at a Grand Prix and you can be one of them if you think it can happen.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I have been doing well when I drink at 5-Hour Energy and bring something to eat. You have six hours to sleep after a grueling twelve hour day of sealed deck. I find that staying alert and feeling healthy are the two hardest parts of a Grand Prix. It sounds tempting to eat a greasy burger for each meal, but eat healthy and you will succeed.
After you have made day 2, don’t be intimidated during the draft portion. There are some people there who are not particularly good at drafting, but had a great sealed deck in day 1. I am not saying they don’t deserve to be there, but may have had a good sealed pool to make it that far. Make sure that you have read all of the cards and have some common pick orders in your head because there is not much time for each pick. All you MTGO drafters out there also may not like that you can’t look at your cards and arrange them by cost during the draft. Make sure to keep in mind every card that you draft since there are only two chances to look at them while making your picks.
When the skill level of drafters is high, I tend to be happy when I have enough playables. I tended to post winning records when I thought my deck was average because good cards do not go around late. During Grand Prix Toronto, I tended to undervalue blue cards as did the rest of the world. After doing about twelve more drafts, I think blue is perfectly fine because it is so underrated. Cards like Sky-Eel School should be first picks, but can wheel in this format. Volition Reins can go around pretty late even though it is a bomb.
I still think poison is a great archetype and it should be forced heavily if you want to be on team Phyrexia. Most draft walkthroughs suggest that you take cards early that leave you with the most options, which I would normally agree with. In the case of the poison deck, I try to take the cards that remove the ambiguity. The person to your left should know to stay out of poison so you get a better pack two. It is still entirely possible to receive a couple poison creatures in the early packs while the person next to you is taking better ones. Once you know it is being cut, it’s often too late to switch. The half and half decks are not as bad if you took more of the dedicated poison cards early. There are some cases such as Contagion Clasp that are special because it provides you with options as well as being an insane card on its own.
Hate drafting is also something that is rarely done in a Grand Prix day 2. You only play against three people so it is more important to take a card for your deck. I like to send strong signals at the professional level because of this behavior. Lower level events tend to have players that hate draft and rare draft more frequently. The signals are less important at the lower level because most of your deck will be artifacts.
I know when I am ready to compete at the highest level of competition when there is a long list of unplayable cards that can make my deck. At the beginning of a new limited format, I often just dismiss cards as being “bad.” As I play more, I see hidden synergies that can make those cards be good in certain situations. The biggest example of this in the scars format are the cheap sacrificing creatures that combo well with Furnace Celebration.
Another underrated card in this set is Wall of Tanglecord. I know that some players are aware of its power, but it is just so good. It’s an artifact that can buy your control deck enough time to win in the long game. This cards power level is also the reason that Copper Myr is the best off-color Myr. It can give you the option to give Wall of Tanglecord reach as well as activate your splashed Sylvok Replica.
Abuna Acolyte is another card that I dismissed early in draft. I saw a draft walkthrough by Kenji Tsumura where he took Abuna Acolyte early and thought it was very bad. It just goes to show you that once a master, always a master. It is very powerful and can turn one of your big artifact creatures into The Abyss.
Some overrated cards in draft are Auriok Edgewright and Auriok Sunchaser. They do not count for metalcraft and are not even powerful when you have it. White is so deep that you don’t normally have to resort to playing such bad cards.
The most important thing to remember in limited is to constantly evaluate cards. If you think your grasp on the Limited format is the best it can be, wake up! There are so many hidden synergies in this set, which make it so exciting. Be sure to watch as many draft walkthroughs as possible as they are great tools to be prepared for the event.
Another tip for Grands Prix that I had to learn the hard way is to skip the PTQ the next day. You will be mentally drained for the event since the first day was so long. The tournament will be nine or ten rounds because it’s a Limited event. The quality of your pool will be even more important because you need a great record in order to Top 8 rather than just 7-2. Good players who did not day two will also be competing so it’s also more challenging than the average PTQ. I would suggest playing in more lucrative side events if day one does not go as planned. I doubt you will need such advice since after reading this article you will be ready to dominate!
The Beautiful Tatyana Dobreva and I will be attending the Grand Prix this weekend so feel free to say hi.
Thanks for reading.