This is my Grand Prix Nashville report.
When you look at it, it really doesn’t make much sense for me to go to Nashville – GPs are never worth it for me in monetary terms alone, only becoming so because of the pro points. For Nashville, though, I had very little to gain – being at already 48, it only mattered for player of the year, but Brad is so far ahead that I have to pretty much win Worlds, and then if I do the GP, points won’t really matter. But in the end I went anyway, because my ticket was booked like months ago, and because it was a flying miles ticket and I had some to spare. Besides, I could actually win this tournament and then I wouldn’t need to win Worlds, and if anything I’d get a couple drafts in as practice for Worlds.
Before I left for Nashville, my mother decided to give me a list of things to buy in the US. You see, we are going to visit my family in the northeast of Brazil for Christmas, and it seemed like a good idea to bring them gifts that we can’t find/are very expensive in Brazil. I Googled it and found out there was a shopping mall right by the hotel we were staying, so I said that yeah, no problem, I would bring stuff. Worst mistake I’ve ever made…
By the time I left Brazil, my shopping list included:
6 Victoria’s Secret Body Lotions – Pear
4 Victoria’s Secret Ultimate Makeup Kits
2 Victoria’s Secret Powder, not too dark but not pinkish
1 Playstation with an extra remote, memory card
3 Playstation games – cars or sports
1 iPod with a screen
3 Gap Shirts, two size M and one size S
“A cool cheap sleeveless shirt if you find it.”
I was getting there on Friday, so I wouldn’t have a lot of time to actually go and buy that, but hey, there was a shopping mall right next to the event anyway… right?
My flight to Nashville got delayed like two hours, and by the time I got there, I found out that my hotel was the size of a small town. It was just really awesome – it had waterfalls, rivers, fountains, infinite restaurants and buildings, pubs, night clubs, an arcade (!), Christmas trees, Christmas lights falling down from the ceiling – pretty much the only thing it did not have was a shopping mall. Or rather, it did as advertised, but it was closed because of a flood. Really, how unlucky can I get?
I got my personalized map (they printed one for each room) and found the place of the event, where we did a draft (my deck was a very decent RW deck – went 1-2), and I found the location of the nearest shopping mall. After that we drove forever to find a place called Bar-b-cutie, which ended up being some kind of country fast food. We asked them to call a cab, and she asked for Gabe Walls’s name – he snap said Jack. She looked at him and said, “No, seriously, what’s your name, for the cab?” and then he told her he was called Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa. She went back on the phone. “The name is Paulo Doritos or something.” Yeah, right.
I woke up excited for day 2 – Sealed deck is always somewhat exciting. It had an almost miraculously short delay for an American GP (basically the entire GP was very well-run), and soon enough I was passing a terrible pool to my left and receiving those sweet cards:
This pool is, like most pools I get, very intuitive to build. At first glance we see that green and blue pale in comparison to the other three colors, and that white, though good, is not really as good as either black or red, which are both ridiculously insane, providing me with removal and good guys. Getting the black/red cards and the artifacts together, I came up with this:
That’s 28, so I had to cut either 4 or 5 cards, depending on how many lands I decided to play. Tumble Magnet was my first cut – I had so much removal that I didn’t feel like I wanted a card that didn’t do anything. In fact, Tumble Magnet has gone down a lot in my opinion – I feel like in draft it is pretty good, but in Sealed, and especially in this Sealed, I don’t really care about the tempo. Of course, some decks are going to be aggressive and they’ll want to tap blockers, but in my deck, I’m going to Tumble Magnet their attacker and three turns later I’ll have to kill it anyway, because I won’t have won the game in those three turns, so I’d rather just kill it at once or play a guy to block (or kill them with).
My next cut was Flesh Allergy, because I already had a lot of removal and didn’t want to go around sacrificing my precious guys, even though I will often maindeck it in sealed to deal with bombs.
Next card to go was Vulshok Heartstoker, because it seemed the worst of my 3 drops – Neurok Replica seemed better because it was an artifact and triggered my few artifact dependant cards, as well as being a better blocker. I’m not sure this was correct, and I changed both quite often during sideboarding.
Then went Heavy Arbalest, which is a card I liked, especially in Sealed. The problem was that I really, really wanted to avoid the scenario where I killed a bunch of their guys, they killed some of mine, and then I was left with cards that did nothing (Tumble Magnet, Flesh Allergy, Heavy Arbalest).
Then I had to decide between 16 lands and Spellbomb and 17 lands. I went with the 17, even though I had 2 Myrs and a Palladium Myr already, because I had three 6-casting cost creatures that I wanted to cast, and because I had a lot of colored mana costs in my deck – every black card was double black, for example. Looking back, that decision was wrong – I should have played the Spellbomb over a land. Most of my losses were due to flooding (you know, the situation that I feared where I kill all their guys and then can’t kill them) and the Spellbomb would help a lot with those, and 16-2myr-bomb seems fine lands wise.
Some people asked about the two Hellions, but I like them – in a deck this removal heavy, I really just want something to kill them. I’d have killed for a Saberclaw Golem or something, but they were what I had and I was happy with them.
This was my final build:
Overall, I was very very happy with this deck – the colored cards are just ridiculous, with some of the best rares and uncommons in the format, bombs, solid removal to both artifact and creatures, early defense to get to my bombs, etc. I was expecting to 9-1 with this deck, and wouldn’t be surprised if I had gone 10-0.
During the byes, Martin Juza and I decided to go to the mall, allegedly 5-10 minutes away. We scooped up Owen Turtenwald who didn’t particularly want to go to the mall, and went to find a cab. After being lost for a while in the maze masquerading as a hotel, we found an exit and asked the valet to get us a taxi, and he told he us would call for one. Half an hour later, we were on our way to the mall, and yet another 20 minutes later we arrived there. At this point, I was already slightly worried about the time, since it took us much longer than expected to get there. I end up not finding half the things I was supposed to, and after eating (Chinese!) we took off, arriving in the middle of round three.
There was only one interesting situation in round 4, and it happened by the end of game 3. My opponent had 7 life, a Trigon of Corruption with 3 counters, a Venser with 5 counters and a Rusted Relic, as well as like 10 lands, but all tapped. I was at a comfortable life total, and I had 7 Swamps, one Mountain and a Flameborn Hellion (my second) in play. What do I attack?
My first thought was to attack and kill Venser, but then I started considering attacking him. If I attack him down to two and he draws an artifact, then I need to draw Shatter or Oxidda Scrapmelter if it is a creature, Skinrender, or Grasp. If I do not, then Galvanic Blast kills him at any time, and I also have a chance with Mountain + Cerebral Eruption and double Mountain + Kuldotha Phoenix, as well as Carnifex Demon, but that is pretty much it, because I won’t get a single other creature in play for the rest of the game with his Trigon + Venser. In the end, I decided to attack Venser – I thought that would give me a better fighting chance, since I would have more turns to draw something relevant. Then he drew two lands in a row and I won anyway.
Looking back, it is clear I should have attacked him – the point is that, even if I kill Venser, an artifact still lets him block and kill my Hellion with Relic. I can draw removal for it, but that would then have won me the game in the other scenario, whereas with this one I still give him an extra turn to draw something. The only situation where I think it’s better to attack Venser is if he draws a way to deal with my creature, like Arrest – barring that, attacking him gives me the best odds to win the game, as I win with any blank or likely with any relevant topdeck of mine.
Round 5 was an easy win, and round 6 was pretty interesting. Game one I had everything I can possibly hope for in my hand, except for lands to cast them. My opponent played every sort of random 2/2 (Sunspear Shikari, Vulshok Heartstoker, Leonin Arbiter!), and I had a Myr, three lands and a Trigon of Corruption. Every turn I thought about casting my Cerebral Eruption, but it always seemed to me like I couldn’t afford to miss yet, and I’d better just use the Trigon or play something. Every turn he drew and passed without playing a land (he only had 3 or 4 in play too), so I know he drew a spell and I cursed myself for not playing the Eruption.
I finally got to 6 mana and then played the Eruption, which revealed a land. He attacked, I make some blocks, used my Trigon, and kind of stabilized at let’s say 9 life. I played a Flameborn Hellion when he had two 2/2s, but I played it during my second main phase so I didn’t attack – I thought there was no way I am losing this game other than by some sort of direct damage from him, so I thought saving two life is better than dealing 5. My thought process was not wrong; there was no way I was losing to anything else – but I failed to take into account that among all those cards he has had in hand for a long while there are not only burn spells, but probably some sort of removal for my Hellion. Sure enough, he played Arrest and attacked me down to 7, and I missed 5 damage. Some turns later the same thing happened – I played my second Hellion and passed. This time it was more debatable, both because I was at an even lower life total, so it was more important that I hold back, and because he had already used one removal spell and there are not many in the format that kill a Hellion. He had a Turn to Slag for it, though, and attacked me down to 5. Some turns later he used a second Turn to Slag to get a 1/1 through, putting me to four life. I drew a Vulshok Replica and now had an untapped Trigon to kill his guy, but it didn’t matter as he went Perilous Myr + Arc Trail to kill me.
Even though I was kind of correct that burn spells would be my downfall this game, it was pretty sad because my opponent ended the game at 13 life – if I had attacked with both Hellions, I would have gotten him to 3, and my Replica would have finished him off. Not attacking with the first one was definitely wrong, and I think the second one was debatable, but probably wrong too.
Game two he had color problems and died, and game three was again interesting. My opponent had two Myrs and a Replica, and I had a Necropede and a hand full of removal spells and Flameborn Hellion. I also had a Cerebral Eruption. I decided not to play my Hellion, because I figured he would just chump with a Myr and then kill it with one of the three ways I had seen game one – instead, I wanted until those Myrs were dead from Eruption. In the meantime I killed a Precursor Golem, another guy and a Kemba when he played Accorder’s Shield. Then he played Saberclaw Golem, and I figured that was time to play the Eruption, but I missed. On his turn he equipped the Golem, which meant I could never play my Hellion again for as long as it lived, and then I drew a second one.
The game went on and I decided to play a Myr, to go with my Palladium Myr and Heartstoker that I sided in – I was sandbagging it because of Arc Trail, but I figured he would never Arc Trail pre combat, and I was planning to block with it anyway. He attacked and I blocked; the following turn I played another Myr, and he again did not Arc Trail it – that made me think that he likely didn’t have Arc Trail in hand, because now he knows I am going to chump (I was at like 7 life). I chumped again and drew another blank. I chumped yet again and drew another blank, and he played a two power guy. One Hellion was already dead (I played it when he tapped out of red mana and then he Turned to Slag it, probably afraid of me removing his Golem and attacking again, or maybe just forgetting that I had to attack into it), and I decided not to play the other one just to chump block, because I want to win if I draw a way to kill his guy. Sure enough, some cards do make me win regardless of having the Hellion or not, such as say Carnifex Demon, but some of them will stop his guy but not win me the game, like Shatter.
I passed, and then he Arc Trailed my guy and me for 7 damage, and I died. The top card of my deck was Oxidda Scrapmelter. Frown.
Game three was pretty disappointing, as I had a buuunch of outs – say Scrapmelter, Shatter, 2 Grasp, Skinrender, Turn to Slag, Phoenix, Demon – and I kept drawing lands and Myrs, but I guess it is my fault from game 1. It was a very enlightening game, though.
The next round was much worse, as I drew lands pretty much every turn. Game three my opponent played Blistergrub and equipped Accorder’s Shield to it, and I had in play two 2/2s and a 1/4, and then ten turns later I was dead just like that. It was funny that everyone else was complaining about how they lost to that ridiculous combination of bombs, and I kept losing to the most ordinary of commons.
One thing that I’ve found out is that, in this format, it is very easy to have mana problems. Playing a lot of Myr is cause for both flood and screw, as it means you have less spells that do something, as well as wanting to play less land, which means you are vulnerable to them killing your Myrs. There is also a lot of cheap removal, which means the games tend to drag a lot – in those situations, having a lot of do nothings really adds up, so you should do your best to limit the number of bad late game cards in your deck. Let’s be real, unless you are infect you are not rushing anyone out, so you should keep the number of “bad” cards to a minimum.
This also means that you have even more incentive to play your late game bombs – especially in this format, where four cards of a color are generally more than enough. If you have a Dragon or a Geth or an Elspeth, you need to have a reeeeeally good reason not to play them. This also means certain cards that I thought were terrible before, such as blue Trigon, are actually very playable (I would have played it in my deck if I had one in my pool). Other cards that are better than they look are Scrapdiver Serpent, Saberclaw Golem, Alpha Tyrranax – basically anything that kind of dominates combat.
I managed to win all my other rounds on day 1, finishing 8-2, which is respectable and good in the dark but left me a little bit disappointed since my deck was so good and I was kind of hoping for 9-1.
I went to draft in a table with a lot of people I knew. First pack started with nothing but a Cystbearer, and that’s what I took. Normally I wouldn’t first pick that, as I don’t really like to force poison – I feel like there are more situations where forcing it doesn’t work than where it does. I will happily move into poison if I feel like it’s open or if I got some good poison cards that are not exclusively poison, like Skinrender, Trigon of Corruption, Grasp of Darkness, Sylvok Replica, Contagion Clasp, etc, but I don’t really like first picking a card that is only good in poison. Regardless, that pack was very empty otherwise, so I picked it.
Pack two had a Revoke Existence and nothing for poison (rare missing), so I took that, fully aware that I was very likely not to play with either my first or my second picks. I finished pack 1 with like a card in every color, and not even a good card at that – my best bet was green, and I had 2 Tel-Jilad Fallen and the Cystbearer. Black had a Bleak Coven Vampires and no poison, white had the Revoke, blue had a Darkslick Drake, red had a Bloodshot Trainee – basically a total disaster that I was hoping pack two would fix.
Pack two I got a Palladium Myr, and then got passed another Revoke Existence. It was pretty clear to me that poison was not the way to go, so I took it. Then I took another, and another, and suddenly I had at least a color that I was going to play for sure, but that is where it ended.
By the end of pack two, I had four Revokes as my only white cards, no other black or red and some subpar blue, like two Riddlesmiths and some more Drakes, as well as two Palladium Myrs and some random artifacts. I opened something bad in pack three, and then got passed a pack with Hoard-Smelter Dragon, Grasp of Darkness and Embersmith, with a common missing. I thought long and hard, and picked Flight Spellbomb.
By that point, it was clear that I was in the wrong colors – I mean, those three cards are better than any commons for their respective decks, so I was certain Kibler was either blue or white, probably both. But by that point I had so few playables, scattered all over, that I thought I couldn’t afford to pick the Dragon – I could certainly play it and I wouldn’t be giving up a lot in terms of blue cards, but I would simply not have enough cards to go RW or UR unless I played 21 lands. I had to aggressively pick a Trigon of Thought to go with my Myrs, and I also picked Scrapdiver Serpent over Liquimetal Coating. Normally I wouldn’t agonize over this pick and both would end up in my board, but I had four Revokes and no ways to kill a non artifact guy, so I actually wanted the Coating, but the need to kill someone won over. Pack three was full of infect guys, unlike packs one and two (probably because almost no one was infect, since there were none in packs one and two), but not many UW cards.
My deck turned out to be the worst draft deck I’ve ever seen. I clearly did something wrong, but I can’t really pinpoint the exact moment where everything started going downhill, or a specific pick I messed up – it was more like the entire draft was a big mess for me, but I don’t really know why – I’ve certainly not mastered this format yet, but I’m also not a total idiot, and I should have been able to turn out with a better deck. It’s not like other people’s decks were fantastic either, but they were certainly not having to decide between Abuna Acolyte, Razorfield Thresher and the second Bonds of Quicksilver. This was the gem I ended up with:
So, yeah… my deck looked like one of those situations where your opponent plays five bad cards both games and dies, and then after the match he shows you the other half of his deck and it has Contagion Engine, Hoard-Smelter Dragon, Sunblast Angel and Molten-Tail Masticore and you go like, “ooh I understand now,” except the other half is just like the first half.
My three matches were not interesting at all – I won a game against an active Spikeshot Elder and Embersmith because I equipped Darkslick Drake with Barbed Battlegear, but lost the other two like I was supposed to (even though the last one was pretty annoying – my opponent had 2 Vedalken Certarchs in play and no artifacts, and I had 3 Revoke Existence in my hand, and then after six turns they were both active).
Match two I lost one game to Hoard-Smelter Dragon while drawing my four Revoke Existences, and then next game to Accorder’s Shield when I had my two Bonds of Quicksilver in hand – someone please ban that card, I keep losing to it.
Match two was against Kibler, and he was playing UWg – turns out he opened Venser (or at least he had one, I assume he opened it p1). His deck was not super good, but it was certainly better than mine, and I couldn’t really beat a Venser, which killed me both games – it’s not like I could kill him quickly so that he wouldn’t have time to draw Venser, either. I even won game two with a sideboarded Razorfield Thresher (DANGER!), which came out before he found his fourth land thanks to Palladium Myrs, but that was not enough.
I figured I couldn’t top 64, and dropped before the start of the second draft. Turns out I was right, since the first person with x-5 got exactly 65th. Instead we did some team drafts, and I managed to turn my 1-2 record from the day before into a 4-4 (funnily enough, I won the three drafts), including a game where I played Molder Beast, sacrificed my two Panic Spellbombs and activated Kuldotha Forgemaster to find Ratchet Bomb and kill my seven Myr tokens, attacking for 31.
Well, this is it… I hope you’ve enjoyed it (I decided not to do a round by round thing as it seemed like they were too boring), and see you next week!