If at First You Don’t Succeed, Top 8 the Next One

Last week I flew out to Las Vegas to participate in a several day marathon event. No, I didn’t go to EDC—I played in two of the three Grand Prix held at #GPVegas.

My trip started out rocky. I got to the airport just in time to get on my flight, sat down, and the doors closed with no one sitting in the middle seat in my row. I thought to myself, “already running well.” There was a quick shift in luck after a few minutes when the pilot announced that there was a mechanical issue with the plane and that it was going to be at least half an hour before we got going.

Having learned nothing from the last time I flew to a GP, I booked the last flight out of Boston, which had only a 30-minute layover. We eventually were unloaded from the plane, and they told us that they would try to  fix it and get us in the air as fast as possible. Of course, I was going to miss my connection, but there were other early morning flights out of Minneapolis. I ended up landing in Minneapolis at midnight, getting to the hotel provided for me just in time to sleep for 4 hours, then woke up and headed to my 7 a.m. flight to Las Vegas. This race against time got me to the Legacy Grand Prix just in time to have a quick bite and play my first round in round 4 thanks to my 3 byes.


Here is the Grixis Delver deck I played in the Legacy event:

Grixis Delver

I’ll admit that I’m a novice when it comes to Legacy. In fact, the last time I played competitive Legacy, I’m Treasure Cruise was still legal. I basically didn’t have a deck I was excited to play, and the deck I had the most experience with was Miracles, and Sneak & Show. I decided to play Grixis Delver after talking with Noah Walker, and this is the list he suggested. He had a fourth Cabal Therapy in the sideboard over the second Flusterstorm, but because of my flight issues and not having a 4th Cabal Therapy on me, I decided the swap wasn’t too brutal. Also, not knowing many of the Legacy decks, I’d be less likely to have to cast post-sideboard blind Cabal Therapy.

This is basically the Jund of the format. Not perfect, but a solid choice with game everywhere, so I wanted to play something like that in Legacy, because my plan was to drop at anything worse than 8-1 after Day 1 so that I could play a format I’m much more comfortable with: Sealed.

I managed a 6-3 record. 2 of my 3 losses came against Dark Depths decks. One to Scott Lipp on B/G Turbo-Depths, and another in round 9 to Lands. If I were to play Legacy again, I think I’d just play Sneak and Show. It’s more proactive, so knowing the opponent’s deck isn’t as important for someone unfamiliar.

I also thought the Grixis Delver deck had a very noticeable flaw. The mana base is bad for a Legacy deck. 2 Underground Sea didn’t feel like enough, as I’d often get one hit with Wasteland early and had to be extremely careful not to expose my last copy so that my Deathrite Shamans would have the ability to clock the opponent.

I’d often have hands with Volcanic Island, Wasteland, and Deathrite Shaman or Gurmag Angler, so I’d have to Ponder and hope to find a land immediately or just lose.

After playing poorly in round 9 due to extreme exhaustion, I went back to my friend’s house for some much needed sleep.


Day 2 began with my Sealed build, and I had a challenging pool. I hadn’t practiced much of this Sealed format—I mostly focused on Booster Draft because of the Team Draft Super League, so I was flustered and basically ran out of time building my deck while thinking over some key decisions.

Here is the deck I registered, along with a few of the cards in the sideboard that I was considering:

The first thing I noticed when opening my pool was that I had 3 Gift of Paradise. This luxury basically allows you to splash anything. I looked at some more aggressive decks out of curiosity first, and then went right back to building a multi-color green deck.

My rares were all powerful. Glyph Keeper, Rags // Riches, Prepare // Fight, Pull from Tomorrow, Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons, and Rhonas the Indomitable are all great and I’m actually able to play all of them thanks to Gifts of Paradise.

I laid out the G/B deck and it appeared to have a solid game plan against aggressive decks because of Rags // Riches, as well as Prepare // Fight and Cartouche of Ambition. The deck also had a lot of power with all the rares in it, but the question was deep I should go on the splash.

I ended up building the deck conservatively. Pull from Tomorrow is the one huge omission from the deck. My logic was that I had a high enough power level and enough big finishers with the Greater Sandwurms, Rhonas, and Glyph Keeper that I didn’t want to risk having something as slow as Pull from Tomorrow main deck against a very aggressive deck. I would simply cut Rags // Riches from my deck for Pull from Tomorrow against the controlling or slower decks.

The biggest mistake was not to include Electrify in my main deck. Electrify kills a lot of the powerful rares in the format like Glorybringer and Archfiend of Ifnir. I ended up playing Oashra Cultivator as an early blocker I could dump counters onto with my Crocodile of the Crossing, Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons, and Soulstinger. The problem was that it didn’t even get my splash colors. I chose not to play a Plains for Prepare, or a Mountain for my Trial of Zeal, as 3 Gifts of Paradise, a Painted Bluffs, and a Benefaction of Rhonas to find my Gifts were enough. If I had played the Electrify, I would have cut a Forest for a Mountain to make the Oashra Cultivator a little better at fixing mana, and giving me as many as 6 red sources. I’d likely have cut a Hooded Brawler, as my deck really just wanted to get to the late game.

I managed to go 8-1 with this deck, only losing a round to another 4- or 5-color deck packed with rares featuring Glorybringer, Rhonas the Indomitable, Cut // Ribbons, and Vindicate. Cut // Ribbons was the big problem for my deck and my opponent managed to grind down my life total into Ribbons range in the two games I lost.

After Day 1 I was happy with my record, and decided to drop from the Modern event. I was exhausted, and communication with the people I was staying with was proving difficult, so I decided to crash at Sam Pardee and Matt Nass’s hotel room, along with Nathan Holiday.

We went to a fine dinner at Mushashi Japanese Steakhouse. This is my second favorite Las Vegas restaurant I’ve been to behind Delmonico, so I recommended it to the group and it didn’t disappoint. The one problem with having Hibachi is that it takes a little longer than a normal dinner so we ended up not getting back to Circus Circus until about 11 p.m.

The walk to the hotel room felt like an eternity. Once we arrived at the room, both Matt and Sam’s keys weren’t working, so we went to the front desk to get a new room key.

Matt: “Hi, my key isn’t work.”
Front Desk: “What room number?”
Matt says some number.”
Front Desk: “You’re not Victoria.”
Matt: “Uh, no I’m not.”
The conversation goes on for a few minutes.
Matt is eventually given a key to his room.
Matt: “There won’t be anyone in there will there?”
Front Desk: “Nope, you’re good. Have a good evening.”

We then go back up the elevator and open the door.
Sam: “Wait, my stuff isn’t here. (pointing) That’s not my suitcase! Baby bottles?!?!”
We walked into the room where Sam and Matt left their belongings only to find what appeared to be someone else’s stuff, and this person appeared to have an infant.

Sam had left the contents of his Legacy deck and Modern deck laid out on the desk in his room, so he was immediately panicked that they perhaps had thrown them out.

After a long conversation with the front desk they eventually track down Sam and Matt’s belongings at the security desk. We then walk to the security desk to discover that all of Matt and Sam’s stuff had been thrown into a garbage bag.

While nothing was missing, many of Sam’s cards were warped, so he issued a complaint with the front desk while we all laughed at how ridiculous the situation was.

You see, generally when you purchase a hotel room, you’re able to leave your belongings in said room until you eventually check out. EDC being in town caused some confusion with Matt’s reservation and the hotel must have thought they were checking out, and thus collected all of Matt and Sam’s belongings and threw them in a trash bag.

Pictured below is Matt and Sam sorting through their belongings:

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas… including thousands of dollars of Sam Pardee’s Legacy cards!

After all was said and done we finally got some sleep, then it was back to the event to start Day 2.

Draft #1

The only card I would be interested in playing from my sideboard was an Enigma Drake. Enigma Drake didn’t stand to have much power, but I sided it in many times as a good blocker for Kefnet the Mindful against faster matchups.

I played 18 lands, as I wanted to have enough Forests and Islands, while also being able to play 2 Mountains and a Cascading Cataracts to cast Earth.

This deck performed like a well-oiled machine. I was able to set up some defense while blowing up the battlefield with 2 copies of Heaven // Earth or fully stabilize with Sandwurm Convergence. Benefaction of Rhonas, shockingly, was a key card in the deck, allowing me to churn through my deck to find my 1 copy of Sandwurm Convergence or mill either of my copies of Heaven // Earth. I didn’t get multiple copies of Gifts of Paradise as I was hoping, so I had to replace them with Pyramid of the Pantheon and Cascading Cataracts, both single cards that can produce double-colored mana to cast Earth.

In round 2 of the Draft I played 3 long games against a solid G/W Exert deck in which I couldn’t find a single copy of Heaven // Earth. I managed to win one of them on the back of Sandwurm Convergence but Heaven // Earth was the focus of my deck, and without it, it was pretty difficult to defeat a solid aggressive deck.

I won my other 2 rounds on the back of Heaven // Earth, and with 2 losses already, I thought I was probably eliminated from Top 8 contention because of how large the event was.

Draft #2

When I’m seated for Draft 2 I notice I’m in pod 3, meaning my tiebreakers are likely good enough to squeeze into Top 8 if I can win my pod.

I included some of the potential sideboard cards I could see adding to my deck. As you can see, this deck is a dream come true.

My draft started with a Glyph Keeper and I was passed a pack with an Insult // Injury and an uncommon missing. I took this very clear signal, ran with it, and never looked back. It was obvious that I was likely the only blue drafter, with maybe one other drafting an aggressive blue deck, as the only blue cards I didn’t see wheeling were Slither Blades.

I asked a bunch of people to analyze how I built the deck, and the biggest point of contention that came up was Lay Claim in place of Floodwaters. Floodwaters was another cycling spell that could pump the Enigma Drakes and also give me the tempo necessary to kill my opponent.

I chose to play Lay Claim because it gave me the ability to play a control role, leaving up mana for Essence Scatter until I could make enough land drops to tap out and then use Lay Claim to steal whatever threat they managed to stick. Lay Claim is just a powerful effect, and this deck had the ability to get to that stage of the game easily.

This deck was a delight to pilot. My most interesting match was round 2 where I had an absolutely dominating position in game 1 and couldn’t imagine losing. I curved out smoothly with Nef-Crop Entangler, Enigma Drake, Aven Initiate, and Glyph Keeper. My opponent unfortunately was able to quickly ramp up to a Sandwurm Convergence. With only a Lay Claim to bust through, I was unable to draw it, and lost.

I boarded in a Cancel to play a controlling game against this slower deck. I was careful never to tap out when I was weak to Sandwurm Convergence. In game 2, I intentionally tapped out with 7 mana to embalm an Aven Initiate to open a window for my opponent to cast Sandwurm Convergence so I could then cast the Lay Claim he had not seen yet.

Game 3 was similar, where I was very careful not to tap out for many turns while holding a hand full of threats such as Glyph Keeper. I was under the assumption my opponent had added enchantment removal to his deck because he went right to his sideboard after game 2, so I had to be more careful because Lay Claim wasn’t as reliable a solution. I eventually was able to cast Glyph Keeper and Cancel in the same turn and my opponent, realizing there was no better time, decided to cast the Sandwurm Convergence into my Cancel, and it was an easy win from there.

I managed to finish the pod 3-0 and had a small sweat for Top 8.

Steve Rubin had convinced me that only one of the two of us would make Top 8, but after the announcement not only did we both make it in, our good friend Sam Pardee also slipped into 8th place.

Top 8

Here’s what I ended up with:

My deck, while extremely aggressive and low curve, had a low power level. I played against Sam and lost in 2 games. I missed land drops in game 1, went to 5 cards in game 2, and eventually got run over after trading blows with Trial of Solidarity on both sides. Cartouche of Strength picking back up Sam’s Trial was enough to close it out.

This ended my run at GP Vegas. I was happy to make Top 8 and to do so with several of my friends. Two thirds of Dem Boyz making Top 8 was quite nice.

GP Vegas was an amazing event. 3 Grand Prix run back-to-back-to-back not only made the event feel more like a large Magic convention for the community to gather, but also made traveling to the events a better opportunity. One of the major drawbacks of participating in a lot of Grand Prix is having the expenses of traveling for each individual Grand Prix. Vegas offered the opportunity to play multiple events in the same location, and catered to people who enjoy all formats.

I really hope we see more events like this in the future, and wouldn’t mind seeing multiple events like this a year. If we do, I strongly recommend making early plans to attend. This weekend I’m off to battle in GP Cleveland with Steve Rubin and Joel Larsson. Let’s see if we can close it out this time.


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