Managing Mediocrity in Mexico City

Hello everyone, last week I covered my adventure at the Team Unified Modern tournament in San Antonio. My teammates and I battled through many rounds and in the end fell short of our goal with 10-4 record. Luckily, I had a chance to redeem myself. The very next week was another team tournament, this time in Mexico City, and more importantly the format was Sealed. In theory, that should make it easier for a team full of pros as I believe there is more edge to be gained in Sealed than in Modern.

For this event, I had a different team. In San Antonio I really wanted to play with Oliver Tiu, who was unable to attend Mexico. Luckily, my 2 friends from Brazil—Thiago Saporito and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa—made the trip as well. They wanted to team with me for San Antonio, but I chose to go with Oliver, so they found Shahar instead. But for this event I was on board and I replaced the two-time World Champion. I thought that would make our team better, but given the fact that the squad dropped a whole 3 spots in the official ChannelFireball rankings, I guess I was mistaken.

It was time to prove the haters wrong, as the Shenhar/Saporito/Damo da Rosa team didn’t exactly set the bar high, missing Day 2 in San Antonio.

We flew into Mexico on Wednesday with high hopes of going to see the pyramids (PV), catching Heracross (me) and watching 13 Reasons Why (Thiago). In the end Thiago won out, as we were too tired to go see the pyramids and Heracross was nowhere to be found. At least the show was a delight—I binge watched it in two days. Highly recommended.

Overall, even though we didn’t do much of anything, I had fun in Mexico and I can now proudly say that I have eaten grasshoppers at least once. Also, I wasn’t a big fan of Mexican food as it’s not really common here in the Czech Republic. Now I quite like it and I won’t turn a taco down anytime soon.

As for the tournament, I was surprised by the low attendance. I’m not going to complain as we managed to cash with worse records than at the previous tournament, where we missed. I’m not sure why exactly, but going forward I’d suggest changing the location for team tournaments, where it’s quite hard to make a Top 4. This makes it less likely that any of the locals will qualify for the PT, which is a bit sad as there are already fewer opportunities to do so. It was especially heartbreaking when I saw everyone cheering on the Mexican team, who won their win-and-in and then missed on tiebreakers. On the other hand, the small numbers meant that the tournament could be run in a fancy hotel, which was very nice.

We came into the tournament with high expectations. There weren’t many people. PV and I managed to Top 4 the last team GP we played together. We even did some preparation. By that I mean we opened two pools, built both, and then compared with Jason’s team. We then played like 5 games total with said decks.

My teammates also discovered my love for 4-color decks. I played 4c in Sealed in both Orlando and the MOCS a couple days after. My MOCS deck was especially nice—I easily went 7-1 and managed to qualify for the playoff. .


After this success I really liked the idea of playing 4c, so with every pool we got, I tried desperately to build a 4-color deck. This didn’t go over so well with my teammates who (rightfully) said that I was just wasting team time and that it’s stupid to try something like that in Team Sealed.

Saturday arrived and we were excited to open our pools. I was in charge of opening the Kaladesh boosters—and by god were they bad. The rest of our pool wasn’t any better. We did what we could. As has become a habit of ours, we built a Boros deck. If I’m not mistaken, we had Boros in all the Kaladesh Team Sealed pools PV and I built, so that wasn’t a surprise.

Then we built the green deck—the definition of medium, which in Team Sealed means barely playable. Thiago was selected to play it as he likes playing bad decks. In U/R we had a bunch of improvise synergies, so this was the deck I ended up playing:

My reaction to this deck ranged from insane (the games I drew 2+ Aether Swooper) to unplayable (the games where I didn’t). It’s hard for me to say whether we should have changed something in my teammates’ decks, but as for mine, I would make some changes.

First, I’m not sure if the splash was worth it. Spire Patrol is a good card and the incidental value of having white for Puzzleknot was nice, but it definitely made for awkward draws. I sided it out plenty of times and probably wouldn’t start it in the main deck again. Then, I would definitely cut the horrendous Embraal Gear-Smasher. My teammates added it to my deck at the last minute, and I really wasn’t happy with it. I also didn’t like Destructive Tampering much, but I think it’s just variance that I didn’t play against many artifact decks. It’s true that its 2nd mode was a bit a weaker as I mostly won the game through flying creatures, but I still think the card is fine.

As for replacements, I quite liked Select for Inspection and the 3rd Bastion Inventor. We didn’t want to start it as I already had a bunch of expensive cards, but that may have been a mistake. I brought it in a lot, especially against decks like R/W and R/B where it’s just a brick wall they can’t remove.

We kicked off the day with a win but were instantly paired against the number 2 ranked team. The Brazilian boys were paired against our CFB Ice companions Ben Stark and Eric Froehlich, while I was paired against Puzzlequest rival Andrew Cuneo. The stakes were never higher.

Game 1 I had a great start with triple Aether Swooper and the Decoction Module. I made a bit of an embarrassing error. I was planning to attack with my air force but tapped my 3/3 Spontaneous Artist by mistake. As I was tapped out, Andrew calmly blocked with his 4/4 creature. Luckily, I had Baral’s Expertise as a followup the next turn and the game was smooth sailing from there.

Game 2 went a bit worse, as I kept a hand with no threats but with Baral’s Expertise. Paulo suggested I mulligan, but who am I to listen to some random Hall-of-Famer? Things went from bad to worse as I failed to draw a creature in the first 5 turns of game. They got even worse on turn 7 when my teammates turned to me and calmly said that we lost the match. We lost the match and I didn’t even get to beat our rival. Unlucky.

We battled on. We won some, and lost some. It became a habit of the day that I’d ask PV for advice (he was the middle), he would advise me, I would either listen or not listen, and it usually turned out bad. In one complicated game 1, my opponent was stuck on only Mountains for such a long time that I thought he was mono-red. At some point he drew a Swamp and was very excited to do so. The turn after that he played a 2nd one, quickly tapped both Swamps, untapped them, and then went to attack. I turned to PV for advice. My opponent was at 8 and I had 4 flying power in play so he suggested I block with my ground creature instead of the flyer I was proposing. This would put me in a race that I was currently winning with a 2-turn clock. On the other hand, I would lose a solid blocker that was holding off his creatures. In the end I listened to my captain.

Going back, I think it was wrong because my opponent tapping 2 Swamps meant that he could have either Daring Demolition (which he would likely play precombat) or Gifted Aetherborn. PV didn’t see that, but it should have been clear to me that he had something. He played the Aetherborn post-combat and I lost the game shortly thereafter. Now I don’t know if I would have won the game otherwise, but I should have had the read and played better. Luckily, I managed to turn it around game 2 and 3 and we won the match.

In round 8 at 5-2 we played against the number 1 ranked team—Turtenwald, Jensen, Duke, a.k.a. the PGO. I was paired against Owen and lost a very close game 1. He was stuck on a few lands, while I was flooding out. In the end, he drew out of it, and I needed a creature in the last draw step to win. I drew a Module, he had removal for my chump blocker, and I lost.

There was one interesting point in the 2nd game. We reached a situation where I had some big blockers, but Owen had a bunch of small creatures, including about 4 Servos. If he attacks with everything he exactly kills me, but if I have a trick, I would survive and he would lose most of his board.

I draw for my turn and my hand is Island, Hinterland Drake, and Select for Inspection. In play I have 2 Mountains, 2 Islands, and more importantly, 2 Implements of Combustion. Now, I want to force him to attack so I can blow him out with the trick. But if I play the Drake and pass with an Island and Mountain untapped, it’d be obvious that I had the trick. So we quickly came up with a different play. I played the Drake with a Mountain untapped, then I blew up the Implement. I then played the Island while Paulo, who was watching, shook his head. Now normally you would want to sacrifice the Implement first so if you drew an Island you could tap 3 Islands to play the Drake and leave Mountain up to blow the 2nd Implement. This way, we tried to sell the illusion that I messed up but I think we hid the trick better. In the end, Owen didn’t go for it, but I still think it was a cool play. The game went into a stalemate, but he drew a Freejam Regent before I drew my copy of Destructive Tampering. We lost the game and the match.

Luckily, we won our last match to sneak into Day 2. Given the small size of the GP, we still had a shot at Top 4 and I think our pool was truly terrible, so I liked our chances for Day 2. On Sunday our pool was a bit better, but not by a lot. Paulo played Boros as always, this one much better than the day before. For Thiago, we built an interesting mono-green deck that splashed for 2 Spire Patrol. We had a lot of fixing, so in theory it would be good, but I think it was likely our worst deck.

My deck was black/white:


I liked it quite a bit. This is my style of a Limited deck—a control deck with some nice bombs. I went 3-2, but unfortunately both times I lost, so did Thiago, which led to our 3-2 result of the day.

Our first loss versus Jon Stern’s team was especially frustrating. I was playing against Papa Jon himself and won game 1 easily. In game 2 I mulligan and miss my land drops. Game 3 I again mulligan and Jon sets me even further back with Make Obsolete. It looks really grim and the pressure is on as we are the last ones playing. Jon brings me down to 1 life and even though he knows about Fumigate in my deck he plays extra creature. It’s all or nothing now—I have to topdeck my foil Wrath or die. I quickly draw the card… and it’s THERE! I slam it on the table and go back up to 6 life. Wow, I’m great, my deck is great, and we’re surely going to win.

Unfortunately, my deck ships me a couple more lands and I die to a random 3/3. Sad. The tournament is over in my mind but I try to battle more to secure our team an extra Pro Point that I know Thiago desperately needs. Unfortunately, in the last round I lose my match to a solid R/G deck and Thiago loses a heartbreaking third game.

We finished 9-5, which netted us $400 each. Not bad. We came for the Pro Points though, and left with zero. We roll to our hotel rooms as both PV and I are quite sick. Time to sleep and catch a flight next morning. I’m finally going home after a month-long trip. See you next week.



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