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Pat Cox Talks – Grand Prix Detroit, etc.

“I’d rather skip than play Jund.” -LSV, 9/13/13
“Why didn’t we play Jund? What are we, stupid?” -LSV, 9/14/13

Yes.

Well, maybe.

Either way, it wasn’t the stupidest decision I made in planning Grand Prix Detroit.

On Pod and Jund

A week before GP Detroit, I asked Twitter if I should make a video with Melira Pod or Jund, since I was considering both decks for the tournament. The responses slightly favored Jund—the gist being: “hey dummy, you are known for playing Jund and generally do well with it. Continue to do that.” Sound advice, Twitter-gist.

So what did I do? Well I started to record a video with Melira Pod, timed out against UWR, and decided that was not a good thing to post. I did intend to record some test matches against LSV playing UWR and include those too, but instead just played them. I won 4-2, though the games were close.

Overall, I was only winning an average amount on MTGO with Melira. BenS was telling me to play Jund, but he was having similarly middling results. I’d lost playing for Top 8 of GP Kansas City with Melira Pod, so I figured, “hey, good enough!”

Here is what I played:

[deck]Main Deck
1 Viscera Seer
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Deathrite Shaman
2 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
1 Cartel Aristocrat
4 Voice of Resurgence
1 Eternal Witness
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
1 Spike Feeder
1 Sin Collector
4 Kitchen Finks
1 Ranger of Eos
2 Murderous Redcap
1 Archangel of Thune
1 Nekrataal
2 Abrupt Decay
4 Birthing Pod
2 Chord of Calling
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Misty Rainforest
3 Forest
1 Swamp
1 Woodland Cemetary
3 Razorverge Thicket
2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Temple Garden
1 Godless Shrine
3 Gavony Township
Sideboard
1 Kataki, War’s Wage
1 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Thoughtseize
1 Orzhov Pontiff
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Dismember
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
3 Lingering Souls
1 Harmonic Sliver
1 Spellskite[/deck]

I knew [card scavenging ooze]Ooze[/card] out of Jund was a problem, so I played three maindeck answers to it. I thought the danger of Ooze was somewhat offset by the [card]Archangel of Thune[/card]/[card]Spike Feeder[/card] combo. Having a way to combo that both ignores the graveyard and (potentially) wins that turn was certainly appealing.

[draft]archangel of thune
spike feeder[/draft]

The GP-winning deck was similar, except it still contained [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card] and [card]Reveillark[/card]. I cut Metamorph because it is less exciting with the new legend rule, though admittedly still sweet to copy Pod with. ‘Lark/Metamorph is kind of a package deal, and I also didn’t want multiple 5-drops, so I cut ‘Lark too.

[draft]Nekrataal
Shriekmaw[/draft]

Similarly, I played [card]Nekrataal[/card] over [card]Shriekmaw[/card] because of the cost. Shriekmaw is better to draw, but Nekrataal is better to Pod into, since you kill that annoying Ooze a turn sooner. Also, you can turn Nekrataal into an [card]Archangel of Thune[/card] once it kills something. Shriekmaw is the end of the line—you can Pod no higher.

I went 0-3 in the tournament. Six Jund decks Top 8’d. Though, Melira won its third GP straight. I think I’m supposed to point to anecdotal evidence to make a hindsight 20/20 assertion about my deck choice here, but I guess both decks seemed fine. At least I didn’t play UWR.

[draft]Scavenging Ooze
chandra, pyromaster[/draft]

I will say, [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] made an already good deck better, and the Reid and Co. addition of [card chandra, pyromaster]Chandra[/card] was a sick idea. I’d have probably played Jund, had I thought of it. (Or more accurately, had I thought to ask Reid what he was playing, which I usually do.)

On Canada and Cabs

When planning out logistics for the tournament, BenS told me he had a free room and ride to a casino in Detroit. Upon further inspection, “Detroit” meant “Canada.” Still, the hotel was a mere two miles from the tournament site, so how bad could it be?

In hindsight, quite bad.

I suggested renting a car to get to/from the site, but Ben pointed out that we had a ride to/from the airport, so it probably wouldn’t be worth it. Made sense. Besides, there was a bus that would take you across the border for $4.

After waiting through two different scheduled times on Saturday morning with no bus to be found, I decided to suck it up and take a cab. This cost me $40. BenS gets dinged for the same amount a few hours later. We figure we should just go home together, $20 each isn’t so bad.

We get in a cab in Detroit that night, and the driver refuses to take us to Canada. Apparently, she once had a passenger who immediately declared themselves a refugee upon crossing the border, leaving her stuck there for three hours.

Fair enough, we will take another cab. She drives us to a cab stand and we walk down the line asking for (2 mile!) rides to Canada, but no one else will take us either. Either Canadian border officials are very dubious of cab drivers, or these people all had criminal records.

Our first driver was at least nice enough to help us find someone who would actually take us. After driving around downtown Detroit for 20 minutes, we get into another cab. This lady charges us $60 (!) to go the 2 miles. BenS has some sort of plague and I’m old and tired, so after some arguing, we succumb to the extortion. We get to the border and the guard hassles the driver about “sensing” a misdemeanor or felony on her record, but about an hour after leaving the tournament, we finally get back to the hotel.

Having 0-3’d, I change my flight to leave in the morning and share a cab with BenS back to the site en route to the airport. This time the guy refuses to turn on the meter when I tell him to, and tells me it’ll be $91. Except when we get to the airport, it is $93. I give him $100, and he will only give me $5 back.

Lesson #1: Always stay in the country your tournament is being held in.

Lesson #2: Never let BenS plan anything for you.

On BenS

BenS might not be logistician, but he is likely the current best player in Magic. Obviously all such claims are subjective, but I keep hearing this said about other players, with BenS rarely mentioned.

Last season, he Top 8’d 4 GPs and a PT. So far this season, he has Top 8’d 3 GPs and Top 4’d Worlds. And there hasn’t even been a PT yet! These results are in spite of not attending every Grand Prix, and usually being sleep-deprived, sick, or both during the ones he does attend. For example, here are some direct quotes from tournaments he Top 8’d recently:

bens

bens2

On Modern Bannings

Why is this a conversation after every Modern tournament? It doesn’t happen in any other format. Where was the call to ban [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card] after every Standard GP? Why didn’t people demand [card]Opportunity[/card] be removed from every M14 pack after GP Oakland?

After GP Kansas City, everyone wanted to ban [card]Birthing Pod[/card], because that was the key card in the Best Deck. Pod won two whole GPs in a row, how could it not be the Best Deck Ever™? Now, after one more GP, we have a New Best Deck in Jund, and people immediately want to ban [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card].

Doesn’t the fact that there is a New Best Deck mean that things are fluid and new cards can change the format? Won’t there always be a Best Deck? Is a 50/50 midrange deck not the least offensive type of Best Deck, if there must be one?

Honestly, Modern is fine. I hated it when they banned my [card wild nacatl]best friend[/card]. And then my [card bloodbraid elf]other best friend[/card]. But Modern is actually pretty fun right now. Chill.

On Theros

By now, the new cards have already been written about plenty, but here are a few that caught my eye:

Fleecemane Lion

[draft]Fleecemane Lion[/draft]

This is the best card I ever saw. [card]Watchwolf[/card] that gives you a mana sink and becomes unkillable? Sold. Suck it control. I played GW at the Block PT, and this guy makes it seem like that is a good starting point for new Standard.

Boon Satyr

[draft]Boon Satyr[/draft]

This is probably only the 20th best card I ever saw, but it is still sweet. Largely for the same reasons as Fleecemane: aggressively costed, mana sink, hard to kill.

I’m still not sure which mode you are supposed to use as the default. Clearly if I have no other three-drop, I am casting this. But if I cast a [card loxodon smiter]Smiter[/card] on turn three, do I cast this turn four, or wait until five? I love that regardless of what the “default” turns out to be, you can play four copies. Split cards are sweet.

Polukranos, World Eater

[draft]Polukranos, World Eater[/draft]

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I want to play a green deck. This card is ridiculous. As in, I don’t get why they print this sort of thing. How does a creature mirror ever beat this card? It’ll be too big to attack through when it comes down on turn 3 or 4, and it kills something when you untap. Or later, if you want to play some other stuff while they are sitting there unable to attack.

Soldier of the Pantheon

[draft]Soldier of the Pantheon[/draft]

[card]Savannah Lions[/card] aren’t what they used to be. I didn’t even play [card]Dryad Militant[/card] in my GW aggro block deck, because it got blanked too quickly in games. That being said, this guy is great. Gold creatures are inherently more powerful, so they will see more Constructed play. This means [card]Soldier of the Pantheon[/card] can attack past a lot of what your opponent throws at you. It also means that he can block larger/better creatures forever. And dodge things like [card]Dreadbore[/card], [card]Putrefy[/card], [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], and [card]Domri Rade[/card].

Soldier of the Pantheon also makes Dryad Militant more playable, since it, along with [card]Boros Elite[/card], gives you a critical mass of aggressive 1-drops. I’d be more inclined to play a GW deck with Soldier, [card]Elvish Mystic[/card], and [card]Experiment One[/card] as my one drops, but both is okay.

Firedrinker Satyr/Tormented Hero

[draft]Firedrinker Satyr
Tormented Hero[/draft]

Somehow, Soldier of the Pantheon is only one of three 2-power one drops in this set. That has to be the most ever printed at once, right? [card]Tormented Hero[/card] and [card]Firedrinker Satyr[/card] are both less inherently powerful, but will still be great in aggressive decks of those colors.

People have been hating on Firedrinker Satyr, saying [card]Jackal Pup[/card] isn’t what it used to be. This is true, but you didn’t get this many sweet one-drops to play alongside it back then. And honestly, who cares if your aggro deck takes a little damage when this dies? “Bad firebreathing” is still a great deal on a 2/1 for one. Not only does it give you a mana sink when you have no other plays, it also lets the Satyr trade up!

Anger of the Gods

[draft]Anger of the Gods[/draft]

This card has to be the best Melira Pod hoser ever. The whole point of that deck is to value people to death while they try to stop you from combo’ing. And this just makes all of your cards a bad deal: 2/2 for 2, 3/2 for 3, etc. Ugh.

Also, this is very good in Standard. Take that, [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] and all the other cards I like.

Xenagos, the Reveler

[draft]Xenagos, the Reveler[/draft]

Why is everyone so high on this card? Its abilities don’t work together in any meaningful way. Sure, I’d like to have a free [card]Goblin Guide[/card] every turn in my RG aggro deck. But why would I ever +1 this? The whole point of a card like this is to allow you to not overcommit to the board for fear of Wrath effects. Adding mana so I can play two of my cards instead of one isn’t what I’m looking for in that spot.

Could this be good in a ramp deck? Probably, but why do I need 2/2s in my ramp deck? Also, [card]Primeval Titan[/card] isn’t legal, so I don’t want to play a ramp deck.

Don’t worry, R/G enthusiasts: [card]Domri Rade[/card] is still incredible.

Chained to the Rocks

[draft]Chained to the Rocks[/draft]

I briefly thought this card was great, until I realized everyone plays [card]Wasteland[/card] in Legacy and [card]Abrupt Decay[/card]/[card]Tectonic Edge[/card] in Modern. I still think it is a sweet idea, and renowned flavor judge BenS gives it an A+.

On GP Changes

A couple of weeks ago, WotC announced some changes to Grand Prix. Obviously the increased payout is good, as is the removal of pointless-delay-causing on-site registration, but really I just wanted to say kudos to WotC for being willing to change things. Over the last few years they have constantly been tweaking organized play and the Pro system, and it is nice that they listen to feedback.

I still see people complaining about the “five GP” rule from the previous announcement. I was already self-imposing this rule for the last two seasons by skipping GPs once I reached Gold. Hopefully this will just get me to that point sooner! (Though given my recent results, probably not.)

Lest I come off like a WotC shill, I do have one complaint: why isn’t there video coverage at every GP? I know for some Asian GPs they say there are some limitations with the internet, but at least every North American and European GP should have video coverage. Isn’t at least part of the point of GPs to promote the format? Aren’t they trying to get more people to play Modern, with Modern Masters and all?

My Twitter feed was full of annoyed people last weekend when they couldn’t watch GP Detroit. Worse yet, the Pro Tour Twitter account kept tweeting these sweet feature match pairings, presumably to taunt people. “Wrapter and Reid Duke are playing! Sound like something you’d like to watch? Too bad!”

I had several friends deep in the tournament, and was back home, so I would’ve loved to watch. With no coverage, I instead stopped caring about the tournament, watched House of Cards, and took a nap.

Speaking of home, please keep putting GPs in DC every year.

On Team CFB

Pro Tour Theros will be my first time testing with Team ChannelFireball, and I am both excited at the prospect and thankful for the opportunity. I feel pretty fortunate that several of my friends got on the PT at the same time as I did back in 2010-11, and it was great that I was able to test with them for the last couple of years. But now that some of them have moved on, I’m excited to see how things go with a bigger team.

Frank Karsten is also joining the team. I don’t know Frank well, but his articles so far on this very site have been awesome. His analytical approach to Magic makes the engineer in me happy.

Anyway, that’s all I have for today. I’ll be back after the Pro Tour with something about the new Standard format, I’m sure. Until then, thanks for reading!

Pat Cox
@wildestnacatl on Twitter

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