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Selfsame Day – GP Barcelona *3rd*

After a disappointing finish at Pro Tour Born of the Gods, I was excited to head to Barcelona to play in my favorite kind of Grand Prix—Team Limited. Naturally, my teammates would be my [ccProd]Peach Garden Oath[/ccProd] Brothers: Reid Duke and Owen Turtenwald. We rented an apartment in Barcelona for the three of us as well as Shahar Shenhar, Eric Froehlich, Brock Parker, and Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa. As it turned out, we did very little in Barcelona other than play Magic, which included a lot of Team Sealed practice against the Shahar, EFro, and Brock team.

The first few Sealed decks we did all seemed to go the same way. Owen would play a white aggressive deck, most often white/blue, I would play a green-based deck, most often green/blue tempo, and Reid would play a black-based deck. Red was clearly the worst color. It was very rarely a base color and although it would still make an appearance as a support color in most of the builds, often it was only for a few cards. There were at least two practice Sealed decks in which we didn’t play any red cards at all.

Shahar, Brock, and EFro fell into a similar mold for constructing their three decks, which helped affirm that we were doing things correctly. In practice, we usually played three rounds instead of just one, so we could all get more experience with our decks, and have more information about what was or wasn’t working. All of these practice Sealed decks were very hotly contested, with all but one ending in a final score of 5-4 one way or the other. I was extremely happy with our level of preparation for this event. I have never felt more prepared to play Team Sealed, and both my teammates felt the same way and it really showed in both days of deck construction.

We were very fortunate with our first Sealed pool. The pool was both very high quality and extremely conducive to our strategy. As happened a few times in practice, we decided to play no red cards at all in any of our main decks. Reid played essentially mono-black highlighted by [ccProd]Abhorrent Overlord[/ccProd]. His main deck had only one card with a non-black mana symbol on it; [ccProd]Pharika’s Mender[/ccProd]. He ended up taking the red cards for his sideboard, and boarded them in several times, mostly on the strength of two copies of [ccProd]Scouring Sands[/ccProd] against some of our opponents’ really aggressive decks with a high density of 1-toughness creatures. Our blue was deep enough for Owen and I to split. Owen played white/blue heroic highlighted by two copies of [ccProd]Eidelon of Countless Battles[/ccProd]. He took cards like [ccProd]Wavecrash Triton[/ccProd], [ccProd]Retraction Helix[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Triton Fortune Hunter[/ccProd] and one of our copies of [ccProd]Sudden Storm[/ccProd]. Those cards made more sense in his deck because of the heroic theme and low curve. I got two copies of [ccProd]Thassa’s Emissary[/ccProd], because I had two ways to power it out on turn three, and two copies of [ccProd]Sea God’s Revenge[/ccProd], because my curve would be a little higher and also I’d be more in need of a finisher than he would be. Here was my final deck:

[ccdeck]9 Forest
8 Island
1 Leafcrown Dryad
1 Voyaging Satyr
1 Swordwise Centaur
1 Kiora’s Follower
1 Nyxborn Wolf
1 Nimbus Naiad
1 Nyxborn Triton
1 Nessian Courser
2 Setessan Oathsworn
1 Miscutter Hydra
2 Chorus of the Tides
2 Thassa’s Emissary
1 Nylea’s Disciple
1 Noble Quarry
1 Mortal’s Resolve
1 Ordeal of Nylea
1 Griptide
2 Sea God’s Revenge
1 Sudden Storm[/ccDeck]
Notable other cards:
[ccDeck]1 Aqueous Form
1 Floodtide Serpent
1 Omenspeaker
1 Stymied Hopes
1 Tromokratis
1 Vortex Elemental
1 Centaur Battlemaster
1 Fade into Antiquity
1 Setessan Starbreaker
1 Shredding Winds[/ccdeck]

My deck was pretty solid. One glaring mistake was playing the [ccProd]Noble Quarry[/ccProd]. I think our evaluation of that card was just not correct. I sideboarded it out in nearly every round, and also sideboarded in [ccProd]Fade into Antiquity[/ccProd] in nearly every round. I probably should have just played that in the main deck instead of the Noble Quarry. In Team Sealed, nearly everyone has a powerful enchantment in their deck, and even if they don’t have a particularly powerful one, there’s nearly always something.

[ccProd]Mistcutter Hydra[/ccProd] did a tremendous amount of work for me. In two different matches I used it to quickly kill a [ccProd]Kiora, the Crashing Wave[/ccProd]; and in the last game of Day One, playing for undefeated I topdecked it when my opponent was at 12 and had a board of no non-blue creatures. I was able to play it for 6 and win in two attacks.

Day One was a tremendous success. We ended up finishing at 9-0 and were the top seed heading into Day Two. My personal record with the blue/green deck was 5-2-2. (2 matches did not complete because Owen and Reid had already won their matches in those rounds.) Coming back for Day Two, we had only one thing on our minds—a trophy. We knew we were in a great position to make Top 4, likely only needing a 3-2 or possibly even a 2-2-1 record to clinch it. Our second Sealed pool was a bit weaker than our first, but that’s more because our first pool was so incredibly good than because our second were weak.

This time Owen split the blue with Reid. Owen played blue/white heroic again, while Reid played a blue/black control deck. Our green was too weak to use as a base color, and many of the cards had double-green in the casting cost which made it a little bit challenging to use it as a support color as well. To be specific, green had two copies of both [ccProd]Swordwise Centaur[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Nylea’s Disciple[/ccProd], which are great cards. However, when green is your secondary color, a two-mana double green card and a double-green card relying on devotion to green is really not where you want to be. Here is what I played:

[ccdeck]12 Mountain
6 Forest
1 Arena Athlete
1 Everflame Eidolon
1 Two-Headed Cerberus
2 Nyxborn Wolf
2 Spearpoint Oread
2 Purphoros’s Emissary
1 Borderland Minotaur
1 Staunch-Hearted Warrior
1 Ill-Tempered Cyclops
1 Forgestoker Dragon
1 Xenagos, The Reveler
1 Time to Feed
1 Magma Jet
1 Dragon Mantle
1 Rage of Purphoros
2 Fall of the Hammer
1 Searing Blood
1 Bolt of Keranos[/ccDeck]
Notable other cards:
[ccDeck]1 Savage Surge
1 Setessan Starbreaker
1 Minotaur Skullcleaver
1 Pharagax Giant
2 Rise to the Challenge
2 Rage of Purphoros
1 Scouring Sands
1 Labyrinth Champion[/ccdeck]

This deck had a glaring problem, in that it only had two 2-drop creatures. Also, there were five 3-drop creatures. Between the seven creatures costing two or three mana, five of them had bestow. Casting bestow creatures early is not exactly where you want to be, but not the end of the world. I just had to be aware that I would be casting my bestow creatures as regular creatures frequently. We had a [ccProd]Bronze Sable[/ccProd] in our pool and we looked for a while at changing this deck to have a slightly lower curve by perhaps cutting [ccProd]Borderland Minotaur[/ccProd] and the 18th land for Bronze Sable and [ccProd]Minotaur Skullcleaver[/ccProd]. Ultimately we decided that even if we made those changes, the deck still really needed to hit its fourth land drop on turn four, and therefore would prefer 18 land. We could have just added the Bronze Sable for the Borderland Minotaur and played 18 lands, but in a deck with 18 lands we also wanted as few low-impact cards as possible to mitigate the chance of potential mana flood. This deck played out better than I expected it to. [ccProd]Staunch-Hearted Warrior[/ccProd] was the MVP. It won me virtually every game in which I drew it. It is incredibly powerful in combination with [ccProd]Fall of the Hammer[/ccProd], of which I had two. Minotaur Skullcleaver did some serious work out of the sideboard, killing yet another Kiora, the Crashing Wave.

The most exciting game I played with this deck was against Kiora. This time I had no haste creatures, I had eight or nine lands and a Staunch-Hearted Warrior in play, which was a 6/6 and enchanted with [ccProd]Dragon Mantle[/ccProd]. I was at 7 life and my opponent had Kiora, Borderland Minotaur, [ccProd]Sedge Scorpion[/ccProd], plenty of lands, and was at something like 18 life. My opponent used Kiora’s plus ability to neutralize my Warrior for a turn, putting Kiora at four counters. I knew this was going to be tough to deal with. I drew for the turn and it was [ccProd]Forgestoker Dragon[/ccProd]. My opponent drew and cast [ccProd]Opaline Unicorn[/ccProd], which was lucky for me, since if the creature had greater than 1 power, I’d have virtually no winning lines.

He put Kiora to 5, targeting my Dragon, and passed the turn. I was able to attack with both my creatures and use the Forgestoker Dragon’s ability on all three of my opponents creatures. Although they didn’t take any damage, it is not necessary for the creature to take damage for the no block clause to happen. So Kiora died, and my opponent was able to attack me back for 6, putting me to 1 life. He drew another non-threatening creature in [ccProd]Sylvan Caryatid[/ccProd]. Now the Dragon was able to attack and start mowing things down, as the Warrior played defense until the coast was clear. My opponent was unable to find a burn spell and I won the game.

After that round, we were 11-0 and very excited about our chances to make the single elimination rounds. Unfortunately, this is the point where we started to face real adversity in the tournament. Over the next two rounds we played two very close matches, and ended up narrowly losing both, moving to 11-2. The way the pairings broke we were unable to draw and would have to play way into Top 4. That was okay though, despite being a let down from the situation we were in after round 11, it was certainly a great spot to be in from the start of the tournament. We ended up winning pretty convincingly to move on to the draft.

The Top 4 would be one round of Team Booster Draft. Team Booster Draft is and has always been my favorite Magic format. I have played hundreds of them in my life and I am extremely comfortable with the strategy. The biggest difference between team draft and regular booster draft is that there is an enormous emphasis on defensive drafting and making sure that your opponent’s decks are weak. In a normal 8-man draft, sometimes you’d pass a card like [ccProd]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/ccProd] in pack two or three because you aren’t playing white and there is a great card for your deck. In a team draft, you can’t do something like that. If you pass it, you are guaranteed to have to play against it. Given that all the matches have equal value, whether it’s you or your teammate, someone is going to have to contend with that Elspeth.

My draft went really well. I first-picked a [ccProd]Gild[/ccProd], followed by a [ccProd]Bolt of Keranos[/ccProd], and noticed that the packs were very rich with middling green cards. After taking a few green cards out of shallow packs myself, I was reasonably convinced the player to my left nearly had to be in green. I went hard into green for the remainder of pack one, with a few small incentives to play black. ([ccProd]Fated Return[/ccProd], [ccProd]Graverobber Spider[/ccProd], [ccProd]Gild[/ccProd]) Pack two, I’d be sure to do my best to not pass any bombs to my right, and settle into a second, or third color.

My first pick in pack two was a little tough. I opened a pack where the best cards were [ccProd]Phalanx Leader[/ccProd], [ccProd]Heliod’s Emissary[/ccProd], [ccProd]Akroan Horse[/ccProd], [ccProd]Nessian Courser[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Time to Feed[/ccProd]. The best card for my deck was one of the green cards. I thought the player to my right was very likely white, so I didn’t want to pass him a Phalanx Leader. In general, I’m very hesitant to ever pass cards that can virtually win the game on their own. The problem is if I take Phalanx Leader, he just gets to take Heliod’s Emissary, and he doesn’t lose THAT much. Also, I know that Reid, who was two seats to my right, doesn’t like white a lot, and loves to play controlling decks. [ccProd]Akroan Horse[/ccProd] is almost always good in Reid’s decks. It’s hard for me to gauge what the guy across the table is, but if he’s white, and I take a green card, their team gets two really good white cards out of the pack, since Reid will probably take the Horse. The green was deep in pack one, and some of the cards were going late, so I thought there was also a decent chance that I’d wheel one of the cards for my deck. Ultimately, I decided that Phalanx Leader was enough better, that I could take it, and be pretty happy with it. So that’s what I did. As it turned out, the player to my right was white and took the Heliod’s Emissary, Reid took the Horse, and the player to his right was blue/red. So, although my defensive draft only decreased the value of the player’s second pick, and didn’t eliminate it entirely, it definitely worked out, as I was able to wheel the [ccProd]Time to Feed[/ccProd], effectively costing nothing.

None of the rest of the picks were nearly as interesting and I ended up filling out my deck as a two-color black/green deck with a minor graveyard theme. I think I read the draft well for the most part; I had the player to my left in green, which was my base color, and the player to my right was in a blue/white deck, of which I didn’t share a color. Here was my final deck:

[ccdeck]10 Forest
7 Swamp
1 Sedge Scorpion
1 Satyr Wayfinder
1 Baleful Eidolon
2 Leafcrown Dryad
1 Swordwise Centaur
1 Sylvan Caryatid
1 Blood-Toll Harpy
1 Setessan Oathsworn
2 Insatiable Harpy
1 Setessan Starbreaker
1 Graverobber Spider
1 Anthousa, Setessan Hero
1 Snake of the Golden Grove
1 Nessian Demolok
1 Nemesis of Mortals
1 Scourgemark
1 Gild
1 Sip of Hemlock
1 Fated Return
1 Feral Invocation
1 Time to Feed[/ccdeck]

In my match, my deck didn’t really show up for me. I ended up getting mana-flooded both games, which happens, but always feels worse when it happens at such a crucial time in the tournament. Owen won his match in the top four, but unfortunately Reid came up a little short as well and we were eliminated.

Third place is a great result, and I am extremely proud of my teammates for achieving it. We played hard, we played well, and most importantly we played like a team. Our chemistry was great, we all had trust in each other to do the right things, and it showed. Our preparation was as good as it has ever been, and I fully expect it to stay at that level for the next team tournament. One of my major Magic goals right now is to win a team Grand Prix with Owen and Reid and I can’t wait for our next shot at it!

peachgarden

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