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The Diary of a Pro Player: Grand Prix DC

I got to play the first of the new Team Limited Grand Prix back in 2011, in San Jose. It was an awesome experience that I wished I could repeat, but finding the right teammates was not an easy task. In the last four years, I didn’t play any for multiple reasons—either I couldn’t attend the event or my preferred teammates couldn’t.

Four or five months ago, one of my best friends and two-time GP Champion Dan Lanthier and I locked ourselves into going to DC together—we just needed a third. Paul Dean, Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar Top 8 competitor and mutual friend was the 3rd we wanted, but we figured that he would be teaming with Lucas Siow. It turned out that asking, rather than assuming, paid off, and Paul became our third.

We could have asked a Platinum Pro join us, but I value chemistry between my teammates over pure skill. We are all of the same caliber, which is valuable for trust and comfort. I wouldn’t have a good experience if our team of three always listened to one person the whole tournament.

Practicing for Team Sealed

This is no easy task. You can practice Sealed on Magic Online, but you won’t be practicing deck building, which is the most important part. Now sure, you can open 12 packs and build decks, but you need to play with them, and you can’t assume the decks you are looking at are actually good. The power level of these Team Sealed decks are much higher than regular Sealed and range from a good draft deck to a great one.

My first attempt at practicing was to convince three local friends to team together and go to that event with me. First of all, it would potentially give me a ride (didn’t matter, we flew), and it gave me people who I could talk about the format with, as well as actually playing games. Lastly, I thought these guys were good enough to get a good result and I keep on pushing good people to attend more events.

Over approximately four weeks prior to the GP, I had built 10 different Team Sealed pools and played the full set of games with 5 of them. A few conclusions:

  • White hardly ever splits into two different decks. In fact, it usually makes one good heavy-white deck. Multiple times I had a mono-white deck splash 3-4 cards—most of the time, multicolor ones.
  • Blue was blue/black or blue/green colorless-themed 80% of the time, sometimes it’s a blue/red surge deck, and rarely both.
  • Black is the color that is often 50% colorless cards and 50% Allies, which has the problem of either being two distinct black decks or unplayable altogether because you’d have only 5 playables in each of those archetypes, which is not enough to build either. Of all the Sealed I’ve done, a color went entirely unplayed 3 times (except 1-2 card splashes) and those 3 times, black was the color left out.
  • Red is your aggressive deck and often has its good creatures in that deck and ships some of its removal to another deck that’s lacking.
  • Green is the ramp deck. You’ll play defensive Stalking Drones (which isn’t a bad thing), your powerful colorless cards, and often splash the good cards that you couldn’t play in other decks because your deck has all the Evolving Wilds, Unknown Shores, Holdout Settlements, and Lifespring Druids.

My teammates did not practice as much since we live in different cities. Still, I was confident in their understanding of the cards and skill level. I expected to lead the deck building part while having two great players give their thoughts.

Day 1

• We had a solid UB Ramp deck. I didn’t categorize it as a control deck since it didn’t have enough removal but instead tried to close with three good 7-drops and ramp cards.

• Then, we had an okay WB Allies deck with 3 decent removal spells but no great high end. We had to play Guul Draz Overseer, which isn’t great.

• Finally, I was on RG Midrange with lots of removal including Rolling Thunder, but the rest of my high-end was mediocre—Tajuru Beastmaster, Kozilek’s Pathfinder, and another underwhelming card I can’t remember. If this deck had a Tajuru Pathwarden and a great uncommon/rare, it would’ve been great.

Overall, I thought it was a below-average Sealed pool. None of the decks were great, which was definitely unusual in this format. We went 6-3, which was disappointing, but in a tournament without byes and a medium Sealed pool, we were happy that we made it to Day 2.

Day 2

• Mono-white splashing 2 Reflector Mage—the Magic gods rewarded us with at least one awesome deck.

• Mono-green splashing 2 black removal spells and Prophet of Distrotion—I have to say that I didn’t think we would ever register two different almost-mono-colored decks. This deck looked slightly above average.

• I was on UR Surge Aggro, featuring 3 Umara Entanglers, 2 Bone Saw, 2 Goblin Freerunners, a bunch of removal/tempo spells, a Rolling Thunder, and 1 Tyrant of Valakut. This deck was nice, but couldn’t ever win if it got on the backfoot. Fortunately, there was a lot of reach so it was still fine, but it was clearly the worst of our 3 decks.

4-1 was our record with that pool. Satisfying, yet, combined with our previous 6-3, only good for 1 Pro Point and the minimum prize of $200 each.

I loved my experience throughout the weekend. The tournament was incredibly well run and my teammates were awesome. I can’t wait for the next one. GP Sao Paulo this summer? Probably!

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