August 4, 2017

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Going for the Gold – Onward to Kyoto? (Part 2)

Going for the Gold – Onward to Kyoto? (Part 2)

When we left off, I was 6-3 and looking forward to Day Two of Grand Prix Toronto. Remember, the stakes were high and I really wanted to 6-0 to give myself the best shot to skip Pro Tour Kyoto.

So there I was, sleeping in my own bed while playing a Grand Prix, what a luxurious feeling… and then my alarm went off… 7:30 am, better get up.

One of my favourite parts of playing on Day One of a Grand Prix is that I only have to start playing during Round Four, which is usually a little bit after noon. Day Two’s start is always around 9 am, which is brutal for someone who relies on as much sleep as I do.

So after packing a trusty Red Bull and a protein bar (Vega One, they're amazing snacks to have during Magic Tournaments), I made my way to the Enercare Center for Day Two of Grand Prix Toronto.

For some bizarre reason, for the last three years that Grand Prix Toronto has been hosted at the Enercare Center the roads have been under construction while there's also been a race of some sort. I’m all for supporting marathons that support rare diseases, but the ensuing traffic made me sweat since I only showed up to the event site with 10 minutes to spare.

My strategy for the Draft format was to start with either red or blue cards and try to lock down the Izzet combination if possible. If not, I wanted to be Boros or Gruul.

I really wanted to avoid black at all costs during the drafting portion since their tier two and three commons are almost unplayable. Also, unlike the Pro Tour, I expected many players not to value the two drops as highly and expected them to come around more which would allow me to draft three drops and spells much higher. Finally, the Izzet and Boros decks that I like playing do not rely heavily on the “desert-matter” cards, so I don’t have to waste picks on Deserts. Of course, if I open Sand Strangler I’ll take it but I won’t work super hard to make it busted.

My first draft pod was relatively weak, and I managed to draft a medium strength UR deck. I opened Earthshaker Khenra, went into red, and found some blue cards to round out my first pack. Unfortunately, I didn't open or get passed any removal in any colours, so I had to rely on Winds of Rebuke, Galestrike, and a bunch of two and three drop creatures to get me there. Blue was very open in my pod, and I got an Angler Drake as my eighth pick! Of course, after the draft I found out that the pack had a Curator of Mysteries and Cartouche of Knowledge. This is what my deck looked like after the draft:


In my first match, I took my opponent (on BW Zombies) down to seven life before pumping Sinuous Striker three times and Flinging it at my opponent when they cast Doomfall on me. In my second match, I played a super powered UR deck that had a much higher curve that I took advantage of with my tempo cards. I was able to 3-0 the pod with relative ease, with the exception of my finals opponent who seemed to always curve out in ridiculous fashion topped off with an Angel of Condemnation in each game. In our game three, I won by playing around Appeal | Authority by holding up the mana to cast Winds of Rebuke on the final turn rather than cast my Angler Drake.

It’s crazy that I must have mispicked by first picking Pull from Tomorrow out of my Amonkhet pack over another two drop. It was frequently boarded out since I never had time to cast or wanted to cast it. So now I’m at 9-3 with just one more draft to go. My pod was much tougher and had a bunch of Pro Tour competitors in it. This was great practice in case I went to Kyoto, as the competition would be tough and I expected that the two drops would not lap like they typically would in a regular draft. I didn't open very well, but got passed two mythics. Here's how my deck looked like after the draft:


I drafted a medium RW aggro deck, with a lot of two drops, disruption, and two bombs in the form of Angel of Sanctions and Neheb, the Worthy. I think I probably mispicked by choosing Neheb over Abrade, but I felt like Neheb gave me the reach I needed. I got pretty unlucky in my first round by getting mana screwed in two games and never was able to cast Angel, despite it being in my hand all three games.

So what did I do? I immediately logged onto Air Canada’s website and started checking into my flight which was taking off about 12 hours from then.

Even more depressing was that the total commute time was somewhere around 22-24 hours in a country that I’ve never been to before. Thank god I reserved my hotel in advance and was planning on cancelling it. I looked up the hotel prices and to my surprise, had reduced my hotel's overall cost by $200 for the week, so I quickly booked a new reservation and cancelled my old one. I love their cancellation policy!

In my second round, I played against a local grinder and was able to edge him out in three games since my deck was very aggressive. I didn’t end up needing to play the round since I got paired against Toronto native, Adam Ragsdale and all around nice guy, who scooped to me since the Pro Points could be relevant to me. We looked at decks after and my deck had a slight edge against his. Either way, it’s nice to get the concession in that spot.

So I finished 11-4 which was good for two Pro Points, really giving me an extra point that added to my lead for the England captaincy. Niels Molle had gained a Pro Point at GP Kyoto, so my additional point would keep me six points in the lead going into the last Pro Tour.

During my last round, there was a lot of talk about the Gifts deck that had won the Magic Online PTQ so I picked up all of the pieces that I could at the event site. For the most part it was sold out, so I reached out to a friend who kept his store open long enough for me to get the big pieces from him.


Onward to Kyoto

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you already know that this was where I spent the next week. If you aren’t following me… what have you been doing? Here’s the link to do it! @SammyTMTG

I’ll give you a few seconds to do that. 🙂

So I woke up early on Monday morning and called an Uber (Have I mentioned how much I love the convenience?) to take me to Pearson Airport. Pearson is usually filled with horrendous wait times due to mismanagement of staff and lines. It took me about 45 minutes to clear security and get on my flight for Vancouver. Obviously, Air Canada botched some stuff up as usual, and our plane was delayed by about an hour.

Once we arrived in Vancouver, everyone on the connecting flight to Osaka had to run to the gate since the connecting flight was booked to take off an hour and a half after we were originally supposed to land. Some obnoxious old man in first class took it upon himself to not allow most of us to leave the aircraft, despite the staff asking passengers to let us leave first to get to our gate. To quote him: “These people didn’t pay to be up at the front, so they can wait for me to leave.” I thought it was pretty disgusting and finally was able to get past him after enough resistance from him. People like that disgust me.

So I was running to the gate and saw a Foreign Exchange post. Since I didn’t have time to get any Yen, I made sure to pick up approximately 70000 Yen (Approximately $650 CAD) since I wasn’t sure how much Canadian currency they would want in Japan. Right before my gate was a 30 minute line for some delicious A&W burgers. At this moment, I just realized I didn’t have a chance to eat anything but there was no way I could wait long enough to get food from there. So I walked over to my gate depressed, and was apparently the last person to board the flight.


So there I was with an 11 hour flight ahead of me without wifi, which is pretty much the most inhumane thing I’ve experienced in a long time. I had booked a middle seat in the middle row in the back of our large aircraft since the seats next to me will typically be empty, allowing me to sprawl across all of the seats during the flight.

So I flagged down the stewardess and bought $20 worth of chocolate and candy to tide myself over before the meal service starts in a few hours. In my hurry the night before, I had packed up all of my Standard cards in my carry-on without having them sorted. I had a week to figure out Standard since I had literally put zero thought in it and 10 hours on my flight to think about how I came up short in Grand Prix Toronto.

How was I going to get to Kyoto from Osaka? How was I going to adjust my drafting strategy in Kyoto? What about this new Standard format, is Mono Red or Gifts really the big deal? Was I going to be able to keep my lead and become the England Captain for the World Magic Cup?

Make sure you come back next week to hear the rest of the story.

Until next week,

Sammy T