Staying Sharp: GP Richmond, Pro Tour Amonkhet and GP Montreal (Part 2)
So here we are. Back in the hotel room after all making day two. Sammy, Vidi, and I order Dominoes for dinner, and Sammy gets to add yet another piece to his garbage masterpiece behind the couch. After a brief discussion about what kind of record I need to start consider drawing into Top 8, we call it an early night. The next morning we meet up with Rob and Derek and all head to the venue for 9 am on Saturday. Here's the draft pod I sit down at:
Sammy final got his wish from GP Richmond. This was easily the toughest draft pod I've ever played at, and unfortunately I drafted this:
Red-White control is not where I want to be in this format. My only hope was to steal games with Approach of the Second Sun, or play an extremely fair couple of games and hope my creatures can outclass my opponents. The most interesting part of my draft was being faced with a pick one, pack one Compulsory Rest, Vizier of Deferment or Hooded Brawler with no other Green cards in the pack. It turns out my seat was obviously White, and had I picked one of the White cards here, my deck may have been reasonably better.
My matches were all reasonably close. I lost round nine in game three to Huey after he played a Scaled Behemoth on turn five, and then on turn six gave it first strike and trample with a White and Green cartouche respectively. In round 10 I played Tao on UR Aggro, and he piloted the match perfectly. I sequenced spells poorly in game two, and missed my third land for Sweltering Suns in game three for two straight turns. My final match came down to me having a Desert Cerodon and a Heart-Piercer Manticore in my graveyard with my opponent at seven life. I ended up losing because I didn't push one extra point of damage through.
Now I'm 6-5. I need to win all five matches to get an invite to Kyoto. Three matches to at least get an extra pro point.
At this point I was pretty tilted. I needed to go off by myself during the lunch break to try and refocus and get myself back on the rails. After I cooled off I met the team across the street for some devilled eggs and nachos that we had five minutes to eat. It was both Sammy and my first time eating devilled eggs. They weren't terrible! Now, back to the pro tour where I try to 10-0 standard.
Round 12 is against Raph Levy on Zombies. I play the typical Bristling Hydra on three, Elder Deep-Fiend on four, and Glorybringer on five. Game two he gets stuck on two lands and we don't really have a game. Round 13 I play against Tom Ashton on Zombies where I have the worst punt of my magic career. I have an Elder Deep-Fiend in play with a Mountain, two Forests, an Island, and an Aether Hub.
He's at four and I'm at 16. He just played a Relentless Dead and has eight swamps, two of them tapped. He has three cards in his hand and two Liliana's Masterys in play. As he had played no spell the previous three turns, I know at least one of the cards in his hand is a Grasp of Darkness.
My hand is Whirler Virtuoso, Harnessed Lightning and Glorybringer. I realize that if I draw a Magma Spray, I can Harnessed Lightning his Relentless Dead for 2 and then use my Aether Hub to exile it. This would force the grasp to be used on my Elder Deep-Fiend just for him to survive. I draw a magma spray for the turn, then I think, "Wait! Why would I Harnessed Lighting? I can just magma spray his 2/2!" Then I decide that the best play now is to attack into his 4/4 with my 5/6 because, "at least I can have him exile it if he blocks."
He blocks, Grasps my Elder Deep-Fiend, and basically wins the game on the spot.
At this point I'm just trying to get my head on straight and play better. My dream of getting a 11-5 finish is gone, but I want to leave with a winning record. My next round is against Shahar Shenhar playing Zombies. I lose a somewhat winnable game one. I need to attack in with a hydra and hope he doesn't block. Then I need to pump my hydra, leaving it vulnerable to a removal spell to put him to 15.
On his upkeep I need to cast an Elder Deep-Fiend, emerging my Servant of the Conduit, tapping his team down minus one creature, and hoping he draws a blank for the turn. Then I untap and play a Glorybringer. I attack with everything and exert to kill his only blocker, it turns out that everything went this route and I would have won had I taken this line of play. I thought it better to instead try to top deck a second Elder Deep-Fiend and took a different line. I ended up getting mana screwed in game three, but would have won game two regardless of being on the play or draw.
I wish I could say I rallied in the last two rounds and played fantastic magic... but I played two very noninteractive games. My opponents drew poorly. I didn't. My final record was 9-7.
If you had told me before I left that I would go 12-3 and 9-7 at GP Richmond and the Pro Tour respectively, I would have slammed it into the bank. Sadly, I really feel like I let an opportunity slip away at the Pro Tour, and wish my tiebreakers had been better for a Top 16 finish at the GP. Oh well. Moving on.
On our way back to the hotel we pick up some delicious ribs and have a nice team dinner. The blow outs continued as I was carded by the bartender and they wouldn't accept my Canadian I.D.s. Fortunately, Rob smuggled me a beer and all was good. The rest of the guys all finished 9-7 except Derek who dropped at x-8. In the end it was a reasonable weekend, and what better way to finish my trip in Nashville than watch Sammy shove as much behind our hotel couch as possible?
After a 6 am flight home and four days in my own bed it was back to the grind at GP Montreal. Sam and Rob decided to play Marvel, but both suggested I played Dragons. The new list cut two main deck Channeler Initiates for two Rhonas the Indomitables, and their reasoning behind me running back the deck from the Pro Tour was totally based on my 8-2 record. I just had a way of drawing the right end of that deck.
I wish I could tell you how fantastic GP Montreal was, but the truth is it wasn't. If you didn't know, the majority of the field on day two was Marvel decks. My matches either came down to me drawing an insane hand and killing my opponent, or getting an Ulamog shoved in my face. My final record was 10-5 and here's the deck I played:
If you don't want to spin Marvel in this format, I recommend giving this deck a try. You just put so much pressure on board and can have draws that are unbeatable. The maindeck Rhonas helped give a bit more early power against Marvel. The extra wraths in the sideboard helped make the Zombies match up a little more favourable. That all being said, this deck can really struggle with U/R Control, and you should consider two Tireless Trackers to try and help with that match up. This deck also suffers when people aren't bringing in Dispossess and Manglehorn when you lose that surprise fact. Still, take it out to your local store and give it a try. I'm sure you'll love smashing with dragons as much as we all did!
In the end, I learned a lot. Playing with, and against all of these great players has pushed me to a different level. As a competitive player that's what I strive for. I've also learned just how tough the grind can be. For now I'll be taking a few weeks off to recharge before I'm back at it at with the Regional Pro Tour Qualifier and a few upcoming GP's. In the meantime I'll be sure to provide the best content possible for you, the reader, and myself to stay sharp.