Grand Prix Boston-Worcester took place this last weekend, and despite the inconvenient location, the tournament was a lot of fun. The Grand Prix was held in the small town of Worcester, which is actually a full hour away from Boston. Since Boston is the best nearby airport for most people to fly into, many of us were forced to find means of transportation to the tournament site.
In order to get to the tournament site, I arranged to drive down with Matthias Hunt and Brandon Nelson in the rental car Matthias reserved. When my flight landed in Boston at 10:30pm on Friday night, I patiently waited over an hour for Brandon and Matthias’s flight.
To make a long story short, we finally arrived at our hotel room at 2:30am. Despite the drive being only one hour long, we were delayed by taking the shuttle to pick up the rental car at Budget… when the car was actually reserved at Thrifty. As Matthias learned this weekend, though the words “Budget” and “Thrifty” have similar meanings, the corresponding rental companies are not the same.
Even without much sleep, the morning of a Grand Prix is always exciting enough to keep me awake and focused. The tournament site was hectic on Saturday morning, which is to be expected when you cram over 1,800 people into an event hall. Despite the volume of players, we were seated for deck registration/building quickly. Here is the card pool I ended up with:
If you want to take a shot at building this on your own, you should do that now. The deck I built is below.
Here is the deck I registered:
Notable sideboard cards:
Overall, this is a powerful card pool, and the deck wasn’t hard to build. It was easy to dismiss blue as the obvious weakest color (which is often is in M13 Sealed). Green was a little harder to give up on right away, since 2 Centaur Courser is very appealing. Besides that and the Arbor Elf, the depth just wasn’t there.
Red has by far the best removal, since 2 Searing Spears and a Flames of the Firebrand is something that I would never pass up on. Volcanic Geyser isn’t actually as good as it looks, and is too often just an expensive Searing Spear. That being said, it’s still a removal spell, and as long as I’m in red I would always play it in Sealed.
Sadly, white has the best creatures in the pool. The creatures in this deck are pretty miserable, with the obvious exception of Sublime Archangel and Captain of the Watch. But out of all the horrible options, white still has the best ones.
The synergies are also the best in white, since 2 Attended Knight and Captain of the Watch work very well with Griffin Protector and Sublime Archangel. I was least happy to be playing Divine Verdict in my main deck. Since I had so much removal already, I didn’t really want to play a subpar, 4-mana removal spell. It made the final cut in my deck because I knew I needed a card to deal with large bombs that I couldn’t otherwise (outside of a large Volcanic Geyser). This choice paid off when I used Divine Verdict to kill a [card nefarox, overlord of grixis]Nefarox[/card] in Round 7.
Triple Essence Drain is a relatively easy splash that is pretty difficult to ignore, especially when there is a Gilded Lotus for to help fix the mana. Although I’m not always a huge fan of Gilded Lotus, I like it quite a bit in this deck, especially considering how good it is with double Volcanic Geyser.
After playing some test games with the deck during my byes, I found that I needed a third Swamp. In all my matches, I ended up sideboarding in a Swamp in place of a Mountain. This is the only thing I would have changed about the way I built the deck.
After my two byes, my matches on Day One were as follows:
Round 3: Benjamin Cimino UG 2-0
Round 4: Ben Seck UBr (sideboarded into UR) 2-0
Round 5: Robert Kofsky GBr 2-0
Round 6: Craig Wescoe UB 1-2
Round 7: James Owens BRW 2-0
Round 8: Greg Ogreenc BG 2-1
Round 9: Jason Jaskolka RG 2-1
Round 10: Vasu Balakrishnan BR 2-0
Day One record: 9-1
Round 6 against Craig Wescoe was a particularly close match. His UB deck was extremely powerful, with Vampire Nighthawk, Tarland, Sky Summoner, and Disciple of Bolas. Game one I was run over by Vampire Nighthawk and Faerie Invaders.
When he used Disciple of Bolas to trade in his Watercourser for four cards, I was too far behind to even hope to catch up. Game two I curved out nicely and had plenty of removal for the creatures he played. I also sideboarded in Kindled Fury for the Faerie Invaders, which I then used for that exact purpose. I took game two almost as easily as he won game one.
Game three he chose to let me play first (which I has been choosing to do anyway), and I luckily had a pretty fast start with a two-drop into a three-drop into a Searing Spear. After trading a few creatures, the game got a little more complicated when he played his fifth land and passed with four or five cards in hand.
At this point in the game, I was still at a very high life total and he was at 9. I had a Griffin Protector and a War Priest of Thune in play, while he had nothing. My hand consisted of 2 Essence Drain, but with no black mana. Since I had already seen Faerie Invaders, and I didn’t have another creature to pump the Griffin, I had no choice but to pass the turn. Given enough time, I could win this game, and there was no reason yet to throw away my Griffin.
He drew his card, played another land, and said go. We each played land-go for another full turn, while I still chose to hold back. The next turn I drew a Torch Fiend, played it to pump the Griffin, and attacked him down to 6—still holding back the War Priest for fear of Faerie Invaders.
During the next few turns, he Murdered my Griffin, Negated a Volcanic Geyser I just drew, and traded a creature with my War Priest. With him at 2 and an empty board facing down my Torch Fiend, he draws Vampire Nighthawk. I brick the next few turns, and he draws Kraken Hatchling. He Rewinds a Fire Elemental, and Vampire Nighthawk deals pretty close to the full 20 damage, while I lose with two uncastable Essence Drains stuck in my hand.
If I hadn’t played around Faerie Invaders for as long as I did, I would have easily won that game. That being said, I think I played about as well as I could given the situation. If he is sandbagging Faerie Invaders, and I walk into it at any point there, it’s very likely that I lose. If he doesn’t have it and I give him extra time like I did, the sequence of events that had to happen for me to lose that game is very unlikely. Although I bet incorrectly and played around a card he didn’t have, it’s important to remember that hindsight is always 20/20. In order to win that game, Craig had to get lucky during those critical few turns, but he played optimally throughout the game and in such a way to give himself the best chance to get there.
Round 9 against Jason Jaskolka was another interesting match. His RG deck is the only deck I played against that I can say was clearly better than mine. Game one I saw Titanic Growth, Prey Upon, 2 Searing Spears, Firewing Phoenix, Flinthoof Boar, multiple 3/3s (Centaur Coursers and Canyon Minotaurs), and [card yeva, nature's herald]Yeva[/card]. I got absolutely demolished in the first game by his superior deck.
I sideboarded in Safe Passage (for Prey Upon, Searing Spear, or racing), Volcanic Strength, and the 2nd Pillarfield Oxen (to survive against his multiple 3/3s and his Searing Spears). I boarded out Canyon Minotaur, Torch Fiend, and one War Priest of Thune.
Game two came down to a pretty standard racing situation with my ground creatures versus his Furnace Whelp. I used my removal to off some of his bigger guys, and the board state eventually came down to his Furnace Whelp (with at least 5 Mountains in play) vs my Attended Knight and Soldier token, with both of us at 3 life. I end the turn with a lot of mana untapped and three cards in my hand (two lands and a Safe Passage).
Jason draws for his turn, plays Dragon Hatchling, and passes back the turn without attacking. Luckily for me, he saw me play a Divine Verdict during the first game, and he assumed that’s what I had in hand (although it’s definitely correct to play around it in this situation even if he hadn’t seen it yet). I draw a blank for the turn and attack him down to 1 life with just the Knight. He draws, attacks with both, and I play Safe Passage to win the game.
Game three I play a turn two War Priest of Thune followed by a turn three Volcanic Strength. While he tries to race it, my Pillarfield Ox trades with a Timberpack Wolf and a Searing Spear. When he doesn’t draw a way to kill my unblockable 4/4, he’s dead in five hits.
Knowing which cards to sideboard in and out in Sealed deck is a skill I haven’t always been very good at. Having a good sideboard in Sealed and knowing how to use it is very important, and I was really proud that my sideboarding pulled through for me this round and allowed me to win the match.
Aside on Sideboarding
Unfortunately, there is no universal advice I can give to help someone with sideboarding in Limited. Telling you what cards are good to sideboard and what cards are bad to sideboard won’t help you much, since most cards can change a lot depending on the matchup. But what I can say is that if you don’t typically find yourself sideboarding in Limited games, you NEED to try it on your own and figure out what works. Sealed deck is a great place to learn how to sideboard for Limited games, since your sideboard is already determined for you. In draft, you are forced to draft your own sideboard; if you aren’t yet good at sideboarding in Limited, then you won’t know what you should be drafting!
I don’t pretend to be an expert on this subject. I’m still figuring it out myself. However, I know it to be an art that takes practice like anything else, and you must set aside the fear of doing it wrong and take those chances in order to learn. So if this is a skill you know you need to work on, next time you play Sealed, I urge you after to think about the situations and interactions that came up in game one, and force yourself to sideboard at least one card that you think might have some sort of niche purpose. Trial and error will help you with this skill more than anything else will.
With a record of 9-1 at the end of the day, I found myself in 21st place with high hopes for Day Two. Next week, I will discuss my drafts from Day Two, what I learned from them, and try to decipher what exactly went wrong to cause me to have my worse draft performance of any premier event ever.
I definitely learned a bit about M13 Sealed from this Grand Prix. Possibly the most important thing I learned is the value of creatures. This may seem like an obvious thing to say, but good creatures are more important in this format than they have been in a lot of other Sealed formats. Although it can sometimes be nice to have a deck full of removal, picking off your opponent’s creatures one by one is usually a worse strategy in M13 than simply playing a bigger/better creature and forcing them to remove it.
Although my Sealed deck had a lot of removal, I chose to play white simply because it had the most creatures and some of the best creatures in my pool. This was such an important part of my decision that I would have almost certainly still played white, even if I hadn’t had Sublime Archangel to force my hand.
One route I could have taken with my Sealed pool that a few people suggested to me after I built my deck was a BR burn route. This certainly would have been a fun deck to play, but I don’t think it would have been nearly as good. Although I could have easily thrown all my direct damage into the deck and had quite a lot to work with (2 Volcanic Geysers, 3 Essence Drains, 2 Searing Spears, 2 Chandra’s Fury, Flames of the Firebrand, Reverberate) my creatures in BR just weren’t nearly as strong. Even though this would have been a more controlling deck with Mutilate to make up for a lack of creatures, these kinds of spell-based decks can easily just roll over to early pressure when they don’t have any better creatures to go over the top with.
I hope the analysis of my Sealed deck experience at Grand Prix Boston-Worcester was helpful and informative. I’d love to hear any other suggestions or questions in the comments about my card pool if there are any other directions you might have gone with it.
Thanks for reading,
greyknight7 on MTGO