Before I start, I’d like to thank everyone for the votes and support for the Hall of Fame. It means a lot to me to have made a permanent mark in this game that has been such a big part of my life for the past 15 years. It was also rewarding to read what people had to say about me in various media, so thank you for that.
Today’s article will be (somewhat) about GP São Paulo, which was Sealed. Brazilian GPs are usually an awesome experience, because I know mostly everyone—it’s like a big reunion with a lot awesome people I rarely get to see, which usually happened at Nationals, but from now on will only happen at GPs.
Typically, there’s a ton of expectation for me to perform in these tournaments, both from others and from myself—even if I don’t feel like I have something to prove anymore, I still want to do well because it’s my country and I know people are following and watching for that. Plus, tournaments in Latin America are usually smaller than their North American counterparts. Less people have byes, since we have no tournaments, which makes them automatically a bit easier (I might be mistaken, but I think less than five people had non-trial bye 3).
Unfortunately, much like for GP Santiago, I could get almost no practice at all. For Chile, I had to focus on studies, and for this tournament I had another event coming up—the World Youth Bridge Tournament in China. If you follow my articles, you might already know that I play Bridge, though this is the first really competitive event I went to.
My flights were scheduled in a way that I’d go to São Paulo and immediately leave for China, and I really had to choose one of the two events to practice for. Incidentally, going to that tournament meant I’d be very close to Shanghai during GP Shanghai, but unable to attend. I chose to practice for the Bridge tournament, for the uniqueness of it. This is my last year as a Junior (Under 25) and I might never have the chance to play a tournament of this caliber again, so I wanted to make the most of the opportunity—the more you know before you go, the more you learn when you play against people who are better than you.
It was a tough decision. Magic is my profession, and I get money and recognition by doing well. Bridge is pretty much a hobby, and we had no illusions that we would do well—there is luck in Bridge, but it’s very quickly diluted, and when you play a lot of boards the best team is almost always going to win (and that wasn’t Brazil).
It’s weird, going into a tournament knowing you have no shot—in Magic, even when I first started going to PTs, nowhere close to one of the best players, I knew I
This time, I knew we were fighting for not-last, and it was interesting to experience all the feelings that I don’t have anymore with Magic: nervousness, fear of being judged every time you make a mistake. If I make a mistake in Magic, I beat myself up over it. I hate it. But I know how good I am. In the end it doesn’t matter what other people think. In Bridge, if I make a stupid mistake, I question if this is really what I should be doing, if I should be there at all, if I actually have the ability to succeed at it, or if it’s just a futile effort, if I’ve reached my plateau and I’m never going to “get it,” like I do with Magic. Every time I walk by someone, I wonder if they are thinking, “look, this is the guy who didn’t duck the Ace of Spades in board five, what is he doing here?” Playing on camera is even worse—twice we were on “vugraph,”—a kind of feature match—and I made a lot of mistakes that I knew I would never have made in a normal situation, because I was extremely nervous about what my Bridge friends at home would think of me.
It also changed my perspective on commentating—I’ve always found it annoying when commentators would just refuse to call a mistake a mistake, naming it it an “interesting choice,” or “unconventional play,” but I sure was glad to read “interesting line” in the comments of my plays rather than, “dear god that was horrible”.
In the end, it was an awesome experience, and I was very glad I chose to go. I found out that I like the Bridge scene a lot, and I want to be good at it—and the best way to do that is to be exposed to a competitive environment. I think going to this tournament did more for my Bridge playing than taking years of lessons would have, and I suggest you do the same if you want to get better at Magic—many times I’ve seen people skip tournaments because they don’t feel like they’re good enough “just yet,” but this is how you get good!
I also got to know China, which was obviously great—as an International Relations student, I learn a lot about the country and its history, and I was really looking forward to going there. Maybe I’ll have to start playing more Bridge if I want to know more countries, since it looks like the Magic tournament scene really is going to be concentrated on North America from now on.
It was also very interesting that, apparently, Magic has more reach than I thought it would have. Two people from the American delegation—the coach for the Youngsters and a girl from the US Girls team approached me and said they liked my videos (hi Tom, hi Marianna!). A Chinese player sat on the table when we played and said, “You’re the Magic player, right? My friend told me about you, he said you’re very good. Hall of Fame!” A player from the Netherlands messaged me on Facebook telling me his brother was playing in the same event. It’s already a great feeling when people recognize you at Magic tournaments, because it means your efforts are not going unnoticed, but to have them recognize you in a completely different environment is something else altogether—even if it is also a nerdy environment.
So, there you go—for all those reasons, GP São Paulo was not on my priorities list. Besides, I knew I could still do well at the Magic event—it’s not like I forgot how to play, I just wasn’t fully aware of everything that was going on with the set, and I could still get a little lucky and do well. The worst that could happen was that I missed some sort of trick, or that I misvalued a card such as Plummet or Ravenous Rats (for reference, when I don’t know whether a card has “targets” [fliers in case of Plummet, 1-toughness creatures I want to block in case of Rats], I try to look at my pool and then look around other people building their decks—if everyone has a lot of fliers, then I assume the format has a lot of fliers, and vice-versa). In the end, I read the spoiler once, read the set reviews, and that was that.
I went to the Airport on Friday morning, happy that for once it didn’t take me 20 hours to get somewhere, with the intention of spending the day watching and playing M13 games—but my happiness was immediately foiled as they announced a 4-hour delay for my flight. I ended up getting to São Paulo in the afternoon, and there were no more Sealed trials for me to play in, as they had apparently run out of packs, but I could still watch some. As soon as the last person in our group finished playing, we left for Bolovd0’s house, where we were extremely well received by his mother.
We were six in our group—me and a bunch of guys you might recognize from Magic Online, Bolovd0, Babones, L1x0, Kaies, and the eventual winner, Joseph. We all stayed in the same gigantic room they had, which made sleeping very hard since everyone kept talking, but it was a lot of fun.
We got to the tournament and, after a basic two-hour delay, I got this pool:
This is not a hard pool. When you look at it, two things stand out: 1) Blue is bad, 2) White is very powerful. Blue has nothing that draws me to it—no bombs, no depth—it’s just not a good color here, and there are no arguments for playing it. White has the best card in the pool (the Archangel), is extremely deep, and has solid overall cards (Ring, Serra Angel). That doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily play white, but there is a good chance.
Green is alright—it’s got some good cards like [card arbor elf]Arbor Elves[/card] and Sentinel Spider—but I feel like it’s lacking in overall power. I could see it being used in a weaker pool—but this is not a weak pool, so green is also out. That leaves us with BR, BW, and WR.
Red is not as good as the other two colors. It has a big upside (Arms Dealer and Goblins, [card ring of valkas]Rings of Valkas[/card]), but also a bigger downside (Goblins, Rings of Valkas). The cards are individually weaker than those in both black and white, so BW it is. When you lay the BW deck out, it has everything you could possibly want—bombs, removal, solid creatures and an excellent curve. It’s hard to do better, and I’ll be impressed if anyone comes up with a superior color combination.
Even if BW, we could still splash red—there is a dual and a [card terramorphic expanse]Terramorphic[/card]. Splashable cards are [card searing spear]Spear[/card], and to a lesser extent [card crimson muckwader]Muckwader[/card], but you don’t really need to do it—Spear is obviously a fine card, but not necessary and I don’t think there is reason to make your mana worse in this pool. Once we’ve decided on that, we still have to cut playables, as there are about 30—this is what I ended up playing:
Again, I was very happy with this deck—it had everything I possibly wanted in Sealed. Notable omissions:
Battleflight Eagle – This card is good, but in this deck I don’t think it’s needed. It has actually very few targets, as most creatures already fly, and two of the ones that don’t are pro-white. In the five slot, I think Rise from the Grave is likely better, especially in Sealed where everyone plays their bombs, especially with me having two Murders and two big fliers of my own.
Primordial Clay – Hard to imagine a deck where this won’t cut it, as it’s just very solid, but I had to remove something and this ended up being it. I like the flier in an exalted deck, but there are many fliers already, and Kitesail (which was kept over this) also makes fliers—plus the four casting cost slot was crowded.
Tormented Soul – Here, again, I thought that many of the creatures in the deck had flying already, so I theoretically wouldn’t need the evasion badly. If that was the case, then it made sense not to play a creature that had nothing going for it other than the evasion, even if I have a ton of exalted. That was wrong. As much as I had flying, it’s not what it used to be, and there were many games in which I would have welcomed an actual unblockable creature.
Trading Post – Some people berated me for not playing this, I honestly can’t see why I would, though you can board it in against an exalted deck without tons of fliers, so you can chump block forever.
Mind Rot – I like Mind Rot, but I felt like I just wanted creatures. What would I remove for it?
The tournament itself was a big disappointment; I went 6-3 (3-3 after the byes), and though I never lost to a bad deck, I think my deck was better than every single deck I faced. One of my losses was flat out bad luck, the other was against a fairly good deck in three “even” games (one blowout for each side, one long drawn out one that I ended up losing), and the other was strictly to Fog Bank—I Murdered it and he played Unsummon, and I played Crippling Blight and he played Erase. So there was no attack I could make after that, and the card basically colded my entire deck.
Not knowing the format well hurt me very little once we got to the actual playing (though it could have done a lot more damage in the deckbuilding part, such as me not having Tormented Soul in there). I remember a game in which my opponent was obviously having mana problems, finally found his Forest and then passed with like ten open mana and six cards in hand. Now, he is obviously going to play something—his cards can’t all be double green—but what? My board is Giant Scorpion and Aven Squire. I couldn’t think of anything he could play with a green mana at instant speed, so I assumed he was going to play some giant flashy Wurm. I attacked with just the Aven Squire, which ended up getting Plummetted—a card I didn’t even remember was on the set—whereas I now know there is no “flashy Wurm” (though there is Yeva, which is double green).
The result was that I missed some damage just due to not remembering what my opponents could have, but I didn’t lose a game to that. I also learned that exalted is just not as good as I thought it’d be. It’s certainly good, and it gets better if you have evasion and lifelinkers, but it’s not
The format for Sealed didn’t seem particularly fast, nor did it seem particularly slow, which I like. You can build a good control deck, but you can also build a good aggressive deck without having the feeling that everyone’s deck is better and being aggressive is your only shot.
Well, this is pretty much it. Thanks for reading, and see you next week!