Soon after the World Magic Cup ended, Luis and I were on our way to Denver—though not before we had an awesome dinner with BDM and Brandon Sanderson, who happens to play Magic casually and follows the draft videos. Our plan was to stay at Luis’ place (along with Web) and playtest Modern for the Players Championship until Friday, when we’d be on our way to Boston for the GP.
The trip to the GP was uneventful and long. I left very early in the morning and, due to a connection, arrived in Boston in the afternoon. There I met Sam Black and his friend Jasper, and we took the train to the real tournament location—a city named Worcester but pronounced “Woostah,” something that no one has really been able to explain. If you are a resident of Woostah and know why it’s called that, please enlighten me in the comments.
The entire process took us about two and a half hours, which is pretty silly considering the tournament was called GP Boston. Once we got to the actual tournament, people from the Players Championship were Cube drafting. I watched a little bit, we went out to eat, and then came back and did another draft. I played in this one since I knew we wouldn’t need to wake up very early because of the sleep-in special.
A note on the sleep in special: it’s great, I wish every tournament had it. 20 dollars extra is, however, too much. I think $10 is already too much, since I’m sure it doesn’t cost them this much extra money (in Constructed, it costs them absolutely nothing), but I understand that you want to charge for a service—I dislike it, but I accept it. $20, on the other hand, feels like armed robbery. I’ll still pay for it, because it’s still worth it, but I’ll hate you in the process. It’s like the dealer who sees you are really looking for a card and then all of a sudden triples the price, knowing you will pay anything—he is right, you will pay, but you will not be happy about it.
My Sealed pool was pretty good. This is what I had to work with:
The first thing you notice with this pool is that white is very good, and a BW exalted deck pretty much builds itself. It has an excellent curve and the black cards all compliment the white cards very nicely. In about 5 minutes, I had a stellar BW deck laid down in front of me.
I was, however, wary of BW. The deck looked dangerously like the one I had in GP Sao Paulo, and, though that deck had seemed insanely good to me (as did this one), I ended up going 6-3. Of course, that doesn’t mean the deck was bad—I still think it was very good—but it did show me that the exalted archetype was just not as good as it seemed.
Past a certain number, adding an exalted creature to the board means almost nothing, since the guy is getting blocked anyway and they are all horrible on defense. If you keep playing exalted guys and your opponent keeps playing Centaur Coursers, then you will get to a point where he can chump block your guy but you can’t chump block theirs (since there are many), and then, unless you have a way to push things through, you lose. Since I was afraid of that, plus I had a ton of time left, I decided to experiment with some slower builds. The best I came up with was this:
This deck seemed actually pretty good to me—it had a ton of removal, card advantage, bombs, and ways to deal with bombs. The biggest problem was the mana—to make Archeomancers good, you need red, and if Archeomancer is not good, you don’t have a deck. With no fixers of any kind, this seemed like asking for trouble, especially since a turn nine Searing Spear is not that great. After a lot of struggling, I opted for the BW build (though during the byes I asked other people, and everyone said something like, “are you insane? The BW deck is way better.”):
• Duress over Show of Valor: in most cases, I think Show of Valor is a better main deck card. In an exalted build, though, creature combat is not nearly as common. Whenever you attack, your guy will be bigger than theirs anyway. If they gang-block and trade, you don’t care, because any guy is replaceable.
If the main goal is to save your guy from removal, I think Duress is the better card. One of the main ways you lose is to spend turn after turn attacking with one guy only to have it removed, and though the white spell will help if they try to burn it out, it won’t against things like Murder, Unsummon, or Divine Verdict. Besides, I had some very powerful creatures in my deck, so I think it was worth spending a slot to make sure they survived. Over the course of the tournament, I often boarded in the Show of Valor (against Red decks), but most of the time the Duress stayed there as well.
• No Mutilate: I decided I wasn’t going to run Mutilate because it seemed very bad with the overall strategy of my deck—playing as many creatures as I possibly could. I understand that you can control Mutilate to some extent, but I looked at my guys and found out that only three of them would survive a Mutilate for two, and no one would survive a Mutilate for three. Normally, that is not a big deal—you play Wrath in your aggro decks in Limited because if things go wrong it’s your way out; and if things go right then it doesn’t do anything, but you don’t need it to do anything. The difference was that most of the scenarios I imagined myself losing to included big guys—against those, Mutilate wouldn’t be very good. This made me think that it would be bad when I was winning, and bad when I was losing, so I didn’t play it.
After the tournament started, though, it became obvious that I was completely wrong. There were, indeed, a lot of games in which I was losing to a bunch of small guys—be it Arms Dealer and a bunch of tokens, too many fliers, or a bunch of opposing exalted guys. As such, I ended up boarding in Mutilate in almost all of my rounds, and deeply regret not main-decking it.
The rest is, I believe, pretty straightforward—the deck is clearly very good.
Round 4: My opponent round 4 didn’t offer much resistance. The only interesting interaction came at the end of game two, when we both had a couple of ground guys, I had a lethal flier and an Angelic Benediction to tap his Spider. He attacked with one of his big guys, and I just took it. Post-combat, he played Welking Tern, which meant he’d be able to block my flier and survive. That left him dead to an attack on the ground, however, since the Tern can’t block.
Round 5 I was paired against Craig Krempels, in a feature match that you can find here.
This match was overall very interesting. I had a quick start, with [card aven squire]Squire[/card] into Attended Knight into [card bloodhunter bat]Bat[/card], and he had a Centaur Courser. Then, on turn four, he attacked with with his Centaur and passed with four mana up. This attack makes no sense—he trades 3 damage for 3 life, a horrible proposition when I have 3 extra power and he is already at 15. I thought for a while on what he could possibly have, and the only card I came up with was Yeva, Nature’s Herald.
So, even though it is a rare and I had no idea if he had it or not, I decided to play around it, because it was the only thing that made sense. I attacked for just 3, and played a Shimian Specter. To my delight, he did have a Yeva at the end of my turn, and I was able to trade my ground guys for the Centaur because I didn’t suicide them the turn before. He had a Furnace Whelp to trade with my Specter, but couldn’t stop Captain of the Watch.
Game two he started ahead, but I had Vampire Nighthawk to stem the bleeding. On turn five, I played [card sublime archangel]Archangel[/card] plus Cathedral of War, which let me attack for five. At that point, I felt like I was in a pretty commanding position. He played [card Titanic Growth]Growth[/card] and Prey Upon to kill my Archangel, which was still fine, and I played a Captain of the Watch.
He then played Arms Dealer, which gave me pause. On my turn I played Angelic Benediction, and then attacked with just a token, tapping his Rummaging Goblin. If I attack with the Nighthawk he is just going to kill it, and if I tap anything else he will just chump and kill the Vampire anyway. By attacking like this, I forced him to choose one or the other, and he took some damage.
At the end of the turn, he killed my Nighthawk, and then untapped, killed the Captain and played a second [card flinthoof boar]Boar[/card], to attack me for 9. I chumped a guy, going to 9—at this point, if I draw a spell, I probably win, since he is at 6, I have two tokens (and two exalted: land and Benediction), I am at 9 and he has three 3/3s. If I draw any creature, I attack for 3 and have two blockers up, so I don’t die, and then he can’t attack because even one blocker is not enough to stop my Benediction-powered-up attacker. I drew what seemed to be the last land in my deck, though, and lost despite playing Nighthawk/Archangel/Captain of the Watch in three consecutive turns.
Game three I kept a hand that perhaps I shouldn’t have (I think it was 6, but I should have mulliganed anyway), and pretty much lost the game when he killed my second creature (first being a Hawk that was unable to attack) with Searing Spear.
Round 6 I was paired against a RW deck. My opponent stumbled on mana early on, and I was hitting him with a [card bloodhunter bat]Bat[/card] while protecting myself with a [card knight of infamy]pro-white Knight[/card]. He tried to Searing Spear the Bat, but I had Show of Valor to save it. At some point he attacked with all his guys, which meant he was dead unless he had two blockers or removal spells, because I had a Sign in Blood in my hand he didn’t know about (so only one guy wouldn’t do). Since he only had four lands, and if he had had anything he would surely have played it already, I felt pretty safe—Then it hit me.
At this point, I cursed myself for forgetting to de-sideboard, and I cursed myself for remembering it just then, one turn before winning the game. But that was when I realized that the card I had played two turns ago shouldn’t have been there, so that was when I called a judge. Predictably, I got a game loss.
Luckily for me, my mistake didn’t cost me, as I won the following two games without much difficulty.
Round 7, I played against a GWR deck with [card ajani, caller of the pride]Ajani[/card], Thragtusk, and Primordial Hydra, among other good cards. I lost the game he mulliganed to five, but managed to win the other two. The last one was interesting because it included a somewhat complicated block—one of those situations where if he has nothing I win no matter what, so I have to make sure I don’t lose to anything. Eventually I came up with a block that would beat Titanic Growth on his double-strike/flier Prized Elephant, Trumpet Blast, or Searing Spear plus Prey Upon, and that seemed good enough. He had nothing.
My round 8 opponent’s deck was very good—it was at least as good as mine. Game one I thought I was winning, but [card goblin arsonist]Arsonist[/card] plus [card krenko, mob boss]Krenko[/card] plus Arms Dealer quickly disabused me of that notion. Yep, don’t need Mutilate…
Game two I won, and game three he played a quick Krenko, but I had a Mutilate in my hand. My choices were Mutilating there and then, or playing Shimian Specter. I decided to play Specter. In the worst case scenario he just kills it, which would happen anyway, and in the best case scenario I either snatch his Mutilate follow-up, or he gets scared of it and plays everything he has into the sweeper. I attacked him and took out his only guy, but he still had a [card chandra, the firebrand]Chandra[/card]. The following turn I hit Chandra, and then had to Mutilate because Krenko was about to make eight Goblins. That left him with a Chandra and me with one or two guys in my hand, one of which had haste, and from there he couldn’t recover.
7-1! It had been a while since I Day 2′d a Sealed event. Though my Sealed decks are almost always very good, I rarely do well for some reason. In fact, in my experience, people kind of overrate the importance of a good Sealed—obviously you’d rather have an awesome deck than not, but it’s much better to have a bad deck and draw well than to have a good deck and draw badly. In Nashville, I had what was certainly one of the top five decks in the room, and I managed to x-2. In this tournament, Shahar’s deck was better than mine, and he didn’t Day 2. Sam Black, on the other hand, went 10-0 with a deck that was hardly better than “good”. Or maybe I just think it’s overrated because I take good Sealeds for granted.
Round 9 I was paired against a GW deck. He had a Silklash Spider, which he played both games, but I had [card angelic benediction]Benediction[/card] in one and [card divine verdict]Verdict[/card] on the other, so it was never a problem. Other than that, his deck didn’t really do much against mine.
So there was a cut to Day 2, and then we played one extra round. I was paired against a guy with a decent, but not outstanding, UW deck. I won game one through Stormtide Leviathan, and lost game two because I failed to chump block his guy with my [card war falcon]Falcon[/card]—he had an exalted Arctic Aven I was planning to Mutilate, but I was biding my time. I wanted to stick the Archangel in play first. As such, I didn’t block his attack, going to a somewhat low life total. After all, I could just block the following turn, and then Mutilate.
My plan backfired when he played Sleep, and I was forced to Mutilate. The Mutilate then killed my Hawk, and the chance to block with it was gone forever. I still had an Archangel and a Nighthawk that I had just played, so I was sure I was going to be fine, but he had Pacifism for the Angel and Divine Verdict for the Vampire, and a couple turns later I lost. Game three I had a blazing fast start and he couldn’t even find his fourth land to play Sleep to buy him a turn.
Everyone from my room was already gone, so I found Matt Nass and we tried to find a place to eat. Despite being a local, Matt Nass didn’t actually know anything about the city (nor did he know why it was called Woostah), but we managed to call Ben and meet him and other people at a passable Italian restaurant.
My first draft on Day 2 was pretty weird, and it can be summed up in two main mistakes:
1) I thought a color was open when it wasn’t. The reason I thought so was that I received a bunch of late Chandra’s Furys, which is a card I really like, so I assumed there weren’t many red drafters. In all likelihood, they just didn’t like Chandra’s Fury as much as I did—the person next to me made the same “mistake”, but with Krenko’s Command, a card I am not in love with. He got some of them quite late, and assumed I wasn’t red, because he thought the card was very good. The outcome was both of us in red, when in reality neither had any business trying to play the color.
2) It took me very long to realize that I was not, in fact, red. My first pack had had six or seven red cards, but those had been my first pick (Flames of the Firebrand), 3 Chandra’s Fury, and not much else worth noting. It did, however, make for a bright red color, so when pack one was done and it came the time to review the cards, all I could see was red everywhere. In my mind, that registered as, “I’m definitely red, and then either green or black.” I spent almost all of the second pack picking green cards and passing good black cards, whereas I clearly should have just gone BG. I assumed I was “locked” into red when I wasn’t.
Still, my deck actually didn’t end up bad—it could certainly win, and my green cards were very good:
The Gorgon splash is a given—I have a Farseek and a [card Mwonvuli Beast Tracker]Beast Tracker[/card], and the card is very good. The other two cards are debatable, but I think they’re right. I have solid ground defense here, but I’m weak against fliers trying to race me, and both cards are pretty good against this. [card bloodhunter bat]Bat[/card] is especially powerful, since I have two [card roaring primadox]Primadoxes[/card]…
Round 1 saw me paired against UW, and in both games I had a blazing start followed by way too many lands. Game one he ended at a comfortable life total, and game two was very tight—it came down to me being able to draw a creature after his Sleep. I didn’t, and died.
Round two was against BW, and I threw both games away. In both it felt like I was going to win, but I decided I wanted to win NOW, so, instead, I lost. Game one I was ahead, then wasted a Magmaquake for no reason, because I wanted to be more ahead. He followed it up with an Attended Knight and an [card odric, master tactician]Odric[/card] and suddenly there was no creature in play that could actually attack, so eventually the Odric just killed me.
Game two, I had a bunch of bigger creatures in play, and even though he kept passing with open mana, I decided I’d rather not wait for him to drop Odric, so I attacked with everything with Chandra’s Fury in my hand for a potential [card glorious charge]Charge[/card] or Show of Valor. He turned out to have Safe Passage, which killed all my creatures and me.
At this point, I was highly annoyed at myself. I had just eliminated myself from Top 8 contention, and I knew that I had played both games horribly. I think the Paulo from Day 1 would have won both of them, he was certainly a lot more patient than the Paulo from Day 2.
I had awesome draws against my round three opponent (the Krenko’s Command guy), and the fact that his curve went [card mogg flunkies]Flunkies[/card] into Krenko’s Command into Mind Sculpt didn’t help his case.
My second table was pretty hard, and I knew almost everyone in it. My deck ended up worse than my first one, I think, though I actually don’t think I could have done a whole lot differently (unlike the previous one). I started with a Griffin Protector out of a very unexciting pack, then followed it up with a Volcanic Geyser. Red quickly dried up, and I ended up moving into green after picking some Aven Squires. I ended up with a passable deck that was short in both creatures and playables:
I’d happily have played 16 lands in this deck, but the second Naturalize was pushing it a bit, so 17 seemed better.
First round I got paired against Shuhei, who destroyed me in two quick games in embarrassing fashion. Game one I had a curve of [card war falcon]Falcon[/card] into Aven Squire into Aven Squire, and he had a curve of land into land into Flames of the Firebrand. I don’t think I cast another spell.
Game two I again had a sick curve of Falcon into Squire into Crusader of Odric, but I ended up trading both my Falcon and my Squire for two of his Falcons, since the Arc Lightning kills all of them anyway. In retrospect, I think that was bad—I should not have attacked—but it ended up working because he did have the Arc Lightning. I had a turn four [card ajani, caller of the pride]Ajani[/card], and he had a Krenko’s Command, then he nuked my Crusader with his removal spell and started attacking Ajani. Ajani is a tough guy to kill with two 1/1s, but since I failed to draw a creature (not that there were many in my deck to begin with—yay Safe Passage not doing anything to protect my planeswalker), it eventually died and so did I.
The following round was against Ian Bartolomei. He was stuck on three lands for most of game one, before I Acidic Slimed one, that is. I thought I had the game in the bag, but he eventually recovered and killed all my creatures with Murder, Archeomancer, and Unsummon… shrug. Games two and three my draw was a lot better, and even though he didn’t stall on lands this time, I was able to pull it off with a bunch of Elephants and Wurms.
My last round opponent was the unfortunate victim of the best draws I’ve ever had in my life. Game one I went t1 Falcon, t2 Squire, t3 Ajani, t4 double Squire. Yeah. Game two was honestly not so different, but it included Predatory Rampage when he managed to kill Ajani and somewhat stabilize. Both games he had t1 Tormented Soul, t2 exalted, t3 exalted, which made them close despite my awesome starts, but in the end he was just overpowered both times.
So I finished 12-4, which was good enough for Top 64, one pro point and $200. It was not a bad result for a 1800 people tournament, but it made me feel like I wasted a very good pool—you very rarely go 9-1 in Sealed, so you really have to make it count when you do.
This is where I’ll leave you today—next week, the Players Championship!