This is my GP Toronto report.
My last report ended with me leaving GP Sydney. On the Monday after, as you might already know because I keep talking about it and posting photos on Facebook, we (Me, Luis, Martin Juza, Web, Kibler) decided to take the ferry to the Taronga Zoo. As soon as we bought our tickets, Web looked up and said something like “I don’t like those clouds.” Three minutes later, it started raining.
We took the ferry anyway because what can you do really, and then, thankfully by the time we got there, the rain had stopped. The zoo was pretty awesome – highlights included Martin getting close to a female elephant and blowing at it, and then the elephant putting its trunk in a bucket of water and blowing back at Martin, the bird show, where we got to see a spectacle of trained birds, including an Andean condor with a three meters long wingspan (oh, wait, we didn’t watch that one; Instead we went to the spider show, where we were told repeatedly that the funnel web spider, the most poisonous spider in the world, is in fact a lovely creature, and that if it was in an attacking position and you could see the actual venom dipping from its fangs that was only because it was scared of you, and if it sneaked into your shoes that was only because it didn’t like the sun and if you put your feet on it then it would just have no alternative except for biting you but that was really your fault for stepping on it – thanks guys, I‘m glad you dragged me there instead of the bird show!); and finally the Koala Encounter, which was super sweet. Really, how cute is this picture?
After that, I departed from our group and flew to a city named Cairns to go diving in the Great Barrier Reef, which you might already know because I keep talking about it and posting pictures on Facebook. It was awesome, blah blah.
I left Sydney on Tuesday 2 PM, and then time walked back to Los Angeles, arriving 7 AM the same day. I then took my connection flight to Toronto, and there I met with Ben (Stark) and Martin (Juza), and we were picked up by Gabe (Walls) and Gerry (Thompson). We drove to our hotel and decided to go to Niagara Falls (which was the only thing I really wanted to do in Canada, though Martin wanted to watch an ice hockey game too) the next day.
It is kind of funny how those things work – in Brazil (and in Argentina too I suppose, since it’s on the border) we have those falls called Iguazu, which are supposedly way more spectacular than Niagara’s – it is said that (and by that I mean I read on Wikipedia) “Upon seeing Iguazu, the United States’ First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt reportedly exclaimed ‘Poor Niagara!’ Yet, I’ve never really made a point to go there, whereas I really, really, REALLY wanted to go to Niagara Falls. I guess the fact that it’s a lot closer to me means I know I will have the opportunity to go there at another time, and as such I end up never going – this happens to me in many other things too, such as the fact that I often go around in rainforests in foreign countries but have never actually wanted to go to the Amazon, which is a lot closer to me (and definitely a lot bigger).
Anyway, we woke up on Wednesday and Gerry was feeling too Gerryish and decided not to go, so it was just the four of us. We found a very expensive parking spot, for which I paid (really, why do I even try this credit card gaming thing?), and went around the Falls – it was very pretty. There were four possible activities, and though I wanted to do all four, I had to admit one of them was not looking good – it was a two and a half hour walk that likely went to the US part, which was a dealbreaker since I had a one entry visa to Canada and if I left I just wouldn’t be able to come back to play in the GP. Then I was outnumbered and we ended up doing only two of them – the Journey Behind the Falls and Niagara’s Fury.
Niagara’s Fury was a disappointment. I mean, look at the name!! Instead of something extremely impressing, we were sent to a room where we watched a cartoon of a squirrel explaining how the falls were formed, which would actually have been interesting if it didn’t seem to be planned for 10-year-olds, and then we got water splashed on us (are you feeling the Fury???)
After that, we went to the Journey Behind the Falls, which was pretty good – we also got water splashed on us, but this time it was “real” waterfall water, so that was fine. We got very close and me and Martin took a lot of pictures, while Ben and Gabe held our stuff and grumpily complained that they just wanted to go back to play Magic Online, and that we looked like their girlfriends having them hold stuff while we took pictures of everything. In truth, though, I think they were having a lot of fun – just look at this picture and you can see how happy they really were.
We headed back for our hotel, and by then Scars was already up on Magic Online, and all we did for the rest of the day and for the next day was play drafts and sealeds. I have to say I was feeling somewhat confident, even if I don’t put nearly as much weight on Magic Online results as other people do – I played in four events, and the only two matches I lost were ones that I got disconnected, couldn’t come back, and timed out, and one where I accidentally shot my own DarksteelAxe-equipped Spikeshot Elder.
Then we got to the actual event and things got, well, considerably worse. I did a lot of drafts that day (and the day after the tournament), and I think I only won one of the 10+ that we did. I was also playing pretty terribly, to be honest – I missed on-board kills, I attacked with everything only for someone to point out that my Tangle Angler had intimidate due to my Wurm and the colored guy couldn’t be provoked, I left a guy to block his 1/1 when I was at 1 life except it was Necropede, etc. Still, one would think that, by the sheer force of numbers, I would win some amount of drafts – nope.
As far as the GP went, this was the pool I opened, minus unplayables:
The first thing I did when I opened this sealed was the same thing I do when I open any sealed – I find the 6 rares, because I am too curious. After that, I took a glance through the colors, cut the bad cards, made a mental note of the good cards, and deemed blue unplayable (it simply doesn‘t have anything going for it). Following that, I looked for some kind of “different” deck – in this case, poison. The reason I always look for different decks first is that they are the hardest to find if you are not actively looking for them, and since they are different, they are harder to build and take longer. If I spot a Golem Foundry/Furnace Celebration hybrid with 8 minutes left, I’m not so sure I can build it perfectly, whereas my RW metalcraft deck will be just fine.
In this case, I noticed that my poison deck was really strong. Poison is the kind of deck that you can only really play if it is really good, or if your overall pool is terrible – a so-so poison deck is less likely to take you anywhere than a so-so “normal” deck. This is what I laid down:
It looked good to me, but maybe that was because it had 31 cards. Regardless, it gave me an idea if the deck could be good or not. I started cutting some stuff, like the big guys, and in the end I was left with 26 or 27 cards – if I went back to this deck, I would then figure out the remaining cuts. The problem is that I knew that, the moment I started cutting cards to get to 23, it would simply not be as good, because I would have to cut either a poison card or something like Fume Spitter (or perhaps the third color altogether), and anything would harm the deck’s overall balance.
I then laid down the obvious build, RW. It ended up like this:
This build appealed a little bit more to me – the white cards are just very good. Arrest is the best common in Sealed, since it deals with anything, and I’ve learned to appreciate Glimmerpoint Stag a lot – even if I don’t have a single card I want to blink myself, it deals with opposing Arrests/Volition Reins, removes blockers, and is just a solid body overall. The white, coupled with the red artifact removal, gave me answers to pretty much anything, and there were a lot of artifacts to power up Chrome Steeds and such. I didn’t have any bombs, but I had solid creatures and solid removal, so I was happy. This was my final build:
The Necropede didn’t make the cut because I didn’t really need the blocker or the artifact – my deck seemed to be aggressive enough. The Ogre and Hellion seemed simply worse than the Golem, since this is sealed and he just dominates combat, as well as being an artifact for my Steeds. Shikari was not good with one equipment, and 16 lands with two Myrs and three Spellbombs seemed fine.
My last inclusion was Platinum Emperion; my reasoning was that, again, this is Sealed, and a card with so much potential is worth risking the times it’s going to sit in your hand, or the times you spend 8 mana to have it Shattered. I understand that this is an artifact removal-heavy format, but, at the same time, he dodges a lot of the creature removal – Arrest, Grasp of Darkness, and Skinrender. And even if they kill it say two turns later, he is not like Platinum Angel – the turns he stayed in play you simply couldn’t be attacked. Poison is bad for him too, but you shouldn’t really play against more than one poison deck in a GP day 1 anyway. Overall he was well worth it, and I would have won almost all the games I lost if I had drawn him.
I think that, in general, sealed pools in this format are really hard to build – you get so many playables coming from all the angles that it is hard to get the perfect 23/24 (hell, it’s even hard to know how many lands you should be playing, and then, once you get to that, your land configuration). My pool, however, was uncharacteristically simple – pretty much everyone I asked during the byes came up with almost the exact same deck as me, the only difference being sometimes the Ogre and the Helion, so you shouldn’t have gotten too far from that either. Everyone acknowledged that Infect was powerful, but that the RW deck was probably better.
As far as matches go, well, my games were not really interesting, and I’m not going to give a recount of them because that would basically be me complaining I drew too many lands over and over (but that I did, I did). My only interesting match was the third, when I was 4-1, because my opponent was pretty good and we actually had three games.
In the first game, we got to a point where he had Painsmith (he was RB) and I had Glimmerpoint Stag with Livewire Lash, Origin Spellbomb and an untapped Plains and Silver Myr. We were both at around 10 life. Then, he attacked with his Painsmith. I considered for a while and decided to make a token and block with the token; then, post combat, he played Turn to Slag on my Stag. I think this play is pretty interesting – what he is risking is basically two life if his plan fails (if he plays Turn to Slag I will just kill his Painsmith, whereas if I block with my Stag and his guy dies I get to deal two damage to him instead). If his plan succeeds, then he trades the two life for my Myr token, which is good for him. It is not a super awesome play in the sense that it is going to turn a lost game around, but it is a simple, elegant play, that offers a small advantage and that requires him to be good and to know that I am good (and therefore I’m not likely to block with my 5/3).
The other interesting situation that happened was that I had Clone Shell in hand for game three and he had 1R open (and a lot of cards in hand, as he hadn‘t played much), and, since I knew he had three Shatters and a Galvanic Blast in his deck, I decided not to play it. We were playing an attrition game and I had a lot of removal left myself, so I thought the creature was really important and didn’t want him to kill it with the trigger on the stack. A couple turns later he tapped out and I got to play the Clone Shell. He didn’t have a Shatter by the end of the game, and not playing it blindly on turn 5 may have cost me the game, but I think it was the correct play anyway. The match turned out to be pretty close, but in the end I lost that one, too.
In the end, I finished the tournament 1-3. This was especially frustrating because, from watching the players and the coverage, it became apparent that people didn’t really know what they were doing in draft. Don’t get me wrong, it is not like I’ve mastered the format or anything, but it seemed like people really had no clue – for example, in the GP, some guy passed David Williams a Contagion Engine p1p2, and it is pretty much the consensus single best card in the set (at least in our group). In the top 8 interviews they asked what had been the hardest pick of your draft, and some people said they were undecided between a first pick and a 23rd card, or between a solid card and a super good card.
In Bochum, the guy who got second was playing 41 cards with Golden Urn and Twisted Image. Again, don’t get me wrong, I can definitely see situations where I would play either of those cards, and I even pick them somewhat higher than most people with the prospect that maybe I will play them, but you really couldn‘t cut either to play 40? Watching all this kind of makes me think that I would have done well if I had been able to get to the draft portion, and it was annoying that I wasn‘t.
Special bonus video
Anyway, changing the topic a bit, on Sunday I played the MOCS LCQ tournament on Magic Online, and it was sealed deck. Since I built my deck and still had 5 minutes left, I decided to record it in case you want another “sealed exercise” or something. I don’t say much, since there were only 5 minutes left, and I kind of went 0-2 drop (though I thought my deck was pretty decent), but since I have it recorded anyway I might as well post it.
See you next week, when I’ll very likely not talk about Limited anymore,