After GP San Antonio, I promised to be more diligent in my tournament preparation. I did well at the GP, finishing 9th, but I hadn't played a game of Standard for over a month prior, which, frankly, was unacceptable. I didn't want to hurt my chances to succeed, not while I had the reins in my grasp. The next Constructed tournaments were over a month away, and that gave me a lot of time to plan. The only major event that required my time was GP Baltimore, which was Khans Sealed, which I had quite a bit of experience with already, and the holidays.
GP Baltimore didn't go exactly as planned, and I was quickly out after a miserable 1-3 display. My Sealed pool wasn't great, and my build was off. Regardless, I had quite a bit of time in between the tournament and the holidays to just jam a bunch of Standard and Modern matches and figure out what I wanted to do.
GP Omaha was the weekend after Denver, so I wouldn't have much time to practice Modern after GP Denver if I intended to go. Back-to-back Constructed events had generally been more difficult for me to prepare for, although I did have a ton a time invested in playing Modern, just not with Khans of Tarkir. Nothing relevant had been added to the format, right?
The days passed by quickly, and with each one, valuable time and missed opportunities. I hadn't even begun to play Standard or Modern. December was already halfway over! What happened? Well, besides various social forays, home life, and a whole lot of nights out, there were Holiday Cube drafts. Yes, I'd become even more addicted, a feat even I didn't think was possible. And that, when considering my great disdain for MTGO v4, was a truly scary thought. Then again, I was winning an absurd amount and having a grand ol' time in the process, so I suppose the situation wasn't totally unbelievable.
I ended up not practicing Standard or Modern at all. Spoiler alert, right? I guess not. I was in a rut, figuring out exactly what I was trying to do, looking for motivation.
There had been chatter in TeamCFB's super-secret team forum discussing Denver and what to play. I'd entrusted my choice in others who had played more (rather, simply played at all) than I, and that led toward an adaptation of a Boros tokens list that had been floating around in a few placeswhere it popped up first, I can't say. I hadn't been paying attention. As with all tournaments, Constructed and Limited, I was locked in to Jeskai, and after hearing that people were trying to shove a bunch of sweet blue cards in the deck, my attention was piqued. This was the list that "we" arrived at:
I was sideboarding roughly like this: bad cards out—good cards in.
Whip of Erebos
I wouldn't call this list perfect, and the mana base is where I would look to make improvements. The problems start because Mountains are necessary to support Chained to the Rocks. Multicolor lands would be great, helping cast spells like Hordeling Outburst, Raise the Alarm, Seeker of the Way, and blue counters, but they can't do that and cast Chained to the Rocks.
Fetchlands are great at making sure there's a Mountain on the battlefield to turn on Chained, but they will cut off your ability to cast other spells at times. There were multiple times throughout the tournament where I wanted to wait when cracking a fetch because I only had one other color of mana in my hand, and drawing a redundant piece would have been bad. I also ran out of lands to fetch. Using an Evolving Wilds to get a Plains or Island is a scary proposition if the matchup is a long, grindy one.
In fact, I had a few games where my second Flooded Strand was dead, making it a bit more difficult to slam down a raided Wingmate Roc on turn five. The guy watching behind me must have thought I was an idiot. If I were to make any changes to the mana base, they would start with Flooded Strand #3-4, turning those into some sort of multicolor land that comes into play untapped, like Shivan Reef or Battlefield Forge.
The deck is trying to ignore spot removal, and all of the creatures with the exception of Seeker of the Way give you some sort of value before they are killed, whether it's another physical card (Heliod's Pilgrim) or simply by producing multiple creatures (Raise the Alarm, Hordeling Outburst, and Wingmate Roc). Additionally, the inclusion of Jeskai Ascendancy turns your small creatures into huge threats, which lets you play around battlefield-sweeping effects like Drown in Sorrow and End Hostilities.
Additionally, you can loot away your extra lands and low-impact cards for better ones. The deck rarely runs out of gas which can be one of the problems with other Jeskai decks that are only running Dig through Time or Treasure Cruise.
I flew into Denver early and celebrated New Year's with my friends there. It was an interesting party, hosted by The Innovator himself, Patrick Chapin, and was an exhausting affair. The next few days featured a busy schedule of eating, drinking, and good times with friends. We visited Snooze on multiple locations, as it was conveniently located near where I was roosting. The food there is great, its quality acknowledged by the droves of brunchers enduring sub-freezing temperatures while waiting for a table. We ate at other places, Linger, Yazoo Barbeque, and Crooked Stave, but none with the frequency of Snooze, which I ended up visiting four times.
Saturday rolled around, and after the obligatory breakfast at Snooze, we headed to the site, ready to battle. After how much I had eaten, it was surprising that I wanted anything at all besides a nap. The bye rounds were finishing up, and I found myself in a Timeshifted feature match for round 4 against none other than Alexander Hamilton. Sadly, I didn't have the cunning of Aaron Burr, and was dispatched quickly from our duel, wounded but not dead.
After round six, I picked up my second loss, an unfortunately familiar acquaintance as of late—we're on first-name basis at this point. “How many rounds left to go?” I thought, and shuddered as I realized that the day was only halfway over for me. The hurdles of the warm-up rounds had been too high for me, and I was slow out of the gates, a product of carrying a metric ton of food in my stomach and no deck experience to lighten the load. Truthfully, the day could have ended a lot sooner, but I got into rhythm, hitting my stride, and sprinted to the finish line at the end of round 9, limping into Day Two at 7-2. Yaus.
Despite my poor record, I was happy to still be playing. Going into the second day with two losses didn't leave much room for error—none, in fact—and I'd have to keep up the undefeated pace in order to have a chance at making Top 8.
Sunday morning came quickly. I woke up early, on guard, hearing someone, a certain Cheon as it turned out, in the kitchen rummaging for some water. Thanks Paul. I meant it, sincerely, because there was an internal debate the night before, during the witching hour: should I wake up early for Snooze or sleep in and skip it? The difference was just over an hour of sleep, and, uncharacteristically, I had chosen sleep. The universe had other plans. As it turned out, I was awake just in time to get to Snooze as it opened. Call it whatever you want: fate, fortune, blind chance, or just confirmation bias. Story checked out, Snooze was still good.
We stopped for coffee on the way to the site, and I managed to nurse my large beverage throughout the day. My mind was on other things, namely, winning. I did a good job of it also, until round 14. Fortune had it in for me that round, as it would seem, and my two-lander on the play in game one delivered no more lands while my mulligan to five on the play in game two ended up being one spell short of victory. Who knows what would have happened if I had been able to force a game three. Regardless, despite my good feelings about the Abzan matchup, I wasn't able to convert. I had been running a bit above average with variance up to that point, and this round had been the flipside.
The day wasn't over though. The last round was basically a decider on whether the tournament was going to be worthwhile for me. A 12-3 finish would earn 3 Pro Points, but 11-4 would only be 1.1-point GP finishes are basically worthless to me because of the GP cap, they're easily replaceable, whereas 3-pointers are generally not. In the last round I played the pseudo-mirror, and won in two without much trouble. My opponent had a different mélange of creatures, including Goblin Rabblemaster, Mantis Rider, and Monastery Swiftspear.
And then the tournament was over for me. My 12-3 record was good enough for 21st place, not quite 9th this time, but functionally similar when Pro Points were concerned. In @wrapter we trust. I thought about the prospect of not practicing for Standard Grand Prix anymore. My finishes certainly justified the idea. Hindsight. I immediately discarded that thought and began the slow adrenaline detoxing process after every tournament. I didn't want to do anything except bird Paul in the Top 8. Practice had paid off for him, and he was able to convert to the single elimination rounds. Unfortunately, he lost in the quarterfinals.
The day finished up quickly, and we ate at the nearby Ted's Montana Grill with EFro before zipping him off to the airport nearby for his flight. Good times, as always. That was kind of the point of the trip for me, and it just so happened that there was a Magic tournament tacked onto it.