I used to bomb the Sealed Deck portion of the Grand Prix the week before the Pro Tour. I focused all of my attention on Draft, and as a consequence, I was always building my Sealed pool wrong.

But ever since the last GP Phoenix, before Pro Tour Ixalan, I started doing about ten Sealed Leagues, and I’ve lost only one match combined in my last two Sealed Day 1s.

Testing Sealed might seem like a waste of time, because every pool is different and you don’t get to choose your cards, but I learned a lot from playing MTGO Sealed Leagues for one week. Despite their terrible EV (if you go 3-2 you lose around 9 tickets), I’m thankful for that.

My pool was not hard to build, though. I opened two bomb rares: Tendershoot Dryad and Rekindling Phoenix—and as a result R/G was easily the best color combination.

While Tendershoot Dryad is amazing in Draft, it is way less of a bomb rare in Sealed. Rivals of Ixalan is full of removal spells, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that my Dryad never survived to my opponent’s turn when I cast it. It is still a pretty big deal if they don’t kill it, but that was never the case.

Rekindling Phoenix, on the other hand, was the true MVP of Day 1. I faced 0 Luminous Bonds or Pious Interdiction and the Phoenix ruled undisputed, easily one of the best cards in the set.
I love green in Sealed, and in my 10 Sealed Leagues online, I went into green about 8 times. Colossal Dreadmaw is the main reason, at common in both sets it’s a huge beater in a world of 2/2s.

What stands out in my build are the 2 copies of Aggressive Urge over cards like Buccaneer’s Bravado or some more mediocre creatures.

I don’t think Aggressive Urge is a particularly good card, but it’s a relatively new and underplayed trick, so I felt like I could get many people to trade 2-for-1. In one game I played a 2/2 on turn 2 and then proceeded to kill Desperate Castaways and Territorial Hammerskull, drawing extra cards every time.

Once I showed my opponent the trick, I always boarded them out for cards like Plummet, Tilonalli’s Crown, or Gleaming Barrier so that they would still play around it. Two cards I’ve been disappointed with were Vance’s Blasting Cannons and Tilonalli’s Summoner, and I often boarded them out versus aggressive decks or on the draw.

The first one was underwhelming, and it never performed during the six rounds of Swiss. Hitting lands off of it is awful, so is hitting tricks or a spell you’d rather not cast. Tilonalli’s Summoner is a weird one. It’s a bad 2-drop, but it’s a great topdeck when you’re in a topdeck war. I feel that it’s a good main-deck card, but easy to board out.

Despite Rivals of Ixalan being full of threatening bomb rares, I didn’t face many of them, and my Day 1 went very smoothly. I got to the first 9-0 of a Day 1 in my life, and soon I was dreaming about my first GP Top 8!

Pod 1 wasn’t as stacked as you might think. Other than Steve Rubin and Brad Nelson, I didn’t recognize anyone else there.

My Draft is featured here around 1:19.

Speaking of coverage, Rich explained to us their new way of featuring the pods, which seemed awkward because it involved us staying in the feature match area the whole three rounds. Coverage would record four Drafts and then show only our games to the viewers, which is a cool idea, but the fact that the games were showed to the viewers delayed made my tweets and FB posts very awkward. Lots of people were confused. I like that they try new things, but I didn’t like this approach. I loved that they showed four Drafts, but they could have done that between rounds, preserving the nature of live coverage.

The deck was underwhelming. I dove into Merfolk for the first time, as out of 17 Drafts on MTGO, I had drafted Merfolk 0 times!

Despite the fact that I got many key uncommons, the archetype was overdrafted, and two other players were picking up Merfolk.

I still managed to 2-1 against three pretty bad decks. It might have been that the pool was bad and all the decks were underpowered.

I was again in pod 1, which meant three more rounds in the feature match area. This time the pod was slightly better, as Seth Manfield joined his American compatriots. I needed to win two out of three matches to realize my dream of Top 8’ing my first GP! My Draft was featured here at 6:23.

I got lucky. No one could deny that—Tetzimoc and The Immortal Sun are two of the best cards you can open in Rivals of Ixalan, but I guess the luck got me back while playing the games.
I got incredibly unlucky in the first round, playing three super long and drawn out games, and drawing just 1 The Immortal Sun and losing two games from a winning board position after drawing multiple lands.

The dream wasn’t over, though. After defeating fellow Italian Filippo Maurri, I was ready to play the first win-and-in of my GP career!

For many reasons though, it didn’t go as planned. I got paired up against the number 1 player in the world Seth Manfield, and coverage wisely chose not to feature us. They assumed that Seth was going to concede, as he was paired down and already locked for Top 8, but it was his right not to. There is a word for what happened next: Dreamcrush. After Seth defeated me in three intense games, I got to go home with yet another missed Top 16 on tiebreakers.

GP London was still a great experience. I loved everything about it, and while I’m writing this I’m about to head to Bilbao, Spain, where I will playtest for one week with one of the best teams in the world (MTGMint Card + Connected Company) and where I’ll try my best to continue my streak of good PT results.

Meanwhile, I will continue to update my GP score book, hoping for that big Top 8 one day!