For the last couple of Grand Prix, I’ve had decent results. 12-3, 11-4, and so on. It always started with a 8-1 on Day 1, followed by a more disappointing result on Day 2. I started getting nervous that I wouldn’t have time to accumulate the points necessary for Platinum, least of all go to the World Championship for the third time, so I decided that I had to go above and beyond.
That’s how I decided that I wanted to do a triple-weekend trip to GP Orlando, San Antonio, and Mexico City. But I had one problem: the two latter events were team events, and I had no team. Seeing as it was only 3 weeks until the first one, I was afraid I wouldn’t find a team, but I was lucky. Shuhei Nakamura and Martin Juza needed a third for San Antonio, while I was able to assemble a team with Hao-Shan Huang and Corey Baumeister!
With Limited at GP Orlando coming up first, the preparation began. I talked a little about the Sealed on Magic TV, and most of my preparation came down to Sealed and Draft Leagues on Magic Online, and discussing Sealed decks with my fellow colleague and team member Mike Sigrist. Well… until Modern Masters 2017 came out, and I just couldn’t keep my hands off it until I left.
Fast-forward to a long flight over the big pond and a night’s sleep, and Shuhei and I went to the GP on Friday to do a practice Sealed with not much else to do. After what felt like the longest 4 rounds of Sealed I’ve ever played, both Shuhei and I, too greedy to eat earlier for want of better opportunities, had to look for food, barely existing we were so hungry. On our way, we found Steve Rubin in distress, without anywhere to stay. I took him in as one of my own, and off we went to a restaurant. Steve, of course, had spent his time far better—drafting Modern Masters 2017.
Both Steve and I, triggering each other as we usually do, went off on how great the weather was and we started to take pictures of all kinds. Even a random bird in a pond was good enough. Shuhei joined the fray. On Steve’s recommendation, we went to a chain of American-Italian restaurants called Maggianos, the kind of move I’d be usually be very skeptical of. Chains and a fusion—not my thing. But Steve knew his stuff of course, and it was actually great. Kudos to Steve for that, and kudos to the States for making restaurant chains actually work.
After a few drinks, we headed back to bed. Martin Juza stumbled in in the middle of the night and we had an interesting discussion about the sleeping arrangements. Steve and I were in a queen bed and Shuhei had his own queen bed. With promises that each of us would have their own bed when I booked it, Juza was slightly confused. I insisted that the sofa bed was a bed. You could pull it up, like a “Transformer bed.” Martin thought that was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard and after realizing he really didn’t know what I was talking about and thinking that I was kidding, it took some actual persuading to make him believe it was a bed. Laughing at poor Martin, who was most likely as tired he has ever been after a long flight, we fell asleep.
Click to enlarge.
After building many combinations of B/U/G, U/G, and B/G, I came up with this build. I remember that I really wanted to play green-blue, because I also had Reverse Engineer and Gearseeker Serpent with some other powerhouses. But blue was completely missing 2-drops, which made this the only configuration with enough early game. I chose to splash Aethertide Whale over the other cards, since the deck needed another finisher alongside Cowl Prowler and because it was very good at slowing the game down, with creatures that were good at trading and early creatures with high toughness.
Since I was already splashing both Tezzeret the Schemer and Rogue Refiner, I only needed 1 more Island—thanks to the land searchers, Renegade Map and Wild Wanderer—to splash the Whale. Other considerations for the main deck were Implement of Malice and Metalspinner’s Puzzleknot, which were definitely close with Reservoir Walker, Daredevil Dragster, and Live Fast. Sometimes it was more important to have the body of Daredevil Dragster to work with Prey Upon and Nature’s Way, but usually Implement of Malice would have been better in the main deck, so that’s likely the biggest error.
Around round 5, some of Ben’s friends from Florida put it out there that the first one to finish their round in the main GP event got to join their 3v3 Modern Masters 2017 Team Draft. Of course, I couldn’t keep myself away. I managed to draft the most beautiful creation I’ve had in an MM3 draft so far. I started out by picking up a Mistmeadow Witch and I never looked back. For those of you who haven’t blinked your opponent’s tokens and your own Dinrova Horror with Mistmeadow Witch, you haven’t lived yet! Since we had to stop the games between each main event round, it took around 5 hours for the entire Draft, but it was well worth it to play this gem to a 3-0.
I was pretty happy to go 8-1 with my Sealed pool, even though it always hurts to lose the last round. I didn’t have any real bombs other than Aethersquall Whale, which was double splashed, but it mostly worked out, because I didn’t play against any absurd bombs until the last round.
Luck, skill, and victory, and off to Day 2 and draft.
Main event: 8-1 (MM17 3-0)
Since the Orlando convention center is one of the 3 largest in the US, we accidentally got dropped off at the wrong entrance in the morning before the first Draft. A bunch of us had to run with our big bags and barely made it. Even though I managed to 8-1 and lose my last match on Day 1, I wasn’t in pod 1. I was in pod 3.
I opened my first booster to see a Shock in an empty pack. Not super exciting, but it always feels good to start out solid red. That was followed by a second-pick Dawnfeather Eagle, a great card, but in a color and a combination I’m not a fan of. My next picks were Aether Chaser and Reckless Racer, which are two premium red cards, so at this point I definitely thought red was open. Another late Dawnfeather Eagle showed up in pack 1, and I was settling in into my colors. Before pack 3, I was missing 2-drops, and some power, but I had 2 Shocks and other reasonable removal. I really hoped to open a Renegade Freighter to help beef up both my power level and number of early threats.
But I didn’t take it.
Instead, I took…
With this pick, it wasn’t as important to get more 2-drops because with 2 Dawnfeather Eagle and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, I only needed a more powerful top-end to become a midrange R/W deck. I found another flyer in Skyswirl Harrier and my deck came together like this:
This deck is about a 7 out of 10. To get to a 8 and higher, it needs more 2-drops to be able to get the beats going and make your 5-drops better. This deck, however, has to use its early interaction to get there early, but I’m still happy with it because the deck goes pretty deep and has a lot of play, not just the proactive plan.
First draft: 3-0, record 11-1.
My second Draft didn’t go as smoothly as my first. I opened Winding Constrictor in a less than appealing pack, so the pick was very obvious. I followed that up with a Daring Demolition hoping to go G/B. Then I got passed Chandra’s Revolution, where it clearly was the best card, followed by a lot of green and white cards.
I tried to read the table, but it was messy and the power level was high. I thought I managed to get in on white when I wheeled a Dawnfeather Eagle, the best white common by far, but in fact, I learned later that Alexander Hayne took a Spire Patrol over it. I sacrificed some picks for other white cards, including Sram, Senior Edificer. But even white dried up, especially in the third pack. At some point, I got passed a Freejam Regent and I tried to piece together a playable deck. I had swayed between colors for too long and I didn’t get a read on the table, which led me to end up with this pile. It has ways to win, but it’s quite dependent on drawing cards in the right order and hitting its mana correctly. I chose to play Winding Constrictor with 4 sources (Blooming Marsh, Unbridled Growth, 2 Swamps) because a lot of the filler cards, especially Verdant Automaton, got a lot better with it, even if I drew the mana for it later. If I played it on turn 2, my chances of winning would increase dramatically, so it’s a concession to my deck being below average.
In the first round I got to play against Chris Pikula, who at this point was 12-0. I got lucky in both games to see him get stuck on 2 lands and then mulligan to 5. Just the kind of break I needed to get there with this deck.
My next round was against Alexander Hayne, who was passing to me in the Draft. He had drafted quite the U/W deck and we traded games 1 and 2. The last game was very close but led to my defeat, meaning that the next round was going to be for all the marbles.
I played a good friend of mine, Chase Kovacs, in a green mirror, which I was afraid of since my creatures weren’t particularly large. But neither of us had a great deck, and I managed to land my Winding Constrictor on turn 2 in two of the games, snagging my needed 2-1 and a Top 8!
Since I couldn’t draw into Top 8 earlier, I also netted a second seed, which later mattered in the way I constructed my deck. You can see my entire Draft here. Kudos to LSV for such a deep understanding of my seat—there were definitely some interesting picks.
First, understanding what was open and staying open was definitely a cost. I first-picked Hungry Flames, which was a clear pick for me as it was the strongest card and the strongest color. But after seeing Weldfast Engineer, which is better in R/B, I chose Daring Demolition to stay as open as possible. If I ended up in R/B, I’d be happy with Daring Demolition. But if I had to drop red for another color, then I would at least have Daring Demolition instead of nothing!
My next picks followed the same approach of staying open, and I was rewarded when I got a late Skyship Plunderer, which I read as a clear signal. When I opened Battle at the Bridge, I was most likely going to stay U/B.
Then, I had two interesting picks, both made for the same reason. I picked Shipwreck Moray over Implement of Malice and Embraal Bruiser over Prophetic Prism. Usually, I would take the artifacts to get the most out of improvise, but I felt like I was in the perfect colors and that they would provide me with a top tier deck.
Because of this, and the fact that I was going to have both premium 2-drops as well as good removals/bounce, I tried to make my plan as solid as possible and less about improvise and synergy. Why? Improvise requires you to draw your cards in the right order—cheap artifacts to power out your expensive spells. When you draw too many or too little of one component, the hands can get awkward. Since I was going to have a great deck, I tried to keep my curve low and become less dependent on those synergies.
I also chose to play 16 lands and a Renegade Map. Usually I would play 15 lands and a Renegade Map in this deck because I don’t have too many mana sinks and my curve is pretty low. But as I mentioned before, I was 2nd seed, meaning that I would most likely get to play first in all my matches, and I really wanted to hit my land drops on time with a deck this powerful. I could standard 1 more land than usual as long as I got to cast my spells. On the draw, however, I usually boarded out a land. This is the end result:
You can find my finals here and my semifinals here. Got there! Finally, I won a GP after getting close so many times. Props to both Shuhei Nakamura and Martin Juza from my room who both went 6-0 in Draft on Day 2. Quite the success. You’ll get to see all 3 of us in San Antonio! Thanks for all the support!