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PV’s Playhouse – GP SD Report

Hello everyone! This is my GP San Diego report.

As of now, I’ve been in the US for over a week – I got here last Saturday, met up with the Channelfireball people in California and we’ve been testing since then. At first, our testing consisted mostly of Drafting because, well, we liked drafting more, so that’s all we did. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we pretended we were testing Constructed, but we ended up drafting three or four times a day and no one really put their hearts on Standard, let alone Modern – every time someone got three games in someone else would be like “so…. draft??” and we’d jump at it, since not only is drafting naturally more fun but Innistrad is also an awesome set.

Though that was certainly not optimal (and I will go into more details about our entire process next week, when I talk about Worlds), it did leave all of us with a very strong grasp of Innistrad Limited, or so I think – GP San Diego was both a welcome break and a way for us to put those skills to test, knowing that we would need to focus fully on Constructed once it was done.

The trip to San Diego was much less eventful than it usually is – instead of taking the usual 20 hours, it took me only one since I was already in San Francisco. Once we got there, I was surprised, again, by the very short amount of time it took to go from the Airport to the city – I think it’s the third time I’ve been to San Diego and the third time that it catches me by surprise. All the events were always in the same convention center too, which made it so that I already knew many of the nearby places.

We got to the tournament site on Friday and then decided we’d rather draft a bit more than play Constructed (yeah, we’re all adults here…). The first draft had an awkward moment when Luis and Efro both opened [card Garruk relentless]Garruk[/card] p1p1 and were passing to each other, but in the end it all worked out well despite both of them picking the Planeswalker. I had what I thought to be a pretty sweet deck, with three [card darkthicket wolf]Darkthicket Wolves[/card], two [card]Bonds of Faith[/card] and four [card]Prey Upon[/card]s, but ended up going 1-2. One particularly interesting play was in my match against Josh – his board is the 3/1 First Strike Wolf with [card]Furor of the Bitten[/card], 3/1 lifelink Vampire and a 2/2 Zombie. My hand is two [card]Prey Upon[/card]s, and I have a 5/5 [card]Lumberknot[/card] in play. I [card]Prey Upon[/card] his Vampire, my guy grows to a 6/6, the Wolf is forced to attack into it and I end up having a 7/7 Shroud guy and a [card]Prey Upon[/card] to his 2/2 – not too shaby. Except he played [card]Vampiric Fury[/card] when I Fought his Vampire, so my guy ended up dying, and instead of getting rid of all his creatures I lost mine. So, yeah, if there is a card that beats you and it is almost free to play around it, do so even if the likelihood of them playing it is not high – in this scenario, I pretty much can’t lose if I Fight the 2/2 Zombie instead, so there is no need to risk it, the 3/1 is not going to do anything anytime soon.

Anyway, after that we went to dinner, blah blah. Next morning we woke up pretty early, since they told us to “BE HERE AT 9 AM SHARP TOMORROW”. We got there at 8:45 and of course nothing looked remotely close to starting – registration ended at 9:45, because “of the weather” – it was, like, drizzling. Still, after that, the delay was not so bad, and soon enough I had this pool of cards to work with:

[deck]2 Moorland Haunt
1 Kessig Wolf-Run
1 Traveler’s Amulet
1 One-Eyed Scarecrow
1 Demonmail Hauberk
1 Feeling of Dread
1 Thraben Sentry
1 Doomed Traveler
1 Angelic Overseer
1 Chapel Geist
2 Voiceless Spirit
1 Mausoleum Guard
1 Village Bell-Ringer
1 Rally the Peasants
1 Unruly Mob
1 Spectral Rider
1 Midnight Haunting[/deck] [deck]3 Think Twice
2 Silent Departure
1 Claustrophobia
1 Murder of Crows
1 Sturmgeist
1 Stitched Drake
2 Selhoff Occultist
1 Invisible Stalker
1 Spectral Flight
2 Tribute to Hunger
1 Dead Weight
1 Victim of Night
1 Ghoulcaller’s Chant
1 Altar’s Reap
1 Manor Skeleton
1 Rotting Fensnake
1 Night Terrors
1 Markov Patrician
2 Corpse Lunge[/deck] [deck]1 Riot Devils
1 Village Ironsmith
2 Tormented Pariah
1 Brimstone Volley
1 Into the Maw of Hell
1 Geistflame
1 Rolling Temblor
1 Burning Vengeance
1 Rakish Heir
1 Night Revelers
1 Traitorous Blood
1 Curse of Stalked Prey
1 Nightbird’s Clutches
1 Villagers of Estwald
1 Ulvenwald Mystics
1 Travel Preparations
1 Spidery Grasp
2 Ranger’s Guile
1 Moonmist
1 Lumberknot
1 Kindercatch
1 Festerhide Boar
1 Bramblecrush
1 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
1 Hollowhenge Scavenger[/deck]

My first impression was that Green was, as it almost always is in this format, unplayable. It is very good in Draft, but it generally falls short in Sealed, since its power comes from synergy and a good curve rather than actual powerful spells and those matter a lot less in Sealed, as well as being naturally harder to achieve. Black was obviously not a main color but it did offer four good cards, three of them splashable, and Red was actually good – the only thing that stopped me from building a Red deck was the two Moorland Haunts.

At first, one might look at this pool and think “oh, two [card]Moorland Haunt[/card]s, I guess there really aren’t many decisions to be made here”, but I think that would be wrong – there are certainly courses you can take here that do not involve UW. You could, for example, build a Grixis control deck with [card]Burning Vengeance[/card], like eight Flashback spells, a bunch of removal and six or seven creatures. Or, you could do what I did and build this:

[deck]2 Moorland Haunt
8 Plains
7 Island
1 Demonmail Hauberk
1 Thraben Sentry
1 Doomed Traveler
1 Angelic Overseer
1 Chapel Geist
2 Voiceless Spirit
1 Mausoleum Guard
1 Village Bell-Ringer
1 Rally the Peasants
1 Unruly Mob
1 Spectral Rider
1 Midnight Haunting
1 Think Twice
2 Silent Departure
1 Claustrophobia
1 Murder of Crows
1 Sturmgeist
1 Stitched Drake
2 Selhoff Occultist
1 Invisible Stalker[/deck]

Ideally, I would be a “token” deck, and cards that are usually not good in Sealed – [card]Doomed Traveler[/card], [card]Unruly Mob[/card], etc – would work because of my high count of creatures and two [card]Moorland Haunt[/card]s. I had almost no removal, but the [card]Silent Departure[/card]s were as good as removal for me, since I was just going to race people. I should have played the [card]Feeling of Dread[/card] – most people said it was better than [card]Rally the Peasants[/card], but in my deck, with this many small fliers, I disagree – I think I should have played both, though. Splashing Red for [card brimstone volley]Volley[/card] and [card rolling temblor]Temblor[/card] crossed my mind since I had an amulet (and Temblor seemed particularly good in my deck with all the fliers), but I ended up not doing it since the two [card]Moorland Haunt[/card]s were hard enough on my mana already.

I thought my deck was quite good, and most people who looked at it also thought it was quite good, though it was different – it looked more like a draft deck than sealed.

I start round 4 pretty strongly, with a guy that gets hit by [card]Victim of Night[/card] and then two humans and an [card]Angelic Overseer[/card] to face my opponent’s [card]Bloodgift Demon[/card]. Another [card]Victim of Night[/card], a [card]Blazing Torch[/card] and a [card]Claustrophobia[/card] later, I am suddenly left with nothing, which makes my [card]Silent Departure[/card] plan a lot worse – now if I bounce his Demon he just replays it, which effectively gains me nothing, so I have to try and stick a threat first. My next threat also gets killed, and two turns later he [card forbidden alchemy]Forbidden Alchemies[/card] and puts a Scarecrow – which is a card my deck can almost never beat (which I figured would end up being a problem at some point, being a colorless common) – in the graveyard. The reason became apparent when he tapped five and played [card]Curse of Death’s Hold[/card], which I actually can never beat.

Facing a bunch of removal, a Scarecrow and a Curse, as well as big guys (the two only dudes he played were Demon and a Bat), I figured I would need a radical sideboard plan – the 1/1 fliers just wouldn’t do it. After a loong time of deliberation, during which I think it would have been totally fair if I had gotten a slow play warning, I settled for removing White for Red, and then splashing Black for the Tributes – if he had so few creatures, they would end up being awesome. That gave me three [card]Think Twice[/card]s to fight his removal, as well as a bunch of creatures that didn’t die to either [card]Victim of Night[/card] or Curse, so I thought that was a good plan despite my deck ending up considerably worse.

My plan worked well for games two and three, when I just played a bunch of Vampires and Werewolves and he couldn’t do anything, though it did take him having mana issues in the third game. There were two plays that I could have done differently – one was debatable (I had a [card]Silent Departure[/card] in my Graveyard but chose to [card]Into the Maw of Hell[/card] his [card]Zombie Goliath[/card] instead, despite him not being able to immediately replay it, since that would also kill his splash Plains and I didn’t want him to Bonds/Slayer my 5/5 Vampire), and the other was just wrong (I bounced a token and let him double block to then [card]Brimstone Volley[/card] one of his guys, when the right play would be to just bounce pre combat and then keep my Volley). There is a little more to it than this I guess, but those are not really important and it’s enough to say that round 4 was by far the one where I played the worst.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt as dominated as I was in round 5 – my first play was [card]Midnight Haunting[/card]s to attempt to double block his tapper, but that was met with [card]Victim of Night[/card]. After that he played [card]Dead Weight[/card], [card]Geist-Honored Monk[/card] and a couple other guys and I just died. Game two was even worse, as his plays were [card]Dead Weight[/card], [card]Chapel Geist[/card] which I [card claustrophobia]Claustrophobiaed[/card] (normally I would save my removal for a much better target in Sealed, but I thought that with this deck I would have to pressure them and the 2/3 would effectively halt my entire deck for many turns), and then [card geist-honored monk]Monk[/card], [card]Evil Twin[/card] copying Monk attack for ten billion.

Round six I kept a slow hand – he started with [card]Reckless Waif[/card] into [card]Village Ironsmith[/card], and both flipped by his turn three since my first play was a [card]Village Bell-Ringer[/card] that tried to ambush the Ironfang. That was met with [card]Geistflame[/card] after first strike damage, and when my fourth drop got hit by [card]Treacherous Act[/card] we were onto game two. I thought about boarding in Red for [card]Geistflame[/card], [card]Brimstone Volley[/card] and [card]Rolling Temblor[/card], but I figured that that had not been a normal draw, and with my on the play my 2/1 First Strikers and 2/3s for 3 would be able to hold the fort just fine, and then I could see more of his deck and figure out if those would be worth it for game three, when I’d be on the draw again.

Game two started much better for me, as some of our guys traded and then I had [card]Moorland Haunt[/card]. He made a small mistake by playing [card]Sever the Bloodline[/card] on my [card]Stitched Drake[/card] instead of killing my three 1/1 Spirits, which let me double-block his 3/2 and chump his 4/4, but it ended up not mattering much since we were both left with relatively the same strength once the dust settled. Then, two turns later, he played [card]Curse of Death’s Hold[/card] (obv obv) and I immediately died.

So, I was 4-2, and with my back to the wall. By this point, I had won exactly zero games with my original configuration, which made me wonder if my deck was as good as I thought or just very underpowered – I mean, two of my opponents had had [card]Curse of Death’s Hold[/card], which is probably the single best card one could have against me, and my draws weren’t exactly awesome, but I hadn’t really came close to winning any of the games I’d lost, so perhaps the slower, control, more card advantage deck would have been the better choice.

We got deckchecked in round 7, and in the meantime the head judge announced that he really recommended that we use Checklists over flip cards. When our decks were returned, the judge said my Flip card could be seen through the back of the sleeve and he would give me a game loss, since the judge had announced to replace them and I hadn’t. I then asked him how I was supposed to do that while he had my deck away with him, and he answered with something like “eh…”, and the Game Loss stood. I appealed to the head judge and told him to find the marked card in my deck; after pulling away three different cards, none of them the [card]Thraben Sentry[/card] (and that’s paying a lot more attention to the cards than anyone would reliably be able to do in a match of Magic), he said he was not going to Game Loss me after all and we could resume playing, but I had to change my flip card to a checklist anyway.

That ended up being kind of annoying, as checklists are horrible. Playing with Proxies in playtesting is already terrible, now I have to play with Proxies in a GP?! I had sleeves and their backs were Black! When they came up with Flip cards, did they not try them in Sleeves to see if their backs were visible? Did they not consult a judge?

Besides, there was a guy right next to me with three flip cards in play, using the exact same sleeves I was using. The judges kept passing by him and not saying anything, and the same happened to basically every single person in the tournament – why are my cards marked but not everyone else’s? If you’re going to game loss me for using flip cards, then you’d have to game loss half the tournament.

My starting hand game two was fine – I had [card]Invisible Stalker[/card], [card]Angelic Overseer[/card], a bunch of three drops and two Plains, on the draw. Four turns and two discard steps later, I was dead.

Game two started in a similar fashion, with me missing my third land drop, but I soon found it, and my fourth and fifth and sixth and seventh. In the meantime, my opponent played [card]Stitched Drake[/card], a bunch of 2/3s, two [card]Brimstone Volley[/card]s and I just died without doing much.

So, I was 4-3 – effectively 1-3 and 0-6 in games with my original deck, and pretty devastated. I played the extra two matches for Planeswalker Points, and ended up winning one where I drew perfectly and was never in any danger of losing and another where I got a concession by someone who said they couldn’t care less about points.

So, in the end, I don’t really know what went wrong – was I just very unlucky? Was my deck not as good as I thought it was? Was my deck not good at all? Would a RUB deck have been better? How about RWu? RWb? I honestly don’t know – it’s possible that I let the allure of two of the same rare plus a bomb ([card angelic overseer]Overseer[/card]) get to me, and I should not have played the lands, opting for a more controllish build – if I could go back, I would certainly try other combinations a little bit more before settling on UW, since the sealed format (or at least my particular opponents) proved to be a lot more resistant to an early air assault than I thought they would be.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this, and see you next week, hopefully with a report on how I won Worlds!

PV

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