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Two Matches, One Sealed Deck – *Top 4* at #GPSac

It has not completely settled in yet. I just Top 4’d a Grand Prix and I’m qualified for the Pro Tour.

When I started playing Magic three years ago, I would frequent ChannelFireball.com to read articles by Luis and PV. Those articles allowed me to get a much better grasp of the game and largely contributed to my first Grand Prix Top 8. Today, I get the opportunity to give back to the community by sharing with you my experience at Grand Prix Sacramento. Instead of writing a typical tournament report covering every match I played, I decided to write about my Sealed pool and the two most important matches of my tournament.

It all began with this Sealed pool.

[deck]1 Agent of Horizons
1 Anax and Cymede
1 Annul
1 Anthoussa, Setessan Hero
1 Arena Athlete
1 Artisan of Forms
1 Artisan’s Sorrow
2 Baleful Eidolon
1 Battlewise Valor
3 Benthic Giant
1 Boon Satyr
1 Bronze Sable
1 Commune with the Gods
1 Dark Betrayal
1 Deathbellow Raider
1 Decorated Griffin
1 Demolish
2 Disciple of Phenax
1 Divine Verdict
2 Dragon Mantle
1 Ephara’s Warden
1 Fade into Antiquity
1 Fate Fortold
1 Feral Invocation
1 Firedrinker Satyr
1 Flamespeaker Adept
1 Fleetfeather Sandals
1 Glare of Heresy
1 Griptide
1 Guardians of Meletis
1 Heliod’s Emissary
1 Hero’s Downfall
1 Hopeful Eidolon
1 Horizon Chimera
1 Karametra’s Acolyte
1 Laguna-band Elder
1 Leonin Snarecaster
1 Lightning Strike
1 Loathsome Catoblepas
2 March of the Returned
1 Nemesis of Mortals
1 Nessian Asp
1 Observant Alseid
1 Omenspeaker
1 Opaline Unicorn
2 Ordeal of Purphoros
1 Phalanx Leader
1 Prescient Chimera
1 Ray of Dissolution
1 Returned Centaur
1 Satyr Piper
2 Satyr Rambler
2 Scholar of Athreos
1 Scourgemark
1 Setessan Griffin
1 Shredding Winds
1 Sip of Hemlock
1 Spark Jolt
1 Spearpoint Oread
2 Spellheart Chimera
1 Staunch-Hearted Warrior
1 Stymied Hopes
1 Thassa’s Bounty
1 Time to Feed
1 Titan’s Strength
1 Traveler’s Amulet
1 Triton Tactics
1 Unknown Shores
1 Vanquish the Foul
2 Viper’s Kiss
1 Voyaging Satyr
1 Wavecrash Triton
1 Witches’ Eye[/deck]

My day started with the most confusing Sealed deck I had ever encountered. Before explaining my thought process and presenting you with the Sealed deck I submitted, how would you build my GP Sealed pool? (Let me know in the comments below!)

——————————————–No Peeky————————————————

The first thing I do with a Sealed deck is take a look at the depth of each color and the rares in the pool. I tallied the deck list quickly and came to:

W – 16
U – 13
B – 14
R – 15
G – 15

Usually there’s a column with 17-20 cards that really stand out, but these numbers were even across colors.

I looked at the rares:

[draft]Anax and Cymede
Anthousa, Setessan Hero
Artisan of Forms
Boon Satyr
Firedrinker Satyr
Hero’s Downfall[/draft]

Three cards stood out: [card]Anax and Cymede[/card], [card]Boon Satyr[/card], and [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card].

Unfortunately, all three cards were in different colors and the rest of my rares were underwhelming. Definitely not the start I was hoping for. In the 30 minutes of panic that ensued, I built three different decks: RW, GB, WB.

WB appeared to be a slightly weaker version of GB when laid out, so it quickly became a choice between RW and GB. RW had a coherent game plan, a low curve, and was deep enough to avoid a splash. One of the strategies I have learned in Sealed deckbuilding is that when your pool isn’t good, build an aggressive deck. This was a fairly powerful aggressive deck in a field full of slow grinding plodders.

Now it was time to review the last combination GB. Was it good enough? Should I just play RW? GB had two of my best rares, but black was shallow leaving me to reach for playables. Was black really worth playing? Should I look at GW instead?

I concluded that while the GB deck was not inherently powerful—it did not have [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] or [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card]—it was very good at stopping other people’s bombs. I made a small splash for blue and filled out my deck with a [card]March of the Returned[/card]. Post-board games were going to get better for me. I had access to [card]Glare of Heresy[/card], [card]Dark Betrayal[/card], [card]Shredding Winds[/card], and [card]Fade to Antiquity[/card]. These could easily replace my weakest cards.

The Sealed deck I submitted:

[deck]1 Agent of Horizons
1 Anthousa, Setessan Hero
2 Baleful Eidolon
1 Boon Satyr
2 Disciple of Phenax
1 Horizon Chimera
1 Karametra’s Acolyte
1 Nemesis of Mortals
1 Nessian Asp
1 Opaline Unicorn
1 Staunch Hearted Warrior
1 Voyaging Satyr
1 Artisan’s Sorrow
1 Commune with the Gods
1 Feral Invocation
1 Griptide
1 Hero’s Downfall
1 March of the Returned
1 Sip of Hemlock
1 Time to Feed
1 Traveler’s Amulet
9 Forest
2 Island
6 Swamp[/deck]

Spoiler alert: The Sealed deck was insane.

Tournament Highlights

Match 1

Round 9: Eric Pei vs. Reid Duke

Game 1:

I won the die roll and chose to draw. Reid, playing BW, curved turn 2 [card]Leonin Snarecaster[/card] into turn 3 [card]Lagonna-Band Elder[/card] into turn 4 [card]Blood-Toll Harpy[/card]. My glacial draw stabilized off of removal and [card]Horizon Chimera[/card]. I traded a couple hits with his Blood-Toll Harpy until I dropped to 5. I left my Horizon Chimera back to block and ambushed his Harpy with [card]Feral Invocation[/card]. Reid flooded out after his initial start and a few turns later the Chimera got the better of him.

1-0

Game 2:

[card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card] happened.

1-1

While I knew it was a losing effort, I took the rest of game two going through the motions and showed Reid as much of my deck as possible, wondering what to do with game three. I learned throughout the tournament that my deck was very good at grinding slow decks away. [card]Disciple of Phenax[/card] always stripped a card and [card]Baleful Eidolon[/card] turned my [card]Disciple of Phenax[/card], [card]Voyaging Satyr[/card], and [card]Opaline Unicorn[/card] into double Doom Blades. Have you ever [card]March of the Returned[/card] two [card]Baleful Eidolon[/card]s? Whenever my opponent played a threat that I could not stop with my Eidolons, I had the removal package of [card]Griptide[/card], [card]Sip of Hemlock[/card], [card]Artisan’s Sorrow[/card], [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card], and [card]Time to Feed[/card] to deal with it. My deck was extremely powerful in the late game and could deal with almost anything.

When I saw Elspeth, everything changed. I only had one out to Elspeth: [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card]. Luckily, those 30 minutes of agonizing Sealed deckbuilding were about to pay off. This would be the first and only game I would sideboard into my RW deck.

My deck for game 3:

[deck]1 Anax and Cymede
1 Arena Athlete
1 Bronze Sable
1 Deathbellow Raider
1 Firedrinker Satyr
1 Flamespeaker Adept
1 Heliod’s Emissary
1 Hopeful Eidolon
1 Laguna Band Elder
1 Leonin Snarecaster
1 Observant Alseid
1 Phalanx Leader
2 Satyr Rambler
1 Spearpoint Oread
1 Battlewise Valor
1 Divine Verdict
2 Dragon Mantle
1 Lightning Strike
1 Titan’s Strength
2 Ordeal of Purphoros
1 Glare of Heresy
9 Mountain
7 Plains[/deck]

Game 3:

I chose to be on the play and mulliganed to six. After some deliberation I kept this on six:

[draft]Plains
Deathbellow Raider
Ordeal of Purphoros
Leonin Snarecaster
Firedrinker Satyr
Titan’s Strength[/draft]

If I drew one of my nine mountains, I could win this game. I missed my second land drop and things looked grim, but a Mountain sat on top of my deck waiting for me the following turn. Turned out turn three [card]Deathbellow Raider[/card] into turn four [card]Ordeal of Purphoros[/card] was quite difficult to answer. Reid tanked on his turn, eventually opting to cast a turn four [card]Heliod’s Emissary[/card]. I attacked for 4 (putting Reid to 11) with my Raider and progressed my board with a [card]Satyr Rambler[/card]. Reid bestowed a [card]Hopeful Eidolon[/card] on his Emissary, leaving a single Plains open and attacked back (back up to 15).

A scenario that looked great a turn before suddenly looked grim. I was not going to be able to race a 4/4 lifelinker and now my Ordeal had no good target. Little did I know my deck had another gift waiting for me: I drew [card]Glare of Heresy[/card]. I went into the tank to see if I could play around [card]Gods Willing[/card]. I came to the conclusion that if I Glare the Eidolon, I could attack and target the Emissary with my Ordeal. Even if Reid had Gods Willing he would still lose lifelink*. Reid did not have Gods Willing and the attack put him down to 10. Reid had no answer and a [card]Titan’s Strength[/card] later I had done the unimaginable.

Undefeated on Day 1.

I grew as a player. I learned to trust myself. Yes, my Sealed deck had taken me to an 8-0 record and I had never tried the RW build. It would be easy to ignore my plans and to shuffle up one more time with my GBu build, but I believed in the crazy theory that my GBu deck was not good enough and this aggressive build would put me in a great position to steal the last game. (Especially since I expected Reid to sideboard into an even slower deck.)

Top 8 Draft

I was fortunate to have a great seat in my draft. I first-picked [card]Wingsteed Rider[/card] and the white kept flowing my way. From the very start of the draft I never deviated from my initial pick and I think it paid off pretty well. There were a few picks I wasn’t sure about, and I didn’t realize how few 3-drops I had at the time, leading to a really awkward curve. Little did I know passing that [card]Scholar of Athreos[/card] would lead to this hero’s downfall.

Here are the picks I wasn’t quite sold on and in retrospect might have changed:

Early pack two I chose [card]Battlewise Hoplite[/card] over an [card]Evangel of Heliod[/card]. I was very deep in white at the time, but I tried to amplify the aggression of my deck. I had some very good heroic targets, but not a lot of heroic enablers. The Evangel would have been much better for my deck and there’s even a chance I wheel the Hoplite.

Mid-late pack two I passed a [card]Scholar of Athreos[/card] instead taking [card]Breaching Hippocamp[/card]. The Hippocamp never made it into my deck, while the Scholar would have.

Late in pack 3, I took [card]Fate Foretold[/card] over a second [card]Cavalry Pegasus[/card]. I knew the Pegasus would be very good in my deck, but I started to really worry about not having enough enablers for my two [card]Phalanx Leader[/card]s.

[deck]Main Deck
1 Battlewise Hoplite
1 Bronze Sable
1 Cavalry Pegasus
3 Coastline Chimera
1 Evangel of Heliod
1 Heliod’s Emissary
1 Hopeful Eidolon
2 Phalanx Leader
1 Setessan Griffin
1 Thassa’s Emissary
2 Traveling Philosopher
2 Wingsteed Rider
1 Battlewise Valor
1 Chosen by Heliod
1 Divine Verdict
1 Fate Foretold
1 Gift of Immortality
1 Sea God’s Revenge
6 Island
10 Plains
1 Temple of Triumph
Sideboard
1 Borderland Minotaur
1 Breaching Hippocamp
1 Coastline Chimera
1 Fleetfeather Sandals
2 Gainsay
1 Horizon Chimera
1 Nessian Courser
1 Nylea’s Presence
1 Priest of Iroas
1 Setessan Battle Priest
1 Setessan Griffin
1 Stymied Hopes
2 Thassa’s Bounty
1 Triton Shorethief
1 Viper’s Kiss[/deck]

Match 2

Round 17 vs. Tom Martell

Most of this match can be found on Twitch. It is unfortunate that the first half of game one was not covered on video. The game involved many complex board states that I wish I could go back and rewatch.

Game 2: (Video)

Tom made a great move by playing his [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] pre-combat. I did not attack with [card]Battlewise Hoplite[/card] because I thought it was convincing that I did not have [card]Battlewise Valor[/card]. I was ready to block. When he played the Hoplite, I thought there was very little chance that he would not have [card]Dauntless Onslaught[/card], but if I had been a little wiser I would have realized the counter gained from playing the Favored Hoplite precombat is so negligible compared to the advantage of hiding Dauntless Onslaught and completely blowing me out. I should most definitely have blocked that turn.

You could argue that Tom could be trying to next-level me and hindsight is 20/20, but imagine that Tom actually has the trick. There is no incentive to think outside the box and FPS (fancy play syndrome) with a Favored Hoplite precombat. He has the trick here almost never. Ben Stark made a very good point how Tom could have tried to call my “bluff” if I did attack with my Battlewise Hoplite as well. At that moment, I didn’t think there was any way that Tom would block but I could definitely be wrong.

The following turn was really strange to me when Tom did not attack. It took me a while to figure out he was playing around Divine Verdict which made my subsequent turn very awkward. My plan was to always leave up four mana to hopefully buy enough time until I drew myself out of the situation. Unfortunately, Tom attacked the following turn (meaning he had drawn [card]God’s Willing[/card]) and the writing was on the wall.

My unbelievable run ended there. In fitting manner, I was bested by a better player and the eventual Grand Prix winner. Congratulations Tom! Next time we meet, I will be a better player.

An Experience to Remember

Out of the six Grand Prix I’ve attended, this was the best Magic experience I’ve been a part of. The event was run smoothly with minimal downtime between rounds. The staff managed 1855 players better than most PTQs manage 100; that is quite an impressive feat. Oh—And I Top 4’d.

* A better play would have been to attack first, triggering the Ordeal and targeting the Heliod. If Reid does not cast Gods Willing, I can Glare the Eidolon and the Heliod would die from the three marked damage. If Reid does cast Gods Willing, I can still Glare it.

**Reid cast Read the Bones for the life discrepancy

Discussion

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