It is hard to believe I’ve gone to six Grand Prix in as many months. It is even harder to believe that this is my third article for ChannelFireball. My perspective on competitive Magic has changed quite a bit and my appreciation for the Magic community has grown. Attending more events has led to meeting more people and making new friends. But what has not changed is the sincere appreciation I feel whenever my opponent asks, “Hey, are you the blind guy that writes those articles?” You are all awesome, except the people who beat me… you guys are jerks.

Speaking of getting beat, let’s get to the stories from the Grand Prix. The city of Vancouver is awesome! It was a little cold, but there are tons of great places to eat and the venue was on the water. I have been lead to believe the view is incredible. If you haven’t seen some of the pictures that were posted on twitter, you really should check them out.

Day 1

Day 1 started perfectly. During the bye rounds I was texting friends trying to figure out where they were in the hall so I could meet up with them. As I was looking down at my phone (I have to look very close) I walked head first into a gigantic, concrete pillar. If you weren’t at the GP, then just trust me, the pillars are huge and I’m sure the players battling around me thought I was a fool. I wish this was a blind joke, but it’s not and it hurt… a lot. I rattled my teeth and had to take some Advil to make my first 2 played rounds bearable. Thankfully, after round 5 the pain subsided and now it’s just funny.

Round 5 is also the round in which I had a brand new Magic experience. While I was shuffling my opponent’s deck some of the cards slipped and I tried to catch them. Unfortunately, I over compensated and cards exploded everywhere—all over the table, my lap, and the floor. When I shuffle I always look away so as this explosion was occurring I purposefully stared at the ceiling and called for a judge. The judge came over and saw the mess. I said, “This is not my deck.” He laughed and asked me to stand up, which was preferable to him collecting cards from my lap. The judge collected all the cards and said he was going to give me a warning for looking at extra cards, my opponent nobly informed him that there is no way I saw any cards (I can’t even see my own cards) and the judge relented on the warning. The situation was absurd and we couldn’t help but laugh about it. However, the absurdity did not end there.

Generally, I have a fixed seat at big events, because I cannot read the pairings board and it takes me too long to find my seat. At GP Vancouver my fixed seat was 96. Going into round 9 I was paired against Oscar Jones. We were both 8-0 and we were called to the feature match area. During game 3 Oscar noticed we still did not have a match slip and he asked the judge about it. The judge told us it was fine, he would verbally report the result and so we played on. Oscar is a great guy and a great player living the dream of free flights and big time Magic as a high school student. I envy him. I was lucky enough to win the match and finish the day 9-0. I was excited. It was my first time ever going 9-0 at a Grand Prix. The judge walked off while Oscar and I chatted about our games and some of my friends heckled me. “Maybe you should smash your head at every GP,” was said more than once. After we got up I decided to check with the scorekeeper to make sure our match was reported. She asked what table and I told her. She looked up and said, “You were both dropped.”

Excuse me? Two players at 8-0 were dropped as no shows at table 96. As I explained what happened, judges behind her started reacting and telling other judges to take standings down. I can understand the misunderstanding—a floor judge walks past table 96 and sees 2 empty seats and an empty slip, because why on earth would table 96 be considered for a feature match at round 9? And to be clear, the tournament was run wonderfully. Everything was on time and everything ran smoothly. It’s just hilarious that two 8-0 players in a feature match got dropped.

One of my buddies from LA finished in 125th, which is only 3 spots above the required 128th, but that was with Oscar and I dropped. After the standings were corrected he was lowered to… 128th. Thankfully, he didn’t have to murder me. Another friend, Eugene Hwang, also made Day 2 and would go on to Top 8. We were all in high spirits and went to an amazing Japanese place a few blocks from the venue, where I had some of the best sushi I have ever had. It was a good day.

Day 2

I started the day off against Matt Sperling. I chose to play a big green deck because of the lack of targeted removal in the current meta, but I knew Matt was playing a version of Mono-Black that had more spot removal than has been made vogue by Owen Turtenwald. We played 2 close games, but his spot removal was timely and he was the victor. I had played Matt in the past and he is a great opponent because he plays quickly and communicates clearly. After the match I was a little disappointed in the loss, but it was only 1 loss and I was still in good position, so I shook it off and waited for round 11.

Round 11, I was in another featured match against Ryan Bemrose playing UW control. I haven’t watched the coverage, but I have been told that during the sideboarding one of the commentators made a [card]Blind Obedience[/card] joke aimed at me while Ryan was siding the card into his deck. I hope it is a true story, because that is hilarious and awesome. I wasn’t able to unleash the fury of [card]Ruric Thar, the Unbowed[/card] either games and I was defeated. After my second loss, I was upset, but I knew I was still in fine position and I needed to stay focused.

Round 12 and 13, my deck decided I didn’t need to play Magic. I started the day 9-0, but after round 13 I was 9 and 4. Internally I was crushed, but as we packed up our things my opponent commented that I was taking my situation gracefully. I smiled and replied, “Being mad at you won’t change the outcome.” I think it is important for Magic players to understand that losing is part of playing the game. Everyone loses. I hate losing, but it is an undeniable part of playing.

After the match I was talking to Brian Kibler (let me pick that name up) and I told him about my bad beats a little and he reinforced the concept that no one can play this game if they can’t lose and move on. Anyone who can’t lose can’t make it. I think it’s important for all Magic players to understand that concept. I also think it makes you a better player, because if you are worried about losing you are distracted from winning. I also think it’s important to be able to control your tilt level. Tilting can have a severe effect on your game. I don’t know how most people deal with it, but I try to find people I know and if they are doing well I celebrate their good fortune with them. I was lucky enough to have a few friends crushing Day 2 and their excitement really helped temper my frustration.

I went on to win my next two matches and finished the tournament 11-4, which was good for 25th place. It’s not the finish I hoped for after finishing Day 1 at 9-0, but it is a respectable finish and I am proud of it.

I do not write strategy articles, because there are so many titans of the game writing here, but I have gotten a lot of questions about my deck choice and deck list, so I am going to briefly talk about it.

Here is the list I played:

[deck]Main Deck
9 Forest
2 Mountain
4 Stomping Ground
4 Temple of Abandon
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Voyaging Satyr
4 Polukranos, World Eater
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
2 Arbor Colossus
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
1 Sylvan Primordial
1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
3 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
4 Domri Rade
2 Xenagos, the Reveler
Sideboard
2 Destructive Revelry
4 Mistcutter Hydra
4 Mizzium Mortars
3 Nylea’s Disciple
2 Time to Feed[/deck]

Up until the week before the GP I had played primarily mono-black and red devotion lists (both with white or green). The week before the GP I felt like green was in a good position, because Mono-Black wasn’t playing [card]Doom Blade[/card] or [card]Ultimate Price[/card] and Esper seemed almost non-existent. [card]Devour Flesh[/card] and [card]Pharika’s Cure[/card] are not the best against the big green decks. Nine planeswalkers in the main is a tall order for only 4 [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] or 4 [card]Detention Sphere[/card], and sometimes you get to do insane things like cast [ccProd]Ruric Thar[/ccProd] on turn 3 or [card]Sylvan Primordial[/card] your opponent’s land on turn 2.

Since I had experience playing [card]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/card] and also had seen people eat the world with [ccProd]Polukranos[/ccProd] for 20 plus, I decided I would try the deck. I also knew that [card]Ruric Thar, the Unbowed[/card] was absolutely insane in the current meta from having played him in red devotion, so it wasn’t difficult to be talked into playing 2 in the main. The last interesting thing about the deck is the 2 [card]Time to Feed[/card] in the board. It gives you another way to interact with [card]Master of Waves[/card] besides Polukranos, and it is fine against aggressive decks. I think the deck is awesome and doesn’t really have a nightmare matchup. If Esper was more prominent or black decks were playing more spot removal the deck would be much worse. I felt the meta was ripe for green and I was right—I played control 5 times Saturday. I never went nuts with Nykthos or nut drew, and the deck performed as expected. If you have any other questions about the deck or my card choices, please feel free to comment and I will answer as best I can.

I hope you enjoyed the article. Thanks for reading.

Blind for Balance,
Travis