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Martelling Time – GP Sacramento Report *1st*

Hi everyone! It is great to be back writing for ChannelFireball—and what better way to kick things off than winning a GP?

My tournament started Friday night when I made the two-hour drive north to Sacramento with my girlfriend and a friend to battle in the last Theros-only Limited GP of the season. I’ve enjoyed the format quite a bit, but haven’t played it much since GP Toronto. I spent most of December doing a million Cube drafts, and then took a couple of weeks off of Magic to recharge. I was actually a little worried that I would be rusty—I hadn’t played a game in a week or two.

I arrived at the site for my sleep-in build around noon. Given the choice, I was hoping to open a good blue/black control deck. That archetype suits my play style well and has the highest upside. While I didn’t quite get there, I was certainly happy with my pool.

Sealed Pool

White

[card]Battlewise Valor[/card] [card]Cavalry Pegasus[/card] [card]Decorated Griffin[/card] [card]Ephara’s Warden[/card] 2 [card]Gods Willing[/card] [card]Hundred-Handed One[/card] [card]Observant Alseid[/card] [card]Ordeal of Heliod[/card] [card]Setessan Battle Priest[/card] 2 [card]Setessan Griffin[/card] 2 [card]Silent Artisan[/card] 3 [card]Traveling Philosopher[/card] [card]Last Breath[/card] 2 [card]Vanquish the Foul[/card] [card]Wingsteed Rider[/card]

Blue

2 [card]Aqueous Form[/card] [card]Benthic Giant[/card] [card]Bident of Thassa[/card] [card]Coastline Chimera[/card] [card]Crackling Triton[/card] [card]Dissolve[/card] 3 [card]Nimbus Naiad[/card] [card]Omenspeaker[/card] [card]Stymied Hopes[/card] [card]Thassa, God of the Sea[/card] [card]Triton Fortune Hunter[/card] [card]Triton Shorethief[/card] [card]Vaporkin[/card]

Black

[card]Baleful Eidolon[/card] 2 [card]Boon of Erebos[/card] [card]Cutthroat Maneuver[/card] [card]Disciple of Phenax[/card] [card]Fleshmad Stead[/card] [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card] [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] [card]Lash of the Whip[/card] 2 [card]Scourgemark[/card] [card]Viper’s Kiss[/card]

Red

[card]Akroan Crusader[/card] 2 [card]Arena Athlete[/card] [card]Boulderfall[/card] [card]Coordinated Assault[/card] 2 [card]Messenger’s Speed[/card] [card]Rage of Purphoros[/card] [card]Spark Jolt[/card] [card]Stoneshock Giant[/card] [card]Titan of Eternal Fire[/card] 3 [card]Two-Headed Cerberus[/card] [card]Wild Celebrants[/card]

Green

[card]Agent of Horizons[/card] [card]Centaur Battlemaster[/card] [card]Defender the Hearth[/card] [card]Nemesis of Mortals[/card] [card]Nessian Asp[/card] [card]Nessian Courser[/card] 2 [card]Nylea’s Disciple[/card] [card]Nylea’s Emissary[/card] [card]Satyr Hedonist[/card] 2 [card]Savage Surge[/card] [card]Warrior’s Lesson[/card]

Multicolor

[card]Akroan Hoplite[/card] [card]Battlewise Hoplite[/card] [card]Pharika’s Mender[/card] [card]Tymaret, the Murder King[/card]

Artifact
[card]Akroan Horse[/card] 2 [card]Traveler’s Amulet[/card]

Some pools offer you 5 different possible color combinations and are impossible to build. That was not the case here. Black had some highlights with Hero’s Downfall and Gray Merchant, but it was incredibly shallow. Merchant is only good if you are heavy black, and that wasn’t an option with this card pool. Red is the worst color in Theros by a significant margin in my opinion, and this pool was right in line. We have a few OK creatures but nothing exciting.

Green looked interesting on first pass. We have Nessian Asp, which is arguably the best green common, alongside a Nessian Courser and two Nylea’s Disciples, which are all good creatures. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have much more to offer. The curve is not good, there aren’t enough creatures, and we are missing the premium 2-drops in Voyaging Satyr and Leafcrown Dryad that make green good.

That left me with blue and white, which is the first (and only) deck I laid out. We have most of our bombs, a good curve, and powerful cards.

Blue gives us 3 Nimbus Naiad, Bident, and a Thassa we have a shot to turn on, with plenty of solid filler. White has Hundred-Handed One, who is insane, along with a Wingsteed Rider and 2 Gods Willing. The deck isn’t absurd, but it is quite good.

[ccDeck]Battlewise Hoplite
Cavalry Pegasus
Omenspeaker
3 Traveling Philosopher
Vaporkin
3 Nimbus Naiad
Observant Alseid
Thassa, God of the Sea
Triton Fortune Hunter
Wingsteed Rider
Akroan Horse
Coastline Chimera
Hundred-Handed One
Aqueous Form
2 Gods Willing
Battlewise Valor
Ordeal of Heliod
Bident of Thassa[/ccDeck]

The last two cards are pretty close, between the third Traveling Philosopher, the Cavalry Pegasus, the 2 Aqueous Form, and the Dissolve. I should have played Dissolve, as it is just too good in Sealed to leave in the sideboard—I boarded it in every round. I settled on 1 Aqueous Form, but I think that was a mistake; this deck doesn’t need any. With 3 Nimbus Naiad, Thassa, and Bident, we have plenty of ways to break a stalemate. We don’t have enough heroic creatures to justify playing Form, so I should have cut it for Dissolve.

I normally don’t like Akroan Horse in aggressive decks but it is awesome here. We have so many ways to ignore it and keep attacking with all of our evasion.

The real drawback to the deck is our 0 ways to interact with permanents. We don’t even have a Divine Verdict. If they play something threatening, we have to try and race it or we are in trouble. I expected to go 7-2 or 8-1 with the deck primarily because of this issue.

Day 1

The day was fairly uneventful, as I was able to get aggressive draws against most of my opponents and use my bestow creatures on early 2/2s to create monsters. Akroan Horse was an MVP in several matches, at one point holding off a monstrous Fleecemane Lion as the board stalled to 15+ creatures. I eventually drew my Thassa and was able to quickly end the game from there.

I started out 7-0, including wins on camera in rounds 4 and 7.

My round 7 match against Neal Oliver is available here at around 1:22.

The most interesting play of the first game is when I attack with my baby [ccProd]Hundred-Handed One[/ccProd] and Neal blocks with a [ccProd]Wavecrash Triton[/ccProd]. I have 2 Gods Willing in hand with 6 mana and he has 2 mana. I’m at 8 and he has 5 power of fliers, so I am dead if I can’t monstrous my creature and block on his next turn.

I am losing to [ccProd]Voyage’s End[/ccProd] no matter what, as I would have to tap out to monstrous my guy to get reach and he can bounce in combat. I thought about this for a good minute and couldn’t come up with any reason for him to block if he didn’t have [ccProd]Sip of Hemlock[/ccProd]. Monstrous on my own turn opens me up with sorcery speed removal and I decided not to risk it. At the same time, the Triton is actually relevant because he can use it to tap down my Hundred-Handed One if he draws a targeted effect. Killing it has a lot of potential upside. The fact that Neal is at such a high life total that the damage is basically irrelevant made it seem that he really wanted me to monstrous, so I played it safe.

In game 2 of the match, Ben and Matt do a great job of discussing the game. I will add that on the 6th turn or so when Neal attacks his Gray Merchant into my big board, he is trying to get me to trade my Gods Willing for his Merchant so his Sip will be live. I can Willing my Hoplite and scry 2. It is pretty thin value but seems worth the attack.

On one of the last turns of the game, when I Nimbus Naiad my Traveling Philsopher, I could attack with my other two fliers and force Neal to chump my 4/4 flier with his Chimera. I thought this was really close, but it seemed a little too aggressive when I felt ahead.

My next round was against my eventual finals opponent Phil Yam. He had an excellent U/G deck with multiple Nimbus Naiad and Nessian Asps. He won game 1 soundly and I won a very long game 2 with a timely Thassa getting me through for lethal, before getting steamrolled in game 3. Thankfully, I bounced back in round 9, trouncing my R/W heroic opponent with two great draws.

That brought me to Day 2 at 8-1 in pod #4 with Conley Woods, Paul Rietzl, and Joe Demestrio. We ended up sitting every other seat.

Draft 1

I opened and took [ccProd]Gray Merchant[/ccProd] pick 1 over a few unexceptional red cards. I was passed a pack with a rare missing and another Gray Merchant for me, which I snapped up. I was nervous that he may have taken a black rare as there are so many good ones, but what can you do. Third pick I took the significantly weaker [ccProd]Omenspeaker[/ccProd] over [ccProd]Wingsteed Rider[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Triton Fortune Hunter[/ccProd] as I wanted to be U/B if at all possible and Omenspeaker is the best choice for that deck. Fourth pick offered a [ccProd]Wavecrash Triton[/ccProd] with no black cards available, and fifth pick I took a [ccProd]Wingsteed Rider[/ccProd] as the signal to go white was too loud to ignore. I was rewarded with a sixth pick [ccProd]Gods Willing[/ccProd], leaving me a little confused on colors. I was mentally checking myself into U/W heroic at that point, but a seventh pick [ccProd]Ordeal of Erebos[/ccProd], ninth pick [ccProd]Sentry of the Underworld[/ccProd], and eleventh pick [ccProd]Scourgemark[/ccProd] left me wondering. I also picked up a [ccProd]Divine Verdict[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Ray of Dissolution[/ccProd] to leave me looking B/W.

I couldn’t remember ever drafting B/W before, and I was certainly unfamiliar with the archetype. The only deck that stood out in memory was a B/W control deck that Sam Black drafted in our playtesting leading up to PT Theros. I was still very willing to abandon either color and pick up blue in pack 2 if it was open.

I first picked [ccProd]Erebos’s Emissary[/ccProd] (over [ccProd]Disciple of Phenax[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Sip of Hemlock[/ccProd]) to cement myself in black. I took a [ccProd]Mogis’s Marauder[/ccProd] second out of an empty pack before getting a third-pick [ccProd]Returned Phalanx[/ccProd]. I was really hoping to move into blue with a second Phalanx, but a late [ccProd]Dauntless Onslaught[/ccProd] left me on the fence. I passed several late [ccProd]Battlewise Hoplite[/ccProd]s and was frustrated that I was stuck in black. I was still able to pick up a [ccProd]Read the Bones[/ccProd] and a [ccProd]Chosen by Heliod[/ccProd] before tabling the [ccProd]Disciple of Phenax[/ccProd] from my opening pack to leave myself in decent shape. I remained very open to moving into B/U in pack 3 if I could, but given how pack 1 went, I expected to be B/W.

The decision was finalized when I opened a [ccProd]Hundred-Handed One[/ccProd] in pack 3. I then had to decide between [ccProd]Medomai the Ageless[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Insatiable Harpy[/ccProd]. With 2 [ccProd]Returned Phalanx[/ccProd] already in my pile, I liked the idea of splashing a little blue and being a controlling Esper deck. It was early enough in pack 3 that I thought I could pick up a Unicorn or Amulet for some fixing, so I took the Medomai. I followed it up with a Disciple of Phenax over [ccProd]Favored Hoplite[/ccProd]. I didn’t have a lot of targeted effects and with 2 Gray Merchants, I really wanted the double-black for devotion. My next pick was also difficult, as I had to choose between [ccProd]Tormented Hero[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Traveler’s Amulet[/ccProd]. Amulet would help me splash blue but Hero would be great with my Ordeal. It is also a solid body on its own, unlike Favored Hoplite. I ultimately took the Hero and picked up another one next pick. I rounded out pack 3 with a [ccProd]Traveling Philosopher[/ccProd], [ccProd]Glare of Heresy[/ccProd], [ccProd]Scholar of Athreos[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Scourgemark[/ccProd].

Having never drafted B/W before, I struggled some during the draft to find my proper role. I ended up with a reasonably good aggressive deck, and I left Medomai and both Phalanxes in my sideboard.

Draft Deck 1

[deck]2 Tormented Hero
Traveling Philsopher
Mogis’s Marauder
Scholar of Athreos
Wingsteed Rider
2 Disciple of Phenax
Erebos’s Emissary
Hundred-Handed One
2 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Sentry of the Underworld
Boon of Erebos
Gods Willing
Chosen by Heliod
Ordeal of Erebos
2 Scourgemark
Ray of Dissolution
Read the Bones
Dauntless Onslaught
Divine Verdict[/deck]

Notable sideboard cards:

[draft]2 Returned Phalanx
Ray of Dissolution
Glare of Heresy
Guardians of Meletis
Medomai the Ageless[/draft]

My first round was on camera against Conley. You can find it here.

The match was very frustrating. I went through 16 cards in game 1 and never found a third land. I am pretty sure I win if I draw a third land at any point, as I was holding [ccProd]Dauntless Onslaught[/ccProd], but instead I died. For game 2, I mulled to 5 and died.

My next two rounds went much better. I was able to defeat a very aggressive red/black deck featuring both [ccProd]Hammer of Purphoros[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Whip of Erebos[/ccProd] thanks to my great defensive sideboard and [ccProd]Hundred-Handed One[/ccProd]. In the final round I was paired against another RW heroic deck drafter who was sitting to Conley’s right. He drew the bottom half of his deck and I had either [ccProd]Divine Verdict[/ccProd] or one of my two [ccProd]Ray of Dissolution[/ccProd]s ready for his [ccProd]Celestial Archon[/ccProd] each game to escape at 2-1.

Draft 2

For the second draft, I was in the featured pod along with Owen Turtenwald and Pat Cox. We were all sitting in a row, with Owen passing to Pat on my right.

I first picked a [ccProd]Voyage’s End[/ccProd] over not much and was faced with an interesting pack 2. An uncommon was missing and I had a choice between [ccProd]Medomai the Ageless[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Erebos’s Emissary[/ccProd]. With an uncommon missing, I thought there was a very good chance that Pat took [ccProd]Keepsake Gorgon[/ccProd]. I didn’t want to set myself up to be drafting black behind him, and I also knew that Owen had a huge U/B preference sitting to his right.

I took Medomai to try and stay out of their way. I picked up a pick 3 [ccProd]Griptide[/ccProd]s and followed it up with [ccProd]Battlewise Valor[/ccProd], [ccProd]Wavecrash Triton[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Sealock Monster[/ccProd]. At this point I hadn’t seen any white cards and I thought that Pat may have taken [ccProd]Phalanx Leader[/ccProd] out of his opening pack and I was getting cut on white. I was seeing a lot of green go by, passing several [ccProd]Time to Feed[/ccProd]s and a late [ccProd]Nylea’s Disciple[/ccProd], so I was looking for an opportunity to move into UG and splash my Medomai. I hedged in this direction with my seventh pick, taking a [ccProd]Feral Invocation[/ccProd] over a [ccProd]Fate Foretold[/ccProd]. I thought this was a super close pick and I’m not sure which was right. I followed it up with a [ccProd]Mnemonic Wall[/ccProd], a [ccProd]Cavalry Pegasus[/ccProd], and a [ccProd]Nylea’s Presence[/ccProd] that left me open to UGw.

I was hoping to see a blue card in my opener so I could defer the decision on green and white, but it was not meant to be. The pack had a [ccProd]Time to Feed[/ccProd] and not much else, so I picked it. My second pack wasn’t much better, offering me a [ccProd]Gods Willing[/ccProd] with little decision. Thankfully, the third pack let me stop waffling as I took [ccProd]Daxos of Meletis[/ccProd] and moved into UW for good. The next few picks were very underwhelming as I added a [ccProd]Ray of Dissolution[/ccProd], a [ccProd]Divine Verdict[/ccProd], and a [ccProd]Traveling Philosopher[/ccProd], but I was rewarded with a seventh pick [ccProd]Battlewise Hoplite[/ccProd]. Even better, I was shocked to see a second [ccProd]Medomai[/ccProd] looking up at me eighth and I slammed it. Pat, to my right, had opened back-to-back copies of the mythic and they both made it to me.

I was very happy during the review after the second pack, but it didn’t last long as my opening pack only had a single blue or white card. I was forced to first pick [ccProd]Soldier of the Pantheon[/ccProd], a card I didn’t even necessarily want to be playing in my more controlling deck. I made up for it slightly with a second pick [ccProd]Griptide[/ccProd], but the third pack was again very weak and I had to take a [ccProd]Lagonna-Band Elder[/ccProd]. I was worried I was going to end up short, but a fourth pick [ccProd]Gods Willing[/ccProd] and fifth pick [ccProd]Battlewise Hoplite[/ccProd] helped round out my curve. I added a second copy each of [ccProd]Divine Verdict[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Traveling Philosopher[/ccProd], as well as a [ccProd]Coastline Chimera[/ccProd] before the pack ended.

Draft Deck 2

[deck]Solder of the Pantheon
2 Battlewise Hoplite
Cavalry Pegasus
Traveling Philosopher
Daxos of Meletis
Lagonna-Band Elder
Wavecrash Triton
Coastline Chimera
Mnemonic Wall
Sealock Monster
2 Medomai the Ageless
God’s Willing
Battlewise Valor
Fate Foretold
Voyage’s End
Ray of Dissolution
2 Divine Verdict
2 Griptide[/deck]

Sideboard cards:

[draft]Stymied Hopes
Traveling Philosopher[/draft]

I decided to play 18 lands as I had a good number of expensive, powerful cards. I didn’t have any bestow creatures, making my [ccProd]Daxos[/ccProd] and my Hoplites a lot worse. This was a far cry from the aggressive UW heroic decks I love, but I thought the power level was pretty high and I had a good chance to 3-0. While waiting for the first round, I showed the deck to Wrapter and he said it was “atrocious. Can’t possibly win,” which made me feel a lot better about my chances.

I played against a good UG deck with [ccProd]Prophet of Kruphix[/ccProd], [ccProd]Nessian Asp[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Horizon Scholar[/ccProd] in the first round. I had a smooth draw and I was able to attack him with both a 3/3 [ccProd]Battlewise Hoplite[/ccProd] and a [ccProd]Medomai[/ccProd] into his 4/5 [ccProd]Nessian Asp[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Horizon Scholar[/ccProd] while he was tapped out. He double-blocked my [ccProd]Medomai[/ccProd] and I had both [ccProd]Gods Willing[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Battlewise Valor[/ccProd] to blow him out. In game 2 I drew multiple tempo cards and was able to trigger my [ccProd]Daxos[/ccProd] a few times and win soundly.

With two rounds to go, I was paired against Owen Turtenwald. We were featured but didn’t make it on camera. Owen is arguably the best player in the world and I knew he ended up UB, so my work would be cut out for me. We played two relatively straightforward games, as Owen mulliganed and I had several cheap creatures. Owen traded his [ccProd]Baleful Eidolon[/ccProd] for one of my guys and I followed up with a [ccProd]Sealock Monster[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Medomai[/ccProd]. He missed his sixth land for Sip and had to [ccProd]March of the Returned[/ccProd] back just the Eidolon. I was able to push my [ccProd]Medomai[/ccProd] through his [ccProd]Coastline Chimera[/ccProd] with a [ccProd]Battlewise Valor[/ccProd] and he spent his turn bestowing his [ccProd]Omenspeaker[/ccProd]. I had the [ccProd]Griptide[/ccProd] for his other creature and dropped him to 4, leaving him dead to my Medomai. Game 2 wasn’t much more interesting as I had a very aggressive draw featuring a pair of 2/2s and a 3/2. I backed these up with multiple bounce spells and a [ccProd]Divine Verdict[/ccProd], never letting Owen catch up on board and forcing him to block while tapped out. I had the trick each time and took the match.

Given the number of people, no X-2-1s would make Top 8, so I had to play my last round. You can watch it here starting at 6:12.

I get pretty lucky game 1, drawing out of my early mana issues and then drawing [ccProd]Ray of Dissolution[/ccProd] on the perfect turn to end the game quickly and not give Benjamin a chance to draw out of it.

Game 2 shows off the kind of pressure [ccProd]Daxos[/ccProd] can apply even when you can’t pump him up. Turn 5 is interesting when Benjamin plays [ccProd]Triton Tactics[/ccProd] on his Dryad. I can either [ccProd]Griptide[/ccProd] the Dryad (which I eventually do) or cast the Valor on his guy to prevent it from blocking. I think for a little bit to decide if I want to save the [ccProd]Griptide[/ccProd], but the play is pretty clear. I then draw a Griptide the turn after he puts a land on top with his scry, which is pretty anticlimactic, but I was planning on not attacking and making him draw the land he left on top. The only other decision I made was to play around [ccProd]Stymied Hopes[/ccProd] by not casting my Medomai when I hit my 6th land. Instead I just go to work with my cheaper cards and Benjamin’s spells and win pretty easily.

Top 8

I was very excited to make my fifth GP Top 8 and first in over a year. My GP finishes weren’t great over the previous season and it was great to put up a good finish. Now to win 3 more…

I was the featured draft, so you can listen to Ben and Luis comment on my drafting here.

Somehow I wound up with another B/W deck, this time much more heroic in nature. I actually felt pretty comfortable with the deck once I got settled into the archetype, as I’ve drafted a ton of UW heroic and was able to apply a lot of that knowledge in terms of enabler vs. threat ratios and card evaluation. I was thrown for a bit of a loop with the third pick choice of [ccProd]Whip of Erebos[/ccProd] vs. [ccProd]Keepsake Gorgon[/ccProd]. I’ve never really played Whip and I’ve been told it is excellent, so I ended up making what I think in retrospect is a really bad pick in taking Whip.

I don’t have a lot of other things to add to the draft portion. In terms of deck building, I decided I wanted to play 10 Plains, so my goal was to cut as much black as I could from the deck. I also realized that Whip looked terrible in the deck and I didn’t compound my drafting mistake by playing the card. I ended up also cutting the [ccProd]Insatiable Harpy[/ccProd], which is great with my 2 [ccProd]Observant Alseid[/ccProd]s but is hard to cast off of only 7 Swamps. I wanted more consistent creatures so instead I played another [ccProd]Lagonna-Band Elder[/ccProd] and a 1/3 [ccProd]Setessan Battle Priest[/ccProd].

The matches were basically all covered so I don’t have a ton to add. I wish the first half of my semifinals game 1 was on camera so I could watch it, as there were a ton of interesting decisions that felt close.

My deck played very well from ahead, I had enough instants to make combat really challenging for my opponents. I benefited from a few mistakes from my opponents, but on rewatching the Top 8, I’m very happy with my plays. The only play I made on camera I would reconsider happened the turn after Eric cast [ccProd]Sea God’s Revenge[/ccProd]. I attacked with my two 2/2s and he blocked both with a [ccProd]Coastline Chimera[/ccProd]. I let them bounce and replayed some guys; instead, I could have bestowed my [ccProd]Heliod’s Emissary[/ccProd] on my heroic guy and hit him for a ton. This leaves me a little more open to a counter attack but he doesn’t have much pressure.

The finals went about as well as it could have, as Phil had some small hiccups to his draws that I was able to punish aggressively.

I’m happy with how I played all weekend and I’m obviously thrilled with the result. I’m going to take this weekend off and get charged up for the PT next month, where hopefully I can go back-to-back and bring home another trophy.

Thanks for reading!

Tom Martell
@tommartell on twitter
http://www.twitch.tv/tommartell

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