Owen’s a Win – Making the Top 4 in Santiago

I don’t usually like to travel outside the US, but it didn’t take much convincing to get me to go to GP Santiago. I was sitting on 48 points this season, so a top 32 finish would lock up level 8 benefits for GP San Diego and Worlds, making the trip look much more attractive. [card civilized scholar]LSV[/card], [card cateran enforcer]Ochoa[/card], [card starke of rath]Ben Stark[/card], and [card wild nacatl]Pat Cox[/card] all wanted to stay a couple days extra to durdle in the city, so that was another reason that the trip could be fun. On top of that, Luis had already decided to go and even though player of the year isn’t the most important thing in the world to me, it also isn’t nothing, and if Luis went to Santiago and got some points while I stayed home, and he ended up winning POY I would feel pretty foolish and spend who knows how long wondering what could have been. Overall the trip was –EV cash-wise when accounting POY as $0 but I figured it might be fun, and getting in some INN sealed and hopefully some professional level drafts would be a big game with a sealed GP and draft PT coming up.

Luckily they ended up doing a fair bit of coverage on my sealed deck build so if you like you can check out a more in depth look at that here.

I’ll go ahead and sum it up anyways. The deck I submitted was decidedly average and I struggled to get the few wins I did with it.

[deck]2 Mindshrieker
1 Stitcher’s Apprentice
2 Armored Skaab
1 Lantern Spirit
2 Makeshift Mauler
1 Moon Heron
1 Galvanic Juggernaut
1 Geistcatcher’s Rig
1 Diregraf Ghoul
1 Screeching Bat
1 Village Cannibals
1 Bloodline Keeper
1 Falkenrath Noble
1 Sensory Deprivation
1 Forbidden Alchemy
1 Dissipate
1 Claustrophobia
2 Corpse Lunge
9 Island
8 Swamp
1 Nephalia Drownyard[/deck]

I believe my deck was much stronger after sideboard when I opted into red for more consistency and removal. Losing out on the raw power of [card]Bloodline Keeper[/card] didn’t bother me much as I went about 3-3 in game one’s and 7-1 or something after sideboard.

UR Build:

[deck]2 Armored Skaab
1 Galvanic Juggernaut
1 Geistcatcher’s Rig
1 Kessig Wolf
1 Lantern Spirit
2 Makeshift Mauler
2 Mindshrieker
1 Moon Heron
1 Rakish Heir
1 Pitchburn Devils
1 Scourge of Geier Reach
1 Village Ironsmith
1 Brimstone Volley
1 Claustrophobia
2 Dissipate
1 Forbidden Alchemy
2 Geistflame
1 Harvest Pyre
8 Island
7 Mountain
1 Sulfur Falls
1 Swamp[/deck]

The actual deckbuilding process was intimidating since all the cards and the registration sheet were in Spanish, but I didn’t have any problems. In fact I was done recording the contents of my pool and double checking it before almost any of the other players around me and they were making mistakes, possibly due to the rarity of having a Grand Prix in their hometown. I asked multiple judges if I could get English boosters or an English deck registration sheet but they didn’t seem to care or bother to follow up. I guess that’s my bad for not researching enough before deciding to go to a GP in South America.

The tournament on the whole was run terribly, easily the worst I’ve ever been to. There were long delays between each round, on average thirty minutes, with some shorter and some longer. At the start of round 6 I checked the pairings and it had me listed as having 12 match points when I should have had 15. I went up to the stage and explained the problem but it seemed that my match result wasn’t entered correctly since there were about 12 other people up there with the same problem, and before they could even begin to resolve our issue they started the round for everyone else. After 20 minutes of standing up there and hearing nothing I went to the bathroom, and was gone for maybe 30 seconds or a minute at most. After I came back they started pairing people off against opponents who had no-shows and giving them 20 minute time extensions. Finally when they got to me they told me that in the short time I was gone they asked for all the players names and paired them off that way so they couldn’t fix my problem since I wasn’t there to tell them I had a problem.
This took even longer (on top of that, how could they not know I was one of the players; they had a match slip with my name on it and I was in the tournament having not played that round).

At this point PV went up to the stage to turn in his match slip and asked me if I won, and I just shrugged and explained that I hadn’t played yet. Eventually the head judge looked to the TO and said “maybe we should call Scott Larabee”. That in and of itself was worth a laugh, and in the end the head judge told me the quickest solution was to just pair me down as a 5-0 against a 4-1, and asked me if I was OK with that. I looked to PV and we both smiled and I snap said “yes”. I’m not certain but I think it’s well worth the loss in tiebreakers to increase your match win % for the next round, since I would much rather get paired against a 4-1 player/pool than a 5-0 in the dark.

I ended up winning the round 2-1 but he had a good deck and played well, so I don’t think I really gained any edge at all. On top of that, my time extension was for 32 minutes and the tournament got held up significantly as a result so I’d say overall a net loss, though either way a player should never get to pick between playing against a 5-0 or a 4-1, since that seems unfair.

I finished the day 8-1, and was excited to play day 2 with a decent record, but was also exhausted because the day had dragged on so long we got out at about 11:30 with day 2 starting at 8am sharp. This was really annoying as well, since I have played in countless Grands Prix and they always start at 9am for day 2. Why would you run a tournament where you end late and start early? None of that is accounting for the jetlag, but again that is my own fault… “shoulda played around it!”

Day 2 started off pretty interestingly when the guy to my right first picked pack 1 Hanweir Watchkeep over Dead Weight, probably one of the worst picks I have ever seen in my life. I’m glad flip cards exist, if only for that moment. My first draft ended up being a little awkward since I picked Bloodgift Demon, Dead Weight, then Ghoulraiser, and those ended up being my only black cards at all after the draft.

[deck]1 Curiosity
2 Silent Departure
1 Caravan Vigil
1 Silver Inlaid Dagger
1 Gastaf Shepherd
1 Hamlet Captain
1 Invisible Stalker
3 Orchard Spirit
1 Stitched Drake
1 Daybreak Ranger
1 Makeshift Mauler
1 Tree of Redemption
1 Undead Alchemist
1 Festerhide Boar
1 Ulvenwald Mystics
1 Slayer of the Wicked
1 Murder of Crows
1 Kindercatch
1 Moldgraf Monstrosity
1 Shimmering Grotto
1 Mountain
1 Plains
7 Island
8 Forest[/deck]

Right after the draft and deck construction a judge pulled me aside and warned me that he saw me looking around the table a lot. He did not suspect me of cheating and didn’t give me a warning but just wanted to give me a heads up that I should be more careful. I appreciated this but also explained to him (and the head judge later) that is it in my best interest to be constantly looking around the table to see if someone has taken/passed a flip card. It is actively detrimental not to be looking around at all times, and even worse, the flip cards taken by people immediately to my left or right especially hold value since I am getting passed to by them, so when I have to be consciously looking to my left and right what might look suspicious to some is proper strategy to others.

This wasn’t the first time flip cards had proved to be annoying. On day one in my first round of play I decided to sideboard out my black for red and while de-sleeving I exposed to my opponent that I was taking [card]Bloodline Keeper[/card] out of my deck and adding [card]Village Ironsmith[/card]! One opponent before game 1 broke a sleeve and exposed a [card]Thraben Sentry[/card]. I all-but got a warning that I wouldn’t otherwise have gotten if flip cards didn’t exist. In the Top 8 the eventual winner opened a Bloodline Keeper pack 1 and me and Juza just pointed and laughed at it. Players shouldn’t be allowed to talk at all during the draft but no judge seemed to mind and it’s impossible to regulate when flip cards exist. It just seems to be that to play with them you sacrifice a lot and they add too little. I mean, [card]Ludevic’s Test Subject[/card] is just a level-up creature that could have been put into Rise of Eldrazi.

Back to my draft deck…I feel like this deck was a bit of a train wreck and I don’t really know what I did wrong or where I could have improved. At this point I had only done about 4 practice drafts with the format. I would start by cutting the [card]Silver-Inlaid Dagger[/card], [card]Curiosity[/card], and [card]Invisible Stalker[/card]. They were just too cute and cost me when I drew them individually and I never nut drew anyone drawing the Stalker with one of the others to get a free win. It’s possible the Curiosity should still have been played with 3 [card]Orchard Spirit[/card]s. In the end it didn’t matter much; I did what I do, ran well above average, and scored a 3-0.

My second draft started out a little more interesting with my opening pack being a real stinker. My choice was basically [card]Blazing Torch[/card] or [card]Morkrut Banshee[/card] and I took the Banshee. Unfortunately, this was a mistake. Passing to me, Martin (Juza) first picked [card]Civilized Scholar[/card], passing me a pack containing [card]Claustrophobia[/card], [card]Murder of Crows[/card], and [card]Midnight Haunting[/card]. I took [card]Midnight Haunting[/card] and decided to slam GW since it was highly likely Martin would go UB and then we would both have good decks. I third picked a [card]Festerhide Boar[/card] (bad card) over some other playable stuff to try and cut off green. I ended up getting some really nice late picks, ending pack 1 with an [card]Avacyn’s Pilgrim[/card], [card]Travel Preparations[/card], [card]Grizzled Outcasts[/card], and [card]Prey Upon[/card]. My final deck was very good and I wasn’t surprised to get a 2-0-1 out of it.

[deck]1 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
1 Selfless Cathar
1 Silverchase Fox
1 Mayor of Avabruck
1 Hamlet Captain
1 Villagers of Estwald
1 Orchard Spirit
1 Voiceless Spirit
1 Chapel Geist
1 Festerhide Boar
1 Galvanic Juggernaught
1 Abbey Griffin
2 Grizzled Outcasts
1 Gallows Warden
2 Prey Upon
3 Bonds of Faith
1 Travel Preparations
2 Midnight Haunting
9 Forest
8 Plains[/deck]

I beat Martin round 1 in an exceptionally well-written feature match, intentionally drew with the guy who got DQ’ed from the Top 8 (one of 8 total people to get DQ’ed from the GP), and played out the last round to help free up a Top 8 slot for Ben Stark or Shuhei Nakamura, though unfortunately for them they both lost their last rounds and didn’t make it.

The Top 8 was pretty anticlimactic. I drafted a pretty mediocre deck but it had a lot of removal and could definitely win. In the first round I played against one of the weirdest looking decks I’ve ever seen. A Blue black deck splashing [card]Daybreak Ranger[/card] (not a single red source in the deck), [card]Festerhide Boar[/card], and [card]Somberwald Spider[/card]. I generally try to avoid playing the Spider in my actual green decks so it’s not hard to figure out that splashing it is a bad idea.

[deck]1 Ashmouth Hound
1 Bloodline Keeper
1 Deranged Assistant
1 Kessig Wolf
1 Murder of Crows
1 One-Eyed Scarecrow
1 Pitchburn Devils
1 Rage Thrower
2 Rakish Heir
1 Riot Devils
1 Scourge of Geier Reach
1 Tormented Pariah
1 Blazing Torch
1 Brimstone Volley
1 Dead Weight
2 Desperate Ravings
1 Geistflame
2 Harvest Pyre
1 Into the Maw of Hell
1 Traveler’s Amulet
5 Island
8 Mountain
4 Swamp[/deck]

I lost in top 4 in two pretty unexciting games. Game one I mulliganed to four and lost relatively quickly, and game two he played [card]Bloodline Keeper[/card] and I couldn’t kill it. Admittedly my deck was really average and his deck was very good, but this was still a highly disappointing way to have my tournament end.

In the end the trip was a big success. I got another GP Top 8, making six this season, a feat only matched by [card juggernaut]Kai Budde[/card] and [card master splicer]Yuuya Watanabe[/card], and I put some distance between me and the rest of the field in the POY race. I was happy to see Martin and PV in the Top 8 as well seeing them inch closer to level 8 as the season winds down. I got to jam a ton of drafts with the new format so I will be better prepared for GP San Diego and Worlds. I’ve been unrealistically fortunate so far, and here’s hoping it continues.

Plus, the trip going well kept me from being overly crabby during the touristy parts…

Owen Turtenwald
@OwenTweetenwald on twitter
qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj on magic online


Scroll to Top