Grand Prix Madrid Report - Mistakes and non-mistakes
Written by derflippi on March 18, 2012
I have never been to Spain yet. A flight to spain and accomodation (Cat's Hostel) cost only 120 Euro. I still have a few vacation days in my old job. Although I'd get paid out for remaining days, I want to use it. Unfortunately, no player from my city, nor the region where I live wants to go to the GP in Madrid. But I like the flavor of Innistrad a lot and have put enormous work in analyzis of the format. I decided to fly to Madrid for a weekend, enjoy the life at the Hostel and see Madrid.
"Play the game, see the world."
Three weeks before the Grand Prix weekend, I play my first real-life DKA/ISD Sealed event, a GPT in Frankfurt/Main. In the Top8, I draft the set for the first time, but get a great agressive Mono Black deck with several evasive two-drops (Vampire Interlopers, Highborn Ghouls). After a win in quarter- and semifinals, my final opponent asks me whether I want to go to Madrid or not. With my answer, he concedes and I now have 3 Byes instead of 2 from Planeswalker Points of the previous season. As an additional preparation, I built some Sealed decks and got a little discussion in the magic-league forums about the format.
My aim for GP Madrid is to play well. I do not sit on the three Byes expecting an easy day 2 lock. I had way too much confidence at GP Milan, Prague and Paris. In each of these, I started with 3 Byes and the mind that I'd be, with 2000 ELO points, a lot better than most players. This naive mindsetting caused 3 drops after round 6 (3-3 with 3 Byes) in all of the mentioned GPs.
This time, I want to come to the tournament location well rested, with a good breakfast, fully concentrated, playing good Magic. If I fail at day 1 again, so be it. As long as I was able to minimize mistakes, as long as I play good, I will be satisfied.
I arrive on Friday noon and aimlessly wander through the city having some nice finds, but at some point I realize I have no idea in which part of Madrid I am at that moment. Some bike professionals reveal that I am actually only 1 km away from metro station "Lago", the station of the tournament site. For the GP day 1, I get up early to get a comprehensive breakfast and some fresh air before the tournament. For deckbuilding, I get passed the following pool.
First, I sort out horrible cards like Secrets of the Dead and Infernal Plunge, then I notice blue is a very thin color. The milling theme is not supported well and the other blue cards are not good enough which leaves only the blue cards that might get splashed: Nephalia Seaskite, Divination, Grasp of Phantoms and Griptide.
Black has a similiar fate. It is not enough to serve as main color. The only cards that might make it into the deck are: Fiend of the Shadows, Falkenrath Noble, Unburial Rites.
This means red, green and white are my options as main colors. Until here, everyone I have talked about the pool has the same idea. The three colors allow several useful build
xJudicatorx' build uses 13 creatures, all equipment and 6 removal spells. It is three-colored with a manabase of 7/6/3 basiclands. I notice half of his few creatures cost four or more, which is the main reason why I'd not build the deck as he did.
Tird_Ape also plays 13 creatures, however the manacost of these are generally lower. As removal, he put Crushing Vines in the maindeck as well as Fling. While the cards are good sideboard options, I think it is wrong to keep the cards in a maindeck. The deck is four-colored with a manabase of 5/5/3/1 basiclands. I like the creature base, but Tird_Ape sacrifices a lot of consistency to get that creatures manacurve.
pseudodespot plays 13 creatures with a manacurve similar to xJudicatorx. Instead of a red-white base splashing black, he uses a green-white base. This decision has many advantages: access to Gavony Township and better creatures at low manacost. In exchange for the advantages, the deck misses the red removal, Mondronen Shaman and Pitchburn Devils. The deck pseudodespot built is three-colored and uses a manabase of 7/6/2 basiclands.
Of these three decks, I think the manabase of Tird_Ape is not solid enough to justify playing it at a GP. Pseudodespot and xJudicatorx have built decks with a working manabase. The one thing that bugs me for each built however is the amount of creatures. From my experience, I think it is necessary to play more than 13 creatures. I think 15-16 are optimal.
I discussed the pool again with my local players and we agreed on this GWb build as the best:
First, the deck plays 14 creatures. The manabase of 6/6/3 can support the curve. Only double-black of Fiend of the Shadows might be a problem at some point. They agree that 15 creatures are the way to go but you don't splash that Diregraf Ghoul, therefore a creature count of 14 has to suffice. . I am still not convinced about valueing some cards. Here's how I see it.
Overall, I think the right half is stronger. I can live with either of the last two builds however, and I have no found a certain answer which build takes most out of the Sealed pool.
At the Grand Prix, I registered the following decklist:
I play 18 lands to not break my manacurve with to the two Burden of Guilt. I do not play a Swamp for Lingering Souls to further solidify the manabase. I decided against the Wreck with Madness and the Fires of Undeath in favor of more creatures. I believe Wolfhunter's Quiver fits better into my deck than Blazing Torch as I don't want to spend mana to equip my creatures early anyway. Instead, I want to play more creatures.
With three Byes, my first opponent comes at round 4. Marcelo plays a red-blue deck with several flying creatures (2 Nephalia Seaskite, Delver of Secrets and Stitched Drake), but not many defensive cards. Pyreheart Wolf has to block twice, so can't shine in my opponents' combat phase much. I board in only one One-Eyed Scarecrow and win two close race situations.
Round 5. Although I can win game 2 because of his mulligans, my deck lacks answers to his Skirsdag High Priest. I did not even board in Fires of Undeath as I rather tried to fiend answers for Manor Gargoyle (Crushing Vines) and Vorapede. This sideboarding decision was a mistake. My maindeck technically handles his Manor Gargoyle very well already: Bonds of Faith and 2 Burden of Guilt. Opponents with rares are normal. My incorrect sideboarding decision made me lose the match, to a record of 4:1.
In round 6, I get paired against Ori from Isreal. He has Curse of Death's Hold but only few creatures, while I have alot of creatures and Gavony Township. A close race occurs; the only reasony why I win the match is because he misses the timing of his Ravenous Demons' ability. It can be used at a time a sorcery can be cast, not after blockers have been declared.
The following 7th round went pretty quick. In the first game, he is screwed on two lands and no creature spells, while I curve turn 2 Scorned Villager, turn 3 Hollowhenge Beast, turn 4 Villagers of Estwald + Loyal Cathar into turn 5 Gavony Township. At least, he can smile about my broken start.
For the second game, an actual game, he has Avacyn's Priest, Drogskol Captain and Midnight Haunting. We enter a race which I lead until he also gets an excellent blocker: Silverclaw Griffin. At this point, he is at lower life than I am and I can take one more hit. I draw Bonds of Faith but since it would not secure my immediate victory, I delay it for a turn. He then attacks leaving just enough blockers, I enchant one of the blockers with Bonds of Faith for the last single point of damage.
Round 8 now decides whether I'm locked into day 2 or not. I see Stitcher's Apprentice, Grasp of Phantoms, Geralfs Messenger, Tower Geist and Falkenrath Noble, but also Afflicted Deserter. I don't see a reason why one would play this whacky manabase so I put him into Bloodline Keeper and/or Olivia Voldaren and board in the Crushing Vines to game 2. He starts that game, mulligans to a slow six so I can beat him unexcitingly.
Next, and last round on Saturday is round 9, against Alexander Molokanov, a very nice opponent. It seems that if you travel a long way, there's no reason for you to be an ass. He curves very well with Gravecrawler, Manor Skeleton, Erdwall Ripper and Tormented Pariah against my hand without a two drop. Ulvenwald Bear alone is not enough, so I proceed to sideboarding. During the deckbuilding process, I explained I am not a big fan of Fires of Undeath splashed into Sealed decks because it does not solve that many relevant threats. Without the ability to flashback it easily, I need a good reason to play the red instant. His deck, as far as I can tell at this point, consists of only creatures with toughness two or less which is a good reason for me. Additionally, I take in Blazing Archon for Wolfhunter's Quiver as I see the lategame of the matchup in my favor. With a more defensive early game, he has to use Devil's Play on my creatures and the general plan works as I hoped. I can win games two and three ont he back of Hollowhenge Scavenger and Beast for which he eventually lacks answers, putting me into a good position at 8-1 into day 2.
Youth Hostels are usually not calm at night. And so I decide to get up early as I wanted to see some more sights of Madrid. To go outside is superior to not getting a good rest anyway. I expected the Temple de Dubot especially flavorful at morning dawn. Unfortunately, the view there is excellent only at evening dawn... At least, I got loads of oxygen now.
The pack 1 pick 1 decision is between Lost in the Woods and Lingering Souls. It might be fun to be the guy with the Lost in the Woods deck, but really: are you here to show how fun you are, or to play good Magic? And so I pick Lingering Souls. Unfortunately, I do not get passed enough cards to splash black into my creature heavy draftdeck:
I'm happy with the outcome of the first draft. Only one or two Travel Preparations would make the deck perfect. My first opponent is Guillaume, playing a red-black Aggro deck. The most valuable card here is Slayer of the Wicked. I push some damage so he has to flip his Screeching Bats (he has two) to block better. At this point, Slayer of the Wicked creates cardadvantage, tempo and puts some more pressure on him. The second game occurs similarly although I now also have Smite the Monstrous for the same use.
At 9-1, I play against Joao. He wins the first game where I see Blazing Torch, Moon Heron, Murder of Crows, Abbey Griffin, Shriekgeis, Chant of the Skifsang and Sensory Deprivation. With this information, I have to sideboard. I know I want Urgent Excorcism and maybe Smite the Monstrous for game 2. I saw he made no real (just Blazing Torch) plays until turn 4. Against his evasion, my gameplan is to force a race whcih I start on turn one or turn two, and where he enters the race as late as turn 3 (probably Chapel Geist?) or turn 4 (Moon Heron). I've seen no Werewolf, Zombie or Vampire, therefore, I chose to take both Slayer of the Wicked out for my two white instants. Looking back, this is not the best decision. Right after the match, I believe I should have taken out the Somberwald Dryads as their Forestwalk is irrelevant int he matchup. As I am writing this, I've come to the conclusion that Lumberknot and possibly Abbey Griffin do nto help me win the match. You can make a decision now too: What would you have done, with all information I've presented you?
With two Slayer of the Wicked in my Sideboard, I proceed to game 2 and take another beating, this time from Skaabs. Turn 3 Stitched Drake followed by Makeshift mauler. The reason to take out Lumberknot here is because both players want to end the game quick. Abbey Griffin is a card which gets dominated by every similar creature of my opponent so even a 3/2 for 3W is better in the matchup. This match was not decided by whoever has the best deck drafted or who has more luck. I lost the match because I made playing mistakes. These playing mistakes now kicked me out of Top8 range.
The following 12th round took long, but is easily described. Martin Scheinin plays a red-green deck similar to mine; dominated by creatures like Huntmaster of the Fells. Until the third game, I know he has two Brimstone Volley. In the final turn before he's dead to Lingering Souls and Midnight Haunting tokens along with Silverclaw Griffin, he can attack with Elder of Laurels and Afflicted Deserter. I block the Afflicted Deserter with some creature, but let Elder of Laurels through. This way, I survive Elder of Laurels pump + Brimstone Volley (one Brimstone Volley was already in this graveyard) and also survive Fling + Brimstone Volley. For other combinations, he does not have sufficient mana. Also, he had just two cards in hand.
Unfortunately, I do not survive Brimstone Volley + Increasing Vengeance, that's 10 damage. Today, I still believe using the opportunity to kill him in my following turn is the right decision. Giving him another turn, another draw step can make the board position for me only worse. He has Elder of Laurels for which I have no removal, so it is clearly the right play to not play around a Dark Ascension rare you did not even see during the draft. Also, playing around that combination would've made me open to lose against other cards, like One-Eyed Scarecrow or Geistflame which are much more common. I don't feel I made a mistake here, so I can live with the loss.
Round 13, I am paired against a regional player playing blue-green. In the last game, I am in a rather less promising situation. Along many good cards on his side, I have only Selfhoff Occultist and Somberwald Dryad enchanted with Claustrophobia. During this game, I sacrificed several human to Deranged Outcast in order to pump the Dryad. I've done much card disadvantage by going all-in with the Dryad and at this point have to be lucky in every draw step. For his Murder of Crows, I find Geistcatcher's Rig. With Selfhoff Occultist still on the battlefield, I announce him as target for the milling ability.
Now he asks me, his opponent, a rules question:
"Do I draw first, or do I mill first?"
The thing is, Murder of Crows does not trigger for itself. Among collection of answers, some are forbidden, some are morally undebatable and some are in a grey area but legal.
a) Ask a judge
b) Ask the neighbour table
c) Murder of Crows does not trigger for itself
d) You know what? I'll just mill myself.
e) You should draw first.
f) The first thing that happens now is you mill one.
g) My trigger resolves on the stack last
h) My trigger resolves on the stack first
i) When two triggers go on the stack at the same time, the trigger of the non-active player resolves first.
j) I have 3 life points.
Obviously, answers a) and c) are the only morally undebatable answers. The game will continue correctly if the opponent is given that answer. Answer j) is also legal, and he'll probably ask a judge afterwards.
The answer d), e) and b) are not allowed. One is trying to change past game actions, one intervenes to another match, one is simply lying.
Now answers f) – i) are all the truth. Not complete truth, but truth..
The first thing that happens is he'll mill one. It is also the only thing, but as we're playing REL Professional, a true but incomplete answer is allowed.
If only one trigger goes on the stack, it goes on the stack first. It also goes on the stack last. While the answer is also true, but incomplete, this answer will lead into problems as it indicates too much of a (non-existant) order of the stack.
The one answer I pondered about giving it is "When two triggers go on the stack at the same time, the trigger of the non-active player resolves first". It is a completely legal answer. It just states a rules extract. But does it mean one should give that answer? It will lead to the opponent drawing off a non-existant triggered ability. For drawing extra cards at high rules enforcement level, the penalty is a Gameloss.
I rarely play competitive events. And so far, not more than one professional event per year, therefore my answer was the same everyone should give at Regular REL events. When the unnecessary Gameloss makes the difference between Top32 and Top64 of a Grand Prix, that's already 200USD difference, I can't guarantee I'll be that nice to my GP opponents again.
After two more wins solely on the back of Nephalia Seaskite, I finish the tournament with 11-4. I won not only 200USD, which pays for the travel expenses. More important, I got more experience in Limited and some new mates.
Reevaluating my aims for the weekend, I am mostly satisfied and happy. I saw a city in Europe I've never been to before. Although I made huge mistakes, I am now aware of what went wrong and which decisions are correct. Of all game aspects, I think I could improve my sideboarding thoughts the most.
As I am not a fan of Constructed formats, I skipped GP Lille and will also skip GP Turin. Next time, you will see me in Manchester and Malmö. I hope this article was an interesting read, so...
... Until next time, there will be a next time, become a better player, by playing on magic-league.com..
by magicrichi on 2012-03-19 11:46 CET
Nice paint skills
by Mitchmachine on 2012-03-19 15:58 CET
by Spyx on 2012-03-19 20:21 CET
A fun read. I would always maindeck crushing vines in sealed btw. It kills a lot of the bombs and can save you from getting cleavered.
by GunsAndDope on 2012-03-19 23:59 CET
Someone go tell Sebas to become a better player.
by derflippi on 2012-03-20 00:22 CET
To answer the question "So, what did you answer??"
by TobyToby on 2012-03-20 20:06 CET
Good read! Good luck in Manchester and Malmo!
by sc4rs on 2012-04-01 14:39 CET
Moral conundrums like that are why I think MTGO is the future of Magic. Having something monitor the rules so that the players are not responsible for policing each other is a much better system.
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