23/17—56th at Grand Prix Pittsburgh

Last week I left you at the end of GP Pittsburgh’s day one, in which I’d crushed it by going 8-0 after an 0-2 start with no byes. Read part one of my report here.

Day Two

I woke up and ran it back on the Dunkin’ Donuts tip with Josh Fetto, before heading back to the convention center for my first draft of the day—after, of course, filling out tax forms. HOBBY VALIDATED, as my buddy and 2HG partner Christian once said.

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The most fun tax forms I’ve ever filled out.

I had done called drafts before, once for the top 8 of a GP trial at the Twenty Sided Store and once during a “draft extravaganza” thing on Sunday at I think GP Philly, so I wasn’t totally going in cold. And, of course, I had drafted a fair bit of Gatecrash. I knew that what I most wanted to do was to stay open, and to find the right guild for my seat. My first pod didn’t contain any “names,” at least not that I recognized.

Draft No. 1

Pack one pick one (god it felt good to draft at a GP!) I was faced with a choice between Guardian of the Gateless and Pit Fight. I thought hard about taking the Pit Fight, as I had mildly expressed a preference for Gruul the night before, as a sort of metagame call—but I decided I needed to choose the objectively stronger card, and took Guardian. I kind of forget what my next few picks were, but I waffled a bit back and forth between the Naya colors before settling into RG by the end of pack one.

In pack two, I was rewarded by opening a Clan Defiance. FUCK YEAH! Pack two went well for me, too, as I picked up some removal, some key two-drops (Disciple), and some beef (a Zhur-Taa Swine and, oh, a Ceratok or two). At one point, however, I think I picked up a Boros Guildgate over something that I could have maybe used … but I forget what; either way, it was the wrong choice. I think any thought of splashing for the Angel should have been long gone by then. Pack three went well, too, although I was forced to pass a Disciple for a piece of removal, and I was a little light on two-drops—but thankfully, I was rewarded not only with a late Skinbrand Goblin, but a second one (making three total) on the wheel, which was exactly what my deck needed to finish out. (Man I would have loved to have picked that Pit Fight, though.) Here’s what I registered:

One-drops
Spire Tracer
Mugging
Forced Adapdation

Two-drops
3X Skinbrand Goblin
Burning-Tree Emissary
Disciple of the Old Ways
Wildwood Rebirth

Three-drops
2X Ember Beast
Miming Slime
Massive Raid

Four-drops
2X Crowned Ceratok
Ghor-Clan Rampager
Millennial Gargoyle
Viashino Shanktail
Ivy Lane Denizen

Five-drops
Zhur-Taa Swine

Six-drops
2X Ruination Wurm

X-drops
Clan Defiance

Lands
8X Mountains
8X Forests
1X Gruul Guildgate

Relevant sideboard cards
Hindervines
Furious Resistance
Primal Visitation (this was my last cut, in favor of Forced Adaptation)

God I loved this deck.

God I loved this deck.

Round 11—Michael Patnik

An old pro—he said his first Pro Tour was in ’99—Michael was on Orzhov. I blew him out G1 after baiting out Shielded Passage (which I put him on) with an attack from Skinbrand Goblin and Ember Beast—after which I Clan Defiance-d for two, killing his Kingpin’s Pet and the one Gutter Skulk he didn’t cast Passage on.

In G2 I boarded in Hindervines. I played two Ceratoks in a row on turns four and five, with Zhur-Taa Swine, Clan Defiance, and Ghor-Clan Rampager in hand. I had five mana by this point, and attacked with both Ceratoks, with him at 18 life. He had out a tapped (I think) Alms Beast, a Basilica Guards, and a Gutter Skulk. He elected not to block, and I bloodrushed Rampager onto one of the Ceratoks to do a massive 12 damage, dropping Michael to six life—and leaving up Hindervines for his crack-back. I was at nine life, so a swing w/ the Skulk and the Beast, plus any extortable spell, would have killed me. “You seem like you’re an intelligent person, so I know you’ve got to have something,” Michael said on his turn, thinking about his options.

He mumbled the names of some of the cards I could have to himself, mentioning Hindervines along the way—and eventually elected to attack with just the Beast. I said “no blocks” and cast Hindervines. In retrospect, I have two thoughts: One, I don’t think I should have cast Vines. His Beast attack would have only dropped me to three, and (unless I’m wrong) he didn’t have the ability (with five BW mana) to cast anything that would be able to extort me from three to zero life. Two, I don’t know that I like his attack at all—he probably should have held back with the Beast, although I guess he figured that if I didn’t have anything, then he wasn’t dead on the crack-back either, and so he needed to get in damage with the Beast where he could. All that said, maybe I played it correctly after all, giving me a chance to spend my three mana (for Hindervines) on his turn, and leaving me with six mana open (after drawing my card for the turn) on my turn, which I was hoping would be the last turn of the game.

So I cast Vines, and Michael casts another Skulk + extort on his turn, putting him up to seven life and dropping me to eight. He now has two Skulks, a Basilica Guards, and one white and one black mana up, with a couple of cards in hand. I have my two Ceratoks, a Swine, and a Clan Defiance in hand. Again, I put him on Shielded Passage—and I didn’t actually know what would happen if he cast it on a guy that was blocking a trampler. I thought for a while, and reckoned that I would be an idiot if, at this high level of play, I didn’t call a judge and confirm the interaction.

So I called a judge and spoke to him away from the table, learning that, in this situation, I only had to assign as much damage as would kill the blocking creature, if he didn’t have a “prevent all damage” shield on it. That was the answer I needed. I swung in yet again with my Ceratoks, and Michael took a long time to decide on blocks. He made, I think, the best possible blocks in order to possibly win on his next turn—one Skulk and the Guards on one Ceratok, and one lone Skulk on the other—but they also happened to be the blocks that would lose him the game, Passage or no. As it turns out, he didn’t have it, and I bloodrushed the Swine onto the Ceratok blocked by just one 2/2 creature, trampling over for seven points of damage and GGs. 9-2 matches, 18-7 games

Round 12—Scott

My 12th-round opponent and I got deck-checked right at the beginning of the match; and unfortunately for Scott, he got a game loss for accidentally only registering 39 cards in his maindeck. I wasn’t going to argue with it, nor with the flustered-ness that the error evidently caused him.

In G2, Scott calmed down and crushed me with big monsters—he was also on Gruul—including Ruination Wurm and Sylvan Primordial. In G3 he mulled to six and kept (I later learned) Mugging, Experiment One, and four land. But all he drew, over the next few turns, was a Massive Raid—which turned out to be the least Massive Raid ever. Meanwhile, I had kept a hand with Ember Beast, Skinbrand Goblin, Burning-Tree Emissary and two Mountains (I forget what else) on the play, and dropped Goblin and Emissary on T2. On his turn he Mugged the Emissary, which I returned to my hand at the end of his turn with Wildwood Rebirth. On my turn I found my third land, played it, played the Emissary, played the Ember Beast—and proceeded to beat down from there. He killed my Goblin with his Massive Raid, but he never drew another spell and died to Emissary and Ember Beast beats. 10-2 matches, 19-8 games

Round 13—Kai (Burnett, not Budde—thank god)

My opponent was on Borzhov, and really didn’t do much of anything in either game. I crushed him in G1 by curving out with Skinbrand, Ember Beast, and Ceratok—curving out is just so, so powerful. In G2, all he could muster was Beckon Apparition plus 2X Martial Glory. 11-2 matches, 21-8 in games

Holy shit again! I just 3-0’d my draft, and over the course of doing so had moved up to freaking 28th place! Now I was within striking distance, for reals, of top 8. I knew, given my tiebreakers, that I needed to either 3-0 yet another draft, or possibly 2-0-1. Either way, I had to extend my 11-match winning streak definitely for another two matches. It’s funny—throughout this whole time I really wasn’t nervous, not like I’ve been nervous before in high-stakes (relatively speaking) Magic situations. Between each round I would get more water, eat something, splash some water on my face, take notes about my last round, and connect with Team 20 Sided, each member of which was seriously awesome about cheering me along on day one and especially day two.

Draft No. 2

This draft was somewhat more intimidating, with Josh Utter-Leyton at our table. It also became apparent that our pod was the “mixed” pod, with a variety of records at the table: some X-2s, some X-2-1s, and even a couple X-3s. This would later turn out to be very important.

This is how you get your draft packs at a GP.

This is how you get your draft packs at a GP.

The draft itself didn’t go quite as well for me. I settled early into Boros, after passing a P1 Wojek Halberdiers in favor of Arrows of Justice—again, trying to stay open—but then taking a second Wojek in P2. But then the cards dried up a bit toward the end of pack one, forcing me to start taking some off-color stuff like a like Cloudfin Raptor, in order to hedge my bets in case I needed to jump ship.

But pack two seemed relatively fine on the RW tip, although I lamented passing some decent Gruul cards in pack one after opening up Gruul Ragebeast. Yet I got passed a late Skynight Legionnaire and playable red and white cards kept flowing. My creatures were a bit light, however, and I wasn’t seeing the high-quality two-drops I really wanted to.

In pack three, I was overjoyed to get a fifth-pick Truefire Paladin (incredible!) followed by a Gift of Orzhova and Holy Mantle. Recreate my day one sealed deck, you say? I wasn’t nearly as happy with this build as I had been with my Gruul monstrosity in draft No. 1, but I wasn’t disgusted by it either. Here’s what I registered:

One-drops
Foundry Street Denizen
Mugging

Two-drops
Wojek Halberdiers
Skinbrand Goblin
Daring Skyjek
Truefire Paladin
Martial Glory
Boros Charm
Madcap Skills

Three-drops
2X Warmind Infantry
Skynight Legionnaire
Gift of Orzhova

Four-drops
Scorchwalker
Millennial Gargoyle
Assault Griffin
Homing Lightning
Holy Mantle

Five-drops
Nav Squad Commandos
Fortress Cyclops
Knight Watch
Angelic Edict

Lands
9X Mountains
8X Plains

Relevant sideboard cards
Massive Raid
2X Aerial Maneuver
Skullcrack
2X Skyblinder Staff
Razortip Whip
Riot Gear

My friend Alex, who had also made day two but was out of top 8 contention by this point, took a look at my deck after building and said he felt that it was five cards off from the optimal Boros build. I think maybe it was more like three cards off, but he had a point. I elected not to run either of the Aerial Maneuvers or the Massive Raid, and I think that I should have run the Raid—maybe even over the Arrows, as Alex suggested, since Raid can not only kill non-attacking, utility creatures, but also just go to the dome.

Round 14—Russell

The first two games of R14, against Russell’s Naya, were seriously lopsided affairs, with both of us taking one game apiece. Also at some point during the match Russell asked me if my “outfit” was “because of Steve Zissou.” It took me a minute to realize what he was asking, which was whether I was dressed in costume from The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, the Wes Anderson film. “No,” I said, somewhat ruefully. “This is just how I dress.” Russell was a nice guy, so I didn’t hold it against him.

OK, I guess I can see the resemblance.

OK, I guess I can see the resemblance.

G3 was the real nailbiter. I mulled to six and kept, on the draw, a sick two-lander with Wojek Halberdiers, Skinbrand Goblin, Madcap Skills, Warmind Infantry, and I forget what else—but I never drew another land. I had Wojek with Skills on it and, after bashing a few times, Russell was at seven life. But he had assembled enough blockers, including a key Disciple of the Old Way, to hold off Wojek. For most of this time, I had Gift of Orzhova in hand—but, like I said, I couldn’t draw a third Plains to save my life. I kept chumping his Zhur-Taa Swine with my guys—including one turn when he very scarily Act of Treason-ed my Halberdiers, dropping me to nine life. On my last turn before it was all over, I drew a Plains—finally! I thought long and hard about playing Gift into his six or seven open RG mana, but I figured that, if he had had Massive Raid, he would have (and could have) used it by now to kill me (I only later considered Arrows of Justice, which would have been bad). So I decided to go for it, slapped Gift on my Wojek, and Russell had nothing. BAM. Seven for exactsies. Russell looked at his next few cards, and they were scary. “You blocked perfectly,” he told me. 12-2 matches, 23-9 games

Me (apparently looking like Steve Zissou) vs. Russell, in our nailbiter G3. MY KINGDOM FOR A PLAINS!

Me (apparently looking like Steve Zissou) vs. Russell, in our nailbiter G3. MY KINGDOM FOR A PLAINS!

Round 15—Brock Parker

I was in a holy-shit 17th place going into this round. I knew I needed to win here, and then there would be some debate as to whether or not I could draw into top 8. Freaking top 8 at a GP! How close I came. But if you know the story of GP Pittsburgh, you know that R15—from my opponent’s name—is where my glorious run came to a screeching (Basilica Screeching, that is) halt. Brock Parker ended up going on to win the whole tournament, with a version of the deck that dismantled me in this round.

In G1 I was on the ropes, and decided I had to go for it by stacking up Gift and Mantle on Warmind. I waited until Brock was tapped out to avoid the big blowout, and got in a lifelinked hit for five—but next turn he had Angelic Edict. Also, at another point in G1, I made what was my only recognizable out-and-out misplay in many, many rounds. I had Skills on a Skyjek, and he had out Urbis Protector and his angel buddy. I had Arrows of Justice in hand. I figured, “Hey, I’ll swing in with Skyjek, he’ll block, and I’ll Arrows one of his two blockers.” So I do that, and of course he double-blocks, and I Arrows the angel—and in that moment I realize that I’ve just, well, pretty much three-for-one’d myself, as the measly 1/1 Urbis Protector trades with my suited-up Skyjek. Sometimes that happens to me, in that I get a seemingly logical line of play fixed in my head, and then find out once I execute the play that it was based on an incorrect assumption. I didn’t let it tilt me, though, and I went into G2 optimistic.

But G2, despite what looked like an excellent opening-seven curve-out situation on my part, turned out even worse. I couldn’t find my fifth land for Nav Squad or Knight Watch, in order to finish curving out (I had Wojek and Skyjek—so many jeks!—on the field), and Brock ground me out with Balustrade mills, Death’s Approach, and the coup de grace, Treasury Thrull. There was no joy in Mudville. Mighty Rolex had struck out. 12-3 matches, 21-10 games

Round 16—Troy

LSV and Harry Corvese, who beat me in Philly, were sitting next to me and my opponent Troy, a nice guy from outside Philly. The two pros decided to draw, so as to hopefully ensure top 32 finishes for both of them (which it did). I was in 37th place, and my top 8 dream was dead. Across the way, I could see Brock Parker and his opponent wrapping up their match before it even began—I figured they must have decided that they were safe to draw in. Good for Brock, I thought. I always root for whichever player knocks me out of an event; I guess it buffs your reputation by comparison (and somewhat lessens the sting of losing).

Meanwhile, Troy and I had a match to play—probably top 32 for whomever of us won. Troy was also on Boros, with a green splash. We each took a game off the other—me dying kind of out of nowhere to a Foundry Champion trigger to the dome—and then in G3 he got off to a blistering start with Wojek plus Skills. (Turnabout is fair play, I reckon.) I had kept a slow hand of a few lands plus Arrows of Justice and a Scorchwalker. So when Troy swings in with his Skills-ed-up Wojek, I go to Arrows it—and he Martial Glories his guy, not only to save him, but also doing nine damage to me in the process, dropping me to eight life. On my turn I play Scorchwalker, pass, and on his next turn he swings in again with the Wojek—and he does the same damn thing yet again with another Martial Glory. GGs. 12-4 matches, 21-12 games. THE END.

***

Of course it wasn’t entirely the end. I wanted to hang around to see how I finished, and also to hear the top 8. When R16 was finished and the standings were posted, Brock had made it into top 8 at a strong No. 3 (he had been 9th going into the last round). As it turned out, what I witnessed between Brock and his opponent at the start of R16 was not an intentional draw—rather, because our draft pod was comprised of mixed records, Brock (13-2) was paired against a guy who was already 11-3, and therefore had no shot of top 8. So Brock’s opponent scooped him into the finals. Fucking amazing. I don’t know if Brock knew his last-round opponent, but I don’t have any reason to believe why his opponent wouldn’t’ve done the same for me had I been paired against him. So I really was just a single win away from top-8-ing GP Pittsburgh. What can I say? It was a hell of run.

I ended up finishing in 56th place, which was good for $200 and a pro point (not to mention 352 regular-ass Planeswalker Points). Not bad for my first day two. And nobody can take my amazing 12-0 run—with no byes, and after starting out 0-2—away from me.

LOOK MA I'M ON TOP OF THE WORLD!

LOOK MA I’M ON TOP OF THE WORLD!

Soon enough we collected the rest of the dudes—Josh Fetto having won his second full box of Gatecrash on the weekend, after top-8-ing his Super Sunday Series sealed event—and rolled out of Steel City in my Ford Explorer. On the way back, the snow started to come down and we were telling jokes and trading Magic stories and getting an amazing “horse truck” tweet on Wizards’ GP Pittsburgh update page. (See Matt Jones for more.) In the end, Brock won the whole thing, with his BW “Zairichi control” special. He deserved to win, and he deserved to win our match, too. His deck was much better, and he outplayed me, to boot.

So what were my takeaways from the weekend? I remembered something that Limited Resources co-host (at least for couple more shows!) Jon Loucks said about succeeding at a GP. I’m paraphrasing, but essentially he said that he was super-psyched the first time he made day two—but then, the next time he made day two, it wasn’t good enough. “I wanted to win the thing,” I remember him saying.

Well, I happened to get that whole range of experience in one event. Of course I was over the moon to make day two, which has been my main goal for a while now. But then I just kept on winning, and at some point—probably most palpably after 3-0-ing my first draft pod—I was like, “Shit, I’ve got a shot here.” But unfortunately, draft No. 2 didn’t go as well as I’d planned—my kingdom to do it over and run it back on Gruul!—and I had to settle for top 64. Still not bad at all, moneying my first GP day two. I’m going to Vegas and Providence in June, and you can be damn sure I’ll be practicing and doing everything in my power to make a repeat appearance in the top 64—or higher.

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ROLEX, post-R14 win, w/ shit-eating grin. Note the buttoned top button, for luck.

Finally and most importantly—I absolutely could not have made my run without my fellow Twenty Siders: Dana, Jess, Kadar, Matt, Josh, Rob, Twenty-Sider-in-exile Scovazzo, new friend Orlando, and (impartial judge though he may be) Connor. And a big shout-out to everyone playing along at home, too, following my progress on Twitter and our Google Group and cheering me on. Who knows? One of these days a Twenty Sider—hopefully a HOTC Twenty Sider!—is going to take down one of these big events. See you in Somerset, NJ, on May 5th for the StarCityGames Open Sealed tourney, at GP Providence on June 7–9, GP Vegas on June 21–23—and, of course, every Friday in this column. Tweet at me on @hrslaton and I hope to meet you at an event soon.

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands.

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Comments
2 Responses to “23/17—56th at Grand Prix Pittsburgh”
  1. Hunter Slaton says:

    And yes, that is one Shuhei Nakamura—who very nicely helped me pick up my dice when I dropped them all over the floor at some point during day two—photobombing my standings photos.

  2. T.R. says:

    ugh this makes me want to draft, sounds like a great time, congrats!

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