These last two weeks have been an absolute whirlwind. I had plans to travel to GP Vancouver and then the first MagicFest in Oakland the following weekend, after the Holidays and the New Year. I was excited, especially since I had to miss GP Portland. I didn’t have a lot of time to practice for either of these wildly different formats, but I did get to play in two Ultimate Masters sealed leagues on MTGO at least.
On Friday some friends and I made the early drive from Seattle to Vancouver to make it to the convention center in time for the Team Sealed PTQ. We had an okay pool that we built wrong, which led to three quick losses and an exit from the tournament. Afterwards we all talked sealed strategy and ate some great food before heading back to our AirBnB for some last minute, late night sealed pool building.
Saturday morning was interesting, as my sealed pool was kind of all over the place. The blue was deep and solid, and included a Dig Through Time and Talrand, Sky Summoner, but I also had Sigarda, Host of Herons. With only a small number of green and white playables, I found myself in a sticky situation. I decided to go with a greedy deck, playing all of my solid blue cards and splashing green and white to get access to Sigarda, Host of Herons, Kodama’s Reach, and Miraculous Recovery. I thought that my deck was powerful, but potentially inconsistent. As long as I didn’t stumble too much in the early game, I had a powerful late game that was close to unbeatable. The announced pairings for Round 2, and after my one bye I was ready to go.
Round 2 vs. Kenji Egashira (RB)
I felt pretty nervous to start my tournament against Kenji, but I was excited to test myself against the limited mastermind. Unfortunately we didn’t really get to play much Magic. In game one he mulliganed to four and I won quickly. Game two was a little better, but though he kept a seven card opening hand, he only cast a few relevant spells, and I suspect he flooded pretty hard.
Round 3 vs. AJ (UB)
Game one of this round was really close, as I dropped to one life after some attacks from my opponent’s creatures. Luckily I was able to use Aethersnipe to stall, and it ended up in play three times thanks to Miraculous Recovery and Pulse of Murasa. After a timely removal spell I was finally able to turn the corner. In game two I cast Sigarda, Host of Herons on turn four thanks to a Kodama’s Reach on turn three, and she easily finished off my opponent, as his blue and black spells looked silly against a flying hexproof angel.
Round 4 vs. Olev (GW)
In game one I stumbled on mana while my opponent played some efficient green and white creatures, eventually picking up steam and closing the door. Game two saw a bit of back and forth before I was able to land Sigarda to lock up the game. In the deciding game three my opponent kept a strong hand that just needed lands to get there, and he missed. I quickly took over the game and won the match.
Round 5 vs. Jason Fleurant (UB)
Jason and I had a fantastic match. I was on the back foot for a lot of the first game until I was able to Miraculous Recovery on a Dimir Guildmage to pick off a two power attacker, and then use it to hold off other creatures until I could stick Sigarda. Sigarda ended the game in four or five attacks and rendered the removal spells he drew later in the game useless. In game two we had dueling Dimir Guildmages, and the game was close until I found Sigarda on the sixth or seventh turn of the game. Luckily Sigarda was hiding near the top of my deck instead of in my opening hand, because it would have gotten taken away by an Appetite for Brains. I needed to get lucky to escape this round with a win, because Jason’s blue/black deck was packed full of solid cards.
Round 6 vs. Matt Sikkinik Johnson (GB)
This round was funny – it seemed like everything went wrong for me all at once. Matt had one of the most absurd reanimator draws I’ve seen in the format in our first game while I was stumbling hard on lands. I lost very quickly. Game two he wasn’t as explosive, but it didn’t matter. My greedy deck wasn’t cooperating, and he still provided a very fast clock.
Round 7 vs. Scott (GB)
In game one I got out to a fast start and was able to keep the pressure on. He gained some life to stay in the game for a little bit, but it wasn’t enough. Game two I got run over – I’m pretty sure the only damage my opponent took was from his own Ancient Tomb. In game three I landed Sigarda and used her to slow my opponent down before Miraculous Recovery brought her back, bigger and better than ever.
Round 8 vs. Mike (GB)
Mike had a sweet Shirei, Shizo’s Caretaker deck. It was filled with Fume Spitters, Heap Dolls, Safehold Elites, Bloodflow Connoisseurs, and Spider Spawnings. I was able to overpower his engine with a pair of Penumbra Wurms and a timely Into the Wind. Game two was similar, as I took some damage early and then stabilized the board and started attacking back with my big hitters.
Round 9 vs. Gavin (UB)
Gavin was playing a solid blue/black fliers deck with lots of removal. Unfortunately, little fliers and removal do not line up well against Sigarda. In both games we traded resources early until I landed Sigarda, and the rest was history.
Illustrated by Chris Rahn
I was ecstatic to be going into Day 2 at 8-1! I ate a ton of food before going to bed, and I didn’t bother looking up any last minute draft videos. I figured that sleep was much more important than any cram session I could have had. In the morning I was happy with my decision, and even though I didn’t know a lot about how the set drafted, I was familiar enough with the strengths of the format.
I opened a relatively weak Pack 1, and took a Verdant Rebirth from it. I didn’t feel great about the pick, but getting passed a Noble Hierarch definitely helped make me feel better about the direction of the deck. I grabbed as many green, red, or blue cards that go into the tempo/discard deck that I could. I had some solid stuff, but definitely needed some help in Pack 2. I don’t remember a lot about this pack, other than the late Penumbra Wurm and Warleader’s Helix that I got. Blue was drying up, and I made sure to pay attention to any powerful white cards in the last pack. I ended up with a Miraculous Recovery, a second Warleader’s Helix, and two Icatian Criers to go with my Squee, Goblin Nabob, Mad Prophet, Rootwalla, and Reckless Wurm. I threw in a Wild Mongrel and a Become Immense, and that was basically the deck. Naya burn in UMA draft. I had no idea what to expect.
Round 10 vs. Patrick (UBg)
In game 1 I was able to set up the Mad Prophet plus Squee, Goblin Nabob combo, drawing an extra card for every turn of the game starting on turn 3. The card advantage put me too far ahead, and I was eventually able to attack with many citizens from Icatian Crier for the win. I mulliganed to an ok hand for game 2, but I never found a green mana source in my first 4 or 5 looks, and I lost. Game 3 was a bunch of back and forth, and I thought that my Penumbra Wurm plus Become Immense would be enough to end the game – until my opponent cast Spider Spawning. Then he cast another copy. And another. I believe he cast the spell four or five times – I saw three copies of the card before the little spiders were enough to overwhelm me.
Round 11 vs. Chad (GB)
Game 1 I got out ahead and never looked back. My opponent stumbled with mana a bit and I pick up the win. Game 2 was similar, but swapped – I was on the back foot from the get go and my opponent forced a game 3. In the third game, I had another quick start, and my Warleader’s Helixes ensured that I could close out the game.
After the match, Chad and I chat briefly, as he was to my immediate right during the draft. He flashed me a Spider Spawning, telling me that he took it and passed me the Noble Hierarch from the first pack. That explains why I was getting so cut on green cards.
Round 12 vs. Kenny (UBg)
My opponent was on a blue/black graveyard deck, with Forbidden Alchemy and Deranged Assistant. In game 1 I didn’t see a payoff, and I took the game before he can set up. Game 2 had a lot more back and forth, and I finally see two copies of Spider Spawning as the payoff. The spiders put my under a ton of pressure, but I was able to stabilize at two life and clawed my way back into the game with Icatian Crier. A big attack with Become Immense and Warleader’s Helix was enough for me to knock my opponent from 13 to zero.
I felt very good to escape the six Spider Spawning pod at 2-1. My deck was actually a blast to play, and it was doing some powerful and unique things. I am at 16th place going into the second draft, and 2-0-1 should be enough to Top 8. I feel nervous, but I am really excited for the chance to draft and play with some great players.
I was in draft pod 2 with Amaz, Shuhei Nakamura, Jeff Cunningham, and Steve Rubin. I knew that this would be a challenge, so I took a deep breath and tried to focus. Luckily, my first pick was pretty straightforward – I opened and took Bitterblossom out of the first pack. I second picked a Thermo-Alchemist, and while I didn’t see that many great black cards, I cut red pretty hard and picked up a Faithless Looting and some Reckless Charges, a card that had really impressed me. I ended up with the start of a relatively aggressive red/black deck. I needed to pick up more threats and more burn, but it could get there. In pack 2, I opened another Bitterblossom. I couldn’t believe it. I stayed focused, took the powerful mythic, and picked up more red and black cards to synergize with it, like Slum Reaper and Magmaw. I added two Fire // Ice, a second Faithless Looting and Thermo-Alchemist, and a pair of Reckless Wurms, and I ended up with this red/black deck that is all about the two drops. Playing an early Thermo-Alchemist or Bitterblossom and riding it to victory is the name of the game. I was feeling really good about the deck, and I definitely thought that it can pick up the two wins I needed to lock me for Top 8.
Round 13 vs. Dylan (GB)
Dylan had a sweet GB deck, with Fume Spitters and Bloodflow Connoisseur that lined up really well against my Fire // Ice and Bitterblossom. Both games played out similarly, in that he was able to efficiently answer my two drop, and his removal and creatures lined up perfectly against mine turn after turn. Murderous Redcap on curve in both games sealed my fate, and I lost the match relatively quickly.
Round 14 vs. Truman (5-color good stuff)
Out of Top 8 contention, and I was feeling bummed. But I picked my head up and tried to finish strong. Truman played all of the colors, had a sweet Reveillark loop, and crushed me in game 1. Game 2 I dropped an early Thermo-Alchemist that pinged my opponent until a Reckless Wurm ended the game with the help of two Reckless Charges and a Double Cleave. In game 3 I got stuck on two lands, but luckily I was able to deploy both Thermo-Alchemists and cast spells like Fire. My opponent wasn’t able to set up his engine fast enough, and I take the match.
Round 15 vs. Steve Rubin (UWb)
At this point I knew that a win will put me in Top 16, and a win against Steve Rubin would be an awesome way to end the tournament. I stuck Bitterblossom on turn 2 and never looked back, Reckless Charging my faeries to victory. I didn’t see too many cards from Steve in the first game, but I did see a Rune Snag, so instead of jamming Bitterblossom into open mana on turn 2, I played it slow. We passed the turns, making land drops, until my sixth turn, when I drew a Thermo-Alchemist. I cast it, and it resolved, so I went for Bitterblossom too, which also resolved. I was only able to make a single token until a Resurrection on Angel of Despair shut off my engine. Steve tapped out to create a board presence, which meant I had a window to win the game. Malevolent Whispers on Angel of Despair gave me a huge attacker, and combined with the damage from my Thermo-Alchemist, it was enough to lock up the game.
The 12-3 finish put me in 14th place. I am very happy with how the weekend went – I was able to play this awesome limited format all weekend, against some really great players. I even beat the eventual winner on Day 1, which counts for something, right? All in all it was an amazing weekend. On the ride home, there was no time to rest though. Modern was the talk of the car, because we had to finalize decklists for the four of us that were going to the first MagicFest in Oakland next weekend. In particular, I needed help finding a deck to play. I settled on a version of Devoted Druid combo that uses Eldritch Evolution instead of Collected Company to more consistently enable the turn three kill that the deck is capable of.
I was going into MagicFest Oakland blind, and I really had no idea what to expect from the Modern Grand Prix.
Read my tournament report from Oakland, including my point of view from the crazy feature match against Sam Pardee, in Part Two here.