My GP Utrecht Report

Five days of Magic… Lots of ups and downs.

Thursday

We were in Utrecht before seven and after a checking in at the hotel we went for our first Trials. I got a fairly good pool. Some fixing and some bomb rares. Hellkite Charger, Battlegrace Angel and Argent Sphinx are all legitimate bombs, especially in a format where most of the removal is based on toughness in way or another.

Trials are, however, single elimination, and therefore a bit of bad lack will cost you. So, in the second game I got manascrewed and all those wonderful bombs couldn’t help.

It was late and I was very tired. I thought about drafting, but apparently there wasn’t enough product and they wanted to allocate enough for each day, so there were no drafts.

Friday

Went for another trial. This time with a great pool. Again, I had the Battlegrace Angel, Hellkite Charger and plenty of fixing. I also had Shadowmage Infiltrator, Banefire, Precursor Golem and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre as rares (on top of the Long-Forgotten Gohei I couldn’t really use). It was an excellent pool… and I won.

Well, actually, not quite, because I scooped in the finals. We did play the match out for practice and I crushed him. I felt I had a pretty good grasp on the format. Just play all the powerful cards you can. I probably overdid it a bit with the Ulamog, because even in this format getting to 11 is pretty hard and I usually had a complete control over the game by that point anyhow. Still, I couldn’t not play Ulamog.

Then I remembered I had a voucher for a trial waiting for me, so I picked it up, went to a trial and just dropped immediately with unopened boosters (more on this later).

After the trial, we went for a 2HG Modern Master 2015 draft. That went horribly awry. We didn’t really get any signals and although we kept receiving good cards, there wasn’t much to build decks around. So, we lost. Pretty much immediately.

After that we went out for a meal. Utrecht has a bunch of great restaurants. If you ever happen to be there, they can mostly be found around Oudegracht, the older of the two major canals. This time we went for Argentinian food.

Saturday

Time for the main event. I had my two byes (from PWPs) and I felt I knew what I was doing. I had a hearty breakfast and went for the sleep-in special deck build. I don’t know if the SIS is actually worth it most of the time, but here’s a tip: preregistered pools. We didn’t have to do the deck registration. That’s always a pain. Although, of course someone has to do it, so sorry judges.

In this case, it was especially important. There’s a rule that if you open your pool and don’t want to pass it on to someone else (for example, because you opened a foil Tarmogoyf, worth hundreds of euros), you can always just pick the pool up and leave. If you have a preregistered one, there’s no chance of this happening.

However, I had a very, very bad pool. Very little in the way of fixing and not much to work with. I did have a Profane Command, which is one of the best cards in the set, but there was just no way I would be able to play it. Of course, its a late game card, so you can play it with five or maybe even four sources, if you are willing to try it, but since I had to try to go for a synergy deck, I had to be fast and I couldn’t risk slowing myself down with a third color.

So, I made a red-white aggro. However, I lacked in the way of equipment to actually do it. I had only a Sickleslicer, Mortar Pod and Sunforger. The last one was great, but slow. This clearly wasn’t enough for what I wanted to do. Also, my curve was very awkward with very little in the way of early drops. I had to rely on cards like Brute Force, Fortify and Mighty Leap to do damage. I did have Spikeshot Elder and a Mirror Entity, but since I didn’t have many good targets for removal in my deck, they would often die quickly.

I did manage a couple magnificent kills with the Elder, the best one being a game where I dealt 20 damage with it in one turn. I managed this by unattaching the Sunforger to cast the Mightly Leap, reequipping it and casting a Brute Force, attacking and finally shooting the last 10 damage.

I also had a sideboard plan of cutting the red completely in lieu of green and a black splash. I had some decent token makers, but lacked in bomb rares. The Mirror Entity was once again pretty useless.

I went 4-5 with this deck.

One more tragicomic story from the last match: After game 1 I went with sideboard plan, because why not. I couldn’t really recover anyhow. Guess what my opponent brought in? Three Flashfreezes. My plan was to dodge hate, but in the end didn’t manage to do anything about it. Just step into it from another angle.

However, I did manage to force in some early damage, because he wasn’t drawing many creatures. He did draw a Kami of Ancient Law and I had an Arrest in hand. He had no other creatures on the table. I went through all my enchantments in my head and I could only remember one more in my deck (a copy of Pillory of the Sleepless). So, I though that maybe if I manage to keep the pressure on for a couple of more turns, the game would be mine. So I arrested the Kami.

Of course, he finally drew a creature and it was Mirran Crusader. Can’t use the Pillory on that and even if I could, the Kami would get sacrificed and two for one me.

Not really my day.

Sunday

Having known for a while that I was out of the competition on Sunday, I had preregistered for the Tarkir Sealed event on Sunday morning. In many ways, I would have loved to play more Modern Masters, but I’m qualified for the RPTQ, which is sealed, so I thought I needed to practice.

My feeling on the format? Unless your pool really supports a two color deck (most don’t) play three colors, even with an awkward manabase. I played 19 lands with one Evolving Wilds and six each of the basic lands I needed. This way I could play Whisperwood Elemental and Deathbringer Regent while still using my deepest color, blue.

I went 3-0-1 after splitting the finals.

After which we went for 2HG sealed. Our pools were fair, or at least they felt like it, but at the same time, the synergies didn’t quite emerge. I had a five-color elementals deck with a Horde of Notions and some decent creatures, my partner had a green-black token deck. We felt we knew what we were doing, but in the end we went 0-2 before dropping out. I personally wouldn’t have minded playing all the rounds, but my partner wasn’t feeling very well, so we dropped out.

Around the same time another Finnish guy came to ask whether we would be interested in a team draft. I countered that with a suggestion of going out for a meal first, and then draft. So, we went out to this great little Greek place (I think its called Taverna) we had been to last year, had a great meal and went to our hotel to draft.

I have never team-drafted before, so I didn’t know badly I should cut off the people around me, so I did that just when I didn’t have anything else to pick. After a handful of picks, I felt like BW Spirits was open, so I went for that. I had first picked a Mirror Entity, which fit right into my strategy. I didn’t manage to pick any other rares, but I felt I had a pretty good synergy deck with four copies of Waxmane Baku and three copies of Thief of Hope. Still, the deck behaved badly and I lost quite a few games to flooding.

Also, apparently, despite being advertised as skill-intensive, synergy doesn’t seem to beat powerful bombs in this format either, so I went 1-2.

Monday

We had wagered breakfast the previous night, so we all met up in a small restaurant where you could get omelets. After that, we all had time to kill, so I showed them the game shops I had found the previous year. You can read about those here.

After some mulling around (while I tried to locate interesting old boosters for chaos drafting), we decided to take a rematch for the previous day. Labyrinth(?) seemed like the best choice to hold the draft as they had plenty of tablespace.

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Upon entering the store, we had to decide what we wanted to draft. After much conversing, we decided upon RTR block. This was completely new to me, as I had never done it before. I do remember how the guilds aligned, so I had some knowledge I could lean on. After first picking a Temple Garden, and not only for the money, but also because I thought it might be a good idea to pick fixing highly, I went for a Selesnya deck. Once I found a pack I didn’t want any white or green out of, I diversified into red, because I knew Selesnya would be in the last pack, but there would be Boros and Gruul in the second pack.

It all went pretty well. I had a nice-ish curve and I got to play Sylvan Primordial. I went 2-1, which I’m happy with. Our team won again and this time our opponents were left with buying us a snack.

A Comment on Limited

I know R&D have been putting emphasis on keeping the drafting experience fresh and its a noble cause. However, this has been mostly done by making powerful rares. This seems to have lead to a situation where you need those rares to make a good deck and not all rares are made equal.

Although this probably leads to a better overall experience drafting, it also means that sealed has become more swingy with some pools being atrocious while other pools are just stocked full of bombs. The format is losing much of its luster. Think about it this way: I travelled almost 2000 kilometers to play in this GP and then I got a pretty much unplayable pool. How is this going to encourage me to do it again? For the time being I’m only going to participate in constructed GPs, but I can’t just not play in the RPTQ, now can I.

The logistics of drafting in a GP the first day is probably too complicated to even comprehend, but something needs to be done. This doesn’t feel like a competitive event when a player only needs to luck out in the first few steps to day two. Way too much emphasis is being put into that part of the format. You don’t get a good pool? Well, tough luck and forget about having fun despite paying hundreds of euros just to be there.

What can be done? More boosters? Even more bomb rares? I think a flatter power level would definitely help, but I think WotC would rather go for the longevity of the format, because the real money doesn’t come in from the GPs, but rather from the numerous little events around the world.

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