GP Paris 2016 Report

I got back from Paris yesterday really late, but we’ll get to that eventually. As usual, its not only about playing, but its an experience. There’s a bunch of Finns that frequent these things and we always have fun, because we don’t take this too seriously.

To me, its more about traveling. GPs are a good excuse to go to cities I wouldn’t visit otherwise. I would travel otherwise, but I’m basically outsourcing the decision making on when and where I go on holidays to WotC. This was my twelth GP and my tenth GP city (actually I was at GP Paris 2015 as well). I’ve also been to eight different countries to GPs. Although I don’t always get to do all the tourist-y stuff as much as I would like, I hope I’ve learned much during these trips.

Although I do have pretty good notes on my actual matches, I’m not going to talk about them, as there’s more qualified people to analyze their games and I didn’t do very well in the main event.

The Tourist-y Stuff

Saw the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre and Le Pantheon, as well as the Faculty of Law situated right next to it. We also ate in several restaurants ranging from tourist traps in the Latin Quarter to KFC knock-offs in suburbs to kebab joints to nice, friendly bistros to hamburgers out of a kiosk to fresh baguettes straight from the bakery prepared in our apartment hotel kitchen.

So, nothing special. I do like how the GPs tend to take outside of the usual tourist scope. Since the center of the cities often don’t have convention centers, you get to see the suburbs and how the locals really live.

One thing I’d like to note is that there was a pretty continuous security alert. There had been a bomb threat at the airport (and of course there were bombings in Brussels), which, in combination of air controller strike, lead us to leave Paris really late, which almost lead us to miss our connecting flight, but the people at SAS and JetTime really came through and we made it to Tampere. Somewhat late, but they can’t help that. It was actually kind of nicely orchestrated. We were moved to the front of the plane mid-flight, so that we could get out of the plane faster and there was someone ready to pick us up as soon as we got out of the plane and get us to the next plane.

There was a chance I really, REALLY had to be home by Tuesday (although that didn’t happen), so I’m very grateful for everything they did (and I will write them a nice email thanking them).

Friday

Friday is mostly a chance to get those pesky byes, if you don’t already have them (as seven of us eight did). The trials just didn’t seem to fire. There were seven of them, which is pretty bad. I remember last year in Paris Bazaar of Moxen ran 47 of them on Friday and from what I hear, they ran something like 60 during GP Lyon last year.

But before anything else, there was a Mega Mini Masters event. The way it works is that you get a booster and you shuffle in three of each basic land. Then you play an opponent (one game only) and if you win, you move on to the next round, where you get another booster and can now actually make a 30 card deck with the cards you have. This goes on until there’s only one player left.

At first, it seemed I had a pretty good pack. I had Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim and a couple of high toughness blockers in my opening hand (Wall of Resurgence and Ancient Crab). I was missing black mana, but you can’t have everything. Sadly, my pretty good plan fell through pretty fast as my opponent had Gravity Negator and got to seven mana pretty quickly, casting Deceiver of Form. Since I didn’t have flying blockers or removal (or that pesky black mana), that was it for me, even though Deceiver never found anything worth copying. Not that it wanted to, because the Negator was very good in this instance.

After that it was time to see what else was going on. I didn’t need the byes, so I decided I’d rather play in the swiss events, but I didn’t want to play the deck us players from Tampere had decided on for the main event, so I brewed up a pretty sweet Jund deck just before going out to the site. It looked something like this (normally I would remember my lists, but because it was a very quickly made brew, I can’t be sure):

Didn’t work too well. First attempt I went 1-3 and second attempt was 2-1-1 (I hardly ever get unintentional draws, but that was a really grueling match against a grindy BW deck). Still, it was a fun deck to play, if you are so inclined.

Also, I learned this way too late, but here’s a good reason to never assume what your cards do: Pulse of Murasa can target any creature in any graveyard. Wish I’d known that. Would’ve have made playing against Rally much more tolerable, although I did only lose to it with this deck due to my own mistakes. Kalitas is just too strong.

Main Event

For the first time ever, we had a “team deck”. Usually at least I’m going with something completely different, but all of us from Tampere were pretty much on the same deck and one friend from Helsinki went with us as well. Here’s my list:

We weren’t all on the same 75. Some of us ran a Surrak, the Hunt Caller instead of fourth Gideon in the main and there was some other variation as well. There was a lot of discussion on the “flex spot”, where I played the third Silkwrap, but there were plenty of options, like Disdainful Stroke, Stratus Dancer, and my personal favorite (although not for playability reasons) Icefeather Aven.

It felt like a good deck. I went 7-2 on Saturday (with two byes) to day two the event. I found this pretty funny, actually, since my preparations for the tournament with the deck was a couple of practice games, where as my friends tested it extensively, but did worse than myself.

Then everything fell apart and I went 1-5 on Sunday with an overall record of 8-7. Not good. I would like to blame luck, as I did mulligan a lot, but I think that’s partly due to sleeve choice. I used different sleeves than I’m used to, so shuffling was pretty awkward and I might have not done enough of it.

I did have pretty bad matchups, as well, but I also lost the good ones. Riskier moves never seemed to pan out. But there is an upside to it as well (part of which I’ll get to later), as I know the players on the latter part of the day two standings are there simply because they like the game, so they are more relaxed opponents than the ones on the top tables, but they are also good players, as they did reach day two.

Since I don’t really have goals besides having fun at these events, I don’t really mind the bad breaks. I will have to do some more reflection on it though, as clearly the deck was good, the pilot just wavered.

Player Defined Win Conditions or Achievements

For me, part of having fun with the game is to pull of all sorts of shenanigans. No cheating or anything unsporting, just doing unexpected stuff within the context of the game. I felt like I achieved this at least three times during the weekend.

1) I managed to convince my mates to play Profaner of the Dead and it turned out to be pretty busted in this environment. I don’t think we should have played more than one, but I heard of all sorts of blow-outs during the weekend and I managed to blow out my opponent in one game as well. It just worked very well against both Rally and Bant Company. We were planning on bringing it in against Atarka Red and possible mirrors, but that didn’t happen during the whole weekend. Atarka Red was on an all time low apparently, because I’ve always seen plenty of them during these events, because its pretty easy deck to grok and build, if you don’t play much, but want to participate.

One thing I love about this game is when I play these kind of cards and I get to watch my opponent as they figure out what’s going on. Both time I played it they had to read it twice to get some sort of handle on the situation.

2) Ob Nixilis Reignited ultimate into Chandra, Flamecaller.

3) Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet punching the whole world. This might require a bit of explanation. My opponent had two Hangarback Walkers that had gone out of hand. They were going to be 10/10 soon, but my opponent didn’t want to attack with them into my Hissing Quagmires. I did have Chandra’s Ignition in my hand, but giving my opponent 20 1/1 fliers didn’t seem like a good idea. Than I top-decked a Kolaghan’s Command… and than another. Plan was beginning to emerge. I could destroy both of the artifacts at end of turn and then use my personland to wipe them all out… So I did.

But instead, I topdecked Kalitas. So, lifelink + Chandra’s Ignition + 20 creatures = 60 life (actually, there was a mistake here, since I should have gotten 63 as it also deals damage to the opponent). Achievement unlocked.

The Curious Cases of Paper Being Eaten and Three Consecutive Concessions (Not Related)

Since these events are fairly high stakes (not really, if you think about the stakes in other similar sports) all sorts of shenanigans seem to happen. This is the sort of thing that makes me think twice about going to these events.

First, I heard an anecdote (which I got confirmation for from the judges) on how a player was on extra turns and his opponent hands him a piece of paper. A judge intervenes and wants to see the piece of paper, but the opponent chose not to and ate the paper instead. Well, a clear disqualification. This felt a bit amateurish as if you’ve been playing enough GPs, you know the judges will come over to all the tables with players on extra turns or extra time as soon as a judge is available. Of course you shouldn’t not do it because of fear of reprisal from the judges, but because of what it tells about you integrity and the integrity of the sport.

Second, there was a player who played against a friend of mine. They went to extra turns and after they were about to draw, the opponent insisted my friend concede. Well, my friend wasn’t about to concede to just anyone, so the opponent told him his on 29 pro points, so he needs just this one point to get gold. Well, he wasn’t making his case in a very nice way (he kept slamming his cards on the table, for example), so my friend wasn’t really inclined to help him out. So they drew.

But… hey, the power of Internet. I looked him up. His name is Mattia Rizzi and he was on 23 Pro Points. Of course, if he’s qualified for the next two pro tours, he’ll get to pick up six points from those two events alone. He does seem to have invites for both, because he got one from a high finish at GP Bologna and he’s already reached silver during the last PT, which gives him one invitation for the season. Okay, he didn’t technically lie, just stretched the truth just a bit.

However, what really bothers me is that he got three concessions in a row this way. Each time he gave the opponent the same story and got them to go his way. So, I asked some judges about this (I am a judge as well, but the events I judge don’t have these kinds of problems) and they told me they couldn’t really do anything. They were aware of it and had made a note of his behavior, but even though its bad for the integrity of the event, its not really forbidden.

What they did tell me is that in case he gets suspended for something else, this will reflect poorly on his character and the suspension might therefore be longer, but in the meantime he is free to pursue this avenue of doing well in the game.

In the end, he went 10-3-2 and got the final point he so desperately needed.

Now that I think about it, I may have made the case poorly when talking with the judges about this, but I don’t think I would have wanted to go this far with this. I could have used the aggressive behavior angle, but I didn’t feel he was threatening, but then again I’m not usually threatened by that kind of behavior. Someone else might have been. Also, he mentioned money when talking to my friend. He said the money doesn’t matter, which brings up two problems. First, who is he to determine that for my friend? Second, was there an implication that he would be willing to part with any or some of the prize money in lieu of concession? That’s enough to get a DQ, but since I didn’t pick up on it at the moment, and I assume no one else did either, so its a pretty moot point.

Anyhow, I would hope the people who get on the pro tour are really worthy of it, because there are plenty of talented people out there trying to achieve that goal, and this whole debacle makes me feel this person isn’t. I guess the Pro Tour needs heels as well and this guys possible success would definitely make him one. Also, he might steal the Italian captaincy this way, which would make the whole team look bad.

I am aware concessions are typical in the Pro Tour, especially during the last PT of the season, where a lot of people are on the cusp of some goal (silver, gold, platinum, captaincies, World Championship slots), and I’m okay with that, because these people have to work with each other and are often friends, but demanding concessions from strangers at this point of the season is a whole different matter.

All-in-All

Another nice, fun trip with friends. Interesting games, good opponents. Didn’t get blown up and got to see some more of Paris. There were plenty more anecdotes from my friends, but I didn’t feel I could do them justice, so I simply left them out. I also have a feeling that I simply forgot a lot, because a lot happened in those five days.

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