Not my first Grand Prix (fourth, actually), but I thought I’d share what happened this time around just in case you’re thinking about going to one.
First, I’m pretty good at Magic. Not great, but good. Definitely in the top 10% in the world, maybe even top 5%, but with around 15 million players in the world, that’s pretty far from the actual top players. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t have fun at a GP, though.
Second, my preparation sucked. I didn’t have time to test a deck at all, so I went in pretty blind and not really having a deck. Just a few ideas and a bunch of cards.
I got up at six to make my flight at nine. There was four of us on the same flight, but there were plenty of Finns participating, because the trip is pretty easy to make and we haven’t gotten our own GP in 10 years. Poromagia had a list with around 80 people. There might have been even more and some came over just to play in the side events.
I quickly constructed a deck during the flight. I was a midrangish red deck. The list looked something like this:
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
4 Prophetic Flamespeaker
4 Ashcloud Phoenix
4 Stormbreath Dragon
4 Lightning Strike
4 Stoke the Flames
3 Crater’s Claws
4 Chandra, Pyromaster
2 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Temple of Triumph
4 Harness by Force
4 Borderland Ranger
3 Fated Conflagration
2 Scouring Sands
2 Anger of the Gods
Lots of powerful cards, but not much beyond that. I played similar deck in the last standard, but that deck had [card]Ash Zealot[/card] and [card]Boros Reckoner[/card], which really made the deck, as well as the four [card]Burning Earth[/card]s in the sideboard
First problem was the taxi from the airport to the hotel. The system is pretty strange in Sweden. Mostly you go by meter, but the taxis must give you a fixed price from the airport. That means there’s plenty of people pushing their taxis with wildly differing prices. From what I heard, some people paid less than us, some paid more than twice what we did.
After that, we didn’t move around much. Since the event was in the same building as the hotel, there wasn’t much need to.
I got one game in during lunch (at the hotel) with my deck and got crushed. At that point I thought that might be an anomaly, because no one else plays that particular deck and it isn’t a big part of the metagame, so I didn’t let that bother me.
The first event was a Minimasters Event. It was free, so why not? You rip a booster, don’t look at the contents, and shuffle in fifteen basic lands and just play the deck. Here’s the kicker: If you win, you get another booster, and get to build a thirty card deck with your two boosters. This continues in a single-elimination fashion until there’s only one player left.
I won the first match because my opponent just couldn’t find the mana he needed in either game. With the second opponent we agreed upon a single game match, which I lost by decking myself. I actually had won the die roll, but decided that in this format its better to draw. Apparently, not.
I decided to pay for the all-day pass. I wouldn’t generally recommend that, but with my totally untested deck it felt like a good idea. I ended up playing in four different GPTs. The all-day pass is priced in such a way that it costs little more than two GPTs, but you can’t really play in three if you do well in one, because the window in which you have to start each GPT is less than six hours and rounds will often go long. You basically have to lose every first round (these are single-elimination events) to make three or more GPTs.
Which is exactly what I did. Three times. Sure, first time around I got manascrewed in both games despite keeping a hand with two Temples. The second and third attempts weren’t much better, despite me having decent hands. Apparently the red deck wasn’t working, so I took a small break, checked in the hotel and sat down in my room for a little bit to build a totally new deck.
I had learned one thing: Abzan was popular. Actually, I had played Abzan three times (and lost three times), so I would have to come up with something else. So, since I have plenty of experience playing mono black aggro (or Suicide Black), I decided to go with that. This was the deck I made:
4 Bloodsoaked Champion
4 Tormented Hero
4 Gnarled Scarhide
4 Mardu Skullhunter
4 Pain Seer
3 Spiteful Returned
4 Herald of Torment
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Rakshasa’s Secret
4 Pharika’s Cure
4 Drown in Sorrow
3 Bile Blight
That actually worked. Somewhat. I did beat my first round opponent (Abzan, again), but lost to the second round opponent (Jeskai). Didn’t actually feel that good at that point. However, my inner metagaming self had an idea: Why not play four copies of [card]Glare of Heresy[/card]. In the main deck. Apparently everyone was playing either [card]Siege Rhino[/card]s or [card]Mantis Rider[/card]s, as well plenty of other white cards, so Glare should be especially strong. We went out for dinner and wrote out a decklist on a napkin (which I put on our Instagram account) and scrambled to get the cards together.
Since my handwriting is so bad, the list was this (although, as we couldn’t find another Sorin, I put the Liliana main deck):
4 Nyxfleece Ram
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
3 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
3 Wingmate Roc
4 Glare of Heresy
3 Hero’s Downfall
2 Utter End
1 Murderous Cut
3 Read the Bones
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
1 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
1 Liliana Vess
4 Temple of Silence
4 Caves of Koilos
4 Scoured Barrens
4 Drown in Sorrow
3 End Hostilities
1 Hero’s Downfall
2 Ajani’s Presence
After playing a few test matches with the deck, it felt good in the early game, but couldn’t leverage the edge. Still, I went to bed thinking this would be deck I’d play. It was almost 1 o’clock at that time, so I was quite tired.
However, I woke up a couple hours later, and apparently had decided in my sleep I can’t play that deck and would go back to the Suicide Black. However, with some changes. [card]Herald of Torment[/card] and [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] are great cards, but slow for this deck. I didn’t want to draw them, so I scambled to find something faster. I decided to take out all the Heralds, three of the Downfalls and a Swamp, and replaced them with a set of [card]Crippling Blight[/card]s and [card]Mogis’s Marauder[/card]s. I would have loved to use fetches, but I didn’t have any on me, so I this would have to do.
After one bye, I lost three times in a row. My first opponent was a Jeskai player, who managed to gain a huge amount of life with [card]Seeker of the Way[/card] and [card]Jeskai Charm[/card]. Clearly, a bad match-up. Didn’t matter much though, as it was the only Jeskai deck I saw all day. All the rest were Abzan of one sort or another.
I took a couple of losses from flooding, one match against a teen-aged boy with a very Finnish name. I kept talking to him in Finnish, because I just assumed he understood and was just too shy to respond. He actually got the courage to tell me he doesn’t speak Finnish after about a quarter of an hour into the match. After these two, I was 1-3 and out of day two, but I decided to go on ahead and play until I lose again.
After that, the tide turned. Still, plenty of Abzan decks, but I beat all of them. I ended up 6-3.
There, dead last of all the people with 18 points. Still, with the amount of preparation and bad luck in the beginning of the tournament, placing 264. out of 1043 is good enough for me.
After the last round, I found out that a couple of friends had indeed made day two and we all went out for a burger in the local fast food establishment, which turned out to be pretty good.
So, I was out of the main event. There wasn’t much pressure for the Sunday for me, so I thought I’d sleep long. Didn’t happen. I awoke around 7 o’clock, which was fine. At least I could get into the side event queues early. I decided to take part in the Super Sunday Series Sealed Tournament.
During the registration, I opened the sickest pool ever. It had a [card]Wingmate Roc[/card], two [card]Utter End[/card]s, [card]Rakshasa Deathdealer[/card], [card]Windswept Heath[/card], [card]Mantis Rider[/card] and a couple of more rares I’ve since forgotten. At least the Mantis Rider didn’t fit perfectly into the deck and the fixing wasn’t the best, so they couldn’t necessarily play the Deathdealer either (although they probably would). On top of that, it had two [card]Chief of the Scale[/card]s and a [card]Chief of the Edge[/card], plus plenty of warriors. It was bad.
After seeing that, my pool with a [card]Savage Knuckleblade[/card] seemed pretty disappointing, to say the least. I went with a base blue-green tempo deck, splashing for the Big Knux. Seemed pretty good, actually. I won the first round, but lost the next two in pretty tight matches. Just couldn’t get a good mix of tempo cards and creatures.
At this point I dropped out. We agreed with a friend, Lauri, that we’d both drop out of our respective events to take part in a Two-Headed Giant event. That was fun.
First, there was a raffle, in which we won an Ajani and a Garruk figurine (with the Garruk pictured above).
Then, we received our pool. This was run as a REL Regular (not REL Competitive like most of the events there), so we didn’t have to go through the trouble of registering decks, or anything like that.
We had a couple of good bombs. [card]Pearl Lake Ancient[/card] was one card that seemed pretty good (and was). We went with a Jeskai deck for Lauri (mostly for [card]Flying Crane Technique[/card]) and I personally joined the enemy with an Abzan deck (mostly for [card]Ivorytusk Fortress[/card]). We had pretty good early play, but could also go long with all the Outlast creatures. We also had plenty of good removal. No [card]Murderous Cut[/card]s, but plenty of everything else.
All rounds were best of one, because the games went very long. We went 4-2, ended up in seventh place (out of 34 teams) getting 10 packs and 30 euros in store credit we used to get a couple of fetches. We lost once to a misplay (which was pretty understandable, but we could have played it better) and one double manascrew. We also won a game because one opponent couldn’t find green mana in a long game despite eight sources in his deck. Name of the game.
We did play well in general, playing around cards well. Everyone seemed very pleasent to play against and the event as a whole was very friendly.
Language was fun. We spoke in Finnish amongst ourselves, because no-one outside of Finland knows Finnish. However, out opponent would speak Swedish, which I do sort of understand. This didn’t actually matter, because I’m very bad at understanding spoken Swedish. I can read it pretty well, but that’s the extent of it. However, both sides would occasionally use card names and that lead to some misunderstandings. For example, at some point our opponents made an awkward attack, and Lauri asked me whether there was a trick that could screw us over. I said [card]Ride Down[/card], which would have been pretty disasterous for us at that point. Later in the game our opponent said to us (in English) that obviously we’d have the Ride Down. They had misunderstood our attempt to play around a card to thinking we had that card.
Most of our group had left Sunday night or early Monday morning. There was just too of us, Juha-Matti and me. We ate breakfast at a leisurely pace and enjoyed our respective hotel rooms for a while. Then we visited the Gamla Stan (the “Old Town”) in Stockholm.
Usually, these trips have been much more about playing the tourist for me. I took all week to visit Valencia, Manchester and Utrecht, but this was just a four day trip with intense gameplay on three of them. Still, at least I can say I’ve visited Stockholm, if that ever counts for anything. Probably won’t.