August 31, 2017

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Going for the Gold: My GP Indy Story for 2017

“I’m a badass, and you’re not….”

I looked up and there was this old man looking at me and my friends. He casually limped away on his cane after making this declaration, leaving us all confused and kind of amused.

Last weekend was Grand Prix Indianapolis, and it started off well before coming to a crashing halt. This article will be about the event and next week I will focus on both of my feature matches and what was going through my head during each of them.

Our trip started when my friend Mark picked me and another friend up in Mississauga. We had a long road ahead of us since we were driving for about nine hours. I had the amazing idea of staying in Windsor the night before so that we could gamble at Caesar’s Palace before doing a five hour trek in the morning.

I had taken a big break from magic since Pro Tour Kyoto so it was exciting to be “entering the ring” again. I always have this anxious feeling when I haven’t played in a long time. As we talked about Magic in the car, that feeling quickly dissipated.

We arrived at Caesar’s and after I lit $400 on fire by losing in their $1/$3 No Limit game, we headed to the hotel. It was 1 am since we waited for Mark to finish his poker tournament which he finished in 4th, good for $350 ($120 buy-in).

As we pulled up to the hotel, we realized that I had booked in the ghetto. Since Mark had budgetary constraints I had tried to get us a hotel for about $100 USD, big mistake! There was an old shirtless man that was drinking and screaming outside and a bunch of thugs looking for a fight. Mark and Matt took a quick look at the scene and quickly in unison said ,”Ugh, lets just drive to Indy”

When we got to the border, the patrol guard got straight down to business:

Patrol Guard: “So why are you going to the US?”

Mark: “We’re playing in a magic tournament.”

Patrol Guard: “What’s that and how long are you in the US for?”

Mark: “It’s a card game, and about two days.”

Patrol Guard: “How much value do the cards that you’re bringing have?”

Mark: “About $1000.”

Patrol Guard: “Well since you’re only coming for 48 hours, you can only have $400 worth. So you can either throw them out here or you can turn around and go back home.”

Mark nervously turns to me and asks “what do you want to do?”

Patrol Guard: “I’m just messing, I used to play Magic, have a good trip.”

Phew, I was just going to tell Mark to dump the cards.

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The rest of the road trip down was rather uneventful, although I did wake up a few hours later and realized that we were parked in a rest stop while everyone else was sleeping. Matt would later tell me that Mark almost nodded off during the drive and we were alive by the hand of God. Talk about not being able to sleep again for the rest of the trip…

Day One:

It’s crazy how long it takes for three byes to actually expire.

Something that I typically do at Limited Grand Prix these days is try to build my pool as early as possible (once awake), and then see what I can do to improve and build sideboard options. My pool was not that good, but it definitely had better options than I did in Toronto a few weeks ago. You learn that you really don’t need the best cards to win, as long as you have good removal and card advantage. I was able to go 8-1 with one of the greediest decks that I have ever built:

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You’ll see that I ran a base BG deck that allowed me to play all but three cards when I only had Swamps and Forests. I included one of each other basic land since I had an Evolving Wilds, Beneath the Sands, Manalith, and Gift of Paradise. This let me splash some really powerful options that let me outmanoeuvre players who had better cards than me. Remember, Sealed is all about playing a midrange deck, and you can see that reflected in my selection of creatures. I definitely had aggressive black and green two and three drops, but they just didn’t fit my game plan.

There were exceptions where I deviated from this plan. As you can see in my feature match against Seth Manfield in round six, I had to sideboard into a Jund deck that focused on adding creatures to the board rather than card advantage since he could easily outclass me with his suite of uncommons, rares, and mythics. While I got crushed in game one, this sideboard plan let me take the remaining games. I would not have discovered this deck if I didn’t take the time in the morning to look at all my options.

We checked into our hotel, which was not in the ghetto this time, and were able to stream the much anticipated fight between McGregor and Mayweather before passing out.

It wasn’t much of a fight.

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Day Two:

I checked the standings the night before and realized that I was in the first draft pod for the first time in my Magic career. This was exciting, but also kind of a bummer since I knew that this would be a very difficult pod. There were three 24 pointers and five undefeateds in our pod. I was being passed to by none other than Scott Lipp.

I drafted what I thought was a medium UR deck that was highlighted by some Spellweaver Eternals and other decent commons. Unfortunately, I had mana issues in most of my games and ended up being the loser 0-3 of the pod. I lost a real tight one in my feature match against Steve Rubin, but then the others were just run-aways. No one wants to be that person, but every pod has one and this is the second time ever that I have 0-3’d a pod.

Saying that still doesn’t make me feel better.

Whenever you do bad in a draft, you should always look back at what your options were and, when I think about it, I really did draft my seat. I didn’t get passed a single good removal spell in any colour outside of blue and red, and never got passed any bombs either. It does suck when you open a bunch of chaff for rares and then play people who have a bunch of rares, in this case Glorybringer and friends. I was pretty disheartened of course, but I still had one pod left and could possibly salvage the day with a 3-0 to get 2 pro points.

My second pod only had two people I recognized, Adrian Sullivan and Noah Walker (who was passing to me). I expected that Noah and I would meet in the finals. This time I drafted a real monster and was getting a lot of great cards in my colours. I even got a Deem Worthy fourth pick! If the last deck was a 5/10, this one was an easy 9/10. Of course, the mana issues didn’t go away and I lost a game against my first opponent who cycled Violent Impact in his Bant deck. Thankfully, my deck showed up in the next two games and I barely won what was supposed to be a bye. My opponent had made a lot of mispicks and they had six off-colour cards with cycling to pair with their Drake Haven.

I would face Noah Walker in the second round, and after a pair of games where we both did nothing, I was able to squeak out game three. He made a play that was great tempo wise, but it may have cost him the match. He cast Grind // Dust, then attacked and traded one of his creatures with a creature of mine that was going to die next turn when he aftermathed the Dust.

I ended up flooding out hard by drawing 14 of my 17 lands and the extra creature would have made it so that I couldn’t have raced him with my Angler Drake. Who knows if what he did was a mistake. Either way, he’s a really good player and I expect him to break out in a big way on the Pro Tour this year. In the final round, I played a miserable match against a slow player who already had a draw. My deck refused to let me play a third land in either game and I was so frustrated that I shook my opponent’s hand, signed the matchup and left the deck on the table.

I walked away with one pro point which could be relevant for me this year. So it wasn’t a waste of time. With the way that the new Pro Tour cycles works, I think you can still use your best six GP finishes to lock up a pro status for next year before the cycles go into effect. It’s really confusing, so I do hope that Wizards posts a real explanation on how it will work as many pros are clueless at the moment.

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Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation have been great for limited, and I’m sad to see it go. What did you think about it?

Post in the comments below or tweet at me (@SammyTMTG). And, if you want to keep up with my articles and happenings, please make sure you hit the follow button for Twitter @ SammyTMTG. I’ll see you next week for that article I promised you about, where I go into my feature matches from Indy.

Have a great weekend!

Sammy T