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September 16, 2016

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9th Place at the Kentucky Derby, I mean GP Louisville: Part 1

This past weekend was one of the most anticipated Grand Prix of the year, GP Louisville: a team sealed event. My past two limited Grand Prix went very well and I finished 26th both times with my good friends, Jesse Moulton and Vince D’Agostino. We had decided after GP Washington that we should explore other options with different people. In May during Grand Prix Toronto, Doug Potter and I had decided that we would team together for this event. All we had needed was a third person, and David Ochoa was on the top of our list of potentials. Fortunately he said yes, so we were ready to go.

Leading up to the event, we had taken care of all of our flight details and agreed to meet up at the event site on the Friday to test some team sealed decks together. Since we had all been qualified for Pro Tour Sydney, we had a lot of knowledge and experience in this limited format. David Ochoa was going to be in charge of all of our dining options as he is an expert on food. In addition, David was able to secure us an amazing 2 queen and sofa bed suite at Comfort Inn for less than $90 US a night.

If you read my last article here, you will have seen what I personally did to prepare for this event.

Friday:
I arrived in Louisville at 2 pm after an uneventful connection through Chicago. My taxi driver complained that I was “only” going to the Kentucky Expo center as it was only a 5 min cab ride and that “I should have walked there instead of wasting his time on a $10 trip”. I tipped him $3 for the ride but he told me that I still wasted his time. A quick aside, but this is exactly why I think Uber was a great innovation and I can’t wait for the day where this type of horrible customer service is no longer acceptable in the real world.

Since I was at the event site 2 hours before my teammates, I joined a draft to bide my time and got promptly crushed with my RG Werewolves deck versus a BW deck that had a bunch of bombs and amazing uncommons. So far not so good as far as my prospects for this weekend. I decided to just bird the semi-finals of the draft rather than joining another one, and luckily Doug and David both appeared within 20 minutes. Maybe things were starting to look up?

We sat down and opened up 2 different team sealed pools, both were difficult. We took these 6 decks back to the hotel where David and I jammed a bunch of games. Because of these games we quickly realized that the white decks in team sealed wanted more fliers than usual and cards like Shreds of Sanity were great in pools with grindy spells. Doug was watching initially but that crazy guy had 4 connections on his way over to Louisville so he went to bed early due to severe travel exhaustion.

Saturday:
We woke up early and enjoyed our free continental breakfast down in our hotel lobby. They had some really great sausage patties and fruit loops, quite a combination if you ask me! Since the team events have no byes, we knew we were going to have a grueling day ahead of us. We opened a mediocre pool and we put together a UR spells deck (myself), a GW aggro deck (Doug) and a UB control deck (David). Outside of the spells deck, these were not the types of decks that we were hoping to be playing at the Grand Prix.

Here are pictures of each deck with the relevant sideboard. Please note that these decks would be great in a normal sealed deck format but with 12 packs, the decks that would be constructed would typically be more streamlined:

UR Spells:
UR Spells

Relevant Sideboard: 1 Chilling Grasp, 1 Make Mischief, 2 Turn Aside

GW Aggro:
GW Aggro

Relevant Sideboard: 2 Fiend Binder, Selfless Cathar, Cultist’s Staff, Ironwright’s Cleansing, Ironclad Slayer

UB Control:
UB Control

Relevant Sideboard: Mountain, Foreboding Ruins, Spreading Flames, Forest, Woodland Stream, Mockery of Nature

You can tell from the photos, that my picture game could definitely use some improvement! The first round of the tournament went pretty well. After the match I celebrated our victory with a vanilla ice cream and promised my team that I would eat an ice cream for every victory that we managed to notch on the weekend. Considering it was only 10 am, most people were shocked that I would be eating ice cream this early but that’s not abnormal for me. Paul Cheon who had lost round 1, claimed that he would join me in my ice cream eating if his team lost round 2 (Spoiler: they did), so they could rally back (Spoiler: they did).

Back to the tournament, in round 2, I would play against the team captain who mentioned that I had recently beat him a few months ago in the quarterfinals of the Super Sunday Series. I won the first game when I bounced his Convolute back to his hand instead of my own spell since the tempo was so important. He landed a Jace but could never get back into the game. He was able to win game 2 against me due to my Goldnight Castigator allowing him to Burn From Within me for double the amount. While we were shuffling up for the next game, my teammates had already won. This is and will continue to be one of the best parts of teaming with great players, not having to rely on always winning yourself.

The UR Spells deck definitely did not want the Goldnight Castigator as it was horrendous in most matchups, especially considering that I played the mirror 5 times (effectively making Thermo-Alchemist ping for 2 with each spell/turn). The other horrible card in the deck was Pieces of the Puzzle which was constantly boarded out along with the Castigator throughout day 1. The 2 Turn Aside came in against heavy removal decks to protect my various bomby creatures (Niblis of Frost, Docent of Perfection) or to counter swingy cards such as Savage Alliance, Ruthless Disposal, Nahiri’s Wrath, etc. I can’t be so sure of the sideboarding that my teammates employed but in the relevant sideboard above, I have noted their potential sideboard options.

The rounds started to go by fast as we notched win after win and we would end up losing a Round 5 clincher. Ironically, I won the game where I took a mulligan to four but was unable to win the game where I kept seven cards. A lot of this had to do with my opponent sacrificing his Ulvenwald Captive to emerge out a Wretched Gryff, which was promptly Drag Undered. This bought me enough time to finish off the game with an Thermo-Alchemist and a Tattered Haunter. The other two games he curved out on me and Foul Emissaryied me into Elder Deep-Fiend. Doug would end up losing his match, and this effectively put us in the 4-1 bracket. This meant that we only had one more potential loss to give before being effectively knocked out of the “Top 4”.

Round 6 we faced Ari Lax along with his teammates Christian Calcano and Ben Friedman who would be our toughest “named” opponents on day 1. I had the pleasure of bouncing Ari’s Spreading Flames targeting my 2 Thermo-Alchemists back to his hand with Unsubstantiate in Game 3, to which he responded with “do I get another turn?” and I said “probably not” before doing 10 damage to him with 2 Thermo-Alchemists and then the final three with Fiery Temper. Doug had lost his match against Ben, who would end up going 9-0 for his team and our final result would come down to a game three between Ochoa and Calcano. Calcano would stumble on his lands and drew both his equipment making it rather simple for Ochoa to set up control of the game and eventually closed out the game. This put us at 5-1 and lifted our spirits after the loss in the previous round.

There was a mini-controversy in game two, when Ochoa had Calcano all the way down to 1 life and “slow-rolled” his Certain Death. I certainly can see the merit in holding onto a card to prevent Calcano from playing around it, but the way the games played out, it wouldn’t matter if Ochoa had one or multiple copies of the card. Also, we were short on time (14 minutes left on the round) and after attacking and Calcano blocking properly he decided to pull the trigger to much the chagrin of Calcano’s teammates.

Join me next time when I wrap up with the rest of the day one and how we ended up doing on day 2. I mean you know by reading the title that we ended up in 9th, but how we got there was another exciting story! Until next time.

Sammy T