Grand Prix Indianapolis and Relaying for Modern

Hey everyone!

I did it. I finally broke the Limited curse. It has been three years since I top 8ed a Grand Prix and this one happened to be in my weakest format. Fun fact, it’s my first Grand Prix top 8 where Brad Nelson was not playing a near identical deck in the top 8.

Today I want to share my experience from Grand Prix Indianapolis, highlight my favorite Modern decks, and talk about my tournament for Relay for Life.

Let’s get to it!

Grand Prix Indianapolis

Day 1

I was on the fence about attending this Grand Prix because I wanted to pull back this year. Grand Prix are very exhausting for me because I almost always have trouble sleeping before day 2. When I’m stuck in critical thinking mode for so many hours in a row, it’s tough for me to shut that off and I’m left drained for the second half of the competition.

The reason I ultimately pulled the trigger was because I had practiced so much for Hour of Devastation and Amonkhet sealed. I had a PPTQ, an RPTQ, and Grand Prix Toronto as experience. There was a crash and burn involved for the RPTQ and Grand Prix, but at least the PPTQ went well. This meant I didn’t have to put in as much time to figuring out Limited, as I enjoy Constructed more.

My sealed deck for Day 1 was solid, but not great. The two best archetypes, in my opinion, are Green Ramp and Red Aggro. The aggressive decks can get under the big mana threats of ramp, but fall short to Black’s -1/-1 counter synergies. That’s where I come in:

I didn’t have the tools to make a great aggressive deck, so I planned on grinding down opponents with Splendid Agony and Soulstinger. It was important to have proactive elements because Green Ramp will eventually go over the top of me. I had two Lethal Sting for big creatures like Rampaging Hippo, so I wasn’t completely dead in the water.

Although I didn’t play a ton of sealed in preparation for the event, I did use draftsim.com to generate practice pools. After making about twenty pools, I got a feel for high level trends that was helpful for establishing an expected metagame. Sealed is a very dynamic format so it’s hard to expect the type of deck you will ultimately play, but the law of large numbers suggests your opponent won’t be doing unexpected things too often.

After two byes, I ended the day at 7-2; losing to a deck with Glorybringer and AJ Kerrigan with a great {R}{G} goodstuff deck. I would say both of these decks were flat out better than mine. It’s possible for me to beat AJ if I played better, but I felt completely outclassed against {U}{R} Glorybringer. I was happy to make day 2 with a record better than 6-3, as Grand Prix Toronto ended with a 5-4 finish.

There were a little under 1,200 players, which meant the competition was more dense than usual. The Midwest Grand Prix are typically packed to the brim with talent. I faced some great players Day 1: Matt Stankey, Ben Rubin, Michael Peretz, and AJ Kerrigan.

Day 2

Draft 1

I was informed by my hotel mates that my 7-2 pod is absurd for the first draft of the day:

Let’s just say that nobody was “just happy to be there.”

To be honest, I didn’t practice too much draft because I was scared enough about sealed already. My philosophy was to take every 2-drop I saw and stick with Naya colors. I felt too many players would first pick cards like Oasis Ritualist, so I wanted to avoid that trainwreck altogether. I’ve been burned in the past for avoiding certain color combinations, but I also have been punished for being too flexible and getting pushed into weak archetypes. Today I wanted to be aggressive because that’s all I’ve drafted and I wanted to be comfortable with the decks I was going to pilot.

I started by sticking to my guns with a first pick Ambuscade. Then I got passed a pack with Ambuscade, Sand Strangler, and Struggle//Survive. I picked the Ambuscade to stay Green and let Mike Sigrist and company fight for Red cards. It became clear Red was flowing in the coming packs, so that was my second color. The ol’ pass-cut; sorry Mike.

My deck turned out to be one of the best draft decks I’ve had in this format:

I ended with three Ambuscade, two Synchronized Strike, and eight 2-drops. It didn’t hurt that my 3-drops were also all very solid cards. Just because I had this great deck didn’t mean I was safe by any means. My next three opponents were: Oliver Polak-Rottmann, Jon Job, and Mike Sigrist.

Oliver managed to beat me a game, but I won 2-0 the other two rounds. The 2-drop strategy paid off in spades. In order to top 8 I needed another 3-0.

Draft 2

My pod is once again pretty difficult:

  • Me
  • Sam Black
  • Aaron Lewis
  • Hao-Shan Huang
  • Ethan Gaieski
  • Mark Ruby
  • Bryan Carey
  • Jon Benson

I began by picking Kefnet’s Last Word, followed by two more Blue cards. This deviated from my traditional Naya Aggro approach to the format, so I attempted to pair it with Red to make a tempo deck. I continued to prioritize 2-drops such as Firebrand Archer to make tempo spells like Unsummon better. It was clear Red was very open, as I ended the draft with nearly 30 Red cards. As I registered my deck, I realized there were only three Blue cards; so, with four minutes on the clock, I pivoted into Mono Red.

Oddly enough, I was able to fit a ninth spell in Tormenting Voice by cutting Blue. This made my Firebrand Archers and Warfire Javelineers even more powerful. The key to Red aggro is playing a 2-drop and attacking with Kindled Fury at the ready, followed up with another 2-drop. My curve was very low, which made Thresher Lizard a legitimate threat. Red was so open in the draft, I was passing Electrify since I already had three Puncturing Blows.

This deck felt even stronger than my first deck. I was cautiously optimistic because Sam Black and Ben Stark waited in the wings.

My opponents in this draft pod were Mark Ruby, Ben Stark, and Hao-Shan Huang. I have seen Hao-Shan at PTs and GPs, but was unaware he had SIX Grand Prix top 8s. Mark Ruby took a game off me because I drew eight lands, but even that game felt close. It was a very strange draft, because Mark was Mono Black and I was Mono Red. This meant a majority of the other drafters were fighting over three colors, which would weaken their decks. Ben Stark was Blue/White and Hao-Shan was Blue/Green. I felt my deck matched up well against theirs.

I had a feature match in round 15; it was a chance to redeem myself. My last win-and-in was Grand Prix Louisville, where I got obliterated in a feature match. I wasn’t nervous, but I really wanted to win. This is my third Grand Prix top 8 and I’m stoked.

Top 8 Draft

At this point, I had faced so many great players it was getting ridiculous. Coverage took note of this and decided to feature my top 8 draft. As you can imagine, the top 8 pod was also stacked:

  • Andrew Cuneo
  • Me
  • Kristopher McCord
  • Michael Peretz
  • Steve Rubin
  • Andrew Funkhouser
  • Rich Richey
  • Eli Kassis

I didn’t realize until I watched the replay how many of my picks were controversial. Ambuscade over Ammit Eternal was my first pick. Oketra’s Avenger second pick put me into an ideal scenario of{W}{G}. Third pick Mummy Paramount over Vizier of the Anointed raised some eyebrows, but I don’t feel comfortable with any of the slow Blue decks. I want to pick every 2-drop I see and it will work out. There are some minor zombie synergies, but I’m interested in 2/2s for 2 mana to enable all of the Green and White spells that require creatures to be in play such as Ambuscade.

There were two more Ambuscades in the draft and I quickly gobbled them up. I admittedly forced an aggressive deck and it paid off again:


I ended up with seven 2-drops which is ideal. I was also encouraged to draft a deck like this as the second seed. Only if Andrew Cuneo won the other bracket would I ever have to play second in Game 1.

Quarterfinals

You can find my top 8 round here against Kristopher McCord. My deck came crashing through the gates both games with plenty of 2-drops and Ambuscades. The primary removal in {U}{B} is Unquenchable Thirst, which matches up poorly against Sparring Mummy, Dauntless Aven, and Act of Heroism.

Semi-Finals

I faced Steve Rubin for the fourth time in high level tournaments which you can find here. He wound up with a pretty sweet {W}{R} Exert deck that featured Glorybringer. Unfortunately, Steve mulliganed to five in the first game and got run over. He started out strong in the second game with a Steward of Solidarity into Resolute Survivors. This is a pretty deadly combo, as every other turn he created a 1/1 with Vigilance and drained for one. I felt disadvantaged for nearly the entire game, but he flooded out and I won.

Finals

It all came down to this match for the trophy. I played against a ton of great players this weekend, but Andrew is someone I had yet to beat. He had my number. Both of us enter the final round of the top 8 without having dropped a game, but I felt disadvantaged.

You can find where I get absolutely destroyed here. Not much else to say, but the classic matchup between {W}{G} Aggro and {W}{U} Control went about as expected. Marshall did a good job breaking down my feelings about deck-building in general. I passed on Overcome, which would have been good in this matchup, in favor of Djeru’s Renunciation because it can cycle. I don’t like high powered cards that have a chance of not doing anything. I had a good run in draft because I played hyper-aggressive decks that were good against traditional strategies, but Andrew went against the grain.

This finish qualifies me for Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan in Bilbao, Spain which happens to be Modern. I want to start practicing Modern now in order to have enough time to learn the draft format.

Speaking of Modern . . . 

Relay for Life Modern Event

I’m working with Get Your Game On in Ann Arbor to raise money for Relay for Life by hosting a Modern tournament.

I wanted to use my large social network in the Magic community to raise money for a good cause. It’s really awesome to see so many people come together and donate prizes to make this tournament a reality.

I’m still looking for more donations of cards in the $50 range, but here’s a list of players who have helped out so far:

  • Ben Magee
  • Ross Merriam
  • Joslyn Lambaria
  • Greysen Bauserman
  • Curtis Brimer
  • Larry Ott
  • Me

There have also been a ton of stores in the Detroit area who have helped spread the word. It’s great that this is the case, because I plan to do more charity events in the future and I encourage others to do so as well. Everybody has some cool card in their binder that’s difficult to trade. Turn that piece of cardboard into something helpful for others.

Here’s a list of the great stores who have helped spread the word so far:

  • RIW Hobbies- My awesome sponsor and hosting a Pauper 1k on 9/30.
  • Stadium Cards and Comics-Hosting a Modern PPTQ on 9/10.
  • BC Comix
  • Warriors 3 Cards & Games
  • Frogtown Hobbies- Hosting an SCG IQ on 9/10.

If there are 50 players, the prize pool increases by $500 store credit at Get Your Game On and I think that’s very attainable.

This is yet another Modern tournament to prepare for so let’s get to some sweet decks!


This is very close to the list used by Jon Rosum to top 8 two SCG Opens. It’s very telling when someone is able to do so well with an under the radar deck. This one happens to be in my wheelhouse.

I played Jeskai Geist in a local event and finished 4-0. The third Geist of Saint Traft felt like overkill so I cut it to two. The third Electrolyze felt like too many due to the high amount of 3-drops in the deck. Two Remands were the replacement and have been very strong. I have five 2-drop counters that bridge to the mid-game to win with Cryptic Command. Remand is good against big mana strategies, but weak against linear aggro such as Burn and Affinity. This is a good place to be since as Affinity and Burn are some of the strongest matchups anyway.

Dusk // Dawn was suggested by Nathan Quintanilla and I think it’s a cool idea to combat Eldrazi and Death’s Shadow. I can blow up large creatures with Dusk and return Snapcaster Mage, Geist, and Spell Queller with the Dawn half. Gideon of the Trials is my answer of choice in the sideboard to fight fair decks and it also happens to be strong against Liliana of the Veil. Adding 3-drops is very risky as there are already so many.

Speaking of Gideon, I am going to try to go all out on them after Ixalan is released. There’s a new rule that comes into effect September 29 that allows you to control multiple planeswalkers of the same type as long as they don’t have the same card name. This means I can have Gideon of the Trials, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and Gideon Jura in play at the same time!


The Gideon of the Trials emblem wasn’t amazing with the original planeswalker rule. Players will typically attack down planeswalkers before winning, so the emblem hasn’t ever been relevant for me. Now that I can control up to three Gideons, the emblem will create plenty of distractions before opponents can actually win. {W}{U} is a more powerful deck when it can play Gideon, Ally of Zendikar over Jace, Architect of Thought. Gideon Jura also had a serious drawback when I had to throw away Gideon of the Trials before he could enter the battlefield.

{W}{U}{ } Control is a top tier deck in Modern that only gets better. It also fits my playstyle as it has plenty of Snapcasters and Cryptic Commands. I wouldn’t be surprised if I play one of these two decks at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan.

That’s all I have for today. There have been plenty of exciting things happening in Magic lately. Expect some more sweet Modern decks from me later on.

Big thanks to RIW Hobbies for being a great sponsor.

Thanks for reading!

-Kyle


Ixalan is now available for Preorder! Pick up sealed product and singles as they're posted!

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