Grand Prix Utrecht

Hey there! Last week, I wrote an article on Team Limited with Gatecrash in preparation for Grand Prix: Utrecht. This week, I will be taking a look at what happened during the Grand Prix and the weekend in general. The main event did not go well, but I did have some success in the Legacy side event and learned a thing or two during the main event as well.

The Grand Prix

Boros Reckoner
As I mentioned, the main event was somewhat of a train wreck for our team. We had two byes and then lost in Rounds 3 and 4. In the fifth round, the match would have ended in a draw, but we conceded because a draw would have meant both teams were out, and our opponents were ahead in the final match. Last week, I predicted the most common combination of guilds would be Boros, Simic, and Esper, and this was true both for our team and all our opponents. The Sealed pool we received was good but not outstanding. Most of our rares were good, which was nice of course, and I think we ended up playing ten of the twelve rares.

The Boros deck was very good, with Frontline Medic and Boros Reckoner as the best cards, with a solid curve and good tricks to support the overall game plan. As we didn’t split red, we ended up having a lot of playables in the sideboard of the Boros deck, such as an additional Act of Treason and Massive Raid, cards you normally never have to cut from your deck. The Simic deck had a very good curve, with several 1-drops and many 2-drops. It also splashed for Clan Defiance, so it had a very good bomb. However, it was still lacking in some ways, and having some additional bombs or just powerful cards would have gone a long way. I piloted our Orzhov deck, which splashed blue for Consuming Aberration. The deck was very weird in the sense that the curve was almost nonexistent, and it was a type of deck you don’t normally see in Sealed of Draft. The deck featured eight removal spells plus Merciless Eviction and Luminate Primordial. The third finisher besides the Luminate Primordial and Consuming Aberration was Lord of the Void, so the deck had a very solid game plan.

I thought our decks would be good enough to make Day 2, perhaps with a 9–1 or 8–2 record. However, we ran into some bad luck, and our Boros deck frequently mulliganed to five in the three matches we played, and it only managed to win one game in total. We had been relying on the Boros deck to win most of the matches so only one of the other two decks would need to win. There were a few interesting situations in the three rounds that I thought I would discuss.

Executioner's Swing
The first situation was one in which I was staring down Bomber Corps, Hellraiser Goblin, and Ember Beast with 6 life and no nonland permanents. I had Executioner's Swing and Death's Approach in hand, but my opponent only had one creature in the graveyard, so I thought I was dead, as the Death's Approach could only prevent one of the 7 damage that was coming my way. Luckily enough, I thought about the situation again with the help of my teammate, and we ended up finding a winning play. By playing the Death's Approach on the Hellraiser Goblin and then casting Executioner's Swing on the Bomber Corps after the trigger resolved, I managed to kill both creatures mid-combat and only take a total of 4 damage, putting me down to 2 life. This plan, of course, totally depended on my opponent bricking for several turns, but in the end, this was what happened. I managed to draw some spells, and my opponent had only drawn two Muggings. I ended up winning it only just, but I was very happy that I had not conceded.

The second situation was what actually eliminated us from the tournament in the end. Our Simic deck was up one game and in an interesting situation. The opponent had 3 life, a tapped Assault Griffin, and an untapped Millennial Gargoyle along with what we strongly suspected was a spell in hand (and 5 mana open). We had a 3/3 token and Wasteland Viper, and we drew Simic Charm. We now had three alternatives. The first one was to bounce the Millennial Gargoyle and try to attack for lethal. The second was to attack and then boost the creature that wasn’t blocked. The third was to just attack and not do anything, opting to keep the Simic Charm open as a reactive card. We chose to go for the third alternative, and our opponent chump-blocked the 3/3 and then played Executioner's Swing on it at end of turn, prompting us to save it by giving it hexproof. The token the traded with the Assault Griffin the next turn, and our opponent drew a removal spell on the last possible turn, killing the Wasteland Viper that threatened lethal. We then lost the game and eventually the match.

In my opinion, the real mistake here was not the plan we initially chose, but that we didn’t stop to totally reevaluate the situation once our opponent had blocked the 3/3. By blocking, he sent quite a clear signal that he had something along the lines of Smite or Executioner's Swing in hand and not a real removal spell. We should have thought the whole situation through again at this point and boosted the Wasteland Viper. If our opponent had Grisly Spectacle or Killing Glare, he would most likely have just tried to kill the 3/3 before blockers and then blocked the Wasteland Viper. For us, boosting once he had blocked would most likely have been a very low-risk play with a huge upside, so we should definitely have chosen this line of play. Unfortunately for us, we screwed this up, and it ended up costing us the match. After picking up the third loss, we all felt quite bad, as we had been doing a fair number of Team Drafts, and we just hoped to make Day 2 for a change.

Make It Boom!

Shardless Agent
The following day, there were a lot of options to choose from if you wanted to play Magic. One of the main problems that came up was that none of us had any Constructed decks with us, so you could say we were quite limited in what we could play. I wanted to play in the Team Sealed Challenge, as I thought it would be the most fun and probably the tournament in which we had the best chance to do well. My teammates wanted to play something with a larger upside for winning, so they chose to play the Sunday Super Sealed. I also registered for the event, as even though I wasn’t super-excited about the tournament, I would rather play in it than play in nothing.

The Super Sunday Sealed started, and I received possibly the worst pool I have had the misfortune of playing with in this format. The only real option was to go Boros, but there were only three 2-drops and three 3-drops, so the curve was terrible. There were also only fifteen playable creatures, and I prefer having a few more in Boros. The only real chance of winning with the deck was to draw Wrecking Ogre in every game, or somehow get in a good attack with Ordruun Veteran with some of the tricks I had. During deck construction, I received a message from my friend who was playing in the Legacy Challenge—one of the Finnish judges had a deck that was short just one Umezawa's Jitte. He also stated that the deck was most like Elves, which really excited me, as I have wanted to try the deck for a long time. I dropped from the Super Sunday Sealed even before the first round had started and went looking for said judge. It turned out the deck was not Elves, but R/U/G Cascade, which was not exactly what I had expected. However, playing Legacy would be approximately a million times more fun that playing Sealed with a horrible pool, so I registered the following deck.

Boom // Bust
I really disliked the Boom // Busts at first, but the problem was that I only had the seventy-five cards that were part of the deck. The list originally had the fourth Force of Will in the sideboard, but I moved it to the main deck in place of the second Boom // Bust. The sideboard seemed a bit random, but as mentioned, I did not have time to make any real changes.

I won against Jund, Storm, Goblins, Reanimator, and Tin Fins (who comes up with these names?). I then took two draws to lock up the Top 8. The Jund and Goblins matchup felt really good, as I had the tools to totally demolish decks with small creatures and the needed card advantage to fight grindy decks. As a long-time player of W/U miracles, it felt really good to be on the winning side in the Goblins match. Storm was a rough matchup, but his draws were not very good, and I managed to win.

The Reanimator match was very amusing. I lost the first game quickly and then had an active Deathrite Shaman in Game 2. He resolved a Show and Tell, and I was sure I was dead, but he just dropped an Iona, Shield of Emeria. This locked down my blue spells, with two Ancestral Visions suspended to add insult to injury. I was sure there was no way I could win, but the Tarmogoyf I put into play from the Show and Tell meant he could not race be profitably. Six turns later, he had not drawn a creature for his Show and Tell or another Entomb to get around the Deathrite Shaman (he had one in hand already). Slowly but surely, the Deathrite Shaman drained away 2 a turn, and a helpful Bloodbraid Elf came down to do a critical 3 damage via Lightning Bolt.

In the third game, he quickly Reanimated a Griselbrand, and I was not very hopeful regarding the resolution of the Gilded Drake I had in hand. However, as he could only draw once with Griselbrand, somehow, the Gilded Drake resolved, and I was able to experience how it feels to have Griselbrand in play. I could then draw 14 cards, so winning was not very difficult after that. After the match, he said he had sideboarded out all of his Force of Wills and that he was only playing a few Dazes, so that explains why my Gilded Drake resolved so easily. Deathrite Shaman and Scavenging Ooze got to work against Tin Fins, and Griselbrand never was able to enter the battlefield.

Tornado Elemental
Once the Top 8 was about to start, someone suggested we split the 800 euro dealer credit and play for the special prize that was going to the winner. The judge said something about the prize being a full set or an uncut sheet, which sounded very good, as I had assumed it was just some diploma that said, “You are the number one Legacy player!” So, we split the money and started playing. I played against a four-color control deck with the Punishing Fire engine and Intuition to find the two pieces and Life from the Loam. We had been playing for about fifteen minutes when the judge came over with the special prize. Instead of being something worth hundreds of euros, it was Planechase: Elemental Thunder, worth approximately 20 euros. Several people instantly scooped their matches and dropped from the tournament, as apparently earning a preconstructed deck full of commons was not the most exciting thing ever. I finished the first game and then conceded to go and eat some all-you-can-eat Japanese food.

I liked the deck in general and think it is a fine choice against most fair decks. Combo decks are somewhat of a problem, so more cards should probably be added to the sideboard to address this. I would also cut one Punishing Fire from the main, as creature decks are already such a good matchup, and you could then move the Umezawa's Jitte to the main. Drawing one of each instead of two Punishing Fires is probably a good idea.

I find it funny how you need to play with some cards to actually get a grasp of how powerful and insane they are. This happened to me with Deathrite Shaman, as it was the first time I played with it in Legacy. I can now attest to the fact that Deathrite Shaman is absurd in any kind of fair matchup, and it adds such a huge amount of utility to any deck that can activate all of the abilities. I also was able to experience having Griselbrand in play for the first time ever, and it sure feels good to draw all those cards.

Signing Off

This article became quite a bit longer than I had originally planned. Thank you to those of you who had the tenacity to make it this far! I hope you found my look into the Grand Prix and the side events interesting. I had a lot of fun during the weekend even though my hunt for Pro Points did not go well. Getting to hang out with friends and play the game you love for a whole weekend is seldom a bad experience, even if the main tournament is not a success.

Any questions, comments, ideas, or suggestions are welcome as always. Feel free to get in contact either via Twitter or the comments section below!

Thanks for reading,
Max
@thebloom_ on Twitter
Maxx on Magic Online
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