Stories from Strasbourg

Hey there! This week, I’ll be sharing some of the stories from Grand Prix: Strasbourg, which took place a few weeks ago. Rather than covering the tournament round for round, I’ll instead talk about the trip and some interesting situations that came up along the way.

It Always Starts with a Journey

Disrupting Scepter
Because flights from Helsinki to Strasbourg were very expensive when I came around to booking them, we ended up flying to Frankfurt and then driving from there. This was supposed to save us almost two hundred euros per person, but in the end, the savings were not quite as big.

We arrived in Frankfurt around noon and found a nice KIA Optima waiting for us, accompanied by that sweet new-car smell. The GPS tried to trick us with the classic “short route,” but we were clever enough to make it use the quickest route, thus saving us almost an hour. What was supposed to be a two-hour drive took a bit longer, as we were stuck on the motorway for half an hour, but eventually, we made it to the tournament site. I had grown accustomed to European GPs being held in quite nice locations, and I hadn’t been to a really bad one in many years, but the tournament site for Grand Prix: Strasbourg was definitely not impressive. The parking lot was a gravel field, and the toilets were located outside. However, it turned out to be okay even though it was still the worst site I’ve been to in a while. At least the weather was very good!

Of the two others I was travelling with, one had byes, so our third went to try his luck in the trials while we found a Chaos Draft that was missing only a few players. I’ve played a few Chaos Drafts at GPs before and always managed to lose in the quarters, but this time, I had a very sweet R/G ramp deck. I won the Draft but wasn’t so lucky with the Revised booster I opened, with the rare being Disrupting Scepter. We headed back to the hotel quite late, only to find that the parking garage was quite the nightmare. Driving a car you are not used to around some very tight corners can make one quite nervous, as you don’t particularly want to scratch the rented car. Once we had stowed away the car, we found that the hotel was trying to tell us what to play, with “Jund” written in large letters in the elevator.

Sneaky Business

Despite the hotel’s best efforts to get me to play Bloodbraid Elf, I ended up choosing Sneak and Show. I’m still not entirely sure why I chose to play it, as I had been almost locked on to B/U/G Shardless a la Gerry Thompson. I thought B/U/G Shardless would be more fun to play but that I would have a better shot at winning the tournament with Sneak and Show. The list is pretty standard, and I wrote a more in-depth look at it a while ago, which you can find here. Here is the list I played.

Gitaxian Probe
I was very happy with the Gitaxian Probes, which were quite a last-minute addition. I had played fewer than ten matches with them on Magic Online, but I liked the idea behind them. It often felt that I could go for Show and Tell, but I would then lose to several different things the opponent could have. If I waited, I risked losing to the opponent’s other stuff, and if I went for it, I was maybe just throwing the game away. Gitaxian Probe gave me a way out of these situations, as it let me see when I could just go for it. I won several games during the tournament just by having the Gitaxian Probe in situations in which I could otherwise not afford to try to go for combo.

In hindsight, I should probably have played a few more cards for the mirror, as I lost the one mirror match I played due to the opponent having Blue Elemental Blasts. I think you could cut one Defense Grid and probably also one Wipe Away to play more cards for the mirror.

I went 7–2 with three byes on the first day, losing to Maverick and the mirror match. I started out Day 2 well with 2–0–1, but then lost three matches in a row, meaning I was out of Top 64 contention. In the last round, my opponent didn’t even show up, so my final record was 10–5–1. This was better than my performance at the last four or so GPs I’ve played, where I didn’t even make Day 2. However, I was really looking for that 1 Pro Point so that Top 16 at Pro Tour: San Diego would earn me Gold level for next year, so I felt a bit bummed out.

Now, onward to these interesting gameplay situations that I promised you earlier in this article!

Situations

Maze of Ith
I was playing against Maverick in Round 5 and found myself in a situation where I played Sneak Attack and attacked him with Emrakul, leaving him at 5 life with one permanent, which was a land. He drew Maze of Ith the next turn, so the Griselbrand I drew in three turns or so did nothing. At this point, I had 10 life and was staring down a Qasali Pridemage. I had the option of putting Griselbrand into play and drawing seven cards. If I hit Emrakul, the Aeons Torn I would win, but if I whiffed, my opponent would kill me the next turn. I thought I had better odds of just drawing Emrakul manually since he could not attack me either, as I could put Griselbrand into play with Show and Tell to make it stick around. Some turns later, I had drawn nothing, and my opponent put a Knight of the Reliquary into play and killed me a few turns later.

In the second game, I got in an attack with Emrakul via Through the Breach, leaving him with nothing. I resolved Sneak Attack the turn after and even had Blood Moon for his Karakas, but I just never drew a creature and died to his Dryad Arbor that attacked me for nine turns. I actually drew an Emrakul on the second-to-last turn, but he had six other lands and Birds of Paradise to go along with the Dryad Arbor, so he could survive the attack. This was quite an absurd match, and I lost two games that looked very good at some point and I was almost sure I was going to win.

Lesson learned: Really think through situations; they may not always be as clear as you think. That, and try to draw creatures when you have Sneak Attack in play.

Another interesting situation came up when I was playing against Storm in Round 13. I had won the first game and then mulliganed to five in the second game. My hand was very good, with Leyline of Sanctity, Griselbrand, Sneak Attack, Ancient Tomb, and a fetch. When I drew a Lotus Petal on my first turn, my plan was to play Sneak Attack on turn two and try to kill him on turn three. On the second turn, I drew a Spell Pierce and thought it would be safer to just wait a turn so that he could not get rid of the Leyline of Sanctity and just kill me. What he did instead was make twelve Goblins with Empty the Warrens. He even had enough mana so that I could never profitably use my Spell Pierce to stop him. Had I played the Sneak Attack on the second turn, I would most likely have won, as I could have drawn fourteen cards to find Emrakul. The Spell Pierce actually tricked me into doing a fancy play, when being straightforward would most likely have been the best play. I proceeded to draw considerably worse after a mulligan in the third game and quickly lost.

Lesson learned: Be wary of fancy plays.

The Journey Continues

The actual tournament was not a great success for any of us Finns. I was the only one to make Day 2, and the others played in the Super Standard tournament on Sunday, but that didn’t go so well for them either. On Monday morning, we started our drive back to Frankfurt, leaving quite early so that we would have over two hours at the airport before the flight departed. Our plan was foiled when two trucks had collided on the motorway, and we were stuck there for over an hour. We were becoming quite anxious when nothing happened, but luckily, we made it to the airport just in time to make the flight.

Lesson learned: Always leave a lot of time to spare when travelling on German motorways.

Future

Dragon’s Maze has just been completely spoiled, and next week, I will take a look at what the most promising cards in the set are. I will attend a few prereleases this weekend in the hope of getting in that all important Limited practice for the Pro Tour. The Block Constructed format is looking very interesting with many viable strategies, so I am really looking forward to the Pro Tour in just about four weeks’ time.

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestion, be sure to contact me either via Twitter or the comments section below. I try to periodically check the three or four most recent articles for comments, so please don’t feel offended if you have commented on an older article and I haven’t responded. In these cases, it’s best to get in touch via Twitter.

Thanks for reading,
Max
@thebloom_ on Twitter
Maxx on Magic Online
You can find my music on: http://soundcloud.com/bloomlive

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