Flying Wild Nacatls – A GP: Columbus Report

I’m not going to lie; I really wasn’t planning to attend Grand Prix: Columbus. I didn’t have a commpelling reason to go, as Modern is the format I’m least familiar with, and even if I do really well, I can’t attend the Pro Tour it feeds. But there’s a short list of people who, when they call me to go to a Magic tournament, I can’t say “no.” Jon Boutin is one of those people, so three days before the GP, I found myself booking a hotel room. I wasn’t even going to play the main event since I was perfectly happy drafting and birding the whole time, but one of my buddies gave me an entire deck, so I guess I had to play. Plus, I’m sure no one wants to read an article entitled “Nassim Goes to Columbus to Hang Out and Make Off-Color Jokes.”

This was the third time I’d been to Columbus for a GP, with the previous two trips resulting in Day 2s (the first of which I missed qualifying for Pro Tour: Valencia on tie breakers. You can check out that report here). I played Fish-like decks in both of those tournaments, so I might as well keep the train running. I got a decklist from Canadian National Team member Lucas Siow, whom I describe as being on the up and up with regards to the latest technology. Here’s what I battled with:

It’s somewhat similar to Legacy Canadian Threshold insofar that it plays Tarmogoyfs, cantrips, burn spells, and cheap counters. That’s a deck that I’ve been reasonably successful with, and I sure as heck wasn’t going to play something convoluted like Birthing Pod. R/U/G Delver lacks the mana denial aspect of Canadian Threshold, but I remember enough about how to attack with Nimble Mongoose that I wasn’t worried about grossly misplaying. I’m sure that statement will bite me in the ass in a few paragraphs. I knew I didn’t want to play something complicated like Storm or Birthing Pod, as I had zero opportunity to test, and there’s a lot to be said for playing a deck that you’re comfortable with.

Tarmogoyf
The basic game plan with a deck like this is to play an early threat such as a Delver of Secrets or a Tarmogoyf, out-tempo your opponent with cheap counterspells, and finish him off with burn when necessary. As an aggro-control deck, you can readily switch between roles, and recognizing when to be aggressive and when to hold back is key to being successful. Playing an early threat is really important because all the Spell Pierces and Mana Leaks in the world don’t amount to a damn thing if your opponent has time to play around them. This is a deck for which you actually keep one-land hands a lot of the time because of all the cantrips. Almost any hand that can play turn-one Delver is a snap-keep. If I see land, Delver, Serum Visions, I’ll keep without looking at the rest of the hand. It is a double-edged sword, though, as the low land count leads to a lot of unkeepable hands, so I’m more reluctant than usual to mulligan. As a general rule, I’ll only mulligan completely unkeepable hands such as zero-landers.

The drive down to Columbus was pretty fun despite Jon’s desire to torture me with his awful taste in music. I think he wanted to get revenge for the trip to PT: Philly, during which I forced everyone to listen to Rush and Dream Theater. As a guy who loves bands whose average song length clocks in around twelve minutes, I find stuff like Girl Talk and Carly Rae Jepsen to be abominations. I’m a firm believer in the my-car-my-music rule, so I just took it on the chin instead of complaining the entire time like some people.

I guess I should talk about the actual GP. I don’t play nearly enough Magic to ever receive byes on Planeswalker Points, but this is the last year I am able to enjoy the benefits of having a couple Pro Points, so I was able to start things off at Round 2.

Round 2 vs. Oliver Sovol (U/R Pyromancer Ascension)

Pyromancer Ascension
This can be a pretty good matchup if your draws are halfway decent. You just need to follow the game plan of playing an early threat and then countering all of the opponent’s relevant spells. That’s pretty much what happened. I had a herp-derp moment in Game 1. My Tarmogoyf was blocked by two Grim Lavamancers, and I went to “save” it by Lightning Bolting one of them, but I forgot what Grim Lavamancer does, and my creature died anyway. I had enough disruption to stop him from doing anything, so it ended up not mattering. In Game 2, my opponent had some rather unfortunate Thought Scours (for him anyway), and my Tarmogoyf was eating away at his life total 6 points at a time. He even had an active Pyromancer Ascension, but it wasn’t enough.

2–0

Round 3 vs. Jose Ramos (B/G Aggro)

Dark Confidant
I knew that I had the correct opponent when the gentleman sitting across from me had Jose tattooed on his left arm while the right brandished a golden Jose bracelet. Jose was playing some sort of homebrew—at least I think that’s what it was since I’m not all that familiar with the format. I mulliganed in the first game and couldn’t get much going against his multiple Tarmogoyfs. In Game 2, I played a turn-one Delver of Secrets who earned his wings after a Serum Visions on turn two. I attacked for 3 for a few turns while we had dueling Tarmogoyfs on the ground. I eventually had a Cryptic Command to attack for exacties.

I kept a semi-loose hand in Game 3 that was a bunch of lands and some slower cards. We fought over some Dark Confidants, but he soon found out that trying to go one-for-one with a deck that has four Snapcaster Mages is a losing proposition. Ever flash back a Cryptic Command? Because I have, and it’s pretty awesome. He had a Darkblast going to kill my small creatures, but I used Vendilion Clique to clear a path for my Vedalken Shackles, and I killed him with his own Tarmogoyf.

3–0

Round 4 vs. David Nolan (Affinity)

Arcbound Ravager
I mulliganed Game 1, and the game would have been close were it not for the two Etched Champions he played. I tried to race him with a giant Tarmogoyf and Cryptic Command, but I came up just short.

Game 2 went a little better, as my turn-one Delver did a lot of work. I was able to contain his development by killing anything threatening, and when Vendilion Clique joined the party, I had a pretty quick clock. I saw that he boarded in Ancient Grudge, so I boarded out my Shackles for Game 3.

Speaking of Ancient Grudge, mine were nowhere to be found all match. I narrowly lost a race that would have been comically easy to win had I drawn just one. I did trick him into giving me another turn by playing as though I wasn’t dead to him sacrificing his Arcbound Ravager, but the extra card wasn’t one that won me the game, and so I died anyway.

3–1

Round 5 vs. Nathan Baxter (Mono-Blue Merfolk)

In Game 1, my opponent’s turn-one Aether Vial made a mockery of my counterspells, and Lord of Atlantis made blocking problematic. He had more lords than I had Lightning Bolts, so I died pretty fast. In Game 2, I had three 4/5 Tarmogoyfs, and they made short work of my opponent.

Game 3 was more or less the same, as I was able to keep him on the defensive and managed to keep the sea men at bay.

4–1

Round 6 vs. Ryan Bogner (U/B Merfolk)

This time, the sea men were all over my face. I mulliganed three times in two games, and the few removal spells I had I was forced to use on Dark Confidants. Game 2 was especially ugly, as he had two Merfolk Reejereys and then played out his whole hand of lords attacking for over nine thousand damage. I never had a chance in either game.

4–2

Round 7 vs. Ryan Dunn (Storm)

Grapeshot
“I won’t be upset if you nut-draw me both games. I really want to Cube draft.”

I don’t know what my opponent was thinking when I stone called what he was playing before the match started, but that’s exactly what he did. He made ten Goblins on turn three, which I tried to race with Cryptic Command, but he had Grapeshot to deal the final points anyway. I wasn’t sure how to sideboard for Game 2, as it’s common for Storm decks to transform into Splinter Twin combo, so I kept in cards that were going to be decent against both decks. It ended up not mattering since he played a Defense Grid on turn two, a card I had to read since I hadn’t played it since 2004. I didn’t side in Ancient Grudge. He won easily from there.

4–3, dead

I was out of contention for Day 2 after Round 7, which is about what I expected. I was fairly sure there wasn’t a lot I could have done differently in the three matches I lost. Like I said before, I wasn’t even planning on playing, so every match I won was me dream-crushing someone.

I spent the rest of the day Winston drafting my Innistrad Cube with Alex Hayne, which was more fun than any game of Modern I played. Have you ever milled yourself for twenty with Jace, Memory Adept and then cast Living Death? Because I have, and it’s awesome.

Living Death
Once Day 1 wrapped up, I found my crew of monguises, and three of them made the cut, including Jon, so there was much rejoicing and high-fiving. After walking around downtown Columbus looking for somewhere decent to eat, we settled on a pretty sweet Japanese restaurant. Much to my dismay, they didn’t have all-you-can-eat sushi, and I’m sure as heck not baller enough to pay a la carte. I did suggest ordering four $85 combo platters and gaming dinner, but oddly, no one went for it. Their non-sushi food was delicious, though the highlight was my friend Mike Vasovski making lewd comments about our waitress while she was standing right behind him. You’d think that he’d be embarrassed enough after the first time it happened that he wouldn’t do it again, but you’d be wrong. You might also think that he wouldn’t do it a third time, but you’d still be wrong.

I spent Day 2 fulfilling my original intention for the trip: Cube drafting. The Innistrad Cube I wrote about last week is pretty sweet, but it might need some balancing. The blue-based control decks were a little more powerful than I intended, but I’ll need to draft it a few more times to be sure. Since I wasn’t pressed for time, I also made a point of checking out the Columbus North Market. While it wasn’t quite as good as the market in Philly, it was still a great bookend to the trip. And despite my overall lack of enthusiasm for Constructed, I managed to have a good time. I’m still not a huge fan of Modern, but I feel as though I made a good deck choice given that Lucas made it to the finals with a nearly identical list. There was a time in my life when if I didn’t make Day 2, the weekend felt like a failure, but those days are more or less behind me. I didn’t have any expectations of doing well, so I wasn’t the least bit upset about not making it. Any weekend during which I get to hang out with my friends, eat good food, and have some laughs is a success in my books.

Until next time,

Nassim Ketita
arcticninja on Magic Online
www.youtube.com/nketita