GP San Jose: The Sockymans’ Story (Day One) – Team Sealed
By Roy Anderson – Sockymans
Hello my fellow looters! It’s Sockymans here with this week’s article, or should I say, articles. That’s right, this week is a two part series (As you probably saw from the title) about my adventures at Grand Prix San Jose. Now, I was only there for two days, Saturday and Sunday, so the article today will be about the first day of the main event.
To start off, man was I excited to see a Grand Prix so close to home. I was even more excited to see that the main event format was Team Sealed. To add even more excitement it was just a week after a new set release, therefore, it had a very new format! Now before I go into the actual day, I want to clarify some things people may not know.
So Team Sealed, what is it? It is a format you don’t see too often but if you have two friends that are also into Magic, I would highly recommend it. It works similar to regular sealed except you are on a team of three people. You start, just like in sealed, cracking your packs and building a deck. However, in Team Sealed, you have 12 packs between the three of you to build three decks. This gives you more options in each color, however, you must be able to figure out which team member gets which card. I will talk more about this when I describe my team’s pool. Another thing I want to note is that you must have every card in the sideboard of a certain player. You cannot have cards flowing between players sideboards so that is an important thing to decided as well. So when decks are built and round one starts, you are sat opposite another team. The way it works from there is each person plays against the person sitting opposite from them and whichever team has two of their members win their match, wins the round. During the games you are allowed to talk to your team and get advice about: plays, hands, and even sideboard options. If you make day two, after another Team Sealed round, you get to play team draft which is a whole other can of worms. Well, let us get to the meat and potatoes of the article!
Starting this story on a good note, we got to wake up at 6:30am. Now continuing this story with less sarcasm, we got there early very anxious for the event to start. There was a huge turnout for the main event which made competition fierce. In order to make day two, a team would need to not lose more than two rounds in a nine round tournament. My friends, John, Andy, and I, knew that would be tough but we were pumped and ready to go.
So they announced the start and we sat down. For those who have never played at competitive level before, there is a step before you just crack packs and build decks. You first open a pool of cards and register every single one. Only after this is done, you pass your pool to someone else. This ended up being a good thing this time around as the pool we had to register was utter garbage. There were no strong archetypes, no strong reason to play any colors, no bombs, nothing. Bullet dodged. So we finally finish all of the boring stuff and we get our real pool. Our pool was much better. Lots of strong Fate Reforged, FRF, and Khans of Tarkir, KTK, cards with good pulls to multiple different archetypes. After some deliberation with my comrades we all settled on decks that were good and the decks we wanted to play. The end result was a very strong Abzan deck, a Sultai Control deck, and a mediocre R/W Aggro deck. We figured this divide of cards was decent at the time and we all were happy with the archetypes we had. I ended up with a personal favorite of mine, Sultai Control.
I won’t leave you hanging on the details, so here is the list I decided to run:
Abomination of Gudul – This creature was never too relevant for me and I think in FRF/KTK it is actually a bit worse. That being said, it was always a morph in the worst match-up and it did cycle through my deck quite a few times in the longer games
Pear Lake Ancient – This is just a very powerful game ending card. It only came out of my deck in extreme situations when my opponent’s deck was super fast. Even in the aggro matchup, it was good as a flash blocker.
Debilitating Injury – Super solid early game removal. Even in FRF/KTK this remains an all-star.
Disowned Ancestor – This was mostly used to muck up the ground and keep me alive until I dropped Torrent Elemental or Pear Lake Ancient. I took this card out in control matches, however, I was not sad with this in the main deck.
Sultai Scavenger – A very solid mid-game flier. It was useful at getting past defenses. It was even a way to get Torrent Elemental into exile to use his ability. 10/10 would play again.
Scout The Borders – Delve fuel, enough said.
Sultai Flayer – This was another all-star in my deck. The life gain was always very relevant and he has a nice body in the format. He definitely lifts bro.
Aven Surveyor – This card I was still on the fence on. Some games I was super impressed and others I was not so happy having him. First off, he was two blue which hurt in a three color deck with little fixing. My other concern was his body for his mana cost. Even if you didn’t need the bounce, which was never the case, he still died to every piece of removal and couldn’t trade with other fliers.
Enhanced Awareness – Can you hate anything with draw a card? It never seemed to end up in my hand when I needed it though. I kind of wish I had a treasure cruise along with this card.
Torrent Elemental – This card is bonkers. Using quadrant theory, this card was never bad at any point in the game. When you are ahead he wins the game almost immediately. When at parody he wins almost immediately, during setup he doesn’t serve much purpose but when behind he is even a flying blocker with a big butt.
Whisk Away – This was a card that was just okay in all my matches. I cast it and was reasonably happy with the results when I did. It was not a removal spell but it was quite the tempo swing.
Douse In Gloom – This card was awesome. I wrote about it quite a bit in my FRF pre-release article so I won’t cover it too much here. The only thing I want to say is that my opinion has not changed about this card. I am happy it exists.
Gurmag Angler – This is a new addition to the delve family and I think it is a pretty good one. It is had a huge body that not many other creatures can tangle with. It is also out of removal range for most of the removal spells in this format too unless your opponent is white. This guy also was a very common two for one as they would chump and use a removal spell.
Reach of Shadows – This card I was always happy with. Five mana, kill something other than morphs or manifests. Since the format is slower in general than formats in the past, five mana is very achievable to kill a big threat.
Rotting Mastodon – This should not have been in my deck. I never liked it much in KTK and it got worse. It was boarded out every game for something.
Sultai Emissary – This card made me happy to have, especially in the aggro mirror match-up. It is pretty much the black Jeskai Sage except he is card advantage with a card on the board. You are not even unhappy when you manifest a land. In my deck I ran 18 lands which meant if I could turn one into a creature and trade I was happy as a red player with a Lightning Bolt.
Whisperer of the Wilds – Since I had many five to seven drops this helped me ramp just a little bit. It was a bread and butter card. I was never happy with it but never sad.
Wildcall – This card I was unhappy with at the prerelease. Boy was I wrong. This is a very good card for any matchup. At the very worst it is two green for a 2/2 with possible upside. In most games, this card was the most flexible in my deck. On average it made a four to six power creature that would become the biggest threat on the board. Sometimes, it would just manifest a land and I would be 100 percent happy with a six power land.
There you have it, my GP SJ main event deck. Neither of my team mates were using blue so I got a lot of very powerful spells. I also had a good amount of very relevant sideboard choices against different matchups. Against aggro I could side in an extra Sultai Emissary, Despise, Force Away, and a few other low drops. Against a mid-ranged strategy, I would side in Disdainful Stroke, Despise, Tasigur’s Cruelty and a few other relevant creatures. Finally, against control, I would switch to a game of fighting for resources. I would take out some low cost removal and side in Disdainful Stroke, and Tasigur’s Cruelty. Now that our decks were completed, it was time to do what we came to do, play Magic and chew bubblegum! (You know the rest.)
This round was the first of the tournament. My teammates and I, unofficially named “The Ainok Bond-kins,” were ready to start on a good foot. My first round match was the mirror match and I felt pretty confident that I could win with my good resource advantage cards. Torrent Elemental helped pick me up a quick game one and I was feeling great. Andy was also winning his match. John, not so much, however, I was still happy. Game two I was not so fortunate. I ended up losing to flooding a bit and my opponent resolving a Treasure Cruise and slowly beating me out of the game. No big deal, I am on the play for game three. I look to see how my team is doing and they are both done. Turns out, we are one and one so this game three was the deciding game. The pressure was on.
Game three was a very long game. Lots of trades, draw spells, and board stalls. Finally, a line of play opened up that started to tip the scales in my favor. I resolved a Tasigur’s Cruelty delving away my Torrent Elemental. I was able to cast it tapped and I put my opponent in top deck mode. Turns out he didn’t draw anything but an Gurmag Angler. This turned out not to matter as I quickly untapped and started crashing in. Turned out that ended up winning me the game! My day was off to a good start.
So, I don’t know if any of you here recognize the name, but my second round opponent was none other than Day9 and his friends Case and Tristan. First of all, it was awesome to be able to talk to him and he was a super nice guy, however, I was playing Case. So there is not much to talk about this round as there was one card that won every game that it came out. This resulted in my losing 1-2 which was a bummer. The card I speak of is Ojutai, Soul of Winter. This card is expensive, however, against a deck like mine, that was not a big problem. Had Case been playing my friend John, he may have won with his very aggressive deck. The two cards I had that could deal with that card was my two copies of Reach of Shadows. I also boarded in a Disdainful Stroke when I first saw the card. Unfortunately, game three, he played a Frontier Siege which, for a dragon deck, was pretty good. I never saw it so I was unable to board against it. Sadly, despite Andy winning. John lost another match and we were now 1-1.
After pulling ourselves together, we went to face our next opponents. This time I was against my worst matchup: Aggro. This is when I also want to point out what I think the red MVP card in FRF is and that is: Goblin Heelcutter. This card wreaked havoc on my deck. I lost the first game and thanks to some good sideboard options and a good draw, I made it to game three. Sadly, he curved out really well despite a Debilitating Injury in my opening hand. Andy, who is a boss, was now 3-0 and our team was 1-2. John was getting creamed in mirror matches for the first three rounds.
This was it, if we lose here, we have no chance of making day two. The record you needed to get to day two was at least 7-2. If we wanted that record, it would be a long rest of the day. We sit down against our next round opponents and they were also on the block. They seemed to be having a lot of fun and it was a fun match overall. It was another mirror match and this time, I knew how to board better. I was learning the matchups and changing my deck more and more each game. I boarded in both Tasigur’s Cruelties and Disdainful Stroke after winning game one. I lost game two and I knew I had to win in order to carry the team. I looked to my teammates and, to my surprise, they had won. Yay! We had hung on for at least one more round.
Another mirror match? At this point, I felt like my deck was advantaged in the mirror. I had a Pearl Lake Ancient, a good curve, good removal, and lots of ways to generate card advantage. This time, for the first time in the tournament, it was an easy 2-0. I looked over at Andy and finally, he dropped a game. I was worried as John’s deck was disadvantaged in yet another mirror. However, he had won his best of three and we were on to yet another match!. Awesome! 3-2
I will be 100 % honest, I don’t even remember this round as the next one was so intense. The important part is we won yet again. We were all starting to realize that the dream was real for us! We were crawling back from a 1-2 record to end up sitting pretty at 4-2. We only had three rounds to go. Let’s move on.
At this point in the tournament, it was getting intense. Side events were closed down and everyone had been there for so long and come so far. We sat down against some very nice foreign players who made some great conversation. My matchup this time around was another aggro deck, which I dreaded seeing. This was different from other aggro decks I had faced. It was mostly red Mardu and boy was it fast. Game one I was obliterated despite having a removal heavy hand. Alright, on to game two. I made some needed side boarding and moved into game two. Notably, I brought in Despise and Tasigur’s Cruelty in order to kill dash cards. I also brought in my second Sultai Emissary which was good against his 3/1s and 4/1s. Through some good managing of resources and a timely Pearl Lake Ancient, I took game two. Sadly, my opponent came out of the gate swinging on turn two. Even with the removal in my hand, nothing prepared me for being hit by Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury. Luckly, I was able to kill it and his other dash with Tasigur’s Cruelty, however, it was too late. I lost. As it turns out, both my allies bit the dust as well. Our dream had died.
All in all, we had a lot of fun at the GP San Jose main event. If you ever have a chance to play in any GP, I would highly recommend it.
I will have another article up later this week detailing my day two GP report. I hope you enjoyed this article. Let me know what you think and, if you were there, let me know what your record was and what you played.
For now, Happy Planeswalking!
By Roy Anderson
@Sockymans on Twitter