Montreal Skyline

Montreal is a fantastic city.  There are lots of interesting things to see, do, and experience around every corner.  It’s extremely diverse meaning you can find almost any language on the planet , and almost as many delectable foods to try and smells to discover.  The city is crazy for their favorite hockey team, the beloved Canadiens de Montréal, and the shopping is first rate.  The city is a first rate city right up there on the world stage and when the latest GP descended on Montreal I knew I had to attend.

I had never been to a GP before and when I was taking stock of where all the GP’s were being held, the dates in Montreal all but jumped of the page.  Here was an opportunity to experience something new, something unique, something truly special in a special city and I was going to be darned if I missed it.

So, I rallied a few of my friends and left my house at 5:30 am looking to make the 2 ½ hour drive to arrive at the GP in time for the morning events.  I really had no intention of playing in the main event (the side events appealed just as much) but I wanted to witness the mass of humanity gathering to play Magic .  So, after 3 stops to collect my friends, and another stop for breakfast/coffee at the local Timmies, and then another stop for a bathroom, we finally pulled into Montreal at 9am ready and raring to go.

My first impression of the location was full out awe.  I’ve seen big crowds before, that wasn’t a concern, but to imagine all these people gathering to play Magic was something I’m not sure I could fully comprehend.  The room seemed to be wall to wall people paired off and ready to play Magic.  There were pros and Magic personalities that I recognized from a range of spots and they were rubbing elbows with regular players just there for the day. The organization of this many people must have been astronomical.  I give kudos to everyone for the monumental task and I was very glad to see the event kick off because I was anxious to play on some of the side events.

Once I got my fill of the spectacle I turned my attention to the side events.  My friends and I opted for the 10am sealed side event, which seemed like a solid idea.  I like to play sealed as it forces you to think creatively and to play some cards you wouldn’t normally play.  So, we signed up and then we waited.  This was one of the hardest waiting games I’ve ever played but I suppose the process of organizing a venue as large as a GP has logistical issues.  Our 10am event didn’t start until almost 12:30pm and our first game wasn’t until well after 1pm by which point I was hungry, a little annoyed, and eager to get my games in.

My sealed pool seemed solid to me with some really top notch cards like Anger of the Gods, Courser of Kruphix, Soldier of the Pantheon and Temple of Plenty.  All the signs pointed to a solid G/W deck with some fun Heroic creatures, nifty enablers and some reasonable removal.  So, I set about building my deck and sleeved up my cards. I was ready to rock and roll!

From this point on my games went terrible. At every turn I got smashed, by every manner of deck of almost every description. Sure, my deck would get the pieces together to win a game here and there, but never enough to win a match.  I spent my afternoon getting drubbed over and over again and wondering what went wrong.  I kept flipping through my extra cards wondering what I could side in…and saw no obvious answer.  So, what was I missing?

It took 3 days after the GP for me to sit down and really reflect on what transpired during the sealed event we played.  First off, there were a few errors during game play that I committed that I will need to correct, but I think those are manageable.  What really sat with me were the errors I made in deck construction. Some of these lessons are things that I already knew and forgot about and others are newer issues that will need to be corrected for the next time.

1-      Keep an open mind! The first issue was that I limited my card pool too quickly.  I evaluated my cards and identified that Green and White were by far my best colours and immediately set about building a two colour deck.  In some situations, if your sealed pool is deep enough, this can work just fine, but in my case after the first couple of cards the pool in both Green and White dried up significantly, meaning I was playing some suspect cards.  The problem was that I was overly committed, in my own mind, to playing only two colours that I blinded myself to other options, and so instead of playing strong cards, regardless of colour, I forced myself to play substandard cards of only 2 colours.  The lesson learned is to slow down and to be flexible when building your deck because three (or maybe 4 colours) is not the end of the world if they have the cards and abilities you need.

2-      You can never have too many creatures! The second lesson I re-learned was that in limited format it is all about creatures.  Rarely do you have enough strong combat tricks that you can full on trade your creatures for tricks in your 23 card slots.  I routinely got stuck looking for creatures to cast my tricks on, but my creatures were too few and far between.  Even if I was able to cast a couple of creatures they usually got targeted with the removal straight away meaning I was still looking for creatures. In some sets I would have been stuck running creatures OR spells. However, with Theros/Born of the Gods sealed I didn’t HAVE to choose because I could have opted for Bestow creatures that would have offered me benefits while enchanting my creatures and left with a body once the enchanted creature died. However, I was limited in terms of the number of Bestow creatures in Green or White, but had several in other colours.  Once again, I should have opted to add a third colour, but this time for the benefit of the Bestow abilities.

3-      Run as much removal as you can find…of any variety! The third lesson I re-learned is that removal, even if it doesn’t look like removal, is vital.  Case in point is Griptide.  This was one of my extras in Blue and I opted not to run it.  It wasn’t really removal because the creature didn’t die, right? Wrong.  What Griptide does do is it does remove a creature from the battlefield, even if only temporarily giving me a chance to find a better answer to deal with the threat or to change the board state suitably that my opponent no longer wanted to cast the spell.  So, I needed to take off my blinders and allow myself to see that there were spells available to be used as removal, even if they weren’t the most conventional methods.

4-      Play spells that will improve your board state in all situations! The final piece I learned is that cutesy spells like Warrior’s Lesson really have no place in a sealed deck.  It neither provides damage or protection to my board state and at no point did I lack for cards so the card draw it afforded would be of minimum value.  Quite the opposite, my hand was routinely well stocked with cards and filling my hand with more cards was not needed.  It did make for a nifty Heroic trigger, but it was too infrequently used and would have been better off with another body instead. The question I should have asked myself is this: “In what situations do I want to top deck this spell?”.  If the answer isn’t “in almost every situation” then I should be looking for something different.  So, while the ability would have been neat, the fact remains that I was not well served by spells of this nature and would have been better off with spells that offered more.

Needless to say, it was a very humbling experience for me as I’m not accustomed to losing that frequently and it was a tad embarrassing. The long car drive home with my friends was hard to stomach as they chatted away merrily about the games they played and the wins they scrounged together. I ended up just having to bite my tongue and take their ridicule.  The only real saving grace of the experience was that the other players I met were all very nice guys just looking to have some fun.   Up and down the table there was not a single guy who acted like a jerk and many of them actually helped out their opponent by pointing out triggers that may have been missed.  All in all, while the experience of playing with a bunch of decent guys was refreshing and lots of fun to meet the new guys, it was tough to accept being beaten as soundly as I was all day long.

So, in the end, I have to say I did enjoy the experience of attending my first ever GP and it was even better in Montreal.  I didn’t get the results I was looking for from my matches, but I did enjoy the first hand experience and taking in the ambiance of the event.  It was something I’ve never seen before and something to behold. I have absolutely no regrets about going and in fact will happily go again when there is a GP close to home again to get just a little taste of the event again.  However, until then, I will need to content myself with some smaller events and to take the lessons learned in Montreal moving forward to the next I sit down to play in a limited format.

So, until next time, keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.

Bruce Gray


Keep Calm and Carrey On