By Roy Anderson – Sockymans
Hello fellow Looters, its Sockymans here with part two of my experience at Grand Prix San Jose (GPSJ.) If you want to read my account of day one, you can find it here. If you have already read day one or just like to skip ahead, well then you are in the right place and we can begin.
First off, Spoiler Alert! My team and I, The Ainok Bond-Kins, did not make day two of GPSJ. We made it to round seven before losing eligibility to move on. In addition to that, I have a fun side note that was omitted from my day one story. We forgot to drop from round eight and we ended up being paired in the next round. We decided to go to our opponents and let them know they had a free win. Turns out, they were a no show. This technically means that our record was 5-3 and not 4-3. See, you are already being rewarded with an extra story for reading the first article then coming here. Anyway, it is time to move onto day two, after all, that is the reason why you are here.
So, there was no day two of the Grand Prix (GP) to play, what was I to do? The answer: Trading, vendors, and most of all side events. They had drafts, chaos drafts, sealed, as well as many other things I could do. I had a specific event in mind though, I wanted to play in the Super Sunday Series (SSS.) This was a limited sealed event with three packs of Khans of Tarkir (KTK) and three packs of Fate Reforged (FRF.) It was an eight round tournament which would take the whole day, however, the winner gets an invite to Wizards of the Coast for the SSS Championships. I had gotten a recommendation from someone that it was a fun and rewarding tournament so I figured I would try it out.
So we get a pool, register it, pass it, etc… Finally I get my pool. First off, the tournament had a 30 dollar entry fee which was understandable for the high-prize support. No matter what record or prizes I got that tournament, I had one of those rare pools that pay for themselves. Two fetch-lands, Brutal Hordechief, and a Soulfire Grand Master. At the time of the tournament, those cards totaled to about 32 dollars cash trade in. That is when you take a reduced value from the cards.
After analyzing my pool and trying to make a deck with the obviously powerful cards, I settled on a nice Jeskai list. The deck I ran is listed below:
I was very happy overall with this deck. The only problem is I was missing some key prowess creatures that make up a good Jeskai prowess deck. Cards like Jeskai Windscout would have been a good addition to my deck. Instead of functioning like a standard prowess deck, my deck was slightly more “explosive.” I was able to swing games and deal massive amounts of damage in just one turn. Goblin Heelcutter, Jeering Instigator, and Crippling Chill really helped me punch through massive amounts of damage while removing opponent’s blockers when they thought they were safe. The Canyon Lurkers, Weaponmaster Efreet, and Bloodfire Enforcers helped deal massive amounts of damage in one turn. That coupled with some of the game swinging cards I had helped me win a good number of games I would have lost. Even the games I did lose, I only lost by one turn. I had a good sideboard for every match up as well. I had two Treasure Cruises in my pool which really helped against the control matches. Extra removal was also helpful against creatures and aggressive decks. Finally, the midrange matchup can be helped with additional ways to punch through such as Will of the Naga.
My deck did suffer in one major way however. Since it was not traditional, it could not beat certain creature match ups that would curve out with a really nice creature curve. It would always lose by a turn or flood out slightly in land. I feel that I should have run 17 lands instead of the 18. However, I was able to mitigate some of the flood by boarding in Tormenting Voice in some games. This was a good replacement for Treasure Cruise in the faster aggressive match up.
Now if you have read my articles before, I tend to detail my experiences round by round. In the interest of time, and since I already wrote an article this week about day one, I will shorten it a little bit.
I started the tournament with a 1-0 record which left me very hopeful. In order to make top eight in this tournament you pretty much needed a record of X-1 or better and I felt good after my first match. I quickly lost out of top eight contention and was just playing for prizes. What was even worse was my eventual record of 5-3. This put me in 68th place which was just out of prize support. Well isn’t that a fun way to spend an entire day? The decks that I lost to the most were usually an Abzan or Mardu list. Mardu would beat me with superior speed. Abzan would win through well bodied fliers and efficient creatures. These were strategies that my deck was little equipped to deal with. Even against those decks, I still managed to take each one to game three.
Going into the last round, I was sitting exactly in 64th place. This left me with nine packs if I won so I was determined then. If I won, my prize support may have been upgraded as well. Either way, my opponent had the Abzan strategy that I outlined earlier. It was a rather intense set of games. It went to game three and both of us were in top deck mode. I happened to draw just a few too many lands and ended up flooding out. My opponent was a nice guy so I wasn’t too sad about the loss. Also, as I said, my pool paid for itself so I essentially paid for itself.
This event did last slightly shorter than the main event did which gave me a little bit of time to shop at the vendors. At this point is was 7pm on the last day of the GP. Most of the vendors were cleaning up and starting to leave. I didn’t manage to get everything I was hoping for. However, I did get some nice pickups. Azusa, Lost but Seeking was a good last minute pick up. A foil Ajani Goldmane as well as a foil promo Liliana Vess joined my foil planeswalker collection as well. Although I got these the day before, it is also worth noting something I really like seeing at GP vendor’s tables. I love it when they have the 5 foils for a dollar boxes. You can find some great things in those boxes. If you are a fan of foils, you should definitely check them out. Some of the notable things I picked up were: War Priest of Thune, Lumithread Field, and a few foil lands.
Well, thank you for reading my story about GPSJ. I wish anyone who read this could have been there and I highly suggest everyone go to any GP that happens to appear in their neck of the woods. Next week, my article will take a slightly more analytical turn and we will look at the current limited meta-game. Until next week, this is me signing out.
By Roy Anderson
@Sockymans on Twitter
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