This past weekend, I went to my third Grand Prix ever. While I didn’t do as well as I had hoped in the main event, I learned some valuable lessons, met some awesome Magic players and judges, and I even got to draft one of the greatest Chaos Draft decks of all time, at least in terms of sheer absurdity. I’d like to take a break this week from my usual strategy-heavy articles and share some Magic stories from this weekend. I’ll reflect on what went well, what didn’t, and what I’m planning to improve on for next time.

San Jose was the farthest I have ever traveled for Magic by a wide margin. I do wish I took more time to explore the city, since it was my first time in Northern California. I’ll just have to make a second trip soon. Anyway, on Saturday morning, I walked to the tournament hall with the friends I was staying with and found my table. I was feeling pretty good. We had spent the previous day practicing sealed and discussing things we had learned about the format. Eventually, it was time to open my pool, and this is what I saw:

White

1 Glint-Sleeve Artisan
1 Pressure Point
1 Servo Exhibition
1 Skyswirl Harrier
1 Tasseled Dromedary
2 Aether Inspector
1 Conviction
3 Dawnfeather Eagle
1 Deft Dismissal
1 Ghirapur Osprey
1 Bastion Mastodon
1 Cogworker’s Puzzleknot

White didn’t have much at all going for it, so I immediately ruled it out for my deck. I did take note of the 3 copies of Dawnfeather Eagle, as they make for reasonable splashes in some archetypes.

Blue

1 Disappearing Act
1 Dramatic Reversal
1 Long-Finned Skywhale
1 Revolutionary Rebuff
1 Aether Swooper
1 Baral, Chief of Compliance
1 Baral’s Expertise
1 Bastion Inventor
1 Hinterland Drake
1 Leave in the Dust
1 Take into Custody
1 Trophy Mage
1 Implement of Examination

Blue wasn’t very deep, but it had some good playables, including one of the best bombs in the set. I wasn’t out to disqualify blue just yet, but I wouldn’t consider maining it unless one of my other colors had an extremely high number of good playables.

Black

1 Dukhara Scavenger
1 Midnight Oil
1 Thriving Rats
1 Tidy Conclusion
1 Weaponcraft Enthusiast
1 Alley Strangler
1 Battle at the Bridge
2 Daring Demolition
1 Resourceful Return
1 Sly Requisitioner
1 Yahenni’s Expertise

My eyes lit up when I saw my black. I had almost too much premium removal to count, plus a board sweeper, plus a card advantage engine! I knew right away that black would probably be one of my main colors. The downside of playing black here was that it had an extremely small number of playable creatures. I would have to make sure that whatever other color I played compensated for this by having a number of strong critters to play. In an extreme case, I might have to choose between playing a three-color build and dumping the black altogether.

Red

1 Spireside Infiltrator
1 Wayward Giant
1 Welding Sparks
1 Aether Chaser
2 Embraal Gear-Smasher
1 Enraged Giant
1 Gremlin Infestation
1 Lathnu Sailback
1 Scrapper Champion
1 Sweatworks Brawler
2 Wrangle
1 Welder Automaton

Running out of colors, I was happy to see how solid my red was. Plenty of playable creatures, including one or two I was really excited out, and Welding Sparks to top it off. Red would replace blue as my second most exciting color so far.

Green

1 Attune with Aether
1 Bristling Hydra
1 Peema Outrider
1 Take Down
1 Druid of the Cowl
1 Hidden Herbalists
1 Lifecraft Cavalry
2 Natural Obsolescence
1 Ridgescale Tusker
1 Scrounging Bandar
2 Implement of Ferocity

Green had a lot of good stuff! Ridgescale Tusker is among the very best cards in the format, but if I play green-black, it gets a fair amount worse due to a low creature count. I was happy to see the two copies of Implement of Ferocity, as I think they are very good, even with only one revolt card to trigger. Outside of those, I had some of the best green commons available, as well as a very good rare creature in Bristling Hydra. If I splashed a third color, I would be grateful for the Attune with Aether as well.

Colorless/Multicolored

1 Chief of the Foundry
1 Eager Construct
1 Renegade Freighter
1 Workshop Assistant
1 Consulate Dreadnought
1 Mobile Garrison
1 Night Market Guard
1 Pacification Array
2 Prizefighter Construct
2 Renegade Map
2 Reservoir Walker
1 Outland Boar
1 Tezzeret’s Touch

Chief of the Foundry, Renegade Freighter, and Pacification Array were shoo-ins for basically any deck. Outside of those, I kept in mind the Maps in case I decided to splash (as revolt was barely existent in my pool), the Garrison as a solid vehicle, and the Eager Construct in case I needed more 2-drops.

While Red would have given me a slightly higher creature count, I decided to pair Green with my Black. My Black’s abundance of removal and my Green’s fat bodies both encouraged a midrange strategy, and while the Red was good, it wanted to win earlier in the game.

Here’s the list I registered:

Black/Green by Ben Pall at Grand Prix San Jose

1 Dukhara Scavenger
1 Midnight Oil
1 Thriving Rats
1 Tidy Conclusion
1 Weaponcraft Enthusiast
1 Alley Strangler
1 Battle at the Bridge
2 Daring Demolition
1 Yahenni’s Expertise
1 Bristling Hydra
1 Peema Outrider
1 Druid of the Cowl
1 Lifecraft Cavalry
1 Natural Obsolescence
1 Ridgescale Tusker
1 Scrounging Bandar
2 Implement of Ferocity
1 Chief of the Foundry
1 Eager Construct
1 Renegade Freighter
1 Pacification Array
9 Swamp
8 Forest

In hindsight, I should have mained a Renegade Map over one a Swamp. I had enough double green and double black that it was important to have the extra flexibility over which color my source is. Nonetheless, my deck was fairly strong. My plan was simple: play fatties and kill their creatures. That’s a pretty good plan for Sealed, and I was more confident than ever heading into round 1. My plan worked for the first five rounds of the tournament. Some of my opponents were bad, some of them were good, but most of them got rolled over. Halfway into Day 1, I was 4-1.

On Social Responsibility as a Witness to a Match

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An interesting situation occurred in round 5. I was shuffling between games when I noticed that at the table next to me, one player blocked a 3/3 with his Druid of the Cowl, then cracked his Implement of Ferocity to put a counter on it before damage. Knowing that this was an illegal play, I called a judge over to their match. In private, I explained the situation to the judge, who then confirmed the events with the offending player. The judge then asked what had happened since then, and the player answered by claiming that a lot had happened. I knew this was false, as I interrupted right after this combat happened, but the player’s opponent didn’t say anything to the judge, so I figured it wasn’t my place to argue with the player. The judge ruled that the counter remained as a result of the player’s response, which left me doubting my decision not to interfere more. I plan to look more into what my role is in that situation so I can respond properly and confidently next time I find myself there.

On Stamina

Unfortunately, after round 5, my luck took a turn for the worse. I ran into a Masterpiece Wurmcoil Engine from a can’t-lose board state and lost the match round 6, and then I suffered two more match losses in a row to knock me out of day 2 contention. Looking back at those matches, I remembered a few more misplays than I normally would have made; if I hadn’t made a bad attack in round 8, for example, I would have been able to maintain a slow, grindy game, which I believe would have ended in my favor.

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When I examined my performance at this Grand Prix and all the other long Magic events I have been to, a clear pattern emerges. I always start the day off with a very strong record, than lose multiple times in a row. Why does this happen? For one, as the day goes on and my record gets stronger, I am more likely to play against good players with strong decks, making it harder for me to win those matches- but that doesn’t explain why I ended the day losing multiple times in a row.

I believe I need to work on my stamina for the next Grand Prix I attend. This time, I don’t think I ate enough for lunch, and I know my hunger levels affect my mental performance. I’d also like to take a bit more time between rounds to relax, take a walk outside, and clear my mind. In any event, I am excited to discover how these changes help me stay sharp late into the day.

On Chaos Draft

While I didn’t make day 2, I discovered a silver lining on Sunday in the side events area: Chaos Draft. In case you don’t know, Chaos Draft is a draft format where all the packs are from random sets. This was one of the most fun formats I have ever played, and I am overjoyed to share with you the chaos draft deck I piloted all the way to split the finals (as I had to catch my flight back to Boston):

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Sure, I didn’t get to draft with the pros on Sunday, but I did get to find my first green source by casting Kodama’s Reach off Brain in a Jar, and I did get to cast two different board wipes in the same limited game, and I also got to curve out into Prism Array for 5 on Turn 4, then cast Prism Array two more times that game while I beat in with random 2/2’s.

Ahh, small victories.

If you’re looking for some Aether Revolt limited analysis, read my article from last week where I covered what I believe to be the top 10 uncommons in Aether Revolt.

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