Sunday, August 15: 10:45 am - Side Drafting
Soundly schooled over three rounds about the dangers of not playing a deck that you have shuffled prior to the twenty -four hour period preceding the Grand Prix, I went downstairs to the side event area to try and find some pleasure in drafting.
It was downstairs next to the arcade and across from the party rooms. The side event room was a little depressing. It felt like some place you were sent to when you were bad. An under the stairs kind of vibe. It was not as depressing as the party rooms though. They are these florescent lit meeting rooms with tables and chairs and they certainly seem more suited to a staff meeting or a job interview. The most festive that these rooms can muster is a Happy Birthday sign tacked to the wall. The kids all sit around the table and their faces have that zombified look that only fluorescent bulbs can provide.
Then again, I could have just been a little dark about my performance in the main event.
After watching a group of deeply medicated children aimlessly shovel cake into their maws to celebrate that Zane was turning nine (That's the kicker to whole party room. They have huge picture windows to ostensibly generate more business.) I shuffled along to the draft area.
The first draft I got into was MD5 and was a traditional eight-person affair. The winner would receive three draft sets with the other finalist receiving three packs.
Talisman of Dominance
Sunbeam Spellbomb (grrrrrrrr!)
Scale of Chiss-Goria
Ritual of Restoration
Fifth Dawn picks:
Trinket MageTrinket Mage
Eyes of the Watcher
Here is how the deck turned out:
8-Man side draft
My first round opponent was Steve Wilkie who drove up from Florida with a large group of players. I guess if they are evacuating you for Hurricane Charlie you might as well head north for the GP.
Steve mulliganed in Game 1. He had a slow start with Tangle Asp and some other two toughness creature. I had a turn three Trinket Mage for Viridian Longbow with a Sorcerer in hand. I put myself in a hole waiting to ping his Cranial Plated creature until his turn. I should have remembered the endless stream of pump spells flowing around the table. I took eight more points of damage than I needed to but it didn't matter because a second Mage found a Bola and was followed a turn later by the Icy.
Game 2 saw him mulligan for the second straight game and he tried to make up for a mana light hand by racing with Ebon Drake. Two Bolas and Icy came out over the first six turns and he couldn't get me lower than eleven. Fractured Loyalty also gave me his Tel Jilad Archers.
My second round went pretty much the same way. Kitt Holland was a friend of Steve's and played nearby. He and I were both casing out the other's decks. He got ALL the white at the table and had triple Razor Golem, multiple fliers and tons of pump. He was also splashing black for Echoing Decay and Lose Hope.
In Game 1 he blew his Echoing Decay early to take out a Sorcerer and I was able to play multiple copies of cards with some measure of security after that. I was able to control the board with Bolas and finish him off with the Longbow and Sorcerer. In Game 2 I took control of a Solemn Simulacrum equipped with Grafted Wargear and he didn't have another creature.
My finals opponent was Bill Oppenheimer claimed he was 0-2 lifetime against me and was hoping to even the score. I felt pretty confident going in as he was playing what looked to be more than ten one toughness creatures--somehow he had a Vulshok Sorcerer and THREE Thought Couriers.
He scooped to my Longbow and Sorcerer on turn five of Game 1 and I was in danger of being nibbled to death by a pair of unequipped Leonin Den-Guards. Once my Trinket Mages showed up I was able to take one with Fractured Loyalty and outfit it with a Bola. Once I had three creatures and the Longbow I was able to deal with every creature in his deck and he scooped up his cards.
Three draft sets made me a little better about my day and as I came up to type this it even looked like the small children were actually enjoying their cake.
Saturday, August 14: 1:45 pm - Lesson Learned?
In a tribute to the GP Orlando coverage I will tell you right up front that I lost this round to Ankit Desai.
Object lesson achieved.
Don't try this at your hometown GP, kids!
Play the Necro deck.
Don't play some deck that you cobbled together late the night before because you are bored with playing the best deck. I had posted a 12-4 record in the last two PTQs I played with Affinity and knew how to avoid the mistakes I had made in those two events. I knew what cards belonged in my sideboard and I knew which cards to swap out for them.
In other words, I had actually played the deck, had some practical experience, and should have been able to hold my own with it. Like I said in the first entry… I couldn't help myself.
I was up against green-red and staring down a pair of Molder Slugs with only an Auriok Salvagers to get in the ay of them. I gad destroyed my opponent's hand with Necrogen Spellbombs but he also got the two bests into play while I did so.
I drew a March of the Machines and was about to toss it on the table in defeat when I realized that I was still in it. I played the enchantment and was able to return and play two Spellbombs or as I like to call them…chump blockers.
On the next turn I was able to return and play them with enough mana to activate them both. I sacrificed a Necrogen Spellbomb during his draw step (he tossed away Fireball with a grimace) and chumped one of his Slugs with Sunbeam Spellbomb. I sacrificed it to gain five loss and once Ankit realized I was never going to let him have another non-instant for the rest of the game while gaining one life a turn, he scooped.
He mulliganed this game so of course I lost. I never saw a Terror and he destroyed me with Arc-Slogger. I had Pulse of the Field but the obligatory Fireball was more than enough to trump it.
I had an 8/8 Moriok Rigger that took four activations from an Arc-Slogger with no artifact to be found for the seventh crucial counter. I had seriously considered Test of Faith for my sideboard. While Steve Sadin, Mike Flores, and Matt Boccio could not talk me out of playing the deck, they did manage to convince me that I wanted Echoing Decay over Test of Faith. Grumble. Grumble.
Once again, Pulse was enough to negate the threat on the board but a ten point Fireball sealed my tournament and sent me hurtling toward the side event area.
If you don't hear back from me today, then it's only because I am too ashamed to admit I couldn't win a lousy side draft. If you don't hear back from me AND you hear something in the coverage about multiple people getting DQ'd for illegal deck lists, it is because I am a gigantic sore loser and I have taken my cards back from the people I loaned them to this morning.
They had better hope I win!
(Obviously kidding--sort of!)
Saturday, August 14: 11:33 am - In The Trenches (again)
So I was sitting at the next to last table in the room and the loser of this match would be playing round four in the lower reaches of the RexPlex near the Dance Dance Revolution Machine (with no more rounds of byes after this, Osyp will have to let one of the dazzled kids who have been watching him master the machine for the last four hours get a play) and the bad player graveyard that is otherwise known as the side event area.
I was paired up with Brad Walker this round but I did not get any biographical information other than that he reads my column every week. Brad Walker, this is your lucky day. You get to beat up on an internet writer this round.
He Beacon of Destructioned three creatures--Rigger, Rigger, and Salvager--and then double Shrapnel Blasted me with his two Solemn Simulacrum and Fireballed me to death.
I sided in four Terrors for the Arc-Sloggers that never showed up in game one and a pair each of Pristine Angel and Pulse of the Fields. For the first few turns my creatures were burned so badly they could only be identified by their dental records. I played a turn six Pristine Angel and made the mistake of attacking with it for one turn with only a Pulse of the Fields to protect it. At the time, my life was much higher than his due to an early Elder. He Beaconed, Pulsed, and untapped to Fireball me.
I think if I had sat back on my Angel, I stood a chance of winning the long game with Necrogen Spellbomb recursion and life gain.
It turns out that Brad was not playing Arc-Slogger--or any creatures other than Firewalkers and Solemn Simulacrum. He was playing a Big Red deck that eschewed the Sloggers to splash Terror and Echoing Decay in anticipation of the mirror.
On the plus side the DDR machine will be free next round and I can get on it while waiting for my pairing at table four hundred and fifty-something to be posted down there. I have yet to see Affinity and it is my guess that there will be little of that archetype in the 400 table numbers.
On the actual plus side: Pat Donovan is 3-0. He is the same Pat Donovan who helped my create Moldy Hermit, but he rarely plays in constructed events. The last time I actually convinced him to play was a constructed PTQ that he won with Secret Force while everyone else was starting to play with Trix.
Saturday, August 14: 9:43 am - In The Trenches
This will either be a rousing tale about a relatively new deck archetype or an object lesson on what happens when you veer from playing the best deck.
Matt Boccio - "When I woke up this morning I told John Fiorello that I was going to play red-green. He threw me against the wall and told me 'NO!' Sometimes you need your friends to keep you in line."
It is a common impulse to make the audible on the line and play something other than the consensus best deck--in this case Vial Affinity. At every event you always hear stories about someone who makes the last minute change and comes to regret it.
Oh wait. That's me this weekend. I was left to my own devices yesterday with way too much time on my hands and I began to toy with a rogue build featuring Auriok Salvagers and Moriok Riggers--two of my favorite cards in the format.
You have to understand. Historically I have never played the best deck. I played Chronotog/Smokestack when others were playing Trix. Five color Reclamation when others were playing Squirrel Opposition. I can't help myself. For most of this season I have been playing Ravager Affinity but I just can't do it anymore.
What can I say? I like to draft and I should have ample opportunity after round three or four.
I am going to be posting here as often as possible to give you a first hand account of what it is like to play in a Grand Prix. If I lose I will do some side drafts and let you know how those go, and if/when I fail to make Day Two, I will also play in the PTQ tomorrow and attempt to keep reporting to your from the inside.
Basically, Ted will be keeping you up to date all weekend on what is happening with Kai, Nassif, Jelger and the TOGIT gang while I keep you up to date on the lower table numbers.
Wish me luck--I'm gonna need it!