Crucible of Words – GP Amsterdam by Cyrus Bales

Crucible of Words – How do you solve a problem like a Mindsculptor? By Cyrus Bales


Preamble, scroll down for the tournament report.

As I’m sure you’re aware, GP Amsterdam was last weekend, I, like many other UK players, travelled to the event, but unlike most we opted for the road trip aspect instead of flying. David Brannon and I were the designated drivers of this group of four, we left Reading at 18:00 on Thursday night, I was going to drive to Dover, and he would take the continental leg of the journey. We made good progress until we hit an accident that had closed most of the motorway for the whole day, sitting there with the hand-brake on a lot of the time we covered a pretty pathetic four miles in two hours; it seemed our aim of getting to D Bran’s friend’s house for 2 AM was no longer going to happen.

Eventually we got to Dover and boarded the ferry, luckily we didn’t advance book as we would have missed it. Dinner on board, we then settled in for a four hour drive. It wasn’t long before the newly updated sat-nav decided it didn’t need to work properly; as you can imagine, this is not what you need in the early hours of the morning. We ended up using the system more like a map than a guide and headed north, the kilometres tumbled and a few hours later we were in The Hague. We were going to be staying here rather than Amsterdam since D Bran lived here for some time and thus had the connections to get free floor space. The problem though, D Bran had never driven through the city before and it’s complex system of one way streets and dead ends left us pottering around for some time, thanks to the sat-nav trying to tell us we were just in the middle of a field.

Finally we arrived at our destination, only four hours later than planned, we knocked on Ronald’s door and woke him up to let us in from the freezing cold. We looked at the clock and saw it was 6 AM, D Bran then promptly reminded us that he was helping translate for one of the traders and needed to be there early, so we bunked down on the floor for our 2-3 hours of sleep. Unfortunately we couldn’t get the heater to work and I drew the short straw to end up on the cold laminate floor, I soon drifted off, shivering myself to sleep.

In what seemed like no time at all, we were up again and in the car for our 45 minute drive to get to Amsterdam and the venue. Whilst D Bran was a little late, we all had to wait outside to be let into the venue; we caught up with some UK players and discovered that most of the UK team was on the Reanimator or Team America plan. Eventually we got in and I could collapse in a chair for a bit and wait for the queue for GPT’s to die down, unfortunately I only had one bye for the GP, a fact I had discovered at the last minute two weeks earlier in Milan after expecting two byes. So I signed up for a GPT, I was pretty tired but Planeswalker Points will keep me in three byes next year, so it wouldn’t be a total loss if I failed and I wanted to test out a different build of my deck before the GP.

Here’s the decklist I used for the single elimination GPT:


4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Golgari Thug
4 Narcamoeba
3 Ichorid
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Inkwell Leviathan
2 Sphinx of Lost Truths
4 Lion’s Eye Diamond
4 Bridge from Below
3 Dread Return
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Breakthrough
4 Careful Study
3 Deep Analysis
4 Cephalid Coliseum
4 City of Brass
3 Gemstone Mine

4 Leyline of Sanctity
4 Leyline of the Void
4 Chain of Vapor
2 Ray of Revelation
1 Angel of Despair

As you can see, I was testing out an explosive build to see how it would work compared to my usual trend for consistency. In testing with this build, I could often dredge my entire deck (or at least enough of it to win) on turn one. I wasn’t sure if this was the build I liked as my other build felt really good (I’ll show you that later), but I felt testing it was important.

ROUND ONE – BWU Stiflenought

Game one – My opponent won the die roll and starts with tundra, I draw a card then cast Breakthrough which he Force Of Wills. He untaps, plays a land and casts Phyrexian Dreadnought and then Stifle to keep his massive guy. I untap and try another Breakthrough, which he Dazes. I am then out of discard engine and die in two turns.

Game two – I mulligan to find Chain of Vapor expecting to see Leyline of the Void from him, so I am at six card to begin with, but the hand is ok. He keeps seven and begins with two Leyline in play. I spend a few turns drawing cards, and even Breakthrough to find another bounce spell or a Ray of Revelation, but I don’t. He drops Stoneforge Mystic, then Batterskull then the Dreadnought.


Having lost a game one with Dredge, I was pretty unhappy, so I signed up for another GPT.

ROUND ONE – Mono-white Prison

Game one – I win the die roll and Careful Study to ditch a couple of dredgers. My opponent then plays a plains and passes. I untap and dredge, then I drop a Lion’s Eye Diamond, cast Breakthrough, dredge a lot of my deck, use the mana from LED to flashback Deep Analysis, then dredge some more, then I reanimate Sphinx of Lost Truths and dredge more and then I use my Cephalid Coliseum, and have fielded over thirty power thanks to Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, I have seen Sun Titan, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Ethersworn Canonist and lands in his hand. He scoops.

Game two – He goes first and plays Ancient Tomb, to drop a Chalice of the Void set to one. I look at my Careful Study and Breakthrough and see I will need to wait a turn. I draw, discard a dredger at end of turn. My opponent untaps and casts Trinisphere. I have two lands, and I’m in dredging mode, so I literally have to draw cards or lose to the sphere, since Ichorid beats won’t be enough. Soon he plays a Ghostly Prison and a Wasteland, I am sunk and scoop once his Sun Titan hits the field for Wasteland recursion.

Game three – I’m on the play, I have LED so I can play around Trinisphere if I need to. I Careful Study and ditch some bits. He untaps and drops the Chalice of the Void again. Next turn I dredge a little, but don’t get anywhere with it really since I am at one land. He untaps and drops Trinisphere. I then have to keep drawing cards to find a Chain of Vapor or lose the game. I don’t find anything and die very slowly; he plays a backup Trinisphere just in case to bury me.

So, it seems that this build is not ideal, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as my other list which felt stronger. Talking to other people there and seeing the field, I built back my older build from a couple of weeks back and tweaked it for the meta. A small amount of sleep later, I woke up, warmer though, thanks to the heating being fixed, and we headed to the venue.


Here is the list I ran:


4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Golgari Thug
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Narcamoeba
4 Bloodghast
4 Ichorid
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Angel of Despair
1 Sphinx of Lost Truths
4 Breakthrough
4 Careful Study
3 Dread Return
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Bridge From Below
4 Undiscovered Paradise
4 Cephalid Coliseum
4 City of Brass
2 Dakmor Salvage

1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
1 Dread Return
1 Memory’s Journey
1 Gemstone Mine
3 Ray of Revelation
4 Chain of Vapor
4 Unmask

As you can see, this build is quite different; it’s all about consistency, which is what you need in a field of disruptive control decks. Having both Bloodghast (one of my favourite card ever) and Ichorid, you have a lot more room to manoeuvre, and along with the Narcamoebas you can get plenty of guys into play to help with the deck. I found I wanted to be killing things, so Angel of Despair was a solid choice for reanimation, and Elesh Norn is often backbreaking, I kept a single Sphinx so I could get dredgers and bridges out my hand if I needed to and also have the option to dredge heavy if I needed to instead of reanimating a fatty.

The biggest boon of the deck is Bloodghast. Being able to bring him back, often with haste is powerful and ends games, and along with Ichorid, gives you a viable beat-down plan without casting spells. Undiscovered Paradise and Dakmor Salvage mean you can reliably bring them back every game and often multiple times, control decks have fits when you just keep attacking with Bloodghasts each turn and Cabal Therapying their hand away whilst making guys. This list takes the best of manaless dredge and merges it neatly with mana dredge.

The reason I decided to play dredge is simple, 99% of Magic players don’t know how to play with or against dredge. When they test against it, then often don’t have a competent dredge player to pit themselves against which makes the deck very underestimated. Many people assume a Leyline of the Void or Tormod’s Crypt can beat dredge on its own, which is clearly not the case. If a player mulligans to graveyard hate like Leyline, it often gives the dredge player a free win since they have more sideboard cards for it than they have Leylines, and the non-dredge player starts with vastly diminished resources. I’ve been playing dredge for a while and had an amazing build before Mental Misstep that seemed to crush the field, but this meant I was one of those select few who could play the archetype well enough to run it at a big tournament. Some people think dredge is a bad choice and that it only does well based on numbers of people playing it, this is not the case, since the deck has more options each turn than most other decks and punishes mistakes far worse than other decks in the field.

I was very happy with my choice of deck, and after my Bye, I sat down to round two of the tournament:

ROUND TWO – Eva Green (2-0)

Game one, my opponent was on the play and Thoughtseized me, only to have me have Careful Study, Careful Study then Breakthrough as my first three turns. His deck’s game one is worse than most against Dredge and I won quickly.

Game Two, my opponent mulliganned to find graveyard hate but didn’t want to go down to four cards on the play so kept a reasonable hand with Dark Confidant in to dig for hate. He didn’t find any and conceded when I Dread Returned Iona, Shield of Emeria.


ROUND THREE – URW Control (1-1)

Game one, I win the roll and we both mulligan. I get my Careful Study to resolve whilst he makes Grim Lavamancer. I beat with some Ichorids but I don’t have enough cards in my bin to do this enough times. I dredge half of my deck and then run out of dredgers without having seen a Golgari Grave-Troll yet. I do find a Bloodghast though, and can clearly see how I will win the game, but he drops Engineered Explosives to kill my tokens and keeps my board down, not enough to beat me, but enough to slow the game down. He manages to hand on even though we both know he is going to lose eventually. He casts Jace, The Mind Sculptor and Force Of Wills it, then Dazes his own Force so he can make the Jace, bounce a land to replay for Grim Lavamancer activation and put two cards in his graveyard. Throughout this game I’ve asked him to play faster and nearly called a judge a few times, however every time I am about to, he speeds up a little before playing slower again. Eventually I mill some black creatures and Bloodghasts and wipe him out.

Game two, there’s not much time on the clock, but he is not in ideal graveyard hate colours. He keeps a hand of triple Surgical Extraction whilst I have no Cabal Therapy. I manage to dredge ok, but he takes away my Bloodghasts, Bridge from Belows and Ichorids, but fails to search my deck when he targets my Bridge. He also fails to search with one of his Stoneforge Mystics, but then plays a third and does search a turn later. I’m on the dredging into Narcamoebas plan and hard casting Golgari Thug to get my Dread Return working, but he slowly beats me down with Batterskull. I concede with just over four minutes on the clock.

I shuffle up and present, but he takes his time and doesn’t present till there’s just over one minute on the clock and we no longer have time for a game as the judge informs us. I was pretty annoyed at this, since he slow played for a draw which is worthless on day one, and his deck was poorly equipped to beat dredge. This coupled with the mistakes he was making, I was pretty certain I would win game three, so the lack of the last game cost me a lot here.


ROUND FOUR – GW Maverick (2-1)

Game one, my opponent is on the play. I end of turn discard a Golgari Grave-Troll to start dredging next turn. I dredge quite a few cards thanks to Breakthrough and Cabal Therapy away his Knight of the Reliquary so he can’t fetch a possible main deck Bojuka Bog. I shut him down quickly and win the game comfortably with one big swing thanks to Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite.

Game two, he drops a turn two Scavenging Ooze on the play, with Gaea’s Cradle and a Noble Hierarch. Next he drops Tormod’s Crypt and another Noble Hierarch and keeps my graveyard down. I never get a chance to dredge heavily and scoop them after a few turns of him beating me.

Game three, I Careful Study, into Cabal Therapy and Breakthrough the next turn which puts him massively behind as I am able to flashback some Cabal Therapy and wipe his hand. The game is pretty much over on my second turn.


ROUND FIVE – Team America (2-0)

Game one, I lose the roll, but he opens with an Underground Sea, so I wait till my end of turn and discard Grave-Troll. I dredge the next turn and being beating with Bloodghast shortly after. He Provides no real resistance and I keep checking his hand with Cabal Therapy until I Dread Return an Angel of Despair and force his concession.

Game two, I end of turn discard again and start dredging whilst he makes a turn two Tarmogoyf. I have the anti Leyline of the Void cards in hand so am happy with how the game progresses, although he soon reveals he’s on the Surgical Extraction plan instead, but I have enough zombies and Bloodghasts to overwhelm him.


ROUND SIX – Team America (2-0)

Game one, I Cabal Therapy myself to get a dredger in the graveyard, but it all runs smoothly since I’m on the play and he can’t Daze it. I manage next turn to dredge most of my deck thanks to Careful Study and Dread Returning Sphinx of Lost Truths. He concedes that turn.

Game two, I discard a dredger at end of turn with anti-Leyline cards in hand if needed. This player is also on the Surgical Extraction plan, so I can dredge away quite well. He puts up a solid race with Tarmogoyf, but I am able to bring back three Ichorids and all four Bloodghast which puts him way behind, even though I have no bridges at this point, reanimating an Angel of Despair post combat seals the deal.


ROUND SEVEN – Bant Maverick (1-2)

Thanks to who I assume is Tim Willoughby picking me out, this round is a feature match, so I get to lose in front of an audience! Although it’s always nice to have a feature match regardless.

Game one, my opponent has already scouted me and knows my deck, so he is at an advantage. I quickly start dredging after turn one Careful Study and whilst he makes a Tarmogoyf, I dredge most of my deck and establish a massive board which he concedes to.

Game two, I drop and end of turn dredger in the bin, then Careful Study my way through the second turn. He has Karakas so I reanimate a large Grave-Troll, 13/13, and then he removes my graveyard the following turn. I keep him chumping until his Maze of Ith comes online whilst I am drawing cards due to an empty graveyard. Scavenging Ooze hits the board whilst I’m empty in the graveyard and his Swords to Plowshares kills my troll. I am unable to re-establish myself and lose quickly.

Game three, I have to mulligan to four cards on the play to find a land (there was no dredger in my opening seven). His hand is Path to Exile, Noble Hierarch, Green Sun’s Zenith, Tormod’s Crypt, Swords to Plowshares and two coloured sources. As you can imagine, this was a very rough game that didn’t last very long. I was unable to get established after using my own Cabal Therapy to pitch a dredger and have it removed. He also drew a Wasteland shortly after to make sure I was buried.


ROUND EIGHT – GW Maverick (1-2)

Game one, my opponent provides no resistance to my turn one Careful Study, turn two Breakthrough, which led to Dread Returning Angel of Despair and Elesh Norn. He scooped there and then.

Game two, my opponent has a two Surgical Extractions in his opening hand. He nails my Bloodghast and Ichorid. Next turn he draws another to take all my Narcomoeba. I am left trying to hard cast guys whilst he makes Scavenging Ooze and Stoneforge Mystic. I lose this game hard.

Game three, I have two different dredgers in hand. I use my first turn to Cabal Therapy him and name Surgical Extraction, he shows me his terrible opening grip: Birds of Paradise, Wasteland, Bojuka Bog, Ethersworn Canonist and lands. He uses his turn to take out my mana source. Then I drop a dredger in the grave which he bogs. Next turn he plays Birds whilst I am drawing cards for either a land or end of turn discard, however at this point he draws into Green Sun’s Zenith and blows me out with a Scavenging Ooze, making my draw up to seven plan redundant. Next turn he makes Stoneforge Mystic and the rest is history as I never get a graveyard again.


ROUND NINE – UW Control (2-0)

Game one, he Force of Wills my turn one Careful Study, but my Breakthrough the next turn resolves as I dump my hand in the graveyard. I dredge and bring back guys, and he’s pretty much powerless aside from one Swords to Plowshares, he scoops up after I Dread Return an Elesh Norn and beat face for lots.

Game two, I discard end of turn on my first turn, as it the correct way against control decks generally. He has two Force of Will to stop my draw spells and leaves me dredging only in my draw step, which slow and surely gets there. He uses a Snapcaster Mage to reuse a Swords and block my zombie to remove my Bridges, eventually though, the number of free creatures I am getting each turn is too much, and with only one card left in my library, I finish him off.



Needing a 7-2 record to day two I was a little annoyed to miss out, I felt I played the right deck for the tournament and probably could have changed my fate if it wasn’t for the awkward draw in round three. It was a shame to lose the feature match in such a bad way, but his hand in game three would have been tricky to beat even with a full grip of seven. The only change I wished I could have made was running a few Pithing Needle in the sideboard to stop the Ooze and also random Tormod’s Crypts and suchlike. But my record was pretty good for only having one bye and it should have secured me enough planeswalker points for three buys during next season’s GP’s.



That night, after day one, we got ready to drive back to The Hague and stopped off for some food. Afterwards we jumped on the motorway to finish the journey only to find three of the four lanes closed and traffic was heavily built up, D Bran fell asleep whilst stopped in traffic and behind the wheel, but we eventually got back to Ronald’s house at about 2 AM having had a bizarre conversation about menstruating ponies lol.

Early in the morning we were woken up with very little sleep, Ronald needed to be there for day two so off we went. Whilst I was tempted to play in side events that day, it was instead spent trading which worked out alright in the end, despite not being worth any planeswalker points! The prospect of Vintage 8 man’s came up but instead Rob Elkin was intent on trading for cards for his Pube (Puny Cube – a cube of nothing but one mana spells). After much waiting that afternoon, we left to drive back to Calais for the ferry we needed to catch at 1:20 AM. The sat nav decided to behave this time and we got pretty far, until we missed a turning in France, which meant we had to take a slightly longer route but we had plenty of time still. However, partway along our detour, the sat nav instructed us off of the main roads and onto a dirt track, we drove along until we ended up in the middle of a pitch black piece of land that was presumably used for crops but at that time was nothing but dust. The dilapidated buildings and no sign of life put us on edge, and then the sat nav did something worrying, “You have arrived at your destination”. We all looked at each other, “I seem to remember the port of Calais being somewhat more….. wet?” I remarked, it was as if the sat nav was plotting against us. In the middle of this French Deliverance style environment I was half expecting the voice to instruct us to “Get out of the vehicle. Pull down your trousers and bend over”. Thankfully this was not the case and we re-programmed in our destination and headed back to civilisation.

We arrived on time and then headed on the ferry, three of us played with Rob’s Pube (the puny cube, nothing else!), I managed to win a game by casting Gigadrowse for eight, then untapping into a big Skitter of Lizards. Soon I took over the driving and we headed back to Reading, getting back at about 5 AM where I could finally crash in my own bed and sleep for a reasonable amount of time.

All in all, an exciting tale of confusion, enjoyment, menstruating ponies and Rob’s Pube, oh and some magic of course.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing.



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