19th at GP Manchester 2014 by Chris Vincent

Grand Prix Manchester 2014 Report (Top64) by Matt Gregory

I’m a Magic player based in York, but I play most of my events at Patriot Games in Leeds. I’ve been playing Magic for the best part of 10 years (since Betrayers of Kamigawa), but a better estimation of my competitive play would be about 7 years (First PTQ – Llorwyn Sealed). I wouldn’t say I’m a PTQ/GP grinder, but I do attend them when I can and GP Manchester 2014 was my 5th GP attendance.

My more recent years have leaned me more into Legacy, a format where I feel more relaxed. Last time I attended a GP (London 2013), I did not enter the main event and played only Legacy side event. I did well and walked away with 4 revised dual lands (prizes), so I was hoping to repeat my experience at GP Manchester 2014.

Instead, I ended up finishing 19th in the main event (Theros Block Constructed) with 36 points. Here is my story.

Why did I switch to playing Theros block constructed?

Sylvan caryatid banner

  • About a week before the tournament, I watched a bit of the coverage for Pro Tour Journey into Nyx, and realised that GP Manchester would be the only chance to play the block constructed format.

I was intrigued to give it a go! Though I was told that the format was ‘boring’ because ‘everyone just plays  and Courser’, I was not wholly persuaded I wouldn’t have fun. In fact, the chance to prove the naysayers wrong convinced me to play in the main event even more!

  • I knew there would be no Top 8 for the Legacy side-events, rendering them basically single elimination events. Although last year I emerged reasonably unscathed, I didn’t know I’d have to lose 0 games last time, so I guess ignorance was bliss. In addition my deck last year (Esper Stoneblade) was almost indisputably the best deck in the format and I had a ton of experience with it.

Things in the world of Legacy had moved on, and I wasn’t experienced with the ‘best deck’ today.

  • I can still play Legacy anyway if I don’t make Day 2!

I had taken the week off work before the GP. This was going to include some light-touch Legacy ‘testing’, but I guess it had to be ‘slightly more than light-touch’ Theros Block testing.

How I prepared

Polis Crusher banner

In constructed play, I tend to lean towards aggro-control or control decks. Using the Pro tour Journey into Nyx coverage as an initial basis, I decided that my preferred style of control deck basically didn’t exist (Wrathing/drawing extra cards was less than straightforward in Theros Block), and although I respected the power of Prognostic Sphinx, I just didn’t see it as a card I would realistically play with for at least 9 rounds at a GP.

This left me with the main choices of either Junk or Naya variants (broadly speaking). I had most of the cards for the Naya deck so I sleeved it up and tested it against Chapin’s Junk list that my friend Rob Catton had built up.

Although Rob warned me before the games that the Junk deck beat Naya easily, the actual testing matches (about 10 or so) seemed to indicate a more even battle. In addition, we realised that the manabase for the Junk deck was generally less stable and, even though the early threats and removal were considerably better, the Naya deck just seemed more comfortable and consistent.

I also tested vs UW heroic, RW Heroic, Mono black aggro and BUG control – only feeling less than comfortable about the BUG control matchup.

After the first day of testing, I found out I had been playing 26 lands in my Naya deck by mistake (which obviously should have been 1 or 2 more threats) this helped assure me that Naya was probably the deck I should be playing. Rob also decided to switch to Naya.

I did some further testing against Monoblack, Jund, Junk and BUG over the next couple of days and cemented my choice.

Friday – Day Zero

Stormbreath Dragon Banner

Now that I was playing in the main event, I had a mind to get there early for the All-day GPT grinders to maximise my only chance to snap up some byes. I didn’t have many planeswalker points from the relevant previous season as I’d attended basically no big events between December and March.

In the end though, I decided to travel later in the day with my fellow York players Sam Martin and Mats Volberg. GPs for me have always been predominantly about having a fun weekend with my friends and it was good to catch up with them.

On arrival at the venue, I enrolled in a GPT. I lost in in round 2 to a R/G aggressive deck that drew a lot more Stormbreath Dragons than I could answer. Unfortunately, the match wasn’t much more complicated than that.

Afterwards. Our group watched the final round of the Rich Hagon game show, listening to a mixture of amusing, and not so amusing, ‘Magic puns’, we headed back to our accommodation as a group.

I stayed with a group of York players at a Premier Inn 10-15 minutes away from the venue. In addition, Worlds Top 8 competitor from 2008 Hannes Kerrem also joined us as an Estonian guest of Mats. I prepared my decklist in the evening for day 1.

My Deck

Mana Confluence
Temple of Abandon
Temple of Plenty
Temple of Triumph
Courser of Kruphix
Polis Crusher
Stormbreath Dragon
Sylvan Caryatid
Voyaging Satyr
Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
Banishing Light
Destructive Revelry
Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Lightning Strike
Xenagos, the Reveler

Sideboard (15)

Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
Anger of the Gods
Arbor Colossus
Fated Conflagration
Glare of Heresy
Hammer of Purphuros
Magma Spray
Purphuros, God of the Forge

Day One


An early start brought me to the player meeting. I managed to scrape together the last few cards for my deck (I was playing 3 Elspeth, until today when Rob finally persuaded me to play a 4th MD and move the 2nd MD Ajani I was running to the SB, cutting an Arbor Colossus!).


Elspeth, Sun’s Champion banner

Round 1 – vs BUG Control

Game one: My hand is quite optimal. I open with Caryatid and Courser and my opponent Thoughtseizes my Elspeth, but my Dragon remains surprisingly unanswered for at least two turns. By the time it dies, I’ve been able to follow it up with too many threats for my opponent to cope with.

Game two: My opponent misses some early land drops. I curve out and destroy him with Cyclops and Dragon.


Round 2 – vs Junk Constellation

Game one: Both me and my opponent open with a Caryatid. I play a turn three Polis Crusher, my opponent plays a turn three Eidolon of Blossoms (digging for removal, I guess). I play a Dragon and apply more pressure. My opponent removes it, but the Cyclops becomes monstrous and proceeds to blow up almost everything he plays. Perhaps my opponent underestimated the Cyclops.

Stormbreath DragonGame two: My hand in the second game contains a Cyclops, Dragon and Anger of the Gods. My opponent Thoughtseizes the Cyclops and then the Anger – I was expecting him to take the Dragon.

He then dies to the Dragon in very short order, unable to remove it. I told him after the game that I was expecting him to take the Dragon and he conceded that it was a real mistake on his part to take the Anger instead.

My opponent trades me a foil M14 Mutavault – the only trade I end up doing all weekend.


Round 3 – vs Junk (Chapin build)

Game one: My opponent mulligans to five. I curve out well and wreck him with Cyclops, Dragon and Elspeth. He explains he nearly kept the 7 card hand, which included Thoughtseize, Fleecemane Lion, Brimaz but all off Mana Confluence.

It may have actually got there against me, but I understand how taking 8 damage just to play your first three spells might not have been desirable.

Game two: Very anticlimactic. My opponent mulls to four, doesn’t hit a second land and concedes to my turn four Dragon. ‘It happens’ he admits acceptingly.


Round 4 – vs Junk (Strength of the Fallen)

My opponent is Rob Ferguson, who I know from Legacy events and the odd PTQ. Strangely, just before the round we had been discussing our decks, so I’m blessed with the knowledge that I know what he’s playing and vice versa (but it’s more of an advantage for me).

Game one: I keep a hand with double Cyclops. This card is excellent against his deck. I quickly put him dead on board. He calculates his ‘last turn’ carefully, but his deck fails to come up with the goods.

Satyr WayfinderGame two: My hand isn’t quite as busted, but again I pressure him with a Cyclops, Courser and Xenagos token. Unfortunately I’ve used Mana Confluence a bit this game and I didn’t respect the 1/1 Satyr Wayfinder getting +15/+15 this turn and I’m killed in one attack.

Rob explains that he also had a removal spell so Ieaving back the one blocker wouldn’t have worked, and attacking with only one creature might not have been pressure enough to prevent his late game.

Game three I do have a reasonable opener, but it needs lands. I scry an early Elspeth to the bottom to try and find them. I cast Cyclops, but he busts out not one, but two Arbor Colossus, which match up extremely well against my Double Dragon draw.

I’m a bit regretful about scrying the Elspeth to the bottom as, the draw I had ended up getting me more than enough lands to play my threats – and an Elspeth right now would be super handy.

Rob, able to untap with big creatures then takes over the game with Nylea. I draw another Elspeth, but it’s too late as he has me at 3 life with a Courser and Nylea on board.


Round 5 vs Jund

Game one: My opening hand is good, but Two Thoughtseizes take my two threats and I only seem to be able to draw more lands. I muster an Elspeth a couple of turns later, but it meets Heroe’s Downfall immediately. Meanwhile, his Reaper of the Wilds and Dragon ensure that I don’t stay alive much longer.

ThoughtseizeGame two: Very foggy in my memory, but I remember him opening with Thoughtseize again and taking my Caryatid. My hand was 2 land, and expensive cards so I can see the sense in his plan of slowing me down, but I kept the second Caryatid from my Scryland on top of my library. I curve out and it becomes clear his hand isn’t so powerful and he was hoping to draw the goods.

With not much time left, I mulligan to six cards. Awkwardly on drawing my last card it sticks to the next card and I nearly draw seven (but stop myself). I actually haven’t seen the seventh card and my opponent doesn’t say anything.

I have six face down cards on the table feeling a bit silly for fumbling with the last card. He announces he’ll keep his hand and I look at my cards and am about to do the same, but he then he asks me if I saw the top card. I tell him I didn’t, but his face intimates that he is unsure.

We call a judge and explain that he isn’t sure if I have seen the top card or not and thinks my mulligan decision could be based on potential knowledge of the top card of my library. I didn’t actually see the card so I’m perfectly happy with the judge’s solution to shuffle my library and then allow me to decide whether to keep my hand (which I do anyway as it’s a good six).

I get a warning for looking at extra cards, which some say I should have appealed (seeing as I didn’t actually look at the card) but in the heat of the moment, it doesn’t cross my mind to appeal the penalty.

I’m not sure, even if I lay out the facts, that I can convince a judge that I definitely haven’t seen the card. The element of doubt makes it unlikely to be ruled in my favour. I also don’t want to disrupt my in-game confidence with the need to go through an appeal process, given that the ruling is not going to affect the result of this game (unless I do it twice more!).

mtgUK Rules & Judges Questions Banner

I have since explored this on the Facebook Judge/Rules questions forums where judges have explained that I did what most players would have done, lived with the ruling even though not 100% happy with it – and they have pointed me to a useful article explaining appeals. This has improved my inner confidence about what to do if I want to appeal a floor judge’s decision.

Game three: We both curve out quite well. My opponent plays a turn three Polukranos and turn four Dragon both of which I answer with copies of Fated Conflagration.

My Cyclops then meets a Silence the Believers and I play a Dragon into a second Silence the Believers. As the dust settles I’m fortunately able to keep the threats going with Ajani, Mentor of Heroes which my opponent is unable to kill.

He draws some threats of his own, we get into a mini board-stall, and time is called. It matters little though as Ajani draws me another Dragon which flies over for victory in turn three of five. It was a very close game and after packing up the cards, my opponent shakes my hand again telling me I played well and he enjoyed the game, even though he didn’t win.


Round 6 vs RW Aggro

My opponent is Simon Wood, who I recognise playing at various Champs events (now Game Day events) and PTQs. I know he’s on RW aggro because I had the good fortune of sitting at a table next to him in a previous round. I’m not sure if he saw what I was playing.

Lightning StrikeGame one: I keep the hand which has lands and spells, but I’m on the play with a Lightning Strike which gives me a fighting chance. I kill his first threat and he passes without a second.

We both amass a board through the next few turns. No attacks take place. Even though I appear to be ahead all the way through, I don’t dare attack until I get an Elspeth on board. I then chip at his health with a Dragon holding up a couple more Lightning Strikes until he concedes.

Game two: My hand is Courser, various removal spells and lands. I kill his first few threats and start to beat him down with two Coursers. I’m then seemingly unable to draw anything else of relevance while he grows two Phalanx leaders to ridiculous size. Eventually the leaders take over the game and I continue to draw nothing until I die. We agree it was a very strange game.

Game three: Is unfortunate for Simon who has to mulligan to three cards. He doesn’t land a threat in the first few turns and concedes to my turn four Dragon.


Round 7 vs Naya (Mirror)

I unfortunately don’t remember much about this game, other than that my opponent maindecked Fated Conflagration (so presumably has an edge?). It didn’t go to three games, but I think both our draws were reasonable. I think I generated a bit more card advantage from playing lands off the top of my deck more.

I remember during a boardstall in game 2, I killed him by casting a Dragon which grew monstrous in the turn it landed, dealing about 12 points of damage in total.


Round 8 vs Junk (Chapin)

Fleecemane LionGame one: I keep a greedy hand with only two lands. I Lightning Strike his Fleecemane Lion, but fail to draw a third land to play the rest of my spells.

Luckily, my opponent doesn’t produce a second threat and I draw out of my land screwage after discarding a couple of lategame cards. Unfortunately he’s been able to sculpt the perfect hand, and has a substantial mana advantage. I put up a fight, but every threat I make is answered and I’m unable to mount a suitable defence.

Game two: I’m not land screwed, but he Thoughtseizes a Cyclops, my only threat, and I am unable to follow it up and put pressure on him any time soon. We get into a mini-board stall (at best), but he is able to Hero’s Downfall my Elspeth before I activate it a second time. By contrast, when I attempt to kill his Elspeth with my Dragon, it’s met with removal and it’s quite easy for him to take the game from there.

We chat after the game. Turns out my opponent was a Silver level pro hoping to get more active on the Pro-circuit again. We wish each other well.


Round 9 vs Naya (Purphuros/Tokens)

The pressure is on to win the bubble round. My opponent is very friendly and announces he’s only been playing Magic since Born of the Gods was released. I congratulate him on getting this far in the tournament after playing the game for only that amount of time, explaining that it took me over a year to attend my first ‘tournament’ (FNM/Prerelease) and two to three years to play in a competitive event (PTQ/GP), let alone do that well in one as big as this.

Elspeth, Sun’s ChampionGame one: My opponent opens with Fleecemane Lion and Brimaz, but I notice he’s got a Temple of Triumph in play. He’s taken a bit of damage from Mana Confluence, and this is probably the only thing keeping me in the game given his board dominance.

I manage to land an Elspeth to stem the attacks from his threat and he adds his own Sun’s Champion. At the end of his turn, I ask him to confirm his health total which is 10. Next turn I play a Dragon, attack and kill him with double Lightning Strike.

Game two: My opponent opens well with Lion, which I Glare of Heresy, Brimaz, which I Banishing Light and a second Brimaz, which I can’t answer.

In spite of this, he’s stuck on three lands. He plays a Courser and reveals a Purphuros. Even though I’m being attacked, I’m able to build a better board state than my opponent, mainly due to his mana constraints.

I curve out into Dragon and then Elspeth, neither of which my opponent can do anything about. He concedes the game and reveals his hand of Purphuros, Elspeth and Launch the Fleet, which I would have most likely lost to if he had hit lands!


I’m into Day 2! I catch up with my friends. Unfortunately, of the group I’m staying with, only myself and Hannes have made Day 2. Of the other Leeds players, Rob Catton and Aaron Copping (undefeated!) also made Day 2.

I’m very tired and hungry and I stay up a bit with friends to have a light hearted evening, changing the sleeves on my deck and getting some much needed food. Unfortunately, the food took a while to arrive, which cut me off some sleep.

Day 2

GP Manchester 2014 Banner Empty Hall
Image by Anna Przywecka

I’ve never made the cut for the second day of the GP before so this was exciting for me. At previous GPs where I entered the main event, (Birmingham 2007 – Llorwyn Block Constructed) I went 2-3 and (Manchester 2011 – Dark Ascension Sealed) I went 6-1-2.

Day two is played in the VIP area where the chairs and tables are better quality, there is more physical space and a higher Judge/Player ratio. I actually think these improved playing conditions probably made me play better overall. I was still a bit sleepy though!


Round 10 vs Naya (Lion/Brimaz)

Sylvan CaryatidGame one, I keep 4 Scrylands, Caryatid, C

Courser and Lightning Strike. I Scry lands to the bottom, but only seem to be able to draw more things that produce mana (Lands, Satyrs and Caryatids).

I play an Elspeth which I’m basically all-in on. But my opponent has steadily built up his board, which now includes his own Elspeth, Ajani, a Monstrous Fleecemane and Brimaz he draws a Dragon with Ajani’s ability, which earns a concession from me.

I keep a similar hand with Fated Conflagration, but a similar thing happens, I don’t draw threats. My first five lands are Scrylands and in my lack of alertness I play a basic land and Scry.

I Judge call myself and get a warning. My opponent is understanding (and winning this game by miles anyway). I at least match his Elspeth and Ajani with my own, but he finds a Dragon again with Ajani to kill me. Time to wake up!


Round 11 vs WBR midrange

Game one, my opponent opens with Thoughtseize and takes a Xenagos. I fortunately topdeck another one straight away. He Magma Jets a token and plays a Flame-Wreathed Phoenix, which I pay tribute to and immediately Banish.

I then appear to have the superior draw. My first Elspeth is met by Hero’s Downfall, but the second one sticks and he doesn’t draw much as I churn out soldiers turn after turn. I half consider letting him play out his deck for another turn to gain some information, but instead just finish him with Lightning Strike.

Game two, my opponent is stuck on three lands and although I answer his first Brimaz, he plays a Hammer of Purphuros so his next Brimaz comes out with haste. I’m fortunately able to answer the cat king before he gets Purphuros online and he doesn’t seem to have a follow up threat.

I cast Elspeth and then a Dragon but holding only lands, I keep the Dragon on defence to protect Elspeth from Phoneix or Brimaz plus burn. He doesn’t come up with anything and I’m happy to start attacking with the Dragon. He concedes revealing a hand with multiple Elspeth while stuck on 5 lands.


Round 12 vs RW Aggro

My opponent is Paul Graham, who I know predominantly from my earlier Magic days. When I was learning how to cobble a sealed deck together, he was the one who was winning the Pre-releases. Years have passed and we’ve played a few times, it’s usually a close game. I’ve talked to Paul earlier in the tournament and we know what each other is playing (a slight advantage for me in this case, I think).

Banishing LightGame one: I mulligan a seven that contains lands and spells, but it has no chance against a fast start. The six contains at least a Banishing Light, which is an improvement.

Nevertheless Paul churns out multiple threats that become big very quickly. I’m left with little option but to ‘force’ him to have tricks by blocking his creatures. Unfortunately for me, he does have them and I’m blown out. I need a sixth land for Elspeth to stay in the game, but I don’t draw it.

Game two, my hand is stacked with removal including Anger of the Gods. He annoyingly opens with a Lagonna Band Trailblazer, which blanks Anger, but I use Glare of Heresy on it.

I’m then able to sequence my removal, against his remaining threats before I die and take advantage of the board by landing Elspeth. With three tokens each, but me at three, his only out is to Launch the Fleet on his previously launched fleet, which he does not draw and we go to a third game.

Game three: Paul has to mulligan to five, but it’s a reasonable hand with multiple threats. Unfortunately for him, I have a lot of removal and I’m able to kill them all off. He concedes once I land a Dragon he cannot hope to race.


Round 13 vs GW constellation (Strength of the Fallen)

Game one: My friendly Irish opponent opens with a Temple of Plenty and a Satyr Wayfinder. Sooner or later a Strength from the Fallen shows up, but I’ve got Destructive Revelry to answer it.

As I develop my board, I’m mindful to keep my opponent’s devotion low as I see a Nykthos. I run my Courser into his and finish it with a Lightning Strike. A monstrous Polis Crusher deals with a second one.

With me empty handed and my opponent with seven cards in hand, I’m hoping he can’t come up with the goods – my Polis Crusher is lethal next turn. He plays a very calculated turn but is unable to Commune with the Gods or use Kruphix’s Insight to find what he needs.

Strength from the FallenGame two: He manages to keep a Strength from the Fallen on the battlefield, but I don’t let him untap with a threat. I even go so far as to play a Fated Conflagration on his Voyaging Satyr, which he’s slightly disappointed about.

He later answers my Stormbreath Dragon with an Arbor Colossus. I scry a second one to the bottom, trying to draw either Destructive Revelry or Banishing Light.

I then mount as much of a defense as possible with Elspeth, attacking only very conservatively despite having a massive advantage on board. This way, at least if he resolves Nylea then I can absorb a lot of damage at the cost of a few creatures – I’ll need to, there are about 12 creatures in his graveyard.

I respond to his Nylea with a Destructive Revelry on the Strength of the Fallen, but he’s able to flash in a Boon Satyr in response, giving his Colossus +13/+13 and trample. I throw a 5/7 Courser (Ajani) in the way, take 12 and then Banish Nylea. I’m then able to take the game with my vast Soldier army before he draws another Nylea.

After I pack up I watch the last few minutes of the game next to me. Rob Catton is playing a very epic game (one) against Patrick Dickmann. It’s a Naya Boardstall with an Elspeth each and a million tokens with varying amounts of +1/+1 counters on them. Unfortunately Rob loses and has three minutes to kill Patrick in game two. He very nearly does too!


Round 14 vs Mono Black

Game one: My opponent opens with Tormented Hero, Thoughtseize (taking Xenagos) and Spiteful Returned. My Voyaging Satyr holds off the Spiteful Returned, but I can’t land a significant threat or remove the Tormented Hero.

Gray Merchant of AsphodelMy opponent curves into a Grey Merchant and although I gum up the board with Elspeth, I’m on low enough health for him to Downfall a blocker and force his attacks through.

Game two: My hand is much better and I manage to deal with his early threats. I protect my Courser from Agent of Fates by making some Elspeth tokens, but he bestows the agent with a Herald of Torment and kills the Sun’s champion.

I’m then able to use Destructive Revelry, Lightning Strike and Anger of the Gods to eliminate his threats, dispite his use of Boon of Erebos. On the other hand, the Boon appears to be have been costly as it allows a Stormbreath Dragon to take him out in three swings.

Game three: My opponent’s first play is a turn three Agent of Fates, which really is not a lot of pressure. I use multiple Lightning Strikes to dispatch of it as, again, my opponent uses Boon of Erebos to protect it. At four lands my opponent keeps passing the turn and doesn’t answer the threats I produce. He dies holding multiple Grey Merchants.

I check the standings and I’m 32nd with 33 points. My tiebreakers are quite low for 11-3 so my chances of top 16 are limited, but I think I will definitely play out the last round.


Round 15 vs Naya (Lion/Brimaz)

My opponent is a very friendly German player who seems to have enjoyed his tournament experience. He doesn’t express an intention to ID – I suspected Top 32 isn’t a lock with a draw.

Destructive RevelryGame one: This game is quite long. There’s a lot of board stall as we both have an Elspeth and Ajani. He has Brimaz, but I managed to get my planeswalkers online first and his Banishing Light on my Elspeth is only short lived as I use Destructive Revelry on it at the end of his turn.

The key to my victory is having Xenegos active and finding a Stormbreath Dragon first, which is cast and grows monstrous in the same turn to force the concession.

Game two: My opponent opens well. I send a Glare of Heresy at his Lion, but I can’t deal with Brimaz for at least a turn (Fated Conflagration). He casts a Purphuros on turn 4 and applies more pressure with Brimaz. I burn it for five damage and keep a Banishing Light ready for Purphuros.

I end up having to use Banishing Light on his Polukranos and hope that he can’t keep the pressure on me. I then unleash a Dragon which he doesn’t answer and add a second to the board putting him on Elspeth as his only out. He doesn’t draw his sixth mana source and concedes.


GP Manchester 2014 3
Image by Anna Przywecka

I’m really pleased with my result and perhaps a little excited about possibly making Top 16 (though I know to manage my expectations). My friends congratulate me on my finish. It feels very good to have done so well and surpass seemingly everyone’s expectations (especially my own). I catch up with Hannes who also finished 12-3. I think he has a better shot at Top 16 than me because of his byes.

The standings go up and I find myself at 19th (Hannes 17th). I see that 9th place has 37 points and 10th to past 20th are all on 36 points. The questions then become how much prize money and Pro points this will equate to and my fellow players reassure me that it’s ‘about $500 and 2 Pro points’ (correct!).

As the Top 8 is announced and underway, there is technically time for a Chaos Draft or a pick up event, but I’m quite happy to leave battling with cardboard for another day.

On reflection, I’m exhausted. My girlfriend is visiting relatives nearby and had agreed to pick me up ‘whenever it finishes’. I call her, let her know we have another contribution to a holiday we’ve been saving up for and also that it’s time to leave whenever she is ready.

I try to catch as many of my friends as possible on the way out, but (given I was going to play Legacy with them) a lot of them are tied up with the Legacy championships.

About the deck

Banishing Light banner 800px

I think it was definitely the right choice for me. Many players seemed to be playing a more aggressive version adopting Fleecemane Lion and Brimaz, but I decided to stick to the slower version with more flexible cards such as Banishing Light, Destructive Revelry and Lightning Strike. The ability to easily ramp into ‘must answer’ threats and force my opponent to answer them probably made things a bit easier for myself.

Stormbreath Dragon is extremely powerful and I admittedly won a lot of games mostly on the merit of drawing this card regularly. I think there’s still an element of skill in optimising them. Unless I was miles ahead I tended to keep them back, making sure they wouldn’t just be played into a removal spell or be immediately destroyed by an Elspeth.

I’d like to also thank Rob Catton for persuading me to play four maindeck Elspeth. I think my mindset of not wanting to draw multiples had gotten to me too much and fuelled my initial decision to only run three.

However this mindset was driven from my experience of generally playing blue and white control decks where drawing multiples is much more suboptimal than in this format. Some decks just lost when I casted an Elspeth that stuck.

About my mindset

GP Manchester 2014 Banner Players Spectator Watching
Image by Anna Przywecka

I try to be as honest with myself about my playing ability, my results and evaluation of my mistakes. This allows me to achieve a comfort zone and maintain a level of confidence when I play, which I think is particularly important for a big event like a GP.

For example, I know that during the event I will play a lot of ‘better players’ (particularly if I make Day 2). However, instead of being intimidated by my opponent’s skill/experience advantage, I’m mindful that I generally play better against better players!

I can trust them to make the ‘right plays’ and build my strategy around them (provided I spot them myself). I also relish the challenge of a hard-fought match and the chance to learn from those who are better.

Another example would be that, at the start of the event, I expected to have a positive record on Day one, aiming to make Day two, but believing its possible I can win the GP.

GP Manchester 2014 Banner Players 6
Image by Anna Przywecka

When playing in a GP, some players won’t be satisfied without a Top16, others will be overjoyed with a single match win! I was obviously trying my hardest to do as well as possible in the GP, but I didn’t burden myself with the pressure of ‘needing to make Day two’, ‘needing to make Top 64’ etc.

I think many players call this ‘feeling entitled’ and although conversely, it’s not all about ‘deliberately setting the bar low so you don’t get disappointed/are super happy when you exceed expectations’. I think self-belief is important and can really be key if present in the right amount.

I caught up on Day two with a friend who was being very defeatist about his matches on the second day. He’d gotten manascrewed, played a bad matchup and things were looking ‘out of reach’. I encouraged him that if he won the rest of his matches, he could still make top 100. Yet, he didn’t seem to believe it was possible for him to do himself proud. I’d be surprised if this didn’t have an effect on his future matches.

My message here is that the more honest you are with yourself, the more you will be able to manage your expectations when playing Magic. At the same time, believe what you can achieve, but don’t ‘feel entitled to it’. This will help you to be confident when you play, even if turns out you don’t play as well as you’d have liked.

When I had three rounds to go at 9-3, a friend jokingly told me to ‘just pretend it’s FNM!’ I chose not to take this too literally as FNM is more casual and playing ‘any –old-how’ might have been costly. However there is merit in what he said, in that it was calming. Perhaps a better thing to say would have been, ‘Pretend each round is ‘round one’’.

About playing in GPs

Image by Luke Oakenshield May

I hear often about the ruthless level of competition, how ‘I got rules screwed at the GP’ or ‘how I paid a lot of entrance fee, got manascrewed and went 0-3’ all projecting a negative experience. However I’d like to advocate that I never see it this way, even if my results are poor. I think my mindset of it being predominantly an opportunity to share good times with friends really help with this.

Magic is one of a few of my hobbies, so a GP is like a weekend ‘on holiday’ with others who share this hobby. I would be very unlikely to attend a GP by myself, trying to rack up PW or Pro points. I made a few more friends at this GP, and got to know some players a little better, having only meet them briefly before.

I appreciate that not everybody sees playing Magic at the GP this way, and results can affect the experience. I can assure you that if I had done terribly in the main event, I still would probably have found plenty to do in terms of side-events, trading or even some non-Magic activities such as playing a boardgames, going to the pub with friends I’ve met through playing Magic.

Doing well in the main event actually squandered my opportunities to play in side events!

GP Manchester 2014 Banner Players 1
Image by Anna Przywecka

I would encourage anyone to attend a GP, particularly if you’ve not been to one before. It’s an eye-opener. Caravel Gaming did some interviews with a range of people at the GP and I was one of about 20 or so featured in this video here.  

I really like that people do things like this to bring different Magic communities together, and in turn, develop the overall community. Magic as a community experience really resonates with what I like most about the game.

Special thanks

GP Manchester 2014 Banner Players Judge Help
Image by Anna Przywecka

All my Magic friends who I had a chance to catch up with at the event, particularly the York/Leeds Magic players who I stayed with and spent most of my time with.

Special mention to Sam Martin for being our logistics person! (finding good hotels and transport deals etc) and Rob Catton for helping me test and tune my deck, keeping me on track with card choices (making sure I don’t run stupid cards in the main event purely ‘because it would be a funny if it resolves’ or ‘because it would annoy him if I play it against him in round one’).

Glen and Gordian Knot Games, for putting on a well run event. The venue was good (large enough) if a little out of town and despite a printer problem at one point, I never felt tournament admin/management was letting us down.

The judge staff for being friendly and approachable, dealing with matters expeditiously when required. I have several friends who are judges so I’m aware of the work that can be required at times. Even without all the chasing and advocating they do to help us, while we get to sit on chairs to play games, they are mostly standing up or walking around – the mere thought of it for 16 rounds during a GP is exhausting!


Anyone reading (sorry it was so long!). I tried to include both a play-by-play and a more reflective perspective as I know people would be interested in both sides of my story. I took away a lot from this experience that I felt was worth sharing so I hope you have found something insightful in this.

I initially provided a rationale for some of the card choices, but it was taking up so much space. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have about them or anything in this article.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to hearing your comments,


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