From Scrubbing Out to Mandatory Fun – A Sealed Player’s Review of GP Liverpool by Chris Aston

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From Scrubbing Out to Mandatory Fun – A Sealed Player’s Review of GP Liverpool by Chris Aston

Last weekend saw the first of the UK’s two Grands Prix, in Liverpool, and the first to be hosted in Europe by ChannelFireball. I was there with a lot of my friends looking forward to having a great weekend of Limited events, which is exactly what I did.

I arrived at around noon on the Friday as I wanted to be there for the judge conference. The presentations were on a wide range of topics, from in-game rules interactions to how to improve yourself and your ability to judge. There was even a presentation on emergency first-aid, which definitely helps in a hall of at least 2000 people. I felt that I learnt a lot from all of these presentations, and the discussions after helped further my learning. There were even a few games of Judgestack, a game in which you have to play technically correct Magic, (yes, it is as hard as it sounds), during our breaks.

That evening my group went for dinner at a burger place called Almost Famous, where we happened to bump into the majority of the South West judge community. It was around this time that the PAX spoilers went live, which elicited a lot of cheers all around me, a few of which were my own. The food there was fantastic and I’d recommend people go there if there’s any more big events in Liverpool. It was also here that I opened a fortune cookie with a note that said, “Soon you will be sitting on top of the world”, and I’ll touch on that again later.

treasure cruise 730x500

An early night saw me ready and rested for the main event in the morning. I arrived at the hall and met up with some friends who were here for the their first big event. I went through the ins and outs of deck registration, as well as sharing in their joy at being there. Then the seating for registration went up and we said our good lucks.

I found my seat and chatted with the players around me whilst we were opening out pools. The guy across from me got foils of Treasure Cruise and Monastery Swiftspear and we joked about how much that would have been a few months ago.

I get passed my pool. My first thought about it was that the power level of Black and Red were both rather lacking, so I started looking at a White-Blue-Green deck. It had some good cards, but nothing overpowering. When I put it together, I felt that it was the definition of a medium deck: a pile of good cards, but lacking true bomb cards and synergy.

Creatures/morphs/manifests (morhps count at 3 cc):

[draft]Ainok Bond-Kin
Smoke Teller
Mardu Hordechief
Sandsteppe Outcast
Pine Walker
Watcher of the Roost
Alpine Grizzly
Write into Being
Abzan Skycaptain
Scion of Glaciers
Hooting Mandrills
Aven Surveyor
Feral Krushok
Atarka, World Render
Sandsteppe Mastodon[/draft]

Other effects:

[draft]Crippling Chill
Honor’s Reward
Sandblast
Hunt the Weak
Sudden Reclamation
Dig Through Time
Shamanic Revelation[/draft]

Lands:

[draft]Blossoming Sands
Forest
Forest
Island
Island
Island
Island
Island
Island
Plains
Plains
Plains
Plains
Plains
Rugged Highlands
Rugged Highlands
Sandsteppe Citadel
Thornwood Falls[/draft]

 

ROUND ONE AND TWO

I had a bye for the first round, so I spent that time getting the foil Atarka, World Render I opened signed by Karl Kopinski and testing my deck against my friends, who were also awarded first round byes. My deck didn’t perform well in the testing, so I went into the second round not feeling too confident in my deck.

After shuffling and cutting our decks, I drew my opening hand, which had only one land in it, so it was an easy mulligan. I drew six with one land, went down to five, decided to go to four – which only had one land. I felt like going down to three would be a mistake, so I kept, not feeling happy about it. That game ended on about turn 6, being beaten down by an aggressive Mardu deck, and not drawing lands.

My hand for game two had a nice mix of three spells and enough lands to cast them. I played out a few creatures, which my opponent destroyed, whilst playing out a few of his own and getting in for some damage. Then I drew a land. And another. And another. I decided to give it up on turn 10 with a field of 10 lands and 2 more in hand.

ROUND THREE

My third round opponent wasn’t playing an aggressive deck, so I felt more confident about this match. I lost the dice roll and was going second. My opponent played out Disowned Ancestor, which turned out to be hell for my Sandsteppe Outcast and Mardu Hordechief. Especially when he bolstered it with his Honor’s Reward. He then proceeded to play a couple of fliers and some big creatures and run over my field of small guys to close game one.

Game two went better for me. I played out my fliers, included a spirit token from the Outcast. After being bolstered by Sandsteppe Mastodon that token took that game down for me.

Game three started slowly for my opponent, only playing out a morph while I played out two 2/2s and Alpine Grizzly. I got him down to six life. On what felt like should be the final turn, I attacked all out and he blocked my Alpine Grizzly. I followed up with Honor’s Reward for what should be lethal, but my opponent unmorphed his Kheru Spellsnatcher, stole my Reward and used it to completely blow me out. I wasn’t able to keep up with what he did after and I fell to 1-2.

ROUND FOUR

I went into round four knowing that every match from now on is a lose-and-I’m-out situation – meaning that the pressure was on. Game one followed the same plan that the first game in the last match did, this time it was Zurgo Helmsmasher that closed it out fast.

I won game two thanks again to super bolstered spirit token after gumming up the ground.

Game three was very close, with four creatures on both sides of the board. My opponent attacked with his creatures, leaving mana up for War Flare, so I made blocks that meant I was not completely blown out by it and took just a little damage. He then passed the turn without casting anything, leaving me continuing to have him on War Flare. So I played a creature with no attacks. His next turn he all out attacked again. I was forced to make blocks that left me open to War Flare, which he did have, and that was the end of the game.

dead drop 730x500

After going 1-3, I dropped from the tournament, feeling very disappointed in how my day had gone thus far. I took a break with my friends, who had dropped too, and we talked about our plans for the rest of the day. Also, at this point, I had been flooding out quite badly, (about 4 games out 8 so far), which changed what I thought about what the fortune cookie meant: from being a winning metaphor to quite literally having many, many lands. My friends went to join the Modern side event and started getting their decks ready for that. I chose to take part in the Sealed Rebound event, hoping to redeem myself a little.

Whilst handing out the sealed pools, one of the judges told us all that fun is mandatory for side events, to which I answered, “But what if I don’t have fun?” His response was to ask me if I wanted a penalty. This short interaction helped dissipate all of my disappointment from the morning, which made this event so much more fun. What I opened in my pool helped a little too.

Creatures/morphs/manifests:

[draft]Whisperer of the Wilds
Alpine Grizzly
Mardu Hordechief
Pine Walker
Sagu Mauler
Woolly Loxodon
Sandsteppe Outcast
Abzan Beastmaster
Abzan Guide
Abzan Skycaptain
Abzan Skycaptain
Bellowing Saddlebrute
Hooting Mandrills
Ivorytusk Fortress[/draft]

Other effects:

[draft]Feat of Resistance
Abzan Charm
Douse in Gloom
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Pyrotechnics
Pyrotechnics
Reach of Shadows
Treasure Cruise[/draft]

Lands:

[draft]Forest
Forest
Forest
Forest
Forest
Forest
Mountain
Mountain
Plains
Plains
Plains
Swamp
Dismal Backwater
Dismal Backwater
Dismal Backwater
Tranquil Cove
Wind-Scarred Crag
Nomad Outpost[/draft]

 

As you might be able to tell from this deck, the power level of my cards was very high, but spread across the colours. I noticed that the base of my deck should be Green-White-Black, as that was my powerful cards were mostly based. I had the colour fixing available to splash for the best cards in Red and Blue, and so I did.

HOW I WENT THAT TIME

My first round was against an aggressive deck, and I stumbled on lands in game one and got run over.

Game two consisted of me resolving my powerful spells and following through by going bigger than what my opponent was able to do.

In game three, he kept me on the back foot by putting up a lot of power in the first few turns, and then removing what I played. I tried to stabilise, but he resolved Zurgo Helmsmasher and the match was over.

Match two I was up against a grindy Red-Blue-White deck which featured Mastery of the Unseen. I was able to battle through it with my more powerful spells and go 1-1.

The remaining matches saw me lose to another aggressive deck, (which I did a lot over the weekend) and win against two slower decks. This left me finishing the tournament at 3-2, a much better result than I had had that morning, and leaving me at 4-5 in Sealed overall.

secret plans

I returned to the venue the next day for the Super Sunday Series Sealed event, ready to improve my record. The pool I registered looked like an Ikea deck, featuring the very powerful cards of

[draft]Ghostfire Blade
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Utter End
Citadel Siege[/draft]

with a lot of good commons and uncommons to go with it.

However, the pool I was passed was a much more fun deck, one that I was happy to play. It had some amazing interactions and synergy, and it proved that throughout the day. I called this a Combo deck, and it felt like that in most games.

Creatures/morphs/manifests:

[draft]Archers’ Parapet
Jeskai Windscout
Write into Being
Sagu Archer
Sage-Eye Harrier
Thousand Winds
Kheru Spellsnatcher
Formless Nurturing
Abzan Skycaptain
Alabaster Kirin
Salt Road Patrol
Aven Surveyor
Whisperwood Elemental
Destructor Dragon[/draft]

Other effects:

[draft]Mastery of the Unseen
Secret Plans
Feat of Resistance
Savage Punch
Sandblast
Crippling Chill
Whisk Away
Map the Wastes[/draft]

Lands:

[draft]Forest
Forest
Forest
Forest
Forest
Island
Island
Island
Island
Island
Plains
Plains
Plains
Plains
Plains
Frontier Bivouac
Blossoming Sands
Tranquil Cove[/draft]

 

HOW THE FUN WAS WON

My memory of all the matches with this deck are a bit hazy, so this’ll be more of an overview of what happened.

The first game I played I got to Thousand Winds my opponent’s team, and then Kheru Spellsnatcher his Sagu Mauler on the way back down. I lost that game due to milling myself out: Silumgar, the Drifting Death was a very good blocker and activations of Mastery of the Unseen ate quite a lot of cards. He swapped into an aggressive deck for game two, killing me on turn 6 after resolving Zurgo Helmsmasher on turn 5.

In match two, I got Secret Plans down with both my manifest makers in both games, leading me to overpower my opponent in both card draw and creatures. I was also able to get them with Thousand Winds in game two, which they played around in game three, only for me to get their Elite Scaleguard with Kheru Spellsnatcher. Having both of those morphs in my deck made it very difficult for all of my opponents to feel confident in any plays whenever I got to six or seven mana, and having a mass of manifested creatures made it even worse for them. I was also able to win quite a few games on the back of my many fliers, as well as having a very consistent mana base.

show and tell judge

After round four I was 3-1 and very happy with my deck. I went to find the judge who told me that fun was mandatory the day before. I asked him if it was mandatory for the Super Sunday Series as well. He said, “No, this is competitive, you should be trying to win. By winning, you’ll have your fun.”  This further made me appreciate my interaction with that judge the day before, and fun was definitely had.

Between rounds, I got a lot of cube and foil cards signed by the artists that were present. Whilst doing so, I noticed a gorgeous print of the artwork for the judge version of Show and Tell, which I had to snap up. On further inspection, the print looked like it had a foil-like quality to it, which made it look even better. Whenever I placed that print down on the table, everyone that walked past turned their head to look at it, and I saw many nods of the head.

I lost two more matches and won another three, leaving me on 6-3 at the end of the tournament, and 10-8 overall, which isn’t a great record, but is respectable. I collected my prizes and left the tournament after saying my goodbyes to a few people, and thanking some of the judges for their hard work over the weekend. It was a great weekend, and if you’re ever able to go to a Grand Prix, I definitely recommend doing so, even if you don’t want to play in the main event.

Final Note: If you take anything away from this, let it be that whenever you play Magic, fun is mandatory.

Community Question: What were your favourite moments at GP Liverpool 2015?

What were your favourite moments at GP Liverpool 2015

Chris Aston

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