GP Utrecht – $200 Green 1 drops by Kayure Patel
Never give up until you’ve actually lost.
This is an important lesson and embodied by numerous pros, notably Reid Duke, who you’ll rarely see concede a game before his opponent deals lethal damage (unless it’s to save time in a long matchup). It gives your opponent more chance to make a mistake and allows you to play to your outs, but doing so requires perseverance, patience and the mental fortitude to accept that many times things won’t go your way.
Our trip to Grand Prix Utrecht began at 7 am on Thursday morning. We’d decided to drive because it was cheaper for five of us to go in a car than to fly. This was a mistake; things that are better often cost more for a reason – they are better. Despite Steve’s great driving and large car, three of us at the back had less legroom than a Ryanair flight. We began to realise the severity of our misplay 18 seconds into the 7 hour journey when Craig asked “are we nearly there yet?”
Much later that afternoon, we arrived in Utrecht, stumbled out of the car like baby giraffes and set off to the venue to find our clever friend Paul (clever because he flew). We found him surrounded by disciples seeking to learn from his infinite wisdom (not really, he was at the vendors, because he’s a Magic player.) We then set off for town, had dinner and drank irresponsibly until the early hours of Friday morning. Once again, we did not need to wait long to understand the severity of our mistake, as at 9 am, construction workers began drilling something somewhere on our hotel floor.
Given our fragility and inability to do basic tasks, we decided to forego heading to the venue on Friday, instead choosing to explore Amsterdam. Our incredible decision making continued to pay off, as it rained all day (the five of us had more sunglasses than coats). Nevertheless, we persevered, explored, met some friends and discovered some nice bars and eateries. A great (albeit wet) day was rounded off with some One Deck Affinity (both players draw from the same deck) in our hotel room at a reasonable hour to be rested for the next day.
The day of the tournament arrived, and on Saturday morning I opened my boosters (easily, because of the excellent new packaging), registered the pool and waited for some ridiculous bombs to be passed to me. Meanwhile a foil Tarmogoyf was opened in the seat behind me, and two to my left. Unfortunately, my pool had no ridiculous bombs, but it did have lots of fliers:
I spent my two byes playing my deck against my friends, learning its nuances and getting used to it. This is something I greatly recommend over sleep-in-special for limited events, as deck familiarity is much better than an extra hour or two snoozing. Round three, my opponent’s deck was so artifact heavy that I had to side out the All is Dust. In the end, I still died to a Burst Lightning off the top despite my having lethal in play. Such is Magic.
Round four saw me lose to the Ant Queen, Bestial Menace, Overwhelming Stampede deck (ah, I found the aforementioned ridiculous bombs). At 2-2, I knew one more loss would mean I was dead for Day 2, let alone cash. I was neither happy with the low power level of my deck, nor the high power level of random bombs in the sealed format. Between rounds 4 and 5, I visited the prize wall and investigated the cost and pay-out of various side events, in preparation for another loss.
Fortunately, there was an ice-cream stall in the event hall. Ice-cream helped me remember that I came into this event with no expectations given the limited time and high cost of preparation for a Modern Masters sealed event. I refocused and figured “I’m not dead until I’m dead, so I might as well just play Magic until I lose.”
Except I didn’t.
Round after round I faced opponents unable to deal with my mediocre flying beats. Some got stuck on too few lands while others drew too many. Some had no bombs while others had their Elesh Norn Remanded.
Going into Round 9 at 6-2, I was acutely aware that I could be finishing 6-3 at a GP for the second time in four months, but rather than dwell on this I simply thought “I’m not dead until I’m dead.” My Round 9 opponent mulled to 5 game 1, and missed a crucial Narcolepsy trigger game 2, allowing the sideboard Ulamog’s Crusher to take the win and send me to Day 2.
I chose the Faerie. Guildmage is arguably the stronger card in limited, but I’d found tokens to be over drafted (because of its strength) and enjoy playing each of the blue decks in MM2015, apart from blue red elementals. The rest of the draft progressed smoothly and I ended up with a reasonable blue black control deck. Going into the matches, I felt I could beat anything, but would struggle against the tokens deck due to only having 1-for-1 removal and not picking up any Shrivel for the sideboard, hopefully I could dodge it.
The first match saw me defeat a Black Red White aggro deck, thanks in no small part to Spellskite rendering my opponent’s copies of Brute Force useless. Clique and Daggerclaw Imp were then able to close out the game.
Match two began with me playing a Sickle Ripper on turn two, and my opponent responded with Raise the Alarm. My head dropped. Over the two games I saw my opponent resolve multiple Scatter the Seeds, Scion of the Wilds, Wilt-Leaf Liege and a Mirror Entity. The third loss of the tournament struck a blow to my hopes of a high finish, but there was still a cash finish to play for. In the final match of the first draft my Ulamog’s Crusher and Water Servant were able to overpower a mana-flooded opponent’s Selesnya Guildmage (Pack 1, Pick 2 – wonder who passed that?)
Three rounds left and winning one match would likely see me guarantee cash, assuming I was able to ID the final round. Going 0-3 however, would be devastating, so to keep my mind-set positive I visited the ice-cream stall again (also because any excuse for ice-cream). The draft began and I opened the first pack – 15 mediocre cards from which I reluctantly took the Ghost Council of Orzhova, hoping to end up in black white spirits. Instead I ended pack 1 with a few terrible red cards, some worse green cards and no direction whatsoever.
Never give up until you’ve actually lost. The (admittedly weak) signals were pushing me into five colour red green, and pack two saw me pick up a couple of Rampant Growth, two Evolving Wilds and a Wayfarer’s Bauble. Going into pack three I was on the “mulligan aggressively to ramp and Ulamog’s Crusher” deck. I breathed a sigh of relief after the first 6 picks of the final pack: Kozilek’s Predator, Scatter the Seeds, Kozilek’s Predator, Scatter the Seeds, Inner-Flame Igniter, Inner-Flame Igniter. At least now I had a backup plan of make tokens and pump them (not that it was a good plan).
Red Green Train Wreck, splashing Island and Swamp for Tribal Flames, Etched Oracle and double Matca Rioters (horrible card is horrible). I had genuine concerns about being able to win a match given the low power level of the deck (my friends kept mocking the Scute Mob).
My first match was against a fast red black bloodthirst which killed me on turn 4 game one. Game two, Scute Mob hit him for 13. Game three Scute Mob hit him for 9. I had my win and was basically guaranteed a cash finish. I lost a very close next match against blue white affinity, and ID’d the final round to finish 156th.
It would have been wonderful to finish higher, but when I was 2-2 the previous day, at no point was finishing in a cash position a consideration and to have done so was a great feeling. Looking back there were many instances where it would have been easy to feel disheartened or throw in the towel, but the lesson remained etched in my head: Scute Mob is a guardian angel, er I mean, never give up until you’re dead.
Community Question: What was the most memorable time in Magic when you almost gave up, but didn’t and was rewarded for not conceding? What happened?
Thanks for reading,