MTG Grand Prix London – Vintage and the hunt for Stan Dard by Christopher Cooper
“Who is this Stan Dard?”
“He seems quite popular, most people I’ve spoken to at the Grand Prix have played him, but I’m still to meet him yet. Is he a pro or something?”
Last weekend was Grand Prix London. Some of you may have been there and seen me. A few of you were unlucky enough to travel down in the car with me. It was in that car that the hunt for Stan Dard started.
You see, none of the four of us were interested in the main event. My car-mates were Stuart Taylor from Legacy Breakfast podcast, Paul McGleish, a big mover in the UK Vintage scene, and Freya Freestone, who was there to meet up with friends and grind the Infinite Challenge badge all weekend long.
As for me, this was my first Grand Prix experience. I didn’t want to play Stan Dard, though I wouldn’t mind meeting him. I wanted to soak up the atmosphere, re-acquaint myself with some old friends, make some new ones along the way and hopefully play some really fun games of Magic. I had packed a Vintage deck, a Legacy deck, a Modern deck and a Commander deck. Well, two Commander decks really, but more on that later.
After a long journey down from Trowbridge, accidentally through the middle of London, we made it to the Excel Centre, ready to play some Magic!
When we arrived I had one pressing piece-o’-business to take care of first. Whilst the others went and queued up for their Challenge badges, I went straight over to the much smaller queue to join the actual challenges and got straight into the Vintage. With that taken care of, it was time for task #2: Artists’ Alley.
I had a large box of cards in my bag I was hoping to get signed at the event, most of them from one man in particular. For a long time, John Avon has been one of my favourite artists in Magic because his landscapes are so breathtakingly beautiful. I have a John Avon wall in my living room with his full art Forests on it. One of the cards I asked him to sign was for this wall, to go in the frame with the poster.
The other 100 cards he signed for me were for a Commander deck I built recently containing only cards that he had done the artwork for, in much the same way as I did the Mark Tedin one a little while ago. As of the time of writing, the cards are still with Mr. Avon, but when I receive them back, expect another article of all of the cards in all their glory!
Next on the agenda was a Chaos draft. For those of you who don’t know what this is, you get three random boosters from throughout Magic’s history and draft them. You could get anything. My deck was a rather sweet Grixis deck with a few bombs, a lot of removal and the rather sweet combination of Cunning Sparkmage, Spikeshot Goblin and Freed from the Real. Needless to say I managed to win out the draft and collected a very nice booster of Revised for my troubles.
With that over, it was on to the Vintage!
The Vintage was what I had really come to play, and I picked a solid Mentor Planeswalkers control build to play with. I didn’t take many notes during the tournament and so I can’t give any detailed feedback but I was a little disappointed to only go 2-2. I did, however, manage a win against Jim Brophy, someone who I hadn’t beaten before then, so I was very pleased at that.
In particular, there was one line of play that I saw where I had a read on his hand completely and managed to turn the tables on him and become the mana denial deck as his Turn One Mox Ruby, Tolarian Academy, Thorn of Amethyst backfired as I kept a fetch land, Mox Ruby, Mana Crypt and was able to play a Dack Fayden on Turn Two after he played a Mishra’s Factory and passed the turn.
Figuring he was a little light on mana I snapped up his Mox Ruby to further set him back two mana (as this reduces the effectiveness of the Tolarian Academy too) and when he played draw go for a couple of turns I decided that the best use of my Dack Fayden would be to tick up once and steal another artifact. A Monastery Mentor showed up for me, which further cemented my plan as it gave me a finisher, and the turn after I stole his last artifact which was the Thorn of Amethyst I was attacking for the win into a board of Tolarian Academy and Mishra’s Factory with my opponent being unable to cast a spell.
The best bit about the Vintage Challenge though was the Head Judge who we were assigned, James from Canada. We only had 16 players in the event, which is fairly good for Vintage but naturally much smaller than the 200-300 people that the Sealed side events, for example, were attracting. James made a point of going around all the players, introducing himself, getting to know us by name and was a perfect host to us. It was the attention to detail, friendliness and maturity with which he treated us that really stood out from all of the other events that I took part in over the weekend.
After a quick stop for some sushi at a Japanese restaurant we headed back to our lodgings for the weekend (my mother-in-law’s flat, she was visiting my wife at our place at the time), played some Cards Against Humanity and got ready to do it all again.
On Friday night we had swapped Freya, who was staying at a hotel on site, for Josh Gordon, who had only decided to come to the Grand Prix on the Wednesday before it happened. Josh scuppered our plans for a bit of a lie in as he had actually arranged to play Stan Dard in the main event on Saturday.
I decided that my Saturday would take a similar form to my Friday. I wanted to start with Commander, for which I had made an Aluren Combo deck with Damia, Sage of Stone as the commander that I hadn’t broken out with my local playgroup but wouldn’t feel bad about breaking out in a more cut-throat environment. In went Force of Will, appropriate dual lands, even a Timetwister as I wanted to give the card a chance to get played at some point over the weekend.
Unfortunately, I had misjudged the feel of my pool a little and when I fetched out an Underground Sea and Tropical Island in my first two turns there was a little bit of grumbling. The Turn 4 Timetwister failed to help matters, firmly establishing me as a threat. for which I took a large 20+ point hit off Ezuri, Renegade Leader and his crew. I never recovered from this and so went on to the next event, Chaos Draft again!
This time it didn’t quite go as well, and though I felt that I had some solid picks, my deck was no match for the foil Xenagos, God of Revels that I came up against in the first round. With literally nothing that could deal with the god in my pool, I was quickly 0-2 down and out.
So on to the second Vintage Challenge!
I had been trying to get hold of some Pulverizes since the challenge on Friday as there were a rather large number of Mishra’s Workhop based decks floating around. Astonishingly, none of the traders had thought to bring down with them a very niche Vintage sideboard card with them, leaving me high and dry and needing to come up with another plan.
I decided to stick with the same 75 from Friday and luckily managed to dodge most artifacts. However, I didn’t manage to dodge the Oath of Druids in Round 2, though I did manage a fantastic mind trick on my opponent. In Game One I had a seven card hand with Library of Alexandria as my only mana source. I considered keeping, but mulliganed, I need my coloured sources. Six cards showed me no lands and the five card hand had but a basic Mountain as its only land in a hand full of blue cards. I consider keeping it anyway as one of the blue cards is Force of Will but it’s probably still a mulligan.
“Man, Dredge mulligans like a b***h,” my opponent comments.
“With a shirt like that and mulliganning into oblivion, I figure you’ve got to be on Dredge.”
My opponent is referring to the team shirts that a group of us had got for the GP, as modelled above by the lovely Freya. You can see that our team name was Rather Bazaar, a comment on both our personalities and format of choice. Going down to four cards already leaving me with an uphill battle, I decided to keep going all the way to one and play into his assumptions that I was on Dredge. A few turns of draw-go from me and an Oath of Druids into Griselbrand beats me soon after.
So you can probably imagine the look on my opponent’s face when I make a Turn One Dack Fayden in Game Two with Force of Will backup. Unfortunately his Turn Two Oath of Druids into Turn Three Abrupt Decay for my Grafdigger’s Cage left me with a rather uphill struggle, and despite a valiant effort from a Monastery Mentor to race with his monk friends, I couldn’t get any velocity of spells through his counter magic to keep the prowess triggers coming. At the end of the game my opponent showed me a hand full of graveyard hate. It’s easy to afford to have 6 dead cards in your deck when you can draw 14 in a turn quite easily.
I also played against Dredge for the first time in a tournament, after more than twenty matches, winning easily in two games. A Game One mulligan into not quite oblivion certainly helped and a well timed Ravenous Trap in Game Two gave Monastery Mentor time to seal the deal.
I ended up 2-1-1 in this challenge event, splitting the last round (before going on to lose to more Oath of Druids) and hitting enough prize tickets in doing so to win the playmat off the prize wall that I’d had my eye on all weekend:
Puns left right and centre? Don’t mind if I do!
After the Vintage Challenge finished I went off to have another look at the Artists’ Alley. I got my playset of Preordain for my Vintage deck signed, securing their place in my deck for the foreseeable future, before I came across the lovely RK Post.
I had seen RK’s stall the day before as he was setting up, he had some nice playmats and other accessories but a rather large throng of people there, coupled with the fact that I wanted to see John Avon, put me off having a closer look. However, there was now no queue for him, and I could see a plethora of something that I have rather a thing for.
There were literally hundreds and hundreds of tokens lined up on his table, with boxes of spares off to the side. Monks with Rasputin’s face on ( I bought some of these for Vintage), Goblins with David Bowie’s face on, gory Zombies, a 3/4 Bird token which was an owl wearing a monocle (I got one of these too as a suitable present for my wife), limited edition /200 exclusive to GP London tokens, even more obscure tokens like Hazezon Tamar‘s Sand tokens all at very good prices, 2 for £1 or 12 for £5. Out of all of the artists he seemed to be the one taking most money, with cash changing hands multiple times a minute for a small stack of tokens. Many and often seemed to be his way and it was working.
Despite all of this going on, he still found time to chat to everyone, and was a thoroughly pleasant guy, giving me one of my top three moments of the GP, the other two being the fantastic attitude of the Vintage Judge on Friday and the fantastic customer service I got from one of the guys off the SCG stand over the weekend as I looked for my niche sideboard cards. Even though he couldn’t help me with the cards he still found time to chat about the format and make the interaction special, something that in the world of customer service cannot be praised highly enough.
By this point we were beginning to get a little silly. Josh had bombed out of the main event and was considering trying to convert my Legacy Burn deck to Vintage for Sunday. Stu had done OK in the Legacy but was starting to tire from playing Storm and was considering a switch to Miracles. Paul, however, was considering something even spicier.
Having picked up some foil Hangarback Walkers at the dealers on Saturday, Paul wanted to try them out on the Sunday in his Shops deck. We spit-balled ideas about for a bit and determined that it would probably be best in some form of Kuldotha Forgemaster shell with Tangle Wires and a Smokestack to make the most of having the ability to spit out a huge number of permanents from a single card.
Arcbound Ravager was another consideration for the deck as a card that can support the Hangarback Walker by both giving it more counters to create a giant threat or a sacrifice outlet to deploy the 1/1s.
I started off Sunday by getting an infinite challenge badge. I hadn’t realised quite what value they represented in terms of boosters that you could milk from them. By entering a Sealed challenge, dropping, using your free draft entry, dropping, and playing one other challenge you end up ahead. I know a lot of people played two or three Legacy or Modern Challenges in a day, and this worked out well for them. However, the timing of the Vintage challenges didn’t quite work out and I didn’t want to burn myself out on Friday or Saturday.
However, I fancied doing an Origins draft on Sunday in addition to the Vintage, it made sense to get the Infinite Challenge badge and try to milk some prize tickets in the Sealed.
I opened a good pool with a strong Red White deck with some removal, a few top end bombs and a solid creature curve. I managed to win Round One against a Blue Red thopters deck with both Thopter Spy Network and Whirler Rogue coming out in all three games. I even managed to win Game Three despite having drawn no Plains and finishing the game with four White cards in hand. Call of the Full Moon on a Thopter Engineer just got me there.
I needed to make sure I dropped pretty quickly into Round Two, as I wanted to leave sufficient time to register for the Vintage. Round One heavily overrunning really didn’t help and I was left with just 13 minutes on my timer as the round started. I explained my situation to my opponent and credit to him, he played at a similarly blistering pace to that which I did. I won a fast Game One off the back of an enchanted Thopter, then got behind by Turn 5 in Game Two so conceded. I could have possibly got a win out of it had I played on but I felt that my best bet to get the match finished in time would be to move on to Game Three. A curve of 1-drop into 2-drop into 3-drop into second 2-drop plus Celestial Flare for your blocker was enough to win me Game Three with five minutes still on my clock. We had finished a three game match in just 8 minutes and the players to either side of us were still on Game One!
This meant that I even had a little time to find some more sideboard cards for the Vintage. I wanted to find some Slice and Dice, but again they proved unobtainable so I settled for some Izzet Staticasters, also changing a Hurkyl’s Recall for a Rebuild and putting the Rebuild in the main deck, due to its cycling making it the more flexible card in all match ups. We had an even bigger field on Sunday, with 25 people signing up, beating the 16 players on each of the previous two days.
I ran into an Oath of Druids deck Round One again, and this time managed a win post-board game.
New plan, hope my opponent has one Oath target in hand and the other is on the bottom of his library.
My Round Two opponent was Michael Leversha who played one of the most memorable matches of Vintage I have seen in my life. He opened on a Temple of Deceit, then hit a Turn Three Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver and started eating through my deck. He took my Black Lotus, my Ancestral Recall, some dual lands, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and I was getting a little worried that my nice big hand and well stocked graveyard was going to be exiled rather soon. I was spinning my wheels looking for a Monastery Mentor to get some board presence but all I could find was a Lightning Bolt to slow down Ashiok a few turns.
With my library getting low on cards, Michael hit his fifth land drop and cast Traumatize. As this point I was a little and had to use a Force of Will on it, or Ashiok would be finishing me off in short order. I found a Monastery Mentor the very next turn and managed to win the game and then the match in fairly quick succession. I had a quick look at his deck after and other cards such as Annul, Gaea’s Cradle and Karakas all stood out to me as rather interesting spicy cards and looked forward to finding out how he did in future rounds.
I ended up finishing 3-1 on the day, beating Ben Cabrelli on Bomberman in a long, drawn out controlly match and Stephanie Dolan on Dredge. This meant that I went 7-4-1 overall in the Vintage, not a bad record by any stretch and overall 12-6-1.
There was one final thing that I saw at the Grand Prix which was a once in a lifetime thing, I saw this page in a gentleman’s binder:
If you fancy a game of “Spot the Most Expensive Card in the Picture”, the test foil Survival of the Fittest[card] just edges out the test foil double signed [card]City of Traitors. For completeness, here is the back of the Survival of the Fittest. Note that the 6/9 refers to the card number in the batch. As far as I am aware, there are only four of these available “in the wild” as they were obtained off someone’s desk at Wizards of the Coast. A rarity indeed.
In the car on the way back we were chatting about our favourite moments of the weekend. Freya had enjoyed attacking someone for exactly 20 in Sealed and getting a one-hit KO, Stu had learnt a lot about piloting Storm. My favourite play was my mulligan to 1.
Paul? Paul’s was getting to use Hangarback Walker in Vintage. This was a card that dominated formats all weekend, I had seen it in Draft, Sealed, Modern, Legacy and Vintage, it even beat Stan Dard in the Main Event. And so we had to come up with a name for it.
Stan Dard Shops.
For my first Grand Prix it was certainly a memorable one.
Stan Dard Shops, a Vintage Deck by Paul McGleish
Thanks for reading,