Getting Ready for MTG GP Manchester, by Fabrizio Anteri
Grand Prix Manchester is just around the corner and I think it’s time we do some last minute checks as well as discuss about what we can expect from the event itself. The Magic: The Gathering community in the UK keeps growing month in, month out, and I am sure this means that many of you will be having your first Grand Prix experience at GP Manchester.
The experience of playing in such a large Magic: The Gathering event is quite unique in itself, and there are some things that you should be aware of which will help you be ready for the weekend. Here are 4 of the main pointers that I feel you should keep in mind:
4. Its going to be a long day. You could lose your first 3 games and still make the Top 32!
One of the things I love about Grand Prix is the increased sample size and a better opportunity to perform and show off your skills. MTG GPs normally consist of 15 Swiss rounds, which is A LOT compared to the three to six you normally play in your local store. This means that you could get mana screwed or flooded in the first round and lose, then take 10 mulligans in round two and lose, then get paired against your worst match up in round 3 and lose… and yet still make it to the Top 32 of the tournament!
Grand Prix are NOT single elimination tournaments. If you keep your cool and play every match accordingly (meaning not putting yourself ‘on tilt’ from previous loses), you can still end up with a great record.
3. You may have a lot of free time between rounds. Use it to clear your head.
Each round can take up to 30 minutes beyond the round limit. There is a lot to do when trying to manage 2000 individual Magic players, so keep this in mind. This means that even if your match goes to time and extra turns, you should still have at least 10 minutes to chill out and refresh your mind.
There are many different ways to do this. Personally, I am the guy walking around the venue with his headphones and some good music on. This is how I normally spend my time between rounds, making sure whatever just happened in my previous round is out of my system and I am ready for the next one.
Other people relax with their mates and tell them what just happened in their games. That’s how they get rid of their frustrations. You could also bring a good book, so you can pretend to be reading between rounds and hopefully people will see and wont try to talk to you – although people around you will still try to talk and tell you how unlucky they were in their last round… Seriously guys, leave the poor “readers” alone, I am sure they will come and find you for a chat if that’s what they want to do.
2. But make sure you play fast. Draws are worthless at GPs!
One important piece of advice when it comes to time: Play fast! Draws are worthless in Grand Prix. They don’t help you make Day 2, don’t give you Pro Points if you care about them, and most likely won’t give you a better chance at a Top 8 finish. Let me explain that last statement: Grand Prix have become so big that normally the required record for Top 8 is always 13-2, and rarely do two players with insane tie breaks have the chance to draw their last round and mathematically be 7th and 8th with two losses and a draw.
With so many attendees it’s quite normal for someone with a 12-3 record to end up in the Top 16 or 64… You don’t want to get that early draw and end somewhere between 60th and 80th with a minuscule chance at earning a cash payout.
If time runs out, conceding or asking for a concession is fine, but please DO NOT offer or ask anything in return for a concession at any stage. There are no written rules for this, and it is entirely optional, but normally if someone is notably behind in the match at the time the round comes to a close, that is the person who should concede. If you can’t determine this then there are other “tie breaks” that you could use, for example:
One of the two players may be more competitive and wants the win really badly and, as long as they didn’t behave outside the boundaries of social etiquette during the match, conceding is fine. One of the players may have made a terrible mistake during one of the games and yet top deck their way to a win they didn’t deserve, you could provide the concession on “compassionate” grounds in this situation.
Yes, make sure you hydrate regularly
I am sure you have read this before in plenty of articles, and I will repeat it again here too: keep yourself hydrated!
It may sound mundane and something that you do naturally, but Magic playing days are long and you are in an unfamiliar place. You should have an idea of when and how much water you will drink during the tournament. I normally have a cup of water every round if available, or a 500ml bottle every two rounds, which is actually more water than what I drink at home in a normal day. If you are really trying to win your matches, I presume you are using your brain and thinking, thinking and thinking– that’s going to be mentally exhausting!
A healthy body means a healthy mind, so keep yourselves hydrated and you will win more games of Magic.
So, what deck should I play at the GP?
In my personal opinion, listed above are the fundamental pieces of information I think you should have to help you increase your chances at winning your matches, playing well, and generally have a better experience at any GP. Now, from playing 12 daily hours of Magic Online per day for the past 7 days, I can impart my knowledge and tell you what deck you should be playing at the GP. I am almost certain it’s the best deck in the format.
Sometimes there is a rogue deck like Hangarback Abzan that nobody has heard about yet, waiting for you to pick up and crush the entire field in the tournament, and other times the field is very healthy and the Rock-Paper-Scissors theory applies.
I am often asked what deck to play before a tournament (I rarely answer that question by the way, so you should stop trying), but this time the amount of people unhappy with all possible deck options and asking me for advice is significantly higher than usual. People keep trying all the decks in Standard and not finding one that clearly wins more than the rest.
It doesn’t matter how hard you try, there are some hands from most decks that are just unbeatable, e.g. [Card]Sylvan Advocate[/Card], into [Card]Nissa, Voice of Zendikar[/Card], into [Card]Gideon, Ally of Zendikar[/Card], into [Card]Archangel Avancyn[/Card]… GG!
[Card]Transgress the Mind[/Card], [Card]Read the Bones[/Card], [Card]Languish[/Card], [Card]Ob Nixilis Reignited[/Card], [Card]Sorin, Grim Nemesis[/Card], GG!
[Card]Expedition Envoy[/Card], [Card]Dragon Hunter[/Card] plus [Card]Kytheon, Hero of Akros[/Card], [Card]Always Watching[/Card], [Card]Thalia’s Lieutenant[/Card] plus [Card]Thalia’s Lieutenant[/Card], GG!
I would really like to advise you on what to play at GP Manchester, but honestly there is no right or wrong answer. There are so many powerful decks in Standard right now, and each can offer you unbeatable hands. What I could recommend is for you to play something you are familiar with and you know you will make the minimum possible number of mistakes playing, a point I made in my previous article recounting my experiences placing 18th at GP Toronto and 16th at GP New York.
The games when no player has these insane hands (or both have them) are very interactive and there are a lot of decisions to make. I would like to think that the best player will always win these games because, with such a high power level of cards, the smallest mistake could completely change the fate of a match.
It’s also important to know your sideboard plan and be prepared before the event. The field is quite open and people may be prepared against decks other than yours. Because of this, you could win a very easy first game, but if they are prepared for your deck in their sideboard you will have to be at your reactive best.
In case you have two decks as options right now and can’t make up your mind, I’ll tell you my predictions for the metagame in Manchester, hoping to be right and to help you make up your mind:
- I expect the Day One field to have a lot of control and midrange decks, normally preferred by English players and all perfectly fine options right now. WB Control, GB variants of Season Past (with Blue, or White or [Card]The Great Aurora[/Card]), Grixis, Mardu, or Esper.
- For Day Two, I expect to face those [Card]Cryptolith Rite[/Card] and [Card]Collected Company[/Card] players who prepared for the tournament, to make it through and make up a larger percentage for the last six rounds of the event. I am also expecting GW and Naya to perform well and, though fewer in number, I am expecting some Eldrazi, Humans, Ramp and Goggles decks to be in the room by the end of Day Two.
If even after all this information, you don’t like any deck in particular, can’t make up your mind and would like to see something new (and also because what’s a Magic article without a decklist right?), below is a list I’ve been working on the past few days. I like how the deck plays out and has a solid game plan against almost everything, with the Rites match-up being its most difficult:
[Deck]2 Dragonlord Silumgar
3 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
3 Reality Smasher
4 Sylvan Advocate
4 Thought-Knot Seer
4 Tireless Tracker
2 Ob Nixilis Reignited
3 Transgress the Mind
2 Ultimate Price
2 Ruinous Path
1 Read the Bones
1 Spatial Contortion
1 Caves of Koilos
4 Evolving Wilds
4 Hissing Quagmire
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Yavimaya Coast
[Deck]1 Bearer of Silence
2 Den Protector
1 Dragonlord Silumgar
2 Lambholt Pacifist
2 Virulent Plague
1 Clip Wings
1 Read the Bones[/Deck]
Do you guys have the same feeling about the format? Or has anyone actually found a deck that feels superior to the rest of the field? Did I miss any important advice for approaching your matches at a Grand Prix? If you have any further questions or comments, please let me know in the comments section below.
Hope you have a great time at GP Manchester, and good luck!
Thanks for reading,