These past two week have been a whirlwind within the Magic community. They’ve been incredibly fun for me, and they’ve also been tinged with disappointment, shock, grief, and anger. But I’ll start with the good news.
After that annoying post about how prepared I was to audible back to Monored, my first love, I pulled yet another fast one after FNM and sleeved up 75 green cards with which to slay over the weekend. We built the deck for my friend Donnie before FNM, and he simply crushed five different archetypes with the thing. Donnie would be the first to tell you that he isn’t the most skillful or savvy Magic player, but then again, green decks don’t need you to do much but play out some guys and turn them sideways. Undying is such an insane mechanic; it just doesn’t feel like Strangleroot Geist in particular is costed correctly, even if it wouldn’t even see play at 1GG. Green Sun’s Zenith is just Geist or Dungrove Elder copies 5-8, you get to play 4 Swords, a few Garruks, and a bunch of sweet utility creatures both maindeck and in the sideboard… And I was sold. Had I actually known that the RG Aggro deck was actually a thing, I’d have likely jammed some Huntmasters, Hellrider, and burn in with the green dudes, but I’m definitely happy with my final deck choice.
I have two byes this season. It’s my first time playing with free wins, and it feels pretty good. It’s so much easier to make Day 2 on a 5-2 record than on 7-2, and it’s great to be able to relax for a few hours after registration. I got a bunch of stuff signed by the event artists (Matt Stewart, Steve Argyle, and Eric Deschamps) during my byes, and eventually Round 3 pairings went up and I found myself seated across from my first victim.
Round 3 v. UW Delver
This match was one of the only two in which I brought in any of the four Corrosive Gales in my sideboard. Virtually everyone was jamming at least a few copies for this matchup, but the deck didn’t show up in numbers anywhere close to our predictions, so they ended up being dead slots more often than not.
Anyway, this was the old, non-Esper version with a bunch of Hexproof guys. He had a bunch of guys from Midnight Hauntings and Moorland Haunt game one, but unfortunately for him, none of them can successfully blocked a guy holding a Sword of War and Peace. I took the match in about twelve minutes.
Round 4 v. Wolf Run
This guy played the stock version of Wolf Run. I didn’t really like my matchup here, and I still think it ultimately comes down to the die roll and the better draw. That’s sort of what happened here – he had the nuts game one, I had it game two, and he mulliganed to five in game three and never found a green source.
This one was particularly awesome for me. In my three GPs prior to Baltimore, I started 3-0 on zero byes and lost Round 4 in each of them. I also missed Day 2 on each of them, so this win gave me a small boost to my confidence. Felt like I got over the hump.
Round 5 v UW Humans
I wasn’t really happy to see my name across from Christian Calcano’s, since I know he’s a Pro Tour regular and a very solid player. However, when he led with a turn one Plains, Champion on the draw, I smiled a little internally, since this is my best matchup by far. Game one wasn’t very fair: turn two Sword, turn three Geist, equip, scoop step. He kept a risky one for the second and final game, and I was signing the match slip a mere eight minutes into the round. Calcano’s a fun guy with a great attitude, and I hope to see him more often.
2-0, 5-0 and feeling great!
Round 6 v. Monowhite Tokens
Not so much fun here. He spent game one playing Anthem after Anthem, eventually Gathered some Townsfolk and some Lingering Souls, and I died. I sided in the Gales and drew two of them in the second game, and we were on to the decider. Game three was such a downer. I have lethal on board at 16 life, he has six Spirits in play and a single card in hand, and I can get Bellowing Tanglewurm for the win next turn. I figure the only way I can lose is if both his last card and his top card are Anthems, but he seems pretty calm as I pass the turn. He untaps, turns his guys sideways… Then drops a card I’ve never seen before onto the table: Guardians’ Pledge 1WW Instant White creatures you control get +2/+2 until end of turn.
Round 7 v. RG Aggro
I can’t really remember much from this match other than the fact that I won it in two quick games.
Round 8 v. Wolf Run
Another tough one, and this time, we’re playing for Day 2. I win the die roll (!), and in the first game I cast a lethal Overrun the turn after he Titans. His six-card hand for game two was Mountain, Kessig Wolf Run, Sphere, Galvanic Blast, Galvanic Blast, Galvanic Blast. My first three creatures were Strangleroot Geists, he didn’t draw anything good, and that was that.
And we’ve done it! Day Twoooooooooo!
Round 9 v. Esper Control
I was hoping to dodge this matchup for as long as possible. I knew it was circling the top tables all day, and I was happy to have locked up a return ticket already, but Shaheen Soorani’s name took the wind out of my sails a bit. That guy is a better control player than most of the rest of the world, and his deck shreds me, and that’s exactly how things played out. He had all the answers and all the planeswalkers, and I was never really in either game.
We had kind of an awkward moment when I wouldn’t let him draw from Consecrated Sphinx’s trigger. I drew for my turn, shuffled the cards in my hand once, then as I moved a land from my hand toward the table, he said, “Oh, Sphinx,” and reached for his deck. I told him it was too late, he objected and called a judge, and the judge ruled in his favor. Honestly, I didn’t really think enough time had passed to win that ruling, but I did feel that it could have gone either way and I would have been justified had the judge upheld my denial. He and I made sure we were cool after the match, and he said that at the Grand Prix level, I was totally right in seeking any legal edge I could get.
Day One was awesome. The deck treated me well, I drew pretty well, and I dodged a lot of rough matchups. Many of my friends made Day Two as well, most of them successfully winning Round 9 to get there. It was sweet to watch so many guys give the thumbs-up after a win-and-in. Erick Galinkin made it with Esper Delver, Tim Moore with Wolf Run, Voltaire with UB Control, and the Xanadu team with the same UB Zombies deck with which Matt Scott eventually Top 4’d.
I’ll finish this thing tomorrow. Spoiler alert: Day Two = not so good.