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Grand Prix Lyon Tournament Report – Part 2

Hello again! Adam here, back with a recap of day two of our trip to Grand Prix Lyon. I finished the first day at 6-2 (a rundown of which can be found here), with another 7 rounds to play for a shot at the Top 8 playoff.

So, let’s get to it: how did Day Two go?

 

Round 9: vs Green / Black Midrange

A staple archetype of Modern for many years now; usually seen with an additional colour in either red or white, but straight green / black shows up from time to time. Dark Confidant, Scavenging Ooze and Tarmogoyf backed up with discard spells, efficient removal and Liliana of the Veil – a very similar strategy to ours, actually!

Game 1: I mulligan a land-heavy hand into a very similar 6-card hand, but this time I opt to play it and keep an Abrupt Decay on top of my library. Inquisition of Kozilek takes my opponent’s Liliana of the Veil, but their own Inquisition takes my Abrupt Decay and leaves me with no other plays. I draw a Tarmogoyf but it promptly dies to Abrupt Decay, and his second Liliana plus a Scavenging Ooze run away with the game.

Sideboarding:
-4 Thoughtseize, -2 Temur Battle Rage
+1 Liliana the Last Hope, +3 Lingering Souls, +1 Maelstrom Pulse, +1 Ranger of Eos

It may look a little strange cutting all 4 Thoughtseizes, but these matches come down to attrition and making room for more threats is important. Discard spells have serious diminishing returns – they may board in some big grindy cards like Thragtusk that costs more than 3, but Thoughtseizes can be a liability in multiples and Inquisition hits almost all of the relevant cards in the matchup anyway. A split of Inquisition / Thoughtseize could be correct here, though.

Game 2: My opponent gets stuck on two lands for a while. I drop a Tarmogoyf and force my opponent to use Nihil Spellbomb early to deal with my Lingering Souls. His Dark Confidant and Scavenging Ooze hit the bin thanks to Fatal Push and Abrupt Decay, and my motley crew of Tarmogoyf, 2 Spirit tokens and Death’s Shadow ends the game.

Game 3: Abrupt Decay takes care of his Dark Confidant, then his Liliana gets completely embarassed by all 3 copies of Lingering Souls! He attempts to race my Spirit army with Kitchen Finks and a Hissing Quagmire but I take the hits and drop 2 Death’s Shadows. He runs out of resources soon after and my Goyf, 2 Shadows and 4 Spirits deal the final blows.

7-2 (15-9)

 

Round 10: vs Blue / White / Red Control

Similar to Ivan Floch’s list from Round 4, only more aggressively slanted. Burn spells in Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix along with Geist of Saint Traft allow this deck to quickly shift gears and put away games more quickly.

Game 1: I drop to 13 on turn 1 with Street Wraiths, fetchlands and a Thoughtseize, seeing 2 Snapcaster Mages, Spell Queller, Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix. I take his Helix, play a 4/4 Shadow then make him discard his Lightning Bolt – my best shot is to try and kill him before he can put the Snapcasters to good use. His draw steps allow him to buy enough time to flash back both the Bolt and the Helix and I narrowly lose the race.

Lesson #5: Get as much information as you can before you make decisions. This is especially relevant here, as I cycled Street Wraiths and dealt myself a bunch of damage from lands before the Thoughtseize – seeing two burn spells from my opponent’s hand and 2 Snapcaster Mages made things a little awkward. I had a Death’s Shadow in my hand that I was setting up for turn 2 and it would need to be 4/4 to stop it dying to Bolt / Helix, so my play probably wouldn’t change much, but getting knowledge of my opponents’ hand first may have led to a better line of play.

Sideboarding:
-1 Fatal Push, -2 Inquisition of Kozilek, -2 Temur Battle Rage
+2 Collective Brutality, +2 Fulminator Mage, +1 Ranger of Eos

Game 2: Brace yourselves, because this was probably the weirdest game of the tournament! My Goyf gets quickly neutered by Rest in Peace and Engineered Explosives for 1 takes care of my Death’s Shadow. After that? Well, we enter a bit of a staring contest, with both of us drawing and passing for a few turns without doing much of anything. He’s so starved for decent plays that he fires up a Celestial Colonnade to attack on 2 consecutive turns… and both are hit by 2 consecutive Fatal Pushes! It gets to the point that I hard cast a Street Wraith, which is followed by a Grim Flayer to start putting on some pressure. I play Liliana, he plays Pia and Kiran Nalaar to gum up the board, and I come up with the wonkiest of plays to get through it: -2 Liliana of the Veil targeting myself, sacrificing my useless Tarmogoyf to enable revolt, cast Fatal Push on your Pia and Kiran Nalaar… sure, that works. Street Wraith deals him 9 damage over the course of the game and a top-decked Collective Brutality steals the last 2 points. Phew!

Game 3: Both of us start flinging spells at each other and trading resources back and forth in the first few turns. I find a gap to slip Liliana onto the battlefield, and my opponent responds with an Engineered Explosives with 3 counters. Knowing that these lists only tend to have 1-2 Explosives and 1-2 Supreme Verdict to contend with multiple threats, and that he’s just cast one of them to deal with Liliana, I challenge him and slam 3 Death’s Shadows onto the table. He untaps and I can tell that his is not the face of a man holding a Supreme Verdict! He tries to dig for an answer with Serum Visions and Snapcaster Mage but fails, his Snapcaster bites the dust to removal and 18 points of Death’s Shadow smashes him flat.

8-2 (17-10)

 

Round 11: vs Abzan Company

A Collected Company-fueled reinvention of a previously banned Birthing Pod deck. Capable of generating infinite mana with Devoted Druid and Vizier of Remedies, as well as infinite life thanks to Vizier, Viscera Seer and Kitchen Finks! Rounded out with value creatures for days and Chord of Calling to find the right combo pieces at the right time.

Game 1: His turn 1 Noble Hierarch meets a Fatal Push and I play a turn 2 Tarmogoyf… I’m sure I’ve seen this before somewhere. Unfortunately, playing the turn 2 Goyf gave him a window for his Sin Collector to take my Thoughtseize, leaving me unable to stop his Collected Company next turn. I put up some token resistance, but he overpowers my removal and gains infinite life with the Vizier of Remedies / Viscera Seer / Kitchen Finks combo. I have no reasonable answer to a player with billions of life and concede.

Sideboarding:
-1 Godless Shrine, -1 Grim Flayer, -2 Liliana of the Veil
+2 Surgical Extraction, +1 Liliana the Last Hope, +1 Maelstrom Pulse

Game 2: Turn 1 Thoughtseize takes his Kitchen Finks, leaving him with Hierarch, Vizier, an Eternal Witness and lands. It’s possible that I should’ve took the Witness, but everything left in his hand is easily dealt with by the Liliana, the Last Hope in my hand, so it makes some sense. Tarmogoyf into Liliana killing his Vizier makes him spend his Witness to get back the Vizier over Kitchen Finks, and I dispose of his Devoted Druid in response to him replaying the Vizier. I pick apart what’s left with Liliana and finish him off with an 8/8 Death’s Shadow.

Game 3: My Inquisition reveals Kitchen Finks, Thoughtseize, Sin Collector and a Gavony Township, and I quickly realise that he doesn’t have a source of black mana. I take the only castable card in Kitchen Finks, and he proceeds to not draw a source of black mana for the entirety of this game! Eternal Witness returns the Finks back to his hand, and my 2 Death’s Shadows start trying to beat through his Kitchen Finks and Gavony Township (the Township adds a +1/+1 counter to the Finks, which can remove the -1/-1 counter it gains from persist and result in a rather irritating unkillable blocker). I follow up with a third 9/9 Shadow. My opponent tries to block two of them on the next attack and take 9 damage from the third, only for Temur Battle Rage to dash his hopes and leave him taking 25 instead… ouch.

9-2 (19-11)

 

Round 12: vs Burn

Some men just want to watch the world burn… and if they played Magic, this would be their weapon of choice. All about dealing damage as quickly as possible and often misunderstood as a “count to twenty” noob deck, throwing fire at your opponent until they die is particularly effective in Modern!

Game 1: Having learned from Lesson #5 earlier, I held off on cycling a Street Wraith until after casting Inquisition of Kozilek and seeing my opponent’s hand. Usually it’s worth cycling first to see if it opens up a better play, but I’m always casting Inquisition there anyway and there are decks that can punish you for being reckless with your life total. Sure enough, I see Lava Spikes in my opponent’s hand and am immediately happy with my decision to wait! I take one, he casts the other on his first turn and we’re off to the races. I Fatal Push his Goblin Guide, he starts throwing burn spells at my face and I cast a Death’s Shadow to retaliate. He taps out to cast Eidolon of the Great Revel and suspend a Rift Bolt, and I produce a lethal Death’s Shadow by killing his Eidolon, finally cycling the Street Wraith to lower my life total just enough to kill him with Temur Battle Rage.

Sideboarding:
-4 Street Wraith, -1 Thoughtseize
+2 Collective Brutality, +2 Fulminator Mage, +1 Maelstrom Pulse

For reference: Fulminator Mage is not great in this matchup, but the Street Wraiths are awful and I need to bring *something* in! The white sideboard cards are too slow and everything else doesn’t do enough in this matchup. I’d like to cut more Thoughtseizes but most Burn lists run Path to Exile and some number of Deflecting Palm, so I need a healthy amount of discard to clear the way.

Game 2: The start of double Goblin Guide from my opponent puts some strain on me early. I deal with one and land a Tarmogoyf as a roadblock, but he decides just to throw spells at my face instead and there isn’t much that I can do about it! I Inquisition him on 3 life, see a Rift Bolt and a Boros Charm and scoop. Incidentally, he had neither the 3rd land nor the white source to cast either of those cards, so this concession was definitely wrong… but his top card was a Skullcrack that would do the job anyway, so I don’t feel too bad about it. Nevertheless, I made a mental note to revisit Lesson #4 about going on autopilot!

Game 3: I Inquisition him and take a Lava Spike, leaving lands and 2-mana spells (Boros Charm and 2x Lightning Helix). He passes turn 1 and I play a Grim Flayer. The Flayer takes a Lightning Helix to the face, and so does my follow-up Death’s Shadow. I land Liliana of the Veil and run him out of cards in hand, so we both end up in a good old-fashioned top-deck war. I drop a Tarmogoyf, followed shortly by a second one, then a Death’s Shadow while sitting at a precarious 5 life. He, on the other hand, draws a clump of lands and loses. A close win, but I’ll happily take it.

10-2 (21-12)

 

Round 13: vs Traverse Shadow

And just like my run at the Grand Prix Trial for Las Vegas last year, I run into the mirror match again! Though to be fair, this isn’t an exact mirror match – his version is playing blue for countermagic like Stubborn Denial and Izzet Staticaster in the sideboard. This matchup is weird, though… let’s see if the extra colour makes a difference or not.

Game 1: We both have discard-heavy draws and proceed to rip each other’s hands to shreds within the first few turns! I can’t remember the specifics of this game, as many things were cast on both sides and promptly killed (as is often the case in these matchups) until I draw a string of 3 Death’s Shadows to out-muscle him and take the game. He makes a snide remark about my lucky top-decks, which is understandable but more than a little bit petty. Since we just had our decks checked before the round and they weren’t randomised when they were handed back to us by the judges, it’s possible that there were some cards clumping together. Both me and my opponent shuffled very thoroughly afterwards, but this kind of thing can happen. Regardless, my opponent was clearly NOT happy.

Sideboarding:
-1 Stomping Ground, -2 Thoughtseize, -2 Temur Battle Rage
+1 Liliana the Last Hope, +3 Lingering Souls, +1 Ranger of Eos

Liliana may look a bit odd here as it doesn’t do much against opposing Shadows or Goyfs, but most of these particular Death’s Shadow lists also play white in the sideboard for Lingering Souls, which Liliana is fantastic against. It’s also fine to use it to rebuy a destroyed creature, or as fodder to soak up your opponent’s Abrupt Decays.

Game 2: We once again rip each other’s hands to shreds (no surprises there), and he casts a Liliana of the Veil. Amusingly, he cleared the way for Liliana by making me discard Abrupt Decay, just for me to draw another Abrupt Decay and destroy his Liliana the turn after. “Nice draw”, he comments while putting his Liliana in the graveyard. I’d have to agree with you there! I cast Lingering Souls and flash it back to create a healthy army of Spirits, and this plus removal for his Tarmogoyfs and Death’s Shadows is enough to put this game away. He shakes my hand, but it’s clear that he’s tilted from how these games panned out.

Lesson #7: Never be as salty as this man. Being upset after playing for a potential Top 8 slot and hitting a pocket of bad luck is justifiable, but try to pull yourself together even when you’re losing. You can’t win ’em all, so take each loss as it comes and hope for better luck on the next opportunity. Complaining about it won’t help, and nobody wants to be “that guy”.

11-2 (23-12)

 

So… I just scraped into Day Two at 6-2, then rattled off five straight wins to put myself at 11-2. Clearly doing better than expected here! At it currently stands, winning the next two rounds could put me in contention for the Top 8 playoff, and a fairly recent change means that any player on a 13-2 record or better gets an invite to the next Pro Tour anyway! So even if I can’t make it into the Top 8, there’s still plenty to play for. Only two rounds left!

 

Round 14: vs Titan Breach

As the name suggests, the plan here is to slam a Primeval Titan onto the table ASAP, find Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and start turning Mountains into Lightning Bolts. Scapeshift often makes an appearance as a combo kill (6 mountains + 1 Valakut produces 18 damage), but this list plays Through the Breach instead to focus on jamming a Titan into play quickly.

Game 1: This game starts off strangely, as I cycle 3 Street Wraiths on the draw and still fail to find a single land! My Mishra’s Bauble taunts me by letting me draw my first land of the game on my opponent’s upkeep, which is nice. I draw a Verdant Catacombs then start casting discard spells, taking his Summoner’s Pact and Hornet Queen and leaving him with a pile of Snakes and Apes (Sakura-Tribe Elders and Simian Spirit Guides, respectively). I cast Death’s Shadow and start chopping him down to size, and use a Temur Battle Rage after he blocks with a Tribe Elder to force through 12 damage. This drops him to 5, and I finish him off on the following attack step.

Sideboarding:
-1 Godless Shrine, -4 Fatal Push, -2 Abrupt Decay
+2 Surgical Extraction, +2 Collective Brutality, +2 Fulminator Mage, +1 Maelstrom Pulse

Game 2: My discard takes a Summoner’s Pact, leaving behind a Search for Tomorrow, Farseek, 2 Simian Spirit Guides and a Sakura-Tribe Elder. He suspends Search, I play Tarmogoyf and he responds with a Tribe Elder. I decline to cast Thoughtseize as I know his hand is Guide, Guide and 1 unknown card, and it’s only worth it if the unknown card is a Pact or Primeval Titan. I’d rather try and end the game faster than bank on that, so I play a second Tarmogoyf instead. Predictably, the unknown card *was* a Pact, and he finds and casts Primeval Titan to grab a Stomping Ground and a copy of Valakut. I send both 5/6 Tarmogoyfs in to attack through his Titan, holding up Temur Battle Rage to trade with the Titan if he blocks. He decides against blocking and takes 10, dropping to 8 life, and I cast Fulminator Mage. Since he has 5 Mountains and a Valakut on the battlefield, there’s no way that I can use my Mage to prevent multiple Valakut triggers this turn. The Titan’s attack finds 2 Mountains, deals 6 additional damage and wins the game.

Game 3: I keep a fairly greedy hand on the play, with 1 land and 2 discard spells, Traverse the Ulvenwald, Death’s Shadow, Tarmogoyf and a Mishra’s Bauble. The issue is that the 1 land in question is a basic Swamp, meaning that I can’t cast my Traverse to find another land without naturally drawing my second land first. Still, the hand has almost everything I need, can slow him down for multiple turns with discard spells and is amazing if it hits a second land, so I keep. I take his Relic of Progenitus, leaving a second Relic, Obstinate Baloth, Thragtusk and lands in his hand. I miss on my first and second shots at another land, so I play Thoughtseize to take away the Thragtusk. Then, in the biggest kick in the teeth imaginable, I never hit the second land at all. I draw blank after blank for 6 consecutive draws, while my opponent casts the Baloth and a Primeval Titan to end the game before I can recover.

Lesson #8: Drawing a second land is good. I should definitely do that more often.

11-3 (24-14)

 

All joking aside, that hand probably should’ve been a mulligan because the land was a basic Swamp. Were it a land that could produce green mana, I could at least cast my Traverse the Ulvenwald to find a second land and gain access to the rest of my hand. With basic Swamp, I don’t have that option and need to bank on drawing a second land naturally. The hand was still fine even if I missed for a couple of turns thanks to multiple discard spells to slow him down, but missing on 6 straight draws was far too much.

And just like that, the wheels fall off my metaphorical bus and I’m out of Top 8 contention. Damn. It’s a shame to see it end like it did, but I look back and realise how fortunate I’d been to make it that deep into the tournament to begin with. We take a look at the standings and I still have a shot at cash prizes, so all is not lost!

 

Round 15: vs ?

After double-checking the standings and discussing them with my Round 15 opponent, we both determine that if we play out the last match, the winner makes it into the Top 32, good for $500 of prizes. The loser would leave with nothing. However, if we decide to take an intentional draw in the last round, both of us make Top 64 for a guaranteed $250 of prizes. I don’t feel like gambling after all of the hard work it took to get to this point, so we opt to draw.

This left me at 11-3-1 for the weekend, good for $250 in the bank and 47th place out of 2,058 players. Not bad!

So that’s it for the tournament! I’ll give you a quick rundown of other things that happened during the event:

 

Bad Stuff:

 

  • Temporarily losing a Street Wraith and paying 10 euros for another (still not happy about that);
  • Michael’s snoring (me and Rhys were getting no sleep that night);
  • French takeaway food and garbled Just Eat menus (Egg on pizza? Really?);
  • Being slightly unprepared for every photo of me taken over the entire weekend;
  • Michael getting his noggin whacked by an incoming Orangina bottle!

 

Good Stuff:

 

  • Ali from Cairo;
  • Rhys winning a foil Ixalan sheet from the prize wall (nice);
  • Meeting Rich Hagon, and we even got a photo with him too;
  • The term “wagwan”, which is apparently a Jamaican greeting meaning “what’s going on”, but later developed 45 other definitions over the course of the trip;
  • Awful Garibaldi jokes (no point in explaining it, you had to be there);
  • This brilliant Noggin Whack alter, courtesy of RK Post;

Noggin Whack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, a brilliant trip and I can’t wait for the next one. We’re heading to GP Birmingham for a slice of some Legacy and Standard in May, so hopefully I’ll see some of you there! Thanks for reading.

Death's Shadow

Grand Prix Lyon Tournament Report – Part 1

Hello there! Adam here (or McHugh, as I’m most often known), bringing you a report of our recent trip to the Magic: the Gathering Grand Prix in Lyon, France. It was an amazing weekend full of laughs, banter and lots and lots of Magic. Can’t go far wrong with that!

Me and four other Cumbrians made the trip out to Lyon – three of us tried our hand at fame and glory in the main event, with the other two choosing to sack that off entirely and grind side events in the pursuit of prize wall tickets. There’s so much going on at Grand Prixs now: even if you don’t want to play the main event, they’re a huge celebration of all things Magic and I’d highly recommend getting yourself to one sometime in the future!

Well then, let’s get down to business: what deck did I sleeve up for the Modern main event?

 


Traverse Shadow

Main Deck: 60 cards

4 Death’s Shadow
2 Grim Flayer
4 Street Wraith
4 Tarmogoyf

4 Mishra’s Bauble
4 Fatal Push
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Thoughtseize
4 Traverse the Ulvenwald
2 Abrupt Decay
2 Temur Battle Rage
2 Terminate
2 Liliana of the Veil

1 Forest
1 Swamp
1 Blood Crypt
1 Godless Shrine
2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Stomping Ground
4 Bloodstained Mire
3 Marsh Flats
4 Verdant Catacombs

Sideboard: 15 cards

1 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Surgical Extraction
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Collective Brutality
2 Fulminator Mage
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
3 Lingering Souls
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Ranger of Eos


A more detailed version with card images can be found here on MTG Goldfish.

Traverse Shadow is built around purposefully lowering your own life total to turn Death’s Shadows into huge 1-mana threats – sometimes as early as turn 1! Mishra’s Bauble, fetch-lands and Street Wraith quickly put multiple card types in your graveyard, enabling Traverse the Ulvenwald to search up more threats while also buffing Tarmogoyf and Grim Flayer. Fatal Push, Abrupt Decay and Terminate take care of problematic permanents, and an 8-pack of hand disruption spells poke holes in your opponent’s gameplan large enough to jam Tarmogoyfs through.  Temur Battle Rage swings damage races in your favour and blows out opponents planning to chump-block your large creatures, and Liliana of the Veil gives slower decks fits and runs combo decks out of resources quickly.

I’ll briefly cover the sideboard: Nihil Spellbomb is for graveyard-based decks and Snapcaster Mage, and Surgical Extraction is for graveyard decks and combo decks to rip out key pieces of their gameplan. Ancient Grudge is an all-star in the Affinity and Lantern Control matchups. Collective Brutality is for combo / control decks and is one of the best cards in the format against Burn. Fulminator Mage helps against Valakut, Tron lands and man-lands, and Liliana, the Last Hope makes short work of small creature decks. Lingering Souls and Ranger of Eos give you more gas for grindy games, and Maelstrom Pulse is a nice catch-all to deal with anything else that slips through the net.

So, onto the games: How did they go?

 

Day One:

For the first day, a 6-2 record or better is required to make it through to the second day of the tournament. This is already a bit of pressure to start your day; then I accidentally lost a card in the apartment after playing some testing games that morning! I go to write up my decklist at the event and find out that the main deck is only 59 cards… uh oh.

I scramble through the deck, trying to figure out what card is missing…

“Please don’t be a Tarmogoyf, please don’t be a Tarmogoyf, please don’t be a Tarmogoyf… oh thank God it’s only a Street Wraith!”

I leg it to the dealers’ tables and start asking around for Future Sight Street Wraiths. Fortunately, I find one relatively quickly. Unfortunately, it meant that I had to pay 10 euros for the privilege of actually playing the GP that day…

Lesson #1: ALWAYS check that your deck is complete and that you have everything you need before you leave the house for the event! Rookie mistake and I can’t believe that I made it, but I got lucky. That was not the most painful thing that could’ve happened here.

 

Round 1: vs Bant Knightfall

A Collected Company deck built around the Knight of the Reliquary + Retreat to Coralhelm combo to generate a ludicrously large Knight, find Kessig Wolf Run to give it trample and finish off the opponent.

Game 1: My opponent’s Noble Hierarch gets Fatal Pushed, and I cast a Tarmogoyf and a Grim Flayer to match up with his Voice of Resurgence. Terminate after the Voice blocks my Grim Flayer pushes through damage thanks to trample, Abrupt Decay deals with his Tireless Tracker and he gets smashed about by the Goyf.

Sideboarding:
-2 Liliana of the Veil
+1 Liliana the Last Hope, +1 Maelstrom Pulse

Game 2: Inquisition of Kozilek reveals Birds of Paradise, Knight of the Reliquary, Collected Company and three lands from a mulligan to 6 cards. I take the Knight, but I’m lacking early pressure as my Grim Flayer eats a Path to Exile. His Collected Company flips over Voice of Resurgence and Tireless Tracker. Fatal Push deals with the Tracker, but he draws Knight into Retreat to Coralhelm and I’m now out of removal. He uses the combo to kill me.

Game 3: Opponent mulligans to 6 again, and I cycle 3 Street Wraiths and Thoughtseize him. This reveals Birds, Knight and Retreat with 3 lands, so I take the Birds to deny him a turn 1 or 2 play. A pair of 5/6 Tarmogoyfs start munching on his life total and a Fatal Push for his Knight ends the game.

1-0 (2-1)

 

Round 2: vs 4-Colour Humans

A bit of a home-brewed list, taking elements from the more aggressive 5-Colour Humans deck and playing a slower game with Collected Company. This list was green / white / blue splashing red for Mantis Rider.

Game 1: I keep a slower hand without a turn 1 play. He plays Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and slows down my Abrupt Decay and Terminate for a turn, so I respond with a Tarmogoyf. This play gets completely ruined by Reflector Mage bouncing my Goyf, and then is followed by a Mantis Rider. When my discard spell reveals another Reflector Mage and another Mantis Rider, I see the writing on the wall and scoop.

Sideboarding:
-2 Liliana of the Veil
+1 Liliana the Last Hope, +1 Maelstrom Pulse

Game 2: My opponent mulligans to 6 but starts the game with 2 Leylines of Sanctity. This makes my discard spells useless, but it means he is now down several cards and won’t have much else going on. Fortunately, I draw mostly removal instead of discard and the Leylines do nothing for him. One Tarmogoyf gets sent on a Path to Exile, but two more turn up and put the boots to him.

Game 3: Multiple discard spells strip his hand of relevant spells. He starts to get mana-flooded and cracks his Horizon Canopy in his main phase, hoping to draw a spell he can cast that turn. He doesn’t and passes the turn: the only card that can get him out of this is Collected Company, so I Thoughseize him on my next turn. I take the Company he drew (phew), then Liliana, the Last Hope clears out his Noble Hierarch. Tarmogoyf, a bunch of removal for his follow-up plays and Liliana dealing with the leftovers was too much to handle.

2-0 (4-2)

 

Round 3: vs 5-Colour Humans

Speaking of the 5-Colour Humans deck… here it is! Very fast aggro deck built around Aether Vial to flood the board with cheap creatures. Champion of the Parish does the heavy lifting, a variety of hate-bears like Thalia and Meddling Mage throw spanners in the works, and Reflector Mage offers some board control.

The first thing I notice is that my opponent appears to have an issue with their sight. Turns out he is blind, and uses Braille markings on his sleeves to read the cards in his deck! I have to verbally announce each play that I make and confirm the board state with him regularly, but it’s amazing that someone who can’t see can still play the game and take part in a Grand Prix! Very inspirational, and he was a lovely guy too.

That said, because of everything else that was going on in this match I forgot to take notes! Here’s what I can remember: Game 1 was a close race that I won on 5 life (a well-timed removal spell for his Mantis Rider was crucial). He drew poorly in Game 2 and flooded out – I picked apart his draw with discard spells and removal and the game didn’t last long after that. Sideboarding was the same as the above two matches: if I expected 3 Humans decks in a row, I may have changed my sideboard for this event!

He was very conscious of taking up too much time, so he called over a judge to help him sideboard between games (a great call that was definitely appreciated). After the games, I happily helped him to de-sideboard and sort out his deck for the next round.

Lesson #2: Don’t be afraid to call a judge! Even if it’s for something unusual like this, judges are there to help you. I had several questions over the weekend, like whether the foils in my deck were acceptable for the event or if sideboarding notes were allowed, and all of the judges I spoke to were very helpful indeed.

3-0 (6-2)

 

Round 4: vs UW Control

I notice that I’m against former Pro Tour winner Ivan Floch, of all people! I remember his predisposition for control decks and am fearing the worst. My suspicions are confirmed and he’s playing Blue/White Control, a terrible matchup for my deck this weekend. Stacked to the gills with countermagic, cheap removal and mana disruption in Field of Ruin and Spreading Seas… this will be tough.

Game 1: Awkward opening hands on both sides lead to attacks from me with an anaemic 2/3 Tarmogoyf and him missing his 4th land for a few turns, with no source of white mana. He draws out of the slump quicker than me and Path to Exiles my Goyf, then my Liliana of the Veil gets shut down by a maindeck Negate! Gideon of the Trials makes a mockery of my second Goyf, and he runs me out of relevant threats. I die to Gideon attacks with Fatal Push, Temur Battle Rage and Terminate stuck in my hand.

Sideboarding:
-4 Fatal Push, -2 Terminate, -2 Temur Battle Rage
+2 Collective Brutality, +2 Fulminator Mage, +3 Lingering Souls, +1 Ranger of Eos

Game 2: A comical affair that highlights how fragile Traverse Shadow’s mana-base can be under stress, with 3 copies of Spreading Seas cutting off most of my coloured mana sources! I’m left with a lone Swamp and 3 “Islands” after his meddling. I resolve Ranger of Eos and find 2 Death’s Shadows, which are promptly wiped off the face of the earth by Day of Judgment. His Jace, Architect of Thought finds a Ghost Quarter for my Godless Shrine, then a second Jace activation revealing 2 Cryptic Commands and the FOURTH Spreading Seas prompts me to pack up my cards.

3-1 (6-4)

 

Round 5: vs Living End

An interesting deck, and not one you see often these days. Cycling creatures fill up the graveyard quickly, then either Violent Outburst or Demonic Dread cascades into and casts Living End, reanimating all of the discarded creatures and wiping the opponent’s board in the process. A powerful strategy, but one that needs to hit the right matchups to perform well.

Game 1: I mulligan to 5 into a mostly non-functional hand, but I reluctantly keep as a mulligan to 4 would likely be even worse. I have discard and removal but no threats to apply pressure, which lines up poorly against him. He cycles through almost half of his deck (using all 4 Street Wraiths and all 4 Monstrous Carabids!) before eventually hitting a cascade spell for Living End and putting me out of my misery.

Sideboarding:
-4 Fatal Push, -2 Abrupt Decay, -2 Liliana of the Veil
+1 Nihil Spellbomb, +2 Surgical Extraction, +2 Collective Brutality, +2 Fulminator Mage, +1 Maelstrom Pulse

Game 2: A thoroughly bizarre game. He mulligans to 6, cycles through a ton of cards but somehow gets stuck on 2 lands! I make him discard his cascade spell, he finally draws lands #3 and #4, then I remove his Living End from his hand to prevent him from suspending it. Sure enough, he draws a second Living End and suspends that one. However, my Death’s Shadow and Grim Flayer kill him before it resolves.

Game 3: I keep a 1-land hand that looks great if it finds a second land (and granted, this deck and operate decently well with just one land). Predictably, I miss on drawing my second land for 4 turns, which gives him far too much time to set up Living End, demolish my board and end the game.

3-2 (7-6)

 

From 3-0 to 3-2… awkward. I’ll admit that I was a little frustrated after how the last game ended, but I shake my opponent’s hand and wish them well for the next round.

I think about how I need to win the next 3 rounds to qualify or day two… oh well, take each game one at a time and see how it goes. If I lose, I can just drop and play side events, so it’s not the end of the world.

Lesson #3: Try not to let bad losses discourage you. Sometimes you make a mistake, sometimes it’s due to bad luck, and sometimes it’s somewhere in between and it’s hard to figure out exactly where you went wrong. Look back on the game briefly to learn from it, but try and play on to the best of your ability.

 

Round 6: vs Mardu Pyromancer

The pet deck of several Magic Online grinders and recently championed by Gerry Thompson at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan. Young Pyromancer and Lingering Souls establish a solid board presence, and a heap of hand disruption and creature removal grind the opponent down. Bedlam Reveller recoups the cards spent early on and can end the game in a hurry.

Game 1: My Inquisition takes his Blood Moon and I land an early Tarmogoyf to face off against a Young Pyromancer. I Abrupt Decay the Pyromancer and he responds with a Lightning Bolt to my face to make a token. My Goyf is a whopping 6/7 thanks to his Blood Moon and my Mishra’s Bauble, so it starts taking sizeable chunks out of my opponent. He casts Lingering Souls to stall for time, but Temur Battle Rage lets the Goyf smash through his Spirit tokens.

Sideboarding:
-4 Fatal Push, -2 Liliana of the Veil
+1 Liliana the Last Hope, +3 Lingering Souls, +1 Maelstrom Pulse, +1 Ranger of Eos

Game 2: Discard takes his Kolaghan’s Command and leaves a Liliana of the Veil. This all seems fine until I pass my second turn without playing a land! I stare at the two lands in my hand and shake my head, realising that I was so caught up in sequencing the rest of my plays that I simply forgot to play one of them. This game ends in heartbreaking fashion with me being exactly 1 turn too slow: Liliana, the Last Hope is too late to stop his Young Pyromancer from making a bunch of tokens, and my Ranger of Eos for 2 Shadows isn’t fast enough to prevent a Liliana of the Veil ultimate. A silly mistake that I was heavily punished for.

Game 3: Luckily (for me), my opponent mulligans to 5 and my 2 Inquisitions tear his hand to pieces. A Fatal Push hits the bin, as well as a Manamorphose as he’s stuck on lands and this is the easiest way to cut him off from drawing more. I cast two 4/4 Death’s Shadows and beat him down before he can recover.

Lesson #4: Don’t go on autopilot! Take some time to think about what you’re doing and consider all of your options before committing to a play or passing the turn. I passed because I couldn’t cast any other spells that turn, missing that I hadn’t played a land. I had more than enough time to think a little longer and make sure.

4-2 (9-7)

I kinda threw away that second game there, but Lesson #3 is still fresh in my mind and I rally back to win the third one. Alright, that’s enough silly mistakes for one day!

 

Round 7: vs Affinity

A classic Modern archetype. Blisteringly fast aggro/combo deck sporting Arcbound Ravager and Cranial Plating to overload the opponent quickly. Master of Etherium and Steel Overseer turn its assortment of cheap artifact creatures into a force to be reckoned with.

Game 1: Though this deck has a solid Affinity matchup, this game was exactly what I didn’t want to see: turn 2 Etched Champion into turn 3 Etched Champion makes my removal-heavy hand redundant. The follow-up Cranial Plating didn’t help matters either, and I promptly die.

Sideboarding:
-4 Thoughtseize, -2 Liliana of the Veil
+2 Ancient Grudge, +1 Liliana the Last Hope, +3 Lingering Souls

Game 2: A Steel Overseer goes uncontested, but I manage to take out its supporting cast to limit its effectiveness. Lingering Souls buys me some time to let me set up a Death’s Shadow. My opponent starts drawing blanks and is quickly forced into chump-block mode. The Death’s Shadow takes care of him quickly.

Game 3: A long, drawn-out game where my opponent’s draws leave much to be desired. My discard spells takes an Etched Champion, seeing a second Champion and a Cranial Plating. He casts Rest in Peace and I cast a Shadow. I decide to take a 5-damage hit from his equipped Champion to buff my Death’s Shadow and attack back for 7. He attacks again and I Abrupt Decay the Plating and take 2, dropping to 4 life. Temur Battle Rage on the following attack with a 9/9 Shadow seals the deal.

5-2 (11-8)

 

Round 8: vs Bogles

Otherwise known as Green / White Hexproof, its simple gameplan of untargetable guy + a ton of Auras is surprisingly effective. Considering most decks’ reliance on removal, Bogles can run right through unprepared opponents.

Game 1: My opponent mulligans to 6 then plays a turn 1 Gladecover Scout, and I know exactly what they’re up to! My Inquisition of Kozilek takes his Rancor, leaving an Ethereal Armor and lands. I drop a Death’s Shadow, but my opponent’s deck doesn’t cooperate and he is forced onto the back foot. I attack and he attempts to use a fetch-land to find a Dryad Arbor to block with, but my Fatal Push removes the Dryad. He blocks with his Scout, and Temur Battle Rage kills my opponent from 16 life.

Sideboarding:
-1 Fatal Push, -2 Terminate
+2 Fulminator Mage, +1 Maelstrom Pulse

Game 2: My opponent mulligans again, this time to 5 cards. Slippery Bogle gets suited up with a Rancor and Spirit Mantle early on. I cycle 2 Street Wraiths and cast a Death’s Shadow, leaving up 2 mana to Abrupt Decay his Spirit Mantle and block if he opts to attack. He sees right through it and passes the turn with no attacks. I drain myself down to 3 life to start attacking with a 10/10 Shadow, and he chump-blocks with the Bogle. He searches up a Dryad Arbor at end of turn to set up a potential draw of an Aura to buff it and attack me for the win. He doesn’t, and a Fatal Push kills the Dryad anyway, making it a moot point. The 10/10 Shadow smacks him again for lethal damage.

6-2 (13-8)

 

Phew! Made it, but only just. I’m qualified for Day Two, with another 7 rounds to play to figure out if I’m in contention for the Top 8 playoff, for cash prizes or if I scrub out and get nothing. Ah well, only one way to find out!

Join me for my next article, where I’ll recap the results of the second day of the competition. Thanks for reading!