When a close friend approached me a few months ago about a Limited Grand Prix within 6 hours driving distance, I was ecstatic. Grand Prix Indianapolis 2008 had left a sour taste in my mouth; a ninth round loss and a 6-3 record left hanging out with my girlfriend on Day 2 (while all the cool people drafted triple Shadowmoor). Even though it has been a long while since I had felt the elegant texture of gloss-coated cardboard in my hands, I yearned to prove to myself as a semi-capable spellcaster! I made the commitment to play paper Magic once again and set the date of GP Nashville on my calendar!
But with the commitment to play already made, I found myself with quite the predicament- I was still just as deficient when it comes to playing competitive-level Magic as in 2008. My Total Rating was only 1942 (just 8 points shy of a second bye), and I didn’t have the confidence to grind out the 8 points in local events will low K-values. I have never been bad at Magic, but unfortunately, I have never really been all that good.
Before the GP, a paper Scars of Mirrodin PTQ was even available for my point gathering pleasure, but I opted to skip it and cite being ill prepared. I played countless MTGO Sealeds (one a PTQ) and Drafts, but the outcomes of said events took me on a roller coaster of emotions that left me doubting if I had learned anything worthwhile about SoM Sealed (and a ton of mistakes left me knowing that my play was still as unfocused as ever). But none of that mattered, as I knew I wouldn’t be backing out of the trip (and leaving my friends with one person less to share the costs and the good times).
Time to Join the Real World
As the days until the GP ticked away, I played SoM Limited furiously online. Tons of Drafts (and tons of tickets later), I knew that I could at the very worst make Day 2… until one of my cohorts, the illustrious Andrew, showed me his four paper Sealed pools- all but one were horrible! I couldn’t build a satisfactory deck in 30 minutes even for the pool that appeared to be a decent set of cards. You know what the worst part of it was? Having to manually sort through and arrange the cards! Magic: Online freaking spoiled me- all those fancy sort options and the ability to save rough builds was like a gift from Richard Garfield himself, and I never even appreciated it. I had never valued the convenience that MTGO exudes in Limited deck construction as highly as I do now.
After my paper practice Sealeds, I was prepared for the worst (an awkward or bad pool and a huge time crunch). Sadly, when the GP started and I finally got to test myself in a real world environment, I didn’t get passed the triple Arrest, double Grasp of Darkness, double Skinrender, double Tumble Magnet that the gentleman to my left during deck building received. However, my pool seemed somewhat playable. Here’s what I opened:
GP Sealed Pool
For Sealed, it definitely gets much worse than the above. But it also gets much, much better. I was jealous of James, Andrew and Jeremy when I saw their pools during my Round 1 Bye- they all had mana curves (and I felt like I didn’t have a spectacular curve nor many impressive creatures). I also knew that my main deck wasn’t 100 percent optimal, as I literally almost didn’t finish building in the allotted 30 minutes. I tried almost every color combination, and once I settled on the colors that I did play, it was an extremely agonizing process to pare down to 40 cards. I’ve hidden the list so that you can try your own hand at building if it pleases you!
GP Sealed Deck
I tracked down _Shipitholla (sorry for being a rude creeper, Mr. Hetrick!) eventually and asked for his advice on the build, and he cited two cards (that I can remember) that I should be playing for sure: Silver Myr and Trigon of Corruption. I wish I had played the Myr, Ghalmas Warden and maybe Culling Dais or Vulshok Heartstoker. I am not sold on the Trigon in the main, as I have no proliferate and it would probably take the place of a good body that can take advantage of True Conviction. Overall, the deck felt like it had an acceptable power level but lacked the speed or subtle card advantage that really makes Sealed decks shine in this format.
Playing the Main Event
The actual GP experience was more fun than I remember Magic being, and I attribute this to a few different things. First, I treated it more like a vacation with some bros. We stayed at a nice hotel that had a shuttle to the convention site (which was in a magnificent building- the Gaylord Opryland)! Second, we made sure to eat a few meals at non-fast food restaurants (one of which was a bar and grille where James danced like he was the stage show for the majority of the time I was there). Last (but not least), all of my opponents were polite and none tried to scumbag! I literally have never played an event where I had positive interactions with every opponent, win or lose. Of course, making Day 2 was icing on the cake (but the cake was a bit stale, since I ended Sealed at 7-3 after going 7-1).
I didn’t take notes during the Sealed or Draft portion, but I did take a few experiences away from it:
- Only one opponent played poison in Sealed, and he stated that he was playing it as a last resort (and that his poison wasn’t even great, but that it was better than the alternatives). One opponent also played poison in the only Draft that I did- he first picked Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon and then hard cut every poison guy he saw Pack 1. He ended up with a Pack 3, Pick 4 Hand of the Praetors and a Pack 3, Pick 5 Putrefax; he won our pod with ease, going 6-0 in games!
- Almost every pool has bombs, a decent amount of removal or both. If not, it usually has a decent aggressive tempo deck. If you like externalizing your losses, be prepared to say, “But he had [insert card name here],” over and over. You can’t depend on your strength of cards to win through ten rounds- you have to play well (or at least better than I can)!
- If you don’t eat meals or snacks through the event, you will feel like a loser no matter what your record is! I ate a continental breakfast before Day 1 (aka 300 calories) and neglected to bring any snack food (like bananas or French bread)- with most of my matches taking the majority of the round (slow bombs), I never had time to escape for a 7 dollar burger combo meal. I can’t really blame my late round losses on malnourishment, but being comfortable would have been nice!
- You should spend all of the time allotted for deck registration. I made the idiotic decision of submitting my Draft deck list before triple checking it. Obviously, I cannot count and received a game loss during Round 12 for submitting only a 39 card deck; it (along with another mistake) cost me the match.
- No matter how confident you feel in your decision, double check and make sure that you have indeed executed that strategy before finalize any decisions (like casting a spell or declaring an attack). After my game loss due to deck registration error, I declared an attack where I left my Tangle Angler at home after using its ability twice. I lost that game (it was Game 3) and killed my chance of making Top 64.
So, I ended the event at a semi-embarrassing 8-5, receiving a Bye in Round 13 and dropping to eat. I wasn’t then and am not now overly disappointed with my performance, but I think I could do better if I played some more with the group that traveled down with me. The worst part about playing on MTGO solely has been my lack of discussion with Magic peers. When I playtest in person, there is a lot of dialogue that stimulates my thinking and forces me to ponder scenarios I might not normally fathom. Next time, I will remedy the errors that I committed this go-around; when’s the next Midwestern Limited Grand Prix?!
(For reference, here is my 0-2 Draft deck- enjoy!)
GP Draft 1 Deck