My GP London Adventure

Hello again friends!

I have just returned from the London Magical Grand Prix, let me tell you the story of my weekend. Starring: some Sealed Deck, some Pauper, some Cube, and forgetfulness.

In recent years I always try to get down to UK GPs, despite the fact that they unfortunately seem to end up Sealed Deck more often than not. I don’t mind Sealed for Pre-Releases and such, but it’s not my favourite format.

(If you don’t know, Sealed Deck means you receive six packs of cards which which to make a deck on-site. This means you just have to work with what you open instead of bringing your own deck, meaning it’s fairly hit-or-miss as to whether you get a good deck or not.)

An extra bit of excitement was injected into this one though! On Sunday, one of the special side events was the Pauper format I really enjoy, which softened the blow if I were to end up not making day 2 of the main event. In addition, I decided to bring my Cube to play with people now that it’s fully armed and operational.

Friday

I took the train down from Scotland. It is customary for me to forget something obvious on these trips, whether it’s an MP3 player or toothbrush or whatever, there’s always something. While I sat there stroking my beard thoughtfully, I realised two things.

1: I forgot to trim my beard.
2: I didn’t actually bring a Pauper deck.

I had been intending to bring a couple of sweet brews from when I was able to make videos, GR Reckless Infect and the UB Highlander control deck, but turns out I’m a dunce and didn’t. So, I knew I’d need to ask around out to borrow a deck should disaster strike in the main event.

I arrived in London around 7PM, and took a walk from King’s Cross station to an Italian restaurant called¬†Santore where I’d meet my host for the weekend, his family and assorted Greek players.

It was a pretty nice place, reasonably priced and the food was tasty. Everyone bought different things, and I decided to try what was billed as a half-pizza, half-calzone. I’m going to be honest, when it appeared on the table, confidence was not exactly sky high since it basically just looked like someone had dropped a pizza awkwardly on the table while making it.

27583797_10154915909010044_1885959145_n
I mean, the pizza half looks decent enough, but the subconscious feeling is ‘did they drop that orrrrrr…?’

Luckily, it was tasty, I was satisfied with it. I even managed to nab some slices from a spicy-sausage pizza that had been been ordered unnecessarily, so that was excellent.

27495785_10154915909885044_813159211_n
As an aside, I couldn’t help but find the promise that Grappa is made from the SOUL of a grape to be sinister after growing up with Mortal Kombat and Soul Calibur.

After all that, we got back to the house fairly close to midnight, so we didn’t stay up too late. One of the guys had a Sealed League on MTGO, we played a match with his original build, lost, rebuilt the deck and then won a match. Flawless testing, ready for the big time.

Saturday

I had to wait a while to build my deck after arriving early, due to my single bye. We arrived at the start of the day, since the nine-year-old son of my host was playing in the event and did not have the requisite Planeswalker Points for a bye. In every previous Sealed GP – byes or not – I always just built my deck without considering the sleep-in-special stuff, so this was the first time I used the current system they had for people building their decks at different times.

It’s a little hard to explain how things were set up exactly, but basically the organisers had built a kind-of waiting room, which would then fill up enough to fully stock a row of seats with players, then each row had their own individual build-times. Pools were pre-registered too, which was nice in theory!

In practice, things didn’t go too smoothly. Everyone still needed to show pools to the player opposite them, and have those people then go through the list, sort them, and fix errors. There were several errors just within a few seats of me, like pools with an incorrect number of cards, non-foil basic lands, inaccurate lists, missing cards and so on. I had a missing Dusk Charger as it happened, which was pretty weird the longer I went in deck construction without receiving one.

My deck is what I would describe as aggressively mediocre. 5 of my rares were pretty bad or too tribe-specific to use, so I only had one. I had a Chupacabra, but after that the card quality dropped off significantly. They weren’t bad exactly, but I didn’t have enough Vampires to be a ‘Vampire deck’ for synergy, or enough late game power to win long games or lots of ways to be very aggressive. A little bit of everything, not excelling.

27294281_10154908049840044_1042331975_n
If I say “these were arguably the best 4 cards in my deck”, it doesn’t sound too bad, but you really want more cards of the level of the top two cards. You don’t really want Skymarcher/Impale level cards to be your 4th best card in a Sealed Deck.

I was called up for a Feature Match immediately (Round 2) and my first thought was ‘not like this!’, realising that my deck was a little under-powered overall. Still, it was a decent match, you should be able to watch it on Twitch!

(If you can’t watch it for whatever reason, I lost)

In Round 3 I faced a somewhat similar Black/White deck. I managed to win after my opponent spent a large number of turns failing to draw lands, even though they had a Slaughter the Strong to make a comeback. I did however gain an advantage when the opponent searched their deck for a Vampire costing 4BB and put it on top of their deck, only to realise they had 5 Plains and 1 Swamp. In game 2 I drew my Mythic rare, yay!

Elenda, the Dusk Rose
Fair and balanced limited Magic.

Unfortunately it all went downhill from there. I had a couple of fairly uneventful matches where my deck was essentially just overpowered. I almost took a game off a strong-looking Red/Green Dinosaur deck using my Elenda, but it turns out a 12/12 creature on turn 6 or so quite easily murderers players faster than she could handle.

Now that GPs are back to needing a 6-2 record or better to advance to the next day, I was essentially eliminated from the event. However, I was having fun playing my deck and I figured I might as well try and get extra Planeswalker Points for future-bye purposes.

While sitting down with my hosts, comparing records, it was observed that the previously mentioned nine year old was also on 2-3. I was considering that it would be Sod’s law to have to face him, out of all the people in the room. I was then told about how his deck was pretty good, having Zetalpa, Angrath, a bunch of removal and so on.

Zetalpa, Primal Dawn
I’m not afraid, I have a single Luminous Bonds!

A few minutes of me refreshing the pairings website later, I yell “No! I’m facing you!”. Obviously, obviously, I had to fight him.

Of course, with nothing on the line but Planeswalker Points, it was not the most dramatic showdown ever, but still. Losing (when I was staying in his house no less!) would definitely result in some well-deserved light ribbing later on. On the other hand, defeating him means feeling like a big meanie as his mum was observing. (we were at the end of a row for easy spectating)

In the first game, I have to say I probably got the best draw my deck was capable of. I made creatures on all the early turns, I drew my Mythic, and even though he drew a bunch of removal I drew the perfect amount of lands then all spells for the remainder of the game.

In the second game, a great many things had to go my way. First, he had some mana problems, so my slightly slow draw wasn’t punished. I drew my Mythic (again). It died immediately this time, but then I drew Grim Captain’s Call to play it again.

Grim Captain's Call
It was like a Recover that usually didn’t draw me a card.

He played Zetalpa, and I had just enough life not to die immediately to it, while also throwing all my creatures into combat to try and get Elenda big enough to gain a bunch of life every turn. He then needed to make a key mistake in blocking, which let my Elenda survive a combat and grow bigger. Meanwhile, he’s flooding out. Finally, when my now 8-power Elenda attacks to gain life, resulting in her death to the Elder dino, the very next turn I peeled my Vampire Lord to pump all my vampires deal enough damage to defeat him. Absolutely barbaric mising, and everyone knew it!

Legion Lieutenant
“Stephen, was this not one of your top 4 cards?” Well, when you have 5 Vampires total including itself, it spends most of the event being a Grizzly Bears.

The next round I skillfully defeated someone who didn’t turn up.

The final round of the day was against another Black/White deck, except it was more heavily Vampires. I’m not exactly sure how I managed to win game one, but game two was definitely down to my opponent forgetting about his Deathless Ancient.

Deathless Ancient
Apparently, having this in their deck is the bane of multiple opponents.

My opponent exiled my Elenda this game, so I had very little to win a game with. When my opponent made his 4/4 flier with two other Vampires in play, I had to reluctantly use my Chupacabra and hope they didn’t have another Vampire to bring it back, since I had nothing. They instantly had another vampire, and I was pretty dead.

However, they didn’t bring it back that turn. Or the next one. Or the one after that. Each turn, with my assorted 3/2s and 3/3s I’m desperately trying to trade off Vampires before the opponent notices. At some point, while I’m 95% certain I know what the card does, I wonder if the card actually needs 4 Vampires to bring it back. It is very important in situations like this though, to resist any curiosity you might have to look at the card, hence reminding your opponent to use their ability.

Eventually, I just drew slightly more creatures than they did, and eventually they lost, realising their error while they only had one creature left.

A 5-3 final record. Doesn’t look too horrible, but when you take account the bye and no-show, it’s just average, as expected of my deck in the beginning.

Oh, as an aside, at some point I was chatting to a couple of friends about some Return to Ravnica Standard (as you do) and out of nowhere, on my right-hand side I think I hear a guy saying “You’re f***ing cute!”, to which I remove the earbud I had in that ear and say “Pardon?!”

It makes a lot more sense when he then tells me that “I think your jumper is f***ing cute!” and I get to awkwardly agree. It is my favourite jumper. The guy then just walks off.

Cute Jumper
The jumper in question. However, I would generally not advise anyone’s first words to another human to be so aggressive. It was pretty weird, “Hey, excuse me, that’s a nice jumper!” works just as well.

Sunday

It’s Pauper day! After a bit of early wandering around, I borrow a Blue/Red Blitz* deck from a kind and handsome man, allowing me to participate in the event. While it was mentioned it may not be my ‘style’ of deck, it was certainly a good deck and I couldn’t complain!

*This is a type of deck based on playing Kiln Field/Nivix Cyclops and hitting the opponent extremely hard, ideally defeating the opponent in one big attack.

Round 1

My opponent unveiled a Forest playmat, with Forest card sleeves, and I think there was a green deck box too but the Forests are the most memorable parts. I asked myself: is my opponent trying the ol’ themed accessories gambit, or do they just like Elves? I looked at my somewhat sketchy hand on the draw with a pair of Lightning Bolts and snap-called the opponents being on Elves.

They were on Elves.

I won game one fairly handily after that.

Image result for unhinged forest playmat
I don’t remember if it was this exactly, but now you have an idea of the treacherous mat.

Game 2 I mulliganed a bit, and couldn’t manage to draw a creature or Electrickery before dying on turn 8 or so. In game 3, things went smoothly. Typically, the Kiln Fiend decks crush Elves since you’re faster than them, you can kill their key cards, and they struggle to meaningfully interact with you even after sideboarding.

Round 2

My opponent this round was on Blue/Red Delver, which is a pretty terrible match up for my deck overall. The key to winning is being on the play and managing to jam a threat early while they struggle on mana. The Red part of their deck (which I’m not a huge fan of) does provide Lightning Bolt/Skred but it also makes your mana base slower and awkward, negating a lot of the advantage the Delver decks have in having a dominating early game.

It felt like my opponent perhaps didn’t have a lot of experience with the deck, as I managed to set things up to get him in a pair of relatively quick games.

Round 3

My opponent was quite keen to split the prizes, and I was okay with that, but I still wanted to battle. So we did!

The prize split ended up working out in my favour, as I was absolutely murdered by Blue/Red Delver. They had much smoother draws than the last opponent, and they lined up great against mine. They stopped my one or two threats I drew each game easily, and was quickly put away by bloodthirsty Ninjas.

Ninja of the Deep Hours
Ninja put me in deep something alright.

As an aside, it seemed the Pauper event was a huge success. While there have been some Pauper events at GPs before, usually in the fine-print leading to 20-person events, this one had slightly over 300 players. That’s great! Hopefully they keep it up and do more in the future. This event really brought out an untapped crowd, as I saw many, UK-based players I’ve never encountered before, (saying how they came for Pauper) and it was lovely chatting away between rounds with new (to me) faces, and making a new friend or two.

The Cube!

I was keen at this point to utilise my Cube which I’d been carrying around all day. There were quite a few people hyped to battle, but trying to get Magic players together is pretty tricky. “Like herding cats” is used often, and for good reason.

Still, I managed to get together a small pod for battles. We could have spent longer trying to get a full eight people, but there wasn’t really enough time, as people needed to leave before too long anyway.

I drafted a sort of Blue/Black utility-creatures control deck, looking at slowly grinding out the opponent over a long game with some ‘mighty’ sea creatures, while building to the grand finale of Elixir of Immortality + Thought Reflection + Worst Fears.

Sand SquidGiant Oyster
With their powers combined, they can slowly devour any prey!

Unfortunately for me, my first opponent had a fairly aggressive red deck with plenty of ways to repeatedly kill my watery minions.

Brimstone MageArc Mage
They love seafood barbecue.

At some point, he apologised for “being the fun police”, but as he was Volcanic Hammering me with Goblin Dark-Dwellers, I reckon absolutely no fun was being policed there at all, good times.

Volcanic HammerGoblin Dark-Dwellers
Dark-Dwellers: “Ahem, what time is it?”

The highlight however, came in a later game. I’m at 14. He has a 4/2, and a 2/2. He attacks with the 4/2. “Not this guy?” I ask, pointing to the 2/2. “Nope.” he replies cheerfully.

“Okay, I’ll… go to 10.”

Hidetsugu's Second Rite
All together now. 1, 2, 3 “WHAT ARE YOU AT?”

Meanwhile, in the match next to us, like a Modern day Leonardo da Vinci, one player had created a masterpiece of a deck. It was Ertai, the Corrupted’s time to shine, as he was joined by Skeletons Reassembling and Sanitarium to create something of a hard lock. Delightful!

Ertai, the CorruptedBrood of Cockroaches
The answer to any problem is to throw cockroaches at it.

There wasn’t too much time left sadly, as the event staff started kicking people off tables. Plays became even more fast and loose at this point, and I ended up letting my opponent kill me with Spiritmonger and a Cockatrice with an Armadillo Cloak on it. Whoops!

Cockatrice
The first time someone’s died to this card in about 11 years or so I’d say.

Still, as far as I can tell, everyone appreciated the various sweet cards, fun games were had, and I’m looking forward to doing it again!

At this point, I need to re-find my host, who had just finished the main event. My forgetfulness came into play again, because today I’d forgotten my glasses. This meant I was wandering up and down trying to find him and failing. After sending him a couple of messages and a rung-out phone call, I was started to get concerned there was a miscommunication, and maybe he thought I’d left already or something.

Still, I got to speak to plenty of people while I searched, which was nice, and eventually did manage to find him. (he’d joined a Turbo Draft, and had his phone stored away, I just couldn’t identify him in the middle of a crowd from a distance. Go me!)

Overall, despite a not-exactly-successful main event, it was a splendid weekend. As always, there’s never enough time to catch up with everyone, but there’s always next time.

That’s all from me for today! I hope the next event is just as fun.

Stephen ‘Jecht’ Murray, over and out.

 

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