I’ve played plenty of FNM’s before, a number of Pre-Releases and even been to one Game Day, but Grand Prix Manchester was to be my first ever competitive level Magic event.
Normally traveling to Manchester to play FNM magic is a problem for me (actually the problem is the difficulty in getting home afterwards), but with the offer of friends house nearby to stay at I took the opportunity to head to Manchester’s Fanboy 3. I took a slightly modified version of the UB control deck I ran last week. In short, it did not go well I lost every round, although having said that they were all 2-1 losses and by no means one-sided matchups. I wont go into too much detail, but I faced UW Delver, RU Delver, B Zombies and RWU Planeswalker Control. I learned a lot about my deck will be continuing to work on it to play at my usual local FNM next week. Afterwards all I was thinking was “At least tomorrow can’t go any worse!” and “perhaps I should’ve got more sleep instead…”.
Still, 6 hours sleep isn’t too bad. Getting an early train I made it to the event hall just after 8 to register and meet my mates from Lancaster who were already there. Arriving early paid off, it gave us a chance to get breakfast, have a look around and chill out a bit before it got too busy.
Going into the event I was excited, but also pretty nervous. Being my first competitive level event I was asking my friends about what to expect; my main “worry” was about calling Judges and the possibility of making some silly mistake, that would be forgiven at FNM level or below, but here could unforgivingly cost me a game or match. We also tried to clarify the newly modified missed trigger rules. Now you no longer have to remind an opponent of mandatory triggers it seemed like some people would use this to their advantage when possible, but the idea of that still felt like cheating to me so I really just wanted to go into the event playing fair and honestly and hoped I wouldn’t lose a game by accident.
As well as being my first GP, this was to be only my second time only playing INN/DKA sealed! The first being the Dark Ascension Pre-Release (which didn’t go brilliantly for me). I sat down and opened a reasonable pool, containing a Bloodline Keeper and Mayor of Avabruck and a good amount of removal. Once the pool was registered it of course had to be passed elsewhere. In the pool I received there was a Huntmaster of the Fells, but the other Green cards were practically unplayable along side it. I looked at my Red pool too, and in hindsight Red may have been a splash-able (or even fully playable + splashing G for Huntmaster) colour. However if I went this route I felt like id be doing so solely on the basis of having Huntmaster and that was a trap I really didn’t want to fall into. With very little in the way of usable Black cards I cast that colour aside and focused on what looked to be my strongest colours, White and Blue.
I had two potentially powerful bombs, Angel of Flight Alabaster and Dungeon Geists. With a number of aggressive spirits lower in the curve I decided to run those, and filled the deck out with some humans. Blue added some board control and a couple of more solid creatures.
Doomed Traveler, Loyal Cathar, Avacynian Priest, Niblis of the Urn, Cloistered Youth, Midnight Guard, Chapel Geist, Elder Cathar, Civilized Scholar, Stormbound Geist, Moon Heron, Dungeon Geists, Makeshift Mauler, Angel of Flight Alabaster, Relentless Skaabs
2 Silent Departure, Griptide, Think Twice, Divination, Moment of Heroism, Gather the Townsfolk
Ghost Quarter, 8 Plains, 8 Island
(this comes to 39.. I genuinely cannot remember what my last card was!)
Going into the games I did originally plan to make notes on each so I could write about them afterwards. However this plan went out of the window somewhat, partly due to the fact I was trying to stay focused on playing, but also later in the day due to tiredness. So mostly all I have to go on are each player’s life totals for each game, and the occasional note about deck colours and mana problems deciding games. Other than that this is all from memory, so unfortunately some of the round summaries are a bit short, but the best moments which stand out I have gone into detail.
First off, it’s important to point out that whenever i had the option, I chose to draw. And seeing as my opponents always elected to play, I had no problem with my strategy all day! I know their are various arguments for and against playing first/second in sealed, but with my deck I felt like the extra card was more important and also reactionary effects like Dungeon Geists are best dealing with bigger threats.
Round 1 I faced a RB deck. In game 1 my Dungeon Geists and Angel of Flight Alabaster came down for me, locking his board down and also limiting his removal options. Unable to answer the Angel I took game 1. Game 2 went exactly the other way, I perhaps got greedy and kept a 2 lander that if I’d seen an Island I’d have been set. I didn’t, and mana screw made sure I was unable to compete with his bombs. Having seen Curse of Death’s Hold in game 1 I had sided in Paraselene. And how I wish I had seen it in game 3. By the end my opponent had Curse of Bloodletting and Heretic’s Punishment in play. I stalled and dug as much as I could looking for Paraselene but unable to find it I was dealt 20 damage from 2 activations. It was a shame, had I found my answer I feel I almost definitely would have taken the game, and the round. Definitely not the start I had hoped for! 1-2 (0-1 overall).
Round 2 was against BRU Zombies. I can’t recall many details here unfortunately. Both games were closely fought creature battles and I came out on top each time. 2-0 (1-1 overall).
Round 3 I matched up against a GW deck. Again I took both games quickly, there wasn’t a lot my opponents deck did other that play bears and some slightly bigger guys but Dungeon Geists helped me lock is creatures down in both games, and with Silent Departures keeping the way clear I took the round. 2-0 (2-1 overall).
After this round I discussed my deck a bit with my friends and realised some original errors in my deck construction. Mainly, I had failed to include Murder of Crows in my maindeck. Definite facepalm moment, and in hindsight I have no idea what made me cut the Crows from my deck. After this point I began sideboarding them in every round, and other cards I had to give me more options were Silverclaw Griffin, Lost in the Mist, Artful Dodge and Shriekgeist.
Round 4 I played against a 4-colour stuff deck. With a couple of Shimmering Grottos to smooth out her manabase my opponent’s deck seemed to work well enough but I think the lack of consistency in her plays helped me out a lot here. Game 1 I took easily, her plays were mostly Green, although I did see a Devil’s Play that gave me some cause for concern.. In game 2 her deck seemed to change and came at me as RW aggro but seemed to stall after the first few turns and I took the round. 2-0 (3-1 overall).
Between rounds I found myself stood next to Jackie Lee (American player and card alterer) so I introduced myself and had a short chat with her, which was pretty cool! I knew she was at the event as I follow her on Twitter and of course I recognised her, but she had no idea who I was which did make me wonder if I came across as being almost stalker-ish? #blametheinternet lol. But she was really nice and seemed more than happy to chat so its all good
Round 5 I faced a brilliantly aggressive RB vampire deck. My opponent started very quickly in game 1 and built up an overwhelming board presence before I had chance to make a mark. I did manage to take game 2 though, able to trade with his early creatures this time. So I had some hope for game 3, but it was not to be as once again it went very much in his favour. 1-2 (3-2 overall).
And all of a sudden I was on 3-2 and not looking likely for day 2. Also at this point, I felt like I had been hit by a wall of tiredness (the lack of food throughout the day probably didn’t help either!). This long day of magic turned out to be tougher on my than I’d expected, which only made me realise just how good the people are who do this week on week!
Round 6 My opponent was running RB. I took game 1 easily without taking a scratch myself, but in game 2 he came back aggressively. Coming to the end of the third, with both sides of the board even, all I needed was to see one of my bombs. I did not, and proceeded to draw nothing but land for the remainder of the game. One-Eyed Scarecrow weakened all my smaller fliers and, unable to punch through for enough damage, I found myself overcome by a horde of Zombies and their Vampiric friends. 1-2 (3-3 overall).
Round 7 Out of day 2 contention I decided to play on to the end anyway and since I was playing just for fun now I found myself feeling much more relaxed throughout the rest of my games which probably helped me a lot. Facing a WG weenie deck I took both games relatively uncontested. 2-0 (4-3 overall).
Round 8 My opponent was playing White Weenie. Game 1 was fantastic, possibly my favourite of the day. A pair of fliers hacked away at my opponents life total, requiring my bounce spells to help them connect. The ground was clogged up many creatures, especially after he cast Increasing Devotion (fortunately he never got enough mana to flash it back) and after many tense turns of carefully working out attackers, blockers and swing-backs, swinging out helped me go in for lethal. In game 2 my opponent found himself mana screwed and my guys were able to get the job done much faster. 2-0 (5-3 overall).
Round 9 The final round of the day (and for me, of the weekend). I really should have made more notes here. All I can say is that once again my deck came out really well, locked down my opponent’s board (he was playing mono Red) and I took both games quickly. Ending on a slight down note, my opponent seemed a bit fed up so he didn’t talk much throughout the games and simply walked off afterwards. But as I was also quite tired at this point I didn’t get too worried by it. 2-0 (6-3 overall).
For my first competitive-level event I’m really happy with how I did. 6-3 seems so close to 7-2 but since my losses came early rather than in the final rounds I’m not too fussed. One of my friends, Simon Fox, had an incredible pool, played fantastically and managed to make day 2! Which was pretty awesome. His round 9 games were incredible to watch, possibly some of the best magic I have ever had the pleasure of watching. On day 2 he went 2-1 and then 0-3 in the drafts, falling jut short of a prize money finish. But also being his first GP it was still a great achievement.
On Sunday I got a chance to sit down with Simon and some other friends and asked them to re-analyse my pool for me, which I’d had some time to think over. Somehow I had missed the fact that I had a Silver-Inlaid Dagger in my pool, which I kicked myself for not including! However on the whole I think I did pretty well (aside from not playing Murder of Crows also). They agreed green was unplayable, and like me thought that Red may have been splash-able but the costs on my Blue and White cards made it risky. So overall I think i made the right call on my deck colours, despite some sub-par cutting decisions. I’m not really one for “what ifs”, but it was good to sit down and have my choices constructively criticized
As well as playing an incredible amount of magic I also traded loads over the course of the weekend. I focused heavily on acquiring artifacts for my recently planned New EDH Deck. I even managed to trade the Huntmaster of the Fells I’d opened (which I had no interest in keeping) for a rather sweet card. But I think I’ll save this for another time…
In addition I also got a Vulshok Sorcerer signed by RK Post People were going to his table with stacks of rares, but I kept it simple. The card is one of my favourites (click here to read why) so I just got a single copy signed, to me it seemed more special that way.
As always, thanks for reading! If you were at the GP too I’d love to hear how you did. I had an awesome weekend, my thanks to everyone for making it, and I very much look forward to playing more competitive magic in the future!