Do you ever feel like Magic: The Gathering events can be determined by one small instance during your day? Sometimes it seems as if an action in an early round will set the tone for the rest to come, good or bad. You draw three cards off a Brainstorm and it’s Dark Ritual, Lion’s Eye Diamond and Infernal Tutor – you just know that you’re going to run hot. Then there are times when you reveal Empty the Warrens, Past in Flames and a bunch of “tutor effects” off of Ad Nauseam and die. Well, in this Grand Prix, I did not run hot.
- 4 Infernal Tutor
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Ponder
- 4 Gitaxian Probe
- 3 Cabal Therapy
- 3 Duress
- 3 Burning Wish
- 1 Empty the Warrens
- 1 Past in Flames
- 1 Ad Nauseam
I keep a hand that’s very good against Delver decks: Ponder, Burning Wish, Rite of Flame, Dark Ritual, Duress and a few lands. I start by playing Duress and missing against Maverick, they had a Stoneforge Mystic, Sanctum Prelate, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and some other cards. Their only white source being a Horizon Canopy. On my next turn, I manage to make enough Goblins (12) that I think I might be able to win through Stoneforge Mystic into Batterskull due to the Horizon Canopy. I was wrong, my opponent had an on curve blocker for every turn to go with their Batterskull and stabilized at two life. That’s magic, I didn’t really have any other choice, I didn’t have enough mana to Dark Petition for Ad Nauseam or the resources for Past in Flames. In this game, we just lose sometimes. It’s the next game that bothers me.
I mulligan and keep a hand of: Brainstorm, Infernal Tutor, Empty the Warrens, Dark Ritual, Swamp and Bloodstained Mire. I scry and keep a Chain of Vapor on top. I play the Bloodstained Mire and pass, my opponent a Plains. I draw the Chain of Vapor, lay the Swamp and motion for my opponent to take their turn. Ethersworn Canonist. On my opponent’s end step I search up Volcanic Island and return the artifact creature to their hand. I draw a Polluted Delta for turn and cast Brainstorm, which finds a Lion’s Eye Diamond. I don’t put back the Empty the Warrens, because I don’t want to reveal it off of Ad Nauseam.
- Infernal Tutor (16 life)
- Bloodstained Mire (16 life)
- Dark Ritual (15 life)
- Underground Sea (15 life)
- Polluted Delta (15 life)
- Dark Ritual (14 life)
- Gitaxian Probe (13 life)
- Chrome Mox (12 life)
- Rite of Flame (12 life)
- Brainstorm (11 life)
- Ponder (10 life)
- Cabal Ritual (8 life)
- Badlands (8 life)
- Lotus Petal (8 life)
- Brainstorm (7 life)
- Polluted Delta (7 life)
- Cabal Therapy (6 life)
- Infernal Tutor (4 life)
Do you stop? There’s 1 card left in the deck that kills you out of 31 cards. I figured the odds were in my favor and that I needed to reveal a few more cards until I felt safe using Ponder or Brainstorm to find the win.
My thought process was that even if I miss on the Brainstorm (I would have to find Lion’s Eye Diamond or an initial mana source plus Burning Wish), Cabal Therapy on the Ethersworn Canonist wouldn’t save me as I have no answer to a Thalia, Guardian of Thraben or Sanctum Prelate.
I should’ve slowed down and really considered my options, because there was a better line than what I took.
I obviously revealed the top card of my deck and died to the Past in Flames like an idiot. In that instance, I knew that things were not going to break in my favor the rest of the day.
1/31 odds failed me. But, in hind sight, I should’ve stopped because I likely could’ve won without revealing. Here’s the line:
Chrome Mox (Imprint: Cabal Therapy), Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor (Reveal: Lotus Petal) (BBB Floating), Lotus Petal, Gitaxian Probe, Ponder (If no Lion’s Eye Diamond or Burning Wish Shuffle), Lotus Petal and Brainstorm (If no Lion’s Eye Diamond or Burning Wish plus Initial Mana Source, likely lose the game).
In my haste, paired with some anxiety about how bad my Ad Nauseam was, I missed the line and was punished despite the odds not being that bad. I should’ve slowed down and really considered what I could’ve done.
Paired against Ross Merriam. I’m in a place where I’m going to win on my next turn after wrecking his hand with discard spells (leaving him with only a Deathrite Shaman). Ross proceeds to literally draw three copies of Hymn to Tourach in a row and laughs out loud after the third one is there. It was possible for me to win after the second, but the third one sealed the game.
We’re shuffling for game two, we both shipped our hands back and a judge walks over, “You’ve been randomly…” Ross interjects with a “No we haven’t, we both just mulliganed.” The judge sheepishly walks away and selects another table. I was dumbfounded, I’ve never seen anything like it in my entire life.
This loss was tough, I felt like there wasn’t much I could do, but I’d rather have that feeling than misplay.
This round was so uneventful I almost forgot it. Both games I just floundered doing nothing, I started with a Duress to see four creatures and two lands from what looked like Shardless BUG. I played a number of Cantrips but could never find anything that made mana, I ended the game with five lands in play and two fetchlands in hand. In the second game, it was the complete opposite, the only business I could find was Ad Nauseam itself with nothing to protect it. My opponent had everything.
It’s game three of a crazy match (lots of back and forth), my opponent and I were both pretty friendly and enjoying ourselves. Lots of banter. We both start to get a bit more serious as the game is coming to an end, I’m at 15 life. I make 14 Goblins, my opponent has one card in and an active Deathrite Shaman and a flipped Delver of Secrets. On my end step, I lose two life to the Deathrite Shaman. He untaps, draws and tell me he didn’t draw the answer, but jams another Deathrite Shaman and a Delver of Secrets (In doing so, he gave up his ability to activate Deathrite Shaman on my turn to lose or gain life). My opponent then attacks me to 10 life. On my turn I draw and swing out, knowing that my opponent needs to both flip Delver of Secrets AND find a second black source to be able to activate the pair of Deathrite Shamans to kill me. He only blocks with the Deathrite Shamans and goes to 4 life.
My opponent reveals Brainstorm to Delver of Secrets, casts it and finds the second black source. Then taps all four of his creatures and puts his hands up (As if he’s saying, “good game?”. I look at my life pad and then the board and say, “I’ll go to two.” He never tapped his lands or chose targets for a Deathrite Shaman ability. Even during the judge call, my opponent and I were still bantering – I told him I felt bad making the call, but it’s a GP. I knew by the look on his face that he knew he had really moved through his actions too quickly. My opponent told me if the judge call didn’t go in my favor he was going to concede, which made me feel way worse for doing what I did. The judges come back a few times to ask if we had established any sort of short cuts or if Deathrite Shaman had attacked me at all during the match (it did). They sided with me and my opponent decided not to appeal.
I saw the judge that made the final ruling with me day 2 in line for food, he told me that at a competitive REL you need to do things properly and he did nothing of the sort to signify he was activating – even if we all understood what he was intending to do.
A bunch of my friends and on-lookers saw what happened and a majority of the people I talked to said they would do the same thing in my shoes, but it felt pretty bad. At the same time, this is a Grand Prix and sometimes you need to call people on their mistakes.
I win the die roll and start off with a Ponder, which shuffled and draws a card. My opponent plays Bayou into Thoughtseize taking my Burning Wish. On my turn, I cast Cabal Therapy naming Hymn to Tourach. Turbo Depths, I’ve heard of the deck before but am pretty unfamiliar with it. I see no more discard spells, I question whether or not I should play my Lion’s Eye Diamond because I’m unsure if the deck plays main deck Abrupt Decay. I decide to hold it. Immediately I am punished with an Inquisition of Kozilek off of the top. My opponent makes a 20/20 on my next end step and I lose.
Unsure if the deck plays Chalice of the Void or Sphere of Resistance effects, I side in two Chain of Vapor and two Abrupt Decay. I play Ponder on the first turn again, my opponent plays, Lotus Petal, Chalice of the Void for 0, Crop Rotation for Thespian’s Stage and Chalice of the Void for 1. I lose.
It’s game three, my opponent is playing Dragon Stompy and has mulliganed to five. I’m on the play and keep, Lotus Petal, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Cabal Therapy. Abrupt Decay, Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual and Ad Nauseam – it’s sketchy, I know. I play Lotus Petal, Lion’s Eye Diamond and pass.
Their turn one? Chalice of the Void for one.
I draw a Polluted Delta and plan on winning on my next turn if I can draw another mana.
My opponent draws and smiles. Mountain, Seething Song, Chandra, Torch of Defiance (+1 to make RR) and Trinisphere. I sigh.
My opponent draws and smiles. Tormod’s crypt and Phyrexian Revoker (Lion’s Eye Diamond). Chandra is now threatening to Ultimate. I go for it with Cabal Ritual, my opponent activates Tormod’s Crypt. Ad Nauseam? I don’t have notes on the specifics for this one, but if I had revealed another Lotus Petal or Chrome Mox I had won. I could make enough mana to Abrupt Decay and win with one casting cost “ritual effects”.
At this point, I had enough. Drop.
This was actually the most I’ve ever tested for a Grand Prix, despite that, my record was very poor. Between variance and bad luck, I found myself not wanting to finish the event. It’s easy to look at this and say, “He’s whining he didn’t do well.” that’s not the point, I’m honesty fine with it. This is more to show you that sometimes you misplay or are ill-informed or your deck draws dead and that’s fine too. Things happen.
Side note: I never faced any Miracles, Death & Taxes or Eldrazi.
I had a great time with friends, acquired some cards, sold some cards and ate a lot of food. I also learned some things, apparently you can just tell a judge, “no.” (I don’t recommend this) and I guess Turbo Depths is a Chalice of the Void deck.
These things said, Louisville was surely an experience, between crazy Uber drivers and mediocre BBQ (Dinosaur is better) – I enjoyed my time.
It’s worth nothing that I mulliganed seven times in eleven rounds, at least two of these that I can remember were due to the Bayou. I’m moving it back to the sideboard for added consistency, in favor of another Bloodstained Mire. This means that Reverent Silence has been moved back to the “Maybe, someday…” binder.