My Grand Prix: Seattle weekend began with waking up at 4:30am, my wonderful girlfriend driving me to the airport and meeting up with Eli Kassis, Paolo Cesari and Ozzie. For as early as it was, I was absolutely wired with excitement for this event. I missed Grand Prix: New Jersey last year due to my sister’s wedding, there was no chance I was going to miss out on this! The flights to SeaTac we’re too bad, Ant Man and Fantastic Four were the in-flight movies for the trip there, which suit my nerdy tastes.
We eventually arrive in SeaTac and meet up with our fifth for the weekend – Matt Bell. After grabbing the rental car, we made our way to the hotel and then this small, dirty burger place called “friesenburger” which was surprisingly good for how awful the place looked.
We made our way to the convention center where I spent roughly $120 in four hours getting things signed by artists. The main reason for me making the trip was to actually get my Bayou signed by Jesper Myrfors for my deck as it’s one of the few remaining signatures I need. I picked up a spare Tendrils of Agony for Pete Venters (I managed to get a few prints off him, pictures below!) to sign as well as a German Badlands for Rob Alexander. Unfortunately after scouring the convention center, I couldn’t find anyone or even a dealer who would upgrade my Italian Signed Volcanic Island to German for me to get a matching signature (Brian Snoddy signs with the year now) for a reasonable price. I was estimated at $250 on the low end and $400 on the high end when the difference is only about $100. Ridiculous. If you’re interested in seeing my complete signed haul, I did post pictures to the TES Facebook group as well as the Givememana’s Signed MTG Card group!
I was lucky enough to meet James Hsu and Kai Sawatari for the first time! James was nice enough to pick up two Japanese foil Dark Petitions for me and get them signed at Grand Prix: Beijing the weekend before. What a great guy! I really appreciate it – he’s definitely a stand up guy. I managed to watch and converse with both of them throughout the weekend which was incredibly fun. You can read James Hsu’s work here.
That night, the five of us went to Harmon Pub which was a fairly similar atmosphere to Empire Brewing Company (one of my favorite bars) here in Syracuse, NY. Unfortunately, the service wasn’t very great, we waited about ten minutes after being seated for our drink orders and then everything took progressively longer after that. We spent about two hours there (we didn’t take our time), on the bright side, the food & drink were both fairly good. I wouldn’t say it was completely awful, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Let’s get to the event, here’s the deck list I played!
- 4 Infernal Tutor
- 4 Burning Wish
- 4 Brainstorm
- 4 Ponder
- 4 Gitaxian Probe
- 4 Cabal Therapy
- 2 Duress
- 1 Empty the Warrens
- 1 Ad Nauseam
After losing my round to Roland Chang at EE3 (You can read about that here) due to not playing a non-Volcanic Island red source, I began to reevaluate my mana base. While I do not think Badlands is a terrific answer, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with it so far. I think that another land that doesn’t cast cantrips isn’t exactly desirable, it’s bearable if you shove the Bayou in the sideboard. The largest advantage is that if you open up a hand with Underground Sea and a Bloodstained Mire or Polluted Delta, you can fetch on the second turn searching for Badlands to cast a discard spell. This accomplishes both the immediate need for a black source while providing a red mana the following turns. You can see these changes in the list above compared to what I played at EE3.
Round one: BYE
2-0 | 1-0
Round two: BYE
2-0 | 2-0
Round three: Robert Carrigan with Burn
Robert had shaggy unkept hair, wearing a brown shirt with some sort of small red design in the center. His sleeves were also some sort of brown mixture with a hint of red. He didn’t look like someone who would be playing Islands. I thought to myself, “Definitely some kind of MUD deck or Burn”. I wasn’t wrong!
Game one: I start the event with a Volcanic Island and Ponder. Robert plays Goblin Guide and attacks. I play Brainstorm, search using Polluted Delta for Underground Sea and cast Cabal Therapy naming Eidolon of the Great Revel. Miss. Mountain, Mountain, Scalding Tarn, Rift Bolt, Lightning Bolt, Monastery Swiftspear. Robert lays a Mountain, Monastery Swiftspear and then suspends Rift Bolt. He attacks and passes. I draw, lay a third land. Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Lotus Petal, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Chrome Mox. In response to the Chrome Mox imprint trigger, Ad Nauseam. In response to Ad Nauseam, sacrifice Lion’s Eye Diamond for three black mana.
Sideboarding: -2 Duress, +2 Chain of Vapor.
Game two: Robert mulligans to five, starts off with a suspended Rift Bolt. I play a turn one Ponder once again. I take three from Rift Bolt and then Lava Spike. I draw, Ponder again. Underground Sea, Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Chrome Mox, Chrome Mox, Infernal Tutor, Burning Wish and Tendrils of Agony.
Not a bad way to start the event!
2-0 | 3-0
Round four: Mike Berry with Infect
Game one: Mike mulligans and starts with Pendlehaven into Glistener Elf. I play a Ponder off of Volcanic Island. He plays a Forest and then a kicker Vines of the Vastwood and attacks. I play Gitaxian Probe: Blighted Agent, Brainstorm and Jace, the Mind Scultor? Interesting. Coast is clear, Underground Sea, Dark Ritual, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor and Ad Nauseam.
Sideboarding: -2 Ponder, -1 Empty the Warrens, -1 Swamp, +3 Xantid Swarm, +1 Bayou.
Game two: My opening hand is Xantid Swarm, Xantid Swarm, Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor and Underground Sea. Mike once again starts with a Glistener Elf. I draw a Bloodstained Mire and search for Bayou. Cast Xantid Swarm. Mike attacks and doesn’t kill me, I attack Mike and then kill him.
2-0 | 4-0
Round five: Chris Ahlquist with Death & Taxes
Game one: I win the die roll and play Volcanic Island, pass. Chris plays Plains into AEther Vial. On my turn, I fetch up basic Swamp and Burning Wish for Massacre. He adds a counter to his AEther Vial, plays Karakas and passes. I draw Ad Nauseam for turn… lay a land, Dark Ritual, Ad Nauseam.
Sideboarding: -2 Duress, -1 Ponder, +2 Chain of Vapor, +1 Void Snare.
Game two: “Plains, go” is the start from Chris. I play a Bloodstained Mire. On Chris’s turn he plays a second Plains and Ethersworn Canonist. I play another fetch land, activate both finding Volcanic Island and basic Swamp. Burning Wish for Massacre. Chris plays a Wasteland destroying my Volcanic Island, then a Phyrexian Revoker on Lion’s Eye Diamond. I play Massacre, Gitaxian Probe, Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor (Rite of Flame), Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Burning Wish, Empty the Warrens. Chris picks up his cards immediately.
Staying strong! I think those two instances of Massacre were the most time I’ve used Massacre in the last six months.
2-0 | 5-0
Round six: Nick Lore with Miracles
He’s wearing a Chicago Cubs hat, I make a joke about how the New York Mets knocked them out. He jokes back and seems like a friendly guy.
Game one: I win the die roll, mulligan and start with a Polluted Delta and pass. He plays Arid Mesa and passes, I took at him, he’s not playing Burn. he’s clearly a Miracles player. I cast Burning Wish on turn two for Past in Flames. Nick plays a Scalding Tarn, cracks it for Tundra and plays Sensei’s Diving Top. I play Infernal Tutor revealing Dark Ritual, he spins top and plays Counterbalance. I attempt to power through it multiple times, but eventually lose to Monastery Mentor.
Sideboarding: -4 Ponder, -2 Chrome Mox, -1 Swamp, +3 Abrupt Decay, +3 Xantid Swarm, +1 Bayou.
Game two: This game is a long one, at one point through discard spells and him casting Force of Will (Removing: Flusterstorm) on my Xantid Swarm (cast off Lotus Petal), I leave nick with 3 lands in hand and 2 in play. My hand is stacked, I can combo out the next turn with Abrupt Decay in hand. He draws and plays Counterbalance. I haven’t used a fetch land this game and haven’t seen one yet. I play Gitaxian Probe (Counterbalance misses), I then cast Ponder, Nick uses a fetch land to shuffle, (Counterbalance misses), shuffle off Ponder. Brainstorm? (Counterbalance hits). I can’t find a green source for six turns, by this time Nick has a Sensei’s Divining Top and has rebuilt his hand. I end up losing.
0-2 | 5-1
Round seven: Ben Seck with Shardless BUG
Game one: I win the die roll and keep a hand of: Gitaxian Probe, Chrome Mox, Rite of Flame, Dark Ritual, Burning Wish, Infernal Tutor and Ad Nauseam. Not exactly ideal, but a possible turn one. It’s tough to argue that I should’ve mulliganed. The Gitaxian Probe revealed: Brainstorm, Deathrite Shaman, Shardless Agent, Abrupt Decay, Maelstrom Pulse, Polluted Delta and Verdant Catacomb. I never draw a mana source before my life total is too low for Ad Nauseam.
Game two: I manage to resolve an Ad Nauseam from 12 life with a red mana floating after a few Gitaxian Probes paired with Deathrite Shaman. My deck revealed a bunch of Tutor effects and Empty the Warrens. Died.
I felt a little defeated after this round, I had opportunities to win this round and the last but my deck didn’t carry through.
0-2 | 5-2
Round eight: Alex Sittner with Shardless BUG
I’m a little tilted at this point and stopped taking notes, sorry that this round isn’t very detailed.
Game one: Alex starts with a Thoughtseize, a second turn Deathrite Shaman and a third turn Shardless Agent into Hymn to Tourach. Possibly the best start he could’ve had. By the time I can do anything, he’s had enough time to find a pair of Force of Will for my combo turn.
Game two: A long game, I use Massacre to kill a Deathrite Shaman and Meddling Mage. He plays another of each, in the middle of a Brainstorm, I called a judge. I see a line in my hand, if I can Past in Flames, replay my Massacre and then Empty the Warrens I can maybe win. The floor judge says Past in Flames and Massacre is the same as Force of Will and Snapcaster Mage, I ask him to just check his phone. He says it’s actually worded differently, but still shouldn’t work. I appeal for the sake of appealing. Head judge confirms the ruling, I feel foolish. I didn’t realize he was at sixteen from Thoughtseize and fetch lands. I can naturally storm him out.
Game three: I mulligan, due to the tilt I forget to scry, (would’ve kept the Ponder I drew). However, Alex has a pair of Hymn to Tourach to destroy my hand. I lose this game slowly.
1-2 | 5-3
Round nine: Josh with Elves
We get deck checked, which is a little frustrating since we’re both out of contention and how uncomfortably expensive my deck is to be handing off to a stranger. If anyone remembers Gencon a few years ago, thieves were pretending to be judges and doing “deck checks”. I’ve been paranoid ever since. That said, Josh is a nice guy. It’s his first large event, he mentioned he wanted to brag to his wife that he finished the event with a winning record. But moreso, wanted to watch his friend play for day two. Which the deck check is slowing down.
Game one: I win the die roll and start with Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Infernal Tutor and Ad Nauseam.
Josh laughs and says that he’s glad he waited for the deck check. Concedes the second game so that he can watch his friend.
1-0 | 6-3
The Die Roll: 5-2
Ad Nauseam Wins: 5
Empty the Warrens Wins: 1
Natural Storm Wins: 2
Past in Flames Wins: 0
A mediocre 6-3 finish, kind of disappointing, especially after a strong start. I definitely felt the variance in Magic: The Gathering, three rounds in a row where I felt that my deck failed me in small ways. However, that’s the game we play. I posted that I was considering shaving a land from the main deck for a third Chrome Mox for better Ad Nauseams, I haven’t played three Chrome Mox in a while (Probably over a year) – it’s something I’ll have to test. If I were to go back down to thirteen, the last month is the first time I’ve ever played as many as fourteen lands, I would cut the second Volcanic Island as the Badlands has been decent. If I had brought a third Chrome Mox with me to the event, I would’ve tried this the next day during the Legacy side event.
Saturday night we went to a Japanese Restaurant near the convention center that appeared to be “fine” dining. I walk in and am greeted by Delver of Secrets enthusiast Bob Huang as well as Anuraag Das, we’re seated quickly and the waitress comes over shortly after. Better start than the previous night, right? The first thing out of the waitresses mouth isn’t, “Hi, how are you all tonight?” but instead, “Kitchen closes in fifteen, if you want anything you have to order it now” while smacking her lips. Being unfamiliar with Japanese food, a few of us (including myself) asked a few questions to which she seemed annoyed answering. At this point, Patrick Chapin, Tom Martell and Matt Sperling walked in. They’re told they would have to sit at the bar, they walk over and after sitting Patrick looks over and sees two tables open just not bused yet. Walks over and starts to do it himself, all of a sudden there’s an issue. Eventually they’re seated in booths. Our appetizers come out with no silverware, when we request them, the waitress doesn’t say anything and comes back with them a minute later. Over an hour after this, three of the five entrees come out. Telling the other two individuals that they ran out of sushi rice… by the time their orders come out the three of us we’re done eating. Once again over two hours of bad service in Tacoma. I would not recommend that place to anyone. The only bright side of that place was the huge gong you were able to ring on the way in and out of the resturant.
The next day I cheered on Paolo and Eli as they made day two of the event before my Legacy side event began, I ran the same seventy-five as the day before.
Round one: AJ McReynolds with Reliquary Retreat
AJ seems nervous, I’m pretty relaxed and kind of still upset at the same time that I’m playing in a side event rather than day 2 of the main event. Either way, here we go!
Game one: AJ wins the due roll and plays Tropical Island into Birds of Paradise. I draw Rite of Flame for turn, cast Gitaxian Probe. Coast is clear! Draw another Rite of Flame! Bloodstained Mire for Badlands, Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Rite of Flame, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Burning Wish, Dark Petition and Ad Nauseam.
Sideboarding: -1 Empty the Warrens, -1 Ponder, +2 Chain of Vapor.
Game two: AJ plays a Windswept Heath and passes. I play a Bloodstained Mire and do the same. He plays a Dryad Arbor and passes. I draw a Gitaxian Probe and fire it off: Taiga, Knight of the Reliquary, Retreat to Coralhelm, Daze, Daze and Daze. Aha! I play a second land and pass. AJ plays the Taiga and then lays Knight on the table. I draw for turn and it’s Ad Nauseam. Play a land, Lotus Petal, Rite of Flame, Lion’s Eye Diamond and cast Ad Nauseam.
AJ points me to his friend a few tables down playing TES, I watch him for a few minutes before turning in the match slip.
2-0 | 1-0
Round two: Michael Wagenfuhr with TES
I knew what Michael was playing due to playing his friend round one who pointed him out. “This should be fun…”, I thought.
Game one: I win the die roll and start off with a Duress: Gitaxian Probe, Gitaxian Probe, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Burning Wish, Rite of Flame, Lotus Petal and Volcanic Island. I take the Lion’s Eye Diamond as if he draws an Infernal Tutor, it’s real bad news in a threat dense deck. The following turns, I play a cantrip into Cabal Therapy discarding a pair of Rite of Flame and Dark Ritual. On the fourth turn, I make sixteen goblins and flashback both Cabal Therapy leaving him without a hand.
Sideboarding: -1 Empty the Warrens, +1 Bayou.
Game two: I don’t have notes on this one, I do remember that he killed me with Goblins and flashback’d a single Cabal Therapy on the third turn.
Game three: This game is long and defined by discard with Lion’s Eye Diamonds sitting on the table. My Ad Nauseam has been discarded, making Infernal Tutor much worse. It’s the Tutor effect that I draw, I use it to find Burning Wish for Past in Flames. The next turn, I flashback Ad Nauseam.
Unfortunately after the round, Michael had his deck stolen. I never heard if he found it, he said he left it on a table mistakenly. If anyone knows anything about this, please message myself or him on Facebook.
2-1 | 2-0
Round three: Maxwell Goddord with Elves
I chat with Max a bit before the match, he seems like a smart guy and dressed in a button up shirt. I put him on some sort of blue deck, maybe RUG Delver?
Game one: I win the die roll and keep. Max takes a minute and says he needs to count, I jokingly ask if I’m dead. He chuckles and keeps. I play a Polluted Delta and pass. He plays Bayou into Quirion Ranger. I have the option to Brainstorm on his end step or hope to draw a land so that I could have a perfect Brainstorm, I do that, as I have a Lotus Petal which can help with that as well. My draw for the turn is Lion’s Eye Diamond! No need to Brainstorm now! I joke that I need to do some math now. Search up Badlands, Chrome Mox (Imprint: Brainstorm), Lotus Petal, Dark Ritual, Rite of Flame, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Burning Wish, Dark Petition, Ad Nauseam.
Sideboarding: -1 Empty the Warrens, -1 Duress, +2 Chain of Vapor.
Game two: Max has a strong start after a mulligan, which consists of Cabal Therapy naming Lion’s Eye Diamond and hitting one in my hand. During my draw step, he plays Surgical Extraction removing the others (Making note of the Chain of Vapors and now many). I start with a Gitaxian probe: Dryad Arbor, Quirion Ranger and Natural Order. I play my own Cabal Therapy and discard his Natural Order. He plays the two remaining known cards in his hand on his next turn. I play a Brainstorm, search using a Bloodstained Mire and Ponder. Max flashbacks his Cabal Therapy naming Chain of Vapor then casts a Natural order after attacking. I’m at 16 with a pair of Burning Wish on top of my deck. He searches up Ruric Thar, the Unbowed. I play Burning Wish for Void Snare, going to four and leaving him with a Gaea’s Cradle and a Bayou. Over the next two turns, I kill him with Burning Wish into Past in Flames.
After the match, Max says that he had a second turn Natural Order for Ruric Thar, the Unbowed in game one, YIKES!
2-0 | 3-0
Round four: Kai Sawatari with ANT
Talking to Kai the round before and knowing that we were both 3-0 in this 200 person event, that there was a real chance we would play. Sure enough, it happened!
Game one: I won the die roll and immediately play a pair of Lion’s Eye Diamond on the table right before I cast Gitaxian Probe into Cabal Therapy: Preordain, Dark Ritual, Cabal Ritual, Cabal Therapy Lion’s Eye Diamond, Underground Sea and Volcanic Island. I take his Lion’s Eye Diamond to ensure that doesn’t kill me. I would’ve had a second turn kill, but Kai returns the favor of discarding my Infernal Tutor (blind name). We turn it into a discard heavy/cantrip centric game. Which TES has the advantage in due to being more threat dense, I draw a Burning Wish into Dark Petition and cast Ad Nauseam.
Sideboarding: -1 Empty the Warrens, +1 Bayou.
Game two: I keep a hand of: Dark Ritual, Dark Ritual, Infernal Tutor, Ad Nauseam, Underground Sea, Lotus Petal and Lion’s Eye Diamond. Not bad! Well, Kai sometimes isn’t a gentleman and starts off with Giatxian Probe into Cabal Therapy. Two Dark Ritual down, sigh. I draw Ponder, cast it, play my artifact mana and pass. Kai then casts Brainstorm right before a slew of rituals and kills me with Ad Nauseam.
Game three: The third game is incredibly similar to the first game, I eventually Ponder into Burning Wish, Infernal Tutor and Burning Wish leaving them in that order. Cast Burning Wish for Past in Flames and pass. I have to hope that Kai doesn’t kill me as I’ve ran out of discard spells. He plays a Cabal Therapy to discard the Past in Flames and passes. From here, I know I’ve won. I draw Infernal Tutor cast it, searching for a second Lion’s Eye Diamond (I would’ve gotten Dark Ritual, but needed the extra mana so that I could have Black and Red after Past in Flames resolved). Play the Lion’s Eye Diamond, sacrifice both and Flashback Past in Flames floating a black with an untapped Badlands. Cast Dark Ritual and Infernal Tutor for Lion’s Eye Diamond. Play it and generate three blue mana. Flashback three Gitaxian Probe and then Ponder, at this point I have everything I need. Play the Rite of Flame in my hand, then the one that was already in the grave yard, Burning Wish (Drawn off of a Gitaxian Probe) and finish him with a Tendrils of Agony.
2-1 | 4-0
Round five: Maxime Dionnet with Miracles
I sat next to Maxime the previous round, I knew this would be a challenge.
Game one: Max wins the die roll and begins with a Flooded Strand. I start the match off with a Gitaxian Probe: Counterbalance, Brainstorm, Ponder, Swords to Plowshares, Plains and Monastery Mentor.. This doesn’t look good, I follow up with Volcanic Island into Ponder. Max casts Brainstorm on my end step and sits there for a minute, puts two back and untaps. Plays Ponder, shuffles, draws and plays the Plains. I got lucky! His Brainstorm didn’t find a blue source! I untap and play the second Gitaxian Probe from my hand, which would reveal the same hand with two more Monastery Mentor! I then play Brainstorm, Lotus Petal, Chrome Mox, three copies of Rite of Flame, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Burning Wish, Dark Petition into Empty the Warrens for twenty goblins! Which is enough to secure the round. I could’ve went for Ad Nauseam, but after my luck the day before I figured this had better odds with no land drop left and using two initial mana sources already.
Sideboarding: -4 Ponder, -2 Chrome Mox, -1 Swamp, +3 Abrupt Decay, +3 Xantid Swarm, +1 Bayou.
Game two: Max mulligans once and starts off with a Ponder. I play a Polluted Delta and pass. Max then plays Pithing Needle, I respond and search up Bayou – Max names Bloodstained Mire. I play the Badlands in my hand with an Abrupt Decay, two Infernal Tutor and a few Ritual effects. I play Infernal Tutor to find a second copy of Abrupt Decay. Max plays Counterbalance on his turn, I then draw Bloodstained Mire for turn. I destroy his Counterbalance on his end step after he plays a Sensei’s Divining Top. I draw a Duress, I pass and destroy the Pithing Needle on his end step so that I can become Hellbent (He was tapped out so the top was a blind draw). I draw a Burning Wish, which stops me from becoming Hellbent for Infernal Tutor into Ad Nauseam. I Duress Max: Vendilion Clique, Ponder and Swords to Plowshares. Ponder down? Cast Burning Wish for Past in Flames, pass. Max upkeep spins his Sensei’s Diving Top and plays Counterbalance. Frustrating. It doesn’t matter as I draw my last Abrupt Decay which would destroy his enchantment during Max’s end step. I untap, Max plays his Vendilion Clique on my draw step but no matter what he takes my hand is able to combo off. He opts to take my Burning Wish, I play my rituals into Past in Flames, flash them all back, flash back Abrupt Decay to hit his Sensei’s Diving Top (This stops Flusterstorm from winning the game), play Duress again and proceed to win from there!
2-0 | 5-0
The Die Roll: 3-2
Ad Nauseam Wins: 5
Empty the Warrens Wins: 2
Natural Storm Wins: 0
Past in Flames Wins: 4
The side event managed to give me enough tickets for two booster boxes of Battle for Zendikar, an Ultra-Pro binder (which I needed to store the prints for the flight back) and a mana flip deck box. Not bad! That night we decided we wanted to go to a sports bar to catch some of Sunday Night Football. We Google’d “best sports bar Tacoma” and went to Lose the Wheel, it was so much better than either experience from the previous nights. Not to mention that on Sundays there was free Pool, which was a plus. The flight back was long and tiring, lots of turbulence too due to the weather. I finally landed in Syracuse to conclude my weekend.
I would like to give some props to Donny Yeh for making Day 2 with TES! An even bigger congratulations to Paolo Cesari for making top 16 after unfortunately losing his win-and-in round.
Thanks for reading, feel free to drop me a message or ask a question using the contact form below. Any questions will likely be featured in an upcoming TES Mailbox article. I’ll see you all at SCG: New Jersey!
Until then, keep storming.