I was very much looking forward to Grand Prix Providence. In fact, the team I had planned to be in was formed very shortly after the event was officially announced by Wizards. Now, normally, forming a team of 3 can be a challenge, but I went after two lone wolves, so I had no trouble on my end.
Josh Frankel, better known as solebush1 on Twitch, is someone that plays most of his Magic online. In fact, his playing time in real-life tournaments is so low in comparison, we have a habit of making fun of him for missing triggers that would have been automatically taken care of by MTGO. He has gained quite a following on Twitch and I believe he is among the most popular Magic: the Gathering streamers today (from what I know, he is definitely in the top 5).
Travis Sowers is someone that I had not previously met before in real-life prior to Grand Prix Providence. Nevertheless, he was absolutely the number one reason I took this trip this past weekend. Allow me to explain…
It’s been roughly a year that he has been my main video producer for ManaDeprived.com and I feel an obligation to meet anyone who has contributed a great deal of their time to the website. I think face to face meetings are an important part of making someone feel part of a team.
Last year, the main reason I decided to go to Grand Prix Atlanta was to meet David Mantel, one of my editors, for the very first time.
With two MTGO draft queue grinders on my team, how could this possibly go wrong? Due to my busy schedule, I was unable to get in as much practice as I wanted to, so I told Josh and Travis that I was going to lean on them heavily to make the decks for Day 1.
Our pool provided a lot of options to say the least as we opened up roughly 10 guildgates. Josh ended up with a solid WBb Extort deck featuring Angelic Skirmisher. Travis had some weird-looking 4 color concoction that featured Maze Abomination, Maze Glider, and Sire of Insanity. I sleeved up the following:
Day 1 Deck
This deck was REALLY sweet and helped us to an 8-2 record after Day 1. I was very pleased with the deck and the only card that under-performed was Cobblebrute though I am open to the idea that it was mainly because of matchup reasons. Cobblebrute just looks silly running up against either the Sunspire Gatekeepers or the Saruli Gatekeepers.
Moment of the Day
We were up against Ari Lax’s team. Travis had already won his match while Josh and I were playing our third game versus our opponents. At this point, my opponent is on the play and plays a turn 2 Pack Rat. I had beat it in the second game by replying with Ground Assault, but there was no Ground Assault in my hand this time. I look at Josh:
“It’s all on you buddy!”
I just felt like scooping my cards up as I answered the Pack Rat with a Zhur-Taa Druid. Was there a way I could even win this game? My opponent proceeded to attack me while making another rat. I draw Ground Assault. A little too late for that now, right? Or is it…
I was then reminded that sometimes you have to play to your only out and at this point, my only out was to play Kraul Warrior in the hopes that my opponent would walk his 2 rats into an Overloaded Weapon Surge which would then allow me to kill the 3rd one with Ground Assault. Thank goodness for us, this is what exactly happened. I definitely thought I was able to steal one there.
On Day 1, I kept telling the guys that I had barely drafted DGR more than once and that if we were to make Day 2, I would need someone to ship me some sort of Drafting DGR for Dummies guide. Of course, we wanted to focus on one match at a time on Day 1, so we never really worried about how I was going to survive the drafting portion the next day.
My goal for the three Day 2 drafts was to draft 3 decks that were going to give myself a chance to win some games. I’m sure a lot of you have had the experience of drafting decks that couldn’t buy a single win and if I were to do that, Josh and Travis would be under a tremendous amount of pressure to win all their matches.
Thankfully, I exceeded my own expectations and my teammates were blown away by my drafting performance. Here are the 3 decks that I drafted:
Feel free to let me know what you thought of my decks in the comments section!
Our team went 5-1 on Day 2. One of the questions that I have gotten is if our team had any sort of draft strategy heading into Day 2. We didn’t. We just trusted each other to come away from the draft table with a good deck.
Canadian pros Hayne and Stern were thinking outside of the box prior to the Grand Prix. They were testing out funky strategies such as having one person take all of the mana fixing as highly as possible to mess up the other team’s draft.
Our team decided to keep things simple. Draft normally and counter-draft bombs. I guess other teams weren’t exactly following this approach as there were stories of a passed Pack Rat along with a third pick Mizzium Mortars.
One of the things I did try to do was see if I could jump into a Gatecrash guild. This happened in drafts #2 and #3. In draft #2, I wasn’t really sure which direction I was going early. I then got passed a late Steeple Roc followed by some Boros Mastiffs that were the only playables in their packs. Once Gatecrash brought me Sunhome Guildmage and Homing Lightning early, I jumped on Boros. In draft #3, I was able to jump on 2 Zhur-Taa Druids early and I was lucky to open Clan Defiance as my Gatecrash rare.
Draft #1 was sort of strange. I was getting passed these explosive cards because the opponent to my right was forcing Gruul. In Pack 1, cards like Deadbridge Chant, Gaze of Granite. Melek, Izzet Paragon, and Blast of Genius were available later then I expected, so I just ended up with a mess, but with 2 Grisly Spectacles, I was not too unhappy with my final decklist… But yeah, 4 Cluestones? Not exactly ideal.
Josh, Travis, and I ultimately finished in 5th place, which to me, is an accomplishment. It is a little heart-breaking to see us one position away from qualifying for the Pro Tour, but being sad about it is not going to do us any good.
We went 13-3 in what some consider one of the most challenging formats possible. We celebrated the accomplishment and now it’s time for us to think about winning the next one.
The tournament was extremely fun and I absolutely cannot wait for the next one as we plan to reunite Tom/Frankel/Sowers to once again try to claim the top prize.
Another thing for me to look forward to is how Wizards plan to change the structure of these Team Sealed tournaments. Day 1 and Day 2 ended past midnight. That just shouldn’t happen. I know we are under good hands with Helene Bergeot, so we will see what gets modified.
I was more than happy with my play this weekend. I do need to do a lot of work on not being intimidated when I play celebrities of the game.
When I played against David Williams on Day 1, I missed multiple Zhur-Taa Druid activations, messed up on how to use my Armed // Dangerous spell at a very important junction of a game, and even struggled to hold my cards properly. I even forgot how Lifelink worked. It was quite the embarrassing match.
Gerry Thompson has since told me to stop putting people on pedestals and gave me advice that I need to frame somewhere on my wall:
Stop caring what people think about you or what you think about other people.
A Beautiful Story
Two of my closest friends, Barry Hum and Jeffrey Casselman, were in dire need of a third team member on the morning of the tournament. Their original third had an emergency to attend to on Friday morning and unfortunately could not make the trip. Luckily, with the help of one Amanda Stevens, they were given a girl by the name of Linda Wang as a teammate.
Linda had only started playing since Scars of Mirrodin and did not have much confidence in her game. She had, however, been looking forward to Grand Prix Providence for months yet had been unable to find any partners. From what I heard, she was holding up a sign at the event looking for teammates.
Despite her low confidence, Barry and Jeff happily added her to their squad and she did not disappoint as they had their backs against the wall after round 7 with a record of 5-2, but managed to roll off two straight wins to qualify themselves for Day 2.
I was pulling for this last-minute team all day and I was happy to see them do so well. Expect Barry Hum to post an article about his team and his awesome weekend very soon.
Team Sealed is a beautiful format in so many ways. For some, Grand Prix Providence turned into a place to form new friendships. We are definitely hoping Linda makes it up here for Grand Prix Toronto in December.
A few weeks ago, I had told people that I was going to go on a semi-hiatus. Magic was consuming too much of my life and it was affecting things that were very important to me. Maintaining the site on weeknights and going to events on weekends does not lead to a whole lot of time for other things.
My plan is to not travel outside of Montreal between July and December, ending my break conveniently at Grand Prix Toronto. Because if I don’t go to that one, one Scott MacCallum is going to be VERY angry with me. Now this doesn’t mean I am quitting Magic or anything. I just won’t be traveling to every GP/PTQ that I possibly can. However, I will try to be extremely prepared for the ones that I do attend.
Catch you all soon,