Hello everyone! My name is Cody Gravelle, and I’m a Magic player sponsored by Top 8 Gaming in Niagara Falls, Canada. I recently enjoyed my best GP tournament finish at Grand Prix Toronto, and I’d like to share some details on it while also attempting to make some of it interesting to read – results may vary, of course. Hope you enjoy!
Friday – Peezy Me Softly
Heading into the GP, I felt completely lost in Modern. I’d messed around with UR Breach, Madcap Moon, Temur Moon, Humans, and Dredge over the past few months leading up to the event, and while each deck felt fine individually – with the exception of Dredge, which was completely abysmal and lost to people’s random mainboard Relics if matchups broke the wrong way – none of them felt “right.” It was like I was trying to find my Modern Prince Charming, and I just kept kissing a bunch of frogs.
Thankfully, my ability to remain malleable on my deck choice (read: inability to commit) lead me to an article that Gerry Thompson wrote for Star City Games the day before the GP. In it, Gerry discusses the ins and outs of Mardu Pyromancer, the deck he took to a Pro Tour finals finish, and something he continued to recommend moving forward.
Mardu Pyromancer – Cody Gravelle (9th)
I had been intrigued by the deck’s online results for a month or so, but had never pulled the trigger on testing it, instead assuming it to be another of Magic Online’s weird metagame abberations that would fail to see the light of day in paper Magic. Gerry’s finish proved me wrong, however, and I was much more willing to give the deck a shot.
I travelled to the GP early Friday with the full intention of picking up Mardu Pyromancer singles that I needed and then deciding between it and Humans, which I had in my bag. I got to the event, picked up everything I needed, and then looked at Young Pyromancer and Lingering Souls side-by-side. Everything around me became a little bit brighter, it smelled like a field of fresh flowers (which is, when you’re attending a GP, a sure sign you’re having a break from reality), and I just knew. Young Pyromancer, my best friend in Legacy, and Lingering Souls, a Card I Have Played Before, would guide me to a strong GP finish.
Or, at the very least, I’d be able to make a bunch of tokens against an Affinity player and make them seriously consider throwing their deck in the garbage. Either result would be acceptable to me.
I jammed exactly one practice match before we went back to our condo, which was easily the best part of the trip and I highly recommend should you ever need to book a place in Toronto. It was cheaper than every hotel we looked at, only a 10 minute Uber ride from the venue, and was a condo made for someone who clearly could afford to own multiple condos in Toronto and rent one out on the weekends – it was swanky. It even had on-site laundry.
Instead of just practicing meaningless matches of Magic against my teammates, I just watched the PT coverage of Gerry playing the deck, then read every article I could find on it, which amounted to roughly two of them. The deck played out in a way that made sense to me, and I had a lot of reps with Pyro + discard + kill you strategies before, so instead of iterating the same plays over and over I looked for the more interesting lines and mulligan strategies against decks I expected to face. Was this the correct decision? Would a few more matches have put me in the top 8?
The answer is, I don’t know. Possibly? There was definitely one game that got away from me on Day 1 that felt like I could’ve easily won, but I proceeded to get extremely favourable pairings from that loss onward, so I’m not certain what my tournament would’ve looked like had I won that one. In a vaccuum, it’s always right to playtest a deck as thoroughly as you can before a tournament, but in practice, for those of us without much time, I strongly recommend studying up like I did instead.
Tim and I went back to our condo at around 4pm sharp, and Tim, fresh off a poker bender the night before, proceeded to fall asleep sitting up on the couch, in much the same fashion as someone who has just passed away peacefully might do. I then get a call from the condo owner saying the cleaning lady hadn’t been by, and if now was an okay time. Failing to see why it should be an issue, I said sure.
Ten minutes later, the lady shows up and I whisper to her at the front door that my friend is sleeping and I would really appreciate it if she would be quieter than usual. She says no problem, stomps her boots in the doorway to get the snow off them, and gets to work. I knew this was going to be a problem the second she threw her bag into the sink, a maneuver I’m not entirely sure of the point of, and then cleared her throat loudly before snapping on some rubber gloves in the way you usually see comedy sketches do it.
I underestimated one thing, however: Tim’s sleep-deprived body’s commitment to never waking up for anything. He remained, snoring peacefully, throughout the maid’s entire stay. She was actually on her hands and knees cleaning the floor underneath his legs, and he failed to so much as twitch uncomfortably. I am fairly certain she believed he was actually dead, because when I asked her how much of a tip is customary for this sort of thing, she just sort of cautiously glanced at Tim, back to me, and said “please, nothing” before hurrying out of the room. Tim woke up about 3 hours later, unsure of where he was or what had happened.
I fell asleep at like, 10:30pm. I’m turning 27 soon, and I’m fairly certain 27 is the new 80. I don’t understand music anymore, I no longer enjoy memes, and I’m pretty sure I complained loudly about the “youths” a few times this tournament, particularly when one of them sneezed onto the playmat in front of me and then kept walking.
Saturday – Pyro’s Soft First Touches
Shoutout to whoever gets the RPG quest I’m referencing in the title for Saturday. I’ll give you a hint: it has something to do with mirrors.
We rolled up at the event right on time. I had no byes, so I was going to be doing things the hard way.
Round 1 – vs. Jeskai Kiki
I started off my tournament against the ol’ Modern stalwart of Jeskai Kiki. Did Shaun McClaren write another article about this deck recently? Serious question – there was a decent chunk of it in the room, and the only reason I can possibly see to sleeve it up would be if someone really smart swindled a bunch of folks into thinking Wall of Omens is a playable Modern card still.
The match wasn’t that interesting, truth be told. I Blood Mooned my opponent in Game 1 on the play when they had fetched Sacred Foundry and Hallowed Fountain; in Game 2, I used Thoughtseize twice and their hand became 2 Kikis and air. Sometimes a 2/2 hasty goblin is good, and sometimes it is Kiki-Jiki.
Round 2 – Burn
Burn felt like a close matchup heading into it. I was very aware Searing Blaze could be backbreaking if I tapped out for a Young Pyromancer, but it’s not like my deck has countermagic instead. I won my games quickly and without Bedlam Reveler, especially in the sideboard game thanks to my opponent’s two Rest in Peaces. Turns out Young Pyromancer doesn’t care where your spells go after you cast them.
Round 3 – UR Pyromancer
I win a Game 1 grindfest on the back of Bedlam Reveler, which is an absolutely backbreaking card in this matchup – their closest thing to a Reveler is Ancestral Vision, which is just way too slow.
…or so I thought, until I lost Games 2 and 3 to my opponent’s turn 1 and turn 2 Ancestral Vision starts. I wasn’t able to apply enough pressure in the early game before my opponent’s card advantage took over, and by the time my opponent resolved an Ancestral Vision on 5 lands and passed without making a land drop in Game 3, I knew this match was done.
Round 4 – Counters Company
This is one of the matchups that makes Mardu Pyromancer feel like a Legacy deck in a field of Modern brews. Fatal Push, Lightning Bolt, Collective Brutality, Terminate, Thoughtseize, and Inquisition of Kozilek are all nightmare cards for Company to deal with, and you’re running multiples of all of them. Your attackers aren’t even being threatened by their value creatures – they either fly over them or punch through, and most of them are free, which makes the grind plan out of Company very difficult.
Round 5 – Affinity
My opponent this round had some truly broken starts, but I also drew Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt in both my opening hands, followed by hardcast Lingering Souls in both games. Lingering Souls is still the bane of Affinity’s existence, and it shut down the board long enough for me to stick a Reveler and bury my opponent in card advantage. I was curious about whether or not it was correct to sideboard exactly zero copies of Stony Silence in a deck with white in it, but after playing Affinity several times at GP Toronto, I don’t think it’s needed in the slightest. Kolaghan’s Command was super impressive here, as expected.
Round 6 – Burn
Here’s a fun story: I mulliganed to five Game 1, and my opening hand on the draw was Young Pyromancer, Lightning Bolt, Fatal Push, and two lands. I scryed and saw Collective Brutality. I was on the play, and felt my hand was good enough that I should look for a bigger payoff, like a Looting or cheaper spells, rather than keep what would be a very mediocre Brutality in most instances. I scryed to the bottom. My opponent leads on Goblin Guide, and I flip over Manamorphose.
I play Marsh Flats and pass, and my opponent plays a second Goblin Guide and a Swiftspear. I kill a Goblin after the first trigger reveals air, but the second trigger reveals my second Manamorphose, and I concede the game in the hopes my opponent somehow misreads my deck.
I get paid off, as my opponent convinces himself I am playing Grishoalbrand. I keep a reasonable 7, my opponent mulligans to 6, and I lead on an Inquisition, revealing 2 Rest in Peace, 2 Eidolon of the Great Revel, and 2 lands. I take an Eidolon, and feel like I’m in good shape, with a Push for the second Eidolon, an unfortunate Reveler, and a Young Pyromancer to accompany lands.
I literally never draw anything except lands for the rest of the game, and lose to a lowly Swiftspear and my opponent’s stream of burn spells off the top. After the game, my opponent mutters something about surviving the match despite sideboarding for Storm.
Round 7 – Esper Control
This was a weird match because there’s no such thing as a “stock” Esper Control list and I had no idea what angle he was attacking on. He ended up having maindeck Wrath effects and Secure the Wastes, but my Blood Moon won a lengthy Game 1 and Liliana of the Veil and Blood Moon formed a dream team combination to steal me a Game 2 that felt as though it was slipping away.
Round 8 – Mono White Humans
I’d heard a few stories about this deck kicking around the tournament hall. Players complaining about losing to a bunch of uncommon 2/1s that happen to share the sub-type Human. A man, shivering in the corner, rambling about Elite Vanguards and Thalia’s Lieutenants. I think there was some graffiti scrawled in the bathroom that warned us all of the oncoming storm, and how we should Brave the Elements in response.
As it turns out, a deck that is primarily 2/1 creatures looking for only a limited number of payoff cards to grow them is not very good at fighting through Young Pyromancer’s Elemental tokens and some removal spells. While the 5C Humans matchup already feels pretty good, eschewing most of that for an aggressive curve in Mono White Humans makes it even better. I lost Game 1 after a mulligan and a very strong start, but I won Game 2 and Game 3 off some extremely good Forked Bolt value and playing around Brave the Elements, which my opponent showed me in Game 1. In Game 3, I had 2 souls tokens and 2 elementals, and I made a weird attack with 1 soul and 1 elemental into a 2/1 blocker that wasn’t doing anything else because I knew I needed to have a blocker of two different colors to survive. Sure enough, my opponent drew their card for the turn, said “I think I have you”, and played a Lieutenant to grow his Champion of the Parish into a lethal threat. He played Brave the Elements, declared Red confidently, and then turned his card sideways. I politely asked to move to blocks and put my spirit token in front of it and won the game on the crackback.
To be honest, making Day 2 was a bigger deal to the people around me than to myself. I’d been there before, and although I don’t play many GPs, I felt like it was time to “level up” in the sense that I should stop being satisfied with just doing well enough to get to the second day of the tournament. I privately resolved to myself to take the next day seriously – something I really struggle with in general – and to take it one match at a time.
Tim and Ryan, my teammates on Top 8 Gaming‘s Magic team, both failed to Day 2 and were resigned to playing the PTQ tomorrow. We went to grab dinner at Real Sports, which was literally next door to our condo, and met up with a friend of mine who lives in Toronto now. Tim bought shorts for some reason – I’m still not clear on why, but we had to stop at a Sport Chek and he had to make sure they “looked nice”, as if mesh shorts ever looked acceptable on anyone other than an elementary school kid in gym class. Dude seriously took minutes deciding which shorts were correct, while I assured him none were. Then we went to a grocery store to buy toothpaste, a toothbrush, a bottle of water, and granola bars, because I would like to reiterate that I am very old and feel the need to act accordingly.
I went to bed around 10pm and woke up at 5am. I feel like I genuinely just aged every day of this trip.
Sunday – Blood Moon Rising
I got to the tournament site after a friendly Uber driver told us all he had almost died on the way to pick us up, then proceeded to never brake for anything, including stop signs. Luckily he didn’t, though, because I walked in just as they were announcing pairings for round 9. Must be nice, is, etc.
Round 9 – Affinity
See above. Same thing. We get into a really interesting race game 2 where I win the game at exactly 1 life and 9 poison, but after a few minutes of us retracing the lines, we both agree there wasn’t any way for him to punch through either of the 1 damage variants he needed to send us to a game 3.
Round 10 – Jeskai Kiki
I seriously don’t know why people were playing this deck. I mean no disrespect, as it is fun and I played it for a few months back before the Internet was invented, but it wasn’t really a “thing” in Modern still. I win with Blood Moon in games 1 and 3, losing in game 2 to burn spells after I got a little too fast and loose with my life total.
Round 11 – Jeskai Control
I wasn’t lying about getting good pairings. This opponent is much more the control variant of Jeskai than any sort of combo or tempo styling, as his 3 maindeck Supreme Verdicts prove. Unfortunately, discard spells into Bedlam Reveler are a thing, and Ancestral Recall attached to a 3/4 body is asking a lot out of a Jeskai opponent who has just been Blood Mooned…
After this round, I tweet that I should probably get my Blood Moons signed and framed after the GP. Oh, sweet, sweet foreshadowing…
Round 12 – Grixis Death’s Shadow
I play against an opponent who talks a lot, and does little things like “oh, sorry, I was lying to you” before playing a spell they said they didn’t have. I imagine that works on some people? I just tuned him out and felt bad about it – he seemed like a genuinely nice dude in between matches, but ain’t nobody got time for that (this is the last meme I am aware of having been made – it stopped after this right?)
To be a bit more technical, Grixis DS seems like a great matchup outside of the delve threats, but I had 2 maindeck Terminate this weekend which is 1 more than most – and I won Game 3 after the second Terminate cleaned up a board that let me push for lethal in a tight race.
Round 13 – AmuLIT (Edgar Magalhaes)
Edgar is – and I genuinely doubt he knows this, because he just plays great Magic all the time and beats opponents way better than me routinely – the bane of my tournament Magic existence. I am lifetime something like 0-4 versus him, have lost a few crucial matches to him swiftly, and always leave feeling like I got outplayed, despite the fact that Edgar is a gentleman.
Unfortunately, I am not. Edgar lost to a turn 3 Blood Moon Game 1, and then had something truly unfortunate beset him in Game 2. I will set the stage:
I have just resolved a Blood Moon. Edgar’s board is 2 basic forests, a Vesuva copying Blackcleave Cliffs, a few karoo lands, and a Radiant Fountain. From the way he’s been playing his last few turns, I get the distinct impression he’s been waiting on playing a Summoner’s Pact. I had the option of Blood Moon or Liliana of the Veil that turn, but I chose Blood Moon because it had the upside of just winning the game on the spot thanks to the other card in my hand.
Edgar draws, thinks, and plays Summoner’s Pact. He grabs a Tireless Tracker, Explores, dumps his hand and generates two clues. He passes.
I untap and can’t Molten Rain his basic Forest fast enough. He concedes on the spot, like a gentleman would. I know he felt bad about his choices in that game – he could have Vesuva’d the basic Forest, for instance, or grabbed Primeval Titan off Pact and found a third Forest that way – but I was bound to get lucky against him at some point, and I felt like that was the best I’d played versus him.
Round 14 – B/R Hollow One
This is easily the most terrifying matchup to play this close to a potential Top 8 at a GP and a PT invite. My opponent keeps six Game 1 with no lands and passes two turns without playing a land, and I still almost lose because his Burning Inquiry strips my hand of the resources I needed to close the game fast. Game 2 I lose to a Leyline of the Void, which makes me reconsider my sideboard plan – honestly, if he’s bringing in Leyline of the Void, I’m siding out 2 Bedlam Revelers because he’s losing some equity on all of his opening hands/draws with what I presume is 4 Leyline, meaning I just don’t want any straight-up dead draws and I think I can win. Game 3 is close but a Kolaghan’s Command that shatters a Hollow One, kills a Flamewake Phoenix and lets me crack a Nihil Spellbomb is enough to seal the deal. Time to play a win-and-in!
I thought I’d be more nervous. I’m not. I just listen to the Arctic Monkeys on Spotify while sitting, tranquilo, outside of a food truck. Pairings go up and I see I’m at table 8, the last of the x-2s. Uh oh.
Round 15 – 5c Humans
My opponent leads on a turn 2 Auriok Champion, the only copy of the card in his deck. He proceeds to copy it with Phantasmal Image and I look at my Young Pyro on board, my hand full of dead removal spells, and I wonder where it all went wrong…
Then I draw 3 Lingering Souls in a row. When you put a pyromancer in your deck, you tend to run hot.
My opponent gets all the way up to something like 49 life, but I’m able to kill every threat that isn’t an Auriok Champion and block them as they grow with Souls tokens to win the race. My opponent looks shellshocked. I am too. It feels like destiny.
Then my opponent mulligans to 5 on the play. I keep seven: Fatal Push, Forked Bolt, Lightning Bolt, Collective Brutality, Kolaghan’s Command, and two Blackcleave Cliffs. He scries to the top, which I later find out is Kambal, Consul of Allocation, and plays Ancient Ziggurat and Noble Hierarch. I Forked Bolt it, he misses his land drop, and I can feel the PT invite being given to me. The skies part, Young Pyromancer himself emerges riding Bedlam Reveler, and they both smile and tell me I’m going to the Pro Tour…
Or, actually, my opponent does that. I have a removal spell for every play he makes for the first 5 or so turns, and I eventually find a Young Pyromancer to clean up while he’s topdecking. I’m 13-2, and I’m a lock for Pro Tour Dominaria, although I have to sweat breakers for the Top 8.
If you’ve read the title of this tournament report, then you know how that tiebreaker sweat worked out for me. Being the only x-2 competitor to miss Top 8 feels bad, but I certainly can’t complain – I played my first fifteen meaningful matches with Mardu Pyromancer at GP Toronto, I was under-prepared, and pairings broke my way more often than not. While it sucks to miss the Top 8, it is amazing to realize I’m going to my very first Pro Tour this June.
I’d like to thank the amazing team I have supporting me at Top 8 Gaming, and, more specifically, to name some names: Tim, Ryan, Barry, Nicola, Gilles, Erik, Jay, my girlfriend Allie, and my parents. There’s probably a bunch more, but that’s just who springs to mind right away. Magic is a really cool game and I wouldn’t have met most of these people – save my girlfriend and my parents, who had no choice but to meet me when I was born, really – without it.
I’d also like to specially thank KYT. He’s been something of a Magic guru to me, not so much in instruction but in the sense that he has always been there supporting my runs even though we’ve barely spoken to each other. He’s the embodiment of Canadian Magic – a good person, a good player, and just someone you’d always like to have around – and I’m really proud he’s come to represent our growing Magic community the way he currently does.
And…that’s it, I guess. I tend to ramble, so I appreciate everyone who made it all the way through this, and I hope you had some fun while doing so. If you want to give me a follow, you can find me on Twitter @cm_GG, or on Instagram as astrucliteraryman. I really hope I get the opportunity to write another of these again, and next time, I hope it’s for an even better result – but if not, I hope I have some more stories to share.