Once again, I didn’t do very well, but I enjoyed myself and I loved everyone. Actually, I don’t think I should classify finishing 11th at the Grand Prix in the didn’t do very well category. It’s my highest individual finish at a Grand Prix and is definitely going to be a huge source of motivation moving forward.
I had missed the previous Grand Prix Vancouver and I had to pass on the last two Canadian GPs because two of my friends somehow planned their weddings on the exact same dates. Attending GP Vancouver in 2014 was therefore important to me as I want to support Canadian Magic events whenever I can.
As a bonus, I was also elated to find out that two of my high school friends, Barry Hum and Ricardo Rambarran, were interested to fly across the country with me. Our fourth was Kenny Fung, a long time friend I met outside of the game.
No Snow in Vancouver
We landed in Vancouver on Thursday and it shocked all four of us how warm the weather was compared to Montreal and how there was a complete lack of snow. We thought winter would be miserable everywhere in Canada, but clearly, we were mistaken and began to fantasize about living the rest of our lives in Vancouver. The city is simply beautiful and clean.
Time to Grind
Because of my six month hiatus, I did not have the necessary Planeswalker Points to get me even one bye. I had made seven Grand Prix day-twos in a row up to this point and I knew how key byes were to my streak. I had made the decision before the trip that I was going to spend the Friday playing trials in an effort to earn myself two very important byes.
I was confident in the list that allowed me to clinch the top eight of the Toronto PTQ the weekend prior, so I just sleeved up the following once again:
[deck title=Mono Black Devotion by Brad Nelson]
4 Temple of Deceit
4 Desecration Demon
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Pack Rat
4 Underworld Connections
3 Devour Flesh
4 Hero’s Downfall
2 Pharika’s Cure
1 Ultimate Price
3 Lifebane Zombie
3 Dark Betrayal
2 Doom Blade
2 Pharika’s Cure
2 Erebos, God of the Dead
Ultimately, I managed to win the five rounds needed to claim the byes. I remember feeling a huge sense of relief when my opponent in the finals conceded and extended his hand. Last weekend marked my seventh top eight without a win and I think it was important for my psyche to know that I had the ability to close a tournament regardless of whether it was just a trial or not.
Ever since the last Grand Prix Montreal in 2011, Kenji Egashira, better known as super streamer NumotTheNummy, and I have been close friends. I first met him in real-life when I got him a very sweet place to crash at for that event and he constantly reminds me of how appreciative he still is for my gesture.
He arrived Friday night and decided to hang out with my crew. We went out to a fancy Japanese restaurant named Ebisu. I commented on how beautiful the city of Vancouver was earlier and I also have nothing but praise for the food options that the city provides, especially if you are into Asian cuisine.
After dinner, Ricardo put forth the idea of karaoke as our last activity of the evening.
Kenji: I’m in!
And just like that, it was decided. Kenji had actually been taking singing lessons recently and you can see the fruits of that over on his YouTube channel. You will definitely get to experience another dimension of NumotTheNummy.
After leaving the restaurant, we walked along Robson street and saw a karaoke place called Fantacity and let me just say that this is the cleanest karaoke place I had ever been to. You get to have your own individual room and the room itself comes with two tambourines that we definitely heavily used during our partying.
One of the most popular aspects of Kenji’s stream on Twitch is when someone becomes a subscriber, he screams NEW SUBSCRIBAAAH in a high pitch voice and begins to flail his arms like Kermit the Frog.
Kenny, Ricardo, Barry, and I went a little crazy when it came to taking this New Subscribaaah thing to a whole new level. All of us changed the lyrics of many songs just to fit the word subscriber in. We probably went a little overboard as Barry was convinced that Kenji was going to kill us all before the night was done.
Here’s a few examples of the songs we did to embarrass Kenji, but feel free to come up with your own lyrics!
I Want It That Way – Backstreet Boys
You are… My fire. The one… Subscriber.
U Remind Me – Usher
You remind me of a subscriber that I once knew.
Wonderwall – Oasis
And after all, you’re my subscriber!
We stayed up fairly late but there were certainly no regrets on my part. With Kenji being from Seattle and me being from Montreal, you just don’t get that many opportunities to hang out. What we planned to be a quick one-hour karaoke session turned into a full-fledged three-hour party.
Road to 11th
Thankfully, I wasn’t that tired on day one of the Grand Prix. I managed to cap the day off with an 8-1 record losing only to Matt Sperling who was also armed with the Mono Black Devotion deck. Sperling would go on to finish in the top eight of the event.
In the second game against Sperling, I misjudged the state of the game. My mind was too focused on the card advantage plan of having [card]Underworld Connections[/card] and [card]Erebos, God of the Dead[/card] in play that I neglected how fast Sperling’s clock on me was. He had Specters and [card]Desecration Demon[/card], so wasting time tapping out for an Erebos was a mistake. I should have dug deeper with Connections to find removal spells as soon as possible.
Still, with a record of 8-1, I made my eighth day two in a row and I felt extremely good about my overall play throughout the day. I have come a long way since that Syracuse PTQ where I had to play standing for three consecutive rounds.
Day two started off poorly as my first opponent of the day Ben Seck would tell you. I just mulliganed into oblivion against his Mono Blue Devotion deck but I didn’t let that affect my confidence. I was determined to finish strong and I accomplished that task with a record of 4-2 for the day, giving me a total record of 12-3 for the entire tournament.
I finished in 11th place and earned myself $600 along with 3 Pro Points which brings my lifetime total to 8. Despite coming so close again and not quite reaching the ultimate goal of qualifying for the Pro Tour, I walk away with the utmost drive to continue this quest. Even right now, I’m reflecting on mistakes I made in order to give myself a better chance of winning at my next event.
In my game against Paul Dunn on day two, I had an Erebos and an [card]Underworld Connections[/card] already in play. Paul, on his side, had a number of creatures, one of them being a [card]Nighthowler[/card]. He was playing a saucy version of Mono Black Aggro.
[deck title=Agent of Fates Aggro by Paul Dunn]
4 Agent of the Fates
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Pack Rat
4 Tormented Hero
3 Gift of Orzhova
2 Hero’s Downfall
3 Underworld Connections
4 Wring Flesh
4 Dark Betrayal
4 Doom Blade
4 Pharika’s Cure
At this point, I knew Paul had a least one [card]Dark Betrayal[/card] in his hand from an early discard spell that I had casted. He was tapped out. I played a Gray Merchant and passed the turn. Now because Paul was the one putting pressure on me, all my mind was focused on was to mitigate damage. Blocking was the only thing that I thought I could do.
My mistake was of course that I should have attacked with Erebos if I knew Paul had [card]Dark Betrayal[/card] for my Gray Merchant. Losing the two black devotion from the Merchant meant that Erebos would cease being a creature on his turn. If I wasn’t going to be able to block with it, then I definitely should have attacked.
This is the type of error I see myself making from time to time and maybe it’s just inexperience with certains cards or specific situations that cause these moments of tunnel vision. Jeph Foster and Jeremey Schofield were about to talk to me about my mistake after watching my game, but I told them what it was before they could. I just need to improve on spotting these mistakes when they matter.
This game actually ended up getting pretty crazy. I won the game with both of us being at 1. At one point, he was at 14 while I was at 1. He had two [card]Underworld Connections[/card] and you surely would have said that I was doomed. Of course, when he conceded, he showed me a grip of discard spells.
The turning point of the game was when he decided to chump block my Erebos with a [card]Pack Rat[/card] which allowed me to [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] the last one. If he had thrown away a [card]Nighthowler[/card], then it was going to be impossible for me to fend off his ability to make two [card]Pack Rat[/card]s a turn with one of his [card]Underworld Connections[/card] and six lands.
The Tournament Thanks You
The title of this article is inspired by one of the stories from Grand Prix Vancouver centered around my friend Kenny Fung. Throughout the week, we had been suggesting deck choices to Kenny, but ultimately, he opted to select Esper Control, a deck that he felt he was the most comfortable with due to his experience with the deck.
Now, I don’t think the deck is horrible. In fact, I helped him test his matchup against my Mono Black Devotion deck and the results seemed to indicate that he had a slight edge pre-board, but I was more than fine post-board. My issue with this type of deck is the propensity to receive draws, especially against the mirror. Kenny finished Day 1 with a record of 4-3-2.
At the end of the day, he started saying that he had the Blast-Off record because he was also given 1 warning, his first ever at a sanctioned tournament. It was handed to him during round 8 in the 3-2-2 bracket. Kenny was in game 2 in a match against another control deck. He was pondering on a decision he had to make from having cast his [card]Sin Collector[/card] until the following happened:
Judge: I’ve been hovering around your match and I am going to have to give you a warning for slow-playing.
Opponent: For what it’s worth, I don’t think he’s slow playing.
Judge: I’m about to give you a warning for slow playing.
After the warning had been assigned, both players played the next couple of turns at a quicker pace.
Judge: I have to go look at another match. Your performance has improved. I thank you and the tournament thanks you.
Kenny was taken aback by the judge’s words. It did allow us to keep poking fun of him throughout the rest of the trip as we created variations of the judge’s final words. We also made fun of him because we caught him keeping a hand of one [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and six lands in one of his games.
I am not sure about my plans for the weekend as Thursday marks the Chinese New Year and that usually means family dinners that must be attended to for fear of being disowned.
Hopefully, I am able to squeeze in at least one prerelease so that I can give you guys my thoughts on the format next week and also at the same time, it’s essential preparation for Grand Prix Montreal in March.
Again, if you are considering going to a Grand Prix this year, I couldn’t recommend Grand Prix Montreal enough. It’s my birthday weekend and we are having Spruke DJing the biggest Mana Deprived party yet. Come have a blast!
I also have my eyes set on the Ottawa PTQ taking place on February 15th. Odds are I will be playing Mono Black Devotion again though I am not sure if Bile Blight helps or hurts it. It certainly gives the Shouta Yasooka deck a better weapon to deal with [card]Pack Rat[/card]s. Previously it had to play [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card]s and I think Bile Blight is almost a strict upgrade.
[deck title=UB Control by Shouta Yasooka]
1 Dimir Guildgate
4 Temple of Deceit
4 Watery Grave
4 Master of Waves
2 Prognostic Sphinx
2 Devour Flesh
2 Doom Blade
2 Essence Scatter
2 Hero’s Downfall
3 Ratchet Bomb
1 Ultimate Price
3 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
4 Jace, Architect of Thought
1 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Pithing Needle
4 Tidebinder Mage
3 Wall of Frost
I want to thank everyone for their support. Trust me when I say that I read all your Tweets and fed off the positive energy. Knowing that the families of Scott MacCallum and Kyle Mathers were excited to see me on the live stream was definitely an awesome feeling.
I would like to thank Marshall Sutcliffe for giving me a chance to be part of the live streaming coverage. It was an absolute honour and pleasure to be in the booth with him. Check out my interview from the live stream at around the 6:00:30 mark here.
I want to congratulate Alexander Hayne and Jon Stern for the nth time. They have proven to be at the top of their game right now and I expect nothing less come Pro Tour Born of the Gods. Pick these guys in your Fantasy Pro Tour drafts!
As always, thanks for reading!