Dan Lanthier’s GP Atlanta Tourney Report (26th)

The last few months have been a blur. I’m finally back in school and I couldn’t feel better about it. Investing time, effort, and money into something that will benefit you feels great and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner. It’s something that takes a lot of time to adjust to – long class times, lots of study material, and homework. Being out of school for so long has not helped my transition but anything important deserves time and effort.

Like I said, the last few months have been a blur. I’ve been making a lot of changes and investing a lot of effort into everything I do now, and the benefits are starting to show. Over the last year or so I’ve been getting very lazy about the way I prepare for and play Magic. I didn’t really realize it until I was back in school and was able to witness firsthand how my routines and my lack of focus affects everything around me. My results were slipping. I was going on tilt when I didn’t really have reason to. I wasn’t thinking about the game like I used to. I wasn’t brewing new decks, I didn’t know what was legal in formats anymore, and I was just generally unfocused about everything. But I only see this looking back; at the time it seemed to me like I was doing everything right. Hindsight is 20/20 right?

Like school, (and as I’ve been informed, everything else) Magic requires three things if you want to get anything out of it. It requires time, effort and money. If you want to be good at Magic, if you want to play it competitively, you have to make an effort, and you have to dedicate yourself to it. There is far too much going on in this game to treat it any differently. I made a commitment for this season. I made the commitment to get back onto the Pro Tour; it’s been over a year now since my last Pro Tour, and quite honestly, that’s one year too long. I played on the Pro Tour for approximately two years and thinking back on it, I don’t think at any time during that period that I really took my privileged position seriously. Not too many people get to play on Tour, let alone are able to attend any Pro Tours they want, and I didn’t take it seriously and thus here I am talking about my time at that level rather than being there.

Being a first year student, I don’t have a whole lot of time outside of my school schedule for much preparation for tournaments let alone much of anything else. I therefore had to wait until my first semester of school was over to really get the ball rolling. During the holiday break (with the exception of the actual holidays themselves), I literally spent every day playing, testing and brewing Magic. I went through just about every imaginable archetype, moving from one to the other finding all their different strengths and weaknesses and choosing which decks I wanted to play for the ptq season to come (my early favorites being 5cc, Wargate and Faeries).

I’ll save the long story of my preparation for the tournaments for another time, as there is actually a lot to say about it and this is supposed to be a tournament report. I’ve already written six hundred and thirty words and haven’t even gotten to talking about Grand Prix Atlanta, deck lists, or anything on that matter so I’ll get to that and save the preaching for next time.

I decided quite early on that I wanted to go to Atlanta. I hadn’t played much competitive Magic recently, and I wanted to get back to it. Atlanta was fairly close, very cheap and it was constructed too (which for those of you out there who don’t know me very well, I GREATLY prefer to limited). I bought my ticket early, with Air Miles (naturally), and just like that I was off.

I was initially set on playing something with Valakut as I’m fairly certain that that is the best way to attack the format (its disruption and a win condition!). I had a few versions that I valued quite highly; one was the AggroWargate version that I brewed up about a week and a half before the Montreal Ptq that happened the week before Atlanta that you can find here. The deck was doing quite well in testing, and both Jon Smithers and I played it for that event. We both really liked how the deck turned out but we were also of the opinion that something had to change. He did a bit of tinkering and came to a straight up Naya build that he ended up playing for Atlanta.

I also really liked Faeries; it’s probably the best deck in the format in terms of power level and synergy, however, I couldn’t see myself playing it as I would be playing fifteen rounds with a control deck that punishes mistakes much more than anything else. The night before I left Ottawa for the Grand Prix, however, I was talking with my buddy Zack Spence, who knows me better than anyone else, and he told me I was stupid to not be playing Faeries for the GP. I’m a natural control player and all my best results have come from casting blue spells so thank God I have someone to whip me into shape.

So without further ado, here’s the deck I registered the morning of the tournament.

[deck title=Faeries – Dan Lanthier]

[Lands]
3 Creeping Tar Pit
4 Secluded Glen
4 Darkslick Shores
4 Mutavault
3 Sunken Ruins
5 Island
1 Swamp
2 Tectonic Edge
[/Lands]

[Creatures]
4 Mistbind Clique
4 Vendilion Clique
3 Spellstutter Sprite
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Bitterblossom
2 Jace, the Mindsculptor
4 Cryptic Command
3 Thoughtseize
3 Mana Leak
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Grasp of Darkness
2 Agony Warp
2 Disfigure
[/Spells]

[Sideboard]
2 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
1 Consume the Meek
3 Wall of Tanglecord
2 Sower of Temptation
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Thoughtseize
1 Spell Pierce
1 Disfigure
1 Countersquall
1 Deathmark
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

If I had to play another tournament tomorrow, I wouldn’t change a thing in the main deck. However in a week’s time when Mirrodin Besieged is legal the [card]Grasp of Darkness[/card] and the [card]Agony Warp[/card]s will all be changed to [card]Go for the Throat[/card]’s. That card changes everything, it only costs 1B and it kills literally everything in the format. The sideboard was put together last minute when we were speculating on what the metagame would look like. [card]Wall of Tanglecord[/card]s were worse than I thought they would be, they do a very good job of blocking but people aren’t stupid, and they know you are bringing them in along with [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]s, so they bring in artifact hate to deal with these cards. A month ago when the format was still developing they were fine, but now I’m not sold. I would probably cut them for [card]Vampire Nighthawk[/card]s (Channel Fireball ‘tech’) and I’d also look at cutting one of the Wurmcoils since they are very difficult to cast (spoiler: I think I cast Wurmcoil maybe once this tournament). [card]Consume the Meek[/card] was the worst card in the sideboard and I never brought it in. The only reason it was there was because the dealers were sold out of [card]Elvish Archdruid[/card] and I wanted to make sure that I have an abundance of hate for that deck if it turned out to be popular. Long story short: I saw none. Everything else in the board served a purpose; they all filled certain roles against certain matchups, and most of them were flexible and could be brought in against a multitude of different decks. This is something I always try to replicate when building sideboards and it’s why I always try to play as many one of’s as I can. I don’t want to necessarily play cards that prey on one specific matchup; I want cards that change value for several matchups so I can adjust what my deck tries to do based on many variables.

Round 1, 2, 3 = Byes

Round 4 – U/W Control

This round was a learning experience for me. I hadn’t tested at all against this matchup, and even though I knew it was favorable for me I had no idea how to play it out. I ended up winning the die roll and chose to play first. I resolved an early [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] and rode that to a very easy game one win.

Game two was much more interesting as I kept a slow hand with no real action going on and not whole lot of disruption. I countered an early [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] which may have been a mistake since Faeries is really good at fighting back and his deck has much better threats. Turns out I was right since he wasted no time casting a [card]Baneslayer and following it up with a [card]Sun Titan[/card] to seal my fate and we were off to game three.

Game three was played very quickly, we only had about 8 minutes before the round ended (one of my fears before the event was that I would have to play until time every round and this only further cemented that fear) so we had to play quickly. I kept yet another hand without [card]Bitterblossom[/card], and started off the game just playing lands saying go. I dropped a Spellstutter into play and took beatdown approach running out Mistbinds on his upkeeps. The blowout came just before time was called; I played out a Mistbind with one mana up. Thinking the coast was clear, he cast his [card]Mana Leak[/card] to stop it but I had the [card]Spell Pierce[/card] and just like that I was…

4-0

Round 5 – U/W Control

This round was much the same. I still hadn’t learned the subtleties of the matchup so I can’t say that I played it perfectly. I can’t remember what happened game 1, all I know is that this is yet another game I didn’t have a [card]Bitterblossom[/card] so I had to play real games. Game 2 he was on the play and kept playing land go. At the end of his fourth turn, without thinking I cast a [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] thinking to myself that I should go on the ‘aggro plan’ instead of just waiting for him to make the first move. He [card]Mana Leak[/card]ed it and proceeded to cast his own Clique and ride that the whole game. If I had just waited for him to make the first move I would have won that game for sure and not have needed to go to game 3.

I was on the play for game 3 and opened on a hand containing [card]Darkslick Shores[/card], [card]Bitterblossom[/card], [card]Thoughtseize[/card], [card]Mana Leak[/card], [card]Spellstutter Sprite[/card] x2, [card]Vendilion Clique[/card]. I thought for a long time on this one, it’s got everything that you need for this matchup; all I need is one land within the first two draws to justify keeping it. I am notorious for keeping hands like this, I guess I trust my deck too much to know better so I kept.

I thoughtseize him turn 1 and see a hand of [card]Island[/card]x2, [card]Tectonic Edge[/card], [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] x2, and a [card]Mana Leak[/card]. I take the Leak seeing as how he can’t cast anything else and pass turn. He plays [card]Island[/card] and passes back. I rip a [card]Tectonic Edge[/card] off the top, play my [card]Bitterblossom[/card] and pass the turn back very confidently (this is where everything goes wrong). He draws for his turn, plays a Mystic Gate (making his entire hand relevant) and casts a [card]War Priest of Thune[/card] (at this point there were several Canadians watching my game for support and I watched every single one of their faces when this card came down and knew everything was going to go downhill from there). I missed my next two land drops, drawing four drop after four drop, and kept passing the turn back as he cast guy after guy creating quite the army. I was eventually able to cast a Sower to even things up, make a few trades, and (luckily for me) draw out the game.

This game was actually a lot close than I make it seem. It turns out if the game had gone longer I would have won and showed him this, but it’s wasn’t good enough and he wouldn’t give me the concession. (Turns out this guy didn’t make day two and I did, so this draw only went on to hurt me while he would have been out just the same.)

4-0-1

Round 6 – U/W Control

Another U/W matchup. This thing was turning out to be my bane. Someone up there must have been trying to punish me for not testing against this deck.

This match was just awful. Game one I mulligan to 4 on the play, and get absolutely run over. Game two I mulligan again, this time only down to 6 but keep a hand with four lands, [card]Bitterblossom[/card], and a single [card]Mana Leak[/card]. He casts a turn two War Priest and follows that up with a whole family of creatures and I die a horrible death.

4-1-1

Starting 1-1-1 off of 3 byes is not really a place you want to be in after putting in so much effort for this tournament. I still wasn’t concentrating as much as I should have been and I was playing against a matchup that I wasn’t familiar with. This was what I would consider to be the turning point of the event. I finished this last round early. I think it only took about twenty minutes. I walked over to the corner of the room to sit down and think about my play and refocus my state of mind. By the time the rest of the Canadian crew was finished with their rounds I was ready to talk, laugh and tell some stories. I was now mentally set to play this tournament.

Round 7 – Jund

Knowing your back is against the wall and having to close out the rest of day one at a Grand Prix undefeated is not easy. But we all play these tournaments to win, so that is what I told myself I was going to do.

I kept my opener and started with a turn two Blossom. His slow start had a difficult time dealing with the amount of Faeries I was putting into play. I ended up drawing a [card]Mistbind Clique[/card] which combined with the [card]Bitterblossom[/card] was enough to finish him off. Game two looked much like game one did, I got the early Blossom out and was able to disrupt his early drops, but his end game was much better this time as he just started casting demigods that I couldn’t deal with as I couldn’t find a third blue source for [card]Cryptic Command[/card] and soon died to barrage of Revenge.

Game three was a very interesting game, I didn’t have the Blossom but I did have a [card]Wall of Tanglecord[/card]. He matched my wall with a [card]Putrid Leech[/card] that I shrugged off and just sat back on my mana for a few turns. The game went back and forth and I ended up being able to race him with [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card] (This card is WAYYY better than you think it is). There were a few turns where he might have been able to draw a Demigod to complicate things, but even that probably wouldn’t have been enough to do it.

5-1-1

Round 8 – Jund

My opponent this round was a really nice guy. It’s not often you get to say this about people in a Grand Prix as most people are just there to play the round and leave. But we had some good conversations both during and after this round and I remember these games the most of this tournament because of it.

Game one I keep a hand with [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and a bunch of counterspells on the draw. I see that he plays a [card]Savage Lands[/card] on turn one and obviously know he’s playing Jund. My [card]Thoughtseize[/card] sees a [card]Fauna Shaman[/card], a [card]Great Sable Stag[/card] (maindeck) and a couple removal spells. At the time, I didn’t have a way to stop the Shaman from resolving, nor do I have a way of killing it before it is active so I take the Shaman since this thing can get out of hand if left unmolested, and end up dying to Stag beats before I can begin to race it. Doesn’t seem like I was winning that game either card I took, but I think I made the right decision.

Game two he mulligans down to 5 and I open on [card]Bitterblossom[/card] and a whole family of Cliques. It’s nice to get free wins every now and then, and though I’d like those to happen when my opponents don’t mulligan to oblivion it’s nice none the less.

Game three I open with a couple of walls to his host of aggressive creatures including [card]Putrid Leech[/card], Stag, and [card]Vengevine[/card]. I drop a Sower on turn five knowing he doesn’t have the removal and I’m able to slow down the game for a few turns just sitting on my creatures. I end up killing off his leech, and he tries to pull off an end of turn [card]Volcanic Fallout[/card] to kill my Sower and get back his Vengevine. I disfigure his Vine, and end up buying a few more turns; long enough to get a Mistbind out and start attacking. The game gets to a point where we are both sitting on eight life when I pass back the turn. He has two [card]Anathemancers[/card] in his graveyard (I have five non basics in play) and I know that if he draws any action I won’t be able to win unless I force him to unearth this turn. If I get him to do so, he will tap out and I will be able to play an end of turn Spellstutter, and attack for lethal on my turn with a [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card]. I basically convince him I am dead to his two [card]Anathemancer[/card]s and he unearths it without thinking about his play. I don’t actually know if he drew anything relevant or not that turn, but it turned out for the better either way as I was now one win away from making day two.

6-1-1

Round 9 – U/R Control (StarCityGames Crew Deck)

I had the fortunate coincidence of both sitting across from Lewis Laskin in the player meeting and playing beside this rounds opponent previously in the tournament. So I was able to get a good idea of what I was facing. I knew it was some sort of blue control deck featuring Jaces, Cryptics, and the like, alongside a bunch of burn spells and Demigods. It’s definitely not a good matchup for Faeries as his deck plays out like a red deck supported by good permission and card draw. A scary thought for sure, but I was going to need to find a way to beat it if I wanted to make day two.

An interesting development happened as I sat down for this match; I noticed that he was changing around a few cards in his deck from his sideboard. I normally think something is sketchy when this happens, as I’m apparently quite paranoid, but it was no secret at this point that he knew what I was playing because we were talking to each other earlier during a previous match. I called a judge over to give us both a deck check, just to make sure everything was fine. Turns out he was in fact de-side boarding so everything turned out okay though he did get a warning for having marked sleeves with no pattern. We got a 10 minute time extension and we were off.

Game one was a pretty drawn out affair with him having a couple Demigods and me trying to make awkward trades with [card]Vendilion Clique[/card]s to try and keep my life total high enough to not just die to his burn spells. Long story short, not only do I not manage to win this game but he also tricks me into thinking he has the [card]Pestermite[/card]/[card]Splinter Twin[/card] combo in his deck by casting his singleton [card]Pestermite[/card].

Thinking he has that combo among everything else in his deck, I board in an awkward way by having to take out a few cards I would never consider taking out otherwise just to make room for a couple removal spells. This led for an awkward draw or two in the next couple games, but I did manage to kill off a [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] or two so it wasn’t all that bad.

Game two I get an early [card]Bitterblossom[/card], just sit back and play the control role for a few turns until I can get enough man power out to muscle him into playing an early Fallout, which gave me the opportunity to get the Tar Pit’s going, and this game was over quickly.

Game three he was on the play, he played a tapped land on his second turn and I tossed a Blossom into play. His first play was a [card]Fulminator Mage[/card] which was a bit scary since I was low on land, but he didn’t use it immediately so I was able to draw out of it. At one point he gets out a Jace that manages to stick around for a couple turns, but the card advantage he got out of it was not enough to beat my [card]Bitterblossom[/card]. I killed off Jace with a few attacks and managed to land one of my own. At this point, time was called; I had about five Faerie tokens in play to his sixteen or seventeen life so it was going to be a long road to victory if he ever managed to draw a Fallout. Luckily for me, he never drew the Fallout, while I drew my Mistbind off of Jace which was enough to put the nail in the coffin and advance me to day two.

I had a short little talk with him after the match as I was curious why I didn’t see a [card]Pestermite[/card] or a [card]Splinter Twin[/card]. It seems someone in his testing group thought it was a good idea to play one [card]Pestermite[/card] in the main deck because “it’s like a timewalk against aggro”, which I don’t agree with, but if nothing else, it tricked me into side boarding in an awkward manner, so it was good enough to warrant a spot in his deck.

7-1-1

It was a successful day. The Canadian squad did very well overall, better than I had anticipated. We went out for dinner together somewhere in downtown Atlanta. The idea was to go someplace called Vector since everyone at the event site seemed to be talking about it, but when we got there, we found out that there was a forty five minute wait just to get in PLUS another forty five minutes for food service. Needless to say, we walked down the road to another restaurant where we had a reasonable dinner including bread with the consistency of concrete.

I woke up Sunday morning feeling good and optimistic about my chances, I had gotten into the proper state of mind to play Magic the day before, I wanted to win and I was set on getting my invite back to the Pro Tour.

Round 10 – U/W Control

Lucky me, another U/W matchup, let’s see if we can do better this time.

I started off day two with my best opener of the tournament. Two lands, double [card]Bitterblossom[/card], [card]Thoughtseize[/card], [card]Mana Leak[/card], [card]Cryptic Command[/card]. Oh yeah… I was also on the play… against a good matchup…

Ok, game two. I guess you could say this one was a bit closer, though it didn’t really seem like it. I knew how to play this matchup finally, and I was beginning to see why it was so favorable for me in the first place (how could I have ended up day one if I knew what I was doing in this matchup?). I kept my seven on the draw; he played lands that came into play tapped for the first few turns which gave me more than enough time to setup. We played land go until about turn seven where he went for a Jace, I allowed it and dropped a [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] into play on his end step. A few more faeries later and a couple attack steps and he wasn’t able to keep up. He was trying to land some big creatures but they met couterspells supported by my fast clock and this match was over.

8-1-1

Round 11 – R/G Valakut

Perhaps the worst match of the tournament. Not only did I play against someone from the same city as me but I wasn’t even in any of the games. I mulligan to four game one, shipping away a hand with double [card]Agony Warp[/card], then a hand with double [card]Grasp of Darkness[/card], then a hand with no lands.

Game two, I mulligan again down to six. Keep a hand with a [card]Mana Leak[/card] or two as well as a [card]Spellstutter Sprite[/card], I counter some early ramp, we get to turn six or so, when I [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] him on his draw step and see a hand of double [card]Scapeshift[/card] and [card]Primeval Titan[/card], must be nice to run so good.

8-2-1

Round 12 – Faeries

I finally play the mirror match, I thought this would be more common than the other matches of the tournament seeing as there was a high Faeries count at the top tables, but thinking back on it now I was in the draw bracket, so I can expect to see a lot of control and Jund decks.

I keep my opener on the play, no [card]Bitterblossom[/card], but I have the [card]Thoughtseize[/card] to get rid of his Blossom. I see a hand of triple [card]Scion of Oona[/card] (!), [card]Cryptic Command[/card] and lands, which while terrifying, is certainly better than trying to beat a [card]Bitterblossom[/card]. I get a [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] into play attack for a turn and drop a Mistbind into play on his fourth turn’s upkeep. Without anything else to do he drops a [card]Scion of Oona[/card] and proceeds to miss a land drop. I start going on the offensive with a Mistbind and a [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card] and he is never able to setup an appropriate defense and I win. Scion is supposed to be able to steal games in the mirror match and if he were on the play I think that certainly would have been the case, but because he had to play the defensive role I was able to take that game from him.

Game 2 he mulliganed down to six cards. Tries for the turn two [card]Bitterblossom[/card] but I’ve got the [card]Spell Pierce[/card](!) and start the Spellstutter Offense. He tries the same and plays one of his on my end step. I untap and cast a [card]Sower of Temptation[/card] to swing the tables and start beating down rather quickly. Sowering one of their creatures creates an effect that almost feels like having your own [card]Bitterblossom[/card] in play. You are able to just untap and attack every turn and they are forced to react. One of the most important roles to play in the mirror is the beat down role and both of these games I managed to do so which helped me win it.

9-2-1

Round 13 – 5cc

Now this I’m used to. I played 5cc the first tournament of the season so I’m pretty familiar with how it’s tried to play out the game. I know that if I try and go for an early Blossom I risk losing it to his [card]Esper Charms[/card] so I have to play carefully and try to make all of his cards dead draws.

Game one he [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s me out of nowhere leaving my Blossom in hand which is a dead giveaway to what he is holding. I try and go the [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] route of attack but he meets that with a [card]Plumeveil[/card]. When all is said and done he manages to resolve a [card]Cruel Ultimatum[/card] and this game is not close.

I chat up this guy in between games and talk about how I wanted to play [card]Wargate[/card] for this event, and how I hated having Leyline of Sanctity in my deck because it was a dead draw. He tells me he’s had nothing but good results with that card so I know he is going to be bringing those in against me. I board down to two Thoughtseize effects with this knowledge in mind and sure enough before the game starts he puts one into play.

None of us have any plays until his end step on turn five when I drop a Vendilion into play, unable to see his hand I use the ability on myself and get rid of the [card]Thoughtseize[/card] I drew, and start attacking. I play out a Blossom and start making a critical mass of flying dudes and finish him off pretty quickly.

Game three started off well, he plays a tap land and follows it up with a bunch of filter lands, I’m able to use a [card]Tectonic Edge[/card] to knock him off of colored mana long enough that he is unable to cast any spells and start tossing a bunch of flash creatures into play. The game ends soon after.

10-2-1

Round 14 – Mono Red

I knew coming into this round that my opponent was playing Mono Red, and while most people would consider this a bad matchup for Faeries, I think it’s closer to 50/50 than something like Jund which actually has cards that can generate card advantage.

I start off with a Blossom attempting to get some creatures into play; he matches it with a [card]Goblin Guide[/card] that he suits up with [card]Teetering Peeks[/card]. I try to hold off the burn spells but I get stuck on three land, only one of which being a colored source and soon die to a bunch of creatures.

Game three starts off well, as I’m able to counter a [card]Kargan Dragonlord[/card] and get a [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] out. I draw a couple [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]s and a [card]Grasp of Darkness[/card] but I’m never able to cast any of them as I never get past 5 lands or even get a second black source even though the game goes long. If I ever get the lands I need to cast any one of those spells I could have easily won the game but I never got there.

It’s pretty frustrating as both of the losses I have taken on the day seemed unavoidable, I have been playing quite well so far and been getting rewarded most of the time so I’m not too upset with the way things are turning out, I just want to get that invite so badly. I was playing for top16 up until this point, but now I’ll need a win to make top32 and get anything from this event.

10-3-1

Round 15 – U/W Control

Another gift matchup, seems someone wants me in top32.

These games were very fast, I was done in about twenty minutes. I got a turn two [card]Bitterblossom[/card] out during the first game and I didn’t really have to do anything to win this game, his slow draw was just made worse when I began dropping 4/4’s on his upkeep.
I Thoughtseized him during game two and took his [card]Kitchen Finks[/card], he wasn’t ever able to apply any pressure and I just attacked him with Vendilion and [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card] until he extended the hand.

Overall I guess I would have to say I’m content with how I finished. X-3-1 is nothing to feel ashamed about especially considering the amount of players these events are starting to get. I was really aiming at getting that invite and coming this close and not really getting anything out of it kind of stings but I played well and I can definitely take a positive experience out of all of this.

It’s been too long since I’ve been able to tell stories about Magic and I hope that this is just the (re)beginning of that. I’ve got my confidence back and I’m back on the same mental level I was 2 years ago which is a good sign. Hopefully this is just a small sample of things to come.

Thanks for reading,
Dan