For Part 1, click here.

Day 2 of Grand Prix Detroit

After some more play testing with a couple of friends Going into the 2nd day I felt confident that I had a shot at the top 8. I looked at this event like a PTQ. I needed a record of 4-2. Going into Day 2 with an undefeated record meant I would be playing against the best players and strongest decks from Day 1. Let’s begin with the matches.


Round 10: vs. Jund (0-2)

I was not expecting to see Jund. I recognized the name of my opponent, Jonathan Delano, he had recently won the Starcity Modern Classic a week prior to the GP. However, I thought he had won with Chord and not Jund. I was punished for this misread right off the bat. I had a pretty good hand if he was on Chord, a Temple, Karplusion forest Forest, Thought-Knot x 2, Kozilek’s Return and Lightning Bolt, but because he was on Jund a turn one Inquisition hit me hard. He took the Bolt and passed. On his next turn he played 2 Thoughtseizes and removed both my Thought-Knot. From there he took me out of the game on the back of a large Goyf that grew larger when Abrupt Decay was introduced to Endless One.

In game 2 I mulled again. My first mull landed on a questionable 6 card hand of Temple x 2, Eye of Ugin, and Reality Smasher x 3.I had a few thoughts on this keep. I felt that this hand wasn’t keepable if his first few turns were the same as game 1. The hand has 0 interactions with his early plays like Dark Confidants. With all this in mind I went down to a 5 card hand and kept it. The hand consisted of Temple, Lightning Bolt, Karplusion Forest, Lightning Bolt, and Relic of Progenitus. A Scry left Thought-Knot on top. Jon Thoughtseized me on the first turn, taking one of my bolts again. I ended up drawing fairly well; going from Thought-Knot, into Temple, into Reality Smasher, into Reality Smasher. Sadly, I couldn’t get past his Liliana of the Veils he rained down.

It felt weird losing a match that I thought was favorable for me. As I thought over my match, and my assumption that Jon was on Chord, I took it to heart to never assume things. After some refreshing time out of the venue, I went back in for Round 11. I would do my best to just stay positive for the rest of the day.

Round 11 vs. R/G Eldrazi (2-0)

This was my first actual mirror match of the Grand Prix, I don’t consider my match against Mike Sigrist in Round 8 a mirror as it’s an aggro version. I was excited to play against the mirror as I had put in a lot of time preparing for it. It felt weird that this would be my first match against it as I figured it would be popular amongst the attendees. When it comes to the mirror match I knew that whoever was on the play was generally the favorite. Luckily I won the die roll. We drew our 7 cards, looked at them for no more than five seconds and said “keep”. We both laughed at what we each saw as an insane hand.

Some people might wonder what an insane hand for R/G Eldrazi is:

Eldrazi TempleEldrazi TempleThought-Knot SeerThought-Knot SeerReality Smasher
Eye of uginWorld Breaker

Two Thought-Knots by Turn 3 with Reality Smasher following up on those two is insane. You can’t cast the World Breaker with the hand above, but you have so many ways to get the G source within the first 5 draws. Of course I look at my opponents hand and it was pretty much a mirror of my exact hand. He did have two World Breakers in comparison to my one. However, I ended up casting World Breaker a turn faster than my opponent. We went to Game 2 soon after that.

The sideboard in this matchup is a bit different from the U/W matchup.

-3 Lightning Bolt
+2 Blasphemous Acts
+1 Ancient Grudge

Unlike the U/W version of the match up, your Lightning Bolts don’t hit anything, but an Endless One or Matter Reshaper so they’re cut. I included 1 Ancient Grudge in this matchup to potentially draw into it early and destroy a Talisman or Mind Stone. This is done so they don’t ramp too quickly into their Oblivion Sower(s) or World Breaker(s).

We didn’t really get a game 2. My opponent mulliganed to 3 and didn’t hit a 2nd land. I understand the need to mulligan really hard on this deck, but I feel like I can never go lower than 4. My opponent felt the same, but told me he won a game in Day 1 on a mull to 3, so I guess he wanted to retry his luck.

Round 12: vs. U/W Control (2-0)

I wasn’t expecting this at all. I knew of a U/W Control list with Sun Titan, but didn’t think I would see one at this GP during Day 2. Eldrazi is favored in this matchup; so you start to wonder how my opponent got this far. Game 1 went well for me as I had a hand with a one of Cavern of Souls. He couldn’t really do anything in the first game as his hand was loaded with dead counterspells courtesy of Cavern. Game 2 ended up being just like Game 1, except I got my Cavern of Souls off of a Turn 1 Ancient Stirrings. From there I started ripping his hand apart with Thought-Knots. Uncounterable Eldrazi’s are just incredibly hard for Control to deal with.

Round 13: vs. U/W Eldrazi (vs. Gerry Thompson) (1-2)

Game 1 Gerry mulled to six and flooded out.

Game 2 I sided in my usual Blasphemous Acts and kept a terrible hand because it contained one of them, which for some reason I saw as a snap keep. He Thought-Knoted me and saw a hand that only contained an Oblivion Sower and Blasphemous Act. He took the Sower and proceeded to crush me before Blasphemous Act could go online.

Game 3 came with a hard decision when sideboarding… Gerry had sat beside me previously in Round 11 and 12, and I also believe he watched me in Round 9 when crowds started to gather for that epic Living End match I talked about in part 1. He was well aware of my sideboard, at least from my perspective, so I was debating whether or not the Bridge/Endbringer plan would work on him. I know it’s probably something I need more experience with, but I opted out of the plan and decided to just stick with the Blasphemous Acts. I was hoping to draw into a good start.

I had a good hand, but I made a huge mistake in this match. There was a decision where I had a choice between casting Thought-Knot Seer and Endbringer or choosing just to cast World Breaker to take away his Eldrazi Temple.

As the video shows, if I had chosen to get his Eldrazi Temple he wouldn’t have been able to cast his Drowner of Hope and I think I would have been in a better position. If I had led with the World Breaker he would have had to attack into it in order to turn on the dismember and get it off the table. I would have been totally okay with this since I had 2 Talismans and enough lands to sacrifice in order to play the Breaker again.

Instead, I ended up playing what I thought would be more efficient; Thought-Knot into Endbringer. Turns out he kills my Thought-Knot with Dismember, hits a lucky Drowner of Hope with the draw trigger, and draws another Drowner of Hope right off the top. After seeing his hand before the sequence of draws, I honestly thought I had this game wrapped up via World Breaker. He hit me for 8 on his turn and on my turn I had no way to remove his Drowner. I made a misplay here of not using my Endbringer to kill off a Scion Token so that he couldn’t tap my World Breaker when I played it, but I knew he had a Mutagenic Growth from my earlier Thought-Knots so it wouldn’t have mattered. Had I gone with the World Breaker plan first, I think I would have had it.

Round 14: vs. U/W Eldrazi (2-0)

Dissatisfied by my earlier game against U/W Eldrazi I focused on playing better and crushed my opponent with nut draws in both games.

Final Round: vs. U/W Eldrazi (Huang Hao-Shan 0-2)

My last opponent in the Grand Prix was Hao. I knew my opponent was a National Champ from Taiwan and a regular in the Grand Prix circuit down in Asia. We were called to the feature match area as a backup and I talked about how my earlier match up at the feature table wasn’t a favorable one.

I lost the die roll, but kept a pretty favorable hand if he didn’t hit a Turn 2 Thought-Knot. As it turns out he did have it, and like I mentioned earlier in the article; in the Eldrazi Mirror you are more favored if you are on the play and can hit a Turn 2 Thought-Knot. He rolled me so we moved to Game 2 quick.

I asked him during sideboarding why he was here in Detroit and not at Melborne where the rest of his friends were. Hao was short of a couple of Pro Points to lock Gold this season and he said he wanted to come to Detroit in order to get used to the time zone for the Grand Prix at DC a week later. It made sense from a professional players perspective.

I can’t even read my notes, but I ended up stabilizing the board in game 2 up until the last few turns where I was down to 1 with Hao still at 15. However, I had 9 mana in play with a Lightning Greaves, World Breaker and Endbringer. When he put me to 1. He had a Drowner of Hope and a Scion Token untapped afterwards. He didn’t have enough mana to use Eldrazi Displacer’s ability and he had no cards left in hand. I had to hit a land off the top, Lightning Greaves my World Breaker, ping his Scion Token, then cast Ulamog to exile his Drowner of Hope, and equip my Greaves to Ulamog to hit him for 15 exactly.

So here came my draw to keep me alive for this tournament…
I drew a land! I was excited only until I realized it was an Eye of Ugin, which I already had in play. I quickly scoured the board to see if there was Urborg I could use to cast the Ulamog, but sadly that wasn’t the case. I literally looked for a minute to see if it was possible to cast Ulamog ,but couldn’t see any lines, showed him my Ulamog and Eye, gave him my blessings for the Top 8, and conceded the game.

Overall Thoughts

My Grand Prix ended at 12-3 for 18th place. While I feel like the ending could have been better, I’ve learned a lot from this Grand Prix. I was asked, after the results, whether or not I felt upset about missing a Pro Tour invite, but the answer is “no”. Having gone through multiple PTQ’s in the past and losing 2 in the finals, one to Jamie Arch and another to Reid Duke online, I am well aware of how heartbreaking it is to get so close to winning but not achieving it. This is an experience many players have gone through and will continue to go through. I try to stay positive and think of ways to improve myself, rather than lingering on a bad experience. Psychologically I believe if you can learn and improve yourself from such bad experiences you will naturally get better as a player. I could have ranted all night and showed my temper to relieve some of my stress, but that doesn’t really accomplish anything, does it? Overall I still ended up doing well in the tournament. I gained more than the majority of the attendees. I have no right to complain.

Huang ended up writing an article on his team’s website a few days after the Grand Prix which quotes the following:

Meanwhile, I also felt very sorry for my opponent because I know how heartbreaking it is to lose a win-and-in after running so deep. I’ve always been blessed to play against nice guys rather than those who lack sportsmanship, because I’d be more comfortable regardless of whether I won or lost. Shogo wished me “good luck in the Top 8”, and I appreciated his kind words wholeheartedly. After all, Magic is a social game between people, and even though the prizes are big, we should not forget that nobody can win all the time but it is more important to be a good person.”

You can’t win it all folks. I’d rather be a player that can be respected than a person who dwells on his loss and refuses to let it go.

So that was my Grand Prix! It was the best finish but I hope I can continue playing like I did in the future. It’s funny how just a year ago I was complaining that I’ve never even made Day 2 of a Grand Prix, let alone make a Pro Tour Day 2.

What you should play before the April Ban/Restricted Update

Now that Modern Grand Prix’s are in the books and an imminent Eldrazi Ban is coming in April, it’s time to put Eldrazi to rest… at least after the Face to Face Open series this weekend.

Eldrazi should be the deck you take with you this weekend, if you are not playing Eldrazi, you should definitely be playing Living End, or something that goldfishes well like Elves. Given how U/W Eldrazi dominated the 3 Grand Prix’s that occurred during the GP weekend I would play one of those two if I wasn’t on the Eldrazi menace itself. Another deck that I feel is positioned well is the G/R Eldrazi Aggro version that was played by several of the Face to Face team members. It seems well positioned in a format where you have big creatures on your opponents board and can steal games by using Eldrazi Obligator’s threaten ability. They all ended up doing well with it, so it’s something to look at.

Of course you can take an unorthodox approach and play with what I have been spamming on Facebook: Possibility Storm.

You’re going to need a lot of practice and guts to play this deck if you want to do well. When I play tested with the deck online I did well enough to consider it for Detroit, but Living End seemed better.

You have to test the deck out if you want to play something that isn’t Eldrazi. There are some cards that can work better than the list, like ritual cards, or even playing UR Storm and siding into a Possibility Storm plan. That’s just something you as a player have to think about though.

Remember this; you will have more sideboarded games than pre-sideboarded games in Magic. If you want to have a chance at winning your matches you should play more sideboarded games than Game 1 and get used to it.

Making an unusual sideboard can help. In my Eldrazi deck I had 2 Ensnaring Bridges and 3 Endbringers. In a lot of the U/W matchups my opponent was locked out of the game because they had no way to interact with the Bridges as they didn’t see them coming. Sometimes you just have to think outside the box and think of a new game plan in your sideboard matches. That’s what I did to steal some of the games in Detroit.

I’m planning to sleeve up Possibility Storm for this weekend but who knows? Maybe I’ll say goodbye to my Eldrazi deck one last time before the imminent purge.

Cheers!
-Sho