Game Day Grinder – Khans of Tarkir Game Day

The big day had finally arrived.

I remember the initial spark of an idea, a fun challenge that I hoped would help me sympathize with those with budget constraints trying to play competitively in the game that we’ve all grown to know and love. It seemed so long ago that I picked out a Magic 2015 Intro Pack and played it right out of the box at our local M15 Game Day event.

A lot had happened since then, and I now stood in the store entrance holding the deck I had built up with my measly $10 weekly stipends. I had big dreams of being crowned Khans of Tarkir Game Day Champion, but would I ultimately prevail?

If you’ve yet to read my previous articles documenting my journey leading up to this point, I urge you to do so here. It’s been a long road, full of ups and downs, but it’s made me a better player and a more open-minded person. The mindset I had two and a half months ago now feels so foreign. Whether I were to win the whole tournament or whether I went home after two early losses, I was glad I had persevered and made it to this point.

I arrived at the store bright-eyed and bushy tailed. I had made sure to get adequate sleep and eat a healthy breakfast in preparation for the tournament. The number of players that showed up to the event wasn’t staggering (we were 19 players vying for the coveted Game Day playmat), but I was still as nervous as ever. Without any deck changes to make or notes to pore over, I spotted one of my friends and made my way to his table.

I regaled him with tales of my 4-0 win at our latest FNM event and explained which last minute addition had led me to such an astounding victory: [card]Seeker of the Way[/card]. The creature was a power house and fit perfectly in the deck! It put on early pressure, it grew bigger at a surprisingly consistent rate, and it let you stay ahead on life points whilst racing. It had over-performed and was quickly becoming my favorite creature from the new set. He had also been testing a Blue/White Heroic deck, and I had hoped to catch him in time should he wish to make a similar deck change before Game Day started.

He explained that he had been underwhelmed with the Heroic archetype and was itching to play something new. Instead, he had built a creature-heavy Red/Green Monsters deck. We talked at length about our deck strategies and I learned that, aside from several copies of [card]Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker[/card] and [card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card], he didn’t have much in the way of outright removing other creatures. He hoped to overpower his opponents and punch through enough damage before he would ever need to remove any of their pesky creatures.

The first round pairings had been posted, and I would soon realize how important the knowledge of my friend’s lack of removal would be as I fought to be the top seed at Khans of Tarkir Game Day.

TOURNAMENT REPORT

ROUND 1 – vs G/R Monsters

To my friend’s dismay, we had been paired against one another in the first round. We sat down at our table and he let out an exaggerated groan.

“It’s okay, buddy,” I playfully consoled him. “Being paired against, arguably, your worst matchup in the first round isn’t the end of the world!”

I had lost the dice roll and would be on the play in the first game, but I wasn’t too concerned about my opponent gaining an early advantage. He played many midrange creatures and would likely have to spend his time ramping with creatures such as [card]Elvish Mystic[/card], [card]Rattleclaw Mystic[/card], and [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card]. I hoped that, by the time he landed a real threat later on in the game, I would already be too far ahead for him to catch up.

My opponent’s first play was a [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card], but I had led with a [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] and already enchanted it with a second turn [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card]. Knowing that my opponent wasn’t playing any removal spells and that the only interaction he had was with Sarkhan’s [card]Flame Slash[/card] ability, I was able to safely and reliably start enchanting my hoplite even if my Ordeal would only be sacrificed the next turn. My opponent started clogging up the board with creatures, but I had gained too much of an advantage by my third turn, having enchanted my creature with yet another Ordeal. The card advantage and life swings were too difficult for him to manage, and I handily won the first game.

My opponent had to keep a six card hand in the second game and he looked deflated. Knowing how difficult the matchup would be with so few cards that interacted with my creatures can be disheartening.

He led with two [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card]s whose tokens got eaten up by my [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] and [card]Seeker of the Way[/card], and he had to unfortunately play a defensive role in the coming turns as I had cast two Ordeals on my Hoplite by the fourth turn. Yet again, my creatures grew larger than his and the card advantage and lifegain was too much to handle.

SCORE: 1-0

I was relieved that I had won my first round, even if it was one of the easiest matches I would play all day. I was advantaged, not only having a favorable matchup, but also having been privy to crucial information about my opponent’s deck list prior to the games.

A familiar face greeted me after I packed up and left the table. The fan who had cheered me on two days ago at our weekly Standard event was at the Game Day event as well! He smiled and asked me if I had won my first match. I nodded, and he fist pumped the air. It seems as though I would have a personal cheerleader throughout the day, which made me feel even more confident. I wished nothing more than to make Top 8, so I took a deep breath and began to focus.

ROUND 2 – vs U/G Flash

I sat down across from my second round opponent, unsure of what to expect. I hadn’t seen him at our store before, and he seemed a little shy. Had he won his first game due to luck, skill, or a little bit of both? We greeted one another and began to pile shuffle.

I was genuinely annoyed. I knew most players who came to play at our store and usually had a sense about their skill level or deck choices. This player was shrouded in mystery! I knew that underestimating him would put me in a vulnerable position, as I would be less attentive and focused during our game. I wanted to do well at this event, so I mentally prepared myself for a grueling match.

I won the die roll and took my first few turns setting up with a [card]Seeker of the Way[/card] and [card]Fabled Hero[/card]. My opponent had played a [card]Kiora’s Follower[/card], but hadn’t played anything on his third turn. I took the opportunity to enchant my [card]Fabled Hero[/card] with an [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card], growing my [card]Seeker of the Way[/card] and attacking for a total of fifteen damage, three of which was lifelink. He took all of the damage, played a [card]Prognostic Sphinx[/card], and passed the turn. I drew a copy of [card]Aqueous Form[/card] and tip-toed my way to victory.

I knew that I was favored against green based decks, and hoped that I would keep playing them throughout the day. However, my opponent was playing Blue as his second color, so I would need to play around cards such as [card]Voyage’s End[/card] and [card]Aetherspouts[/card]. Luckily, it would be easy to tell if my opponent had any reactive cards in hand, as not casting anything on his turn would be a huge tell. I felt confident that I could win the match.

I took a mulligan in the second game and was met with a creature on the third turn that would make reading my opponent nigh impossible. My opponent had played an [card]Elvish Mystic[/card] on the first turn, followed by a [card]Kiora’s Follower[/card], and wasted no time in casting his [card]Prophet of Kruphix[/card] on the following turn, untapping his lands and creatures during my upkeep.

“Well, there go any chances of playing around instant speed removal,” I thought to myself.

No longer able to play around bounce spells, I tried my darndest to set up an impressive army that would grow bigger than his. Unfortunately, two copies of [card]Prognostic Sphinx[/card] allowed my opponent to scry multiple times each turn, all the while taking chunks out of my life total in the air. The sphinxes were perfect for playing defensively as well, as they untapped during each of my turns. I quickly enchanted one of my creatures with multiple Ordeals and an [card]Aqueous Form[/card], but an [card]Aetherspouts[/card] stopped me dead in my tracks. [card]Prophet of Kruphix[/card] had won my opponent the game.

“Please Lady Luck,” I pleaded. “I know we haven’t gotten along in the past, but could you find it in that enormous heart of yours to cut me a break today? And by the way, have you lost weight? You look incredible!”

My kiss ass tactics had worked. My opponent drew no copies of [card]Aetherspouts[/card] or [card]Prophet of Kruphix[/card] in the third game, and the [card]Gods Willing[/card] I was holding back protected my creatures from a near catastrophic [card]Voyage’s End[/card]. I won the third game handily, not having to worry about any shenanigans from the pesky prophet.

SCORE: 2-0

“How long have you been playing?” my opponent asked as we packed up.

“On and off for the better part of twelve years,” I replied. “How about you?”

“About three weeks or so,” he said. “This is my first tournament.”

I was shell shocked. Not only had he been playing well the entire game, but he had given me a run for my money. He also told me that he hadn’t really played any card games in the past, and I immediately thought that he must be some sort of card playing savant.

I commended him on his play skill and wished him the best of luck going forward. I really hoped to see him at the store more often, as he had tons of potential. To top it all off, he was one of the nicest players I had had the pleasure of battling against.

It turns out that he continued winning after our match, and even made it to the Top 8!

I felt lucky to have won that second round.

ROUND 3 – vs Abzan Midrange

I was already pile shuffling my deck when my third round opponent got to the table.

“Aww man,” he whined. “Why did we have to get paired up? I hate playing against your deck.”

I had been paired down against a player who I had beat just this past week. He had been playing Abzan Midrange and, judging by the dejected tone of his voice, he was playing the same deck this time around, and knew that it would be an uphill battle.

I had high hopes for this match. I had already beat my opponent once before in the exact same matchup and was a lot more confident than I had been then. Having been in the same situation in the past, I knew how much of a difference a positive mindset made when playing games. My opponent was already disheartened, and I would take full advantage to retain my undefeated record.

I looked at my hand and immediately kept. I had an [card]Eidolon of Countless Battles[/card] as my only creature, but I could play a scry land on the second turn and dig for an early threat. Even though I was on the draw, I definitely should have mulliganed more aggressively. I was too confident in the matchup and had kept an underwhelming hand.

My opponent had led with an early [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card], and I had failed to find an early creature other than my Eidolon. I wasn’t too concerned though, as I had time to set up my board, holding a slew of auras and protection spells. Unfortunately, the second card revealed from the Courser was a [card]Thoughtseize[/card], and I was put in a precarious position. If I played my Eidolon as a 1/1, I would be vulnerable to a removal spell, but if I held it back, my opponent would discard it after realizing I had no other creatures at my disposal.

I cast the Eidolon as a 1/1 and started playing mind games with my opponent. I was so confident in my play that he held back the [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and let my Eidolon survive a turn, casting a [card]Siege Rhino[/card] instead. Unluckily, I found no other creatures and was under too much pressure from the [card]Siege Rhino[/card] to set up a solid line of attack. After casting the [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and clearing the way for his removal spells, my Eidolon fell to a [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] and I scooped up my cards.

I berated myself for keeping such an atrocious hand. My confidence had crippled my judgment.

We both kept our seven card hands in the second game, but it quickly became apparent that neither of us had drawn a third land. Luckily, my deck can still function with only two lands in play, while the majority of the cards in the Abzan Midrange deck lists cost a minimum of three mana. I took a risk and enchanted a [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] with an [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card]. If my opponent failed to draw a land on his turn to cast a three mana removal spell, then I would untap with [card]Gods Willing[/card] in hand and take over the game.

He knocked the top of his deck, drew his card, and sighed dejectedly. He hadn’t found his third land and quickly conceded.

My opponent had decided to play more defensively in the third game, having cast an early [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card] but refusing to play any other cards by the sixth turn. I had played a couple of creatures, including a [card]Hero of Iroas[/card] and an enchanted [card]Favored Hoplite[/card], and was slowly chipping away at my opponent’s life total. He still hadn’t played a spell other than his [card]Sylvan Caryatid[/card], and I was becoming increasingly suspicious.

At a crucial point in the game, my opponent drew his card for the turn and let out a deep sigh.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” he declared.

He shrugged and played a copy of [card]End Hostilities[/card], to which I responded by casting an [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] to save my biggest creature. I was fairly certain that the card my opponent had drawn for the turn was a second copy of [card]End Hostilities[/card], as his reaction was that of annoyance at having drawn a spell that either cost a lot of mana to play, or was underwhelming in the matchup.

I drew for the turn and cast my only remaining creature, immediately regretting my decision. I had read my opponent like an open book not moments before, and had made a terrible line of play with the information I had gleaned from his reaction. He untapped, cast the second copy of [card]End Hostilities[/card], and left me with an empty board and an empty hand. I cursed myself for making such an avoidable mistake.

With no action from my side, my opponent played an unraided [card]Wingmate Roc[/card], following it up with a raided copy of the same card the following turn. I couldn’t interact favorably with the trio of birds and I conceded the match.

SCORE: 2-1

I had played terribly and deserved to lose. On the bright side, I had gotten it out of my system. I refused to dwell on my mistakes and I soldiered on.

ROUND 4 – vs Jeskai Wins

The fourth round was the most important round of the day. If I won and cemented a 3-1 record going into the fifth (and final) round, I would likely be able to draw into the Top 8. If I lost, I’d have to win the last round and hope that my tie-breakers would get me in as one of the few players sitting at 3-2 to make it into the Top 8. The pressure was mounting.

Luckily, I was paired against one of the friendliest and most outgoing players at our store. We both shared a love for Unglued and Unhinged lands and tokens, and we always geeked out whenever we saw one another playing cool cards or tokens. I’ve yet to meet another player who shares my love of Unglued sheep tokens as much as he does. If I were to fall in battle in the fourth round, I would still be happy to see my opponent make it into the Top 8.

After shuffling up and winning the die roll, I quickly announced that I’d be keeping my hand. My opponent wasn’t as lucky, and had to mulligan to six. Having passed by him in previous rounds throughout the day, I knew he was playing Jeskai Wins. He played three painlands to start, while I waited until the third turn to cast my [card]Hero of Iroas[/card]. He drew his card, sighed dejectedly, and passed the turn without playing a fourth land.

I untapped, cast an [card]Ordeal of Heliod[/card] on my [card]Hero of Iroas[/card], and swung. My opponent tapped out, taking three points of damage from his lands in the process, and attempted to return the Hero to the top of my library with a [card]Jeskai Charm[/card]. I protected my creature with a [card]Gods Willing[/card], and he quickly scooped up his cards. It seemed as though he wasn’t interested in waiting several more turns before admitting defeat, so I assumed that his hand was underwhelming considering the board state.

I felt absolutely terrible for my opponent, as he had to mulligan to six cards once again for the second game and was stuck on two lands, even after aiming a [card]Magma Jet[/card] at my face and scrying two non-land cards to the bottom. Without a third land to cast any of his spells, I quickly ran away with the game, locking up a winning record.

SCORE: 3-1

I was upset that the match had been so anticlimactic. I was as happy as ever knowing that I could likely Top 8, but was upset that the match had been decided by my opponent’s terrible luck. I wished him all the best and crossed my fingers, hoping to see him at the Top 8 tables.

ROUND 5 – vs Jeskai Wins

The standings were posted and I did some quick math. As long as I wasn’t paired down, I would safely be able to draw into the Top 8.

Instead, I was paired up against the only undefeated player, and my heart started racing.

My opponent was in a position where he could play out the match and Top 8 regardless of the outcome. What if he refused to draw with me and my dreams were crushed?

Luckily, players in the Top 8 of our Game Day event would have to roll to determine who starts instead of utilizing the play-draw rule based on overall Swiss standings, so it made little sense for my opponent to want to play.

We shook hands, congratulated one another, and wished each other luck in the Top 8 matches to come.

SCORE: 3-1-1

The Top 8 players were announced shortly thereafter and I let out a sigh of relief as soon as my name was called. I had done it! I had achieved a 4-0 record the night prior, and now had managed to make Top 8 of the Khans of Tarkir Game Day!

Would I actually be able to win the entire tournament? My mind was reeling.

I stared at the foil, full art copy of [card]Utter End[/card] that had been handed to me and grinned. I steeled myself for battle, an image of me victoriously hoisting the Game day playmat cemented in my mind.

– TOP 8 MATCHES –

Remember the fan that had been cheering me on throughout the day? He had also made it into the Top 8 and we had been paired against one another in the quarterfinals! I congratulated him on making it so far in the tournament, and he explained how excited he was to be playing against me on my road to being crowned Game Day Champion. We shuffled up and prepared for an epic Top 8 match, only to be met with disappointment…

“Sorry guys!” yelled one of the store employees. “The system glitched and paired you incorrectly. There’s going to be a repair!”

My opponent’s heart sank. It seemed as though he genuinely wanted nothing more than to play against me, and now he looked visibly dejected.

“Don’t worry,” I offered, trying to console him. “We’ll both win our quarterfinal matches and then hopefully be paired against one another in the semifinals or even the finals!”

He smiled, wished me luck, and left the table. I had been re-paired against my friend and first round opponent, the one playing R/G Monsters without main deck removal. He had excused himself from the table before the re-pair was announced, and he was now walking back from the bathroom with a confused look on his face.

“You and me buddy,” I chimed. “There was a re-pair.”

“Aww man,” he complained. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”

We joked around a bit about his terrible luck and prepared for battle.

QUARTERFINALS – vs R/G Monsters

I have to admit that I was overconfident in the quarterfinals. I had been paired against one of my easiest matchups and had already crushed my opponent once before during the tournament. I was distracted, preparing mentally for my semi-final match even before we had started the first game of the quarterfinals.

I like to think that the reason I got absolutely destroyed in the first game was because of the bad karma I had accrued by dismissing the match altogether.

My opponent led with an [card]Elvish Mystic[/card] followed by a morphed [card]Rattleclaw Mystic[/card]. I played an early [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] followed by a [card]Hero of Iroas[/card], waiting for the opportune time to strike. I thought that the morphed creature might have been an [card]Ashcloud Phoenix[/card], so I wasn’t prepared for him unmorphing his [card]Rattleclaw Mystic[/card], adding a total of six mana to his mana pool, casting a [card]Nissa, Worldwaker[/card] and attacking me with a 4/4 land by the third turn. Although I was able to enchant my Hero and rid myself of the Nissa, I was now facing down a 4/4 land and two mana dorks, one of which was a sizeable two-power creature. I found no lifegain enchantments and fell to the onslaught of creatures before me. I was unable to race and quickly folded.

“Uh oh…” I thought, concerned. “What if I lose this match? It’s supposed to be my easiest matchup!”

I quickly sideboarded, vowing to stop underestimating my opponent’s deck. If he had similar luck in either of two next games, I would be going home early.

Luckily, my opponent took a mulligan to six cards in the second game. It would be much more difficult to set up such a powerful line of play as the first game having to keep a six-card hand. I led with a [card]Seeker of the Way[/card] followed by a [card]Fabled Hero[/card] as my opponent tapped out for a [card]Rattleclaw Mystic[/card] and [card]Ashcloud Phoenix[/card].

With my opponent tapped out, I made my move. I enchanted my [card]Fabled Hero[/card] with an [card]Ordeal of Heliod[/card] and [card]Aqueous Form[/card] and attacked with both my creatures for a total of 14 damage. My opponent untapped, saw no answer to my [card]Aqueous Form[/card], and promptly scooped.

The last game was definitely weird. After having taken another mulligan to six, my opponent played an unmorphed [card]Rattleclaw Mystic[/card] on the second turn. I had a slower start and hadn’t yet played a creature. My opponent attacked me with his Mystic and passed the turn, having missed his third land drop. Sensing an opportunity to pull ahead, I decided to bounce the Mystic back to my opponent’s hand with a [card]Voyage’s End[/card] at the end of turn, playing a [card]Seeker of the Way[/card] after untapping and drawing a fresh card.

My opponent recast his [card]Rattleclaw Mystic[/card] and still hadn’t found a third land, so I spent my turn removing it with a [card]Banishing Light[/card]. I hoped to gain a significant advantage on the ground while my opponent struggled to set up his mana, and my plan worked wonders.

Although he eventually found a third land and played an [card]Elvish Mystic[/card], I had already established a board of small creatures and was putting on too much pressure. He tried playing as defensively as he could, but the copies of [card]Aqueous Form[/card] I had drawn were enough to push the final points of damage through.

I had won the match and was now in the Top 4! Holy moly!

SEMIFINALS – vs Jeskai Wins

My biggest fan (who was playing Jeskai Combo) had won his quarterfinals match as well, but we were paired against different opponents, both of which were playing Jeskai Wins decks. It would have been a lot of fun to be paired against him, so I hoped that we would meet in the finals.

My opponent won the die roll and started setting up his tri-color land base. I didn’t want to play any creatures until I had enough mana to back them up with a [card]Gods Willing[/card] or [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card], so I had yet to cast anything by my second turn. My opponent played his third land and cast a [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card], quickly setting up an army of goblins.

Although I finally started playing creatures with enough enchantments and protection spells in hand to make it an interesting game, I couldn’t handle the two consecutive [card]Jeskai Charm[/card]s that were cast (giving all of his Goblins +1/+1 and lifelink) followed by two copies of [card]Stoke the Flames[/card].

I had been out-aggroed and lost the first game.

The second game went much more smoothly. My opponent had a slower start and I had managed to cast several small creatures with [card]Gods Willing[/card] as back-up. After enchanting several of them and drawing first blood, I continued to put on the pressure and dropped creature after creature onto the board.

At a crucial moment later in the game, my opponent tried to resolve a [card]Jeskai Charm[/card] to give his [card]Mantis Rider[/card] and [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card] +1/+1 and lifelink, but was promptly shut down by a [card]Swan Song[/card] from my sideboard. I untapped and cast the [card]Aqueous Form[/card] that would win me the second game.

In the third game, we both had slower starts, slinging a bunch of spells and trying to stay ahead of one another on board. At one point, my opponent had a [card]Mantis Rider[/card] and [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card] on board, while I had several small creatures and a 4/5 [card]Favored Hoplite[/card]. At the end of his turn, my opponent cast a [card]Magma Jet[/card], dealing me two points of damage and scrying. After thinking about it for a while, he decided to place one card on the top and another on the bottom.

He untapped and drew the card he had scryed to the top.

“Uh, I wasn’t expecting to draw this card…” he brooded. “Aww dang, I wanted the other one.”

Although he was visibly distraught at having made a mistake over his scry decision, I wasn’t sold on the idea that he had made such a blatant mistake. Having drawn his card and scanning the board, it was possible that he had miscalculated and misjudged the board state and had only realized his error after it was too late.

I have to admit, even if I was getting played, he was pulling at my heart strings and I had to give him the benefit of the doubt, having been in similar situations in the past. I asked one of the onlookers if they had seen which card he had drawn and, after confirming which card was accidentally scryed to the top, I let my opponent replace it with the card from the bottom. He thanked me, removed my [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] with a [card]Glare of Heresy[/card], and attacked.

I declared my blockers, sensing an impending [card]Jeskai Charm[/card]. The attack wouldn’t have made much sense otherwise. My opponent tapped out, confirming my hypothesis and attempting to pump his creatures with the charm, which I promptly countered with a [card]Swan Song[/card].

I untapped, enchanted my creatures with various Ordeals and [card]Aqueous Form[/card]s, and kept the pressure on. My opponent untapped, cast a [card]Dig Through Time[/card], and failed to find appropriate answers for my board. I had narrowly escaped impending doom and won my semifinals match!

I couldn’t believe it. I had actually made it to the finals of the Khans of Tarkir Game Day. Everything seemed so surreal.

FINALS – vs Jeskai Wins

I looked over to the other semifinal match, only to find both players clearing the table. My biggest fan had fallen in battle. It would have been a lot of fun to play against him in the finals, but alas, it would not be so. Instead, I would be paired against the Jeskai Wins player who had been undefeated in the Swiss rounds. It wouldn’t be easy to topple the Jeskai juggernaut, but I was feeling hopeful.

My opponent offered to split the prizes so we didn’t have to play out the finals match, but I declined. I had come a long way since the Magic 2015 Game Day and I was here to play. Instead, we agreed to play it out, with the winner being crowned Game Day Champion and receiving the exclusive play mat. The winner of the match would also take home eleven Khans of Tarkir booster packs. The second place player would take home ten booster packs.

Having agreed on the prize distribution, we sat down and shuffled up. I was more nervous than ever. I took a deep breath, tried to focus, and prepared myself for the most important match of my Game Day Grinder career.

The first game went similarly to my first semifinal games. I tried being patient and setting up a winning line of play with several copies of [card]Gods Willing[/card] and [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] in hand as back-up, but my opponent had too aggressive a start. Having taken a mulligan to six cards, I found myself in a bind when my opponent played three copies of [card]Goblin Rabblemaster[/card] one after another, pausing only to cast a well-timed [card]Stoke the Flames[/card]. His army of goblins grew to a dangerous size, and I was quickly overrun.

The first game had ended quickly and I already had my back against the wall. I started consoling myself as we shuffled up for the second game, thinking about how impressive it was to have made it all the way to the finals, even if I didn’t win the whole tournament.

I quickly realized at how much of a disadvantage I would be if I had already admitted defeat. I tried snapping myself out of the haze. I was here to win Game Day, and I wouldn’t let my opponent win as easily as he had in his previous matches. I was going to fight tooth and nail for that play mat.

I had an optimal start in the second game, leading with an early [card]Favored Hoplite[/card] and later enchanting it with an [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card]. I already had a copy of [card]Gods Willing[/card] and [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] in hand to protect my creature, and was lucky enough to draw one more copy of each off the Ordeal. Without the aggressive start from the first game and with no way to favorably interact with my hoplite and four protection spells, I quickly won the second game.

Kar Yung Tom, owner of ManaDeprived.com and close friend of mine, had wandered over to watch the finals, and he expressed his surprise at how powerful the deck seemed after having watched our second game.

“I hope you lose the match,” he told me, as serious as ever.

“What?! You’re joking right?” I asked.

“I’m dead serious. I hope you lose the match so you’ll continue to write Game Day Grinder articles. We need you to keep Tuesdays entertaining!” he declared.

I chuckled as we shuffled up for the final game. I looked at my hand and decided to keep, taking a huge risk:
1x [card]Flooded Strand[/card]
1x [card]Favored Hoplite[/card]
1x [card]Hero of Iroas[/card]
1x [card]Ordeal of Heliod[/card]
1x [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card]
1x [card]Gods Willing[/card]
1x [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card]

There were a lot of “ifs” involved in my decision making process. If I drew any other land, I would be golden. If my opponent had an aggressive start, I would have a difficult time catching up. If I drew no lands, I might as well concede the game on the spot.

In hindsight, I probably should have taken a mulligan, but then there would be no excitement. I felt lucky and I was ready to gamble.

KYT took a look at my hand, remained stone-faced, got up from the table, and left. To this day, I wonder what he was thinking in that moment.

My opponent led with a scryland and passed the turn. I slowly peeled the card off the top of my library, hoping to see another land. Instead, I found a third Ordeal. My heart was racing.

Had I shot myself in the foot? Would my dreams be crushed so soon?

I cracked my [card]Flooded Strand[/card], found a Plains, and played my [card]Favored Hoplite[/card]. If my opponent decided to cast a [card]Magma Jet[/card] or [card]Lightning Strike[/card] straight away, then I was in even more trouble. Luckily, he played a second scryland and passed the turn with one open mana.

I had drawn a Plains for the turn. I tried to keep calm, shuffling my cards a bit before laying down my second land. I then decided to enchant my hoplite with an [card]Ordeal of Heliod[/card] to put it out of range of a [card]Magma Jet[/card] or [card]Lightning Strike[/card], attacked, and passed the turn. The only thing I feared was a main phase [card]Jeskai Charm[/card] to return it to the top of my library.

Instead, my opponent cast a [card]Mantis Rider[/card], attacked, and passed the turn. I was now in the clear. I kept mana open for my [card]Gods Willing[/card] and [card]Ajani’s Presence[/card] until I found a [card]Temple of Enlightenment[/card]. My opponent had played a second [card]Mantis Rider[/card] and was dealing chunks of six damage every turn, but I had found a [card]Seeker of the Way[/card]. With the Seeker growing bigger each turn I enchanted my hoplite, and with multiple Ordeals of Heliod being sacrificed from my side of the table, I was well ahead in regards to life totals.

I was able to gain an even bigger advantage after playing and cracking an [card]Ordeal of Thassa[/card], protecting my hoplite from a [card]Jeskai Charm[/card] with my copy of [card]Gods Willing[/card]. I eventually drew an [card]Aqueous Form[/card], and made the final attack…

Winning Picture

I congratulated my opponent on playing so well and making it to the finals. After exchanging some more kind words, he scurried off to another store to play a second Game Day event which started later in the evening.

My hands were still shaking. I had actually won Khans of Tarkir Game Day. I couldn’t believe it.

I sat at the table, my mind reeling. After two and a half months of hard work, I had managed to stick to a budget and find a way to win a bigger event. Although I was more elated than ever, I was also mentally and physically drained. Before heading home to rest, I decided to crack my winning booster packs, and was rewarded with the following cards:

– [card]Sorin, Solemn Visitor[/card]
– [card]Ugin’s Nexus[/card] (FOIL)
– [card]Narset, Enlightened Master[/card]
– [card]Dig Through Time[/card]
– [card]Savage Knuckleblade[/card]
– [card]Crackling Doom[/card]
– [card]Crater’s Claws[/card]
– [card]Mardu Ascendancy[/card]
– [card]Sagu Mauler[/card]
– [card]Retribution of the Ancients[/card]
– [card]Kheru Spellsnatcher[/card]
– [card]Mardu Charm[/card]
– [card]Jeskai Charm[/card]
– [card]Sultai Charm[/card]
– [card]Temur Charm[/card]

I had opened quite a few valuable cards, most notably a copy of [card]Sorin, Solemn Visitor[/card] and [card]Dig Through Time[/card]. I made my way home, mind completely blank, and laid down to rest.

That night, I dreamed of the courageous heroes that had fought so valiantly by my side and of all the foes they had slain. I’ll not soon forget my Game Day victory.

WINNING GAME DAY DECK LIST

[deck title=UW Heroic – Peter Sachlas]
[Lands]
4 Temple of Enlightenment
1 Flooded Strand
11 Plains
5 Island
[/Lands]
[Creatures]
4 Favored Hoplite
4 Hero of Iroas
4 Seeker of the Way
4 Eidolon of Countless Battles
2 Fabled Hero
1 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
[/Creatures]
[Other Spells]
4 Aqueous Form
4 Ordeal of Thassa
3 Ordeal of Heliod
2 Stratus Walk
4 Gods Willing
3 Ajani’s Presence
[/Other Spells]
[Sideboard]
3 Hopeful Eidolon
2 Swan Song
1 Ordeal of Heliod
2 Deicide
2 Glare of Heresy
3 Voyage’s End
2 Banishing Light
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

POST-TOURNAMENT DATA

Total Player Count: 19

TOP 8 BRACKET

chart

Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for the final Game Day Grinder article, which will include a detailed summary of my experiences. I’ll be looking back at my two and a half month struggle of playing with budget constraints, offering deck suggestions, and drawing conclusions based on my personal experiences throughout the past ten weeks.

Lastly, I want to thank each and every one of you who supported me throughout this experience. Whether you took the time to comment on my articles, whether you posted to Twitter or Facebook about how much you were enjoying the article series, or whether you came up to me in person to offer words of encouragement, it helped me tremendously. I wouldn’t have put in as much effort or kept the series going without your kind words and support. Thanks a million!