GP Detroit: Running Back Emrakul’s Vengeance

I’m not much of a GP grinder. In fact GP Detroit was only my third Grand Prix. Still, when I heard that a friend of mine was going with a bunch of his friends and had a nice cozy spot on the hotel room floor for me to sleep on, how could I resist? With about a week left until Detroit I decided to make the necessary preparations. Little did I know my character would be tested.

In round 2 I was playing against Blue Moon. I had won game 1 and game 2 reached a complete stall. I managed to Emrakul my opponent, but I couldn’t draw into the win before they managed to draw enough lands and leave up countermagic. So we were in a situation where my opponent can’t tap down for a threat because they only have a few lands and I can’t tap out for a threat because I haven’t drawn enough action to fight through the countermagic. My opponent was discarding cards due to hand size, while I was drawing blanks hoping to hit a Boseiju or some Simian Spirit Guides to hard cast and attack my opponent. At one point during this stall my opponent taps out at the end of my turn. This gave me the opportunity to put a Griselbrand on the battlefield, I could use his ability and draw 7 cards. I was at 12 life with my opponent at 4 or less. I did not have any Lightning Bolts in the deck post-board though, so I had no way to just burn him out. Then a bulb then went off in my head. I realized that there was no way my opponent could win in time if I just did nothing. So this is where the question comes in, do you get the Griselbrand in play, draw 7 cards, and risk losing to the opponent’s burn spells or do you just let the opponent continue to durdle around and hope to naturally draw out of it or win the match 1-0-1?

Depending on your point of view I’m either a hero or a chump because I decided to go for the Griselbrand. I drew mostly blanks and the game ended from a few minutes left on the clock to my opponent burning me out from 5 life. Game 3 I drew the quick win but not the ability to get through my opponent’s countermagic. Of course my opponent had no way of winning when I went for it and they countered my win condition, so we ended up in a draw.

I don’t know that there is a correct answer in that situation, but I know that you never know how you’ll react until you are actually in those situations. People who make the “wrong” decision and then later go back and wish they could change their answer doesn’t change the type of person they are. It only reveals the type of person they wish to be. When the pressure is on that is when your character is truly tested. Did I pass, or did I just throw away value? I honestly don’t know. I consider myself both a competitive person and an overly cautious ethical person. I had no way of knowing beforehand which side of my personality was more dominant when it came to Magic, until that day in Detroit.

The Tournament

My notes from the tournament are a bit sloppy, so I’m going to do my best to provide a mini tournament report. I think that my mind was so preoccupied with the moral question I faced that I forgot to take proper notes.

My Decklist

[deck]
[Lands]
1 Blood Crypt
4 Bloodstained Mire
2 Island
1 Mountain
4 Polluted Delta
3 Scalding Tarn
1 Steam Vents
2 Swamp
2 Watery Grave
[/Lands]
[Spells]
4 Faithless Looting
4 Goryo’s Vengeance
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Serum Visions
4 Thoughtseize
4 Through the Breach
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
4 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
4 Griselbrand
4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
4 Simian Spirit Guide
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
2 Spellskite
4 Leyline of Sanctity
2 Anger of the Gods
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Terminate
2 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Round 1: Opponent no-showed so I took that as a sign of great things to come for me this tournament. 1-0

Round 2: I played against Blue Moon. This is the round that I picked up the draw and the ethical question arose. I’m morally proud of myself, but that doesn’t take away the sting of essentially throwing away a win. See above if you want to know more. 1-0-1

Round 3: My first round in the draw bracket saw me paired against Tron. The matchup is essentially a free win for this deck. 2-0. 2-0-1

Round 4: My opponent was on Affinity and despite taking the quick game 1 with Emrakul, I couldn’t manage to beat my opponent in either post-board games. In game 2 they took me out on turn 4. In game 3 a Grafdigger’s Cage backed by a quick clock put an end to it. 2-1-1

Note: At this point I was feeling quite demoralized as a draw was basically a loss, unless I made it to day 2, and I had only one real win so far. I felt like just going back to the hotel and taking a nap but I decided to play it out.

Round 5: Blue Moon again. This time I managed to secure a win in 2 with plenty of time left in the round. Despite Blue Moon’s many counterspells they completely lack in the free win department in this matchup. 3-1-1

Round 6: I was surprised to be paired against Green/White Hatebears. Thalia was the only relevant card they played against me in either game. They lacked meaningful interaction though and Emrakul dispatched them. 4-1-1

Round 7: From Green/White Hatebears to Green/White Tron. People in the draw bracket seemed to like that color combination. I quickly Emrakuled my Tron opponent in game 1 and made a close mulligan decision in game 2 that enabled me to win that game as well. 5-1-1

Round 8: Blue/White Control may have been the breakout deck of GP Detroit since I saw a lot of it being played. Depending on their countermagic this matchup can be rough. I managed to take game 1 with little resistance. In game 2 they played 2 Timely Reinforcements post-Emrakul, allowing them to survive a Griselbrand hit. The second Emrakul wasn’t as kind though. 6-1-1

Round 9: I finally got paired against the boogeyman of the tournament, Blue/White Eldrazi. My suspicions that this was a good matchup for me seem to have held up as it was a quick 2-0. 7-1-1

Note: This is where my notes get messy. I’m not 100% sure of the order I played against these decks since my notepad started coming apart, but I’m going to do my best to provide an accurate day 2 report.

Round 10: Nothing like the smell of Blue/White Eldrazi in the morning. Another quick 2-0 left me feeling in great shape. 8-1-1

Round 11: I was paired against Trondrazi. 2 great things came out of this match. In game 1 I went through 22 cards before seeing a creature. Sometimes Magic is just cruel. I won game 2. In game 3 my opponent cast Oblivion Sower hitting 4 lands followed by a second Oblivion Sower off that since they had Eye of Ugin on the battlefield. I never said those great things were in my favor, but when they happen all you can do is laugh. 8-2-1

Round 12: Magic is a game of variance. I couldn’t seal the deal this time against Blue/White Eldrazi. I won game 1 and couldn’t get there in either of the two following games. 8-3-1

Round 13: Back to Blue/White Control and I managed to take another quick 2-0. People were really not prepared for this deck. There was little to no graveyard hate present in any of my matches. 9-3-1

Round 14: Elves. Kudos to my opponent for making it that far as I don’t think Elves is a good deck, despite what some people say. My opponent also made it clear to me that they thought my deck was too unfair for Modern, though he did it in a polite and friendly way. I rolled over him in game 1. In game 2 I got unlucky and didn’t draw the pieces needed. In game 3 my opponent had one green mana open and a Scavenging Ooze on the battlefield. All they had to do was untap and I was basically dead. They had a handful of Elves and an Ooze. My only out was to discard Griselbrand and hope they went to exile it at the end of my turn so I could respond with the Goryo’s Vengeance in my hand. Well they did just that. In response I Goryo’s Vengeanced it back so it stayed on the battlefield during his turn. He couldn’t attack into it so he dumped his hand of about a dozen elves onto the battlefield instead. I drew 7 cards, untapped, and cast Anger of the Gods. There is no greater feeling than that level of card advantage. There was only 1 creature in the graveyard so it took out their Ooze as well. It was glorious. The game wasn’t over, but I was able to Emrakul the turn after that and win. 10-3-1

Round 15: My final round was against another Blue/White Control opponent. Unfortunately for them, Emrakul was hungry and managed to carry me to victory. In game 3 they mulliganed to 5 cards, which helped a great deal. 11-3-1

Conclusion

My record brought me to 60th place. I cashed the tournament in the top 64. Not a bad finish considering I felt like dropping halfway into day one. The trip was amazing, despite the fact that the event had some hiccups. The Pro Tour was a much better tournament experience. Having friends to meet up with between rounds and after the tournament made this experience much better than it would have been otherwise. I look forward to my next GP, which is likely to be GP Toronto, unless I make any more crazy last-minute decisions.