Grand Prix Montreal Report (32nd)

For years I’ve been telling myself I’m a Constructed player, that Limited was just a crap shoot and I’d never be lucky enough to open the “nuts” pool. The truth is, I’m a Magic the Gathering player, and it so happens that the Magic events that best correlate with my schedule are Constructed events.

With the changes to the PTQ seasons, if I want to play, then I have to play Limited 50% of the time, and while this was originally met with a certain amount of skepticism, I realized it didn’t help me in any way if I was hoping to win.

In the past two months, I’ve had a decent level of success playing Constructed but there were no PTQ top eights achieved, which in turn means, no wins, the only indicator that matters. Going even further, the same frustrations would continue to creep up at each tournament I played. So for once I welcomed Limited season as a change of pace and to avoid reaching my breaking point with Standard.

To start off the Limited PTQ season, Wizards was nice enough to schedule a Limited GP in my hometown, allowing me to try my hand at a format I had yet to play. To save on the unnecessary lead up stories, this is the sealed deck I played, with the sideboard representing the rest of my pool:

[Deck Title=Sealed Pool GP Montreal]
7 Island
9 Plains
1 Temple of Triumph
1 Akroan Skyguard
1 Archetype of Courage
1 Benthic Giant
1 Chorus of the Tides
1 Crackling Triton
1 Ephara, God of the Polis
1 Ephara’s Warden
1 Floodtide Serpent
1 God-Favored General
1 Hopeful Eidolon
1 Loyal Pegasus
1 Nyxborn Triton
1 Observant Alseid
1 Phalanx Leader
1 Vanguard of Brimaz
2 Wavecrash Triton
1 Divination
1 Excoriate
1 Fate Fortold
1 Glimpse the Sun God
1 Mortal’s Ardor
1 Ray of Dissolution
1 Ephara’s Radiance
1 Last Breath
1 Plea for Guidance
1 Scholar of Athreos
2 Crypsis
1 Omenspeaker
1 Oracle’s Insight
1 Stymied Hopes
1 Ashiok’s Adept
1 Baleful Eidolon
1 Claim of Erebos
2 Eye Gouge
2 Felhide Brawler
1 Felhide Minotaur
2 Fleshmad Steed
1 Grisly Transformation
1 Keepsake Gorgon
1 Lash of the Whip
1 March of the Returned
1 Mogi’s Marauder
1 Odunos River Trawler
1 Read the Bones
1 Returned Centaur
1 Spiteful Returned
1 Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass
1 Demolish
1 Epiphany Storm
1 Fall of the Hammer
1 Ill-Tempered Cyclops
1 Impetuous Sunchaser
1 Lightning Strike
1 Lightning Volley
2 Portent of Betrayal
2 Scouring Sands
1 Thunder Brute
1 Wild Celebrants
1 Artisan’s Sorrow
1 Boon Satyr
1 Charging Badger
2 Culling Mark
1 Mortal’s Resolve
1 Nylea’s Emissary
1 Satyr Piper
2 Swordwise Centaur
1 Time to Feed
1 Chronicler of Heroes
1 Destructive Revelry
1 Phenax, God of Deception
1 Prophet of Kruphix
1 Spellhide Chimera
1 Traveler’s Amulet
1 Unknown Shores

While sometimes decisions on deck directions may take time, this one was rather quick. For one, this is the sealed pool I registered, so I had a good idea of what I wanted to build; and two, I was never going to play [Card]Phenax, God of Deception[/Card]. To steal from Matt Sperling’s article:


It was fitting that, with most of my Magic success coming from playing Jund, [Card]Ephara, God of the Polis[/Card], was going to be the card that I bet the house on. I had a friend who used to play Magic and would always build decks with as many cards that cantripped as possible. His reasoning was, “It says draw a card so it must be good.” While he was wrong about most cards, he would have been right about Ephara.

Now firmly locked in UW, the question was whether there was a splash color that could be useful. Obviously [Card]Prophet of Kruphix[/Card] was attractive, but the only other appealing green card was [Card]Nylea’s Emissary[/Card], and with the number of double-white casting costs, playing [Card]Traveler’s Amulet[/Card] and [Card]Unknown Shores[/Card] for those cards was not justified.

I never considered black as nothing appealed to me, and looking at it might make me want to try Phenax, which would have been a huge mistake. Last was red, and with a [Card]Temple of Triumph[/Card] in my pool, the splash didn’t seem as backbreaking. Similar to green, there were only two cards of interest. [Card]Lightning Strike[/Card] seemed fine but not essential, and [Card]Portent of Betrayal[/Card] could certainly turn certain tides, but in a format of battlefields full of dorks, a [Card]Threaten[/Card] effect is not as impactful.

In the end I settled on what I thought was an unattractive but practical UW deck. The only problem I had with the deck, was whether I would be able to win games without a clear, game-ending threat. Turns out I may have been a little confused on how well my deck could function.

Before I get to my rounds, I want to talk about the mistakes I made in deck building. On Thursday, we were discussing the number of creatures at one or two casting cost to justify [Card]Loyal Pegasus[/Card]. Whatever your personal number is, my deck did not have enough.

Elsewhere, [Card]Ephara’s Warden[/Card] is too slow and impractical in this format and was most often a liability as opposed to an asset. And as for [Card]God-Favored General[/Card], the card is utter garbage, to the point that it should never even be a consideration. And no, you shouldn’t consider playing Warden and General to have a “combo”.

This is the list of cards that are options to replace those three:
[Card]Last Breath[/Card]
[Card]Scholar of Athreos[/Card]
[Card]Oracle’s Insight[/Card]
[Card]Stymied Hopes[/Card]

The other options I would have had were limited at best. Ultimately, I would have swapped the [Card]Omenspeaker[/Card] and [Card]Oracle’s Insight[/Card] for the Warden and General, leaving in the [Card]Loyal Pegasus[/Card] as a necessary evil.

[Card]Stymied Hopes[/Card] can sometimes be backbreaking, but my deck didn’t really have time for tricks, needing to squeeze in every little bit of damage possible. For this reason, I left out [Card]Last Breath[/Card] as well. Giving my opponent four life was a luxury I could ill afford. Scholar was never a consideration as I liked my mana base the way it was and had no interest in changing it.

Now we move to the [Card]Crypsis[/Card] debate. I can certainly understand its merit and have seen it perform before, but my deck doesn’t have time for many tricks, and throughout the entire portion of day one, I never even considered boarding it in. If you can block and kill a creature, it’s good but blocking for the sake of blocking is rather unappealing to me.

Going into the GP, I thought I had enough point to lock up two byes but unfortunately I was wrong and only had the one bye.

Round 2 – Jason Vairamuthu

While it would be easy to say I lost this round to rares and [Card]Orekos Sun Guide[/Card], the truth is I lost because I didn’t know the identity of my deck yet. I’m not saying I would have won if I did, but I certainly would have played differently.

After the round, like all Magic players are wont to do, I went in search of some friends to complain to. Lucky for me, I ran into my buddy Michael Lambert, who interrupted the start of my rant with a pork bun, which got me to shut up and enjoy the food.

1-1 (1-2)

Round 3 – Patrick Arthur

I never really saw most of his deck except for [Card]Returned Phalanx[/Card] and [Card]Servant of Tyramet[/Card] in both games as I was able to slowly amass an army that chip away at his life total over a few turns before eventually getting him to zero, without having seen any cards of importance. Even more importantly, this was the first round three I have ever won at a GP, and I’ve been to a lot of GPs.

2-1 (3-2)

Round 4 – Jacob Lepine

This was the round that I really figured out how my deck was suppose to operate. First, I could play [Card]Ephara, God of the Polis[/Card], with no board and then turn after turn drop dork after dork to draw cards and eventually beat my opponent through sheer card advantage.

The other thing I found out was which card was the MVP of my deck: [Card]Glimpse the Sun God[/Card]. While taping down your opponent’s team is decent, being able to simultaneously trigger heroic on all of my dudes had a huge impact. And combining [Card]Wavecrash Triton[/Card] with Glimpse makes for some truly backbreaking plays.

One thing of note that happened this round is that, because I was unclear as to the exact way [Card]Floodtide Serpent[/Card] worked, I inadvertently declared it as an attacker and returned an enchantment only after having declared all my attackers, when in fact it must be done simultaneously.

Immediately my opponent called a judge and, as a judge myself, I realized my mistake and that it would be a game rules violation warning, which I was fine with. When the judge arrived, I explained the situation and understood what the warning was and that I had no prior warnings to expedite the situation.

I have no problem with people calling judges: I’ve done it myself. What I found odd was, after calling for a judge, my opponent looked at me and told me, “I got you now.” I thought it was kind of weird and so naturally I wanted to crush him, which is precisely what I did.

At the end of the match, I had a friend nearby and my opponent had his, and he seemed proud of himself for having called a judge, saying that I was being a poor sport for being upset with him. After he was done talking to the onlookers he told me that the games were close and that he almost won them. Naturally I looked right at him and told him, “They weren’t close; you actually had no chance of winning,” which he again seemed to take offense to.

The point of all this is I love people who are boastful and colorful in Magic, it adds personality to the game, but if you want to act like that, you can’t take offense when someone returns the favor.

3-1 (5-2)

Round 5 – Axel Boudias

I won both of these games with life totals in the twenties thanks to an [Card]Archetype of Courage[/Card] and a decent amount of [Card]Wavecrash Triton[/Card] shenanigans. Part of the reason is that first strike makes every combat extremely profitable for me; also both games he had a turn one [Card]Hero of Leina Tower[/Card] and other heroic creatures but no cards that could trigger heroic.

4-1 (7-2)

Round 6 – Etienne Ouellet

Both games, I was able to cast [Card]Ephara, God of the Polis[/Card], onto empty boards and from there was able to cast a creature after creature to slowly chip away at his life total.

5-1 (9-2)

Round 7 – Johnathan O’Neill

Game one he was able to get an early [Card]Sedge Scorpion[/Card] to slow down my attacks and, coupled with a [Card]Springleaf Drum[/Card], ramped into [Card]Nessian Asp[/Card] and [Card]Sea God’s Revenge[/Card] to take over the game.

Game two he had an early [Card]Courser of Kruphix[/Card] but nothing else pressure-wise, and I was able to know when he had tricks coming to play around thanks to the Courser.

Game three featured another early [Card]Courser of Kruphix[/Card], this time greatly easing out his draws, and while I was able to get in for damage every now and then, the 13 life he gained was enough to hold off my forces and end the game in a draw with him at 12 life.

5-1-1 (10-3-1)

Round 8 – Jeffrey Anisman

He was piloting a GW heroic deck that played similarly to mine, though game one I was able to slow him down thanks to my blue cards, most notably [Card]Wavecrash Triton[/Card] permanently tapping down a 5/5 [Card]Akroan Skyguard[/Card] that was wrecking face. Game two feature me attacking with my own Skyguard as he stayed stuck on three lands, missing his second color and having no action.

6-1-1 (12-3-1)

Round 9 – Alexandre Fortin

My win-and-in. My natural thought was to avoid repeating my performance from GPs of 2013 by losing round nine and getting knocked out of the tournament, and sure enough game one was leading that way as I lost to one creature and what seemed like infinite removal.

It was shuffling up for game two, however, that truly galvanized my resolve: I wasn’t losing to this guy. I could figure out how a deck with only one creature and a ton of removal had gotten this far, but I knew I wasn’t losing this match. Game two I saw seven- and six-card hands with no lands and a five-card hand that I couldn’t reasonably keep, so I went down to four cards, and upon seeing those four cards I knew we were going to game three.

Sure enough I won on the back of an [Card]Archetype of Courage[/Card] and a [Card]Chorus of the Tides[/Card] bestowed with an [Card]Observant Alseid[/Card] making combat impossible for my opponent, leading him to scoop up his cards confused how he lost to my mull to four.

Game three let me play with [Card]Ephara, God of the Polis[/Card] one last time in the sealed portion. I was able to get her online early, and after only a couple swings with the god, his board was utterly decimated and he offered up his hand in congratulations. I was on to day two.

7-1-1 (14-4-1)

Rather than going out to party with the Mana Deprived crew, I went home because I figured I could get a draft or two in to figure out the format as I’ve never drafted it before. As it turns out, I didn’t do any of that, so the first time I would ever draft this format was Sunday morning, bright and early.

[Deck Title=Draft 1]
9 Mountain
6 Swamp
1 Temple of Malice
1 Akroan Crusader
1 Borderland Minotaur
1 Bronze Sable
2 Cavern Lampad
1 Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass
1 Felhide Minotaur
1 Fleshmad Steed
2 Kragma Butcher
1 Minotaur Skullcleaver
2 Mogis’s Marauder
1 Nyxborn Rollicker
1 Reckless Reveler
2 Dragon Mantle
1 Fated COnflagration
1 Lightning Strike
1 Magma Jet
1 Necrobite
1 Rise to the Challenge
1 Scourgemark
1 Thunderous Might
1 Battlewise Valor
1 Setessan Battle Priest
1 Yoked Ox
1 Lost in a Labyrinth
1 Claim of Erebos
1 Loathsome Catoblepas
1 Marshmist Titan
1 Returned Phalanx
1 Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass
1 Pharagax Giant
3 Priest of Iroas
1 Wild Celebrants
1 Satyr Hedonist
1 Warriors’ Lesson
1 Xenagos, the Reveler

Round 10 – Dave Shiels

Sure enough, the one person in my draft I did not want to face I got paired against right away. It became apparent in this draft that my deck was no good. There were certain picks I made, believing they were right, which were way off, and my deck had too many disconnected pieces to work.

Game one was over quickly as my aggressive start came to a grinding halt when Dave landed turn-four and -five [Card]Nessian Asp[/Card]s, which spelled game over in a hurry. Game two, on the other hand, saw me mulligan to a six-card two-land hand, and unfortunately I drew the third land far too late to be relevant.

After the match we talked about picks and strategy, and Dave told me, it was far better to take the best card in the pack over trying too hard to pass signals, as the power level of individual cards was able to put you ahead. We also talked about a few other strategy tips and it became increasingly clear that I would be lucky to get out of this draft with a single win.

7-2-1 (14-6-1)

Round 11 – Harry Corvese

Harry had drafted a blue-red deck that was much closer to where my deck should have been as black doesn’t offer the same tempo cards as blue. Both games played out similarly as I was able to get off to an aggressive start, knocking him below five life only to lose steam thanks to cards like [Card]Sudden Storm[/Card] and [Card]Triton Tactics[/Card]

7-3-1 (14-8-1)

Round 12 – Clayton Mirehouse

It was now or never if I wanted to escape with a 1-2 record in my first day-two draft. Clayton’s deck was blue-black tempo with cards like [Card]Dissolve[/Card] and [Card]Retraction Helix[/Card]. However aside from a copy of [Card]Thassa’s Emissary[/Card] that was able to pull out game one, none of the other creatures I saw were able to put up much of a fight against my big ground creatures. And while game one was relatively close, games two and three were greatly in my favor as I was able to amass a large ground force in both games that soon overwhelmed the tricks that my opponent had.

8-3-1 (16-9-1)

[Deck Title=Draft 2]
8 Plains
9 Swamp
1 Ashiok’s Adept
1 Felhide Minotaur
3 Fleshmad Steed
1 Ghostblade Eidolon
1 Grey Merchant of Asphodel
1 Herald of Torment
1 Mogis’s Marauder
2 Nyxborn Eidolon
2 Setessan Battle Priest
1 Spirit of the Labyrinth
2 Tormented Hero
2 Battlewise Valor
2 Gods Willing
1 Ordeal of Erebos
1 Ordeal of Heliod
1 Sip of Hemlock
1 Excoriate
1 Glare of Heresy
1 God-Favored General
1 Great Hart
1 Traveling Philosopher
1 Annul
1 Coastline Chimera
2 Divination
1 Prescient Chimera
1 Loathsome Catoblepas
1 March of the Returned
1 Warchanter of Mogis
1 Boulderfall
1 Epiphany Storm
1 Satyr Nyx-Smith
1 Agent of Horizons
1 Defend the Hearth
1 Witches’ Eye

After my first draft and talking with several people, I knew early on what I wanted to do in this draft. I was fortunate enough to get a pack-one, pick-one [Card]Herald of Torment[/Card], which led to a black-white heroic deck. Based on Shiel’s advice, I realized that the creatures were far less important than the tricks you had access to, which is why I picked both ordeals second and third as opposed to slightly better heroic creatures.

Round 13 – Adam Joyce

The only creature I ever saw from my opponent was a [Card]Cavern Lampad[/Card], which showed up far too late to even make a difference in game one. Game two saw me curve out nicely as all my opponent could muster was a [Card]Dark Betrayal[/Card] and no other spells.

9-3-1 (18-9-1)

Round 14 – Richard Kraupa

I had been passing to Richard in the draft and was fairly confident that he was solidly in green, which paid off with the opening hand I kept. [Card]Ashiok’s Adept[/Card] carried me to victory as I was able to shred my opponent’s hand thanks to the Adept’s heroic ability and [Card]Ordeal of Erebos[/Card].

Game two was supremely in Richard’s favor as [Card]Nylea’s Bow[/Card] and large green fatties in the form of [Card]Nemesis of Mortals[/Card] chipped away at my life total while my creatures couldn’t muster any offense.

Game three had a crucial part where I had an [Card]Ashiok’s Adept[/Card] bestowed with [Card]Herald of Torment[/Card] that was slowly reducing my life total, to the point that I was on the verge of losing since my opponent had a [Card]Nessian Asp[/Card]. The game turned after I cast a [Card]Grey Merchant of Asphodel[/Card] for five, putting him to 11. Richard alpha-striked into my board and was able to get in four damage, while our creatures bounced off of each other. He didn’t have a follow up play and passed the turn which gave me my window of opportunity as I bestowed [Card]Ghostblade Eidolon[/Card] onto my Adept and swung for lethal, getting me the game and the match.

10-3-1 (20-10-1)

Round 15 – Dane Allan

Game one was rather quick as we were racing back and forth, but with my combat tricks I was able to get in greater chunks of damage, eventually finding a [Card]Hopeful Eidolon[/Card] to seal the game.

In game two, [Card]Setessan Battle Priest[/Card] came down early and I was able to get an [Card]Ordeal of Erebos[/Card] to attack my opponent’s hand until we were stuck at a standstill with my 4/6 Battle Priest against his [Card]Thassa’s Emissary[/Card] bestowed with a [Card]Nylea’s Emissary[/Card]. The breaking point came when Dane tried to [Card]Sudden Storm[/Card] my two creatures, where I was able to save my Battle Priest thanks to a [Card]God’s Willing[/Card]. Dane attacked in with the Emissary and I was able to block with my pro-blue Battle Priest and freely swung in, finishing him off with a [Card]Sip of Hemlock[/Card] for the win.

11-3-1 (22-10-1)

Coming into GP Montreal I honestly wasn’t expecting to day two or even have a positive day-one result, as I knew very little about the format and frankly felt overmatched most times I had played Limited as of late. After this performance, however, there is room for more optimism as I played well throughout my sealed rounds, learning how I needed to play and rebounding from my first draft to crush my second draft. Altogether I was very pleased with the 32nd place I was able to achieve, and it gave me a little hope for GP Philadelphia next month.

Thanks for reading,

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