PSamms at GP Atlanta – 14th

I wasn’t even planning on going to Atlanta.

Or at least, I waffled a ton. Early on I wanted to go, a lot. Lots of people were in and people were booking flights and everything. People were saying they were in AND ACTUALLY COMMITTING to it! It was a phenomenon I hadn’t experienced before. So naturally I had no idea how to deal with it. So I didn’t. Flight prices were going up and I was still without a plane ticket. Or a deck I liked. Or any sort of passable knowledge of the format. Or playtest games. People in Ottawa were getting more and more serious by the day. I heard tales of testing sessions that weren’t just “let’s go to the shop and mash games”. Testing that you might say bordered on legitimate. But I had no part in any of that. Every time I went in to the shop I had a new deck built and by the end of the night I had figured out why I didn’t like it and had it taken apart by the time I got home. Nothing was clicking for me in this format and there was definitely a point where I told myself I wasn’t going to Atlanta. I had no testing, no deck I liked, and no chance in hell of doing well in this tournament. So why would I go?

Plain and simply, I love my friends. And new experiences. And I guess, to some extent, Magic.

The Monday night before the Grand Prix rolls around and I have a ticket booked for Atlanta. Jon Smithers tells me to book a certain flight so we can be flight buddies, so I do. He then promptly flies home on an earlier flight. So much for flight buddies. I build a bunch of proxy filled, reasonably stock Extended decks I would be willing to play in the tournament. My main deck choices were Naya, mono-red, and RG Valakut, but it seemed like I had differing views on the Valakut deck than people who had, you know, actually tested. I was convinced Omen was where you want to be, and was told numerous times that it’s not at its best and not really necessary in the deck. I wasn’t convinced, but I was willing to listen. The number of Omens I played gradually decreased.. but every time I had the card in play I was in love with it. Everything I was experiencing with the deck flew against what everyone was telling me. I hate it when this happens. I hate making decisions.

And then it happened. Gerry Thompson made a post on his blog about Valakut decks for GP Atlanta. Mostly he wanted to talk about the UG Omen deck, which ended up winning the GP and is definitely a sick little number. But then I read his suggestion to just play RG Valakut. And his list had Manamorphose. I see the card in the list and I double-take. Is this card real? Is it all just a sick joke? Manamorphose was the lightbulb moment for me. I was playing RG Valakut and I was playing Manamorphose. The card just seemed so unreal to me. It fixes one of your main problems (the ramp hands with no green sources) and makes you more likely to draw your big spells. It was just absolutely everything I wanted. I had backup plans in place, but I knew that the deck I wanted to play was RG Valakut.

The trip to the airport, and to Atlanta itself was uneventful. I basically spent all of Thursday in an exhausted haze due to not sleeping the night before so I would be up in time to make it to the airport on time. This ended up working out perfectly with the fact that I don’t sleep in airports OR airplanes. Well played, psamms. At the airport, Smithers starts trying to sell me on this new brew of his. I’m too tired to be swayed. I’m stubborn at the best of times, but when I hit certain levels of tired it is just impossible. Smithers and Sammy T go on to x-3 the GP, while Kyle Duncan makes the finals of the PTQ with it the next day, so maybe there’s something there.. although now that the deck is known people won’t punt so bad against it either. But I finished better than everyone playing that silly deck, so SCOREBOARD obv. We all know results are all that matters. We get to the site, encounter the other Canadians who are already there and eventually get around to getting some food and then retire to the rooms to start brewing. At this point it’s nearly midnight, I’ve been up for about 32 hours straight and I can basically not form correct English sentences anymore. I somehow manage to convince Kyle that he needs to play Manamorphose and then basically tell him that I am way too tired to brew and I am putting my tournament life in his hands. Eventually I go back to the room I was staying in and nearly instantly pass out. Somehow manage to wake up to my alarm clock at 8:30 from the coma I was in and make my way to the other room to see what my deck looked like. There were some cards I didn’t particularly like, but otherwise I felt we were in a good place. I made a few little changes and here’s what I ended up registering:

[deck title=Phil Samms – RG Valakut (16th)]
11 Mountain
4 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
4 Fire-lit Thicket
3 Forest
3 Evolving Wilds
2 Khalni Garden
1 Misty Rainforest
4 Primeval Titan
4 Scapeshift
4 Khalni Heart Expedition
4 Rampant Growth
4 Explore
4 Manamorphose
3 Cultivate
2 Volcanic Fallout
2 Primal Command
1 Prismatic Omen
3 Vexing Shusher
3 Reverberate
3 Obstinate Baloth
2 Combust
2 Primal Command
1 Prismatic Omen
1 Volcanic Fallout

I am not going to act like I can remember my matches with any sort of great detail, but I’ll try and give a basic rundown.

Round 1 – BYE

Not even going to bother adding some kind of “joke” about hard fought opponents or whatever the cool kids do these days. Certainly not above it, but not doing it.

Round 2 – Vincent Watkins – 5CC

My first real opponent of the day quickly made himself known as a talker, which was fine by me as it meant I got to have a nice fun match under my belt for the first match of the day. The match was pretty basic, game 1 he mulled to 5 and eventually died to Scapeshift after I got a few other spells countered. Game 2 he has Memoricide which I decide to Reverberate just so I can see what kind of hate I’m dealing with. Imagine my surprise when I see Runed Halo in his hand knowing I’ve sided out Primal Command! I somehow forgot that Runed Halo (and, by extension, Leyline of Sanctity) were actual cards and boarded out my answers to them. Thankfully he named Scapeshift when my hand was double Primeval Titan and in short order we had a win on the board.

Round 3 – Braulio Rivera – 5CC

This match was even less interesting (although I guess my deck doesn’t particularly lead itself to “interesting”). Game 1 he goes Vivid Creek, Vivid Marsh, go, go, go, go, concede. Game 2 initially seems more like a game when he has a couple Thoughtseizes, a Vendilion Clique, a Leyline of Sanctity and even a big Jace.. but then he doesn’t really do anything and Primevals that couldn’t go to the dome eventually finish him. I played pretty bad in this round too, as I just neglected to attack Jace at my first possible opportunity with a Primeval. Smooth.

Round 4 – Christopher Yarbrough – UW

The first match where there actually seemed to be some interesting interactions. Don’t particularly remember game 1, but game 2 I mulled to 5 on the draw and got my turn 2 ramp spell Spell Pierced. For whatever reason, I decided to half bluff mana screw on turn 3 and make sure to audibly snap the card I draw for the turn into my hand and then cast Rampant Growth without playing a land. My opponent thinks for a short period of time and decides to Mana Leak my Rampant so I just play a land and pass. I don’t know if it is relevant at all to how the game played out, but my hand was all land and a Scapeshift so I felt I really needed to have the Rampant Growth countered. The game goes on for a little while and he is stuck on 4-5 land all game. I eventually draw a Reverberate and punch my Scapeshift through his Cryptic. After the game he shows me 2 Leyline of Sanctity in his hand which would have quite obviously been bad had he ever just played them, but I can potentially put him in a bad spot if he plays Leyline and I can squeeze a Primeval in. Was just unfortunate for him that the line he took was the line I could deal with.

Round 5 – John Runyon – Faeries

I wish I had much to say about this round, but he had real draws, my draws didn’t pan out, and it was a pretty easy match for him to win. Game 1 I keep a 2 lander with Rampant Growth and Cultivate and he has turn 1 Thoughtseize turn 2 Thoughtseize and what I thought was a reasonable hand started missing land drops and I ended up losing pretty quickly. Game 2 involved more missed lands from me and his Bitterblossom/Scion draw meant I didn’t have the time to draw out of it. I made a reasonably minor misplay this round where I had Combust in my hand and he cast an end of turn Scion. The reasonable play here is to just kill it immediately as I’m essentially just dead to a 2nd Scion and if he has Mistbind Clique I can’t kill it anyway, but instead I let him untap before casting the Combust. Thankfully he didn’t have the 2nd Scion to completely embarrass me, but I lost pretty quickly all the same.

Round 6 – Jesse Oliff – Naya
Round 7 – David Ward – Naya
Round 8 – Louis Kaplan – Naya

The rounds all kind of blur together for me, as the matches all played out similarly. In round 6 there was a sequence where due to Fauna Shaman I was dead if he had fetchland to pump his Knight of the Reliquary AND Path to kill my Primeval while crashing in with that very same Knight, Bloodbraid, and all his Vengevines he was bringing back. But he didn’t have it and died. Round 7 game 1 I get pummeled by the ol Hierarch, Thoctar, Vengevine draw. Had a turn to draw a Forest or a Fire-lit Thicket to Scapeshift him out before I died but lost because the 2 “ramp” spells I drew where both Khalni Heart Expeditions. Game 2 was similarly a blowout and then game 3 I decide to keep the VERY loose 2 Fire-lit Thicket, 2 Valakut, Mountain, Cultivate, Primal Command hand. On the draw. Thankfully his draw isn’t ultra fast and my turn 4 Primal Command into turn 5 Rampant Growth + Obstinate Baloth sets up the win pretty quickly. Round 8 is the win-and-in and I just nut him game 1. Game 2 he mulls to 5 and goes Plains, Mountain and all I can do is groan at how his draw is coming together. Thankfully next turn he draws Razorverge Thicket and plays Birds. So clearly I punt here and don’t instantly cast Fallout. Not casting that Fallout nearly costs me a game I would have normally thought of as unloseable, as he procedes to cast 3 Vengevines to keep it close. Thankfully I had the Scapeshift to lock up day 2.

Round 9 – Daniel Sodaro – Faeries

This was a match that at many times I felt was lost. Game 1 I got thoroughly pounded, game 2 I landed Omen after his turn 2 Bitterblossom and won the race. Game 3 was the interesting one though. Turn 1 he shows me a foil Scion to Thoughtseize me and has Bitterblossom. A couple turns later, he plays a non-foil Scion. At this point, I’m almost convinced that he had showed me a foil Scion, but I’m not 100% sure. Either way, I feel I have to play around him having the 2nd Scion because I am convinced I’ve seen 2. This game starts getting away from me real fast, as the Blossom/Scion games have a way of doing, until the very last turn before I die I (obv) peel Fallout. The Fallout puts me at 5 and I am still dead to the Scion I believe he has in his hand and Creeping Tar Pit in 2 turns without catching a break. He predictably flashes in a foil Scion on my end turn, and attacks me down to 4. I assume he doesn’t attack with Tar Pit to show a counter, and if he has it I’m just dead.. but instead he just taps out and plays Wurmcoil Engine. I take a second to think about it and then I just realize it, so I tell him “Ok.. I think you’re dead”. Untap, Primeval get 2 valakuts and already have Omen in play, take exactly your life total. Even if he doesn’t cast Wurmcoil, my options are cast Primeval or die.. but it sure was nice not having to sweat the counter! This was definitely a match that I did not expect to win and was very grateful to get out of it with the win.

Round 10 – Michael Belfatto – Mono-Red

I had recognized the name as someone who had won a PTQ a week (2 weeks?) before the GP with mono-red so I figured if I had to put him on anything it was that. Sure enough, turn 1 Goblin Guide arrives and I have a pretty good idea what I’m up against. Thankfully I am extremely good at this game and had the 1 maindeck Omen to Scapeshift kill him the turn before I died. Game 2 I wasn’t so lucky as his turn 1 Goblin Guide softened me up enough to where he had Flame Javelin to kill me the turn before he died. For game 3 I decided I would mull to 5 on the play and was met with another turn 1 Goblin Guide. Thankfully I would find out later that he kept a loose one. His draw seemed fine until turn 4, when his play was attack me to 3 with Ram-Gang make Geopede pass with multiple cards in hand. I spend my turn 5 Omen/Scapeshifting him and he shows me his hand of Burst, land, land and I escape another match I have no idea how I won.

Round 11 – Dan Lanthier – Faeries

Ugh. I guess playing a friend was going to have to happen eventually. But it was still brutal. Even worse, I was paired down to Dan at x-1-1, and the loss I hung on him in this round actually ended up taking him out of top 8 contention. Worse still, we had 2 non-games. I had very good draws in both games and his less good draws were unable to keep up.

Round 12 – Josh Utter-Leyton – Faeries

I make a pretty nice punt here in game 1 that may not have ended up mattering. He Thoughtseized me when I was on 7 lands and I show him Primeval and Scapeshift, and he takes the Shift. On my turn I play the Shift that I naturally draw off the top of my deck and he has the Spellstutter AND exactly 4 faeries to counter it. I feel like there is no real reason for me to not play Primeval here into what might be a Leak. If Primeval gets countered, I still have a potentially lethal Scapeshift next turn. But even if I resolve the Primeval a turn later it would not have made an impact on the game as I was just dead the turn after. If he has Leak/Spellstutter it doesn’t matter, but wrong play is wrong play regardless. Basically I’m a giant idiot. Just refused to actually take a few seconds to think and see how the game played out in different scenarios. I don’t particularly remember anything from the other 2 games other than he mulled both games and I won game 3 with a Scapeshift I drew off a Manamorphose I cast when my hand was 2 land, Fallout. Sick life, I guess.

Round 13 – Craig Wescoe – RUG

I spent this whole match not knowing what to expect out of his deck. Game 1 when I won he had basically only played 2 Lotus Cobras and a Garruk and I was confused to say the least. Games 2 and 3 were similarly odd, and not helped by the fact that I kept loose hands that never really got going. Game 2 I set up a double Scapeshift turn for the win.. and then drew Mountain that turn so I didn’t have enough left in my library to kill him. Guess that’s what I get for running good all weekend. Game 3 I kept the Manamorphose/Rampant draw on the play with no green sources and got the Forest I searched for instantly Spreading Seas’d and then continued to draw non-green lands to make things awkward. Later I draw Fire-lit Thicket to get myself back into the game, and used it to Explore and Rampant Growth. I decided to set up the kill with Primeval next turn (I had actually drawn all 4 Valakuts) so I got my 4th Mountain with the Rampant. Unfortunately, he had the second Seas and I die a few turns later never finding another green source. Kind of a heartbreaker.

Round 14 – Joseph Greer – GW Trap

I had been sitting next to Joseph for most of day 2, so we were already on good terms and joking around. When I show up he says something along the lines about “Now it’s time for you to come around and make a grown man cry”. Unfortunately I failed on following through on that. Game 1 he has a slow-ish draw because his hideaway land is Mosswort Bridge instead of Windbrisk Heights.. but his Knight of the Reliquary eventually grows big enough so his team is large enough to activate the Bridge and my Aeons were unfortunately Torn. This was another game that I lost because I drew Khalni Heart Expeditions instead of other ramp spells. Game 2 luckily his turn 3 active Windbrisk only turns up Leyline of Sanctity, so he made another one. Thankfully I had the Primal Command and set up the Primeval for next turn. I make another horrific play this game, where I kill his random reasonably irrelevant creatures (Nest Invader/Fauna Shaman) with my first Valakut triggers instead of his Spawns or his Birds. This let him cast a Summoning Trap, which thankfully only got a Primeval which instantly died. And then I killed the rest of his creatures with Valakut. Primeval did his job the hard way. After this game, Joseph immediately showed me the Emrakul in his exiled area from the Heights I had Primal Commanded. Nice. Sadly game 3 was pretty anti-climactic though. He mulled, on the play, and then did the following:

Razorverge Thicket, Noble Hierarch.
Windbrisk Heights, Nest Invader.
Tear your Aeons 🙁

I was, of course, sitting on the Fallout. And didn’t get the chance to cast it. Definite heartbreaker.

Round 15 – Luis Scott-Vargas – Faeries

This match was over pretty quick, as in game 1 LSV mulled to 5 and had Bitterblossom and not much else, and in game 2 he kept a 2 lander with Blossom and bricked for multiple turns. But just because the games didn’t take long doesn’t mean I didn’t have an opportunity to punt. And punt I did, in fantastic fashion. In game 1, I activate Khalni Heart at end of turn, and go to dig out 2 Mountains when LSV stops me so he can Tectonic Edge a Valakut in response. This somehow makes me believe I don’t have a Valakut in play so I get 2 Mountains and quickly untap. This is when I realize I still have a Valakut in play and just straight up missed 2 triggers. Smooth. I win game 1 by having another Mountain in hand so I can Valakut one of his faeries and cast Primeval Titan without him having the enough faeries to counter it with Spellstutter, and then in game 2 I force through lethal Scapeshift with a Fallout when he tries to Spellstutter it.

And just like that, my tournament was over. Now all it took was sweating it out to see how everyone ended up…

14 Samms, Phil [CAN] 36 70.4771%
17 Smithers, Jonathan [CAN] 36 69.2526%
22 Tharmaratnam, Samuel [CAN] 36 67.7439%
26 Lanthier, Dan [CAN] 34 67.5628%
46 Maynard, Pascal [CAN] 33 68.8886%

Along with Kyle Duncan nearly winning the PTQ on Sunday, that’s what I call a good weekend for Canadian Magic! Hopefully this is nothing but a sign of things to come. Here’s to 2011 being our breakthrough year.

I guess I should probably say a few things about the deck before I’m done here.

– Manamorphose was awesome for me all weekend. It met the admittedly high expectations I had for it. I absolutely would not play this deck without it.

– Khalni Heart Expedition is somehow the worst card in your deck. It was easily the card I boarded out the most, but you unfortunately need it for the Scapeshift mirrors.

– Fire-lit Thicket was another card that was just awesome. Rare are the spots where it is your only green source and you can still cast Primevals/Scapeshifts, but they DO happen and you are so happy to have Thickets when they do happen.

– The Khalni Gardens were Kyle Duncan’s idea, and they were pretty effective. The problem is, they are meant for the matchups where you are already advantaged (mostly Naya). That being said, keeping 1 is fine but I don’t think I would play 2 again.

– Why do people not like Prismatic Omen in this deck? The card was awesome every time I drew it in the tournament and I’m pretty sure there should be a second one in the maindeck. I haven’t figured out where, but I’m almost certain it belongs. Sometimes you get free wins and it’s absolutely glorious.

– If I could change anything in my sideboard, it would be the Vexing Shushers. The card essentially did nothing for me all weekend, and would likely have been better as Guttural Responses. Not saying Guttural would have necessarily been insane for me, but they certainly might have done more than Shushers did. Having Guttural and Reverberate in the board seems a little awkward, but you can defend it because they are for different matchups.

– Pascal Maynard told us about Reverberate and me and Kyle instantly hopped on board. Unfortunately I never played a “mirror”, so I never got to have any good beats stories about Reverberating a Scapeshift, but oh well. The card still seems sweet for what it’s there for, which is the ramp mirror. You either copy a ramp spell to get ahead of them, or copy their Scapeshift to win ahead of them. Not sure how it works in practice, but the theory is sound.

With a GP top 16 to start the season, here’s to hoping I can keep it up and maybe make a good run this year. I plan on doing more travelling than normal, so who knows what might happen? This deck is sick and I would definitely recommend it if you need to play some Extendeds any time soon.

And I guess with that, I’m done.


7 thoughts on “PSamms at GP Atlanta – 14th”

  1. Nicely Done sir in both articles and in result. Knew you were going to break through sooner or later.

  2. No mention of our homeless friend and your $200 bottle of wine? For shame…

    I still have his paintbrushes.

  3. Jeez, so many homeless people in Atlanta.



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