Crushing in Chicago – Grand Prix Chicago *12th*

Grand Prix Chicago Tournament Report 12th

Hey guys, I’m Mike, and this is my first tournament report, and it’s for GP Chicago. For those of you who don’t know, I’m a control player at heart and the plan going into the GP was to play Esper control.

Leading up to the GP most of the control decks have been adopting the Planar Cleansing/Elixir of Immortality build. I already knew that I didn’t want to go this route with the emergence of the Boss Sligh deck the previous week and I didn’t care for how the deck matched up with the rest of the decks in the format. My thought was that slowing down for expensive spells was not the answer. I had been playing Esper for a few months prior, and one of the reason I liked the deck so much was because you were able to play efficient removal spells like Doom Blade and Dark Betrayal.

The other reason I wanted to play Esper was because of how well positioned I felt Nightveil Specter was. Specter was already a powerhouse vs. Mono-Black and Mono-Blue, but because the U/W control decks were cutting all of their Detention Spheres and Banishing Lights after boarding they would have very few answers to it. Reactively, the Black decks began to cut some of their Abrupt Decays because there were less targets for them.

Here is the list I ended up registering for the GP:

I feel like this build doesn’t really have a poor matchup game one outside of the U/W control mirror, mainly because the mainboard is hedged greatly against the aggro and midrange decks so you have a lot more dead draws then they do. Plus they just have a great deal more card advantage and the Elixir builds are just better equipped to grind out the late game.

After boarding, the matchup improves significantly. You have the combination of  hand disruption, more counter magic, and the Specter that they can no longer answer as easily. The rest of the matchups outside of Burn and Boss Sligh are all 50/50 or positive matchups game one. After boarding that remains much the same besides the mono Black matchup because they can still just draw their 2-3 discard spells and just rip your hand apart.

Day 1

Round 1 -Steve Kuecker: Esper Control

Things started off by my opponent telling me this was his first major Magic tournament, which is generally a good thing to hear. However I quickly learned in game one that this meant he was also very indecisive with his play, thus his pace of play was very slow. In addition, my play was not great. I gave away a few planeswalkers by not playing around Detention Sphere and Heroes Downfall. Because of this I didn’t win game one until there were only 15 minutes left in the round. In Game two I was not expecting him to board into the creature package (ie Archangel of Thune and Nightveil Specter) and lost with three minutes to go. As you can guess, we didn’t have a chance to finish the match and it ended in a draw, effectively giving me a loss. Normally I would have called a judge over to watch for slow play, but earlier in the match my opponent attempted to Ultimate Price my Mutavault, and when I called a judge over my opponent received a warning for this. I didn’t want to have his getting a game loss on another warning to affect the match. Keep this in mind for later.


Round 2 – Brett Guinn: U/W Control

Honestly, I don’t remember a whole lot about what happened this match outside of my opponent mulliganing to six in game one and missing his second land drop a few times. Game two Nightveil Specter hit multiple counterspells and I just won that game off of the card advantage from it.


Round 3 – Ben Shaw: Dredge

I don’t know what to say about this matchup as I have never played against it before. In game one he was stuck on mana for much of the game. I resolved an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion on six and ultimated it three turns later. Going into game two after somewhat seeing what his deck did I was pretty sure I just needed to make sure that I could deal with an early Nemesis of Mortals or Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord as I had no permanent answer for him. The game developed to a point where I had him dead to Aetherling the next turn if he didn’t draw an untapped source of mana so he could monstrous his Nemesis and throw it at my face with Jarad. Luckily he didn’t.


Round 4 -Tanner Thomas: Red Devotion

This was probably my most stressful match of day one. I was in pretty bad shape on turn five. All my lands came into play tapped this game, I was at four life, and just had to tap out to Supreme Verdict away an Ash Zealot with Madcap Skills. I passed back to him with four cards in hand expecting a Stormbreath Dragon or a combination of burn spells to finish me. To my surprise. he just passed back to me, and I took the chance to Sphinx’s Revelation back up to seven during my main phase. The game continued a few more turns, with him doing nothing, me sticking an Elspeth before he just scooped and showed me his hand of 2 lands and 3 Chained to the Rocks.

In Game two, all the luck I had with his draws game one was gone. One Ryan Hovis will confirm when he walked away laughing, my opponent had a Purphoros, God of the Forge, Hammer of Purphoros, and Burning Earth all in play. Game three was extremely close but I resolved an Archangel of Thune and it took over the game.


Round 5 – William “Huey” Jensen: Blue Devotion

I played this match about at bad as I possibly could. I was nervous and star struck. However, his draws were less then par and the mono Blue matchup is about the closest thing to a bye my deck had. Game one I resolved a large Revelation and it drew me into Supreme Verdict, Banishing Light and Elspeth. With his hand exhausted it was all I needed to win. In game two, after a turn four Verdict, he had no answer for Archangel and I was on to round six.


Round 6 – Luis Scott Vargas: Blue Devotion 

You’ve got to be kidding me right? What are the chances of having to play back-to-back Hall of Famers? {EDITOR’S NOTE: You don’t win events by beating the worst people there! } Cursing my bad luck, I went to the table and met the man himself. First, let me just say everything that has been said about LSV is true. I discovered he was a very nice and polite person as we chit-chatted a bit about the tournament before the match. Then the game started and I found out he was playing mono-Blue, the best news possible. Game one went as according to plan as possible. I Detention Sphered his Thassa, God of the Sea on turn three then played a Jace, Architect of Thought on four, making him commit more to the board. He did, and the follow up of Verdict and Elspeth  elicited a scoop.

Game two, Nightveil Specter took the game over for me. It hit his Specter, which I played. Both hit next turn for his Bident of Thassa and Tidebinder Mage. It was over two turns later after he found no answers.


Round 7 – Mark Hinsz: Jund Monsters

As you can probably imagine, I was on top of the world at this point. I had just played and beaten two straight Hall of Famers, and I had a solid chance of making day two. I was finding I had a hard time focusing for a few minutes, but that quickly changed when I found my opponent was playing Jund Monsters. In game one I chained Revelations into multiple removal spells before finally beating him down with Soldier tokens. Game two I felt like I was behind the entire game. I was down to three before I finally stabilized, but had to tap out for it. He had a Mistcutter Hydra and that was it. Game three he had the creature-heavy draw, but I was able to deal with it fairly easily via Verdict and 2 Doom Blades. Archangel beat for a few turns and it was time for round eight.


Round 8 – Raymond Sainz: Blue Devotion

This was very frustrating round, but not the actual match. We had already presented each others’ decks and resolved mulligans before the round started. My opponent took this time to take a restroom break. Seven minutes into the round he comes back and we were about to begin when a judge other then the one giving us a time extension decided to stop us, announcing a deck check. I asked him if they were going to even though we have already resolved mulligans. By the time the judge realized what was happening my opponent had already shuffled his hand into his deck.

Their solution was that my starting hand was to be set aside, and I would present a 53-card deck after the deck check. As for my opponent, he would draw a new starting hand. This wouldn’t be an issue except that my opponent had mulliganed to five. I personally don’t know what could have been done here by the judges but I can’t help but feel my opponent was screwed here.

As for the match, game one he flooded on land and one power creatures while I had a Jace on board. After finding a win condition, the game was over quickly. Game two was another game owned by Nightveil Specter. Just being a 2/3 it was able to block and kill almost all of his creatures, forcing him to over-commit his board into a Supreme Verdict. I played another Nightveil after and passed. His last card was a Jace, Memory Adept, and he milled me for 10, but I had a Banishing Light waiting. Nightveil stole a few of his creatures before he scooped.


Round 9 – Filip Roman: B/r Devotion

Ah, the first Black deck of the day. This was the matchup I was hoping that the Nightveil Specters would help to stabilize for me, and they did not disappoint. Game one was uninteresting. My opponent was stuck on three lands for a few turns, allowing me to get to Aetherling while still at a high life total. Game two he kept a Pack Rat hand with no hand disruption so my Detention Sphere was there for it, and he had nothing to follow up with. Nightveil Specter hit one of his other Pack Rats and he scooped the next turn.


Undefeated after day one, I never would have dreamed. I basically spent the night trying to relax my mind a bit and prep for day two, but that was easier said than done. I was playing the some of the best Magic of my life. I went from just wanting to make day two to feeling like I had an actual chance to Top 8.


 Day 2

 Round 10 – Matt Ayers: Black Devotion

There must have been some carry over from my previous match against mono black, because game one my opponent never got off of two lands. Game two’s outcome was decided by two things. My opponent had cast an Underworld Connections on one of his two swamps and not one of his two Mutavaults. He did not have another black source for two turns and was so constrained on black mana that he could never cast more then one spell a turn for the rest of the game. Meanwhile, I played a turn three Nightveil Specter, hit one of his Specters and played it, then next turn hit his Pack Rat and a Mutavault. He conceded shortly after.


Round 11- Adrian Sullivan: Blue-White Control

I’ve played against Adrian before in a couple of local PTQs, so I was familiar with his style of play with U/W. Game one was an absolute grind. After burning through most of our counter magic, I finally stuck an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and protected it with my last Dissolve. He tried to Elixir of Immortality his deck back in to find an answer but he bricked long enough for Elspeth to ultimate.

Late in game two, I ultimated a Jace, Architect of Thought after all of my win conditions were pretty much gone, so I had to take one of his Elspeth’s, and tried to protect it with a Thoughtseize from my own deck. But his hand was stacked, and in the interest of time I conceded a few turns later. Game three my opening hand was insane. Thoughtseize, Nightveil Specter, Island, two scry lands, and 2 counterspells. I Thoughtseized on two, taking his one early answer to the Specter. In addition, Adrian missed his forth land, and Nightveil hit some of his countermagic. A second Specter joined the board a turn later, putting him too far behind to catch up.


Round 12 – Steve Wise: Blue-White Control

I did not play very well in this match. I made a very poor decision game one and a big mistake in game three. Game one we had both been drawing cards and setting up for the late game. During my end phase, my opponent attempted a fairly large Sphinx’s Revelation and I chose to make him fight over it so I could try to stick an Elspeth on my next turn. I made sure to keep up a Negate so that I would not have to deal with anything major during his turn. The problem with this? Aetherling is a creature. I ended up spending the next few turns trying to fend it off until I could find my own Aetherling to try and race it, but to no avail.

Game two, I stuck a pair of Nightveil Specters early and the game was over quickly. It was the last turn before extra turns in game three that I made my biggest blunder of the tournament. My opponent had cast a Revelation the turn before, and I had not written down the life total change. This caused me to attack my opponent with my Aetherling rather then his Elspeth, thinking he was at a lower life total. The Soldier tokens overwhelmed me and I lost in turn four of time.


Round 13 – Jadine Klomparens: Black Devotion

Game one was pretty tight considering she was able to rip apart my hand with two Thoughtseizes. My saving grace was that she had missed her fourth land drop for three turns. She wasn’t able to keep up once I finally drew a Revelation and began chaining them. Game two, I felt like I was in command of for most of the game and was at a stable life total for several turns, but blanked out and she eventually killed me. Game three was Nightveil’s time to shine again. Off of my first Specter I resolved a second Specter and Lifebane Zombie which was enough to hold her off until I hit one of her [cardPack Rat[/card]s which ended the game quickly.


Round 14 – Ryan Scullin: Red-White Burn

This was probably my worst match up, so I was pleasantly surprised when I took down game one. However, after he sided out his dead cards I wasn’t able to keep up. Game two I kept a very counter-heavy hand, but my lands came into play tapped and he had his creature draw, so I had no answer for them once they resolved. Game three was pretty frustrating after mulling to six to start off, but then I missed my fourth and fifth land drops so I died before I could do anything.


Round 15 – Evan Farrell:  Blue-White Control

Knowing that dropping my last match meant I had no shot at top 8 anymore, I was pretty disappointed. I was kind of hoping for a quick and easy match to end the day, so obviously I had to play U/W control again. Game one played out pretty similarly to game one of round 12. I chose to get into a counter war over one of his spells during his turn to stick an Aetherling. However, with my counter magic gone, my opponent started chaining massive Revelations and the game was over.

I’m just gonna sum up the last two games in one because they played out the same. I ran a turn two Thoughtseize into a Nightveil Specter. They hit multiple counterspells, and the games ended pretty quickly from there.

Final Record 12-2-1

So at this point I was just waiting to see where I ended up finishing in the tournament, but as I was waiting I began to hear that there will be people outside of top 8 getting an invite to the Pro Tour. After finding a judge and confirming this, I got the biggest proverbial kick to the junk of the weekend, only X-2 records would be getting invites. So my round one draw came back to bite me, big time. The main lesson here is that you need to not let your opponent play slowly, game loss or not. So after finding out my final spot was 12th, I was feeling somewhat down for not finishing out the tournament. That having been said, it was hard for me to find a lot I did wrong this weekend other then the match verses Huey and round 12, so there was really little for me to sit and brew on.

Overall,  I don’t think there would be a lot that I would change other than the round one draw. I was very happy with my play for most of the tournament, which is funny considering how poorly I played in two of my matches. I felt like my all of the card choices for my deck were the correct ones for the event. I may write a follow up Esper primer so keep an eye out for that.

Mike Kailing