The Road to Chicago Goes Through Gary – GPT: Chicago *1st*

This past weekend was a pretty sweet weekend for Magic. Saturday was the finals for the GGCS spring season, where the top 16 players duke it out in single elimination, best-of-5 matches to determine a champion. I was the third overall seed going into the tournament, and I felt pretty confident in my deck choice and ability to take the whole thing down. Here is the list I played:

Instead of the sweet taste of victory, I had an early exit after losing to Alex Smith in the 2nd round. Wop wop.

On the following day, Gamer’s Gauntlet was holding a Grand Prix Trial for GP Chicago. The winner got two byes to the Grand Prix and a playset of Misty Rainforests. Seeking redemption after my early exit from the GGCS, I decided to run it back. I played roughly the same deck as I did in the GGCS, with just a couple of changes:

A few notes on some of the card choices:

Nightveil Specter over Lifebane Zombie

I expected a lot of B/X decks for this GPT, especially B/G since it had just put three copies into the Top 8 of the SCG Open in Knoxville. Lifebane Zombie, while good in its own right, doesn’t do much against black decks besides looking at their hand. Nightveil Specter, on the other hand, is an absolute all-star in a matchup where both players are playing off of the top of their decks. It messes up their scrying, gives you card advantage, and provides three devotion. It also has a respectable body, making it better than Lifebane against any of the aggressive decks that might pop up. I still had three copies of the Zombie in the sideboard because it’s fantastic against Monsters and B/W.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel over Blood Baron of Vizkopa

I owe all credit for this decision to a good friend, Ryan Hovis. Back when we were testing before Journey Into Nyx was officially released, Hovis suggested that I play Gray Merchant instead of Blood Baron. I tried it out and really liked it. Gray Merchant is fantastic against the burn and aggressive decks in the format, because unlike Blood Baron, you get the life gain right away instead of having to wait a turn to maybe be able to attack. It also lead to some pretty big blowouts against opponents who expected me to play Blood Baron on turn five instead of Gray Merchant. The swap back to Gray Merchant was also partially influenced by having Nightveil Specter in the main as well.

Now onto the tournament itself!

Round One – Michael Lapree (BWR Midrange)

Side note: If any of you know me, you know that I’ve always been a fan of BWR decks in Theros. It was the very first deck I played when Theros was released, and did really well with it. However, that deck could not beat Mono-Blue if its life depended on it, so I decided to stop playing it. Anyway, onto the games…

Game one played out perfectly for my opponent, while I basically did nothing. He plays a turn one Thoughtseize, taking my Pack Rat and my only early game play, followed by a turn 3 Lifebane Zombie. Thankfully he didn’t hit anything. He had the Dreadbore for my turn four Desecration Demon, and chained into a turn five Blood Baron of Vizkopa and turn six Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. I quickly packed it in for game two.

Game two was my turn to do everything while he did nothing. He mulligans to six and keeps a one-lander with a discard spell and an Underworld Connections. He didn’t hit his third land until it was too late.

Game three was probably the most interesting game we played. We do nothing for the first couple turns, and he misses his third land drop. I play a Lifebane Zombie, and see a hand of:

Obzedat, Ghost Council
Archangel of Thune
Blood Baron of Vizkopa
Hero’s Downfall
Hero’s Downfall
Devour Flesh
Desecration Demon

I decided to take the Archangel because it was the only threat I did not have an answer for in hand. The following turn my opponent is able to Thoughtseize away one of my two Elspeths in hand. I land a Blood Baron on turn five, and my opponent could not stabilize in time.

1-0 Matches, 2-1 Games

Round 2 – Ceilyn Wemyss (Jund Monsters)

I’ll be honest, I don’t remember games one and two of this match. I know game one he crushed me while I did nothing, and game two was the same as game one, but with him not doing much. Game three is the interesting one anyway.

Ceilyn mulls to six and plays a scry land. I Thoughtseize him and see a hand of:

Elvish Mystic
Sylvan Caryatid
Sire of Insanity
Sire of Insanity
and a land.

I knew this was going to be a race to be the first to hit six mana since I had an Elspeth in hand, and I take his Sylvan Caryatid. I play a Pack Rat on turn two, and make a rat on the end of his turn after he plays a Scavenging Ooze. I play a Lifebane Zombie on my turn just to add another creature to the board because I know all he has is two Sires. He grows his Ooze to a 3/3 on my end step, then draws for his turn. After thinking a little bit, he decides to attack with his Ooze. I put him on bluffing a Ghor-Clan Rampager or a removal spell and snap-block with my Lifebane Zombie, and he blows me out with a Putrefy on my legit Pack Rat, eating it to make it a 4/4.

Now, some of you might be thinking “of course he had the removal spell to blow you out! He wouldn’t attack otherwise!”

In hindsight, blocking was clearly a mistake; I had a faster clock with my Pack Rats and Zombie, but I had a Devour Flesh in my hand to try and slow him down by a turn because he would have had to sacrifice his elf, so I decided to try and trade. Turns out having the Putrefy was huge, because my 6th land came into play tapped (curse you, Temple of Silence!), and he hit his 6th land drop right after to play Sire, forcing me to discard my Elspeth. Had the trade worked, I would’ve gotten the Elspeth in play before he played Sire, and probably win that game because I can continue to make Soldier tokens to chump the Sire while I continue making Pack Rats. Oh well.

1-1, 3-3

Round 3 – Donny Rospierski (U/W Heroic)

Both of these games weren’t close, as I had all the removal spells I needed to blow him out backed up by a couple Desecration Demons. Turns out enchantments aren’t good against a deck full of removal. I think both games took a total of 15 minutes.

2-1, 5-3

Round 4 – Mike Kaczor (Esper Control)

Finally, the matchup I wanted to play with this deck. It’s no surprise that the B/W deck is great against control; maindeck Obzedat plus Connections really taxes them game one, and post-board the deck gets access to four more discard spells in the form of Duress and Erebos, God of the Dead to shut down their life gain.

In game one, my opponent misses his fourth land drop while I play some dudes. He eventually hits his fourth land to Supreme Verdict, but I play Obzedat, Ghost Council the following turn and drain him out.

In game two, I hit him a couple times with Nightveil Specter, forcing him to Verdict it away. I land an Erebos followed by Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. The turn before he dies, he Banishing Lights my Elspeth when she’s at seven loyalty, and tries to Detention Sphere my soldier tokens. Unfortunately, he did not play a land before this sequence of spells, and didn’t have three mana to Dissolve my Hero’s Downfall on the token he targeted.

3-1, 7-3

Round 5 – John Henry (Naya Hexproof)

We decided to intentionally draw, securing both of us for Top 8. Thankfully this did not get us banned for life from Gamer’s Gauntlet!

{EDITOR’S NOTE:Poor Jake can never play at that store ever again}

This also kept my perfect record of top 8ing every GPT I have played in intact. Unfortunately, despite the perfect record, I had not been able to win one of the GPTs. I was determined to change that.

I ended up being the 6th seed going into top 8, which meant I was going to be on the draw for the first round of top 8.

Top 8 – Ceilyn Wemyss (Jund Monsters)

Ahh, time for some good ol’ fashioned revenge. In game one, we trade creatures and removal spells until we get to a board stall.

On the deciding turn, he has a Domri Rade with three loyalty, a 6/6 Scavenging Ooze, a Stormbreath Dragon, and a Sylvan Caryatid. I have four Soldier tokens, an Obzedat, Ghost Council, a Mutavault, and an Underworld Connections. I draw at the end of his turn, and top deck my second Elspeth to wipe away his two fatties and kill his Domri. I quickly win after that.

Game two was a beating for Ceilyn. He mulligans to 6, and I had Thoughtseize to take away his turn two Domri into double Lifebane Zombie to take away his Polukranos, World-Eater and Ghor-Clan Rampager. I follow that up with a Desecration Demon, and have a Doom Blade just in case something went wrong. Ceilyn just drew more lands and scooped it up a couple turns later.

Top 4 – James Hess (UWR Control)

Game one was an interesting one because I opened up on triple Thoughtseize, double Pack Rat, two land on the draw. I kept, drew the lands I needed, and Thoughtseized away any spells that interacted with my rats. After he drew a verdict off the top to get rid of the rats, I deployed the Underworld Connections I had been holding in my hand, and stuck an Obzedat, Ghost Council that ended the game in short order.

Game two was a little more interactive. He is able to deal with my first two Nightveil Specters, and I stuck an Obzedat, Ghost Council, then followed that up with an Erebos the next turn. He taps out to play his own Elspeth, and I play one of my own the following turn, then a Desecration Demon to turn on my Erebos with Obzedat in play. His Elspeth is about to ultimate and hit me for exactly lethal, so I had to attack into his mass of tokens with my Ghost Council, Erebos, Mutavault, and six tokens. He trades off five tokens for my Obzedat and chumps Erebos, putting himself to one. The following turn I am able to ultimate Elspeth and swing with my Erebos and Mutavault for the kill.

Finals – Frank Scarber (G/R Monsters)

After finding out that Frank had defeated the hexproof deck in his Top 4 match, I knew I was favored in the finals. Still, game one showcased just how awkward Thoughtseize can be sometimes, because it can’t protect against the top of the deck, and the two life is very relevant. He beat me down with Mutavault and Elvish Mystic, top decking a Domri Rade to kill my Pack Rat the turn after I played it with only two mana up.

Game two was a little better, as I had double Thoughtseize to take away his relevant threats after he mulliganed to five and followed those up with a threat of my own. Frank drew nothing but lands and we were off to game three.

Game three started off perfect, as I had Thoughtseize into Lifebane after he had mulliganed to six. On one turn he attacks in with his Elvish Mystic with only one card in hand (which I knew was a Mizzium Mortars) into my four open mana, including a Mutavault. I have a Nightveil Specter in hand that I wanted to stick into what would be an open board, so I decided to block with my Mutavault, expecting Frank to burn the Mortars on it, hoping I would get a little land screwed. He did, and I drew a land to go along with the Specter I deployed. I remained stuck on four lands for a couple turns, but was able to add a Pack Rat and a Desecration Demon as he kept drawing lands. My Specter eventually hits a forest off the top of his deck, which allowed me to play the first of three Gray Merchants in my hand. Turns out only one was enough to earn a concession.

And there you have it, guys. After Top 8ing every single GPT I have played in only to fall short of winning it all, I have finally taken one down.

Props to Frank and Boris for not splitting the finals!

Props to Frank and Boris for not splitting the finals!

Boris Pan

Props:

Baller for lending out his B/G deck to Ben Perry

Everyone I asked for a Temple of Malady but not having one

Gary for leading to complete blowouts

Baseball

Slops:

Joba Chamberlain for giving up 3 runs in the 8th

Non-matching Thoughtseizes