There's nothing quite like sitting 8-0 heading into the final round of Day 1. You know you're into Day 2, and even if you lose you still have good position to Top 8. What should be the most stressful match of the day becomes a breeze, the perfect way to end a day. As they shuffled for their match, Vincent Thibeault and Colby Warkentin were clearly enjoying the relief that eight wins in the bag will give you.
Vincent Thibeault is a former member of the Canadian National team. However, Magic has taken something of a backseat in his life. Between his job teaching philosophy at a CEGEP (a pre-University school for ages 17 & 18) in Montreal and raising a family he doesn't have nearly as much time to play. Still, a Limited Grand Prix next door was hard to turn down. "It's not like Constructed, you don't need to playtest as much."
In contrast to Thibeault, Colby Warkentin is just starting his journey as a mage. He only learned the game a couple years ago, and this is his first Grand Prix. After studying Computer Science at the University of Alberta, Warkentin moved to Guelph, Ontario for work and dove into Magic. I asked him how much competitive play experience he had coming into this event. "Not a ton, I've played prereleases, FNM at my local store (The Dragon), Grand Prix Trials." How does he feel about the prospect of drafting against the field tomorrow? "Well, I think I know the format alright, but I know that Day 2 of a GP is nothing like drafting at FNM. I'm just going to do my best."
The match started leisurely, both players setting up with nonbasics to get all their colors online. Warkentin built up his defenses behind Archer's Parapet, summoning Unyielding Krumar and Rakshasa Deathdealer. Thibeault had only a morph. He played his fifth land and passed with his mana untapped. That gave Warkentin pause.
He checked his plan, and decided to go ahead with it. He pumped his Deathdealer to a 4/4, turning on Savage Punch for his Unyielding Krumar on Thibeault's morph. Thibeault unmorphed War Behemoth for the save. Warkentin sent his attackers and traded the Krumar for the damaged Behemoth, pumping his Deathdealer to knock Thibeault to twelve.
Unfortunately, that left him without regeneration mana. Thibeault tapped six for Rite of the Serpent to clear it out. Thibeault also had Abzan Charm at the ready for a 5/5 Kin-Tree Invocation, and then an Alabaster Kirin to start doing damage. Warkentin unmorphed his Abomination of Gudul and hit, getting a loot, but finding only land. Thibeault untapped and dropped another Rite of the Serpent.
"Topdecked that," said Thibeault with a grin.
He added Chief of the Scale to his squad and hit for two in the air. They were matched Kirin to Parapet, both empty-handed. It was an even race, Thibeault on ten, Warkentin on twenty. Warkentin peeled slowly, then passed without making a play. Thibeault sailed over for two and dropped Anafenza, the Foremost. When Warkentin passed another blank turn, it was clear that Thibeault was in the driver's seat. He swung in and gave his Chief the bonus. Warkentin blocked Anafenza and took five. Thibeault added a morph and passed.
Warkentin's deck finally took pity on him, giving him Hooting Mandrills to trade for Anafenza, but he was well on the back foot against Thibeault's army. Another blank draw step and he was too far gone to recover.
Thibeault 1 - Warkentin 0
Parapet for Warkentin and Chief of the Scale for Thibeault meant that the second game would be another slow-starting affair. Warkentin got out Seeker of the Way, Unyielding Krumar and Longshot Squad, while Thibeault built and impressive army of Mardu Skullhunter, morph, Ainok Bond-Kin and the brutal Anafenza. Warkentin spent a turn on Outlast for his Longshot Squad and passed.
Thibeault seized the opportunity. He tapped five for Throttle on Unyielding Krumar, leaving Warkenting with just the Parapet to block, and sent his whole team. It was a risky move opposite open mana and a Seeker of the Way, but Warkentin couldn't punish him. He traded the Seeker for the morph and took seven on the chin.
Warkentin untapped, then tapped all seven of his mana, removing three cards from his graveyard for the Delve on Dead Drop. At this point Thibeault realized they'd both made a mistake - they'd forgotten Anafenza's exiling ability. They called for a judge and waited.
"It's so easy to forget that ability," said Thibeault
Warkentin nodded. "Oh yeah, I've done it."
"Usually I remember. I was too busy thinking about making my first 9-0. You should never get overexcited."
The Judge came and ruled that they would rewind to before Dead Drop was cast, and properly exile the two creatures. Warkentin could only pass the turn. Rite of the Serpent from Thibeault meant another brutal attack. Warkentin tapped the top of his deck, then peeked at his draw. It wasn't what he was looking for, just an Abzan Charm. He gamely used it to draw cards but the game was over.
Vincent Thibeault defeats Colby Warkentin 2-0
The two compared the decks that had served them so well. Warkentin flashed the Duneblast he'd been hoping to draw. His deck was slower, with eighteen lands. "I did the turn-two Archer's Parapet, turn-three Kin-Tree Invocation in I think seven of the nine rounds today. It wasn't too hard to win with that start."
Thibeault's deck had a more aggressive focus, with a package of mighty removal spells. Warkentin couldn't help but feel outmatched. "I thought you were a sort of low-to-the-ground warriors deck, so I'd be safe behind my bigger creatures, but then you had all this strong removal." Thibeault agreed. "The plan is definitely to get the aggressive start and then clear the path."