Grand Prix Indianapolis Coverage Day 1

Posted in Event Coverage on December 22, 2012

By Wizards of the Coast


Saturday, 1:30 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise #1: The Pool

by Mike Rosenberg

815 players sat down to build Sealed decks today here at Grand Prix Indianapolis. The format has seen some extensive play for a couple of months, and the line between cards that are good and cards that are great in Sealed has been established.

So what do you do in an established format like Return to Ravnica Sealed? Do you stick with the proven, powerful options, or do you go a little deep, hoping to catch unsuspecting opponents off-guard with cards that they may not expect to see from your deck in the first game of each match?

Well, we'll let you make that choice right now. Below is one of the Sealed pools that an unnamed pro had to work with today. We're going to show you the contents of the Sealed pool, and give you a chance to build a deck out of it yourself.

What would you do with these 84 cards? What's the best option? Let us know on the forums, and check back later today to see what our first unnamed pro went with!

Saturday, 3:20 p.m. – On Trials: Jordan Gaudard

by Brian David-Marshall

Jordan Gaudard, who has been playing Magic since 1999 when he grew up in Terre Haute, Indiana, has not been able to play nearly as much Magic as he would like these days. Gaudard is on active duty in the US Army stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. His Magic career has seen him make a smattering of PTQ Top 8s with an occasional Grand Prix Day Two and even a recent money finish.

"I really enjoy Magic and play it as much as I can but I joined the military and that definitely puts a damper on things," said Gaudard. "I have family in Indiana and I came home to visit them for Christmas and it just so happens that this event is close to Christmas."

Planewalker Points have been scarce to come by in Fort Hood and the Indiana native needed to earn byes for this event. Byes he knows first hand are very valuable.

"I had three byes in San Antonio last month and I was one of the 16 who snuck in at X-3 for Day Two," explained Gaudard. "There are actually only 5 more players at this tournament than were in San Antonio and we had 16 people make it with three losses. I am expecting a decent amount of X-3's to make it in."

Jordan Gaudard

While there are scattered GP Trials held in local game stores around the country there is a flurry of them on the Friday before each GP at the event site. Gaudard played in and won the first Grand Prix Trial of the weekend. I asked him what he was hoping to find in that card pool as he sat down to build the deck yesterday.

"Definitely Pack Rat!" said Gaudard naming the #1 card on most people's Sealed Deck Santa list. Gaudard was clearly on the "nice" list last year as he was rewarded with everyone's favorite vermin. He knew that he wanted to build a nice collection of creatures and removal around the card so he could win games when it did not show up."

"I went junk (black-white-green) colors with a lot of scavenge creatures -- Deadbridge Golliath, three Sewer Shamblers, Drudge Beetle, and Korozda Monitor. The only game I won without Pack Rat was when i had the 3/3 trampler and all the scavenge stuff in my graveyard. I just kept making him bigger and bigger and put all my eggs in one basket, wished for the best and it worked out."

Nobody wants to be the player who opens a Pack Rat and then messes up with it. I asked Gaudard about his philosophy about when it was optimal to play a Rat that is in your opening hand.

"I played it a lot on turn two and that might have been wrong but it worked out every time," laughed Gaudard. "The only time I won't play it on turn two -- if I have it in my hand -- is if i am playing against someone with red. There is a lot of removal in red they can play but if I don't see an obvious removal spell I will take that risk and it worked out for me."

It was clear from talking to him that Gaudard very much wanted to qualify for Pro Tour Gatecrash in Montreal but he is still on active duty. I asked how who would reconcile his blue envelope with his service.

"It would be really difficult to play in Pro Tours but I am hoping my unit would work with me to see if I could play as much as possible," explained Gaudard. "The military does that for professional athletes so I would hope that they would treat Magic with the same respect."

Jordan Gaudard – Winner Grand Prix Trial #1

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Saturday, 3:45 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise #2: The Pool

by Mike Rosenberg

We've got a second Sealed pool ready for you to check out. Our pro made a deck a little while ago out of a pool that had no clear-cut options. What do you think this unnamed pro went with?

This pool, unlike the previous one, does not that have one clear direction that a rare will pull you towards. Archon of the Triumvirate is tempting, and is supported by a Lyev Skynight, but is it the correct direction? Outside of the Archon, the rares in this pool are not going to make the cut. So when your rares consist of things like Rest In Peace and lands, what do you do?

Then there's the three Auger Spree. Perhaps an aggressively minded Rakdos deck is correct instead. You can lead the game off with an early with unleashed, destroying anything that comes down to offer resistance. What would you build out of this pool? Our unnamed pro has made the best of what that player was given, and we'll show you that player's deck later today.

Saturday, 3:55 p.m. – Not Your Standard Grand Prix Trial

by Mike Rosenberg

One thing many may not know about Friday's Grand Prix Trials is that they don't necessarily have to be the same format as the Grand Prix itself. For Grand Prix Indianapolis, seven players earned themselves three byes yesterday via the Grand Prix Trials. Six of those players won their Trials in Return to Ravnica Sealed, but one player managed to earn his three byes in the sole Standard Trial to take place yesterday.

Greg Smith traveled here this weekend from Chicago with his friends, barely making it in time to play in the Trials. A recent returning player, who just started playing more again during Return to Ravnica, took down the only Standard Grand Prix Trial yesterday, managed to earn his three byes with a deck many expected to see less of in the Standard season. His choice? Green-White aggro.

Here's a look at what he played yesterday:

Greg Smith's G/W Aggro

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"We got in late, and this was one of the few Trialss I had left to play in," he said, noting that he was barely about to get here in time to play for his three byes.

Green-White Aggro is a fast, aggressive deck that combines some of the best that Selesnya has to offer. Rancor, one of the best cards in the deck, is particularly brutal on an all-too-common turn two Loxodon Smiter, and can get downright dangerous when equipped to a creature that is soulbonded with Silverblade Paladin.

Then, there's Sublime Archangel, a card that lets this attack deal massive amounts of damage out of nowhere. Combined with Rancor (or a Selesyna Charm), the 4/3 angel gives Greg the ability to punch through any blockers for big damage, putting opponents on the backpedal in a hurry.

As for the reason Greg chose to play G/W Aggro, that was simple: it was the deck he had ready to play. "I've been playing this for a little while now," he said. "I had it ready, so it's what I used for this event!"

Greg Smith has started off his Grand Prix weekend well, with a Trial win on Friday and a round four victory on Saturday.

Greg is off to a solid start, winning the first match he played today to secure him a 4-0 record. If he keeps this up, his weekend might just get a whole lot better!

Round Four Feature Match – William Jensen vs. Christian Calcano

by Brian David-Marshall

"What year is this?" laughed William Jensen as he sat down for his feature match. Pro Tour Hall of Famer Brian Kibler was also sitting down for his match against Pat Cox. The two players both played the early part of their careers in New England – careers that stretch back all the way back to the previous millennium. Jensen just missed joining Kibler in the Hall of Fame by a single vote. His job did not allow for him to play much Magic in recent years but that should change in the coming months as part of a philosophy to prioritize happiness over money.

His resume includes a Pro Tour victory in Boston that ended the Phoenix Foundation's reign over the team Pro Tour and three more Top 8s to along with the win. At the Grand Prix level he has made the Top 8 eight times with a pair of wins. There is a Masters series win in there as well and you can understand the "just-my-luck" eyeroll from Christian Calcano as he saw what he was up against in round four.

Calcano has been the game's road warrior – in the truest Dave Price sense of the words – for the past couple of seasons. He has been slugging it out online and off trying to stay qualified for the Pro Tour. He earned his first Grand Prix win earlier this year when he won Grand Prix Minneapolis and is coming off a 25th place finish at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica that has qualified him for Pro Tour Gatecrash.

"Did you win a Trial?" Calcano asked of Jensen who just shook his head ruefully.

"So you won rounds two and three?" said Calcano as he did the math that involved adding someone with a Hall of Fame caliber resume to a deck that emerged unscathed from the early rounds of action.

"You're playing 41?" asked Jensen as he finished pile shuffling his opponent's deck.

"Really?" gulped a crestfallen Calcano who had a Plan B build of his deck ready to go and could potentially have not reset his deck correctly during practice rounds.

Jensen laughed and Calcano exhaled as he realized his friend was just having a little fun at his expense.

Christian Calcano

Game 1

Calcano started out on the play with six cards and they were off. Jensen made the first play with turn two Keening Apparition while Calcano played a Centaur Healer after a turn three Transguild Promenade.

While Calcano could make all five colors of mana, Jensen was stuck on three Plains and discarded Centaur Healer when he could play nothing a turn later. Calcano had put up a Security Blockade and added a Hover Barrier for extra protection.

Forests finally sprouted from the top of Jensen's deck and he added Axebane Guardian to his scant board. He still had a grip full of cards while Calcano was down to just two. One of those cards was Phantom General and Calcano's attack for six dropped Jensen to 8.

Jensen strummed his fingers against the black cloth on the table while he considered his options on his turn. Ultimately he played Wayfaring Temple and Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage. Calcano jammed his team into the red zone and Jensen blocked the General with temple and the token with Keening Apparition. Rootborn Defenses from Calcano meant his team would live – and add a Knight to its ranks. Jensen destoyed the Security Blockade with his Apparition.

He untapped to play Courser's Accord with Calcano was down to one card after he played Gatecreeper Vine and fetched up a Golgari Guildgate. Jensen played Centaur's Herald a turn later – his deck looked like a pure expression of the Selsnya if he drew two colors of mana.

Chorus of Might

Seller of Singbirds meant Calcano needed three turns to close the game with his flier. Jensen populated his centaur ranks at the end of the turn and played a Seller of Songbirds of his own. Calcano attacked and Jensen blocked, using the usually game-ending Chorus of Might to kill the bigger flier. Calcano added a pair of 5/5 trampling rhinos to his team with Horncaller's Chant.

Jensen shrugged and attacked with with his bird token. After a moment's hesitations Calcano decided to block with Hover Barrier. Both players chuckled.

"You have to try. I almost took it," admitted Calcano who was safely over 20.

"I know...I saw," laughed Jensen.

Calcano just played another Seller and an Ogre Jailbreaker rather than attack. Jensen played Trostani's Judgment on the token at the end of the turn and continued the recruitment for his centaur army. He untapped and swung with the bird and Temple. Calcano began amassing creatures in front of the 10/10 but ultimately he just threw his Gatecreeper Vine in it's path.

With the Temple tapped Calcano saw a chance to – he looked at the Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage and the life seemed to drain from his potential attack: "Your turn."

Jensen kept growing his team and untapped to play Golgari Decoy. Both players passed the turn. Calcano was holding two lands but Jensen had to respect that they could be any number of Selesnya's combat tricks.

"Do you think I should have gone for it last turn?" Jensen asked after the game. "I would have been dead on the attack back." The "if you had anything" was silent.

William Jensen - 1 Christian Calcano - 0

"You're at 21?" Jensen could clearly win on the board but for the knowledge of those two cards in Calcano's hand and just attacked with two 1/1 birds. He could now populate two Centaur a turn and built his army to the point where he could attack with a smaller but still lethal force while leaving back enough guys should Calcano be holding a Druid's Deliverance or other trick.

"Do you think I should have gone for it last turn?" Jensen asked after the game. "I would have been dead on the attack back." The "if you had anything" was silent.

William Jensen - 1 Christian Calcano - 0

Centaur's Herald

Game 2

Another mulligan for Calcano on the play was going to have to work even harder this game as Jensen led off with Forest and Centaur's Herald. Calcano had done major work on his deck between games and had a Tower Drake for turn three followed up by Seller of Songbirds. Jensen made a token and swung for three.

Calcano playrd Righteous Authority on the bird token and swung with the team. Jensen played Rootburn Defenses, made a centaur and ate the Seller – he fell to 13. Jensen put Knightly Valor on a Centaur and was able to drop Calcano to 8. Calcano swung back for seven – thanks to two cards from Authority – and then played Stealer of Secrets and Security Blockade. One card left in hand.

Calcano sighed and pushed his 2/2s in front of the 3/3 and 5/5 taking two from the Knight. Calcano only attacked with his token and Jensen fell to 2. Calcano looked at the Tower Drake sitting back on defense and shook his head: "Probably should have killed you."

"Probably," agreed Jensen who did have cards in hand and six untapped mana. He tapped half of it to play Rootburn Defenses to make another 3/3 at end of turn. Calcano had Trostani's Judgment for the 5/5. Jensen thought for a long time before finally putting his token in the bin. Calcano made a bird token and blocked with his two guys such that he stayed alive.

It looked like the extra turn was going to hurt as Jensen played Centaur Healer to put himself to 5 but the Inspiration that Calcano drew allowed him to draw one additional card and attack for exactly lethal.

"Did you have Inspiration?"

Calcano shook his head and bashfully admitted that he drew it that turn.

William Jensen - 1 Christian Calcano - 1

William Jensen

Game 3

Both players sent their opening hands back but Jensen's next six were straight from the blackboard in the Selesnya locker room. He led off with Centaur's Herald and followed it up with Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage.

With his fourth mana Jensen attacked for three and promptly made another token. Calcano's defenses were not quite up to the task with a Knight token off Security Blockade and Vassal Soul. By the time Calcano had added Skymark Roc to the board Jensen had also played Wayfaring Temple and Keening Apparition.

Final result: William Jensen - 2 Christian Calcano - 1

Round Six Feature Match – Curt Cotham vs. Adam Yurchick

by Mike Rosenberg

Curt Cotham from Memphis, who is playing in his first Grand Prix after winning a Trial in his hometown, sits down to play against Adam Yurchick of Cleveland, a Pro Tour player who has had some time to play and master this Limited format. Yurchick has been operating off of a broken leg after an accident during the summer, which has given him some free time to practice more on Magic Online. Now, he's got a chance to show off his mastery of Return to Ravnica Limited.

Game 1

Cotham had the first play of the game with Dead Reveler, while Yurchick made his own copy of the unleashed zombie. A Stab Wound landed on Yurchick's Dead Reveler, as an attack plus the enchantment sent Yurchick down to 15. Yurchick got back onto the board with Cobblebrute and passed, as Cotham pressed his advantage with an Inaction Injunction on the 5/2 and an attack.

However, Yurchick had an answer to the powerful Stab Wound with Voidwielder, which returned his Dead Reveler back to his hand and freed himself from the bleeding of the enchantment. Cotham's only follow-up was Sewer Shabler, as Yurchick replayed his Dead Reveler and Sewer Shambler. Cotham gave his Sewer Shambler some added bite with Deviant Glee, sending Yurchick to 6 before playing Tower Drake and passing.

Curt Cotham presses his advantage, pushing forward for an impressive first Grand Prix appearance.

Yurchick sent everyone but Voidwielder into combat, but as he lacked an answer to the beefed up Sewer Shambler, he conceded to Cotham's attacks on the next turn.

Cotham 1 – Yurchick 0

Game 2

Yurchick led off fast with Rix Maadi Guildmage, as Cotham lacked any early ways to deal with the powerful Rakdos creature. Yurchick pressed his advantage after an attack with an unleashed Dead Reveler before passing back to Cotham, who had Lyev Skyknight to detain the guildmage.

Dead Reveler attacked in, bringing Cotham to 15, as Daggerdrome Imp gave Yurchick an answer to Cotham's flying creature. Cotham had a temporary solution with Azorius Justicar, detaining the Imp and the Guildmage, as Cotham attacked for 3. Yurchick, however, kept piling on the pressure with an attack from Dead Reveler and Goblin Rally.

Yurchick's massive army left Cotham back-pedaling, as he cast Precint Captain and passed the turn. When Yurchick sent all of his creatures in, Cotham revealed an Izzet Charm to take out the Rix Maadi Guildmage. Yurchick fired back with Auger Spree on the Precinct Captain before blockers, as the Justicar blocked a goblin token and the Lyev Skyknight jumped in front of the Daggerdrome Imp. The resulting combat left Cotham with only his 2/2 creature and at 6 life.

Adam Yurchick shows off what his Rakdos deck can do.

Cotham drew and passed on his next turn, casting Hussar Patrol to block Dead Reveler while the Azorius Justicar took out another goblin token. Yurchick followed with Spawn of Rix Maadi, and on the next turn attacked with his team, trading the Spawn for Cotham's freshly played Armory Guard and sending the Memphis player to 2. When Yurchick unloaded with a Dead Reveler and Splatter Thug, Cotham picked up his cards.

Cotham -1 Yurchick – 1

Precinct Captain

Game 3

Cotham had first action of the game on the third turn with an Izzet Keyrune. Yurchick, however, only had lands in his first three turns. Cotham, however, did not have a fourth land, as he played Armory Guard and passed to Yurchick, who played Cobblebrute. Cotham played a Precinct Captain and passed back, while Yurchick played a leashed Spawn of Rix Maadi to keep back as a blocker for Cotham's crew.

An Azorius Justicar detained both of Yurchick's blockers, as the Precinct Captain and Armory Guard were sent in, netting Cotham a 1/1 soldier token for his attack. Yurchick played Dead Reveler and passed back with his three blockers. Tower Drake gave Cotham a small air force, as he passed back, his team halted by the Rakdos army. Yurchick cast Viashino Racketeer, discarding Sewer Shambler to draw, as scavenge grew the Rackeeter to a 4/3. It was joined by a Pursuit of Flight on Cobblebrute the following turn, after Cotham attacked with his Tower Drake. The 7/4 Cobblebrute attacked in, bringing Cotham to 13, who played Hussar Patrol at the end of the turn.

Cotham, who had no optimal attacks, played Lobber Crew before passing back to Yurchick, who sent his Cobblebrute into the air for 7. The Tower Drake jumped in the way, as Cotham drew and passed the turn. Voidwielder forced a Mizzium Skin from Cotham, as Yurchick sent the Cobblebrute into the air again, bringing his opponent down to 6.

Cotham played Inaction Injunction to lock down the Cobblebrute for a turn, as he passed back, hoping to hold on. Yurchick untapped and sent in the Spawn of Rix Maadi, as Cotham woke up his Izzet Keyrune and blocked with it, Azorius Justicar, and a 1/1 soldier token. The creatures all clashed and were destroyed, as Yurchick passed back. Cotham drew, and once again passed with no action, as Yurchick sent the Cobblebrute in the air for 7.

Cotham, who had nothing but lands in hand and staring down the brutal 7/4 creature, offered the handshake.

Cotham 1 – Yurchick 2

Round Seven Feature Match – David Ochoa vs. Chris Fennell

by Brian David-Marshall

We talked earlier in the day with one of the Grand Prix Trial winners from Friday night, Jordan Gaudard. This round we get to catch up with another Trial-winner in Chris Fennell -- perhaps better known as GatorMage on Magic Online. As Chris sat down for his Feature match he was raving about the Trial which he had just been playing in for the byes. As it turns out winning the Trial came with free entry into the main event and the VIP package which includes fixed seating, Sleep-in Special, and free bottles of water. I almost felt bad asking him to come over for the Feature Match.

While Fennell is not as active offline -- hence the need to win his byes -- as he once was he does have a resume that includes three Grand Prix Top 8s including a win at GP Washington DC. He was in the midst of a eight match win streak but had some stiff competition in the form of David Ochoa.

Ochoa, whose byes come by virtue of his Platinum status in the Pro Player's Club, was looking to add a fourth Grand Prix Top 8 to his 2012 achievements which were headlined by his Pro Tour Top 8 debut in Seattle for PT: Return to Ravnica. While their paths have not crossed often at events they know each quite well from MTGO

"I don't think we have had very competitive games when we have played. I have either destroyed you or you have crushed me," said Fennell of their match history.

Chris Fennell

Game 1

Both players were running Selesnya-based decks -- something that has been a running theme throughout the Feature Matches -- and Ochoa led of with Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage with a Keening Apparition for Fennell.

"No attacks?" joked Fennell on turn three knowing that his Bant-colored deck did not have many ways to deal with the Guildmage once it got going. "A man can dream can't he?"

He added a Sunspire Griffin to his board while Ochoa played Korozda Monitor.

"That is sufficiently large..." frowned Fennell who flew over for two and added Axebane Guardian.

Ochoa played Knightly Valor on the Monitor and attacked. Fennell blocked and sacrificed the Apparition but still took three trample damage. His deck had yielded an answer for the Guildmage and he played Arrest. He looked at his Keening Apparition in his bin and the Arrest in play and seemed happy to have them in separate zones.

"I always have this terrible feeling when I have this and this that someone is going to Traitorous Blood my Apparition."

"I have had it happen," said Ochoa with the slightest of nods. He attacked for five and played a second Monitor.

Growing Ranks

Fennell played Paralyzing Grasp on the tapped the Monitor and added Seller of Songbirds -- and the merchandise -- to his board. When Ochoa attacked he pushed the Sunspire and Seller in the way and the flier died. Ochoa played Growing Ranks and hoped to start recruiting Knights to his service.

Fennell tapped out and played Angel of Serenity to remove the one token and tucked his two graveyard creatures away for later. Ochoa went to his upkeep and with the Growing Ranks ability on the stack went from 0 to 3 bird tokens with one Eyes in the Skies giving him the ability to keep the Angel at bay with a sacrificial bird token each turn.

Fennell turned up the pressure with Soulsworn Spirit and Centaur Healer while Ochoa scavenged the Monitor onto a bird token and added Deadbridge Goliath a turn later. Ochoa needed to be able to attack with his 4/4 flier so he played Selesnya Charm to exile the Angel. Fennell went to six but got back Keening Apparition to deal with the Growing Ranks as well as the Sunspire Griffin.

The Griffin jumped in the flightpath of the big bird token -- the score was 6 to 5 in Fennell's favor. He attacked with Seller, Centaur, and Soulsworn Spirit. The Goliath ate the Centaur but Common Bond meant that Ochoa needed to have Trostani's Judgment or he was going to take lethal. He did not have it and Fennell breathed a huge sigh of relief.

"That game was close," exhaled Fennell.

"A lot closer than I expected after you cast Angel of Serenity," said Ochoa before adding: "I am completely jealous of your mana -- Guildgates and Axebane Guardian."

"Gotta cast the expensive spells somehow."

Chris Fennell - 1 David Ochoa - 0

Game 2

Ochoa mulliganed but Fennel kept his hand that let him play Gatecreeper Vine for Azorius Guildgate on turn two.

"Gonna get this party started the only way I know how," said Fennell as he played Axebane Guradian -- which would make two mana thanks to the Gatecreeper Vine. Meanwhile Ochoa was scuffling on two Plains, one Forest, and a Swamp. He clearly needed a second green source.

On turn four Drudge Beetle and Korozda Monitor came down for Fennell. When Ochoa passed the next turn with no play Fennell eyed his opponent's mana with suspicion.

Chris Fennell

" should not also have Island and Supreme Verdict."

He decided that Ochoa was unlikely to do just that and played out two more creatures on the next turn -- Centaur Healer and Soulsworn Spirit.

Final Result: Chris Fennell - 2 David Ochoa - 0

Saturday, 7:15 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise #1: The Deck

by Mike Rosenberg

Earlier today, we showed you a Sealed pool that an unnamed pro had to work with today. Featuring a couple of notably powerful Izzet cards, including the brutal Mecurial Chemister, the deck had some potential to outlast anything thrown at it.

Our pro chose to go with Izzet, but this player also included an interesting configuration that could throw a curve ball at a couple of players if ignored. Take a look!

Sealed Deck Building Exercise #1

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Featuring 18 lands, including a splash featuring Grove of the Guardian and some Selesnya Guildgates, the deck is built to lock down the board and play for the long game with cards like Mercurial Chemister and Sphinx of the Chimes. Would it be enough for this pro to get through Day 1 of Grand Prix Indianapolis? Check back at the end of the day, as we reveal this unnamed player's identity, and how this person did!


Saturday, 7:15 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise #2: The Deck

by Mike Rosenberg

Earlier today, we showed you a Sealed pool from Grand Prix Indianapolis that featured Archon of the Triumvirate, and... that was about it in terms of the rares. However, it sported some options that could take a player down the path to Azorius or the path to Rakdos.

Our unnamed pro chose to go with the latter. Three Auger Spree was just too much to pass up, and with a couple of solid cards that could result in a nice curve, including a few powerful powerhouses like Rix Maadi Guildmage and a splashed Thoughtflare, the red-black guild was this pro's weapon of choice.

Want to see what he decided on? Take a look at what he built! What did you come up with? Did you arrive to the same conclusions as this player did?

Sealed Deck Building Exercise #2

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While the deck is capable of some fast starts, it can also play for a more consistent game with 18 lands and the splashed Thoughtflare. Pursuit of Flight also works overtime in this deck, giving our unnamed pro the ability to launch some massive ground-fighters into the air for some quick kills.

We'll check back at the end of the day to reveal our unnamed pilot for this deck, as well as how he did.


Round Eight Feature Match – Reid Duke vs. Noah Walker

by Mike Rosenberg

Both Reid Duke and Noah Walker locked themselves into Day 2 for tomorrow's Return to Ravnica Booster Drafts, but when you're doing well, why not keep going? This match featured an all-Izzet showdown, with Duke representing red-blue-back and Walker representing red-blue-white. With many of the same rares filling both players' decks, who would come out as the number one Izzet mage for this round?

Game 1

Duke won the die roll and chose to draw. Walker was fine with his opening hand, while Duke went down to six cards. Walker was first to act with Sunspire Griffin, as Duke followed with Lobber Crew. The Griffin got in for 2 points, as Walker followed with Seller of Songbirds.

Duke showed that he wasn't too slow to the race with Soulsworn Spirit, detaining the Griffin, as Walker could not find a fourth land. Duke, meanwhile, had an Inaction Injunction to keep the Griffin locked down, as the Soulsworn Spirit and Lobber Crew did their thing.

Duke solidified his lead with a Pursuit of Flight on the Soulsworn Spirit, protecting it from Dramatic Rescue with a Dispel, sending Walker to 12. However, when Walker found a fourth land, the Seller of Songbirds that kept getting blocked by Lobber Crew received a Chorus of Might, as Duke went to 13. Duke's unblockable creature kept attacking, sending Walker to 7, but his clock met an end when Walker found Arrest for the Soulsworn Spirit after attacks.

The Seller of Songbirds jumped in front of Goblin Electromancer, as Duke followed with Frostburn Weird. Walker kept up the pressure, but when he went to play Hussar Patrol before blocks on Duke's attack, Duke led off with an overloaded Cyclonic Rift, pushing Walker to 3.

Walker attempted to replay his cards, but another overloaded Izzet spell – this time in Mizzium Mortars – sealed the deal for Duke.

Wait a minute... you have both of those cards?!

Duke 1 – Walker 0

Game 2

Walker chose to draw, and led off action with a second turn Keening Apparition. Duke had a Lobber Crew to fortify a defense, as Walker pressed with Stealer of Secrets, sitting on an Azorius Arrester. Duke passed with four open, but was forced to pull the trigger with Cancel on Walker's Arrester on the fourth turn. Walker followed the Cancel with attacks, putting Duke to 18, and then cast Frostburn Weird.

Duke, needing more defense, cast a leashed Splatter Thug. Walker followed with Soulsworn Spirit, detaining the Splatter Thug, as attacks put Duke to 14. Duke drew, and passed, stuck on four lands.

Reid Duke struggles to keep his head above water in this Izzet showdown.

Walker drew and played Mizzium Mortars on the Splatter Thug, and an Arrest locked down Duke's Lobber Crew. Duke had a Street Spasm to take out Stealer of Secrets, but dropped to 9 on attacks. Duke found a fifth land, and then fell to 5 on attacks. When Duke drew and cast Frostburn Weird, Walker revealed Hussar Patrol for the final points of damage on his next attack.

Duke 1 – Walker 1

Game 3

Duke led action on the draw in the third game with an unleashed Gore-House Chainwalker. Walker fired back with Vassal Soul. Duke sent in the Chainwalker, as Walker dropped to 17 before cracking back with his flying creature for 2. He passed back with four open, and when he pulled the trigger on his Hussar Patrol, it met Duke's Cancel, putting Walker to 14. Duke added some more beaters to his board with Batterhorn, passing back.

And that's when Walker cast Niv-Mizzet, Dracgogenius. Duke, amusingly, had an answer to the mythic dragon with his own copy of the Izzet guild leader, causing both legends to hit the bin. "I had a feeling that was coming," Walker said.


Batterhorn attacked, bringing Walker to 10. When Walker had no other action, Duke attacked with Batterhorn again, sending Walker to 6. Walker fired back with an end-of-turn Avenging Arrow, using Cancel to stop Duke's Dispel.

With Duke's attacks halted, Walker went on the offensive with on the next turn with an end-of-turn Skyline Predator, but debated on whether to attack with it. Duke, after all, had a lot of powerful spells still left in his deck. He opted to attack, sending the Skyline Predator and deploying Sunspire Griffin before passing back.

Duke drew, and then went into deep thought. He was sitting at 15 life, but was staring down 7 power worth of flying creatures and had little time to end things before Walker's sky forces took down the game. He pulled the trigger on his an overloaded Cyclonic Rift, as Gore-House Chainwalker sent Walker to 6. He passed back to Walker, who used an end-of-turn Cyclonic Rift to get Duke's Chainwalker off the table for a brief moment. He then replayed his Sunspire Griffin and Vassal Soul before passing.

Duke struggled as he replayed his Gore-House Chainwalker, with his creature being detained by an Azorius Arrester as Walker sent his flying creature in, putting Duke to 11. He replayed his Skyline Predator as Duke only had another land on the next turn, with attacks dropping Duke to 4.

Duke drew for his turn, and then pulled the trigger on his other Izzet rare, an overloaded Mizzium Mortars. An attack sent Walker to 3, but a revealed Explosive Impact from Walker finished things up in his Izzet mage clash.

Duke 1- Walker 2


Saturday, 8:30 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise #1: The Player

by Mike Rosenberg

Earlier today, we showed you a Sealed pool that one of our unnamed pros opened and tasked you with building the best deck that you could out of those cards. Our unnamed pro went Izzet, unable to get away from the sheer power that Mercurial Chemister represents.

Who was that player?

Conley Woods went Izzet in Day 1 of Grand Prix Indianapolis, backing up his deck with powerhouse Izzet cards like Mercurial Chemister, Thoughtflare, Teleportal, and... uh... Grove of the Guardian?

Woods opted to play with an Izzet deck, featuring a couple of splashes thanks to his high number of guildgates. Grove of the Guardian acted as the eighteen land, helping Woods hit his land drops while also representing a potentially powerful game-ender late in the game.

"There were a few decks I could build here," Woods noted. "I could go Izzet and build around Mercurial Chemister, or I could try to build Golgari or Rakdos."

However, when he fanned out his playable black and green cards, it became clear why those were not solid options during build time. "I was short on solid green and black cards. I had some cards I definitely wanted to play, like Stab Wound, but then I had others that were just filler."

He opted fro Izzet as well since his red and blue cards played better to his late-game plan of Mercurial Chemister, and going into a heavier blue base also allowed access to Sphinx of the Chimes, another beefy flying creature that can end games quickly.

But how did things pan out for Woods? Well, that's a slightly different story. After eight rounds, Woods sat at a 5-3 record, needing a win in the final round and enough fortune with tie-breakers to make it into Day 2. He noted that, while he miscalculated life totals in his second loss of the day, his other losses were simply due to things he could not control. "It happens," Woods noted, resigned to his lost games due to mana troubles and against a heavy burn strategy that he had no life gain to match.

Win or lose, Conley Woods built the deck he felt was best suited for giving him a chance at Day 2. But like an Izzet mage, sometimes things explode in beautiful fashion, and other times things fizzle out without so much as a single kaboom.


Saturday, 8:30 p.m. – Sealed Deck Building Exercise #2: The Player

by Mike Rosenberg

You've seen the card pool, and you've seen the resulting deck. Now, say hello to the deck's pilot!

Adam Yurchick ultimately went with an Auger Spree packed Rakdos deck for Day 1 of Grand Prix Indianapolis.

Adam Yurchick was presented with a couple of tough choices with his Sealed deck, but as a player who has more than a little experience with Return to Ravnica Limited, he was ready to tackle this pool head-on.

"The Auger Sprees stood out to me," Yurchick said. "It's one of the best removal spells for this Sealed format, and I had some aggressive early drops that could make for a good Rakdos deck..."

Yurchick pulled out some green and white cards, and continued. "...but, I could have gone green as well."

He noted that Grove of the Guardian was powerful, and that he had the mana fixing to make it work along with multiple Gatecreeper Vines. "I had enough good cards for this, but I don't think the creatures were good enough," he explained.

"I decided to go with red-black, but I was short of a few cards, which meant I needed to find out what to splash. Ultimately blue stood out, as I had Thoughtflare, since it's such a good card, and with my removal, it lets me play a control game. And at that point, I had one more slot."

Yurchick mentioned that Launch Party was an option, since it was powerful and getting an aggressive Rakdos deck through bigger creatures. "But with 13 creatures, I couldn't really consider it as an option," he said.

"The last slot was originally going to be Inspiration, but at the last minute I switched it to Voidwielder. This is risky since it's a splash, but the card is so powerful, and it's been good to me all day."

Yurchick has continued to blast his way past his opponents throughout the day. Going into round 9, Yurchick remains undefeated, proving that a simple and easy-to-execute game plan can serve you well in the hands of an expert.


Saturday, 9:15 p.m. – Taking the Beats in Stride

by Brian David-Marshall

In many ways Magic event coverage is about streaks. We love to follow a Kenji Tsumura as he battles back from the brink of Top 8 elimination without a loss to give at Pro Tour Kobe in 2006. We fawned over Luis Scott-Vargas as he tore through the Swiss field of Pro Tour San Diego with nary a loss or even a draw. We held our collective breaths as Stanislav Cifka came close to perfection in Seattle at PT Return to Ravnica.

What we don't always talk about are the losing streaks. In fact, we almost never talk about them. The PTQ player at home may read about these once and future Hall of Famers dominating the competition and be awed by their accomplishments but it is hard to draw lessons from them that can be put to practical use in your day to day Magic career. It is how these players deal with their losses that can really teach you how to improve your game and to roll with the punches that this game can occasionally throw your way.

Case in point: Pro Tour Hall of Famer and two-time Pro Tour Champion Brian Kibler. In his last three events -- Grand Prix San Antonio, Grand Prix Toronto, and this weekend -- he has gone 0-10 over last 10 actual matches played. His misfortunes -- and keep in mind that this is a man with multiple GP Top 16s, a Top 8, and a Pro Tour win during the calendar year -- began in San Antonio when he lost the last round and was one of 16 players to limp into Day Two with a 6-3 record.

From there he went 0-3 coming out of the bye rounds -- like I said, a really good year. He gets three byes at every GP as well as an appearance fee -- at Grand Prix Toronto and did the same here this weekend.

"I went 0-3 in this tournament with a really, really bad Sealed Deck and that moves my GP losing streak to 10 matches," sighed the Pro Tour Hall of Famer who has been giving away a button to his opponents each round to commemorate the experience of playing Hall of Fame players. "I actually considered not dropping to give away more buttons but I couldn't handle playing my deck anymore. Especially when I was 0-2 and played against Angel of Serenity and Pack Rat."

Brian Kibler

Kibler has been playing Magic since before there was even a Pro Tour and is hard pressed to recall a streak quite like this.

"Before Grand Prix Toronto the last time I 0-3's a Grand Prix was GP Boston 2009 and that is the only GP before this that I ever remember 0-3ing. It has been awhile since I have had any kind of finishes this bad," said the Pro Tour Dark Ascension Champion.

I know that I have a hard time not punching the computer when I lose a couple of 8-4's in the first round on Magic Online on any given evening but according to Kibler the key is keep the wins and losses in perspective.

"You have to look at what is going on and see what things you can learn from these losses," he explained. "For instance in GP San Antonio I think my deck there was just not a good choice for the field. The way that the metagame had evolved after GP Charleston -- where my deck was quite good -- because of the Rakdos decks becoming popular. And Knight of Infamy in particular becoming good. My deck was just not a good choice anymore."

He had a similar experience in Toronto. In both Grand Prix he played the same deck that he had previously made the Top 16 of a tournament in the same format. Part of being a successful and popular Magic personality is that people adopt and adjust for the strategies they see you playing. In hindsight he should have seen those trends and adjusted accordingly by playing a different deck -- not an option they give you at a Sealed Deck Grand Prix. He knew when he opened the deck that he was going to struggle to assemble a 40 card deck that could go toe to toe with the best cards the format has to offer. Still it is important to keep a sense of perspective.

Angel of Serenity

"I was 0-2 and sitting there playing and aware of the fact that I was 0-9 in my last nine Grand Prix Matches," said Kibler about whether or not he felt the pressure of such a streak bearing down on his normally good nature. "I would like to win. I would like to keep playing -- I think I am pretty good at this draft format. My opponent played Pack Rat -- which was annoying -- and then he didn't discard to Pack Rat. He played a seventh land and Angel of Serenity. At this point I am actually just laughing. Not outwardly but I am just chuckling to myself. It seemed so incredibly appropriate in some way."

He admits that his younger self might not have been able to chuckle in that situation. He would often get tilted by his losses and could not find his way back on track to salvage a tournament.

"Back then I would have been frustrated and it would have been a lot harder for me to deal with. I have played so much Magic at this point -- and seen all the highs and the lows -- you have to recognize it comes with the territory. If you want to play Magic competitively you have to be aware of that. You have to ready for that and you have to be okay with that. No matter who you are and what your previous results might be you can get terrible draws, or bad match-ups, or a terrible sealed deck. Whatever it is it is just part of the game."

Rather than rail against the fates that you did not draw enough mana or that your card pool was not good, Kibler advocates looking for what you could have done differently to create a better outcome. He pointed specifically to a loss in San Antonio that could have easily been chalked up to being color hosed if you weren't taking a cold hard look at the situation.

"Because I had access to double white mana with my Horizon Canopy and my Hierarch that I had in play I used a fetch land to get a Forest instead of a Temple Garden to save two life. Later I sacrificed the Horizon Canopy and drew a double white spell that I could no longer cast. It was really important that I was able to cast it that turn," said Kibler. "This is something you can take away from this. Pay attention to the fact that you may have the mana to cast what you need to cast right now but several turns down the road that Horizon Canopy may not be there and ask what are the implications of that. These are things that don't come up unless you are looking for them. It is easy to say you got unlucky but no, I chose to fetch a Forest there and it was wrong."

"You don't learn anything from complaining about being mana screwed -- or about your opponent having Pack Rat and Angel of Serenity. In the long run you only improve through understanding where you made mistakes and how you could have made better decisions."

"I have done a lot of winning in Magic," he philosophized. "This has been overall a great year for me and sometimes you draw the Whip Flare and you win the Pro Tour and sometimes you're 0-2 and your opponent plays Pack Rat and Angel of Serenity. I am looking forward to next year. I am looking forward to Denver -- maybe I can get a win there."

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