Grand Prix Mexico City
Day 1 Blog

Posted in Event Coverage on March 24, 2012

By Wizards of the Coast

  • by Steve Sadin
    Saturday, 8:56 p.m.: Round 8 Roundup
  • by Marc Calderaro
    Saturday, 8:07 p.m.:Interview with David Gleicher
  • by Marc Calderaro
    Saturday, 7:02 p.m.: Quick Hits
    How do you feel playing Naturalize, Ancient Grudge, or Urgent Exorcism in your Sealed Maindeck?
  • by Steve Sadin
    Saturday, 6:45 p.m.: Sealed Building Exercise with Paul Rietzl
  • by Marc Calderaro
    Round 6: Feature Match
    Josh Utter-Leyton vs. Martin Juza
  • by Steve Sadin
    Round 5: Feature Match
    Melissa DeTora vs. Jackie Lee
  • by Marc Calderaro
    Saturday, 5:00 p.m.: September 3rd, 2005, Again.
  • by Marc Calderaro
    Round 4: Feature Match
    Lucas Jaklovsky vs. Ben Stark
  • by Steve Sadin
    Saturday, 4:00 p.m.: Sealed Building Exercise with Josh Utter-Leyton
  • by Steve Sadin
    Saturday, 12:30 p.m.: Sealed Building Exercise
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Saturday, 11:45 a.m.: Grinder Winning Decklists
  • by Event Coverage Staff
    Info: Fact Sheet

Saturday, 11:45 a.m. - Grinder Winning Decklists

by Event Coverage Staff

Grinder #1 Oswaldo Canto

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Grinder #2 Jorge Montessoro

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Grinder #3 Marlon Avila

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Grinder #4 Juan Pablo Zaragoza

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Grinder #5 Artemio Abrego

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Saturday, 12:30 p.m. - Sealed Building Exercise

by Steve Sadin

This weekend 685 players from all over the world have made their way to Mexico City to show off what they can do in Dark Ascension/Innistrad limited.

Are you stuck at home, but you still want to test out your Sealed Deck skills just like the players at Grand Prix Mexico City? Then check out our Sealed Building Exercise, and compare your build to what some of the top pros in the world put together.

Saturday, 4:00 p.m. - Sealed Building Exercise with Josh Utter-Leyton

by Steve Sadin

After his Top 4 finish at Grand Prix Nashville last weekend the silent, but deadly, Josh Utter-Leyton now finds himself a mere 6 Pro Points behind Brian Kibler the current leader in the United States (and the entire World) Pro Players Club Standings. Should Josh surpass Kibler, and hold off other challengers such as Luis Scott-Vargas, Matt Costa, and David Ochoa – then Josh will represent his country as the captain of the United States team at the World Magic Cup.

While Kibler, LSV, Costa, and Ochoa all stayed home this weekend – Josh decided to make the trip to Mexico City in hopes of picking up some more Pro Points, and shortening Kibler's lead.

After sorting through our practice sealed pool and scratching his head a bit – Josh explained that "You definitely have to play the red, because none of the other colors have enough playable cards."

The first deck that Josh put together was a Red-Black deck which had a healthy amount of removal, but an underwhelming collection of creatures.

And while Josh spent a bit of time going over the white cards, he didn't think that he could put together anything that would be as consistent as the initial Red-Black deck that he built.

"This pool's blue, and green are just not remotely playable. And while there's certainly a deck with the white, the white cards match up pretty evenly with the black cards except for Sever the Bloodline (which is the best card in the pool). So if I played the white, then I would still probably splash black for Sever the Bloodline, and at that point I'd rather just play a two-color deck."

Josh Utter-Leyton Sealed Exercise

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As I was examining Josh's build, I noticed that he had maindecked Traitorous Blood – a card that tends to sit in the sideboard of most Sealed Decks.

"Traitorous Blood is obviously the last card that I included– but I'm playing an aggressive deck, and I have two sacrifice outlets (Falkenrath Torturer, and Skirsdag Cultist) -- which can turn it into a true removal spell, so I figured it would probably be worth it."

"If I actually had good creatures, I would probably play Gravepurge over Traitorous Blood – but I just don't have any creatures that I want to get back."

Notable Exclusion: Silver-Inlaid Dagger

Silver-Inlaid Dagger is a card that people will often include automatically in their decks because "it's a good card", but Josh didn't have to spend more than a few moments before realizing that Silver-Inlaid Dagger wouldn't be a good fit in his deck.

"You don't have a lot of evasion, and your creatures are all easy to trade with. Plus, this deck doesn't need to trade up small creatures for bigger creatures because you already have a lot of removal. And if you're already getting through for damage, an extra two damage a turn won't make much of a difference."

The verdict, and the sideboard

"This deck isn't great – your overall power level is definitely lower than the decks that you should expect to face after three byes – but it can still win. You're going to be in fine shape against bomb heavy decks because you have so much removal that can kill anything."

"However, if you get paired against a deck that can trade one for one with you a bunch, then recoup its card advantage, then you're going to have a lot of trouble winning. You are really afraid of high quality two for ones like Lingering Souls – this deck can never beat a Lingering Souls, or a Geist Honored Monk."

Josh Utter-Leyton

While he was going over potential sideboard cards, only one card really stuck out for Josh – Gravepurge.

"In the exact mirror match, Gravepurge is going to be awesome. If you're playing against another deck that's all removal, and crappy creatures – then Gravepurge is awesome, since it doesn't matter that the creatures you're getting back aren't good."

After explaining the virtues of Gravepurge, Josh also pointed to the Requiem Angel in his sideboard.

"I wouldn't want to maindeck a card like Requiem Angel with two Plains since, despite being only two colors, this deck's mana is actually pretty bad because it has so many double colored cards (like Highborn Ghoul, and Erdwal Ripper). I would definitely consider boarding in Requiem Angel in the right matchup, but I think it's a really easy card to overrate. It doesn't do anything when it comes into play, and just about everything kills it."

So do you agree with the way that Josh built the deck, or would you have gone in an entirely different direction?

Stay tuned for our continued coverage of Grand Prix Mexico City, as well as another pro's build of our practice sealed!

Round 4: Feature Match - Lucas Jaklovsky vs. Ben Stark

by Marc Calderaro

This is a heck of a way to start the feature matches for Grand Prix Mexico. Both stellar players, Ben Stark and Lucas Jaklovsky, are here trying to grind into that 40-point range for Platinum level. Jaklovsky has 34 points, with a guaranteed 3 more coming from Pro Tour Avacyn Restored, so he only has a few more to go. Ben Stark, though a litter farther back, has also been on fire lately. In both of his last two Grand Prix appearances he went into the final round at 12-2, needing a win to get into the Top 8. Sadly, both times he lost and finished in spitting distance of the top. He's looking to break that streak today. Jaklovsky commented, "I heard your deck today is pretty good."

"Yeah, it's pretty good..." Stark responded. Sounding much less confident than that quote looks in text form. The two shuffled up and drew into game one.

Game 1

Dueling double Plains for both players. Jaklovsky, who started, went with a Loyal Cathar to Stark's Gather the Townsfolk. The Cathar went unanswered and took Stark to 14. The American responded to a Dead Weight on his Thraben Doomsayer with a Wolfhunter's Quiver and a Falkenrath Noble. With those two and a few tokens, he threatened to command the board, and the game.

Jaklovsky had some more tricks past that Dead Weight, but was falling behind as Stark added a Gavony Ironwright and a Falkenrath Torturer to bring on the beats. In one turn, Stark equipped and re-equipped the Quiver to take down a fresh, minty Rage Thrower, then sunk Jaklovsky to 13.

I was curious why Jaklovsky had cast the Rage Thrower before the Increasing Devotion sitting in his hand. Why risk the 4/2 dying before getting the big payoff? But out of the corner of his hand, peeking just beyond sight, I saw the Unburial Rites practicing its windmill slam right into Stark's face for the following turn.

Sadly for Jaklovsky, Stark had other plans. Right after his equip/re-equip turn, he untapped and prepared for the kill. With the Noble to aid in life-draining, a Torturer for a sacrificial outlet, and a Lingering Souls ready to supply infinite tokens, Stark knew the win was on the table somewhere. He just had to find it. So he took his time, counted aloud math and asked rhetorical questions to Jaklovsky he was unsure how to answer. Then Stark said, "Yep."

He moved the Quiver back and forth, played, then flashbacked Lingering Souls, and fast-forwarded the Falkenrath Noble Draining Party to midnight. Party On.

Ben Stark 1 – 0 Lucas Jaklovsky

Lucas Jaklovsky

Game 2

This game was a mite slower than the previous one, probably because Stark's Falkenrath Noble took a Fires of Undeath to the butt pretty quickly. The two jockeyed for position on the board – Jaklovsky had a couple Zombies from Moan of the Unhallowed, while Stark double-played a Lingering Souls.

Increasing Devotion again made five tokens for Jaklovsky, and it hoped to do a little more damage than last game. "That thing's flashback is a lot right?' Stark asked.

"It's 9 mana." Jaklovsky replied.

"Yeah, that's a lot."

It was 10-8, and Jaklovsky turned up the beats with Dead Weight and Fires of Undeath (again) to take the Spirit count to two. Jaklovsky had an active Zombie, three Humans and a Rage Thrower with which to play. They seemed imposing.

Stark, staunch in his position to win the game, looked for a way out. But once Jaklovsky attached and activated a Burden of Guilt to the Haunted Fengraf-returned Falkenrath Noble, Stark scooped his cards for game three.

Ben Stark 1 – 1 Lucas Jaklovsky

Ben Stark

Game 3

Things didn't start too well for Jaklovsky this game – he had to mulligan to five. And Stark didn't allow him any breathing room with a quick Vampire Interloper then a Chosen of Markov. The chosen one flipped thanks to a Falkenrath Torturer and Jaklovsky sprinted to keep up with the developing board. When the 4/4 Markov's Servant charged in, the Czechman's Loyal Cathar had a Skillful Lunge. Though Stark answered with a Lunge of his own, he traded the 4/4 and a trick for a trick alone (as the Cathar was to return shortly as a gross zombie). This was not the card advantage Stark needed to stay ahead.

Jaklovsky used his new-found board state to his advantage. He killed the Interloper with a Fires of Undeath then charged in with the Unhallowed Cathar and an Unholy Fiend. This game was going fastly and furiously and score was 9-9, and Jaklovsky was looking like he could overcome his double mulligan.

Stark used up the rest his cards to cast a Bonds of Faith on the Unholy Fiend, a Nibilis of the Mist to tap a Moan of the Unhallowed, then flip a Screeching Bat into a Stalking Vampire. It and the Torturer swung in. Jaklovsky went to 5 and cast a Burden of Guilt on the Stalking Vampire. He sunk continually lower thanks to the Unholy Fiend, but he really looked like he could pull this out. If he could live through Stark's next attack step, he would be able to swing for the win.

Jaklovsky confidently flashbacked his Fires of Undeath to take out the last blocker and awaited his fate.

Stark simply showed the Urgent Exorcism he had waiting for Burden of Guilt and Jaklovsky's comeback was brought to a close. Stark didn't even have to untap and actually attack, as Jaklovsky saw the writing on the wall.

Ben Stark 2 – 1 Lucas Jaklovsky

Saturday, 5:00 p.m. - September 3rd 2005, Again.

by Marc Calderaro

September 3rd, 2005. This might not be an important date for many people, but it is for Ana Carrillo and David Rosales. That was the date they got married. A grand day to be sure and they had a fantastic time, but there was a catch about September 3rd, 2005. That was also the last time there was a Grand Prix in Mexico City. Since they had already picked the date for their marriage, though they were committed players, they weren't that committed. But the two were sorely disappointed they missed the opportunity to attend such a large Magic event so close to them. Both were huge Magic heads, and it sounded like if they could've skipped the wedding, they might have.

The two had been playing for a long time. Ana had played since Tempest but despite David's begging, she refused to teach him how to play for years.

"I know it; we're just going to play and play and play." She had said. In her defense, she was absolutely right. She finally caved around Odyssey, and the two continued to solidify their relationship with the help of some wizards and (since it was Odyssey and all) perhaps a nightmare or two.

Ironically, they could never play Two-Headed Giant at all. "We tried it once; we couldn't even get past the deck building. We don't agree on anything like that," David told me. He said they would never be able to take a single turn if they were to play on the same team.

David Rosales and Ana Carrillo

After their wedding, they slowed their pace with the game, and effect newborn children can sometimes have. But once they heard about this Grand Prix, they knew they had to go back and attend the event they missed almost seven years ago. They took the weekend to reminisce, see old friends, remember their wedding day... and sling some cardboard.

"She's doing better than I am," David said with a bit of a shrug. Ana gave him a little look as they hugged for the article photo. These two look wonderfully happy together, and though they have drifted away from competitively playing the game, it's pretty clear it still means a whole lot to them.

They recently celebrated the birth of their second child two months ago, and as they put it: "We made our new 1/1 Human token". I wish the two many years of martial bliss, and I hope one day they'll be able to play Two-Headed Giant together.

I guess my urge to attend a Grand Prix over a wedding is probably a big reason as to why I'm still single. Eh, I'll always have you, Liliana.

Round 5: Feature Match - Melissa DeTora vs. Jackie Lee

by Steve Sadin

Jackie Lee has been making waves recently. After starting off Pro Tour Dark Ascension (her first Pro Tour) with a 6-0 record, she stumbled a bit towards the end of the event, and found herself without an invitation to Pro Tour Avacyn Restored. Two short weeks later, she earned that coveted invitation by placing in the Top 4 at Grand Prix Baltimore. A week after that, Jackie fell just short of making the Top 8 at Grand Prix Seattle and had to "settle" for a Top 16.

Melissa DeTora earned the first Grand Prix Top 8 of her career at Grand Prix Santiago last October. And while Melissa is yet to return to the Top 8 stage, she's posted quite a few money finishes on the Grand Prix circuit in the past few months, demonstrating that she's a force to be reckoned with at every event that she attends.

Game 1

After starting the match off with a mulligan, Jackie thought for a bit before begrudgingly keeping her six-card hand.

Jackie missed her third land drop, but she found it a turn later – allowing her to cast a One-Eyed Scarecrow that completely shut off Melissa's offense.

Melissa had some mana troubles of her own, having only drawn Swamps for the first few turns of the game – but a Mountain gave her the mana that she needed to cast Olivia Voldaren.

Jackie bought herself some time with a Griptide, and then attempted to get back into the game with a Daybreak Ranger, and a Wolfhunter's Quiver – but Melissa had a Altar's Reap to prevent Jackie's Daybreak Ranger from transforming, and took the game in short order.

Melissa DeTora 1 – Jackie Lee 0

Jackie Lee (Left) and Melissa Detora (Right)

Game 2

Melissa began the second game by mulliganing down to five – and while she had a good number of lands and creatures – she didn't have any good ways to break through Jackie's early defenses.

For a while, it looked as though Jackie was going to be able to take over the game with her Wolfhunter's Quiver. But some well timed removal spells, and an inability to block Pitchburn Devils profitably, left Jackie without the creatures, or the life that she needed to dominate the game with her Wolfhunter's Quiver.

A few bloody combat steps, and a Wrack with Madness to deal with Pitchburn Devils later – and Jackie was on seven life with an empty board, staring down a 2/2,

Jackie needed to draw something fast – and a Havengul Runebinder more than did the trick, allowing her to even the match up at one game apiece.

Melissa Detora 1 – Jackie Lee 1

Jackie Lee

Game 3

Melissa began the third game by once again mulliganing down to five, but a Hinterland Hermit gave her some early offense.

While Melissa's Falkenrath Noble fell to a Crushing Vines, and her Olivia Voldaren died at the hands of a Wrack with Madness – Melissa had her own series of removal spells which allowed her Hinterland Hermit to continue attacking unimpeded.

Melissa was able to knock Jackie down to 8 before things turned ugly for her.

Melissa had hoped to win quickly with her five card hand, and consequently used her removal spells to destroy (relatively) ineffective creatures in order to continue punching through damage early.

However, this line of play left her without an answer for Jackie's Daybreak Ranger, or the Rage Thrower that she followed it up with.

Melissa stuck around for a few more turns, but it was only a matter of time before Jackie's Nightfall Predator sealed the match.

Jackie Lee 2 – Melissa DeTora 1

Round 6: Feature Match - Josh Utter-Leyton vs. Martin Juza

by Marc Calderaro

Martin Juza might just be one of my favorite people ever. Ok, that's not true. Carl Sagan has existed at one point; and so did Hamilcar Barca; and Charles Bronson; and maybe even Johnny Appleseed. Outside of those people though, Martin Juza is probably my favorite.

But then again, Josh Utter-Leyton is pretty awesome himself. Coming off last week's Grand Prix Nashville Top 8 (his second Nashville Top 8, actually), Utter-Leyton has a bevy of points heading into Pro Tour Avacyn Restored and the World Magic Cup. And that's pretty cool. However, it's hard to vote against that perennial front-runner and eleven-time Grand Prix Top 8-er, Martin Juza. So here's what I'll do: the winner of this match will be my fifth favorite person – behind all the people mentioned above.

Game 1

Utter-Leyton started off with an Ashmouth Hound and offered Martin Juza to trade it with his Highborn Ghoul. Juza was skeptical enough to let it go, and the 2-powers each got in for some damage. Utter-Leyton kept the tempo and mana on his side with a Grasp of Phantoms on a Scorned Villager. Juza's next turn was spent replaying the mana-producer and he dropped to 14 on Utter-Leyton's attack step.

The Villagers flipped and attacked with the Highborn Ghoul, but Utter-Leyton was ready with a Burning Oil. The Moonscarred Werewolf went to the graveyard as the scores evened at 14.

Martin Juza

Juza, who had been bemoaning his deck all day, yet sits at 5-0, built his board of One-Eyed Scarecrow, Hamlet Captain and a Grizzled Outcasts. (The Burning Oil had come back to kill the Highborn Ghoul.) Juza seemed pretty bummed to have to use his Gravepurge to get back the Villagers. He had told me a while back that Gravepurge was the worst card in his deck. And he was never happy to draw it.

Utter-Leyton stalemated pretty well with a Nearheath Stalker and his Ashmouth Hound. But after Juza replayed the Villagers, and there were four creatures to two, the advantage was just too good and Utter-Leyton played a Blasphemous Act for pretty much zero mana and left himself with a undead 5/2 Stalker. Though Juza dealt with it in short order, and also the big monster that followed after, Makeshift Mauler. Juza used a Dead Weight and a Geralf's Messenger to take it down.

These two had answers for every question. After Utter-Leyton countered a Hollowhenge Scavenger and delayed a Gravetiller Wurm, he then sang a song that gave it -13/-0, it was a jaunty tune of Chant of the Skifsang. And the board reverted to the early game again – Utter-Leyton had a Torch Fiend, Screeching Skaab and a Crossway Vampire staring down Juza's Highborn Ghoul, Avacyn's Pilgrim and a -9/4 Wurm. Well ok, one of those creatures doesn't belong in the early game.

It was then that Utter-Leyton revealed his finisher. "How many cards in your library?" he posed.


Utter-Leyton played Increasing Confusion for zero, then flashed it back for more than enough to take out the rest of Juza's library in one fell swoop.

Josh Utter-Leyton 1 – 0 Martin Juza

Game 2

Utter-Leyton traded his early Hinterland Hermit for Juza's Hamlet Captain, then had to take some serious damage as Juza's Village Cannibals had grown after feasting on the corpses of the aforementioned creatures. Utter-Leyton continued his trade parade as his Crossway Vampire died taking down a Somberwald Dryad. Juza just yawned and laid down a 4/4 Ulvenwald Bear. His beats were coming so fluidly, he was on auto-pilot.

Utter-Leyton had sunk to 12 very quickly and spent most of his turns digging through his deck. He had a large gripful of cards, but that didn't stop him from dropping to 4 on the next attack from two creatures, each with two +1/+1 counters (who would've known Bears and Cannibals would work together for a common goal?). Juza could tell the Blasphemous Act was coming, and just like last game, after it swept his creatures away, Juza sent monster after monster, one-by-one onto the field and Utter-Leyton continually mowed them down. Perhaps I should say "maw-ed" them down. An Into the Maw of Hell took out a Gravetiller Wurm and Juza's sixth land. After the board was clean again, Utter-Leyton resumed his plan of "casting blue spells that dig". It was 4-20, but the game was far from over.

Josh Utter-Leyton

Utter-Leyton just kept all the significant threats off the board as he slowly waddled his way to his deck's finisher. There's nothing quite like a grinding Sealed deck that just bides time until its wins. So many Grasp of Phantoms, Griptides, well-timed counterspells. Juza had his opponent at 4 since the sixth turn, and now it was somewhere around the fifteenth.

The board was empty when Utter-Leyton cast Beguiler of Wills. His library was down to about ten cards. Utter-Leyton pulled a dirty trick by using Chant of the Skifsang to drop a giant green monster's power to well below the amount of creatures Utter-Leyton controlled. So he simply took it with the Beguiler.

At this point Utter-Leyton's library was so drained and Juza's so stocked, he started picking away at Juza's life total with the Beguiler and a Torch Fiend, as an Increasing Confusion might not seal the deal. It took many turns, but Juza went from 22 all the way down to 7. 4-7, with three cards in Utter-Leyton's library. There were about twenty in Juza's.

It was the pivotal turn. Juza tapped out for both a Hollowhenge Scavenger and Grizzled Outcasts. Utter-Leyton untapped his mountain of lands, stole the Scavenger, then attacked with his Nearheath Stalker. Juza's board was empty again, and on his draw phase he drew dead. And then he was dead.

Josh Utter-Leyton 2 – 0 Martin Juza

It looks like I've got a new fifth favorite person. Move over, Max Planck!

Saturday, 6:45 p.m. - Sealed Building Exercise with Paul Rietzl

by Steve Sadin

After winning a close match to move to 6-0 at Grand Prix Mexico City, Pro Tour Amsterdam Champion Paul Rietzl was kind enough to come up to the coverage desk to show us how he would build our Sealed Building Exercise pool.

It didn't take Paul long before he discovered a color that he definitely wouldn't be playing.

"We can comfortably eliminate blue immediately" said Paul after sorting out the pool. "We can't reasonably flip Delver of Secrets, and none of the cards in the color are very good."

Paul then began quickly assessing the remaining colors.

"Black's creatures are terrible – but it does have three really good removal spells (Sever the Bloodline, Victim of Night, and Death's Caress."

Paul Rietzl

"We have a Shimmering Grotto, and a Caravan Vigil – so if we played green, we could easily splash black for Sever the Bloodline "

After giving each color a good once over, Paul was able to confidently select one of his colors.

"I think this deck has to be red. Unless I have ridiculous rares, I usually pick the color that I know I'm going to have to play – then I try to build a deck around it."

Paul began putting together a Red-Green deck, but he wasn't happy with what he saw.

Next, he looked at a Red-White deck and while he was slightly cheerier about this configuration, he still wasn't completely satisfied. "This is a lot better than the green, but it still isn't very good."

"When your deck is this bad, you really want to play the best card in your pool – and with this pool, Sever the Bloodline is just in a completely different stratosphere from everything else."

Paul then began toying with a Red-Black deck, and it didn't take him long before he knew that that was the color combination for him.

"Now that I have a good feeling that I'm playing Red-Black, I'll lay out all of the cards that I'm a mortal lock to play."

Paul Rietzl Sealed Building Exercise

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"I don't think this deck can plausibly play 18 lands, even with a Haunted Fengraf, so I've got room for another 5 spells."

"Realistically, I'm going to end up playing with Traitorous Blood, Sightless Ghoul, and Night Revelers, so I'll just go ahead and add them now."

Paul then explained that he thought that Sightless Ghoul is better in this type of deck than Russet Wolves because he has a Skirsdag Cultist – and that he thinks Night Revelers was one of the most underrated cards in the format.

"We don't have enough ways for me to comfortably get my Bloodcrazed Neonate through on turn three – and even if I can do that once, it doesn't have nearly enough upside to make it worth playing," explained Paul as he moved Bloodcrazed Neonate to his unplayable pile.

"This pool is really bad, so I'm going to need to splash. I think that Requiem Angel is a lot better than Wild Hunger, so I'm going to go with that."

"I didn't want to splash – but this deck is low on pop. It can kill everything, but you can have a 2/1, and they have a 2/3, and you'll just lose – and it isn't that bad to play a Plains..."

"Now the question is, do I want to go back to 18 lands with Faithless Looting, so I can splash easier?"

After weighing his options for a bit, Paul decided to stick with 17 lands, including a single Plains, and a Shimmering Grotto for his Requiem Angel.

Before he finalized his choice – Paul put together a Black-White deck, and was very disappointed with what he saw. "Now I can go to sleep at night after registering the Red-Black deck"

"I'd probably expect to miss Day Two, a little bit more often than I make Day Two with this deck. Now that I think about it, this might be a beatdown where I actually choose to draw first, and just grind them out with my removal, and little creatures like Reckless Waif."

Saturday, 7:02 p.m. - How do you feel playing , or in your Sealed maindeck? Do you want to play them?

by Marc Calderaro
Josh Utter-Leyton: No. Even when those cards aren't dead, they're – at best – decent 1-for-1s. They usually aren't good enough.
Paul Rietzl: Absolutely! I want to interact as much as possible. In Draft you want to be more proactive, but Sealed is all about making the game go on as long as possible.
Martin Juza: Eh, I'll play Naturalize, maybe. If you're playing a certain kind of deck, maybe. The others are pretty bad.
Christian Calcano: I'm ok with playing Urgent Exorcism and I can see maybe someone playing Naturalize, but Ancient Grudge, no way.
Ben Stark: Urgent Exorcism is pretty good. At this point it's almost never dead. Naturalize isn't as good, but it's not dead half as much as Ancient Grudge is.

Saturday, 8:07 p.m. - Interview with David Gleicher

by Marc Calderaro

Sometimes when you're far away at a Magic Grand Prix, it's nice to see a familiar face. That's how I felt when I saw David Gleicher. He's a classic Magic archetype to me: a little stand-offish at first, he speaks as much as he's spoken to, but the more you hang around him, the more dry wit spills from his mouth. And afterwards, there's a small, sly smile that appears on his face. David Gleicher's probably not a name you recognize yet. But if he keeps performing half as well as he has in the last couple months, this will be the last time you'll be able to say that with a straight face.

Gleicher Stands tall amongst his fellow Magic players.

Before ending up in 24th place, Gleicher started Pro Tour Dark Ascension at 7-0. That high finish locked him in for Pro Tour Avacyn Restored as well. He's been in win-and-in positions at three recent Grand Prix events, but just couldn't convert yet. The most heartbreaking was last week and Grand Prix Nashville. In a match against Shuhei Nakamura, that was covered as part of the Round 15 round-up, Gleicher ended up in a 1-1 tie to miss out of the spotlight again.

"I've been featured three times, against great names, and lost all of them. [Samuele] Estratti, [Shouta] Yasooka, and [Shuhei] Nakamura." But really, David didn't seem to mind that much. "That's how you get better. I learned something from every one of those matches. I improved from them." That idea pretty much sums up David's practice regimen – and it seems to be working. "I draft with some people a couple times a week, yeah, but really, playing in high-level tournaments is the best practice." He continued, "It's pretty good to play against the best people in the world."

That concept of practice and improvement is exactly why the Chicagoan likes the Pro Tours so much – because everyone you play against is, at the very least, pretty darn good. You have to be on your game from round one. I asked him how he felt about doing so well at the last Pro Tour, and Gleicher was understated. "It was pretty good, I guess. I went in having no expectations at all." He said he had tried to find a deck to beat Delver, and was a little disappointed that he didn't do it, so he just played a friend's list. "It was ok though. The deck is pretty much my style, so it worked." Playing Aggro-Control is how Gleicher feels the most confident. His favorite deck in Legacy for a long time was Team America, and Gleicher's convinced the two decks play in a similar fashion. Team America played a bunch of permission, Dark Confidant, and then could clean up with something simple like a Tombstalker.

David's currently finishing up a Master's degree and has a job that affords him enough time to keep traveling around to Grand Prixes. "I'm chasing Gold this season, and hopefully that will help me into Platinum sooner rather than later." That's definitely the goal for Gleicher. Not exactly to be Platinum, but at least to keep playing until, "I reach my ceiling." I asked him how he'd know whether he's reached that ceiling, to which he replied, "I have no idea. But I know I'm not even close." He then when on to disparage some of the silly mistakes he's made and the obvious problems with his play. He knows he's can learn from these problems and continue upward.

I know Gleicher's going to continually improve his play and his ceiling is far in the distance because that's exactly how he views his life. A very telling thing happened when I asked David to tell me a good Magic story. (It's a nice, generic question that can really tell you something about who someone is depending on their answer.) David started with a disheartening story about how a long car trip with him an Caleb Durward to an event in Atlanta ended in ruins with neither of them making the event and not reaching the levels they were intending to. Immediately upon finishing the story he said, "Eh, that story's no good. Give me a minute and I'll have a better one."

We continued talking a bit before he said, "Wait, I've got one." He then told me this: He was playing the PTQ circuit, trying desperately to qualify. He would drive and drive and just wasn't converting his performances into the coveted blue envelope. He went to three in a row, and each time, in between every round he would talk with friends and opponents about how to improve his Sealed builds, card by card. Each of the three PTQs he got closer and closer. He was literally watching himself improve. Then, the fourth time, he qualified. He simply walked in, built his pool properly, played confidently, and took everyone down. It was that easy.

David Gliecher always tries to improve his decks.

I loved that story not only because of how the actual story speaks about David, but even the act of telling it expounded further. He first told me a story, then realized he could have improved on it, and then told a better one about his own awareness of improvement. It's a little self-reflexive, but it gives an incisive glimpse into Gleicher's thought processes.

I know it's a little premature for me to spotlight David in this way; he hasn't had a huge tournament success, hasn't hoisted up the trophy yet. But that's exactly why I wanted to talk to him. I've watched this man do nothing but improve as he's been competing, and just as he feels, I don't believe he's even close to his ceiling yet. He's on the bubble right now for Day Two, but I'm confident that even with a loss here today, it won't be long until we see his name again.

Look for him at an upcoming Grand Prix. You might beat him the first time, but don't worry, he'll beat you the second.

Saturday, 8:56 p.m. - Round 8 Roundup

by Steve Sadin

Craig Wescoe 7-0 vs. Archibal Sanchez Peralta 7-0

Craig Wescoe, who came into this weekend with 30 Pro Points, was hoping to pick up a few more Pro Points this weekend as he attempts to lock up Platinum Level in the Player's Club for the 2012-2013 season. Already off to a 7-0 start, Wescoe is now setting his sights beyond simply picking up a Pro Point or two, and into the Top 8.

In the first game, Wescoe looked to grind out an advantage with Wolfhunter's Quiver, which he used to take out a couple of key creatures including a Tovolar's Magehunter – before playing the biggest creature in his deck, a Requiem Angel.

However, the turns that Wescoe spent moving around his Wolfhunter's Quiver allowed Archibal Sanchez Peralta to knock his life total down to low single digits – and eventually opened up an opportunity for Peralta to take the first game with a Flayer of the Hatebound.

It looked like Peralta was going to be able to close out the match in the matter of minutes when he opened game two with a Mayor of Avabruck which he grew to a monstrous size thanks to Increasing Savagery... but Wescoe was able to stave off death with a Doomed Traveler, and a Mausoleum Guard long enough to win in the air with his fliers.

Peralta began game three just as he had started the second – by playing a Mayor of Avabruck, and pumping it with an Increasing Savagery. This time, however, Wescoe didn't have a Mausoleum Guard, or even a Doomed Traveler to help him stall out the game.

A few big attacks later, and Archibal Sanchez Peralta was 8-0.

Craig Wescoe (bottom right) plays Archibal Sanchez Peralta (bottom left), while Josh Utter-Leyton plays against Juan Navarro at the next table

Josh Utter-Leyton 7-0 vs Juan Navarro 7-0

A few days after making the Top 4 at Grand Prix Nashville, Josh Utter-Leyton has already put himself into a great position to make it two Top 8s in a row by starting off Grand Prix Mexico City with a 7-0 record.

Utter-Leyton fell behind early to Juan Navarro's aggressive Green-White splash blue deck, but as soon as the American Pro played a Beguiler of Wills, Navarro could see the writing on the walls. Navarro hoped that he would be able to punch through enough damage with Feeling of Dread to steal the game, but when that didn't work he could only watch in horror as Utter-Leyton stole all of his creatures with Beguiler of Wills.

Game two dragged out for a while, but Utter-Leyton was ultimately able to take the match by decking Navarro with Increasing Confusion.

Ben Stark 6-1 vs Ignacio Jimenez 6-1

Ignacio Jimenez (left) vs Ben Stark (right)

After splitting the first two games, Ben Stark demonstrated just how good reusable cards are in Sealed by dominating the deciding game with Lingering Souls, Rolling Temblor, Burning Oil, and Wolfhunter's Quiver.

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