Hi, everyone. This is my GP: Santiago Report. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Melissa DeTora. I have been playing Magic for fourteen years. I have qualified for the Pro Tour nine times (now ten with Honolulu 2012). I have never done better than Top 64 at the PT. You can find a more detailed history of what I’ve done in Magic here.
I was on the gravy train in 2008 but was unable to stay on the Pro Tour. In 2009, I thought I was done with professional Magic. I was doing horribly in PTQs with finishes no better than 3–2–drop. I essentially gave up trying to qualify, skipping entire seasons of PTQs and taking Magic less seriously. Then Planeswalker Points happened.
One day at the game store, my boyfriend James said to me, “If we go to every GP for the rest of the season, we are basically guaranteed a spot on the Pro Tour.”
I responded with, “You’re kidding, right? Aren’t the GPs in Australia and Japan?”
“Yes, also Santiago, Milan, and San Diego. Want to go?”
I immediately said no. I had a full-time job, rent, and bills to pay. After thinking about how much I like to travel and play in GPs, I started to reconsider. My job was very dead-end and taking me nowhere. The lease on my apartment was up the next month. Maybe I could take this trip!
We began to plan our trip. We booked flights to Milan, Brisbane, Santiago, Hiroshima, and San Diego. This trip was happening.
The first two GPs went by, and I did not make Day 2 at either of them. Three more GPs to go; would I make Day 2 at any of them?
We arrived in Santiago on the Tuesday before the GP. That gave us plenty of time to recover from jet lag and adjust to the time change. I’ve traveled to a lot of overseas Pro Tours, and the time change can be rough. I always try to arrive at least two days early, but three days is even better. We have a friend who owns a house right outside Santiago, so we spent some time there sightseeing. We got to Santiago on Friday. As soon as we got there, I could tell the event was not going to go well. No judge knew where signups were. They didn’t even know where to sign up for side events. We finally figured it out and signed up for a GP Trial. It took roughly two hours to start.
I got my card pool and was excited when I saw Olivia. I’ve lost to that card many times, but never played it, so the first thing I did was build my pool to include it. My White was excellent, and I had an Isolated Chapel, so I end up R/W, splashing Black. I had good fixing (Traveler's Amulet, Shimmering Grotto, and the Chapel), and I played eighteen lands. One round later, I was out of the Trial. After looking at my pool, I realized my mistake. I should have just played U/W and left Olivia out of the deck. The thought of having a bomb rare made me build my deck wrong.
I got plenty of sleep on Friday night and felt pretty good about Day 1. I play a lot of Limited and consider myself pretty good at it, so I know that if my deck is okay, I can make Day 2. I was unable to get my Sealed pool from the head judge, so this is just from memory: I had really good White cards, such as two Chapel Geists, two Voiceless Spirits, a Geist-Honored Monk, and other efficient creatures. My Black had a ton of removal—two Dead Weights and a Victim of Night to name a few. I splashed Red off a Mountain, a Shimmering Grotto, and a Traveler's Amulet for two removal spells, Blasphemous Act and Harvest Pyre. The deck had tons of synergy. I played an Altar's Reap and cards that worked well with it, such as Village Cannibals and Mausoleum Guard.
My deck performed really well all day. I began playing in Round 2, since I had a bye from rating. I easily won my first seven matches. The only interesting thing that happened on Day 1 is my match versus Shuhei in Round 7. His deck was really good, and he had a lot more removal than I did. Both of our decks were pretty slow. Game 1 took about thirty-five minutes, and I was able to pull it out. We both wanted the match to finish, so we started playing and shuffling really fast for the next game.
I made two mistakes in Game 2. One, I had Geist-Honored Monk in play, as well as another creature with Vigilance. I declared attackers, and pushed the two Vigilance guys into the red zone and a 1/1 token flyer into the red zone. I didn’t actually tap the flyer, I just pushed it up like I did with the two Vigilance guys. So when we went to damage, obviously the 1/1 guy never attacked even though it intended to. It’s pretty stupid but it’s obvious that I meant to attack with it based on the actions I made. So I missed 1 point of damage in that attack.
The next mistake was not noticing a Gavony Township that was in play. I knew it was there, but Shuhei never had a Plains to activate it throughout the entire game. So I Harvest Pyred for the wrong amount. Way to miss an on-board trick! I was playing so fast that I didn’t notice that the Plains was put into play that turn. I ended up losing Game 2, but after the match I was told I wasn’t going to win that game anyway, since his hand was the absolute nuts.
Game 3, we were shuffling really fast. We had six minutes before time was called. We drew our hands and I kept mine, but Shuhei mulliganed. So he began his speed-shuffling again. He presented, and I shuffled. I gave the deck back to him, and a judge stopped him and told him that he had dropped a card on the floor and therefore had presented a thirty-nine-card deck, which meant he would receive a game loss. The interesting thing about it is that the judge knew about the missing card while Shuhei was shuffling, but didn’t say anything. The judge said, “My job is not to stop you from making mistakes, just to give proper penalties and fix mistakes once they are made.” Shuhei appealed the ruling, but obviously it was upheld, so I won a match that was probably going to be a draw.
I finished Day 1 at 8–1. I lost in Round 9 to a guy from Argentina who didn’t have a better deck than me—he just drew really, really well throughout the match. There was a point in Game 3 when he had nothing, then drew three amazing cards in a row to take the match. That guy ended up making Top 8, but got DQ’d for peeking during the draft.
Day 1 came to a close at around midnight. I do have to say that it was the worst Day 1 I have ever been to. I’ve been to some pretty poorly run Grand Prix, but this one was by far the worst. Each round had at least a forty-minute turnover time. Sometimes, it would be an hour or more before the next round started. They started Day 2 at 8:00 a.m., which meant that the players could only get about six and a half hours of sleep. I mean, they could have pushed back Day 2 to a 9:00 a.m. start, based on how long we had to wait between rounds. The worst thing was that there was nowhere to get food after the event. Everything near the site and my hotel was closed. So I had to eat some trail mix as my dinner, and only got six hours of sleep.
I showed up at 8:00 a.m. for Day 2, but the first draft didn’t start until 9:00 a.m.! I don’t know what the wait was for, but we were waiting forever, then we had to fill out the W-9s and then twenty more minutes of waiting.
I was in Pod 1 for the first draft, and the only guys I recognized were Martin Juza and the Argentinian who beat me Day 1. When I draft, I usually keep my options way open so I can adapt in the next packs, so I first picked Avacynian Priest, then a Black removal spell, then a Harvest Pyre, then a Blue card. After Pack 1, I had Blue, Red, and Black cards, and the Priest was my only White card. I knew that I was going to stay out of Green because the guy next to me took some Green Transform cards. Pack 2, I got shipped every Blue card ever. I liked the way my deck was shaping up, but I still wasn’t sure what my second color was. My Red was Harvest Pyre, and my Black was Dead Weight and the Flashback of Forbidden Alchemy. In Pack 3, I opened Devil's Play, which solidified me into Red. By the end of the draft, I had a ton of Blue flyers, Silent Departure, two Geistflame, two Harvest Pyre, and Devil's Play. I was pretty happy with my deck. Being open really paid off. I didn’t even have a second color until I opened the Devil's Play. If I opened, for example, a bomb Black rare, I could have easily adjusted into that color without any problems.
Round 11, my opponent’s deck was really fast. It was R/W with a ton of removal and two Angel of Flight Alabaster. We split the first two games. In Game 3, it was looking good for me. I made an attack where if he blocked wrong, I could play a land and flashback Devil's Play to kill him. He of course blocked wrong. I said “Okay,” and looked at my hand. He then said “Sorry,” and took back the block and made a different block. I ended up calling the judge, because I had said “Okay” and I thought enough time had gone by that the block was final. We both explained what had happened, then the judge asked the opponent if he was done blocking. My opponent responded with “I don’t know.” The judge ruled that he could take back the block. The judge then asked me if that was okay. I don’t think the judge should have asked me that! He sounded very unsure of his ruling, so I appealed it. The head judge sided with the floor judge, so my opponent was allowed to take back his block. It seems that when a player appeals a ruling, the head judge usually sides with the floor judge unless the judge is flat-out wrong. So I think the judge should have not allowed the block to be taken back, but there is nothing else I could do there. After that, I was forced to Devil's Play his Angel, and the game continued.
Two turns later, my opponent top-decked Spare from Evil, got all excited, played it, and swung with his entire team. I assumed I was dead; I only had one human untapped. He also had a Rage Thrower, so blocking and trading killed me as well . . . unless I blocked the Rage Thrower. I did the math, and sure enough, I’d go down to 1 life if I blocked the Rage Thrower. I blocked, he thought for a while, and he said, “I think I just messed up.” I won on the next turn.
Round 12, I played Martin Juza. It was a feature match, which was covered here. He had two Kessig Cagebreakers and a ton of ways to fill up his graveyard, and he drew both Kessigs all three games. I ended up losing that one.
Draft 3, I was in Pod 1 again. My pod had Martin Juza, Owen Turtenwald, and a lot of the guys from the first Pod. I first picked Brimstone Volley and was solidly in Red, but had no real second color after Pack 1. In Pack 2, the guy passing to me opened Instigator Gang. I should have gotten it, since I passed zero Red cards in Pack 1. Also, a Daybreak Ranger was opened two seats away from me, so I thought to myself, I should stay out of Green . . . but somehow the Daybreak Ranger was passed to me also. So I ended up with a pretty good R/G aggro deck with two Brimstone Volley and two Geistflame, two Crossway Vampires, and a few subpar Green creatures. I also splashed one Swamp and a Spider Spawning, because I didn’t have much late-game.
Round 13, I played the guy from Round 11. This time, he had a slow U/B deck. I got a really fast draw Game 1 and won easily. I boarded out the Swamp, Spider Spawning, and Caravan Vigil for a Mountain, Nightbird's Clutches, and a Red guy who didn’t make the cut. His deck was pretty slow, and his removal was all Silent Departures and Grasp of Phantoms, so the Spider Spawning wasn’t very good. Game 2 went a bit longer, but the Nightbird's Clutches in combination with the Crossway Vampires ended up winning me the game.
At that point, I only needed to win one more and I could draw into the Top 8. I was paired against Martin Juza in Round 14, and I had just lost to him, so I didn’t like my chances, but he’d just lost his last round, so maybe his deck wasn’t that good? I drew really well both games, curved out beautifully, drew the Daybreak Ranger in Game 2 that he took a few turns to deal with, and finished him off with Rage Thrower. I sideboarded the same as I did in Round 13, and the Nightbird's Clutches was really good for me.
Round 14, I was paired against that same Argentinian from Day 1, and we drew into the Top 8.
I didn’t feel that the Top 8 draft went very well for me. I picked a ton of Black cards, but Black dried up really fast, and I didn’t get very clear signals. I moved into White in Pack 2, and it paid off. I got a lot of good White cards in Packs 2 and 3. I ended up with a B/W aggro deck. My removal was two Victim of Night, a Smite the Monstrous, and a Tribute to Hunger. I also played three Equipments: Butcher's Cleaver, Sharpened Pitchfork, and Trepanation Blade. I had a ton of flyers, including two Voiceless Spirit, two Gallows Warden, and a Midnight Haunting. I had no bombs, and had no good ways of dealing with bombs, including the Bloodline Keeper that was opened by the eventual winner.
After deck-building, I found out that the Argentinian to whom I lost on Day 1 was DQ’d! It turned out he was peeking at other players’ hands a lot during the draft, and multiple judges caught him. From what I heard, his deck was ridiculous, with two Olivia! I’m glad I didn’t have to play against him.
My Top 4 match was one of the unluckiest matches I had the whole weekend. I mulliganed four times in the entire match, and was really mana-flooded in each game, even the game I won. Game 3, I had to mulligan to five and kept a hand of lands and creatures, but I was unable to draw anything but land for the rest of the game. I lost 1–2, and my run was over.
Overall, I had a good time in Santiago. Sure, I got no sleep, I barely ate, and the tournament was the worst-run tournament ever, but I made Top 4, my best finish ever, and qualified for the Pro Tour again. I feel really good about the Innistrad Limited format and hope for a repeat performance in San Diego.
You can follow me on Twitter @AllWeDoIsWinPWP. Thanks for reading.