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Grand Prix Detroit Report (21st)

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My regular readers know that I’ve been working on Modern for the past few weeks, analyzing the Magic Online metagame and whatnot. The truth is that I couldn’t manage to find a deck I liked. It seemed that all of my options were a crapshoot and I’d be hoping to dodge bad matchups all day. The deck I hated the least was Carlos Alexandre’s Vengeant Jund list I I wrote about a couple weeks ago. My friend Randy was kind enough to lend me enough cards so that I could build nearly any deck I wanted, but in the end, my instincts told me to sleeve up Deathrite Shamans and Liliana of the Veils. I wasn’t happy about it, and I have played exactly zero tournaments with Jund in Modern. And since I wasn’t expecting to be able to play in Detroit at all due to my schedule, I didn’t play any Grand Prix Trials and consequently had no byes. I can’t recall the last time my expectations for doing well at a Grand Prix were this low.

For reference, here is the decklist:

Yes, this is the exact seventy-five cards that Alexandre has been playing on Magic Online. Yes, I’m taking a stock list into a Grand Prix. Ask me if I give a $%&*.

In all seriousness, the list is very tight, and I couldn’t really think of any changes to make anyway. I discussed swapping out the Grafdigger's Cages for Torpor Orbs, but I wasn’t strongly convinced one way or the other, so I just left it as-is. I was travelling and rooming with my good friend Kyle Duncan, who was a huge help in coming up with my sideboarding strategy. He has a ton of experience with B/G/x decks in Modern, and with some contributions from Anthony Berlingieri and Dan Lanthier, this is what we came up with:

Fulminator Mage
Tron:

+3 Stony Silence

+1 Thoughtseize

+3 Fulminator Mage

-3 Lingering Souls

-2 Abrupt Decay

-2 Garruk Relentless

Affinity:

+3 Stony Silence

+1 Batterskull

+2 Jund Charm

+1 Abrupt Decay

−4 Dark Confidant

−3 Thoughtseize

Splinter Twin:

+1 Abrupt Decay

+1 Thoughtseize

+3 Fulminator Mage

−2 Garruk Relentless

−2 Ajani Vengeant

−1 Lingering Souls

Jund Charm
Melira Pod:

+1 Batterskull

+2 Jund Charm

+1 Abrupt Decay

+2 Grafdigger's Cage

−2 Inquisition of Kozilek

−4 Liliana of the Veil

G/W Hexproof:

+2 Jund Charm

+1 Abrupt Decay

+1 Thoughtseize

−2 Ajani Vengeant

−2 Garruk Relentless

B/G or Jund:

+2 Obstinate Baloth

+1 Batterskull

+1 Abrupt Decay

+1 Jund Charm

−2 Inquisition of Kozilek

−3 Thoughtseize

Obstinate Baloth
Junk:

+2 Jund Charm

+1 Batterskull

+2 Obstinate Baloth

+1 Abrupt Decay

−4 Liliana of the Veil

−2 Inquisition of Kozilek

Scapeshift:

+3 Fulminator Mage

+1 Thoughtseize

-2 Garruk Relentless

-2 Abrupt Decay

Blue Control:

+1 Thoughtseize

+3 Fulminator Mage

+1 Batterskull

−2 Abrupt Decay

−2 Maelstrom Pulse

−1 Lightning Bolt

Here’s a rundown of my matches.

Round 1 vs. Cory Sheldon (G/W Hate Bears)

Aven Mindcensor
Jeez, it’s been a while since I played Round 1 of a Grand Prix. My opponent was a young man who was playing in his first one. In Game 1, I foolishly forgot that Aven Mindcensor was a thing, and I let it Stifle one of my fetch lands. It didn’t actually matter because I was drawing a lot of lands and had a Dark Confidant out for several turns. Lingering Souls meant that Cory couldn’t actually pressure my life total, and I drew enough removal to keep up with his threats. I eventually was so far ahead on cards that closing out the game was academic.

In Game 2, he took out two of my lands with a pair of Ghost Quarters plus Leonin Arbiter, but again, I had a lot of lands. Mirran Crusader was threatening to be a problem, but Ajani and Garruk bought me time to draw into Liliana. I played a Godless Shrine untapped, as I also had an Abrupt Decay and wanted to make sure that my planeswalker would take care of his otherwise-tough-to-deal with creature. He flashed in an Aven Mindcensor, I killed it, and my plan came together. Batterskull finished the job from there.

1–0

Round 2 vs. Chris Pait (Pyromancer Ascension)

Empty the Warrens
My opponent led with Scalding Tarn into an untapped Steam Vents into a Sleight of Hand. I Thoughtseized on my turn one and saw that he didn’t have a second land. I took the Gitaxian Probe, the only card he could cast. He didn’t draw a second land for some time, while I hammered away at his life total with Tarmogoyf and his hand with Liliana.

Game 2 was a bit closer. He started off with a turn-zero Leyline of Sanctity, which made my Inquisition of Kozilek pretty silly. I still had Grafdigger's Cage to disrupt him, and a freshly-drawn Liliana started to work on his hand. He cast an Empty the Warrens for four Goblins out of desperation, all of which traded for my Raging Ravine. I had a second man land, and that was enough to seal the deal. Since I had plenty of time left, I went and cast an Empty the Warrens of my own—if you know what I mean.

2–0

Round 3 vs. Michael Bernat

When I sat down, a judge immediately came by asked me if I was Michael. I said I wasn’t, and he told me to hold on. Smells like my opponent is receiving a game loss. When he failed to actually show up, that was upgraded to a match loss. Holy crap, I’m running hot today. I spent the round shooting the breeze with my boss Adam Styborski and telling anyone who would listen about my good fortune.

3–0

Byes? I don’t need no stinking byes!

Round 4 vs. Mark McDonald (Kiki Pod)

Spike Feeder
I initially had no idea what was going on when my opponent played Spike Feeder and Restoration Angels. I was horribly mana-flooded in Game 1 and died to a pair of Restoration Angels and an Archangel of Thune. I killed the Spike Feeder very early on in the game, and it didn’t occur to me at the time how those two cards interact (spoiler alert: You gain infinite life).

Game 2, I had very awkward draws and made what might have been a poor judgment call with Garruk. I wanted to kill a Noble Hierarch, but my friend Mike Vasovski told me afterward that I should have made a Wolf token instead. It wasn’t clear to me if his line was better, but I took it under advisement for the future.

3–1

Round 5 vs. Stu Somers (R/G Tron)

Oblivion Stone
I had a very aggressive start in Game 1 with a Tarmogoyf and multiple Lightning Bolts. Stu had a bit of a mediocre draw, and I certainly wasn’t giving him the time to draw out of it. He did manage to wipe my board with an Oblivion Stone, but Raging Ravine was there to pick up the pieces, and his life total was far too low to mount a comeback.

In Game 2, I had very good draws with multiple discard spells, an uncontested Liliana of the Veil, and all three of my Fulminator Mages. Despite Stone Raining him three times and ultimating Liliana, the game was a lot closer than I would have liked. He managed to cast a Wurmcoil Engine, and though I did make him sacrifice it with Liliana, I only had one Lightning Bolt to get rid of one of the tokens. I chose to let him keep the lifelink token, as Raging Ravine was going to be my win condition. A few attacks from my man land later, and he was scooping up his cards.

4–1

Round 6 vs. Mike Vance (Affinity)

Blood Moon
I’ve known Mike for quite a long time, as he lives in Hamilton, a city not far from where I live. He’s been playing at least as long as I have, so we’ve definitely run into each other a bunch of times in the past. Mike dumped out his hand in the first couple turns, and though I had a fair amount of removal, I took a giant hit from an Inkmoth Nexus that I was out of answers for.

In Game 2, I kept a land-light hand and fetched for a Temple Garden instead of a basic Forest so that I could cast Stony Silence if I drew it. That proved to be disastrous, as Mike played a Blood Moon on turn two, so I did nothing for the rest of the game. Abrupt Decay was in my hand the whole time, mocking me.

4–2

I was kind of upset after that loss, as I wasn’t even able to do anything. I just sat there with my Little Nass in my hands. At this point, I couldn’t wait to just lose again so I could hit the bar.

Round 7 vs. Nicolas Leahy (R/W/U Control)

I honestly can’t think of an easier matchup than blue control. I actually tested a bunch with the deck and couldn’t ever beat a Liliana of the Veil. At one point, I threw up my hands and exclaimed, “This deck sucks!” Neither game was particularly close.

5–2

Round 8 vs. James Newman (B/G)

I unfortunately don’t recall what happened in this match. I know that I mulliganed to five cards in Game 1 and still won in two.

6–2

Round 9 vs. Max Brown (Kiki Pod)

Obstinate Baloth
This is it: win and in. I lost Game 1 to the combo of Kitchen Finks and Restoration Angel and couldn’t get much of an offense going against him. Game 2 was probably the best game I played all tournament. It was a long, drawn-out affair in which both players had a ton of decisions to make and could have gone either way. I was able to outgrind him with my collection of discard spells, removal, and planeswalkers.

Game 3 was anticlimactic, however. Max kept a one-land hand, and I played a Fulminator Mage on turn two. I proceeded to empty out my hand of Tarmogoyfs and Dark Confidants to fully take advantage of the situation. I even had a second Fulminator Mage for when he finally drew a second land a couple turns later. After he died, he showed me his hand full of Obstinate Baloths, thinking it was going to be awesome against Liliana of the Veil. I informed him that I boarded them out, and his face kind of sunk. I felt kind of bad, especially because of how good Game 2 was.

7–2

After a giant meal and a couple beers at The Grand Trunk Pub, I was off to bed.

Day Two

Round 10 vs. Kevin Gibson (Affinity)

Ajani Vengeant
Kevin is from my neck of the woods, and while we were being deck-checked, we chatted up about the local scene and days of yore. I had the nutter butters anti-Affinity draw with two copies of Abrupt Decay for his two Cranial Platings, and I had a Lingering Souls to stop all of his attackers. Winning Game 1 against Affinity is always awesome.

Kevin mulliganed in Game 2 and had a mediocre start, while I just sighed and played lands for the first three turns. However, there was a reason I kept my hand, and I got the full blowout with Jund Charm, taking out a Vault Skirge, an Ornithopter, and an Inkmoth Nexus. I followed up with Ajani Vengeant, and there was no coming back from that.

8–2

Round 11 vs. Patrick Chapin (Cruel Control)

Even though Patrick is a much better player than I am, I have such an overwhelming edge in the matchup that the games were pretty much blowouts. Patrick kept a two-land hand in Game 2 that had a bunch of cheap spells. I Thoughtseized away his Mulldrifter so that he wouldn’t be able to find more lands when he drew a third, and I played around his Mana Leak all game. I had a Fulminator Mage for when he did draw his third land (the first two were basics), so I played conservatively, taking as few risks as possible. It took a long time, but I won the second game without any trouble.

9–2

Round 12 vs. Paul Morelli (R/W/U Twin)

I don’t recall very many details of this match. I know that Game 1 was very strange, as Paul had a mediocre draw while I was horribly flooded. I even cracked a fetch land and failed to find a land at one point. Games 2 and 3 went much better for me, as I simply presented far too much disruption for him to do anything.

10–2

Round 13 vs. Duane Yang (Eternal Command)

Raging Ravine
I was actually paired down, as my opponent told me his record was 8–0–4. That probably meant that I was going to have to play quickly. In Game 1 I worked him over with my planeswalkers and a Deathrite Shaman. Game 2 looked good for me at first, as he was stuck on one land. However, he did have two Aether Vials out. I don’t normally care about that card, but in this situation, it was amazing for him. Despite that, the game was very close. I was losing to his flyers, so I had to attack in such a way that I could only leave one blocker back. I put him to 1 life, but I died to his removal spell.

Game 3 was a blowout for me though due to my Liliana of the Veil. At one point, I was a little afraid he might put Obstinate Baloth into play, but I correctly deduced that he would have played it if he had it in hand, so I discarded the Maelstrom Pulse in my hand that I had boarded back in and instead kept my Raging Ravine. That turned out to be crucial, as my man land became gigantic during the game, even forcing my opponent to chump-block with a Tarmogoyf. I didn’t let up and took down the match in extra turns.

11–2

For those of you keeping track, I’ve now won seven consecutive matches.

Round 14 vs. Josh Utter-Leyton (Jund)

This was a feature match here you can read about here. I only have two things to add:

While he continued to play Magic and fight for a flight to the Pro Tour, it hadn't materialized for him yet.

Really, Adam? I’ve played in four Pro Tours, one of which I Top 32’d. Jeez, I just get no respect. (End Dangerfield.)

I guess we're even now.

That quote is missing some context. I was referencing the last time I played Josh. I came out on top that time, so I was having some fun with it. In all seriousness, there’s no shame in losing to the Player of the Year, and Josh was a great opponent. It’s good to know that I can stand toe-to-toe with the best players in the game and hold my own.

11–3

Round 15 vs. William Jensen (Jund)

Forest
Jeez, another Hall of Famer? I got off to a great start with a mulligan to four cards. While I was busy having my ass kicked, I discussed how I didn’t want to keep any of the one-land hands I saw since I’d been picking up a bunch of free wins from my opponents doing the same all weekend. Huey joked that he probably would have been greedy enough to keep a one-lander. I managed to win Game 2, and our mulligan discussion came back to haunt my opponent. He in fact did keep a one-land hand for Game 3 that I again was able to take full advantage of. Not exactly how I would have liked to win, but hey, I’ll take my wins against pros when I can get them.

12–3

 


I finished in twenty-first place, which is good for $400 and a couple Pro Points. It sucks that I essentially lost a PTQ semi-final to one of the toughest end bosses in the world, but overall, I’d say my performance was way above my expectations. Big thanks goes out to Kyle Duncan for helping me test and figure out my sideboarding (also props for twentieth place, buddy!), Randy Sheffield and Jon Boutin for lending me cards, and all my friends back home and on site for cheering me on.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back next week with tales from the Theros prerelease.

Take care,

Nassim Ketita

arcticninja on Magic Online

http://www.youtube.com/nketita


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