No, not my brain.
Grand Prix Charlotte was an event I was looking forward to for some time. I planned on leaving work Friday night and hopping on a plane locally with friend Daryl Patino and my girlfriend, Allie Smith. Upon arriving at the airport with about 30 minutes to spare it is discovered our plane is delayed due to mechanical issues. An hour passes. Then two hours. Finally we are allowed to board the plane and although annoying, we are arriving in Charlotte a little after 10 p.m.
Everyone boards and get comfortable as the flight attendants go over the safety procedures of the airplane. Just before they taxi us, the pilot announces that the mechanical issue they thought was fixed was indeed not. The autopilot screen was not responding and therefore it would be hazardous to fly. With no backup planes in sight, we got deboarded and waited for news in hopes of a mechanical savior. A couple more hours pass, and it’s near midnight when we get the news our flight is cancelled.
With the Grand Prix happening tomorrow we try to find a flight out early enough to make the players meeting. We find a flight out of Tampa (an hour north) at 6:45 a.m. You can do the math and realize this means we get about two hours of sleep the night before what turns out to be the largest Magic tournament in history. Daryl opts out recognizing he won’t be able to perform under such poor conditions. Luckily there are no further complications and we get to the site an hour before the tournament is supposed to start.
No, not the card.
We arrive to see a very large tournament hall, with an equally large quantity of players. There are a couple of reasons this happened. Star City Games did an excellent job promoting this event and its second “Gold Rush” tournament. I ordered some cards from SCG earlier this year and it had a flyer advertising this event. This is a very brilliant marketing move. Charlotte is also the perfect location for Magic. Because it’s in the middle of the East Coast, you have a lot of people within driving distance and a lot who don’t have to fly far.
However, no amount of preparation can handle the massive tournament with 2,672 players. Given the circumstances, I think Star City did an excellent job of getting the tournament started as fast as possible. That’s even though Round 9 of Day 1 didn’t finish until past midnight, and I didn’t even start playing Magic until past 5 p.m. because of my three byes.
But enough with story time, let’s get down to the Sealed portion of the event. Before opening my Sealed product I got to open my “Gold Rush” packet. I was blessed with a foil Leafdrake Roost while a person near me got a very nice Volcanic Island. Oh well, at least my Sealed deck wasn’t complete garbage:
Looking at my rares, I immediately notice the Rubblebelt Raiders and Firemane Avenger. Excited, I see some other gems like double Skyknight Legionnaire and Sunhome Guildmage. But it’s too good to be true. When I add up all the playable cards, I’m very far away from having a deck. I turn to my other rares — Ogre Slumlord and the mythic Lord of the Void — and also see a Mind Grind I can use against opposing Dimir and Orzhov decks. After finding the best curve and most optimal build I came up with the following:
Gatecrash Sealed (Dimir) by John Cuvelier
This deck looks about average for a sealed deck and could easily go 5-4 or 8-1. Playing stuff like Frilled Oculus with no green sources and only one kill spell means I have to lean heavily on my counterspells for opposing bombs. I do have Call of the Nightwing, which can steal games by itself. Because of how my deck is designed, I’ll be hoping to face Boros and trying to avoid Orzhov. My logic is I can counter the relevant game-enders in Boros and play defensively. Orzhov generally has more removal and a lot of extort creatures that I can’t kill. The longer the game goes on, the less likely I am to come out on top. I can’t exactly put on blazing pressure.
Rounds 1-3: Bye
Round 4: Jonathan Bennett (Win)
Round 5: Melissa DeTora (Win) (Feature Match)
Round 6: Logan Rodgers (Win)
Round 7: Frank Skarren (Win) (Eventual GP winner)
Round 8: Alex Amato (Loss)
Round 9: Tyler Lytle (Win)
End Day 1. Finally being able to sleep is something I was looking forward to since about 2 p.m. But even though I was getting sleep, I had to be back at the tournament hall seven hours after leaving. Day 2 quickly arrived, and I have to continue using my very average Sealed deck for two more rounds before we can get to the draft. Praying for a 2-0, I’m being optimistic that I’ll more than likely 1-1.
Round 10: Jason Oppenheimer (Win)
Round 11: Andrew Cuneo (Loss) (Feature Match)
I do exactly that, losing to a much better Dimir/Orzhov deck and very good player in Andrew Cuneo. I realized I can no longer lose if I plan on making Top 8, which is pretty annoying because at most Grands Prix, another loss isn’t a big deal. I’m pumped to start the draft portion. Especially after starting Pro Tour Montreal with an 0-3 performance, I have something to prove. Not just to myself, either. I got a lot of slack from my teammates and close friends about the poor start.
My draft pod consists of Chi Hoi Yim, Gregory Dreher, Valarie Moore, Kyle Cornwell, Sean Adams, James Spencer, and Kevin Michael. The only name I recognize is Chi Hoi Yim; I feel pretty good about my chances in the dark and my gut feeling turned out to be correct.
Gatecrash Draft (Simic) by John Cuvelier
Round 12: James Spencer (Win)
Round 13: Kyle Cornwell (Win)
Round 14: Kevin Michael (Win)
Quite the masterpiece, if I do say so myself. Even Ben Stark said my deck was very good. Anytime he says that, you know you have a 3-0 on your hands. Sure enough I did just that, evolving my way through with much ease. At 12-2 you begin to realize that Top 8 is within grasp. Normally I could just draw into Top 8 at this point, but instead I will need two consecutive wins before I can draw in.
There are a few familiar names in Pod 2: Daniel Battle, Frank Skarren, Patrick Cox, Alex Amato, Joseph Keaveny, Robert Victory, Will Craddock. I have already played against most of the pod in the Sealed portion of the tournament. I ended up with what I thought was a very reasonable Orzhov deck with a couple of splashes. As it turns out however, I was quite wrong or unlucky. One of the two …
Gatecrash Draft (Orzhov) by John Cuvelier
Round 15: Patrick Cox (Loss) (Feature match)
Round 16: Joseph Keaveny (Loss)
Round 17: Dan Battle (Win)
The loss against Pat Cox was heartbreaking as he had some above-average draws and my draw in Game 2 yielded no lands until it was too late. But being what I consider a teammate I wasn’t too upset that he was the one to knock me out. Against Joseph, I just couldn’t catch a break. Luckily in the final round I managed to keep poise and narrowly defeat the awesomely named Dan Battle to finish 13-4 and in 33rd place. A very annoying place to finish, but in the grand scheme of things I’m OK with it.
No, not the card.
I’ve got a lot of Magic on my docket for the next month. A Modern PTQ this weekend, TCG Player 5k the following, GP Pittsburgh, SCG Open Orlando, and finally the SCG Invitational in Atlanta. That is a whole lot of Magic spread across a variety of formats. I’ll do my best to bring the action back to you throughout the upcoming weeks. For now I’ll try to maintain my composure and sanity through the grind that is Magic the Gathering.
Gosu. On MTGO
@Jcuvelier on Twitter
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