Two weeks ago I played in my first Grand Prix of the year with Steven Mann and Adam Fox in Louisville. It went pretty well, losing the last round to miss top 8, finish in 21st place and good for 300$. It was great to be back playing in a high level event though. I wanted to keep the strong finishes rolling and replicate prior success at the Orlando open the following weekend. This would be the first time I played in an open since they adopted the two day format. You can see some of my prior write-ups on my finishes here and here.
I knew for something as big as an open I wanted to play Affinity. It’s not something I want to play at a smaller event like a PPTQ because everyone knows what everyone is playing. The last PPTQ I played Affinity in there was more than a few people who saw me and added 4 Ancient Grudge to their sideboard. At an event as big as an open that’s not something I have to legitimately worry about. Let’s take a look at what I ended up registering.
Thoughtcast versus Galvanic Blast
The most questions I’ve got about my list is why Thoughtcast over Galvanic Blast? It’s more of a metagame call than anything. Orlando is well known to be an Abzan and Jund heavy metagame. I wanted to hedge against these decks with Thoughtcast. You really only want Galvanic Blast against Infect anyways. As it turned out I didn’t need Galvanic Blast anyways as I went 3-0 against Infect. We’ll get to that in a minute. Also because this is a Thoughtcast build I had to play 4 Memnite which I have historically disliked playing. But this also meant I didn’t need to play 17 lands like a lot of the Affinity lists recently have adopted. I can tell you that playing turn 1 Thoughtcast feels real good and generally means you’re winning the game. Galvanic Blast rarely feels like you’re going to win because you have one in your hand. Being able to churn through your deck to find more high impact cards and at a cheap rate is great and where I’ll continue to be going forward. Let’s take a look at whom and what I played against.
Round Opponent Deck Game Record
1 Javier Arango R/G Titanbreach (2-1) Win 1-0
2 Matthew Hovis Affinity (2-0) Win 2-0
3 Chris Andersen Bantrazi (2-1) Win 3-0
4 Martin Prado Affinity (2-0) Win 4-0
5 Michael Hernandez Jeskai Nahiri (1-2) Loss 4-1
6 Ryan McDonough Titanbreach (2-1) Win 5-1
7 Unknown Opponent Bantrazi (2-0) Win 6-1
8 Stuart Couling Affinity (2-0) Win 7-1
9 Andrew Jessup Infect (2-0) Win 8-1
10 Michael Majors Titanbreach (1-2) Loss 8-2
11 Ashley Taylor Jund (1-2) Loss 8-3
12 Anthony Marino Infect (2-1) Win 9-3
13 Andrew Lightey R/G Tron (2-0) Win 10-3
14 Jorge Santos Elves (2-0) Win 11-3
15 Kevin Kelley Infect (2-0) Win 12-3
T8 Paul Dunaway Bantrazi (2-0) Win 13-3
T4 David Sharfman Grixis Vengeance (0-2) Loss 13-4
Coverage of the open can be found here and includes two feature matches of mine against Michael Majors and David Sharfman. Day two didn’t start as planned and I was battling a pretty nasty cold, but I kept my composure and finished strong enough making it through to the top 8. I ended up losing in t4 to PT Champ David Sharfman and my Grixis Vengeance deck I had borrowed him. Awkward. I had a lot of requests recently for sideboarding notes on the deck so let’s see what I did for each popular matchup I played.
It’s all about disruption and speed here. I don’t want Champion because they’re too slow by themselves plus they don’t provide enough pressure on their own and since I’m adding 5 colored cards and the matchup is fast I don’t want to spend time using Thoughtcast. Blood Moon trumps Valakut and can sometimes surprise them when they oftentimes don’t have a basic Forest. Thoughtseize is a great catch all that provides perfect information which is important when flooding the board. Spell Pierce helps slow down the ramp and prevents them from getting an early Anger of the Gods on you. Spellskite is a good way to protect your creatures from Lightning Bolt and any artifact destruction effect.
Etched Champion is a dud in this matchup and Signal Pest gets trumped by the large amount of flying creatures. Ghirapur Aether Grid is great at taking down all the small stuff and shutting down the man lands. Ancient Grudge is just an all-star here for obvious reasons. Galvanic Blast helps take down problematic permanents like Steel Overseer and stops the modular transition from an Arcbound Ravager.
Etched Champion is pretty bad here since they have very few colored permanents. Thoughtseize helps post board to hit Engineered Explosives and Stony Silence. Galvanic Blast takes care of Thought-Knot Seer and can stunt a fast start by shooting down Noble Hierarch. It’s also important to note Ancient Grudge is also a viable option depending on how many artifacts they have post board. In my t8 match I brought them in because my opponent had 4 Chalice of the Void.
This matchup is all about speed so three drops have to go. I’m also adding a lot of colored spells, so to make room Thoughtcast needs to go. Spellskite is fantastic against Infect and buys you a ton of time. Ghirapur Aether Grid is nearly unbeatable if it stays in play. Thoughtseize gives you perfect information and can take the most important card in the matchup away in Blighted Agent. Spell Pierce and Galvanic Blast allow you to be somewhat interactive while still applying pressure.
This is where Etched Champion really shines as the only way they can remove one from the board is a sweeper or Liliana of the Veil when you have no other creatures. Spellskite is good protection against Lightning Bolt and can protect a valuable permanent like Cranial Plating from Abrupt Decay. Blood Moon is a gotcha card that can randomly steal a game if they don’t play around it and oftentimes can’t afford to. Memnite doesn’t get through very often but we still need some to make our explosive draws good. Steel Overseer is good but is slow and adding Spellskite fills up the two mana slot. Since we are removing a couple of Memnite, Springleaf Drum gets a little bit worse and I’m okay cutting one.
Changes I’d consider making going forward based on how the deck played and what the metagame felt like are as followed.
Etched Champion is a card I can’t stress enough how much I love. But times are changing and it’s simply not fast or strong enough against the popular decks in the field right now. Master of Etherium offers more pressure and is better against Titanbreach, Bantrazi and Affinity. Welding Jar gives the deck another free permanent to help Thoughtcast and more importantly is that it protects our high impact permanents.
In the sideboard I like switching Gut Shot for Galvanic Blast. Gut Shot doesn’t require mana and is coming in mostly against the mirror and Infect anyways. Thoughtseize over performed all weekend while Spell Pierce under performed. Relic of Progenitus would have served me better than Tormod’s Crypt. The reason I don’t want another Grafdigger’s Cage is Relic of Progenitus helps in matchups where the cage doesn’t. Living End, Tarmogoyf and Delve decks are weak to Relic of Progenitus and of those Tormod’s Crypt is really only worth bringing in against one of them. Finally because we cut out Etched Champion from the main completely I wanted to have access to another in post boarded games.
That’s all for today folks. We’ve got a prerelease this weekend to attend. It’s early in season 3 of the SCG Tour and I’ve put myself in a position to make a run at the players’ championship if I want. Stay tuned.
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