This past weekend was Grand Prix New York. Being only 90 minutes from the event center, I had to participate. This would be my fourth Grand Prix event ever, second Grand Prix event since I came back to the game, and the first Grand Prix event that I actually prepared a fair amount for. For that reason, I’m considering this my first “real” Grand Prix. My previous Grand Prix experiences include Grand Prix New Jersey from the early 2000s, being Mirrodin Block constructed during Ravager Affinity’s dominant reign, which was my first Grand Prix, and I had no idea what I was doing; Grand Prix Boston in the early 2000s, being Extended, where I tested with Red Deck Wins, but upon meeting up with my playgroup, switched last minute to Scepter Chant with zero experience, and went 1-3 drop; and Grand Prix New Jersey from a couple years ago, being Legacy and I just decided I wanted to Storm people with no practice.
This time, I set my bar very low. One of my goals this year is to make day 2 at a larger event like a Grand Prix or Open event. While this was in the back of my mind, I was absolutely scared to death of this Grand Prix New York in New Jersey. I knew I was going to play Bant Company. I knew the deck was losing favor up to the weekend, and I knew my confidence with the deck had waned as well. I was losing to things like not drawing lands online, or my opponent having perfect draw after perfect draw seemingly every round.
While my frustration mounted, my will to move to another deck did as well. However, I wrote my article last week about preparing for the event with Bant Company, and with memories of my failed Grand Prix Boston, I decided to stick with the deck. While making day 2 was in the back of my mind, I never was able to start off a Grand Prix positively. That was truly my goal this time, to not just go x-3 drop within the first five rounds. I wanted to play Magic that mattered all day. I registered this list:
Bant Company GPNY 2016
I felt pretty good about the deck. Lambholt Pacifist wasn’t great in my personal testing, so I cut the 2 I had for a third Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and third Tireless Tracker, which were generally exceptional all day for me. Den Protector in general pulled its weight where I needed it in the G/W Tokens matchup. Declaration in Stone is of course an amazing card, Negate is great, Tragic Arrogance is a necessary evil, but was reasonably alright.
So I filled out my decklist, got my swag from Channel Fireball, and we were off to fight (hopefully) nine rounds of standard battles without byes.
Round 1 – Anthony on G/B Seasons Past
Game one, his turn 1 Hissing Quagmire has me deathly afraid of a poor matchup in G/B Aristocrats. After a few turns of him casting sorcery spells, I’m relieved to know that this is a very good matchup for my deck. This matchup is just really easy in general for the Bant deck, as long as you play around sorcery speed removal like Languish as best you can. Ultimate Price isn’t awfully good against your Reflector Mages and Bounding Krassis and Lumbering Falls, which are key in the matchup, as is Sylvan Advocate to fight against Languish.
I beat him in 2 games. I’m already jacked up. I played exceptionally well I thought, and had the same record now as my teammates who had byes. Already better than my other Grand Prix experiences.
Round 2 – Florian on G/W Tokens
Alright! I’m playing at table 14, which I expect to be the highest table I play at all day. Florian sites down, we exchange pleasantries as he unfurls his Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad playmat. Great. I get my round 1 win, and have to battle against a guy who has played on the Pro Tour. Well, at least round 1 was positive.
Especially after I see a Fortified Village revealing Forest into Oath of Nissa. Ugh, this is supposed to be an awful matchup for me, so I’m not excited. I was able to take game 1 though in a long drawn out game. My Collected Companies were pretty gas, and he was stuck on four lands for a while.
In game three, he’s really worried about the clock. We start the game with about ten minutes to play, and we’re both playing quickly. His Linvala the Preservers seem to be getting him ahead…but he’s missing his triggers, and hey, this is a Grand Prix. If you miss your triggers, you’ll get no love from me. So he misses the life gain trigger once, and he’s actually ahead on creatures, so he isn’t able to get the Angel token. A timely Tragic Arrogance lets me clear his Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, and he isn’t able to get back into it.
Florian was a great guy, and I hope to see him again. He was a lot of fun to play against.
Round 3 – Gonzalo on Esper Dragons
Gonzalo is here from Argentina. Grand Prix are sweet, you don’t get to meet many Argentines on the local PPTQ scene.
Game 1 sees me pull ahead in true Bant Company fashion. Getting multiple cards off of Tireless Trackers and Duskwatch Recruiters. Game 2, he’s able to find all the right answers, and kills me Dragons style with Ojutai.
Game 3 is where my tournament goes downhill. I forget how playing creatures works. My hand is Clip Wings, Canopy Vista. I know his one card in hand is Dragonlord Ojutai. I just played Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, and have some other creature beating his face, a Collected Company and 5+ cards in my graveyard. He draws for the turn, and plays a [card]Grasp of Darkness on my Jace. I activate Jace, draw my card, and call judge on myself.
Hidden card error. I reveal my hand of Canopy Vista, Clip Wings, Evolving Wilds to my opponent. He chooses the Clip Wings to shuffle back into my library, he slams his Ojutai Faster than the Flash with diarrhea looking for a toilet, and I just draw four lands in a row. What a mess. I’m pretty tilted after being such an idiot. At least the first two rounds went well.
2-1. Doing ok, playing pretty well except for that one Jace slip up. I would have had Gonzalo beat. Oh well, thems the beats. Gonzalo was a swell guy though.
Round 4 – Roberto on B/W control.
Roberto flew in from Texas. Grand Prix are sweet. I love playing against control decks with decks like Bant Company. Creature sequencing and when to play your creatures is very important, and I like to think that I know how to do this well. Game 1, he bricks a bit, but keeps parity by slamming consecutive Sorin, Grim Nemesis, but each turn my leftover creatures just kill his Sorins after he uses it to kill one of my creatures. After a while, my creatures just do him in, and he draws nothing of note.
Game 2, he gets it pretty convincingly. Game 3 I’m able to just win because Collected Company is an insane-o card. Getting Tireless Tracker into Nissa, get a forest, play forest, get a clue, flip Nissa, draw from Nissa, draw from clue. It’s pretty gnarly.
3-1. Pretty happy that my only loss is to my own stupid mistake so far.
Round 5 – Chris on 4C Rites
Another poor matchup for Bant. These Aristocrat style decks pretty much stop our gameplan when we’re at parity on board, because any attack is a poor one that sees my life total slow down. The maindeck Declaration in Stone is amazing, and helps me win game 1 after it exiles his multiple Eldrazi Displacers.
Game 3 is when practicing on Magic Online really shows its benefit. I mulligan to six, and keep a Declaration in Stone on top with my scry. I play the role of control deck, and Reflector Mage, Declaration in Stone, and Dromoka’s Command as many relevant creatures as possible just to keep his combo off balance. A timely Bounding Krasis lets me tap down his 9/7 indestructible flyer before it’s able to block, and I’m off to a better-than-expected 4-1. I’m really excited at this point. 5 rounds in, and my dreams of making day 2 are more than alive!
Until round 6 pairings are posted.
Joel Larsson. Pro Tour Champion.
Grand Prix are sweet.
Round 6 – Joel on Bant Company.
Joel is truly the best looking man in Magic, he gets my vote. Pretty sure if my brought my wife to the event with me, I wouldn’t be leaving with her. Heck, I was swooning over the man’s impeccable hair.
This round has me shaking in my boots. I don’t belong here at this table. Across the table is ranked fifth in the world, Pro Tour Champion Joel Larsson. To my left is SCG Open star Dan Musser. To my right is Pro Tour top 8’er Adrian Sullivan. I have no business being here right now.
Needless to say, Joel beats me straight up in 2 games. There isn’t really much to say. Game 1 he ults his Nissa, while keeping mine in check. Game 2 I just don’t see lands, and he sees plenty under a Tireless Tracker, and I just get trounced. He was a really cool dude, we chatted after the match about the matchup. Grand Prix are sweet.
4-2. Okay, a little less than desirable, but to be honest, playing against platinum level pros was not even on my radar as something I could even do today. Day 2 dreams are still alive, though.
Round 7 – Mark on B/W Eldrazi.
For those of you who are too young to remember, Magic was created in 1996. Mark’s last name is LePine. For those of you who are too young to know, Mark Lepine played in one of the first Magic World Championships. Remember when Wizards used to print those World Championship decks with the gold borders and signatures of the players? I owned this guy’s Jackal Pup deck! We talk a bunch, I’m a little star struck, and we’re off.
Game 1, I draw pretty well after he hits me with a Thought-Knot Seer. I’m able to just out value him with my cheap tempo creatures while he struggles to find action.
Game 3 is a grinder. He gets down to 2 cards in hand, I attack him for not lethal. He end of turns Secure the Wastes for 5 tokens. I end of turn Dromoka’s Command to kill one, playing around his last card in hand being Ormendahl, because at this point, it’s not a Westvale Abbey. The next turn he does the same thing, making 5 guys with Secure the Wastes after I use Declaration in Stone to kill his remaining 4 tokens. On his turn, he puts a Westvale Abbey into play, and passes. I activate Duskwatch Recruiter, and find the Bounding Krasis to tap his lifelink blocker, and attack for lethal.
It’s great to meet childhood heroes sometimes. Mark was a really sweet dude, probably my favorite opponent of the whole day.
5-2. Johnny 5, the dream’s alive!
Round 8 – Jeremy on Sultai colorless Midrange.
This is when lack of preparation is emphasized. I knew about this deck, but didn’t prepare against it. This was the deck Owen Turtenwald placed well with on the MOCS. I make poor attacks because I haven’t played against a Deathcap Cultivator with Delirium before, and I’m too late to the party to figure out what he’s up to in game 1. He Dragonlord Silumgars my Jace, Telepath Unbound, and gets me.
Game 3 goes the same way game 1 did, where I just play terribly. My lack of coffee is showing.
5-3. Day 2 dreams are still alive, but I probably won’t play with this record, as there isn’t much to play for. With this thought in my head, I think I told myself the last round doesn’t even matter. I play it just to play it and “make day 2” but I know in my heart of hearts that my day is over.
Round 9 – Andrew on G/W Tokens.
What a way to cap off the day. Playing against a poor matchup in G/W Tokens against a guy named Andrew Tenjum. Just some SCG Open competitor. Just one of the hottest Open grinders right now.
Game 1 he gets unlucky seeing only three lands the whole game, but puts on a clinic as to how powerful Lambholt Pacifist is, and makes the game interesting, even though I’m able to win.
Game 2, Archangel Avacyn is a travesty of a Magic card. The fact that you’re able to have an Archangel Avacyn and Avacyn, the Purifier on the battlefield at the same time seems broken, and he’s able to win this way in the skies.
Game 3, he just plays a normal G/W tokens game against me, and beats me with his beefed up creatures.
5-4. Andrew was a great guy. All of my opponents were great guys. I’m really disappointed, however, with how I performed in the last two rounds. Other than that, I feel like I played great in the first seven, other than my idiotic slip up in round 3. I was proud with how my day started, but bummed with how it ended.
Since this is really my first Grand Prix though where my wits are about me, seeing all of these top level pros, and competing against them has ignited this passion within me. I want to travel a bit more now out of my comfort zone to compete in Grand Prix. Now that I know that I’m good enough to be paired against a Joel Larsson or an Andrew Tenjum, I’m probably good enough to beat them next time. I’m probably good enough with more practice to make day 2. I’m probably good enough to win a PPTQ.
Even though I’m upset with how I ended the day, my performance has instilled more confidence in me so that I may do better. I’m now looking to GP Pittsburgh in June, especially since now I’m closing in on enough Planeswalker Points for a bye in the first round.
I want to just take a minute here to thanks my amazing wife. The fact that she lets me travel to try to fulfill these silly dreams of playing a stupid card game while holding down the fort at home on Mother’s day weekend means that she really understands how important these things are to me.
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