GP Lisbon Round One:
Dear Everyone that’s lost a match to me in the last 5months,
I couldn’t have made it this far without you. Thank you for the top decks, the rage quits, the draft signals. Remember that time I took off work on a Friday Night to play FNM and you lost? Well, here’s to hoping its worth it. I’ll try to make it count.
Zac Clark, Durdle Magus
Looking at my deck I realize the pool was far too varied to make a great deck. I decided to settle for a very good deck. My rares screamed Rakdos splash Blue and my commons said that’s impossible. I decided to not play a solid 3 color deck. And ended up with a pretty strong Selesnya with a splash of Blue for Blustersquall and Voidwelder. I have a good 4 removal cards in white. 5 token creator cards AND the Phantom General. Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage is my “Bomb”. A few combat tricks to make my opponent crazy… And a Slime Molding, which could win the game alone. I’m sad there are no super bombs but you work with what you got here.
In the mean, time I’ll take a trip to my pal Harry’s game and see how he’s doing.
(This is a great spot to point out a thing I told Harry that’s very important when playing in other countries.) The guy he was playing had some friends watching the match… Behind Harry. They were speaking to each other in Portugese, Harry asked if they could move from behind him if they were gonna speak in a different language and see his cards. It was all done in a respectful manner and I honestly don’t think anyone was cheating but still it’s important to assert a level of rules awareness when you’re playing on this level. His friends walked away and they continued the match in a very friendly way. Harry eventually took it.
Round Two Pedro
My Round Two opponent took his sweet time getting to the seat. We share pleasantries and shuffle up. He wins the roll and is on the play. I’m off to a strong start but he puts out a few creatures and then a Volatile Rig. I block the rig we flip he “wins” the flip and the board wipes… Just my luck. He gets stable first with a Lotleth Troll and then a Daggerdome Imp… We go to game two.
Game Two was a blow out. Turn Two Imp turn Three Lotleth and turn four he drops a Sewer Shambler to the Troll and scavenges to the Imp I’m bleeding out for six and he’s gaining three. It was a rout and pretty hopeless. We shake and I see how Harry’s doing. Also not too well.
I start to think after such a beating that maybe I built a bad deck. I look at my cards and separate the Black/red and blue cards… Then make a 23 card pool just in case. Mentally pulling 3 cards from my main deck (Transguild Promenade, Blustersquall and Voidwielder). If things look bad I might side into this:
|40 cards, 0 sideboard|
1 Izzet Guildgate
1 Transguild Promenade
1 Viashino Racketeer
1 Izzet Keyrune
1 Traitorous Instinct
1 Launch Party
1 Mind Rot
6 other spells
Looking back now I wished I’d used this as my main deck. It’s got some great cards and plenty of gas.
Round 3 Pedro – Bant
Feeling pretty uneasy about my deck I decided to slam a Redbull right in front on my round 3 opponent. Give him a big old “How are ya? Zac Clark, Brooklyn, New York City! Where you hail from?” Pedro hails from Spain. He’s a quiet dude and we don’t talk a whole bunch the first game as he gets mana screwed. And mulls to five. I kept a subpar hand and barely got there.
I decide to play the same deck again. It was a bad keep but it got me there. Maybe it’s not so bad. Game two Pedro takes.
I call a judge while we board for game three. I show him a sheet that reads 7 mountain 7swamp and 2 Island. He balks… So 7 and 7 and 2? Yup! I say with a grin to my opponent. Who remains patient as I shuffle up and recount my side deck. Judge arrived in haste with my requested lands I shuffle and am on the play.
Turn 1 Rakdos Cackler
Turn 2 Grim Roustabout
Turn 3 Dead Reveler
Turn 4 Bloodfray Giant
Turn 5 Voidwielder
It was a blow out. Pedro was confused. I was elated! This deck loved me. I curved out like a boss and it felt great! Pedro took it in stride, and complimented me on a stunning switch. I had shown Harry my tech and he made the same move into a Grixis build I gave him a couple pointers with. Now that I had tasted the beats, I knew I’d play this deck after each game one regardless of its outcome… But I wanted to surprise my opponent so I made sure to sleeve it up and put it in the deck box I kept my tokens in. Art of War: if my opponent knows himself but doesn’t know me then I have the advantage. I’m fast with my hands and can make it look like I’m only moving three cards out of the deck and bringing three cards in. The rest of the tourney no one notices until I play Mountains and Swamps instead of Plains and Forests on game two.
Round 4 Jose Rakdos
Jose confessed that he hadn’t gotten much practice in sealed as he just came back to the game after a hiatus during his 20’s. Sound familiar? I told him that my LGS was literally a mix of kids about to go to college and dudes my age that quit for social life’s sake during college, who wish we hadn’t and there’s very little 20-24 year olds. Just a nature of human society, in trying to be cool we realize (too late) that we can do whatever and still have friends/girlfriends and such. Also we can afford to play now.
I’m hopeful during shuffling and Jose is interested on why I came from so far to play in a GP. Also, a super considerate dude, he asks if I mind chatting while we play. I tell him I don’t. I’m wired out of my gourd on Redbull, multi tasking is not a problem. I tell him my story, how I wanted to take some time off from life and hang out with an old friend show him what traveling abroad is and how I conduct myself for my other job (Travel Writer, not pro Magic player… One day perhaps) I tell him we decided on a time frame and looked for the sealed tourney (because my friend, like him, hasn’t played in a bit) in Europe and we started to save up. Other players around are commenting… “That’s pretty cool, you can just up an take a 8 day vacation and play Magic with your friend under the guise of being a travel writer.”
You’re reading so it must be working, right?
So I take game 1 on the back of Vitu Ghazi Guildmage and Centaur Bros. I think I’m slick so I slide my newly sleeved Grixis deck out careful to not let Jose notice and slide in the Bant deck to its holster.
Game 2 I fumble on mana terribly. Jose thinks that I was splashing black for something, (and Has me on Junk) he hadn’t seen any blue in game 1. He comments on my mana troubles confirming he still didn’t realize I was playing a new deck.
Game 3 was a narrow loss but he saw the meat of my deck after a bit of confusion he gets his Populate engine online and I die to Centaur Bro beats… I’m a little upset but I still like the secret of switching. I’m gonna give it another go, the deck feels just waaaaay better. Jose wishes me luck and we part ways, Harry confirms that he took it and the switch was amazing! I pound a Redbull like a magic healing potion and I’m back to 20 once more.
Round 5 Holger
Holger was either German or English and had his English down pat either way. We exchanged deck, rolled, he won and I got a rocking. I got my Centaurs rolling and then made a surprise block with Eyes in the Skies and then played a Phantom General to seal the game. It turns out this deck pretty solid. Maybe I should… Nevermind, I see Holger race to his sideboard and I switch deck as he sides in like 5 cards… I thinking, that’s 1/8th of his deck thats probably useless!
Game 2 Holger doesn’t know what’s going on? “Are you playing a five color deck?” I respond that I’m not, with a smile. I realizes that I switch decks and started to stabilize. I draw blustersquall and have held the island in my hand the whole game just in case. The next turn he over commits his attack and I punish him with the overload during my main phase. He leaves without remembering to sign the sheet, obviously a little upset. I find him and genuinely thank him for a great game and wish him luck in the next round.
Round 6 Lionel
Lionel is about as Irish as they come. We might just be the two loudest dudes at the tourney. He’s on Rakdos and is pretty happy to see me drop an island first in game one. I got off to a slow start and we all know how that goes vs Rakdos. Game one was his. Without question.
I was worried about siding into Rakdos vs Rakdos but I thought I had the better deck. I saw no reason to not race him especially since he wasn’t ready for my tricks. He wasn’t and my Unleashed dudes got him while my Scavenge dudes blocked. Lobber Crew finished him off.
Game 3 was tougher. We got into a stale mate with my Lobber Crew picking him off. I was trying to make my eighth land for a Traitorous Instincts/ Launch Party Combo. He’s at 7 with a Golgair Leglegs and a Tenement Crasher in play and some other blocker. I got a Bloodfray Giant and a Dead Reveler as well a Batterhorn (which killed his Rakdos Keyrune a turn before) and a Lobber crew too. I draw a land play it then do the math… he’s got to block something and I’ll kill both his guys with a blocker held back… LET’S GO! “Traitorous Instinct?” He looks like he just ate all the cat food. I swing in. He blocks the crasher and lets the Bloodfray in… I show him Launch Party. He scoops.
I spend the next few minutes playing therapist, listening to all the cards in his deck he could have drawn… We’ve all been there. I decide to nod and pretend I was worried, shake my head at the right times and such. I like winning… but this is the part of winning I really hate. Where the other guy tells you how he’s better and that it’s his deck and not the choices he made that lost him the game. That’s magic though, I congratulate him on a well played match, but he’s in the loser’s circle and he’s not happy. I pound my final Redbull.
Round 7 Dominic
Holy! Only three wins and I’m in! I smell Day 2. Actually, what I smell is this place and all these dudes. I hadn’t noticed until now but damn. It’s no joke in here. I wonder if the loser’s circle smells better? Less is at stake… Maybe but whatever I’m sure I’m actively adding to the overall ripeness. My opponent looks like he’s been in this position before. I decide to be at ease. This is a game and I came to play and meet folks afterall. I introduce myself in a boisterous manner. A few eyes look up. I figure I might get a little something close to intimidation if they hear how far I’ve traveled. No such luck.
It’s Rakdos vs Selesnya again and I’m Fort Knox my man gets in for a couple hits then I stonewall him. And start making dudes. It’s over shortly after.
He desleeves 12 or so cards. Going for a transformation board it looks like. I switch again Rakdos for me. Game 2 he’s caught totally off guard playing Golgari which I think is a bad switch to fight Selesnya, but maybe he made the same mistake I did, and his board had a better deck. Either way it didn’t matter a bluster squall/Alpha strike took it and I give his board tech a nod. He confesses that he never even saw me switch, I’m getting good at that. He was busy sleeving and resleeving though that prolly didn’t help his concentration on me much.
Round 8 Miguel – Izzet
I run out to the mall buy a 1 liter of Coke an get more caffeine in me. I gotta be on my AAA game now. Everyone’s a scrapper in the x-2 bracket. I’m seeing a lot of the same faces and I’m worried that my new opponent may know about my sideboard switheroo. He pounds me first game with any remorse. Creatures plus Pursuit of Flight and my removal comes far too late. On Explosive Impact kills me.
Game Two is a race. I’m Unleashing dudes (as per my sideboard deck) and Dreadboring his blockers. Lobber Crew Finishes him off. I got him on his heels and once again my board was a surprise. I notice he doen’t go to reboar, and he seems a bit frustrated.
Shuffle/Cut He’s on the play.
Game Three I’m winning… Bloodfray Giant is doing early work and his Little guys are getting in here and there. I’m at 10 with a couple blockers so I’m not worried about his explosive impact he’s at 8, Just out of range of my Launch Party, but I’m content to let this play out. “End of you turn, Explosive Impact.” I take it, wow I didn’t expect him to waste it with me able to block his guys, I figure he’d kill my …”UNTAP EXPLOSIVE IMPACT!” Son of a B… and just like that I’m out of the tourney… out of day two at least.
And the next match isn’t even important. I can tell you I lost it, but my heart wasn’t in the game at that point. Round 9 in the x-3 bracket is just about the saddest place in the world. Everyone is telling their bad beat stories, and no one wants to listen. Lionel from round 6 asks me how I did in 8. When he hears, he tells me I should have conceded to him. Fat chance. What a totally stupid thing to say. Any how. We wander around the tourney for a bit then head out for dinner and to get some rest. It’s been a long day. Harry comes away 4-5, pretty good considering he just started playing again. Grand Prixs are a long day and winning late in the day becomes more a battle with exhaustion than your opponents life total.
On the day I went 5-4 with one bye in the start. I wasn’t impressed with myself, but I think it was enough to get me close to my second bye next season. The next day I play in a couple standard events and it looks like everyone in Europe is about a week behind the Meta-Shift at 20ss. It’s all ZombieAggro and Bant. I play in two tourney’s and go 1-1 in both. Grand Prix Lisbon was a lot of fun and I can’t wait til Atlantic City. I spend the rest of the day building the deck I end up playing at TNM as I return to the states. Which was a good call, since I 4-0’d.
What did I learn? As Rich Stein would likely ask… I had to give pause and think about the overall here. I played Magic in another country, on another continent. What a privileged life I live! Sure it wasn’t free and I came back broke as a joke, but I had an awesome time. I was worried about the language barrier, as far as I played in the tourney, everyone spoke “Magic”. Keywords like Tap, Target, Kill, Exile, Upkeep were all pretty well understood. I made a bunch of short term friends. An old friend and I enjoyed a past time we hadn’t done together since my first PTQ during Mirage. For the most part it felt like Magic. Everyone was having a good time, especially me, and I tested my Redbull Theory a little farther.
In Summation: I need to pay more attention during Deck Building… Magic is a universal language… Redbull gives you wings, and some people just double EXPLOSIVE IMPACT YOU WHEN YOU’RE AT TEN LIFE.
Back in the States and back at 20 life,