Last Sunday I got up way too early and met up with Matt Jones and Kadar Brock at the  Official Williamsburg Meeting-Place for Magic-Related Travel—aka Kellogg’s Diner—to hit the Star City Games team sealed event out in Somerset, NJ. We’d practiced a little bit for the tourney, including a full-block sealed practice the Thursday prior, at Fat Cat in Manhattan’s West Village—but, given that both team sealed and Dragon’s Maze are new formats, I wasn’t as confident about my level of preparation as I usually like to be.


This photo—and virtually all of the others in this post—courtesy Matt Jones.

Nevertheless, we’d prepared as much as we could, and I knew it would be fun. We got out there within an hour or so, Matt Jones telling me along the way that I was “like a pushy therapist,” which made me laugh out loud, and confirmed our preregistration, switching the team up so that I would be in the middle, as Player B, with Kadar (Player A) on my left and Jones (Player C) on my right. Somewhere along the line I seem to have been designated team captain and resident Limited expert, which, hey—I’ll take it, but I’m not entirely sure I deserve it, as Kadar and Jones are both very talented players.


Me and Ol’ Lightbuoy Kadar looking like some double-hard bastards.

After watching a bit of the previous day’s Standard Open top 4, featuring Owen Turtenwald and some other guys I didn’t recognize, we caught up with some fellow 20-Siders and got seated for the main event. We noticed that some teams, at the six-person tables, were seating themselves in an “L” configuration, with one guy across from you and the other to your right (or left, as the case may be). Our team elected for the all-in-a-row setup, which I think is preferable. The team across from us, which included SCG writer Brian Braun-Duin, aka BBD, was short one person—because he (Chris VanMeter, also an SCG writer) was playing in the finals against Turtenwald, and eventually won. Nice one, man!


Chris VanMeter, SCG Standard Open winner!

Soon we were passed deck boxes containing four packs each of Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, and Dragon’s Maze by the strangely (I don’t do too many SCG events) blue-and-white-shirted judges, and got to sorting and registering the pools. Then, after a fairly elementary pass-the-pools situation—pass across and pass behind, and that was it, if memory serves—and being informed that, with [I forget how many] teams, the day would consist of nine rounds of Swiss before a cut to top 4, we got started on our hour of deckbuilding.

I had been obsessing somewhat about having enough time to build and register such as unwieldy pool—and I’m glad we’d practiced it once prior, at Fat Cat, as this was the most unfamiliar and challenging part of the day. What made it worse was that, after we’d sorted out our three decks, we then had to split up the remaining cards into three sideboards, and then register all 172 of the cards (plus basic lands) across three 11×17 decklists—which were, to further complicate things, split up into RTR, GTC, and DGM on the sheet, so that you had to keep flipping the page back and forth to mark the cards.

You see that sheet under the boxes? That's the 11x17 deck-reg sheet. Crazy big.

You see that sheet under the boxes? That’s the 11×17 deck-reg sheet. Crazy big.

Long story short: At GP Providence, and any future team sealed events, be sure to give yourself enough time (maybe 20 minutes, no kidding) to register and double-check your pool. It seems like it would be really easy to make a mistake, given the unfamiliar (and uneven, across the three decks + sideboards) number of cards, which could potentially lead to a deck-reg-error game loss for your team, and nobody wants that.

And here is some super-mandarin-level tech: While a “typical” team sealed pool would be 168 cards (12 packs x 14 cards per pack), an RTR block team sealed pool is 172 cards, because of guildgates (and shocklands and Maze’s End, to a lesser extent) replacing basic lands in the four Dragon’s Maze packs. I realize now that this is why I was getting what seemed like a bad number (172) when I was adding up the number of cards my teammates and I had registered, as time in deck construction was running out.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Our pool seemed strong, with a ton of massive BW bombs—Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts; Obzedat, Ghost Council; and Deathpact Angel—as well as great RB cards like Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch and Sire of Insanity. We also had a Loxodon Smiter, making Matt Jones a very happy man. I happen to be a big BW fan, so I gravitated toward building that deck, while we put Matt Jones on Bant and Kadar on Rakdos. Unfortunately our fixing was kind of at cross purposes with our bombs—lots of Simic and Dimir guildgates, keyrunes, and cluestones, but zero Selesnya or Golgari, the latter of which required us to keep Varolz, the Scar-Striped on the bench—but them’s the breaks.

On the whole, I was happy with our decks. I ended up going straight BW, with a single Orzhov cluestone (out of two) strictly for ramping purposes, while Kadar splashed for Warleader’s Helix, off of a fortunate two or three Boros Guildgates. Matt had an Urban Evolution, an Unflinching Courage, and a Krasis Incubation, which is, of course, a UG Arrest. Although I would have killed for a Basilica Guards, my early game and removal situation was decent as well, with a pair of Basilica Screechers, a white Arrest, a Fatal Fumes, and an Angelic Edict. And then of course I had my late-game mega-bombs.

Round 1

For our first match of the day we got paired against three happy guys—everyone we played against seemed like they were having a really good time, and we were too; maybe team events filter out those lumpen proles who struggle even to grunt at you in acknowledgement?—and, after Matt Jones took a team photo of them for “the nerd blog we write for,” the clock clicked down from 50 minutes and we started playing.


These guys were pretty dope, as you can see.

A quick word on consultation between teammates during the match: We generally consulted each other on our mulligan decisions, and Kadar occasionally put a question to me during his match—but otherwise we kind of kept to ourselves and played our own games, which probably is how you ought to do it. Anything further, like when the middle guy tries to direct the plays of his teammates on either side of him, and you run the risk of slowing down the games considerably.

Case in point was my R1, a super-grindy match vs. GW. I won G1 and had a sick hand (Obzedat and Deathpact) to start G2, but got stuck on four lands forever and couldn’t capitalize on my strong opening draw. Meanwhile, when I finally was able to play Obzedat, he had Turn//Burn for it after a couple of turns, and then Fall of the Gavel (!) to answer Teysa. I stuck Deathpact but had to keep chumping his Steeple Rocs with it. Eventually I got down Azar’s Elocuters and was on that plan (with Kadar advising, as he’d won his match by this point) because of a massive board stall, and it was working—but then he drew a card and said to himself, “Well, that’s one way to do it,” and promptly Teleportaled me for 28 damage and the win. OK. We started G3 basically as time ran out, and ended up drawing the match. Matt Jones, meanwhile, was also on turns, but was much further along in his game. Here KB and I were actively advising Matt, and on T4—Matt’s last turn—we were puzzling over how we could possibly get the win and, thus, win the match. Basically we couldn’t do it, though, despite a Giant Growth in hand, and had to just swing in to see if our opponent messed up, and he didn’t. So Matt shipped the turn back, his opp. couldn’t win, and that match was also a draw.

I thought we had drawn overall against them, but I didn’t realize that our team’s 1-0-2 result beat their team’s 0-1-2 record. So we won that round. Of course it makes sense in retrospect, but for whatever reason I just didn’t have that in my head. I don’t think Matt and Kadar did, either, because the way in which we swung in on Matt’s last turn was highly risky, given that all we needed to win the round was a draw. We should have just held everybody back on defense and called it a day. 1-0 (team); 0-0-1 (me)

Round 2


I ran over my Naya opponent, who was missing white in G1. Eventually I just sat back and let hist Stab Wounded Crocanura kill him. In G2 I beat him down with Courth Street Denizen and Sin Collector and, later, Maze Abomination. He didn’t have much game after I Executioner’s Swung his Madcap Skilled Crocanura, and I eventually dropped Deathpact Angel to seal the deal. Unfortunately during this round neither Matt nor Kadar won, and we lost the round. Kadar made what he thought (and I agree) was a misplay by not slamming Sire of Insanity when he had two cards in hand and his opponent had five in hand and only a Nivix Cyclops on the table. KB had some mostly irrelevant creature in hand, plus a Molten Primordial, and he wanted to get max value out of his cards before decimating both players’ hands with Sire. But in retrospect, getting a two-for-five with Sire would have been devastating to Kadar’s opponent. Matt, meanwhile, started to board in Sundering Growth (on my council), and then took it out, again on my counsel—I had seen his opponet’s One Thousand Lashes, but not the Blind Obedience, which if I had I definitely would have said to board in the Growth. 1-1 (team); 0-1-1 (me)

Round 3


Team Portugal. That’s Dave (the only Portuguese dude on the team) on the right. He even asked me and Matt Jones to autograph our Hipsters business card for him after the match was over!

My opp. in this round was on Simic, and I just rolled over him in G1 after Devour Fleshing his Way of the Thiefed, turn-three, 1/1 Nimbus Swimmer (kind of a weird idea, in my opinion). In G2 I went Screecher, Denizen, Syndicate Enforcer, and Sin Collector before he Voidwieldered my Syndicate Enforcer, on what turned out to be his last turn. On my next turn I cast Obzedat, tapping his Wielder using the Denizen’s ability, and swung in, dropping him to two life—aka, dead to my soon-to-be-returning-from-exile Ghost Council. After the game was over my opp. told me he had been about to cast Progenitor Mimic on his Voidwielder. Oof—that would have been bad. More generally, that’s something to remember about this full-block format: There are a lot of cards out there, and a ton of weird interactions. A great example came in our practice session at Fat Cat, when I was playing against fellow Hipster Li, and had out an Exava and an Ivy Lane Denizen. Li was mostly tapped out, and I had a Giant Adephage in hand. Does anyone else see the interaction? I didn’t, at least not until after I’d cast the Adephage and, after much deliberation, elected to put the counter from Ivy Lane’s ability on the Denizen herself, instead of on the summoning-sick 7/7 insect—not realizing that with Exava on the table I could have immediately swung in with a hasty Adephage, which was probably a gamewinning play had I seen it, as Li and I both agreed after the fact. But back to the round: Unfortunately Matt and Kadar both lost their matches, after bad mulls (kind of a leitmotif for the day, at least for my teammates) in each of their last games. 1-2 (team); 2-0-1 (me)

Round 4


Like I said, it just seemed like everyone was having a really good time. Team events are dope.

Here I was paired up against a super-aggro Boros player. He just combo-ed me out in games one and two, despite … well, not much from me. I managed Obzedat on my last turn in G1 to maybe stabilize but he had Skynight Legionnaire FTW. To my left, Kadar mulled to five on his G3 and, while he made as much a game of it as he could, his opponent just had too many cards, and a key Soul Ransom broke KB’s back. Matt, meanwhile, was faced up against a Bomb Squad consisting of Collective Blessing, Clan Defiance, Vraska, and, to cap off the mayhem, Advent of the Wurm. Sheesh. Decks were mad bomby. 1-3 (team); 2-1-1 (me)

With that we decided to call it a day, in order to spend some time with the girlfriends (or the Knicks, in Kadar’s case) and have a proper Sunday evening. The matches and playing alongside KB and Matt were really fun, and I would have been happy to stay and play it out had this been a GP day one.

As it was, though, it just wasn’t worth it to us to grind it out. I also learned that Matt Jones had 750+ Planeswalker Points from last season, and so we are good to go for one bye at Providence; all this time I’d been operating under the assumption that one of us needed to break 750 points this season in order to have the team-GP bye. WRONG AGAIN, ROLEX.

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands.

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