The night before I made plans with Mike Simpson to meet up and bike over to Montasy Comics for their Grand Prix Las Vegas trial. The L train has been down all weekend for maintenance and my belief was that would mean this GPT would be a very low turn out. Here’s to hoping at least. It’s been about a month since I played standard and that was right as Dragon’s Maze was legal. I 3-1’d with a Bant Flash deck that played Vitu-Ghazi Guildmages, but I have to assume that the meta has shifted a bit since then.

I took Mike Flores’ advice from a recent SCG article and played Anthony Lowry’s American Auras. Hoping to err on the side of my opponents not being able to deal with my hexproof dudes and quickly ending games before they could get their plan in action. That was the plan at least.

American Auras

Lands (23)
Hallowed Fountain
Sacred Foundry
Sulfur Falls
Steam Vents
Cavern of Souls
Clifftop Retreat
Glacial Fortress

Creatures (15)
Fencing Ace
Invisible Stalker
Geist of Saint Traft
Silverblade Paladin

Spells (22)
Boros Charm
Furor of the Bitten
Madcap Skills
Ethereal Armor
Spectral Flight
Sideboard (15)
Izzet Staticaster
Volcanic Strength
Purify the Grave
Gift of Orzhova
Bonds of Faith

Mike and I chat about Standard meta we think we’ll see and he asks me about why not Bant over American. It’s my thought that both decks (even with Bant’s mana dorks) have a utterly terrible time against Esper Control. But American has Madcap Skills for evasion with Geist which means Geist doesn’t die while trampling over some deathtouch Slime or Vampire that gets held back. Also, Boros Charm runs on all modes well in this deck.

I pop a tire and Mike directs me to a bike shop his friend works at and I change my flat. We arrive at Montasy about a half hour early. We fill out decklists, then Rob, Monique, and Matt arrive followed shortly after by Kadar. Twenty Sided store is running 6 deep in this 17 person tourney. That’s a solid 1/3 chance that one of us is gonna take it home…to Vegas. I know I sure would like to sleep-in on Saturday morning.

Head Judge Josh outlines that this will be a 5 round cut to top 8?! Whoa! Looks like a solid 3-2 makes it into the top 8. SO YOU’RE SAYIN’ THERE’S A CHANCE!

Round 1 I play Sam. He’s on American Midrange with Ætherling. Game one I mull to five as my first two hands are looking mighty land-light then creature-light. I’m on the play, so I’m extra critical of my keeps. The third time is the charm with three lands and two Geist of Saint Traft. It doesn’t take much, but I eventually suit up Geist so he’s no longer Snapcaster bait. It took four attacks but it works. I’m up a game. On a mull to five, no less. Sweet!

Game two was a better keep and Sam got mana screwed. Looking for a way to block my Geist of Saint Traft with Spectral Flight and Ethereal Armor with his Moorland Haunt token. From 20 to 18 to eight to dead. I snagged a Cherry Coke and waited for the next round. Monique lost, while Matt won. Kadar wasn’t so lucky, nor was Rob, and Mike took it down with Talrand. “I made 12 Drakes!” Undeniably awesome—but I’m not sold on Talrand.

Games: 2-0
Match: 1-0

Round 2 I faced off against Sohei, running Four-Color Jund. The first game I snapped down a turn two Invisible Stalker then turn three I played Madcap Skills and Ethereal Armor and hit for six… 20, 14, eight, two, while holding back a Geist. Turn four I was able to Syncopate his Thragtusk so that was a solid use of that two-of in the deck.

Game two I felt the pain of edict effects. Liliana of the Veil killed my Geist of Saint Traft and Acidic Slime set me back on land. I was fishing for a creature for suit up but no one ever showed.

Game three, a turn two Invisible Stalker with a turn three Ethereal Armor and Spectral Flight…He Liliana of the Veil‘d my stalker. After that I had no other creatures. He finished me with Olivia Voldaren.

Games: 3-2
Matches: 1-1

Round 3 comes pairings go up and its me vs. Mike. Oh man, he knows my whole plan! That means he can mull to a decent hand against me. Game one I mull to a sweet five and I take the game after facing no resistance from Mike. Game two I learned that Talrand, Sky Summoner is, in fact, a bona fide menace. Geist of Saint Traft was all suited up with Spectral Flight and Talrand just kept throwing drakes in my way. Eventually, Mike overwhelmed me with his never-ending parade of Drakes. It was brutal. I take it back, Mike! Talrand, Sky Summoner is a beast! Game three was filled with edict effects and a bit of a grindy back and forth. Snapcaster Mage flashed Away back on my second hexproof guy and I failed to bring any more pressure thereafter.

Games: 4-4
Matches: 1-2

Things were starting to look a little bleak. Now I had to win it out. Just two rounds, though, and I can do that. And if my previous Grand Prix experiences have shown me anything it’s that I tend to do well under pressure . It’s time to put my game face on and think about what I learned so far: Mulling is important, Invisible Stalker is the patron saint of no interaction (I’d play ten if I could), and I must protect my Hexproof dudes with fodder for edict effects. I needed to put my head down and focus on each game as it’s own thing.

Round 4 I’m staring down Kadar. I know he’s on Naya so I just have to get the jump on him and I don’t have worry much about removal. AGAIN I mull to five. And, what do you know, I win with five again. This deck loves to mull. You just have to trust that you’ll get something worth keeping. It’s better to mull away a nothing hand than to hope for a creature or an enchantment. It was a three attack game with Fencing Ace doing evil things (drawing cards, not wrathing). Turns out Curiosity is pretty bonkers with double strike. Turn three he took two and I drew two. Turn four I played Spectral Flight got in for six and tossed down Ethereal Armor and drew two more. Turn five I played Madcap Skills and hit for 18! JEEZ! Double strike, where have you been all my life?

Game two, Kadar was able to block my huge Geist of Saint Traft with several Restoration Angels and, at four life and with what seemed like little hope remaining, he stabilized with Domri Rade to kill my Fencing Ace I was hoping to block with to survive a turn to get in with lethal. I was upset that I hadn’t seen any of my sideboard cards yet.

Game three I pulled a pretty sweet seven and snap-kept. It started as a race—Kadar was hitting me and I was swinging back. I was looking good but he played a Restoration Angel to block he could seal my fate…I played my trump card, which put Kadar in bad place: Gift of Orzhova! Suddenly, my life total was rocketing up and Kadar’s blocking Restoration Angel no longer seemed like a problem. Invisible Stalker with Spectral Flight then Madcap Skills and Gift of Orzhova making an 8/5 Unblockable Flying Lifelink Hexproof  creature. Ridiculous.

Games: 6-5
Matches: 2-2

This is it win and in to the top eight. I knew Rob was the only person I could face from 20ss and I was hoping we could both could win and make our way into the top eight. Mike was in thanks an intentional draw and was willing to give me the byes if we both made it to the finals. This could still work out.

My Round 5 opponent was Jonah, who was on Jund. I’d learned my lesson about this matchup round two when playing Sohei. I needed fall guys for his edict effects from Liliana of the Veil. Game one didn’t really look so bad until Jonah overwhelmed me with Sire of Insanity. I scooped because I really didn’t have any board presence and without a lifelinker I couldn’t race his side of the board.

Game two looked better for me. Fencing Ace into Ethereal Armor into Gift of Orzhova. He played a Huntermaster but it couldn’t block my Flying 4/4 Lifelink Double-Striker. Game two was short, and Jonah confessed he was looking for a second black source for Liliana. The game would have ended much differently if he had found it.

Game three was turn two Invisible Stalker into turn three Curiosity 2x Ethereal Armor into turn four Fencing Ace to deal with an edict. It didn’t last much longer after that.

Games: 8-6
Matches: 3-2

Well, I did it! Top eight! Eighth place! What a miser! The brackets were set so I wouldn’t face anyone I knew until the finals. Even better. I’ll save the play by play and keep the top eight short. Mike lost, Rob won, I beat Sohei in two very uninteractive, one-sided games (Editor’s Note: This seems to be a theme), and then there were four.

I’ll save you the suspense—Rob lost in three close games. Seeing as I was the only player left who was actually going to Vegas, I ended up with three byes after my two non-Vegas-bound opponents scooped. Not the most glorious of GPT victories, but that said, I’d play this deck again in a second! I’d probably make a few changes, though.

Gift of Orzhova is too good to sit on the sidelines. Two main over Furor of the Bitten, which I never got out and didn’t really see a time when it was better than my other options. Maybe add two more creatures to the deck. I wish I could sneak another land in, too, as I often just wanted one more land. In general, the deck worked fine when I trusted my gut and mulled to a keep.

I can’t wait for Vegas though! Now I can sleep in on Saturday, so I’ll probably start round four around 5-7pm (if it’s as well-organized as GP Charlotte). I’ll be getting into trouble on Friday night for sure. Looks like something around 20 people from Twenty Sided Store are hitting Vegas. It’s gonna be a weekend of good friends and food and epic tabletop cardboard battles in a city pretty much none of us have any business being in. I’m pretty positive there’s going to be some once in a lifetime moments to come out of this trip. I can’t wait.

Zac Clark, Durdle Magus

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