Heyo! I’m back from my big vacation to GP Providence, and it was a surprisingly fun time. I had meant to write an article about approaching a Grand Prix from a more casual place, but, surprisingly enough (sarcasm, I think), as soon as I got there the old Magic addiction came surging back into me, and I ended up playing a ton of Magic over the three days. Sure, I took a pass on the Sunday Super Series and didn’t end up playing a single round of constructed over the course of the weekend, but between the five limited events I entered, the several two-person cube drafts, and a bonkers session of “shop for foils,” I marinated in Magic for a good long time.


We arrived at the Convention Center sometime around two, having given up on the idea of playmats after a few misses in the past. Of course, Magic being what it is, that meant that this was the event that didn’t sell out of its playmates immediately, and Dana and I managed to both score them. They’re surprisingly sweet, both in the cool and in the softer senses of that word, and I like how the three-headed Mudskipper is framed against a butterfly mage. Dana and fellow Hipster Zach rounded out my team (and you should be hearing about the weekend from his perspective today as well). This is us, in our seat order:

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After waffling over whether or not to take part in the 16-team grinders we decided to jam a draft with Hunter and Matt (the Hipsters, not the hair metal band of the same name). This is what my draft looked like:

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In case it’s not clear, I first picked an Aetherling and then followed Zach’s draft strategy to cut a Gatecrash guild hard. My guilds of choice in GTC are green based, so going Simic seemed an easy choice. When I wheeled a Zameck Guildmage pack two, I knew I had made the right decision. My deck ended up pretty sweet, with three Beetleform Mages, a Saruli Gatekeepers, and a slight red splash off gates for two Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers and a Teleportal. Round one I faced this man:

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Our games were pretty tight. I ended up in a nasty race that looked like it was going to go against me, but Saruli Gatekeepers is basically the best of that cycle and it bought me the extra two turns I needed to win game one. Game two I just slammed an Aetherling, and rode it to victory. That card is BANANAS. I bombed out in the next round, with the greedy manabase letting me down against a very focused two-color deck, and, slightly dejected, the three of us (having all been eliminated) moved on to greener pastures.

In this case, said greener pasture was a four-team grinder. Apparently there had been some sort of website mix-up in which they had advertised this ridiculousness, and they felt they needed to honor it. Or maybe it was just the best way for them to sell a bunch of sleep-in specials. Either way, there were no complaints on our part when we joined one and proceeded to take it to pieces. I played our greedy four-color Junk deck (a theme for the weekend), Dana took an aggressive red-based deck, and Zach played our dregs in a weak Azorius skies deck. Our strategy went well; the best opposing decks quickly eliminated Zach in the middle, while Dana and I mopped up. A highlight of my night was keeping a land-heavy hand with Golgari Charm and one other creature game one of round two, only to manage to snipe my opponent’s turn two Pack Rat before he even ended his turn. It felt good, and with two byes now firmly locked into place, we retired into the evening for burgers and wings with Dustin.


We woke up naturally at a reasonable hour, and then took our time in the morning instead of sleeping in. This meant eating well at the hotel buffet and then lazily making our way over to the venue. It was relaxing, and we went into the build in particularly high spirits. Our pool was a little less exciting this time around, but I ended up in a six-rare, two Gatekeeper, 18 land deck that had Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, Pontiff of Blight, and Obzedat, Ghost Council for bombs. It looked like this:

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So we thought things were going pretty well! Dana’s deck started as Grixis control and in a last minute change was concentrated down into a Rakdos aggro deck with better mana, and Zach’s blue-white skies deck was built with good cards this time around. It seemed like we had a strong shot, but life conspired against us from our first round on. Because despite there being some five-hundred other teams in the room, this is the person I ended up playing against round one:

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Hugh, fellow Twenty-Sider

In case he seems unfamiliar, that’s Hugh, reigning champion of the Twenty Sided Store, and friend of the blog. His teammates were also solid players from the Brooklyn scene, and Dana found herself eliminated almost immediately by a Selesnya deck that threw Unflinching Courage on a turn two Precinct Captain one game, and then dropped an Armada Wurm in the second. Zach won his match, and it came down to my game with Hugh. Game one, my deck did the disgusting things it was capable of doing, but game two I had to mulligan down to four after a succession of one-land hands, and despite keeping a hand with a swamp and a Lotleth Troll Hugh’s Simic deck blew me out before I drew a second land. Game three was brutal, and while I was at least playing Magic that game, the combined attention of all four of our teammates was incredibly distracting, Hugh’s deck was seriously well built, and he smashed my face in with an Aetherling and perfect play.

This cycle repeated several times. When my deck ran well it destroyed my opponents. Obzedat, Ghost Council is a serious bomb, and following it up with a Pontiff of Blight let me get three extort triggers off my smaller creatures. I won every game that I resolved those cards. I also won every game that I resolved Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, managing to use Rogue’s Passage with him on multiple occasions to mitigate his “must attack” drawback. The games I didn’t win involved getting blown out before I could play my powerful top end, because while Lotleth Troll is a good card, it’s not a bomb in the same way.

Anyway, after losing round seven we were outward bound. Having not having any time to get a proper meal all day, we found ourselves back at the same burger bar, and fed our disappointment with a memorable night of eating, drinking, and being merry.


Zach and Dana ran out early in the morning to make the Sunday Super Sealed event, leaving me time to take a leisurely shower and check us out of the hotel with no pressure. I think that may have been the first time I’ve done this at a GP, and I think it might now be my default Sunday plan…it was so much nicer to not have to worry about being late or being stressed out, and I ended up spending the morning over at the event scouring the dealers’ tables looking for foils for my cube. I am down to 33 needed foils, many of which are expensive or rare.

But I picked up most of the Modern Masters foils and the Dragon’s Maze ones, which had been somewhat elusive up until that point, and, having installed them, played some Winchester and some Grid. I even got a chance to play with someone else’s pauper cube… it was cool, but it was a more traditional version with Pestilence, Evincar’s Justice, and other over-powered staples. It made me appreciate the changes that I’ve made to my cube; combat math is a lot more important when you’re not just wiping the board constantly, and removal is at a premium when it’s mostly spot or combat-based. I can see the appeal of a more traditional pauper cube, but I think my version requires tighter play and there’s a different type of variance at play than simply “do I have my disgusting bombs and the cards to support them? GG!”

After Zach dropped from the Super Sealed event we jammed a couple of drafts. In the first one, I drafted this deck:

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It was super greedy in its mana base, so of course I got paired up against Zach round one. He was in another tight single-guild deck and he mopped the floor with my bad mana. I did manage to resolve Battleshaper and the Avenger one game, but he won it in three despite the tightest of tight plays. Of course, he went on to win the event, so that’s a consolation prize I suppose.

After he signed up for his second draft I decided to tag along, and was the last name in his draft. This meant, somehow, that we were actually in the opposing brackets this time, which was great because we met in the finals after I drafted literally the best deck of all time. Here’s the list:

Gatekeeper Control

Creatures (17)
Faerie Impostor
Frostburn Weird
Truefire Paladin
Basilica Guards
Armory Guard
Sunspire Gatekeepers
Ubul Sar Gatekeepers
Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers
Tajic, Blade of the Legion
Ghor-Clan Rampager
Mercurial Chemister
Fortress Cyclops


Spells (5)
Crackling Perimeter
Abrupt Decay
Hold the Gates
Izzet Cluestone
Righteous Authority


Gates (7)
Azorius Guildgate
Boros Guildgate
Dimir Guildgate
Golgari Guildgate
Rakdos Guildgate
Selesnya Guildgate


Basics (11)

I first picked Tajic, Blade of the Legion, was unhappy with the next pack so I picked up a Dimir Guildgate, and from there made a few miscellaneous picks before I started seeing a flood of the Gatekeepers. Since I like picking gates anyway it seemed like it would be worth shooting for the deck, and when I had seven Gatekeepers and three gates at the end of pack one it seemed like the deck was open. All of my other bombs were passed to me, and I hovered them up because I could basically play any bombs I wanted. After that I prioritized guildgates, bringing me up to seven total, and when Hold the Gates and Crackling Perimeter wheeled I knew I had a good thing going.

I won games with Crackling Perimeter. Game three of round one started out with me dropping some gates, followed by Armory Guard, and then I put Righteous Authority on my Guard and swung in for seven points of vigilant damage. My opponent took it, untapped, and then dropped Sire of Insanity. Which was super annoying, and got me to drop my sweet hand of three Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers and Tajic. So with those cards out of my deck, I proceed to untap, draw Hold the Gates and another gate, and things spiraled out of control from there. He kept his Sire alive despite it hurting him worse than it hurt me, and I took a few attacks of opportunity before dropping a Basilica Guards and sitting back to extort him out. While he misplayed Armed and Dangerous, it wasn’t clear that he had the 21 points of damage on the table needed to kill me. Finally, I drew Crackling Perimeter and used it as a Fireball to burn him out.

My second round opponent saw this and was deeply unhappy with the matchup. He was a Wild Beastmaster deck, which was less relevant when I kept stealing the thing and swinging at him for a significantly greater amount of damage. Again Hold the Gates and Crackling Perimeter over performed, with my turn two Perimeter allowing me to sneak damage in here and there whenever I wasn’t using my mana, and when he fell to six life I just tapped three gates during his end step and untapped for lethal. The next game was even more brutal; he went all in on the Beastmaster plan, Give-ing it three counters and then dying to it when I built up my army and then stole it for lethal.

Zach and I met in the finals, and I redeemed my earlier loss to him. He was playing a powerful Junk deck, but all of my creatures were strong defenders and had valuable come-into-play effects. I beat him soundly round one, and round two he kept a loose hand and got blown out by my steady stream of value creatures.

The deck was SO MUCH FUN. I don’t know if it comes across, but they may as well have named the card Crackling Perimeter based on how hilarious it is to win with the damn thing. Hold the Gates is still the strong card I’ve always known it to be, and I’m not resolved to spread the hilarity to EDH by building a rainbow “Gates Matter” deck.

We left on a high note, having had a lovely time in a wonderful city. Of course, there were the usual travel complications (specifically a screw in my tire), but even that couldn’t dampen our spirits too much.

One final thought for those who may be on the fence about GPs in the future: Team is a super-fun format for a GP! In a lot of formats, it’s hard to keep in contact with your friends between rounds, because everyone’s matches go for different amounts of time and because people get scattered as their records diverge. But in Team, you’re there with your friends the entire time, which is awesome, so long as you’re not saddled with any annoying friends on your team. We were not, unless I was the annoying one… oh shit, it may have been me! Anyway, it’s a great introductory format, and if you want to dip your toe into the GP scene it’s an amazing place to start.

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