Last week, I mentioned I was heading up to Providence to play in the Team Grand Prix. The plan was to play a few rounds, rack up some Planewalker Points with the insanely high GP multiplier (gotta get those byes for GP DC in November!), then maybe play a few side events. I brought my newly acquired playset of Bobs with me so I could put them to the test-drive in some Legacy win-a-box side events. I decided I wasn’t going to write a piece about the main event, since the Hipsters would already be well-represented in Providence. The other reason was that I figured our performance wouldn’t really be anything to write home about. Then we had to screw that all up by making day two, forcing my Forces (of Will) to sit in the hotel room, being useless all weekend!

I guess I’ll start by introducing you to the two best teammates I could ask for. I may have mentioned Anthony Loman (left in header photo) in my writing before, and I’ll likely mention him again, as he’s one of my usual travel buddies to these sorts of things, as well as one of my regular Legacy sparring partners. We had both decided awhile back that we would join forces for this event, but it seemed like every potential third for our triumvirate either had to bail on making the trip or ended up in another team. That was where Carl Robichaud (middle in header photo), came in. I had never met Carl, aside from some brief interaction on the Magic-related Google Group that we post on for players in the NYC area. He made a post about heading up to Providence to play in some side events and offered a ride if anyone needed one, and the possibility of a hotel-split. Tony knew Carl and was able to somehow rope him to join us, less than a week before the event. Considering how last minute everything came together, and the fact that we had ZERO byes (what can I say? Tony and I slacked off last season), the expectations weren’t incredibly high. Carl put on the Limited Resources podcast about Modern Masters draft, and instead of talking about Return to Ravnica Full Block Team Sealed, we talked about how excited we were to maybe put together a Modern Masters hotel draft pod after we scrub out on Saturday. We had the perfect hotel for it, too; while it may have a history as a Satanic, haunted, murder hotel, the Biltmore offered incredibly spacious suites for the same price as a small, single-king (we had two and a pull-out sofa, no joke) room at the Hilton.

After going out for a burger and a couple of beers at some nearby tavern, as well as Tony having an interesting run-in with some drunken sailors, we turned in for the night to try to get roughly five hours of sleep before playing in my first round one of a Grand Prix in well over a year. I’m not going to go through a detailed, round-by-round analysis of day one, as I wasn’t planning on writing about the main event (as I may have mentioned a few time), consequently, my notes aren’t as detailed as they normally are when I plan on writing about an event. I was pretty happy with the pool that we were passed to build our decks with. The obvious bombs were Pontiff of BlightAlms BeastGaze of Granite, and Carnival Hellstead. We had a lot of unimpressive rares (we had two Biovisionaries, c’mon, really?) as well as a couple rare slots taken up by lands. I immediately saw that enough of the bombs and fixing fell into Junk colors, that it made sense to build a grindy Junk Control deck. Here’s the final list after my initial build followed by some tinkering from my team:

Junk Control

Creatures (13)
Vizkopa Guildmage
Centaur Healer
Sin Collector
Sewer Shambler
Thrashing Mossdog
Urbis Protector
Pontiff of Blight
Alms Beast
Rubbleback Rhino
Dutiful Thrull
Bane Alley Blackguard

Spells (11)
Prophetic Prism
Courser’s Accord
Grisly Spectacle
Fatal Fumes
Death’s Approach
Gaze of Granite
Trostani’s Judgement
Martial Law
Gift of Orzhova
Lands (17)
Orzhov Guildgate
Golgari Guildgate
Temple Garden

Relevant sideboard (9)
Thrashing Mossdog
Launch Party
Aerial Predation
Debt to the Debtless
Forced Adaptation
Maw of the Obzedat
Dutiful Thrull
Axebane Stag
Crypt Incursion

Yeah, 23/17 was too mainstream, so in true hipster fashion, I went 24/17. There’s actually a pretty good article by Ari Lax that makes a strong case for playing 24/17 if you’re a durdly control deck running prophetic prism. I’m aware it’s a different format, but I think there’s still some legitimacy to that argument if you are playing the this type of deck. In retrospect, I would have found room for the Launch Party in the main, as well as the Maw of Obzedat.

Carl, designed an incredibly efficient and aggressive Boros deck, while Tony decided he was going to build Grixis with the leftovers. Carl’s deck looked like it could come out of the gates quickly and overwhelm an opponent. Aside from one small change, I thought it was perfect. I really wanted him to play Lyev Decree, which also would have made Scion of Vitu-Ghazi available for my, where there were better populate targets, but Carl felt pretty strongly against the inclusion of the Decree. He would be the one piloting the deck, so it was important to trust his final judgement on the deck. Tony’s deck looked like it was light on ways to win, but Carnival Hellstead and his lesser friend, Tenement Crasher, would get there often enough. We followed the advice of Melissa DeTora and put Carl in the middle, since he had the aggro deck.

The day began with what I initially took as a bad omen of things to come. I started out my first game of the day on a mull to six, then, upon seeing my hand, I immediately called judge, because I saw this bad boy staring at me. Whoooops! Put the promo card in my deck! After a lengthy judge call, it was deemed that no malice was intended and it was an honest-to-god mistake that could be remedied by removing the card, and having draw an extra card to replace it. I dropped the first game, but managed to win my match, as did my teammates, and the potentially rocky start was avoided. At 6-0, it was safe to say that we started the day on quite a tear. Then this happened:



If you can’t read the names for Team 1, I’ll help you out: JUZA/NAKAMURA/STARK. Yep, we were playing the Channel Fireball All-Star Team. They annihilated us. Carl got the only game win, losing 2-1 to Shuhei. I would find out later in the day that the single game that Shuhei dropped to Carl was the first loss any member of that team had suffered all day. Not counting byes, they were 24-0 on the day in games before our match! I might not have played as tightly as I would have liked to against Juza, but it would not have made much of a difference, as his deck was the same as Carl’s deck (fast Boros), and my deck was very poorly equipped to deal with a blisteringly fast start.

My personal highlight on day one came in our day two clinching match in round eight of nine against the team of Shiels-Costa-Shenhar. Carl had dropped his match against Costa, while Tony beat Shenhar in three games. Shiels and I both began shuffling up for our third game after everyone else was finished. “Mull to two!” Tony shouts in Shiels’ direction. I end up having to take a mull to five, at which point, I turn to Tony and tell him, “You jinxed me.” My five-card hand is perfect and I draw perfectly. I had Alms Beast, two basics, a gate, and some two or three-drop. I play everything on schedule and draw a Gift of Orzhova for my beast. Shiels is able to deal with it, but I continue the beats with some Centaurs. He then stabilizes and threatens to take over the board with Ruric Thar at 5 life. I had a Centaur in play and 11 life, with a Launch Party in hand that Carl was able to convince me to sandbag, earlier in the game, despite my itchy trigger finger. I then top-decked a Bane Alley Blackguard to launch into the Gruul maze runner and swing with the Centaur for exactsies. We would finish the day at 8-2. I was particularly happy to make it back to day two, after having a miserable performance in Atlantic City, my last Grand Prix, not to mention the sub-par Open I was coming off of in Baltimore. One thing I really liked about Team Sealed is that there is a lot less pressure to win, because even if you lose, your teammates will sometimes carry you, and later in the day, you might have the opportunity to return the favor. I personally had three match losses on the day. In a normal GP, that wouldn’t make the cut, but in the team format, you have a little more breathing room.

Going into team draft, we didn’t have much of an idea of what we were doing. We bandied about several different strategies over dinner, Saturday night, but we never really came to any real conclusions. I think we decided to go with the hate-drafting plan, because I told the team that I had read somewhere in some article by some pro that hate-drafting is the best way to play team draft. I don’t actually recall where I’ve heard or read this, but I swear that this isn’t just something wacky I made up! In any case, back to what I was saying: we didn’t really know what we were doing. These guys did:


Eric Phillipps, Andrew Longo, and Eric Berger—GP Providence Champions (and friends of Rolex)

You may have seen a picture of this team somewhere else in the last two days. Perhaps on the mothership in the picture of the team that won the Grand Prix. We didn’t actually realize how good these guys were when we first sat down against them, though. They were all nice guys, and it was fun having a little “Battle of the Boroughs” (they’re from Manhattan, we’re all from Brooklyn). But really, what’s with these pairings?? First we get Channel Fireball, then we get the eventual champs. It’s like we can’t catch a break here! In all seriousness, though, it was a treat to be in the company of such good competition all weekend. This is what I ended up with in the first draft of the day:


The pack one, pick one looks GREAT, but it all went downhill from there. Especially since I had to pass an Armadillo Cloak to take it. The big mistake was not recognizing that I forced my opponent on my left into Selesnya, which I could then completely cut in the RTR pack if I commit early to playing Bant. After Manhattan dismantled Brooklyn in two quick rounds, I was quick to ask them for their advice and opinions regarding team draft, so that hopefully, we could have a better second draft.

Kent, Evan, and Spencer would be our opponents in the second draft pod. They drove from Indiana, and were excited to take a goofy pic holding the HotC business card for my post:


I don’t have a picture of the deck from this pod, or the next one, but this one was REALLY good. Maaaybe the greatest deck I’ve ever drafted (okay, that was a little hyperbole). I opened Boros Battleshaper, then proceeded to grab any aggressive Boros cards I saw or fixing that would play nicely with Boros. Blue looked open, so I took some of that, as well, and saw a late Maze’s End. By the third pack, I was rewarded for all of my fixing with a Niv Mizzet, Dracogenius. Game one played out like a durdly control deck with Maze getting an activation and Niv lighting things on fire once I was able to stabilize the board. Because Spencer thought I was some sort of UWR control deck, he made a keep that was a little slow, but was okay because he would have time against a control deck. Then he saw that I was also partially an aggro deck, as I drew ALL the Firstblades. After losing in the first round, our opponents wished us well and scooped the second round, since either of us would be dead for prizes after losing in the first round.

Going into the last draft, we decided among ourselves that we would inform our opponents that we planned to scoop if we lost the first round as either of us would be dead with a single loss. We ended up playing another team of New Yorkers, Imperiale-Tietze-Ingram. I recognize Tietze from SCG events, and I know Ingram is a local grinder who I’ve played against a couple times. I opened packs that were relatively light on bombs and ended up playing a really bad BWR deck that ran a pair of Golgari gates as bad swamps to help enable a Gatekeeper and an Ogre Jailbreaker. I feel like I may have been able to win game two, had I played tighter, but my Gleam of Battle and Maw of the Obzedat coupled with his Boros Reckoner made combat hard for both of us. In the end, he was able to make combat easy with a 7/7 lifelink, trample, protection from creatures Mossdog, and my only removal was Executioner’s Swing. I didn’t catch any of Tony’s match, but he lost in two straight, as well. Carl had what looked like a sweet Bant Flash deck, with Sphinx’s Revelation, Advent of the Wurm, and on-color duals. They decided to play the game out for fun after time was called, since we had already lost and conceded the next round. Carl looked pretty set to take it after a big Revelation, but had they been playing for real, they never would have finished in time.

It was disappointing to run so well, only to barely fall short at the end (for cash and that elusive pro point that I have yet to attain), but my teammates and I all had a great time sharing in the camaraderie of victory, and licking our wounds together after getting trounced in day two. All of the opponents we played against were great people, and we continued to talk to many people we played in earlier rounds throughout the day. As it happened, many of the teams we played against in day one were in day two, so we were all kind of rooting for each other (as long as we didn’t have to play each other). It also gave us some personal satisfaction seeing all those guys from day one continuing to play in day two, because it was a testament to the level of competition we had to overcome to get as far as we did.

With SCG Philly coming up, I plan to get some practice in with Deathblade, beforehand, to determine if that is a deck I would like to bring to battle. Next week, I’ll be back to writing about Legacy and I’ll let you know what I feel good about for the Open.

Late Afternoon Update: Carl sent me a picture of his deck for the sealed portion, and I found the two other draft decks I battled with in day two sitting in one of my desk drawers at work, so here’s some 23/17 pictures. Tony’s decks could not be reached for comment. There is a reasonably high probability that he ate them.

 Carl’s Boros Aggro from the sealed pool:


My sick pool from the second draft pod (sideboard to the left):



And my pool from the final draft of the day (sideboard to left, again):


“Evil” Tim Akpinar is one of Brooklyn’s finest durdlers. If there’s a top-tier control deck in the meta, you can bet he’s spent a minute taking it apart to see what makes it tick. If it wraths and draws cards, “Evil” Tim Akpinar approves.

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