Howdy howdy howdy! Mission: Montreal was a success. Not only did I make day two, I cashed my first Grand Prix, taking home $300 and a pro point for 48th place! It was an amazing experience and really affirmed my confidence in the format and in my Magic game. I can’t wait for Grand Prix Philadelphia next month where I plan to improve even further.

This week I will review day one, from my sealed deck build to the eight rounds of Swiss. Unfortunately I had only one bye for the tournament, but that’s good enough for a sleep-in special. Extra sleep is key in a long tournament, and I was absolutely rewarded by the sealed gods as well. Here’s the pool:

Montreal Sealed—White

(15)
Archetype of Courage
Chosen by Heliod
Dawn to Dusk
Elite Skirmisher
Ephara’s Radiance
Excoriate
Glimpse the Sun God
Griffin Dreamfinder
Loyal Pegasus
Nyxborn Shieldmate
Observant Alseid
Oreskos Sun Guide
Ray of Dissolution
Setessan Griffin
Silent Artisan

Montreal Sealed—Blue

(12)
Benthic Giant
Curse of the Swine
Divination
Evanescent Intellect
Mindreaver
Nimbus Naiad
Nyxborn Triton
Shipbreaker Kraken
Stratus Walk
Stymied Hopes
Vaporkin

Montreal Sealed—Black

(15)
Ashiok’s Adept
Asphyxiate
Baleful Eidolon
Blood-Toll Harpy
Erebos’s Emissary
Eye Gouge
Felhide Brawler
Marshmist Titan
Rescue from the Underworld
Sanguimancy
Scourgemark
Sip of Hemlock
Warchanter of Mogis

Montreal Sealed—Red

(16)
Bolt of Keranos
Deathbellow Raider
Fall of the Hammer
Fearsome Temper
Flame-Wreathed Phoenix
Forgestoker Dragon
Ill-Tempered Cyclops
Kragma Butcher
Magma Jet
Minotaur Skullcleaver
Nyxborn Rollicker
Rise to the Challenge
Satyr Rambler
Thunderous Might
Titan’s Strength

Montreal Sealed—Green

(19)
Agent of Horizons
Archetype of Endurance
Fade into Antiquity
Graverobber Spider
Karametra’s Favor
Leafcrown Dryad
Mortal’s Resolve
Nylea’s Presence
Ordeal of Nylea
Pheres-Band Centaurs
Pheres-Band Tromper
Savage Surge
Setessan Oathsworn
Swordwise Centaur
Time to Feed
Voyaging Satyr

Montreal Sealed—Multicolored and Colorless

(7)
Kragma Warcaller
Akroan Hoplite
Pharika’s Mender
Polis Crusher
Siren of the Silent Song
Opaline Unicorn

This is what we in the business call a strong sealed pool. White, blue, and black offer reasonable cards, most notably Shipbreaker Kraken, but let’s be real. My red and green cards are insane and deep. Polis Crusher is a must-play, Forgestoker Dragon is a stone-cold bomb, and Flame-Wreathed Phoenix is ludicrous. What really makes the deck sing, however, is its slate of commons. Two Ill-Tempered Cyclopseseses, aka the red Nessian Asp; two Leafcrown Dryads, aka Asp Junior; two Setessan Oathsworn, aka Battlemaster Junior; Voyaging Satyr, aka Time Walk; etc etc. Rounding out the collection of possible first picks are Fall of the Hammer, Bolt of Keranos, and Time to Feed. Oh, and I still have ten playable cards to choose from.

My build:

Montreal sealed

I’ll buy that for a dollar!

What a beautiful deck! Not only is it strong, it is brutally agressive. That does two great things in a long sealed tournament. It neutralizes opposing bombs by winning quickly and ends rounds early so you can take breaks to eat and recharge. Both were crucial to my success.

Cyclopean Boom

Creatures (15)
Voyaging Satyr
Leafcrown Dryad
Swordwise Centaur
Deathbellow Raider
Minotaur Skullcleaver
Setessan Oathsworn
Kragma Butcher
Ill-Tempered Cyclops
Pheres-Band Tromper
Flame-Wreathed Phoenix
Polis Crusher
Forgestoker Dragon

Spells (7)
Fall of the Hammer
Magma Jet
Bolt of Keranos
Time to Feed
Ordeal of Nylea
Titan’s Strength
Savage Surge
Lands (18)
Forest
Mountain

Sideboard (19)
Fade Into Antiquity
Savage Surge
Rise to the Challenge
Mortal’s Resolve
Fearsome Temper
Nyxborn Rollicker
Graverobber Spider
Pheres-Band Centaurs
Agent of Horizons
Satyr Rambler
Archetype of Endurance
Thunderous Might
Karametra’s Favor
Nylea’s Presence
Shipbreaker Kraken
Curse of the Swine
Mindreaver
Asphyxiate

The deck build was a little tricky, as I had to decide the final cuts. I chose to run 18 lands for three reasons: I want to monstrous my three cyclopseseses, my card quality is so high that I can afford an extra land, and I want to reduce mana-based mulligans. Nine of each land made it easier to cast Swordwise Centaur, Setessan Oathsworn, and Flame-Wreathed Phoenix on curve.

I do not like the auras (other than ordeal) in this deck. Fearsome Temper and Thunderous Might are good when you need to upgrade bad creatures and your deck is weak enough to embrace risk. My deck has strong creatures that win without help.

For tricks, I went with Savage Surge and Titan’s Strength maindeck, as they are the most aggressive. Another secret strength of this deck was the sideboard. I was able to customize my tricks throughout by swapping in Mortal’s Resolve or Rise to the Challenge. Fade into Antiquity was my other common sideboard swap. I was discussing the general thinness of sealed pools in this format with Marshall Sutcliffe between rounds, and he agreed that the depth of my sideboard was a rare treat to have. That Marshall is a great guy, by the way. Be sure to say hello to him at future grand prixeses.

Anyway, I was stoked to make a deep run with this deck. 9-0 takes luck, but this deck could realistically win every round. Even facing down eight rounds, I felt confident of making my second consecutive day two. On to the games!

Montreal playing

Big thanks to Slaton Hunt Club of Montreal for the photos.

Round Two—Jason Seagram playing Red White aggro

Jason mulled to five cards game one. Then the cards he played were Loyal Pegasus, Prowler’s Helm, Dragon Mantle, and Reckless Reveler. I played better cards and won in four attacks. (It would be hard not to play better cards than those.)

Game two he curved like this: Loyal Pegasus, Spirit of the Labyrinth, Wingsteed Rider, Fall of the Hammer on my only creature. I lost that game. Fortunately I won game three on the back of Phoenix and two red cyclopses while Jason put an Ephara’s Radiance on his turn-one Favored Hoplite. Seems fair.

2-0 in matches.

Round Three—Per Nystrom playing White Green splash Red

Game one I lost to a Fated Intervention centaur token bestowed with Nylea’s Emissary and Leafcrown Dryad. I was able to kill it, but he got so much card advantage out of the exchanges that I was out of gas. Game two I curved Oathsworn into Ordeal, pop it, turn five Forgestoker Dragon. Seems good. Game three, opponent put Fearsome Temper on his Nyxborn Shieldmate and went the distance. I was stuck on four lands all game and never drew one of my many many spells to kill the Shieldmate and likely win the game.

When I lost this match, I felt it was bad luck. I didn’t want to lose so early, but at least it put me below the pros with three byes in the Swiss pairings. 2-1 in matches.

Round Four—Raymond Chau playing Blue White Sphinx

Raymond played Prognostic Sphinx both games, attacked with it multiple times, and still lost. My deck is good. 3-1 in matches.

Round Five—Steven Dunkelman playing Red White

Game one he mulled to five cards. Game two he was stuck on two lands. My deck punishes that. You need rounds like this to put on a run of wins in sealed. 4-1 in matches.

Montreal crowd

Ok, I took this picture. And the cover photo. And my deck photo. Thanks a lot, Hunter!

Round Six—Xavier Biron playing Green White Eidolons

Xavier defeated me in round nine of GP Toronto last fall. We remembered each other and had a nice rematch.  His deck was a strong green-white bestow deck splashing blue for Sudden Storm.  Game one I curved out and applied too much pressure. Game two he kept my board in check with two Excoriate, then dropped Eidolon of Countless Battles backed up with Glimpse the Sun God. Can’t beat that.

In game three, Xavier mulled to five. I had Forgestoker, which attacked and burned away a Chronicler of Heroes before getting Excoriated. My follow-up Ill-Tempered Cyclops survived, and Xavier didn’t. It was a close match and a lot of fun. Both our decks were strong with a lot of interaction and strategy. Plus we were at the end of the table. As a Montreal local, Xavier had a crowd watching, so it felt like a feature match. I wished him luck the rest of the way and carried away the match slip happy and relieved. 5-1 in matches.

Round Seven—Charles Trottier playing Red-Green-Blue

I’m, not exactly sure what Charles’s deck was trying to do, because I had two unbeatable draws. Game one I never played a fourth land, but it didn’t matter. These were my turns two through six: Voyaging Satyr, Phoenix, Polis Crusher, Cyclops, Cyclops. Beat that.

Game two was even more devastating. I attacked with an Ill-Tempered Cyclops into his board of  Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass and Scourge of Skola Vale (2/2). He was tapped out on mana. He blocked with his cyclops, so I used Fall of the Hammer on it. When he sacrificed the cyclops to his hydra, I killed with Magma Jet. He took three trample damage. Then he untapped and cast Rage of Purphoros on my 3/3 cyclops, which I saved with Savage Surge.

At that point he basically gave up from tilt. Understandably so. 6-1 in matches.

Round Eight—Ryan Leverone playing Blue White Ephara

Here’s where things got real. Ryan had a strong Ephara deck with all the two-blue fliers you’d expect, and a Medomai the Ageless I mercifully never saw. Game one I was able to overwhelm Ephara and friends with my sea of efficient creatures.

Game two I fell behind to his Vortex Elemental plus Aerie Worshippers. That card was especially difficult for my deck to handle. I made one big mistake when I attacked my 4/2 Minotaur Skullcleaver into his Vortex Elemental with one blue mana open. I had Fall of the Hammer, which I planned to use to kill the Aerie Worshippers in response to the shuffle, which he could only do once. But then I forgot to wait and cast Fall before he shuffled, allowing Ryan to blow me out and seal the game two victory.

Round three Ryan mulled to four. It was a brutal way for his deck to fail him. I played Oathsworn into ordeal and that was all she wrote. Fortunately Ryan went on to win round nine and make day two, which he deserved, and which also helped my breakers. And oh yeah, I locked up day two!!! 7-1 in matches.

Round Nine—Galone Seto playing Black Devotion splash Blue

I saw swamps for the first time in round nine, and that was a scary sight. Galone had a crazy deck, full of Gray Merchants, Keepsake Gorgon, Abhorrent Overlord, etc. In game one, I made the first of two crucial plays of the day. He cast a turn four Shrike Harpy off an Opaline Unicorn. My board was three lands, Voyaging Satyr, and Setessan Oathsworn. I chose to sacrifice the satyr because I had Ordeal of Nylea in hand, and I went on to fetch out two lands on the next turn. I would have died quickly to a 4/4 flier. But I ended up losing the game on a misplay anyway. I had an attack where I could deal 14 damage, but he was at 15. To do the max damage, I needed to Savage Surge on the Oathsworn, but because it wasn’t lethal (I guess) I didn’t do it. Seems wrong, given the extra two counters the Oathsworn, plus I had Bolt of Keranos in my hand that could have won on the next turn if he didn’t cast Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Which he didn’t. Instead he cast Abhorrent Overlord, and went on to win. Oops.

Montreal round 9

Ok, Hunter took this one too. And a bunch on day two. What a guy!

I won game two off Polis Crusher and a large Oathsworn outracing two Gray Merchants. When he played Shrike Harpy this time, I gave him a 4/4 and then fed it to my Oathsworn with Time to Feed. That kept me protected from attacks and bumped me from two to five life, out of Gray Merchant range, which I desperately needed to win.

Game three had the second interesting play. I had a 4/4 Pheres-Band Tromper (with one counter) when he played Keepsake Gorgon. I had an Ordeal of Nylea in hand that I wanted to resolve, so I cast it on the tromper, attacked, and then Savage Surged with the ordeal trigger on the stack. Untapping gave the tromper a second counter, and then the ordeal gave the third and I sacrificed it for the lands before he could block with the gorgon. And then he didn’t even block. Many dead creatures later, I won by racing monstrous Polis Crusher and Ill-Tempered Cyclops against his Gray Merchant and army of creatures. I attacked him to one, then played a raw Leafcrown Dryad to block. Galone dropped Mogis’s Marauders, and swung me down to two life. He had five mana and one card left. As he went to show it, I cringed, but it was Drown in Sorrow and not Gray Merchant. Galone extended the hand and I was 8-1 on the day! Wow!!!

After the match, Hunter and I walked a few blocks to Benelux brewpub, which had been strongly recommended to me by a friend. It was the perfect capstone for a perfect day: spicy sausage and sauerkraut with fantastic pale ale. Thank you Hunter and Montreal for being great to me!

Come back next week when I break down my day two drafts! Thanks for reading!

Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.

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