Last weekend the Magic: the Gathering Grand Prix train stopped in nearby Philadelphia for some hot limited action. There was no way I was missing this. Not only do I love sealed Grand Prix, the convention hall is adjacent to Reading Terminal Market, a.k.a. the best place to eat during a Magic tournament ever.

We had quite the crew travel down for the event. Hugh and I ate Amish breakfast sandwiches as we waited for our one-bye sleep-in build time. To pass the time we played Where’s Waldo. See if you can find him:

photo 4

There’s also a nice fellow scratching his nose with his middle finger.

My sealed pool offered a number of possibilities, but nothing obviously broken. I could see it would take some work to come up with the best build, but I had a lot of options.

Sealed Pool—White

(16)
Akroan Skyguard
Chained to the Rocks
Chosen by Heliod
Ephara’s Radiance
Ephara’s Warden
Great Hart
Heliod’s Emissary
Hero of Iroas
Leonin Snarecaster
Loyal Pegasus
Oreskos Sun Guide
Setessan Battle Priest
Setessan Griffin

Sealed Pool—Blue

(15)
Archetype of Imagination
Divination
Evanescent Intellect
Gainsay
Griptide
Nimbus Naiad
Retraction Helix
Siren of the Fanged Coast
Stratus Walk
Thassa’s Bounty
Thassa’s Emissary
Vortex Elemental
Voyage’s End

Sealed Pool—Black

(16)
Claim of Erebos
Cutthroat Maneuver
Disciple of Phenax
Erebos’s Emissary
Felhide Brawler
Felhide Minotaur
Fleshmad Steed
Lash of the Whip
Marshmist Titan
Necrobite
Pharika’s Cure
Read the Bones
Scourgemark
Servant of Tymaret

Sealed Pool—Red

(13)
Akroan Conscriptor
Bolt of Keranos
Deathbellow Raider
Epiphany Storm
Impetuous Sunchaser
Kragma Butcher
Nyxborn Rollicker
Ordeal of Purphoros
Priest of Iroas
Satyr Nyx-Smith
Satyr Rambler
Searing Blood
Spearpoint Oread

Sealed Pool—Green

(14)
Arbor Colossus
Culling Mark
Defend the Hearth
Hunter’s Prowess
Karametra’s Acolyte
Karametra’s Favor
Leafcrown Dryad
Mischief and Mayhem
Mortal’s Resolve
Nylea’s Disciple
Nyxborn Wolf
Satyr Hedonist
Satyr Wayfinder
Setessan Oathsworn

Sealed Pool—Multicolored and Colorless

(9)
Horizon Chimera
Ragemonger
Sentry of the Underworld
Tymaret, the Murder King
Flamecast Wheel
Gorgon’s Head
Opaline Unicorn
Traveler’s Amulet
Temple of Malice

This pool is a good example of the necessity of pairing colors in sealed to fill the needs of a strong deck. White offers strong creatures but no removal unless I play red for Chained to the Rocks. Blue has three bounce spells plus good bestow creatures. Black has an emissary, a couple removal spells, and Read the Bones, but looks weaker than the rest. There’s also Tymaret, the Murder King, who is likely slated to serve fries at the concession stand. Red has some standout cards but looks thin. Green has Arbor Colossus and Hunter’s Prowess, and a little bit more. The gold cards are good, if they fit anywhere. And I have a scryland. What to do?

thundergun car

Don’t get caught in a traffic jam in Philly, for starters.

At first I considered red-white, which is the best deck if you have it. My pool comes up a little short. Bolt of Keranos and Searing Blood are my only removal spells, and I am a couple heroic enablers away from a strong deck.  I definitely wanted to play white for the two Skyguards, Hero of Iroas, and Heliod’s Emissary, so next I tried pairing it with blue.

Blue offers a lot. Three bounce spells provide enough interaction. The creatures are fantastic: Two Nimbus Naiads, Thassa’s Emissary, Siren of the Fanged Coast, and Archetype of Imagination are all fantastic at closing down games. This seemed like the correct core of the deck.

Green needs to be considered, though. Arbor Colossus is a stone bomb, I had a couple good bestows, and Hunter’s Prowess is nuts. If I play blue-green, I also get the fantastic Horizon Chimera. But green drops off in quality quickly after that, so it isn’t viable as even a secondary color for my deck.

mac sewer

Can I fit a little more value in here?

Ultimately I need a little more value than what straight white-blue offers. If you aren’t excited about what your deck can do, you aren’t going to win very many games in this format. Explosive, swingy cards are a must, and loading up on bestow provides tons of grindy card advantage. Splashing green gives me access to Hunter’s Prowess, which wins games on its own, plus Leafcrown Dryad and Nyxborn Wolf to maximize the value of Hero of Iroas and my Skyguards. And at that point I might as well cram in the Horizon Chimera.

Here’s what I submitted:

The Elmer and Shelly Show

Creatures (15)
Vortex Elemental
Akroan Skyguard
Hero of Iroas
Oreskos Sun Guide
Leafcrown Dryad
Nimbus Naiad
Nyxborn Wolf
Opaline Unicorn
Heliod’s Emissary
Thassa’s Emissary
Horizon Chimera
Siren of the Fanged Coast
Archetype of Imagination

Spells (8)
Hunter’s Prowess
Retraction Helix
Voyage’s End
Griptide
Chosen by Heliod
Stratus Walk
Divination
Traveler’s Amulet
Lands (17)
Plains
Island
Forest

Sideboard (11)
Gainsay
Setessan Battle Priest
Great Hart
Leonin Snarecaster
Ephara’s Warden
Plains
Island

This deck is a tribute to the bestow mechanic. I won so many games by bestowing on top of other bestow creatures and slowly depleting my opponents’ resources. Hunter’s Prowess restocked my hand numerous times, winning games many turns before they actually ended.

This is definitely an 18-land format, but I was comfortable with 17 in my deck, even with the 7-7-3 splash. I have Opaline Unicorn to provide mana, Traveler’s Amulet to function as a virtual 18th land, plus Divination and two cantrip auras to dig. Multiple times on the day I cast a draw spell and hit the crucial Forest to play my green cards. I lost a couple games to mana problems, but overall the increased power level was worth that risk. I won countless more games off my green splash than I lost to mana issues. If I had stuck to straight blue-white, or even just splashed the Prowess, I don’t think I would have done as well.

chardee

If you get locked in a dog kennel, be sure to read the rule book.

My matches played out similarly. I would set up a couple attacking creatures, trade one off, then land a Hunter’s Prowess for six cards to take over the game. I ended up 8-1 on the day, including one bye, which was a little better than I expected but I definitely felt I played well and earned my victories.

The only loss came against my friend, the Canadian Mani Davoudi, he of ordering-a-pizza-mid-match fame. Game one he played blue-white control, and my deck was able to slowly overwhelm him for victory. Then he sideboarded into green-black mono 4/4s. My bounce spells look stupid against a sea of Snake of the Golden Grove and Fated Intervention. Mani is a great player and made the correct adjustment to defeat me. I agree with him that green-black is not where you want to be in a lot of matchups, but against me it was the perfect choice.

The absolute highlight of the day was when I cast Hunter’s Prowess on my Horizon Chimera to build my own Sphinx’s Revelation for six. I won that game. That card was a total all-star. Hero of Iroas didn’t show up that often, and died quickly when he did, but he was still good enough to accelerate a few bestows and help win some games.

Round eight I was able to clinch my third straight limited Grand Prix day two berth by beating a turn three Thassa, God of the Sea both games. My friend and local player Luis Guaman watched most of this match and he got to see how much I had to fight through to win this challenging match. My deck had too much power and too many bestows, so it overcame the stream of card selection (and clock) that Thassa provides.

I secured the 8-1 record with a strange round nine win. My opponent was a few seconds late after the round started, so I called a judge. He got a game loss, and on appeal to the head judge got a short lecture on the importance of being on time. Lesson kids: know when the round is about to start and don’t be late. He was on red-white aggro and stomped me in game two. For the rubber match I sided out my green splash and fixing in favor of an extra land, two Great Harts, Setessan Battle Priest (a.k.a my fantastic hotel roommate, Nick Forker), and two Leonin Snarecasters. This worked perfectly as I had both Great Harts in my opening hand, and my opponent mulliganed to five cards. We had a little confusion when both of us forgot I couldn’t draw a card off Chosen by Heliod with my opponent’s Spirit of the Labyrinth in play. The judges ruled that because my opponent acknowledged my draw, it was only a game rule violation and not a game loss for drawing extra cards. I went on to bestow Thassa’s Emissary on an Akroan Skyguard (being careful not to draw extra cards) and won the match.

Going 8-1 again, with a weaker deck than I had in Montreal, felt great. I’ve made huge strides in my gameplay and deckbuilding lately, and now I am putting up consistent results. Join me next week as I recap my adventures in day two draft land, complete with another video feature match!

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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