Finally, a tournament report! I’ve been eager to play some competitive Magic for months now, and I finally got my opportunity at Grand Prix Salt Lake City. The M15 limited tournament had been circled on my calendar for some time, so I eagerly hopped a jet out west to test my skills.

I was very happy to have purchased the sleep-in special with my two byes because my flight did not arrive until three o’clock Saturday morning. We had originally taken off from New York many hours earlier, but had to return to JFK airport due to a mid-flight equipment malfunction. Not fun.

I went over to the event site around 9:30 in the morning, after about four hours of sleep. I could have perhaps slept another hour or two, but I wanted to make sure I was properly registered and did in fact have two byes. Plus I had a stack of rotating Standard cards I wanted to ship off to dealers before the event began.

My morning tasks completed successfully, I sat down to open my pool and build a deck. The cards I got were not amazing, but I had some good tools to work with. Green had two Siege Wurms, Elvish Mystic, Netcaster Spider, Chord of Calling, and a few other decent cards. Blue starred an Illusory Angel along with a handful of other fliers and Paragon of Gathering Mists, plus four Negates. Red had two Lightning Strikes, three Rummaging Goblins, a Forge Devil, and not much else. Black and white seemed most promising, as they offered a full suite of removal spells and my only two bombs: Resolute Archangel and Indulgent Tormentor.

I had one of those “two-dual-land” pools, in this case Battlefield Forge and Shivan Reef, so splashing the Lightning Strikes was a real possibility. The pool also had an Evolving Wilds, which is truly a fantastic card to have in this sealed format. Ultimately I settled on white-black, as I expected, with the red splash for the strikes.

Here’s what I submitted:

slc deck

Not the Worst

Creatures (14)
Oreskos Swiftclaw
Bronze Sable
Child of Night
Witch’s Familiar
Midnight Guard
Necrogen Scudder
Gargoyle Sentinel
Razorfoot Griffin
Shadowcloak Vampire
Indulgent Tormentor
Resolute Archangel

Spells (8)
Triplicate Spirits
Lightning Strike
Flesh to Dust
Covenant of Blood
Ulcerate
Pillar of Light
Sign in Blood
Lands (18)
Battlefield Forge
Evolving Wilds
Mountain
Swamp
Plains

Sideboard (18)
Shadowcloak Vampire
Necromancer’s Assistant
Tireless Missionaries
Heliod’s Pilgrim
Necrobite
Eternal Thirst
Sacred Armory
Brawler’s Plate
Tormod’s Crypt
Ornithopter
Rummaging Goblin
Forge Devil
Lava Axe

This is certainly not an overpowered deck, but it has a diverse set of flying threats and a lot of removal options to handle opposing bombs. Resolute Archangel is one of my favorite cards to play with, as I tend to excel in long games where I stabilize at a low life total. Plus it has Indulgent Tormentor. While not an insane bomb like a planeswalker, soul, or Hornet Queen, it is one of the “best of the rest” among the set’s finishers.

I considered adding a Rummaging Goblin to my red splash because that card is fantastic in sealed, but looters are not the best cards to splash because digging for the correct mana is one of the common uses of a looter. The deck also has a lot of redundancy in its threats and removal, so I didn’t feel I would be digging to a specific card too often. But maybe I was wrong and should have included the goblin in my deck.

The worst part of the deck was the sideboard, which basically doesn’t exist. I occasionally swapped out a Bronze Sable for a second Shadowcloak Vampire, but otherwise I lived and died with my main forty. That’s not a good sign for success in a long sealed tournament, but so it goes.

beetdiggers

Striking fear in opposing mascots since 1907.

Round three I faced a blue-green tempo deck. My opponent started out strong, beating down and clearing my blockers with two Void Snares and a Peel from Reality. He hit me down to one life using Overwhelm, but from that point I was able to stabilize, stick Indulgent Tormentor, and use Triplicate Spirits to chump block enough times to win. For game two my opponent sided into blue-black. Despite his Soul of Ravnica, which I killed with Flesh to Dust, I was able to win quite easily by attacking nine times with a Razorfoot Griffin followed by a Lightning Strike. 3-0 in matches.

Next round, I had a feature match against Josh Utter-Leyton. Round four is probably the best time to play a pro in sealed, as they could easily have a horrible deck coming out of their three byes. And sure enough, Wrapter’s deck was not very impressive. In game two he managed to outrace me, even with Resolute Archangel, thanks to a few beaters plus Selfless Cathar, Lightning Strike, and Inferno Fist. But the other two games I beat down and Josh put up little resistance. I finally won a feature match, in my fourth try. 4-0 in matches and feeling good!

Round five pitted me against an absurdly powerful red-white deck featuring Avacyn, Guardian Angel, Siege Dragon, Soul of Shandalar, Mass Calcify, Cone of Flame, two Triplicate Spirits, and a slew of solid commons. I managed to win a long game one thanks to drawing most of my removal to keep his bombs in check. I think it was the first game my opponent had lost in the tournament, as he seemed shaken up during sideboarding. Game two he rushed out his soul with Generator Servant, and I had no chance. Game three was closer, but Forge Devils ate up my early drops, Cone of Flame wiped out my Necrogen Scudder, and Triplicate Spirits put me away. I don’t think I could have done anything to win either of those games. 4-1 in matches, still optimistic.

east village

Who needs Manhattan?

Round six was my most frustrating of the weekend. My opponent had a mediocre green-black deck that my deck matched up well against. I won game one without too much trouble by beating down with fliers. Game two I completely flooded out and lost to beatdowns from Runeclaw Bears and Shaman of Spring. Then in game three, my opponent had two Titanic Growth and Ranger’s Guile to kill my blockers for three straight turns. That would have been fine, but I then flooded out again and could never mount an offense. I had Pillar of Light to take care of his Scuttling Doom Engine, but it didn’t matter. I really felt like my deck betrayed me this round and I would have won the match multiple times over if we played a longer series. To do well in a long tournament you need some luck. Today just didn’t feel like my day. 4-2 in matches, very frustrated.

I managed to get back some luck in round seven. In the first game my opponent mulliganed to three cards. I won that game. We played real Magic in game two, which I won by attacking with Razorfoot Griffin and Shadowcloak Vampire. I was able to kill his Soul of Ravnica by suicide-attacking with Bronze Sable and then finishing it off with Covenant of Blood. Sometimes you need to two-for-one yourself. It paid off here as that cleared the skies for my smaller fliers to win the game. 5-2 in matches, still alive.

And then came round eight. I started off by mulliganing to five cards. My opponent was playing red-white tokens and absolutely crushed me with two Raise the Alarm backed up with Cone of Flame and Sanctified Charge. I had no chance. Really, I had no chance in the matchup. My deck could handle all sorts of bombs but was poorly suited to beat a tokens deck. What I would have given for a Festergloom, or even a Circle of Flame. Game two I topdecked Resolute Archangel while I was at two life, but that merely prolonged my agony. Next turn he played Sacred Armory and at that point I knew I was eliminated from day two. 5-3 in matches, and dead.

I stuck around for round nine and was rewarded with a great match that went to three games. My opponent started out playing a blue-white-red deck featuring Chandra, Pyromaster and the usual common and uncommon suspects. Once again I triumphed with fliers. For the second and third games, he sideboarded into white-black-red. I’m not sure why, as the only good black card I saw was Stab Wound, but who knows what lurked in his deck. Game two I lost to the aforementioned Stab Wound, which neutered my Midnight Guard and kept me from doing anything. Game three was quite a fun one, though. Once again he had Stab Wound to tax my life total, but I was able to reset the clock with Resolute Archangel. That got trapped under his Constricting Sliver, and then he began beating me down with Triplicate Spirits. Here’s where I made my best play of the day, using Ulcerate before blocks to kill the sliver, get back my archangel, go back to twenty life again, and pick off one of the spirit tokens. From there I won with the archangel plus two Lightning Strikes to the face. 6-3 in matches, content with how I played.

I was sad not to make day two, but I felt very good about my deckbuilding and play throughout the day. I don’t think I could have done anything differently. In the end, my deck was good but not overpowering. M15 sealed is a bomb-driven format. While I managed to handle almost all of the bombs I faced, it wasn’t enough. Regardless, I feel confident in how I played and look forward to more competitive sealed tournaments to come.

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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