Grand Prix Salt Lake City is right around the corner and I am eager to get out there and play some competitive limited Magic! It’s been too long since Grand Prix DC. This summer has been a real Wasteland for high level limited action. M15 offers a belated and brief surge of hot sealed action, between the Grand Prix this weekend and the big PTQ in Philadelphia next weekend as part of the World Magic Cup Qualifier weekend. I’ll be attending both and hoping to put up some wins.

You have to be careful, however, about getting too amped up for a sealed tournament. If you end up with a mediocre pool, all your pre-event excitement can come crashing before you’ve played a match. It’s important to maintain an even keel, ride the variance in deck quality, and approach sealed tournaments as iterations of one long game. Like they say in poker, it’s all one big session. Of course when you have exactly two big sealed tournaments for the month, and you haven’t played in one for two or three months previous, it can be hard to take the holistic approach.

alive

We may not have many second chances here.

The best way to fight variance, of course, is through repetition. Once Khans of Tarkir is released and the sealed PTQ season starts in earnest, there will be ample opportunity to grind the format. For M15, though, we’re left with a few events and have to make up the difference through Magic Online. As I explained last week, I’m a bit down on MTGO at the moment, and have stopped playing as many events due to disconnection issues. I did manage to get in one serious tournament though, in one of the five-round Limited Championsip Qualifiers. The actual championship happens at the same time as the Grand Prix, of course, so I can’t play in the main event. But five rounds are enough to really get a sense of your deck and to practice beating varied strategies. So that’s what I did.

My pool ended up being quite weak. I had Spectra Ward, and two Heliod’s Pilgrims to fetch it out, but otherwise the pool offered nothing impressive at all. During the deck build I had that familiar feeling of dread, that my pool was too weak to get a good experience out of the tournament. But I wasn’t going to let that completely derail my one “big” practice tournament before the GP. Here’s what I ended up building:

Full Spectra

Crratures (16)
Forge Devil
Sungrace Pegasus
Ajani’s Pridemate
Goblin Kaboomist
Heliod’s Pilgrim
Krenko’s Enforcer
Midnight Guard
Rummaging Goblin
Geist of the Moors
Juggernaut
Brood Keeper
Scrapyard Mongrel
Thundering Giant
Will-Forged Golem

Spells (7)
Raise the Alarm
Spectra Ward
Inferno Fist
Divine Favor
Lightning Strike
Blastfire Bolt
Pillar of Light
Lands (17)
Plains
Mountain

Sideboard (17)
Frenzied Goblin
Soulmender
Dauntless River Marshal
Tireless Missionaries
Torch Fiend
Goblin Roughrider
Miner’s Bane
Pillar of Light
Blastfire Bolt
Lava Axe
Meteorite
Hot Soup
Obelisk of Urd
Shivan Reef
Life’s Legacy
Stain the Mind

As you can see, this deck has some decent creatures, a few good removal spells, Spectra Ward, and not much else. Looking at these cards, my best plan for victory is to grind out to stay alive until I can get Spectra Ward going, or at least enhance some of my evasive creatures with an Inferno Fist or Divine Favor. Marked by Honor would have been quite welcome in this deck.

Spectra Ward backed up with some removal and life gain can grind out a medium-to-long game, so I built the deck to maximize this gmaeplan. Frenzied Goblin, while a solid beatdown card, just didn’t fit in the deck. I wasn’t going to win many games quickly, and Frenzied Goblin gets much worse as both players build out their boards. Krenko’s Enforcer and Sungrace Pegasus fit the gameplan much more efficiently. Torch Fiend and Goblin Roughrider fell into a similar spot, where I felt they werent strong enough on their own to justify slots in the deck. Torch Fiend is good to bring in out of the sideboard to handle problem artifacts, but neither card helps grind very much.

amazon

Looks like this might take a while to get through.

The closest card that didn’t make the cut was Soulmender. Maybe I should have played it, given it’s great interaction with Ajani’s Pridemate and how useful incidental lifegain can be to a deck trying to race with a medium-sized Spectra Warded creature. Soulmender is much better in M15 than previous core sets, but the real key is its ability to enable convoke. My deck has one Will-Forged Golem, but without Triplicate Spirits or Stoke the Flames, this red-white deck hardly gets an advantage from using one drops to convoke. And without real convoke synergies, I couldn’t justify running a mediocre one drop in a deck that needs to grind full value out of all its creatures.

The deck ended up performing just as I planned, and I was able to scrape out a 4-1 record to qualify for the Limited Championship which I will miss during the Grand Prix. I dropped my first match against a similar red-white auras deck because my opponent had Burning Anger and was able to get it out and shut down my grinding before I could draw removal or resolve Spectra Ward. It was frustrating to lose my first round, but mirror matches in limited tend to boil down to who draws better cards faster.

The other four rounds went according to plan. The decks I faced felt much better than my pile of cards, but I was able to fetch, resolve, and protect Spectra Ward while scraping together enough defense to stay alive and win races. It felt good to pull out those wins, and the tournament ended up providing great practice for the Grand Prix. I feel very good that if I can get a reasonable deck this weekend, I can put up plenty of wins to go with my two byes.  Check back next week to see how I did!

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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