This past weekend I went down to the Sunshine State with Carrie O’Hara and Brandon “General” Patton for Grand Prix Orlando 2014. Honestly for a while I was almost considering skipping the event, since I’d been away in Singapore for nine days, and also since I was sorely unprepared for the format, having only done one sealed (0-2) and one draft (ditto).

But, I’d already bought the flight, preregisted for the event, and prepaid for the hotel room, so I figured I should suck it up and go. And so I did.

Me and Hipsters founder Zac Clark.

Me and Hipsters founder Zac Clark.

On Friday I just barely managed to land and  get a taxi to the Orange County Convention Center’s West Concourse in time to make the last of three “Sealed Spectaculars” that tournament organizer StarCityGames was running.

A quick aside: Say what you want about SCG’s pricing, but they put on one hell of an event. Not only are the very well organized—I got an unsolicited email on the Thursday before the GP, confirming my registration, how many byes I had, and telling me exactly what time I had to show up on Saturday—but they also dole out the value: everybody gets a playmat, a free month of SCG Premium, a free side event voucher, and random cool stuff like the GP Orlando pins. Also their pricing is very reasonable: $10 for drafts all weekend long, and only $20 for the aforementioned “Sealed Spectacular”!


Pretty cool, huh?

Back to that: I cracked six packs and felt very easily pushed toward Mardu, what with a Mardu Charm, Ride Down, Crackling Doom, Ankle Shanker (foil), Dragon-Style Twins, Grim Haruspex, and a Herald of Anafenza. I forget what my other rares were. The build was a little low on removal/spells, so I ran with a hunch—that Falter effects would be especially good in this format, given the inevitably epic board stalls—and maindecked the two Barrage of Boulders.


Long story short, this deck crushed, winning the first three matches easily—and I didn’t even draw Ankle Shanker once until the fourth (and last) round, which (after splitting with my cool opponent Thann, to win 12 packs each) I lost to the (far superior) Mardu mirror. Barrage of Boulders + Dragon-Style Twins was a particularly potent combo, allowing me to Falter my opponent’s whole team (thanks to the prowess trigger) and get in for like a billion damage. I think I actually did 18 out of nowhere in one game. After Carrie lost in the third round of her grinder, we took off for dinner at Marlow’s Tavern at the mallish Pointe Orlando development.

The next morning, after a very much needed approximately 11 hours of deep sleep (thanks Sleep-In Special!) me and Carrie hit up good old Denny’s for breakfast and then went to the OCCC for our noon build time. The deck I was handed initially kind of bummed me out—as I was checking the deck-reg sheet, I couldn’t remember seeing any rares other than Ghostfire Blade, which is a great card but an otherwise bad sign. In the end I had a Thousand Winds, the Blade, Sultai Ascendancy, Temur Ascendancy, a Flooded Strand, and something else, I forget what. But I did manage to find the following respectable yet unexciting Mardu build in the pool:


As you can see, it’s got a fair bit of removal, and a nice creature suite. In the board I had 1X Barrage of Boulders, 2X Act of Treason, and a Kheru Bloodsucker, as well as the Unyielding Krumar you can see on the side there. Oh, and I had some decent fixing in the form of 2X Scoured Barrens and 1X Wind-Scarred Crag—my kingdom for a Nomad Outpost! (And, looking at the pool now, I honestly don’t think that I drew Feat of Resistance once over the entire day.)

I do think I made some deckbuilding mistakes, though, as well as some smart decisions. First the smart: Late in the build, I realized that Unyielding Krumar was inherently worse than Krumar Bond-Kin, given the latter’s ability to be played without my black splash, and get suited up with a Ghostfire Blade for a discount. So I got the 5/3 morpher in there, and was happy with him.

And the mistakes? I don’t think I should have played the Rush of Battle or the Take Up Arms. I included the two cards because I wanted a way to punch through stalled boards—but in retrospect, Take Up Arms is just too weak to Barrage of Boulders, and Rush of Battle, while powerful, is far too clunky as a sorcery.

Another slight mistake: The Jeskai Students were totally blah. I wish I had cut one, plus the Take Up Arms and Rush of Battle, for 2X Act of Treason and Kheru Bloodsucker. Stealing a guy and sac’ing him for value is just inherently stronger than the 1/1 Warriors + Rush plan. And Act of Treason often is its own mini-Falter, too. In most matches I boarded in this package after G1.

So how’d I do? After my two byes I started off with a win and a loss, the latter to the following very nice and nattily dressed young man, Andrew Cramb, who happened to be a friend not only of Wingmate Roc, which he cast with raid on T5 (so OP), but also of eventual Top-8-ers Frank Lepore and Melissa DeTora:


Great shirt, huh? Then I got another win, against a madman playing a Temur deck that killed me on like T5 out of nowhere, after playing the 4/4 guy who dies if you do *anything* with him, and another loss in R6, putting me on the elimination bubble. In R7 I managed a win against a Mexican pro, Andreas Canavati, who said he remembered seeing me at Pro Tour Portland. It was one of the most bizarre matches ever. Andreas was Sultai, and did virtually nothing other than play an Archers’ Parapet over the course of two games. In the second game, with 2X Act of Treason in hand, I even decided finally to steal his Parapet to get in for like two damage and make him lose one life, which I did the following turn again for the win. I felt bad for the dude.

I got another win in R8 against cool customer Theo, who I’m now friends with on Facebook (what’s up, man!) and suddenly found myself with an unexpected win-and-in. I felt calm and collected going into the final round, but wasn’t able to close it out against my Jeskai opponent, who stuck a Narset on T6 and proceeded to flip four (free) spells over the course of two attacks. That was G1.

G2 was closer, but I made some misplays and (perhaps) cost myself the race. I had two unmorphed guys: a Krumar Bond-Kin with a Blade on it, and the 3/6 white elephant thing. My opp. was at 14 life or so, and I swung in with the face-down Krumar. My opp. declined to block—and suddenly the whole plan I’d made, which was to swing in with the Krumar and unmorph only if he blocked, and then be able to leave up mana to unmorph the 3/6 when he swung back, went out the window. Instead I unmorphed the equipped 5/3, hit for seven, and was like … what did I do? I even forgot to move the Blade over with my last mana to the face-down 3/6.

This was near the land station at GP Orlando. Silly judges, Trix are for kids!

This was near the land station at GP Orlando. Silly judges, Trix are for kids!

What happened? At the time I felt like I was playing sharp and was on top of my game, but in retrospect I realized that I was making suboptimal plays and missing stuff left and right. I think I really was just exhausted and mentally spent, and was incapable of playing to the best of my ability. If I had been, I might have been able to force a G3—but in any case, my opp. beat me fair and square, and I don’t honestly feel like I was a favorite in the match. I denied myself a few outs due to suboptimal plays, which of course you have to be able to make 100% of the time.

And I was out. Carrie, on the other hand, made it! She said that her opponent in R9, which also was a win-and-in, did basically nothing over the course of two games—and this was after playing (and losing) a brutal R8 against Tom “the Boss” Ross. Sometimes it just happens, and you get lucky. We were talking about this later, and agreed that for these big tournaments, so much just has to fall right for you over the course of that many rounds. Except for perhaps everyone but Huey Jensen, you have to run good in addition to play good. That’s not, of course, to say that you don’t earn your wins—but sometimes you just run into bad matchups or mana screw at the wrong times and there’s not much you can do about it.

That’s all I’ve got for this week, kids. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think of my builds. Next week I’ll be back with a breakdown of three decks I drafted on Sunday at the GP, including one which made me feel like a powerful kung-fu master. Happy drafting!

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands. Follow Hunter at @hrslaton.

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