After a 9-5 workday on Friday, five of us piled into a rental car to make the 7 hour drive from Boston to Baltimore. My brother had gone out with his coworkers beforehand and in the fog of Long Island Ice Teas demanded that we started the drive with Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” which he had listened to several times before getting into the car. After a drive filled with episodes of Serial and How Did This Get Made, the Promise Ring Pandora station, and discussions on Tiny Leaders and pro wrestling, we arrived in Baltimore at 3AM. Or rather we arrived at our hotel in Owings Mills, since last minute hotel rooms in Baltimore would have cost a collective kidney and we couldn’t get Garrett to donate one. After a few short hours of sleep, we were up again to battle at the Baltimore Convention Center which is a giant byzantine structure full of boat replicas and weird people statues.

Metal Statue of men talking business-Baltimore Convention Center


After shipping a pool with some garbage and a foil Windswept Heath I received this:



GP Baltimore Sealed Pool—Artifacts

Abzan Banner
Briber’s Purse
Cranial Archive
Jeskai Banner
Sultai Banner
Temur Banner


GP Baltimore Sealed Pool—Non-basic Lands

Sandsteppe Citadel
Tranquil Cove
Wind-Scarred Crag
Wooded Foothills
Tranquil Cove
Rugged Highlands
Jungle Hollow


GP Baltimore Sealed Pool—White

Defiant Strike
Ainok Bond-Kin
Feat of Resistance
Sage-Eye Harrier
Abzan Falconer
Mardu Hordechief
Kill Shot
Rush of Battle
End Hostilities


GP Baltimore Sealed Pool—Blue

Wetland Sambar
Jeskai Elder
Taigam’s Scheming
Force Away
Jeskai Windscout
Glacial Stalker
Mistfire Weaver
Quiet Contemplation
Weave Fate


GP Baltimore Sealed Pool—Black

Krumar Bond-Kin
Rakshasa’s Secret
Sidisi’s Pet
Bitter Revelation
Rotting Hystradon
Murderous Cut
Rite of the Serpent


GP Baltimore Sealed Pool—Red

War-Name Aspirant
Valley Dasher
Tormenting Voice
Barrage of Boulders
Mardu Blazebringer
Hordeling Outburst
Bloodfire Expert
Horde Ambusher
Bring Low
Swift Kick
Crater’s Claws


GP Baltimore Sealed Pool—Green

Hardened Scales
Kin-Tree Warden
Archer’s Parapet
Highland Game
Alpine Grizzly
Sagu Archer
Tuskguard Captain
Awaken the Bear
Seek the Horizon


GP Baltimore Sealed Pool—Multi-Color

Chief of the Edge
Mardu Charm
Snowhorn Rider
Armament Corps
Sage of the Inward Eye

After going through the pool, a couple things became pretty clear to me:

  • I was going to play both End Hostilities and Crater’s Claws as both cards can lead to winning games in otherwise unwinnable circumstances. While Crater’s Claws is easily splashable, I would have to be base white to play End Hostilities.
  • Neither Green nor Black were very deep and would at best be support colors. Black offered up Murderous Cut, which is totally splashable, while Green had nothing exciting at all. In terms of multi-colored cards containing black and green, I could see myself playing Mardu Charm if I was base Red-White but didn’t like any of the other options. Armament Corps is certainly a very strong card but it would likely be a double splash, which I obviously don’t like, Chief of the Scale is excellent in warrior strategies but it didn’t look like my pool supported that archetype, and Snowhorn Rider would only be playable if I was base Red-Blue splashing for green which didn’t seem likely given my unexciting other options in green.
  • I liked my white spells (End Hositilities, Feat, and Kill Shot) but didn’t have many white creatures, four total, so I would have to pair white with a color(s) that contained a higher density of creatures.
  • Since I have a hard time resisting blue cards, I was excited about the evasive fliers and strong tempo cards in blue. Three Force Aways and a Waterwhirl can be such a blowout against opponents flipping expensive morph cards.
  • Red was relatively strong but pulled me toward an aggressive build. There were four playable red creatures, as Mardu Ragebringer should never touch your starting forty, and all of them really want to be in an aggressive shell. The problem with this is that if we pair red with white, we have eight playable creatures. While we have plenty of tempo cards, I don’t think it’s realistic to have Valley Dasher in a non-aggressive deck without much pressure in the way of creatures.
  • If I went Blue-White splash Red I would still have a low creature count but would have access to two relatively powerful multicolored rares in Mindswipe and Sage of the Inward Eye. All signs were pushing me toward Jeskai.
  • Since I had a bunch of powerful spells in Jeskai and a couple cards that rewarded me for playing non-creature spells (Sage of the Inward Eye, Jeskai Elder, and Jeskai Windscout), this might actually be the right deck for Quiet Contemplation. While I would much prefer a lone Goblin Slide in my creature light control builds, Quiet Contemplation is good for several reasons. One, it allows me to tap potential blockers to get in with creatures. This is important with both Mindswipe and Crater’s Claws in the deck as ways to close out a game. Two, it encourages opponents to play out multiple creatures in order to close out the game. This is good as it may lead to opponent’s overextending into End Hostilities. Three, it allows me to potentially race with evasive creatures even while facing down a Wooly Loxodon or two.

With all this in mind, I came up with this as my final build:


GP Baltimore Sealed Pool—Final Build

Lands (18)
Wind-Scarred Crag
Tranquil Cove

Creatures (10)
Jeskai Elder
Ainok Bond-Kin
Jeskai Windscout
Glacial Stalker
Mistfire Weaver
Mardu Hordechief
Abzan Falconer
Sage-Eye Harrier
Sage of the Inward Eye

Spells (12)
Force Away
Feat of Resistance
Kill Shot
Quiet Contemplation
Weave Fate
End Hostilities
Crater’s Claws

It is possible that I could have stretched the mana a bit more and played a few Bring Lows as additional removal spells. In general I find that I am more conservative with my manabase than many, but in this case I don’t actually think Bring Low is better, or enough better, to replace Kill Shot or some number of Force Aways anyway. I kept Wetland Sambar out of the main as it’s kind of unexciting, but I brought it in a few games against very aggressive decks.

After finishing my build with 20 seconds or so to spare, I prepared myself to grind through nine rounds as I didn’t have any byes.

Rather than go match by match and try to recall all the stuff that occurred over nine hours of games, I’m going to share some stuff that stuck with me.

  • I had a judge call in Round Five against a guy named Richard. After entering combat, I moved around some of my creatures, specifically a 4/3 first-striking Ainok Bond-Kin in front of a Ponyback Brigade with a Ghostfire Blade while I thought about my other blocks. I never said “these are my final blocks” or even “can I go to blocks?”. I then used a Force Away to bounce a 2/2 created with Sidisi and tapped down a Sultai Flayer he had left back with Quiet Contemplation. I then went to go to block two Goblin tokens attacking me with some of my creatures, and he said that we had already moved past declare blocks and that by placing my Ainok Bond-Kin in front of Ponyback Brigade, I had declared blockers and now we were past that phase. I called a judge, explained the situation, we agreed on all aspects except that he believed I said, “I’m going to block here.” The judge ruled that I had not meant to finalize my blocks and that I could continue to block his Goblin tokens. He appealed to the head judge who upheld the previous judge’s decision. Even with the eight minute time extension, we only finished one game where I was able to win while at one life. I bring this up not to chastise Richard, who was a very gracious opponent and still shook my hand at the end of the round, but as a reminder to maintain good communication throughout the tournament and to call a judge if any miscommunication occurs. If I had in fact neglected to block his Goblins, I would have lost this game. The whole thing hung on our individual interpretations of the game state.
  • I 7’ed for 2’ed an opponent with End Hostilities. After I used Quiet Contemplation and a Force Away to narrowly stay alive, he just emptied out his hand on the table. When I played End Hostilities he just said, “oh.”
  • Though I never thought I would trigger ferocious, Ainok Bond-Kin was often big enough to let me loot with Force Away and get in two extra damage with Crater’s Claws.
  • I used Mindswipe on one of my own spells in order to Quiet Contemplation away a blocker and get in for lethal damage.
  • Weave Fate felt especially good in a deck with two Kill Shots. When my opponents correctly played around a Kill Shot and I got to still tap out during their turn to draw some cards, ugh, I have dreams about that stuff.
  • No one ever expects the third Force Away.

My round to round results looked like this:

ROUND ONE— Lance (2-1)

ROUND TWO—Tom (2-0)

ROUND THREE—Billy (0-2)

ROUND FOUR— Dan (2-1)

ROUND FIVE— Richard (1-0)

ROUND SIX—Tim (0-2)

ROUND SEVEN—Chad (2-1)

ROUND EIGHT—Igor (2-1)

ROUND NINE—Robert (2-0)

I can’t quite explain how it felt after coming out 7-2 and making my first ever day two. Relieved that the day was over, vindicated that after spending so much time on a hobby I have something to show for it, and happy to share the moment with my friends.

Afterward we all went out to the Brewer’s Cask. This is our photo* after a couple of drinks:



Since my brother took this picture he’s not in it, but he’s awesome too.


At age 15, while standing in a record store with his high school bandmates, Shawn Massak made the uncool decision to spend the last of his money on a 7th edition starter deck (the one with foil Thorn Elemental). Since that fateful day 11 years ago, Shawn has decorated rooms of his apartment with MTG posters, cosplayed as Jace, the Mindsculptor, and competes with LSV for the record of most islands played (lifetime). When he’s not playing Magic, Shawn works as a job coach for people with disabilities and plays guitar in an indie-pop band.

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