On Saturday, my friend Nik sent me a Facebook invite for a Las Vegas GPT the following day. The event was at Excelsior Comics in Maynard, a store I have never heard of in a town I’ve never been to. The Facebook event was scarce on details and confirmed attendees, with four  people confirmed, two of which were me and Nik. Regardless, I didn’t have any byes for Vegas and didn’t mind making the 4o minute drive, so I started assembling a crew to carpool there. My brother was out—a girl he met on Tinder flew from the other side of the country to hang out with him—but Tim, Erica, and Nik were game.

Since I have a weird paranoia about being late for an event, I made everyone wake up two hours before the start time to head to Excelsior. The morning was unseasonably hot and the AC in my car was busted, which made for a long ride for the hungover crew in my falling apart Ford Focus. When we arrived at 10AM we were the first four people there. The store owner added that the four person turn out was already better than their last attempted GPT which only attracted three people. I was not optimistic about this thing firing.

Foreign term.

Foreign term.

We had time to kill, so we bought more coffee, Nik and I played Modern, Tim played EDH with the store owners and the judge, and Erica looked up pictures of corgis on her phone.

After 15 minutes, one kid had shown up. After another 15 minutes, one more guy entered the room, I recognized him from Pandemonium. He loudly singled out Erica and asked, to no one in particular, “Is she playing?” Everyone in the room got uncomfortable and Erica joked about dropping from the event if we did actually get eight people to sign up. In the last couple minutes before 11, two more Pandemonium regulars walked in, and we had exactly enough people to have the event fire. 7 of the 8 people playing traveled to Maynard from Boston in order to play this GPT. The one kid from the area was the only one not going to Vegas.

Instead of playing sealed, the judge informed us that we would be cutting right to the draft. The draft itself was kind of weird in that it was called draft but still casual enough to not be timed. This really only meant that the kid passing to me had to be reminded, every single pick of the draft to count his cards and fan them out after picking. He seemed tilted before even starting a game.

I opened my first pack and had to decide between Flatten and Atarka’s Efreet. In every single draft I’ve done, I’ve ended up going UB, and since that strategy seemed to be working, I snapped off Flatten. I second picked a Silumgar Butcher and then veered slightly off course to pick a Twin Bolt in pack three over a Gurmag Drowner. Red dried up pretty quickly and I got a late Youthful Scholar and an Ojutai Interceptor to settle into UB. The next pack I first picked Ultimate Price and then proceed to turn on UB autopilot for the rest of the draft. I was rewarded in the Fate Reforged pack with a pick three Palace Siege. The rest of the pack was pretty much garbage though, since, you know, it’s Fate Reforged.

My deck ended up looking like this:


GPT Vegas UB Draft

Creatures (16)
Shambling Goblin
Sultai Emissary
Frost Walker
Minister of Pain
Ojutai Interceptor
Dirgur Nemesis
Gudul Lurker
Marang River Prowler
Silumgar’s Butcher
Lotus Path Djinn
Orc Sureshot
Youthful Scholar
Gurmag Angler

Spells (7)
Coat in Venom
Ultimate Price
Butcher’s Glee
Reach of Shadows
Palace Siege
Lands (17)
10 Island

Sideboard (0)

My first round opponent was the guy who singled out Erica earlier. I really wanted to win this one.

Game one, I kept a three swamp hand on the draw. I had a bunch of blue cards but several of them were morphs so I figured I’d be fine. I wasn’t since I drew an island about five turns too late. Still, I was confident I could win the match after seeing Dragon Eye Sentry, a Myth Realized, and some other reasonable to lackluster stuff. Game two, I played some unblockable creatures and was able to beat him down while my Shambling Goblin and Sultai Emissary played defense. Game three, my opponent mulled to five, and I curved out. He did have a Secure the Wastes, but my Orc Sureshot gunned down the tokens.

Game two, I played against Rex, a Pandemonium regular who I’ve traded wins with in various formats. On his turn two he played a Scaleguard Sentinels and revealed a Dragonlord Atarka. I immediately feel terrible about my chances to win this game. Yet, Rex stumbles on mana, and doesn’t draw another land for a few turns. He does flip up a Den Protector but has to get back a Terramorphic Expanse to fix his mana. Meanwhile, I killed his Scaleguards with a Silumgar’s Butcher exploiting a Shambling Goblin and actually start to get damage in. Rex did eventually play a Dragonlord Atarka and wrath my board, but at that point I was able to play Marang River Prowler from the grave and hit him for exactsies the following turn. Game two, I resolved a Palace Siege and slowly drain him turn by turn.

Game three, I met Nik in the finals.


He had drafted this:


GPT Vegas RG Deck

Creatures (14)
Whisperer of the Wilds
Kolaghan Aspirant
Atarka Beastbreaker
Guardian Shield-Bearer
Atarka Efreet
Salt Road Ambushers
Aerie Bowmasters
Summit Prowler
Sabertooth Outrider
Sandsteppe Scavenger
Savage Ventmaw

Spells (9)
Tread Upon
Tail Slash
Ruthless Instincts
Atarka Monument
Press the Advantage
Berserker’s Onslaught
Dromoka’s Gift
Sarkhan’s Rage
Fierce Invocation

Land (17)

The deck looked like an above average RG beatdown deck with lots of solid creatures, some removal in Tail Slash and Sarkhan’s Rage, and of course a Berserker’s Onslaught to absolutely demolish blockers and life totals.

Game one, I curved Shambling Goblin into Frost Walker. I had removal for every creature he played and he couldn’t remove the Frost Walker until he drew his fifth mana to tap out for Sarkhan’s Rage. I finished the game with an Ojutai Interceptor. Game two, I did pretty much the exact same thing, played some early creatures, killed everything he played, and left him with a hand of pump spells and a Berserker’s Onslaught.

So that was it. Three rounds of Magic and I magically had two byes for the biggest GP in history. We were back in Boston before 3PM, and spent the rest of the day at the Silhouette playing pool and Big Buck Hunter. Not only did I defeat Nik in the finals of the GPT but I also beat him in the finals of our Big Buck Hunter tournament, which is really just salt on the wound.


Tim and Nik in a hard fought bout of shooting virtual animals.

If I’ve learned anything about Dragons/Fate limited its to draft UB exploit. Out of the handful of drafts I’ve done, I haven’t lost a match with the archetype. Although, I’m speaking from a relatively small sample size, five drafts or so, I see nothing wrong with slamming every Palace Familiar passed to me for the foreseeable future.

Thanks for reading.

Your GPT/Big Buck Hunter Champion,



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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