Work’s been busy lately. Yay, work-life balance! On Monday a coworker asked me where I went over the weekend, as we’re busy enough that my absence for three days was common knowledge. “Detroit? Really? That doesn’t sound like a great vacation destination.” Truth. But when you have the opportunity to play your first team limited grand prix, and hang with a bunch of friends including Matt Jones, you go to Detroit. And while I was there I learned a lot.

For Grand Prix Detroit I teamed up with Sean Morse and Keane Frady. We didn’t have any time to test together, but my other option was not having a team. For future team tournaments, like Grand Prix Washington DC next spring, I want to prepare with my teammates before the event. But we had a great time and got some good experience together.

When I started theorizing about how 12-pack Magic Origins sealed pools would play out, my first impression was that you’d likely have a green-black deck, a blue-red deck, and a white deck that played whatever secondary color you had some extra power to split. I’m not sure that’s the best distribution (and obviously the cards you actually open can pull you in any number of directions) but amusingly enough that is exactly what we built.

rick morty unity

We ended up going 6-3 and missing day two. Our pool was pretty strong, so I think we underperformed a little, but that’s where preparation would have come in handy. I won’t go into the full team build, but I will share with you the deck I played, because it was awesome.

Elf Mutilation

Creatures (19)
Gnarlroot Trapper
Leaf Gilder
Elvish Visionary
Eyeblight Assassin
Deadbridge Shaman
Yeva’s Forcemage
Nantuko Husk
Shaman of the Pack
Sylvan Messenger
Llanowar Empath
Somberwald Alpha
Conclave Naturalists

Spells (5)
Reave Soul
Eyeblight Massacre
Languish
Might of the Masses
Joraga Invocation
Lands (16)
Forest
Swamp

Sideboard (26)
Hitchlaw Recluse
Vastwood Gorger
Caustic Caterpillar
Nissa’s Pilgrimage
Reclaim
Thornbow Archer
Blightcaster
Fetid Imp
Shambling Ghoul
Nightsnare
Weight of the Underworld
Rabid Bloodsucker
Revenant
Undead Servant
Catacomb Slug
Infernal Scarring
Dark Dabbling
Touch of Moonglove
Gold-Forged Sentinel
Guardians of Meletis
Meteorite
Brawler’s Plate

What an incredible elf deck! Maybe it only needs fifteen lands? The fact that’s even a question tells you how absurd this deck was. I sided down a land a couple times and it was fine, but I never really flooded out either. I think that’s because Leaf Gilder and Gnarlroot Trapper contribute well to the beatdown plan, while Sylvan Messenger and Joraga Invocation make excess mana relevant in the rare late-game situations that come up. Gnarlroot Trapper was the surprise all star, but the whole thing was a beautiful machine that never mulliganed and still won even when it did.

I ended up going 8-1 in matches, and I didn’t even lose a single game until round seven, when I lost two of three to pick up my only match loss. I had a ton of fun crushing everyone else and had plenty of time each round to help my teammates play their matches.

My only regret (besides the lack of preparation) is that I didn’t swap decks with Keane, who piloted our weakest deck, the blue-red thopter monstrosity that wasn’t quite strong enough but that had another 20 cards to switch into either mono-red or Sphinx’s Tutelage control post-board. I have a lot of experience trying to make mediocre blue-red decks work in all sorts of limited formats, and I enjoy creative sideboarding on the fly, so I was definitely the best choice to play it. The elf deck has some subtleties (like how to play against sweepers) but it mostly plays itself.

In our pool green was very deep and black was very shallow. Languish definitely could have been put to better use in another deck, but you can see all the black cards in my sideboard and they really suck. Sean, however, got to play an amazing white-green deck with the following green cards my elf deck didn’t need: Managorger Hydra, Wild Instincts, Herald of the Pantheon, a second Might of the Masses, Pharika’s Disciple, Evolutionary Leap, and one or two other good cards I can’t remember. Sean’s deck also had Tragic Arrogance, Sentinel of the Eternal Watch, Kytheon, Hero of Akros, Hixus, Prison Warden, and a bunch of the usual suspects at lower rarities.

lizlemon

Anyway, I made some lemonade and drank it Sunday morning before the Super Series sealed event. I’m not a huge fan of those tournaments since my usual 8pm flight home prevents me from being able to finish the swiss and collect some packs for a solid performance. I’d rather have spent the day team drafting with my friends, but everyone else wanted to do the Super Series, so I gladly took the opportunity to play some sealed.

I joked that, given my inability to stay until the end, I wanted to get a pool that was mediocre but playable so I could get some practice eking out value and finding ways to win through tight play. Well, guess what? Here’s the deck I registered, which I am certain was the best build from my quite unimpressive pool.

Black and White

Creatures (13)
Topan Freeblade
Cleric of the Forward Order
Consul’s Lieutenant
Fleshbag Marauder
Graveblade Marauder
Blood-Cursed Knight
Chief of the Foundry
Ramroller
Returned Centaur
Blightcaster
Charging Griffin
War Oracle
Patron of the Valiant

Spells (10)
Infernal Scarring
Consecrated by Blood
Knightly Valor
Gideon’s Phalanx
Necromantic Summons
Reave Soul
Unholy Hunger
Cruel Revival
Eyeblight Massacre
Lands (17)
Evolving Wilds
Plains
Swamp

Sideboard (20)
Alchemist’s Vial
Guardians of Meletis
Helm of the Gods
Akroan Jailer
Enlightened Ascetic
Hallowed Moonlight
Healing Hands
Mighty Leap
Kythoen’s Tactics
Valor in Akros
Rabid Bloodsucker
Undead Servant
Macabre Waltz
Touch of Moonglove
Dark Dabbling

This is not a great deck. But you know what, it’s got some game. And it turns out so do I, as I went 5-2 before scooping round eight (of nine! wtf!) to head to the airport with Grand Prix Providence team limited champion Andy Longo. I started out 4-0, and I was playing some of the best Magic I can remember. I felt pretty close to where I was when I won the Khans sealed PTQ last year. Which is to say I was in the zone.

Time and again, I survived onslaughts from better decks long enough to eventually draw Gideon’s Phalanx and suddenly win games my opponent had no idea how they could lose. Necromantic Summons was also fantastic, even though I never had spell mastery when I cast it. Turns out, taking the Kothophed, Soul Hoarder you just killed is just fine even if it isn’t an 8/8. The absolute best was when I combined the two: I ambushed a lethal attack from Skysnare Spider and friends, then reanimated the spider and won in two turns.

halloween in january

Ramroller looks like a piece of crap in this deck—a turkey as Hunter would say—but I needed another creature and it was the best one I had left. In two games I even got to live the dream of drawing both it and Chief of the Foundry in my opening hand. I won those games easily, but Ramroller did its job even when it was just a stupid 2/3 that had to attack. Infernal Scarring helps, but so does giving your opponent the opportunity make mistakes like not blocking it with a giant creature out of some irrational fear of Celestial Flare, I guess. No, I’m not going to “blow you out” with Touch of Moonglove.

All in all, I had some of the most fun I’ve ever had playing Magic last weekend in Detroit. I played better than I have in a while, learned a lot, and got to take newly-vegan Matt Jones to dinner for Brazilian barbecue. He put a hurting on that salad bar. I wish he put a hurting on our awkwardly racist waiter. I guess that’s how Detroit rolls.

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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