Grand Prix Vancouver was awesome. I love the city, love hanging around Canadians, and love playing competitive limited. The actual tournament was surreal. You know how, sometimes everything lines up in your favor? How you top deck that sixth land right on time? How the removal spell always shows up when you need it? How your opponent never has the perfect card to stop your plan? If you’ve won a Magic tournament, you know these feelings.

Grand Prix Vancouver was the exact opposite for me. Everything that could go wrong did. They always had it. Well, not always, but often enough that it felt like always. At various points in the two days—yes I made day two thanks to the new 6-3 cut—all I could do was shake my head. At the time it was demoralizing, but looking back now, it’s funny. And some of it is informative.

Here’s the sealed deck I registered, along with the cards I set aside for sideboard use.

You Know My Steez

Creatures (16)
Ondu War Cleric
Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
Blinding Drone
Essence Depleter
Wall of Resurgence
Nirkana Assassin
Kor Sky Climber
Drana’s Chosen
Courier Griffin
Spawnbinder Mage
Zulaport Chainmage
Kozilek’s Channeler
Kozilek’s Translator
Conduit of Ruin
Deceiver of Form

Spells (6)
Grip of Desolation
Smite the Monstrous
Titan’s Presence
Tightening Coils
Witness the End
Lands (18)
Holdout Settlement
Submerged Boneyard

Sideboard (24)
Hissing Quagmire
Joraga Auxiliary
Natural State
Dazzling Reflection
Kor Scythemaster
Angelic Gift
Stone Haven Medic
Oracle of Dust
Blinding Drone
Cultivator Drone
Wave-Wing Elemental
Jwar Isle Avenger
Vampiric Rites
Grave Birthing
Eldrazi Devastator
Warping Wail
Angelic Captain
Turn Against
Boulder Salvo
Tears of Valakut
Volcanic Upheaval

This is exactly the sort of deck I want in a long sealed tournament. Grindy and powerful. Sure, I’d love a totally broken pool, but I was happy with these cards. My only concern was that I’d have a hard time dealing with small utility creatures that stay out of combat. My plan to manage creatures was to trade with small stuff and use my removal on their bombs. Then number one card I was afraid of facing? Prophet of Distortion. I almost played Warping Wail in the main deck, but decided it was enough to rely on Titan’s Presence in game one and sideboard as appropriate. I actually said aloud, “I wish I had a Tar Snare.

I sit down for round three after my byes. My opponent wins the roll, chooses to play first. Island, Prophet of Distortion, go. So that’s how it’s going to be? He drew at least six cards off it and I lost. For game two, I swapped my blue for green. Hissing Quagmire and Joraga Auxiliary gave me a better long game, Warping Wail had good targets, and Natural State had multiple targets—Stasis Snare, Hedron Crawler, Containment Membrane, and Seer’s Lantern. I won a long second game exactly as I drew it up, even overcoming his Linvala. It felt great.

We had 17 minutes left for game three, so I felt comfortable playing another long one. My opponent thought differently, and sided into a red-black aggressive deck. I was happy to see it. He’d need a perfect draw to beat me, and that seemed unlikely. Well, he had it, killing me for exact lethal on turn six with no cards left in hand. Yep, it was going to be one of those days.

Round four I lost as well. Game one I could not overcome three opposing Goblin Freerunners. Game two he played Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet on turn four. I had Smite the Monstrous in hand, but he’d gained 12 life and made two zombies before I got him to make Kalitas big enough to be smitten. Then he went to town with Vampire Envoy and various equipment. I dealt about 40 damage, mostly with Deceiver of Form, but died with him at three life. I won the next four before falling in round nine to a curve of fliers into Expedition Raptor followed by Mirrorpool copying Expedition Raptor. I slouched into day two at 6-3.

While it sucks being eliminated from top 8 contention, I really enjoyed the opportunity to play day two at 6-3. Professional drafts are hard to come by, and I would get up at 7am any day to play a couple.

My first draft went really well:

That is the Tempo

Creatures (14)
Endless One
Stalking Drone
Umara Entangler
Coralhelm Guide
Void Grafter
Scion Summoner
Eldrazi Skyspawner
Saddleback Lagac
Seed Guardian
Embodiment of Insight
Tajuru Pathwarden
Deepfathom Skulker
Deceiver of Form

Spells (9)
Call the Scions
Grip of the Roil
Unnatural Aggression
Spell Shrivel
Dampening Pulse
Roiling Waters
Unity of Purpose
Pulse of Murasa
Lands (17)
Holdout Settlement

Sideboard (14)
Birthing Hulk
Giant Mantis
Tajuru Beastmaster
Joraga Auxiliary
Horribly Awry
Pulse of Murasa
Natural State
Elemental Uprising
Earthen Arms
Canopy Gorger
Ruin in their Wake
Voracious Null
Crumble to Dust

This deck was wide open and played like a dream. I was hopeful to rattle off a 3-0 and contend for cash. Round ten, I crushed my blue-black opponent. Round eleven, I curved out perfectly game one and annihilated my hapless foe who was wielding an awkward temur-plus-colorless converge deck. To start game two, he chose to be on the draw. Sure, he needs to draw lands to hit his colors, but still? Choosing to draw against a tempo deck that just crushed you? I was happy to be on the play.

And then I mulliganed to four cards. Each of my first three hands had one land, and none were very good even with a land on top of the deck. My five had Wastes and four expensive spells, just about the worst possible five card hand my deck could produce. Needless to say, I lost. Game three I drew a lot of lands. I had Dampening Pulse slowing him down, and eventually landed Deceiver of Form. He had Eldrazi Aggressor and two Gravity Negators hitting me for three damage in the air each turn. Not very scary. I needed one or two extra turns to win with Deceiver. Pulse of Murasa sat in my hand, ready to provide those two extra turns.

But there were no targets in either graveyard. He’d answered two of my creatures with Containment Membrane and Spell Shrivel, and I only drew three the entire game. On my final turn, I flipped a card to Deceiver of Form, hoping it would be Endless One so I could turn my membraned Stalking Drone into a 0/0 and Pulse it back for the win. That sick corner case did not arrive, he did not chump block my Deceiver, and I died to his pathetic army of 1/3s with ten lands in play and Pulse of Murasa uncastable in hand. How likely was it I’d lose this match? Not very likely. What did I do wrong? Mulligan a six card one lander on the play with no two drop? Hard to call that a mistake.

Round twelve was epic, and the most fun I had all weekend. I faced a strong black-red allies deck. We split two crazy back and forth games. In the first, I lost to a wall of Zada’s Commandos and Nettle Drones pinging and holding off my attacks. I stumbled on lands early and never could get ahead. Sideboarding gave me a lot of hope, however, and I won game two off a sweet play. He cast Rolling Thunder sending one at a scion, one at Umara Entangler, and three at me. I responded by sacrificing the scion, tapping two lands, and casting Pulse of Murasa to bring back Tajuru Pathwarden. Value!

Game three was going well for me. I was out ahead, and he threw two burn spells at Tajuru Pathwarden. How could I lose? He cast Inverter of Truth with four burn spells and a Makindi Sliderunner in his graveyard and me at eight life. That was some brilliant sideboard action. I had a Pulse to buy a turn, but couldn’t draw a Grip of the Roil or Roiling Waters or Seed Guardian or any of the various partial answers that could have let me outrace the 6/6 flier. Seeing Inverter of Truth at its finest was so cool that I couldn’t feel too bad. But I was 1-2 with a sweet deck that I played well and had fine matchups. Like I said, it wasn’t my weekend.

The final draft did not go quite as well as the first, but I was still happy with my deck.

Get Wreckaged

Creatures (15)
Snapping Gnarlid
Stalking Drone
Sylvan Advocate
Baloth Pup
Hedron Crawler
Scion Summoner
Netcaster Spider
Saddleback Lagac
Brood Butcher
Brood Monitor
Baloth Null

Spells (8)
Oblivion Strike
Tar Snare
Demon’s Grasp
Witness the End
Unnatural Aggression
Vines of the Recluse
Lead by Example
Pulse of Murasa
Lands (17)
Sea Gate Wreckage
Blighted Fen

Sideboard (15)
Warden of Geometries
Eldrazi Devastator
Warping Wail
Rot Shambler
Jaddi Offshoot
Angel of Renewal
Joraga Auxiliary
Angelic Gift
Elemental Uprising
Natural State
Bonds of Mortality
Tajuru Stalwart
Corpse Churn
Abstruse Interference

Lots of cheap, efficient beaters, support to make them bigger, recursion to get them back, and Sea Gate Wreckage to refill once I ran out of cards. Seemed pretty good to me. Board stalls could be a problem, but I had tools to grind through that.

Round thirteen I faced Steve Rubin, who had been passing to me. Nothing says good times like facing a pro who knows most of the cards in your deck. Game one I mulled to five on the draw, but had a sweet hand: Forest, Sea Gate Wreckage, Hedron Crawler, Scion Summoner, Saddleback Lagac. I scryed a swamp to the top. Fives don’t get better than this. And then Steve played Allied Reinforcements on turns four and five, thoroughly ruining my plan to attack. I dropped Brood Monitor on my fifth turn, going hellbent and planning to start the Sea Gate Wreckage grind. Steve’s turn six? Grip of Desolation.

In game two he had a similar start, but I had a full seven and was feeling good despite the sea of 2/2 ally tokens holding my aggression at bay. I cast Witness the End to get his last two cards: a third copy of Allied Reinforcements and Grip of Desolation. Fist pump central, until he played Tajuru Beastmaster off the top, followed by Captain’s Claws.

I split my final two rounds and ended Grand Prix Vancouver at 8-7, good for about 300th place. All in all, I felt pretty good. Did I mention I cracked Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and expedition Tectonic Edge in two side drafts on Friday? I guess it evens out.

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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