As I previewed last week, I joined forces with Hipster Emeritus Hunter Slaton and Community Cup Champion Gabe Reale at Grand Prix DC. Battle-Oath team sealed is a great format, our pack opening skills finally came online Saturday morning, and we had a blast of a weekend. While my victory prediction did not come true, we finished in 49th place at 10-4 in the largest team limited grand prix in history. Over 1100 teams joined the fray. Let’s talk about it.

Our sealed pool registration on day one was a dream. Star City Games preregistered all the pools with printed total columns for each card on each of the three deck lists registration sheets, and you simply registered the played cards in each deck and the extra cards in each sideboard in two more columns beside it. Confirming the contents of your pool was simple, as each player could take two colors and use their personal deck registration sheet, all at the same time.

And boy was our pool amazing. I sorted the blue and told Hunter and Gabe that we could do whatever we wanted with the other colors, because blue didn’t need much help. I turned out we were well set across the board. Our rares: [casthaven]Drowner of Hope[/casthaven], [casthaven]Guardian of Tazeem[/casthaven], [casthaven]Endbringer[/casthaven],[casthaven]Thought-Knot Seer[/casthaven], [casthaven]Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet[/casthaven], [casthaven]Gideon, Ally of Zendikar[/casthaven], [casthaven]Mina and Denn, Wildborn[/casthaven], [casthaven]Jori En, Ruin Diver[/casthaven], [casthaven]Wandering Fumarole[/casthaven], a couple I forgot, [casthaven]Hedron Alignment[/casthaven], and an expedition [casthaven]Graven Cairns[/casthaven]. We can build on this!

We ended up playing the exact decks I predicted in haiku form last week. I played blue colorless Eldrazi splashing black. Gabe played Gideon.Kalitas.dec with a splashed [casthaven]Reflector Mage[/casthaven]. Hunter played red-green tramplers with the Graven Cairns helping splash [casthaven]Baloth Null[/casthaven]. [casthaven]Plated Crusher[/casthaven] is a stone cold killer. On a ten-point scale, mine was nine, Gabe’s eight, and Hunter’s seven. That’s a good place to be, especially when each deck play’s to its pilot’s strengths.

Gabe and others didn’t think Hunter’s deck was too good, but I had confidence in his mastery of the old ways. You think I was kidding in my haiku? The key to Hunter’s deck was the copious trample damage he could present, along with [casthaven]Valakut Invoker[/casthaven] a.k.a. the red [casthaven]Scholar of Athreos[/casthaven]. Game after game, Hunter forced early trades, swung late with tramplers who couldn’t be chump blocked, and went all Dante’s Inferno on his hapless opponents with the follow-up [casthaven]Baloth Null[/casthaven].

This team sealed format is much slower than the usual synergy-beatdown festivals you get with three sealed decks from twelve packs. We doubted many opponents would realize this, so we tried to build decks that resilient in a long game and happy to be on the draw. Hunter still wanted to take the play, and Gabe often did as well, but all of us were just fine “losing” the die roll. My deck was the best for this, as it actively wanted to be on the draw. Players are too hesitant to take the draw in sealed generally, and you can get a big edge by planning to do something your opponents will actively put you in position to do.

dc pikula

An early challenge in round three.

We had high hopes, and mostly achieved them by finishing 7-2. Our two losses came to the two best teams we faced: Pikula-Lebedowicz-Napoli in round three, and Cox-Sharfman-beasley in round nine. In both matches, we struggled with multiple bad draws, and could not overcome them. In both matches, against Chris Pikula and Orrin Beasley, I made a tactical mistake  in games where I drew so poorly that a single mistake cost me the game. In both situations, I sensed I was making the mistakes as I made them, but I ignored my intuition and that’s the biggest leak I need to fix to make it to the top tables at the end of grand prix.

Anyway, 7-2 is basically undefeated if you assume you will slightly screw up against the best teams, right? At least we had the rest of our bases covered. We grabbed some food with SuzyQ and the Magic the Amateuring crew then got some sleep. For those of you who don’t know her, SuzyQ is a saint of the Magic community. She introduced Gabe to Hunter and me at a PTQ a couple years ago, and has performed many acts of virtue and awesomeness for many Magic players in the time since. She was in DC for other reasons and could not play the tournament, but she provided rogue coverage of the event on Twitter throughout the day. She took the great team photo in the banner of this article, wild-eyed at 2-0 in the main event.

Suzy demanded a team name, and we dubbed ourselves the Hunters and Scholars. You can read through her twitter feed from Saturday (3/12/16) to see some highlights from many teams, including ours. Honestly, her support and friendship helped us get through the very long day. Hunter, Gabe, and I can’t thank her enough.


Here’s one of her actions shots from round seven, featuring the little-known New York-Madison draft rivalry. We won the round, but Madison won the Grand Prix, so I think they’re on top for now.

Day two had a more annoying registration process, as the pools were not preregistered. That meant less time to devote to deck building, and I think we might have missed a little equity that we were close to fixing with a few more minutes. Again, we had a ridiculous blue eldrazi deck, which I assembled and registered. But Gabe and Hunter ended up sharing white—Gabe with white-red control and Hunter with green-white tokens—when we probably had enough aggressive black devoid cards to have Hunter play green-black and splash Eldrazi Displacer and two Joraga Auxiliary. We had the fixing. That would have given Gabe another [casthaven]Isolation Zone[/casthaven] and a few better creatures. I actually laid out the black devoid cards for them as they balanced white between their decks, but with time winding down, we had to focus on what we already had. Live and learn.

In the end, my deck was amazing and had a sideboard to beat anything, while Gabe and Hunter had very good but not amazing decks. That cost us when they both ran into better decks in rounds eleven and twelve, shattering our plans to win a five round PTQ. At 8-4, we felt dazed. Brian David-Marshall happened by as I wandered aimlessly by the pairings boards, we chatted briefly, and I obtained the key to our recovery: a fabled BDM choloate cookie, which I brought the Lembas cookie back to my teammates. The magic took hold, and we rallied for the final two rounds.

BDM cookies

The secret to grand prix success. So good!

Round thirteen was our triumph of teamwork and resolve. Facing a tough team from Montreal, we eked out victory at the last possible moment. Gabe was up after a long game one and had the match on ice with [casthaven]Bane of Bala Ged[/casthaven] attacking for way more turns that you’d ever expect without ending the game. As his opponent exiled two of his last five permanents (a land and [casthaven]Tightening Coils[/casthaven]), he made a pseudo-scooping gesture that Gabe quite reasonably interpreted as a concession. Gabe started picking up his lands, and his opponent called a judge. His hand had three more lands and [casthaven]Allied Reinforcements[/casthaven], and Gabe was so obviously going to win soon, that the judges sided with us and ruled Gabe did not actually concede first. Thankfully reason prevailed, with Level Five judge extraordinaire Scott Marshall masterfully handling the appeal. You can hear Gabe talk about it immediately after on this week’s fantastic Magic the Amateuring podcast. Gabe’s slot is about 30 minutes into the cast, but you should just listen to all of it because Maria and Meghan are hilarious. You can also hear us talk about it on Gabe’s stream next week.

His opponent really should have scooped, as time was about to be called on the round. His teammates told him in French (and Gabe deciphered with his stealth Canadian French prowess) that he should concede and help win the deciding game three against me, which was in an unbreakable board stall. I drew [casthaven]Benthic Infiltrator[/casthaven] shortly before time was called. (Gabe was already a few minutes into his judge call.) When I untapped for turn one of extra turns, my opponent was at nine life, and my only free attacker was the 1/4 unblockable ingester. Hunter and I drew up a plan, and it worked. I got there on turn five with exactly lethal and the judges held up Gabe’s win.

dc final

Hunters and Scholars, still smiling after fourteen grueling rounds of sealed.

The wind at our back, we won our last round to finish 10-4 in 49th place, good for $200 and one pro point for each of us. We could identify the mistakes that led to our four losses, and we can fix them in the future. While we didn’t win the whole thing, or qualify for the pro tour, it was a finish to be proud of. I couldn’t ask for better teammates or a better weekend of Magic, at least for this moment in time. Hunter and Gabe can say the same thing.

That’s game.

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

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