Hour of Devastation is an all-time great Limited format. Last year I asked for more opportunities to play late-season Limited grand prix, and this year Wizards delivered in spades. After my near miss in Toronto a month ago, I was especially eager to crack some packs at Grand Prix Indianapolis.

My sealed pool on Saturday was solid enough. I had good rares and supporting commons and uncommons in green and white, plus enough fixing to weave in some powerful cards and flexible sideboard options. Here’s a picture of what I played with sideboard cards on the right.

Those are good cards. There’s plenty of power to navigate through challengs of a grand prix day one. I was happy to have Hipsters’ fun Amonkhet preview card, [casthaven]Cascading Cataracts[/casthaven] to cast the stone cold bomb [casthaven]Kefnet’s Last Word[/casthaven]. The deck mostly did what it needed to do. I picked up a loss in round four to eventual top eight competitor (and the most underrated player in Magic) Steve Rubin. It was our third match in Limited grand prix, and hopefully by our fourth or fifth I can manage to win one. One other tough loss in round five stung, but I won the rest to come back on Sunday with a 7-2 record.

All I needed to do was sweep two drafts and I’d line up that top eight and pro tour invite that eluded me in Toronto. I was focused and determined. My first draft went well enough:

Locust Control

Creatures (14)
Proven Combatant
Seeker of Insight
Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs
Spellweaver Eternal
Burning-Fist Minotaur
Thorned Moloch
Eternal of Harsh Truths
Aerial Guide
Minotaur Sureshot
Warfire Javelineer
Shimmerscale Drake
The Locust God

Spells (10)
Sunset Pyramid
Trial of Knowledge
Strategic Planning
Winds of Rebuke
Countervailing Winds
Essence Scatter
Honed Khopesh
Lands (16)
Desert of the Fervent
Ramunap Ruins
Ipnu Rivulet

Sideboard (14)
Chandra’s Defeat
By Force
Crash Through
Tragic Lesson
Compelling Argument
Graven Abomination
Rags // Riches
Carrion Screecher
Moaning Wall
Aven of Enduring Hope
Quarry Hauler
Gift of Strength

Yes please. Opening [casthaven]The Locust God[/casthaven] is a nice way to start a draft. Blue and red were open enough that I could build around the sweet god. I never saw any red burn spells, except for the two [casthaven]Chandra’s Defeat[/casthaven] I picked up on the second time through pack one. Those we key, however, as I was able to pick up my amazing desert package in pack two while passing [casthaven]Khenra Scrapper[/casthaven]s and the like along to the rest of the pod. Overall I assembled a very strong blue-red control deck that had inevitability off both the god and the deserts.

I won round ten over five color control thanks to all my counterspells. In an epic game three, my second turn [casthaven]Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs[/casthaven] dealt fourteen damage, and [casthaven]Ramunap Ruins[/casthaven] provided the other six for a perfect kill where I never attacked. In the next one, I triumphed in the mirror over a version full of red creatures that ran into my one-mana sideboard removal. And in round twelve I scraped out a tough battle against white-black tokens before [casthaven]The Locust God[/casthaven] finally showed up in game three to finish off the first half of my top eight run.

My tiebreakers put me at the very bottom of the two-loss players going into draft two, and I ended up the only 30-point player in draft pod five. I was excited to have a clear path to the top eight where none of the other player’s I’d face had a chance to get there. The draft was interesting and full of powerful cards. Here’s where I ended up:

Charles Simic

Creatures (13)
Cunning Survivor
Spellweaver Eternal
Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs
Tah-Crop Skirmisher
Resilient Khenra
Aerial Guide
Oasis Ritualist
Champion of Rhonas
Ominous Sphinx
Rampaging Hippo
Striped Riverwinder

Spells (11)
Trial of Strength
Beneath the Sands
Strategic Planning
Countervailing Winds
Lay Claim
Sacred Excavation
Pull from Tomorrow
Lands (16)
Hashep Oasis
Desert of the Mindful

Sideboard (15)
Angel of Sanctions
Fraying Sanity
Pouncing Cheetah
Seer of the Last Tomorrow
Frilled Sandwalla
Oashra Cultivator
Jace’s Defeat
Countervailing Winds
Uncage the Menagerie
New Perspectives
Embalmer’s Tools
Lux River Shrine
Nest of Scarabs
Marauding Boneslasher
God-Pharaoh’s Faithful

My colors were wide open, and I had so many options to build the deck. In the end, too many options doomed me, and I’m not sure I built the deck optimally. Still, I was sideboarding well all tournament and felt confident I could sweep again with one of my favorite draft archetypes.

Alas, in round thirteen I couldn’t quite get there game one—an early [casthaven]Bone Picker[/casthaven] applied too much pressure and I came up a single mana short of winning a tough race—and then ran into an unbeatably perfect draw game two. My top eight dream fell apart, but I could still put up a deep run. I crushed a boros aggro deck in round fourteen; but in the final turns of a tight match against green-black to close the tournament, my opponent resolved [casthaven]Sifter Wurm[/casthaven] and revealed a second copy to its ability. Yeah, about that.

The end result? Another 11-4 finish, this time unfortunately in 70th place off my mediocre tiebreakers. That meant no cash, but at least the two pro points are a solid start to my year. More importantly, I am growing comfortable with day two drafts and keep closing in on victory. My two draft decks reminded me that a tight plan is better than a strong collection of cards. But no matter what you have in your deck, the path to victory goes through careful game planning and tight play. I’m almost there.

It’s a shame that we have to say goodbye to this amazing sealed and draft environment. There’s not much guidance to give anymore, but I do recommend counterspells. Seriously, I don’t know why more players don’t play blue in this format. [casthaven]Countervailing Winds[/casthaven] is a power common, easily worth the splash in my sealed deck and showing up five times across my two draft decks. File that one away for your flashback drafts.

Ixalan has big shoes to fill. It will almost certainly come up short, but there’s plenty of room to be a strong Limited set while still being eclipsed by Hour of Devastation. I’m excited to explore the dinosaur/pirate/whatever/whocares world, and I feel my breakthrough tournament will come soon.

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

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.