Split cards are my favorite cards. Why put one card in your deck when you can get two? It is rare to the point of discussion when someone chooses to play more than the minimum cards required in a Magic format. Remember when Ben Rubin did that at a Grand Prix? Most of my memories from the time have faded, but I know he played a 64-card Standard deck and almost won. The forty cards of a Limited deck are even more tightly constrained. And yet in Guilds of Ravnica, you can play forty while also playing forty-two.

Grand Prix Denver brought a Team Limited tournament to my backyard. Traveling to grand prix hardly feels worth the hassle anymore—I have to think about whether I want to try to renew my two byes for the first time since I got them half a decade ago. But when local buddy and Limited maestro Sean Bulthaup asked me to team up with him and his brother Bryan who flew in from Oakland, I was happy to oblige.

We got together on Friday to build some pools. The five guilds make building three team sealed decks easier than with other sets that provide less-defined archetypes. Our conclusion after two builds was that the ideal three decks were Boros, Izzet, and Dimir. If you could avoid playing green, you were probably in a good spot. Bryan gamely volunteered to handle the green deck, if it came to that. In one of our two builds, he had a Selesnya midrange affair with a lot of powerful creatures that looked good enough. In the other, he got to be the Boros to Sean’s Izzet and my Dimir.

We felt comfortable going into the day one build on Saturday. Our pool was nothing special, but we had three clear decks that mostly built themselves. All three were fleshed out before us with thirty minutes—half the build time—left on the clock. That let us hone the decks and sideboards, and visualize our paths to victory throughout the eight rounds to come. Sean had a nice Izzet deck in the middle seat, starring two copies of Expansion // Explosion, though it was far from broken. We sleeved up a Boros package in his sideboard just in case, but that never proven good enough outside the front side of Response // Resurgence. Bryan jumped at the chance to play with March of the Multitudes, and cobbled together a nice Selesnya deck. He was short on removal, but the pool gods gifted us with two copies of Assassin’s Trophy, which he splashed to great effect. Nobody ever sees that coming, at least not in Limited. And I took Dimir, which was consistent but fairly average:

Like I said: play forty-two cards in your forty. This is the sort of deck that excites me on day one of a grand prix, because I will enjoy figuring out how to win a lot of close games. I’m not sure I ever won quickly, but I definitely won games long before my opponents scooped up their cards. Connive // Concoct continues to be my favorite card. It helped me steal game one of round one against Jon Stern, the venerable master who agreed to make his team’s green cards work. He was out ahead until I took his Parhelion Patrol—from there we played a tight race that I won after surviving his massive attack with one life.

Our team went 6-2 to slide into day two, which felt amazing after we lose round one to Stephen Neal, Greg Ogreenc, and Jon Stern. My record was roughly the same, though I anchored us in the early rounds to get the Brothers Bulthaup into position to carry us to three wins in the final rounds. I knew I was about shot in round eight when in game one I cast Connive // Concoct to try to steal Boros Challenger when my opponent had four mana open. I told my opponent the truth: the two Boros decks I had crushed in earlier rounds never played that brutal card and I just forgot. But I was also tired. Even so, I kept the Boros deck occupied for the entire match, winning an epic game two by grinding House Guildmage and Murmuring Mystic for at least fifteen turns before finally forcing a game three that never ended because we won the other matches.

My record by opposing archetype (including how the match was going if we won before I finished): Boros 2-1, Izzet 1-0, Dimir 1-1, Selesnya 1-1. Guilds of Ravnica Dimir decks have solid game against everyone, though I never found out how my build would fare against Golgari. Surveil is such a powerful mechanic when confined to essentially one guild. My deck did not make the most use of it, besides the consistency. I never lost to decking, though in one game I played Watcher in the Mist with five cards left, saw two lands, put them back on top, and won with what I have.

The most interesting thread I needled that day was the Notion Rain dance. I chose to play two of my three copies maindeck because you can’t afford to pay life very often against Boros, and often you can’t against Izzet or Selesnya either. Against slow decks I always added the third and cast them all to great effect, but I want to talk about two specific games against aggro decks. Game one of my second straight Boros matchup, I had the misfortune to draw both early in the game. I had life to pay, so I cast them both and hoped to find a path to victory—and somehow I did! I suspect that is a testament to my opponent’s mediocre draw than anything, but we were happy to get the win. Two rounds later against Izzet, I found myself on turn five of game one at twelve life with two cards in hand: Thought Erasure and Notion Rain. I cast Thought Erasure and my opponent revealed his hand: two copies of Sonic Assault. I gulped, tossed one in his yard, and then surveiled to see my second copy of Notion Rain. I tossed it in the yard too, resolved never to cast the one in my hand, and won the game at two life.

Our day two pool had a ton of powerful cards, but other than Ral, Izzet Viceroy, they all fit in Golgari or Selesnya. Bryan cobbled together a five-color Selesnya deck starring another March of the Multitudes, this time alongside Chamber Sentry, Vivid Revival, Deafening Clarion, and two Capture Spheres. He also took the two copies of Status // Statue because my deck already had four copies of Deadly Visit, but after much discussion we dediced Find // Finality was better in my Golgari build. Besides, he already had a sweeper! He also had Glaive of the Guildpact—had our luck be better on day two, that thing would have won a lot of games I think.

As it was, we got run over by Richard Tan’s team to start the morning, picked up a win, then lost a heartbreaker to end our run at 7-4. Our tiebreakers put us behind the eight ball trying to finish in the top 24 for cash. Ten-win teams mostly got paid, but we would have been around 27th place if we’d stayed and run the table. So our decision to quit while ahead and regain our Sundays—including family time for my teammates—was well-founded. We capped the weekend by splitting up our two relatively-valuable pools, and returned to normal adult life.

Grand Prix Denver deepened my love for split cards. Many were all-stars for us all weekend. But I want to give a special shout out to the front sides that put in serious work for our team: Assure, Connive, Discovery, Expansion, Response, and Status. If we’d played all six on Sunday, I wonder if Find would have joined them. I considered casting it once in round ten, but ended the match with a 12/12 Rhizome Lurcher when I chose the path to Finality instead.

Brendan McNamara (Twitter: @brendanistan) is Editor in Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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