The Road to Pro Tour Sydney from Grand Prix Sydney
It’s been a crazy last couple of weeks. Only a month ago, I was sitting here at my desk, typing away at my tournament report about winning the WMCQ. At the time, I was ecstatic to finish the season on a high note after a relatively disappointing second half of the season. Although Silver was my initial goal, I’d come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be hitting it and was just pleased with my WMCQ win.
However, as it turned out, big things were yet to come! Over the next two days, I’ll be discussing my experiences at Grand Prix Sydney, where I was able to make Top 8 and achieve Silver status.
Preparation for GP Sydney
Going into the Grand Prix, I had basically assumed I was drawing dead for Silver. I would have to Top 8 to hit it, and considering the level of the field due to the local Pro Tour the following week, I didn’t think I had any realistic chance. Still, I decided to give it my all and prepared harder for this Grand Prix than any other.
Although I didn’t want to hold myself to any expectations, I also knew that this was probably the best chance I would ever get to hit a Pro club level. With real-life becoming increasingly busy, it felt like this was my one opportunity and I’d regret it if I didn’t at least work for it and give myself the best odds possible.
I got to work straight after the set spoilers were released, analysing the cards in the set with my good friend William Poor. One of the brightest limited minds I know, we both believe that the key to understanding a new limited format quickly is to approach it systematically – figuring out important aspects such as what each color combination’s strategy is, how deep each color is in playables and which cards overlap between the various archetypes of that color.
Grand Prix Sydney 2016
One of the great things about Auckland is that we have a core group of good drafters in the area. With many of us planning to attend the Grand Prix, and a couple just keen to help us out, I was able to do eight drafts before heading to Australia.
This was a huge advantage as the set had just been released, so was not out on Magic Online yet. Most people were unlikely to get many drafts done before the event, as organising real life drafts is much more difficult than on MODO. The high level of our local playgroup is also another massive advantage, as not only did I learn a lot from the drafts, but also from the insight to their experiences with the format. In fact, both Blue Red Spells and Red Green Werewolves were archetypes that I had very much misjudged initially – and my peers were able to teach me how to draft those archetypes correctly.
Archetypes for EMN-EMN-SOI Draft
Based on my own experiences as well as the result of our group discussions, I perceived the format as following:
Tier 1 Archetypes:
Blue Red Spells
Red Black Madness
Tier 2 Archetypes:
Red Green Werewolves
Green White Humans
Green White Delirium
Blue Green Emerge
Tier 3 Archetypes:
Green Black Delirium
Red White Aggro
Tier 4 Archetypes:
Blue White Tempo/Fliers
Blue Black Self Mill/Zombies
Black White Delirium
Note that this isn’t based on power level of the archetypes, but rather the consistency to which you can produce a good deck of that archetype. The one exception is Red Black Madness, an archetype that is quite difficult to pull off but the pay-off is very high.
Red-Black Madness is one of the most high risk archetypes in the format. This is due to Eldritch Moon having good madness enablers, such as Olivia’s Dragoon and Furyblade Vampire, but lacking in actual good madness cards. This means that you have to take these enablers in the first two packs and hope to get rewarded with all the madness cards in Shadows over Innistrad. As the madness cards in Shadows are relatively overcosted by normal mana cost and undercosted by madness cost, you usually do not have to compete with other decks for these cards even if they may be in Red or Black. However since you’re relying on a single pack, if it turns out not many madness cards are opened, things can go very poorly for you even if you positioned yourself well in the table.
Based off these rankings of archetypes, I determined the order of the best colors were as follows:
I preferred Red and Green much higher than the other colors because the good commons and uncommons of the pair are just generically powerful and can go into any of its archetypes. I think Red is better overall, but Green is also much better in Shadows over Innistrad so there’s a higher payoff if it’s open on your right.
On the other hand, Blue and Black are much more inflexible. Neither color runs deep in playables so a lot of their good cards only belong in one or two archetypes. This makes it very awkward to start in either of those colors, as while you may find the color open, if you’re unable to quickly identify which archetype you’re in, you might find a lot of your picks actually go to waste and you don’t end up with enough playables for your deck.
White is an awkward combination of both these traits, as it has arguably two of the best commons in the set with Choking Restraints and Sigardian Priest. Both these cards are efficient removal spells that could go into any color combination. However, the rest of White is very aggressive in nature which means that you almost have no choice but to go aggro unless you’re able to be in Green White Delirium.
Since I don’t rate the aggro decks very highly in this format due to the large number of three drops that can trade down and the high toughness four and five drop creatures, I would much rather prefer starting in Red or Green. I think this is also one of the biggest traps in the format - people misunderstand White’s role, thinking it’s more flexible than it really is by only focusing on the top commons.
Day One of the Grand Prix
When I opened my pool, I was relatively disappointed. I was able to quickly identify that Black and White were the only colors that could work, with Green and Blue lacking playables while Red had decent aggressive creatures but zero two drops and no removal.
While my Black and White were both good, with a decent amount of removal, it lacked very few ways to actually close the game. In a slow format such as this one, it’s simply too hard to win games if you don’t have either bombs or good evasive creatures such as fliers. Since I was lacking in both, I realized that I would have to splash.
The majority of my time during deck building was spent trying to figure out which color I wanted to splash. Although Green had powerful big creatures, I decided to opt for Blue instead as the Emerge creatures can be cast even if I didn’t draw a blue source. I was very wary of splashing a third color when I had zero mana fixing. I also decided to splash a Spell Queller due to the complete lack of double-color commitments in my deck, allowing me to play three blue sources. I’m not completely sure if this was correct, especially since it goes against what I said earlier about being wary of splashing with no fixing, but I felt like I needed more evasiveness in this deck, and I was happy to draw Spell Queller even on Turn 10.
This was the deck I registered:
1 Bygone Bishop
1 Desperate Sentry
1 Drownyard Behemoth
1 Gavony Unhallowed
1 Ghoulcaller's Accomplice
1 Graf Rats // Chittering Host (Top)
1 Ironclad Slayer
1 Midnight Scavengers // Chittering Host (Bottom)
1 Sigardian Priest
1 Spell Queller
1 Thraben Foulbloods
1 Wicker Witch
1 Wretched Gryff
In hindsight, I should have played a Graf Harvest over Grotesque Mutation. I brought in the card every round and it over-performed for me as decks in Sealed tend to be much grindier and the games go long.
Round 1: Bye
Round 2: Bye
Round 3: Brandon Rashad-Green Black (Win)
Round 4: Chris Fennell-Black White (Win)
Round 5: Ben Rubin-Black Red (Win)
Round 6: Matthew Lee-Black Red (Win)
Round 7: Yuuya Watanabe-Jund (Loss)
Round 8: Jordan Schroder-Black White (Win)
Round 9: Francis Lam-Blue Black (Win)
Based on my deck, I was expecting to go 7-2 or 6-3 if I end up playing against some good players. My Day One ended up being very tough, having to play against three pro players. It was definitely the hardest Day One I’ve had to play at a Grand Prix.
Thankfully, I got many lucky breaks, as I drew very well throughout the day while my opponents weren’t so fortunate. I was also very happy with how I played, and felt like my familiarity with the format was paying off.
Interestingly enough, I felt like Yuuya Watanabe had the worst deck of all the people I faced, but he was also my only loss. He played very well in both games against me, and I definitely felt like I was outplayed in the second game as he blew me out with some well-timed removal spells. The fact that he was able to go 8-1 on Day One with his deck is a true testament to his mastery, and that match really showed me just how much better the best players in the world are. Often loses can be discouraging, but that match against Yuuya really motivated me, and that determination drove me in the last two rounds of the day, as I played very well to beat two decent opponents with decks that were much better than mine.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed Part 1 of the recount of my experiences at GP Sydney. Part 2 will be going up tomorrow – where I’ll be discussing how Day Two unfolded! Be sure to come back to check that out :)
Until next time!
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