Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch. For those of you just joining us this article is a continuation of my Grand Prix Toronto report; you can find the first part here Nina's GP Toronto Report part 1. When we last left our intrepid heroine she was preparing to face off with 1300+ other people in round 1 of Grand Prix Toronto:
Round 1: Andrew - R/W Aggro:
Game 1: In what would become a day long pattern I lost the roll to determined who would go first in game 1 and found myself on the draw in the R/W aggro mirror against a deck faster than mine; not good. Thankfully Andrew's draw was reasonably slow and we started trading cheap creatures and removal spells for the first few turns. Eventually I started dropping "Hill Giants" and threatening to swing in for 6+ damage a turn which forced Andrew to play an Auriok Sunchaser and dump out enough "extra' artifacts to protect his Metalcraft status. It was pretty obvious he intended to trade it for my Blade-Tribe Bersekers and to just keep chumping my Saberclaw Golem. I'd been nursing a Turn to Slag the entire game and while I didn't really want to waste damage on a 3/3 Flyer, I also really didn't want to lose my Blade-Tribe Bersekers. Sighing slightly I dropped the Turn to Slag on the Sunchaser and swung in with most of my team, sticking 7 or 8 damage. Of course my opponent promptly untapped, dropped a Strata Scythe and exiled a Mountain to turn a random Iron Myr into a 7/7 monstrosity. This wouldn't have been an issue if I had saved the Turn to Slag but of course I didn't and for a couple turns I was really worried I'd blown the game entirely. Unfortunately he was simply way behind in creatures at this point and had to leave all of his monsters back to defend. When he drew 4 more lands and I drew even more creatures the game ended pretty quickly.
1-0 (2-0) MVP: A relaxed opponent who helped make my first match "just another friendly game of Magic". I was very nervous at the start of the tournament and playing someone else who was just there to have a good time certainly helped take the edge off my entire day.
Unfortunately round 1 brought mixed news for our merry band of wayward mages; while both Beau and I won our first matches almost everyone else we played with struggled through unlikely losses. I was particularly devastated to find that Leon had lost after winning game 1, losing a super tight game 2 and then mana flooding out of the match in game 3. Even Stephen got robbed; finding out at the very last minute that he only had a 1 round bye instead of 2 because the T.O. from State Championships hadn't submitted the results on time. With a heavy heart I wished my friends the very best of luck and quickly found my table for round 2.
Round 2 - Scott R/W Control:
Game 1 - I managed to lose the roll yet again and we both ran out some fast flyers and mana Myr in the early game. Comically however we both also drew into multiple removal spells and the game quickly bogged down when neither of us could keep a creature in play. Eventually Scott found a Koth the Hammer on top of his deck and started bashing me for 4. At this point I was up 16 life to 10 but I'd been having mana troubles and desperately needed my 3rd Mountain to end the game. When I found it the very next turn I started to think that just maybe this GP was going to be a special day; I immediately dropped the Phoenix and murdered Koth. With Scott playing off the top of his deck for an answer and the Phoenix threatening lethal damage in 3 turns the game was pretty much over right there.
2-0 (4-1) MVP: Kuldotha Phoenix. Not only did my shiny (yes it was foil) birdy win me both games in this match but it toasted Koth twice in the process. Not bad for a card openly mocked on the most popular Magic Podcast in cyberspace: The Eh Team.
The jubilation I felt in response to winning my second round would be short lived however. During games 2 and 3 of my match against Scott I had begun to feel a deep bone chill and my nose started running. This was understandable as I'd come to the event still feeling rather sick; particularly after starting my morning with a freezing cold shower. It probably also didn't help that I was pretty excited and burning off a lot of extra energy just trying to focus on my games. Within 5 minutes of reporting my match I found myself in the ladies washroom throwing up a variety of liquids (as I still hadn't eaten that day). Once I finally talked my stomach into calming down I went back outside to find out if my friends had won or lost. For the most part the news was better but I was disappointed to find out that both Stephen and Leon had lost. Pulling Leon aside I mentioned that I had just been sick and would be willing to drop and go home if he wasn't "feeling it" anymore after 2 unlucky losses. Leon looked at me and laughed saying that he "must have lost for a reason" and that "now he'd have a much easier path to 7-2"; weirdly enough I could tell he meant it.
Round 3 - Karen - R/W Aggro w/ Flying Bombs:
Game 1 - I lost another die roll and for the 3rd time on the day find myself going 2nd in the R/W mirror. She opened up with a turn 2 Iron Myr which I promptly murder on my 2nd turn with a Contagion Clasp. We both played out a bunch of smaller creatures and start trading removal spells in the mid game. Unfortunately I drew more creatures than she did and when she started topping multiple land in a row the game ended very quickly. At this point I was feeling pretty confident about game 2 but little did I know that Game 1 had actually been a very poor draw for Karen and her deck would recover nicely in the next game.
3-0 (6-2) MVP: Dispense Justice and not being a jerk about letting your opponent take back simple errors. The truth is that Karen's best play was probably to attack with just the Hellion, forcing me to leave both of my Indestructible creatures back to block next turn. If I had refused to let her take that attack back I never would have given her the chance to assign her Archangel as well. That was likely the final difference in a hotly contested match-up between 2 strong sealed pools.
Unfortunately by the time I was wrapping up game 3 with Karen my fever was raging out of control. I felt cold, miserable and disorientated. I couldn't stay hydrated no matter how much water/chicken soup I drank and even just sitting and playing cards was starting to make my joints ache. Even worse my body was constantly wracked with chills and I felt like I was going to throw up at any given moment; causing me to spend another 10-15 minutes in the bathroom between rounds 3 and 4. I found myself wondering if anyone had ever dropped from a GP at 3-0 before but ultimately decided to gut it out for another round. Being honest this was mostly because all of my friends had finally started winning and I didn't want to take the bus home alone in my current condition.
Round 4 - Matthew - B/G/R Control w/Infect:
Game 1 - Things do not start off well as Matthew and I had trouble agreeing on something as simple as the dice roll. He had a pile of 6 or so rather dodgy looking D6 cubes with + and - numbers on them and noticeably rounded corners. Fearing that they weren't properly weighted randomization cubes (trust me this matters) I suggested we use my D20 instead. My opponent replied something to the effect of "I've been playing Magic with these dice for X number of years and nobody has accused me of using them to cheat yet". It was around about this point that I started to smell a Jedi mind trick; sitting here across from me was a clearly accomplished and experienced Magic player who wanted to start an argument over who's dice we used? Not only was I 100% sure a judge would agree that I had the right to refuse to roll silly "gaming" dice to determined who went first but I had a pretty strong suspicion my opponent was trying to get me to argue about and thus focus on something that had nothing to do with our match whatsoever; while simultaneously reminding me he'd be playing Magic since the Paleozoic era. I chose to decline the argument and after confirming with Matthew that they were properly weighted randomization cubes I agreed to roll his "dice" and managed to lose yet again. Thankfully Matthew put me on the play because choosing the draw is virtually automatic at the top levels of sealed deck play; something I normally agree with but question specifically here in the super fast Scars of Mirrodin format. Unfortunately my opening draw was the rather familiar 2 land (both mountains), a Copper Myr, a 4CC creature and 2 double colored spells (Turn to Slag/Kemba Skyguard?). I laughed a little inside as I realized Matthew's gambit had worked; I was going to keep a soft hand because he'd put me on the play when I would have mulliganed it away on the draw. Sadly I remember almost nothing about the rest of this game except that Matthew killed my Myr with a Contagion Clasp almost immediately and I couldn't find enough mana in the right colors anywhere near fast enough. I never knocked my opponent below 18 life and he finished the game at 22 with a Bleak Coven Vampires/Bladed Pinions combo applying the finishing touches. When I finally hit zero life I had 3 removal spells I couldn't cast still trapped in my hand.
4-0 (8-3) MVP: Me. Between being sick, my opponent's "full court press" and my own silly mistakes I had a lot of built in excuses for losing this game; I chose not to take them and to keep fighting. I did not play particularly well but I kept playing despite strong impulses telling me to quit and as a result I learned something good about myself as a Magic player. Oh yeah, Kuldotha Phoenix is pretty broken too.
Unfortunately even as I was stepping away from the table flush with my unlikely victory in round 4 I could already tell something was wrong. The room was spinning slightly and I felt very cold and ache-y; when I tried to walk back into the main isle I had to grab on to Leon's coat just to maintain my balance. I was running entirely on fumes and adrenaline at that point; my body being slowly overwhelmed by both a high fever and outright mental exhaustion. Of course all of my friends were now winning their matches quite comfortably and I felt it would be unfair to ask any of them to leave with me. Besides if you don't drop from a GP at 3-0 how can you even consider doing so at 4-0 right? I managed to stumble outside for some air and then spent another 10 minutes in the bathroom dry heaving before reporting for my round 5 match.
Round 5- Lukasz - U/W Metalcraft:
Game 1 - I lost the roll yet again and kept a bad 2 land (Plains) hand because it had a Copper Myr in it. Lukasz proceeds to play a turn 2 Silver Myr followed by a turn 3 Grand Architect. I respond by missing a land drop only to watch my opponent ramp into a Golem Artisan and a Gold Myr. Unfortunately I remember very little about the rest of this game. I eventually managed to draw into land and removal; killing his Golem Artisan and then neutralizing his Grand Architect. Unfortunately however I was at 8 life before I really got into the game and once I did establish board control all I drew was land. I managed to claw him down to 4 life with some flyers but lost when he proceeded to topdeck a Sky-Eel School and then 2 Lumengrid Drakes while I drew my 9th and 10th lands.
Game 2 - After my opponent's amazing start in game 1 I made a point of shuffling his deck for a couple extra minutes. It wasn't so much that I felt my opponent was stacking his deck or anything; just that cards tend to stick together over a long tournament despite shuffling and I REALLY didn't want to see that same combination of cards again. Unfortunately as previously mentioned my fever and mental exhaustion were definitely beginning to factor in my decision making; I kept a terrible hand with a couple flyers and no removal simply because it had 4 land with 2 of each color. Lukasz of course proceeds to cast a turn 2 mana Myr, a turn 2 Grand Architect and a turn 4 Golem Artisan + random artifact creature. I didn't draw any removal and he killed me while declaring a total of 3 attacks all game. I think it's really important to mention that I shuffled his deck for about 4 minutes in between games; fortune simply wanted him to draw those cards. It's also important to note that I probably should have mulliganed both games; neither hand was very good even if ultimately the first one worked out.
4-1 (8-5) LVP - Lukasz's draws; while I certainly don't like to blame luck when I lose games of Magic the honest truth is I had almost no chance of matching his opening in either game. I should probably also add "playing Magic with a fever" and "forgetting to mulligan because your brain is fried" to the list of LVPs as well. Still, even at 100% capacity I'm not sure I would have won either of those games.
At this point in the day I was becoming painfully aware that I would be unable to finish the GP even if by some miracle I kept winning. My round had ended so quickly that most of my friends were still playing game one of their matches when I retreated to the bathroom feeling nauseous. I'm not sure how long I spent in there but by the time I came out our entire playgroup had finished the round. While Beau, Leon and Stephen were still in contention Kelly had tired of swimming uphill with a bad pool and dropped from the event. If I were smarter I would have taken that as a sign but unfortunately pride is a funny thing. While I knew there was no way I could possibly gut out the rest of the tournament sheer stubborn arrogance made it impossible for me to concede at 4-1. Frustrated to the point of tears I asked both Stephen and Leon to look at my deck and tell me that it wasn't good enough to win the whole tournament; when neither could say that it wouldn't I asked someone to grab me a "couple chicken soups or something" and got ready for round 6.
Sadly I don't remember very much about this match at all. I recall thinking that Matt was very confident and focused; I could easily have mistaken him for a visiting Pro Tour ace. I was openly shuddering from chills from the moment I sat down and at one point I mentioned to Matt that I was thinking of dropping before this round even started. He joked that he would be okay with me dropping now but I didn't get the sense he was being malicious at all. I kept two fairly average hands in this match and in both games Matt simply killed every single relevant creature I played. I drew very little removal and both games were over in seconds; something that would normally bother me a great deal. Unfortunately I was too sick to really care at this point and rather than playing to stay alive as long as possible I found myself hoping that game 2 would end quickly so I could go home. Obviously you aren't going to win very many games of magic with that mindset.
4-2 (8-7) *Drop* LVP - Not dropping the round before. I really had no business at that table in my physical or mental state and I knew it; losing round 6 so handily was just the universe making sure I accepted that.
After discussing the matter with Leon and my friends I eventually decided to take Kelly up on his offer to escort me home; riding an hour long bus in the freezing rain alone isn't something you really want to attempt while sick. While I was disappointed that this would mean the end of my day I honestly had to accept that I had very little chance of winning any more rounds that day. The level of competition was simply too high to allow "half" of me to compete successfully. The combination of starting sick, taking a freezing cold shower, the sheer mental stress of competing on that level and finally the temperature dropping like 10 degrees once the rain started falling was ultimately too much for my system to handle.
Later on that evening back at home I'd hear the news that most of my playgroup had finished just outside the cut at 6-3 which was pretty remarkable when you consider how poorly the day had started for most of them. I was particularly proud of Leon who managed to claw his way back from 0-2 all the way to 6-2 before mana screwing his way out of the cut. If there's a lesson to be learned from this it's never give up until you are mathematically eliminated. I'm sure it wasn't easy for Leon to play every round knowing he had no remaining margin for error but by refusing to let the extra pressure get to him he was able to reach the "win and your in" match anyways.
Well gang, that certainly ended up being about 10 times longer than I expected. Unfortunately that's also pretty much all my fingers can take for the moment and I really don't want to delay posting the 2nd half of the GP report any longer. Please join me here next time on the Cardboard Witch for what I hope will be a *brief* discussion of what I ultimately learned from my GP experience. Until then thanks for reading and keep it weird.