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Ahead of the Curve: Grand Prix Vancouver, the Misplays


I went 5-4 at Grand Prix Vancouver this weekend. My pool wasn't stellar, but I could have made Day Two if I built my pool differently or played better. I previously talked about how I would build that pool today. Today, I'll go over my misplays so others can learn and hopefully avoid repeating them.

As a reminder, here's the deck I was playing with.

Round 1: Wesley L. (B/G/w/u), 2-1

In game one, I attacked Valakut Predator without a Landfall trigger into Stalking Drone. I had Searing Light in case he activated the ability on his Stalking Drone, but forgot that he could activate its ability before blocking. In addition to losing a good creature unnecessarily, I also only had one creature available when I played my Expedition Raptor a couple of turns later.

Luckily, I won games two and three.

Round 2: Brendan L. (B/R/g), 2-1

My opening hand in game one was Plains, Sea Gate Wreckage, Searing Light, Lithomancer's Focus, Shadow Glider, Expedition Raptor, and Reality Hemorrhage. I kept this hand because I figured Searing Light would buy me time to draw additional lands. I had a 71% (1 - hypgeomdist(0,2,15,33)) chance of drawing a land in my first two turns, but didn't. Even if I had, however, it's unlikely that my aggressive two- and three- drops would have stood up well to a long game, so I should have mulliganed. Instead, I didn't draw a land and lost quickly.

Luckily, I won games two and three.

Round 3: Jared E. (R/W/b), 1-2

Game one took over half an hour because both of us had a defensive draw and ended up with a stalled board. I realized that I needed to draw either Sea Gate Wreckage or Tyrant of Valakut in order to win, but still held back a land, even though there was no need to represent a trick. This meant that when I drew Sea Gate Wreckage, I didn't get to draw a card that turn. I also drew a land the next turn, so holding back that land cost me two cards. Luckily, I won the game with six cards left in my library when I drew Tyrant of Valakut.

I lost game two after a double mulligan, and lost game three to unanswered flyers.

Round 4: Jason R. (G/W/B), 0-2

My deck was clearly outmatched this round, and having to double mulligan game one didn't help. The outcome was sealed when my opponent played Bearer of Silence on turn four. We were done with the match in about 15 minutes. I didn't notice any misplays in this match.

Round 5: Mike S. (W/U), 2-0

My deck clearly outmatched my opponent's this round. I won both games fairly easily, and didn't notice any misplays on my end.

Round 6: Mark N. (U/B/R), 2-0

My deck clearly outmatched my opponent's this round. I won both games fairly easily, and didn't notice any misplays on my end.

Round 7: Brandon S. (W/B/g), 2-1

I won game one through a Linvala the Preserver and a 5/5 Woodland Wanderer. My first mistake was not siding in Aligned Hedron Network. I don't like the card and never drafted it, but that doesn't mean I should ignore it if it's in my sideboard.

In game two, I was stuck without a White source for several turns, but managed to play out Zada's Commando, Valakut Invoker, and Valakut Predator. The rest of the cards in my hand did require white mana. When my opponent played a Tajuru Beastmaster and attacked with it, I took what I thought was a calculated risk and triple blocked with my team because I figured I would be fine if I drew White mana in the next few turns. If I didn't draw White mana, I figured my opponent was more likely to have a trick a few turns later. Instead, I was 3-for-1'ed by Tar Snare.

I finally drew a Plains on my next turn, played Weapons Master and Shadow Glider on consecutive turns, and tried to double block with them. I had Lithomancer's Focus in hand and was aware that I might get 2-for-1'ed by several cards, including Inspired Charge, which my opponent had played in game one. My opponent had the Inspired Charge and I wasn't able to come back from that. My opponent pointed out later that there was no reason to gang block when I was at 19 life when I triple blocked and 14 life when I double blocked. In retrospect, I think I was frustrated at not drawing a White source for several turns, even though I didn't realize it at the time.

Luckily, I won game three. That put me at 5-2, and I only needed one more win to make Day Two. I was careful to not let that affect my play.

Round 8: Dominic H. (G/W/r), 1-2

In game one, I had two Mountains, a Plains, Sea Gate Wreckage, and Valakut Invoker in play, and Crumbling Vestige, Searing Light, Shadow Glider, and Reality Hemorrhage in hand. I chose to play the Crumbling Vestige in the hopes that doing so would let me to activate Sea Gate Wreckage sooner, even though I knew that I had three cards with WW in their casting cost. Naturally, I drew those three cards on consecutive turns! I probably couldn't have won this game anyway since my opponent played Fall of the Titans a couple of turns later, but misplays are bad regardless of whether they cost you the game.

In game two, my opponent played Fall of the Titans on turn three (without Surge) to kill Zada's Commando and Immobilizer Eldrazi. I still managed to win the game. In game three, I had Retreat of Emeria out and made a few 1/1's. I used my next land to give all my creatures +1/+1 because I thought I could get my opponent down to two life and win the next turn, but I didn't notice that one of his lands was a Needle Spires. It blended in with his many other nonbasic lands, but the only enemy-color lands available in the format are all creaturelands, and it's my responsibility to be aware of which lands my opponent has in play. If I'd use my Landfall trigger to make another 1/1, I would probably have been able to keep my opponent from attacking and might have had a lethal attack a couple of turns later.

Round 9: Jay R. (B/R), 1-2

I won game one quickly, despite a small mistake. My opponent didn't play any creatures for several turns, opting to use his removal to kill my creatures. On turn six, I attacked into an empty board and his Grip of Desolation killed a creature and prevented me from casting another one that turn. Given that Black / Red has no instant-speed creatures that I was worried about, I should have played around Grip of Desolation by casting my creature before combat.

I kept a creature-light hand in game two, which was perhaps a mistake given how much removal I'd seen game one. My opponent had removal for all my creatures, and it took me a few turns to find enough creatures to block his Malakir Soothsayer. Unfortunately, he had other creatures by that point and it was too late to come back.

Game three wasn't even close. He played Embodiment of Fury on turn four and attacked with an animated land on his next turn. On my turn, I had six lands and some creatures in play and Tyrant of Valakut and Searing Light in hand, along with the Weapons Master I'd just drawn. I could have attacked with my Makindi Aeronaut, killed it with Searing Light and Surged the Tyrant of Valakut to kill his Embodiment of Fury, but I decided I could just play the Weapons Master instead to keep his Embodiment of Fury from attacking alongside any animated lands.

He attacked with another animated land on turn six and then played Malakir Soothsayer on his turn. I drew a seventh land on my turn and decided I needed to kill the Embodiment of Fury. If I'd held on to the Weapons Master, I would have been able to Surge the Tyrant of Valakut easily. Instead, I had to go with my previous plan and Searing Light my own Makindi Aeronaut so I could race his Malakir Soothsayer. I killed his Embodiment of Fury and then traded with his Malakir Soothsayer when it attacked the following turn since I didn't want him find an Ally and start drawing cards with it. Unfortunately, even with his two biggest threats out of the way, he had more creatures and was able to roll me over, ending my hopes of making Day Two.

Thoughts About the Format

Aggressive decks are not very good in Oath of the Gatewatch sealed since there are a number of playable 2/3's that neutralize most of the two-drops in the format. Consequently, while Reality Hemorrhage has many targets in the format, it is not reliable removal, especially for an aggro deck. Since Immolating Glare and Sheer Drop are also not reliable removal in aggressive decks, I should have built a more controlling White/Black deck from my pool. That said, there are still decks that can overrun you with a good draw, so I would still choose to play first in this format, unless it's a postboard game against a slow deck.

Since the format is slower than many recent sealed formats, mana sinks are particularly valuable. I often had the eight mana needed to activate Valakut InvokerSea Gate Wreckage was an outright bomb. The slower speed, along with the mana fixing available, also means that it's easier to get away with playing more than two colors. Only two of my opponents played two-color decks, with the rest splashing a third color, and most also ran spells requiring ◇ mana. While this sample size is very small, it resembles the undefeated decks from Day One of the Grand Prix. Three of those seven decks were two-color, four more splashed a third color, and most also had spells requiring ◇ mana. Also worth noting is that all of those undefeated decks had Blue as a main color, and four had both Blue and Red as main colors. That doesn't mean that you should always play those colors, but you have a better shot of making Day Two if those happen to be your best colors.


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