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Lessons from Grand Prix Vancouver, Part 1: The Misbuild

I played in Grand Prix Vancouver this weekend. After round seven, I was 5-2 and needed one more win to make Day Two, but lost a close match in part due to some misplays. Then I got unlucky in the last round of the day to end up at 5-4.

Here's the sealed pool I opened.


2x Crumbling Vestige
Ruins of Oran-Rief
Sea Gate Wreckage
Skyline Cascade
2x Wastes


Aligned Hedron Network
Ruin Processor
Spatial Contortion


Affa Protector
Dazzling Reflection
2x Expedition Raptor
Immolating Glare
Isolation Zone
2x Lithomancer's Focus
Makindi Aeronaut
Mighty Leap
Ondu War Cleric
Retreat to Emeria
Searing Light
Shadow Glider
Sheer Drop
Unified Front


Ancient Crab
Coastal Discovery
Cultivator Drone
Eldrazi Skyspawner
Gift of Tusks
2x Gravity Negator
Hedron Alignment
Salvage Drone
2x Slip Through Space
Unity of Purpose


Corpse Churn
Demon's Grasp
Grasp of Darkness
Grip of Desolation
Kalastria Healer
Kozilek's Shrieker
2x Kozilek's Translator
Null Caller
Sludge Crawler
Swarm Surge
Tar Snare
Untamed Hunger
Witness the End


Brute Strength
Consuming Sinkhole
Devour in Flames
Eldrazi Aggressor
Immobilizer Eldrazi
3x Reality Hemorrhage
Sure Strike
Tyrant of Valakut
Valakut Invoker
Valakut Predator
Zada's Commando


Birthing Hulk
Canopy Gorger
Earthen Arms
Lead by Example
Natural State
Netcaster Spider
Nissa's Renewal
Reclaiming Vines
Ruin in Their Wake
Scythe Leopard
Stalking Drone
Tajuru Beastmaster
Tajuru Pathwarden
Zendikar Resurgent


Catacomb Sifter
Void Grafter
Weapons Trainer

I quickly eliminated Green and Blue due to a lack of playables. Black had good removal, but after some consideration I eliminated it due to a lack of playable creatures. That left White and Red and colorless cards, from which I assembled the following deck:

While the deck has a good creature curve and eight removal spells, it also has several issues:

  • It's an aggressive deck in a format with numerous 2/3's, which prevented many of my creatures from attacking. 
  • Despite being an aggressive deck, it only has 12 creatures. While I was often able to play creatures on turns two and three, I was rarely able to keep up the pressure, especially if my opponent had removal for one of them.
  • Having only 12 creatures also makes Retreat to Emeria, the two Expedition Raptors, and the two Lithomancer's Focus worse.
  • Makindi Aeronaut and especially Affa Protector are suboptimal in aggressive decks since they have only one power. I almost always sided in Eldrazi Aggressor to replace the latter and should have had it in my main deck.
  • Immolating Glare and Sheer Drop are suboptimal in aggressive decks since they don't kill blockers.
  • I forgot my own advice to treat ◇ as a sixth color and decided Spatial Contortion was a free splash because I already had 2 Crumbling Vestige. While it is fine to splash a bomb, you rarely want to splash a single removal spell. It would have been obvious if I were considering splashing the functionally identical Nameless Inversion, but it was somehow less obvious with Spatial Contortion. If I'd really needed to splash a card, Coastal Discovery would have been a better choice.
  • The deck has three spells with WW in their casting cost but only seven recurring source of white mana. There were several games where one of those spells was stuck in my hand, and even one where I had all three.

There were also some cards that performed better than expected:

  • Valakut Invoker and Sea Gate Wreckage: These were great mana sinks in a format that doesn't have many. I won most games where I was able to activate either ability. Valakut Invoker often became a lightning rod for removal once I reached seven mana, but none of my opponents had ways to remove Sea Gate Wreckage.
  • Retreat to Emeria: A couple of creatures followed by Retreat to Emeria was more than most opponents could handle. It often allowed my 2/2's to attack into 2/3's and 3/3's. In the late game, it created large armies that could eventually swarm my opponent.
  • Ondu War Cleric: This card continues to impress me. There were multiple games where it gained me 8-10 life before my opponent dealt with it.

I studied the pool after the tournament, and realized that I should have built a W/B deck instead.

My main concern with Black was a lack of playable creatures. However, while Kozilek's Translator is not exciting, it can hold the ground quite well until the deck finds some of its sources of card advantage or a win condition. The other defensive creatures and the lifegain from Ondu War Cleric, Kalastria Healer, and Ruin Processor can also buy the deck time. If the opponent plays a flyer or a creature I can't block effectively, the deck has eight removal spells. The White spells are a far better fit in a defensive deck, and the Black ones are more flexible than Reality Hemorrhage.

Unfortunately, I missed this build frown It's not a 9-0 deck, but it would have been more likely to get me to Day Two. My original build could have also made Day Two, but I made several misplays that put me out of contention. I will cover those misplays in my next article.

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