Hey hey hey!
The GP was finally here. I drove up after work with my boyfriend Geoffrey and my workmate Tom, so there was almost non-stop magic strategy chat for the 3 hour drive (with a little bit of "guess the card" thrown in, which is a yes/no game where you have to guess which card someone is thinking of. "Is it a permanent?" is my favourite opening question). We got there in time to register on the Friday, and to everyone's dismay the hall already smelled pretty bad.... :-(
The following morning I was really excited to get there and see whether I'd have a good sealed deck to battle with after my 3 byes were up. There were enough people there for 9 rounds, and to make day 2 you needed 2 or fewer losses. I opened a pool with Grim-Grin and Havengul Lich (again - sigh, I really would like to own one of these myself). The pool I was passed had the benefit of lots of removal, red being it's best colour. The trick was to decide whether to pair it with blue (splash black) -
or with black (splash white) -
The blue deck was more tempoish, and the black deck more grindy. I thought the black deck would be able to get to the late game but then may struggle as it was lacking any real bombs - the splash for the angel was to try to rectify this. I registered the blue build as I liked it's creatures more, but I misbuilt it slightly - I had a Nearheath Stalker which was my last cut, but I should've kept it instead of one of the Deranged Assistants - I had become to fixated on the two stitched creatures that I wanted to support and had almost failed to notice I wasn't really ramping into anything apart from the flashback on Fires of Undeath and Forbidden Alchemy.
I managed to find Geoffrey and have a look at his UB zombie deck, gave him a little advice on a couple of card choices I would have made differently, then wished him luck for the first round. I took the opportunity of most people being busy to then visit the artists and get some cards signed. It was cool chatting to R K Post, it turns out he does almost the same day job as me, and he gave me a postcard with instructions on how to send portfolios to Wizards.
After the 1st round I got together with Tom, Matt Light and Neil Rigby. I showed Neil my builds, his opinion was that the black version was better. I planned my mana base and sleeved up the cards that I'd need in order to do a colour switch into the black deck. I played some test games against Matt, winning the first one after luckily top-decking some lands, and the 2nd game was cut short just after Matt had made Mikaeus, the Unhallowed as the pairings went up for the next round.
I ventured out into Manchester to find some lunch for Geoffrey and myself. After eating I played some games with my blue build against James Foster's 4 colour creation. I won 3 in a row, and the deck felt pretty good - so then I tried the black build out. The mana wasn't really behaving itself for some reason, and the creatures I had felt very uninspiring - they did not feel like "threats which must be answered", like my blue deck's Murder of Crows and Stitched Drake. I decided I prefered the blue deck, but I'd board into the black deck if I felt it was better against the particular deck I was facing.
Round 4 eventually came around and it was time to play! My first opponent was Tomas Sukaitis, a face I recognise from PTQs, and I'm pretty sure I have lost to him in the past. His deck is full of humans and he has Avacyn's Collar, which is bad news for me. After dying to his spirit tokens I board into my black deck, and also board in my own Avacyn's Collar even though I don't really have many humans myself. I manage to win game 2 by using Unburial Rites on my Forge Devil to kill a blocker - not the most glamarous of targets that I'd envisioned! In game 3 I am again on the back foot and die to lots of little spirits.
I decided not to be phased my losing the first round I played. I got to have a really good chat with my next round opponent, Ryan Carroll, while we waited for the round to start. Turns out he's worked at CERN and know's my friend Ellie from my year at University - such a small world! His deck is some bad news for me - 2 Lingering Souls, Avacyn's Collar and Elder of Laurels, but after 3 games I manage to win in turn 1 of time when he alpha strikes me, doesn't play a spell and my Hanweir Watchkeep flips so that I have lethal damage on the back swing. I decide if I can beat that combination of cards I can beat anything! No more losing!
I keep up no more losing for 2 more rounds. The most fun game was winning after my opponent had played Lingering Souls and Bloodline Keeper. I'd Geist Flamed his tokens away, Brimstone Volleyed his Bloodline Keeper but was definitely looking to be on the back foot. I'd attacked twice with Makeshift Mauler, putting my opponent to 12. On my opponent's attack, I flashed in Snapcaster Mage, giving my Brimstone Volley flashback. After blocks and some sacrificing to Falkenrath Torturer, my opponent seemed a little surprised that I Brimstoned him in the face in the end step. I attacked, putting him to 5, then finished him off with the 2nd Brimstone Volley in my hand. In the next game I found it quite funny when he played Witchbane Orb - a bit of an overreaction!
In my next round I lost to a green deck. My blue deck wasn't great at dealing with his huge creatures so I boarded into my black build which had cards like Tragic Slip and Death's Caress which seemed better for the matchup. Meanwhile he boarded into a blue green build, and then I died to his fliers.
Having now accumulated two losses, I was in for a bubble match. Whoever won would get to play day 2, and the other would not. And it seemed I had come full circle - my opponent Tom Davies was the person I'd been sitting opposite in deck building first thing this morning thanks to our similar surnames. I tried to remember what I'd seen him building - I had a vague recollection it was red and that was about it. He told me he'd lost his first two rounds and then had been on a winning streak from there. His deck was red black, quite aggressive and had some nice cards to help as removal and reach - Fires of Undeath and Devil's Play. He made me work for my win and in - we had two very grindy games and it was the first time I'd actually flashed back Forbidden Alchemy all day. With only 5 cards left in game 2, I drew my Griptide, removing his only blocker for the win.
Geoffrey didn't ask me if I'd made it, he just said "Well done!" after seeing the giant grin on my face. Geoffrey went 4-5 and Tom and Matt had done amazingly well, both going 8-1. We went to a very noisy pub, stayed for one drink then managed to navigate back to our hotel.
We had to arrive at 7.55am for the player's meeting. After signing bits of paper and some waiting around we got to do the first draft:
I was more than pleased with how the first draft had gone. It seemed no-one to my right was interested in my colours, so in the 3rd pack I got a 3rd pick Kessig Wolf-Run, and then 4th pick the Daybreak Ranger I'd seen opened also made it to me - in the same pack as a 2nd Wolf-Run that I had to pass.
In the first round of this draft I made the biggest mistake I'd made all tournament by messing up my Moonmist while blocking. It was complicated by the fact that he had 3 wolves and werewolves of his own, but I managed to first mess up by not leaving a green open so I'd be able to regenerate my Ulvenwald Mystic's werewolf side, and also by thinking Moonmist would prevent the damage from his Pitchburn Devil's death trigger. When it turned out he had Rally the Peasants all of our creatures ended up trading with each other, and he recovered before I did. In game 2 I only drew one Mountain, and he Into the Maw of Helled it and my flipped Daybreak Ranger that had been happily eating all of his creatures. With no red mana, and a hand full of red spells, I couldn't do anything about the Moonveil Dragon with Butcher's Clever.
I was really beating myself up about my mistake. Matt snapped me out of it by pointing out that my deck is awesome and I'm just going to crush the next two rounds because they won't be the good decks in my pod. I indeed crushed the next round, but then had quite an epic dual with the next opponent. His deck was blue black and very controlling. In game 1 I traded Ludvic's Abomination for an Ambush Viper but then got finished off by zombie tokens. I boarded in my Nightbird's Clutches as his deck was good at gumming up the board. I won game 2, then in game 3 the combination of Pyreheart Wolf, Nightbird's Clutches and Markov Warlord allowed me to kill him despite his many zombie tokens.
2-1 was a fine result, but I was still annoyed at myself for not going 3-0 with that deck. Geoffrey had bought me a lovely panini, so I got to eat while the tables were sorted out for the next draft. It also went rather well:
My deck crushed the first opponent for this draft in approximately 6 minutes. So I got to see the end of one of Tom and Matt's feature matches as they were both in the feature match area that round. I was keeping my fingers crossed that one or both of them would make the top 8. Sadly Tom lost but Matt defeated Ben Stark.
The next round I was punished for my deck building mistake, losing the first game to my opponent's Silverclaw Griffin, with one forest in play and Vorapede in my hand. In addition, I had "gone for it" with Wild Hunger for the kill - and he had a Brimstone Volley to wreck that plan. I got a nice fast start in game 2 after mulliganning and won that one. Then in game 3 I mulliganned to 6 again. My hand was Forest, Young Wolf, Dawntreader Elk, Hamlet Captain and a couple of 3 drops. I took the risk and kept it. I failed to draw a 2nd land for 3 turns, while he made 2 Cloistered Youths which rapidly mauled me to death. I was sad to lose with this deck too, but it was ultimately my deck building failure which cost me that one.
For the last round of the day I played against a red blue control deck with Charmbreaker Devils. Here Vorapede decided to shine. I got him down to 8 life but he had managed to kill all of my creatures. He had set up a lock on the board with Charmbreaker Devil having gotten back Grasp of Phantoms, in addition to a Harvest Pyre and Blood Feud, and he had a Ghoulcaller's bell filling up his graveyard slowly. For some reason he wasn't attacking with his Charmbreaker Devil, so I was still on 20 life. I of course had Vorapede stuck in my hand again. I drew Wild Hunger, then I drew and cast the Demonmail Hauberk, then drew Faith's Shield. I then drew two forests, allowing me to cast Vorapede. On his turn he of course tries to Grasp it, so I shield it. I cross my fingers that the next card I draw is a creature - which it is. I play my creature then sac it, going to equip the Vorapede. In response he Harvest Pyres Vorapede for 4 - so I Wild Hunger it. My 12 power Vorapede smashes over his Charmbreaker Devils for the win. The next game is not as exctiting as I curve out and he is stuck on mountains.
So after all that magic I'm 11-4. I come 48th, winning some money and I finally have a pro point! Tom ended up a fantastic 15th, and Matt heartbreakingly lost out on his tie-breakers and came 9th. We went to celebrate/commiserate in a nearby Weatherspoons, and when I was sufficiently merry Geoffrey and I went to the Thai Orchid and ended a great weekend with a fantastic meal.