Near record breaking attendance for a Grand Prix.
Destined encounters with late night sealed.
Lots of sweet Standard decks.
And great experiences with old and new friends.
Grand Prix Pittsburgh had it all.
This summer has been amazing for magic. Not only did I get a Star City 5k in my hometown but we also got a Grand Prix! If you have never been to a GP before, make it a priority to get to one this year. With the expanded number of GP's they are going to be much more accessible than ever before. I know personally I will at least be making it to Baltimore and Indianapolis. GP Pittsburgh had 1430 energy filled magic players in attendance, which is close to the record. That many players combined with over ten dealers and a never ending stream of interesting side events, made for a crazy fun weekend of magic.
It started Friday night.
One of my friends noticed on the schedule of events that there was a casual sealed event Friday night with cool promo prizes. Originally we thought it was going to start 6:30. When we found out that time was incorrect, I did not even think about the implications of starting at 8:30. So on top of finishing the even at 1 am, the promos they had were lame also. We did not even get the new FNM promo Cultivate, we had to settle for Jace's Ingenuity. My sealed pool was pretty horrible so maybe I should feel lucky that I went 2-2 but I always feel like I can win no matter my deck. It was fun but we didn't get back to my apartment until after 2am.
So why were we at the event site until one in the morning? Fate. That was the real reason we were there on Friday night. Between rounds of the sealed event I was trading as usual and got to talking with the player I was trading with and his friends. One of them was particularly excited because he had won a grinder. Out of curiosity I asked what deck he played to win the three byes with. He said, it's easier if I just show you and hands me the deck. As I am flipping through his sweet almost foiled deck, my jaw drops because of the cards I am seeing...
Rewind to Monday before the Grand Prix.
Monday while I was at work I got a text from my friend Thomas Albin, the creator of the Beef Blade deck that I helped tweak and test for Regionals, he wanted to let me know how his testing was going with the list I sent him. The original list we created was basically Caw-Blade with the red mana again, for Cunning Sparkmage, Grim Lavamancer, and also Azure Mage for more card draw. The deck basically was Fish. I was still set on Voltron but he needed a deck for the GP. After testing caw with red and not being satisfied with the results, he switched to a variety of RUG builds and even a couple that were straight blue green. He and I were frustrated because we just couldn't seem to get the list right. He would test a list and then we would talk about it and make some changes but we never could settle on a final version. It was close but it still needed something. Friday he came up with a great idea, let's put in the Splinter Twin combo and then post board turn into Value RUG. I thought this was a brilliant idea but we left it at that, an idea, because we had to head off to the GP site for our sealed event.
...So, I was looking through the guy's deck who won a grinder and what deck was it? A sweet version of Value RUG. I immediately went over and got Thomas to take a look at the deck. It was exactly what we had been looking for. It was only a couple cards off from one of our working lists but that was huge.
Let's take a look at the list created by Josh Horton
I know that the deck just seems like normal rug pod but if you look closely you can see some of the interesting card choices. Josh was a really nice guy and it was pretty awesome of him to share his list with us. His list helped us arrive at the list Thomas played at the event. Here's what he ended up running.
Basically it is the same deck minus a few cards, except eight of those cards are in the sideboard. The deck was pretty amazing and except for having to play against a Hedron Crab Phantasmal Image deck all the other matches were very winnable. The mill deck made easy work of RUG Pod Combo so he started the day off a little rough. The rest of the RUG Pod Combo experience is as follows:
Round 1 - bye
Round 2 - Crab Mill LOSS
Round 3 - Blue Black Control WIN
Round 4 - Blue Red Splinter Twin LOSS
Round 5 - Caw-Blade WIN
Round 6 - Mono Black Aggro Control WIN
Round 7 - RUG No Combo WIN
Round 8 - Mirror LOSS
We decided that the deck was very good and probably the right choice for the tournament just not the best set of opponents play against. Doing it over again there is a strong chance that just playing a no combo version would have been the more consistent and better option. That being said, if you want to beat the decks he won against they are great matches, and he won all of them 2-0. All the matches he lost were 2-1 so that tells you he was in every match.
What about me you say? Well of course I was rocking Voltron! I love the deck so much and it is a ton of fun to play. If you want a good deck that is fun to play, get on board with Voltron!
I did make some changes to my list if you have been following it so take a look at the list and then we'll go from there.
You might be saying to yourself, but I thought he has been advocating no Accorder's Shield from the beginning? Why would he change and run that card? Well there is one main reason that I chose to put it in for this event. What I discovered is that I was missing out on the most broken draws that this deck can achieve by not playing the card. If you play turn one Flayer Husk, turn two Puresteel Paladin and Accorder's shield, and turn three Sword of Feast and Famine not only can you attack with a sworded creature but untap your lands and draw more cards since you should have other equipment to play. I thought that playing at a Grand Prix with tons of rounds, that I would need to have this option to steal a few games. The other reason that I wanted it in the list was against Caw-Blade because a shielded Etched Champion blocks Gideon all day. Both of those things were appealing to me when I was considering my options for this tournament.
The main changes came in the sideboard. I knew there would be a lot of aggro at this Grand Prix so I made sure to keep the anti aggro cards like the planeswalkers and Timely Reinforcements, which I added a third copy of, in the board. Also, seeing the recent success of Valakut and Splinter Twin, I made sure I could board a significant amount of cards against them.
What did I play against? AGGRO!
Round 1 - Mono Red (without Shrine) WIN
Round 2 - Vampires WIN
Round 3 - Vampires WIN
At this point all my friends were like, what metagame are you playing in? I was ecstatic because those are all great match-ups and I was 3-0.
Round 4 - Caw-Blade (with Heroes) WIN
My friends were glad I had to play against a real tier one deck but then...
Round 5 - Vampires LOSS
I was so excited when I saw what one of my fellow grinders was playing. Vampires is the match that I know more than any other because I have been on both sides of it. Somehow, I figured out a strategy that loses to them though. It was pitiful. Basically losing to Vampires either means you have no experience with this match-up or you mulligan every game and then game three mulligan to six, keep a double Squadron Hawk hand and draw the third hawk then a pile of lands. That's what I did anyway. After that round I was so frustrated because I was given the easy opportunity to be 5-0 and then almost all the variance in the tournament happened in one round.
Round 6 - Mono Red WIN
At this point it was basically a joke among my friends that I was just going to have to play against all of the good aggro decks that were doing well. But then it happened...
Round 7 - Josh Horton with RUG Pod LOSS
Who would have guessed that I even would have had to play against Josh, a guy who I knew his exact seventy five card deck, at the tournament. Also, who would have guessed that I would lose to it? I have an excellent record against any type of Birthing Pod deck. Basically they don't have removal so you are free to play whatever you want and just beat them. Also, you have Oblivion Ring, and the Mortarpod Basilisk Collar combo to kill any crazy threats that they manage to pull from their pile of one ofs. Unfortunately one game I lost to being mana screwed even though I put up a valiant fight and played extremely well to keep me in the game. Game two, I was mana flooded and could not draw gas or Mortarpod to finish him off and once he randomly drew Inferno Titan that ended my game.
Overall I love Voltron and the deck is capable of taking down events. If you are playing the deck and made any changes please post them below in the comments. Once the full set of Innistrad is spoiled I am going to begin testing a new version of the deck for the new metagame. I think it will continue to be viable even with losing Basilisk Collar.
RUG Pod is amazing and complex. The deck is quite good but make sure you have experience with it or it might overwhelm you with the intricacies of the deck. Birthing Pod has so much potential in the new format and I think we will continue to find new uses for it in the coming year.
Unleash the Force!