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Last time I told you the story of how I went 8-1 on the first day of Grand Prix San Diego. Today we move on to Day Two, and you can expect your regularly scheduled Commander content back next week. In the meantime, I'll relieve the anxiety I know you've all been experiencing about what the surprise was on Sunday morning:
I cracked my eyes open, feeling the stiffness in my lower back that accompanied sleeping in a bed five inches too short. On the bunk across from me, I saw two figures. Strange... with six beds in the hostel room and only four of us, nobody had slept in that top bunk the night before. I crawled out of bed and did a double take.
The man on the top bunk was not one of my friends, and I noticed another stranger on the bed above me. We'd been told we would have the room to ourselves and had been planning to pack up before heading to the event site in order to avoid paying for an extra night.
As quietly as possible (which is to say, “not very”) we shoved cards into boxes, emptied the fridge, and zipped up our bags.
We made our way to the convention center, managing to avoid the rain that had been falling off and on all weekend, and arrived just before they opened the hall. My friends who hadn't made Day Two headed over to the PTQ tables while I took my seat for the player's meeting. After filling out some tax information and release forms, I sat down for my first draft.
[Note: these pick orders are approximate. I had no method of recording them and as such they may be slightly inaccurate.]
Pack 1 Picks
I dropped Blue in pack one after Matthias Hunt (the drafter to my right, and 2011 Rookie of the Year) got shipped a fourth pick Civilized Scholar. White seemed semi-open to me, but after I played Matthias (spoiler alert!), he revealed that he started in White. I obviously overvalued the run-of-the-mill White creatures, not from a card quality perspective, as they're all very strong, but from a signaling one. White has a lot of decent common creatures, so receiving a few might just mean there were slightly better ones in the pack.
Pack 2 Picks
Pack two was painful as I passed not one, but two Bonds of Faith for my first pick Fiend Hunter and second pick Angel of Flight Alabaster. When I found a Vampire Interloper sixth pick, I moved in on Black (because it had been obviously open in pack one) in search of an aggressive deck.
Pack 3 Picks
For pack three, I was pretty sure White would be cut, but decided to stick with it for my bombs and removal, just hoping that I would be able to get enough Black cards to fill out my deck. Interestingly enough, after completing the drafting portion, the deck I built was almost mono white:
Day Two Draft Deck (One)
The pairings went up and I found myself matched up against Lokman Chen, a local ringer who I'd previously played at a couple of PTQs.
Lokman had drafted a strong Red-Black deck full of aggressive Vampires with the [card Vampiric Fury]fury[/card] to back them up.
Game one I started off too far behind to play around the fury, he had it, and I promptly died to Instigator Gang after losing my team. I'd used my Fiend Hunter earlier in an attempt to stabilize, but I probably should have held it because I had a lot more blockers to draw than answers for bombs.
In game two, I battled back against his Gang-less draw but fell to it again in the third game with Bonds of Faith and Victim of Night unable to stop the menace. I wasn't exactly thrilled to have used up my safety net loss for a Top 8 slot on the first round of Day Two, but since my goal was really only to Top 16, I wasn't feeling too dejected.
Rounds 11 and 12
The next round I was paired against Love Janse, a Top 8 competitor at last year's Worlds. Luckily for me, I'm terrible with names and didn't recognize his, so I wasn't all that nervous going into the match which I won fairly easily on the backs of my two-power fliers.
My luck in not recognizing big names ran out in round 12 when I found myself paired against none other than Matthias Hunt. I managed to stay pretty calm despite Matthias and his UW deck beating me pretty convincingly in the first game.
His subsequent mana screw meant that game two was pretty uneventful, but game three we came out racing. I read him for Moment of Heroism, but after bricking for a few turns, I had no option but to hope I'd made a mistake. I set up a potential win for the next turn, and Matthias swung back for exactsies with Moment.
We talked for a bit after the match, and he confirmed that he'd been trying to stay out of Blue after passing Murder of Crows, but had switched for the late [card Civilized Scholar]Jekyll[/card]. And as I mentioned, he was in White before grabbing double Bonds of Faith in pack two. Matthias gave me the lowdown on which standing cutoffs to aim for, and then we wished each other good luck for the next draft.
Pack 1 Picks
After seeing two late Harvest Pyres, I was pretty sure that red Was open. And, while I hadn't seen a lot of great stuff, Black seemed to be suffering from not having much opened rather than an overabundance of drafters.
Pack 2 Picks
After moving in on my colors and deciding to splash Blue instead of White, I took the 45 seconds I was given to review my picks and try to formulate a list of curve considerations.
Pack 3 Picks
This draft showed me the awkwardness of drafting mostly at FNM and on MtGO.
Not being able to look at my pool between picks, in the middle of pack three I knew white was open, but wasn't sure how many of my playables were red. I decided to stick to red, but when I got to deck building ended up cutting it anyway, meaning I missed out on a lot of late Elder Cathars and Doomed Travelers that would have made my deck better.
The list I registered:
Day Two Draft Deck (Two)
Yup. The plan was to kill them with 2/2s without being terribly aggressive. And I'm always a fan of playing my last pick of the draft (maybe more so when it's a Ghoulcaller's Bell). Needless to say, after going 1-2 with a much stronger deck in the previous draft, I was going to need some pretty favorable variance to pull out the 3-0 I'd need to Top 16 for a Pro Tour invite.
My first round opponent had what appeared to be the nuts Green-Blue deck.
Game one he bricked for approximately one million draw steps and I was able to pull it out. The second game he stumbled a bit and then started stabilizing. I had a Falkenrath Noble down, and my opponent ran out a couple of ground guys to stop my forces rather than flashing back Spider Spawning, so with all my skill I promptly top-decked Demonmail Hauberk to kill him.
Once again, I was paired against Jon Finkel. I'd heard from one of the players who'd taken an Instigator Gang in the draft that he and Jon were in the same colors. Not knowing what the nonRed one was, I decided to assume Jon was playing aggro.
His first land was an Island and my removal heavy hand started looking a lot worse. Soon enough my team of Rotting Fensnakes and Walking Corpses were staring down three enchantments and Jon got his Burning Vengeance.
I decided to warp my deck to deal with the enchantment,. Since I hadn't seen any strong creatures, I cut Blue and its Evil Twin for Naturalize to go alongside Paraselene and Urgent Exorcism. Game two he managed not to find a single Burning Vengeance despite a bevy of Think Twices and Desperate Ravings, and my random dorks barely got there.
I'd done it! I totally had Jon Finkel's number! I started to put my cards away.
“That was game two.”
After apologizing profusely, I decided I needed to be a bit less all-in on enchantment destruction, as Jon had almost won without an enchantment on the board, so I took out Green in favor of more creatures out of Red. I started the beats off well, but my team quickly succumbed to two doses of Burning Vengeance, as did I soon thereafter. Paraselene and I haven't been on talking terms since it ditched me.
And here I was, sitting in the last round of a Gran Prix that I couldn't Top 16, playing for a few hundred bucks.
I'd looked at the standings. My tiebreakers were very good. If I won I'd most likely Top 32, but a loss or draw would put me out of Top 64—that is to say, prize-less.
My opponent this round had an insane mono Red aggro deck. After winning the roll, he started things off with a Reckless Waif. I tried to staunch the bleeding with a turn two Walking Corpse, but Cobbled Wings quickly invalidated that plan, and the Screeching Bat I dropped the turn was soon the laughing stock of his Furor of the Bitten.
I ripped through my sideboard, trying to find a plan of action. I hadn't come all this way and worked this hard just to leave with nothing! My White and Blue were too slow and I needed to block.
I threw together a Jund-colored concoction, complete with Ancient Grudge for his wings and an assortment of mediocre Red dudes. I figured that the only way I was going to win was to draw perfectly, so the greed was justified.
Of course, I immediately got color screwed and lost. Miserable, and trying to contain it, I congratulated Marc on making Top 64, saw the Galvanic Juggernaut and Brimstone Volley his deck had in store for me had I squeezed that game out, and moped over to watch my friends grind after being out of contention in the PTQ.
Seventy-fifth place might be 'good,' but after Day Two it was more than disappointing. It was soul-crushing. For a while after the tournament I felt dejected even thinking about competitive play, but having moved a little bit farther past it, coming so close has only determined me to do better.
I'm planning on being at the Santa Clara PTQ tomorrow, and you better believe I'm in it to win it (though some Commander and cubing certainly might occur on the side). Come back next week for the casual side of The End of the Worlds. And in the meantime play some Innistrad limited. It's fantastic!
@JulesRobins on twitter