Grand Prix Pittsburgh was this past weekend, and Standard players were out in force. The format is fresh off the Pro Tour, and players from all over were ready to battle. Mostly they were ready to battle with GB, Saheeli Combo of some varity or Mardu Vehicles. I talked with some players who played against GB seven or eight times during the course of day one.
Tournament Preparations and Sales
I’m not the type of player to jump on the best-deck bandwagon. Usually I like to innovate and come at the format with a unique twist. That’s exactly what I did for this weekend. I’ve been working on this deck and tweaking it over a couple different seasons, but this is the latest iteration. The Wizards coverage team thought it was interesting enough to do a new kind of deck tech with me, so check that out and then we’ll jump right into the strategy and finance of the weekend.
I had a blast making the video with Corbin. Here’s the list I ran for the tournament.
The main game plan with the deck it to use the early removal and Oaths to make your planeswalkers even more effective. If you get two extra damage, an extra loyalty counter, or a 2/2 zombie in addition to your already efficient planewalker, you are going to overwhelm your opponent with a defensive stance that flips to offensive power really quickly. I was excited to get to play this fun list.
Before the event started, I was talking with some of the dealers I know and looking over the hot lists they had posted. The great thing about GPs is that dealers compete for your cards. Some of the bigger names don’t need to compete because players will go to them based on their name alone, but there’s extra money to be made if you work a little for it. Here’s a great example.
I brought a ton of cards to unload at this event. Most of them were left in my car because I needed to focus on playing first, but I brought a higher-cost assortment of cards with me to move in between rounds. With one bye at the event, I had some time before I started playing as well. This is the small box I started the day with.
There are some things you need to know about this list. All of these cards are in good condition. The Gaea's Cradle is lightly played, the Polluted Delta is an Expedition, and the Dark Petition is foil.
One of the easiest ways to make money on cards you’re selling is to inquire about the buy prices from a number of vendors. With a small number of cards like this, I was able to get the total buy price for the stack and compare from vendor to vendor. The big names were offering around $400 and if I had stopped there, I would have missed out on a lot of profits. As I traveled around the room, I found the number increasing because dealers wanted to beat the last buy price I received. Some passed on the stack because it was too high a cost, but others kept raising the price.
What amount would you have been expecting from this stack? I was able to get the highest price in the room, which was well above my expectation. My hope was to leave the stack and walk away with $450. That was a reasonable amount of profit from my investment and that would have been great. Instead though, with a little extra work, I was able to get a whopping $530! So, be patient with what you’re selling and get the most from your cards. If you have a ton of cards or a binder for dealers to look through, this process won’t work, but if you have a couple high-end cards, make sure to search for the best buy price.
After I unloaded my stack of cards I was ready to play.
The Tournament Report
Round 1: Bye and awesome buy prices.
Round 2: GB Ramp, 2-0, Win
This was an interesting version of Green-Black hoping to go bigger than the other similar lists by utilizing Rishkar's Expertise. Even against my slower midrange control deck, this didn’t work very well.
Round 3: GB Energy, 2-1, Win
Round three I got to play against the same strategy, but this time with a little more energy. One of the big draws to this version is Gilt-Sleeve Syphoner, and we’ve already seen some movement on its price. It could still go up more, so if you can find cheap copies, pick them up.
When you have early removal spells backed by planeswalkers in the midgame, it’s hard for Green-Black to make a comeback. Lifecaster's Beastiary can be difficult to keep up with, but this deck does a great job usually.
Your main concern against green-black decks right now is having at least one cheap removal spell for Winding Constrictor. If that guy gets going, or even gets one interaction with their other synergy cards, you might have a hard time.
Round 4: Grixis Emerge, 2-1, Win
Madness, dredge, and Fevered Visions were all featured aspects of this deck, as well as the Elder-Deep Fiends they were emerging. The basic strategy was to draw a lot of cards with red spells like Cathartic Reunion. Then bring a Stitchwing Skaab back from your graveyard and trigger all of the Prized Amalgams and bring the beat downs. I feel like Prized Amalgam is a card that will be influential for a long time to come. It's a great investment. This was a tough match, but the Transgress the Minds from the sideboard went a long way towards getting the win.
Round 5: GB Tokens, 0-2, Loss (Sam Pardee)
I have a lot of respect for Sam and how he approaches the game, and I was really excited to battle him. Unfortunately, in game one, I didn’t have a way to pressure his Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, and once he got the emblem, I couldn’t get back in the game. If I would have hit five mana on turn five, I could have cast Archangel Avacyn and taken control of the game, but I missed my land drop for multiple turns. Once I did hit my fifth land, he had already drawn six cards from Nissa and had one too many removal spells for me to claw my way back into the game. His draw game two lined up directly opposite mine, and everything I tried to do to stabilize was met with a direct counter of some sort.
Round 6: GW Tokens, 2-1, Win
When you sequence Oaths into planeswalkers, it's very difficult for your opponent to overcome the tempo and virtual card advantage that combination grants you. Even when you have to fight through Thraben Inspectors with your Oath of Lilianas, you can sometimes still be successful.
Round 7: Temur Eldrazi, 1-2, Loss
This Eldrazi variant also utilized Elder Deep-Fiend by primarily sacrificing Matter Reshaper. I was salty about this loss all weekend because it was all my fault. Late in game one, I had stabilized the board and he was in topdeck mode. He was trying to prevent me from winning by flashing in Elder-Deep Fiend to tap my creatures. My Gideon was doing a lot of work this game, as were my other tokens from Oath of Gideon and Liliana. The first turn he flashed in the Eldrazi, he tapped my Gideon and creatures so I couldn’t attack with them. The second turn, he flashed the Fiend in during my upkeep and I forgot to make a token from Gideon. He was at two life and that token creature would have been the winning two damage. It felt really bad to punt a match I should have won.
Round 8: Esper Control, 0-2, Loss
I’d love to say my opponent played extremely well and beat me, but the truth is that he just cast a bunch of Glimmer of Geniuses, countered and killed a couple things and then I conceded. Game one started out okay, but outside of my opening hand, I drew almost all lands. Game two, I couldn’t draw enough lands, and I was stuck on two and then three lands for a couple turns. I didn’t put up much of a fight in this match with my mana flood and mana screw game plans.
Round 9: 4-Color Saheeli, 2-0, Win
The last round of the day I had to play against the Saheeli Combo, and that’s a lot of pressure for round 9. In game one, he didn’t have a lot of pressure and spent most of his resources looking for the combo. I got an early Chandra, Torch of Defiance and her emblem was able to help me protect against him assembling the combo as well as helping me win the game.
Game two he had to mulligan to five. I had mulliganed to six multiple times throughout the course of the GP so far, but luckily never five. I had Transgress the Mind to disrupt him, and outside some energy creatures hitting the battlefield, I held control of the game the whole time.
I think this matchup is one of the harder ones because some hands you get don’t have instant-speed removal, so you have to just hope they don’t draw the combo. They aren’t going to win by combo every time anyway, but it’s still nerve wracking sometimes. Saheeli has come down quite a bit in price because the deck isn’t as consistent as we thought it would be.
I ended day one at 6-3, but should have been 7-2 if I had not punted.
Round 10: BW Control, 2-0, Win
This black-white control deck was as close as I came to a mirror match on the weekend and there were a lot of differences between our lists. My deck is much more suited for this style of game than a traditional control deck. I have many incidental creatures hanging around and they put a lot of pressure on the opposing control player. I never dropped below 20 life in either game of this match because I kept pressure up the entire time.
Round 11: Mardu Vehicles, 2-1, Won
Your goal against Mardu Vehicles is to always kill Heart of Kiran and put them in an end-game state with only the top of their deck and maybe a Scrapheap Scrounger coming back. Once this happens, your incremental advantage grows and overwhelms them. Radiant Flames, Fatal Push or any cheap removal helps you stabilize against their aggressive draws. Scrapheap Scrounger is one busted Magic card. I was lucky to have two copies of Stasis Snare, and I wanted more or some way to exile Scrounger, because it's way too easy to bring him back to play. There are basically no drawbacks except not being able to block. He still has room to grow in price too.
Round 12: GB, 1-2, Loss (Bernie Wen)
Although I didn’t play against GB nearly as much as other players, I think this deck has a favorable matchup. In order for that to happen, though, you need to not mulligan much and draw reasonable hands. Game one I mulled to six and drew most of my five-drops. Even with Bernie’s mediocre draw, he was able to lay the 2/3 beatdowns until I died. Game two I had a good draw and he played a lot of lands. Game three it was I who drew the pile of lands. I would have been fine and stabilized easily if he didn’t transgress my Fumigate.
Round 13: Mardu Vehicles, 0-2, Loss (Max McVety)
Rattling off two wins to start day two is exactly what you need to do. Starting the day at 6-3 makes it really hard to cash the event, though. So, at 8-4, I’m basically on the bubble every round. Maybe I should have been nervous to play Max McVety because he won the SCG Invitational, but that’s never my mindset. Anytime I get a chance to play good players, I’m excited about the challenge. I just wish sometimes I could have good draws against higher-caliber players.
Max impressed me with his in-depth thought process about various game states throughout the match. I was on the back foot from the get go, but he still was cautious and made sure he had the win before committing to his last attack. In game two, I couldn’t figure out the line of play during the game because some unique interactions came up. It wasn’t until after the match that I figured out the line that would have won the game. Here’s what happened:
We are in the mid game and I have a modest board, as does Max. He is going to kill me soon, but I was applying pressure with Heart of Kiran while it was in play. I played a Chandra and she was gaining me some great card advantage next to Gideon. On the following turn I was planning to play Avacyn in combat to blow him out with a block, but I flipped Walking Ballista from Chandra’s plus-one ability, so I tanked about the best line. I ended up casting the Ballista and playing Avacyn on my turn, then passed expecting her to flip. The catch is that one, he had Thalia, Heretic Cathar in play, and two, Avacyn doesn’t know a creature went to my graveyard because she wasn’t in play yet.
What I needed to do was cast Avacyn in response to the Ballista on the stack and then his board would have been wiped and we would have gone to game three, where I would have had a chance to win the match and keep my record live to cash. Instead, he untapped and killed both my planeswalkers, and there was basically nothing I could do to win from there.
Round 14: Drop
Although I was upset about being knocked out of the tournament, now I had more time to sell more cards. Every event can be both about success as a player as well as making you some money to support your hobby. Now that everyone has a smart phone, you can double check the prices dealers are giving you for your cards too. In fact, one of the best tools you can reference is Trader Tools here on Quiet Speculation. That way you can see what half a dozen dealers are paying for a card, so you can get an idea of how good the prices you’re being offered are.
I had a blast at my home town GP and I had a lot of great competitive and financial experiences along the way as well. Hope you enjoyed the recap. Let me know what you think about the deck in the comments.
Until next time,
Unleash the Force!
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