Following every GP, dozens of tournament reports pop up from Legacy grinders or semi-pros about their 12-3 performances, showcasing that they played very well, but hit variance in a few matches and ultimately did not top 8. These reports are interesting, but what do we really learn from them? We all know these people are good at Magic, and that luck has a large factor in the game, but I think we learn a lot more from our failures than from our success. Therefore I am going to write about my absolutely abysmal tournament experience at GP Las Vegas, and what I learned from it!
Who am I?
Nobody of importance really. I am cyruscg and I play Storm. I am a Magic the Gathering Online grinder, Legacy enthusiast, and a local San Francisco Bay Area magic player. I’ve played the game off and on since Darksteel was released when I was 8 years old, but I don’t have any real tournament success except for a few Magic Online 5-0’s and some decent results at Channelfireball Game Center tournaments. Long story short, I am just like you. I enjoy playing magic with my friends, and although it’s really nothing more than a hobby, I still enjoy winning just as much as anyone else.
Grand Prix Las Vegas was my first Grand Prix main event. I tested for months and months, Top 8’d several GPTs, 5-0’d online multiple times, and had pushed my win rate up to 70%. I felt extremely confident in my 75 and ability with the deck, and was ready to do well in my first GP…
I left California around 2 a.m. with three of my friends, and after making the 10 hour drive to Vegas and being awake for 30 consecutive hours, I jumped into some Last Chance Qualifiers to try and earn my byes, but couldn’t quite seal the deal. Oh well, byes or no byes I felt I was prepared to do well at my first GP.
Here is my decklist:
Ad Nauseam Tendrils
4 Gitaxian Probe
3 Cabal Therapy
4 Dark Ritual
4 Cabal Ritual
4 Infernal Tutor
1 Dark Petition
1 Ad Nauseam
1 Past in Flames
1 Tendrils of Agony
1 Empty the Warrens
4 Lion's Eye Diamond
4 Lotus Petal
4 Polluted Delta
3 Scalding Tarn
1 Bloodstained Mire
2 Underground Sea
1 Volcanic Island
3 Fatal Push
2 Hurkyl's Recall
2 Echoing Truth
1 Cabal Therapy
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Tormod's Crypt
2 Chrome Mox
Now on to the report!
Round 1: Sneak and (No) Show
My heart is racing, I sit down at the table, have my deck and life pad ready, and am excited to meet my first opponent at this Grand Prix. Many people walk by and sit down near me, but at the beginning of the round I have no opponent, I call a judge, wait ten minutes, and receive a match win.
Who needs to earn their byes anyways? As a good friend often tells me, it is better to be lucky than good.
My Grand Prix is off to a great start as I only need to 5-3 to Day 2 at this point.
Record: 1-0 (2-0)
Round 2: Hiro on UR Delver
As I sit down to play Hiro, a small crowd of people who already have Byes gather around. Hiro is wearing a “Team Railbird Gaming” shirt, and I recognize many faces from Railbird’s stream.
Game 2: I am able to make 10 goblins on turn 3, but am facing down a Monastery Swiftspear which is likely to block many of the goblins if Hiro can find 1 more blocker and a removal spell. He does, and stabilizes at 2 life. Thankfully I am able to sacrifice my goblin token to flashback Cabal Therapy, and then cast Infernal Tutor for Tendrils of Agony and win the game.
Game 3: This was a great game. Every spell I cast to look at Hiro’s hand is countered, including my Gitaxian Probes. I wonder what Hiro is hiding, or if he is just bluffing. A few turns later I attempt to Duress him and counters with Invasive Surgery. I am at 8 life, facing down a lone Monastery Swiftspear and Hiro has 3 cards in hand. My hand is: Cabal Ritual, Infernal Tutor, Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lotus Petal, and I have one land untapped. I can go through a Past in Flames line to kill him this turn, but he has cast 5 or 6 cantrips, has 3 cards in hand, and has not cast Force of Will and only one Daze this game. I lose to either of those cards and decide the likelihood of him having a counterspell is higher than him having multiple Lightning Bolts at this point of the game and so I ship the turn. He untaps, double bolts me, swings with Monastery Swiftspear, and I lose. He shows me his hand it was another Lightning Bolt and a land.
I’m still not sure I made the right play, it is easy in hindsight to say I should have jammed there, but I think 9 times out of 10 I would make the same play again.
Record: 1-1 (3-2)
Round Three: Mr Delver of Secrets on Elves
I sit down, and my opponent has Delver of Secrets sleeves, a Delver of Secrets deckbox, and even a matching playmat… So they are clearly not on Delver. I make a joke about this and my opponent looks me in the eyes and says, “You are on Storm, people in Hawaiian shirts are always on Storm, and that big deck box is full of dice and goblin tokens.”
He is 100% right. I am not sure how he got the soul read on me, but I shake it off, make a joke about it, and we proceed with our match.
Game 2: I noticed in between games my opponent bringing in around 10 cards for this matchup. This is never good, but I think the matchup is so heavily favored that I don’t worry too much.
It turns out that his hand lines up very well with mine. He mulls to 6 and keeps a hand light on interaction but with multiple Nettle Sentinels and Natural Order. I Duress the Natural Order and am not able to cast the Ad Nauseam in my hand before I am at too low of a life total due to the Nettle Sentinel beatdown plan. Oh well, it happens.
Game 3: I am on the play this game, and my opponent mulliganed to five, so I am feeling pretty good about my odds. I snap off a turn one Inquisition of Kozilek, and take a Deathrite Shaman before casting Cabal Therapy next turn and taking my opponents Scavenging Ooze. He proceeds to miss land drops for the next couple turns, and I shuffle 2 Ponders and Brainstorm looking for a tutor but can’t find one.
Eventually, my opponent assembles four mana, and I am worried that he will Natural Order (a known card) for Ruric Thar, the Unbowed. So I decide to go for a Past in Flames loop where I get to cast three Ponders and one Brainstorm to try and find one of my four Infernal Tutors or a Tendrils of Agony. I whiff on all 4 cantrips, and lose the game. Afterwards my opponent mentions that he did in fact have a Ruric Thar that was coming the next turn, so I think I made the right play.
Record: 1-2 (4-4)
Round Four: ??? on Burn
Game 1: I sit down across from a nice man who is shuffling up a single sleeved deck in red sleeves, and he mentions that he has never played Legacy before. I make a guess and put him on Burn, and am proven right when he wins the die roll and leads on Goblin Guide. I blind name Eidolon of the Great Revel, hit, and win the next turn.
Game 2: This game goes much the same way as Game 1, I blind name Eidolon with Therapy and hit, and then win the game a few turns later.
This matchup can be tough for Storm because it is nearly impossible to win through an Eidolon, and Burn is also capable of turn three kills. It is hard to keep a hand that can beat Eidolon and also win before turn three, but luckily my hand lined up nicely both games and I got a bit of luck. Storm is definitely favored, but not by much.
At this point, I am 2-2, and can Day 2 as long as I can go 4-1, not the easiest thing, but definitely possible. My only worry is that I will get paired against Black-Red Reanimator now that I have two losses, as I consider that to be Storm’s worst matchup.
Record: 2-2 (6-4)
Round 5: Marshall on Black-Red Reanimator
I see my round 5 pairing and know I am playing my friend Marshall on BR Reanimator. Just like we didn’t want! Both games are uneventful, despite bringing in a ton of cards I just get my hand ripped apart and it is easier for them to rebuild than it is for Storm. I lose 0-2.
At this point, I am feeling out of the tournament but still have a slim chance at Day 2, and so I sit down for my next match.
Record: 2-3 (6-6)
Round 6: Wes on White Aluren
Game 2: I sideboard in a few bounce spells because of Leovold. My opponent leads off on an Underground Sea and passes. I draw for my turn, I look at my hand and realize I have the turn 1 kill, but decide to wait as I don’t want to go off blind into open blue mana and lose. To my surprise, Wes plays a turn 2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and I lose the game.
Game 3: Wes leads on a Thoughtseize, taking a tutor, before dropping Thalia and Cabal Therapying double Fatal Push out of my hand before I can hit a second land drop and remove it. I lose the game, and am out of the tournament.
Record: 2-4 (7-8) Drop.
Testing for countless hours, driving to a big event, and spending a ton of money, only to be out after 6 rounds feels bad. However, there was a lot to learn from this experience.
Lesson 1: Be Prepared
Almost anyone who is going to make the time and spend the money to travel to a Grand Prix is going to test. But being prepared for a big event goes far beyond this. The night before the tournament, I didn’t sleep well, I woke up and didn’t have coffee or food, and I was just generally not in the right mindset to do well in the tournament. Far more goes into doing well at a magic tournament than just playing magic, and all of these factors need to be accounted for.
Lesson 2: Don’t Underestimate Yourself, or Overestimate Your Opponents
The night before the Grand Prix I changed 5 cards in my 75. I took out a Rain of Filth in the maindeck for a Duress, and cut a Chrome Mox, 2 Tendrils of Agony, and 2 Chain of Vapor for 2 Surgical Extractions, a Tormod’s Crypt, a Flusterstorm, and a Inquisition of Kozilek in the sideboard. Don’t second guess yourself. I had tested with this 75 for months, and had my sideboard plan locked down. During the tournament I found myself wishing I was just playing with the list I knew, and I likely should have.
Don’t overestimate your opponents either though. I lost against both UR Delver and Aluren where if I had just jammed, rather than think about it, I would have won the game. I assumed my opponents aggressively countering discard spells or leaving up blue mana meant they had countermagic, but sometimes you just need to make them have it anyways. You are far more likely to next level yourself than your opponents are to next level you.
Lesson 3: Want To Win Every Game
Bad beats and variance happen. But if you let it get to you it can quickly spiral downwards into multiple match losses. Just shake off the bad beats, or mistakes, or variance, and play every game as its own individual game.
Lesson 4: Have Fun!
This one is the most important. Chances are, if you are still reading this article you are a scrub just like me. It can be frustrating to feel like you’ve wasted all this time preparing for a tournament only to be out early. But that’s part of magic!
I went and had some food with my friends, got a ton of cards signed, cubed a little, and then 4-0’d a large side event to win roughly $335 in credit. Every person I interacted with and played over the course of the tournament was a great person, and so despite my awful record, I felt I was able to take something away from GP Las Vegas.
Other memorable moments from GP Las Vegas include Ad Nauseaming from 1 life after facing down a Wasteland, two Rishadan Port activations, and Phyrexian Revoker on Lion’s Eye Diamond vs Lands all on the same turn and winning the game. I flipped Lotus Petal to cast the the blue spell in my hand and become hellbent for Infernal Tutor and stuffing myself food with all you can eat sushi from Neko Sushi.
The venue, hotel, and people at GP Las Vegas were amazing. I learned a lot about my game and tournament preparation as a magic player, and along the way was able to interact with some great people, eat some great food, and overall have a great time.
Until next time, keep storming on and remember to have fun!