I didn't intend to go to Grand Prix Las Vegas.
Tom Ross (@Boss_MTG) June 13, 2017
Crazy, inefficient, but bound to be good times. Mostly, for the sake of Magic's future, I couldn't risk Majors not making it to Seattle and improving our game.
The 32 hours went by surprisingly smoothly. No traffic, bad weather, or other hiccups. It's hard to miss turns when 1800 of the miles was driving down I-40. The secret was the Pillow Fort we built in the backseat for someone to rest in, ensuring that the trip could be made with only one overnight stop.
Overall, a great road trip. Expensive of course, but roughly equivalent to how much two separate Grand Prix on two separate weekends would have been. I gave it my best shot in Legacy and Modern and, given the chance to go back, would make the trip again and would only change a few card choices.
What I Got Right:
First off, I stuck to what I knew. I knew that various Delver decks would be present, which is historically a poor matchup. Even so, it's not unwinnable and generally favors the more experienced Legacy player. I based my list off Zachary Koch's second-place list from the Louisville Classic. Turns out he played his same list in the Grand Prix, all the way to 12-0 as the last remaining undefeated player. Unfortunately, he couldn't nab the elusive last win among the remaining three rounds and fell short of Top 8 and a Pro Tour invite. Nonetheless, an amazing run.
I liked the three Gitaxian Probe. Every time there's a long lull between Legacy tournaments, there's enough time for people to innovate new things. In a 2600-person tournament, people can show up with anything. Gitaxian Probe may be an easy-mode crutch, but for the Grand Prix I wanted it.
4-1 #GPVegas. Got to do the 10th poison counter with Tezzeret's Gambit.— Tom Ross (@Boss_MTG) June 15, 2017
Sylvan Library was good in the slow matchups, mainly against Counter-Top Miracles. I imagine it's fine against the new U/W Control version packing Portent, and if that deck picks up, I should revisit Sylvan Library. For the tournament I was happy having Tezzeret's Gambit my card advantage card. It pitches to Force of Will and can tinker with various counters, including bumping a Chalice of the Void up or getting a Death and Taxes player's Aether Vial to a useless four. With so many +4/+4 effects in Infect, sometimes it's easy to get the opponent to nine poison, but not ten. Tezzeret's Gambit is card advantage, a finisher, and an answer to Chalice of the Void all rolled into one. In a future tournament I may maindeck one and sideboard another.
What I Got Wrong:
I have two pets: my cat Bijou and Piracy Charm.
The two Submerges in the sideboard were the only removal I had in the 75. Sometimes I run a Dismember or a Piracy Charm or both. Sometimes I have a light white splash for Swords to Plowshares. I played against Elves three times, Delver four times, and Goblins once, all of which had be wishing I had maindecked a Piracy Charm this time around. One of the Delver players got me good with a Game 1 Grim Lavamancer. I even signed a few Piracy Charms throughout the weekend and, when asked if I was playing the card that day, I had to sheepishly admit that I wasn't. Never will I abandon Piracy Charm again.
Crop Rotation has been progressively getting worse and worse. The sideboard copy served as another instant-speed Bojuka Bog. Along with two Surgical Extractions, I was well-set to fight any Reanimator or Dredge decks. I didn't end up playing against either in the Grand Prix, essentially having four unused sideboard slots. Truth is, counterspells operate decently against Reanimator anyway. The maindeck Crop Rotation is "fine" to keep people on edge against a possible surprise Inkmoth Nexus or mid-combat Pendelhaven. At the end of the day, however, Crop Rotation is card disadvantage in a format where every card is precious and games are often won or lost by being up one card.
The two-one split between Vines of Vastwood and Blossoming Defense was also wrong. I lost at least one game where I had Blossoming Defense where Vines of Vastwood would've won. Going forward, for starters, I'd just play Zachary Koch's list -1 Ponder +1 Piracy Charm and find a way to get a Tezzeret's Gambit in the sideboard.
Tron to Beat Eldrazi Tron and Death's Shadow
What I Got Right:
Wurmcoil Engine was great against both Eldrazi Tron and Grixis Death's Shadow. Tron also has a poor Burn matchup and playing four Wurmcoil Engine certainly doesn't hurt. They don't always have the Skullcrack.
Sea Gate Wreckage was an idea adopted by Todd Stevens in Eldrazi Tron. It was great for me all day and is the single card I was the happiest with all weekend. Often Eldrazi Tron has difficulty emptying their hand to activate Sea Gate Wreckage because they play 24 lands. "Normal" Tron runs between nineteen and twenty. The Chromatic Stars and Chromatic Spheres can be dumped onto the battlefield and stay there uncracked to get down to zero cards.
The sideboard Gemstone Caverns was pretty nice as a card that enters the battlefield as an extra land drop basically half of the time. Casting turn 1 Sylvan Scrying to eventually have eight mana on turn 3 for Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or Oblivion Stone plus an activation was outrageous.
Hangarback Walker was pretty good too, especially against Grixis Death's Shadow and Eldrazi Tron, using the same logic behind why Eldrazi Tron sideboards the card. It buys time and produces a bunch of evasive Thopters to fly over and finish off Grixis Death's Shadow players that (understandably) aggressively dip their life total as close to zero as they can.
What I Got Wrong:
Cavern of Souls was absolutely terrible. The logic was to land an uncounterable Wurmcoil Engine through a Ceremonious Rejection to shut the door on Grixis Death's Shadow, but maindecking the Cavern of Souls was poor for two reasons. Ceremonious Rejection is a sideboard card, so Cavern of Souls should be in the sideboard too, if at all. Also, Tron is packed full of juicy hits for Ceremonious Rejection, so they're for sure going to hit something with it. I think it's best just to jam through Ceremonious Rejection while trying to lessen the impact of Snapcaster Mage-ing it back by using your Relic of Progenitus wisely.
There weren't nearly enough colored sources in the deck. Ten colored spells is lower than usual, but only three lands that produce green and one producing white was an obvious mistake. For science, I wanted to find out the minimum firsthand and accomplished that for sure. Several games involved me staring at Cavern of Souls, wishing it made any real mana. A basic Plains or a Brushland would've been better.
In fact, I'm not very big on white at all and likely shouldn't have played the color at all. I've been slowly shaving the white spells to where there are only four total in the 75. Such a light splash tends to become a liability rather than a resource as it started to become unclear where I should cycle the mana rocks or preemptively search up Horizon Canopy. Also, Rest in Peace is a non-bo with Wurmcoil Engine and Chromatic Star. At that point I was hesitant on bringing in Rest in Peace versus Grixis Death's Shadow.
The next time I pick up the Urza lands, this is what I'm looking at trying.
Four Wurmcoil Engine was great and all, but with Grixis Death's Shadow missing out on Top 8 at Grand Prix Las Vegas, I'm all right going down to three. A Dismember comes in as the removal spell that sometimes can be cast for less life with Chromatic Star or Chromatic Sphere or a Gemstone Caverns.
World Breaker is at its best against Affinity, so I'm content playing one. Having twenty lands now makes the World Breaker a touch better and makes you better against different land-hosing cards like Blood Moon. Explore is a cool one-of to have the really explosive draws of turn 3 Ugin, Oblivion Stone, or World Breaker. Explore also gets your lands out faster to possibly enable Sea Gate Wreckage.
It's a shame to get Karn Liberated hit by a Stubborn Denial or Ceremonious Rejection but, honestly, what are you really doing playing a deck designed to hit seven mana on turn 3 and not playing the full set of Karn Liberated? He's your only real way to have a chance against decks like Scapeshift, Ad Nauseam, or Storm.
The sideboard hedges more towards Affinity than usual with four Nature's Claim in response to its win in Las Vegas. The two Trinispheres are against Ad Nauseam and Storm, taking the place of Ethersworn Canonist or Eidolon of Rhetoric. The rest of the sideboard is pretty stock.
I'm happy that Tron is a fairly malleable deck with powerful openings that are close to impossible to overcome. To win a tournament like #SCGINVI, you need to play something proactive, as well as catching a case of the run-goods.
As far as Standard goes, it's still in flux after the banning of Aetherworks Marvel. What I do know is that my small creature decks like Zombies and Humans got a whole lot better when not facing a turn 4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or Chandra, Flamecaller.