You may notice that today is not the usual day for an article of mine. I'm currently visiting Seattle between Grand Prix Vancouver and Grand Prix Atlanta which means that I'm away from home and away from the computer that I use to record Magic Online videos. I didn't realize this would be a problem in time to record a video in advance so instead you get an extra article this week in which I'll tell you about my experience with Avacyn Restored Limited at Grand Prix Vancouver.
I wasn't looking forward to Grand Prix Vancouver. I didn't feel like I understood the format in a way that gave me any particular edge and I wasn't sure that was something I could fix. I tried asking people who had played a lot more Sealed than I had and the impression that I got was that you mostly want power over a fast curve and cheap plays aren't very important.
Given that I was pretty happy when I got my pool which I used to build the following deck:
1 Zealous Conscripts
1 Nephalia Smuggler
1 Amass the Components
1 Gryff Vanguard
2 Goldnight Redeemer
1 Banishing Stroke
1 Moonlight Geist
1 Vessel of Endless Rest
1 Abundant Growth
1 Nightshade Peddler
1 Timberland Guide
1 Borderland Ranger
1 Wildwood Geist
1 Geist Trappers
1 Nettle Swine
1 Somberwald Sage
1 Wandering Wolf
1 Trusted Forcemage
1 Cavern of Souls
I also had a wealth of useful sideboard cards that made me feel like I'd be able to tune my deck to beat whatever I played against.
In my first round I played a feature match against Shahar Shenhar who had two each of Wolfir Avenger Into the Void and Mist Raven and easily destroyed me. After the match he showed me his deck and I couldn't find a way to build a deck out of my pool that could possibly compete with his. I had cards in my sideboard that I thought could take me to a late game against aggressive decks but I was mostly thinking of aggressive red decks where cards like Cathedral Sanctifier and Righteous Blow would help out. Against fast green creatures those don't matter and I couldn't really win with cards that cost less than five or six so I would always lose to his bounce.
Now I felt like my deck was in good shape as long as I didn't play against blue but I knew that was a tall order in this format so I was a little worried.
The next round I played against blue/white with a lot of bounce spells but it was less of a problem because in this match my cheap white spells actually bought me a relevant amount of time. This was because his creatures were smaller and my Angels could actually stabilize the board eventually and take control.
I won one match that I don't remember. Then I played against a very aggressive red/black deck that took the first game from me but then I brought in two Cathedral Sanctifiers Righteous Blow two Lightning Prowess Angelic Wall and some other cards cutting some of my slow cards and my blue and managed to narrowly win a long match.
In my second to last round the win and in round I played against blue/white. He led with Silverblade Paladin into Mist Raven on the play and I was just too far behind at that point. Game 2 he got Deadeye Navigator going with Gryff Vanguard and eventually found a Mist Raven.
Here I think I learned that "power" in Sealed doesn't mean "big guys"; it means "bombs." I had a pool that was positioned where I wanted to be strategically but I didn't have any cards that just win games for free and didn't have enough cards that could compete with that kind of card.
In the last round I mulled to five both games and couldn't pull it out.
I knew some people would make Day 2 at x-3 but I assumed I wouldn't be one of them because I'd lost in round 4. I began making other plans but then it was suggested that I should probably check the standings before committing to going out all night or something.
It turns out that three byes are extremely powerful and not many people drew so I managed to sneak into Day 2 at 6-3 already unable to Top 8.
That was pretty lucky but I was still barely in the tournament. I didn't feel at all comfortable about drafting Avacyn Restored having done badly at the Pro Tour and on Magic Online so I wasn't about to bail on the cube draft we'd started arranging.
I drafted with Cedric Phillips Stephen Birklid and Zac Hill against a team of Canadians and I first picked Griselbrand followed by Sundering Titan Iona Shield of Emeria Sheoldred Whispering One and Terastodon and ended up with a sweet Ramp/Tooth and Nail/Reanimator deck that I went 2-1 with.
In the morning I told Gau that the best thing about Avacyn Restored is that it means there's more cube drafting at events because no one wants to do a regular draft.
In the days before my trip I'd streamed some drafts in which I was testing the theory that one should force blue green and red in that order and avoid white or black at all costs. I'm glad I tried that because at the end my record was horrible and I decided I should just be open to drafting any color.
In the first draft the three best cards in the pack I opened were Stonewright Lightning Mauler and Hanweir Lancer the only green card was a Yew Spirit and the only blue card was Infinite Reflection. I imagine many people would take Infinite Reflection in that spot but I've had almost exclusively bad experiences with the card and it's the exact kind of card I'd like to stay away from—one that's just too swingy and situational. I think all three red cards are very close in power level and well above Yew Spirit. I almost took the Yew Spirit anyway but I ultimately decided to take one of the red cards. Because I thought I'd be competing with people near me for red I didn't want Stonewright because he wants you to be heavy red and if I wasn't a "real" red deck (aggro Humans) then I'd rather have the Lancer so I took that.
I took Thunderous Wrath second and I think maybe Pillar of Flame third. I felt pretty good about my seat. I'm not sure exactly how the draft went but 4th or 5th pick I got passed a pack with Barter in Blood Blood Artist and Killing Wave. If that's not the signal I don't know what is so I moved in. I think I'd taken a mediocre card in another non-red color but I wasn't going to refuse black that much. It was unfortunate that I'd be passing 1-2 strong looking black cards there but I hadn't really seen any black before that point so it seemed safe. I got rewarded with another Barter in Blood the next pick and from there my draft went as well as you might imagine given how open black was.
I ended up with:
2 Pillar of Flame
2 Falkenrath Exterminator
1 Scalding Devil
1 Searchlight Geist
1 Hanweir Lancer
1 Dark Impostor
1 Havengul Vampire
1 Heirs of Stromkirk
1 Driver of the Dead
3 Barter in Blood
1 Narstad Scrapper
1 Exquisite Blood
2 Thunderous Wrath
2 Maalfeld Twins
This list is missing one card but I can't remember what it was.
Exquisite Blood is a very bad card. It strives to be Angel's Mercy most of the time. It helps a little that I wasn't likely to get much early damage in but I played it understanding what it would do because I felt like the way that my deck would lose was to "direct damage" effects like Thatcher Revolt or the Blood Artist I passed. I wanted to hedge against that because the rest of my cards were so good. Also I felt like having the ability to gain life would mean that I could afford to wait a little to set up better Barter in Bloods.
The deck played out a little less well than I expected in that I lost two games and easily could have lost a match or two but I managed to 3-0 anyway and suddenly was on track for a reasonable finish.
In my second draft I opened Champion of Lambholt and Mist Raven which I thought about for a long time maybe longer than necessary and then took the Champion of Lambholt. Luckily I got passed Trusted Forcemage and exactly one good green card each pack for several picks. Later in the pack I got a pack that didn't have any green and I took a Scrapskin Drake because my deck was looking pretty aggressive. After that I got some more green cards and then a 10th or 11th pick Archangel.
In the second pack I noticed that I was passing a lot of Essence Harvests and taking more good green cards and I decided that mono-green splashing Essence Harvests would be a great place to end up. Sure enough late in pack two I took two Essence Harvests.
In pack three I opened Trusted Forcemage (which would be my third) and Demonic Rising. Trusted Forcemage was exactly what my aggressive green deck wanted and I felt like Demonic Rising would require more black than I necessarily wanted and played badly with lots of cheap soulbond creatures so I took Trusted Forcemage. This was likely a mistake. I got passed Divine Deflection and then another Demonic Rising and this time there were no great green cards with it so I took it.
I ended up with the following:
1 Abundant Growth
1 Joint Assault
2 Wandering Wolf
2 Nightshade Peddler
1 Timberland Guide
1 Champion of Lambholt
2 Borderland Ranger
3 Trusted Forcemage
1 Nettle Swine
1 Wildwood Geist
1 Pathbreaker Wurm
1 Revenge of the Hunted
1 Nature's Blessing
1 Predator's Gambit
2 Essence Harvest
1 Demonic Rising
1 Divine Deflection
This deck is everything that's wrong with this format. My aggressive draws were basically unbeatable and if my opponent somehow lived through that I had a variety of bombs that there's almost no answer to. Worst case I could always hope to topdeck a Revenge of the Hunted while holding an Essence Harvest and kill my opponent out of nowhere.
The biggest problem was that I had to pass three Mist Ravens to get this deck so I had to beat the triple Mist Raven deck that I passed in the finals. Fortunately I knew he had them so in game 1 when my opening hand had Timberland Guide and Champion of Lambholt I knew better than to greedily wait until my Champion was in play to play the Timberland Guide and make him huge. Instead I just played Timberland Guide then Champion then bonded Trusted Forcemage with Champion and because my opponent would have to bounce my Champion and couldn't possibly afford to bounce my Timberland Guide put Predator's Gambit on my Timberland Guide. The game ended very quickly from there. If I hadn't known I very easily could have lost.
The second game I kept this hand:
In the final game I played to set up Demonic Rising and then we played a game where he had to bounce my Demon every turn in order to make any progress and I had to use my Essence Harvests to make sure he couldn't kill me. Eventually he ran out of bounce and my Demons took over. I could have won the game a little easier if I'd realized an interaction that I missed:
My opponent was at six. He attacked me with Mist Raven Emancipation Angel and Moonlight Geist. I cast Divine Deflection for 8+ targeting him expecting him to die. He thought for a while and activated his Moonlight Geist to prevent the damage it dealt a play I hadn't considered. I shrugged and agreed that he went to one and prepared to grind through his board. What I didn't realize was that Divine Deflection doesn't redirect damage; it prevents damage and then it deals damage. Because I was going to be taking the damage I could decide if I wanted to apply Divine Deflection's damage prevention shield or Moonlight Geist's shield. Since I didn't know I was making a decision that decision got made implicitly when I put my opponent to one. The more you know.
And that's the story of how I went 6-0 in Avacyn Restored Draft on a day when I wasn't even supposed to be there to earn 15th place.
I still don't like the format and I'm not really sure how I happened to be the one to get those decks. I was open in a way that I had considered not being so I guess my approach was probably better for the room than one who may have had stronger biases. It definitely felt like I got a little lucky. I think I have a much better appreciation for Olivier Ruel's stance on Core Set Limited immediately after he won a Grand Prix in the format.
Anyway now it's time for me to continue to enjoy Seattle before making my way to Atlanta for the Legacy Grand Prix I'm very much looking forward to even though I don't know how well I'll do just because I love playing my deck.
Thanks for reading
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