Monday August 20
Me: "Is there any chance you have any frequent flier miles?"
Father: "What do you want to use them for?"
Me: "I'd like to fly to Boston to promote Inside Information The Stream Team and I think I have a good chance to win the tournament."
Dad: "I don't know what those first two things mean and you always think you have a good chance to win the tournament. You've been telling me that for eight years."
Dad: "Call me back tomorrow and we'll see what I can do."
There were a lot of reasons I wanted to go to Grand Prix Boston-Worcester:
- Build awareness. As most of you may know by now I stream Magic: The Gathering at least three times a week record a Magic podcast every week called GameState and have created a team with Michael Jacob called The Stream Team where we'll be streaming our testing for Pro Tour Return to Ravnica for everyone around the world to see. What you may not know is that I quit all my jobs to pursue these endeavors because my belief in them is a helluva lot more than my belief in selling Internet advertising or serving mediocre food in a restaurant. I'm "all-in" on leading the streaming movement for Magic and I'll be damned if the majority of the Magic community doesn't know it.
- Win the tournament. If you follow my stream or read my last two articles you know that I've been drafting M13 a lot (probably too much honestly). My win rate was extremely high but it was an interaction with Tim Aten late one evening while I was drafting M13 that sold me on the idea that I had a realistic chance to win the tournament.
Me: "I actually think B/W Exalted sucks in M13. Am I crazy?"
Tim: "Absolutely not. I hate B/W in M13. Everyone thinks it's the stones and while Borteh's deck is fine it's usually nowhere near this good. The mana gets awkward and it's so flimsy."
Why is this so important?
In my eyes Tim Aten is the best evaluator of Limited cards in Magic history.
My process for the past X years for learning a Limited format is to play the format run my decisions/opinions/pick orders by Tim and see where we differ. If we differ greatly I feel like I've still got a lot to learn. If our evaluations are similar I feel like I'm headed in the right direction. But rarely do we draw the same conclusions during a Limited format independently. So when he said that B/W Exalted was overrated I knew I had a solid grasp on the format and I could trust the opinions that I had developed on certain cards in the format:
- Crippling Blight is the third best black common behind Murder and Essence Drain but I didn't have to prioritize it that high because everyone else didn't know that yet.
- Scroll Thief is borderline unplayable as you have to play a lot of mediocre cards (i.e. Tricks of the Trade) to get it through.
- Mark of the Vampire was great at the beginning of the format but people would get tired of losing to it and adjust accordingly (rank Unsummon and Naturalize higher).
- Welkin Term is worse in this format than it was in Zendikar for a myriad of reasons (Crippling Blight and Chandra's Fury for example).
Tuesday August 21
Me: "Hit me with the bad news."
Dad: "So about those frequent flier miles… I only have 200000. Is that going to be enough to get you there?"
Me: "That should be more than enough."
Dad: "Best of luck this weekend."
Things were looking fantastic until I received a phone call from Steven Birklid while I was booking my flight:
Steven: "Are you still coming with Erika and me to the Fun. concert?
Me: "Ah geez…"
This was a rather huge dagger. Nate Ruess the leader singer of Fun. and I have a very special relationship. I've been listening to Nate—we're on a first name basis—craft masterpiece after masterpiece since I was 17 years old and the only thing better than listening to him sing to me via Spotify is listening to him sing to me live and in person. I've been a huge supporter of his work ever since The Format (his first band) opened at a Yellowcard + Something Corporate concert during my senior year of high school. So while his success may come as a surprise to many of you the only thing I thought while We Are Young featuring Janelle Monet was on top of the charts was:
It's about damn time.
Nate had to make sacrifices to get where he is today. It was time for me to make one of my own.
Wednesday August 22
I texted Michael Jacob to see if he was coming to the Grand Prix and we had the following exchange:
MJ: "Apparently I don't have a flight to Boston so I guess I'm not going."
Me: "What on earth happened?"
MJ: "I guess I dreamt buying my flight. My internet history must also be lying."
Me: "Geeeez. That blows."
MJ: "Not fifteen hour driving one way. Too old."
Me: "Yeah. Even I wouldn't do that. "
Six hours later…
MJ: "Damn it! Got roped into driving. Do you have space for DeMars and me in your room?"
Isn't he the best?
Friday August 24
It was 3:30 PM and I was dead tired because I'd been flying since 7:00 AM. But I had to stay awake to the best of my ability because I was flying first class for the first time in my entire life and I didn't want this experience to go to waste (first world problems for sure). And since it was my first time in first class I didn't know the rules. I'd heard that you're allowed to have as much free alcohol as you'd like but that's not something you want to be wrong about when you're as broke as I currently am. So I waited for someone else to pull the trigger:
"May I have a Bud Light?" he asked. And within 30 seconds there it was.
So I made my move.
"I'll take a Bud Light as well." And within 30 seconds there it was.
And it didn't cost any money.
So I made my move again.
I'll let you guess just how many times said move was made.
Saturday August 25
The player meeting was underway. I took a look at where I needed to sit and I was horrified at what I saw.
492 1B Phillips Cedric. 1B = One bye.
Now I'll admit that I never checked to see how many byes I had before the tournament but I assumed I had two after winning my PTQ with Bant Pod (10-0-2) and getting 21st at SCG Standard Open: Seattle (7-2) but apparently I was wrong. Well I sure hoped my Sealed deck would be good.
2 Goblin Battle Jester
2 Mark of Mutiny
2 Deadly Recluse
2 Elvish Visionary
Mwonvuli Beast Tracker
I took a good long time looking over my pool and the first deck that jumped out at me was G/W. The deck had a lot of removal solid creatures a good handle on fliers due to my three Spiders and a strong end game with Elderscale Wurm. What I didn't like about the deck was that I had to play a lot more 2/2s for two than I typically deem acceptable. Cards like Silvercoat Lion and Timberpack Wolf are not the kind of cards I want to be playing in Sealed and this deck had to play a good amount of them just to get to 23 playables.
"Do I truly believe that this gives me the best opportunity to win?" is the question I asked myself while looking at the G/W deck and the answer I kept coming up with was "No" so I laid out the following:
- 1 Acidic Slime
- 1 Bladetusk Boar
- 1 Canyon Minotaur
- 2 Deadly Recluse
- 1 Elderscale Wurm
- 2 Elvish Visionary
- 1 Mwonvuli Beast Tracker
- 1 Rummaging Goblin
- 1 Sentinel Spider
- 1 Slumbering Dragon
- 1 Spiked Baloth
- 1 Thundermaw Hellkite
- 1 Timberpack Wolf
- 1 Vastwood Gorger
This deck was much riskier than the G/W deck due to its mana base. Playing three colors without any fixing (Farseek Evolving Wilds etc.) is always rather dangerous but as I kept looking at the deck I went back to that familiar question:
"Do I truly believe that this gives me the best opportunity to win?" And my answer to that question was a rather unique one:
"If I draw all three colors of mana what can possibly beat me?"
I didn't have a good answer to that question.
So I went for it.
Day 1 was very long and eventful but here are some of the highlights
- My very first game of the tournament saw my opponent have over 900 Goblins in play via Krenko Mob Boss while I sat there with an Elderscale Wurm and my fingers crossed. My opponent seemed frustrated about the situation which briefly led me to believe he didn't have a way to deal with the Elderscale Wurm. I say briefly because it didn't take long for an Arms Dealer to show up to put me out of my misery.
- I won game 3 of round five with no cards left in my library by flipping my last card into play tapped and attacking. Thundermaw Hellkite is one helluva drug.
- My match on camera with Jason Ford was a ton of fun so be sure to check it out when it gets uploaded. Jason is becoming a good friend of mine so I was glad to see that he made Top 8 as well. Congrats again!
- During my one bye I had Michael Jacob review my Sealed deck and he called me a moron for not playing Jayemdae Tomb. In what seems to be a recurring theme in my interactions with MJ he was right and I was wrong as I sideboarded The Book of Eli in every single round and crushed a lot of my opponents with it.
Sunday August 26
While showering I was thinking about what I wanted to draft. My favorite deck to draft in M13 is U/B Skies but I needed a backup plan in case things didn't work out in my favor. In past tournaments I've been the type of person to force a deck that I like in a Limited format (i.e. Mono Green in Zendikar) but I was so well versed in M13 that I didn't feel the need to do that this time around. I just knew I didn't want to draft white.
Well that didn't work…
- 2 Ajani's Sunstriker
- 1 Attended Knight
- 1 Aven Squire
- 2 Clone
- 1 Faerie Invaders
- 2 Griffin Protector
- 1 Knight of Glory
- 1 Serra Angel
- 1 Silvercoat Lion
- 1 Sublime Archangel
- 1 Watercourser
- 1 Welkin Tern
Notes about this draft pod:
- The following players were in this draft pod: Jon Finkel Paul Rietzl AJ Sacher and Korey McDuffie.
- I didn't love my deck at all. I had some good cards in my deck (Sublime Archangel Serra Angel Talarand's Invocation) but I also had some real stinkers (Glorious Charge Show of Valor Silvercoat Lion). Provided that I drew the powerful ones and not the stink bombs winning was easy.
- I got rather lucky to dodge the name players in the pod until beating Korey McDuffie in a written feature match that you can read here.
I 3-0'd the pod! I was riding high! Even better MJ 3-0'd his pod and we were in different ones coming into the next draft so we were both eligible to make Top 8!
Could you imagine if both members of The Stream Team made Top 8 in an 1800 person Grand Prix?
"Don't get ahead of yourself Cedric" I told myself. "You've still got a lot of work to do!"
Like not drafting white in your next pod. Anything but white!
- 1 Arbor Elf
- 1 Aven Squire
- 1 Crusader of Odric
- 1 Deadly Recluse
- 2 Elvish Visionary
- 1 Healer of the Pride
- 1 Knight of Glory
- 1 Prized Elephant
- 1 Sentinel Spider
- 1 Spiked Baloth
- 1 Timberpack Wolf
- 1 Vastwood Gorger
- 2 Yeva's Forcemage
- 1 Odric, Master Tactician
Notes about this draft:
- I opened Odric Master Tactician pack 1 pick 1. Guess I'm drafting white…
- I didn't love this deck when I sleeved it up but it played a lot better than I thought it would. I'm not a big G/W fan in M13 but this was one of the better G/W decks that I've had.
- Round 14 my opponent told me that the deck that he drafted was so bad that he must have had a lobotomy before the draft. I thought he was trying to get into my head. He wasn't.
- I beat fellow StarCityGames.com writer Shaheen Soorani in a feature match you can read here.
- I beat Dan Jordan playing for Top 8 in what was easily the best match I played over the weekend. It was fun challenging and entertaining. I'm a big Dan Jordan fan so it sucks I had to beat him to make Top 8 but I'm glad we had a great three-game match.
The Top 8 was covered fairly well so I won't go over that too much here. The important stuff to note is the following:
- My deck was positively bonkers and I wish I would have won with it. I had a fantastic read on the draft table and got rewarded accordingly. I'd love to play the Top 8 out again if that could happen.
- Shouta Yasooka is approximately 300 times better than me at Magic: The Gathering (I've done the math) but my deck simply wouldn't let me lose.
- Robert Victory beat me in the most comical way imaginable. Feel free to read about it here.
Things to take away from the tournament:
- M13 is one of the best Limited formats I've played in a quite a while. A lot of people look at it as the best core set Limited format of all time but this is just a fantastic Limited format period.
- I made a lot of mistakes over the weekend. Some were minor and some were major. The key to my success this weekend was never getting upset over any of the mistakes I made because I was bound to make some over the eighteen rounds I played.
- My room had a fantastic performance: Brian DeMars = 1st place; Cedric Phillips = 3rd place; Michael Jacob = 11th place; Conley Woods = 40th place.
For those of you who were believers in The Stream Team before I thank you. For those of you who weren't I hope MJ and I made a few more believers out of some of you. This isn't a fad. This isn't something we're doing to make money.
We do it because we believe it's the future of the game.
Hopefully we're right.
See ya next week my friends!
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