Tournament Report: Grand Prix Utrecht, Part 2
In the second part of his report, it's time for Christian to go 6-0 across two Throne of Eldraine Booster Drafts to reclaim a spot among the Top 8. Follow the hero's journey and learn the secrets that govern the current Limited format!
After finishing the first day at 7-2, and following a restful sleep, my friends and I exchanged some final thoughts about the format over breakfast. We all agreed that we'd rather stay away from white and/or aggressive decks in general and that we'd be happy if we were to draft a control-oriented blue deck.
It looked like I could stick to my plan, because I opened Stolen by the Fae in the first pack, and people passed me a decent amount of good blue cards as well. A late So Tiny in particular showed me that either blue was very open or people still didn't know how good that card is. Maybe it was a mixture of both, and that would work in my favor too. The card should definitely not be a seventh pick, because it is just so efficient and supports the game plan of blue perfectly. Aside from one Searing Barrage, I basically stayed monoblue throughout the first booster, which gave me all the options to dive into another color, if I opened or got passed a good rare.
Luckily, I opened Vantress Gargoyle which is another great rare, since it is an early blocker and finisher in one card. As it turned out, I did not have to change my second color, because I got passed Irencrag Pyromancer and Opportunistic Dragon. In the end, this was one of those Drafts where everything was going my way.
My hopes for a 3-0 were high, as the deck seemed to be so powerful. It had it all: spoilers, removal, and card advantage.
In the first round I played against a green-white opponent who played Edgewall Innkeeper on turn one. Now I was scared, because I did not have any early removal for it and this was clearly a card I could lose to. Luckily my opponent did not play any Adventure creatures for the first few turns. Still they pressured me with some creatures and tricks, but I could stabilize the board. Eventually, Covetous Urge put the nail in the coffin, because I was able to steal the last card in their hand, which turned out to be a Wicked Wolf. The second game wasn't really close, as they were screwed and I could finish the game quickly with Vantress Gargoyle, with some help by Merfolk Secretkeeper to attack earlier.
My next opponent played blue-red with a mixture of aggressive creatures like Redcap Raiders and Gingerbrute but also some card-draw spells together with Irencrag Pyromancer. Fortunately, I had the perfect answer for his turn-three Pyromancer in Redcap Melee. I won the game by drawing more and better cards than him. He started aggressively into the second game, while my draw was a little slow. I had sideboarded in two Mystical Dispute, because I expected more blue cards and wanted to be able to counter an early Improbable Alliance. Instead, my opponent just cast a bunch of small red creatures and pressured me. I stabilized the board at 1 life and had to finish the game quickly, fearing a burn spell. I recall one big misplay by me: I killed my opponent's Bloodhaze Wolverine instead of Gingerbrute. I thought I had handled Gingerbrute anyway, because it was enchanted with So Tiny, but my opponent could have drawn Run Away Together to win the game. That was a card I just did not think about even though I had seen it in game one. Luckily, I was not punished and won one turn later.
In the first game of the Draft finals, my opponent nearly drew their whole deck with Trail of Crumbs, but the board was too stalled out for him to get through. Stolen by the Fae on my own Moonlit Scavengers gave me enough flying power to win the game, even though he had gained a bunch of life with Food. In the second game I cast Stolen by the Fae on my opponent's 2 drop, which had two +1/+1 counters thanks to Tuinvale Treefolk // Oaken Boon. My follow-up plays were Vantress Paladin and Opportunistic Dragon, and the fliers finished the match in short order. Although I had some close ones, I did not lose a single game with my deck and was happy still to have a shot at the Top 8.
I did not open a blue rare this time. Instead I opened Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig and was equally happy to pick it, as monogreen can also be a pretty strong deck if you get the right cards. I was passed Epic Downfall, which could be a sign that black was open, but since the rare was missing I did not read too much into it. I picked up Syr Faren, the Hengehammer and some other playable cards, but nothing special. Overall the first pack was fine, though I really needed an increase of power level in the next packs.
Then I cracked my second booster and looked at another Yorvo. It seemed like I was pretty good at opening rares this day. Now my main goal was to stay more or less monogreen, because you really want to make sure that you can cast Yorvo on turn three, and for that you should play at least 12 Forests. After picking up Reave Soul I figured black was going to be a minor splash and I could easily stick to the plan. I picked up another Syr Faren and a couple of Wildwood Trackers, which could be decent if I managed to get enough non-Human creatures. But after cutting green in the first pack, I really had expected more and better green: something like Outmuscle, Fierce Witchstalker, or even Garenbrig Paladin, but I saw none of these cards. Maybe green was not as open as I would have hoped for.
I really needed some power in the last pack or at least enough good green creatures to trigger my Yorvo. Some payoff cards for a monocolored deck such as Clockwork Servant or the hybrid-mana creatures would be great, too. I first took Fabled Passage out of an unexciting booster and then I was passed the card that turned my mediocre deck into a great one: Oko, Thief of Crowns. This card is just stupid and can easily win games on its own. Another good pick was Rampart Smasher; other than that I again mostly got fillers.
The mana base looked fine to me. Between Signpost Scarecrow, Heraldic Banner, and Fabled Passage I was optimistic to cast my spells without too much trouble. The Banner shouldn't be too bad even outside of mana fixing, because sometimes I'd just give nearly all the creatures in my deck +1/+0. The Scarecrow was going to help cast my blue and black spells and paying 1 mana more for Oko or Epic Downfall does not really matter.
I could have not played black: cut a Swamp for an Island and exchange the Scarecrow, the Banner, and the black cards for Insatiable Appetite, two Jousting Dummy, and Rosethorn Halberd. I rather took the slightly greedier route because I wanted to have some good removal instead of even more filler material. Aside from Oko, I was not too happy with the finished product, but in the end this was simply going to be one of those decks where everything depends on which half of the deck you're drawing. On the one hand, it could be insanely strong if I cast Oko on turn three or if I curved Syr Faren into Yorvo into Rampart Smasher. On the other hand, I could have an awkward draw including Wildwood Tracker without non-Human creatures or find myself colorscrewed. After all, even though the mana looks fine, it's still a deck with Yorvo and two other colors.
In the first round, I played against white-blue and took a mulligan to five. I did not like my chances, since it is just so hard to win with five cards in your starting hand. I played Syr Faren, which was immediately answered by So Tiny. Then, on turn three, my opponent did not have an answer for my Yorvo and after some Giant smashing I had somehow managed to win the game. The second was a close race, in which my opponent's fliers crossed the finish line first. In the middle of game three I drew Oko, and while it eventually died to some flying creatures, the card bought enough time for my big ground creatures to secure victory.
Round 2, I lost the first game to a player who showed me Questing Beast, Harmonious Archon, and Wicked Wolf. After seeing these rares, I really did not like my chances going into the next. I felt that if I wanted to win I had to do it quickly before his rares take over the game. So I decided to board out my black cards and fixing for two Jousting Dummy, Rosethorn Halberd, and Insatiable Appetite. Then I played Oko on turn three and it felt like I could not lose from there. Green-white doesn't have an Oblivion Ring or anything of the sort, which could stop Oko from doing what he does. In game three, I hoped for Oko again or at least some aggressive draw. Well, I did not draw Oko, but I managed to curve out with Crashing Drawbridge, Yorvo, and Rampart Smasher on turns two through four. My opponent was at 6 life by turn four! But he had had a decent draw too: his own Crashing Drawbridge into Grumgully, the Generous, and a pair of Rosethorn Acolytes on turn four and five. I was happy to trade my Yorvo with one of his 3/4s after it got double blocked, because I drew another one. The game was close, but in the end I managed to win.
The last Swiss round would decide whether or not I'd be able to continue my magical journey. By the way, did I mention already how good Oko is? Well, it flat-out won me the first game now by turning my opponent's creatures into Elks. I had to transform Steelgaze Griffin, because it would have killed Oko soon enough, and I had to transform Mad Ratter, which would have generated too much value for their blue-red draw-two deck. I dealt with the 3/3s, my opponent had no way to deal with Oko, and he took over the game. My opponent showed me the full strength of his deck for game two: Faerie Vandal, two Mad Ratter, and Gadwick, the Wizened. I did not draw my black removal spells and had no chance to win. I chose to keep in black in this matchup as it is very important to get rid of Ratters.
In the deciding game I took a mulligan to six to kick things off. My draw was decent, but nothing great either. I drew Oko, but did not have an Island. My opponent cast Witching Well on turn one, Faerie Vandal on turn two, Tome Raider on turn three, one Mad Ratter each on turns four and five, and Improbable Alliance plus Turn into a Pumpkin on turn six. Well, there's no way I can win this game, right?
Well, being on the play, I started things off with Scalding Cauldron followed by Heraldic Banner (for blue mana) on turn three, Oko, Thief of Crowns on turn four, Henge Walker on turn five, and Garenbrig Squire plus Return to Nature (killing their Witching Well) on turn six. How would I win? Well, I had boarded in Mystical Dispute and had 1 mana left … By countering Turn into a Pumpkin I was able to stop their biggest play of the game, because it would have bounced my 3/3 Food token, given them five 1/1 tokens, and given Faerie Vandal an additional counter. Although my opponent finally killed Oko, the planeswalker had already done his job netting 6 power and some life.
I could then pressure my opponent and attack with all of my creatures. They could have just taken the damage and gone to 3 life, leaving them with two Mad Ratter, one Improbable Alliance, and six lands in play. I do not know if my opponent was either too inexperienced or if the unexpected Mystical Dispute threw them off their game, but they chumped with both Ratters to save life. I followed up with another creature, while they were drawing cards next turn with Gadwick, the Wizened. If they'd just kept the Ratters, they would have had five tokens instead of just one 1/1 Faerie. I was able to finish them off the next turn and won a game that I was not supposed to win at all. I think that was the greatest comeback I ever had.
I had mixed feelings reaching the Top 8. The Warsaw déjà vu was real and while I was obviously happy, I also felt somewhat disillusioned. It is hard to explain, so instead I'll just tell you how my final Draft of the day went. Unfortunately, the random Draft seatings had me paired against my friend Tobias Gräfensteiner in the quarterfinals. Since we had already agreed on a prize split, I did not care who would win the quarters. I just hoped that one of us would draft a good deck to win it all.
I opened Gilded Goose, which is a really good rare to start things off. It is especially strong in black-green, because it can provide endless Food for the many synergies. For my second pick, I had the choice of Outmuscle or Order of Midnight // Alter Fate. While I think Order of Midnight is the better card, Outmuscle should be the pick here, because sticking with green leaves you with more options … I picked Order of Midnight, because I really wanted to end up in black-green with Gilded Goose, which I think was definitely wrong in retrospect. I picked up some green cards, but black was barely open. I stayed away from white, which may have been a mistake, because white was very open. I ended up with a medicore black-green deck. It didn't look terrible, but it had some issues. I only had two Reave Soul for removal, nothing bigger like Bake into a Pie, and while I had two Tempting Witch and Sorcerer's Broom, I could have used more good Food payoff like Bog Naughty or Trail of Crumbs.
Tobias was a bit luckier. Harmonious Archon, Murderous Rider // Swift End, and Piper of the Swarm were just some of the highlights of his deck. In the first game I generated a lot of value with The Cauldron of Eternity, but could not beat Harmonious Archon. I boarded in Fell the Pheasant, but of course it was rotting in my hand in game two. Nevertheless, it was closer, because I had a plan where I could steal the win by bringing back Gingerbrute with the Cauldron and pumping it with Insatiable Appetite for surprise lethal. I was 1 mana short for that and ended up losing 0-2, which did not matter at all, because Tobias clearly had the better deck and a higher chance to advance to the finals anyway. Unfortunately Tobias lost in the semifinals 1-2, because he missed the second Plains to cast Harmonious Archon.
Overall, I guess we should not be mad at all, since reaching Top 8, winning $1,000+ and qualifying for the PT is much more than we could have hoped for.
Thanks for reading,
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