Grand Prix Utrecht 2017 – Tournament Report by Adrian Smaranda

Travelling to a Magic Grand Prix is exciting. The idea that you will be around thousands of Magic players and going up against them gets me fired up. I want to evolve from a good player to a great player. I can only do that if I have enough practice though. A lot of hard work put into this and a lot of time as well.

My journey began in January at Grand Prix Prague where I had a less than stellar result, going 5-4, thus being denied getting into Day 2. Unfortunate, but expected. I didn’t play well enough to warrant a Day 2 finish. I accepted it and decided that I should step my game up if I want to do better. I have been telling everyone that this year I would like to go to all the GPs in Europe. It’s a big deal money-wise as I don’t have an endless bag of gold around me, but I will try to manage this somehow. It’s a bit of a reward to myself for keeping the store alive and well for the past two and a half years. But onwards to the deck that I played and the results of my efforts.

Before the Grand Prix I was struggling to find a deck that fits me. I tried out BG energy and UB Improvise. BG was a stable choice, but I didn’t feel comfortable playing it. UB Improvise fit me much better, but it had horrible matchups vs any To the Slaughter decks. It was not strong enough to compete. I love Tezzeret the Schemer, but it’s just not strong enough for this meta. I finally landed on 4-color Saheeli. Since there was little time for me to properly test the deck I netdecked a list and played it. It was Jonathan Rosum’s winning deck of the SCG Baltimore. This proved to be a good and bad choice. More on that later. Here’s the list:

Creatures (19)
3 Elder Deep-Fiend
4 Felidar Guardian
4 Rogue Refiner
4 Servant of the Conduit
4 Whirler Virtuoso
Planeswalkers (5)
4 Saheeli Rai
1 Tamiyo, Field Researcher
Lands (21)
5 Forest
1 Island
1 Mountain
1 Plains
4 Aether Hub
4 Botanical Sanctum
2 Lumbering Falls
3 Spirebluff Canal
Spells (15)
4 Harnessed Lightning
2 Aetherworks Marvel
1 Oath of Chandra
4 Oath of Nissa
4 Attune with Aether

3 Tireless Tracker
3 Kozilek’s Return
2 Natural State
2 Negate
1 Oath of Chandra
1 Ajani Unyielding
1 Tamiyo, Field Researcher
2 Baral’s Expertise

Round 1 vs Temur Tower
I proceeded to lose my first game as I believe that this matchup is the worst for this deck. Too much removal and one or two resolved Towers can create hell for this deck. You are never capable of setting up the combo. It’s a long grind, but it’s to be expected. You need to focus on the second and third game because the sideboard does give you enough options to battle them.
The next game I won with just the beatdown plan and the third by comboing him when I had two Saheelis. He killed one with the tower but the second was GG. (1-0)

Round 2 vs Jeskai Tower
My opponent gets mana screwed and I win easily. Bad luck. Happens.
Game two he attacks me and doesn’t look at the life totals. He has enough damage to kill me IF he sacrifices two clues with 4 mana open to pump his Tireless Tracker. He doesn’t see it. I go to two life. He taps out for a Nahiri, The Harbinger. I drop the combo from my hand and win. This game showed me that technical play is more important than luck. You need to be tight in your play. (2-0)

Round 3 vs Mardu Ballista
I play vs a guy who has two byes. Good for him. Game one I combo him as he tapped out for a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and I already had a Saheeli on the table.
Game two he drops me to 7. I draw Elder Deep-Fiend, tap his creatures before combat and swing for the win myself. The Fiend closes out the game as it should. It is a trump card in the deck (he actually builds a wall for you). (3-0)

Round 4 vs Mardu Ballista
I lose a very grindy game one. I believe I made the mistake as I could have taken the win, but Unlicensed Disintegration is definitely a good card. I brush my loss off.
Game two he drops me to 6 but it’s Elder Deep-Fiend to the rescue again tapping out his lands to give me the combo the next turn.
Game 3: bad sideboarding time. Let’s do this. I take out ALL of my Saheeli Rais and I eventually succumb to my choice and lose the game. There were multiple openings to combo him out, but since the Saheelis were on holiday…Well. I shot myself in the foot with this one. Bad sideboarding. I took notes and didn’t sideboard out all Saheelis for the rest of the tournament. As a side note, the guy I lost against went on to place 13th in the Grand Prix. (3-1)

Round 5 vs 4-Color Saheeli
I was waiting for this moment. It was an interesting game, but unfortunately my opponent didn’t read the cards properly and made some mistakes because of that. The +1 ability of Tamiyo, Field Researcher says up to two creatures. He had one creature. I had one. I play my own Tamiyo and activate the ability choosing both creatures and attack. He blocks. I draw two cards and he draws one. I draw into my combo in the next two turns and win. Could it be that that one card made the difference? Of course. He could have had an out or combo me himself.
Game two he boards in properly and catches me with a negate on my Saheeli. I played into it as I had a second one. The game took a lot longer than expected though. We both had answers for everything. There was no moment to actually lock each other out. Eventually Aetherworks Marvel comes in and the Fiend locks his mana up. I proceed to combo and win. (4-1)

Round 6 vs BG Constrictor
I had expected to play against this deck much more often than this. One time in 6 rounds was surprising for me. But here we were. Game one I open with three lands and stay on three lands for the rest of the game. He crushes me as I can only remove one thing and that’s that.
Game two I manage to out-tempo him with the Fiend and edge out a win. Close game.
Game three I mulligan to 5. I already feel like I will lose. He doesn’t draw Transgress the Mind and I manage to get the combo off on turn 5 albeit being mana screwed and down to 5 cards. Lesson learned: playing the most unfair deck in Standard is a good idea. (5-1)

Round 7 vs Mardu Vehicles
This guy wasn’t playing the Ballista deck. Straight up Vehicles. I disliked the guy from the start, but you have to play vs such opponents from time to time…Such is a GP.
Game one I decide that throwing the game is what I should do. I got him down to 5 by copying a Deep Fiend and attacking for 13 together with a Rogue Refiner. He had no cards in hand. He top decks an Unlicensed Disintegration and wins. If I wouldn’t have attacked with the Deep Fiend I would have perhaps won. Not sure. He could have had anything else. I still think it was a bad play from my side.
Game two: is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s Elder Deep-Fiend again. This card has carried me so often to victories. I am considering a tattoo of it…He grinds me down to two lifepoints and then Marvel + Deep Fiend is a match made in heaven.
Game three we trade blows left and right, up and down. Nothing really happens, but the time finally runs out. He asks that I concede. My reply is “Nope”. I sing the result slip and am more than happy to move away from that table. It’s debatable if I should have taken the loss or not. I was 5-1 up to that point. Being paired down may have been a better choice. But you don’t know what the future holds. However, in my case it happened to be a Platinum Pro Player. 5-1-1

Round 8 vs Temur Tower
I get paired vs Raphael Levy. Game one I had a choice to make: play Marvel when he was tapped out or play an energy maker to get to 6 or above energy counters. I decide that Marvel is better as I really wanted it to resolve. I pass the turn and he plays Release the Gremlins maindeck. Boom. My plans are shattered. He eventually grinds me out with his Dynavolt Tower.
Game two I mulligan to six and get color screwed on red. No chance to do anything there. Maybe I should have mulliganed to five. I probably should have as I had little action in hand creature-wise, but I did have the combo. I could have won if I had drawn red. Of course he could have had removal. I will never know. (5-2-1)

Round 9 vs Sultai Discard
I am unsure what to call this deck. He played maindeck Distended Mindbender together with Aetherworks Marvel. Great deck. I could see why he got to that standing. I get destroyed game one and he draws the Marvel and outvalues me hard. The Mindbender takes my two combo pieces away and I lose.
Game two is a grindfest. But as usual the Deep Fiend closes it out.
Game three starts as a gigantic mess. He mulligans to 6. Takes 7 cards. I call the judge. Ruling: I see his hand and take one card from it, whatever I want to. He then decides if he mulligans again or not. I look and see: Swamp, Aether HubBotanical Sanctum, double Rogue Refiner and double Aetherworks Marvel. I take his Botanical and give him back his cards. He. Actually. Keeps. Wow. I am shocked that he is willing to play a hand where I know every card he has. Ok. He gets mana screwed on two and loses the game. I totally felt bad about the win. I didn’t feel like I won that game because of my play, rather that my opponent lost to himself. But you have to take these moments and be happy with them. It’s still a competition at the very end. I end the day with great hopes and a big smile on my face. I do get lost in Utrecht for a full hour after the event though. Perhaps that’s a bit of karma for winning like this. (6-2-1)

Day 2
My first Day 2! This is the 3rd Grand Prix that I am attending so I am definitely happy about my result. It’s nice to see that effort does pay off.

Round 10 vs Mardu Vehicles
I manage to combo really fast and win game one.
Game two I mulligan to 6 and get a nice mana screw.
Game three is a grind, but low and behold, guess who wins me the game? Come on…Try. Yeah: The big bad Octopus strikes again. He blocks it but the last two damage are provided by the ever dutiful Servant of the Conduit. (7-2-1)

Round 11 vs BG Constrictor
I mull to 5 in game one and he destroys me with his pumped up Snakes.
In game two the Marvel+Fiend duo strike again and get the win.
Game three we fight as much as we can and get into time out. My final extra turn. I have a Saheeli and a Marvel on the table with 6 energy counters. I spin and don’t find the Felidar Guardian. I start thinking what I should do. I take another Saheeli and play it, Use her -2 ability and blink a Rogue Refiner that I also had. I draw the Guardian from the top and win. Too close. Note to self: try to play faster. (8-2-1)

Round 12 vs Mardu Ballista
The deck to beat apparently. Game one I manage to get the Fiend in play and roll him over. Actually surprised that I win game one vs this deck.
Game two he draws two Transgress the Mind and gets rid of a Marvel and a Saheeli. I am left with on Guardian that can’t do much and eventually lose the game to Gideon.
Game three goes well and he is on 3 and I am on two. I had answers to everything he had and needed to draw anything except land in the last turn. I draw land and lose. Happens. (8-3-1)

Round 13 vs Temur Tower
I win a fast game with the Fiend. Check.
Game two I stay on two lands and scoop after round 6 when he plays a Torrential Gearhulk.
Game three is when my brain goes “shouldn’t it be time to make a mistake now?”. The game is mine to win but I overlook one very very important thing. Oath of Nissa lets me cast planeswalkers for whatever mana I want. I don’t check that and use one of the two energy that I have on her. Next turn I have exactly 6 mana with a Servant of the Conduit, but only one Energy counter. My lands don’t have blue just red, green, green plus two Aether Hubs. I have in my hand Felidar and Negate. So guess what? I can’t cast both into his 3 open blue mana. He did have the Disallow next turn and from there on he won the game. If I had been careful I would have easily won the game there. On the spot. Very disappointed in my performance there. (8-4-1)

Round 14 vs Mardu Vehicles
So with the previous loss I was definitely out of contention for top 8. I didn’t let that get to me too much and focused on the remaining games. Game one I won fast with the Fiend.
Game two I win with Marvel and Fiend. Who would have thought these two are actually good cards. (9-4-1)

Round 15 vs Jund Energy Aggro
I was taken by surprise by this deck. What I was playing was no match for it. Heart of KiranGreenbelt Rampager and Unlicensed Disintegration all together make for a strong deck choice. Game one I was completely swarmed by the time I could do anything. He had the Disintegration and ended my Felidar.
Game two he gets a busted hand with double Disintegration and I fail to assemble the combo. No Fiend this time for me and he wins with a Gearhulk. Small note: don’t ask the opponent for what he is targeting with his Gearhulk as that basically screams you have a removal spell. Made no difference really at that time, but it’s still something to watch out for. (9-5-1)

I end the day at 9-5-1. 28pts in total. I needed two more to get to 30pts and grab myself one Pro Player point. I checked the standings after the end of the entire tournament and saw myself at the 193rd place. Out of 1232 I was happy with the result but also disappointed in me as I knew that some games would have been won if I had paid more attention. Getting back into such a competitive environment after 5 years has taken its toll on me. But I am seeing the potential that could be if I work hard and play better. Overall I have a good finish to be proud of. Barcelona is waiting for me next week and I plan on playing with the Kitty again. I mean…it’s the last tournament for it right? It’s definitely going to get banned and that’s that. So maybe a last hoorah there. I would like to send off the deck with a great result.

What would I change to the deck moving forward?
The deck played out well enough, but the lack of 1 x Release the Gremlins in the sideboard hurt me quite a lot. All Mardu matchups could have been much easier with that card and not the 3rd Kozilek’s Return. Tamiyo, Field Researcher felt underwhelming to me. I found myself wanting a different card every time I got her. I am not happy with what she does, but maybe I am inexperienced and undervalue her. Most lists that popped up now of 4-Color Saheeli have one or two Tamiyo maindeck. I don’t see it. I just don’t. I have a different mindset of how this deck should work out. I also saw Chandra, Torch of Defiance getting a lot of steam now. Two or three in the main deck. This means that Marvel and Fiend have to go and I don’t want to have the only energy sink being Whirler Virtuoso. Sure you have Harnessed Lightning, but you will rarely use more than 4 energy with it. Once in a blue Gearhulk moon you will drop 6, but otherwise not really. I like Marvel. It got me back into games that I shouldn’t have been allowed to get back into. The comeback mechanic of the card is too good. It puts you further ahead when you have it first and it gets you back from behind if you can give it enough energy. Solid stay in my opinion. I can’t decide yet what will stay and what will go, but I need to change my deck to a way that I believe will be best. Having played an exact copy of a list I realized how important it is to make your own mark on the deck you play. Playing an already known list can get you far, but there’s also a downfall to that. Your sideboard plans can be anticipated. It can put you at a disadvantage. Whatever I will choose to play will definitely be different. I plan on putting a curveball or two into the deck, but I need to make sure that they work properly first. I can’t just put them in for the sake of making things “more interesting”. It has to be a strong and stable choice. I will let you know when I write my report on Grand Prix Barcelona in a few weeks. Wish me luck!

As always,

See you in the Arena!

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