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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Grand Prix Prague or MagicFest Prague?

Prague is one of the cities that is easily accessible and is cheap for many. We get a GP or MagicFest as the events are called now each year. This time we got Ultimate Masters GP at the beginning of the year. The cap for the players was 3000 and over 2800 registered for the event.

UMA is a great set for drafting but sealed deck is something I didn't really enjoy much. I played some on Magic Online and one in real life and all of them were rather painful. I had some moments of glory but most of the time I just couldn't deal with cards like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, or even just one Snapcaster Mage that ruined all my plans. I decided not to attend the main event even though it was actually a good deal.

My plan was to play Vintage and Legacy side events and some limited on Sunday. In Vintage I did not want to play the control version of Mentor I played last year but rather switch to the more aggressive version. I was considering running green color instead of white but I decided to still run white but change the configuration of my deck. Here's how my URx Xerox deck looked like.

I spent most of Thursday looking for cards for the Vintage decks and Legacy decks. In the evening I was so tired that I just fell asleep without actually finishing the decks. When I got up on Friday I looked for the rest of the cards for Eldrazi and Grixis Control. While checking what is going on social media I saw many tweets from people I never heard of that they are in Prague and that it's awesome because there is snow. I prepared mentally for not a pleasant trip to the PVA Expo where the GP was held. I wrote down the cards that overlap and packed my stuff for the GP - some water, food, decks, pen and paper. All this would be very expensive at the venue and I didn't want to spend more money than necessary since I have no income. I drank a coffee and ventured to the freezing cold weather outside. I waded through the snow pondering about why people think the snow is nice.

After an hour I reached the venue. 'Snow-covered Plains' was blinking in red in my head and I had the urge to take out my cell phone and take a photo of the flat snow covered field in front of me. I put that thought aside and walked across it to reach the expo. As usual there were no signs showing a Magic event was held there, but the large crowd of people before the entrance was pretty clear about what is going on there inside.

I signed up for Vintage and watched the judge place my registration on a blank sheet with Vintage written on it. It looked bleak. I went to the lobby and met with several Vintage players. I asked them if they are playing in the event and they all said 'no'. Later I ran into several registered people and thus went to the black gathering point with a little bit of hope. The judge found all the players and told us to take care of the event ourselves so we did.

In the first round I was quite surprised that my in theory Grixis player played Nahiri and pretty much killed me with it, or rather threw a Colossus at me twice and I could just deal with it once. I could have avoided this situation but I didn't think ahead enough to come prevent this from happening. Time Walk is what made me lose the game and it was a really bad feeling. On the other hand, I had the game more or less under control which was a good sign that I should be able to play well in the following rounds.

Next round I wasn't really sure what I'm up against and kept a hand good against PO. My opponent wasn't on PO then and if I had used my brain to remember what Tom told me earlier I would have most probably figured out that he was on RUG Xerox (including Inferno Titan). Anyway the game did not go according to my plans and my opponent was well ahead of me and I couldn't put enough pressure on him. I somehow won the second game though. The third game was a bit strange because my only land was Wasteland. I had Black Lotus, Gitaxian Probe and Young Pyromancer in my hand and I hoped this would be enough to win the game. It was way too risky keep but it worked out for me because I destroyed my opponents only land and got 2 creatures in play. Tom's first mana source was Mox Sapphire which resulted in a huge counter war that I won. He drew a land next turn but that was already too late and he lost the game. (EDIT: it seems I messed up, this happened against Niklas - see Saturday Vintage event).

In the final round I faced Nathan on PO. Since I already knew what he was on I played Stony Silence on turn 1 and then hoped I'd draw a creature that could deal 20 damage before I'd die. The creature I got was Snapcaster Mage so I played it just like that - a 2 mana bear that I hoped would be soon joined by another copy of the card or Young Pyromancer. It didn't. Nevertheless I managed to get my opponent down to 1. At that point my opponent resolved his first Paradoxical Outcome (I countered the previous ones), drew bunch of cards, played Merchant Scroll fetching Repeal and then it was F6 time for me. My only card in hand being the bounced Stony Silence I couldn't do anything. In the following games I was able to get Stony Silence in play and apply enough pressure to win. The games were close but I won (we split the prizes).

After the Vintage event we all scattered. There was still Legacy event coming up but I had quite a lot of time before it would start. I went to see the food stand. There was a huge line for Kebab and coffee so I ventured to the back where we could get some noodles and other stuff. The price was shockingly high (210CZK) but I was hungry. While there I saw Vojta trying to figure out what he wants to eat for that price as well. We talked about how Legacy changed after the banning of Deathrite Shaman and if Death and Taxes still have a chance in this new format. My sideboard wasn't really ready for the Grixis Control decks but I still wanted to give it a try. Usually at a GP one can run into pretty much anything. Unfortunately my 'anything' were really bad matchups and I lost all the matches I could.

I managed to get a hold of the Belgian players and together we went to a Vietnamese place I go to at Jindrisska. We enjoyed the food and had some fun talking about all kind of stuff. Afterwards I went to the post office to ship orders and the local arcades bar to play some Pump it Up. I went right to the Pump it Up machine trying to ignore everyone because there was seriously too many people for me. While passing through the crowd I heard all kind of strange comments one of which was 'Oh another Magic player, what is going on, is there some kind of Magic fest here?'. I was too afraid to lift my head up and look around but it is true that this place is popular among local Magic players. Not sure if any from the MagicFest were there though. Anyway I found this quite funny and wondered about the MagicFest name once again. The word 'Fest' changed its meaning through the years so maybe in the end it's not as bad as I originally thought so. I played few credits of Pump it Up and went back to my flat.

I wondered if the next day people would actually show up for Vintage Double Up. I knew that at least one other Czech player would join but I wasn't sure about any of the other ones I met, I expected them to play the main event. When I arrived and registered I was once again the first person to sign up. The event fired though.

In my first round I lost the die roll and wondered what my opponent was. He played Chrome Mox which caught me offguard and I wondered what he is possibly on, he removed Legion Warboss from the game, and I started to suspect that his deck wouldn't be a Vintage deck. The card that landed in play on turn 1 was Blood Moon and I considered for a long time if I want to counter it. It was clear that Blood Moon might would be the least of my worries later but since I had no land in play yet and my only basic was an Island I decided to counter it. Unfortunately another Blood Moon or Magus of the Moon followed and later on I died to a horde of some Goblins or Pia and Kiran Nalaar. I checked my sideboard wondering what I can possibly side in and came to the conclusion that I may need to put in Containment Priests so I could take out Pyroblasts and Missteps. Shattering Spree and Swords to Plowshares came handy too. I was sure that I didn't want to draw the Priests but it was still better to have a card I could possibly play at one point than a card that was completely dead. I managed to avoid them.

I knew that I had to be fast, avoid Fiery Confluence and also counter all the Goblins or 4-mana threats. Luckily for me I somehow managed all that and won both games post-board. When we signed our match slip I still couldn't believe it.

Next round I played against Niklas on RUG Xerox. Tom told me that he loaned the deck to Niklas (since that was easier than loaning single cards) so I knew what he was on. Not that the information would make a difference. Our first game was pretty normal Xerox mirror match. There are actually two ways how it can go, one player either gets way ahead on cards or one player resolves Young Pyromancer first and manages to keep it in play. This time it was the first case. In the following game I managed to have more Young Pyromancers than my opponent and it was time for game 3. It looked similarly messed up as the one I played against Tom the day before. After I destroyed my opponents blue source he was left with a Mountain and couldn't draw another source. I was beating down with Snapcaster Mage waiting for Young Pyromancer to show up. I won in time.

In the last round I played against another nice player. Our first game was rather intense I was against torn between having Stony Silence in play or being able to play something and counter cards. I kept Stony Silence in my hand and Voltaic Key followed by Tinker that I didn't manage to counter. I think the game could have been a bit different but I can't really say if I could have won it. In the second game my opponent simply had it all. Ancestral Recall, Library of Alexandria, Treasure Cruise. When he finally played something it was Tinker. I tried to counter it but failed at it (no surprise there). I still had Swords to Plowshares in my hand as well Dack Fayden and I hoped that one of the cards would resolve. I played Swords to Plowshares at the end of the turn because I didn't have enough mana to play both next turn and it got countered by Mindbreak Trap. On my turn I drew Stony Silence which was pretty much a dead card. I played Dack Fayden and it resolved. I stole the Colossus and hoped my opponent wouldn't steal it back. He did. I still had a chance to block and steal it again. I just needed to deal with my opponent's Dack Fayden as well. I drew Monastery Mentor which wasn't what I needed. I looted and my opponent flashed in Notion Thief. Well, at least I could discard that Stony Silence. My plan just went awry but I still had a chance. I played Monastery Mentor and three Moxen I kept in my hand and hoped my opponent wouldn't have another Dack Fayden or Time Walk. He got both and I spectacularly lost. Good fun game.

After we were finished we went to the prize tix station to get our (split) prizes. Then once again I had some time before Legacy would begin. I decided to pilot the little white creatures and that was a really bad decision. I was very tired and totally lost^_^. I played against Canadian Treshold and died to too many Delvers. Then I played against BR Reanimator that just showed me Chancellor on t1 and reanimated something on turn 2. My mulligan to five at least didn't matter, I had no way how to win. In game two my Surgical Extraction got discarded and I faced Elesh Norn. My top deck was Rest in Peace that I didn't need anymore. I waited if by a chance I wouldn't draw Swords to Plowshares or Path to Exile. Neither card showed up so I scooped. My last opponent had green sleeves and in general looked like an Elves player. I really hoped he wouldn't be on Elves. He was. I'm not sure who suffered more - me or him. My opponent was very unlucky with his draws but I was unable to draw something relevant too and lost after very painful 40 minutes (all my equipment got destroyed, including some Vials). Stoneforge Mystic beatdown managed to get my opponent down to 3 but that wasn't enough. It felt really bad. We had a nice chat though and had some fun commenting our unlucky draws. I told my opponent to collect his 40 tix and he was quite surprised he actually won something.

After the event was over I called Tom if they have some plans for dinner and if I could join. We were supposed to meet at Vinohradsky Parlament. I had no idea where it is but when the address came to me I was certain I can't miss it (or could I, after 0-3 in Legacy everything was possible). I was on my way to Flora when I realized that going by the C line metro might be faster (I didn't know what was faster, but this route is supposedly 6 minutes shorter). I got to Namesti Miru and walked towards the middle street that I expected to be Konevova, I didn't need to check anything, the restaurant was right in front of me. I walked in, got suspicious and hateful looks. Walked upstairs and was shown were the rest of the players were sitting. We talked about competitive Magic, Belgian Magic scene and life in general. The food we ordered was delicious. After we had enough of beer and food (I ordered some Cranberry drink which wasn't great) we headed to Airbnb. We looked at the main event pools and pondered about what kind of decks we would build. I have to say that Robbert's pool was very tough to crack and till today I have no idea what I'd end up playing (mostly BUG value splashing Faith's Fetters, but it sounded really crazy). Then it was time for me to leave and get back to my flat since I promised to bring cards for the next day. I reminded myself that Karlovo namesti was closed and went to Andel then.

I searched for the cards for a while and then was tempted to run MODO. I clicked on the MODO icon on my taskbar and got message saying that the client is out of memory. I went to sleep and wondered how my sleep would be evaluated by my fitness activity tracker. I knew it would look bad since I hardly sleep well during events. I usually don't sleep at all. This time around I actually slept but the graph didn't look either and I felt pretty badly when I finally woke up.

Sunday's Legacy Double Up was scheduled at 11:30 so I had enough time to sleep. I got up when my phone decided to tell me that I really should get up. I didn't have the time to cook some eggs so just quickly ate what I edible food I encountered and ran to the subway station. I arrived on time, registered for the Legacy DU and managed to remind myself that I don't have Snapcaster Mages and Volcanic Island in the deck. I put the decks there and then went to see who'd I play against in my first round. Matthias Schmid was the name written next to mine and I knew that my opponent would be the more experienced player there. He played well whenever I played against him. Very soon I found out that we are playing a mirror match since my opponent after playing and Island, played Badlands and Baleful Strix. At least I could just play Hymn to Tourach. I still had one more Hymn in my hand and also Snapcaster Mage that I considered casting flashbacking the Hymn again. There was one turn during which I really hoped my opponent wouldn't top deck Jace, the Mind Sculptor because I couldn't counter it. He top decked it and Brainstormed. I killed the Jace and played my own one. I started fatesealing until my opponent played Gurmag Angler I couldn't deal with. I wondered what to do but assumed that bouncing the card and naturally drawing a card per turn should be enough to find something. This was most probably the wrong decision but nothing bad happened to me or Jace and I won the game later after I managed to land my own Angler, Strix and get rid of the Angler on the other side of the table. I certainly made some mistakes during this game but fortunately they didn't cost me the game (thx to Hymns). In game two I kept a hand with Island, Ponder, Hymn to Tourach, Hymn to Tourach, Badlands, Snapcaster Mage. I was on the draw and had a cantrip to find another black source. I hoped to avoid Liliana, the Last Hope or anything else I couldn't deal with. I top decked Bloodstained Mire and not sure if I played the cantrip. Next turn I played Hymn to Tourach and discarded my opponent's Liliana, the Last Hope and a land which was a very big relief for me. My second Hymn hit Chandra, Torch of Defiance and from there I just won. I have to say I felt really badly about this. After we talked a bit about matchups and a mirror match it seems that the mirror is pretty much about Hymns and Commands. I didn't like the idea of that at all...

Round 2 I played against Sneak and Show. I was on the play and played Badlands instead of Underground Sea that I didn't want to lose. My opponent didn't know what I am on and played Show and Tell on turn 1. It cost me a Snapcaster Mage and Force of Will. I played Baleful Strix next turn and found another Force of Will. I countered Sneak Attack and later won. In game 2 I tried to counter what I could and tried to play all my discard spells. Those got countered though and eventually I ran out of counterspells. My opponent had Sneak Attack and killed me with Emrakul. Not entirely sure what happened in game 3 but I won somehow...

Round 3 we both wanted to split. My opponent asked me if I wanted to play and I said yes. I had 'unless you are on Grixis Control' in my mind but didn't say it out loud. After we both played our Baleful Strix it was clear that neither of us actually wanted to play the mirror match. After I won the game we decided not to play the remaining games and collect our tix.

I amassed a big amount of tix during the weekend and wasn't sure what to do with them. I thought that the best would just be to get Ixalan boxes but in the end I decided to go for GRN which contains cards I want and shocklands. I still had 280 tix remaining after I got some boxes so I took some Dominaria packs and t-shirts.

After this it was time for some more Legacy and also some friendly games of Vintage. I tried to force my brain to think, I needed to figure out how to pilot Survival or how to play against it. It was clear that the deck is from a totally different world and that UWR has a hard time beating it. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben was giving me VERY HARD time which is nothing new but I just couldn't believe how much it taxed me against this deck.

Later, the Belgian players not playing day 2 or other events and me went to Crazy Cow somewhere at Dlouha. I may not be a fan of steaks but I had to say that what I ordered was really good. I spent another awesome evening with good people. We followed the coverage as much as we could to see how Pascal Vieren was doing. He was doing really well and after a spectacular finals won the GP (and then hopefully also enjoyed a good steak at Crazy Cow).

After the dinner we went to the airbnb and played few more games of Vintage. In the last game Survival finally went nuts.

This concludes my post about GP Prague. For me it was an awesome experience and I'd like to thank all the Belgian players that I spend the time with, all the Vintage players that came to participate in the events and to Channel Fireball who organized the whole event. Thanks to everyone I managed to talk to or play against and shout out to Matej Zatlkaj who I could talk to for a bit when he got a short break.

On Monday I woke up and had the itch to play Magic. It was the first time I was said a GP was over. I crawled out of bed and went to check why MODO crashed on me the last time. I didn't really figure it out but in the end it downloaded and launched. Question was what I wanted to play. I played some Ravnica limited and followed it with Legacy and Cube. I was happy playing Magic. It was truly Magical weekend (and few days that followed).

Thank you for reading
S'Tsung