GP Atlanta (Quasi-)☆VICTORY☆ Report!

齋藤 友晴

齋藤 友晴

[This entry was originally posted in Japanese on May 28, 2014.–Ed.]

Home, sweet, happy home! ♪
I got back from Atlanta@America and immediately got cracking on this blog update! ^^


Sorry, but in my last post, I may have said I was heading out for a ☆Victory☆! report, but…

A wild (Quasi-) appeared!

But regardless, I captured a double PT invites! Woah! What does it meeeean? It means I’m pretty happy with my results.

Thank you to everyone who supported me throughout the event!

I think people who win at Magic have a tendency at first to be like, “Ah, I was just lucky.” But I do believe there is “skill” in taking advantage of luck.

Therefore, today, let’s consider the following: how do we handle the “preparation” and “strategy” part?

That’s what I’m writing about.

◆ Prep Materials Part 1: The Results of “Hundred First Picked Ones”

I got great results from last entry’s “Tomohundred First-Picked One” exercise.

I not only found I was more able to comfortably compare first-pick-able cards, but when looking at the resulting picks by color, I also noticed a definite dearth of red, and for that matter, blue draft starters.

However, when I did this little experiment, I knew I have a sort of “when in doubt, favor the red card” bias (I actually first-picked a Satyr Hoplite once), but I felt “if the average person were to do this same process, they would also end up with similarly scarce red.

Further, I found that crimson-colored Journey into Nyx Mythic Rares/Rares, Uncommons, and Commons, were generally far from first picks, and even second- or third-picking them was a tough sell. But they could be more justifiable around fourth pick and on.

◆ Prep Materials Part 2: Draft Win Percentage

Here is my draft performance.

These MO drafts were single elimination, so the match totals aren’t always a multiple of three, but below are the results of my twenty-three eight-man drafts (in win-percentage order).

In terms of color pairs,

Red / Black: 11 wins – 2 losses
Green / White: 5 wins – 1 losses
Red / White: 7 wins – 3 losses
Mono-black: 2 wins – 1 losses
Black / Blue: 3 wins – 2 losses
Black / White: 3 wins – 2 losses
White / Blue: 7 wins – 6 losses
Blue / Green: 0 wins – 3 losses
And by base color:

Red: 18 wins – 5 losses
Black: 19 wins – 7 losses
White: 22 wins – 12 losses
Blue: 10 wins – 8 losses
Green: 5 wins – 4 losses

Even if the tendency in limited environments is to synch your picks with mob mentality’s general pick order, it was clear enough that my winningest base color was red.

◆ Prep Materials Part 3: Experience and Swapping Ideas

Various other stuff for this part of the post here. Those with Magic experience, those with experience with this environment, and so on-it was important to exchange ideas with everyone I could.

At this stage, it was clear red was the money color after all. Less Theros packs in the draft meant less access to powerful bestow cards, crucial auras like Feral Invocation or the five Ordeals, and key heroic or monstrosity creatures, and in a blink, viciously curving out was now considerably harder to do. Additionally, the dedicated heroic deck became just about impossible to assemble.

As a result, despite losses to everyone else, all of these hard-to-deal-with strategies becoming weaker actually granted red greatly reduced disadvantages.
Given the above strategic shifts and the current, full block card pool, red has come into its final form as the environment’s fastest archetype.

Plus, in any case, red was the strongest color in Born of the Gods. It was the common view among top players that you force red in pack one and get hooked up in pack two.

◆ Conclusion: The Strategy for This Event

At this point it’s helpful to summarize everything up till now.

・There are few red draft-starter cards in Journey into Nyx, so it’s easy for only
a few drafters to get into that color early.
・For my win rate, red was my most successful base color.
・Red has become stronger as a color.
・If you can force red, Born of the Gods will be sweet.

And so, we arrive at our strategy going into the event……


In other words, increase my priority on and number of red cards!
And even if I can’t pick red early, look to draft myself into a position to move into red easily at some point.

Wait, wha-? Ok, drafting is fine, but what about sealed? Well, I guess I’ll do a couple practice runs and just lean of my drafting and general Magic experience and as usual…

I’ll listen to the “heart of the cards!!”

Yeah, just that…that’s the ticket ^^;

On a serious note, though, sealed practice is important, but it’s much more important to give priority to drafting practice for better chances at winning the whole event.

On the first day, there’s a much wider skill level of players you encounter, but Day Two is when the powerhouse players pack the place, so if your goal is to win, which format would you rather prioritize?

For sealed practice, if you have confidence in your draft game, to an extent that is good practice for a limited Grand Prix, but if advancing to Day Two is included in your goal, then sure, increasing that dedicated sealed practice is also a good idea, too. There are myriad patterns of sealed pools possible, but practicing just a few times won’t overload your brain too much.

All right, with all that out of the way, let’s get to the ☆Rounds Report☆!

◆ Day One

I always get in local the Thursday before an event, but this time the plane malfunctioned and couldn’t fly so we ended up getting in on Friday evening.

In addition, the suitcase I had just bought got locked without the key so the hotel staff had to destroy the luggage just to open it. It was that kind of a start to my tournament weekend.

So at this point, I’d like to think that “Karma” would kick in and be like, “Well, after this, let’s cut him a break and give him some better luck now,” but…
Little did I know that while pondering how to contain such bad fortune to just that much of my weekend, it would seem my moment of Zen(?) would be right around the corner (laughs)!

For me in particular, since I usually go all out purchasing cards and stuff during the Friday’s GPT, this time around I was actually happily able to preserve some physical stamina for the main event.♪

This deck was as control as it gets, but it was pretty strong.
It had multiple, sufficient ways to deal with problems and had a couple bomb finishers to boot.

The weakness was that having two Feast of Dreams was either really gas or really rot depending on the opponent.
The advantage was that because this deck was unusual in wanting to draw first, it didn’t really have to worry about winning any die rolls.

As for the results, other than narrowly losing to GP Warsaw 2014 Top 8 competitor Ben Yu’s blue-green galactic-class deck, I was somehow able to make it out unscathed, so,

I advance to Day Two at 8-1 (3 byes)!

◆ Day Two, First Draft

As the draft broke out, I reluctantly had to first-pick Extinguish All Hope, pictured at top left.

It’s a decently powerful card, but I write “reluctantly” because it doesn’t quite fit into the “Red Beats” deck I’m trying to draft. The card is obviously best in a deck with a lot of enchantment creatures, but red is the color with the weakest enchantments in general; meanwhile it excels in swarming with low drops. So even if you do manage to hit six mana, by that point it shouldn’t be that difficult for the Beat’s opponent to gain the advantage.

In any case, even though my MO was “Force Red Beats,” I wasn’t yet locked into the strategy so I took the wrath simply because it was the strongest card in the pack.

After that, I had to stomach Golden Hind followed by Pharika’s Chosen, but opportunity finally knocked in the fourth pick! I almost burned my hand slamming that Magma Spray so fast.

Actively trying to go red these first three picks yielded great off-color cards, but my fourth and fifth picks were decidedly hot!
And when going red, it’s good to prioritize sweet low drops at first, and counting on the wheel for the higher cost stuff you like, not only later in this pack but also in the third.

This pack let the beats drop to the tune of Sigiled Skink and a couple of Flurry of Horns, and I even picked up an Eagle of the Watch(!) in the last five picks to finish off the pack.

Pack two erupted with an explosive Forgestoker Dragon just for me! The red flowed like fiery water and I was also able to snap up on sight a fourth pick Glimpse the Sun God(!) to help keep my red guys swinging, and I was even able to bag an Oreskos Sun Guide to coast me into pack three.

By the third pack, I had a feeling I was taking some of the better red and white cards at the table.

The deck felt great and it blazed through matches against power players Brian Kibler and Chris Fennell for a 3-0☆ Finish!

This took me to 11-1 and the top table for the second draft. I needed 2-1 or better for Top 8.

I knew that getting Top 8 meant double PT qualification, but I also knew I had to keep calm and draft on with my home-brewed limited strategy.

◆ Day Two, Second Draft

My pod at Table 1 featured William Jensen and Nabe [Yuuya Watanabe]. I would be passing directly to Nabe.

Every kiss begins with Kay, but my draft started King Macar, the Gold-Cursed! And as I plundered the potentate, I pondered, “If you take this, you’re gonna have to go pretty black, you know,” but bagging this black bomb just meant coming up with a new twist on the “viciously curve out” plan. And with that, my head became rich with thoughts of black-red.

Picks two and three broke black, too, but fourth came Disciple of Deceit, which I just had to take. You can get some tender value from the gold Disciple’s cost-based searching ability by packing your deck with lots of “middle-range power cards” and exploiting those redundant converted mana costs as you tutor. Not to over-sell the guy, but drafting him was actually almost like getting a “second” copy of King Macar, the Gold-Cursed.

The red in this pack just wasn’t there, and given my black commitments, and over-all pick-priorities, with no better options, my second color ended up going decidedly blue to wind down pack one.

Due to the unique peculiarities of Born of the Gods, pack two can feel like stepping into a Wasteland, but my picks were able to cut black and blue a bit to get me through to the last fourteen picks.

Pack three was an inundation of blue! Nimbus Naiad, Griptide, Sea God’s Revenge, and two Horizon Scholars all flowed into my pool. But I was also pretty happy to quietly pick up the underrated Meletis Charlatan, too.

Born of the Gods can really fall flat, and although I was able to secure some power cards and even run eighteen lands, it felt like there were just a little too few cards to use, making for a bit of a subtle, delicate deck to work with.

Further, up until the last moment, the unusual synergy of my deck kicked off my first match in a bit of a kerfuffle. I forgot about the Drown in Sorrow hidden in my library, so I prioritized blocking with my Disciple of Deceit, and couldn’t recover from the backbreaking misplay, costing me the match from out of nowhere.

I just kept thinking about how if I just take it easy and keep sharp, I can win my next two rounds and lock up double PT invites, but next I had to encounter none other than the zenith of drafting, Nabe himself. Fortunately, I managed to make it out with two neck-and-neck wins. Nabe noted afterward that although green-white as a color pairing hasn’t suffered in the new format, this time around the deck failed him.

Onto the final round! After checking the standings and seeing there was no option for an intentional draw, I had to face the up-and-coming Nathan Holiday, who I managed to beat in another two razor-close games to make it to Top 8 at last.

YES! With this, I’m back on the Pro Tour! ☆☆☆

But that being said, and since I’m already here, I might as well enjoy this little eight-man bonus stage and besides,


Not to mention, I also want to write a ☆Victory☆ report for our freshly minted Hareruya Pros Blog!←

◆ Day Two, Top 8 Draft

(Full video coverage of the draft【here】)

My first pick was Dictate of Erebos, one of the set’s strongest black cards by far. But I guess there were a bunch of people at the table starting black that day, so…

Second pick, Forgeborn Oreads (sweet!)! As I mentioned above, there are few strong red enchantments, and it’s easy to train wreck on a bunch of double-colored mana symbols, but since I want to go red, I’m happy to pick this one up, even if it isn’t that powerful.

I third-picked a Bladetusk Boar excitedly, firming me up into red and thought I might be headed black-red, but in a really strong pack I had to fourth pick an Akroan Mastiff. Next, I pounded two(!) puppies more after noting that the black was drying up and I was not going to argue with shifting into red-white.

I didn’t count on starting Born of the Gods with the strongest white rare in the set, Eidolon of Countless Battles, but I that’s what I opened, so that’s what I picked. I actually put it slightly stronger than even the Kitty King [Brimaz, King of Oreskos] or Hero of Iroas, myself. After that, the red got a bit scarce, but I managed to make it out suffering minimal dead picks.

But pack three yielded a ton of powerful spells, with Chained to the Rocks kicking things off. When I saw Spear of Heliod second, I actually thought maybe I might be better off actively pursuing the more consistent pick in Lightning Strike instead.

In the end, the deck came out extremely strong and was actually more white-leaning, if only by accident. I had a lot of choice cards, so I had a solid sideboard, to boot.

Born from all my preparation, my personal strategy was poised for success and I could envision victory quite clearly this time around.

Drafting really is something else.

From the fatigue of this Magic marathon, my quarterfinals opponent made devastating misplay, costing him the match, leading into my also taking the semifinals. Thanks to not pushing myself all out on Friday, I felt like I was in good condition heading into the finals.

So I get a trophy!!

…was my thought after being locked for the last match, but God sent down to me the powerhouse Jon Stern as my final opponent.

From mulligans and every threat having an answer, I had nothing left but to extend the hand.

Immediately afterward, with a big smile and applause, I heartily congratulated Jon.

It was an electric feeling.

I felt this way because given such short time, I was able to craft a legitimate strategy and follow through with it.

Win or lose, I want to have this feeling every time, and so that’s what I’m striving for and that’s why I’ll push myself as hard I as I can.

And from that, positive results are naturally sure to come.♪


※ Editor’s Note: Images appearing in this article appear courtesy of the following sites:
『Grand Prix Atlanta 2014 event coverage』