Guest Article: GP Liverpool

Today, local player and reader of Master Of Magics, Chris (Another Chris!?!) submitted an article about his experience at GP Liverpool. Master of Magics would like to give a big thank you to Chris for sharing with us and a shout out to Cascade Games and all the Judges and Organisers at the GP, we had an awesome time.

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GP Liverpool, hosted by Cascade games, graced us with it’s presence last weekend and I in turn graced it with mine. I had decided against the main event and thus showed up Saturday morning, visited some vendors, chaosed some drafts and with a couple of friends won a sealed box team event – we were very pleased.
Sunday however was my main event as I had decided I wanted to play in the Standard PTQ. In my recent testing I’d decided that the rise of sweepers and general preparation for mono red meant I wanted to play an aggro deck with a more varied suite of threats.

Creatures (23)
Bomat Courier
Scrapheap Scrounger
Ahn-Crop Crasher
Pia Nalaar
Rampaging Ferocidon
Bone Picker
Hazoret the Fervent

Spells (14)
Fatal Push
Cut // Ribbons
Heart of Kiran
Unlicensed Disintegration
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Lands (23)
Dragonskull Summit
Ifnir Deadlands
Ramunap Ruins

Sideboard (15)
Harsh Mentor
Pia Nalaar
Aethersphere Harvester
Cartouche of Ambition

I’m an aggro player, I’ve always preferred to be the one asking the questions, not finding the right answers. The big stars of the face smashing game seem to be Mardu Vehicles and of course Mono red.

With Thraben Inspector off inspecting modern and frontier (remember that?), and Gideon off with all the other Gideon’s in his own tribal deck, the white element of Maraud Vehicles seems less important to me so I thought I could cut that, keep the mana base more streamline and even add a desert package. Elsewhere as more answers come in to slow Mono Red’s oppressive early game, I wanted something that went little deeper but also that could punish early removal (Hello Bonepicker!). This along with Sultai Energy having issues with fliers and access to hard removal such as Fatal Push and Unlicensed Disintegration for overgrown cubs and other threats outside of shock/abrade range, the black and the Vehicles felt like great additions. My main worry was, oddly enough, my match up vs mono red. It’s extremely hard to win game 1 on the draw (like, seriously that’s not going to happen, pray to your Gods). I was however confident I could race on the play and had decent tech in the sideboard to hopefully get me there game 3. Plan B of course was to pray I avoided it or won the roll to go first!

Deck list written, coffee intake at optimum level – take water guys it’s much better for these long days – I was ready to do battle.

I don’t want to go into too much detail, I imagine as you are reading such a well respected site, you will have a good idea of how these things can play out, but I’ll give some of the more interesting moments their time in the sun.

Round 1.

Sultai Energy. The dream. This match up was one I played most in testing.
Game 1 – Curved out nicely. Got opponent low. He rallied a bit with a hostage taker + spell pierce on my fatal push. But eventually the Heart got enough damage through to win with a ramunap ruins.
Game 2 – Three long tusk cubs and a winding constrictor. No removal. Over.
Game 3 – I again got off to a good start on the play getting in with bomat and scrounger. My opponent had brought in deathgorge scavenger, a solid pick but it was “countered” by my rampaging ferocidon, which stopped the life gain and when my opponent cast removal on one of my attackers I cast bone picker x 2 to encourage the scoop.

Round 2.
Red white approach. The unknown. I hadn’t played against this version of approach before.
Game 1 – Stalled on 2 mana. Watched Chandra and Gideon take over the game.
Game 2 – Curved out perfectly on the play and smashed.
Game 3 – It quickly became clear that my opponent had sideboarded into a red/white vehicles build. Trying not to think about my fatal pushes in the sideboard, I got off to a decent start. We both started smashing in with Heart of Keran and Chandra. It seemed like my opponent was going to have the edge thanks to the extra power on his HoK from the Veteran Motorist but my deck has other ideas. Hazoret off the top, followed by Chandra and then another Hazoret (after the first one was cast out) get me there. Opponent takes it fairly well seeing the Hazoret off the top twice in 3 draws and I offer an empty apology as I haste in for lethal.

Round 3.
Blue black energy. The old foe. I’ve played this match up many times, it’s a close battle.
Game 1 – Mull to 5 on the play. Get going ok. But opponent easily stabilises and gets the win.
Game 2 – Perfect curve on the play. Opponent misses 4th land and that’s all she wrote.
Game 3 – Mull to 4. Actually get into the game as opponent misses land 3. And then land 4 for 3 turns. Eventually however opponent gets to 6 lands with enough life left to resolve 2 Torrential Gearhulks and a Scarab God in quick succession. Vraska’s contempt’s and my own Bomat Courier from the graveyard are enough to give him the win on 3 life.

Round 4.
Esper tokens. The lesson…
Game 1 – On the play curve out nicely with Bomat, HoK and Scrapheap. Backed with 2 x Unlicensed Disintegration to never allow blockers and push extra damage.
Game 2 – Again off to a good start, but a better draw for my opponent too. Life total goes down but quickly goes back up with every Anointer Priest/Sunscourge Champion. My Glorybringer helps keep me safe from eternalised champions and I begin to take control as my opponent gets down to 0 cards in hand. Eventually find the line for lethal as Ahn-Crop Crasher comes down off the top and all I have to do is Ramunap for the remaining 2… That’s when I look at lands and realise I tapped the Ruins to cast the Crasher. Cry a little inside. Opponent realises my mistake, “It didn’t tap itself”. A good point and no way of fixing it now. Pass turn. Opponent gains 10 life via various Esper token shenanigans. Quick interlude – I am not a cool customer. I tilt. I get nervous. I get too excited. I never rage and I direct any frustration inwards or to the heavens and always act with grace to my opponent, but inside it can be a carnival at moment’s like this. I repeat to myself “Don’t lose this now. Don’t lose this now.” Deep breathes. Keep watching the game. I have Chandra, Hazoret and Glorybringer in play. I’m still in a strong position. I gather myself and ensure that over the next two turns I get every point of damage possible. My opponent continues to gain life but no good answers for my threats. I find lethal again as the turn is passed to me. “I should be dead now but we’ll see” a tongue in cheek response which we both laugh about. Deep breath – maybe the comment was to throw you off. Don’t rush. I ensure all land is tapped correctly (such a pro). Put my opponent to 3 and attack with Glorybringer. Phew! My favourite kind of lesson. One I won’t forget, in a match I still win.

Round 5.
God Pharaohs Gift. Wait, wasn’t I going to play Scavenger grounds?
Game 1 – Run him over.
Game 2 – Opponent gets gate in play early, but I resolve and stick a Rampaging Ferocidon. This turns out to be incredibly important. The gate no longer gains him life and an Angel of Invention costs him 3 life in blockers and with the lifelink turned off that hurts even more. Opponent blocks well and gets a lot of card draw from Champion of Wits, but can’t find a way to remove the Ferocidon. I get lethal.

Round 6.
Mono red. Well, it had to happen eventually.
Game 1 – On the draw. Ouch. Sucks to be right.
Game 2 – I resolve a Cartouche on my Scrounger, killing a Khenra and getting in for one attack. Turns out to be enough to win the race.
Game 3 – This one is close, we trade blows early and I draw a Cartouche of Ambition again. However at no point do I feel able to cast it. My opponent constantly has one red open and I’m convinced the shock is in hand. With other plays to make I decided to try and wait it out or win the race. We race. It get’s to a point when my opponent attacks to put me to 2. Then with that mountain that had been open all along, he shocks me for the lethal damage.
Question time:
Q – Do you have to play the cartouche?
No – If they have it. You get destroyed. You get 2-1’d and spend turn 3 or 4 doing nothing. The creatures/removal you play on those turns are the reason it’s even close.
Yes – Make them have it. It gets the shock out of the hand and maybe prevents reach they need later. Can you really win on the draw without it anyway?

Round 7.
Mono red. The nightmare.
Game 1 – Ouch. Roll higher!
Game 2 – Perfect curve. Smash opponent.
Game 3 – Despite opponent making the “Pro Tour Hazoret mistake” and the judge call going my way after someone watching noticed his attack wasn’t legal. I don’t quite have lethal on the crack back and get shocked to death.

Round 8.
Game 1 – On the play! Close race. But one I win. Here we go!
Game 2. – Ouch. No sideboard seen that day.
Game 3 – No lands, mull to 4. Internally scream to the heavens, why has this curse befallen me, why Magic Gods, why oh…you get it. Get in a bit with scrapheap and remove a lot of his threats before actually resolving my Glorybringer from my opening hand for another couple of attacks. But Hazoret puts an end to my fun and after rudely punching my face for 5, kills me for the last two with her activated ability.

My tiebreakers meant I finished with some prizes and I had a lot of varied matches, but I can’t hide my frustration at the pain of going from 4-1 to 4-4 at the hands of a deck I just can’t seem to beat.
So it’s back to the drawing board and trying to figure out if there are ways to improve my mono red match up without hurting others. Maybe some Chandra’s defeat in the sideboard, I’m also tempted by Walking Ballista in for Cut//Ribbons as it has a lot of nice synergy with triggering the Bone Pickers, Revolt for Fatal Push and is another artifact for Unlicensed Disintegration. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the deck! What sideboard would you use? What are your deck’s plans to stop the onslaught of Mono Red? Outside of my own experience though the state of Standard feels healthy if not a little familiar. Ixalan has many positives but it hasn’t impacted the meta much and we are still seeing a lot of the usual suspects, although after a big rotation followed by a tribal set, with little if any pre-existing support in Standard, the card pool is comparatively very small. It was, however, great to see plenty of decks doing well and it really feels like a good time for brewers, especially once Rivals of Ixalan is released. The PTQ and everything I experienced at GP Liverpool was amazing. Shout out to the organisers and the judging staff, everything I saw and was involved with was well organised and professional. I’ve since seen some complaints about how some things had been dealt with, but there will always be the odd issues at events like this. With 3 more GPs in the UK next year, I know I’ll be trying to attend them all and maybe even main event one. If you’ve never been to a GP I highly recommend saving up some cash and heading over, the community are a friendly bunch and you’ll have plenty to do and experience. Bring on London in January!

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