This man tested with a gang of degenerates for weeks – what happened next shocked me!
Once upon a time, Birthing Pod was legal in Modern. It was my favourite card, and was the driving force behind a great deck. Times were good.
Then they banned it. I flailed around for a new deck of choice. Modern is a format where you can play the same deck for years, mastering it. So I bought into Splinter Twin, a few months before GP Melbourne, and started to learn the deck. Sure, I was a few years behind those who had been playing it for years, but if I put in the effort I could start to bridge the experience gap.
Then they banned it. I played an Abzan Chord deck at several GPTs. It won me a lot of packs, but not the precious byes. I did get to cast a lot of Siege Rhinos. Sometimes they were followed up by Restoration Angel. The deck felt powerful, flexible, and had plenty of good matchups.
Then Eldrazi happened. You know this bit. My deck was great against the field, with one giant spaghetti-monster exception. Reality Smasher beat Siege Rhino heads up.
This is when I started testing for GP Melbourne in earnest. I didn’t have a deck I liked, the format was looking increasingly narrow, and I’d lent out my Eldrazi cards. Having resolved to play good decks, I decided to stop brewing for now (sorry, Thragtusk/Undying Evil…) and proxied up Matt Roger’s Angel Chord and Ari Lax’s Melira Company, figuring I would play whichever was the least miserable.
Let’s face it – when honest green creature decks have to go all in on combos to win games, Modern is not in great shape.
I played a lot of Magic over the following weeks. More than my partner ever needs to know. The Angel Chord deck was sweet, but too slow for my taste. So I locked in the Company deck, and punted my way to giving Maitland byes at the following GPT. You’re welcome. Everyone else seemed ready to waste their time on sweet brews, which seemed to all feature Eldrazi Temple.
As the only hero in the group, when the others wanted a break from endless mirror matches, they would play against me. I was the Green Mage, and so our gauntlet consisted of me, SJB casting The Living End, and roughly eleven Eldrazi decks. This reflected the Day 2 meta almost perfectly. Jay spent a lot of his time looking for someone to dare him to play Bogles, but no one did.
As the process continued, I felt pretty good about my deck. I mean, Burn dies to Kitchen Finks, Infect dies to Melira, and Affinity dies to infinite life, so the other ‘best’ decks from the PT seemed like reasonable matchups. Eldrazi was close – favourable game one but weaker post-board. Gavony Township won long games, and after faffing around trying to sideboard various Angels, I just played Worship because why have fun, interactive games when you can just win instead?
I was jamming infinite side-boarded games against Patty. Maitland looked over from where he was battling the Eldrazi mirror. ‘I need to test against Melira’, he said pointedly. I replied ‘I have to go’ and left.
Unfortunately, Patty eventually realised that turning all my thing to dust was powerful. I shouldn’t have played so many games against him. Hopefully people are too scared of infinite colourless mirrors to sleeve it up. After losing a lot, I stood up to leave. Maitland asked if he could test against Melira, but I had to go, so I left.
The rest of the group settled on various configurations of UW Eldrazi. SJB was happy ending the living. Then we started freaking out about Runed Halo naming Thought-Knot Seer. Candles and Maitland dashed out, raiding every card store in Melbourne to find them. They found exactly one. Too slow. Looks like UW Control will be out in force.
Tim sleeved up the deck and crushed everyone for a while. The deck had gone from being a joke to unbeatable in 24 hours. Everyone was a Runed Halo enthusiast.
After a couple of frenzied days, apart from Tim and Isaac, everyone decided to play the same decks they’d been on the whole time. No blocking Warriors for us.
Maitland wanted some last minute testing against Melira, but I had to go, so I left.
I arrived at the GP nice and early. I was paranoid about public transport, and needed to borrow cards. And lend cards. Resleeve my deck. Write a legible decklist. Trash talk Max, which backfired as he has taken my Thoughtseizes to Wollongong. Find out that Nick was playing Trondrazi. At least I’d convinced him to cut the Kozilek.
The Player Meeting started uncharacteristically close to on time. The announcements mentioned that two copies of the draw would be printed, one for each room in the venue. Two. Entire. Copies. For 1105 people. Cue gridlock. The TOs decided to not use the five massive projector screens, or post pairings on line. For later rounds, they somehow managed to make it even worse by posting pairings outside, funnelling the entire field through two doors. I literally can’t even.
Half an hour later, people were finally seated. We started playing Modern.
Thanks to my inability to win top eight matches, I didn’t have byes. So of course I lost round one after getting my Kataki Thoughtseized by Affinity. I forgot they played that card. That’s OK, I said. I’ll just win the rest.
Proving that Modern is a diverse and interesting format with many viable decks, I played against Goblins, Bant, Infect, Tokens, Storm, Jeskai, Grishoalbrand and Merfolk over the next 8 rounds. I dropped one game, to finish the day at 8-1. My first ever Day 2. I was so proud, and was rewarded for my .
The game I lost was awesome. My Grishoalbrand opponent Angered me twice, before I Sin Collected his Goryo’s Vengeance. I found a Township, so the Birds Beatdown commenced. Just in time, he hard cast Griselbrand. 8 mana? Nothing to it.
I tried to find the Gronk crew afterwards, but they’d already dropped to go drinking. So I got to be boring and head home. I drove in the next day, getting a sneaky twenty minutes extra sleep. I parked under a railway bridge because it seemed better than paying for parking, and scored a lift as Chris and Molly drove past to dodge the twenty minute walk to the venue. More run goods.
I faced my tenth individual deck in the next round, playing against Living End. I won game one after playing turns four and five without any land in play thanks to getting Fulminated. The streak was real.
I finally got a repeat matchup. I guess people took WotC seriously when they said the banning of Twin would bring back Jeskai. It was a brave decision for a weekend where the best deck played Cavern of Souls and creatures that laugh at puny Lightning Bolts. Then another repeat against Kentaro Yamamoto on Living End, where his cascade revealed all 4 Faerie Macabres so that I knew I could safely execute the combo. Then the mirror, which I won because my opponent hit Birds of Paradise with his three Companies, whilst I hit perfect combo cards with my one.
I’d managed to flail my way to 12-1, reeling off 12 in a row whilst dodging Eldrazi. There were about a million draws at the top end of the tournament though, so I got paired down and had to keep playing. Finally, Eldrazi. I asked for the draw, Louis had to bash, so I assembled the combo in turn four despite his pair of Thought Knot Seers. That showed him. Then to really show him, I drew double Worship and enough Finks to combo through a Relic.
Finally, I was locked, and able to ID with Yuuki Ichikawa to lock up first seed. Table 2 also went for the ID, as did Table 3… but thanks to the power of tie breakers, the players on Table 3 both missed out on Top 8 glory, as there was a mess of people with unintentional draws, two of whom had better breakers. This let David Mines, the hero we needed, sneak into the top 8 by 1% – if Table 3 had bashed, he would have IDd himself out. Crazy.
Coverage looked sad when they discovered that I hadn’t dodged Eldrazi the whole time. I was pretty happy though. So were the railbirds. The ID meant that I was able to sweat Maitland’s win and in, and we both ended up in the top 8. Denying him Melira testing was genius in disguise, because he played about eighteen mirror matches. Table 3 ID’d themselves out of the top 8, so David Mines was able to sneak in at 8th.
I filled in the Top 8 info sheet as best I could, but each time I tried to make a joke, they cut it out or revealed the punch line in brackets. What a waste. Apparently the word ‘feckless’ is not allowed to appear in coverage. Incidentally, what a stacked top 8 – Jason Chung, Lee Shi Tian, Kentaro Yamamoto, Yuuki Ichikawa… and me!
I battled with David, who was on Eldrazi, and whilst I had the perfects game 1, I had fine but unimpressive draws in the next two. I had to make decisions about how to use Chords before assembling enough of the combo, so fired them off blind and had to hope to draw out. For once this weekend, it didn’t work. Hard to complain though.
We tried to go to the Corner for dinner and drinks, but Sam was unable to convince security that Tyler was his cousin. Despite having a children’s menu. I mean, why have a kids menu if you’re not allowing them in? And thus it was over.
The GP was a mess. Let’s not beat about the bush. There was little food available and it was expensive. Pairings were a total fail. Seriously, post them online. On Facebook. On Twitter. It’s not difficult. The queues on Friday are already the stuff of internet legend. Day 2, with a smaller field, felt better, although at this point they decided that one set of pairing sheets would be enough.
It was still a great weekend to be me. I went from 0-1 to 13-1, got some cash monies and a PT invite. I played well and ran well. The support from everyone was the real kicker though. I know how awesome it is when mates do well at big events, but being on the other end of that was truly humbling.
There’s not much point in going into the format-specific details. Eldrazi is too good – play it while you can. But this GP was one hell of a ride. I was super zen during my games – win-and-in feature matches against pros, the quarterfinal, none of it threw me, which is good because I can be prone to tilting like a busted pinball machine. I have no idea when I suddenly became level-headed, but it couldn’t have happened at a better time.
Thanks to all who were part of my testing – not just the crew playing at GGs but everyone else I played against too. I have never been as prepared as this for an event, and it’s no coincidence that this was also my best result.
And thanks to everyone who said nice things to me during and after the event. The MTG community can be amazing – and I was fortunate to luck sack my way to the centre of that this weekend. Hopefully the community continues to grow, both in size and as a place of diversity and respect.
Be excellent to each other.