GP Auckland Report – Top 64

Hey everyone! I’m Nathan, a Melbourne-based Magic player. I’ve been playing Magic competitively for the past couple of years. GP Auckland was the fifth GP I’ve attended and the first I’ve been to outside of Australia. I’ve had a small amount of success at the GP level with a top 64 in Sydney 2013 and top 16 in Melbourne 2014 and I was hoping to add to that in Auckland. With that out of the way, on to the report.

The Pool:

I was nervous while skimming through the the Khans part of my pool as the head judge relayed the last of his instructions. I had only 3 dual lands, no tri-lands and a somewhat suspect collection of rares: Hardened Scales, Howl of the Horde and Avalanche Tusker. While I would be happy to play the tusker, the only temur land I had access to from the Khans packs was a single Swiftwater Cliffs.

Luckily, as Fate is wont to do, the other side of the sheet provided some much more powerful rares to give me direction. My pool contained Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Mastery of the Unseen as powerful late game spells that greatly incentivized me to draw out the game as long as possible. I was a bit light on playables so I opted to run 19 lands to ensure I could hit 8 lands in the late game for Ugin and Mastery.

The deck I ended up registering was:

GP Aukland

Rotting Mastodon
Reach of Shadows
Unyielding Krumar
Bellowing Saddlebrute
Bitter Revelation
Rakshasa’s Secret
Mardu Strikeleader
Mastery of he Unseen
Mardu Hordechief
Salt-Road Patrol
Sandsteppe Outcast
Harsh Sustenance
Chief of the Scale
Abzan Guide
Pine Walker
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Blossoming Sands
Jungle Hollow
Bloodfell Caves
x Mountain
x Swamp
x Plains

The event:

I had 1 bye for this event so after getting some breakfast it was on to round 2

Round 2: vs Abzan splash blue

In game 1 kept two lands on the draw with Chief of the Scale, Sandsteppe Outcast, double Sandblast and Bitter Revelation. My third land took too long to show up and by the time I was casting Bitter Revelation my opponent had cast and defeated me with Ojutai.

In game 2 my opponent mulliganed to 5. He played a Rattleclaw Mystic on turn 2 and a morph on turn 3 while I curved Sandsteppe Outcast into Bellowing Saddlebrute. On turn 5 he drew his card, sighed, played a land and passed. My intuition immediately was that the face down creature was a Woolly Loxodon and my opponent was trying to bait me into attacking. Given I only had a sandblast in hand, I’d have to trade my 4/5 plus the sandblast for his creature. With this information I went ahead and… attacked with everything. It was of course a Woolly Loxodon and I was forced to make the unfavourable trade. Why did I attack? One big take away from this event for me is sometimes you need to trust your reads. More on that later.

Luckily my blunder didn’t cost me and we went to game 3. My opponent cast Citadel Siege this game and put two counters on his only creature, a Whisperer of the Wilds. Here I made my second big mistake of the day. With a throttle in hand I declined to kill the Whisperer. I recognized the need to be aggressive to overcome the siege, but I didn’t want to “waste” the removal spell. A few turns later I drew a Harsh Sustenance which was several points short of killing my opponent while a 7/7 Sultai Scavenger dealt the final blow.

Record: 1-1

Round 3: vs Abzan

My opponent was a friend from the Melbourne area, Sam O’Keefe. He had built a solid Abzan deck topping out with Temur War Shaman. In game 1 my larger creatures held down the board and Ugin prompted a concession on turn 8. In game 2, I cast Mastery of the Unseen on turn 2 and Sam’s grindy deck could not compete against the raw resource advantage the enchantment provided.

It was an unsatisfying way to win a match against a friend, but with Sam still live for day 2, at the time I was just happy to bounce back from my round 1 defeat.

Record: 2-1

Round 4: vs Bant

In game 1 my opponent mulliganed to 5 and only managed to cast an Ainok Guide vs my Bellowing Saddlebrute and Abzan Guide.

In game 2, I took a mulligan to 5, however my hand was surprisingly strong. I managed to get ahead on board and had Ugin in hand with 6 lands in play albeit with only one black source. Unfortunately, a string of low impact black cards off the top of my deck lead to a Daghatar plus Become Immense overwhelming my defenses.

Game 3 played out much like the first. On turn 5 with only a 1/1 in play my otherwise stoic opponent drew his card and slammed his hand down on the table in frustration. He played land number 5 and passed back. The whole exchange struck me as very out-of-character and a voice in my head immediately shouted “End Hostilities!”. So I attacked with my two creatures and then… played a third. My opponent hadn’t shown me End Hostilities in either of our games and he could genuinely be frustrated right?

Naturally he had the End Hostilities, and after cleaning up my board a Tusked Colossodon defeated me before I could rebuild. So for the second time that day ignoring my intuition had cost me. In the past I’ve always been a very mechanical player, focusing more on my technical play than worrying about bluffing or body language. This was definitely an interesting experience for me and was a painful way to learn that I have to be paying attention to more than just the cards on the table.

Luckily (or not) this is a situation I’ve found myself in before. At every GP I’ve been to I’ve been X-2 by round 5. I had pulled through from here before and knew that as long as I kept my head about me, day two was still in reach. It was time to rally.

Record: 2-2

Round 5: vs Naya

My opponent was another Melbourne local, Dean Villanueva. He was on the aggressive Savage Punch, Temur Battle Rage deck and had already told me he did not like his deck. In game 1 I managed to stabilize the board at a precarious 2 life. After fading a couple of draw steps where literally any non-creature spell would kill me, my late game began to take over, with a Harsh Sustenance for 7 eventually putting the game out of reach.

Game 2, Dean suffered mana issues and his deck didn’t come out of the gates nearly as fast as game 1. I stabilized the board at a high life total, securing win number 3.

There was a lot of talk about the potential for X-3’s to make day two due to the small size of GP Auckland. I wished Dean the best of luck and promised to win the rest of my games to give him the best possible shot at day two.

Record: 3-2

Round 6: vs 4 Colour no Black

My opponent’s deck was sweet! This was the only “buffet” style deck I played against all day, with lots of fixing and a bunch of rares and card draw. Unfortunately for my opponent, in both games they failed to hold a board prescence and my deck provided two relatively quick draws. Some removal to clear away my opponent’s powerful creatures allowed me to take both games.

Record: 4-2

Round 7: vs Mardu

This was a very aggressive WB warrior-style deck, topping out with Elite Scaleguard. In game 1, my opponent’s ground creatures were stymied by my Bellowing Saddlebrute and Rotting Mastodon, leaving an Aven Skirmisher to try and go the distance with me at 12. After much deliberation on turn 8, my opponent cast a Mardu Hateblade and passed the turn. I cast Ugin, The Spirit Dragon and wrathed away his board while leaving mine intact. Talking to my opponent after the game we both agreed that casting the Hateblade was his only option, even if he had known Ugin was in my deck. A 12 turn clock was not going to get the job done.

In game 2, I mulliganed to a land-light 6 with Ugin. On turn 2 my opponent raided in their Mardu Skull-Hunter. I tanked for a while before deciding to discard my Rotting Mastodon. My hand contained Reach of Shadows, Unyielding Krumar and Bitter Revelation, so I felt that I had the tools to reach Ugin mana and if I died it was unlikely to be for lack of a 2/8. Plus, without Ugin I doubted the hand’s ability to actually win the game before my opponent found a way to push through lethal damage. My Reach of Shadows was spent on an Elite Scaleguard and then Ugin swept up my opponents board. The unopposed Ugin was enough to carry me to 5-2.

Record: 5-2

Round 8: vs Abzan

Game 1 I drew the most aggressive hand I had all day, curving Chief of the Scale into Mardu Hordechief into Bellowing Saddlebrute, then sheepishly into Rotting Mastodon. A small note, I picked up my first warning of the tournament here. I had been sandbagging Mountain plus Pyrotechnics for several turns, to the point that I forgot that “Mountain” is a land and not a spell that combos with Pyrotechnics. After playing my mountain and killing two creatures I immediately played a second land for the turn. Woops.

After a bit of back and forward, my opponent flooded out in the late game allowing me to finish him off with my warriors. After the game he revealed his Formless Nurturing manifest was Palace Siege! Good to know about, but lacking good sideboard cards there was no way for me to combat the siege other than going over the top of it. As an aside, during sideboarding my opponent classified my deck as “Black/White Warrior Mastodons”.

In game 2, I had a turn 2 Mastery of the Unseen and my opponent fired back with Palace Siege on turn 5. In the mid game the life totals stood at me on 4 to my opponent’s 36. As the game continued on though, Mastery of the Unseen began taking over. With 11 creatures in play and access to 8 mana my life total began to soar as my board presence swelled. After a few turns of manifesting and turning creatures face up I took down my opponent, sitting at a healthy 44 life.

Record: 6-2

Round 9: vs

My opponent offered to ID our last round. My breakers were very poor and I was sitting at ~60th place. Knowing that a loss would knock me out of day 2 and a draw would guarantee I make it through I took the draw. Going into the event my goal was to make day 2, so I was very happy with outcome, especially after starting the day at 2-2.

In future events I would like to set my sights a little higher. 7-2 is a much better record than 6-2-1 going into day 2 and if I am lucky enough to be passed a pool with such a powerful high end in future, I like to think I would take the gamble for the better record.

At the time though, I was thrilled to scrape into day 2 and a gauranteed top 64. I was hoping to keep the momentum of my rally through to Sunday.

Record: 6-2-1

Draft 1:

I opened a Monastery Mentor and was passed a pack with Mistfire Adept with the rare missing. White seemed to be getting cut from my right but blue was very open. A Bathe in Dragonfire and War Flare made their way to me fairly late, setting me up to be in Jeskai.

I first picked a Mystic Monastery out of pack 2 without much else for me and ended up solidly in blue/white splash red for Bathe in Dragonfire, War Flare and Burn Away. I had good fixing and was very happy with the deck.

It was very much a “Prowess” deck. I had a total of 9 creatures with prowess and several cheap spells between combat tricks, removal and Soul Summons. This is not the kind of deck I typically draft in Fate Reforged, usually preferring the Sultai or Abzan controlling decks and even the Ferocious beat down decks. I think my inexperience with this archetype definitely hurt me during my games.

Round 10: vs Jeskai

My opponent had drafted a Jeskai deck, full of flying creatures and a few tricks. In game 1 I had two Jeskai Sages and a Monastery Mentor in play against two Scaldkins, a Jeskai Elder and another small creature. My major mistake in this game was being too passive with my prowess creatures. I was concerned about my Monastery Mentor being picked off by the Scaldkins so I continually passed holding up Defiant Strike or War Flare throughout the game.

I eventually made a big attack, using the War Flare to eat my opponent’s board minus the Scaldkins and putting my opponent to 2. At the end of my turn my opponent delved away his graveyard to fuel a Dig Through Time, untapped, cast War Flare, attacked and pinged me with a Scaldkin for the exactly lethal.

In game 2 I took a mulligan and was swiftly dispatched while I struggled to convert my hand of non-creature spells into board presence after my first creature bit the dust. I was defeated with War Flare and Treasure Cruise still in hand.

I was very disappointed in this outcome. I felt like my deck was doing more powerful things than my opponent and I was sure I had thrown game one away. I resolved to plan my turns out better in future games and tried to look past the poor start.

Record: 6-3-1

Round 11: vs Jund

My opponent lamented the draft portion as we chatted at the start of the round. He had tried to move into Mardu to support a pair of Battle Brawlers but with White being cut the result was a unique Jund deck.

In game 1 a Battle Brawler supported by a Smoldering Efreet was able to play some defense while my opponent struggled with mana issues. Eventually my Riverwheel Aerialists soared over to deliver my first game win for the day.

As we were shuffling up for game 2, I noticed my opponent had forgot to shuffle their graveyard into their deck. I considered not saying anything and letting my opponent present an illegal deck to pick up a free game win. It was the first time I had been in this sort of situation at a competitive event and it was particularly tempting after my poor first match. Ultimately my conscious won out. I reminded my opponent about the cards and he quickly added them to his deck. As we presented, a nearby judge swooped in to pick up our decks for a deck check. Lucky!

Once we had our cards back, my deck once again fired on all cylinders. While Battle Brawler was a thorn in my side, a big turn with multiple prowess creatures, War Flare and Honor’s Reward left me ahead on board with my opponent at a low life total. All I had to do was draw any non-creature spell to jump my Mistfire Adept and deal lethal. Instead of doing that I made a reckless attack with all my creatures that let Battle Brawler eat a creature while only putting my opponent to 1. My opponent added to their board presence while I bricked and my favourable board state evaporated. Eventually my opponent’s green monsters overwhelmed me.

In game 3, I failed to add enough to the board and my opponent played large green beasts against my 1/1s and 2/2s and suddenly I was 0-2.

Record: 6-4-1

Round 12: vs Abzan

We traded resources in the early stages of the game, leading to a Gurmag Angler from my opponent around turn five. Over the course of the next five turns, I did everything I could to try and deal with the 5/5. Nothing I was doing seemed to work, culminating in the counters from an Honor’s Reward landing on the wrong creature due to me forgetting to account for a prowess trigger. This is a very basic and uncharacteristic error. After the game I asked a judge if I could use the bathroom.

I washed my face and spent a good 30 seconds just taking deep breaths and trying to compose myself. I was distracted by my earlier losses and my play was suffering because of it. Once I was confident that I had pulled myself together I returned to my seat and managed to eek out the next two games.

Record: 7-4-1

Draft 2:

I opened Shu-Yun in my first pack but was shipped two packs where the best card was Reach of Shadows. I saw almost no blue cards, notable given how deep blue is in Fate Reforged, but picked up a middle-of-the-pack Hunt the Weak. I took it hoping that green would flow from the right in pack three and supplemented my picks with two Blossoming Sands to have the option of going Abzan.

Pack two contained a Bloodfire Expert, a Tranquil Cove and an entire Abzan deck including a Siege Rhino. I took the Rhino, hoping to wheel Abzan Guide, Kin-Tree Invocation, Heir of the Wildsp or Jungle Hollow but would happily add any of the other cards in the pack to my deck. I picked up an Armament Corps and Death Frenzy from the pack and took the Jungle Hollow over Kin-Tree Invocation from my opening pack.

Pack three contained… another Siege Rhino. Picking up another Death Frenzy as well gave me five powerful gold cards in an otherwise middling GB deck. Overall I felt the deck was a 2-1 kind of deck, with a very good aggressive match-up. At this point nothing short of 3-0 would qualify me for top 32 so I had my work cut-out for me.

Round 13: vs Mardu

My opponent this round was the player I ID’d with in round 9. Neither of us had the day two we were hoping for, but I was glad I’d have a chance to battle against him. His deck was a very low to the ground Mardu deck that went wide with tokens and pump effects. If that didn’t work, plan B was an Archfiend of Depravity plus Dead Drop combo.

Game 1, Death Frenzy wiped my opponent’s board then a pair of Siege Rhinos quickly put my life total out of reach. Archfiend of Depravity made an appearance here but a Reach of Shadows later and we were on to game two.

Game 2, I didn’t draw either a Death Frenzy or Siege Rhino and though I put up some defense, I was dispatched by a Dead Drop that cleared the way for a board full of creatures.

Game 3, I once again pulled ahead with Siege Rhino, Death Frenzy and an Archer’s Parapet. My opponent played the Archfiend, however being at 12 life vs my 20 left him in a precarious position. On his next turn my opponent declined to attack and passed with all five mana up. My opponent had shown me Throttle in game one so I opted to pass while my Parapet continued pinging away. My opponent was forced to commit creatures to the board, allowing Siege Rhino to clear a path to victory.

I was glad to pick up a win here and furthermore, was happy with the way I played. I felt like had shrugged off my opening losses and was back to being focused on my games. Maybe it was time to rally again.

Record: 8-5-1

Round 14: vs 4 Colour no Red

My opponent was running a grindy Golgari deck splashing blue and white. My opponent pulled ahead early while I was stuck on two lands. The Rhino twins helped me claw back into the game after having to discard to hand size, but my opponent had the removal to dispatch them. Once my hand was empty, my opponent landed a Kheru Lich Lord which quickly ended me.

Game 2 was a marathon. We were both quick to establish a board position with large green monsters, however he was able to peck at me with a pair of 1/1 death touchers. My plan was to use my large creatures to keep the board stable till I drew a Death Frenzy to wipe away the death touchers and other little creatures. Unfortunately, my deck only offered lands and once my opponent had bled me of removal, the Lich Lord hit the board. With a graveyard full of targets, I was defeated, ending my short rally and knocking me out contention for anything other than top 64.

Record: 8-6-1

I felt like I learned a lot from this event. Going forward a goal of mine is definitely to skip the “warm-up” part of my events. Part of what helps me rally is the pressure I feel on every one of my games when I’m facing knock-out. The reality though is the first two matches of the day are just as important as the last two and waiting till halfway through the day to start focusing is just too late.

My mental state and awareness of it is a big part of Magic that I’m continuing to learn more about. I look forward to applying the lessons I learned from this GP to future events, whether that be through trying to manage tilt or trying to understand what my opponent is planning

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