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GP Lisbon Report *2nd* - Day One

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Elias Watsfeldt
Elias Watsfeldt

About Elias Watsfeldt

Elias is a Gold level player from Sweden, who started playing Magic in 2003 alongside most people in his school class. He generally prefers to play control decks, both in Limited and Constructed. Some of his accomplishments include:

  • Gold Pro Player
  • 53 Lifetime Pro Points
  • 2nd GP Lisbon 2012
  • 4th GP Ghent 2012
  • 5th GP San Diego 2011
  • 30th Worlds 2011
  • 20 PTQ Top8s (2 wins)

GP Lisbon Report *2nd* - Day One

2012 (and the world?) is about to come to its end, and in terms of GPs, it already has. My last Grand Prix for 2012 took place last weekend in Lisbon and proved fruitful indeed. I flew with World Magic Cup competitors Martin Lindström and Denniz Rachid via Schiphol, a place Rachid had visited at least 6 times previously the same year. Still, he could not find anything useful (a place to eat that is!). Either way, we arrived in Lisbon late on Friday, a perfect time to use the sleep in special. Beforehand, I asked German good guy, Ashraf Abou Omar to register me for the Grand Prix, with the desired sleep in special. Unfortunately, he was not able to register me without me signing the release form. Apparently, they did not give him a reason why I just couldn’t sign it at the player meeting on Saturday morning, the player meeting consisting of maybe 10 players. This might be due to planeswalker points fraud or such. If this was the case, firstly, there must be a very easy fix, and secondly, it would remove the desirable option of registering online, and maybe even arriving early Saturday (in case you have three byes).

Among the three of us, Martin Lindström probably had the best deck, including a groovy curve, three Common Bonds and Armada Wurm. Rachid’s deck was posted on the day one coverage of the Grand Prix under the title of “An Embarrassment of Rachids”. My deck pretty much built itself, as I had Sphinx of the Chimes, Cyclonic Rift, Detention Sphere and several attractive Azorius cards. Below you will find the relevant card choices that I had available for my deck, how would you’ve build it?

The list is fairly correct, though I think Lyev Skyknight should have been Vassal Soul.

Either way, there were several cards that were auto included in the deck. All my visible rares, all of the Azorius cards and cards such as Voidwielder, Skyline Predator and probably both Concordia Pegasus. Red was the only splashable option, mainly because of Izzet Guildgate as the only other Guildgate, except for Azorius, though I was sometimes inclined to bring in Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage and Aerial Predation. Early in the deck building process, all of the red cards were in the deck, as it seemed to be a rather decent splash. The puzzle was that I also wanted to play Ethereal Armor, alongside the four “bonus” enchantments, without playing too few creatures. The reasoning behind Ethereal Armor is basically that it is Azorius' corresponding Deviant Glee. Instead of using it aggressively, as you do in Rakdos, you use it to either create a proper blocker, or being able to get past otherwise insurmountable creatures. In my deck, it would also have the upside of giving +2/+2, or even +4/4, which would turn my harmless Concordia Pegasus into a real beater. Even if my opponent has a removal spell ready, maybe that means he then won’t have a second one for either of my six drops. For me, at the time, it basically came down to Ethereal Armor, combined with the mediocre Paralyzing Grasp and Security Blockade, or the explosive impact of Explosive Impact and two removal spells that could deal with Pack Rat. Red also came with a slightly worse mana base, even though I barely had any early drops requiring double colored mana of any kind. Worth noting is that Frostburn Weird is castable with the Mountains. This is what I registered:

Once again, the Lyev Skyknight probably should not be there. Let us pretend it is Vassal Soul! Dramatic Rescue probably was another Armory Guard. I am sorry about the confusion, next time I will make sure to take a photo of the deck so I can have a correct deck list!

Regarding the color choices, the major contributing factor in the exclusion of red was the mana. Being forced to mulligan hands without blue or white mana (with a Mountain lurking around) is just so miserable, as is having say Explosive Impact with minimal impact, as you have not drawn any red sources. Not playing red also made it possible to include Cancel, a card that is always nice to have in sealed. Keening Apparition is there for Stab Wound. I don’t think I would have played the card if it were not for Stab Wound.

Moreover, when it comes to Azorius in Return to Ravnica, one must keep something in mind. The creatures generally suck. There are only two commons with more than two power, namely Isperia's Skywatch and Selesnya Sentry. Just compare that to Gore-House Chainwalker, Splatter Thug, Centaur Healer, or Ogre Jailbreaker. Selesnya Sentry is practically a Gore-House Chainwalker for one more mana. That one single mana is not only important because you can miss out on three points of damage, the same amount of damage that makes Centaur Healer very attractive, but it reduces your ability to curve into another three drop. In this sense, I very much agree with Bernard Zander’s last article “The Pillars of RTR Limited”, in which he identifies Azorius as the worst of the five guilds. Personally, I don’t like to rate the five Guilds based on the general power level, because once you are able to pick up a couple of key cards you can easily create an Azorius deck capable of beating insane decks of any Guild. This reasoning helped me create my sealed deck, as I knew my pool contained the so called key cards. I regard the following cards as key cards in my deck:
Skyline Predator, Sphinx of the Chimes, Knightly Valor, Skymark Roc and, surprisingly, Ethereal Armor. Note that Cyclonic Rift is not included on this list.

Had I played the entire tournament without drawing these key cards, I assure you, I would not have made day two. Even though I was able to curve into Cyclonic Rift, I would be left with maybe six power on the table and my opponent on 14 life. Without the raw power of my key cards, Cyclonic Rift would not have been able to win games the way it did. In retrospect, I would almost be inclined to change Cyclonic Rift for another Ethereal Armor.

My first match was against Giorgos Chandrinos of Greece, also playing Azorius, with Sphinx of the Chimes... and Detention Sphere, and almost every card I had in my deck. I took the first game pretty easily, since he drew a couple more lands than I did. I also managed to Detention Sphere his Sphinx of the Chimes before playing mine. I took out most of my creatures without flying in favor of Explosive Impact, Izzet Charm, Swift Justice and Avenging Arrow, as I thought it would all be about controlling the airspace. Therefore, I did not bring in Street Spasm. As expected, in game two, our Voidwielders held the ground as I died to flyers and Soulsworn Spirit, after getting a couple of my own creatures killed by Supreme Verdict. In game three, I cast Vassal Soul on turn three (yes, definitely Vassal Soul over Lyev Skyknight) while he cast Azorius Keyrune. I then had the option of applying pressure with Skymark Roc, or simply attack for two and pass the turn, fearing Supreme Verdict, which would blow me out. Casting Skymark Roc would give my opponent around a 25 % chance of winning the game on the spot, whereas not casting it would give my opponent time to win by maybe just casting Soulsworn Spirit into a couple of flyers. I decided to just cast it, as I just could not afford not playing it in the case of him having a hand filled with flyers. His deck included cards such as Isperia's Skywatch, Lyev Skyknight, and Voidwielder, and I would rather not fall behind versus those cards. To my pleasant surprise, he untapped and cast Frostburn Weird and Concordia Pegasus. The pressure I got from casting Skymark Roc also proved to be deciding, as I later in the game cast Explosive Impact, taking him down to five, untapping, drawing my 7th land to cast Cyclonic Rift, returning a bunch of cards, including his Sphinx of the Chimes, then bashing for lethal with my own Sphinx of the Chimes. To be fair, I probably had a couple of draw steps to find that land, but I could not have won if he was at a higher life total.

My next match against Luis Esteves with Bant was easier to take down. By refusing to block in the early turns, I managed to make good use of my Azorius Charm and Cyclonic Rift, bouncing creatures targeted by Giant Growth and Chorus of Might. Skymark Roc then attacked a couple of times for the win. In the second game, I once again managed to Azorius Charm a creature targeted by Giant Growth. With the help of Paralyzing Grasp and Security Blockade my Ethereal Armor made my 2/2 Vigilance into a 5/5 Vigilance First Strike, which was enough to take the match.

The potency of Ethereal Armor would reveal itself in my next round. I was up against Glenn Van Hoof (Hoof, there it is!), with a Rakdos deck featuring Pack Rat. In the first game he kept a one lander with Pack Rat on the draw. He did not manage to get it going before Skymark Roc landed. I decided to bring in red, or two more answers to Pack Rat, on the draw. He beat my hand containing Izzet Charm, Street Spasm and Explosive Impact rather conveniently, since my first creature came a few turns too late. For game three, I took out red, since I was able to both Detention Sphere and race Pack Rat. I quickly went down to five cards on the play versus his seven. I kept 2 Plains, 2 Island, 1 Inaction Injunction. Not the best, but it probably gave me a higher win % than a four card hand. Luckily he did not have Pack Rat and instead cast Rakdos Shred-Freak, into Dead Reveler, into Sewer Shambler. I found myself another sideboarded Inaction Injunction and spent my first turns detaining his creatures. On turn five, I really needed to draw a creature, since Knightly Valor and Ethereal Armor were my only non-land cards in my hand. I found Vassal Soul which I quickly put on the table. He bashed me down to 9 with Dead Reveler, Rakdos Shred-Freak and Sewer Shambler. My Vassal Soul was enchanted by Knightly Valor and I simply hoped that he would not have a removal spell. To my surprise, he did not, and simply attacked me down to 7, losing his Dead Reveler and his Rakdos Shred-Freak to my 2/2 Knight. He played his fifth land, cast a Volatile Rig and shipped the turn. I simply boosted my 4/4 into a 6/6 First Strike Vigilance, put his Volatile Rig on the top of his library with Azorius Charm to which he did not have any outs. As I expected, he did have Explosive Impact in his hand, unable to kill my 6/6 or me. Well, some luck was needed in this game :)

On 6-0, rather eager to make my first 7-0, I faced a fellow Swede, who later would make the top8, David Calås. His three color deck stumbled a bit on mana, while not drawing any removal for my fierce Skymarc Roc in two games.

Since I apparently was supposed to play Scandinavians who eventually would make the top 8, Sveinung Björnerud of Norway was next up. Previously, during our three byes, I got a glance at his deck, seeing Angel of Serenity and Grove of the Guardian. In the first game, I managed to fly over his 8/8 Vigilance, which there would be three of next turn thanks to Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage. Had he had Angel of Serenity that game, I would have lost.

Due to his splash of blue, I brought in the otherwise unplayable card Soul Tithe to deal with Axebane Guardian and any Keyrunes lurking around, and thereby delaying the arrival of Angel of Serenity. I also brought in the red cards. Everything went as expected, as I killed off his Axebane Guardian with Soul Tithe. Later in the game, I attacked with a 2/2 Knight token into his Selesnya Keyrune, just so I could bounce it with Voidwielder, and thereby once again delay Angel of Serenity. With the help of a timely Knightly Valor, I got Björnerud down to five before Angel of Serenity hit the table, and since I was running good, I had the Explosive Impact ready. I am really glad both Scandinavians made top 8, and Sveinung got his revenge later on in this tournament.

But as we all know, no Return to Ravnica sealed deck event without a good beating by Pack Rat. I will save that for my next article. :)

Thanks for reading!

Elias

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