GP Vegas Stories – 15th Place

[Editor’s Note: If you would like to share your GP: Vegas story, shoot me an email at jason.abong (at) Thanks to Alex for sharing his story!]

As a few of you may have heard, there was a rather enormous Magic the Gathering tournament last weekend. With PTQs gone, GPs are now the quickest path to the Pro Tour. My goal going into this weekend was to day 2. Having only made day 2 in a Two-Headed Giant GP, I wanted my own day 2.

The weekend started Thursday and my partners in crime were Mike Sremaniak and Nick Ernst. After chilling at Mike’s and doing an MM2 draft on MTGO, we were off to Vegas! Friday was my day to sell old Magic cards and buy some cards I wanted. After going and selling my crap… err hidden treasures to various vendors, I snatched up some cards that I thought would make good investments.

I did not want to play any drafts or sealed on Friday. I came for the vendors and for the GP. If I scrubbed out, then I would play some side events. So we end up back at the hotel and get free drinks at the place we were staying, plus random bar snacks like chips & salsa, pretzels, etc. After we go from one casino, to another, to another, we finally land at the Hard Rock to play some 1/3 No-Limit Texas Hold’em. I prefer Limit poker but I sat down to play because my friends were. I end up calling a $60 bluff bet on the river and finished +$172. This was a positive start to the weekend and I hoped it would continue.

Day 1

I had the sleep-in special, along with 2 byes, so I strolled in about 10:30 and walked into a disaster. I had expected to see people playing, when all I saw was people still building their decks! After waiting in my designated area, I receive my sealed deck pool. It was a strange pool. It had 3 Darksteel Citadel, 2 Rusted Relics, but beyond a few more Affinity cards, there wasn’t much going on. The green had some very good cards but stopped at about 9 playables. The only colors that made sense were B/W Spirits. Usually it is pretty difficult to go Spirits in sealed, because you need a ton of them.

I definitely had enough Spirits — Spectral Procession, Devouring Greed, Mirror Entity, and 3x Waxmane Baku to name a few. The only card I was missing was Nameless Inversion, but I was okay with my deck. This is how it turned out (click to expand).

GP vegas sealed deck


Day 1 Sealed deck

The only 2 cards I sided out were 1 Plagued Rusalka and 1 Skyhunter Skirmisher. Neither of them were super exciting in my deck through the 7 rounds of Day 1.

Round 3 — I don’t have much recollection from this match. I just know that I won rather quickly. He was playing a Sunburst deck, and my Waxmane Bakus put in some work versus the slow deck.

Round 4 — This match was super frustrating for me. His deck was built to beat a deck like mine. He was playing green blue slower deck with some good graft and late game. He also had 2x Vapor Snag, 3x Mana leak, 1x Stoic Rebuttal, and 1x Mystic Snake. After dropping game 1, I get a quick start with a Vampire Lacerator turn 1, into Kami turn 2 and beat him quickly. To my surprise, he elects to DRAW first for game 3. I could not believe he would let me play first after getting crushed by turn 1, turn 2 creatures. I mulligan and keep a few plains with black and white spells, and he curves out turn 3 Plaxcaster Froglin, turn 4 Swans of Bryn Argoll and once he untapped with mana open, my freshly drawn Arrest was useless.

Round 5 — Starting off 1-1 is not the worst, but it is pretty bad. I needed to win this round to avoid playing a bunch of win and ins for Day 2. My opponent round 5 had a very good deck. He played Selesnya Guildmage turn 2, all 3 games. I killed it all 3 games, and then he played a 2nd one, 2 out of the 3 games. On top of that he had other token generators and Mirror Entity. Game 3 is very close and I am 2 turns from closing it out with my Hikari, Twilight Guardian. I have a chance to call his bluff when he is at 6 and turn it down because I knew I could not win if I lost my 4/4 flier and he still had Selesnya Guildmage. I draw a land and he Sunlances my Plagued Rusalka to do exactly enough damage to kill me. This was devastating. I hated that I threw away the game when I thought so hard about making the call. I did not get upset toward him and we afterwards about our games and decks. I much rather throw a game away, then get incredibly unlucky and never have had a shot in the first place.

At this point, I am 3-2 and need to go 7-2 jut to make day 2.

Round 6 and 7 were both 2-0 with minimal notes. They were both playing slower decks and lost to my multiple Waxmane Baku.

Round 8 — This is the round I should not have won. This was yet ANOTHER 5 color deck I was facing. Game 1, I keep 2 stupid Plagued Rusalka in my opener and get him to 12 before he smashes me. Game 2 my opening hand has 1 land so I mulligan. My 6 carder was 5 land + Mirror Entity. I did not enjoy keeping this, since I saw Burst Lightning game 1, but there is no way to mulligan that hand. I manage to get my Entity to survive turn 3 and finally start drawing creatures. I play my 2 drop and get in for 2 damage. Next turn, I draw a 3rd creature, get in for 6 damage + play creature. On the next turn I am able to attack for 18 and trade off my Mirror Entity to put him to 1, where he dies a few turns later to my Waxmane Bakus! Game 3, my opponent got all his colors right but ended up flooding out and my Spirit deck was one win away from Day 2!

Round 9 — It had been a VERY long time since I was playing a match for day 2 of a GP. I was pumped and ready to go. I start with a 2 lander + 2 drop + Dismember, miss on my 3rd land and then draw it and win with Spectral Procession. Game 2 was somehow even easier and I ended up winning with Restless Apparition, Spectral Procession + Devouring Greed.

I was so excited to win my 9th round and end up 7-2 for day one. I had been hanging out with Mariah Pagliocco all day between rounds and had planned to hang out with the Panda Crew if I did not day 2. Unfortunately, with Day 2 in the morning, I opted for being a boring person and staying in the hotel for the night to rest my back for the next day.

It was hard to sleep Saturday night. Usually my lack of sleep comes from my pain, but I think most of this was excitement. My brain was going crazy because I was going to be able to draft instead of see what I open in a sealed deck. I love drafting :-) I end up falling asleep around 4:30am and wake up right before 8am, shower, eat breakfast, and head to the tournament.

Day 2

I had no expectations for Day 2. I told everyone that 6-0ing was very difficult and not likely to happen. I talked to some people about rare drafting the 2nd draft if I start off 0-3. I just wanted to play well and enjoy my first day 2 GP that was not a team event (Two-Headed Giant).

Draft 1

I started off mostly Black pack one. I like to hog one color if I am able to for Pack 1, and take my 2nd color in pack 2, and then top it off with another great pack 3 of my first color. That is ideal, although every draft is different. At the end of pack 1, I had 2x Repeal and a Thrummingbird, but most everything else was Black. The draft didn’t have any bomb Elementals so I got Smokebraider super late. My bombs for pack 1 were p1p1 Midnight Banshee, pick 2 Spellskite.

Packs 2 and 3- I get passed a Pillory of the Sleepless and end up passing a 2nd Banshee for a Vampire Outcasts. I was actually just hoping the Banshee would float back but it did not. In pack 3 I get passed a 3rd Banshee and take it over another Nameless Inversion. Quickly after, I get the 4th Banshee of the draft, my 3rd, and was very happy they were not LEGEND.

Here is the deck I land on for my 23 cards. It was a tough build trying to figure out how many Raise the Alarms vs Kami’s to play, but I think I built it as close to as well as I could. Bone Splinters could have easily been in the main deck, but it did a fine job in the sideboard.

GP vegas draft 1 main deck


GP vegas draft 1 sb

Draft 1

Round 1 — I get pretty quick draws and Fortify does the last 12+ damage to him. In game 2, I get another good curve of creatures out, followed with a turn 5 Dread Drone, into turn 6 Ulamog’s Crusher. He had a 4/4 Graft creature and went for the blowout of casting Wings of Velis Vel on his Grafter, which turns it into an 8/8. I showed him a Fortify, named +0 +2 and he quickly scooped up his cards.

Round 2 — This round was intense and very close. Even though I won 2-0, it almost ended poorly for both of us. I get him pretty handily game 1 by casting Midnight Banshee and just overpowering his R/B Bloodthirst deck. In game 2, I land Necroskitter + Midnight Banshee, both of which survive the entire game. I once again had to use Fortify for toughness to save my Banshee and steal 2 of his creatures. I stole at least 7 of his creatures, and still ended the game at 2, which only 5 minutes left in the round. I was hoping there were no more close games today. I much prefer killing my opponents before they can play their expensive spells.

Round 3 — Game started off slow and grindy. I was drawing poorly, but luckily he wasn’t doing too much. Eventually I overpower him with once again… Fortify! After reminding my opponent that he needs to stop me on my upkeep to tap down my creature with Narcolepsy, I beat him again game 2 with Fortify. I am starting to think Fortify is a good card…

— So as of now, I have won 7 rounds in a row and needed to win 3 more to qualify for the Pro Tour. I didn’t LOVE my draft deck, so I was perfectly happy to redraft, even though I knew it would most definitely be with some great players.

To my left sat Josh Utter-Leyton. I am a fan of this guy and have no ill toward him. But, he beat me in an SCG Legacy event nearly 2 years in an unfathomable way, and I HAD to get my revenge. I somehow lost to him playing Shardless BUG, when he was on Elves, accidently draws 7, is forced to mull to 5… I Turn 1 Thoughtseize him, see 5 lands. He draws Elvish Visionary + Wirewood Symbiote and when I Thoughtseize him turn 4, he has 2 Natural Orders and I die… So I definitely wanted some revenge!

Draft 2

I opened Dark Confidant Pack 1, Pick 1 and decide to take it and try to force Black/X aggro. To my surprise, the Vampire Lacerator that I opened, floated around and I was pretty sure that I had Black aggro to myself. Pack 2 I open Mirror Entity and get passed Creakwood Liege. Pack 3 I open Precursor Golem and have a great looking black/white aggro deck.

GP vegas draft 2 main deck


Sideboard:gp vegas draft 2 sideboard



Round 4 — WHAT DO YOU KNOW?! FEATURE MATCH WITH JOSH UTTER-LEYTON!! It was time to get my revenge! I head to the feature match area to sleeve my deck up while I wait for Josh. We briefly chat about the draft. I mention to him that this draft was much better than my last draft, where it looked like half the Archetypes were not opened. He did not seem to pleased to hear about that because he told me the opposite. This was a +1 for my super aggro deck.

Game 1 goes as follows
Turn 1: Vampire Lacerator, dies to Dismember,
Turn 2: 2nd Lacerator
Turn 3: Sickleslicer, he plays his Sickleslicer
Turn 4: Creakwood Liege, attack for 6, he plays a 2nd 2/2
Turn 5: Copper Carapace + attack with team, win with Fortify the next turn

Game 2 was just as fast. I played creatures turn 1-3, Liege turn 4, and Fortify turn 5 to win the match.

I cannot believe I am 2 wins from getting back to the Pro Tour!!!

Round 5 — I play versus a great friend of mine, Josh Wiitanen. I am sad that we did not play in the 3rd round, but he seemed to know something that I did not. Apparently a friend was qualified already, and he was hoping to beat me and get a concession in the last round from Vidianto (assuming Vidianto wins his 2nd round obviously). As much as I like Josh, I was not going to let him beat me for a Pro Tour spot. He had multiple Pro Tours in the last couple years, and this one was mine to lose. Josh has a great Sunburst deck and I know I need to beat him before he gets to 5-6 mana. My plan was the same as it was the previous rounds; play a bunch of creatures, cast Fortify or use Mirror Entity to win.

Game 1 goes as follows:
Turn 1-3: Play 3 creatures, he casts Scavenging Drake turn 4
Turn 4: I fortify to put him to 3.
Turn 5: he casts Dread Drone and I play Pillory of the Sleepless on his Drake and get in for 2 damage, +1 during his upkeep to win game 1

Game 2 I mulligan to 6, keep 3 lands, he Oblivion Rings my Restless Apparition, and I end up with 9 land. I know I cannot beat his good deck if I cannot get enough early pressure. Onto game 3, the most important game of the tournament.

Game 3:
Turn 1: Nothing
Turn 2: (Draw Vampire Lacerator but only have 1 white and my hand has Sunspear Shikari + Bloodthorne Vampire so I play Bloodthorne Vampire
Turn 3: I play Shakari + Vampire Lacerator and he is still just using bounce lands for the most part.
Turn 4: I play Mirror Entity with Apostle’s Blessing up
Turn 5: Play Dark Confidant + put him to 12, he casts Dread Drone and has 3 blockers for my 4 creatures.
Turn 6: I draw and play my 5th land and send the team. He blocks all but my Bloodthorne Vampire. I turn them all into 5/5s, sacrifice the other 3 creatures to the Vampire, and Mutagenic Growth to kill him. Just like that, I am 1 Match win away from qualifying.

I end up bumping into Vidianto and after looking at how terrible our tiebreakers were, he decides to concede to me because he is already Qualified. I would have been fine playing because I loved my deck, but I was so excited that I did not care about even playing for fun games with him. We both were tired and went our separate ways after the round.

End Results — 13-2 – 15th Place

It is still so amazing to think that I had to win 10 straight matches in order to qualify for Pro Tour Vancouver. Especially after I threw away my round 5 match, I had no expectations of going 13-2 for the weekend. I was sad to see no other Arizona people make it, even though we had what looked like over a dozen of us fighting in Day 2.

I want to thank everyone for the amazing support since that day and since then. My phone felt like it instantly lost 20% battery when the first post went out. So many people repeatedly congratulating me through facebook posts and messages. It felt great to finally get back to the Pro Tour. It felt especially great after going through two long PPTQ seasons where I made the top8 in nearly half of the PPTQs I attended, but without 1 win.

In the end, I qualified for the Pro Tour and have 2 byes for an entire calender year to all GPs. I hope to do much more traveling and qualify for many more Pro Tours in the near future! It would be hard to beat the 7 year gap between my 2 Pro Tours.

To cap off an amazing weekend at GP Vegas, I want to name off my MVP(s) for this tournament. I went Black/White in my Sealed and both of my Drafts, This was not on purpose, but that is what happened. My two MVPs for GP Vegas are Mirror Entity and Fortify. Out of the 18 total games won, I would attribute at least 12 of those wins to one of those 2 cards. I even used the toughness part of Fortify 3 different times for complete blowouts.

My Gofundme link is at the bottom for anyone that wishes to donate a few dollars toward my traveling expenses. I will still love you if you are unable to or do not wish to donate, but anything extra would be much appreciated.

I hope to be giving everyone good news in less than 2 months when I am playing in Pro Tour Vancouver!

– Alex Tamblyn
Twitter – @ctalbus
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