Grand Prix LA — Tournament Report — James — Three lessons to take to every tournament

before getting into the details of the tournament and a brief outline of the decks and opponents, some quick updates.
first, power 9 pro will be shipping the Dragon’s Egg to local vendors starting tomorrow and we’ll be opening the online store to consumers by friday.
second, we did get a great interview with volkan baga on saturday while we were at the grand prix. the plan is divide the 20 min interview into three parts to make for better online viewing. those videos will be released over the course of this week so do keep an eye out.

on to the tournament report, james’ perspective:
deck played: red burn, or lightening bolt. you can see a good example (and breakdown) of the deck here on the wizard’s site. we diverged a little from the decklist finkel ran at worlds. here’s our list:
Lands: 21
2 Blinkmoth Nexus
3 Darksteel Citadel
4 Great Furnace
12 Mountain

Creatures: 12
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Spark Elemental
4 Keldon Marauder

Spells: 27
4 Lava Spike
4 Rift Bolt
1 Shard Volley
3 Shrapnel Blast
4 Sudden Shock
4 Magma Jet
3 Flames of the Blood Hand
4 Sulfuric Vortex

Sideboard:
4 Martyr of Ashes
4 Dragon’s Claw (this ended up being the worst of the sb choices as nobody on the team faced any mirrors–oh, well.)
3 Smash to Smithereens
3 Pyrostatic Pillar
1 Shattering Spree

Round 1:
Match up: Elves Variation, featuring no combo kill. SB Tech: Glorious Anthem
Game one: Elves + Jitte = tough clock. Notes indicate I was able to get him to 5 but no shrapnel blast. :(
Game two: Glorious Anthem hits on turn 3 with a fast clock. Get him to 1, top deck a land, he swings for the win.
Record: 0-1-0

Round 2:
Match up: Gifts-Tron.
Opponent was a bit drunk(?) still from the night before…or so i guess from his play. Looks like he stays in on hands he should have mulliganed (play tolaria west for U mana = sucky as hell). He never goes off. Crushing defeat games one and two.
Record: 1-1-0

Round 3:
Match up: Mono-Blue Fae-Wizards variant featuring Teferi.
Game one I race a spell-stutter wearing a jitte for the win. Sudden Shock as a MD element worked well, hitting the last two points of damage.
Game Two features Teferi (pulled from SB) insuring that I have to play eot instants on my turn rather than his, further insuring he’s always ready to counter anything I play.
Game Three ends in time, giving me the draw.
Record: 1-1-1

Round 4:
Matchup: Elves…looks combo-standard but I never see a finisher. Pilot looked uncomfortable with playing elves.
Example: Game one features me risking a triple sulfuric vortex on the table putting a pertty serious clock on the table for both people. he has 4 damage on the table if he swings (i’m tapped out, having played the third vortex…) + the 6 from the triple vortex = gg w/ me as the loser. Instead he conceded! wtf? Just had to count the board but he was SOOO focused on “going off” that he never looked at how easily and quickly he could have ended the game.
Games two and three feature me trying to keep up but he just attacks with a horde of elves–maybe he realized that was his mistake in game one. Not sure. Either way, from my notes it looks like I wans’t hitting to many good burns because he was at 11 and 9 when the games ended.
Record: 1-2-1

Round 5:
Matchup: Fae-Wizards.
Game One I just needed to squeeze an extra burn spell in but he stablized the board before I could get him from 3 to 0. :|
Game two I draw 14 of the 21 lands :(
Record: 1-3-1

Round 6: (final round)
Matchup: opponent doesn’t show.
I’m starving by this point and drop at a pretty dismal finish of 2-3-1.

In addition to some mental preparedness–that isconfidence in your ability to succeed–there are a few things I learned that I think every player should keep in mind [because the pros and 'almost-pros' are doing this].

  1. Playtest with the deck you plan to run.  Don’t worry about the “best deck”–just know how to play the deck you wnat to play against the entire feild.  This requires committment.  Early committment.  Even though your match up may not be favorable (statiscally speaking), you will be far better off knowing the in’s and out’s of your chosen deck than simply selecting the percieved best-deck.  I learned this pretty quickly as the day progressed.  I had spent about two weeks preparing with a Gifts.dec only to change the deck to a Red Burn in the last two days prior to the tournament.  And it was during THAT time frame that I had a whole ZERO games of play testing.  Many of the friends I had at GP LA were up late testing testing testing, trying to figure out which deck to play the night before the tournament.  They should have spent the time testing one deck.
  2. Know your sideboard.  Though this didn’t affect me too much because according to my teammate Roberto, I was sideboarding correctly.  This did affect my teammate Joe who took out his sulfric vortex’s against a fae matchup–which according to Joe was his big mistake (he needed the extra clock).  (The ony way to konw your sidboard is to follow point 1 and to playtest matches–not just “first round, pre-sideboard matches” as is most frequently done.)
  3. Playtest matches, not just first round, pre-sideboard matchups.  It takes a bit longer in the testing but the “real life” practice is worth it.  Most of the crew I was testing with were not sideboading against the test-group.  Just pre-sideboard over and over.  This wasn’t a “rule”, it was just something that people did without discussion.  It prevents us from accomplishing 1 & 2 of this list though!  It will help shape your strategy for gauging the actual sideboard you’ll use at the tournament.  Even 1-of’s may become uber-valuable if you’ve done the correct testing.  Well worth the time to test one deck strategy and ask good questions about the matchups–this helps with the “meta game” (i.e. running martyrs of ash over firespouts).

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