Lessons in GPT Beijing – 4th Place – January 26th 2014

I used to write tournament reports but the thing is that it can be difficult to remember what happened in each match not to mention that I don’t get to write my reports at the soonest possible time. So instead, what I will try to do is to just try to write a summary of my recent GPT experience and share what I learned from it. But before anything else, here’s the rundown of my match ups that day.

Swiss Rounds:

2-0 vs BUG Midrange

0-2 vs Mono-Black Devotion

2-0 vs Mono-Blue Devotion

2-0 vs G/R Devotion

0-2 vs Junk Hexproof


2-1 vs Mono-White Aggro

0-2 vs Junk Hexproof

Anyway, I ended the tournament at 4th place which isn’t that bad considering that I rarely get to play in GPTs let alone, have my first experience of making it to the play-offs. I can also say that this was one of the tourneys that I am able to perform optimally. For reference, here’s the deck that I used:

Mono-Blue Devotion

Main Deck: 60

Lands: 25

21 Island

3 Mutavault

1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

Creatures: 28

4 Cloudfin Raptor

4 Frostburn Weird

4 Judge’s Familiar

4 Master of Waves

4 Nightveil Specter

4 Thassa, God of the Sea

4 Tidebinder Mage

Spells: 7

2 Bident of Thassa

1 Cyclonic Rift

2 Jace, Architect of Thought

2 Rapid Hybridization

Sideboard: 15

1 Aetherling

1 Bident of Thassa

1 Cyclonic Rift

1 Curse of the Swine

1 Dispel

2 Dissolve

2 Domestication

4 Gainsay

1 Rapid Hybridization

1 Ratchet Bomb

With Born of the Gods scheduled to have its official release this weekend, it wouldn’t be long before this list changes though frankly, I am not really sure if there’s still room for innovation other than having a couple of Thassa’s Rebuff in the 75 or maybe even a couple of Fated Infatuation in the main. And I am more inclined to include the counter spell than the clone effect that the latter offers for the reason that counters are more likely to get the job that I want than the latest version of cackling counterpart. Then again, I’ve yet to see how the metagame will look like in the first few weeks to determine how the deck would best adapt to the would-be environment.

For the time being, let me share some of the things that I learned from my recent GPT experience.

Sideboarding: As most pros would say, there’s no clear cut way to sideboard against opponents. The art of sideboarding is something you develop and perfect on your own through your experience in dueling with different decks. Though there are cards in the 75 that are non-negotiable when it comes to boarding them in and or boarding them out, it’s not always the case.

Take this case for example: I was up against a GR Devotion and often monoblue players would board out their Bidents, expecting the GR Devotion to board in artifact hate like destructive revelry. What I did was keep the bidents in and instead, boarded out my Jaces since at that time, I was confident that I can take the aggressor’s role and lead the way with a bident which was what happened.

Even though the opponent was playing defensively, he couldn’t defend effectively because I forced his Boros Reckoner and his lone Burning-Tree Emissary by activating the ability of the Bident. Even though he drew a Mistcutter Hydra and played it post-combat through an online Chandra, Pyromaster, it was already too late since he’s already wide open and the counter swing from me finished the game. He wasn’t expecting I’d leave the bidents in so he decided to just leave his revelries in the side since based on his experience; mono-blue players typically board out their bidents.

In the semis, I faced off with a hyper-aggressive deck and though Thassa plays a big role when it comes to finishing off games, I didn’t want to draw multiples of the God so instead of keeping four, I cut one from the main. I also did the same for Master of Waves while completely removing my Bidents with the idea that I’d probably be defensive most of the time which was what happened in all three games.

I left my Jaces in the main because they’re good against this particular matchup and boarded in a miser dispel which proved to be critical to the opponent when I countered his last breath aimed towards my Master of Waves, eventually winning me the match. Also, being able to hybridize your own creatures to ambush your opponents’ attacking soldier creatures is very invaluable when it comes to such a match up. I guess I was also lucky to draw my Jaces even though I only have two in my 75.

Sideboarding can be tricky, especially the part of boarding out cards in exchange for cards that you want to put in from your sideboard. But with practice, you will be able to find the best configuration for every matchup. Also, you have to keep in mind that you cannot just jam every card in your sideboard that is effective against a particular strategy by default. Doing so may cause your deck to be diluted which can negatively affect its consistency and plan.

Don’t Think Too Much: This can be more damaging to your performance in the tournament than it would help. Thinking too much can cause you to misplay more since you tend to get into the heat of the moment that you tend to neglect other factors that are apparent in the current board state.

Take this for example, my opponent attacked with his two Precinct Captains and I blocked each one with a blue elemental token from my Master. Thing is that I put my two Elemental tokens in the graveyard  as well as my opponent when I had a +1 Jace, Architect of Thought activation and TWO Master of Waves on the battlefield. This means that my creatures shouldn’t have died at that time.

Another reason why thinking too much is not that helpful is that it causes you to focus too much on winning that you become vulnerable to tilting when the game’s slowly slipping away from you which you shouldn’t fall into. Remember, being anxious about losing and succumbing to tilt and frustration will get you losing more games than winning them.

Whenever you start a match, don’t try thinking of anything. Not even winning. Just focus on your technical plays and in how you can beat your opponent the soonest possible time. Thinking of winning and not losing will just put pressure on you and can potentially cause you to be overly conscious with your plays that you end up performing sub-optimally. Just make the best technical play that can get your opponent’s life to zero as oppose to thinking of winning.

Winning will eventually be yours if your mind is free from anxieties, worries and stress. And because your mind is stress free, you’re able to process better plays than when you’re under pressure. Of course it can be difficult to do so especially if you’re already at the latter part of the tournament, and especially when you’re competing in a huge event but it helps to lessen the pressure on yourself.

Build Rapport: This is something that players rarely do though it’s understandable that not all are interested in having small talk before or after games or maybe they just don’t find any reason to engage in a conversation. But the thing is that talking to your opponent and establishing rapport with them contributes to your growth as a player. Magic: The Gathering is not just a card game. It’s also a game which opens up opportunities to meet new friends and to learn from each other.

Always try to open up an opportunity to learn from your opponents. Try asking getting to know cards that they have in their decks, the reason behind their inclusion and exclusion of certain cards as well as their rationale in boarding in and boarding out certain cards on certain match ups. Try to learn and find out what you could possibly do from them. Remember, the more informed you are, the more you’ll be able to make decisions in-game, not counting experience especially when faced against different kinds of decks.

Of course not all would be comfortable in sharing their hidden techs or their strategies but it’s understandable. Also keep in mind that you should also learn to reveal information about your deck to your opponents. Think of this as a fair trade after hearing their side of the story regarding their decks. I lost two straight games against a rogue Junk Hexproof in the swiss. It was hard to deal with it because my deck wasn’t built to battle threats that have hexproof and that are enchanted with Gift of Orzhova.

Not to mention that it has a plethora of spot removals reminiscent of a typical Mono-Black Devotion deck, but have Skylashers in the sides and main board. After our games, we talked about our decks and our sideboard configuration. I must say that I am pretty lucky for having a jovial opponent so I was more than willing to share my deck’s configuration and my match up results. Initially, you’d think that the conversation didn’t really matter until we got paired again in the semis in which case we both laughed while remembering the conversation we had earlier that day regarding both our deck’s configuration and strategies.

And I didn’t shy away in applying the information I learned from him and about his deck but then again, I still lost to him. The information may seem useless on the surface since my deck didn’t had what it took to defeat the Junk Hexproof but then again, based on how the games went, I can say that my game improved since I had knowledge on what cards to play around and I was able to configure my 75 more appropriately. Though I was determined to win my rematch with the guy, I still lost. But I can honestly say that he deserves the win. Heck, he constructed a decent deck to deal with the metagame in that tournament.

This is not to say that you should befriend your opponents just to squeeze intel regarding their decks and strategies. Remember, winning in Magic: The Gathering is NOT everything and to reiterate, it’s a game where you can meet new friends. Having friends who can tell you what you’re doing wrong in games and giving you advice on how to improve your games and those who can support you is always an invaluable asset.  If you have friends who’re really good with the game then it’s even better. So the next time that you square off with an opponent, you may want to consider engaging your opponent in a friendly conversation.

The only exception to this would be opponents who don’t seem to appear to be in the mood to talk about their decks, especially after losing against you. Learn to discern and learn to find the right opportunity.

To sum it all up:

Sideboarding: Practice, practice, practice and experiment until you get the best configuration. Familiarize yourself with how your deck interacts with your opponent’s deck and identify the cards that are not performing and replace them with the cards that you think would help you gain a leverage against the opponent’s deck. Don’t put in too much sideboard since it may dilute your deck and ruin your deck’s plan and consistency.

Don’t Think Too Much: Don’t pressure yourself into winning and not losing. Just focus and improve your technical plays. Winning will eventually follow.

Build Rapport: Learn to engage your opponents into a friendly conversation. Learn from them. Don’t be embarrassed or shy to ask anything that you want to find out about their decks. Gauge your opponent if he’s one who’s nice enough to share his ideas or deck strategies. Be fair and learn to share information as well.

Thanks for reading!

@ravenknives at Twitter

Raven Knives