Warlord Merkit's 2015 Oklahoma City Grand Prix Report
Travel and Venue
Team Ponyback Brigade (myself, Max, and Chazi) talked Laura into coming along for the drive to the 2015 Oklahoma City Grand Prix. Stopped for lunch in both directions at Russell's for good food and
great cars, even got lucky and had folks from a classic car show passing through on our way back for some bonus Route 66 vehicles. Stayed at the suggested hotel of the Sheraton downtown and it was conveniently located right next to
the convention center. Hotel had a good breakfast buffet, but the convention center was a bit lacking on food options with a single overpriced snack bar. Luckily we had Laura to bring us some sandwiches from a nearby Subway for most of the
weekend. The tournament itself was run fairly well and the only significant issue I encountered was they did not always allow enough time between posting the side event pairings (typically at a single location) and allowing folks to find their
I registered the following Abzan Company deck for the modern main event.
The core of this deck was fairly standard at the time of the tournament. Notable differences from the typical version are the nearly complete lack of removal and the inclusion of the
Safehold Elite. My version is very much all-in on combination victory and exploiting various persist interactions and does not transition much into a "fair" game of midrange magic.
Round 1 Zach Harvey, infect
This pairing was an example of extremely unfortunate luck for my opponent, as Zach was on infect and in game 1 I started with Melira in my opening hand. She hit the board turn 2, followed up by a Kitchen Finks, and we headed to game 2.
Zach got a great start in game 2 and quickly got 6 poison counters on me. I could not quite combo in time before the pressure from two Inkmoth Nexus infected me out. Game 3 Zach mulled to 4, but managed a decent start of infect creature
and unblockable rebound Distortion Strike. However, a turn 3 Murderous Recap dispatched his only threat before he got the full value from the rebound and let me grind him out for the win.
Round 2 Daniel Cunningham, Jund
I won game 1 relatively quickly on the strength of my persist creatures matching up well against his removal. Game 2 was a very long match where he got an early Bitterblossom, but I was beating him down fairly well.
He stabilized with a couple of Tarmogoyf and I badly overplayed my hand right into an Anger of the Gods. I also feel my sideboarding was poor as instead of taking out combo creatures, I took out the Chords and the Collected Companies,
and given how long this game went I really could have used the card advantage instead. By the time we started game 3 we were under 2 minutes and sadly went to time. After I turned in the slip I realized I would have been better off
just conceding in order to stay out of the control-filled draw bracket. Frustrating, as I think I had this match and just misplayed.
Round 3 Michael Hertz, Blue-White planeswalker control
Game 1 kept a slightly slow hand and I think the only time I ever had a creature live into Mike's turn was when he wanted one so he could get full value from his Timely Reinforcements. Game 2 I won with a turn 2 Voice of Resurgence and
Mike's complete inability to draw a white mana source despite drawing a bunch of cards with the usual blue spell suspects. Game 3 we finally had a good match of magic and I thought I might have sealed the game when I cast Sigarda right on
turn 5, but then Mike immediately answered with Elspeth, Sun's Champion. As if it isn't bad enough how much I have lost to that card in standard the last two years, now she has pursued me into Modern.
A bad matchup against a good opponent and I think this was a match that I would have needed to get fairly lucky to win.
Round 4 Kevin Wilkins, Jeskai Snapcaster and Pyromancer control
Game 1 I just kept flooding the board with persist creatures that slowly worked their way through Kevin's removal spells. Even with Snapcaster doing his job, it still ends up with a one for one trade with my Safehold Elite and
eventually I set up the infinite life combo to win the game. Game 2 was much closer and we were racing on damage for a few turns, until Gavony Township plus the persist creatures and Anafenza let me pull ahead for a beatdown victory.
Round 5 Zachary Benck, Abzan Company
A mirror match with Zach playing pretty close to the conventional list against my slightly rogue build.
Game 1 he went to infinite life, but I was not completely dead as I had a Scavenging ooze answer to stop him from comboing off next turn with his Blood Artist. However, a few turns later I played out
my Murderous Redcap in an attempt to kill his Anafenza while he had a Spellskite on board and infinite life. So bad. Died the next turn to him just sacrificing enough guys to drain me out while I might have kept things going to
hopefully combo off myself if I had played my Kitchen Finks instead. In game 2 I thought I was in good shape with a Scavenging Ooze on board to stop all comboing, but then he Chorded for 4 to bring Linvala, Keeper of Silence onto the board.
Wow, is that card ever amazing against Abzan company. Even with a Chord of Calling in hand I had literally no answers for Linvala in my whole deck as I did not have her or a Fiend Hunter in my 75.
Zach was much more proficient with this deck than I was and it was brutal to be knocked out of day 2 contention by getting outplayed and outsideboarded in the mirror. Luckily he had beaten me so quickly that I had some extra time to deal
with tilt and move into the mindset of just grinding out some planeswalker points for future tournaments.
Round 6 Aaron Addison, Black-White tokens
Aaron won game 1 handily with pumped up, vigilant, flying tokens thanks to various enchantments. I boarded in my extra Qasali pridemages and won game 2 mostly to his mana screw. Game 3 was a closer game that stalled out a bit and
allowed me to combo off for victory.
Round 7 Mitchell Soukup, Grixis Delve
Another matchup against a removal heavy snapcaster deck and again the pressure from the persist creatures on his removal bought me time to set up the infinite life combo in game 1. Game 2 he started out blazing fast and had a pile of
cards in the graveyard turn 2, but he just could not find any of his Gurmag Anglers or Tasigur in order to make that pay off. Again, a lot of grinding out value with persist creatures trading for spot removal and eventually he tapped out
for Jace and that allowed me to play out Anafenza and Melira onto a board with the Safehold Elite and a Cartel Aristocrat to set up the infinite bolster combo for the win. First time I have managed to set that particular combination up
and we even had a judge call to verify that I can stack up an arbitrary number of bolster triggers before letting them all resolve to make my guys very large.
Round 8 Kevin Stanley, Blue-Red Twin
Game 1 I had a slow start and he had multiple creatures deployed and slowly beating down before he finally found Splinter Twin to put me away. Game 2 I really should have boarded in all of the protection from red guys, but only brought in
Auriok Champion. I then proceeded to set up a couple of good board states, only to get swept away by two concecutive turns of Anger of the Gods. Poor sideboarding on my part, and I really need to get some more practice against this
Twin matchup as I still have not figured out the right way to handle this popular deck.
Round 9 CJ Richardson, Mardu Graveyard Shenanigans
CJ had a rogue brew of all sorts of dredge and graveyard cards like Lingering Souls, Bloodghast, and Darkblast. Game 1 was the usual story of my persist creatures grinding out value long enough to set up a combo victory. Game 2 I
brought in Sigarda and managed to play her to grind down his spirit tokens while blanking his targeted removal and Vengeful Pharaoh. Eventually chorded in a Scavenging Ooze once he was down to just a recurring Darkblast in hand
to purge his graveyard of trouble and finish the match.
I am rarely able to resist the various sealed side events at a Grand Prix as they offer great value for your entry tickets, and I'm a sucker for limited. Played in the Grinder Sealed on Friday with a decent red-white beatdown deck that
quickly defeated opponents in the early rounds, but lost to a higher quality deck in the top 8. Rebounded by playing the "Foiled Again" sealed that gave everyone a promo Serum Visions just for participating and started off with a solid
2-0 start before falling to the stronger decks in the later rounds. Was still good enough for an additional promo Path to Exile plus some tickets so good fun and solid value.
Played in the Sunday Super Series and got a pool with a good top end in Languish, Lilliana, and Sentinel of the Eternal Watch, but was fairly lacking in filler slots and had to play some mediocre cards like Aven Battle Priest, Guardians
of Meletis, Returned Centaur, and 2 copies of Undead Servant. The event was a massive 8 rounds of Swiss and I did not get knocked completely out of prize contention until the final round.
Went 5-3 and I feel like that was about right for the deck. I have never seen so many sweepers in limited before as Tragic Arrogance and Languish were all over the top brackets. Had one game against fellow New Mexican Easton Douglass where
we both had so many sweepers that we were casting them as one for one removal. One of our games had 2 Eyeblight Massacre, 1 Languish, and 1 Tragic Arrogance cast before he finally had to use a Weight of the Underworld and Reave Soul
on my Sentinel of the Eternal Watch. My most satisfying win of the day came in a tight game 3 of another match where we started racing and it looked like I was going to fall just short and die on
the crackback, until I played out my Rabid Bloodsucker to drain for the final 2 points of life.
I managed to maintain my captaincy of Team Ponyback Brigade with my main event 5-3-1 barely edging out Chazi's finish of 5-4 with his Goblins. Max struggled with his White Knights deck and finished 3-6, but he rebounded on Sunday
and made a good run in Sealed, only to also crash out of prizes in the final round to a 5-3 finish. I feel like the Abzan Company deck is certainly competitive and I enjoyed playing the deck, so hopefully will give it another go in the
future with a few tweaks for the mirror and perhaps some more removal out of the sideboard. The New Mexico crew was stoked to see our Matt Duggan top 8 and qualify for the Pro Tour.
I personally also enjoyed watching the coverage team in person and was surprised to see what a tiny crew they have for the event. From what I saw it was basically the coverage guys you see on the screen, one producer working closely with
them, and a couple of people in the feature match area. Everything was done with small pole-mounted fixed cameras and one camera on a tripod. Between the web reports and the Twitch stream they are producing an amazing amount of content
with a tiny crew and are a big part of what makes heading to a Grand Prix something special for those of us who are not really in contention for the top prizes.
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