Hello everyone, as a follow up to my recent article on Amonkhet limited I thought I would write about my experience at Grand Prix Bologna, where I ended up achieving my second limited GP Top 8. This will be half a continuation to my last article and half a tournament report about the GP. The last one was a preliminary article, and after testing in the weeks leading up to the GP I am now able to write in greater detail about cards to watch for in sealed, and what to look for in a draft. If you are attending the sealed RPTQ, hopefully you’ll find some inspiration in what follows.
First things first, here is what I registered for the sealed portion of GP Bologna. Seems insane doesn’t it? Well, it didn’t look that way to me at first. I knew UB is one of the worst archetypes and I was not sure the sphinxes would prove good enough to get me there.
I was obviously still very happy for what I got. Black had Archfiend of Ilfnir, Never // Return, Final Reward, Trial of Ambition, Wander in Death and a lot of other solid cards. Blue had two Curator of Misteries and… pretty much that’s it. It had some bad two drops, a cartouche, but not really much of note, aside from the rares. It also had a New Perspectives which did not make the cut. I actually debated a long time whether I should play blue or white to go with black. If you have read my previous article you know that I was not rating UB cycling very highly and I didn’t even have a Drake Haven (poor me). I don’t have a picture of the entire pool, but white had some great creatures including two Gust Walkers, a Wayward Servant and an Oketra’s Attendant. In general I would have had a much better curve and some premium two drops so I was torn. But as this was sealed, I thought that UB was the way to go since it had more synergy, more bombs and also white would not provide me with enough cyclers to fuel the Archfiend. Even then I had some hard decision to make on deck construction, and some of these I got wrong.
First, the cards that I debated and did not make the cut were a New Perspectives, Scarab Feast, Miasmic Mummy, Scribe of the Mindful (the ones you see on top left). So let’s look at these one by one.
New Perspectives is just not very good. Six mana to draw three at sorcery speed is too high a cost and the other effect is basically irrelevant. This was a clean cut and I’m certain that was the right decision.
Scarab Feast I wanted to play as the 24th card because I thought I needed another cycler. I didn’t fall to the temptation. And about this I will add something. Playing sixteen lands in a deck that wants to reliably cast a four drop on turn four is just wrong. And in sealed you should be looking at your 4s and 5s as the cards to swing the game in your favour. It doesn’t matter how many cyclers you have. A cycled card is lost forever (typically) and cycling to find lands is not where you want to be.
Miasmic Mummy and Scribe of the Mindful were my last cuts and this was huge mistake. Let’s put them together with my other two and three drop creatures which were two Tah-Crop Skirmisher, Labyrinth Guardian, Shadowborn Vizier, Seeker of Insight, Hekma Sentinels and Blighted Bat. This makes nine creatures with two to cut. Sadly I decided to cut the wrong ones. First I thought that Guardian, Vizier, Seeker, and Bat were the automatic addition as they were just better than the others. Then I chose the two Skirmishers over the Mummy because I thought I would be needing cards more than my opponent and Skirmisher would work better in a deck trying to be defensive. I was wrong. Mummy is just a great card since you can sometimes cast her in the lategame with no downside for you, and also synergizes with both Sphinxes and the Archfiend, a fact that I overlooked while building. I ended up siding it in basically every game. About Scribe, I ended up cutting it in favor of Hekma Sentinel because I thought it would be too slow and I wanted a card better at blocking. That made sense. So why was I playing Bat after all? It did nothing for my gameplan, and still I included it in the “locked” cards immediately. Again the result was that I was siding Bat out for Scribe in all the games.
Now, these seem like a lot of words in an article for a bunch of commons, but these are the hard and important decisions that you’ll face with most pools. It’s always easy to put the bombs in, but choosing the last two or three cards and making the last few cuts is the hard part. I always look back at things that I could have done better even when things go well for me and these bad decisions certainly could have cost me some games. While my deck might not be a good example, this format is not actually based around bomb rares, so decisions concerning the commons are deserving of a lot of thought. Look at all the undefeated decklists here. Between them, there was only one mythic, and one of the decks actually had no rares at all.
For the record I went 9-0 with the deck, losing only one game in seven rounds played. The deck was way better than I had imagined. The top performer was Wander in Death and I can’t stress enough on how good this card is. It had perfect synergy with all the rares and allowed me to scry more aggressively to find the cards I needed while rebuying the threats when I needed them. A second overperformer was Supernatural Stamina, which I believe is simply the best trick in the format. It does so much for only one mana, it’s difficult to read but also not very easy to play around. And it can lead to some savage blowouts as we’ll see later with my draft decks.
This was my first time going undefeated on day one of a GP. I was really excited, but I had four more matches to win in order to Top 8 and I had not drafted as much as I had practiced sealed. So I went around to find all the good drafters I knew and asked for advice and opinions. Federico del Basso, an Italian Gold level pro, showed me a bunch of statistics he had collected and decks he drafted. They were all ultra aggressive. One thing was clear. This is one format where draft and sealed differs a lot.
Sealed vs Draft
Among the two limited formats, draft is typically considered to be the faster. As you get to choose the cards that end up in your pool to some degree, you will naturally have more synergies and will be able to shape your deck the way you want. In this format, this is somewhat amplified by the fact that there is a great disparity between the good and the bad two drops. A Tah-Crop Skirmisher might be somewhat acceptable in sealed, but in draft he will easily be outclassed. This is mostly because of exert. Blocking is just not an effective strategy because the aggressive decks will have a set of hard to block low drops. Hence, every deck must be ready to deal with the aggressive creatures while also having a plan of its own to attack.
For this reason, card evaluation changes a lot. Here are some examples. In green, Bitterblade Warrior is now better than Naga Vitalist and Gift of Paradise is much less effective. In Red, Bloodrage Brawler becomes much better and Electrify a lot worse. In black, Supernatural Stamina becomes the best common, Unburden and Wander in Death get considerably worse. Blue becomes close to unplayable as a color. In white, Fan Bearer, Gust Walker and Compulsory Rest are now better than most of the white uncommons. Here is a table showing how the power ratings of the non-rare removal is affected:
Cartouche of Strength
Cartouche of Strength
As a further example, this is the deck that my teammate Joao Choca drafted in the first draft of day two and easily went 3-0 with. It has 14 (!) lands, and most of the cards cost one or two. Despite having some fillers and zero rares, this is a really powerful deck and I would take this any day going into a draft. Imagine playing against this and opening a hand with a Final Reward as removal. Good luck getting to five mana alive.
The first draft
Keeping these points in mind, I went into my first draft hoping to be mainly Red. I first picked a Plague Belcher, followed by a Bloodrage Brawler and a Battlefield Scavenger. But then I ended up with this.
Red ended up overdrafted and dried up very early so I switched over to green in pack two after being passed a Hapatra, Vizier of Poison. Because of the switch I ended up short on playables and had to play two Unburdens which ended up being cycled more often than not and only fourteen creatures. I wasn’t particularly happy. My curve was poor and the few two drop I had were kind of low quality. However during the draft I did my best to end up with cheap interaction at least. Hence I ended up with 4 Supernatural Stamina and this was exactly what I needed to gain back the tempo I would lose by skipping my two drop. It also synergized perfectly with my menace creatures (two Cursed Minotaurs and one Plague Belcher) as it can punish double blocks becoming a one mana two-for-one. Having multiple copies also made the following ones so much better as the opponent is less likely to play around the second, and the third will be a total blowout.
Thanks to that one trick, I managed to go 3-0 again and was at the top of the swiss as the only 12-0. The takeaway from this draft is that cheap interaction is great, and Stamina definitely takes the trophy as the best trick in the set.
The second draft
I was drafting under Martin Juza for this one. I needed only one win for Top 8 so my priority was reading the draft well so that I would end up with at least a medium deck. Martin forced RW in the first draft and I was pretty sure he would try again. However my first pack had a bunch of mediocre cards and the only card of note was Trial of Zeal, which I picked, knowing that I will very likely not end up red. The following picks had two Shefet Monitors and two Naga Vitalist and as expected contained neither red or white. Still, at this point I can be totally open and just wait and see what I get passed. Unfortunately for pack one that was it, I got a couple of mediocre blue cards and nothing of note and at this point I was pretty worried. The second pack had Curator of Misteries as a rare, an Angler Drake and a Soulstinger. I took the Curator, but this was a big mistake. First thing, in UG, Angler Drake is slightly better, and I had almost no cycling to go with the Curator. But more than everything you really do not want to play blue in draft. I knew that it was also really unlikely that I will get enough good blue cards to go with the Curator. The right pick should have been the Soulstinger, which to my big surprise and relief, wheeled. The draft went in the perfect direction from there, up to the point where in the third pack I got passed Decimator Beetle and Destined to Lead as pick seven and eight!
The deck ended up with some fillers but overall I was satisfied. It was a bit slow, but I knew this could definitely get the win I needed. And so it did.
I lost my first match against the eventual winner Corrado De Sio playing GR, because of a bad mulligan decision. I did not mulligan a hand without black and got it too late. My second opponent also was playing GR, but the quality of his deck was much lower than Corrado’s. I won my second match quite easily thanks to my two Beetles, locking my second Limited GP Top 8.
The Top 8
The Top 8 draft was actually the easiest of all and there isn’t much to describe. I opened a Samut in pack one, which I picked, and then Green and Red turned out to be the open colors. I got passed a Magma Spray and a Khenra Charioteer early on as signals and then I simply picked all the GR cards that I got passed.
The deck was good, although again I had some fillers among the creatures. Hyena Pack and the 1/3 prowess are really bad and would never play them over any other option. Which sadly I didn’t have. Still, I think this is was solid deck that could potentially win a draft.
My opponent for the quarterfinal was the Gold Pro Javier Dominguez, with a rather medium WB deck. He had too many three drops so the deck was very clunky and had a hard time stopping my creatures. I won 2-0 thanks to some insane topdecks on my part. I was on a mulligan to six both times and even got Unburdened in one of the games. After having been left with zero cards in hand I drew green trial into red cartouche in the first game and Twins into Samut in the second.
In the semifinal I faced Martin Juza, who I had seen playing a very good UB deck during his quarterfinal, with Archfiend of Ilfnir and a lot of premium uncommons. I managed to steal a game thanks to Trial of Strength drawn when he had Essence Scatter and a sideboarded Onward /// Victory, but his card quality was too high and my creatures got slaughtered by his Ruthless Snipers in the other two games.
And so my GP ended with a 3rd place. Winning would have been amazing, but still I had a very good run which really exceeded my expectation. I got the qualification to Pro Tour Kyoto and I now I have a very good chance of hitting Silver level again. I was super happy with the result and being in Bologna it was time to celebrate with a few kilos of pasta and plenty of beer!
Some Parting Tips
Green has been the best colour for the last few sets and it still shines in Amonkhet sealed. It really doesn’t take much to be playable, you don’t need rares or other bombs. Just look for Naga Vitalists, Gift of Paradise, Cartouche of Strength, Crocodile of the Crossing, Scaled Behemoth. With any of these there is a very good chance your green will be one of your good colors. Gift of Paradise is especially good. With it and Naga Vitalist you can easily splash double cost cards, something that isn’t normally possible.
Look for colors where you can combo Cartouches and Trials.
It really doesn’t matter which ones. All ten cards are already great and you gain a ton of value by returning a Trial to your hand. If you have multiple Cartouches in your colors, you could consider splashing a Trial of a third color (or the opposite).
Edifice of Authority goes in EVERY deck.
There isn’t much to explain here. If you open the card, play it, it’s great. If you open multiples, play all of them.
Write down your opponent’s tricks.
This is very important. You might be the best at remembering cards but writing them down doesn’t hurt. I usually write down everything the opponent plays that has an immediate impact on the game (removal, tricks, creatures with haste and with flash).
Seriously, block! Players never do this enough. Try to read your opponent tricks but don’t be afraid of them. Early in the game, a player must often take a turn off to cast a trick and it’s better to get it out of their hand rather than getting blown out by it much later.
About Francesco Giorgio:
Since he started playing Magic in 2012, Francesco has fully immersed himself in the competitive aspects of Magic. After moving to England in 2014 he became a Silver Level pro and has been a constant presence on the Pro Tour ever since. Francesco joined Team Axion in 2016, with the aim of contributing to the development of a major mainstay team at future Pro Tours. Francesco is at his best with a 40 card deck, but also enjoys the Standard format. His achievements include 2 Limited GP Top8s and a 3rd place in the 2014 World Magic Cup. Francesco is the current captain of the English National Team and aims to bring the team to another important finish at this year World Magic Cup. His main objective for this season is to Top 8 the WMC and maintain his status as captain for next year.