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Grand Prix Milan 2011

October 13, 2011

This past weekend I was down in Milan battling in the Grand Prix, and today I thought I do a little report about the tournament and the trip.

I had plans to make it to at least on of the fall European GPs this year and when the date for GP Amsterdam ended up being too conflicting with me university schedule I set my eyes on Milan. To be completely honest, I was leaning on going to Milan anyways despite it being a bit more expensive and further away from my bellowed Sweden, since I prefer playing Limited over Legacy.

For this trip I was traveling and rooming with this year hottest Swedish Magic player, Joel Larsson. I have known Joel since I started playing Magic (more or less) and it has been really cool to see him do so well this year. We headed down with another ringer from Stockholm, Martin Sahlberg. The flight south down to Milan was uneventful, although I feel obliged to point out that I always feel a little disappointed when I fly with SAS. It’s not that they are bad per say but there are the little things that makes me prefer other airlines, like they don’t provide drinks and/or meal for free on inter-European flights in economy class and the seats just feels to offer a little less legroom compared to other airline companies. Also for reason I don’t understand they always seems to be a wee bit pricier to. It is a little shameful that I have to say this about Scandinavia’s own airline company, but that’s where it’s at.

Now you might wonder why I flew with SAS after this bashing. Well, they provided a service no other airline company could match for my requirements (getting down on Friday on a reasonable time and preferably to Linate Airport, which is considerably closer to the actual city compared to Malpensa or Bergamo) for the flight.

Anyhow, we checked in at our hotel Nhow, which I can in hindsight highly recommend, just after lunch time. After dropping off our bags, we headed out for lunch before going to the site to sling some cardboard. We all entered a GPT even though Joel didn’t need the byes and I wasn’t exactly dying for a third bye but we all wanted to do some warm up before the actual GP. I opened a respectable pool, built a reasonable blue-black deck out of it and then was handily trounced in the first round by my opponent who showed me the interaction between Charmbreaker Devils and Devil’s Play in two games. After that I stuck around at the site saying hello to various people I know as well as just playing games with my GPT deck just for practice before the crew headed back to the hotel.

Cleverly we decided to be at the site in good time the following morning so we wouldn’t have to stand in the register queue for too long. That turned out to be a one of the great calls of this weekend as once we were registered and ready after ~15 minutes of queueing, the queue behind us had approximately grown 5 times the size compared to how it was when we showed up at 7:50. At one point the queue was so long that you couldn’t even see the end of it when you stood in the doorway of the site! While it’s cool that a lot of people show up at this event, this meant that the GP wouldn’t exactly start on time. It turned out not being thaaat bad as seating were posted around 11am (roughly 2 hours after scheduled starting time).

Once seated, I was shipped the following pool to build my deck with. After I had glanced through the whole card pool I wasn’t exactly upset with the cards handed to me. No real superbombs but there was some sweet cards, some removal and at least a couple of deep colors to work with. I also instantly singled out 3 artifacts (Blazing Torch, Manor Gargoyle and Geistcatcher’s Rig) that would make my deck no matter what, which was nice.

After some deeper examination I dumped green and then red as colors with the exception of splashing for either Gavony Township or Brimstone Volley. But after that the card pool ended up being a real engima to interpret. After a good long time in the tank I was eventually hooked on the color blue as it stood out to me as having the best offense that my pool could provide as well as a couple of counterspell to deal with opponents bombs.

Then deciding what to pair with the blue was even trickier. Both white and black had stuff going for them. White had a much more impressive creature suite compared to black but the removal options was better in black and also the curve ended being better when paired with blue. It was a though call but I ended up choosing black to pair with the blue because I felt I had more well-balanced deck with the combination. The list below is what I registered:

9 Swamp
8 Island

1 Typhoid Rats
1 Diregraf Ghoul
2 Walking Corpse
1 Vampire Interloper
2 Lantern Spirit
1 Selhoff Occultist
1 Ghoulraiser
2 Moon Heron
1 Manor Gargoyle
1 Sturmgeist
1 Battleground Geist
1 Geistcatcher's Rig
1 Skaab Goliath

1 Blazing Torch
1 Think Twice
1 Victim of Night
1 Dissipate
1 Corpse Lunge
1 Sever the Bloodline
1 Lost in the Mist

I spent my bye rounds talking with Kenny Öberg and Joel about our pools and they were about as puzzled as I’m about what route to take with my pool. They laid out black-white as an option, which I didn’t really consider during the actual registration but it seemed like a very plausible way to go to. But we couldn’t agree on a consensus on how to build the pool. Both Kenny and (particularly) Joel thought I should gotten greedier and splashed a third color, which I wasn’t completely sold on. I’d like being as consistent with my mana as I can if I can help it. I did bring in Slayer of the Wicked in a couple matchups after sideboard though.

I thought this was a really tricky pool to work with and though I felt like I learned a lot from playing and being in Milan, I feel like I still do not know enough about the format as a whole to tell what’s the “best” route to go with said card pool. I would love to hear some more thoughts about the pool, so just fire away in the comments.

Before I get into the rounds I want to illuminate a factor to this event that was very unpleasant for everyone at the site. One of the competitors of GP Milan had Tourette’s syndrome (or something of that nature) and this guy’s tic was irregularly letting out a high-pitch scream all day long. At first when I was sitting down registering my card pool I thought it was just someone who was very cheerful about the card he/she had opened but once the “cheers” never seemed to stop I concluded something else was going on.

Now, I don’t blame the guy at all. He is certainly not doing this tic voluntarily by any means. But his screams that he let out once or twice per minute all day long was nevertheless very annoying, particularly with the sound volume already being so high in the room by 1700+ other people conversing at the same time…

So, the rounds. I won my first playing round (that would be round 3 of the GP) against an Italian fellow with a reasonable black-red deck featuring a little green splash for Garruk Relentless. I had the nuts in game one but then proceeded to draw 13 lands in game 2. In the last game I once again drew a ton of lands and thought I was sure going to lose that game but on the last possible turn Geistcatcher’s Rig showed up and took out his Vampire Interloper and gave me a good 3 turn clock that he couldn’t beat.

Sadly that was the high point of my participation in the GP. I lost the next match against another BR deck featuring Bloodline Keeper (which really was what he beat me with singlehandly, his other card didn’t really matter) and then the following round in 3 games against a mediocre white-red deck which got me with a top decked Rally the Peasants which got me from 14 to 0 out of nowhere.

Then I was paired against a polite French guy that beat me with his (mediocre) blue-white deck in 2 games, mostly due to my deck not being willing to cooperate with me. I did sideboard out my Typhoid Rats for Village Cannibals for game 2 and that ended up being a bad call in hindsight as if the Village Cannibals I drew in that game had been a Typhoid Rats that could actually trade with my opponents Galvanic Juggernaut instead of doing nothing as it played out. I can’t claim that I would have necessarily won that game if I hadn’t sideboard out Typhoid Rats but it surely wouldn’t have ended there and then as it did.

After that I was mathematically eliminated from day 2 play but I stayed in to grind some planeswalker points. After all, my deck was not too shabby. But after playing against a nice Italian fellow with, to be honest, a very fair green-white deck and playing 2 spells in game 1 and 3 in game 2 total, I had enough. At that point my head wasn’t really in it anymore so I dropped. It was just not my day to be playing Magic. It sucks to travel so far to get to that realization, but it happens. We deal with it and we move on. That’s how it works in competitive Magic.

The rest of the evening was spent birding some of my fellow Swedes playing for day 2. Joel managed to limp his way into day 2 with a very mediocre deck, which was quite impressive to see. Kenny dropped on the finish line after losing to Heretic Punishment and Devil’s Play in round 9. It was a pleasant surprise seeing fellow Stockholmer Marcus Berg going first 8-1 before the cut for day 2 and then getting there in round 10, ending Saturday on 9-1. Nicely done, my friend! Before heading back to the hotel I was also fortunate to follow one of the most absurd judge situation I have ever witness. The story is so crazy I think it warrant its own blog post, so stay tuned for that one.

Sunday was spent devouring the superb breakfast buffé the hotel had to offer (sadly I have to say it was the highlight of the trip) before I went to the site to bird some matches as well as scrubs out a couple of sidedrafts. The day was rounded off with a nice meal with a couple of good friends from Gothenburg.

The next day we went home after some sightseeing and the obligatory ice cream eating in downtown Milan. On the return flight I had booked us with Lufthansa so we dodged the SAS bullet (well played etc.). Other than that, the day was fairly uneventful and the flight home went smoothly without any issues.

And there you have it, my Grand Prix Milan 2011 report. Playing-wise the tournament was quite the disappointment but Milan along with the coffee and ice cream was great and enjoyable. So I guess I shouldn’t complain too much 😛

Until next time…

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