Grand Prix Atlanta (6/30/12 – 7/1/12)

I decided to plan my summer vacation around the Legacy Grand Prix because:

1. I finally had a Legacy deck built and that I enjoyed playing which is my first Legacy deck since 10-8-2003 when I was playing "Full English Breakfast" back when Survival of the Fittest was legal and damage used the stack.

2. I had former college friends in Atlanta and more than enough vacation time with work.

So I took off a week and flew down into HOT ATLANTA (literally 110 degrees) on Thursday night to play in the Grand Prix Saturday and Sunday.

The 75 that I registered:

Non-Legendary Creatures

1x Sphinx of the Steel Wind

1x Angel of Despair

1x Blazing Archon

Legendary Creatures

1x Iona, Shield of Emeria

4x Griselbrand


4x Brainstorm

3x Daze

4x Force of Will

1x Misdirection

4x Entomb


4x Careful Study

4x Exhume

4x Reanimate

2x Inquisition of Kozilek

3x Ponder


1x Animate Dead

Basic Lands

4x Swamp

3x Island

Non-Basic Lands

2x Underground Sea

4x Polluted Delta

2x Verdant Catacombs

1x Misty Rainforest

1x Marsh Flats

1x Scalding Tarn


3x Pithing Needle

2x Echoing Truth

3x Massacre

2x Coffin Purge

3x Show and Tell

1x Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite

1x Tidespout Tyrant

I have 2 byes from Planeswalker Points so I loaded up my bag and heading across the street to Starbucks for some coffee and breakfast sandwiches because I knew I wasn't going to be eating through the 9 rounds of play.

Round 1: BYE
Result: 2-0
Standings: 1-0-0

Round 2: BYE
Result: 2-0
Standings: 2-0-0

Round 3: Alex (B/R Goblins)
Game 1 (He mulliganed to 6)
I got Griselbrand out on turn 2 and drew 7 in response to his Black Edict Spell (Warren Weirding) to counter it. SUCCESS.
Game 2 (I mulliganed to 6)

He resolved Aether Vial and was setting me back a turn with Rishadan Port.

Exhumed Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite with Force of Will back up.

He tried to Warren Weirding me again and I countered it.

Next turn I Reanimate Iona, Shield of Emeria and name Black after 2 Elesh Norn attacks. He concedes.

Result: 2-0

Standings: 3-0-0

Round 4: Lisa (U/W/G Maverick/Bant Control)

Game 1 (I mulliganed to 6)

She played out a Noble Hierarch, another Noble Hierarch, Green Sun-ed for Arbor Dryad, and eventually resolved a Scavenging Ooze while I had no action that resolved after she countered my attempt at a turn 2 Griselbrand with a Spell Pierce.

Game 2 (I mulliganed to 6)

She countered early spells as my stocked up hand wanted to just draw out all her counters.

I cast Pithing Needle naming Karakas and then a second one naming Scavenging Ooze.

At 3 life I was able to Show and Tell in Blazing Archon and the next turn

was able to Animate Dead on Griselbrand.

I attacked for 6 drew 7 down to 2 then quickly won the game with my new hand.

Game 3

I IoK-ed her opener and saw Karakas, Wasteland, 2x Sword to Plowshares, 2x Noble, and Horizon Canopy. Man I wish I had either a pro-White or a Shroud creature to get out early!

She drew Scavenging Ooze and I Pithing Needled Karakas and resolved Show and Tell giving me a Griselbrand and her Sword of Light and Shadow.

She Sword to Plowshare Griselbrand, I drew 7, no counter, drew 7 more to go to 5. Nothing. Ouch.

Scavenging Ooze with Sword of Light and Shadow killed me.

Result: 1-2

Standings: 3-1-0

Round 5: Chris (Mono Black Control)

Game 1 (We both mulliganed to 6)

Turn 2 Animate Dead on a turn 1 Careful Studied Griselbrand.

He cast Dark Confidant (BOB!) on T2 and Gatekeeper Kicked on T3.

I drew 7 in response and didn't hit counter, but hit 3 other reanimation spells.

Got Griselbrand back and attacked him to 4 life before he resolved Liliana of the Veil through counter spells.

I lost Griselbrand to Liliana's -2, he took 3 life loss from his Bob. I reanimated again and held back from reanimating my 2nd creature in my graveyard so he would have to decide to either edict my lone guy or edict himself at 1 life (if he survived the draw step) so that Bob didn't kill him.

He revealed Dark Ritual for lethal loss of life from his own creature's triggered ability and we went to game 2.

Game 2

He made me discard a lot early, and had double Exirpate in his opening hand.

He removed my 2 post board Griselbrands from my graveyard and library.

I resolved Tidespout Tyrant and bounced his Phyrexian Obliterator 3 times.

I Pithing Needled Liliana of the Veil and he attacked me with Phyrexian Obliterator. Eventually I had to block and sac-ed 5 lands then drew a black and we were off to Game 3 with 5 minutes left in the round.

Game 3 (He mulliganed to 4)

I expected Turn 0 Leyline, but didn't see it so I assumed he had Extirpate in hand (why else mulligan so low?).

I kept a great 5 minute left in match opening hand that had 2 lines of action for either a turn 2 Iona, Shield of Emeria naming Black or if he Extirpated her then I had turn 3 Griselbrand if he didn't have a second Extirpate.

At end of Turn 1 I Entombed Iona, Shield of Emeria and on Turn 2 Reanimated her on Black. He conceded.

Result: 2-1

Standings: 4-1-0

I go and look at my pairing for Round 6 and see that it’s Tom Martell who won the last Grand Prix for Legacy in Indianapolis where I went 7-3 and missed day 2 and he won the whole thing with Esper Control (U/W Stoneblade Control with Lingering Souls). I was so nervous that I got half way to the tables having forgotten the table number and had to look it back up.

Round 6: Tom Martell (Esper Control)

Game 1

This was an battle of a match. I started out by reanimating Griselbrand on turn 2, and I drew 7 to fight a Sword of Plowshares (SUCCESS!) then I attacked back up to 11.

He dealt with it again next turn, and I got another one with Entomb/Animate Dead and next turn attacked back up to 17.

He got few threats out (Snapcaster Mage), and I got him down to 9 when he got an Umezawa's Jitte on a Snapcaster Mage.

I eventually got out my third Griselbrand of the game (2 were already exiled)  to go from 3 back to 10 and I drew 7 for an out to Jitte. I got a Careful Study, Blazing Archon, and an Exhume which all resolved to which he finally conceded.

Game 2

Another long game. I went to 10 cracking fetches and Reanimating Griselbrand then to 3 after drawing 7.

I ended up animating a Sphinx of the Steel Wind since he had Karakas-ed my Griselbrand.

He Swords to Plowshared my Sphinx putting me at 7 and he never got a real threat out, but instead a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Once it got up to 8 or 9 loyalty I bounced it with an animated Tidespout Tyrant + Brainstorm. He Swords to Plowshared it putting me at 10 and recast Jace 2.0.

I got him down to 10 and time was rounding out on the round. I told him I would crack this fetch to see if I an out to his Jace 2.0 which was back up to 9 loyalty counters, and he told me he just put Angel of Despair on the bottom. I entombed it and exhumed it to kill Jace. I was now at 9 life and he was at 10 life. His next draw was another Jace 2.0. He bounced my Angel, and I cracked another fetch and had no way to recast/reanimate the Angel so I scooped.

Game 3 (2 minutes left in round)

While shuffling we discuss avoiding a draw. He tells me he can’t win in 5 turns and knows I can so if it looks like someone is going to win the game when turns are up we would do the gentlemanly thing and give the other the win. This is awesome for me since I can get out a fatty quick and get him in 3 swings, and unless he gets out a Snapcaster or Clique with a Jitte on it I am at worse going to draw. He goes aggressive with Snapcasters attacking and I animate up a Blazing Archon off of a Careful Study discard. I have him at 11 and I'm at 10 when turns end. I say - "I have you in three draws unless you have an out in the next couple draws, want to show me your next couple draws?". He shows his hand and top 2 which include a Swords to Plowshare so I reveal my next couple draws and don't show a counterspell so I offer the draw unless he wants to give me the win. If I hadn't offered for him to show me the top cards in his library he might have given me the match, but I thought the offer for him to reveal his draws was fair since his deck was nearly all outs to my attacks and I only needed to reveal a Force of Will to still get the win offered to me. Good match though considering it’s my second hardest match up behind Maverick.

Result: 1-1-1

Standings: 4-1-1

Round 7: Paul Anthony (U/R Delver)

Game 1 (I mulliganed to 6)

I entomb Griselbrand and try to Animate Dead it. We counter battle over the Animate Dead, and I win the battle. The look on the Delver player’s face with Griselbrand on the table is priceless. They look so defeated looking at it on the board. I swing 6 draw 7, he swings back with Delvers. I swing 6 and draw 7. He eventually dies.

Game 2

He blind flips Delver and hits me once. He hits me again as I build up for a Show and Tell to resolve (I need a blue spell to pitch to Force of Will). I get it and go for Show and Tell (Griselbrand). We counter battle and the Demon lands on the board. At 7 life I attack him down to 10 and draw 7 staying at 7. He hits me with a Snapcaster and I attack him to 3 putting me back to 11. He dies the next turn without drawing any out and any of his boarded in cards.

Result: 2-0

Standings: 5-1-1

With 2 more wins I'm onto Day 2. 7-1-1 guarantees my Day 2 and I wasn't going to offer or accept any draws. I see my pairing for Round 8. REID DUKE. Darn! The guy who put Reanimator back on the map with a big win with it weeks earlier is in my way to Day 2. Would this be my first mirror match of the day?

Round 8: Reid Duke (U/W CounterTop)

Game 1

He plays a land and Sensei’s Divining Top. Well, I guess he’s not on Reanimator and that probably means he built a deck to beat Griselbrand which he made famous. I am soooo screwed... or am I?

I think I had the "god hand" game one. I Entomb Griselbrand and try to Exhume it, he counters, I Daze his counter, he Dazes my Daze, I Force of Will his Daze. When all the dust settles I have a Griselbrand and 1 card in hand, he has a couple cards in hand. On his turn he tries to Swords to Plowshare Griselbrand so I draw 7 in response and hit a Force of Will and Blue card to counter it. He plays another removal spell, I think long and hard about drawing 7 more going to 3 to fight it so I can attack and gain life next turn. I decide I need to swing next turn and not mess around with trying to reanimate it next turn and discarding 10+ cards. I go to 3 and counter his removal. He scoops to that at 18 life having only loss life from his own Force of Wills.

Game 2

Another barn burner here against the Pro. He gets out Top and tries to get out a Counterbalance. I fight him on it, and he ends up tapping out for it. I take the next turn to try to resolve an Exhume on Griselbrand while he can't top my 2 casting cost spell. He reveals Zuran’s Orb and I get Griselbrand out.

I draw 7 and eventually attack for 7 and draw 7 more before he deals with it. He stabilizes but I have a full grip. I sculpt the perfect hand to resolve another Griselbrand after I Pithing Needled his Top which he responded by doing a truly unique thing I had never seen before. He activates Top’s rearrange top 3 then responds to that by activating Top’s draw card ability which he resolves then still responds to the rearrange with a cracked fetch. After all that his Tops are locked down for the future and I make my play finally.

I Show and Tell. He counters. I counter back. He counters back. I counter back having 1 card left in hand and leaving him with 1 card also. I think "It’s all over Johnny! That has to be a land and I will win soon enough!". We reveal for Show and Tell and I drop Griselbrand and he drops BANESLAYER ANGEL! I draw a new hand going to 7 cards to his 0 cards, and I write on my notepad "DO NOT GO BELOW 6 OR YOU DIE TO PRO DEMON" since I am at 6 life.

He can't swing because then I'll gain 7 and I can't swing because it would be pointless against the pro-Demon Angel (lifelink doesn't work when the damage is prevented obviously).

In my 7 I got Echoing Truth and next turn bounce his pro-demon (you can see that image on the official Wizard site coverage of the event) and attack for 7. He replays the Angel and I draw 7 again to stay at 6 life.

I Animate Dead Tidespout Tyrant with a grip full of Brainstorms and Ponders. Next turn I Ponder and bounce the Angel again and he concedes.

These 2 games happened extremely fast in my head, and after the match he said I played extremely tight and I commented that it felt like I had all the right cards at the right time and  got extremely lucky. He said there were still times he thought I was going to make the wrong play and I didn't. I wished him luck in the final round (even though I think he was X-2-1 now and out).

Result: 2-0

Standings: 6-1-1

Round 9: Jacob (Sneak and Show)

Game 1 (He mulligans to 5)

Win and I'm onto my first Day 2 ever. I get a turn 2 Griselbrand out and he gets out a Sneak Attack. I attack and draw 7 then Entomb Blazing Archon and Exhume it. He concedes after he draws and Brainstorms.

Game 2

I get out a turn 2 Griselbrand again, and he gets out a turn 3 Sneak Attack with no mana available. I attack and draw 7 then play a Pithing Needle naming Sneak Attack.

I attack for 7 and draw 7. I IoK him and see Force of Will, Through the Breach and Ancient Tomb. He draws and concedes saying to his friend that he had 12 outs he could have drawn.

Result: 2-0

Standings: 7-1-1

Day 2 for sure at 7-1-1. BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE!

Day 2 starts and I see I am playing another name I recognize as a Pro, Dave Shiels. Well it is Day 2 and I'm at table 19 which is my lucky number so let’s do this!

Round 10: David Shiels (RUG Delver)

Game 1

I IoK him and see burn spells, Delver, Tarmogoyf, and Spell Pierce. I play around Spell Pierce and eventually get out Griselbrand. I have 2 cards in hand at this point and he goes to attack asking how big his Tarmogoyf is, he says 4/5 and I correct him saying it's a  3/4 since there is no creature in a graveyard. I quickly put him on a Bolt if he doesn't swing now, but he swings with it any ways so I put him on something to do 4 damage to my Demon since I am going to block and lifelink. I block with Misdirection and Brainstorm in hand. He goes to Dismember after damage and I draw 7 in response so he doesn't know that I had the win in hand with only 2 cards then I Misdirect his -5/-5 to his Delver he kept back, and he concedes.

Game 2

Not much to say about this game. He gets me down to 16 as I throw reanimation spells into his counter spells. I have 3 of them and use them over 3 turns. The third one gets me a Griselbrand and he uses his whole hand to try to burn  it to death, but I counter the last burn spell that would have killed it. He concedes to the Demon at 18 life with no cards in hand.

Result: 2-0

Standings: 8-1-1

2-0-1 (5-1-1) against Pro names I know from winning large events. I feel great... and lucky.

Round 11: Tinac Xing (Esper Control)

Game 1 (I mulligan to 6)

He plays Underground Sea and Ponder. Mirror match? He plays a second Underground Sea. I Entomb Iona and Exhume her. He Brainstorms in response and it resolves so I name Black. He doesn't concede. Strange. I attack 3 times and he dies.

Game 2 (I mulligan to 5)

I sideboarded for the mirror match. He starts the game with Blue White land, and I get worried. He shows all the makings of Esper Control including Karakas which screws up the first creature I Careful Studied. He blows me out with Snapcaster and Surgical Extraction and kills me with Stoneforge and Batterskull. My sideboard was completely useless and my turn 1 line of play was not good against Esper Control. He next leveled me pretty amazingly by not showing me anything outside of the Reanimator shell Game 1.

Game 3

I get him down to 3 life using Show and Tell and all my resources to hit him with non-Legendary creatures like Sphinx of the Steel Wind and Tidespout Tyrant.

He stabilizes with Swords to Plowshares and lands a Batterskull which gets him there even though I had more than enough time to get him while at 3 life. My hand before he resolved the Batterskull that eventually won it for him was 2x Reanimate, 2x Exhume, and 2x Show and Tell, and I never saw a dig spell or a creature for the 4 turns he hit me with Batterskull.

I had Pithing Needled his Batterskull early, but since he still had a Germ from the triggered ability I needed Angel of Despair or something else to deal with it and make it dead on the board.

Result: 1-2

Standings: 8-2-1

Round 12: Phillip (U/W CounterTop)

Game 1

I reanimated Griselbrand on turn 2. He Karakas’ it, and I draw 7 putting me at 5 life.

I resolve an Exhume on Angel of Despair to kill his Jace. He gives me 5 life with Swords to Plowshares.

I die to Snapcaster swinging a handful of times while he has all the answers.

Game 2

He locks me down early with Counterbalance and Top. I have a window where he can't set his deck and if I resolve my Force of Will I am in the game. It doesn't resolve, and he beats me handily countering everything I cast.

Harsh match.

Result: 0-2

Standings: 8-3-1

Round 13: Phillip (U/W CounterTop)

We get deck checked and he complains about having to play against Reanimator 5 times in the event while we wait. He says he’s 4-1 against it so I ask "Why are you unhappy? You have a good match up against it apparently".

Game 1

He has a mini fit seeing that I am playing Reanimator. I IoK him and see Karakas and Sword to Plowshares. I have a weak hand against his and he has a Top from turn 1. I durdle for a couple turns not finding what I need to get through his controlling spells. He has a stacked hand and eventually gets me with a Clique he Karakas-ed a couple times to eat my hand up.

Game 2

I actually get out a creature this game. Having Pithing Needled Karakas which he played turn 1. I cast Animate Dead on a Griselbrand and drew 7, and I attacked for 6 next turn. He goes to exile it on his turn eventually and we counter battle until he is tapped out and can't top. He had Brainstormed for I assume the Force of Will he used during the counter battle so I assumed my second Force would win the battle. Sadly for me, he had put Force of Will on top of his library to counter my Force of Will from the Counterbalance trigger for free. He gets out Humility and Jace and has 3 1/1 Snapcaster Mages. I fetch and see none of my Echoing Truths from my board in my library which means I have no outs to Humility so I concede.

That was the first time I had ever seen a Humility in play in all of my Magic the Gathering career. Angel of Despair and Tidespout Tyrant can't interact with it so I needed the Echoing Truths... oh well... lesson learned.

Result: 0-2

Standings: 8-4-1

This is going downhill fast and my last opponent was not very good (certainly no Reid Duke who I beat playing a similar deck), but he got luckier than I did and played unique sideboard cards (Humility) that I didn't expect or know I had to deal with after losing game one to his good draw. I wanted to win the last 2 so I could money so I stayed focused and didn't tilt.

Round 14: William (RUG Delver)

Game 1 (I mulligan to 5)

He blind flips Delver on turn 2, and I resolve a reanimation spell on Griselbrand and start hitting him for 7 lifelink. He doesn't even let me draw 7 because he concedes.

Game 2 (I mulligan to 6)

He flips Delver on turn 2 again and has counters for my first 2 attempts to cheat in a fatty. He uses Surgical Extraction and Snapcaster Mage to cast it a second time to reduce my options in my graveyard to zero. He burns me to death as I draw lands.

Game 3

He flips a turn 2 Delver and hits me with it 3 times and eats my Entombed Griselbrand with Surgical Extraction. I draw into Show and Tell and Sphinx of the Steel Wind. I land the Sphinx of the Steel Wind having to counter his counters to resolve the Show and Tell.

It doesn't have haste and he has 2 cards in hand and I am at 9 life. He draws for the turn, and I say "If you have 3 Bolts you have me". He shows me 2 burn spells for 6 and then flips his drawn card which is a land. He concedes to the 6 lifelink coming at him next turn with vigilance (keeping his flipped Delver at bay) and having to go into top deck mode while I am going to lifelink for 6 every turn.

It was pretty epic for a game 3 considering he had an out which would have been KILLER if he would have drawn it. He was nice and full of smiles and high fives after the match.

Result: 2-1

Standings: 9-4-1

Win and I probably get somewhere between 60 and 64 which is $200. $200 isn't much for me (humble brag) but it would have bought a lot of booze and Sushi after the fact, and getting the single pro point for the Top 64 at a Grand Prix would be much more important to me.

Round 15: Jesse (Maverick)

Game 1 (I mulligan to 6)

Jesse was extremely quiet and his communication was annoying me since his mumbling had me asking "Is it my turn?" every turn. I IoK-ed him and saw Karakas, Scavenging Ooze, Wasteland, Knight of Reliquary, and Umezawa's Jitte.

I resolve Reanimate on my Angel of Despair and killed his Karakas. I attacked him down to 5 and he stabilizes at 3 after fetching twice then eventually killed me.

Game 2 (I mulligan to 6)

He lands an early Scavenging Ooze and my sideboard cards for the match never show up as he controls my graveyard and I don't get a non-Legendary creature and Show and Tell in my hand at the same time. He wins on the back of a Scavenging Ooze and I am a sad panda.

Result: 0-2

Standings: 9-5-1

So no money since I finished at 91st place, but I was happy to make Day 2 and I thought the deck performed well. Maybe once the hype of how powerful Griselbrand is and the results of it not finishing in Top 8s takes it's toll on the meta-game then it won't be so heavily hated out. I think even with all the hate it is a very strong deck, but it's hardest match ups (U/W Control shell and Maverick) are very very popular and also great against the rest of the field.

I think if I wouldn't have drawn early in Day 1 then I wouldn't have had to face as many U/W decks in Day 2 (since U is the king of going to time). I never once played against the mirror match which was popular and being played by a bunch of Pros (Gerry T's people and Patrick Chapin who was 2 tables away from me all of Day 1). Also as I explain below I think my sideboard tech for Maverick wasn't very strong and with my new plan for sideboard cards I greatly improve my control game against U/W and Maverick with more discard and a trump card to Karakas and Swords to Plowshares.

Changes I would make to the deck after this event:

Main Deck

-1 Iona, Shield of Emeria

+1 Tidespout Tyrant

-2 Exhume

+2 Animate Dead

-1 Swamp

-2 Inquisition of Kozilek

+3 Thoughtseize

Possible Crazy Move

-1 Daze

-1 Griselbrand

-1 Verdant Catacomb

+3 Lotus Petal


-3 Massacre

-1 Tidespout Tyrant

+1 Inkwell Leviathan

+3 Inquisition of Kozilek

Reason for the changes:

I rarely searched up Iona in Game 1 even against the mono black player (even though it would have been a dagger on turn 2 because most mono decks are playing a splash now or playing Aether Vial. She's fine in the sideboard against a mono deck, but in game one you are either blindly Entombing (so you're getting Griselbrand) or you are handcuffed by whatever is already in your opening hand with Careful Study. If Mono Red Burn comes back then it should be swapped back into the main in place of a Griselbrand.

The main deck should have the Tidespout Tyrant / Animate Dead package. It's too powerful against the spot removal and gives you another non-Legendary creature to have a better Game 1 against Karakas.

I playtested Thoughtseize/Duress/Inquisition of Kozilek (IoK) a lot before the event and went with IoK because in testing the loss of life from Thoughtseize was a lot when the only important targets you get over IoK is Force of Will or Jace. In the event the life wasn't as important and I noted that I never cast IoK when I was at 2 or 1 life; whereas in testing that happened at times.

Cutting a land is fine since I added one at the last minute over a 4th Daze, but this deck mulligans so well that the loss of a land isn't a huge deal in my opinion, especially since I am intentionally playing only 2 Underground Seas because I rarely fetch a dual land and instead go for a basic.

As for the crazy possible change... cutting another land and a creature and a daze for 3x Lotus Petal is a little crazy but also gives you the chance for a sick turn 1 and help spell you up a turn against Spell Pierce/Mana Leak effects.

As for the sideboard. The Massacre didn't do what I wanted it to do against Maverick, and I never had a Lingering Souls cast against me. What I think I want against both the Maverick deck and the U/W control decks with the black splash for Lingering Souls are most 1cc discard spells, this is where I would play the 3x Inquisition of Kozilek so that post board against those decks I playing a more controlling game with the 3x Inquisition of Kozilek and 2x Thoughtseize to make sure my Reanimation line or Show and Tell line is safe.

Finally, forget about Karakas/Swords to Plowshares/Path to Exile... aka any deck with White in it (which usually also means Blue).... I took out Inkwell Leviathan a long time ago and he needs to be back in there with the Islandwalk and fast clock and most importantly SHROUD. I would even consider adding Simic Sky Swallower to the board if I had the room.

One more note. Groundseal... Ground Seal... is in M13. I wonder if that is a good idea as a sideboard card against graveyard hate instead of playing the mix of reanimation spells + Careful Study/Entomb AND Show and Tell in Games 2 and 3. Just a thought since you can slide in a couple Green/Black dual lands in the deck in place of basic swamps. Just a thought... it cantrips so it might be worth it giving your opponent dead cards in hand like Surgical Extraction and Extirpate but still allows for Tomrod's Crypts and Relic of Progenitus to get you.

John Burkle

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