Hey everyone. This is my first article for TCGplayer with many more to come, so I feel like it's appropriate to introduce myself here. My name is Shahar Shenhar. I am a Platinum Pro, three-time Grand Prix Champion, and two-time World Champion. I technically live in Israel, but I travel to almost every American Grand Prix, all the Pro Tours, and some European Grand Prix as well.
First off I want to talk about Grand Prix Florence, the last event I attended. This was a team Grand Prix and my team was as follows:
- Jesse Hampton: a friend of mine that, funny enough, actually defeated me in the finals of the last Team Grand Prix he attended.
- Alexander Hayne: who just rattled off a Finals appearance and a Win in the last two Grand Prix he played in. Alex and I teamed with each other last time and, although we didn't do so well, I liked him as a teammate and was interested in running it back.
As you can see here, with both of my teammates on a hot streak coming in to this GP and Alex at the top of his game, I was really looking forward to this event.
We were all planning on meeting in Florence, Alex flying from Montreal, Jesse from Atlantic City, and me from Boston where I was staying for a while with close friends Jacob Wilson, David Shiels, Adam Snook, and Chase Kovac. My trip to Florence ended up being just a huge mess and probably the worst trip I have ever had to anywhere really.
So my ticket to Florence was voided with no email notification. I originally booked on momondo.com on Bookairfare, a British Airways flight operated by American Airlines (a different terminal I had to go to). After walking to another terminal, I made it to the check-in desk where they told me my ticket was voided and that I needed to call British Airways or go back to the first terminal (sigh). I called them and proceeded to be on hold for 45 minutes until an agent answered and said, "I can't help you, sir, until you contact Bookairfare and talk to them."
I go do that and wait for an agent there, for an hour this time. He says, "I don't know why it was voided but I can book the airfare now for its current price of $3,000" (originally $1,600 so this makes me pretty upset). It takes me 10 minutes to argue/explain my situation, how I'm not going to pay any more than the original flight because I didn't receive any notification, and now I'm at the airport left with no options. He puts me on hold for another 15 minutes, gets back to me with a flight leaving at 11 pm, arriving 4 pm tomorrow, with a current price of $2,500, and telling me that "this is the last flight available". I tell him, "thank you for finding a better option, I'll take it, but again, for the price I originally paid of $1,600." He put me on hold, this time for only five minutes. When he got back to me, he said, "okay we can do it for that price." I gave him all the information he needed and waited for an email or call that let me check in at a different terminal on Alitalia Airlines.
After 15 minutes I still have not received an email. He calls me (to his credit) and tells me that the payment didn't go through again. I call Wells Fargo (on hold for 35 minutes) and, after giving them all the information, I was told that a new Credit Card was sent to my previous address and that's why everything got so screwed up. I was supposed to use my new Credit Card for the payments. After I explained to her that I have not received my new card she simply reactivated my old one. I called Bookairfare again, told him to run it again and that this time it will go through; indeed this time it did. I hurried to my Terminal to drop off my bag and check-in. Shortly after, I was finally off to Florence.
Moral of this story:
1) Update your address when you're expecting a package to arrive.
2) It really pays to show up to the airport way ahead of time (Dave dropped me off two hours early from my original flight, and I almost missed my new flight four hours later).
3) If you ever have to call customer service know that the process is always going to take at least an hour just for one phone call; lines are always busy so keep that in mind.
So I finally arrived in Florence and met up with Alex and Jesse at the apartment Jesse booked. We ate some food recommended by Yelp, relaxed for a bit and went to sleep relatively early after an exhausting trip there. The morning of the tournament we walked to the site, and met up with friends and another team consisting of Ben Stark, William Jensen, and Reid Duke. We hung out until the Player meeting began.
Coming to deckbuilding we wanted to find three two-color decks. Finding one color to split for that seemed pretty simple at the time...
Once the deck swap and everything was dealt with we had our pool and were off to building our three decks. Right off the bat we saw that blue/black was a deck, and a really strong one at that. We had Dragonlord Silumgar, Pitiless Horde, Necromaster Dragon, Palace Siege, and Icefall Regent. Both blue and black were quite deep, so we decided those would be one of the colors we were splitting. A black deck splashing for the two Dragons, and Icefall Regent, Aven Surveyor and the rest of the good blue in another deck. We built white and blue and it looked good but not very powerful: lots of creatures, some tempo based cards, Gleam of Authority, Icefall Regent, two Pacifisms. It had a good curve but it was nothing special, nowhere on the level of our blue/black deck. So this left us with red and green as the two colors we have left to work with. Red was okay. It had two Tail Slashes, lots of creatures with dash, Mob Rule and a Roast. Green had Surrak, the Hunt Caller, two Epic Confrontations and basically nothing else. Our RG deck looked better than our UW deck but neither of them were impressive. Looking back it may have been better to split the black instead of the blue, but I'm not sure that's correct; just trying to think of what we could have done differently.
So Alex had UB, Jesse had RG, and I had UW.
Round 1: Jesse won his match topdecking the second Mountain to cast a lethal Mob Rule, while Alex drew 14 lands both games and never saw any of his UB rares the whole match. I won the first game against a color screwed opponent only playing Swamps the first game. The second and third game I got crushed by him due to color problems and mana flood. Game three we both were color screwed, he on one Swamp and all Mountains, and me on one Island and all Plains holding three double blue spells in hand. He cast Draconic Roar on my guy and revealed Archfiend of Depravity (not a Dragon, oops). We sat there for a couple turns until he drew the second swamp, but by then I was too far behind to come back. So we lost our first round, our best deck didn't perform, and my deck only bullied a color screwed opponent one of the games while doing nothing else the rest of the games. Jesse did win though so that's nice.
Round 2: Alex won his match very quickly, I'm guessing with some of his bomb rares since I didn't get a chance to see what his opponent had other than a GW deck. Jesse won as well playing really tight with his Sarkhan's Rage and dashing creatures to do exactly enough damage. I played against a really good BR deck with Thunderbreak Regent, Brutal Hordechief, and two Bathe in Dragonfire. My deck kind of did its thing though and I was able to pull out ahead in tempo with Aven Surveyors, Icefall Regent, and two Pacifisms to lock down his four mana bombs. This time we won all three matches and all our decks performed. We were 1-1 and could only lose one more to make Day 2.
Round 3: After turn five my opponent was dead on board the next turn with Aven Sunstriker and a rebounded Artful Maneuver. I needed to tap out to make the play for lethal next turn. My opponent had Smoldering Efreet the turn before he played Atarka Efreet as a 5/1 and I was at 16 life. I felt like this was safe enough to not die with him having four, potentially five, mana the next turn. He was playing RG and so I thought that I could die to a Temur Battle Rage and another pump spell. Basically he needed to deal me nine extra damage somehow. To my surprise he played his third red mana, dashed Flamecrush Rider targeting his Atarka Efreet, then cast Kindled Fury on his Smoldering Efreet for exactly 16 damage. Meanwhile, Jesse lost his match. For game two I got crushed and it wasn't close. We traded some resources for a bit, but I just ran out before him and died very quickly to his aggressive creatures.
Looking back at game one I could have played more defensively. I had other spells to play, I could have not attacked, didn't need to play Artful Maneuver on my turn to go for lethal. Then again, if I did that and he makes the same play but blows me out with Kindled Fury, or the card I suspected, Temur Battle Rage, I just die there anyways. If not on the same turn, then for sure two or three turns later.
So for sure I got punished the maximum amount but that doesn't make my play wrong necessarily, which makes it awkward, because I wish it was wrong. I could go back and say, "I made a mistake and could have done something to win."
So we are 1-2 and all three of us pretty unhappy with how the day is going to say the least.
Round 4: Jesse won his match again, and Alex lost to mana flood and, again, not seeing any of his five rares. The point of having so many rares in one deck is to draw them! We were depending on Alex's deck to perform better than it did. In general it's really hard at a team event to be doing well if your best deck can't carry you or at least have a winning record. So we are down to my match. I'm down a game, losing a somewhat close game one. Despite not playing a third land the whole game, I did play a spell every turn. :/
Game two I was again stuck on two lands for more than six turns. I was holding Ojutai Monument in hand and a couple of creatures. Opponent had a Whisperer of the Wilds, into a Temur Sabertooth, into an early Enduring Scalelord. I immediately Pacified his Sabertooth and he followed up with a Champion of Arashin. I finally drew a third land and had to play a creature to try and trade (at least make him bounce his Champion after blocks) to reduce the bleeding I was taking from the Enduring Scalelord. He seemed to be out of gas when he was spending his turns attacking with all and bouncing whatever he doesn't want to trade with. I was at four life with just the three lands in play - dead on board to his dragon when I drew a pretty spicy one: Dragon Hunter! LOL!
This little guy allowed me to play the Ojutai Monument into him and survive for about 20 more turns! My next draw step was Lightform, followed by Gleam of Authority. I enchanted the manifested creature and made myself a very large, scaling, lifelinking, flying monster. Since I could never kill him through his Sabertooth, nor him me, we sat there him making more tokens with his Sandsteppe Outcast and Sabertooth, and me growing my Lightformed creature and the rest of my team slowly but surely. He was up a game and up on cards in deck because of Lightform and his mulligan at the beginning, so I had to kill him somehow and couldn't concede because there wouldn't be a third game. I kept pumping up my guys and was eventually able to attack with a Dragon Hunter that was currently a 5/4 with vigilance due to my Herald of Dromoka. This meant he just had to chump with one of the many 1/1 tokens he was continually making every turn. This wasn't really going to get anywhere although I had to keep doing it to kill a 1/1 every turn. I had to wait for him to tap wrong or make a mistake so I could alpha, then alpha, then alpha...basically just keep pushing him since I had nothing to lose and all my guys were huge.
Eventually he did make that mistake. When I attacked with all my guys he made blocks that really punished him. In his defense, his team was all arguing, there was a judge pressuring him to make a play, and there were about 15 creatures attacking with a similar amount blocking and him at 36 life. Time was called after that block, which unfortunately meant I wouldn't be able to finish him off in two attacks unless this was MTGO and he F6ed through his blockers. Two more alphas, and two more chump blocking steps and the game was a draw. Sadly I was down a game so they won the match 1-0-1. This put us at an embarrassing 1-3 record which prompted a drop.
My most recent adventure was in Las Vegas for the Grand Prix this past weekend, followed by this upcoming weekend's TCGplayer $50,000 MaxPoint Invitational. I already have a deck picked out, but since the tournament is a couple days away I still may make some changes. If it was tomorrow, however, I would register this:
Two of my good friends and teammates won two Standard Grand Prix with it while I played Monored at those. I did play it at the Pro Tour however so I have plenty of experience with it.
It seems likely that I'll get to the fifth round in one of those tournaments. This is my first article so any feedback in the comments about format, topic, and type of writing you prefer etc. will be great. Also, suggestions, constructive criticism, I'll read them all!
Be on the lookout for me this weekend, and wish me luck. Hopefully I'll see you there!
Till next time,