His Winnie the Pooh backpack over one shoulder, and the rest of his worldly possessions in a duffel bag over the other, Ruel is the picture of the weary traveler. Still, he manages to sport his trademark sly grin, and has a wink for anyone passing within range. "I don't have a hotel yet," he says, gesturing to his heavy load "but Tsuyoshi Ikeda has booked one for me."
He's out of place this weekend for more than the usual reasons. Traditionally, pros don't dare travel to Japan for Grand Prix. The attendance is too high, and the competition, while not as fierce as at North American and European events, is still tough enough to ward them away. However, this weekend there's another Grand Prix being held in Singapore, and with most Japanese pros fighting at home, it's thought to be easy pickings for pros on the prowl. Never mind that it's Sealed Deck this weekend, much more of a crapshoot than constructed. Still, here he is.
Ruel was apprehensive as he sat down to begin construction. "Don't look at the cards, just tell me if I got back the deck I registered."
Sure enough, he did. His brow immediately furrowed. "I have two cards: Akroma's Vengeance and Slice and Dice." That doesn't sound so bad, but looking at the support, it was clear why Ruel was concerned. There were almost no red cards to support the red Wrath. White was thin, too.
"It's a Challenge Build." He said, smiling.
He said his green was good, and it was. There were good two-drops, with Wirewood Herlad to fetch Wellwisher and Taunting Elf. He had the abusable combo of Krosan Vorine and Berzerk Murlodont, and a great assortment of green fatties topped by Feral Throwback. On top of that he laid his black cards, an assortment of good men, but no removal. His two-slot swelled, but it didn't look great.
"My spell," he said, pointing to Explosive Vegetation.
He tore out the black and put in the white he knew he wanted anyway. He made a point of comparing the power of Improvised Armor and the Vengeance to Nantuko Husk and Soulless One, his best black cards. He really wanted that Soulless One, expecting everyone to be playing black-red-green, but he couldn't deny the strength of his white. It wasn't a thrilling collection of cards, but it provided good support. He made a point of citing Daru Mender, as regeneration saves from most of the removal in the environment, and combos with the Vengeance. He set aside his Soulless One and Husk as possible sideboard options, but knew he would rather start Echo Tracer and Keeneye Aven, as they functioned even if he didn't get his blue mana.
He reminisced about Grand Prix – Seville, when he was able to play all his rares: Callous Oppressor, Hollow Specter, Silent Specter, Riptide Director and Grand Coliseum. At 6-1 he assumed he was a shoo-in, so turned down a draw offer from his opponent. With a huge board advantage in a tight race, he could already taste the 7-1 performance. His opponent popped that bubble by ripping Mythic Proportions, and trampling over for the win. He still managed to sneak into Day 2, but tanked horribly. Naturally he hopes for a better performance this weekend.
"It's the first time I've come to a GP more for the city than the tournament. I've already planned out what I'm doing tomorrow, if I don't make Day 2. Though I'd like to be able to pay for my plane ticket back."
He looked at his deck and shook his head. He stretched his arms and got back to work. His Vegetation, Tusker and Secluded Steppe all pointed to him playing eighteen land, as did his green monsters. He needed to cut one card. First up was Nantuko Vigilante, a poor combat trick with few targets for its morph trigger. Ruel hesitated, though, explaining that he really wanted to be able to block turn-three morphs from red-black decks. The only common card to punish blocking is Battering Craghorn, and there's too much danger of being ruined by a Commando or Cadaver. His next best options were Symbiotic Elf (with no favorable interaction in green-white) and Glowering Rogon, but he couldn't bring himself to cut either. He sent the Vigilante to his board. "Let's see what happens."
Ruel, true to form, is confident of his chances. The trip to the land station revealed a shortage of swamps, mountains and forests, confirming his suspicions about the field. He hopes his Vengeance and Big Monsters will carry him to Day 2, where he'll have a little more control over his destiny.
GP Kyoto Sealed Deck