This weekend I will be attending GP Denver and I have to say that I am very excited. This is my first Grand Prix back since my stint at Wizards of the Coast and I am very much looking forward to battling! While I was working at WotC, I attended both GP Vancouver and GP Las Vegas, and it is a really big difference, being at a Grand Prix and not being able to play. I could feel the competitive side of me itching to play and there was essentially nothing I could do about it.
This has resulted in my fire for Magic being at an all-time high. I will be attending three GPs over the next three weeks and my eyes are on the prize. I want a GP trophy, and with two of the three Grand Prix being Standard, that's where most of my focus has been and I've been grinding daily on Magic Online. My routine has been pretty much like clock-work these past few days and I am trying different decks, but my focus is coming in on a select few that I find to be the best.
Before I dive into Standard for all those GPing and RPTQing this weekend, I'd like to talk about something that is very strange to me, something has changed inside of me this past year.
Something very similar to what I've heard Gerry Thompson say recently: I just want to win and I want to have the best deck at every tournament.
I'm naturally a control player with some midrange applications that I've grown accustomed to over the years. One of the first cards I ever grew attached to was Mana Leak. So naturally Torrential Gearhulk and I should be great friends. Well, for starters, in this Standard format, I wouldn't be caught dead sleeving up an Island.
Sorry, old buddy.
I talked in my last article about the juice not being worth the squeeze for some decks, and I also think that the majority of the time, it's just correct to be proactive. Whereas two or three years ago, I likely would have been wanting to be reactive, now I just want to take my opponent down. You know what color is good at taking the opponent down? Red. That's right, fifteen Mountains, sign me up, let's go!
Did I Mention Fire? Why, Yes I Did!
The deck that I have been by far having the most fun with and doing a decent amount of winning with has been Ramunap Red. I enjoy the reach the deck has and I also really enjoy how it leverages a lot of play skill in knowing when to play battlefield control versus just playing the tried and true strategy of "turn 1 Mountain, Shock you" and staring your opponent right in the eyes. This list is currently one of my frontrunners for GP Denver:
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 4 Falkenrath Gorger
- 2 Soul-Scar Mage
- 3 Hazoret the Fervent
- 2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
I'm currently something like 9-2 in League matches with this. The card that I find myself pretty unhappy with is Soul-Scar Mage; I'm thinking I will likely cut it from the maindeck and move some sideboard cards in and open up the deck a bit. This deck operates as a heavy one-drop deck with a lot of reach in Game 1 and often sideboards out most if not all of the one-drops and goes bigger in post-sideboard games. The decks that I have been having most problems with are Zombies and B/G Constrictor with Catacomb Sifter, but I'm hoping to find ways around it. Part of me wishes there was a red Blossoming Defense that can stop them from Grasp of Darknessing my Hazoret the Fervent, but that's only part of the problem. I guess there is Rush of Adrenaline…
Bonfire of the Dead
My plan for the Zombies matchup is pretty much to just cut all the one-drops except for Shock and the two Kari Zev, Skyship Raiders and just become a bigger red deck. I'm trying maximize on Sweltering Suns for that reason so I can stick a Chandra and ride it to victory. I've even been sideboarding in Suns against the B/G decks, as Shock is pretty bad in that matchup. Maybe adding a fourth Glorybringer and something else can make the matchup better. I've even considered Hour of Devastation in a brief moment of insanity to stop Bristling Hydra, as that card is an impenetrable wall, but there's just no clean answer. I think the best think I've come up with is Built to Smash, but you need to be in the exact right situation for that card to work.
Here Comes the Vroom
The second deck that I am considering playing for GP Denver operates extremely similarly to Ramunap Red in this format, where it's leaner in Game 1 and gets bigger in post-sideboard games, and that deck is… Mardu Vehicles. My good friend Andrew Jessup played this deck in the MOCS to a 7-1 finish and he's been having good success with it as of late. He opted to play Ramunap Red in the MTGO PTQ the following day and my other friend, Jonathan Sukenik, took it down with the 75 he went 7-1 in the MOCS with. I also have been having success as well and I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up playing it this weekend. For reference, here is that list:
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Toolcraft Exemplar
- 2 Archangel Avacyn
- 2 Pia Nalaar
I'm currently 7-3 in League matches with this and I think I was sideboarding incorrectly for some of my matches. The card I have been most impressed by in this standard format is Thraben Inspector. I really can't say enough good things about that card. I have had some issues with this deck drawing enough red sources at times, but Andrew assures me that there's not much more that can be done, and I trust him. But other than that, the deck is quite solid. My favorite play that has come up a few times is Thraben Inspector jumping into an Aethersphere Harvester, and then getting in an Heart of Kiran to bop the opponent for four.
Yes, Yes, This Deck Is Still Good
Another good deck is Zombies, but there is a reason that it's third on my rankings of decks that I would like to play: I just don't have as much fun playing the deck as I do with Ramunap Red or Mardu Vehicles. I think that it's important when selecting a deck that, so long as they're on similar power level, you pick the deck that you will be happier playing throughout a long tournament like a Grand Prix, or really any tournament for that matter. With that being said, if I can't get the red deck to where I want it to be against Zombies, I may end up playing this at the GP. I don't think I'm that far off, thankfully.
I'm 6-4 in League matches with Zombies. As far as most lists go, there is really only one flex slot and right now I'm trying out Liliana, the Last Hope, although I could see Kalitas being good also. I'm also a pretty big fan of the one Westvale Abbey instead of two Scavenger Grounds that I see elsewhere. You may notice a lack of Transgress the Mind, Dispossess, and Lost Legacy from the sideboard, and that's because I think those cards are not that great. Zombies is very much the type of deck that can easily be diluted if you're sideboarding in a bunch of mopey do-nothing cards, and for that reason I don't intend on sideboarding them if I play it in the GP.
Let's Wind Things Down
The last deck that I'm possibly considering for GP Denver is B/G. Catacomb Sifter and Sylvan Advocate are prime right now with the amount of Ramunap Red being played. Team MetaGameGurus.com member Frank Skarren took down the Classic in Richmond this past weekend with a version of the deck and B/G has been serving him quite well in this standard format. The list I'm using is very close to Sam Pardee's List.
- 3 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 3 Catacomb Sifter
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
- 2 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
I haven't played too much with this deck, mostly because I don't find it all that fun, which is kind of strange because normally I feel like this deck would be right up my alley. The mirror also deters me from playing this deck, as it can be quite swingy. 8/8 Verdurous Gearhulks anyone?
One card that I haven't seen in a lot of lists is Ifnir Deadlands and I don't really understand why. It's kind of a freeroll; I understand that the damage could matter against red, but it also does work wonders against opposing Winding Constrictors.
Missing in Action
I've talked about the decks I would play this weekend and even mentioned that I wouldn't be dead sleeving up an Island either, but what other decks are there? There is Ramp…which I've tried in a few instances, only to cast Ulamog and still lose games. That deck is truly horrendous. There is the God-Pharaoh's Gift deck, which I could see popping back up if it goes unchecked. There's also Temur Energy, which I'm sure is also fine, but every time I try to play that deck, I get ranched by something and I'm quickly off it. One deck that I actually think might be good is Black Eldrazi. I really like the Eldrazi package and I also like Gifted Aetherborn quite a bit.
I'm kind of surprised at the lack of Champion of Wits and Hostile Desert stuff going on, as I thought it would be decent, but the format is pretty hostile to that type of stuff. There is a Sultai Reanimator deck going around that I tried and didn't really like. I've tried a lot of things, and nothing seems to be working out all that well. Yet I am having a lot of fun playing Standard. This is easily one of the most diverse Standards we have seen in a long time. I think there are at least six or seven viable decks to choose from, if not more.
I'm really excited to be attending GP Denver this weekend, and if you're going to be there, be sure to say hello! Also, good luck to all my friends in the Regional PTQs this weekend! I've got some pretty exciting stuff lined up for Magic. For starters, I'm starting a podcast! I don't want to divulge too much information just yet, but be sure to be on the lookout. The first episode is already recorded and it will be posted this week! Also, I may or may not be returning to a certain team soon, so stay on the lookout for that too! Lots of exciting stuff happening!