Thoughts After GP Miami

Adrian shares his thoughts about Standard after Grand Prix Miami and provides his updated B/G Midrange Modern deck for those of you attending Grand Prix Kansas City.

It was a slightly bittersweet weekend for me when it comes to Magic. I had been initially thinking about heading down to Louisville for the PTQ that was there, but then some things came up to potentially dash that idea. Work was incredibly busy, and it just seemed like there would be no way I’d be able to leave on Friday to make the event. Then, on top of that, I discovered that it wasn’t another weekend but this weekend that my friend Mary was going to be in town for a wedding.

I was torn. On one hand, I felt like I was somewhat on fire lately. I had two good decks that I loved, and my game was back in the kind of shape that made me feel good about playing anyone. On the other hand, there was a ton of work that needed doing, and I hadn’t seen Mary in a long time. I had the option of a Magic Online PTQ, but, just between you and me, I only play Magic Online as much as I have to—I hated the thought of the kind of tilt I’d be on if I lost a match because of lag or a misclick.

Then, my boss just kinda decided for me.

"Take Friday off. Go to Louisville."

"But there’s a lot to do."

"I’ll see you on Monday."

And so it was decided. Sort of.

There were a lot of good reasons to go to Louisville, but someone mentioned that there was also a PTQ in Fenton, MI that I had neglected to notice. I did a quick check online and discovered that Fenton was near Detroit! I have a fair number of friends in Detroit and (as far as I know) know no one in Louisville, so to Fenton it was!

Now, normally, I can make the drive from Madison to Detroit in a little under six-and-a-half hours. Unfortunately, I hit Chicago at the wrong time of day on Friday, so it ended up being eight-and-a-half. Yuck. At least they had a martini for me, shaking it up as I came through the door. Thanks, Lisa! All’s well that ends well, I suppose!

I had two decks sleeved up and ready to go: the Esper deck and the Naya deck I wrote about last week. In fact, I registered both decks, had them sleeved up, and even had them both at the ready as the judge came around to collect lists. In the end, I chose the second place deck (Esper) instead of the first place deck (Naya) from last week’s article.

They were both good choices. I knew that. And, interestingly, they have largely similar results against the field, albeit with slightly different levels of strength and weakness. Ultimately, the thing that ended up swinging me to Esper was the sheer amount of U/W/R Control that seemed to be in the room; I’m happy to play a blue control semi-mirror at basically any time. Guillaume Wafo-Tapa might have a regular edge on me, but I feel very, very comfortable in those kinds of matches. Even though Naya has a strong matchup there, there were enough people I expected wouldn’t understand control semi-mirrors to make it worth my while.

I didn’t change a card from the week before:

I ended up losing in the quarterfinals to W/G Aggro. It was a very interesting list, and I hope that he did well.

Here was my path:

Rd 1: W vs. Aristocrats 2-1
Rd 2: W vs. Red(/White) 2-1
Rd 3: W vs. Esper 2-0
Rd 4: W vs. Jund 2-0
Rd 5: W vs. Red 2-0
Rd 6: W vs. Bant Control 2-0
Rd 7: ID with W/G Aggro
Rd 8: ID with Junk Reanimator
Top 8: L vs. W/G Aggro 0-2


I didn’t stick around to find out who won or lost the rest of the tournament and ended up in seventh place. As far as I can tell, no one else played my Esper list to any noteworthy success that weekend besides me. My Naya list, on the other hand, had a nice weekend. Two people made Top 16 with it just in Fenton, one person made Top 16 of a $5K in Madison with it, and this appears to be a slight variant of my list at 12th in Grand Prix Miami:

If you watch his match on the SCGLive archives, Patrick Sullivan basically spends the whole time exactly pegging the deck and the proper plays that could have been made. I’m pretty sure Eiler, despite bad sideboarding (IMHO) and a weak draw, should have won the second game to force a third.

As for me, I know that I plan on continuing to play one of these two decks as I continue my quest for Dublin. I will probably lean a little more on Esper, but with a second, third, and seventh under my belt with the deck, can you blame me?

As soon as I was able, I checked the Grand Prix results to get a lay of the land. If you didn’t already know, here was the Top 8:

Jund: Winner
U/W/R Flash: 2
Reanimator: 1
Junk Aristocrats: 1
Bant Hexproof: 1
R/G Aggro: 1
Naya: 1

That’s the kind of Top 8 that makes me feel like I’m looking at Legacy. This is an extremely diverse metagame, and if you’re like me that makes you smile. I love format diversity. Usually, it means that there is a lot of room to play. But, hell, I’m a bit of a degenerate, too, because I also love stagnant formats since it gives you targets to shoot at with a rogue deck.

I guess I just love Magic.

Looking at the winning Jund deck piloted by actual Magic Good Guy Reid Duke, I started thinking a little bit about midrange and just how I love when a good midrange deck can be well situated in a metagame. There are a lot of things that I love about current Jund, but one of them is that I feel like it plays fair and plays for the board. I like that.

At work on Monday, I spent some time talking to my longest-time deck collaborator Brian Kowal, and he mentioned how he’d worked on Grixis Control with [author name="Patrick Chapin"]Patrick Chapin[/author] for the Grand Prix. I hadn’t noticed the results earlier, but in reviewing the coverage I definitely saw some great choices. Kowal and I have long talked about the superiority of Divination to Think Twice in most decks right now, and it was gratifying to see Chapin listen to BK’s arguments. They’ve been long-time friends, too, but even so Chapin’s love of Desperate Ravings is well known enough that I was a little surprised to hear that he went with another card for card draw.

Kowal and I talked more about Standard for a bit until we moved on to Modern. Kowal has long been a king of the last-minute brew, and he’s doing something similar again for Kansas City. I tried talking him into the update of my last Modern deck, The Rock. But he could not be swayed. That’s just fine, though—he’s got a spicy one for the event.

I have to say, I love my Rock deck. I played it at Grand Prix Chicago and finished Top 64 with it. That build was really wild, with four maindeck Hypnotic Specter because of the amount of combo I expected in the room. It really, really paid off.

Right now, I wouldn’t be so crazy with hand kill. Wizards has banned the most egregious noncreature combo cards out there, so you don’t need to work nearly as hard to hate out the hand. Instead, you are living in a land of creatures (with a few exceptions), so you really, really want to play much more to the table. Hippie is still shockingly useful, if only as a lightning rod, but certainly not as a four-of.

Here is my current version of the deck for all you old-school The Rock fans:

I’ve only played this about a dozen times since Dragon’s Maze, not counting the gunslinging at a Dragon’s Maze Prerelease I did. It was a complete blast to play.

This deck is not particularly well tailored towards a Tron metagame, something that is a weakness of the deck, but it was a fairly safe bet in the Midwest since that deck has not been hugely popular. Overall, I know this deck is solid, but I haven’t had time to vet it fully for the new format since I’ve been spending most of my time on Standard. Mostly, I’ve included this list as something to think about for those of you who are hardcore The Rock fans. I know Chicago wasn’t Las Vegas, as there were only 1,000-some players, but the fundamentals of this deck are still very sound, particularly if you don’t end up playing against a lot of Zoo variants.

If you are truly concerned about decks like Tron, the first stop I think is to include some land disruption. I really like Fulminator Mage for that, as you can potentially stall your opponent just long enough to take a game, particularly if you manage to combine it with aggressive discard and Liliana to knock them into a very low-permanent situation.

If you want to be a complete psychopath, think about substituting Pit Fight into the deck, perhaps with a fourth Phyrexian Obliterator, to just have the potential to decimate a board. If you do run this route, you probably want to make sure you have a wee bit more discard so that you don’t end up being blown out by a single untimely removal spell.

Obliterator, though, doesn’t need to be played psychopathically in order to be completely insane. Obliterator is practically unbeatable in a fair fight; as long as they don’t win on the spot, the attack phase is pretty much over for them. I’ve often played the deck as a four Obliterator deck, but if you do this you do sacrifice something, whether it is more hand disruption or creature kill. This can be a hard call.

A lot of people don’t understand why Hypnotic Specter is actually good. Most of these people haven’t been hit by random discard before. In some matchups, Hypnotic Specter will simply be too slow as a three-drop. But it is, however, a card that can’t be ignored. Once the game has started to turn, it demands a removal spell, which helps protect your other powerful creatures. If you drop it on turn 2, it can take over the game by itself. The real weakness of the card is playing it onto a live board where it can sometimes not profitably manage to attack. Still, it is the fact that the card cannot be ignored that makes it make the cut; if it wasn’t for that factor (combined with the desire for extra Path to Exile targets), it wouldn’t be included.

This deck is generally really great at tearing up someone trying to put a complex plan together. If you like to ruin those folks’ day, this might be the deck for you.

That’s all this week. Best of luck to everyone this coming weekend, whether it be in Modern, Standard, or anything else.

Until next time,

Adrian L. Sullivan

@AdrianLSullivan on Twitter

Special Bonus:

Thanks to B.C. Comix for the winning decklist from the Fenton, MI PTQ on June 29th.

Congrats to Raymond Perez, Jr.! Good luck in Dublin, sir!