Hey! I’m back! I know it’s been a long time, about a month at this point, but I’ve been a very busy boy. Before Standard was given the gift of Aether Revolt, my work had been crazy, upwards of 70 hour work weeks trying to hit a deadline. During that, my wife and I took a week-long vacation to Disneyworld in Orlando. It was my first time there, and Mickey did not disappoint. It was a great way to spend a week.
When we got back, I dove straight into Standard, and played in a PPTQ the weekend we returned home. I was amped. I was playing the Jeskai Saheeli deck, and I loved it. It was a ton of fun, reminiscent (sort of) of Splinter Twin, and Torrential Gearhulk was a real guy. He was awesome. We ended up winning, so now I am qualified for a second RPTQ this year.
On top of all that, I was glued to my monitor watching the Pro Tour, while also testing online for GP Pittsburgh. Initially, I was going to be playing a modified Jeskai Saheeli list, since it did so well for me at the PPTQ, and we were crushing online. Not 5-0 crushing, but no worse than 3-2 crushing. I’m still new to MTGO, so I’m really not sure if that’s really crushing, but a better than 50% win rate felt like crushing it to me.
However, after the Pro Tour, our philosophy shifted. We bought into Mardu, since in my head, it won the Pro Tour, and was not only popular, it dominated. How could that not be the deck we play in Pittsburgh? Jeskai was nowhere to be seen on day two, which means it was probably just a bad deck, and the format was more than just the two decks in Jeskai and Green Black.
I spent half of the week leading up to GP Pittsburgh playing Mardu online. There were things I didn’t like about the deck. The mana was a little weird at points, more than I was enjoying. I felt like my creatures just weren’t good post board in almost any matchup. I also felt the mirror was…uninspiring. After a rather short discussion with longtime friend and trusted confidant Kyle Shane, I moved back to Jeskai, and with a few changes, I was locked in for the weekend. Essentially, Kyle helped me come to the conclusion that choosing Mardu meant the mirror was a coin flip, and Green Black was a less than 50% matchup. Playing Jeskai would have a similar matchup against Mardu, and could crush Black Green, which was projecting to be the popular deck for the weekend.
The thing about Jeskai I noticed was that I lost every time I never hit my sixth land drop on time, so I changed a few things, though probably not as much as I should have, and was happier with the deck. This is the list I ran at GP Pittsburgh:
I started out well enough, going 3-0, and being Frank Skarren’s only defeat for about thirty hours. After losing rounds four and five to some tough mulliganing luck and missing a few land drops at crucial times, I rattled off to a 5-2 record before drawing in round eight unintentionally and losing my win and in in round nine. Being only my second real GP for which I had prepared, I wasn’t too down-trodden with my performance. My losses in the early rounds weren’t really my fault I feel like, they were a result of variance, although I think my decision to mulligan my seven card hand in game three of round five (which ultimately led to me mulliganing to a five card hand and never getting past a second land) was incorrect. It was a hand with a Felidar Guardian, Glimmer of Genius, Torrential Gearhulk, and four lands against Green Black. My rationale then to mulligan was that I would get run over without early interaction, but looking back on it, that matchup post board goes a lot longer, so he’s probably keeping a hand with some engine cards and fewer early turn creatures, and I can probably survive to the Glimmer of Genius.
So we ended day one with a 5-3-1 record. Unimpressive, but a slight improvement over where I was at GP New York last year. I’m very disappointed with my performance, as I did spend a lot of time preparing for this event. However, this cemented my feeling that I should never play a blue control deck. The risk you take every round with keeping a seven card hand against an open field like a Grand Prix with a control deck is amplified, because you have no idea what you’re playing against and if your hand is good against that deck.
While I wasn’t able to perform the way I wanted to on the weekend, I did get to see some of Pittsburgh with my family, and it was dece. Pittsburgh, of the small amount of cities I’ve visited, is a much smaller city, but it seemed like a nicer city than the likes of New York, which is this vast, sprawling metropolis. Pittsburgh is nestled in the Allegheny Mountains of western Pennsylvania, and the views from the Duquesne Incline were quite impressive.
We also went to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Let me tell you, if love dinosaurs as much as my son, this is the place to be.
Anyway, back to Magic, and this RPTQ I’m preparing for. I still think the combo of Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian is too good to not be playing, you just get so many free wins with these cards. I also don’t think I can bring myself to sleeve up a version of Green Black. First of all, the deck isn’t exciting to me, I don’t think it would be fun to play, and in Pittsburgh, of the eight actual rounds of Magic I played (woo for byes!) six of them were against Green-Black variants, and I don’t want to live that mirror life. So I think I’m going to try to be more proactive with the combo, and play some Aetherworks Marvels and Elder Deep-Fiends, and see how far that takes me.
After the RPTQ, I have to prepare for Grand Prix New Jersey, which is most likely going to be the last event in which Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guard are both Standard legal together. I do honestly believe that the combo will be banned. Not because it is oppressive from a results perspective, but because it is oppressive from the deck building constraints it places on the format. If they were ready to ban a two color Man-O’-War in Standard because it was oppressive and restricted which creatures could be played in the format, there is no reason to keep a combo legal that restricts entire decks from being played. Just my $0.02.
I’d also like to touch on Modern a bit. After about a year of soul searching in Modern, and being miserable playing the Bant Eldrazi deck, I finally found my deck. Grixis Delver is the most fun I’ve had playing Modern in a very long time. I was able to trade for the cards I needed for the deck in Pittsburgh, and I played it at my local shop on Monday night. It is a blast. It feels great to be casting Snapcaster Mages and Vendilion Cliques again, and leaving counter-magic up while attacking with a flying Wild Nacatl is a great feeling.
I was drawing so many cards off of Tasigur, it was gross. The deck is insanely fun, and I recommend it to any ex-Twin player still anguishing about Modern. My current list is based off of the Regionals winner in Baltimore, and is currently this:
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