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GP NJ Breakdown and What We Learned

Written by Joseph Dejoy on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

GP NJ Breakdown and What We Learned

Joseph Dejoy

Joe Dejoy is a northeastern Magic Grinder living in the Philadelphia area. Without Magic, he’s not sure what he'd be doing. He can be found promoting the radical idea people should “Be Excellent to Each Other” on his weekly podcast with Co-host Zach Cramer at www.Soundcloud.com/TechEdgePodcast, on Facebook at facebook.com/TechEdgePodcast or on twitter @TechEdgePodcast.

Going into the Grand Prix Weekend on Friday, I was ready to take on the world. After a middling 6-4 drop finish, I’m understandably feeling a bit lower. However, too often people take a bad finish or record too hard and fail to utilize the information gained playing 8-15 rounds of Magic. While the event didn’t go as planned, given time to reflect on my matches and the matches of other people around me, I’ve learned a few things about Golgari and this Standard format in general.

The format as I see it is somewhat “solved”. The 3 pillars of the format last weekend were Golgari, Izzet Arclight Phoenix and Tocatli Honor Guard. Now that is not to say there aren’t other archetypes worth consideration, far from it. The winners of the two Grand Prixs don’t even make the list! Now I won’t fault anyone for picking up a deck outside of these , the three listed above are the decks I believe offer the best chance of winning an event in the immediate future. Arclight , Control and the Golgari mirror were what we expected to be the largest chunk of the metagame, so how did we plan to fight them?

What Went Wrong

Not Enough Cheap Removal

Immediately after the last online PTQ, the cries of Golgari being the best deck exploded. You couldn’t walk a mile down the street without a stranger yelling “Jadelight Ranger, two explore triggers, Chupacabra your blocker attack for seven!”. Post GP NJ/Lille, I don’t know about you, but around me those strangers are pretty silent. People did what people tend to do when faced with a problem, they innovated. Golgari decks had started to get inbred, and prey on each other, playing more Carnage Tyrants, more ramp, less action, more Planeswalkers and most importantly, less cheap removal. The other two deck I listed above both utilize a powerful 2-drop that wants to stay in play for multiple turns and either supercharges your own strategy or messes with your opponents. I’m speaking of course of Tocatli Honor Guard and Goblin Electromancer. Always the Standard mastermind, Brad Nelson and co. took notice of the lack of Cast Downs and other cheap removal and acted swiftly. Electromancer and Honor Guard need to die immediately, and the way that Golgari decks are constructed currently really does not allow that. In the Golgari mirror, outside of removal that can kill Planeswalkers, kill spells are terrible because most of the early creatures are interchangeable. Now that this weakness has been exposed, you can expect people to be more prepared to fight against these cards and strategies. When building my list for GP NJ, I fatally made the same mistake. My list had zero ways below four mana to kill Goblin Electromancer or Honor Guard and although I luckily did not play against the Boros Deck, Electro from Spider-man had my number at least once. I had fooled myself into believing that turn four removal was fast enough. A small amount of testing could’ve have assured me I was wrong, which brings me to my next failing.

I didn’t play enough with other decks.

How many decks has the average grinder tried this season? I imagine it hovers somewhere between 3-5 distinct archetypes. Personally, I played about 15 different variations of Golgari, a few Izzet Phoenix , and a Control Variation or 2. Most of my work for this event was spent playing games with Golgari, and while practice with an archetype helps, often it is correct to try to pilot the other “top decks”. I never played a league with the Boros or Selesnya Angels deck, thinking them to be relics of an era where people weren’t packing the Goodest Boy; (Ravenous Chupacabra). I never registered a March of the Multitudes deck or Path of Discovery. While I had played against these decks before, I find it really helps to understand common lines/play patterns of opposing decks and the easiest way to do that is to play a bit with the deck. I’m sure that my 17th league with the G/B deck was important, just likely not as important as the 1st league with an Honor Guard deck.

0 Answers to The Immortal Sun

In all fairness, Zach Cramer tried to warn me. He messaged me sometime before the start of the event and asked how we would answer the Sun. I didn’t have an answer outside of throwing my hands up and the ever scientific response of “I don’t know dude, do we even care?”. As it turns out, we do care. A lot. Round 9 of my event was me figuring out that tidbit of information while getting absolutely destroyed by Pro Tour regular, Matt Severa. Matt’s deck was a variation of a 5-0 list that maximized Path of Discovery/explore creatures and The Immortal Sun. March of the Multitudes was a known issue for G/B and I had tested enough against the stock lists of Selesnya, but when it came time to sideboard against Severa, I was at a loss. Do I leave Planeswalkers in? Do I try to get under him? How much removal do I want? These were just some of the questions that could’ve been answered if I took the time to try the Selesnya deck. That information aside, I’m not sure if any variation of G/B can beat that deck, it preys on most of the cards that are essential to the way the deck works. Doom Whisperer is likely a good way to be more aggressive in the matchup which is the only way you’ll beat them. Copies of Assassin’s Trophy would go a long way of answering their myriad of permanent types while also killing the Sun. Another option is Thrashing Brontodon, which can be recurred with Find // Finality.

Karn, Scion of Urza.

Not going to pull punches with you folks, this card was awful. Compounding the issue above where I had no cheap removal, my Karns died a ton and without giving me any value. Karn is actively bad against the phoenix deck, where they can either ignore it completely or one-shot it.

Treasure Map

So in theory this card was a split card for the mirror and for Control. Unfortunately as I found out, map was only good in mirrors where opponents had inbred their deck as much as mine. When my opponents had either of the Vraskas or even Assassin’s Trophy, this card was a huge liability. The main deck card I was cutting for map was Wildgrowth Walker, and time and time again I watched mirrors where players were leaving in or even boarding in additional copies of Walker. I didn’t quite understand it at first, but after seeing 10+ matches with the configuration I’m confident in saying I was wrong. Wildgrowth Walker helps keeps you alive against anemic beats, and grows to a size able to block even the mightiest Carnage Tyrant. With it being a good card in the mirror and versus the aggro decks, while being a reasonable threat against control that survives a deafening clarion with one explore trigger, there’s no way I’m cutting into my numbers on them, and I may be interested in a 4th.

Things that Went Right

Carnage Tyrant

It is safe to say, that most people were not adequately prepared to handle a Carnage Tyrant fight as well as our list. With 4 Find/Finality 4 Tyrant and 2 Memorial to Folly, we were going to have more tyrants than our opponents. Tyrant is still the best tool Golgari has at racing the Arclight Phoenix deck, the mirror and against control. Tyrant is so powerful in the mirror, I even ran into a few folk packing 1 Detection Tower to answer tyrants. (something I need to to try before signing off on.)

Vraska’s Contempt

Having played the Arclight deck and the mirror a large amount of time, we correctly identified that Vraska’s Contempt is the best removal spell in both matchups, being able to kill Planeswalkers in Golgari and permanently answer Arclight. While most people played 1-2 , I am very happy with our full 4 and one of the 8-0’s day one said that he wished he had packed more than 2. Contempt not being recurrable in the same fashion as Chupacabra, makes for interesting tension between the two, but until proven wrong, I’ll maintain less than 3-4 copies in your 75 is wrong.


My god, this card is bonkers. If you have not played with 3-4 copies of it, I implore you to try. Languish with upside and double Raise Dead are both effects that rock decks sorely need, and being able to play both in one card is just gravy. Finality helps you out of tight spots against aggro and tokens while Find ensures you never run out of gas in midrange or control matchups. Honestly, this archetype would be incredibly less powerful without this card to shore up weaknesses.

Midnight Reaper

This unsuspecting little guy turns all of your lackluster explorers into better cards, allows you to extend into sweepers and forces damage through boardstalls. Coupled with Contempt and Wildgrowth as sources of lifegain, there are plenty of reasons to fear the reaper.

Taking all of these observations into consideration, this is the list I’ll be testing going forward.

.You can hear me talk a little more in depth about some of these variations on Episode 15 of The Tech Edge Podcast. You can reach me @techedgepodcast on twitter for questions or comments, and as always…
Be Excellent To Each Other.

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