In just a few short days, Grand Prix New Jersey will be upon us. I will be one of hundreds (thousands even?) to descend upon the Meadowlands of one of my favorite states in order to battle other Magicians in an attempt to achieve glory. Also it’s most likely the last weekend that some of these cards are going to be Standard legal, so I think it’s a good time to try and predict the metagame for this coming weekend, and share with you all the decks that I think are going to be very prevalent at the event, and the cards I suggest you play to combat them.
First of all, I’m playing this four-color Saheeli combo deck. I’ve been playing it since Grand Prix Pittsburgh, and it feels like it’s right up my alley in terms of playstyle. I literally feel like I’m playing old Modern Kiki Pod. You’re able to squeeze a very high amount of value out of almost every single card in the deck due to synergies with Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai, even if you don’t plan on winning via the combo. This is my current list that I’ll be testing and tweaking throughout the week:
4c Saheeli Combo by Tim Bachmann
I played this at the RPTQ a couple of weeks ago too, and it performed very well. However, I do believe that it will be the second most popular deck in the field at the GP, so you best prepare for it. I have gone back and forth multiple times between the more planeswalker heavy Chandra, Torch of Defiance builds of this deck and the Elder Deep-Fiend versions. I’ve been happy with both at times, and unhappy with both at other times. I feel like however, in the end, Elder Deep-Fiend allows you to win from behind more than Chandra is able to, and I also feel like Chandra is a poor choice against Elder Deep-Fiend, and other Chandra, Torch of Defiance decks. What I mean by the latter part of that statement is that sure we can play Chandra just like the newer versions of Mardu Vehicles can, but they get to play Gideon, Ally of Zendikar alongside her, while we get to play…Saheeli Rai…I don’t think there’s much of a comparison to be made there, and when you’re trying to go toe-to-toe with another Chandra deck that has access to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Unlicensed Disintegration, and Heart of Kiran, I think that being able to control the battlefield a bit more with Elder Deep-Fiend, and then be able to block their Gideon with it is the better choice.
I’ve also moved back to Aetherworks Marvel. This card is stupid. It actually REWARDS you for blocking and managing the battlefield through your creatures! And then you get to use it to progress your battlefield, finding more creatures to block with that give you more energy, giving you more spins! It acts pretty much like a planeswalker in its own right, and a better one than Chandra most of the time. The only downside with marvel is knowing when to activate it, since we’re also playing with Elder Deep-Fiends in our deck that we may want to fire off during our opponent’s upkeep, but most of the time I’ve found myself firing Deep-Fiends off more either during combat to tap their lands and block a guy, or end of turn to tap them down, which is a good time to slide a non-Elder Deep-Fiend hit into play anyway.
The real boogeyman of the weekend however is going to be the deck that won in Utrecht last weekend. The deck that won the Standard PTQ a while back online has finally decided to show up to the party, and show everyone that it’s actually a real thing. Meet the most played deck at GP NJ:
Mardu Vehicles by Samuel Vuillot
So yeah, this deck is pretty scary. Game one they play the typical super aggressive Mardu Vehicles gameplan of curve out and hit you, and games 2 or 3, they can convert into a superfriends midrange planeswalker deck, beating your sideboard plan. It then becomes a weirdo game of chicken. Do you sideboard for their planeswalker plan? Or do you sideboard for their aggro plan? Decks like this are neat to me, and this one does it really well. I think that this deck has an even better matchup against the Black Green decks than the older version, since it’s difficult for GB to manage so many planeswalkers, and I also feel like the threats here line up particularly well against GB especially post board. I don’t have too much to say about this deck, as it is innovation on an already existing archetype, but the superfriends package is a nice addition to help the deck go long.
That being said, it is a touch slower than the older version, so you’re giving up some of your relentless speed in order to go over the top of a lot of people post board. This means that people typically have more time to find a missing piece of their combo, or a way to interact with their piece of interaction for the combo, since most of it is being played on the board in the forms of Walking Ballista, Thalia, and Authority of the Consuls. I think the Marvel version of 4c Saheeli is pretty well positioned against this deck, and is another reason that I’m bringing the 4c deck with me.
So how can Green Black gang up on this Mardu Vehicles deck? I simply think the energy versions of G/B can’t beat this new version of Mardu. However, I’ve been advocating for a little while now that in order to beat this Mardu deck, and have a better 4c Saheeli matchup, the Green Black decks need to go back to the Delirium plan. It’s so strong against planeswalkers in the Mardu deck, and Thopter tokens in the 4c deck. Almost all of your threats have trample, and almost all of your threats are bigger than anything that is happening on the other side of the table. Instead of playing mopey, easily blocked cards like Sylvan Advocate, you need to be playing Grim Flayers. Instead of mopey old Gonti that attacks for two and draws you a random card that might not even be good in the strategy you’re trying to employ, you need Mindwrack Demon. Instead of topdecking Attune with Aether in the later parts of the game, you need Traverse the Ulvenwald to go get your Ishkanah so you can try to close a game out by draining your opponent while playing around Oath of Liliana. Instead of silly old Drana, Liberator of Malakir, you want Catacomb Sifter to ramp you even better into your Gearhulks and play around Oath of Liliana. You also want some Ruinous Paths against this deck.
I think that the tools for GB to beat all of the decks in the format are there, and it can shine to be the number one contender again. It just needs to stop trying to be cute, and play good cards instead of stupid creatures like Sylvan Advocate that don’t threaten planeswalkers and players behind a Thraben Inspector.
In summary, the two decks to beat this weekend are looking to be Mardu Vehicles, and 4C Saheeli (I still believe it’s the best deck in the format, and it’s going to be banned after this weekend), and I think that GB has to adjust its strategy against these decks in order to be the rock for this weekend’s scissors decks. My prediction is that GB will be the deck to win the tournament, as I’ve said, it has the tools to be built to beat the things people are doing right now, so an innovator like a Bard Narson might be able to steal it with a deck he trusts so much.
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