This weekend I’ll be driving to Grand Prix Toronto to play alongside Alexander Hayne and Steve Rubin. I’ll be staying on the road to begin my house testing with the rest of Team ChannelFireball and Team UltraPRO until Pro Tour Dominaria.
Some of you will be attending GP Toronto, and others may just want an idea of what decks to consider in various formats. For that reason I’m going to give you the three decks I’m personally testing or playing right now in these three formats.
I’m not an avid Legacy player and tend to only play the format when it’s required. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the format—it’s just that I find it difficult to borrow a deck as I don’t own one myself, and the Pro circuit doesn’t really incentivize me to spend much time testing it. For that reason, I tend to play it safe, always play Brainstorm, and stick to “the best deck.” Here are the three decks I’m considering for GP Toronto (and the first deck even doesn’t contain Brainstorm!).
This weekend we saw the oldest GP Champion in the history of Magic, Gary Cambell, take down the Legacy portion of GP Birmingham. His weapon of choice? Mono-Red Prison.
Gary Campbell, 1st place at GP Birmingham
We see the new innovation of Karn, Scion of Urza as an additional 4-mana planeswalker to exploit with all the fast mana and Sol lands. Karn is a great way to generate value after you’ve used a lot of your resources to put lock pieces onto the battlefield as early as possible. If your first turn Blood Moon gets met by a Force of Will, your second-turn Chandra or Karn can do some heavy lifting from there.
This deck is powerful and proactive. It can punish a ton of decks with both Blood Moon and Chalice on 1, and make them have a Force of Will. This is a good choice for players who haven’t played much Legacy because it’s proactive and by nature won’t require you to have such an extensive knowledge of the format. While this may be a slightly weaker choice than the Boogeyman of the format, Grixis Delver, this is a solid choice and will definitely be the first deck I test for Legacy.
Steve Rubin, 2nd place at GP Seattle
Czech Pile, 4c Control, whatever you want to call it—this is just a great deck. This is the deck list Steve Rubin piloted to a Top 8 Finish at GP Seattle, and I likely wouldn’t change a card. 4c Control is great at fighting against Delver by going just over the top of it and aiming to control the battlefield. Delver can still win of course, but this deck slowly grinds out Delver with 2-for-1s if Delver doesn’t come out quickly, and it’s still able to beat them with good draws when they do.
As a Grixis Delver player in this tournament, I never felt so helpless than when I had no creatures in play on turn 2 against this deck, because I knew it was just over as they played Baleful Strix, Leovold, Kolaghan’s Command, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor while I was trying to slam a True-Name Nemesis and hope that it would go unanswered. This is a deck with which I’d want to have a thorough knowledge of the format because at its core it’s a control deck. I’d be happy to see Steve run this back at the Team GP if he ends up playing Legacy. If you’re looking for a deck to combat the best deck in the format, this is the deck I’d choose.
Gregorz Kowalski, 2nd place at GP Birmingham
The Boogeyman. Grixis Delver has been the deck to play, and the deck to beat, in Legacy for what seems like an eternity. This deck is great at fighting off the-beaten-path decks in Legacy with a proactive game plan and access to Brainstorm and Force of Will. I played this deck at the last two Legacy Grand Prix and always dropped before the end of the tournament.
I’ve noticed that some knowledge of the format is important, which is a weak point for me as someone who doesn’t know less common deck lists in Legacy. Knowing what to counter when is important. That said, the deck is powerful, and has draws that can beat nearly any deck by coming out of the gate with a Delver or Deathrite Shaman, and leaning on Daze and Force of Will to give you unbeatable tempo advantages. This, in my opinion, is the deck to beat, and the safest choice for GP Toronto or any Legacy tournament.
Modern is a really diverse format and if I’m going to be brutally honest with you, Humans is the best deck in the format. But instead of beating that dead horse I’ll give you three other decks I’d consider. I honestly wouldn’t play Humans because there are other viable, less targeted options in Modern at the moment. If you want to play Humans, that’s a great choice and one I wouldn’t fault you for, but every team will be asking their teammates how their Humans matchup is, which leaves me a little worried about it.
Here’s some other decks I’d strongly consider:
Matt Nass, 1st place at GP Hartford
Matt Nass has had nothing but impressive results with KCI Top 4’ing his first Grand Prix with the deck and winning the next one. Matt Nass is a far-above-average combo pilot, but if you can get even close to his level the deck must really be potent considering his results.
KCI really shines because people have moved away from Stony Silence and toward Ancient Grudges as their artifact hate card. KCI is great at grinding through the Grudges with Scrap Trawlers, Buried Ruin, and Inventors’ Fair, making it resilient to a single copy.
Another upside of KCI is that players still don’t know how to play against it. It’s not a popular deck, and no one has enough reps against it to understand how they should be sequencing their spells—I’m one of them. KCI is still flying under the radar despite the absolute clinic Matt Nass put on with the deck, so if you’re a capable pilot and want to play a difficult deck with high upside, KCI is the deck for you.
In a world where Hollow One and Humans are two of the best and most played decks in the format, I like having solid matchups against both. Frank Skarren dunked on the Swiss portion of GP Hartford with this Affinity list and the only thing I’d change is to add the 4th Galvanic Blast to the deck for Glint-Nest Crane. Welding Jar is excellent right now with tons of Ancient Grudges and Kolaghan’s Commands running around—it’s easy to get a big tempo advantage by paying 0 to protect your best threat while they’re forced to try to push through it at a mana disadvantage. Mox Opal is just one of the most busted cards left in Modern and that’s why I’m strongly advocating for the two best Mox Opal decks left in the format. (Sorry Lantern players.)
Hollow One simply has some of the most busted draws in Modern, and one of the fastest clocks. The deck is resilient to most graveyard hate because it can often be too slow, especially on the draw. Leyline of the Void is the best way to get underneath this deck for a graveyard hate card, and luckily for you it won’t be bugged in the GP.
Hollow One has some bad matchups, but none of them are truly bad because of how fast the deck is, and the disruption element of Burning Inquiry is underrated.
I played a list inspired by Owen Turtenwald at GP Hartford that contained Lingering Souls, but I wouldn’t run back the Lingering Soul version. It leaves you too soft to unfair decks not to have a card like Collective Brutality, and also too soft to a deck like Burn that is always more popular at Grand Prix than it is in the Magic Online metagame. Lingering Souls is much better against Humans and fair decks but I’d prefer a more streamlined approach and not having to worry about Sacred Foundry.
Jessica Estephan, 1st place at GP Sydney
Jessica Estephan, the first female GP Champion, played Hollow One in the Team Unified Modern Grand Prix, and her deck list is nearly perfect. The one card I haven’t been a huge fan of is Liliana of the Veil as the discard effect is much less relevant against combo decks when you don’t have a bunch of Inquisitions and Thoughtseizes to back it up and keep the opponent low on resources. It’s a nice out for Bogles, but generally unreliable as it’s slow and they sometimes leave in Leyline of Sanctity against you. Instead, I’d use those slots for an additional Grim Lavamancer and an additional Fatal Push or Big Game Hunter to combat Tarmogoyfs. Hollow One is a close second or tied with Humans as the best deck in Modern and it would be my front-runner for GP Toronto.
This weekend we got the first taste of Dominaria Standard at the Grand Prix level. One dominated, but there are a few decks that are real contenders this weekend at GP Toronto.
B/W Vehicles had a good showing at the Open series a weekend ago, winning the Classic in the hands of Zan Syed. Not only that, but the following list had a perfect 13-0 record in the Magic Online PTQ this weekend in the hands of another great player, Daniel Fournier.
Tirentu, 1st place at Magic Online PTQ
This deck is a classic Vehicles deck. It’s filled with proactive threats, and most importantly uses Karn, Scion of Urza to its fullest effect. It takes advantage of its high loyalty with Heart of Kiran, and uses its ability to make Constructs in a deck with other artifacts to make those Constructs more relevant bodies. Knight of Malice also does a good job of crewing Heart of Kiran with your own white permanents to pump it, and dodges Seal Away, one of the more commonly played white removal spells. This means that when Knight of Malice crews the Heart, both creatures will be safe from the Seal Away. History of Benalia is also a great Magic card, and when drawn in multiples has a huge snowball effect on the game that is hard to beat, especially on the draw. Curving out mythic rares from turns 2 through 5 is usually a pretty good place to be in Standard.
This deck is definitely a front-runner for me for GP Toronto.
Leo Lahonen’s take on U/W Control was nothing short of impressive. If you didn’t get an opportunity to watch, I’d consider going back and watching him play some games. He played clean and crisp Magic, and his deck seemed perfectly well suited to fight against the deck of the tournament, B/R Vehicles. Leo’s deck has only one actual win condition, a single Gideon of the Trials in the main deck. Boring your opponent to death is also a possibility, but your other win condition is simply to run your opponent out of resources, ultimating Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and eliminating all of their permanents, and eventually putting your own Teferi into your deck and drawing it every turn while you deck your opponent. Good ol’ fashioned no win condition U/W Control, just like Richard Garfield intended.
Leo Lahonen, 2nd place at GP Birmingham
This deck is great at stabilizing, and when the opponent runs out of cards, Pull from Tomorrow or Teferi can shut the door closed quick. This deck certainly has a favorable matchup against B/R Vehicles, which was the deck of the tournament at the Grand Prix, especially because we’ve seen a lot of the lists move away from Bomat Courier, a card that is much better against this deck than other options like Soul-Scar Mage.
This very well may be the best deck to play, but I’d be a little worried about getting draws in a team event with this deck, as I think people will be even less likely to concede out of boredom with teammates who may not want them to. If you can play it fast and tight, this is a great choice for GP Toronto.
This is a pretty easy deck to put at number one after seeing six copies in the Top 8 of GP Birmingham. Simon Nielsen took home the trophy with it.
This version right here, however, is from fellow TeamCFB member Martin Juza:
Much like the B/W Vehicles deck, this deck focuses on the great synergy between Heart of Kiran and Scrapheap Scrounger while crewing Heart of Kiran with Chandra, Torch of Defiance. As you can see, Martin couldn’t quite afford Karn, Scion of Urza, so we don’t see any copies in this list when perhaps maybe we should. I’d reach out to Martin to see if he needed to borrow some money to buy Karns, but no one can actually afford them, myself included.
Jokes aside, Martin must strongly feel that Chandra, Torch of Defiance is a stronger card than Karn, Scion of Urza, which it may be. It gives you a clean look at a new card every turn instead of having to let your opponent choose at least once, and it can come down and threaten a creature immediately. Chandra did see a sizable nerf, now unable to pressure planeswalkers, but she’s still the baddest planeswalker around if you ask Martin.
B/R Vehicles also has something Mono-Red doesn’t, and that’s a main-deck answer to Lyra Dawnbringer with Unlicensed Disintegration. Unlicensed Disintegration also received the planeswalker nerf, but is still potent at answering some of the premium threats of the format and taking a shot at the opponent’s life total at the same time. It’s like the Siege Rhino of removal spells—the second one always hurts more than the first.
The biggest draw to this deck, however, is the addition of Goblin Chainwhirler. Goblin Chainwhirler is making once dominant creatures obsolete. Llanowar Elves, Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, Champion of Wits, Bomat Courier, Toolcraft Exemplar, and token strategies all succumb to Goblin Chainwhirler. As if that wasn’t enough, conveniently both Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria can come into play and use their minus ability, only to get picked off by Goblin Chainwhirler. Chainwhirler is the single biggest draw to the archetype and the reason I consider the deck the best in Standard right now. If you can work out the U/W Control matchup, this is the deck to play this weekend.
These are my picks for decks I’d play in GP Toronto. I will be battling, and I’ve been designated the Standard player for my squad, so I’m strongly considering B/R Vehicles. What deck do you think I should play? Is it here, or did I miss something? Let me know what you think the best decks are for each format.