Last week I finished 4th at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary together with Christophe Gregoir and Branco Neirynck. My personal record in Standard after the Swiss was 10-3, and one unfinished.
On Choosing U/W God-Pharaoh’s Gift
• I do not believe that U/W GPG was the best deck to play in Standard for PT 25th Anniversary.
• I did not believe that U/W GPG was the best deck to play in Standard for PT 25th Anniversary the week before the Pro Tour.
• I did not believe that U/W GPG was the best deck to play in Standard for PT 25th Anniversary the day before the Pro Tour.
I did believe, however, that my deck was strong and powerful with a lot of game against everything and a positive matchup against the red and green creature decks. I had been playing the deck since GP Warsaw 2017, where I lost the last round playing for Top 8 and I believe that Branco and I made the list what it is today. I knew the deck, the matchups, the sideboard, and how most games played out so well that I was sure that playing U/W would give me enough edge over just playing B/R, which was obviously the safe choice for the PT. I also believed it to be a good matchup. You could say that I was right in the end, or you could say that I just got very lucky one weekend. But all I can say is that in the end, we made Top 8 of the Pro Tour!
On the Pro Tour
- May or may not have played with my chances of getting on the plane to Minneapolis by telling the customs officers that I did not pack my bags myself and did not really know what was inside.
- The atmosphere of the Pro Tour was awesome. Getting a random full foil set at the start was exciting. Hanging out with the other Belgians and Dutchies, and playing some random games was great. Our opponents were always friendly and upbeat. Obviously, any tournament you end up winning a lot will be awesome. But even at the start, when we hadn’t started winning so much, I was just happy to be there again.
- In quite a few rounds I would be far ahead in my match, look to the left and tell my teammates that I had won, and have them figure out the deciding game in the middle between the two of them (since too many cooks spoil the broth anyway). Having the confidence that together they would play as tight and fight for it as much as humanly possible was awesome.
- Gladly paying for dinner on Saturday night with a group of awesome people to share the experience with!
- Coming home to see my girlfriend and 2-year-old son. She gives me endless support in traveling so far to play cards so often, and I have to thank her for being there for me.
On the Deck
This is the deck list I registered for the Pro Tour:
I believe that the main deck is practically perfect and would advise against changing anything except for maybe the 1 main-deck Negate.
24 lands: You should not play less. The deck wants to keep making land drops for the entire game. It is often very important to play land drop 5 untapped for Fumigate and land number 7 for hardcasting GPG or eternalizing Champion of Wits. Even past that, you always have so much to do with your mana that my heuristic is to play the cyclelands tapped when I can unless I am clearly missing action.
Two Fumigate main: This is a change Branco Neirynck and I implemented when we took the deck to GP Warsaw last year. Before then, people would play none or play Settle the Wreckage instead.
On Settle the Wreckage: I believe that it is a mistake to play this card main or side. The GPG deck operates at sorcery speed, so not only will it be blatantly obvious when you keep open 4 mana and do nothing with your turn all of a sudden, but you also get punished when people play around it because you have nothing else to do.
Two Sunscourge Champion: Perfect for gaining some life and getting some value out of your graveyard synergy. You can use it to discard useless cards in a matchup and trade them in for a 4/4 body or it can be a way to get GPG from your hand into the graveyard if you don’t find a Chart a Course or Champion of Wits.
One Negate main deck: This is a personal choice, which I don’t think anyone else has said before. I often noticed that if I get a good start against control decks and am able to accrue a lot of value by eternalizing Champion of Wits and get back creatures with a resolved GPG that I would end up losing a very close game. In those games I would easily be able to draw most of my deck, but still lose because they had enough card advantage and answers of their own. Having one Negate to draw to often won me games by countering one crucial Settle or a similar card. And even if you draw it against, for example, R/B, it can not only counter a Chandra but often protect a turn-6 GPG getting back an Angel, which is enough to win the game.
I could, however, accept cutting the main-deck Negate for maybe a second Cast Out.
1 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
Before the event I thought that Mono-Blue Storm was one of the strongest decks in Standard and believed that it might be the breakout deck of the format. That’s why I chose to play these three cards in my sideboard.
Game 1 you have a very bad matchup since you barely interact with them apart from the one Negate and maybe Thopter Arrest or Cast Out (I also believe that Thopter Arrest is much better here than Cast Out costing only 1 less). Your clock is way too slow and Baral’s Expertise is the nuts against you for obvious reasons. My plan is the same as it is in all similarly bad matchups game 1: Just jam and hope they don’t have it. You just have to try and kill them as fast as possible and hope they fizzle, or that you get to interact on one key turn and just nearly get there. It’s unlikely, but possible. I won 2-0 against my Mono-Blue Storm opponent in the PT.
After sideboard it gets a lot better because of cheap ways to interact with their artifacts backed up by counters for their few relevant spells. Your playstyle after sideboard becomes a lot less all in and you may actually want to slow down your own plan to keep up a Jace’s Defeat for a Sai, for example. It is not a big problem to have a few dead cards in your hand in this matchup since you have a lot of looting effects and the matchup is not really about card advantage that much. I also bring in the Baffling Ends since Sai is a very important card. I often cut some of the Plannings and Chart a Courses when I bring in Negates, etc. because the creature count is already so low that you can’t afford to cut anything else.
2 Baffling End
I would never leave home without them. It deals with Scrounger permanently, and deals with Steel Leaf Champion. Having a 2-mana removal spell gives you so much time against the aggressive decks and allows your card advantage/go big plan to succeed.
1 Thopter Arrest
Basically an answer for the Scarab God out of the sideboard that you can also bring in against B/R to deal with their bigger creatures. It also doubles as artifact removal for Mono-Blue and as you can see, I even brought it in against U/W since I had no other way of dealing with their Lyras.
This is just the best sideboard card you can have against the green decks and I basically only bring in the third Fumigate against them.
2 Lyra Dawnbringer
She fits perfectly into the post-sideboard plan against aggressive red strategies since often they don’t run too many answers for this card, which can win the game on its own.
1 Remorseful Cleric
The issue with my sideboard is that I already have too many noncreature spells. That’s why I wanted an interactive creature. This deals with the graveyard for other GPG strategies, but can also counter a Gearhulk or Scarab God activation while being a creature. I didn’t bring in the card once in the tournament.
3 Jace’s Defeat and only 2 Negate
I believe that Jace’s Defeat is a better counterspell than Negate since it also counters the Scarab God, Gearhulk, and Sai while countering most things you’d want to Negate anyway.
0 Angel of Sanctions 0 Fairgrounds Warden
I have never thought that Fairgrounds Warden is what you want to be doing post-board. Against green decks you want to cast Fumigate, which obviously doesn’t combo very well with the Warden, and in red decks you want their creatures to stay gone for ever, which doesn’t work well against a deck that keeps removal against you. Don’t play this card.
I have, however, played with Angel of Sanctions for a long time. It’s a strong card that has a lot of upside and value in a graveyard strategy deck, but in the end it’s just too awkward against cards like Glorybringer or Chandra. I want the cards out of my sideboard to do their job and not be a liability, which the Angel often is.
0 Sorcerous Spyglass
I chose not to include this in my sideboard for the Pro Tour, but with the rise of Teferi decks (Control and Turbo Fog), I will probably play 1 or 2 copies for GP Brussels. It’s a cheap way to interact with those decks post-board, and being able to Refurbish it is a small upside.
Popular Matchups and Sideboard Guide
I will write something about the general feel of the matchup and my ideas about sideboarding. I never really follow a guide myself and change my sideboarding based on how I feel my opponent plays, what has happened, and what is exactly in the deck. Since a lot of people do ask for a sideboard guide, I will write some suggestions, but don’t take these as hard-and-fast rules.
Search for Azcanta is too slow.
I believe this matchup to be slightly favorable. If they have the nut curve backed up by Abrades you can obviously easily get run over, but luckily that doesn’t always happen.
You have a lot of blockers for their creatures and some incidental life gain, which gives you a lot of time. Your combo of putting a 6/6 flying, vigilance, lifelink Angel into play being so strong against them also puts them in a kind of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t ” situation. If they have Abrade they will often keep open 2 mana starting turn 4, which slows them down so much that you can win by hardcasting Angels, flashing back 4/4s, or just Refurbishing twice. If they don’t do that and just use their mana you might get to turn-4 GPG them, which presents them with two problems they have to deal with after the fact. My strategy is not to go for it as long as I don’t have to. I really want to avoid giving them a chance to use the 2 mana they left up for Abrade.
The number of Fumigates, Chart a Course, and Ministers vary. Take out one or two Fumigates depending on their build and whether you’re on the play or draw. Take out one or two Chart a Course. Take out at most 1 Minister, depending on whether they keep their 1/1s and if you keep your Fumigates.
I believe that both of these are good matchups. B/G is a bit better than even mono-green.
B/G can win if they have a very explosive opener and you don’t find Fumigate.
Stompy can win if they get an early 12/12 and you don’t have Gift or Fumigate.
Since you blaze through your deck and have three Fumigates post-board it usually isn’t a problem to find one. I don’t bring in Lyra here, since my main plan is still to go for GPG, and Lyra’s awkward against their planeswalkers.
Even though I got utterly crushed in three “quick” games in the Top 4, I don’t believe that this matchup is as bad as it seemed. In my experience you are really unfavored game 1 but reasonably favored post-board.
If your opponent gets an early Teferi and you’re not capable of getting an early GPG down, they will basically run you over, especially game 1. But if you can get some pressure with GPG or creatures on them game 1 or if they don’t have an early Teferi, you can get the game to a point where you can basically draw through your deck/get infinite threats and win as I described above.
Game 2 I believe you are favored with games being long and drawn out, where you ultimately get a GPG in play or flashback a bunch of Champion of Wits. The main difference with game 1 being that you have a bunch of cheap ways of interacting with them. Drawing two for 2 mana with Chart a Course and having counter backup for only 2 mana is also very strong.
The sideboarding depends on your opponent’s plan and list. In the PT I brought in a second Thopter Arrest because I assumed that he would be bringing in Lyras, which I have almost no ways to deal with and are obviously very good against a deck trying to make a bunch of 4/4s.
But basically, sideboard like this if you don’t expect post-board creatures:
You could also cut one or two Ministers, but you have to be careful about cutting too many creatures. If I had Spyglass in my sideboard I would bring these in.
I believe that this is a very good matchup. Game 1 the only card that matters is the Scarab God and they usually only play one or two, so keep your Thopter Arrest and Cast Out for the God. You usually win because they can’t deal with the huge card advantage that flashing back Champions/resolving GPG gives you. You always want to make 1/1s with your Angel of Inventions, which is obvious. They usually have four Glint-Sleeve Siphoners in the 75 whether they are control or midrange. Especially game 2, this is the other important card. When they have more relevant cards and cheap interaction (Abrades, counterspells) in their deck, they can win by riding the card advantage of an early Siphoner and some pressure to the win while disrupting you. That’s why I think you should bring in Baffling End.