I can smell it.
My journey to Grand Prix Pittsburgh was an interesting one—I spent a rare 2 weeks in a row at home (with a quick trip to the World Magic Cup Qualifier in Montreal). I got to play a good amount of Standard in preparation for both the WMCQ and the GP. Oddly enough, these should’ve been the tournaments for which I needed the least preparation, considering I had never played this much of one Standard format ever before—I attended 4 Standard Grand Prix and the Pro Tour.
But my vacation at home implied playing lots of Magic Online, so why not? Fast-forward to Friday morning, when five locals and I embarked on a 12-hour drive. I didn’t really know what to play. I had it down to WWr, Bant Humans, and Sultai Mindwrack Demon (I’ll get to that later). Those were the decks that I knew were good and that I didn’t need much practice with, so I brought my laptop, an adapter to be able to charge in the car, and fired up my phone’s hotspot. I got to play 2 Leagues with 2 different brews I had in mind in case either was great.
Spoiler alert—they all sucked.
I played with Elves Combo and ramp with Hangarback Walkers.
Let’s just lay down my Elves list because I know you’re curious:
The big idea is that you’re trying to blink your Shaman of the Pack, and you flood the board by blinking Sylvan Messenger. The sideboard is transformational—you go bigger against decks with sweepers. Yes, Tajuru Warcaller is an Elf. Yes, Beastcaller Savant is an Elf and Ally—Sylvan Advocate, too!
The deck worked fine, but ultimately in that one League, I played against 2 UR decks and 1 Naya deck, which all had Pyroclasm like effects main deck, so my life was miserable. I abandoned ship. I honestly think the deck is promising, though, and I suggest you give it a try!
Sultai Mindwrack Demon
East West Bowl member Ben Weitz designed and ran this deck at the GP. My roommate also decided to play his list. I played in a League with it. I was destroying GW Tokens because of how good Mindwrack Demon is against them. Unfortunately, after testing against Bant Humans with a friend, I decided not to play the deck because I didn’t like the matchup. Still, I believe the deck is pretty good and if I had another Standard tournament in this format I would spend more time on it.
That’s a small glimpse of a quick deck guide Mark Jacobson wrote after making Top 8 with the deck at the WMCQ in Santa Clara. Anyone that wasn’t set in a deck basically played Bant Humans because of it. Thanks Mark, you are gas.
After theorizing, I changed a few things from his 75—he had a Nissa main deck and a Linvala, the Preserver in the sideboard. I didn’t like Linvala in my creature deck, especially because it costs 6 in a deck that already has a lot to do with its mana and it’s another non-CoCo hit.
Knight of the White Orchid isn’t typically in the deck because it’s greedy alongside Eldrazi Displacer since there are more Yavimaya Coasts and a Wastes, but I felt like it could still be reasonable so I put one in the Nissa, Vastwood Seer main-deck slot and moved the Nissa to the sideboard instead of the Linvala. I added Profaner of the Dead to the sideboard basically just for the WWr matchup—going forward, I would cut it. Mark had Gryff’s Boon in that slot, but I’m not convinced about that either.
Losing in the Finals
My cruise to the finals was something hilarious. I played against eleven GW Tokens decks in total. I beat all of them, except the one in the finals. My other matchups were Sultai Midrange, Abzan Seasons Past, Bant Coco, and Bant Humans.
The only things I can tell you with confidence about sideboarding is as follows:
On the Play
On the Draw
This is what I was doing in the dark. If I felt like they had more wraths or were more controlling, I would bring in more Negates/Den Protectors. If they were more aggressive, I’d bring in some Declaration in Stones.
My opponent in the finals played extremely well and sideboarded smart—well deserved! As for me, unfortunately or fortunately, this leaves me a point short of locking Platinum. My next flight is heading to Sao Paulo for the team GP this weekend. Hopefully Brian Braun-Duin and Shaheen Soorani can carry us to a 12-3 or better result!