Matt Nass and I each did well at GP Calgary, and decided to write a joint report as we worked together to build our deck.

Jacob: I’ll be starting school at UBC in Vancouver next month so I suspect my travel will be severely reduced. Because of this, I’ve been traveling all summer and preparing more than I regularly would to take full advantage of my limited opportunities. The disparity in benefits between Gold and Platinum is so severe while the point thresholds are only 10 points apart, so an exceptional Grand Prix season could make the difference.

To test Standard I spent a day at Sam Pardee’s house, then a couple at Matt’s. To begin, I built nearly every popular deck and tried a few games with each to get a feel for how they played out. I knew from the onset that Jund would be the most popular deck by far, and that I wanted to play the deck that gave me the most room to maneuver against my opponents. UWR Flash was the frontrunner.

I liked UWR for the most part, however there were a few aspects of the deck that I did not feel good about:
• The all-dual-land mana base that sometimes deals 4-6 damage to you, and other times has only enter-the-battlefield tapped lands. It also has an inherent vulnerability to the newly printed [card]Burning Earth[/card].
• The conflict between cheap removal ([card]Pillar of Flame[/card], [card]Turn // Burn[/card]) and [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]. Killing creatures early makes your [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] less effective. [card]Pillar of Flame[/card] is also very weak against a large portion of the metagame.
• The clunky maindeck counterspells, [card]Counterflux[/card] and [card]Rewind[/card], were extremely difficult to use profitably against aggressive decks. If you’re on the draw, [card]Rewind[/card] can’t even counter a [card]Hellrider[/card].
• The frustrating situation where you don’t draw a [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] and run out of gas. UWR usually has 2-3 Revelations and lots of [card snapcaster mage]Snapcasters[/card] to support it, but there are some games where you don’t draw the first Revelation and simply can’t put your opponent away.

Matt: When Jacob came over, we attempted to solve these problems. Our first attempt was to push the deck in an aggressive direction with [card]Young Pyromancer[/card], [card]Delver of Secrets[/card], and a pure blue/red mana base. The mana was better, there were no [card supreme verdict]Verdicts[/card] conflicting with your burn, and [card]Syncopate[/card] proved a better maindeck card than the other counterspells. Instead of having to [card sphinx’s revelation]Revelate[/card] to close games, burn got the job done. Unfortunately, UR Delver did not have a good Jund matchup. Perhaps sideboarding [card]Burning Earth[/card] in would help, but we didn’t really want to play a deck with a terrible game one against the most popular deck.

It was then that Jacob suggested cutting red instead of white from UWR. This encouraged a more controlling version. [card]Azorius Charm[/card] is the only cheap removal spell we wanted to play in blue/white, and you can cycle that when you are planning to Verdict. [card]Syncopate[/card] remained the only counterspell, and we simply added more win conditions to solve the not-drawing-them problem. We started recording a video with this list:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Syncopate
4 Sphinx’s Revelation
2 Aetherling
4 Restoration Angel
4 Supreme Verdict
2 Detention Sphere
2 Snapcaster Mage
4 Augur of Bolas
4 Think Twice
4 Azorius Charm
2 Moorland Haunt
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Glacial Fortress
8 Plains
8 Island
Sideboard:
3 Dispel
3 Negate
2 Jace, Architect of Thought
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Renounce the Guilds
3 Geist of Saint Traft[/deck]

Jacob: The Grand Prix itself was the smallest I have ever had the pleasure of competing in at 660 players and only 14 rounds (with 3 byes, I would actually play more rounds on Day 2 than on Day 1). After some additional testing, here’s the list we played:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
2 Ghost Quarter
1 Moorland Haunt
8 Island
7 Plains
4 Augur of Bolas
1 Snapcaster Mage
4 Restoration Angel
1 Ætherling
4 Sphinx’s Revelation
4 Think Twice
4 Azorius Charm
3 Detention Sphere
4 Supreme Verdict
4 Syncopate
1 Jace, Architect of Thought
Sideboard
1 Dispel
3 Negate
3 Celestial Flare
1 Jace, Architect of Thought
1 Terminus
1 Pithing Needle
1 Clone
1 Cavern of Souls
2 Renounce the Guilds
1 Ætherling[/deck]

The matchups I faced were:

Jund aggro: L
Red/green aggro: W
Esper: W
Naya: W
(This round was a testament to the common conception that Canadians are overly nice. After I defeated my Naya opponent by wrathing his board three times each game, he graciously wished me good luck and handed me a granola bar.)
Black/green: W

Day 1: 7-1.I am always happy with an X-1 finish on Day One of a Grand Prix, especially after a round “one” loss. I was in great position coming into Day Two, but the night was young at about 9 p.m.

We went out to a pub where I legally ordered my first beer! After graciously paying the obscenely large bill, I coerced my hotel room of Sam, Nass, & McClain to go to the casino as I am a degenerate gambler and rarely have the opportunity to do so legally. Soon enough everyone busted and we returned to the hotel around 1:30 a.m., though I decided I’d go back again Sunday night. After cashing out $600 at the casino Sunday night, Top 8’ing the GP, and a 10% split with eventual winner Alexander Hayne, it’s unclear whether I was up or down on the weekend after losing several consecutive considerable credit card games.

Matt: Thanks for the food Jacob!

Jacob: Black/green: L (I had lethal on board with an [card]Aetherling[/card] and [card]Syncopate[/card] up in game three, and lost to my opponent’s one-of [card]Rogue’s Passage[/card]. This loss was beyond tilting, as I couldn’t imagine a scenario in which I could lose and then immediately did.)
Naya Blitz: W (I knew my opponent was playing Naya Blitz from sitting next to him the round prior, so I simply mulliganed into a [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] each game.)
Jund: W (My opponent was playing an interesting variant of Jund with [card]Mutavault[/card] and [card]Demonic Rising[/card] that proved to be difficult; however I won the close match.)
Jund: W
Naya: W

11-2

Unfortunately I was in 8th place going into the final round and could not draw.

Jund: W, and 12-2. My opponent this round was extremely kind to me at one of my first tournaments ever, Nationals 2011, when I was 15 years old. I was lost on the transit system in the city (to and from the tournament) and he helped me out both times. I was glad to see him doing well in a tournament, unfortunately only one of us could Top 8. We had quite a tight match ending with me at 1 life and him dying exactly due to [card]Moorland Haunt’s[/card] ability countering [card]Scavenging Ooze’s[/card].

Top 8 – UWR: L 12-3 Before the penultimate round, Alex and I wished each other good luck, and he said he hoped for a rematch of GP Strasbourg in the Top 8. Sadly, I can’t say be careful what you wish for, because I was defeated decisively.

The two premier pieces of advice I can give with the deck are:
• Don’t wait to get value with [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] or [card]Detention Sphere[/card]. Because of [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] and to a lesser extent [card]Think Twice[/card], using extra resources in the early game to preserve your life total is a good idea.
• On turn two if you have no lands in hand, almost always cycle [card]Think Twice[/card] or [card]Azorius Charm[/card] over casting an [card]Augur of Bolas[/card]. Hitting land drops is crucial.

Matt: Instead of giving you a second round-by-round report, I thought I’d talk about the three matchups I played against most in the GP.

Against Jund, the most likely way for you to lose is to [card liliana of the veil]Liliana[/card], [card garruk, primal hunter]Garruk[/card] or [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card]. Lili and Garruk can be answered by [card detention sphere]Sphere[/card] or attacked by [card]Restoration Angel[/card], so it’s more important that you save [card]Syncopate[/card] for Return. Post-board, [card]Negate[/card] offers you more answers to these problems. One possible sideboard card for Jund we have yet to try is [card]Planar Cleansing[/card]. The only concern is the nonbo with [card]Detention Sphere[/card].

UWR has an edge in the pseudo-mirror since Syncopate is worse than their counterspells. However, they also have more bad cards, like [card]Pillar of Flame[/card]. One thing to keep in mind when playing the matchup is that the threat of getting burned out is always there. In fact, one of the games I lost in the tournament was getting burned out when they had 0 cards in deck and I had 1. Our [card cavern of souls]Cavern[/card]+[card]Aetherling[/card] plan seemed decent against them, but you do sometimes lose games with Aetherling out if you don’t protect your life total well.

Mono-green or green/white ramp was the third matchup I played multiple times in the tournament. This matchup is absurdly good. [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] is stellar here, and we played four. [card]Azorius Charm[/card] can clean up the [card]Predator Ooze[/card] that survives. Post-board, [card]Celestial Flare[/card] gives you more answers to Ooze. One thing I’ve found really useful with Flare is making favorable blocks and following up with an end of combat Flare that takes out the big attacker that got through.

Unfortunately, my 11-2-1 record was good for 9th place on tiebreakers. The only good news about my unfortunate finish was that I earned the right to complain about it as much as I want. At some point I started complaining about the last time I was x-2-1 with an unintentional draw and missed on breakers (Grand Prix Dallas). Soon I was complaining about every tournament I’ve ever run bad at. This did a great job of tilting Jacob, who has significantly more Grand Prix Top 16s than Top 8s, and has certainly had his fair share of run-bads. Of course, that just made me want to do it more. For example, at some point the topic of Tom Raney qualifying for the Pro Tour via a side event was brought up. I knew how he did that—he beat me in the Top 8 of a WPN tournament at San Diego. Such daggers!

While most of the metagame has stayed constant, one major thing changed. Brian Kibler dropped a bomb on the metagame with his new RG aggro deck. The deck has 16 haste creatures that are not effectively answered by [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] or [card]Detention Sphere[/card]. In addition, [card domri rade]Domri[/card] is a tough threat to answer if you happen to lack a [card]Detention Sphere[/card]. With this in mind, I think [card]Blind Obedience[/card] is an excellent addition to the sideboard. It turns off haste and provides you with a way to get out of burn range later on. [card]Celestial Flare[/card] also shows its versatility in this matchup, providing additional answers to haste creatures. While the matchup still isn’t perfect, I think this change could make a big difference.

After some deliberation and additional testing, Jacob and I have settled on this to try at our next Standard tournament:

[deck]Main Deck
3 Syncopate
1 Dissipate
4 Sphinx’s Revelation
1 Aetherling
2 Jace, Architect of Thought
4 Restoration Angel
4 Supreme Verdict
3 Detention Sphere
4 Augur of Bolas
4 Think Twice
4 Azorius Charm
2 Ghost Quarter
1 Mutavault
1 Moorland Haunt
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Glacial Fortress
7 Plains
7 Island
Sideboard:
1 Clone
2 Celestial Flare
2 Blind Obedience
2 Terminus
3 Negate
1 Dispel
4 Rhox Faithmender[/deck]

To supplement the [card]Blind Obedience[/card] plan, we added a second [card]Terminus[/card] to clear the tapped hasters. In addition, [card]Rhox Faithmender[/card] offers an answer to the smaller creatures from RG, and can even attack a Domri from time to time. It can also help prevent you from getting burned out by UWR. You haven’t lived until you’ve fired off a [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] with a [card]Rhox Faithmender[/card] out. Until next time, good luck cleaning the board over and over and killing people with [card]Aetherling[/card].

Thanks for reading,
Jacob Wilson and Matt Nass