This past weekend was Grand Prix Minneapolis, and I finished in 5th place with Black/White Control. The decision to play that deck was not easy for me and I would estimate that I played between 5-­20 matches with every deck in Standard. My final list was remarkably similar to the winning list from Grand Prix New York, but I believe the few alterations I made were big improvements.

I spent a lot of time deliberating over my deck choice, because ever since the Pro Tour I had been playing Languish in all of my decks, and I didn’t know if that was because it was actually that good in the format or if I was merely attracted to the illusion of control. Imagine the format is exactly two decks: Mono-White Humans and Languish Control, and Humans wins the matchup exactly 51% of the time. I know, without having this extremely difficult to discover information, that I’m almost always going to end up playing the Languish Control deck, because it just feels good to be on the side playing the sweeper. You feel helpless when you play the Human side, since you’re winning when they have a slow hand and almost always losing when they have turn-4 Languish. The former being slightly more common than the latter is small consolation

Luis­ Scott-Vargas told me he liked 4c Rites, and I played with it a bit and liked it as well, but he expressed a concern that it was a bad deck to play in a Grand Prix. He said it had really polarized matchups, like being a 70% favorite against Green­/White Tokens and a 30% underdog against black control decks. In general, it’s a bad idea to have extremely polarized matchups because then you’re hoping to get good pairings and usually you win your good matchups and lose your bad matchups. It’s better to have flat percentages across the board so you can hope to play long, close, interesting matches where the decisions you make in a game have a larger influence over the outcome than your pairings.

Ben Stark told me years ago that he made a conscious decision to play midrange decks more often in Grand Prix and that his results improved dramatically. It’s important to not use these things as hard rules but to have a preference for them and be willing to diverge when the other options are more powerful. It’s a bad idea to sacrifice power for consistency when the consistency is your deck’s mediocrity.

BW Control

The first thing I did was to add a land, which seemed obvious. With Shambling Vent and Westvale Abbey, it’s already very difficult to mana flood and this is the type of deck where if you miss one of your first 4 land drops you lose the game on the spot. I also always seem to find myself doing the same thing any time I prepare for a tournament—pick a deck and add a land. I wonder if that’s because in general people put too few lands in their decks, or that I believe subconsciously that no matter what I play, the most likely way I lose is to mana screw, so I do what I can to prevent that.

I also cut an Anguished Unmaking for a Ruinous Path since I liked having 5 total removal spells for planeswalkers, but between Read the Bones and Caves of Koilos, the life loss from Anguished Unmaking was a huge cost and I felt that drawing multiples of that card in a game made it almost impossible to win. Even drawing one was awful some of the time. It’s useful to have an extra answer to Hangarback Walker, Evolutionary Leap, Ormendahl, the Profane Prince, and planeswalkers, though.

I cut Blighted Fen, Ob Nixilis Reignited, and a Plains for 2 Battlefield Forge and a Swamp. The mana in this deck is a bit dicey with needing double-black and double-white in the early turns of the game, so Blighted Fen was a big cost with little-to-no upside. I might have activated it a single time over a very large number of matches. I was happy with Battlefield Forge because it gave me extra colorless mana for my Thought Knot Seer, Eldrazi Displacer, and Bearer of Silence. I also felt that the white mana was not needed many times in a game so at most a Battlefield Forge would deal me 2 damage in a game but often zero, and it let me have more colorless mana and more sources of white mana. This logic falls a little short when you need to activate Shambling Vent multiple turns in a row, but at that point, you’re softening the impact of the lifelink.

Sideboard Guide

GW Tokens

Out

In

­

4c Company

Out

In

Bant Human Company

Out

In

­

Mono­-White Humans

Out

In

­

Naya Midrange

Out

In

­

Ramp

Out

In

Grixis Control

Out

In

­

Sultai Garbage

Out

In

­

BW

Out

In

­