As you might or might not know, I have attended both GPs in Birmingham this weekend and it was an absolute blast! Both Standard and Legacy are now great highly skill-rewarding formats with a ton of play to them. That being said they both require a different skill- set to be successful in them - Legacy is pretty much established. The best strategies are well known and you get rewarded for knowing your deck inside and out and being aware of all the intricacies in every single matchup. Every small decision matters - there are some obscure sideboard cards, that a less experienced player might not know about, which could be game ending if you don't calculate with those in the mix. There is so much card draws and deck manipulation around, that even a sideboarded one-off can come into play relatively often and it's important to be aware of all of them.
Most of the major tournaments are in Limited and Standard, so I am not as good in Legacy, but I get to play it every now and then as the Czech Legacy community is relatively large and competitive. I didn't test for the tournament specifically - I just focused on Standard. The Pro Tour is around the corner, so there wasn't really a point for me to test for the Legacy part of the event. As a result I went 6-2 - a respectful result, but not good enough for me to stay at the tournament, so I dropped and focused on Standard.
Preparing for Standard
I have played a lot of Standard in the week leading up to the tournament and I tried a lot of decks. The first deck that I put my hands on was an obvious choice - UW control. Problem was that my list was very medium and I have been losing more than I should have as a result. The one thing I noticed was that 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》 is busted and this is the next deck I tried out;
4 《Scattered Groves》
4 《Sunpetal Grove》
4 《Blooming Marsh》
4 《Aether Hub》
-Land (23)- 4 《Walking Ballista》
4 《Llanowar Elves》
4 《Merfolk Branchwalker》
4 《Servant of the Conduit》
4 《Thrashing Brontodon》
1 《Jadelight Ranger》
2 《Shalai, Voice of Plenty》
3 《Lyra Dawnbringer》
2 《Angel of Sanctions》
The deck ended up being a lot better than I thought it would be and I managed to do pretty well with it in leagues, but it felt like nothing special - not really a busted deck who want to crush a tournament with.
After this I tried out a version without 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》 and finally a BG Constrictor - a deck that was certainly good, but also nothing that would stand out to me. It was already a Wednesday and I was getting a little desperate, but that was when I got my hands on the RB deck - I was immediately sold after game 1. It was just a completely different league - every card in the deck was extremely powerful, you had a great plan against any deck + a strong sideboard. This all being said, the deck certainly needed some work.
I was staying with Martin Juza during the GP and he had experience with RB from previous Standard already which certainly helped. We quickly realized that all of the one-drops are horrible - the only normally good one in 《Bomat Courier》 ended up being unplayable due to the presence of 《Goblin Chainwhirler》 and 《Walking Ballista》 and we have won a lot of mirror matches during the tournament just based on this advantage.
This is the list we have ended up playing:
4 《Canyon Slough》
4 《Dragonskull Summit》
1 《Cinder Barrens》
3 《Spire of Industry》
-Land (25)- 4 《Walking Ballista》
4 《Scrapheap Scrounger》
4 《Goblin Chainwhirler》
2 《Pia Nalaar》
4 《Rekindling Phoenix》
4 《Unlicensed Disintegration》
3 《Heart of Kiran》
2 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》
Obviously, the list wasn't perfect - we've worked with a limited amount of time, but I think we did a pretty good job. 3 《Magma Spray》 seems like a lot, but being able to play any spell on turn 1 makes a huge difference and it helps you a lot in the games on the draw. Obviously it hurts your control matchup significantly, but we decided that that was the right thing to do - we didn't expect that many UW decks and a lot of control players will be underprepared with bad lists, so you can still beat them sometimes. This is most likely going to change going forward though so I would advise to practice your control matchup if RB is where you want to be.
A card that other list didn't play and was an absolute house for us was a 《Glorybringer》 - we added additional land (can even see 26) to be able to cast them, but the card had overperformed - no one was really playing around it and it's pretty much unbeatable for any Green deck. What they also allow you is to go big postboard - a deck full of removal spells backed up by 《Chandras》, 《Phoenixs》 and 《Dragons》 is extremely difficult to overcome for strategies like Mono Green Stompy or Constrictor, especially if they're unaware of your setup and are trying to combat your aggro plan.
The tournament itself couldn't really go any better for us - there were basically Mono Red / RB and GB decks at the top tables and our deck was well prepared to combat those. I ended up going x-3, but I think I could have easily top 8ed if I played better - I picked up the deck relatively late and I wasn't able to toss in enough matches to know everything perfectly - I ended up boarding wrongly against 2 GB opponents; I should have had less 《Magma Spray》 postboard against them as they usually board out a lot of their small creatures in fear of 《Chainwhirler》 and 《Ballista》
while bringing in bigger cards like 《Vraska》, 《Nissa》 or 《Liliana, Death's Majesty》 and I got outmatched while holding a 《Magma Spray》 in my hand.
Martin ended up losing in semifinals to a creatuless UW control deck - nothing unexpected, especially given the fact that there are decklists in the top 8 and his opponent knew that we weren't playing any 《Swamp》 - most likely a mistake that should be addressed - not sure if the 《Swamp》 should be in main or sideboard, but it's definitely something that you need to have access to in the postboard games against control.
I am curious about how the metagame shifts after this tournament - people will most likely realize that 1 toughness creatures is not where you want to be and we will probably see a huge uprise in Mono Red and UW decks, but I believe that RB has enough tools to combat any deck you want to beat.
Reading the metagame properly and bringing a list that will be the strongest to battle any particular field will be the most important thing going forward and I am extremely curious about what will happen at the Pro Tour.
Thanks for reading,