Grand Prix Charlotte is this weekend, and if you’ve looked at recent results from the large events of the weekend, we can learn a few things.
One: Nahiri, the Harbinger is real. Both Peter Ingram and Gerry Thompson wrecked their respective tournaments with a Jeskai control deck which included the powerful four drop and it seems to be the king of midrange, which brings us to the next thing we can learn from the results.
Two: the current meta game is midrange and grindy as it has ever been. As we all know, the B/G/X and R/B/X and all the other answers decks have weak points in their game. You can win by going over them, or you can win by going under them, but you won’t win trying to go through them. You cannot play into their game plan of removal spells; you would rather them fight on your terms. Going over the top is exactly what Nahiri does, but I have no interest in that. Going under is where the real magic happens.
Another thing we can see from the results, although a little besides the point, is Dredge didn’t really work out. Despite a number of highly skilled pilots brewing different iterations of the deck, all of them arrived at the same conclusion: it’s close, but it’s not quite there yet.
So, keeping in mind that we do not want to play into our opponent’s removal spells and we want our deck to be all live draws (because we expect a discard heavy meta-game), we want to force them to have the correct answer every turn. Sometimes even if your opponent plays perfect, there is nothing they can do. I have arrived at this list after much testing:
4 Goblin Guide
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
2 Gurmag Angler
4 Bump in the Night
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Rift Bolt
4 Boros Charm
3 Flames of the Blood Hand
3 Exquisite Firecraft
2 Blackcleave Cliffs
2 Blood Crypt
2 Sacred Foundry
12 Red fetch lands
4 Path to Exile
3 Self-inflicted Wound
2 Lightning Helix
2 Rakdos Charm
2 Molten Rain
2 Wear // Tear
There are a lot of things here I am very excited to talk about because I can validate all that time spent on the wonder program we all know and love: Magic Online.
- 2 Blackcleave Cliffs: yes, even though we are playing Delve creatures, two fast lands are important for us in mitigating life loss. Since our deck has slowed down, we need to save life, and if you feel very strongly about not playing them I recommend another fetch land and another basic mountain.
- 20 lands: we are playing three drops now, so we need to be able to cast them. Also, flashing back Bump in the Night is sometimes an option in the grindiest of games.
- Gurmag over Tasigur: while I do believe we could reliably cast Tasigur on turn three, in most games the deck isn’t trying to get a turn three Tarmogoyf. We are completely okay with a turn four play that can attack past a Tarmogoyf. the extra power does matter, and, yes, it is worth one more cost in my opinion.
- Three-three split of three drops: I wanted ten ways to deal four damage in one spell so I can hope one in every six cards deals four damage. The reason for the split is because they’re good against different things. It is nice to have seven copies of life gain counter main deck. Do be mindful to not ruin your spell master while delving with your Zombie Fish.
- When in doubt, cast your highest CMC card: because we are playing a high curve, this deck does sometimes get clunky. Unless you are going for the kill, it is often more correct to cast your most expensive card just to make your opponent deal with it (because it’s probably four damage) and it clears the way for us to unload on their dome when we untap on our turn.
- No Monastery Swiftspears or Searing Blaze: I do not want to play creatures to turn on my opponent’s hand, and I think other people also see that and will not play as many small creature decks. In turn, we are not playing cards to answer them. This is a meta game call; if you feel differently and think you’ll see more creatures than life gain, cut Skullcracks for Searing Blaze. I just want all of my cards to do the same thing: damage off the top. Although not every card in our deck does that, I’m going to try to keep that number down to a minimum.
To sum it up, we are playing no creatures, so we are slower and worse in a race, but we expect a grindy field and this is a grindy burn deck.
I do not believe players learn much when they copy a match up for match up sideboard guide. Instead, I encourage you to think about how your game one went, what did they see from your deck, and what have you seen from them. Evaluate what matters in every match you play.
If they are playing a combo deck, then speed is often the most important thing. The first things we cut are our three drops and often Delve creatures (they are slightly too slow), and we bring in our answers if any apply.
If they are the grindy deck that we are so ready for, we bring out our creatures and bring in our damage off the top (and answers, if any).
Wear // Tear is good for a lot of things, but we are pretty sad to see a Leyline of Sanctity in play, so that’s our answer.
Rakdos Charm has been overperforming and I may be convinced that I need a third one. It is just the biggest pothole—because no one sees it coming and it blows everyone out.
I am looking forward to the Grand Prix and I hope to see all of you there!