Report: Grand Prix Chicago 2014

Jul
13

Report: Grand Prix Chicago 2014

Recently, I attended Grand Prix Chicago. The format was Standard so hopefully everyone will be familiar with the decks that are possible to play. I do not play standard on a consistent basis (FNM) due to card availability and time constraints. Going in the event there are some expectations that I had of whatever deck I chose to play.

  1. There must be a consistent manabase. For a long time in standard I refused to play even two colors. The addition of additional Scry lands has made more possible but also slowed the decks to a point where a good aggressive deck would just run you over.
  2. I wanted to play a deck the can present problems. This typically would take you away from the majority of control decks. Over the course of my Magic playing career I am drawn to control decks but you always have to have the right answer for the right problem and that is not something I am interested in for a 15 round event.
  3. Have an answer to control. I felt the majority of the top players attending would run UW control or Mono Blue so I wanted to have game vs. those and was willing to sacrifice a little against the rest of the field to push these decks.

With all of this in mind I was set on one of three decks: Mono Black with a possible splash, Mono Blue Aggro, and Esper Control.

The first to go was Esper Control for several reasons. First of all it does not meet basically any of the requirements above, but I loved the list and was blinded. I also do not own many cards and could not get it together so I knew it was a no go but this was definitely for the best.

Next up I was thinking about Mono Blue. I played Uw in a PTQ in Springfield, IL not that long ago and really liked the deck although it was made much worse with the addition of a second color. I really like Mono Blue and feel it gives you the possibility to win games out of nowhere and it also has a lot of sweet cards that I really like.

Mono Black was a deck that I have always had a thing for. Most of the time if the decision is to play with Thoughtsieze or against Thoughtseize you would choose the first. The things I did not like were the mirror matches would likely be terrible and fighting over Pack Rats and Underworld connections.

With all this in mind I finally decided I wanted to play Mono Black. Next my attention would be the few questions that are had when playing Mono Black:

Lifebane Zombie vs. Nightveil Specter

I see the merits of both but I choose to play Nightveil which I think was 100% the correct choice. The 3 was relevant a lot and it drew removal immediately which was invaluable when having a backup. It also was backbreaking with Grey Merchant when it came up vs. Mono Red. I did play the Lifebane’s in the Sideboard and they came in very few times.

Devour Flesh vs. other Removal

Recently with the popularization of Jund Monsters Devour Flesh has lost some of its luster. A lot of the stigma I had for this card was resolved when you think of it as just a better Chainer’s Edict and not a worse Doom Blade. I used this card to gain life, to kill a Llanowar Elves, and to kill a ton of other creatures. I would not play less than four.

Splash vs. no Splash

Blue is the one I have never tested as I don’t see the value here. Any card I would want in blue is just a worse version of a different splash.

White I did try to for Blood Baron and Elspeth. I liked it but what I found was that in the mirror they run so many answers that the Blood Baron alone doesn’t win the game as often as you would imagine. There were times that it was amazing but often times it would be exiled to a Lifebane Zombie or sacrificed to a Devour Flesh.

Green has been popular for a long time now to get access to Abrupt Decay and Golgari Charm to kill opposing enchantments. This is something I never liked and continue to not like. After sideboard I do not need infinite answers to enchantments and Abrupt Decay had never really been great to me as just a narrow removal spells.

Red is a splash that I used to win the Grand Prix Trial for this event. Coming in I saw many lists that splashed red for cards such as Dreadbore and Mizzium Morters. Morters being almost exclusively there to kill opposing Blood Baron which I can see being beneficial. The card that really drew me to red is Rakdos’s Return. The card in itself is great against control strategies, killing opposing Plainswalkers, and just being a Fireball when needed.

I decided to almost copy my list and play Red as a splash. I did not want to play too many come into play tapped lands or run red in the main as I didn’t feel it was necessary. Here is the list I registered:

Creatures

4x Desecration Demon
4x Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4x Nightveil Spector
4x Pack Rat

Lands

13x Swamp
4x Mutavault
4x Temple of Malace
4x Blood Crypt

Spells

4x Underworld Connections
4x Devour Flesh
4x Hero’s Downfall
4x Thoughtseize
2x Bile Blight
1x Whip of Erebos

Sideboard

3x Doom Blade
3x Lifebane Zombie
3x Duress
3x Rakdos’s Return
1x Erebos, God of the Dead
1x Bile Blight
1 xDrown in Sorrow

And here is an example of some of sideboard guide that I used for the event…

R/W Burn

-4 Underworld Connections
-1 Pack Rat
-4 Hero’s Demise

+3 Lifebane Zombie
+3 Duress
+3 Rakdos’s Return

Jund Monsters

On the Draw

-4 Pack Rat
-4 Nightveil Specter
-1 Bile Blight

+3 Doom Blade
+3 Lifebane Zombie
+3 Duress

On the Play

-4 Underworld Connections
-1 Pack Rat
-2 Grey Merchant of Asphodel

+3 Doom Blade
+3 Lifebane Zombie
+1 Duress

Black/X

+1 Erebos, God of the Dead
+3 Duress
+2 Rakdos’s Return
+1 Bile Blight

-4 Desecration Demon
-3 Hero’s Downfall

Mono U

On the Draw

-1 Grey Merchant of Asphodel
-4 Underworld Connections
-1 Thoughtseize
-1 Pack Rat

+3 Doom Blade
+3 Lifebane
+1 Drown in Sorrow

On the Play

-4 Underworld Connections
-3 Thoughtseize

+3 Doom Blade
+3 Lifebane Zombie
+1 Drown in Sorrow

UWx Control

+3 Duress
+1 Erebos, God of the Dead
+3 Lifebane Zombie
+3 Rakdos’s Return

-4 Devour Flesh
-2 Bile Blight
-3 Hero’s Downfall
-2 Pack Rat

I had two byes for the event and ended up 3-3 after byes and dropped after round 8. I don’t remember everything I played but I can tell you with resounding confidence that the red splash is not necessary. I would cut the 3 Return for 1 Duress, 1 Erebos, God of the Dead, and 1 Pharika’s Cure. Then I would drop the Blood Crypts and Scry Land would become 3 Temple of Deceit, 3 Temple of Silence, and 2 Swamps. Adding more come into play tapped lands scares me but I think 6 is likely right.

If I were to attend another event I would play Mono Black without question, however, doubt I will until M15 is legal and shakes things up. Looking forward I will likely be talking more about Modern to prepare for the PTQ season and likely giving some impressions of M15 in Modern and Standard as I head into the 4 days of Gencon that I have coming in just over a month.

Again if you have any questions or something you want me to touch on use the Board Knight Facebook page or comment below.

Thanks!

 

About Chris Heath

My name is Christopher "Chef" Heath. I have been playing Magic now for over 10 years competitively. I have played numerous tournaments that culminated in my qualification for the Pro Tour. While I do not play as much as I used to, I do still attend tournaments often and pride myself on choosing the best deck for any tournament.

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