By: Adam Bialkowski
Grand Prix New Jersey was an amazing experience of the standard format. A week before the event I had no idea what I wanted to play; I couldn’t make a deck to deal with the current meta since it hadn’t quite been defined. I had to play what I was best at and that led me to control. I decided Jeskai control fit my play style best and was off to test it for a week right before the GP.
I loved how the decked played in testing, but my only issue was feeling like I couldn’t kill people fast enough. Crackling Drake is a great card in the spell deck, but I didn’t enjoy playing it in Jeskai control. I thought the card was too slow and often just died the turn you played it because the deck runs no other creatures to draw out removal. As I was in the shower of my hotel room the night before the GP, I was running through simulations of different cards and deck matchups that I couldn’t beat or had too easy of a time beating. One card came to mind that I couldn’t actually beat:
This card is amazing as an unkillable two mana threat. When I got out of my shower, I had this card embedded in the main deck as a four of, and let me tell you, this card carried games just by itself. This was the final list I settled on right before the GP started.
4 Adanto Vanguard
1 Lyra Dawnbringer
2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
1 Essence Scatter
2 Expansion // Explosion
4 Justice Strike
4 Deafening Clarion
4 Chemister’s Insight
2 Cleansing Nova
4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
4 Clifftop Retreat
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls
2 Lyra Dawnbringer
1 Nezahal, Primal Tide
1 Spell Pierce
2 Dawn of Hope
2 Disdainful Stroke
4 Lava Coil
Up against the mirror, however I was on the play and landed an Adanto Vanguard turn two against them and they had no way of dealing with it. Game two I played Nezahal and won immediately after.
Played a U/R control deck called counter drake. A lot of counter spells and burn spells. The mainboard Niv-Mizzets won me game one and he took game two with aggressive tempo I couldn’t get ahead of, so game three I played the big Nezahal and immediately won again.
The first time I go up against U/R Arclight Phoenix. This deck is very hard to beat if your opponent has more than two Phoenixes by turn four. Luckily for me, my opponent didn’t see a
single one all of games 1 or 3. Nezahal continued to win me game three. It was around here I started to realize how good Nezahal actually is.
Turn 3 Deafening Clarion each game was too back breaking for the deck, so I snagged the match.
The second time I go up against Arclight Phoenix. Three Phoenixes hit the graveyard each game before I could even say keep. First loss of the day but hey I’ll take 5-1 by round six.
I went up against the G/R dinosaur Experimental Frenzy deck, mainboarding four Carnage Tyrants. I take game one through way too many wrath effects and Adanto Vanguards. Game two he plays a turn four Carnage Tyrant followed by Vivian Reid. I lost that game. Game three I wrathed the board then cast Nezahal, which is great at blocking Carnage Tyrants. Proceed to win and make Day Two.
Arclight Phoenix is now reminding me far too much of Prized Amalgam. My opponent draws the nut all three games making my record now 6-2 to finish up Day One.
I play against a super cool U/R control deck. My opponent won the die roll and played his Niv-Mizzet first and proceeded to stomp on my hopes and dreams. Game two I resolve my own Niv-Mizzet first and do the same. Game three I had to mulligan to six and keep three lands and proceed to draw no more lands until turn seven. 6-3
First time playing against G/B Carnage Tyrant. I take game one from them with a lot of wraths and even more Vanguards. Game two my opponent played six Carnage Tyrants. Game three I saw no lands and proceed to lose. 6-4
I can still get a Pro Point at this point, however the G/B Carnage Tyrant deck hadn’t finished stomping on my dreams just yet. 6-5
Alright I’m in it for the Planeswalker points now, but by the time I had finished that thought my opponent already had two Phoenixes in the graveyard. 6-6 Drop :(.
I very much underestimated the Phoenix deck for the weekend which was my biggest mistake. I should’ve been playing mainboard Settle the Wreckage because exiling creatures is incredibly relevant in this format. The mainboard Vanguards won me too many games that I would normally lose, the six to seven turn clock you put your opponent on when you play one is amazing for a control deck with so much burn. Had a great weekend by the time it was all over, had a blast playing magic, enjoyed playing in a tournament setting again, and most of all had an unforgettable experience with some great friends.