The New Jersey Experience

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.

Creatures: 7

4 Adanto Vanguard

1 Lyra Dawnbringer

2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun

Spells: 27

2 Syncopate

1 Essence Scatter

2 Expansion // Explosion

4 Justice Strike

4 Deafening Clarion

4 Ionize

4 Chemister’s Insight

2 Cleansing Nova

4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Lands: 26

4 Clifftop Retreat

4 Glacial Fortress

3 Island

2 Mountain

1 Plains

4 Sacred Foundry

4 Steam Vents

4 Sulfur Falls

Sideboard: 15

2 Lyra Dawnbringer

1 Nezahal, Primal Tide

1 Spell Pierce

2 Dawn of Hope

2 Disdainful Stroke

4 Lava Coil

3 Negate

Round 1

Bye :p

Round 2

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.

Round 3

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.

Round 4

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.

Round 5

Mono White


Turn 3 Deafening Clarion each game was too back breaking for the deck, so I snagged the match.

Round 6

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.

Round 7

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.

Round 8

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.

Round 9

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

Round 10

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

Round 11

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

Round 12

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.

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