Grand Prix Chicago Primer

Posted in NEWS on June 19, 2014

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Welcome back to Perilous Research,'s exclusive Magic Online column!

This weekend, thousands of Magic players will be taking a break from cracking Moxes on Magic Online to compete with their Standard weapon of choice at Grand Prix Chicago. Today, we'll be taking a look at the most recent Standard results from Magic Online in an effort to ready ourselves for the big event.


We've seen a number of trends emerge online recently.

For example, over the last few weeks, we've seen the decline of control strategies in Standard. Azorius and Esper Control decks still exist in large numbers, but their performances have been less than stellar, especially in last week's Magic Online events.

White-Black Midrange seems to be the most successful deck right now. The deck matches up well against other Black Devotion strategies and the control decks.

Jund Monsters attacks the format beautifully at the moment. The deck may be a bit weak to the control strategies, but even those matchups are close. In particular, Xenagos, the Reveler is great against the control decks and absolutely extraordinary against Black Devotion strategies and White-Black Midrange.

Red decks of all shapes and sizes are coming out of the woodwork. Four distinct Red strategies have been performing well on Magic Online over the last week.

The decline of control also opens up the door for Blue Devotion to reenter the format and dominate the creature-based decks.

Setting the Standard

We can expect Grand Prix Chicago to offer up a diverse and exciting Standard format. Let's take a look at what the major archetypes will look like this coming weekend:

Jund Monsters

Ethulien's Jund Monsters

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Jund Monsters has become a format staple. The deck combines mana acceleration with powerful threats and the format's best removal spells. Courser of Kruphix helps stabilize the board while providing a steady stream of card advantage and lifegain. Polukranos, World Eater does significant work against Blue Devotion and other aggressive creature strategies while serving as a healthy 5/5 for four mana with occasional upside in the other matchups. Scavenging Ooze punishes the Black-Green graveyard decks, outclasses other creatures very quickly, and gets the deck out of burn range. The deck is very good at forcing enemy control decks to have a Supreme Verdict. Stormbreath Dragon applies quick pressure after a board sweeper in control matchups and essentially forces the opponent to have a second copy of Supreme Verdict. Xenagos, the Reveler is the best possible threat against Black Devotion strategies and the control decks, providing a constant stream of pressure that requires multiple cards and oftentimes multiple turns from the opponent.

White-Black Midrange

Sneaky homunkulus's White-Black Midrange

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White-Black Midrange was initially adopted as a version of Black Devotion that was well-positioned in the mirror. Since then, the deck has evolved to include cards like Obzedat, Ghost Council. The deck is slow and is susceptible to being run over by the format's most aggressive strategies. However, especially on the play, the deck can chain two spot-removal spells, one after the other, to set up a chain of big spells.

Junk Midrange

kubosek's Junk Midrange

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Junk Midrange offers up great disruption, threats, removal, and one of the format's best card-advantage engines. The deck's versatility and high power level mean that it has no truly bad matchups, especially after sideboarding in Lifebane Zombies. Blood Baron of Vizkopa is the best card against the Junk Midrange deck. As a result, this deck may not be very well-positioned in a field with a lot of White-Black. Still, Blood Baron can be Thoughtseized or Lifebane Zombied. The deck could make a big splash in Chicago this weekend if it's able to dodge the Blood Barons off the top of people's decks.

Hyper-Aggro Red

Sicc09's Hyper-Aggro Red

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The most aggressive Red deck plans on dropping its whole hand onto the table quickly, before closing the game with pump spells and burn. Things are slowing down a lot, and a lot of the decks are unable to handle the pressure this deck puts out in the early stages of the game. We should obviously ignore the Sylvan Caryatids in the sideboard, which were actually Skullcracks in Tom Ross's deck that won the StarCityGames Invitational.

Black Devotion splashing Green

BlueEyedFox's Black Devotion splashing Green

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Black Devotion is still a powerhouse in Standard. The decline of control has allowed the deck to put four copies of Pack Rat back in the main. The deck took a serious dive in power level when it stopped playing four Pack Rats; the Rat avenue of victory is extremely potent in most matchups. Splashing green for Abrupt Decay gives the deck a strong answer to Domri Rade, Courser of Kruphix, Detention Sphere, Banishing Light, and a host of other popular cards. One major change we're beginning to see is the inclusion of Lifebane Zombie over some number of Nightveil Specter; the popularity of White-Black Midrange, Junk Midrange, and Jund Monsters makes Lifebane Zombie well-positioned in the current metagame.

Black Devotion

Zaba44's Black Devotion

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Some players have stuck with the mono-black version of the deck. Again, we see Lifebane Zombie over Nightveil Specter, this time as a four-of. Don't be caught off guard by this change at Grand Prix Chicago, and consider making the swap if you plan on playing one of the Black Devotion strategies.

Blue Devotion

AlfredoTorres's Blue Devotion

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The decline of control decks opens the door for Blue Devotion decks to wreak havoc on the format. In a world where people are trying to cast four- and five-drops without evasion, the Blue Devotion deck is able to run over its opponent by flooding the board. Hall of Triumph makes Master of Waves into a truly impressive game ender against the decks that lack Supreme Verdict. We've seen the deck drop Jace, Architect of Thought and cut some number of Bident of Thassa in favor of more creatures since the addition of Hall of Triumph. Don't play around the card-advantage engines and die when playing against the Blue Devotion deck; simply play every removal spell/blocker available on every possible turn. Also, Galerider Sliver may seem like a plain 1/1 flier for one mana, but it's important to remember that it gives Mutavault flying. We can expect Blue Devotion to be one of the most popular and successful strategies in Chicago this weekend.

Selesnya Aggro

manwithplane251's Selesnya Aggro

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Selesnya Aggro applies huge pressure very quickly and is often able to punch through the slightly bigger creature decks with cards like Banishing Light and Selesnya Charm. The deck has a lot of bad matchups, but it's able to capitalize on the smallest stumble from the opponent and completely run over him or her. I wouldn't recommend running this into a field full of Blue Devotion, but I would encourage Selesnya mages to include some number of Skylasher and Unflinching Courage in their sideboard if they insist on running the archetype.

Boros Aggro

Nisor's Boros Aggro

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Simply being aggressive is enough to win in the current Standard. This Boros deck recognized the strength of Chandra's Phoenix in the current format and decided to play four additional, albeit slightly weaker, copies. The deck can run over opponents who aren't prepared for this type of onslaught. The large amount of burn, plus Banisher Priest, the deck has access to in post-boarded games make it one of the few creature strategies that performs well against Blue Devotion. All of the haste and Boros Charms make the deck quite good against control. The deck might struggle with Black Devotion, but many of those players may be moving to White-Black Midrange.

Black Aggro

Pongmaster's Black Aggro

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The Black Aggro deck is designed to run over the opponent while killing any blocker that might stand in the way. The deck can struggle against Sylvan Caryatid decks, which will likely be popular. Being extremely aggressive is a good strategy in the current format, and a deck with access to Thoughtseize will be much better suited to dealing with big swing cards from the opponent. If you're looking to be fast and still be strong against the control decks, then this is a great choice.

White-Blue Control

Alfredo_Federic0's White-Blue Control

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Win conditions are overrated. In fact, the whole point of playing a dedicated control deck is dedicating one's self to controlling the game. Every win condition we draw is another card that doesn't interact with our opponent when it matters. As a control deck, we're winning with Sphinx's Revelation. The card advantage accrued off the big spell will put our opponent into a spot where he or she can no longer win the game. Elixir of Immortality ensures that the deck never runs out of cards while it revelates over and over. The major issue with this, the best-positioned control deck, is winning matches on time. We only have so much time to finish a match and winning a single game with this deck will often take well over 30 minutes, even if we're playing fast.


zbrasel's Burn!

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Burn made some big waves after Born of the Gods, but the deck seemed to wane in popularity as the control decks played more countermagic and Elixir of Immortality. The deck uses burn spells to control the game while Chandra's Phoenix and Eidolon of the Great Revel strip away the opponent's life total. Control is on the decline and the burn deck is in a great spot for this weekend. I would recommend the above list as a great option for this weekend's Grand Prix.

Esper Control

Orion12321's Esper Control

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Esper Control plays similarly to its white-blue counterpart, but it has access to Thoughtseize, additional spot removal, and Nightveil Specter out of the sideboard. The deck should continue to play more win conditions than its white-blue counterpart because Thoughtseize gives it a green light to shift the tides of battle. Despite lackluster performances in recent Magic Online events, this is still one of the more popular decks in Standard and we should be prepared for it, especially if we don't have any byes.


Edel's Enchantments

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