There are always a lot of fun things to do on Friday at the Grand Prix site. Yesterday in Los Angeles, there were Last-Chance Trials, a "Foiled Again!" tournament with cool prizes, and more. One of the events was a Standard seminar held by none other than No. 9 William Jensen and No. 13 Josh Utter-Leyton.
These two luminaries of the game discussed the intricacies of all of the top Standard decks and revealed their strengths and weaknesses. For the Jeskai Ascendancy combo deck, for instance, they highlighted the possible opening hand of Sylvan Caryatid, Jeskai Ascendancy, Retraction Helix, Astral Cornucopia, and 3 lands as a clear strength because it wins on turn 3 no matter what the opponent does. Yet, they lamented the inconsistency of the deck, which sometimes doesn't find the combo pieces in time, as its main weakness.
Lots of people attended the seminar to listen to this detailed analysis of the top Standard decks, and several of them took the opportunity to get some of their questions answered afterwards. I collected a bunch of interesting questions and insightful answers from this Q&A session below for those of you who were unable to attend the seminar.
Why would I play Blue/Black over Esper or Sultai?
"Part of it is that your mana is a little better," Jensen answered. "The life-gain lands are also really important; being straight blue/black, you can run Dismal Blackwater, which go a long way towards beating Jeskai," Utter-Leyton added.
Regarding green, Utter-Leyton said that Courser of Kruphix is great, but having a double-green card in the same deck as the double-blue Dig Through Time and double-black Hero's Downfall is tough: You either can't cast your spells or take way too much damage off of your lands.
Is Stormbreath Dragon poised to be really good for this Grand Prix?
"Maybe," Utter-Leyton answered. "Stormbreath was played in roughly half of the Jeskai decks at this Pro Tour. They were split between Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker and Stormbreath Dragon. Stormbreath is better against the Green Devotion because they can't attack it back and better against Abzan because Abzan Charm doesn't kill it. The problem is that Sarkhan is a lot better in the Jeskai mirror. Still, if you're expecting more green decks than Jeskai, then you probably want Stormbreath Dragon."
"I would never write off a deck," Jensen said. "I don't have a vision for it in my head, but Planeswalkers and sweepers are always good, so if you have a vision for the deck, then I would encourage you to try it out."
A lot of the Jeskai decks are boarding into a control deck. Is that necessary to beat the green decks?
Utter-Leyton found the answer to that to be yes. "The way post-board Jeskai works against the green decks is that both decks board in more cheap answers, so the games naturally go longer because you trade cards efficiently back and forth. So the control plan where you get answer their stuff and get ahead with Dig Through Time or expensive finishers is a great against green decks post board."
Is a 4-color deck worth considering?
Jensen commented that they tried a Jeskai deck splashing Crackling Doom in their testing. "The mana is just probably a little too bad, though, and the question is: Is what you get out of a fourth color worth the risk of more mana problems? If you get a card that is integral to your strategy, such as Jeskai Ascendancy, then it's fine, but otherwise probably not."
What do you think of Silence the Believers maindeck?
"It's a very powerful card and great in Abzan mirrors. Outside that, it's a little too inefficient," Utter-Leyton answered.
What is the most underrated card in Standard right now?
Utter-Leyton went with Dig Through Time at first because it's the card he wants to be playing with in Standard the most, but switched over to Nullify after some additional thought. Jensen's answer was Perilous Vault.
According to Jensen, See the Unwritten is more powerful in the black-green deck because you can hit double Doomwake Giant to wrath your opponent. In non-black versions without access to this best-case scenario, Genesis Hydra may be better.
"The hole for the deck is what to do on turn two," Utter-Leyton said. "It has Seeker of the Way as a good turn two play, but if Lightning Strike and Magma Jet are not very good, like against green decks, the deck has a problem a problem because the opponent can get ahead on turn two while you don't. Nullify solves that problem because it's a great thing to do on turn two. So, Nullify is a turn two play, while Disdainful Stroke is a late-game play."
Is Wingmate Roc worth it in the sideboard of Jeskai for the mirror?
Utter-Leyton mentioned that he tried the card in testing but found that if you are in a position where you are attacking with a creature, you are already winning. So, in the current Jeskai builds, Wingmate Roc is a win-more card.
What do you think of maindeck Hushwing Gryff in the Jeskai deck?
The two pros agreed that both cards have diminishing returns, so a mixture makes a lot of sense.
Play or draw in the Jeskai mirror?
"I think you definitely want to play. If you're able to cast a Seeker of the Way on turn two on the play, then you're very far ahead," Jensen said. "The biggest problem with being on the draw is that there are so many tap-lands in the deck," Utter-Leyton added.
Is Reaper of the Wilds good in Standard right now?
Do you have a prediction for the Top 8?
"Three Abzan, three Jeskai, and two other decks," Jensen answered.
Should I go with something that I have practiced with or with something new from the Pro Tour?
"Playing a deck well is way more important than what you are playing," Utter-Leyton said.
And with that, we conclude the onslaught of insight from No. 9 William Jensen and No. 13 Josh Utter-Leyton. Next time you are at a Grand Prix on Friday, don't miss out on interesting events like these!