Quick Question: Which Cards Have Performed Above and Below Your Expectations?

Posted in GRAND PRIX MEMPHIS 2015 on February 22, 2015

By Peter Rawlings

Which Cards Have Performed Above and Below Your Expectations?

As players head into the final rounds of Grand Prix Memphis, they've had the opportunity to test their decks against much of what this Standard format as on offer over the course of the weekend. So as players prepare to make a run at the Top 8 or at much-needed pro points, which cards are exceeding expectations, and which are disappointing?

No. 22 Ben Stark was singing the praises of Soulfire Grand Master in his White-Red deck. “The card has way over-performed and should be seeing more play,” he said. Both of the Monk's abilities—recurring and gaining life from burn spells—had proven useful over the course of the weekend, he said. The Grand Master often comes down on turn four, leaving two mana open for a Lightning Strike, so that even if an opponent kills it, he will have already gained incremental value from the lifelink on the Strike.

Stormbreath Dragon, on the other hand, had been a disappointment. “White-Red is really more of a control deck,” Stark said, and the hasty 4/4 flier didn't really fit with that game plan or synergize well with other cards such as Outpost Siege.

Chris Fennell said he had been impressed with the four copies of Fleecemane Lion he had packed in his sideboard. Since he is piloting Abzan Control, many opponents have been caught by surprise this weekend when they've been forced to grapple with the aggressive 3/3 Cat in Games 2 and 3, he said. While people might be better prepared for this sideboard plan in the weeks to come, it will still put them in an awkward position, since cards like Bile Blight and Lightning Strike are dead draws against much of the rest of his deck, said Fennell.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon has been as weak as the Lion has been strong, Fennell said. “Brad Nelson told me to cut it, like he did, but I didn't,” said Fennell, as he was worried about Sidisi Whip decks, where the colorless Planeswalker's exile ability could prove useful. However, Whip decks have been in short supply this weekend, and Ugin's expensive casting cost has proved a liability on several occasions, Fennell said.

Nullify has been a standout card for Shaheen Soorani and his Blue-Back Control deck this weekend. It's the only card in Standard that can stop such a wide range of anti-control threats, he said, from an early Seeker of the Way to late-game Siege Rhino. “It used to be that spells presented the biggest threat to control decks, but now it's creatures,” Soorani said, making Nullify a crucial piece of his defensive suite.

Soorani had been unhappy with Perilous Vault. “I was already off Perilous Vault before this weekend, but I still played one and I don't like it,” he said. The Vault is slow and predictable, he said, and since you generally have to a wait a turn before activating it, opponents have ample time to adapt. The board-clearing artifact also works poorly with all the Blue-Black Control win conditions other than Pearl Lake Ancient, he said.

No. 10 Sam Black cited trusty old Thoughtseize as the strongest card in his Mardu deck. Black said he has faced numerous control and Jeskai Ascendancy builds throughout the weekend, where the 1-mana sorcery's ability to strip his opponent's most useful card has proven invaluable.

Conversely, Monastery Mentor “is just not a good card,” said Black. The Monk has proved to be altogether too slow in many of his matches, requiring too much work and assistance from other cards to be worthwhile, he said.