There aren't really that many players here this weekend who also attended the Pro Tour two weeks ago as well as the Grand Prix last week. It is quite the trip, after all, through various airports, hotels, climate and time zones as well as team configurations. I spoke with two players about their journey and especially about the journey the Standard format has taken.
Valentin Mackl is a Gold-level pro from Austria who seems to be at every event all over the globe and who has built quite the international network. "For the Pro Tour I tested with Nicolai Herzog, Tamás Glied, Tamás Nagy, Christian Seibold, and Oliver Polak-Rottmann," Mackl said. "We came up with the Sultai Whip of Erebos deck. It didn't work very well for us at the Pro Tour but seems to have gained quite the following in the meantime. I think the main issue with the deck was its inconsistency, though it may be a good choice for a field with even more Abzan decks, like at this Grand Prix."
From Honolulu the journey continued to Los Angeles for the Grand Prix where Mackl played the same deck as Patrick Dickmann and Brad Nelson, a Mardu Midrange build, this time to a much better end result. "Patrick and I both went 12-3 with the deck, and Brad ended up in fifth place. I can't claim a big role in the deck's development though. It was basically all Brad's work."
When he came to Stockholm, however, he saw the Mardu deck everywhere and again decided to switch decks. "It's being played like crazy, and I definitely wanted to run a deck with a favorable Mardu match-up instead," Mackl pointed out. Three different decks in three weeks, eh?
"Well, the evolution of Standard this time around is even more interesting than usual. Obviously, the decks in the Top 8 of the Pro Tour were good for that event but not particularly good overall. This time, the Pro Tour left a lot of room for improvement," Mackl explained. "I believe the main reason for that is, Wizards did a great job developing the format. So many decks are viable. Each wedge color combination has a good deck. Take Temur for example which just hadn't been found in time for the Pro Tour."
Mackl added, "There are so many little details to explore too. For example, most players at first didn't realize how good Nullify is in the current format. Countering Courser of Kruphix or Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is just so much better than killing them, even if you kill them immediately on the spot. (Though Sidisi doesn't generate a token in either case.) There is a lot of area yet unexplored. The coming weeks will be so much fun."
Valentin Mackl and Patrick Dickmann
Another player who traveled from Pro Tour to Grand Prix to Grand Prix was the aforementioned Platinum pro Patrick Dickmann. He had been testing with Team Revolution for the Pro Tour. "We had two different decks; most played some Mardu Control, but Denniz Rachid, Brad Nelson, and I all played Brad's red-white token deck which was really awesome. Everyone did well with it, except for me."
Then, for Grand Prix Los Angeles, Nelson developed a new version of the deck. "It was similar to our PT deck but included black for Butcher of the Horde, Sorin, and Crackling Doom," said Dickmann. "All just very strong cards."
While the Pro Tour was disappointing for Dickmann, he did earn two Pro Points in Los Angeles, leaving him at six in the season so far. "Let's be realistic. Repeating Platinum is insanely hard. Especially since Wizards effectively reduced the number of Pro Points awarded at Grand Prix outside the Top 8. I'm aiming for Gold, basically."
Regarding his future travel plans, Dickmann said; "Well, there's Madrid, Strasbourg, and then the World Magic Cup, all of the European events. But I'm not going to the Grand Prix in New Jersey like the crazy Mackl. After three weeks on the road, I can definitely say, some fatigue sets in. I'm going to be so happy when I'm finally home again."