Setting the Scene – Standard at Grand Prix Warsaw 2016

Posted in GRAND PRIX WARSAW 2016 on October 29, 2016

By Tobi Henke

We've entered the third week of the new Standard format with Kaladesh being played at the premier level. It all began of course with the eponymous Pro Tour Kaladesh in Honolulu two weeks ago. There, the best and brightest showed off their inventions, and a vast variety of them too. The Top 8 included three aggressive decks based in red and white, one deck each built around Dynavolt Tower and Aetherworks Marvel, as well as two different control decks, one of which Hall of Famer Shota Yasooka played to his second Pro Tour victory.

But all the fun and diversity had hidden what really was the big deck to come out of the event. Joey Manner had reached the quarterfinals with White-Blue Flash, thanks to a 9-1 run in the Standard portion of the Pro Tour. He immediately lost to eventual finalist Carlos Romão and that might have been the end of the story. If Manner had been alone in his deck choice and his success.

However, three other players managed to do the same, to go 9-1 in Standard, and they all did so with essentially the same deck. The four best performing Standard decks were all white and blue, all had four copies of Thraben Inspector, Selfless Spirit, Reflector Mage, Spell Queller, and Smuggler's Copter, and all made use of Archangel Avacyn, Stasis Snare, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. This was no fluke. This was the beginning of a trend.

A trend which obviously continued when Kaladesh Standard hit the Grand Prix circuit last week. White-Blue Flash was by far the most represented deck on the second day of both Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur and Grand Prix Providence. But in Kuala Lumpur a full six of the deck's pilots made the Top 8, whereas at Grand Prix Providence Black-Green Delirium usurped the top spot and put four players into the Top 8, alongside just one white-blue deck. What was the reason behind this divide?

"One way to look at it is that in Kuala Lumpur players chose white-blue to beat the deck which had been most popular at the Pro Tour: Aetherworks Marvel," said Hall of Famer and professional metagame analyst Frank Karsten when I talked to him during Friday's gunslinging session. "Whereas in Providence, players went to the next level and chose Black-Green Delirium to beat white-blue with Ishkanah, Grafwidow."

Martin Jůza and Frank Karsten gunslinging on Friday

At this point, 24-time Grand Prix Top 8er Martin Jůza chimed in and put it in less delicate terminology: "In Providence, people used their brains. In Kuala Lumpur, people looked at the previous weekend and reacted to that. But what you should do is to look at the current weekend and respond to that. To be one step ahead."

"That's easier said than done," Karsten argued. "Last weekend had one GP at level one, let's say, and another at level two. Which one do use as your baseline for this weekend?"

This, in a nutshell, was the question players faced now, both here at Grand Prix Prague and at Grand Prix Santiago. In any case, White-Blue Flash and Black-Green Delirium were the two decks on everyone's radar, with red-white Vehicles, black splash optional, not far behind.

The Players

At the latest count, a whopping 26 players with three byes made their way to Warsaw to do their best to solve the puzzle of the current Standard metagame: Pro Tour Hall of Fame members Ben Stark and Frank Karsten, Platinum pros (4) Lukas Blohon, (13) Joel Larsson, (18) Andrea Mengucci, Pascal Maynard, Niels Noorlander, Oliver Polak-Rottmann, Petr Sochůrek, and Yuta Takahashi, as well as Gold Level players (17) Márcio Carvalho, Marco Cammilluzzi, Andrew Cuneo, Martin Dang, Jérémy Dezani, Javier Dominguez, Thomas Hendriks, Huang Hao-Shan, Martin Jůza, Grzegorz Kowalski, Magnus Lantto, Valentin Mackl, Simon Nielsen, Mattia Rizzi, and Aleksa Telarov.

So the tournament could boast a true international cast of stars, with players from all corners of the world, from North America to Asia, and most of the European countries represented. The list included multiple Pro Tour champions and Magic Online Champions, a veritable horde of Grand Prix champions, and just about the finest selection of top players I'd ever seen at a Grand Prix this size.

"26 players with three byes? I don't think I've ever been to a European Grand Prix with this many pros," said a surprised Oliver Polak-Rottmann. "I don't think we had 26 players with three byes last week in Providence even, and that was a week after the Pro Tour."

So this would be an event for the ages, and it certainly would be interesting to see what decks and strategies the pros did come up with ...

The Decks

At time of writing this, I couldn't give away yet what each of the folks listed above chose to run. We didn't want to spoil anyone's fun or take away from the surprise value of certain deck choices. But that didn't mean that we didn't collect that information ...

So without further ado, here's a look at the metagame of the three-bye player group:

  • 14 Black-Green Delirium
  • 6 White-Blue Flash/Midrange
  • 3 Mardu Vehicles/Zoo
  • 1 Aetherworks Marvel
  • 1 White-Blue Control
  • 1 Green-White Delirium

So would Black-Green Delirium claim yet another trophy, just a week after it had done so at Grand Prix Providence? Or had the time come to bring Aetherworks Marvel back, which apparently is quite good against Delirium?

Stay tuned to find out ...