The first grand prix of the new Standard are coming this weekend. If you’re new to the competitive scene, I’m here to guide you through what to expect at a Grand Prix and what you can do to make the most out of it!

Should I attend?

The simple answer is yes. You should attend a local grand prix tournament if you get the chance. It’s a fantastic way to spend a weekend hanging out with people from around the country (or continent if not based in North America) that enjoy the same hobby as you. There are plenty of events happening at grand prix to appeal to everyone, from the main event and PTQs for competitive players, to cosplayers, traders, and artists for less competitive fare.

The Grand Prix main event itself can seem daunting—especially the prospect of potentially playing against Pro Players. They provide a great opportunity to improve, however. You’ll find that the players you play against will generally be in the same situation as yourself.

Leading up to the Grand Prix

Because these are constructed grand prix this weekend, you’ll need to select a deck to play throughout the tournament. While you can change your deck until the players’ meeting the morning of day one, I would recommend that you select a deck by the Thursday before the event. Spend the days before the event testing and tuning your deck against specific decks in the metagame. If you need to make a last-minute change, you can, but only when you know that’s what you need to do.

While there can be advantages in deck selection and leaving your deck selection as late as possible, you’ll win a higher percentage of matches by playing a deck that ultimately you’re more familiar with. This could be the Runaway Steam-Kin deck that you’ve been playing since release, or the merfolk deck that you make in every format but playing a deck that you’re familiar with will most likely give you an edge.

Rogue strategies can also be worth considering, as a lot of the advantage in Standard comes from knowing what cards are in your opponent’s deck. Taking away that information by playing something unpredictable can lead to opponents playing more carefully in situations where they wouldn’t normally, or overextending into bad situations.

Tips for the Grand Prix

With a prompt starting time of 9am, it pays to make sure you know where the venue is. Even if you do not plan to play a side event on the Friday—maybe you flew in from another country, that’s what normally happens for me!—it helps to visit the venue to ensure that transport is not an issue . Doing this also gives you an estimate for time to get from the venue to your accommodation.

Snacks and hydration are a must for these sorts of events. With eight rounds to play on day one, mental fatigue becomes a real issue by the end of the day. Hav something to refuel each round, such as a piece of fruit or chocolate to keep you going. And drink water as much as you can.

You have 50 minutes for each round, but with the size of the events commonly reaching over 2,000 players, the rounds will inevitably go longer due to deck checks and judge questions. While I would expect this to take eighty or ninety minutes per round, this isn’t a fixed length of time. Staying in the venue is key to not missing your next round.

With the relatively recent adaptation of online pairings, something as simple as having a fully charged phone available becomes a major boon, ensuring that you never miss the announcement for the next round. Do note, however, that constantly refreshing the pairings page will drain your battery.

My Recommendation for New Jersey / Lille

So what should you play in Standard for Grand Prix New Jersey or Grand Prix Lille this weekend? With the amount of Golgari decks currently leading the metagame, I would suggest a creatureless control deck. The best way to invalidate their creatures is to simply not play creatures, with Jeskai or Esper being the best way to do this. Esper would be more removal-heavy, featuring cards like Ritual of Soot; and Jeskai playing more reactively with Expansion // Explosion and Chemister’s Insight.

My only concern with these decks is that without practice, they will inevitably lead to draws with newer pilots as there are a lot of decisions to be made. Adjustments can be made to include more win conditions and speed up the average length of the game for the inexperienced, however. You can include more planeswalkers that can finish the game, such as Ral, Izzet Viceroy or Karn, Scion of Urza; or by including difficult-to-answer threats such as Chromium the Mutable.

The Grand Prix is the best stage for players to make the transition to be more competitive. With the first two grand prix of Standard here, I”m excited to see how the format shapes up when Pros take to the field!

Daniel Roberts (@Razoack) is a UK based player writing about all things Standard. Playing since the release of Gatecrash, he loves nothing better than travelling to European GPs with friends and losing in the feature match area. His best record is 12-3 at GP Barcelona 2017, but he’s aiming for that one more win.

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