Grand Prix Lille. Grand Prix New Jersey. The first Standard grand prix of the season have been long overdue, and they finally arrived this past weekend. As expected, Golgari appeared everywhere, making up a remarkable percentage of the metagame. We also saw was that the field was prepared for it, bringing various strategies that would lead them to victory.

Grand Prix Lille

If we took the final as an example of Standard, then splashing looks like a real deck building cost, with 42 basics between the two decks. Looking further into the field, we start to see the more ambitious mana bases and the realization that the finals was the exception rather than the norm. Only one other mono-colored deck made the top 32, with players favoring mostly two-color strategies.

The percentage of players who brought Golgari is unprecedented for Standard. Even when Mono Red / Red Black was the consensus best deck in previous standard, it did not make up almost 40% of the field.

There is a large disparity between the top two decks. After the results I expect this gulf to close very quickly. Control strategies are starting to rise as the metagame becomes more defined, and I expect aggro strategies will start to emerge and challenge them too. Golgari will still be the de-facto most popular deck, but using six-mana finishers opens up room for more decks to outmaneuver them and lose its grasp on the title of best deck.

Fliers were the way that most players in the room attacked Golgari, favouring Izzet-based fliers and cheap interaction. Even the control decks still mostly ran a full set of Crackling Drakes in the main deck, rather than settle for just Teferi loops.

Grand Prix New Jersey

While the player base in Lille decided to use Izzet Drakes to tackle Golgari, New Jersey went in a different direction and took the previous tier one deck with adjustments: Stone Quarry (I mean Boros) Angels. Each card in the deck is a haymaker against the Golgari deck, especially Tocatli Honor Guard. What was previously a sideboard card is now appearing in the main deck, due to the deck itself not containing any ETB triggers while shutting down those from other sources such as Crackling Drake in Izzet Drakes and the majority of the cards in Golgari.

No Golgari decks made the top 8. That would show the field was arguably better prepared for the deck, or that the Golgari decks in New Jersey hadn’t evolved in the same way that the Golgari decks had done in Lille.

Stand-Out Cards of the Grand Prix Weekend

Arclight Phoenix is the headlining mythic rare, but I could have put the whole Izzet spells archetype in here. That deck definitely gained the most ground this weekend. It combines a lot of cheap spells with recursive threats to ensure that you don’t run out of gas. One of the innovations of the deck was the inclusion of Maximum Velocity, which propelled Eduardo Sajgalik to the top 8. Surprise kills with drakes or phoenix beatdowns currently face favourable winds.

Eduardo Sajgalik's Izzet Drakes

Creatures (12)
Arclight Phoenix
Enigma Drake
Crackling Drake

Spells (27)
Warlord’s Fury
Crash Through
Chart a Course
Maximize Velocity
Tormenting Voice
Lava Coil
Beacon Bolt
Lands (21)
Steam Vents
Sulfur Falls

Sideboard (15)
Niv-Mizzet, Parun
Fiery Cannonade
Beacon Bolt
Spell Pierce
Dive Down
Lava Coil
Disdainful Stroke
Firemind’s Research

Also, can we start calling this deck 8 Drake? (In the same vein as 8 Rack and 8 Whack in Modern.)

The controversial dinosaur is back, breaking mirrors and single-handedly defeating control. While Golgari decks were everywhere in Lille, the mirrors were decided by who could resolve the most Carnage Tyrants. As the deck gets bigger, with more copies of Find // Finality and Carnage Tyrant, it will inevitably push some cards like Vraska, Relic Seeker to the side. But until the deck can find a finisher that is ideal in 90% of matchups, we’ll see a lot more of the death lizard.

The Immortal Sun was a speculative card from my last analysis. Now it is appearing en masse in sideboards of most decks. When a card is flexible enough to appear in the sideboards of Boros Angels and Jeskai Control, then that card is quite powerful. With how powerful the card is and how hard it is to interact with, I would expect to see more in sideboards and potentially in main decks of some of these creature archetypes.

Wrap Up

Golgari’s downfall during this grand prix weekend appeared to be its tuning for mirror matches, rather than tuning itself for other matchups. The deck still had success, with a lot of copies making day two and cashing the events, but with the increase in the curve and general reduction of planeswalker removal spells has worsened the non-mirror matchups. This is not to say that Golgari will be unsuccessful, but that the deck is still no closer to being “solved” than it was roughly a week or two ago.

Ultimately, these results need to be taken with a pinch of salt, as a lot of the pros in attendance this weekend are unlikely to reveal their standard preparation two weeks before the Pro Tour. What is clear though is that this format is still wide open even if the frontrunners have started to emerge.

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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