Despite doing worse than I had hoped to do this past weekend at Grand Prix New York, I definitely learned a lot about the Standard format, along with some lessons as to what you should and shouldn’t be doing going into future Standard events (or Magic events in general).
1) Be Able to Deal With Ormendahl, Profane Prince, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, or Dragonlord Atarka
This was by far one of the most common win conditions that I dealt with over the course of the weekend in the few matches I was able to play. Westvale Abbey was everywhere. It’s easy to splash into mana bases, it turns itself on over a long enough timeline, and it makes a very hard-to-deal with creature.
I was playing GW Tokens and was close to closing out a game against BG Aristocrats. I was able to attack them down to 2 life with Ormendahl before they were able to make their own and block. We both had the potential to gain infinite life, but only they had Zulaport Cutthroat. I ended up losing that game, unfortunately, simply because my deck had no way to deal with a 9/7 lifelink. I didn’t have anything like Stasis Snare or Declaration in Stone in the main deck, and this was my biggest problem in the event in hindsight.
While cards like Dragonlord Atarka and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet were also an issue for me, my broader point is to make sure you’re able to deal with troublesome creatures that can halt your main game plan. They are prominent in Standard right now.
2) Be Mindful of the Clock
In my first match, I ended up drawing a game that I would have won given literally one more turn. At the end of the game my opponent asked if he had played too slowly, and told me that it was one of the things he needed to work on the most. I told him it was no big deal as to not make him feel bad and left the table mildly frustrated.
In round 7, my opponent was playing BG Aristocrats. As you may know, this is a very trigger-intensive deck. Every time he made a play, he would verbally announce his triggers—“trigger, trigger, trigger, trigger”—along with stacking each creature that had an ability in the way he wanted them to resolve. These are great intentions aimed at clarifying what you’re doing. The problem is that it made our game 1 last 43 minutes. With 7 minutes left on the clock going into game 2, I scooped up my cards and gave him the win.
While there was a judge watching our match, this isn’t an easy thing to spot in terms of slow play. Each of his individual actions took a reasonable amount of time. The problem was that these were numerous unnecessary actions that ultimately drained the clock. In situations like this, you are your own best advocate. Call a judge and let them know that you are concerned with the amount of time your opponent’s turns or actions are taking. Even if nothing can be done about it, you have nothing to lose by making sure everything is on the up and up (this is also one reason I love Magic Online—if you have to stack 42 triggers during your turn, they come out of your clock, not one collective match clock.)
3) Practice, Practice, Practice
This should go without saying, but some people still don’t do it. I didn’t. Truth be told, I have a lot going on right now. I stream, I write several articles a week, I travel for Grand Prix in different formats like Limited, Modern, Legacy, and Standard. I was at PAX East with Bethesda. I will be casting Heartstone for their EU Spring Preliminaries this weekend. I didn’t have the time to put into Standard that I wanted to. This caused me to pick up a deck and learn all of its ins and outs at the last minute, if at all.
If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you might have seen that I even forgot that Westvale Abbey made creatures, which is one of the best two (of three) abilities on the card! Of course I knew the card did this—I’ve made tokens plenty of times and even commented on doing so in one of my videos! But having not played with the card in a real life environment, or known the nuances of the deck, it slipped my mind. This also isn’t a situation of making sure you read your cards. This is more a situation of misremembering what a card does, and being certain it does one thing when it actually does another. Practice can avoid this altogether!
This was the first Grand Prix in 2016 where I didn’t make Day 2, and I wasn’t very surprised. Thankfully, after 20 years, Magic still has lessons to teach me and I feel like I’ve learned a couple over the weekend. Hopefully you have too. Thanks for reading and I’ll catch you later.