4 Lessons from GPs Melbourne and Milwaukee

The Results

Both Limited and Constructed were showcased this weekend in Melbourne and Milwaukee respectively, with the greatest city on Earth (ignore this year’s results, they don’t count) playing host to Guilds of Ravnica Sealed and Draft, while in Wisconsin, Standard was further explored in the wake of the Pro Tour.

In Melbourne, the Top 8 featured a mix of locals and tourists, with rising Kiwi star Zen Takahashi picking up his fifth GP Top 8. It was Taiga Tsujikawa, however, who doubled-down on a 9-0 Day 1 performance to take out the Top 8, crushing all comers and claiming the title of GP Melbourne Champion.

In Milwaukee, we learned quickly that this is a fast-moving and dynamic Standard format, with a new roster of decks dominating the scene after Adanto Vanguard and friends flooded the Pro Tour Top 8 last week. Golgari and Jeskai rose to the top after a relatively quiet PT, at the cost of the Boros Aggro decks that ran roughshod in Atlanta.

The Top 8 featured two of the all-time greats in Owen Turtenwald and Seth Manfield, but ultimately it was the old-school stalwart Adrian Sullivan who was able to emerge victorious, a hometown hero on Wisconsin soil.

The Moments

200 IQ Izzet Drake strategy from ORAT:

Oliver Tomajko—History’s Greatest Monster:

The biggest explosion since Mount Tambora:

Sweet alters from the inestimable Alayna Danner:

400 IQ win out of nowhere from Adrian Sullivan:

The Decks

If you’re looking to play midrange in Standard, you probably have your sights set on Golgari. It’s difficult to fault this approach, as it’s definitely one of the more dominant decks in the format. Justin Andrus, however, took a different tack in looking to grind through midrange slugfests with value creatures, powerful planeswalkers, and a first-rate disruption suite. His Grixis Midrange deck was good for an 18th place finish.

Grixis Midrange

Justin Andrus, 18th place at GP Milwaukee 2018

One of the greatest strengths of this deck is the depth and power of its interaction. Critically, it has plenty of answers to Adanto Vanguard and other small white and/or red creatures, with Golden Demise and Vraska’s Contempt helping to stabilize against aggressive starts. Lava Coil deals with flying threats from Izzet decks, and Thought Erasure is a nice, flexible option that excels against control decks while not being totally dead in the late game.

The creatures all provide immediate value, and it’s very exciting to see Daddy Bolas up and about. It’s also good to see Karn getting it done again. After an explosive entry into Standard earlier in the year, the Scion of Urza has taken something of a back seat in recent months. Here, he and Ral team up to provide pressure, disruption, and card advantage—everything you want from a planeswalker.

Given the creature-centric focus of Golgari, it’s nice to see midrange options that aren’t all about board presence doing work in Standard. Grixis attacks on a different angle, and will wrong-foot people looking to attack Golgari as the premier midrange deck.

The Takeaway

The wide consensus is that Standard is once again at the top of its game, providing a wide scope of playable archetypes, an ever-shifting metagame to navigate, and opportunities for engaging and deep decision-making. It’s nice not to sit down across from Black-Red Scrapheap Scrounger every round!

With that said, the greatest challenge before Standard mages right now is charting a course across Standard’s choppy waters. Last week, white aggressive decks dominated the Top 8. This week, there’s only a single copy in the Top 16. Jeskai and Golgari once again have risen to the fore, and next week the cycle will begin anew as people contest last week’s top dogs.

This cycle of tweaking, tuning, and updating will never end while the health of the format lasts. Two weeks ago, Golgari was looking to cram as many Carnage Tyrants into their lists as possible. Today, not a single Golgari list in the Top 8 played a playset of them. Similarly, Jeskai wizards are—shockingly—diversifying their threats away from Teferi, with Niv-Mizzet very much in vogue within control decks.

Overall, what does this mean in a broader sense? With Golgari and Jeskai back on top, we’ll now see the more aggressive, lower-to-the-ground strategies adapt to this change and look to aggressively get under the decks that are going big. It’s entirely possible that a deck like Jeskai can retain supremacy for back-to-back weeks, especially if an emphasis is now placed on Deafening Clarions and Lava Coils rather than 5- and 6-drop finishers.

Ultimately, it’s difficult to predict exactly how things will turn out as we head toward the next Standard GP in a couple of weeks, but the deck I have my eye on is Izzet Drakes. I still don’t think we’ve seen the final, finished version of this list, and once we do, it’ll be making headlines everywhere.

This weekend we’re off to Warsaw, where Guilds of Ravnica Limited will be put through its paces once again. I’ll be back with a roundup of all the action next week!

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