Going into Manchester, I needed 3 Pro Points to lock Gold before the last PT of the season (Sydney in August) and it feels awful to go into the last PT of the season looking for a finish. I started this season well with a win in Madison, but I didn't do well enough at the PT to pretend reaching Platinum this year.

After GP Bologna, and seeing that I would need to play a couple more GPs in order to lock Gold, I asked my wife, on a scale from 1 to 10, how much she wanted to go to Costa Rica. She rolled her eyes and softly said: "...10?"

So I started looking for flights so I could go to GP Manchester, fly to Costa Rica on the following Monday and meet her on the way. That proved to be tricky as no flights were available for that route from Manchester. So I booked my flight on Sunday evening for Paris from Manchester (and my flight would leave at 7:45), and I would meet my wife on the way (in Madrid). If I made Top 4 or better, I would miss my flight, therefore my connection, and would have to find an alternative. But that's fine — that means I'm doing well.

Two weeks before Manchester, Jérémy Dezani and I started focusing on the format and tried pretty much every viable deck. We stopped on Esper and W/B Control for a while, but we always had the same problem: we couldn't beat W/G Tokens.

So we decided to work on that deck seriously, and I have to say, this is the only deck I managed to 5-0 a couple of leagues in a row with.

It was Jérémy who ended up with the list, a list that didn't differ much from the stock lists. We wanted Stasis Snare to stop Ormendahl, Dragonlord Silumgar, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar at instant speed. The matchup against Four-Color Rites was tricky, but we had six maindeck removal spells plus four Archangel Avacyn, so it wasn't a lost cause either. We thought about cards like Tragic Arrogance but we didn't quite like it in the main.

"What about Chandra, Flamecaller?" I asked Jérémy. I think his answer was in the lines of "lol". "Well, I'm serious, we should try Chandra..."

The next day, Jérémy sent me a couple of screenshots of when he would cast it. I tried the deck with it, and did the same. For a week, we sent each other screenshots of the biggest blowouts of opponents caught off-guard.

Here's the decklist I played at GP Manchester and the week after, at GP Costa Rica:

DECKID=1266697

The one thing that makes it different from the other G/W tokens list: Chandra, Flamecaller.

What's with these Chandra's?

No red mana to cast them?

Only four Oath of Nissa, is it serious?

After GP Manchester, it raised a lot of eyebrows. First, people thought they misregistered my decklist. Then others thought I was an idiot or had no idea what I was doing.

I'm no idiot (or at least, I don't think so), and I know exactly what I'm doing.

There are a few points to discuss about the inclusion of Chandra in W/G Tokens.

Some people are more qualified than me to run the math and give you the exact numbers (there are a few topics on reddit where they talk about it), but basically, you have roughly a 63% to have an Oath of Nissa in play by turn six. These are ok odds to work with in the first place, but the thing is, you won't always have six mana on turn six, or the need to play Chandra, Flamecaller on turn six. Every draw after turn six improves your odds of having an Oath of Nissa to play Chandra, Flamecaller.

Any opening hand with an Oath of Nissa and two lands (at least one that produces green) is a keeper. That makes your Chandra, Flamecaller a lot more likely to be cast when you have it, considering that one of the Pieces of the Puzzle gets you to the other. Sure, the surprise factor won't be as efficient if you reveal it, but it's still a very powerful card, whether your opponent knows you have it in hand or not.

I heard a lot of people saying that now that the cat is out of the bag, your opponents will go after your Oath of Nissa (with Dromoka's Command for example), leaving an uncastable Chandra, Flamecaller in your hand.

Even though players at Grand Prix Costa Rica knew my decklist, no one targeted my Oath of Nissa. One of the reasons is that it's a bad play. The +1/+1 counter in addition to the fight effect will almost always be more relevant than destroying Oath of Nissa. What if I'm not holding a Chandra, Flamecaller? What if I'm not running it at all? What if I sideboarded it out?

Just like other powerful six-drops, it's likely to stick in your hand for a while until you can cast it. When you can cast it, you want it to have a devastating effect. For six mana, nothing is as powerful as Chandra, Flamecaller. The options you have available at that cost in W/G are Dragonlord Dromoka or Linvala, the Preserver. None of them are as efficient against the field as Chandra, Flamecaller.

If we're only looking at the sweeper effects that give you a huge edge against Four-Color Rites, we can consider Tragic Arrogance. The problem I have with Tragic Arrogance is that it's situational. Against some decks, it will just sit in your hand the whole time and you'll never find the window to cast it, or it will just never do anything. On the other hand, nhenever you can cast Chandra, Flamecaller, and given that you've set up the board so it sweeps most of your opponent's creatures without sweeping yours, it will basically be game over. When you can play the card, Chandra, Flamecaller is likely to be better than Tragic Arrogance.

And so far, we've only talked about the –X ability. Chandra also has a +1 and a 0 ability which are both useful and powerful in situations when you don't have to wrath, or after you wrathed.

The question is, is the fact that you will have a harder time casting Chandra, Flamecaller worth the risk of not being able to cast it a third or a quarter of the time? You know my answer. W/G Tokens is a powerful deck with a lot of resources. Sometimes you just need some extra power to take over the game, and that's just what Chandra, Flamecaller does for you.

However the card we took out of the deck wasn't Tragic Arrogance but Secure the Wastes. I have been underwhelmed by Secure the Wastes in general. Against aggressive decks, spending three or four mana and a card to buy a turn just isn't worth it, and when you have more mana, you're likely to have an Oath of Nissa to power out a Chandra, Flamecaller, which will be more powerful. There's a point to be made with Westvale Abbey, but making five tokens and sacrificing them felt a little too "all in" and was rarely a successful strategy, as most your opponents have efficient answers to it (Stasis Snare or Declaration in Stone).

I played a total of 27 rounds with the deck. Sometimes you have to sideboard out Chandra, Flamecaller for cards that are more adapted to the matchup, but overall, I was happy with it. Sometimes it got stuck in my hand for a while, just like other cards that you don't need to cast or can't cast, and almost every time I cast it, it was a game-winning play.

At GP Costa Rica, a lot of players decided to run our version (as in the same 75). As far as I know, Erick Manuel Lopez Basulto made Top 4 (commenting that Chandra, Flamecaller was the best card in his deck beind Archangel Avacyn), Hao-Shan Huang made 13th place (also very happy with Chandra, Flamecaller), and I finished 20th, losing two win-and-ins, including the last one to eventual winner Seth Manfield.

Since we're talking about the deck, and that it's something a lot of you are here for, here are the in-outs I've been using for both tournaments. Feel free to deviate a bit from them, as they might not match the strategy of your game.

Four-Color Rites

+2 Planar Outburst
+2 Tragic Arrogance
+1 Declaration of Stone
+2 Den Protector

-2 Lambholt Pacifist
-3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
-1 Hangarback Walker
-1 Evolutionary Leap

Your game against Four-Color Rites is going to be all about sweepers. Four Archangel Avacyn and two Chandra, Flamecaller should give you a good chance in game one. In game two, you have access to four more mass removal spells, and it becomes really hard for them to Overrun you. They make their deck worse when they board in Negates, and you can just play around them or overpower them with your creatures (or even use Archangel Avacyn as a sweeper).

W/B Control

+3 Den Protector
+1 Evolutionary Leap
+1 Declaration in Stone

-3 Archangel Avacyn
-2 Lambholt Pacifist

Out of my five losses in both tournaments, three came from W/B Control. When I was playing W/B Control in testing, the matchup seemed impossible, and I felt good being the W/G player in the matchup. I think my draws against them weren't particularly stellar, but it's probably a lot more even than I originally thought.

W/G Tokens

+2 Tragic Arrogance
+2 Hallowed Moonlight
+2 Den Protector
(you can add an Evolutionary Leap on the play)

-2 Lambholt Pacifist
-2 Oath of Nissa
-2 Chandra, Flamecaller

It's a matchup where Tragic Arrogance might just be better than Chandra, Flamecaller. I like running the Tragic Arrogance game against W/G and you can't afford bringing in so many spells and keep Oath of Nissa, and if you cut Oath of Nissa, you have to cut Chandra, Flamecaller as well. It's a pretty even matchup, as you can imagine, and knowing how to play it will affect the outcome of the match significantly.

Bant Company

+2 Hallowed Moonlight
+1 Planar Outburst
+1 Tragic Arrogance
+1 Declaration in Stone

-2 Chandra, Flamecaller
-1 Oath of Nissa
-1 Hangarback Walker
-1 Gideon, Voice of Zendikar

Don't hesitate to take out more Gideon, Ally of Zendikar on the draw. It's likely not going to survive until your next upkeep. The matchup is pretty even, depending a lot on your draws. Eldrazi Displacer will most likely be your biggest problem, but nothing you can't overcome.

If I had to change something in the deck, it would be:

-In the maindeck, cut one Westvale Abbey for either a Forest or a Plains
-Cut Angelic Purge from the sideboard (only good when you can sacrifice your Oath, but we don't really want to do that) for either a Stasis Snare or a Quarantine Field.

Over the course of the two tournaments, I went 18-5-1, which is a tremendous result for a deck. I collected a lot more Pro Points than I expected, putting me only one point behind in the race for captaincy in the World Magic Cup.

In Manchester, I did end up missing my flight. Between the semis and the finals, when I was sure I would not make it, I asked around for a way to get to London before 6am on the next day. I spent 800€ buying a brand new ticket from Heathrow to be able to meet my wife on the way. But you know what? If it's what it takes to win a tournament, to put yourself in a situation where you have to buy a new ticket, I'll take it any day!

The win in GP Manchester was my sixth Grand Prix victory. The feeling of winning a big tournament is like no other. It's so special because you never know when or even if you're going to win one of these again. I came short of top 8'ing GP Costa Rica. It would have been an even more awesome story to tell, but it just didn't happen.

Before wrapping this article up, I'd like to address some thanks:
-To Jérémy Dezani: We don't always end up with good decks, but when they are, they take down the tournaments.
-To everyone who lent me the cards the cards for my trip.
-To Pete Ward for helping me out figure out a way to get to London.
-To Sam and Sophie who drove me all the way from Manchester to Heathrow in the back of their car while I was still in a winning euphoria.
-To my wife for her unconditional support.-And to you for reading my stuff, rooting for me and following my results wherever I go!

Next up, the WMCQ in a few days and then GP and PT Sydney.

Cheers!

Raph
@hahamoud