For those of you that do not know, I happen to reside in the beautiful state of Colorado. I mention this because come December, Denver (the capital of said state) will be hosting a Magic: the Gathering Grand Prix that is of the Standard format (I probably missed a TM in there somewhere, but oh well). Psychological as it may be, a hometown Grand Prix means the stakes are raised and I want to do well at this one.

With that in mind, today begins the preparation process to make that as feasible as possible. Over the last few months, I have typically rolled out a new brew with some ideas on how to get it to the next level, but often that's where my exploration ends. I want to move on to the next thing and discover whatever it is. Without a specific tournament on the horizon, there isn't much incentive to maintain one deck and focus your efforts on it. With an important tournament coming up though, that all changes.

Whereas before I was incentivized to explore, now I am incentivized to refine. If I have a good list, it pays me better to work on it and make tweaks to have the best version of it possible than it does to keep probing the format for new possibilities. Of course, in that probing process I could stumble upon something great, but the chances are low and therefore the return on my time and investment is low. Narrowing in and focusing on a deck with three or four weeks of prep to improve it is likely to have an extremely high return.

By that point, you are getting to maneuver specific sideboard cards or adjust bad matchups. Your level of understanding the deck gets to a point where you can make minute adjustments and be confident in their impact. This is how you arrive at the best possible list. If you just put in your normal amount of brew time and come up with a cool deck, you might get lucky with it, but more than likely there will be small imperfections that will add up over the course of a tournament. These are the bumps you look to smoothe out when you focus on one brew for a long time.

Back to Black

Before Kaladesh, I spent considerable time working on Mono-Black Eldrazi. The idea was basically to merge a disruptive midrange deck with a surprisingly aggressive set of creatures that can close out a game quickly. Against slower control decks and combo decks, this strategy is extremely effectively, putting the opponent off some number of turns while you Go for the Throat. If you look at the state of current Standard, it sure has a lot of these control and combo decks, so I wanted to look into Mono-Black Eldrazi once again.

It is true that aggro decks are also relatively popular right now, but Eldrazi has the tools to beat those decks if you know what you are doing. Wasteland Strangler, Bearer of Silence, spot removal, Flaying Tendrils, and Filigree Familiar are all excellent against decks trying to go faster than you. So, if we combine the natural strength of Mono-Black Eldrazi against slower decks and combo decks, with its ability to adapt against aggro, I think we have a great candidate to invest our time into.

Kaladesh actually added a staggering number of cards into the pool from which we draw. Last week we got to show off some of these toys in a much less reliable deck featuring a lot of haste creatures. While that shell is not likely to be great for Denver, the trio of Scrapheap Scrounger, Smuggler's Copter and Key to the City were absolutely great and should cross over nicely into a Mono-Black Eldrazi.

However, there is one list in Standard right now that blurs the line between aggro and control: White-Blue Flash. The Flash deck has enough control elements to disrupt most decks, especially those with lower curves such that Spell Queller is always on. As a result, I want to go into building my deck with White-Blue Flash specifically in mind. This is actually, in part, how I ended up black as I looked at Harsh Scrutiny and saw a very underused card with a ton of power behind it. Tagging a creature is relevant against basically every deck from Emrakul, the Promised End to Spell Queller to Torrential Gearhulk to Inventor's Apprentice. One mana allows you to get it under most threats and you even get the bonus of a scry which makes opening hands containing the card that much more likely to be keepable. Essentially any hand with two lands and a Scrutiny is fine and on the draw you will sometimes keep just one land.

With those new cards in mind and the old shell still fresh in my memory, this is where I started things off for this iteration.

I began with a few one-ofs in the main and side to test with them. Remember, we are not looking to arrive at some quick fix of a deck. I plan to put time and energy into every detail of this list before sleeving it up for Denver. By beginning with a slightly more diverse deck, I can safely explore individual cards while maintaining a cohesive and recognizable game plan around those cards.

We can pad the numbers on any cards that stand out and we can form opinions of whether the bad cards are justified or possibly just sideboard fodder. I value this exploratory phase because it builds a wider and more reliable set of options for later on.

Next week we will start taking a closer look at each individual card choice and try to get our sideboard in order. The following week we will be examining our specific game plan against each of the major Standard archetypes and hopefully by then we have a well-oiled machine ready for Grand Prix Denver.

Until next week, thanks for reading!

--Conley Woods--