We are entering a new era in Magic as far as the scheduling of competitive level events. While there have been multiple Grand Prix run back to back previously, it hasn't been a regular occurrence. Now, we will be encountering many events like we will have in Seattle this weekend, with one Grand Prix run on Friday and Saturday, while another is run on Saturday and Sunday.
There are a few ways to tackle this situation. One is to simply choose one Grand Prix or the other to play in. Here we have one Legacy and one Standard Grand Prix; so many players have a preference in terms of which format they prefer. There are also people who will have some scheduling conflicts, and therefore be unable to attend for the entire weekend.
As a pro I think the approach that gives you the best chance to put up a good finish on the weekend is to give yourself two bites at the apple. This means registering for both tournaments, and if you do not make day two in the first Grand Prix, you can still play in the other one. If you do well in the first Grand Prix, then you can still drop from the second one. However, taking this approach necessitates preparing for both Legacy and Standard.
Legacy is the format that I know I will be playing since it is the first Grand Prix of the weekend, it also happens to be the format I don't get to play quite as much of. This means that I have been putting more preparation into Legacy, but still some effort into Standard.
The first thing I did for Legacy was catch up on the metagame. This is a good thing to do for a format that you are not playing on a regular basis, until it becomes time to prepare for a tournament. This mostly involves taking a look at results, and knowing what the best decks in the format are.
Sometimes there are multiple decks to gun for, in this case there is a very clear best deck in the format, and that is Grixis Delver. The deck has simply been crushing it, and as of now there is a good chance I play this deck in Seattle. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. This will unquestionably be the most popular deck in the tournament, and then there will also be other Delver based decks as well. There is no deck that just crushes Grixis Delver.
This is essentially a midrange deck that has all the tools it needs, but you must gear your sideboard towards specific matchups. For example, one of the more difficult matchups for Delver decks has traditionally been Lands, but you can add more cards like Price of Progress to try and win the matchup. Of course, with every card you put into your sideboard, you end up sacrificing a different matchup by cutting something.
Here is an example of what I would expect the average Grixis Delver deck to look like:
Perhaps the most powerful part about this deck compared to the other midrange blue decks is Young Pyromancer. It's extremely difficult to answer, especially when it comes down early in the game alongside a flurry of other spells. For example, even if your opponent has a removal spell you can still cast Young Pyromancer, immediately cast something like a Gitaxian Probe, and then potentially still have countermagic to fight over the opposing removal spell. This is a cheap win condition that works extremely well with the rest of the deck.
Young Pyromancer also works very well with Cabal Therapy coming out of the sideboard. Being able to essentially flashback Cabal Therapy for "free" because of the token you get from casting it the first time is pretty unfair. Beyond that the deck also has four Gitaxian Probe, so rather than guessing what the opponent has in their hand, you can operate with perfect information with a card like Cabal Therapy.
We see in the sideboard a wide variety of options, which is very typical for this sort of deck in Legacy. With cards like Ponder and Brainstorm alongside shuffle effects, you can see many cards over the course of a game. A single sideboard card is more or less the equivalent to having two copies of a sideboard card in a format like Standard. There are a variety of strategies out there that will try to attack this beast, and the sideboard tries to get ready for all of them. There are some vulnerabilities that this deck has. Perhaps the deck that fares the best against it is Mono Red Prison, because of its ability to completely stop the deck from operating. This is a deck that has risen in popularity the past few months to the point it is now one of the most popular decks in the metagame. Not only has the deck been doing well it has been actually winning major events, which means that it is simply a good deck, beyond the Grixis Delver matchup in particular:
This deck attacks the two biggest vulnerabilities many of these blue decks have with its prison cards. Most if not all the lands in many of these decks are nonbasics. That means that once a Blood Moon actually gets onto the battlefield the game more or less is over if there aren't many nonland permanents already in play. Deathrite Shaman can try to produce some mana through a Blood Moon, but is often not good enough. Magus of the Moon isn't quite the same as Blood Moon because it can still be answered by a Lightning Bolt.
The high-impact prison cards tax the countermagic out of the blue decks. The mono-red deck often has the luxury of playing around Daze, whether by holding back a Simian Spirit Guide or having multiple lands capable of producing two mana. This taxes Force of Will quite a bit. Chalice of the Void is normally going to be a turn-one play before the blue decks have the opportunity to dig through and set up their deck with cantrips. Without a Force of Will in your opening hand you are in danger of simply losing the game on the first turn with a Delver deck, and that's not a fun place to be.
Outside of Delver there are decks that rely even more on nonbasic lands, like the Lands deck itself. This is the format where you can play with the best dual lands in the game, so many decks try to do that. There are also plenty of threats that are tough to answer out of the mono-red deck, even if the mana disruption plan isn't very effective.
Card availability is unfortunately one of the biggest flaws with older formats, so I want to touch on the topic. There have been many reprints in Modern, and I think Wizards has done a good job making Modern cards accessible at a reasonable price, as you can pretty much find any card in Modern for around $100 or less. In Legacy the story is very different. Vintage isn't played as much at a competitive level so I don't take as much issue there, but we have Legacy Grand Prix on a regular basis.
Yes, there have been some reprintings like in Eternal Masters, which are good to an extent. The major issue is, per the policy of Wizards of the Coast, certain cards cannot be reprinted. These cards are on what is called the Reserved List. I'm not really sure why it is fair for some cards to be reprinted while others aren't, but this has been the case for quite some time. To change the policy also wouldn't be fair to those people who have collected cards on the Reserved List with the expectation they wouldn't be reprinted.
I would love to see some of the Legacy staples made more accessible, but as is, if I want to play a deck like Mono-Red Prison it means shelling out $700 for a playset of City of Traitors. For me, card availability is factored into my deck decision, and I'm lucky to own the dual lands which are also on the Reserved List. I'm not sure this will change, but it is certainly a big barrier to entry for the Legacy format.
Standard has actually changed quite a bit the past few weeks. The format had been dominated by The Scarab God, whether it be straight blue-black or a Grixis variant. Players are learning how to fight those decks, and I'm guessing The Scarab God won't be as dominant in Seattle as it has been recently. We have seen strategies like God-Pharoah's Gift come back to life, and also the resurgence of various green decks. I was playing the MOCS this weekend, and struggled against green creature decks because of the high density of threats they have access to.
This is the deck that actually went undefeated in the Standard MOCS event this past weekend:
The deck isn't just R/G Monsters, it is heavily dinosaur-focused. Commune with the Dinosaurs is extremely powerful because of its ability to be a land or a high impact spell, and is one of the major incentives for the dinosaurs. You don't actually need to have cards like Drover of the Mighty. The deck can have generic good creatures as well like Rekindling Phoenix. This deck is able to go over the top of other green decks with Ghalta, Primal Hunger, and that's one of the major reasons it did so well.
Perhaps the most popular of the green decks remains Sultai Constrictor. The deck is unrelenting, and has continued to put up good results time and time again. In fact, the deck has very few actual bad matchups, it might be to the point it is the best deck. There is a good chance I play it in Seattle. Some lists have been cutting on Hadana's Climb and Jadelight Rangers. I am fine with shaving on them but wouldn't recommend cutting them all together. This is the list I would recommend:
The split of three Jadelight Ranger and one Rishkar, Peema Renegade has started to become more widely adopted. The one Carnage Tyrant is a flex slot, but can be insane against the control decks, and act as essentially your fifth hexproof creature. Bristling Hydra plus Hadana's Climb allows for a lot of free wins, and Bristling Hydra might actually be better here than it used to be in Temur Energy. Don't sleep on this one, it will cost you.
Thanks for reading,