Insider: GP Chicago & M15

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For many writers and players, GP Chicago will be remembered for the plethora of ways in which it was poorly run. Rather than focus on there only being one small bathroom for thousands of men to use or the absurd fifty dollar entry fee, instead I will remember this Grand Prix for what was done right.

For me, this event will be remembered as the epic artist event. Never before have I been to an event where there were seven artists in attendance. Visiting the artist booths is one of my favorite parts of big events like this. I love getting cards signed or altered for my cube and the presence of seven artists was a huge boon for me.

Financial News

There was a lot going on at this Grand Prix besides the main event. Trading was better than it has been in a while and many players seemed eager to rummage through my binder looking for all sorts of cards.

A couple cards I noted were Courser of Kruphix being bought by some dealers as high as twelve dollars and the bump on Eidolon of the Great Revel up to five bucks. Abrupt Decay is still rising as well and the demand was noted as player after player asked me if I had any available.

[cardimage cardname='Courser of Kruphix'][cardimage cardname='Eidolon of the Great Revel']

Conspiracy reprints have probably bottomed out so now seems like a great time to be picking up cards like Misdirection, Exploration and Stifle. Their abundance will subside and their price will start to increase once more most likely by the end of summer.

[cardimage cardname='Misdirection'][cardimage cardname='Stifle']

Even before the spoilers this week, there was a lot of chatter on the floor about the upcoming M15 set. Many players were discussing possible cards and theories they have. As more and more cards are spoiled, I think the hype is justified. While the Souls may or may not be powerful enough for Standard, the planeswalkers certainly are. In addition, there are a number of solid common and uncommon role players that are new and interesting.

For a core set, it definitely has hype backing it. Wizards is doing a good job making nearly every core set interesting and desirable. More on M15 later in the article so keep reading.

Competitive Recap

Even though I kept myself busy with different things, my main focus on this trip was playing Standard in the Grand Prix. If you’ve been reading my articles the last few weeks, you know that I have been planning to play Mono-Blue Devotion. With a red deck winning the Star City Invitational, I found no reason to change my deck choice.

In fact, I discovered while I was in Chicago that many other players including members of the Channelfireball Team agreed with my thinking and played the deck as well. Mono-Blue is a great choice because it presents a powerful and proactive route to victory. It has the tool to defeat any deck in Standard which makes it particularly appealing to me. Here’s how it turned out for me.

Round 1 – bye
Round 2 – Black White Devotion 2-0
Round 3 – Black Green Devotion 2-0
Round 4 – Uwr Control 2-0
Round 5 – Black Green Devotion 0-2
Round 6 – Jund Monsters 1-2
Round 7 – Mono Blue Devotion Mirror 2-1
Round 8 – GW Hex Proof 2-1
Round 9 – Black Green Devotion 0-2

As you can see, I played a variety of decks but mostly against Black Devotion. At the beginning of the tournament, I was on fire and I definitely felt unstoppable. Not losing a game for three matches in a row can do that sometimes.

Then round five came around and for some reason I was not allowed to play Magic. The first game I was stuck on two lands and although I made it a game, my opponent did not stumble at any point for me to come back. Game two I found all the lands that I didn’t have in game one and did not have nearly enough pressure to defeat anyone. I was feeling disgruntled at being mana screwed and then flooding out but it happens so I put it past me and moved onto the next round.

As round five started up, I figured out my opponent was playing Jund Monsters. He did a good job misdirecting me at the beginning of the game and I wasn’t sure if he was playing Monsters or Black Devotion. Once I realized what the match was, I was confident I could win. I think the Monsters matchup is almost always in the favor of Blue Devotion, at least when I am piloting it. After beating my opponent in the first game and feeling like I outplayed him, I was still confident I could take the match.

My mulligan in game two didn’t leave me with much in the way of pressure and my opponent was able to seal the deal with a couple monsters in a row. There was one point in the game where I gave him a couple juicy targets for Polukranos, World Eater to gobble up, but he didn’t bite and instead let his Domri Rade die to my small flyers. If he had protected his planeswalker, my Master of Waves could have allowed me to start pressuring him again.

Finally in game three, I came stampeding out of the gates, but in the midgame he was able to stabilize and finish me off while he sat at a minuscule two life. Drawing six lands in a row allowed my opponent to catch up from what I thought was an unloseable board position. Flooding should not be nearly as bad for me with this version of Mono-Blue because I have a handful of ways to take advantage of seven mana. Unfortunately I didn’t draw any of them in any time I flooded out at the Grand Prix.

Up next was the Mono-Blue mirror match, of which the first two games were quite interesting. Game one ended with my opponent’s maindeck Domestication taking control of my Master of Waves which was my only hope in my mediocre hand. Game two my early onslaught of fliers backed by a timely Hall of Triumph on turn four tied up the match. The final game was anticlimactic as the mana screw finally found my opponent instead of me.

The eighth round featured many interesting plays against an interesting deck. The first game was not much of one as my opponent played many hexproof creatures but no enchantments on them and I played many creatures followed up by Master of Waves.

The second game was an epic struggle for both of us. I’m sure my Selesnya opponent was not expecting me to stabilize after his fast start but Thassa, God of the Sea as an indestructible blocker does great work against an opposing aggressive deck. Unfortunately for me, the card on the top of my opponent’s deck was Selesnya Charm and in addition to the pump, it grants trample so we were onto game three.

Interesting sideboard cards sometimes win games for you and this is a great example. The combination of Triton Tactics and Negate were enough for me to win the combat trick war and then the match.

After rattling off two more wins in a row, I found myself still in a position to qualify for Day Two. Throughout any event, I do my best to take it one game at a time and play my best no matter the circumstances. Play to your outs no matter how small the chances are that you will hit them. Just thinking about what your outs are will help you become a better player.

While I know those statements to be true, sometimes there really is nothing you can do to win. Let’s set aside the fact that I was playing against the best deck in the format. Even if I was playing against another deck, it is unlikely that my twenty lands in two games would be enough to overcome the least competitive deck in the room. Apparently sometimes when you start with four lands in your opener, the next four cards you draw are all Islands. Flooding out two games in a row after turn one Thoughtseize in both games is not how players lock up Day Two. Sadly it was not to be, but Mono-Blue is still a great deck and I played well over the course of the long day, so I have no regrets.

M15 Previews

This week we have seen not one but two new planeswalkers and they both seem sweet. Let’s take a look.

The first one I was able to take a look at was Ajani the Steadfast. While I was surprised that another Ajani is being printed when Ajani, Mentor of Heroes is so fresh in Standard, the newest iteration of my favorite character in Magic seems powerful indeed.

Every part of this ‘walker seems to point him in the direction of greatness. Starting with his easy casting cost of four with only one colored mana to his four starting loyalty, it seems likely that I will be steadfast in my love of this card. Here is the text.

+1: Up to one target creature you control gets +1/+1 and gains lifelink, first strike, and vigilance until end of turn.

-2: Put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control, the put a loyalty counter on each other planeswalker you control.

-7: You get en emblem with "If damage would be dealt to you or a planeswalker you control, prevent all but 1 of that damage."

One of my favorite parts of Ajani Goldmane was granting your creatures vigilance. Not only do you get that with his +1, but you also get some Akromaesque abilities as well! Making your army bigger was a great way to take advantage of token makers and Ajani the Steadfast delivers for your creatures as well as your planeswalkers.

Nearly every ultimate is worth working for and this one seems decent also, but alternating between his other two abilities may prove a better route to victory. Overall, the newest Ajani seems like an obvious inclusion in any aggressive white deck.

Next up we finally have a new Nissa! I’ve been waiting for an updated version of this planeswalker for a long time and I’ve heard that same sentiment from many players recently as well. A lot of people figured out she was going to be in the set based on some leaked artwork, but knowing there will be a new version of her and seeing it are two different things.

Yet again we have Nissa requiring you to play lots of forests. Unlike last time though, Nissa, Worldwaker provides some powerful tools for a variety of decks.

The first ability I want to talk about is her second +1. Not only is it a great tool for a ramp deck, but it makes her almost free the first turn you cast her! I thought Garruk Wildspeaker was a great ramp tool because he could untap two lands, but untapping four is crazy talk.

If this card weren’t confirmed, I would have thought it was a fake because of how unbelievably powerful it is. This ability alone could be the centerpiece of a tier one Standard deck in the coming weeks. If you untap with her in play, you are going from five mana to ten or eleven! Talk about ramp. Rise of the Eldrazi Standard dreamed about cards like her existing. Now that we have her, we will have to find things worth ramping into.

If you want to be aggressive with Nissa, that’s okay too because she can make an elemental army for you. Unlike her counterpart Koth of the Hammer, her lands stick around as creatures. This is normally a great thing unless you are playing against a Supreme Verdict deck.

Although she doesn’t give your lands haste like Koth did, as long as the land has been in play, it can attack the turn it becomes a creature so they act like they have haste. If you keep her around long enough, you can make a giant 4/4 elemental army. Don’t forget that all of the land creatures all have trample too!

Nissa and Ajani are two of the most exciting cards in M15. I can’t wait to start brewing with both of them. Next week, we’ll take a look at more of what M15 has to offer us.

Until Next Time,

Unleash the Force!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter

3 thoughts on “Insider: GP Chicago & M15

  1. Would you recommend picking up any of these planeswalkers about 2 or 3 weeks after release? They look powerful, but I guess it depends on meta?

    1. I think as long as nissa finds a home, which she is powerful enough to build around so she should, that her value should hold. Ajani, I’d hold off on unless you are going to play him right away. Many players will undervalue ajani and his price should drop before coming back up some.

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