This past weekend, I attended Grand Prix New Jersey, which featured the new and exciting Theros: Beyond Death limited format. I wrote about my thoughts on this format before, which you can read here, and I felt fairly well-prepared for the event. That being said, I sadly finished 5-3 and missed day 2. Although let’s not kid ourselves here, I had 2 byes and promptly came off of them to a bad 3-3 record before winning my last 2 rounds.
I think it’s always an important exercise to look back on decisions you made in tournament play in order to shed light on what edges there were to be gained. So today, what I want to do is take a look at my sealed pool for the Grand Prix, show you where I ended up, why I settled on the list I did, and what I could have done differently.
Without further ado, here is the sealed pool that I had in front of me at Grand Prix New Jersey:
I’ll show my decklist at the end, but I think that this pool is extremely interesting. Each color can be justified to varying degrees, and it’s not quite clear where the power level is in this pool. White is a bit shallow but has good power level in cards like Lagonna-Band Storyteller, Archon of Falling Stars, and Heliod’s Intervention (also known as Plague Wind). Blue is similarly shallow but with good power in cards like Thirst for Meaning, Ichthyomorphosis, Shimmerwing Chimera, and Thassa’s Intervention (also known as Dig Through Time).
Black is perhaps the only color to eliminate as a base color candidate, as a copy of Mogis’s Favor, two copies of Underworld Charger, a Mire’s Grasp, and an Elspeth’s Nightmare don’t really get there on their own, and the Gray Merchant of Asphodel is pitifully underpowered in this pool. Red is deep, and quite strong as well, which is a bit of a shame considering it’s the worst color in this sealed format. Red has a good option or two at every mana cost 2-5 in this pool, and some good enchantments and okay removal. The rares, however, are the biggest draw to red. Phoenix of Ash and The Akroan War are both potential game-winning cards on their own. The Phoenix, specifically, impressed me a lot in testing and is a card that draws me to red whenever I open it. In this pool, red was missing a bit of reliable removal and some high-cost impact cards.
Green is also very shallow, but there’s probably 6 or so cards in there that you’re very happy to stick into any green deck in this sealed format, so it was a consideration. Nylea, Keen-Eyed is going to struggle to get turned on in this pool, unfortunately, because there are so few green pips to go around. As far as the remainder of the cards go, red-white has two cards that are solid additions, but not exactly reliable game-winning threats. Haktos is perhaps the most infuriating card to have in your deck, as it’s just as likely to win you the game on its own as it is to get eaten by a 2-drop. Regardless, I still think it’s an inclusion in most aggressive red-white decks. Siona, Captain of the Pyleas is a card that I like a lot, but wouldn’t singlehandedly put me into that color combination.
If the main question we have in this pool is what to pair with our red (which I think it is), there are two major contenders: white and blue. White gives us access to more aggressive early plays, those two aforementioned multicolor cards, as well as strong late-game power with Lagonna-Band Storyteller, Archon of Falling Stars, and Heliod’s Intervention, the former two comboing very well with The Akroan War, which is a card we should be looking to maximize. Blue, on the other hand, offers slightly less late-game power, but has good synergy with some of our red cards. The combination of Shimmerwing Chimera and Iroas’s Blessing, for example, is extremely powerful. Blue also gives us more interaction than white, which is something we noted we were looking to add to our red.
I think there is also potential in this pool for a 3+ color deck likely featuring green and white as base colors, but I felt that it didn’t quite reach the consistency level I was looking for. I couldn’t find a list I was happy with in more than two colors at the GP, but it’s still worth mentioning as a possibility!
Anyway, here is the deck that I ended up registering:
1 Pious Wayfarer
1 Underworld Rage-Hound
2 Transcendent Envoy
1 Hero of the Pride
1 Careless Celebrant
1 Dreamstalker Manticore
1 Hero of the Games
1 Phoenix of Ash
1 Hero of the Nyxborn
1 Lagonna-Band Storyteller
1 Flummoxed Cyclops
1 Haktos the Unscarred
1 Daybreak Chimera
1 Heroes of the Revel
1 Archon of Falling Stars
Some cards that didn’t make the cut are the likes of Omen of the Forge, Triumphant Surge, and the second Omen of the Sun. The first two cards I somewhat regret not playing, although my logic does make some sense. My deck was more filled than I would have liked with go-wide cards such as Hero of the Nyxborn, Hero of the Pride, and Heroes of the Revel, so I needed to keep my aura count high for those cards. Similarly, I felt that my path to victory in most games was going to involve getting several cheap creatures on the board and then taking advantage of these heroic triggers. In order to do both of those things, I needed a fairly high creature count and a fairly high aura count. That, unfortunately, squeezed out the removal spells more than I would have liked it to.
It’s hard to be pleased with how Grand Prix New Jersey went for me, but all in all I think that Theros: Beyond Death is a very interesting limited format and one that I likely won’t stop playing in the near future. Up next for me is SCG Philly at the beginning of February, where I will be the Standard seat for my team. The current Standard frontrunners for me are: Mono-Red Aggro, Temur Reclamation, U/G Ramp, and Mono-Black Devotion.
Until next time,
@jonahgaynor on Twitter
Interested in a competitive EDH list that does more than just combo out as soon as possible? Check out CJ Gollogly’s Consultation Kess deck, a Grixis list designed to control the table as much as possible, while also being able to kill with its own combo.