This upcoming weekend is Grand Prix DC…err…Grand Prix Chantilly, Virginia (Wizards please stop deceiving about where Grand Prix are being held). That means a Grand Prix that’s very reachable without flying for me, meaning I’ll be there ready to battle Standard.

In my opinion, we’re in the midst of a very healthy Standard environment, where many decks with different styles are all viable, and there’s no rock-paper-scissors paradigm that necessitates that you get good matchups in order to win. This leaves the door open to players playing whatever strategies they feel comfortable with or, frankly, any strategy they feel like.

This weekend, I’l be playing U/W Approach at the Grand Prix. It’s certainly not tier 1 and it has some really awkward draws, but it’s certainly powerful enough and just enough under the radar that I don’t think it’ll have a massive target on its back. The deck is fairly difficult to play and has some unintuitive lines. I’ve found in testing that there are several different axes that the deck can fight on, and figuring out which one you need to focus on separates a win from a loss.

Perhaps the biggest challenge with U/W Approach is getting the best list. There are a lot of interesting card choices that make each U/W Approach list notably different. Let’s take a look at the differences between some of the more prominent lists. The 3 decklists we’ll be looking at are Dan Ward’s original list from Grand Prix Minneapolis, a 6-2 list from a recent MtGO RPTQ, and a 5-0 list from MtGO. Let’s dive in.

U/W Approach by Dan Ward at GP Minneapolis

Creatures (0)

Non-Creature Spells (35)
2 Unsummon
4 Blessed Alliance
4 Censor
4 Supreme Will
4 Glimmer of Genius
3 Hieroglyphic Illumination
4 Fumigate
3 Approach of the Second Sun
4 Aether Meltdown
3 Cast Out

Lands (25)
2 Blighted Cataract
4 Irrigated Farmland
9 Island
6 Plains
4 Prairie Stream

Sideboard (15)
4 Authority of the Consuls
2 Negate
2 Regal Caracal
1 Descend upon the Sinful
2 Hour of Revelation
2 Linvala, the Preserver
2 Torrential Gearhulk

U/W Approach by Marco.Oi on MtGO

Creatures (0)

Non-Creature Spells (35)
1 Gideon of the Trials
4 Blessed Alliance
4 Censor
3 Essence Scatter
4 Supreme Will
4 Glimmer of Genius
2 Hieroglyphic Illumination
4 Fumigate
3 Approach of the Second Sun
2 Stasis Snare
4 Cast Out

Lands (25)
2 Blighted Cataract
4 Irrigated Farmland
8 Island
7 Plains
4 Prairie Stream

Sideboard (15)
2 Authority of the Consuls
1 Dispel
4 Negate
2 Summary Dismissal
2 Regal Caracal
1 Descend upon the Sinful
2 Torrential Gearhulk
1 Sphinx of the Final Word

U/W Approach by hieraru on MtGO

Creatures (0)

Non-Creature Spells (35)
4 Blessed Alliance
4 Censor
4 Supreme Will
4 Glimmer of Genius
3 Hieroglyphic Illumination
4 Fumigate
4 Approach of the Second Sun
1 Farm // Market
3 Stasis Snare
4 Cast Out

Lands (25)
4 Irrigated Farmland
6 Island
8 Plains
1 Port Town
4 Prairie Stream
2 Westvale Abbey

Sideboard (15)
4 Authority of the Consuls
2 Dispel
2 Negate
3 Regal Caracal
2 Descend upon the Sinful
2 Sphinx of the Final Word

All of these lists have something different going on, so before we dive into specific card choices, let’s take a look at what cards are in all list, so we can see where the card choices are really made.

U/W Approach Overlap

Creatures (0)

Non-Creature Spells (28)
4 Blessed Alliance
4 Censor
4 Supreme Will
4 Glimmer of Genius
2 Hieroglyphic Illumination
4 Fumigate
3 Approach of the Second Sun
3 Cast Out

Lands (20)
4 Irrigated Farmland
6 Island
6 Plains
4 Prairie Stream

Sideboard (7)
2 Authority of the Consuls
2 Negate
2 Regal Caracal
1 Descend upon the Sinful

So between these 3 lists, 48 of the mainboard 60 and 7 of the sideboard 15 overlap. That’s a surprisingly little amount for a deck that’s an established part of the metagame. The card choices outside of these overlap cards have a big impact on the overall strategy of the deck. Let’s take a look at the card choices these players made:

Aether Meltdown vs. Stasis Snare

Dan Ward played the full 4 copies of Aether Meltdown in his U/W Approach list, while the other two players opted for 2 and 3 copies of Stasis Snare respectively. They both have their pros and cons, and this decision changes the strengths and weaknesses of the deck. While Aether Meltdown is cheaper, it doesn’t actually remove the creature from play, which can be a large downside, especially with the presence of the full playset of Blessed Alliance. Stasis Snare, on the other hand, is more expensive, meaning it trades much less efficiently with the low to the ground cards in Ramunap Red. I’ve tested with both and found that Aether Meltdown is much better against Ramunap Red, but Stasis Snare has much more value against pretty much the rest of the format, so I’ll be playing Snare.

Hieroglyphic Illumination vs. Gideon of the Trials

This one is pretty simple and straightforward. Two of the three lists played a third copy of Hieroglyphic Illumination, while one played only 2 copies of Illumination and one copy of Gideon of the Trials. Since it was printed, I’ve been really unimpressed with Gideon. When playing from behind, it’s frequently simply an Arrest effect that can be attacked. This deck is almost always playing from behind, so I’d rather not play it.

Unsummon vs. Essence Scatter vs. Farm // Market + 4th Approach

Dan Ward played 2 copies of Unsummon in his deck, but that card has more or less fallen out of favor since. It’s usually not a 1 mana removal spell, and the time it gives you is overkill more often than not. Essence Scatter is a pretty interesting option, but not one I’ll be going with. Generally speaking, Censor is the counter spell you want to cast for 2 mana, and more importantly, you are usually very happy if your opponent is casting creatures, as Fumigate can mop up anything on the board, leaving you up on cards. Farm // Market is an odd one as a 3 mana removal spell that needs to be timed well, but the back end of being able to loot helps when you’re trying to find the Second Sun is surprisingly powerful. The fourth copy of Approach of the Second Sun greatly increases the amount of time that you don’t need to wait for your first copy of Approach to come back around, increasing your clock. I like the Farm // Market + Approach package the best.

Blighted Cataract vs. Westvale Abbey

This one’s pretty simple. Extra card draw is great, 1/1 creatures aren’t.

Linvala, the Preserver vs. Torrential Gearhulk vs. Sphinx of the Final Word

These sideboards played anywhere between 2 and 4 of these big creatures. Sphinx of the Final Word is in 2 of the 3 sideboards, and I think 2 might be the right number for this weekend, as I’m expecting more control mirrors than previous weeks. In the Torrential Gearhulk vs. Linvala battle, Gearhulk wins for me. It’s significantly more flexible than Linvala, and I think it’s more important to have against this specific format.

Finally, here is my list that I’ll be playing this weekend (bar any last minute changes):

U/W Approach by Jonah Gaynor

Creatures (0)

Non-Creature Spells (35)
4 Blessed Alliance
4 Censor
4 Supreme Will
4 Glimmer of Genius
3 Hieroglyphic Illumination
1 Farm // Market
4 Fumigate
4 Approach of the Second Sun
4 Cast Out
3 Stasis Snare

Lands (25)
2 Blighted Cataract
4 Irrigated Farmland
8 Island
7 Plains
4 Prairie Stream

Sideboard (15)
4 Authority of the Consuls
3 Negate
2 Regal Caracal
2 Descend upon the Sinful
2 Sphinx of the Final Word
2 Torrential Gearhulk

Hopefully I’ll have a successful tournament report to write next week, but for not I have some more testing to do before this weekend. Overall, I’m very excited about the Grand Prix this weekend. I feel confident about my deck choice, my list, and feel confident about improving on my result from Grand Prix Minneapolis.

I’ll see you all next week!

Jonah

Can’t wait for Ixalan to come out and shake up Standard? Read this article from Riccardo Monico where he discusses some of the spoilers from Magic’s next set that have him excited.

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