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This past weekend**, the Pro Tour set the stage for Standard for the upcoming season. There were high expectations and many predictions on what decks and cards would show up, but no one was certain until they saw the matchups playout this past weekend. Kaladesh cards had a massive impact on the Standard format, both in volume and quality of cards that showed up in the decks that performed well over the course of the weekend. If we take the time to look over the decks that performed well during the constructed portion of the Pro Tour the three big components that stand out from Kaladesh are: Control, Energy and Combo.
After the Dragonlords and the Dragons-matter cards left the format at rotation, Control was left in limbo. Dragons were the anchor point for Control decks for the past two rotations, and it is to no one’s surprise that control would see a significant change after Dragons left standard. Torrential Gearhulk is the key card that came out of Kaladesh to shape the way control will be created for the coming season. Comparisons have been drawn between this hulk and Snapcaster Mage but, I believe this to be too linear of a comparison. Both cards flashback a spell except, the hulk is a significant body that can end games. Torrential Gearhulk is both a finisher and a built in two-for-one card that control decks are starved for.
The other significant card that this style of deck got from Kaladesh was Glimmer of Genius: a new instant speed card draw engine. The Jeskai and Grixis control decks of this Pro Tour both made use of Glimmer and its interaction with Harnessed Lightning to cobble together a very powerful removal spell. Instant-speed card draw is something that control decks are always on the lookout for, and Glimmer fills that role. This Pro Tour made it clear that Jeskai and Grixis will be the dominant Control archetypes moving forward.
Shota Yasooka, a Control master, decided that Grixis had the best tools available at this moment in time. Since Grixis has no true wrath like Jeskai does in the form of Fumigaate, Yasooka had to approach the composition of his deck differently than his peers who were playing Jeskai. Yasooka added Thing in the Ice into his Grixis Control deck which not only proved to be highly synergistic and potent, it also acted as a pseudo bounce-wrath. Thing is a cheap threat that blocks well in the early game and turns into a game-ender as the game progresses. Additionally, Thing has a measure of built in synergy with Torrential Gearhulk. Bouncing a Torrential Gearhulk back to your hand affords the control player the ability to reuse the hulk later to devastating effect. Although Shota’s deck was weaker to large singular Eldrazi threats, he created a deck that could weather an aggressive metagame and still have game against combo Eldrazi decks by means of main-decking Ceremonious Rejection. On the whole Shota’s deck was shown to have the best tools for an aggressive metagame that existed at the Pro Tour.
Control’s reemergence may have taken the center stage, but combo also made its presence known at the Pro Tour. Aetherworks Marvel is one of the more unique cards printed in Kaladesh. Through the combination of cheap energy producers, methods of digging through the library and massive Eldrazi threats, Temur Marvel turned into the formats leading combo deck. This deck was shown on camera several times casting a turn four Ulamog or Emrakul by means of the Marvel. Once the deck cast an Eldrazi threat opponents were woefully unprepared, and games ended quickly.
In the end, one Marvel deck made it to the Top 8 piloted by Matt Nass. However, it became clear over the course of the weekend that the Marvel deck had several glaring weaknesses. The Marvel sees six cards and those six cards must contain one of the eight Eldrazi targets in the deck. Players were drawing, discarding, and missing with their Marvel activations all tournament long. Besides this obvious impairment, the deck is very weak to counter magic fights, especially decks that contain Spell Queller. Marvel does gain access to counter magic post-board, but it does a poor job when they are fighting against a true Control deck. Reddit was flooded with mass panic and fear that Aetherworks Marvel is broken and that it should be banned. In reality, Marvel is a fragile combo deck that will lose to itself as much as it loses to its bad matchups. The deck is strong but by no means unbeatable.
Day two at the Pro Tour also saw the rise of Energy decks. There were two divergent builds that surfaced on Friday and continued putting up results throughout the tournament: RG Energy Aggro and UR Energy Control. The aggro version of Energy makes use of cards such as Electrostatic Pummeler, Bristling Hydra, and Voltaic Brawler in combination with pump spells to close games quickly. The key piece to this deck is the Pummeler, which always threatens kills out of nowhere with the correct number of pump spells in hand. This deck has the feel of modern Infect, in so much that the deck itself is a blend of threats, protection spells, and efficient pump spells. Although no RG energy decks made it to the top tables, it was a contender.
UR Energy Control was the other Energy variant present at the Pro Tour. Pierre Dagen piloted a UR shell that contained four Dynavolt Towers. The Tower helps a player accumulate Energy and then, when a critical mass is reached, start bolting players or creatures. Cheap and efficient spells in combination with the Tower allowed Dagen to control aggro board states quite effectively while still applying pressure to his opponents. Similar to Yasooka, Dagen made use of Torrential Gearhulk and Thing in the Ice to add additional pressure to the board. Energy was a key component to this deck’s success and it would not have been possible to construct it without all of the new Kaladesh cards available in standard.
This Pro Tour did leave the player base some valuable information going forward:
- Chandra, Torch of Defiance doesn’t have a home yet in Standard. She did see some marginal play but it was mostly in sideboards. Chandra was the most hyped card to come out of Kaladesh and at this point is failing to meet expectations.
- Red saw a resurgence at this Pro Tour. Although no true mono-red deck is viable red cards were everywhere in the Top 8.
- Harnessed Lightning was the go-to low curve removal spell and may have even unseated Grasp of Darkness. In fact, Shota Yasooka played zero copies of Grasp in his 75 partially due to the in-built synergy of Glimmer of Genius, Aether Hub, and Harnessed Lightning.
- Aether Hub is a fantastic land in this format and will be a staple in almost every archetype moving forward.
- RW Vehicles was present at the Pro Tour, but it was nowhere near as dominant as it was on the SCG circuit: perhaps because the Pros were ready for it.
- The Pros were all over the Green hulk as the best hulk but this weekend may have shown that, at the very least, the blue hulk deserves some attention as well.
- The two relevant standard legal Nissas were noticeably MIA this weekend. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar was a staple in the GW Tokens deck and was a ghost at this Pro Tour.
- Ceremonious Rejection is not only a great sideboard card in this format but, it may even be maindeckable for control decks going forward.
- Unlike Nissa, Gideon was everywhere last weekend and may see a rise in price as a result. Multiple archetypes made use of this powerful walker and he will continue to be a format-defining force.
- The Energy mechanic is a powerful tool that many deck builders made use of over the course of the weekend.
Now that we have a more solid foundation for the standard metagame, I look forward to digging deeper into it in future articles.
Until next week.
**Editors Note: While this article directly speaks about the results right after the pro tour, due to our submission process there was in fact a delay longer than normal, we apologize to our writers, and content readers for this delay.
Dungeons and Dragons: Store Campaign
It’s a story of adventure, magic, politics and greed. Where one can be a hero, or the villain – it’s all in the eye of the Beholder. Welcome to the Eye of Terrakin – the ongoing story for the Hairy T store campaign.
Join us every Thursday night at 7pm as our mightiest of heroes seek the ultimate prize. Arc 3: New Character Creation/Sign Up
Place: Hairy T North Time: 7pm Date: November 3rd, 2016
On Thursday November 10th, we will be starting a the newest story arc for our adventurers; new players will be introduced to a world in turmoil – where each table provides a separate yet interactive facet to the ongoing story. Every decision your party makes will affect other players and their parties. Join us as our team of Dungeon Masters unfold the epic tale on one man’s quest to hold the power of the Citadel.
This is a Hairy T Store Campaign, and sessions cost $5 each, or $25 for the six-week arc. Refreshments are included in the cost. We prefer to take pictures of players/groups during these events for ads and social media; players who do not wish their photo to be posted online must inform us during registration.