Another Pro Tour, another predictions article!
For Pro Tour Hour of Devastation I did average,
hitting 2.5 of my five predictions
… I still can’t believe Mono-Red Aggro did so well! Either way, I’m back
to call my shots for Pro Tour Ixalan. As I’m not qualified, I’ve got
nothing to hide and will be telling all.
So join me today as I lament that I’m not in beautiful and exotic
Albuquerque, New Mexico and offer my five predictions for Pro Tour Ixalan!
Will I be right? Will I be wrong? Tomorrow, we find out.
There will be at least five different archetypes in top 8
Wait what? I thought this was the stale Temur Energy / Ramunap Red / U/B
Not so fast.
Unfortunately, over the last year or so we’ve grown to be rather frustrated
with the Standard format. With multiple bannings and powerful and
ubiquitous cards/mechanics like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar/energy being the
norm, Standard is often on a short leash. Pro Tour Hour of Devastation did
not help to dispel this notion, containing essentially only two archetypes:
Ramunap Red and B/G Energy, and the World Championship compounded it
further with only Temur Energy, Ramunap Red, and U/B Control.
Despite all of this, I think the Standard format has a lot of room
Yes, Kaladesh and Aether Revolt are both very powerful
sets, and yes they are both currently overshadowing Ixalan.
has quite a few gems in it that haven’t been fully explored. The World
Championship is a very unique tournament format, while also being a pretty
big stage to take a huge risk in deckbuilding. It also encourages players
to work in very small groups with the field so small, which makes it harder
to experiment with new decks.
If you’ve been paying attention to Magic Online, you’d be seeing quite the
gauntlet of interesting new decks. The Hidden Stockpile/Anointed Procession
decks that have become a solid part of the metagame were first revealed on
Magic Online (if you don’t count Sam Black being the first to champion the
interaction several months ago before it could really get going), and there
seems to be plenty more where that came from.
- 1 Pia Nalaar
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Whirler Virtuoso
- 2 Freejam Regent
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 3 Aether Swooper
- 3 Aether Chaser
- 4 Maverick Thopterist
- 4 Glorybringer
While clearly not a finished or tuned list (three Aether Chaser and three
Aether Swooper? Pick one, Craig!), Craig Wescoe’s U/R Improvise list
reminds us that energy is not the only mechanic in Kaladesh.
A cursory glance at the recent wining Magic Online decklists reveals a
swath of interesting decks beyond your usual Temur Energy fare. Will Temur
Energy be the most played deck at the Pro Tour? Almost assuredly, but it’s
just the surface of the format. The interesting question is: How deep does
Hazoret the Fervent will make top 8 in a non-Ramunap Red deck
Hazoret the Fervent has been one of the most powerful and threatening cards
in recent Standard, serving as the lynchpin and curve-topper of the most
successful aggressive deck, Ramunap Red. It’s hard to deal with, ends the
game in a hurry, and all it asks is you play a lot of cheap spells.
While Hazoret is inexorably tied to Ramunap Red, she has a lot to offer the
other aggressive decks in the format. What aggressive decks you say?
- 2 Pia Nalaar
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Toolcraft Exemplar
- 4 Veteran Motorist
- 3 Hazoret the Fervent
Just because Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is gone doesn’t mean Toolcraft
Exemplar into Heart of Kiran isn’t still a busted opening.
Adding Hazoret the Fervent to Mardu Vehicles makes a lot of sense. Without
Thraben Inspector and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to help when the game goes
long, the deck now looks to be as aggressive as possible. Being able to
back up aggressive starts with the evasive power of Heart of Kiran and the
backbreaking Unlicensed Disintegration is very appealing, with Hazoret’s
mix of aggression and resilience slotting perfectly into the top of the
Even more exciting than the return of Toolcraft Exemplar is the return of
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Night Market Lookout
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 2 Yahenni, Undying Partisan
- 4 Hazoret the Fervent
- 4 Dread Wanderer
There’ve been murmurs of black aggressive decks in Standard for a while
now, and TFTIJHUB was almost able to take down the recent Magic Online PTQ
with their version of the deck.
Dread Wanderer and Scrapheap Scrounger are phenomenal aggressive creatures
that are also very resilient, and TFTIJHUB’s deck ends up playing out like
a Ramunap Red deck that is both able to shrug off creature removal while
also dealing with creatures that get larger than three toughness. There are
still cheap attackers like Bomat Courier and Night Market Lookout,
Lightning Strikes read to go to the face, and of course Hazoret the Fervent
is waiting at the top of the mana curve.
With a great aggressive and resilient maindeck, a flexible sideboard, great
use of Aethersphere Harvester, and one of the most powerful curve-toppers
in the format, B/R Aggro is my pick for breakout deck of the tournament.
There will be at least eight copies of Essence Scatter in the top 8
While I do expect a more interesting and varied metagame at Pro Tour
Ixalan, Temur Energy is still going to be the deck to beat.
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 3 Bristling Hydra
- 4 Whirler Virtuoso
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Glorybringer
William Jensen’s World Championship-winning Temur Energy was built with the
mirror in mind, and Essence Scatter is one of the best tools against the
various energy-based decks. Counterspells have always been good against
midrange decks, and most of Temur Energy’s main threats are creatures that
cost three or more. An Essence Scatter on a Glorybringer or The Scarab God
is always going to be backbreaking, and Essence Scatter is also a great
answer to other troublesome cards from other decks (Hazoret the Fervent,
As such, anyone looking for an edge against various energy decks, Hazoret
the Fervent decks, or The Scarab God decks would be well served to take a
good long look at Essence Scatter.
The only deck really poised to play a ton of copies of Essence Scatter is
some sort of control deck, be it U/B, Grixis, or U/W, but the card’s
utility in a variety of different matchups makes it a great card to have
access to in small numbers in maindecks or sideboards. This prediction is
definitely not just “there will be two control decks in the top 8,” but
rather that I expect a smattering of copies of Essence Scatter across a
number of different decks. Most decks don’t want to draw that many copies
of Essence Scatter, but the first one is going to be very good.
The top finishing Mono-Red Aggro deck will have at least two copies of
If Ramunap Red is going to succeed, it’s going to need to adapt.
The matchup against Temur Energy isn’t favorable, which is already a bad
place to be, and the new Anointed Procession/Hidden Stockpile decks are
also jam packed with blockers and lifelinkers to make life difficult as
well. We’re also talking about a possible resurgence of Mardu Vehicles, as
well as the popularity of the card Aethersphere Harvester, in general.
Let’s take a quick glance at many of the cards played in these decks and
across the format that Harsh Mentor punishes:
The list goes on and on, but Harsh Mentor is a very nice little two-mana
package that does a great job at making many of the better cards against
you much worse. It comes down before many of these cards while demanding to
be answered before those cards can be used properly. Ramunap Red is already
happy to have another two-drop, and anything that draws fire from Bomat
Courier, Anh-Crop Crasher, or your other creatures is a welcome addition.
When first spoiled, Harsh Mentor was a very overhyped card that people felt
was going to make a major impact in the fetchland formats like Legacy and
Modern. It hasn’t lived up to that lofty expectation (yet), but don’t fall
into the trap of dismissing an overhyped card just because it was
overhyped. It may not be the second coming of Eidolon of the Great Revel,
but Harsh Mentor is still a useful tool for aggressive red decks.
A member of Team MGG will make top 8
I thought Team MGG was focused on the SCG Tour?
Well… How about a little expansion!
That’s right, Team MGG will be fielding not one but two Pro Tour Team
Series teams this year. There’s a lot of star power on these squads,
including Starcitygames.com’s own Gerry Thompson. Aside from being an all
around great guy and ambassador for the game (if you haven’t read Gerry’s
most recent article
you are really missing out), it sure is nice to start your new squad with a
recent Pro Tour champion!
All of these guys have been working very hard leading up to the first Pro
Tour of the season, and there’s something very unifying and inspiring about
coming together under one banner that really lights a fire under you.
Called top 8 shots are always a dubious proposition, but with a full dozen
players under the Team MGG banner I feel comfortable calling it, so here we
What Do You Think?
I don’t know about you, but I’m extremely excited to watch Pro Tour Ixalan
I truly believe this Standard format has a long way to go and a lot of
unexplored corners. Pro Tour Ixalan is a little different than past Pro
Tours because of how far back it is from Ixalan’s release date.
Typically Pro Tours happen right after a set’s release, which can mean
there isn’t time to really explore all the possible new decks. However,
because of the timing of the World Championship everyone has a nice amount
of time to really stew on Ixalan and see what it is capable of.
While the energy mechanic, and Attune with Aether in general, may be a
little too pushed, at least the games between and against energy-based
decks are interesting and interactive. There’s no Aetherworks Marvel
spitting out Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger on turn 4, or every game ending
with Emrakul, the Promised End. Psssh, if there’s never another Eldrazi
printed in Magic it will be too soon.
So what do you think? Will it remain a three-deck metagame? Can Attune with
Aether be stopped? Will Ixalan make an impact?
Let’s find out!