This weekend is Pro Tour Amonkhet, and we’ll be seeing just exactly what Standard will be looking like once
it has been explored by people who have a lot on the line to figure it out.
There are a lot of interesting things making this Pro Tour a little bit
different than recent ones: It is our
first “large” Standard in years, with seven sets worth of Magic
legal for the event; it also follows a momentous banning, with the loss of
Felidar Guardian making ‘CopyCat’ a thing of the past; and importantly, it
comes without two weekends of SCG Tour lead-in to define the metagame. This
last point isn’t entirely uncommon, but a great deal of the time, Pro Tours
will have two full weekends of Magic introducing the format. While they
often set the tone for the metagame, the pros nearly always find decks that
succeed that haven’t yet found success in the wider world.
One thing we did get this weekend to make up for it was the MOCS,
which gave us eight rounds of Magic to look through for ideas and
information on what Standard looks like now and what it might look like in
the coming days.
Some people will be disappointed in the eventual victor:
- 2 Archangel Avacyn
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 2 Pia Nalaar
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Toolcraft Exemplar
- 4 Veteran Motorist
Early on, decks like this are just good. Simple, aggressive, and
even going so far as to fully embrace Vehicles.
The week before, Andrew Jessup won the SCG Tour’s Standard Open in Atlanta
with the same archetype, though with a slightly different take.
- 2 Archangel Avacyn
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Toolcraft Exemplar
- 2 Walking Ballista
Where Jessup had things slightly more controlling, AlfredoTorres moved
towards aggression, with Thalia, Heretic Cathar replaced by Pia Nalaar, and
Walking Ballista, a few Fatal Push, and a Cut replaced by Cultivator’s
Caravan and Veteran Motorist. The biggest shock in this might be not
running the full set of Fatal Push (not even in the full 75!), but also
intriguing is AlfredoTorres making the decision to go to three Canyon
Slough, preferring to mitigate the possibility of mana flood over the cost
of mana efficiency in the early game.
I really love how the sideboard looks for AlfredoTorres. Versatile
planeswalkers feels like a great call, and I love seeing things top off at
Sorin, Grim Nemesis. Sorin has been seeing a bit more play lately, and it
feels like a powerful card to blow open a depleted game state.
Multiple Nahiri, the Harbinger make sense to me right now. It feels like
there is an uptick on Aetherworks Marvel, and that is simply a card that
you want to get rid of as soon as possible or at least get rid of the alien
entity spawned by it. Beyond that, though, Nahiri being able to knock out
Cast Out matters. I’m willing to bet that a lot of the success of
this build comes on the back of Nahiri, the Harbinger ironically backed up
by Anguished Unmaking.
I’m sure some people will be disappointed to see this archetype win it all.
I would say, however, that I find myself quite heartened by the general
diversity that I see in the event’s top tables. Let’s take a look!
Mardu Vehicles: 9 in Top 32, 1 at 7-1+
Temur Aetherworks: 5 in Top 32, 1 at 7-1+
B/G Constrictor: 3 in Top 32, 1 at 7-1+
UR Control: 2 in Top 32, 1 at 7-1+
Below those top tables, these archetypes were also represented in the Top
Sultai Aetherworks: 3
B/G Delirium: 2
Jund Energy: 1
Bant Aetherworks: 1
Abzan Control: 1
Eleven archetypes at the top of the brackets is pretty exciting to me.
History tells us that several of these archetypes will likely shake out,
but one thing that I feel pretty confident in saying is that I don’t think
that we’ll be seeing the last of these less popular decks. Take, for
example, the New Perspectives deck, a kind of neo-Zero Effect.
Having played against this deck with counter-based control and beatdown, I
feel like this is a real potential threat. Most decks come at the
game from a fairly straightforward perspective (har-dee-har), and that
approach can leave one fairly vulnerable to just seeing a turn 5 or 6 win
made possible by a Haze of Pollen or a Renewed Faith. For those decks that
are more able to fight via Aetherworks Marvel or countermagic, now that it
is more clear that Torrential Gearhulk and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger are
reasonable goals for a deck, this is something that can be more easily
I’m definitely a little surprised not to see something like Dissenter’s
Deliverance in the mix, if only in the sideboard. Cast Out might be able to
take care of anything, but it is still fairly expensive. While perhaps I am
wrong in imagining the card in the 75, it does feel like the deck could be
When I look at it from the perspective (yeeeeeeeeah!) of just
those fifteen decks that went 6-2 or better, it seems even more likely that
New Perspectives could make the jump to the next level. Furthermore, it
seems to me that other more wild ideas might also be able to make the leap.
Perhaps we’ll discover a U/W or U/B control deck out there can target the
Perhaps we’ll see that Zombies just needs a slight tweak to hop up to the
- 2 Relentless Dead
- 4 Diregraf Colossus
- 4 Cryptbreaker
- 4 Lord of the Accursed
- 4 Dread Wanderer
- 4 Wayward Servant
- 2 Binding Mummy
There are some exciting cards in here that we haven’t seen for a while,
like Dark Salvation, for example. Most notably, for me, though, is Westvale
Abbey, a card which only seems to feel like it makes sense if you are both
in the business of token production and you can afford the colorless mana.
This deck is reminiscent of the break-out decks of Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, where Zombies-based decks made a
last-minute splash. They didn’t land then, but there are a great many new weapons for the archetype.
There is a relentlessness to this archetype, and it can play for a shorter
or a longer game. Those older archetypes ran more of a “from-the-grave”
feel with Prized Amalgam and Haunted Dead, but there is nothing saying that
white is a requirement. Voldaren Pariah was another part of that equation,
but the scary Vampire has a lot of competition in the top end by cards like
Liliana’s Mastery and Dark Salvation.
It’s hard to imagine there isn’t something possible here. It feels like
there may finally be enough Zombies for some of the
payoffs to really work out, especially with all of the new lords or
semi-lords like Liliana’s Mastery. Even the newest Liliana herself,
Liliana, Death’s Majesty, feels like it could be an option, though again,
we’re in a lot of competition for the top end here.
While much of my team for Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad played
Zombies, I ended up on B/G. Perhaps it is no surprise then, that of all of
the lists I saw, the one that actually most spoke to me came out of a
fellow Madisonian Caleb Durward. Here’s his G/B Constrictor list:
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 4 Tireless Tracker
- 1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
- 4 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 2 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
- 4 Walking Ballista
I like this deck because of how firmly it stands as a midrange-aggro deck.
Tireless Tracker has long been one of my favorite cards. When you run four
of the card, it almost feels impossible to lose long games. Add to that the
real capability of a powerful aggressive start and the general “good”ness
of all of the Winding Constrictor builds and you can sign me up.
There are practically no new cards in Caleb’s deck, with only a single
Never in the main deck. I’ve actually started to really appreciate this
card the more that I’ve played it. I had not found that Ruinous Path was
often accomplishing anything other than what a Never would accomplish, but
the Return portion of the card would definitely come up far more often than
awakening a Ruinous Path. These issues matter, because while a 2/2 isn’t
very exciting, in a protracted game, that extra body, whether it is an
attacker, a defender, or even just a speed bump, can be precious and make
the difference between a win and a loss.
The sideboard has a few more new cards. Manglehorn, even without a real
need for it to nix Saheeli Rai decks, still gets a lot of work done and can
be surprising in its affect on other games – a tapped Torrential Gearhulk
can be the difference between life and death.
Lay Bare the Heart splits the difference with Transgress the Mind, in a
choice I think might just actually be correct in a world where you will
sometimes be stymied by a cheap card you need to get rid of and
the reality of real threats that cannot be suffered to hit the battlefield.
More Never feels like an easy call in a world where you might need to slip
into a more controlling role, and extra ways to nuke a Gideon, Ally of
Zendikar would be handy.
Rhonas the Indomitable is an interesting card to see in the sideboard. I
like the thought of the card for long slogs where you expect attrition to
hit both sides and you don’t expect much in the way of easy removal for it.
Versus various Torrential Gearhulk decks, one of the only ways to expect it
to get knocked out would be Commit, but other than that, they might just be
relegated to removing every single creature that hits the battlefield.
That’s no mean feat, especially if those sideboard Scrapheap Scroungers are
in the mix.
I’m not hitting this Pro Tour, but I think if I were, I’d probably be
playing a deck fairly close to Caleb’s.
I know I’ll be glued to my screen watching the Pro Tour, picking up what
ideas I can for Standard going forward and looking to see what kind of
inspiration will be spotlighted. Standard is only just getting