Pro Tour Return To Ravnica *9th*

Ari Lax fell just shy of Pro Tour Return to Ravnica’s Top 8, but he’s celebrating his finish. Find out why and get his wide-ranging perspectives on Modern and Return to Ravnica Draft in this ambitious article.

I’ve gotten a lot of condolences on my 9th-place finish, but realistically I’m only
happy about it. Going into the last round I assumed I was drawing dead, and only after seeing standings did I realize I had a shot. Had Willy Edel won his
match I would’ve been in, but I did everything I could to get there.

Most importantly, I felt like I had a lot of breakthroughs in preparation for this event that will be hugely important in the future. My Limited and
Constructed preparation was highly focused, and the deck I played was something I came back to and fixed after initially disliking it. Both of these are
areas I’ve struggled in the past, and I can only expect more great finishes should I continue to apply what I learned.

Props at the start so everyone reads them:

Gavin Verhey for the extremely comfortable couch to sleep on.

– Joe Chagnon for designing the original list of BUG Infect.

– Jarvis Yu, Brian DeMars, Dustin Faeder, Matt McCullogh, and everyone else I brewed or battled with to get ready for this event.


This is the list I played to an 8-2 constructed record at Pro Tour Seattle. I went 2-2 against Jund, with my other wins being againsts Kiki-Pod, Affinity,
Dredgevine, Burn, UR Faeries, and Storm.

Some highlights of the event:

– I won a game with damage by two-shotting someone with Noble Hierarch. My burn opponent had used all his targeted burn on Infect creatures, so I double
Rancored up a Noble Hierarch and crashed for five. He tapped out on his next turn to bring me to two, and I tapped out on my turn for two Might of Old
Krosa and a Groundswell. I only needed 17, but it’s nice to just have the full 20.

Raphael Levy tapped out at zero infect for Stinkweed Imp to block my Plague Stinger. It was his turn three on the play and I did not have Noble Hierarch.
He promptly died to Might of Old Krosa, Giant Growth, Mutagenic Growth, Apostle’s Blessing.

– Game one against Gabriel Nassif was won by a topdecked Giant Growth. Welcome to an Eternal format Pro Tour where people still play actual Giant Growth.

– I won my last game of my last match against Tom Martell by using my second Pendelhaven to landfall a Groundswell.

How did I get to here?

From the point I started looking at Modern for this event, it was clear Jund would be the deck to beat. Not only did it win the Player’s Championship, it
was putting up the most results on Magic Online and was able to combat almost any other deck with Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize backed up by

I started on Affinity, both because of my prior experience with the deck and because I felt it had become a great choice in the post-Jund metagame. The
problem matchups were mostly Snapcaster Mage decks, which had fallen out of favor due to their weak Jund matchup. Zoo was one of the absolute worst
matchups, and that deck had fallen out of favor after its performance at the Player’s Championship.

Affinity also got to run Blood Moon, one of the most powerful cards in the format. Many of the decks in the format had massive issues with the card,
including Jund, Tron, and Scapeshift. I was also certain there would be a good number of non-Jund midrange decks with similar issues.

My only issue with Affinity was the mulligans. I often felt like I would win or lose a match based on whether my poor draw lined up with their good one or
not. The deck felt a little high-variance for ten rounds of Constructed, but not enough for me to throw it out.

Had I played Affinity, I would have sleeved up this list:

Master of Etherium is worse than Etched Champion in every matchup where you want to cast a three-drop, and both are too slow in every matchup where the
protection doesn’t matter. The one exception is the mirror, where Master is better by a decent amount but still less important than Cranial Plating or
Steel Overseer.

Thoughtcast just doesn’t do enough. Why would I want to draw two cards when I could just play another powerful spell or “draw” a Cranial Plating?

Steel Overseer is often extremely mediocre. It is very slow against good combo, and it is very fragile against good midrange. I would rather have the
additional reach of Shrapnel Blast over the extra copies of a bad power spell, but you still need a couple to make sure you have enough relevant cards to

I never even considered cutting red and Galvanic Blast, and despite both copies of Affinity in the virtual top eight doing so, I don’t think it is correct.
Burn doesn’t help you at all in early game, but against Jund and Snapcaster Mage there are games you lose because they start chaining two-for-ones into
removal and run you out of actual cards. Losing the ability to burn people out prevents you from winning those games. Etched Champion also helps with this
game plan. As a completely evasive creature, it is just another form of non-interactive reach you can press on a “stable” opponent.

I was reasonably happy with this deck, and had I not found Infect I would have stuck with it.

Once I was comfortable with my sideboard, I was able to use all my time testing almost every deck in the format.

I really liked Tron, but only as long as my opponents had no hate. The deck also folded to real combo, something I was uncomfortable with given the last
Modern Pro Tour.

I found Kiki-Pod was unbeatable when it had Birthing Pod in play but unplayable otherwise. Affinity got to run six of its Cranial Plating and had a much
better plan B for a format saturated in spot removal.

Twin was amazing when it worked, but it was high-variance. I was not comfortable making the mulligan decisions for the deck to maximize my odds, so I opted
against it. It was my third choice for the event behind Infect and Affinity, mostly because it had so much natural interaction and access to Blood Moon.

I had no desire to play any Hallowed Fountain deck. I had watched the blue-white midrange deck lose too many games to just being a midrange deck, and had
watched Delver lose to many games to Lightning Bolt for its one-drop.

Scapeshift was terrible. It was a turn four to five combo deck at best, and it needed almost every card in a game to kill them. Seven lands and a
Scapeshift is a lot of cards and you weren’t fast enough to power through attrition-based interaction like Liliana of the Veil. The other issue was that
every time you spent a card or mana interacting with someone, you would Time Walk yourself. Your interaction was either expensive enough to cost a ramp
spell (Cryptic Command, Remand, Pyroclasm), not relevant enough to matter (Lightning Bolt), or just took up a spot in your hand that didn’t support the
combo resulting in you needing another draw step to rip and get there. The card filtering was also not great.

Trust me, I put a lot of work into this one. I tried a Gifts package of ScapeshiftSnapcaster MageEternal Witness, but that didn’t solve the interaction
issues. I tried a Jund hybrid list, but I won most of my games with the Jund half, not the Shift one. I also tried a Through the Breach red-green list
based on the fact that Primeval Titan deals 18 damage when Breached with four mountains and a Valakut in play, but that one was still just a turn four to
five deck. I think Izzet Charm is a step in the right direction as an interactive spell, but I don’t know if it is enough to make the deck playable.

All of the Hallowed Fountain decks were just not powerful enough. Geist of Saint Traft was sometimes a good card, but not often enough to justify the rest
of your deck.

Jund was, in a word, uninspiring. It had midrange issues of drawing the right cards at the right time, both with having a relevant early game and with
being unable to control draws later when you have six discard spells in your main deck. I’m sure this is fixable, but a large part of me just didn’t want
to get caught playing the midrange deck if my opponents just showed up with combo that I couldn’t handle. This is also known as “How Eggs Won the Pro

On the topic, I tried Eggs. I had tested the deck extensively for Pro Tour Philadelphia, and all that changed was that the deck got better at having a
Sunrise effect to start off with. It was a fine turn four deck, but if I was comboing I wanted to do better than turn four with no interaction. I would
have to be faster than Affinity to have a reason to play true combo.

The first non-Affinity deck I liked at all was black-red-white Zombies. I first ran into an aggressive list played by MayhemLikeMe in
a daily event, and it appeared to combine the powerful disruption of Jund with the powerful early game of America Delver. In the end, I determined the deck
wasn’t appreciably better than Jund. Your vanilla beater was just Steppe Lynx over Tarmogoyf, and your Shriekmaw creature was just Grim Lavamancer over
Bloodbraid Elf. The Blasting Station lists that popped up later were interesting, but they weren’t powerful enough for the format.

Some time during all of this, I ran into an opponent playing Infect. I had tried the earlier list that featured Phyrexian Crusader and the deck felt
flawed. You were always short on green mana to cast your spells and could almost never cast Blighted Agent and Phyrexian Crusader in the same game. My
opponent was on straight blue-green Infect, but was playing Noble Hierarch. I don’t remember their username, but despite their deck being slightly
suboptimal Hierarch alone ended up nearly beating me.

I saw it all come together here. Noble Hierarch was not only a pump spell, but it solved the green mana issue I was having before. I immediately cut the
Phyrexian Crusaders and two lands for Noble Hierarchs and two Apostle’s Blessings and got some games in. I was reminded of how Patrick Chapin described his
well known Dragonstorm deck from that Worlds: I got in one match against Jund and Delver each before immediately realizing how insane the deck was and that
should stop playing it where other people could see. Not only was it a fast combo deck that largely ignored their board, you were loaded on interaction
like Twin. All of your pump spells doubled as Dispels against all the damage based removal. You also had the ability to grind a win against discard with
Noble Hierarch, Rancor, and Pendelhaven. Further testing did nothing to change my mind or much of my list, and what I played at the Pro Tour was almost
identical to what I started with. It turns out that the guy who played the original Magic Online list (Joe Chagnon aka Chagsal0t) also lives in Boston, and
we were able to talk about the changes I made as well as important matchups.

The only matchup I felt actively bad about was Splinter Twin pre-board, and I had twelve cards to bring in there that shifted the match to acceptable at
worst. Affinity was a little rough, but a lot of that was my specific list with seven removal spells. Any less and the deck would fold to Infect. Jund was
losable but favored, with my 2-2 result against it at the Pro Tour being mostly on a punt one match and many mulligans in the other. Delver was shockingly
easy for all the removal they had, and any non-Twin combo mirror was a bye. Not only was I faster than them, but I got to board in Thoughtseize and have
the best card for any matchup.

I never tried out Gitaxian Probe or the straight blue-green list Kelvin Chew played, but I feel like this list is more powerful. You have the ability to be
a redundancy-based combo deck, so the only reason to be a velocity-based one is to find disruption. The only issue is that the cards you cut to fit those
cantrips are disruption spells and combo pieces, which negates the need to filter between the two.

Looking back, the only thing I would change is adding another Thoughtseize to the board over the third Grafdigger’s Cage or Dismember. Storm is no longer
locked into Past in Flames, making Cage just a narrow Pod hate card. Dismember was a card I only really wanted against creature decks with Spellskite,
which are a very narrow section of the metagame.

The cards I wish I could have played with are Blood Moon and Through the Breach. The former I’ve talked about, but the latter feels like the truly broken
two card combo piece of the format. The issue I found was that the pure Breach deck isn’t good enough, leaving you to find a good secondary plan. Hideaway
makes you play creatures which opens you up to Jund just killing them, and Fist of Suns is similarly vulnerable to Maelstrom Pulse and Abrupt Decay among
other things. Goryo’s Vengeance is strong, but there was too much graveyard hate flying around for it. If you can figure this card out, you deserve the
event win it is sure to give you.

Moving forward, the other list from the Pro Tour I was impressed with was the SCG Black Storm deck. It seemed like another deck that broke the turn four
barrier, and my match against Tom Martell felt like the only time my opponent showed up playing the same game I was. I don’t know which sideboard win
condition is best and I might try Epic Experiment, but the deck has a lot of weapons at its disposal.

Modern is still a relatively young format. I expect things to change drastically before Pro Tour San Diego next year. Still, if you plan on going to that
event, your best bet is to keep up to date on the format. With Modern Masters being printed next year and the Ravnica duals being reprinted, I expect the
format to grow dramatically and that this will be easier to do on a local level.


Neither of my Limited decks was particularly interesting. I drafted Selesnya both times, once as a Populate deck and once as an aggro deck. Instead, I’m
going to talk about the format as a whole.

The Tuesday before the Pro Tour, after approximately two days straight of online drafting and extensive discussions with Brian DeMars, I decided the best
thing I could do was go through the set and put into words how I felt about each card. My goal was to tease out some of the smaller details that really
made the difference in the format.

Note: If you are looking to learn a format for a Pro Tour or Grand Prix, play Swiss queues. Your drafts will be Swiss, and learning the difference between
a 2-1 and 1-2 deck is very important. More matches also helps you learn the format just by playing with cards more and playing against more decks. I
learned to draft Golgari solely by watching people in Swiss queues win or lose and seeing what cards were working for them.

How Mana Works Here:
Two-color decks don’t need fixing, but will take it if they can. Three-color decks mainly want splash fixing and aim for 8/8 on main color sources. A
Transguild Promenade and an on-color guildgate is probably good enough to splash a third color for removal based on your main colors being solid enough.

Lots of Wind Drakes and walls usually. My least favorite guild as there isn’t a depth of high impact cards in the color. You are mostly just chip shotting
away at their life total. There are some good things though, and I often splash blue in my Selesnya decks or white in my Izzet ones for a couple powerful
spells. The short reason Azorius isn’t great: The cards are either bad at attacking or blocking. Sometimes they are bad at both, and very few are good at
both. The ones that are make great splashes, but there aren’t enough to support a good two-color deck.

Amazing. All the tools exist for aggro and control and a lot of them are versatile and belong in both. Your removal is burn, your blockers are attackers or
reach, and red has five first-pickable commons: Splatter Thug, Frostburn Weird, Lobber Crew, Annihilating Fire, and Explosive Impact. Your combat tricks
are also the ones with the highest blow out potential, especially when combined with high power creatures like Cobblebrute or Frostburn Weird.

Obvious deck is obvious. That said, it has real issues if your opponent stabilizes and turns the corner to attacking you. Worth noting: Unless the person
next to you is also Rakdos you can exit in both directions (Golgari or Izzet) to an aggro deck that is easily 2-1. If everything is open, you might just
kill everyone.

This guild is growing on me. It has a lot of the aggression and bulk of Rakdos with the ability to play defense if necessary, all the green combat tricks
to punch through, and grinding value with Scavenge. You want to draft and play fairly aggressively, but the important thing is that Golgari can easily
shift gears during a game while Rakdos can’t.

Watch your curve and you will succeed here. Tricks trump all, and splashes should be easy off Gatecreeper Vines and Axebane Guardians. Your other big enemy
will be solving the flood issue in the Populate lists. Mana sinks are very important.

Note on a term I’m going to use: Active pick means that in a pack with multiple on-color playables, I can see myself taking this card.

Armory Guard: There is a maximum number of non-attacking walls you can have in your deck. I’m guessing the number is two. Despite how it looks, this guy
does not attack, as two power doesn’t break through anything. He is one of the better ones as an x/5 instead of x/4, but still easily cut. Much better in
Selesnya than Azorius as blue has more walls fighting for the same slot.

Avenging Arrow: I cut this card some times. I probably shouldn’t, because it is very good every time I play it. Importantly, this kills Armory Guards and
Frostburn Weirds holding back your various 3/3’s in Selesnya. It is also exceptional in control, giving you something to do with unused Cancel mana.

Azorius Arrester: Much better than I expected given that the 2/1 body is fairly mediocre. Plays like an average trick. Not a super exciting card, but
usually makes the cut. Almost the same card as Inaction Injunction.

Azorius Justiciar: I seem to never get this card as I pick a lot of powerful things over it. After playing with it, I think I’m in the right here. Really
just a spell that detains two guys, which, while a powerful tempo play, isn’t better than a straight up powerful card.

Bazaar Krovod: See Armory Guard. Much better than people give him credit for. The ability is actually quite relevant.

Concordia Pegasus: Does enough attacking to be only half a blank on the wall count. Very playable, and a very good target for Ethereal Armor and Common

Ethereal Armor: All the auras in this set are awesome, and it should be easy for UW to get this to +2/+2. Would play this a fair amount of the time in my
Azorius decks. Also very good in Selesnya aggro as it forces your Selesnya Sentry or Brushstrider through Hussar Patrols and Centaur tokens.

Eyes in the Skies: I’ve become much less impressed with this card over time. Four is a lot to ask for something that rarely wins a combat and doesn’t jump
start your 3/3 engine. If I get it I’ll play it, but I won’t take it over most good tricks or any real dude.

Keening Apparition: Most decks aren’t very impressed by random two drops. There are way too many 3/3s and 2/4s to make them relevant. If you end up just
wanting one for curve or playable count, Apparition is one of the better ones as it can trade up to save a big guy from Arrest or Stab Wound or just
downsize their Pursuit of Flight’ed guy. A 23rd card, but if it’s my 23rd I’m not unhappy.

Knightly Valor: A++. Pushes one guy over their walls, makes it near impossible to race between the now 4/4 or larger vigilance creature and the extra body,
and starts up populate. Not as good as removal, but likely in the tier below that and better than most Wind Drakes.

Palisade Giant: At first I thought the fact it soaked up damage from your guys was a drawback. One game against it later and I know otherwise. It’s near
impossible to attack into this guy as they will have profitable blocks. Basically Seal of Rootborn Defenses, but it also holds off fliers.

Phantom General: Just an ancedote here. I cut this guy once in a token deck. I feel extremely stupid for it. This format is all about creature sizing and
the power/toughness jump on common tokens makes them significantly better.

Rootborn Defenses: Not good enough I actively try to take it, but better than most combat tricks. Even without populate active it’s a fine card to play one
of in an aggressive deck with only a few tokens.

Seller of Songbirds: Shockingly pleased with this card. Despite neither half really mattering, it does just enough to tie the room together. Think Elvish
Visionary. Selesnya really needs the blocking power to push through to its six-mana bombs, and Azorius wants the free body to chump with in a race.

Soul Tithe: Good early game removal. Likely the 18-26th card in most decks based on it being a dead draw later on, and not an active pick, but still good.
I would much rather play this card than a random mediocre creature as this can win the fight against a turn three Dead Reveler while being equally blank
late game.

Sunspire Griffin: The more I think about it, the more the Wind Drakes are very average cards and the more I don’t like Azorius. Concordia Pegasus, Towering
Indrik, and Trestle Troll embarrass all of them, and none of them block ground guys very well in a format where sizing determines board dominance.

Swift Justice: Lower on my GW trick totem pole, still very playable. +1 still breaks a Centaur through an x/4. The takeaway should be that I think Giant
Growth and Common Bond are both better pump spells.

Trostani’s Judgment: Always pickable, but this is a warning to watch your six slot in white because you will always want to play this card if you get it.
Best white common.

Aquus Steed: I’ve noticed that a lot of these recurring on-board effects are not as good in this format as you need to be progressing the board with your
mana. This one isn’t even aggressive. Not super impressed, but in a very controlling blue deck he is probably better than the third 2/4 or 2/5.

Blustersquall: A poor man’s Chemister’s Trick or Teleportal. Reserved for Selesnya splashes or those who get stuck playing straight Azorius.

Cancel: I would play up to two of this card in a lot of decks, but I don’t go out of my way to get it because it isn’t essential and there is enough
removal to go around in most blue decks (as well as Essence Backlash).

Conjured Currency: Haven’t played. Brian DeMars claims this card is good in his control decks, and I can see that being correct. All his creatures
are x/4 blockers, making this more or less Seal of Mind Control. You take their awesome guy, and they can only take bad cards.

Crosstown Courier: The sign of a draft gone wrong. Dies in fights to unpumped Frostburn Weird and Concordia Pegasus.

Dispel: This card is very good in this format and often makes main decks. Due to the importance of sizing, every deck is heavy on tricks, often making this
a blowout when your opponent tries to swing a combat in his or her favor.

Doorkeeper: One of my favorite do-nothing walls as it is a two-drop. I haven’t lived the mill dream, but I assume you need a lot of this card to do that.

Downsize: Worst of this kind of trick, but still playable and very good against non-blue decks.

Faerie Imposter: Haven’t played. Seems like a bad Wind Drake, except post-board in UW matchups to kill their Arrests or Paralyzing Grasps.

Hover Barrier: x/6 is huge, and flying is also huge. The best do-nothing wall of them all.

Inspiration: I really like this card, especially as drawn-out games can often end via flood. If your deck is aiming to go late you want two of this effect.
I often want this card to splash in my Selesnya decks as it helps get you to six mana and break through late game floods.

Isperia’s Skywatch: Very good. Relevant body plus the detain trigger is huge. As a six-drop I don’t usually take it early, but I’m always happy to play it.

Jace, Architect of Thought: I like Inspiration a lot. This is less splashable. This is also better.

Paralyzing Grasp: See Avenging Arrow. Kill spells are kill spells. I’ve seen this with three cards in the pack online, which is clearly wrong.

Runewing: A 2/2 flier is miserable in combat. Loses to both good UW common fliers and Towering Indrik and Concordia Pegasus. I only like it in control as
it often lets you set up blocks that kill larger guys at value.

Skyline Predator: Remember, watch your six-slot. Between Isperia’s Skywatch, this, and Trostani’s Judgment they pile up.

Soulsworn Spirit: Exceptional. Breaking stalls with an unblockable creature and the mini-Falter are both amazing. I often pick this highly and splash for
it in Selesnya.

Stealer of Secrets: In Azorius you will likely just play Wind Drakes over this. In Izzet, this will be amazing. You are all about sneaking guys in, and one
hit with this guy is often almost lethal because it cascades into the next. One of the better Knightly Valor targets.

Syncopate: I play around this card whenever I can. Remember it exists.

Tower Drake: The best Azorius Wind Drake as it can turn into a wall if needed late game. I’ve held off a lot of 4/4s with this guy.

Voidwielder: Best blue common, easily worth splashing in Selesnya.

Assassin’s Strike: There aren’t many unconditional kill spells on this side of the guild pie and people often have cards in hand on turn six that matter.
Very good, on par with Trostani’s Judgment.

Catacomb Slug: Just an Armory Guard in a color that usually doesn’t want that. Might sideboard against green, but that’s all conditional. Also
might make the cut if I end up Grixis control leaning on Ogre Jailbreakers.

Daggerdrome Imp: This guy can singlehandedly win games if it ever hits three power. One of the best Golgari commons. It also secretly wins fights against
Sunspire Griffin. If they attack, you get to swing back and the end result is both players have lost one life.

Deviant Glee: Very playable. Remember: Auras have haste. The trample activation gives this card incredible range, both pushing the low end guys over x/4s
and letting larger guys break through.

Mind Rot: I love this card, and this is definitely a format for it. If Inspiration is good, this card also has to be.

Ogre Jailbreaker: A 4/4 wall actually halts entire teams, and as a 4/4 attacker it is oversized. Very impressed so far and multiple copies make it worth
drafting Gates over playables.

Perilous Shadow: A fine “six-drop” in aggro decks. It also looks like a good blocker in Grixis control, but the double-black really hurts it.

Sewer Shambler: Swampwalk sucks as Swamp decks do a lot less blocking than other decks, but the ability to scavenge for a good mana cost is huge. Basically
an aura with a decent upside. Not better than an unleash guy, but very good.

Slum Reaper: Seems very important in Golgari as it lets you sacrifice a Scavenge guy to power up an Imp. Otherwise unimpressed at what is basically a 4
mana Cruel Edict.

Stab Wound: Play this once you are done attacking if you want the actual effect. Too many people have used this to break through a random wall when they
have another 3/3 to follow up with that would do the same thing. Much better in Golgari than Rakdos, where you are more or less forced to attack every

Ultimate Price: Two words: Rakdos mirror. Obviously good, but top-notch there.

Zanikev Locust: A worse six than Tenement Crasher, but in Golgari it pushes in damage and gives you a critical mass of scavenge cards to turn Grisly
Salvage into a draw two.

Annihilating Fire: Not even the best red common. Not even top three in my opinion. Times have changed.

Cobblebrute: Very playable in Izzet aggro. Sneaking in one hit is huge. Also playable in three-color blue control as it blocks down larger guys your 2/4’s
can’t handle.

Dynacharge: Very playable in Rakdos aggro. Breaks the Dead RevelerArmory Guard stall and then some.

Lobber Crew: Phantom Warrior that blocks. 2nd- or 3rd-best red common.

Minotaur Aggressor: My red decks all stop their curve at 5.5 or stall the ground too much for this guy. If you are really dying for a win condition in a
control deck, you can play this guy, but that’s a stretch.

Pursuit of Flight: Breaks the x/4 barrier very well, which is huge in both red aggro decks.

Traitorous Instinct: Pretty much always kills them. Very very good. Also possibly better than Annihilating Fire.

Viashino Racketeer: 23rd card. Revealing ancedote: last time I played multiples I cycled one to the other.

Aerial Predation: If there isn’t one of these in my sideboard I am very sad. I first-picked this at the Pro Tour pack three and was not disappointed. It’s
absolutely pickable over mediocre playables.

Archweaver: Don’t play these crappy seven drops. You will die to detain or just anything. Build a monster instead.

Axebane Guardian: Ramping is very good in some decks, notably populate. That deck also wants to splash. Just make sure you are that deck, not aggro, before
taking this. Also, playing too many of this card is an easy way to flood out.

Brushstrider: The opposite of the above applies here. Unplayable in control, pretty good in aggro.

Centaur’s Herald: Best green common. Big body in aggro, best token generator at common in populate. Also great at slowing down rushes by standing in the
way of a Dead Reveler or Splatter Thug while you “cast” your three drop.

Chorus of Might: Probably the 2nd-best pump spell, but it is clunky at times. Take it early, but don’t take too many.

Death’s Presence: Haven’t played. That’s kind of a lie, because I played it once in Sealed. Seems great in green mirrors, bad elsewhere.

Drudge Beetle: OK in aggro, decently playable with Grisly Salvage, bad in not aggro. Don’t play Grizzly Bears if you aren’t jamming hard.

Druid’s Deliverance: This says damage dealt to you. I did not know this until the first time I drew it. High blowout potential, very good in the right
deck. That said, don’t be afraid to cast it as Ashcoat Bear plus.

Gobbling Ooze: Important in some Golgari decks. Also gets out-of-hand-sized and breaks stalls. As a five-drop it isn’t super exciting, but I have a feeling
it could secretly be stellar. Also very good against opponents with Stab Wound.

Golgari Decoy: Not as good as I thought it was. Just a Falter, not very versatile, easy to blow out, and the Scavenge is secretly blank. Once you Falter
them, you either get blown out by a trick or they should have died. Can kill a Guildmage, so that’s a plus.

Horncaller’s Chant: I haven’t played this spell, but eight is way too much. Maybe sideboard for green mirrors, but that is a loose maybe.

Mana Bloom: If you need fixing, it’s OK. Otherwise it either costs too much when you should be advancing the board or is just a one or two shot effect.

Rubbleback Rhino: This guy has grown on me. The non-Daggerdrone Imp scavenge target that also holds off armies as something that can eat 3/3’s on a block.
There are also a lot of decks that just can’t beat this guy.

Seek the Horizons: Low impact for cost, but some decks may live or die on this card. Some of the worst fixing, but fixing nonetheless.

Slime Molding: Excellent Selesnya populate card as it lets you break the x/4 barrier. Only OK in Selesnya aggro, but it’s a scaling mana sink which can be

Towering Indrik: Best “wall” in the format. Blocks flying, deals damage on blocks.

Wild Beastmaster: Get Downsized. And by that I mean it’s an absolute bomb when you don’t get dreamcrushed. (Downsize makes it a -3/1, and when the trigger
resolves your creatures get “+”-3/-3).

Chemister’s Trick: Every Izzet deck wants one, maybe two. Not essential, just very good. 2nd-best of this effect behind Teleportal.

Common Bond: A++. Best Selesnya common if your deck doesn’t need Centaur’s Herald. Keep in mind that this makes 3/3’s much better than 3/2’s as it only
takes one of the counters to make them win the 3/x combat mirror.

Courser’s Accord: It is very easy to overload on six-drops. This card is strong, but beware of this issue.

Dramatic Rescue: Very splashable, but only some decks want more than one.

Essence Backlash: Counters are awesome in this format as there are a lot of expensive spells. This one is also a burn spell in Izzet aggro.

Fall of the Gavel: See above about counters being awesome. This one is also a life gain spell to help blue control stabilize or Azorius race in the skies.

Goblin Electromancer: One of the few good non-Guildmage bears. The ability is relevant in the Izzet aggro deck, helping you gain tempo by casting multiple

Hellhole Flailer: Very good, but keep in mind it does still trade for a Centaur. Not as insane as one would expect.

Hussar Patrol: Important in Azorius. Not just a trick, it gives you profitable things to do with open counter mana if they do nothing.

Izzet Charm: Way more powerful than I expected. The Looting mode is used a lot more than I ever expected in the control decks, letting you power through
and late game floods or hit important early land drops or color configurations.

Izzet Staticaster: Just fine/good, not insane like Sparkmage was. Again, few x/1s, more useful in making profitable combat exchanges.

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord: Legit bomb. Ever beat Bloodshot Cyclops in Momir? Because neither have I.

Jarad’s Orders: Very good in Golgari. If Inspiration is great, then an Inspiration that always draws two spells is better. What does that make one that
draws Moldervine Cloak and Korozda Guildmage?

New Prahv Guildmage: Keep in mind that detain is only stellar when you are attacking. In control decks this is a fine finisher, but in the mid-game he
tends to be fairly useless as he repeatedly ties up a lot of mana to answer a threat.

Rakdos Ragemutt: For five mana, I want to get more than a 3/3. Not that this card is bad, but I’ve seen a lot of people take it very highly when it really
is borderline filler.

Rites of Reaping: People seem to forget this is a removal spell. I’ve seen it circling way too late.

Skull Rend: I’m not beyond sideboarding this card in. I love Mind Rot that much.

Sluiceway Scorpion: Best Golgari common. Cheap scavenge me please! Also trades with Dead Reveler and Spawn of Rix Maadi and attacks into Armory Guard
without fear.

Thoughtflare: A++. Genuinely ends games on the spot.

Trestle Troll: A poor man’s Towering Indrik. All my Golgari decks want to crash, so this guy doesn’t seem to fit. He also doesn’t bridge to a blue guild,
which is very unfortunate. I’ve drafted some four- or five-color specials that want this card, but otherwise he isn’t very impressive.

Azor’s Elecutors: Very very good. Not bomb status, but close. 3/5 is a beast in this format, and the trigger actually matters. This card tabled in my first
draft at the Pro Tour. I have no idea what people were thinking.

Cryptborn Horror: Everyone dislikes this card, but the one time I’ve played against it I was impressed. Very easy to make this a 3/3 or 4/4, and a single
trick can push this into the high range and slam the game closed.

Dryad Militant: 2/1 is not where you want to be in this format outside of some corner case Aura aggro decks. See Crosstown Courier.

Frostburn Weird: 2nd-best common in the format. Holds the fort, haumphs 2/2s, trades up the curve, and shoves for a ton when you need it to. Actually does

Golgari Longlegs: Much better than Spawn of Rix-Maadi. An x/4 on defense is much better than x/3, and 5/x vs 6/x is almost irrelevant.

Growing Ranks: Very good way to end a game. Can’t cast it unless close to stable, but things spiral out of control rapidly.

Rakdos Cackler and Rakdos Shred-Freak: See Dryad Militant.

Volatile Rig: Very impressed with this in any aggro deck. You are one-in-four on most combats to get swept, and even then they take four to the face plus
any combat damage. If they double-block, you can easily get value on it.

Transguild Promenade: Either a top pick or unplayable depending on deck. I’m fine taking it early in case the former is true.

Rogue’s Passage: Very good 17th land in aggro decks with Guildgates to override the loss of colored sources. Also a good 18th land in big-game Selesnya
where you want to hit lands through six and then not have flood issues.


Now that I have a reason to be collecting Pro Points, you will likely see me at some more North American Grand Prix trying to ride out the remainder of my
Level 4 Byes (assuming I correctly understand that they extend until next calendar year). Both Philadelphia and Toronto are easy drives for me, and I
almost can’t pass up Modern in Chicago as well as the chance to see everyone from the Midwest again.

It’s also kind of funny to me that I put up clutch performances whenever my Pro Tour chain is on the line. I 6-0ed Limited at Worlds my first year to stay
on, got second at Grand Prix Nashville when I needed Top 12 to level up, and now I had my best Pro Tour performance to qualify for Pro Tour Gatecrash right
before my Pro Level benefits expire and to set up a run for a real Pro Level this season.

The next higher-level thing I’m going to be working on team selection. I can’t go too in depth into it here without starting another article worth of
discussion, but I’m starting to realize how important the team you work with is to how well you analyze the format and how much of it goes beyond pure
skill and time. This Pro Tour I was able to do a lot of the work by myself due to the format existing online for months before the event, but that won’t
hold true in the future. The full set of duals alone will drastically change Standard, and I know I will need some expert help to follow up this finish
with another good one.

See you in Philly this weekend! If you have any tips on how Sealed differs from draft, post them in the comments section. I’ve yet to play the format, and
given how insane the last Ravnica was for Sealed I can only imagine what is happening this time around.

Ari Lax