Standard In The Pro Tour Aftermath

Brad Nelson has been sailing the shores of Standard! His Pro Tour efforts paid off, and now he has the freedom to share his best guesses for Standard’s next stage!

I’m going to Worlds! Wait, what I mean to say is I’m going to Worlds for
the fourth time in a row! Words can’t describe how good I’m feeling right
now. This will be the seventh installment of the most prestigious Magic
tournament ever held, and after this year I’ll have played in it more times
than not! Five-years-ago Brad could only dream of competing in this
tournament. “Maybe one day,” he would tell himself as he watched 24 of the
best Magic players in the world duke it out for a chance at glory. Every
year I tell myself there’s no way I’m going to make it, but for these past
four years I’ve found a way to prove myself wrong. I’m going to Worlds!

Pro Tour 25th Anniversary wasn’t all upside though. Team Genesis ended up
right where we started which was in 5th place, finishing with zero prizes.
It was sad, because we did in fact pass the teams we were trying to, but
two others passed all of us. I would be lying if I didn’t say it hurt as we
were one of the two teams who competed in Team Worlds last year, and even
started this season off in first place thanks to teammate Seth Manfield
winning Pro Tour Ixalan. We gave it our all though, which is all I
can ask. I guess there’s always next year.

I’m getting ahead of myself though. Earlier this week I wrote an article
before the event even took place. I always love writing about what happened
before the events themselves, but the content always seems to get tainted
through retrospective analysis. This time, however, I took the time to
write about the tournament before competing in it, but still couldn’t post
the article until the event had concluded as it could potentially
jeopardize myself and my teammates.

Anyway, let’s start off right where we left off.

It was Thursday night as Seth, Brian, and I were talking about our upcoming
tournament. All three of us were excited to compete in the event as we all
felt extremely prepared for it. A little nervous perhaps as Seth didn’t get
as many reps in with the “newish” version of U/R Storm in Modern, but Brian
and I had all the faith in the world that Seth would carry us to Worlds.
Seth was going on about how he would feel really discouraged if we started
the event 0-2 or something, but Brian and I consoled him by explaining to
him how the two of us almost always start Pro Tours with this bad of a
record (or worse), but often rally back for a strong finish.

He was not consoled.

Well fast forward to round three we found ourselves 0-2. A couple more
rounds later we were 1-3. A very discouraged 1-3. You see, I
wasn’t winning. “Master of Standard” be damned, I was not performing. I
lost every die roll, rarely drew the lands I needed to deploy my spells,
and pretty much everything that could be going wrong, was. Part of me
wanted to feel like I was letting my team down, but the rational side knew
I was getting the blunt end of some sick variance. In fact, I only won two
rounds on day one. That’s right: the guy you all come to for Standard
advice finished the day at 2-5! Luckily my teammates helped carry me into
day two with a 4-3 record, but we weren’t that thrilled about it.

Team tournaments are so hit or miss for me. When the three of us crushed GP
Toronto earlier this year, I was having a blast. Probably because all three
of us were winning, but it seems shallow to think the only way to have fun
at an event is to win, right? Well, no. Winning is all that matters at big
tournaments like the Pro Tour. There’s enough Grand Prix in a season to do
poorly at some, but the same can’t be said about Pro Tours. This event had
become the only way for Brian and I to make it to Worlds and for Seth to
find his way back to claiming Player of the Year. Well, we thought Player
of the Year was decided last weekend, but that’s a whole different story.
This event was also my last shot at clenching a fourth Pro Tour Sunday,
which would make it much easier to get through this Hall of Fame voting
season, especially after I effectively punted away a Top 8 at Pro Tour Dominaria only a couple months ago. These events are high
pressure, and I don’t know if the world watching truly gets what pros go
through while the event is still in process.

My teammates did a great job on day one. At least one of them won a match
each round, which meant that if I had been winning we could have been in a
much better position. I scoured my brain for moments in the event where I
could have won games, but to my dismay I couldn’t find them. I hate blaming
variance and would much rather blame myself, but I couldn’t. I could only
hope that the next day would go better.

And it did.

We ended up going 4-2 leading up to the last round of the day. Behind us
sat PGO, better known as Reid Duke, Owen Turtenwald, and William “Huey”
Jensen, who also had the same 8-5 record we did. Both teams needed to win
the round to put people into Worlds. PGO needed the win for Huey to make
it, and we needed the win for both Brian and I to make it. Luckily, none of
us would be taking each others slots as there was more than enough room for
all of us if we obtained these last rounds’ points.

My opponent for the final round was Jacob Baugh.

Let me rephrase, as that sentence did not convey the magnitude of the

My opponent for the final round was my arch-nemesis: Jacob Baugh. Why is
Jacob Baugh my arch-nemesis, you ask? He beat me in the 2016 StarCityGames
Players’ Championship. He cost me the glory of winning the event for a
second time. The same goes for Jim Davis as he beat me the year prior. He
cost me the right to say Baugh cost me the glory of winning the event for a
third time. Why must I write this in such a convoluted way? Well, for most
things in my life now, I blame Jacob Baugh. He’s the reason I’m not a
better writer, just like he’s the reason I’m not a three-time Players’
Champion. Now he wants to be the reason I don’t go to Worlds.

What sick motivations does this monster have?

I win the die roll, and look at this hand.

I put Jacob on playing Mono-Green Aggro, which made this hand a reasonable
keep, but he surprised me by leading on Fetid Pools. Does this mean he’s
playing Grixis Midrange? Maybe he’s gone rogue? Surely he didn’t
specifically bring Esper Control just to crush my dreams once again by
playing my worst matchup in the room!

His next play is Irrigated Farmland, and Fatal Push on my Bomat Courier!

Of course you played Esper Control, Jacob Baugh!

Luckily for me the top two cards on my deck were a second copy of Bomat
Courier followed by my one copy of Pia Nalaar. A few points of chip damage
here and a few more there, and all of a sudden Jacob Baugh lost game 1
after I resolved my Chandra, Torch of Defiance.

Oh yeah!

The second game was actually a repeat of the first. I started on two copies
of Bomat Courier while sequencing Canyon Slough as my second land drop,
followed up by Pia Nalaar on turn 3, which didn’t get countered. After that
I deployed a couple Scrapheap Scroungers and the game was over. Jacob
extended his hand in defeat, and I started to really think about it. Jacob
Baugh is actually one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, and I should really
look inward to figure out why I’ve had so much animosity towards him for
these past two years.

I guess my heart only has room for one arch-nemesis after all, and Jim
Davis is still the embodiment of all evil and all that’s wrong in this

I quickly pack up my things and rush over to see how my boy BBD is doing.
The action is palpable as I sit down to figure out where we are at in our
Legacy game 3. Resolving is our Surgical Extraction on our opponent’s
Griselbrand. Our opponent has three lands, one being Boseiju, Who Shelters
All, another land in hand along with one copy of Emrakul, the Eons Torn. I
look towards Brian’s graveyard to confirm my suspicions, and yes Tourach,
was called upon multiple times. Now I get a look at Brian’s hand which
includes a third land, Force of Will, a blue card ready to be exiled, and
our one copy of Ensnaring Bridge. Brian picks up our opponent’s library,
and the two of us excitedly look through it as we both know there’s a
chance we’ve locked up our Worlds invite.

Three cards on our mind. None in the deck. In fact, nothing that can
interact with Ensnaring Bridge at all, and I jump out of my chair in
excitement once we know it’s locked up! Our opponent knows it as well, and
graciously extends the hand. Brian and I are going to Worlds!

Sadly though, the same cannot be said for our practice teammates for the
event. PGO lost their last match which not only cost Huey Platinum, but
also a chance to go back to Worlds to defend his title. This will make it
it back-to-back years where the defending champion is not in attendance,
and I think that’s appalling. I’m not going to get into this again though,
as anyone who follows me on Twitter already knows where I stand on this

Long story short, we finished with a respectable 9-5 finish which was good
enough to get us into individual Worlds, but that’s about it. I wouldn’t
say the event was a bust per se, but it wasn’t what we expected after
putting so much work into the event itself. We should have tested more
against the R/B Vengevine deck that seemed to do well in the event, and we
completely missed Bant Nexus in Standard. All things considered though we
were happy with our preparation and our final lists. Standard just seemed
like a high variance format where we got stuck playing the best deck which
didn’t alleviate that. It seemed like we all went 50-50ish in the R/B Aggro
mirrors which wasn’t a surprise, but wasn’t what we hoped for. I still
think our list was great though.

Moving forward in Standard might be a challenge. It seems like people
didn’t jump on Mono-Blue Outcome as hard as we thought they might have, but
some of the best players in the game did decide to play the deck at the Pro
Tour. I believe they got punished for those decisions, and I assume there
will be little of the deck moving forward. That would allow Mono-Red Aggro
to become a great choice as that deck is a favorite in the Chainwhirler
mirrors. Bant Nexus might also be the next hyped deck which means anyone
playing red should look towards this card to help them fight through the

This is the deck I would be most interested in playing if I were going to
Florida this weekend. That or U/W Control, as I still don’t think enough
people will target the strategy given how many distractions are currently
in the format.

Mono-Red Aggro comes with a slew of issues against other decks, but does
one thing well: beats up on R/B Aggro. Not as much as one would hope, but
just enough to justify the choice. I do not want to play this matchup when
on the R/B Aggro side even though I maindeck Magma Spray and play three
Hazoret the Fervent, myself. It’s just too difficult to keep up with the
speed of a deck like this in the mirrors.

Mono-Red Aggro isn’t really what most of you will want to play though. I
know many of you will just be playing R/B Aggro no matter what you read
this week, and most likely you’ll have the best deck in the room. As of
right now I don’t really know what I’d change from the list we played at
the Pro Tour as many of the card choices you have are judgment calls.
There’s only a few that I know I’m sure about.

Don’t put this card in your deck. It sucks. You know it sucks, because no
one in the history of playing this deck has ever finished an event and said
to themselves, “wow, Doomfall was great all tournament!” Instead, I bet the
card was decent once or twice, and horrific every other time it was cast.
Almost all of my opponents playing R/B Aggro cast it against me this past
weekend, and each time it was horrible! I mean, worse than anything else it
could have been.

Now I get it. Doomfall is a great card to put in the sideboard of this deck
to make you feel like you can sideboard in every matchup, but playing a
terrible card in every matchup sounds like the worst thing you can possibly
do! Honestly just throwing the 26th land in the sideboard and bringing that
in every matchup might be a better choice as I, for one, can say I lost
multiple games to not having a fifth land for my Glorybringers. Doomfall is
wasted space!

That’s the issue with R/B Aggro right now. It’s difficult to make room for
everything you’d need for every matchup. At the Pro Tour I really wanted a
third Cut//Ribbons, but decided to play the third Unlicensed Disintegration
over it so I would have a strong sideboard against the control matchups. I
could have taken out one of the two Hour of Glory, but found them to be
very good in the Chainwhirler mirrors. It was very difficult to find room
for everything, and I didn’t want to take out the fourth Duress to make
room for something as I assumed I would want them even if I didn’t know
exactly why. Turbo Fog showed up, and U/W Control won the tournament so I
guess it was correct to keep all four Duress in the deck.

I don’t think there is a perfect way to build R/B Aggro right now. The
metagame will ebb and flow these next couple weeks, and it will be
difficult to know exactly where you should be until the event itself. I’ll
do my best to help you out next week after we see what happens at Grand
Prix Orlando, but for now it’s up to you. I will say I did like our list,
and would play something similar to it again, but for right now I don’t
have the confidence in defending a maindeck with zero Rekindling Phoenix.
It did make sense to me to still play three Hazoret the Fervent and add
Magma Spray to the maindeck though, and I will say they were awesome every
time I drew them against a deck with creatures in them.

Don’t play Mono-Blue Artifacts!

This is a wildly fun and interesting deck to play, but I’d advise against
playing it. There’s just too high of a fail rate when Sai, Master
Thopterist, Karn, Scion of Urza, or Paradoxical Outcome are not drawn in
high numbers. Sometimes it’s bad to draw too many of them as well! The deck
just isn’t consistent.

I’d probably stay away from Turbo Fog too. It’s going to be targeted and
thought about. Red decks can play Insult//Injury, or even move more towards
Wizard Red which plays many burn spells like Wizard’s Lightning. It was a
superb choice for Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, but I expect it to not be as
strong moving forward.

Now it’s time for me to take a much needed vacation away from competitive
Magic. Not for long, of course, but just enough time to get my head on
straight. I’ve been on the road for Magic for far too long, and life didn’t
give me much a break in between these past two Pro Tours either. I’m in
need of a few weeks off. Just enough time to get some great content out for
y’all, and spend some quality time with the missus.