You’re going to see four decks in large numbers at Pro Tour Amonkhet — Aetherworks Marvel, Mardu Vehicles, U/R Control, and
Mono-Black Zombies, possibly in that order.
There are other decks in the format, but those are by far the best.
In a world without the Felidar Guardian / Saheeli Rai combo, four mana
sorceries are a little more reasonable to put in your deck. Also, decks no
longer need to have incredibly slim mana curves and can afford to play more
powerful spells, which Aetherworks Marvel is great at preying on. As
frustrating as the combo was to play against, Aetherworks Marvel isn’t much
better, especially with cards like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in the
format. It’s the new bogeyman.
Of the Marvel decks, Temur is likely the best, although some of the best
performing decks at the Pro Tour might be Temur Energy decks without any
Aetherworks Marvels. They resemble the old Four-Color Saheeli decks and
rely on overwhelming their opponents with Planeswalkers. Obviously, it’s
subjective, but those decks are basically the most fun you can have in the
I can, have, and probably will write entire articles on the different
versions of Aetherworks Marvel I’ve built before this Pro Tour. It’s one of
the most fascinating archetypes I’ve ever had the pleasure to work on. If I
don’t end up playing it at the Pro Tour, I have a feeling I’m going to be
sad when I see someone crushing it with a configuration that I didn’t
Everyone is trying to nail you with Lost Legacy or Dispossess, and there
numerous ways to try and combat that. I typically like shaving down on
Aetherworks Marvel components and trying to win with something else,
whether it’s World Breaker (maybe with Kozilek’s Return), Bristling Hydra,
Elder Deep-Fiend, or Planeswalkers. Right now, I’m a pretty big fan of some
Planeswalkers maindeck and Bristling Hydra in the sideboard.
Chandra, Flamecaller is going to make a small resurgence, both in decks
with Aetherworks Marvel and without. She’s a fine win condition for U/R
Control and acts as a powerful secondary card to Aetherworks Marvel in that
it conveniently sweeps the board of Zombies and can cycle through the
Ulamogs that will inevitably clog your hand. There’s a huge bonus to having
a powerful card you want to Aetherworks Marvel into that’s also castable.
Ishkanah, Grafwidow mostly counts, although it’s lackluster in this format,
whereas something like World Breaker is also not great and costs a little
too much. Chandra, Flamecaller is in the sweet spot.
Realistically, the Marvel deck will lose to Dragonmaster Outcast before
Ulamog even comes online.
Marvel’s best bet is something like Tireless Tracker that is cheap and easy
to slip through countermagic. Gaining velocity, making your land drops, and
eventually forcing a threat through is how you’re going to win most games.
Despite having Ulamog in your deck, you’re not favored going long against
I also kind of like a singleton maindeck Dispel if you’re worried about U/R
Control, assuming you have good targets for Mardu’s Unlicensed
I wouldn’t be surprised if Marvel is the most played deck, and how well
they perform is going to depend entirely on their plans against the other
three best decks. If someone finds a way to perform well against all three,
I wouldn’t be surprised if that deck becomes the de facto best deck after
the Pro Tour.
Of the four decks on my list, Mono-Black Zombies might be the most
surprising. While it’s had lukewarm results from the first couple weeks of
the format, I think that’s going to change at the Pro Tour. Zombies is one
of the few proactive decks in the format, and its game plan is naturally
good against Mardu, Marvel, and U/R Control.
Thanks to some help from Amonkhet, Mono-Black Zombies now has
enough hits across the curve. Cards like Cryptbreaker and Relentless Dead
have always been great, but they relied on synergy and needed the right
support. They finally have it, and this deck is for real, even if it looks
like a pre-constructed deck.
- 4 Relentless Dead
- 4 Diregraf Colossus
- 4 Cryptbreaker
- 4 Metallic Mimic
- 4 Lord of the Accursed
- 4 Dread Wanderer
Mono-Black Zombies is greatly misunderstood, and that definitely plays to
its strengths. This Zombies deck basically plays out like Merfolk in Modern
or Legacy. Instead of trying to nickel and dime your opponent out (like in
the Geralf’s Messenger era), this one aims to continually grow its
battlefield and pump its creatures with various lords. It creates spots
where its opponents can’t attack or block effectively, plus it’s one of the
few decks that can beat a resolved Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.
One of the most underrated aspects of the deck is how well it can grind!
Even B/G Delirium is going to have issues with cards like Liliana’s
Mastery. Relentless Dead is no slouch either. In case their position gets
invalidated somehow, Westvale Abbey can still turn that into a victory.
The downside is that the matchups for Mono-Black Zombies are close. Games
where you draw Cryptbreaker and games where you don’t are much different.
That said, it’s mostly a consistent beatdown deck, and it’s basically the
version of those sorts of decks.
Splashing in Zombies is a consideration, but one that I don’t think is
worth it. If you wanted to splash, it would be to improve the weak
sideboard of Mono-Black. Since you’re mostly trying to curve up to five,
playing lands that enter the battlefield tapped can be dangerous, but it
could be worth it depending on what you pick up. Additionally, Zombies
could use a creature-land to insulate themselves against sweepers, even if
it’s a small help.
I’m really not a fan of the B/W lists that have been running around, as
nickel and diming people out with Wayward Servant isn’t what the deck is
about. Making them not be able to block with Binding Mummy is also kind of
silly, as you mostly invalidate their blockers by pumping your team anyway.
Mono-Black Zombies appears to be a slight favorite against the other three,
although they are weak to hate cards. Sweltering Suns and the like will
almost certainly be popular, so it needs a way around that.
We no longer live in a world where blue control decks are just good enough
to get by. Thanks to Censor, Essence Scatter, and Magma Spray, the deck now
has enough early, relevant interaction to stay on pace with each of the top
decks in the format. Thanks to its high density of countermagic, U/R
Control is the natural predator of Aetherworks Marvel.
To some degree, U/R Control has The Rock problem where it could draw the
wrong part of its deck at the wrong time. A handful of spot removal isn’t
going to do anything against Aetherworks Marvel, and cards like Disallow
aren’t great against a horde of Zombies. That said, if it draws well and
makes its land drops, U/R Control can look untouchable.
I would probably build the deck with a nod to Zombies with two Sweltering
Suns maindeck and a Chandra, Flamecaller in the sideboard. The maindeck is
mostly set in stone, although there are some choices between how many
Essence Scatter, Negate, and Pull from Tomorrow to play. There’s also the
consideration between Disallow or Void Shatter.
While it’s nothing new, I’ve been impressed by Dragonmaster Outcast out of
the sideboard as a way to present a cheap threat in midrange and control
matchups. Thing in the Ice has been somewhat disappointing, but mostly
because there are better options. You no longer need to hope a high
variance card can steal games for you and can instead rely on doing what
your deck does.
Aetherworks Marvel looks great; therefore, so does U/R Control. I don’t
think it will be the most popular deck, and surely people will try other
flavors of control, but U/R will be the most popular.
That’s right — I have Gideon at the bottom!
Mardu will obviously be one of the most popular decks, if not the most
popular. However, it’s simply one deck in a sea of decks. It very well
could still be the best deck as Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is the most
punishing card in the format, but I’m not nearly as afraid of the deck as I
While Michael Majors briefly flirted with the idea of cutting Toolcraft
Exemplar, I don’t think that’s something you can do anymore. With
Aetherworks Marvel and counterspell-heavy U/R Control rising to prominence,
the midrange plan isn’t exactly where you’ll be the most successful. You
want to be midrange in more than a few matchups, but neither Marvel, U/R
Control, nor Zombies are one of them. Instead of that becoming your main
focus, you might want to return to what made Mardu good in the first place.
Glorybringer or Archangel Avacyn is probably the most interesting debate,
at least in the maindeck. There are plenty of other slots up for debate
though. If Glorybringer isn’t well-positioned in a format of Essence
Scatters and Ulamogs; Thalia, Heretic Cathar loses some of its luster. A
return to Pia Nalaar may be in order. Either that, or you could skimp on
three mana cards entirely.
Similarly, Walking Ballista underperforms against the majority of decks out
there. Since that’s the case, and it shows up in less spots, that means
cards like Veteran Motorist or even Glory-Bound Initiate can come out to
play. If those are playable, Cultivator’s Caravan could be great. Even
things like Release the Gremlins are dwindling in numbers, which makes
keeping in your artifacts a reasonable plan.
It’s possible to level people with Mardu again.
Mardu is still great and potentially still the best. Since the midrange
plan solved all of Mardu’s issues, the format has evolved and I’m skeptical
that it’s the best plan for now.
G/B Energy is solid, mostly because of its strong U/R Control and Temur
Aetherworks matchups, but it gets annihilated by Mono-Black Zombies.
Walking Ballista into Verdurous Gearhulk can win them the game, but it’s
unlikely to come together due to how much removal is available to
Mono-Black Zombies. If Zombies has any presence at the Pro Tour, G/B Energy
probably won’t do very well. For the most part, it’s trying to do what
Zombies is doing but is worse at it.
On the other side of the spectrum, B/G Delirium has a rough time against
Mardu Vehicles, U/R Control, and Aetherworks Marvel. From testing Naya
Aetherworks, you can build a midrange deck that has enough removal for
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Aetherworks Marvel itself. If you have
enough difficult-to-remove threats, then you actually have a reasonable
shot at beating them. To that end, I like the idea of splashing white for
Cast Out (and maybe Angel of Sanctions) and getting a little more
aggressive with Sylvan Advocate.
Standard might look narrow, but it’s a breath of fresh air compared to last
season. Additionally, there could be something out there that completely
crushes the Pro Tour. Given the late banning announcement, we didn’t have
enough time to explore everything we wanted to. It wouldn’t surprise me if
someone landed on something great from the get go.
Even if that doesn’t happen, having what basically amounts to four and a
half decks isn’t bad. The fact that all major archetypes are represented
should keep the tournament interesting.