Where Do We Go From Here?

Read Jim’s analysis of the Top 8 decks from Pro Tour Theros to prepare for this weekend’s SCG Standard Open in Seattle, Washington!

As I stared at the computer, eagerly waiting for the coverage to refresh, the accumulation of weeks of anticipation began to boil over in a fever pitch. Anticipation is one of the most enjoyable of human emotions, and its steaming fragrance impregnated the air. Soon-to-be embattled competitors had prepared for weeks for this event, and now we would see who would be rewarded for their gallant efforts.

The competition was heated and fierce—until tragedy struck.

The event in question?

The Octopuses (5-0 1st Place) vs. The Aryan Foster Parents (4-1 2nd Place)

It was a fantasy football showdown for the ages. First versus second in a face-off to see who really rules the fantasy field.

Randall Cobb put up a few points before leaving the game with an injury, and then in the afternoon game star tight end Jimmy Graham exited in the third quarter with zero points scored and an injury of his own. It was far too much to overcome, and The Octopuses, despite fantastic efforts from Reggie Bush and Jamaal Charles, suffered their first defeat of the season.

Upset with the loss, I decided to poke around on the Internet and see if anything else was going on.

Oh, hey look, there’s a little Magic tournament happening in Dublin. That’s cute . . .

Pro Tour Devotion

In case you’ve been chained to a rock (or been too engrossed in fantasy sports to get anything else done), Pro Tour Theros happened this past weekend in Dublin, Ireland, and the results will help define our Standard format for the rest of the season. The biggest hit of Pro Tour Theros was the various devotion-themed decks, headlined by the eventual winning mono-blue decklist that had two other variations in the Top 8:

Quite the interesting deck to be sure and almost obvious in its execution; while the deck certainly made waves, it was largely missed by many testing groups (including my friends in Team Mishra’s Twerkshop [i.e. the best team name of all time] and Team Luxurious Hair, sorry guys). Magic has not seen an aggressive creature-based blue deck in quite some time, and the deck is very exciting.

This deck works very hard to get the most out of Master of Waves and Thassa, God of the Sea, and when both cards are at their full potential, they are very powerful. This deck will clearly be a major contender in Standard for a while to come and will only get better as more blue devotion cards and devotion enablers come out in the rest of Theros block.

One interesting thing to note when trying to combat this deck is how different it is from other aggressive blue decks in the past. This deck has no counterspells save for a few in the sideboard and is very much a deck that plays on the board rather than on the stack. Amusingly enough, even if it wanted to play counterspells, one of the best cards against it is actually uncounterable in Supreme Verdict.  

And The Winner Is . . .

Our next deck seems like a fine time to introduce the winner of So You Think You Can Brew #3, Rob Caporino!


Rob took down Gary Fingers with his Mono-Black Devotion deck that features four copies of Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and come Sunday at the Pro Tour wouldn’t you know it:

Honestly this is the deck from the Pro Tour that I am most suspect about. Underworld Connections is clunky enough as it is, and playing four seems rather crazy; Lifebane Zombie is a fantastic sideboard card, but the way the format shaped up it is nothing more than a 3/1 against over half the field. And while Pack Rat is absurd in Limited, it does not match up well with the power of Constructed.

Aside from that, the deck offers a pile of one-for-one removal spells and Desecration Demon and Gray Merchant of Asphodel to finish them off. This deck seems to truly attempt to capture the spirit of old Phyrexian Arena control decks, and I am very curious if it will be able to replicate its success. Regardless of what I think, an 8-1-1 Constructed record at a Pro Tour is nothing to scoff at, and time will tell if it is just a flash in the pan.

One card I would have liked to see more of in the deck, which it only has one copy of, is my top sleeper pick from the set: Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. But we will see plenty of that card in our next two decks, both of which excite me greatly.

Somewhat similar to the deck idea I previewed in my Sleepers article, this mono-red deck does an awesome job at making Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx hum. One thing I didn’t consider in that article was how well Burning-Tree Emissary could be used to push Nykthos over the top. While the deck doesn’t use Burning-Tree Emissary like the old Blitz decks to push out an extra two drop on turn 2, it can be used later in the game to help fuel a Nykthos and power out huge turns. The simple draw of turn 2 Ash Zealot / Frostburn Weird into turn 3 Burning-Tree Emissary into Nykthos will allow you to play a Forge[/author]“]Purphoros, God of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]; Ember Swallower; or Chandra, Pyromaster on turn 3 and go much bigger than that on the following turns.

I am a little surprised that the deck is only playing one Mizzium Mortars and one Chandra, Pyromaster main, as they are both excellent mana sinks for Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Mizzium Mortars is also a great sweeper effect against many of the decks in the format.

Despite looking pretty sweet, this deck does seem slightly behind the curve. It is pretty much guaranteed to have trouble with the protection from red of Master of Waves and is certainly not the most explosive Nykthos deck. I don’t really think this one will last in its current form.

Going Biggest

The most exciting Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx deck in the Top 8 and the most exciting deck in general from the event is Makihtio Mihara’s explosive G/R deck:

This deck is simply awesome and pretty much what I had expected the card Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx was capable of when I first saw it.

The explosive capacity of this deck is simply unmatched by any other deck in the format. It can cast Garruk, Caller of Beasts on turn 3 or 4 with alarming regularity and features the power of Domri Rade as well. While it has a lot of slots devoted to ramp spells like Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid, and Voyaging Satyr, it also is able to use this mana to either produce more threats with its planeswalkers or simply go huge with its two monstrosity threats in Polukranos, World Eater and Arbor Colossus.

Much like the Mono-Red Devotion deck, it also features the synergy between Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and Burning-Tree Emissary, only this time it is using it to be devoted to green. Voyaging Satyr can double you up on your Nykthos activations, and it’s safe to say the sky is the limit for the amount of mana this deck can produce.

Of all the decks I’ve seen from coverage of Pro Tour Theros, this one looks by far the most fun to play.

However, the sad reality is that it is also the worst-performing deck of the entire Top 8, having a Standard record of 6-3-1. Because of Mihara’s 6-0 record in the Limited portion, he was able to make the Top 8 despite his somewhat suspect record in Standard. What does this mean for the deck going forward?

Honestly, I’m not sure. It looks to have a weak matchup versus the Mono-Blue Devotion deck and also suffers greatly from the abundance of Hero’s Downfalls seen in many of the popular decklists. Using most of your hand to cast Garruk, Caller of Beasts on turn 3 is awesome, but if you only get one activation before he meets his downfall, it might not be worth the trouble. Still, you have to hand it to the Japanese deckbuilders for their relentless creativity. I can only hope this deck is able to adapt to the format because I’d love to take it for a spin in a major event.

The Outliers

Two non-Devotion decks made the Top 8—one expected and one not.

Guillaume Wafo-Tapa makes his way back to the Pro Tour, plays a slow control deck, and promptly makes Top 8. Yawn, what else is new?

Move Along

My boy and proud Mishra’s Twerkshopper Christian Calcano played a very similar deck to a Top 16 finish, so it’s safe to say this deck definitely has legs—even in the hands of control players without any Wafo or Tapas in their name. The deck looks fairly well positioned against the Mono-Blue Devotion decks, and it’s pretty hard to argue with the power level of many of these cards we’ve been leaning on for quite some time now.

The last deck we will look at however was somewhat of a surprise:

This deck is rather strange. It’s got the one-two aggressive punch of Soldier of the Pantheon into Precinct Captain; it’s got Read the Bones; it’s got Elspeth, Sun’s Champion; it’s got the Obzedat, Ghost Council / Blood Baron of Vizkopa tag-team duo. What it doesn’t seem to really have is a solid plan.

However, while it lacks the coherent synergy of some of the other decks in the Top 8, it ended up being a rather good foil to the other top decks and a solid metagame deck. Sporting a good matchup against both Mono-Blue Devotion and Esper Control and likely a good matchup versus other Devotion decks as well due to the high number of disruptive one for one spells, this really seems like the perfect deck for the event. As far as I know only Paul and Patrick Chapin decided to play the deck, and with sixth and ninth place finishes respectively, it was the best-performing deck of the entire weekend.

Interestingly enough, it looks like testing with Team StarCityGames.com (who had a fantastically dominant showing on the weekend, really impressive work guys) and against the Mono-Blue Devotion deck that most of the team ended up playing really gave them an accurate picture of what the metagame was going to look like and allowed them to properly assess what decks they wanted to attack and what decks they would be able to avoid.

Despite looking rather ugly on paper, it really is an excellent example of what you can do with an accurate projection of what a metagame is going to look like.

Going forward it is very hard to say if this deck will be a contender or not. Very often there are decks that are only good for one event because they are either so good at attacking a format from an unexpected angle or so well tuned for a specific format that they have no real staying power.

The Big Winners

Master of Waves Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx Hero's Downfall Polukranos, World Eater Jace, Architect of Thought Frostburn Weird

The Big Losers

Anger of the Gods Loxodon Smiter Firedrinker Satyr Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver Rakdos's Return Lightning Strike

Where Do We Go From Here?

Honestly? With Cobb likely out for four-to-six weeks and the threat of losing Jimmy, I’m likely going to need to trade my backup quarterback Tony Romo for another wide receiver and just hope RGIII doesn’t decide to hurt himself or fall off too hard.

Oh, you mean about Standard . . .

This is where the fun begins. As usual, while the post-rotation Pro Tour provides a lot of answers, in reality all it does is give us tons of new questions.

There were a number of awesome decks that did not crack the Top 8 and are just waiting to see the spotlight. Jake Van Lunen and Brian Braun-Duin both played a very sweet-looking Junk deck to respectable finishes (which I assume one of them will write about in great detail, hint hint guys), while there were also some G/B decks, some B/R decks, G/W Hexproof decks, and others lurking about at the top tables. One of the side effects of mixed format Pro Tours is that good Draft records can save average Constructed finishes and bad Draft records can absolutely tank good Constructed finishes—this coming from a guy who went 9-1 in Constructed in Pro Tour Honolulu 2009 and 1-4-1 in my two drafts.

This weekend we have Grand Prix Louisville and the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Seattle to look forward to and the following weekend the crown jewel of the independent tournament circuit in the StarCityGames.com Invitational in Indianapolis. I will be excitedly watching the results of both tournaments as I prepare for Indy and look forward to seeing how much the format evolves over the next two weeks.

What decks do you think will adapt and survive? And which ones don’t have what it takes?