Surprises in Standard at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
- Jamin Kauf
M19 has been available in Standard for a bit and while it seemed like the existing decks were going to continue to dominate, there were many surprises during the Pro Tour. Jamin covers his expectations, the coolest decks from the PT, and a surprising Online PTQ metagame.
M19 Enters the Metagame
When the newest Core-Set released a month ago, Standard experienced a nice little shake-up. Green beatdown decks started including Thorn Lieutenant and black-red midrange often splashed blue for Nicol Bolas, the Ravager / Nicol Bolas, the Arisen, but new archetypes were also found, with mono black zombies winning an SCG Classic and decks like knights and even cats 5-0’ing Magic Online Leagues.
While these decks were all capable of doing well, none of the newly found archetypes seemed to be the new deck to beat. Black-red had overtaken mono red in popularity and blue-white control, blue-black (with occasional red) midrange and green aggro were the best strategies in the format.
I’m always ready for a nice surprise when watching the Pro Tour but this week was particularly interesting. Players showed up with all kinds of decks doing well with many spicy brews. Let’s get into them!
The Pro Tour
Obviously not everyone showed up with their own homebrew tech-deck. Many players came to the conclusion that the existing decks were the ones to play, as they couldn’t find anything better on their own. This is totally understandable as you don’t want to give away precious win percentage just to play a sweet deck at a Pro Tour - even more at a team Pro Tour since you don’t want to let down your teammates. This makes the number of new decks even more impressive as these players had to be absolutely convinced that their deck was the best deck for the weekend.
The first interesting deck I want to highlight comes from Ivan De Castro Sánchez, who brought a three color God-Pharaoh’s Gift deck. His green-blue deck splashes black for the Hostage Taker. While green and blue lack some interaction, it does better at finding Gate to the Afterlife through Champion of Wits and Glint-Nest Crane which he’s only able to play because he has also included four Walking Ballistas and a playset of Verdurous Gearhulk. Combining the blue card-filtering with green creatures powered out by Llanowar Elves makes this deck play differently from the usual GPG decks we’ve seen so far.
Sultai GPG by Ivan De Castro Sánchez
|4Aether Hub||4Champion of Wits||4Gate to the Afterlife|
|4Blooming Marsh||3Glint-Nest Crane||2God-Pharaoh's Gift|
|4Botanical Sanctum||3Hostage Taker|
|1Hinterland Harbor||4Llanowar Elves|
|4Ipnu Rivulet||4Merfolk Branchwalker|
|2Island||2Minister of Inquiries|
|3Aethersphere Harvester||1Glint-Nest Crane||1Hostage Taker|
|1Thrashing Brontodon||2Vivien Reid|
The Big Surprise
The talk of the tournament however was Turbo Fog. Yes, you read that correctly, preventing all combat damage is back on the menu in Standard. Six players played the deck with David Williams’ team in 5th place being the one which finished highest.
Turbo Fog by David Williams
|26Lands||13Other Permanents||21Instants and Sorceries|
|1Botanical Sanctum||2Karn, Scion of Urza||2Glimmer of Genius|
|4Forest||4Teferi, Hero of Dominaria||4Haze of Pollen|
|3Glacial Fortress||4Gift of Paradise||4Nexus of Fate|
|4Hinterland Harbor||2Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin||4Root Snare|
|4Irrigated Farmland||1The Mirari Conjecture||4Chart a Course|
|4Island||1Karn's Temporal Sundering|
|4Scattered Groves||2Secrets of the Golden City|
|2Baral, Chief of Compliance||2Cleansing Nova||2Jace's Defeat|
|4Manglehorn||4Negate||1Nezahal, Primal Tide|
The game plan here is pretty simple: don’t die, take a bunch of extra turns (potentially an infinite number, given a small enough deck and multiple Azcanta activations per turn) and ride Teferi, Hero of Dominaria to victory. Fog effects aren’t often utilized in Standard but when they are, it’s usually not a lot of fun for the opponent. The crucial card from M19 making this deck work is Root Snare, acting as Haze of Pollen 5-8.
The interesting part about this deck is the tuning. Lee Shi Tian, Yam Wing Chun and Raphael Levy showed up with the same 75, but these differ quite a bit from what the other three have brought. Given that slow value engines are needed to find new fogs, Search for Azcanta is not a surprising card but there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus about whether the next best value-card is Nissa, Steward of Elements, Mirari Conjecture or Bounty of the Luxa. At least everyone agreed to use Gift of Paradise as ramp and Nexus of Fate as a powerful card to close out the game with.
The core of the deck makes it very strong against decks that want to beat you down: mono green, mono-red, and black-red have a miserable time dealing with enchantments finding fogs over and over again.
An Old Deck Learning New Tricks
Lastly I want to mention a deck I talked about at the start of June: mono blue storm. Nine players brought some variation of an Aetherflux Reservoir deck to the team event, including known powerhouses like PV or Oliver Polak-Rottmann.
Mono Blue Storm by Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa
|1Arch of Orazca||1Glint-Nest Crane||2Aetherflux Reservoir|
|1Inventors' Fair||4Ornithopter||4Inspiring Statuary|
|12Island||4Sai, Master Thopterist||2Metalspinner's Puzzleknot|
|1Scavenger Grounds||3Mox Amber|
|4Zhalfirin Void||4Prophetic Prism|
|2Karn, Scion of Urza|
|2Commit // Memory|
|1Aether Meltdown||3Glint-Nest Crane||1Jace's Defeat|
|2Karn, Scion of Urza||1Metallic Rebuke||2Negate|
|1Nezahal, Primal Tide||1River's Rebuke||1Sorcerous Spyglass|
|1Treasure Map / Treasure Cove|
This deck has gotten an insanely powerful card in Sai, Master Thopterist which is a four-of in every single one of these decklists. Sai helped the deck become a real player in Standard. Creating chump-blockers against Heart of Kiran, pressuring Planeswalkers, turning useless artifacts into highly needed cards and letting Mox Amber produce mana while being a nicely sized blocker at 1/4 is ridiculous. It really is. You should really go play a game with Sai right now!
Besides the new Artificer, the core of the deck has mostly stayed the same, most lists playing two additional Metalspinner’s Puzzleknot instead of cards like Traveler’s Amulet. Sai has given the deck enough value for it to play a midrange endgame rather than only comboing off. Dropping the weakest card draw in Reverse Engineer and instead playing Karn, Scion of Urza in the main deck makes you stronger against interaction and sets you all-in less often.
The PTQ and a Return to Normalcy
While the teams in Minneapolis were battling out the last slots in Top4, “RNGspecialist” took down the Magic Online Standard PTQ and what can I tell you: results couldn’t have been more different. While there was one Turbo Fog deck to be found at 6-2 and a blue storm deck made it to 7-1, the event was dominated by red decks.
Thirteen of the top twenty decks featured four Goblin Chainwhirler. Out of the six undefeated decks after swiss, only one was not a red aggro deck. Those were all mono red, sometimes splashing black for Unlicensed Disintegration and some sideboard cards.
This is obviously an immense discrepancy between the Pro Tour results and the big online tournament taking place, but while the paper metagame is usually a bit behind the Magic Online one, I still imagine many of the new decks will find their way into MtGO leagues.
Players will generally test a lot more for the Pro Tour than they will for a single PTQ and the new Turbo Fog is well set up to prey on red decks in general.
I for one am very excited as to how Standard evolves out of this, even more so since I will be playing German Nationals soon. Hopefully the Aetherflux holds up well enough for me to storm people out of the game there.
What will you be playing in Standard now that some new big players are known? Feel free to let me know in the comments!
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