This past weekend, one of Magic's largest paper events - the Pro Tour - took place in Atlanta, Georgia. Like most Pro Tours this once consisted of 10 rounds of Constructed and 6 rounds of Limited. Unlike many Pro Tours of recent years though, this Pro Tour was set further back from the release of a set.
If you have read my last few Standard articles here on Cool Stuff, you know that this Standard format is one I have really been enjoying. The deck and archetype diversity has been truly amazing. The variety of play patterns has been comparable to Modern even with a much smaller card pool. The question surrounding the format though was: Can it last?
As we headed into this Pro Tour, I heard rumblings from many in the Magic community skeptical of this golden Standard format. I heard many speculate that the Pro Tour would have a breakout deck that would dominate the competition and take away that diversity of play patterns we had been enjoying. With the Pro Tour come and gone, today I would like to dive into the data we can derive from the event a bit and talk about what it could mean for Standard moving forward.
A first glance at the event results does not look promising for the format. The top 8 of the Pro Tour consisted of:
6 White splash Red Aggro decks
1 Jeskai Control
1 Blue-Red Drakes
The grain of salt we have to take with these results though, is the fact that the Pro Tour is almost 40% Limited matches for determining who makes top 8. This means that the best performing Standard decks do not automatically make top 8.
Thankfully, Wizards of the Coast allows the Pro Tour to be one of the most data complete Magic events we get each season. In addition to posting the starting metagame breakdown for the entire field playing, they also post every deck list that goes 6-4 or better in the Constructed portion of the event. This is important coming from other Magic events, because it allows us know the rough "performance" of each deck throughout the event, as opposed to knowing just what finished at the top of the event.
For an example of what I mean by performance let's look at the following data summary from the Pro Tour:
For those who have never seen a comparison like this before - essentially column two tells us the starting distribution of each archetype among the starting players at the Pro Tour, the third column tells us about the distribution of players who made day 2, and the fourth column tells us how the decks are distributed among the best performing decks.
Decks that have roughly the same percentage in columns 2 and 4 performed at expectations. Decks that increased in percentage from 2 to 4 performed well. Decks that decreased from 2 to 4 under performed.
Based on this, it appears that most of the known good decks going into the Pro Tour performed at about expectations with just as many winning as losing. White splash Red Aggro over performed by good bit, while the less popular archetypes shrunk by a similar amount.
As someone who has been playing a good bit of Standard, the results of the Constructed portion of the Pro Tour did not really surprise me. The five most popular decks on the weekend were all known entities, with White aggro probably flying the lowest under the radar. Not being a deck people are gunning for means threats like Adanto Vanguard are harder to kill. Many iterations of Jeskai Control, for instance, seemed to be favoring cards like Lava Coil, as opposed to Seal Away, to hedge the decks which can remove enchantments.
I think the real take away from this event will be the moving target that this Standard seems to be chasing. A month into the format and it feels like we have a new "deck to beat" after every weekend. At the start of the format it was Midrange, then at the Grand Prix two weekends ago Jeskai Control had a great weekend. Now White Aggro has had a great weekend at the Pro Tour.
With White Aggro making itself really known as a force to be respected, I expect to see it pushed back a bit just like we saw happen with and Jeskai after their strong finishes. This format has so many powerful answers in it, most things are beatable if you are aware of them.
As with any Magic data, I would like to remind readers that this data is not the end all be all for telling us about the format. Not only is this just one specific event, but the data here could be skewed a bit because of the mixing of Limited in.
PT Deck Highlights
Past the generic data from this format, the "other" column in the table above had a number of sweet decks hiding in it. To start let's take a look at Grixis Control:
Grixis Control | Guilds Standard | Shota Yasooka
- Instants (17)
- 1 Negate
- 2 Blink of an Eye
- 2 Cast Down
- 2 Chemister's Insight
- 2 Sinister Sabotage
- 2 Syncopate
- 2 Vraska's Contempt
- 4 Moment of Craving
- Lands (26)
- 1 Island
- 5 Swamp
- 4 Dragonskull Summit
- 4 Drowned Catacomb
- 4 Steam Vents
- 4 Sulfur Falls
- 4 Watery Grave
Featuring Moment of Craving as the only four of in the main deck, along with three copies of Golden Demise in the 75 - I am not surprised that this deck found success in a field where White Aggro was present. I really like the top end of both Nicol Bolas, the Ravager and Doom Whisperer - allowing the deck to end the game quickly once it takes control. Another detail that I like in these non-White Control decks is the two copies of Blink of an Eye. Not only does this card cleanly remove a token, but it can be used to send a problem permanent back to its owner's hand so you can counter it on the way back down or take it with a Thought Erasure.
The second deck that caught my eye from the top finishing deck lists is one that pushes the concept of fun being zero-sum to the limit in Standard:
Turbo Fog | Guilds Standard | Mani Davoudi
- Planeswalkers (4)
- 4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
- Instants (18)
- 1 Expansion // Explosion
- 2 Settle the Wreckage
- 3 Pause for Reflection
- 4 Chemister's Insight
- 4 Nexus of Fate
- 4 Root Snare
- Sorceries (4)
- 4 Chart a Course
- Artifacts (1)
- 1 Azor's Gateway
- Lands (26)
- 1 Plains
- 4 Forest
- 5 Island
- 1 Arch of Orazca
- 3 Sunpetal Grove
- 4 Glacial Fortress
- 4 Hinterland Harbor
- 4 Temple Garden
Basically, this deck looks to prevent its opponent from dealing damage inside of combat with cards like Root Snare and Pause for Reflection, while setting up a giant copy of Explosion with the help of Azor's Gateway. This deck looks like it should have a fairly good matchup against midrange, and possibly aggressive decks, looking to attack. I would imagine it is going to struggle pretty badly against most control decks since the main deck likely has a difficult time beating any amount of countermagic or discard spells.
I have been saying for the last couple of weeks now that I think this might be my favorite format of all time. After seeing these PT results and playing it more myself, I think it pretty much is. Not only are there five different competitive decks to choose from for Spikes, but there is still plenty of room to try different brews out to success. Even at the Pro Tour we saw almost 20% of the top finishes taken up by decks that were not the accepted "best" decks in the room.
Personally I am still enjoying jamming Pirates more than anything else, although there is also a Sultai Superfriends deck I have been working on that has also been growing on me. What have you been liking in Standard so far? Did something from the Pro Tour strike your fancy or something else?