Magic: The Gathering Outlaws of Thunder Junction available today!


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Wow What A Pro Tour!


There's one thing every competitive Magic player dreams of, it is showing up to a Pro Tour with an awesome and off the radar deck, taking everyone by surprise, and then winning the whole damn thing.

Well... about that...

While I didn't personally win the Pro Tour, my teammate Seth Manfield did with the deck that the majority of the team (12 of us total) played in Vampires!

Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord
Vein Ripper

If you missed the coverage, Rakdos Vampires was the breakout deck of the event; There were 48 copies of Vein Ripper and 48 copies of Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord in the Pro Tour, all played by members of my team. All 12 of our Vampires players (Paul Rietzl, the originator of the deck stuck to the original Mono Black roots) made day two, and Rakdos Vampires had the highest win rate of the entire event for decks played by more than two players.

(The other statistic worth noting here is the astounding 57.5% win rate for Izzet Phoneix, despite the huge sample size as well as being the most played deck in the tournament as well as the deck everyone was trying to beat. However, this is a topic for another article)

It's hard not to be extremely proud of the work that the team did for this event.

As I said, the deck started out as a Mono-Black Vampires deck built by our team member Paul Rietzl, and if you want to see me playing the early prototype version I did so right here on CoolStuffInc.com this past Monday. This coming Monday I'll be playing Seth's winning decklist, as well as going over the deck and sideboard in full as well as providing the hot sideboard guide everyone wants.

But for today, I wanted to both revel in the moment a bit, as well as go over my Pro Tour Predictions from last week!

Prediction One: Izzet Phoenix, Azorius Control, And Lotus Field Will Be The "Big Three" Of The Tournament

Result - Partial Credit

Pioneer players just love their Rakdos Midrange decks!

Our team identified early on that Rakdos Midrange was not well positioned in this format at all. There was just too wide a strategic spread between the other big decks, from combo to control to graveyard aggro, plus the threat of turn three Amalia Combo or a blistering fast start from Boros Convoke, to be able to build your midrange deck in a manner that could handle everything. A poor Phoenix matchup was just the nail in the coffin.

Except it wasn't, because Rakdos gamers just can't get away.

As such, Rakdos Midrange was the third most played deck in the field at a somewhat surprising 14%. Despite this though, the deck had an abysmal win rate at 41.7%, and this combined with the fact that Izzet Phoenix, Azorius Control, and Lotus Field were the three most played decks aside from Rakdos and in that order, sees me giving myself partial credit for this one.

Prediction Two: Rakdos Midrange Will Have A Sub-50% Win Rate

Result - Correct

As a follow up to prediction one, this one was right on the money.

Sheoldred // The True Scriptures
Vein Ripper

With the utter failure of Rakdos Midrange at Pro Tour Chicago, as well as the dominance of the Rakdos Vampires deck, it would not be surprising to see Rakdos Vampires supplant Rakdos Midrange as the mid-level Rakdos deck of choice going forward.

Rakdos Vampires plays a similar gameplan and has similar play patterns and flexibility, but having the high-roll potential of just slamming Vein Ripper on turn three is a huge amount of upside that traditional Rakdos Midrange has never had access too. Having this sort of ceiling in your bad matchups is something that just can't be ignored.

Prediction Three: Among The Featured Draft Pods On Day One And Day Two, The 3-0 Drafter In Each Pod Will Not Be Playing Black

Result - Correct

I experienced the nightmare scenario in my first draft at the Pro Tour - I opened a pack with a good (but not great) Black rare and nothing else worth of a first pick.

Deadly Cover-Up

I'd go on to draft a mediocre Black/Blue control deck and go 1-2 in the first pod, which is about in line with what usually happens to Black decks in Murders at Karlov Manor draft. Not to say that Black is unplayable (I did 3-0 the second draft with a White/Black deck), but it is definitely not where you want to be.

And the featured drafters agreed!

Derrick Davis 3-0ed the first featured pod with a very normal looking Boros Aggro deck featuring the premiere common Dog Walker as well as the usual array of pump effects, showcasing what a good Boros draft deck looks like in this format.

Meanwhile in the day two featured pod, Adam Edelson had a slightly less exciting Izzet Artifacts deck, made whole by an astounding three copies of the excellent Gleaming Geardrake. Izzet can be one of the harder decks to make work in this format, but can be excellent when it all comes together.

Amusingly, both decks were playing a Black half-off-color surveil land, but no Swamps were to be seen.

Prediction Four: There Will Be At Least Four Copies Of Vein Ripper In The Top 8

Result - Correct

Uh... nailed it!

Not only did our team win the event, we also had Sam Pardee in the Top 8 alongside Seth who was also playing Rakdos Vampires. Furthermore, Luis Scott-Vargas was also playing for Top 8 in the last round, only falling to some excellent topdecks from a Lotus Field player.

Hope you already had your Vein Rippers cause they ain't cheap now!

Prediction Five: There Will Be At Least One Other Big Surprise In Top 8

Result - Correct

Who saw Favored Hoplite coming?

Favored Hoplite

While our team had the new breakout deck of the tournament, a lot of tournament success is just picking the right already established deck for a particular metagame, and player of the year Simon Nielson did just that with Boros Heroic.

The deck has always been a barnburner, but struggled against decks based around Fatal Push and Thoughtseize. Well, Simon and his team, like most everyone else, had determined that Rakdos Midrange was a poor choice for this event, making Boros Heroic start to look very appealing again.

Furthermore, as we saw in the semifinals, the deck is also hilariously awesome against Amalia Combo.

Defiant Strike
Amalia Benavides Aguirre

One well timed pump spell like Defiant Strike can break up the conclusion of the Amalia combo, moving Amalia past 20 power and forcing the lifegain-explore loop into an unbounded infinite loop that draws the game. This means that at any point Boros Heroic is facing down a lethal Amalia combo, they can just use the pump spell to force a draw and play again! This happened twice in top 4 of the event and is a very clever bit of deck selection.

Kicking The Season Off With A Bang

Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor had it all.

An awesome new breakout deck that won it all and performed well over the whole event; A Player of the Year taking an innovative and brilliant deck choice all the way to the finals; Exciting and tense draft rounds; A few other fun outlier decks like Dimir Control and Boros Burn doing well; It's hard to ask for more.

It was an awesome start to the 2024 Pro season!

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