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Pro Tour Recap and Reflections

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Hey everyone!

The Pro Tour happened last weekend and the Standard format has been revitalized. Today I want to talk about some of the top decks that emerged from the Pro Tour as well as the metagame within the tournament.

I also want to highlight what I’m thinking about each day of the Pro Tour Constructed portion. Since there’s a mix of Limited and Constructed, the Top 8 won’t always paint the best picture of the Top 8. It’s important to have an assessment of the initial metagame because that will determine which decks will perform well.

I wrote part of this article as the Pro Tour was happening to provide multiple angles.

Day 1 Thoughts

Emrakul, the Promised End
Like many Americans, I went to bed Thursday night excited to wake up to a brand new Standard metagame. I was not disappointed, as it seems Emerge is the new breakout mechanic. Not only that, Emrakul, the Promised End has been showing up left and right.

The second-highest archetype in attendance was B/G Delirium at 12%, but there were also Jund Delirium versions as well at 4%. Many pros decided it wasn’t worth it to splash a third color and stick with consistency. I can still fit as many Emrakuls as I need to close a game with the two color version. Given the presence of Elder Deep-Fiend I like the idea of these proactive Black decks being able to cast Infinite Obliteration in haymaker mirrors.

Emerge has shown up in all sorts of shapes and sizes. My Ann Arbor teammate, Andrew Elenbogen, showed up with a U/B Emerge deck that featured a light splash for Kozilek's Return. I noticed a lot of articles over the last couple of weeks alluding to this being a possibility without anyone actually providing a decklist. To me this said Emerge was going to be a breakout deck and discarding/milling Kozilek's Return was the way to go because the rest of the Red spells were weak. It was clear that Gerry T’s original U/R Emerge deck was a good starting point, but there was much work to be done.

Temur Emerge was piloted by some great players such as Owen Turtenwald and Paul Rietzl. Overall Emerge decks made up about 15% of the overall metagame which is a little higher than expected. There were plenty of flavors of Emerge so I would expect some consolidation after this tournament.

Elder Deep-Fiend
The day 1 Standard metagame was still infested with Bant Company, as expected, with just under 20% of the field. This is about the expected amount as it seems Ramp/Emerge strategies were the go-to solution to beat Collected Company. Due to the Visa issues and the time it takes for most competitors to fly to Australia there were only 302 players. The pros are going to make it to the Pro Tour no matter what; this means those with less experience were more likely to skip. This is likely the most competitive Pro Tour I’ve ever seen if looking at the average pro points per player.

I’m happy to see that despite all of the testing talent LSV has at his disposal he still opted to play good ol’ Bant Company. We shouldn’t forget that it’s still a great deck despite all of the shiny new toys being unveiled. LSV has such a storied history of Pro Tour success because he sticks with proactive decks in an undefined metagame. This weekend’s unexpected metagame shifts will prove to be too much for many control decks.

These fancy ramp and Delirium decks are nice, but require some setup. Bant is a solid deck and can punish decks that stumble or require multiple things to come together.

G/W Tokens showed up as expected, but I’m unsure how it will perform against all of these crazy ramp decks that seek to end the game with Emrakul or tap down the opponent with Elder Deep-Fiend. Last week I mentioned that playing a bunch of targeted cards like Tragic Arrogance can be dicey in an unknown metagame. Osyp correctly predicted that SCG Baltimore would be infested with Bant Company, but the Pro Tour is much more diverse.

There were only 4 White Humans decks in attendance. I expected Kozilek's Return to make a Return so playing a bunch of 1 toughness creatures wasn’t the best metagame call. In the same regard U/W Spirits had only 7 pilots.

Another deck I didn’t expect to show up was W/B Angels, but there were still six pilots (2%). I have been down on this deck after SCG Columbus so it will be interesting to see how it fares in day 2.

Day 2/Top 8 Thoughts

We saw plenty of new and existing archetypes show up at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, but many would fall to the wayside as only 4-4 records or better advance to day 2. What decks rose to the top? Remember that 3 rounds of draft will also affect how these players perform on day 1 so this isn’t an exact science.

Bant Company put 53% of its pilots into day 2 which is better than I expected. If you think about how hard it is to win a match at the Pro Tour level the most popular archetype could have done much worse.

I like the version of Bant Company piloted by Luis Scott-Vargas:


Selfless Spirit was pioneered by Devin Koepke’s team at SCG Columbus and is here to stay. It’s not realistic to play a bunch of creatures that get killed by Kozilek's Return and have no recourse. Archangel Avacyn is another way to keep your threats alive against the powerful sweeper and goes nicely with Selfless Spirit.

Tireless Tracker was mediocre for me in the mirror compared to Nissa, Vastwood Seer, but I like it against Black control and Emerge decks. The tracker gets more powerful when you add the 26th land to the deck. Since most of the creatures in Bant Company can generate card advantage there’s no reason to not add another land.

There were plenty of decks that leaned on the power of Gnarlwood Dryad. Even if Luis doesn’t do a good job of getting delirium it’s still stronger than Lambholt Pacifist when you aren’t abusing the flash sub-theme.

If I were playing in Grand Prix Portland this weekend I would register Luis’s 60 and make a new sideboard to fight the Delirium and Emerge decks.


I would only bring in Summary Dismissal against Emerge and Emrakul decks even though those things can be countered by Ojutai's Command. The U/W Command is good against W/B Control because it counters Kalitas and rebuys card advantage creatures. I don’t like Avacyn versus control decks because it dies to everything so this is a clean swap.

Tamiyo, Field Researcher comes in for the mirror. I expect less Tragic Arrogance in the Bant Company sideboard because there are so many decks to fight now.

The Jaces in the sideboard look strange, but I want a different 2-drop against Liliana decks. Selfless Spirit is a great card, but is weak to Liliana’s +1 ability. Luis had one, but I would like a second.

B/G Delirium put 32 of 37 decks into day 2 which is an impressive 87%. When the field is littered with Reflector Mage I don’t like the positioning of Grim Flayer. The Pro Tour offered a more diverse field where 2/2s can shine (except against Kozilek's Return). Jund Delirium also put over 80% of the pilots into day 2. The delirium bombs combined with Black spells was a recipe for success.

Here’s Sam Pardee’s version from the Top 8:


This midrange deck has staying power because it has powerful high-end in Emrakul, but doesn’t have to play a ton of lands thanks to Traverse the Ulvenwald. It’s a powerful statement to cut two Sylvan Advocate and keep all four Grim Flayer. This deck is focused on achieving delirium and the flayer does that without having to play a bunch of durdly enablers.

I’m unclear how powerful Ultimate Price will be after the Pro Tour. Eldrazi decks don’t have many mono-colored creatures, but the price may be a necessary evil. Dead Weight might be great because it kills opposing Grim Flayer and teams up with Liliana to fight 3 toughness creatures. It would be the only enchantment for delirium, too.

G/W Tokens fell on its face because there weren’t many decks that cared about Tragic Arrogance compared to SCG Columbus and Baltimore. This result doesn’t surprise me because I don’t think it’s right to fight these giant Emrakul decks with sweepers and planeswalkers. Eldritch Moon offers plenty of overpowered cards capable of destroying board stalls. G/W is down but not out; the right metagame will allow it to crush the top tables once again.

There were various flavors of Emerge that over-performed as well. This is because the Kozilek's Return synergy with Elder Deep-Fiend is capable of fighting Bant Company and go over the top of most decks.

I liked Team East-West Bowl’s version of Temur Emerge the most because it’s focused and consistent.


U/G Emerge shells are powerful because sacrificing Matter Reshaper and Primal Druid offers great value. Four copies of Wretched Gryff will ensure you can turn the 0/3 druid into a land to quickly transition into the mid game.

Gather the Pack and Grapple with the Past can quickly assemble the Kozilek's Return + colorless emerge creature combo. This level of consistency is scary for creature decks and is the reason I would play Bant Company with 6 creatures to give my team indestructible.

The transformational sideboard is important because Infinite Obliteration on Elder Deep-Fiend would be deadly. It looks like Emerge decks spin their wheels when they lose the large creatures. I don’t think it’s good enough against Languish decks to swarm the board with ¾ Wretched Gryffs. I would be able to search for Emrakul with Sanctum of Ugin after sideboard against Black control.

Overall it seemed the metagame is shaping up to turn Standard on its head. The scary yet misunderstood threats in Eldritch Moon came to play such as Emerge creatures and Emrakul. Delirium is finally strong enough to compete, too! Bant Company is not dead, but there was an overcorrection due to so many new strategies being unveiled. Emerge and Emrakul dominated because the field wasn’t aware how powerful it would be. I see Black control evening this out soon which Bant Company can beat with sheer card advantage.

Consolidation

Liliana, Emrakul, and Elder Deep-Fiend dominated the Pro Tour, but teams couldn’t agree on how to build their decks. If you’re playing a Standard tournament this weekend expect the metagame to begin solidifying.

W/B Control won the Pro Tour and seems to have a good matchup after sideboard against Emrakul decks. Remember not to warp your deck too hard against these unfair Eldrazi decks as you still must out-card Bant Company. I expect a diversification of threats out of the Ramp sideboards. It’s common that Black control can’t beat linear ramp Game 1 and then boards in massive amounts of hate for their Game 1 strategy. If Ramp takes a side-step and does something else it will be able to win one of the two sideboarded games and the match.

The 4-Color Emerge decks didn’t fare too well as it can be tricky to make them consistent enough while also being able to handle an onslaught by Humans or other beatdown decks. Humans had a rough weekend, but Ben Nikolich was able to go 9-1 so it’s still possible to play.

Bant Company must abandon the werewolf/flash sub-theme to make room for Selfless Spirit. I used the flash version to top 4 SCG Columbus and it was great; unfortunately it needs to be shelved because Deep Fiend and Kozilek's Return is here to stay.

Depending on the metagame I would go with B/G or Jund Delirium. B/G has more clunky removal spells while Jund can pick off small creatures with Fiery Impulse. Both versions are able to grind hard with Emrakul and Ishkanah, Grafwidow.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Standard entered Pro Tour Eldritch Moon as a format with one tier 1 deck and a handful of stragglers but was left rich and diversified. It’s clear Eldritch Moon was a confusing set with plenty of powerful cards with all sorts of synergies. I don’t see the dust settling any time soon because the pillars we’re left with are all able to be beaten.

That’s it for this week. Stay tuned for some Standard updates as well as Modern preparation for Grand Prix Indianapolis!

Thanks for reading!

—Kyle


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