There is something magical in the air, pardon the pun. But the Pro tour is truly a special event, for pros, for joes, and for those of us who cover the game. The Pro Tour is like a scheduled earthquake where we get to witness what bubbles up from the molten core below.
Are the rumors true? Will Player X go all the way? Is card Y as sick as we think? Does the game still have legs?
The answers are: Yes, No, Yes, and Unquestionably yes.
The night before a Pro Tour is both the most exciting and most frustrating night of the event. You see all the pros, they're talking to all the other pros, and getting cards for even more pros. Some will share their deck. Some won't. Some will mislead. And some will tease like the cheerleader in high school.
What are they Playing?
The big rumor coming into this weekend was about the Japanese Pros having concocted a G/W/U Ally deck using some nifty tricks. But like Keyser Soze, when you turn to take focus or take hold it melts away as if it was never there. I literally asked two dozen pros about the deck and everyone had heard the rumors, knew pieces of it, but no one actually had the list or knew the list. So what's the deal?
Here's what I know:
- It is a heavy aggro Ally deck, aiming to Alpha strike every turn.
- Some say it uses Rite of Replication to clone allies and make them do their thing.
- Some say it runs Jace, the Mind Sculptor primarily so that you can unsummon your own allies to be able to recast them and boost the others.
- The rumors began when sites noticed a run on their 'Jwari Shapeshifter' so we must presume it will be a key player in this deck.
No one has a list, but every pro is aware of it and few seem overly concerned about it. We'll see if it is indeed a Japanese invention and if it as sick as we are all led to believe; or will it turn out to be the greatest prank ever pulled on the Magic community?
So what else is getting played? Well, that's not an easy question to answer either. Let's first look at a promise Aaron Forsythe made for 2010, and that was that Wizards would be making good Blue Magic cards again. I think it's safe to say Worldwake was the real seller of this promise.
Evan Erwin poignantly said: "If your deck doesn't play Jace, the Mind Sculptor then you're probably playing the wrong deck." That card truly is sick, disgusting and truly naughty. And the Pros seem to love it.
If you don't already have a play set of them, you're going to need them soon. They're not going anywhere, and especially not going down in price. CoolStuffInc, StarCityGames and other online retailers cannot keep them in stock and they are only going to be harder to get hold of even as they increase in price.
One observation Evan and I shared was that non-Spikes don't seem to 'get' Worldwake. The set is subtle in its Spike-ness, it isn't Baneslayer in your face. You have to play with it and see the cards in action, their interactions and how they actually perform. This weekend will show the world just how powerful the set actually is.
I think the Top 8 is going to show players that the Bloodbraid Elf / Jund deck is no longer the dominant deck it has been. The other deck's abilities to disrupt, race, and generate equal card advantage will prove that the deck's ship has sailed and there are other options (unfortunately all of them will run Jace and/or Baneslayer.)
The final point I want to discuss is the efforts Wizards is making to pull people to Pro Tours and dispel the belief that they are just for Pros. Every episode and most writers note that there are side events and other things going on at the Pro Tour and yet it never seems to really sink in.
Wizards is going so far as to start trying to spin these stops as a "festival." The Press Release for Pro Tour San Diego read "Wizards of the Coast brings Magic 'Festival' to San Diego."
When I first read the title I laughed. But after considering it and what they're trying to do it, it is an admirable effort. A step in the right direction but still rather short in the full effect.
That being said, I think Wizards should just bill these as conventions. They already have vendors, events, special guests, etc.
Or perhaps, as unmanageable as it would be, run Grand Prixes at every Pro Tour to attract the non-pros. And Pros who didn't make day 2 would be able to participate. That would be really cool, I'm going to wish for that when I blow out my birthday candles in... 8 months... Someone else better do it before then.
On that note, I'm beginning to get loopy, my body thinks it's nearly 1am (and I've been up since 6am) so I'll wrap this article up. Stay tuned for Pro Tour updates, and follow @ManaNation on twitter for our updates from the floor. Also monitor #ptsandiego for other people's San Diego reporting and discussion.