With Pro Tour Amonkhet about to start tomorrow, I've got good news and bad news. The bad news is that I'm not qualified, so I won't be battling alongside the world's best in an exciting new Standard format. However, the good news is that I've got nothing to hide as far as information on Standard goes!
Today I offer my five predictions for Pro Tour Amonkhet, jam packed with everything I know about the current Standard format. Will I be right? Will I be wrong? Tomorrow we will find out!
There will be more copies of Liliana's Mastery than Liliana, Death's Majesty in the top 8 of Pro Tour Amonkhet.
There have been murmurs since #SCGATL, but let me confirm them right now: Zombies is a very real deck in Amonkhet Standard.
The early versions of the deck at #SCGATL completely ignored perhaps the best reason to play the deck, which is Liliana's Mastery.
Liliana's Mastery may look like nothing more than a busted Limited rare, but after playing the deck in a PPTQ earlier this week and in a number of other matches on Magic Online, it was quickly clear that it is the best card in the deck and the reason you want to be playing Zombies at all. It's the card you want to draw every turn, and in conjunction with Dark Salvation it gives the deck a surprising amount of late game power to match its early beatdowns.
The deck does a great job pressuring Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, building a great board presence that is resistant to removal and being able to be aggressive in the early game, all while having late game tools as well. It's also able to play two of the best removal spells in the format, Fatal Push and Grasp of Darkness, and sideboard some of the best tools against Aetherworks Marvel.
Zombies will make a major impact at the Pro Tour, with the only real question being which version will come out on top. The mono-black version, with its smooth and perfect manabase of lands that never enter the battlefield tapped and a big time mirror breaker in Westvale Abby is very appealing.
But each color splash offers benefits as well.
White is the most obvious but perhaps the most difficult, offering additional options like Wayward Servant and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in the sideboard. Red can help shore up the mirror and provide reach with cards like Incendiary Flow and Magma Spray, while blue can offer Prized Amalgam to give control decks fits, not to mention sideboarded counterspells for the control and combo matchups.
Whatever form it takes, Zombies will be the breakout deck of Pro Tour Amonkhet.
On the flip side of this prediction is Liliana, Death's Majesty.
This prediction is based more on Liliana's Mastery being a fantastic card than Liliana, Death's Majesty being a bad card. Liliana, Death's Majesty certainly has a place in the format and is a unique and powerful card that does a number of things exceptionally well, but it suffers a bit due to the overall speed of the format.
Which leads us to our next prediction:
There will be zero copies of traditional B/G Delirium in the top 8 of Pro Tour Amonhket.
Sorry Brennan DeCandio, I'm just not seeing it.
- 1 Noxious Gearhulk
- 3 Walking Ballista
- 4 Grim Flayer
- 1 Manglehorn
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
- 2 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
B/G Delirium seemed like it was one of the decks to gain the most from the banning of Felidar Guardian, but a host of new issues have arisen.
Aetherworks Marvel decks have resurfaced in serious numbers and pose an extreme threat to slow, plodding value decks like B/G Delirium. You simply can't give Aetherworks Marvel decks the time they need to set up, as not only is spinning the wheel into an early Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger a threat, they also play a very reasonable fair game with Rogue Refiner and Whirler Virtuoso; and if you take too long, they can just start hardcasting Ulamog the old-fashioned way.
Add this to Zombies decks that present a load of threats that are difficult to deal with via removal and large enough to smush Ishkanah, Grafwidow and control decks that make removal spells look silly and you've got a recipe for disaster. Old-style B/G Delirium has simply fallen behind the times, which is a very dangerous thing to do in a fast-moving format like Standard.
Aetherworks Marvel combo decks will slot in right where Saheeli Combo decks left off, threatening turn 4 combos, punishing slower decks, and defining the format.
While largely held in check by the Saheeli Rai decks, the banning of Felidar Guardian has opened the door for Aetherworks Marvel decks to run wild once again. Casting Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger on turn 4 may not be making infinite copies of Felidar Guardian and attacking for infinite damage, but it's just about good enough. Even when the Aetherworks Marvel deck fails, it still plays out like a very reasonable energy deck would.
The result of this is similar to the effect that Saheeli Rai had on the format.
Playing any sort of slower midrange deck you are going to be very susceptible to combo. The more time you give your opponent, the more times they can spin the wheel and both gain value and potentially find Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Gaining energy is fairly trivial, and Aetherworks Marvel is difficult to interact with in game 1. This couples with the explosive power of Mardu Vehicles and Zombies to make the format very fast.
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 3 Whirler Virtuoso
- 4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
The default shell for Aetherworks Marvel right now is Temur, and it is remarkably similar to the old Saheeli decks. If Felidar Guardian was still legal and you swapped out the eight copies of Aetherworks Marvel and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger for eight copies of Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai, you've got a pretty good Saheeli Rai list. Anyone who's played against Saheeli knows that the backup plan of "Temur energy good stuff" is a real one, which allows this deck to attack from multiple angles.
Temur Aetherworks crushed the most recent Magic Online Championship Series and has to be considered one of the top decks going into the Pro Tour. However, there's still debate about the best way to go with an Aetherworks Marvel deck.
- 1 Noxious Gearhulk
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 3 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
- 3 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
If Ishkanah, Grafwidow is going to make a mark at Pro Tour Amonkhet, it is going to be in a deck like this.
Hybridizing the best elements of B/G Delirum with the Aetherworks Marvel shell leads to a very interesting brew, capable of both fast Aetherworks Marvel draws as well as a backup plan of just reanimating Ishkanah, Grafwidow or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger with Liliana, Death's Majesty. If there's a threat to my first prediction, it is this deck.
The five major archetypes will make up 80% of the field at Pro Tour Amonkhet and will do so in this order:
Aetherworks Marvel Variants - 19% of the field.
These will mostly be Temur Aetherworks decks but will include a number of brews including Sultai, Bant, and maybe even some hybrid Aetherworks Marvel/ramp decks that are also interested in casting their big threats. These decks will be talk of the tournament, putting many wildly swingy games on camera. I expect to see an inexperienced player in the top 8 with this archetype.
Zombie Variants - 18% of the field.
As stated earlier, Zombies will be the breakout deck of the tournament. It will be well prepared for by the major pro teams, but will put up strong numbers based on sheer volume alone. The deck will also likely be tuned and tweaked well by the best pilots to include unexpected colors or cards. Buy your Zombies cards while they are still cheap!
Control Variants - 15% of the field.
The most common control deck will be far and away U/R Control, which sports a good matchup against both of the top decks. Magma Spray will be heavily played, and the combination of good red removal plus Sweltering Suns to keep the aggro decks in check with counterspells to keep the Aetherworks Marvel decks in check will be a potent one. Control will do well with Mardu Vehicles taking a smaller than expected share of the metagame.
Mardu Vehicles Variants - 15% of the field.
Mardu Vehicles is still a great deck and will likely be a top choice of many RPTQ winners and people who are just looking to play "the best deck." Most of these players will have rough tournaments, with only the better pro teams who go back to adding blue to the deck for sideboard cards like Metallic Rebuke seeing truly great results.
Winding Constrictor Variants - 13% of the field.
In order for the Black/Green decks to be successful, they will need to be more aggressive and better at building a battlefield presence. As such, they will go back to playing Winding Constrictor and Verdurous Gearhulk rather than trying to play the long-game delirium plan. These decks will have medium success, with a lower to the ground energy-based version of the deck making top 8.
Kefnet the Mindful is the best God in Amonkhet and will be the only God to make top 8 at Pro Tour Amonkhet.
Looking over the predicted metagame, U/R Control looks like an excellent choice for the event if it can find a way to salvage the Mardu Vehicles matchup.
Magma Spray goes a long way towards answering Scrapheap Scrounger, one of control's biggest problems in Standard, while also being excellent against the new Zombie decks. Add that to an array of counterspells to keep Aetherworks Marvel in check and Sweltering Suns to provide the deck a good sweeper, and we are off to the races. The only real issue is finding a good win condition.
Enter Kefnet the Mindful.
While Gods like Rhonas the Indomitable and Hazoret the Fervent have gotten much more press, Kefnet the Mindful will be the only God in the top 8 of Pro Tour Amonkhet, and it will do so slotting in as a card draw engine/win condition in a blue control deck. Kefnet the Mindful is the only God that doesn't need to be a creature to be good, and that is why it will succeed.
I'm not going to go as far as to say that U/R Control is a lock to win the Pro Tour, but you can put me down for calling it a favorite.
What Do You Think?
I'm most excited to see the mystery 20% of the metagame I did not account for in my metagame share. There's a lot of room to explore in this format, and I very much hope someone has broken it in an interesting way.
There's a ton of cards still legal in Standard that have been forgotten about. Some of them can come together with Amonkhet and make a mark once again! Will Zombies run rampant? Will turn 4 Ulamogs rule the day? Will Mardu take down another Pro Tour? Will control return?