What a Pro Tour!
While I was extremely happy to see friends Gerry Thompson and Chris Fennell take down the tournament and crush the swiss respectively, this was a special Pro Tour for me to watch for another reason.
I've known Christian Calcano for over ten years, when we first met PTQing around the New York area. I remember (what I believe was) the first PTQ he ever made top 8 in at the new Neutral Ground location. It was Extended and he was playing what would become his namesake card:
Over the years nobody has pushed harder or sacrificed more than Calcano, despite numerous close calls and heartbreaks. Coming a point short of Platinum after a year of flying to Grand Prix around the world or taking a heartbreaking tiebreaker finish would push most people to the point of giving up. However, Calcano has more heart than any Magic player I've ever met. He's also one of the nicest and most genuine dudes I've met in the game.
As such, I'm not afraid to admit I shed tears of joy watching his and Brian David-Marshall's interview after his round 14 win-and-in match. For those who don't know, BDM was once the owner of Neutral Ground in New York City, which was the mecca for New York Magic. Seeing BDM interview Calcano about his long-awaited and much-deserved first Pro Tour top 8 was an all-time great New York Magic moment, and I couldn't be happier for my friend.
You've earned it bud, and I'm sure there's many more down the road.
My Pro Tour Predictions
Prediction One: There will be more copies of Liliana's Mastery than Liliana, Death's Majesty in the top 8 of Pro Tour Amonkhet.
It read like a hot take, but this was the prediction I was most sure about. Zombies broke out at the Pro Tour in a huge way and currently stands as a top deck in the format. While the metagame will shift to adapt, I don't think Zombies is going anywhere.
Prediction Two: There will be zero copies of traditional B/G Delirium in the top 8 of Pro Tour Amonhket.
With Aetherworks Marvel throwing Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger onto the stack as early as turn 4 and Zombies making legions of 4/4s very quickly, the slower B/G Delirium decks just couldn't keep up. Not many players showed up with Delirium, and the ones that did fared poorly.
Prediction Three: Aetherworks Marvel combo decks will slot in right where Saheeli decks left off, threatening turn 4 combos, punishing slower decks, and defining the format.
This is the one I had wished I was wrong about, but Aetherworks Marvel plus Ulamog, the Ceaseless hunger is going to define Standard for as long as both cards are legal. It was fun seeing the different variations on the deck, from Yuuya's more controlling version to Reid Duke's Sultai Delirium hybrid, but it really felt like far too many games were decided over the course of the tournament because Aetherworks Marvel either hit or didn't hit.
Prediction Four: 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.
Zombie Variants - 18% of the field.
Control Variants - 15% of the field.
Mardu Vehicles Variants - 15% of the field.
Winding Constrictor Variants - 13% of the field.
While I certainly underestimated how many players would show up with Mardu Vehicles, I was correct that the deck would not perform well. I also correctly called one B/G Energy deck making top 8 as the lone Winding Constrictor deck. My biggest mistake was assuming there would be more control, which led to my only miss:
Prediction Five: Kefnet the Mindful is the best God in Amonkhet and will be the only God to make top 8 at Pro Tour Amonkhet.
Despite U/R Control looking like the perfect foil to my predicted metagame, the deck showed up in small numbers and did not perform well. Kefnet the Mindful did see play, but the deck was too much of a non-factor to get anything done. Control in this format is pretty bad so far and unfortunately, I don't see that changing anytime soon.
Final Report Card: B+
Not too bad!
Putting together information about a format and making solid predictions as to what that information means is a very important skill in Magic, and I highly suggest making your own prediction lists for large events you can't attend. See how you fare. You can practice reading a metagame without needing to actually travel and play the event! You can get better at Magic from the comfort of your own home! Do it!
Bring a Friend, Heck Bring Two!
The Pro Tour is yesterday's news. and this weekend's news is that we've got another awesome mixed format team event this weekend!
#SCGKY follows in the footsteps of Baltimore earlier this year, which was one of the more fun events I (and many others) have played in recent memory. Playing with your friends is great and getting to tackle all three formats at once is even greater! Standard has gotten most of the limelight lately, but there've been some significant changes in both Modern and Legacy as well.
With Mardu Vehicles displaced and Standard all about Aetherworks Marvel and Zombies, new decks are already popping up to try and take advantage of the more solidified metagame. At the Invitational last year, Team MGG brewed up a U/W take on the vehicles decks to try and fight the Aetherworks Marvel. I rode my Spell Quellers all the way to top 8.
Perhaps Spell Queller is the hero we need right now.
- 3 Glory-Bound Initiate
- 4 Selfless Spirit
- 4 Spell Queller
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Archangel Avacyn
- 2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Magic Online player ____DELBAS has been doing some serious damage lately in leagues with this take on W/U Flash, and I played the deck in a Magic Online PTQ last weekend. While somewhat weak to Mardu Vehicles, the deck has both the counterspells and the speed necessary to take down Aetherworks Marvel with relative ease.
Add that to the Selfless Spirit plus Archangel Avacyn combo against Zombies, and you've got a deck with a nice matchup against the top two decks in the field. Like Mardu Vehicles, the deck also gets to pull a bit of a sideboard juke, going bigger with the Angel package and Descend Upon the Sinful when necessary against Zombies and other creature decks.
This is also the best Censor deck in the format.
Censor is a somewhat awkward card, because it doesn't really work super well in traditional control decks. The opportunity cost of putting four Censor in your control deck means that you need to remove some other counterspells, and this can leave you light on actual hard counters in the midgame. It's also not that hard for people to play around Censor or play spells they don't mind you countering, like Scrapheap Scrounger, when appropriate. In a pure tempo deck, however, Censor can't afford to be played around. In the PTQ I was Censoring everything from Heart of Kiran to Aetherworks Marvel to Torrential Gearhulk, and the card played great.
Declaration in Stone is another card primed to make a comeback, as it is one of the best available tools against the Zombie deck. Exiling something like Relentless Dead or Dread Wanderer is solid, but the real payoff is when you get to exile an army of 3/3 or 4/4 Zombie tokens at with no drawback at all. It's hard to play that many copies of Declaration in Stone in your maindeck, but the card is the truth at smiting Zombies.
We're just getting started on this Standard format, and W/U Flash is a deck worthy of consideration for this weekend. At the very least make sure you're aware of it, especially if you plan on playing an Aetherworks Marvel deck.
Modern doesn't usually change too much, but Amonkhet has introduced yet another two-card combo to the format that fuels another deck capable of winning on turn 3.
For the uninitiated, the combo is quite simple. Tap Devoted Druid for mana, use the untap ability, Vizier of Remedies prevents the -1/-1 counter, and repeat. The end result is an infinite supply of green mana. As such the pairing of these two creatures doesn't actually do anything by itself besides generate mana, but winning the game with infinite green mana in a format as vast as Modern isn't hard.
Duskwatch Recruiter can draw you your entire deck of creatures and you can then pump a large amount of mana into a Walking Ballista for the kill. Chord of Calling is also a perfect payoff card because it can help set up your combo as well.
- 1 Tidehollow Sculler
- 1 Walking Ballista
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 3 Devoted Druid
- 2 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 3 Eternal Witness
- 1 Fiend Hunter
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 3 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 2 Viscera Seer
- 3 Vizier of Remedies
- 1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
The jury is still out on how to build the best Devoted Druid plus Vizier of Remedies deck, but a build like EGOOGLEGON's is a fairly common take which melds the combo to a more traditional Abzan Company shell.
There have also been more straightforward GW versions of the deck that focus purely on value, and because every card involved in the combo is also just a reasonable fair Magic card that wants to play with Collected Company and Noble Hierarch anyway, this makes a lot of sense.
The takeaway here is that Noble Hierarch, Bird of Paradise, and friends have been fairly absent from the Modern metagame lately. Even the mighty Lightning Bolt's stock has fallen because of how poorly it lines up with cards like Death's Shadow and Thought-Knot Seer. The long beloved strategy of "Bolt the Bird" has not been relevant recently, but with more and more Collected Company decks based around this new combo showing up, this is going to change.
There are many tools available in Modern to keep decks like this in check, despite many of them not seeing much play lately. The best way to typically beat Collected Company decks in Modern is to kill their early mana producers to get ahead on tempo, and then pressure them in the midgame so Collected Company can't bail them out.
And when in doubt, bolt the bird!
Modern may have received a new combo, but the face of Legacy has changed forever with the most recent banlist announcement.
With Sensei's Divining Top finally banned, Miracles has finally been dethroned after years of being the best deck in Legacy. This opens up the door both for other decks to jump in and try to take the slot and for decks that were being unnaturally suppressed due to a poor Miracles matchup.
The effect of Miracles leaving the format is monumental. Both Terminus and Counterbalance were extremely punishing to certain kinds of decks, and what made Miracles such a good deck is that the decks that were strong against one were weak against the other.
With Terminus gone, the format lacks a true maindeckable sweeper.
As such, creature decks improve dramatically. Death and Taxes, Merfolk, Elves... these are all decks that are fairly reliant on creating a large battlefield presence. They are also both fairly fast and redundant, making them resistant to traditional spot removal. Without the fear of Terminus looming every few rounds, these decks can go about their business in game 1s with no fear.
Death and Taxes, Merfolk, and Elves have all proven in the past to play the foil for various Delver of Secrets decks, and Delver decks are consistently one of the most popular decks in Legacy at all times. This bodes well for the other group of decks that get better with the exodus of Miracles.
But what about the departure of Counterbalance?
Combo has been laying low in Legacy for the last few years. It still puts up some results, but was often held in check by Miracles and the easy to assemble Counterbalance lock. Storm going off through just a naked Counterbalance is hard enough, but overcoming the lock was often just far too difficult.
Decks looking to cheat large creatures in (Reanimator and Show and Tell) also get a huge boost. Not only do they no longer have to deal with trying to fight through an early Counterbalance lock backed up by Force of Will, but they also no longer have to deal with Terminus and Jace, the Mind Sculptor undoing all of their hard work to get that Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Griselbrand in play.
Make no mistake, the last year or two of Legacy has been a midrange arms race.
With Miracles properly holding down both the combo decks and the linear creature decks, blue decks got more and more inbred trying to beat both each other and Miracles in fair games of Magic. This means cards like True-Name Nemesis and Leovold, Emissary of Trest were go-to cards when they would usually be too slow to interact. Fair decks would only play three copies of Force of Will to gain an edge in fair matchups. Daze has fallen out of favor. Wastelands made way for more dual lands.
That's all going to have to change.
Legacy is going to speed up drastically, with combo decks like Storm and Show and Tell making bold comebacks. Storm has already been crushing on Magic Online, and it's important to note how well many of these combo decks match up against the creature decks. Delver of Secrets will likely once again be the answer, but it will need to be backed up by a solid disruption suite and have a lower curve.
It's an exciting time in Legacy.
This weekend is going to be a very exciting tournament.
It's very rare for all three formats to be in an unsettled state of flux, and even rarer that we get to see all three played at the same time. Even without all the usual team event excitement, #SCGKY would still be intriguing from a format perspective; however, when you throw in all the fun teams can bring, it becomes must-see SCG Tour® TV.
I can't wait to battle alongside fellow Team MGG members Frank Skarren and Ben Friedman and tackle the new challenges of each format!