Another Pro Tour, another predictions article!
For Pro Tour Amonkhet I did very well, nailing 3.5 of my five predictions, and now we are back again to call the shots for Pro Tour Hour of Devastation. Once again I find myself on the outside looking in, as my RPTQ for this Pro Tour did not go well, and once again I've got nothing to hide as far as information on Standard goes.
So join me today as I put aside my jealousy for those enjoying beautiful Japan and offer my five predictions for Pro Tour Hour of Devastation! Will I be right? Will I be wrong? Tomorrow, we will find out!
Mono-Red Aggro will be the "Level 0" deck of the Pro Tour.
While Tom Ross and I may have spoiled this one last weekend at #SCGATL, it is something I'm sure any player actively preparing for the Pro Tour was already very aware of.
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 4 Falkenrath Gorger
- 2 Soul-Scar Mage
- 1 Hazoret the Fervent
- 1 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 4 Falkenrath Gorger
- 2 Hanweir Garrison
- 4 Village Messenger
- 2 Hazoret the Fervent
- 2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
Mono-Red Aggro is just that good currently.
Earthshaker Khenra is one of the best aggressive red creatures printed in a very long time, as it provides not only a great early attacker but solves the biggest problem of aggressive red decks: mana flood. At #SCGATL I actually found myself often wanting to draw my sixth land because eternalizing Earthshaker Khenra was just that good. Adding this to the reach that Ramunap Ruins gives the deck in conjunction with Sunscorched Desert yields quite the recipe for aggro success.
The issue is that everyone relevant is already aware of this information.
For those unfamiliar with the terminology, when I say "Level 0" deck, I mean that Mono-Red Aggro will be the baseline deck for the format. Deck discussion will begin with "Can it beat Mono-Red Aggro?" and anyone unsure about what to play will likely just default to it as the "best deck" in a vacuum.
To win a Pro Tour, you often want to be two steps ahead on Level 2. Most people are aware of what the Level 2 deck of the Pro Tour will be, and work to build a deck that is independently good and has a great matchup against it. Typically the decks that do best are the ones built to do well against those Level 1 decks while also having game against the Level 0 deck.
Mardu Vehicles was certainly the Level 0 deck at Pro Tour Amonkhet – it was the most-played deck in the room and did not have a very good tournament overall. I expect Mono-Red Aggro to have a similar fate at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation.
There will be at least one Cryptolith Rite deck in the Top 8.
Remember Cryptolith Rite?
Once a major player in Standard, Cryptolith Rite had mostly fallen by the wayside over the last few months. However, a big reason for this was how poorly the deck matched up against the turn 4 combo decks— when you're playing a deck with 25 creatures, four Cryptolith Rite, and lands, you don't have a ton of room for interaction.
However, now that the turn 4 combo ball and chain has been removed, many more things are possible once again.
Piggybacking off of our first prediction, can you imagine Mono-Red Aggro ever beating something like this deck?
- 4 Blisterpod
- 4 Carrier Thrall
- 4 Catacomb Sifter
- 3 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 4 Loam Dryad
- 2 Vizier of the Menagerie
- 4 Weaponcraft Enthusiast
- 4 Zulaport Cutthroat
- 2 Yahenni, Undying Partisan
Mono-Red Aggro already is annoyed by a cheap creature like Thraben Inspector, but can you imagine it ever beating a deck loaded with two-for-one creatures like Blisterpod, Catacomb Sifter, Carrier Thrall, and friends, backed up by Zulaport Cutthroat and Westvale Abbey?
This is the sort of Level 1 deck that is very likely to do well at the Pro Tour. It is a deck that is already powerful in it's own right, and it boasts a great matchup against the biggest Level 0 deck in the format.
There will be zero copies of God-Pharaoh's Gift in the Top 8.
Much like Tom and I helped to spoil the Mono-Red party, Magic Online player Olivetti spoiled the God-Pharaoh's Gift party by winning the Magic Online PTQ last weekend.
- 3 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
- 4 Angel of Invention
- 4 Champion of Wits
- 3 Mausoleum Wanderer
- 4 Minister of Inquiries
- 4 Thraben Inspector
While a number of players, myself included, were messing around with the deck, this sort of fast success one week before the Pro Tour is something that grabs everyone's attention very quickly. It's one thing for a new deck to be discussed in articles and/or played on streams, another for it to take down a major event.
This is very unfortunate for anyone who may have been working on this deck in private for the Pro Tour.
If U/W God-Pharaoh's Gift had remained an unknown and unproven quantity going into the Pro Tour, it would have likely been the breakout deck of the tournament. Not only would it have won many matches based on sheer unfamiliarity, the field also would have been lacking in any sort of direct hate for the deck. As it stands now, though, people know how the deck works, and more importantly they know how to beat it.
For a deck that is somewhat gimmicky and both weak to popular maindeck cards and easily accessed sideboard cards, that is likely a death knell. The deck will definitely show up and probably do well, but I don't think it will have what it takes to break into the Top 8 unless some new and innovative version is found.
Torrential Gearhulk-based control decks will be a non-factor.
As much as I hate to admit it, control decks are just awful in this Standard format. My biggest mistake in my last predictions article was vastly overestimating how good U/R Control was. Despite having seemingly good matchups against a large portion of the field, the deck showed up in very small numbers and put up awful results.
The sad truth is that Torrential Gearhulk just doesn't have the support necessary to succeed in this format.
There are so many must answer cards, so many sticky threats like planeswalkers and Vehicles, and so many over-the-top haymakers that your opponent can resolve after you play Hour of Devastation, that pretty much everything has to line up perfectly for a control deck to win in this format. Once something slips through or things start getting out of hand, there's almost no coming back.
When I first started messing around with the first draft of my U/W God-Pharaoh's Gift deck on my stream last week, my first match was against U/R Control. I immediately assumed it would be an awful matchup— they have counterspells and Abrade, and I lacked the tools for early pressure. With careful play I won fairly easily, as the U/R Control deck is far too frail to consistently answer every threat and far too slow to stop me before I could set up.
Control decks based around planeswalkers may do okay, but I don't expect to see Torrential Gearhulk anywhere near the top tables.
Andrew Jessup will make the Top 8 of the Pro Tour.
I've been playing Magic with Andrew Jessup for a long time now. For the last four years, Andrew and his brother Dan have been my most common Magic travel buddies, from our time grinding IQs to make sure I made it to the first Players' Championship to now being teammates on Team MGG. Andrew was in high school when we first met, and now we were legally able to share a victory adult beverage when he won the SCG Open in Atlanta earlier this year.
Andrew has always been a very talented player, but like most teenagers he lacked discipline and focus. That all changed in the latter half of last year, as he threw himself into Magic 110% in his effort to qualify for and win the 2016 SCG Tour® Players' Championship.
His failure there only cemented his resolve, and nobody I know has put in more work in Magic than Andrew in 2017. He plays countless hours on Magic Online and has become the workhorse for Team MGG, and his results this year are a direct result of that. With multiple Top 8s on the SCG Tour® (including his first win), a Magic Online PTQ win, and numerous other solid results at Grand Prix and the MOCS, this newfound motivation has shown immediate and numerous results.
Yes, this will be Andrew's first Pro Tour, but Andrew has always shown an ability to step to the next level when properly motivated; what could be more motivating than your playing your first Pro Tour?
Team MGG members Ben Friedman and Brad Carpenter have also had excellent years so far, and with their prior Pro Tour experience I expect good finishes from both of them. However, my money is on the longshot.
What Do You Think?
This has been the most excited that I have been about Standard in a long time and I think that feeling is pretty much universal at this point. I haven't spent this much time or had this much fun brewing Standard decks in years, and I simply haven't had time to explore all the things that I'd like to. There are just that many possibilities that I want to try!
As such, is difficult to not be excited to watch this Pro Tour.
With the frustrating cards finally banned and a new set in the mix, I can't wait to see what everyone has come up with. What do you think? Will the more established decks win the day, or will new brews take center stage? Can Mono-Red Aggro be stopped? Will Angel of Invention be turned into a 4/4 Zombie over and over again?
We shall find out tomorrow!