Another Pro Tour, another predictions article!
For Pro Tour Hour of Devastation I did average, hitting 2.5 of my five predictions ... I still can't believe Mono-Red Aggro did so well! Either way, I'm back to call my shots for Pro Tour Ixalan. As I'm not qualified, I've got nothing to hide and will be telling all.
So join me today as I lament that I'm not in beautiful and exotic Albuquerque, New Mexico and offer my five predictions for Pro Tour Ixalan! Will I be right? Will I be wrong? Tomorrow, we find out.
There will be at least five different archetypes in top 8
Wait what? I thought this was the stale Temur Energy / Ramunap Red / U/B Control format?
Not so fast.
Unfortunately, over the last year or so we've grown to be rather frustrated with the Standard format. With multiple bannings and powerful and ubiquitous cards/mechanics like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar/energy being the norm, Standard is often on a short leash. Pro Tour Hour of Devastation did not help to dispel this notion, containing essentially only two archetypes: Ramunap Red and B/G Energy, and the World Championship compounded it further with only Temur Energy, Ramunap Red, and U/B Control.
Despite all of this, I think the Standard format has a lot of room to grow.
Yes, Kaladesh and Aether Revolt are both very powerful sets, and yes they are both currently overshadowing Ixalan. However...
Ixalan has quite a few gems in it that haven't been fully explored. The World Championship is a very unique tournament format, while also being a pretty big stage to take a huge risk in deckbuilding. It also encourages players to work in very small groups with the field so small, which makes it harder to experiment with new decks.
If you've been paying attention to Magic Online, you'd be seeing quite the gauntlet of interesting new decks. The Hidden Stockpile/Anointed Procession decks that have become a solid part of the metagame were first revealed on Magic Online (if you don't count Sam Black being the first to champion the interaction several months ago before it could really get going), and there seems to be plenty more where that came from.
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 3 Aether Chaser
- 3 Aether Swooper
- 2 Freejam Regent
- 4 Glorybringer
- 4 Maverick Thopterist
- 4 Whirler Virtuoso
- 1 Pia Nalaar
While clearly not a finished or tuned list (three Aether Chaser and three Aether Swooper? Pick one, Craig!), Craig Wescoe's U/R Improvise list reminds us that energy is not the only mechanic in Kaladesh.
A cursory glance at the recent wining Magic Online decklists reveals a swath of interesting decks beyond your usual Temur Energy fare. Will Temur Energy be the most played deck at the Pro Tour? Almost assuredly, but it's just the surface of the format. The interesting question is: How deep does it go?
Hazoret the Fervent will make top 8 in a non-Ramunap Red deck
Hazoret the Fervent has been one of the most powerful and threatening cards in recent Standard, serving as the lynchpin and curve-topper of the most successful aggressive deck, Ramunap Red. It's hard to deal with, ends the game in a hurry, and all it asks is you play a lot of cheap spells.
While Hazoret is inexorably tied to Ramunap Red, she has a lot to offer the other aggressive decks in the format. What aggressive decks you say?
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Toolcraft Exemplar
- 4 Veteran Motorist
- 3 Hazoret the Fervent
- 2 Pia Nalaar
Adding Hazoret the Fervent to Mardu Vehicles makes a lot of sense. Without Thraben Inspector and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to help when the game goes long, the deck now looks to be as aggressive as possible. Being able to back up aggressive starts with the evasive power of Heart of Kiran and the backbreaking Unlicensed Disintegration is very appealing, with Hazoret's mix of aggression and resilience slotting perfectly into the top of the mana curve.
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Dread Wanderer
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 4 Night Market Lookout
- 4 Hazoret the Fervent
- 2 Yahenni, Undying Partisan
There've been murmurs of black aggressive decks in Standard for a while now, and TFTIJHUB was almost able to take down the recent Magic Online PTQ with their version of the deck.
Dread Wanderer and Scrapheap Scrounger are phenomenal aggressive creatures that are also very resilient, and TFTIJHUB's deck ends up playing out like a Ramunap Red deck that is both able to shrug off creature removal while also dealing with creatures that get larger than three toughness. There are still cheap attackers like Bomat Courier and Night Market Lookout, Lightning Strikes read to go to the face, and of course Hazoret the Fervent is waiting at the top of the mana curve.
With a great aggressive and resilient maindeck, a flexible sideboard, great use of Aethersphere Harvester, and one of the most powerful curve-toppers in the format, B/R Aggro is my pick for breakout deck of the tournament.
There will be at least eight copies of Essence Scatter in the top 8
While I do expect a more interesting and varied metagame at Pro Tour Ixalan, Temur Energy is still going to be the deck to beat.
- 3 Bristling Hydra
- 4 Glorybringer
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 4 Whirler Virtuoso
William Jensen's World Championship-winning Temur Energy was built with the mirror in mind, and Essence Scatter is one of the best tools against the various energy-based decks. Counterspells have always been good against midrange decks, and most of Temur Energy's main threats are creatures that cost three or more. An Essence Scatter on a Glorybringer or The Scarab God is always going to be backbreaking, and Essence Scatter is also a great answer to other troublesome cards from other decks (Hazoret the Fervent, anyone?).
The only deck really poised to play a ton of copies of Essence Scatter is some sort of control deck, be it U/B, Grixis, or U/W, but the card's utility in a variety of different matchups makes it a great card to have access to in small numbers in maindecks or sideboards. This prediction is definitely not just "there will be two control decks in the top 8," but rather that I expect a smattering of copies of Essence Scatter across a number of different decks. Most decks don't want to draw that many copies of Essence Scatter, but the first one is going to be very good.
The top finishing Mono-Red Aggro deck will have at least two copies of Harsh Mentor
If Ramunap Red is going to succeed, it's going to need to adapt.
The matchup against Temur Energy isn't favorable, which is already a bad place to be, and the new Anointed Procession/Hidden Stockpile decks are also jam packed with blockers and lifelinkers to make life difficult as well. We're also talking about a possible resurgence of Mardu Vehicles, as well as the popularity of the card Aethersphere Harvester, in general.
Let's take a quick glance at many of the cards played in these decks and across the format that Harsh Mentor punishes:
The list goes on and on, but Harsh Mentor is a very nice little two-mana package that does a great job at making many of the better cards against you much worse. It comes down before many of these cards while demanding to be answered before those cards can be used properly. Ramunap Red is already happy to have another two-drop, and anything that draws fire from Bomat Courier, Anh-Crop Crasher, or your other creatures is a welcome addition.
When first spoiled, Harsh Mentor was a very overhyped card that people felt was going to make a major impact in the fetchland formats like Legacy and Modern. It hasn't lived up to that lofty expectation (yet), but don't fall into the trap of dismissing an overhyped card just because it was overhyped. It may not be the second coming of Eidolon of the Great Revel, but Harsh Mentor is still a useful tool for aggressive red decks.
A member of Team MGG will make top 8
I thought Team MGG was focused on the SCG Tour®?
Well... How about a little expansion!
That's right, Team MGG will be fielding not one but two Pro Tour Team Series teams this year. There's a lot of star power on these squads, including Starcitygames.com's own Gerry Thompson. Aside from being an all around great guy and ambassador for the game (if you haven't read Gerry's most recent article you are really missing out), it sure is nice to start your new squad with a recent Pro Tour champion!
All of these guys have been working very hard leading up to the first Pro Tour of the season, and there's something very unifying and inspiring about coming together under one banner that really lights a fire under you. Called top 8 shots are always a dubious proposition, but with a full dozen players under the Team MGG banner I feel comfortable calling it, so here we are.
What Do You Think?
I don't know about you, but I'm extremely excited to watch Pro Tour Ixalan play out.
I truly believe this Standard format has a long way to go and a lot of unexplored corners. Pro Tour Ixalan is a little different than past Pro Tours because of how far back it is from Ixalan's release date. Typically Pro Tours happen right after a set's release, which can mean there isn't time to really explore all the possible new decks. However, because of the timing of the World Championship everyone has a nice amount of time to really stew on Ixalan and see what it is capable of.
While the energy mechanic, and Attune with Aether in general, may be a little too pushed, at least the games between and against energy-based decks are interesting and interactive. There's no Aetherworks Marvel spitting out Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger on turn 4, or every game ending with Emrakul, the Promised End. Psssh, if there's never another Eldrazi printed in Magic it will be too soon.
So what do you think? Will it remain a three-deck metagame? Can Attune with Aether be stopped? Will Ixalan make an impact?
Let's find out!