It's finally time for the first Pro Tour featuring Guilds of Ravnica, and while I'm not excited about my boring deck choice, I'm eagerly awaiting the results to see if someone broke it. That doesn't happen often, but if there's a Standard format that can be broken, it's probably this one.
The Pro Tour will be a good mix of these five decks.
Wait, where's Selesnya? Tulio's Path of Discovery deck put up some good numbers initially, and while there are some Angel-based versions of Selesnya, those don't line up well against Boros Tokens. If you haven't been checking results from Magic Online, you might be wondering what the hell Boros Tokens is considering it wasn't a deck that showed up at either Grand Prix last weekend.
- 4 Adanto Vanguard
- 4 Benalish Marshal
- 4 Dauntless Bodyguard
- 3 Healer's Hawk
- 4 Knight of Grace
- 4 Skymarcher Aspirant
This deck annihilated the Magic Online Championship Qualifier last weekend. Of the twelve decks that went 7-1 or better, seven of them were small white creature decks. Why was this deck suddenly popular?
We had a format of Golgari Midrange, Jeskai Control, and Izzet Phoenix, and none of them could beat the early aggression capped off with Heroic Reinforcements. With Lava Coil being one of the most played removal spells, Adanto Vanguard is nearly unstoppable.
It's not surprising for this Standard format to have the weekly shakeup, but I think we all thought the format was finally calming down. I, for one, was pretty happy with where my testing was. On Friday, I bought the missing cards for my deck, only to have to throw that deck in the garbage following the MOCS results.
Only a scant week ago, I had the best deck in the format. Everyone in my testing group (Team Legion and friends) were very high on using Dive Down to protect Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Golgari, Jeskai, and the rest of the format couldn't beat it. To top it off, we were even splashing The Eldest Reborn to beat the people who were doing the same.
So, what changed?
For starters, Boros Tokens made its presence known. It created a huge buzz that lead to many testing teams scrambling to either find answers or figure out if they should play it themselves. Izzet Phoenix also performed well. Decks like Jeskai and Golgari, formerly the best two decks, seemed to flounder. Also, the Golgari decks adapted and started playing Plaguecrafter. That's not the end of the world by itself, but it makes things more difficult.
You could make adjustments, like playing Sailor of Means, Moment of Craving maindeck, and more Fiery Cannonades, but it didn't fix everything. The plan of protecting Niv-Mizzet with Dive Down was no longer the best possible thing you could be doing against everyone. Untapping with Niv-Mizzet is about the most fun you can have in Standard, and although those decks will have some success, I still thought I could get an edge.
Fast forward a week later and I've submitted my Pro Tour decklist with time to spare. Did we re-break it? Sadly, I don't think so. Given infinite time, I could have potentially kept evolving with the format, but we ran out and submitted the best thing we had.
It's an odd thing to have a solid grasp on the metagame and what's going to happen, but not know what to do with that information. Part of the problem is that I could be completely wrong, so I didn't want to make any hard read metagame predictions.
Given all that, here are my predictions for Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica.
"Gates" Will be the Breakout Draft Archetype
Most people would rank the guild draft order as Dimir, Boros, Izzet, Golgari, Selesnya. That's fairly close to the truth, although my favorite draft archetypes haven't really been guild-affiliated at all. If you prioritize bombs, removal, Gates, and then everything else, chances are you'll end up with a great deck basically every time. Sub-archetypes exist within this strategy, so you're never leaning on picking up anything specific.
For the weaker archetypes, like Golgari and Selesnya, this is a huge boon. You can pick up great gold cards in those guilds relatively late while splashing everyone else's best cards, which also makes your opponent's decks worse. There are reasons why green is basically the weakest color and having access to all the other colors can fix those problems.
Goblin Chainwhirler Will be at an All-Time Low (But Will Put up Good Numbers)
If you want to embarrass Adanto Vanguard, look no further than our old nemesis. The red cards surrounding Goblin Chainwhirler are weaker than last season, but it still forms an aggressive package that must be respected. I don't expect a ton of people to play Mono-Red, but it is a solid check to the new hotness that is Boros Tokens.
Niv-Mizzet, Parun Will be Hyped...
As I mentioned earlier, many other players were starting to develop powerful control strategies that protected Niv-Mizzet. Had Boros not taken over, some sort of Niv-Mizzet control deck would have been the breakout deck of the PT. Given how popular I expect Boros to be, Niv will be overshadowed a bit, but I fully expect it to make it into the elimination rounds.
...But Boros Tokens Will Steal That Hype
There's not much to say here. Boros will be everywhere, and it will be killing people very quickly. The first time it's on camera, people will probably be losing their minds, especially if they haven't seen the Magic Online results.
Decks Ready for Boros Tokens Will be the Talking Point for Day 2 and Beyond
Of this class of decks, I expect Golgari, various control decks, Mono-Red Aggro, and maybe some clever Izzet decks to fit into this camp. What emerges from that winner's metagame is anyone's guess.
Grixis Midrange is the Sleeper Pick of the Tournament
Black removal lines up incredibly well, but there are issues. First of all, what's good against Boros isn't necessarily good against the field. Golgari will grind out your Ritual of Soots and Golden Demises, and Boros might still beat you with Heroic Reinforcements and their sideboard Experimental Frenzies and Banefires.
One of the largest problems for Grixis (and black decks, in general) is finding a good win condition. Lava Coil neutralizes Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, and although Doom Whisperer is large, it doesn't do enough against a wide battlefield.
There Will be Four Distinct Versions of Golgari
Yes, someone will cast Molderhulk during this Pro Tour. For a brief time, I thought that person could be me. Most Golgari decks struggle against Star of Extinction, but the Molderhulk decks have recently been playing Golgari Raiders. Your opponent might be able to wipe your battlefield, but that just fuels your big finisher.
- 4 Glowspore Shaman
- 1 Golgari Findbroker
- 4 Golgari Raiders
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 4 Molderhulk
- 4 Plaguecrafter
- 1 Ravenous Chupacabra
- 4 Stitcher's Supplier
- 1 Izoni, Thousand-Eyed
Aside from the meme versions, Golgari will be successful and there will be many different avenues for that success. Carnage Tyrant's time has come to pass. Control now has plenty of answers to the big dino, so you're better off trying to fight them on card advantage again. Additionally, Boros doesn't care in the slightest about your six-drop.
There will be some versions with lots of planeswalkers, some with The Immortal Sun, and probably another version that will surprise us.
Teferi Won't Make it to the Elimination Rounds
Control will be present, but that will likely involve Niv-Mizzet more than Teferi. Crackling Drake does a fine job blocking (especially against Adanto Vanguard) while pulling triple duty as a win condition, source of velocity, and something that baits out removal to clear the way for Niv.
If Izzet can overcome its Adanto Vanguard problem, I expect it to be one of the more successful archetypes. Teferi decks, on the other hand, don't seem to have a lot going for them that other decks don't also have.
Top 8 Will Have Four Players in Their First PT Top 8
The best players aren't necessarily the ones who have the best deck selection or metagame understanding. Because of that, I fully anticipate we'll see a larger than average amount of players in their first Pro Tour Top 8. These players will be those with sharp Draft skills and good deck selection as a result of a firm understanding of the metagame.
There Will be Five Unique Archetypes in Top 8
If we want to make hard predictions, I'd say three Golgari, two copies of Izzet or Boros, and some one-ofs. Given that Top 8, this PT should be one of the most exciting sets of elimination rounds you could watch.
Tom Ross Will Win the PT
That's right, aggro master Tom Ross is about to be unleashed on the wild. His contract with Wizards of the Coast is up, he's got Gold status in the PT Player's Club, an intense fire, and (likely) fourteen basic Plains. He's not messing around.
In the long standing tradition of pro players being cut loose from R&D, which started with me and continued with Allen Wu, Tom Ross is going to win a Pro Tour after leaving WotC. Aside from that tradition, Tom is one of the most fearsome opponents you could ever have, and one of his favorite archetypes is possibly the best deck to register.
Nothing would make me happier than Tom Ross in his trademark leather jacket hoisting a trophy.
The Best Deck This Week Won't Be the Best Deck Next Week
This metagame shifts too rapidly. In a large sense, that's a good thing, as the format continues to evolve and be fresh. However, it's also difficult because the hot tech one week might be completely hated out the next. If you stick with the same deck, you're going to have wildly different degrees of success.
However, there are some decks that can adapt. Golgari and the various control decks of the format have shown some early resilience, and I imagine that'll remain a constant. Decks like Izzet, Boros, Selesnya, and Mono-Red have their own issues, each of which is easily exploitable.
Strap in. I think we're in for a wild ride.