This has been one of the longest lead in times before a Pro Tour, which makes things a little odd. While there has been no shortage of smaller events like PPTQs, SCG Classics, and Magic Online Leagues, there haven't been any SCG Tour® stops that are purely Standard and only one individual Standard Grand Prix.
With Dominaria having a huge impact on Standard and there being a relatively light amount of high level Standard, I expect some cool things to come out of this Pro Tour. However, the red cards and the blue cards are quite a bit better than everything else that's going on, so it sort of puts a damper on things.
Or does it?
Black Will Be The Most Popular Color
If Standard is all about red decks and blue decks, then black is probably where most people will go in order to fight them. The combination of Duress and Arguel's Blood Fast beats control almost by itself. It's one of the reasons why R/B Aggro has the black component, even if Goblin Chainwhirler has warped the manabase to the point where using Arguel's Blood Fast isn't doable.
Vraska's Contempt is the most obvious answer to a format full of Hazoret the Fervent (or other red mythic rare four-drops) and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Once you decide to add Vraska's Contempt to your deck, there are several places you could end up. U/B Control is a solid, but uninspiring option. Mono-Black Midrange was picking up some steam for a little while during people's "experimentation with The Eldest Reborn" phase.
The black decks that catch my eye are those with Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, History of Benalia, and a light blue splash for The Scarab God, Teferi, and Syncopate. Maybe they aren't amazing, but they sure as hell look good.
Some of Your Favorite Decks Will Look Much Different
If someone told you, "I'm playing U/W Control, R/B Aggro, G/B Constrictor, or Mono-Red Aggro," you probably have a good idea of what their starting 60 looks like, if not their entire 75. Even if this Pro Tour doesn't introduce brand new archetypes into the fray, it will certainly change the way you look at the "stock" lists of those archetypes going forward.
Standard has rapidly been evolving this season, and it will continue to do so. Get ready for some cool iterations on maindecks and sideboards, where you can watch your favorite pros throw conventional wisdom out the window.
People Will Shy Away From One-Toughness Creatures
Goblin Chainwhirler is stupid.
If there is going to be a playable card that specifically hoses a subset of other cards, it should either be slightly weaker on rate than other cards in its category or have some sort of restriction. As it is, we have another Lifebane Zombie type of situation that is very troublesome.
Playing 23 Mountains is something people were incentivized to do already, so there's no real cost to putting Goblin Chainwhirler in your deck and getting bonus points against things with one toughness. There's also the combo with Soul-Scar Mage that happens to make Goblin Chainwhirler fine against larger creatures as well.
Cards like this are supposed to circle out of the metagame once people stop playing cards that are weak to them, but Goblin Chainwhirler has no reason to go anywhere. You'll see the occasional Bomat Courier, Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, and Llanowar Elves on camera this weekend, but you'll probably see Goblin Chainwhirler blow a bunch of them up for free.
Before Dominaria, there were some cool white decks with Sram's Expertise popping up, but now? I can't imagine anyone registering that card at the Pro Tour.
White Will Be The Least Represented Color
Aside from Settle the Wreckage, the white cards in the format are mostly about going wide with smaller creatures. Goblin Chainwhirler puts a damper on all those strategies. Those who mistakenly think Goblin Chainwhirler has cycled out of the format will be severely mistaken.
Heart of Kiran Will Be Terrible
Vehicles are effectively card disadvantage. They're sort of like Equipment in that they need a creature to actually do anything. Since that's the case, they must be pretty damn good to see any play. You can break that any number of ways, like never care about blocking or by using planeswalkers to crew, but even then, there are liabilities.
Heart of Kiran was briefly in a great spot thanks to U/W Control and Seal Away, but that's mostly irrelevant now. You can beat up on control without Heart of Kiran, and once you remove Heart of Kiran, your matchups tend to get better across the board.
The games in Standard aren't over particularly fast, but you can fall behind to the point where there's no coming back. If you play a three-drop, use it to crew, and your Heart of Kiran gets destroyed, you're in a bad spot, plus down a potential blocker. Control can keep you off the requisite power to crew it, drawing multiple copies is actively bad most of the time, and Sorcerous Spyglass is a gigantic beating.
People will be ready for Heart of Kiran.
Karn Will Be Terrible
There was a point where one of the best things you could be doing in Standard was plus-ing Karn while trying to contain your opponent's battlefield presence. That doesn't really work anymore, so you're better off adding to the battlefield yourself with planeswalkers that do things, such as Chandra, Nissa, and Vraska. Every deck in Standard snowballs so quickly, so it's more important to be adding to the battlefield and mostly ignoring your late game.
Don't fret, though. Karn will be back. The format will circle back to card advantage mattering at some point, but expect the action to be too fast, too furious for the Scion of Urza.
G/B Will Be Terrible
Green was the unfortunate recipient of getting one of its key mechanics banned. Without Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner, the color has very little left to offer outside of Llanowar Elves. Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger are strong cards, but more so in the early-game than the late-game.
I just got done explaining how the late game doesn't typically matter in midrange mirrors except under extreme circumstances. Sometimes your cards trade off, but it's more likely that a player runs around with the game after sticking a mythic rare. While the explore creatures help you set up in the early game, they're not very good at taking a commanding position on the battlefield and pressuring planeswalkers.
The main issue with G/B is how heavily it relies on Winding Constrictor and how easily Winding Constrictor dies. G/B also hasn't gotten many new tools in recent sets except for Llanowar Elves and it's questionable whether that's even a playable card at the moment.
Mono-Red Aggro Will Be Great
With most of the red-based focus being on R/B Aggro, people have kind of been sleeping on Mono-Red (or Mono-Red with a light splash for Scrapheap Scrounger). The Magic Online hive mind isn't wrong in this one.
As U/W Control aims to tackle the midrange decks targeting them with Duress and Arguel's Blood Fast, they cut things from their sideboard like Authority of the Consuls and Lyra Dawnbringer. Even though red decks have a pile of dead cards against control in the first game, they don't need a full seven card hand to win the game. One-drop, two-drop, three-drop, Duress your Settle the Wreckage is often game over.
Bomat Courier might not be well-positioned, but aggressive red decks are bad matchups for the majority of the metagame. One of red's big weaknesses are how much they rely on Hazoret in some matchups, but that can potentially be fixed by going bigger with Rekindling Phoenix.
Mono-Black Midrange Will Put Up A Solid Finish
As I mentioned earlier, black is the go-to color to metagame against Goblin Chainwhirler and Teferi. U/B and Esper are solid, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Cabal Stronghold and The Eldest Reborn make a deep run either.
This Top 8 Could Be One Of The Most Stacked Top 8s Of All Time
Dominaria draft and Standard are both incredibly skill testing.
That said, a first-timer making Top 8 with Mono-Green Aggro (likely splashing Spell Pierce) wouldn't surprise me in the least. Steel Leaf Champion is powerful and that's kind of what you need to be doing in this format.
Despite that, Standard is ripe for players finding ways to break common play patterns and exploit the weaknesses in various archetypes. How you position yourself in sideboard also matters a ton, maybe moreso than in any other Standard season.
It wouldn't surprise me if the various masters of Standard find unique ways to gain edges this week.
Goblin Chainwhirler Will Take Half The Top 8 Slots
Red decks are great and they will all have four copies of Goblin Chainwhirler. You'll rarely see a Bomat Courier in a post-board game, and the red mythics will clean up. While stuff like Rekindling Phoenix might do the heavy lifting, it will be Goblin Chainwhirler that helps them get there.
Kai Budde Will Do Terribly
I only say this because Kai asked me why I registered such a bad decklist. Joke's on you, old man. I'm gonna have a better record than you.
In all seriousness, I hope Kai does well.
Baral, Chief of Compliance Will Have His Coming Out Party
There's no shortage of cards that work great with Baral, and I think the time is right for some of those synergies to be exploited. The recently-banned-in-Brawl legendary creature works great with Syncopate, Blink of an Eye, Mox Amber, Chart a Course, Strategic Planning, Karn's Temporal Sundering, Metallic Rebuke, and even Glimmer of Genius, so there will be decks build around Baral present.
If there is any sort of strategy that "breaks" the format, the under-utilized blue cards will likely be at the center of it. If not Baral, then maybe Tempest Djinn or Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp will be serving up some solid beatdowns. Finding out what people do with these cards is what I'm more excited to see come out of this PT
Teferi Is The True Hero Of Dominaria
That tagline writes itself.
Specifically, a well-known pro is going to take down this tournament with three or four copies of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria in their 75. It's the single card with the highest ceiling in the format and it's also one of those cards that you can have a good matchup against in theory but end up losing to anyway.
Will it be me? Did I even register Teferi? That doesn't sound like something I'd do, but I guess you'll find out soon enough...