Even though Pro Tour 25th Anniversary wasn't all it could have been, having three Constructed formats forced players to innovate all over the place. We plenty to think about for each format.
As expected, R/B Aggro was all over the place. All things considered, 40% is an absurd metagame percentage, but very few people could figure out how to beat it. Bant Nexus certainly did the trick, although beating Insult//Injury going forward will be nearly impossible.
I really liked my matchup with Mono-Blue Paradoxical Outcome against the more midrange builds of R/B. Given that those versions would be the most popular deck, I recommended this version:
My next Standard tournament is Grand Prix Los Angeles, and unless my Magic Online testing ends up yielding far different results than they did before the Pro Tour, I'm going to play something like this.
Sai, Master Thopterist is kind of busted, plus this deck breaks the normal midrange paradigm of Standard. It's difficult to find a deck that goes over the top of the rest of the format, but this does it quite well. The only thing you need to figure out is how to not die. Coming up with the correct defensive package is more difficult than it seems.
This deck isn't all over the place for a reason though. A fail rate inherently exists, and as Sam Black pointed out to me at the PT, it's a deck that wants to draw exactly one of each of its cards, which isn't entirely inaccurate.
There are some inconsistencies for sure, but for those looking for something cool to do before Standard rotates, you have your answer.
There are basically four options for Standard. Mono-Green Aggro is potentially great. Given the hype surrounding Bant Nexus, I favor the blue splash at the moment. Some form of Grixis Midrange is doable, but the mix of spells must be just right to fight the metagame. Other than that, there are the red decks.
There are six ways to build red aggro:
- Mono-Red Wizards with Flame of Keld
- Mono-Red Wizards with Hazoret the Fervent, a la Aaron Barich
- Mono-Red Aggro a la Wyatt Darby
- Mono-Red Aggro splashing Scrapheap Scrounger, a la John Rolf
- R/B Aggro with Ahn-Crop Crasher and Hazoret the Fervent
- R/B Aggro with Rekindling Phoenix
- R/B Aggro, but more midrange with Rekindling Phoenix, Glorybringer, and no Bomat Couriers
I see merit to each of these builds. The biggest question is how do you best fight the mirror match while not giving up too much percentage against the rest of the field. While there are seven different options, Bomat Courier is where everything hinges.
If you choose to play four Bomat Couriers, Hazoret the Fervent is your best four-drop. With zero Bomat Couriers, trying to gain a slight edge in the mirror by being more resilient is the best option. The latter version should probably play Rekindling Phoenix as the four-drop of choice and likely sideboard some copies of Karn, Scion of Urza.
One major thing that's changed about R/B Aggro is that the black cards aren't great right now. Duress is a powerful card, but not against control decks with Torrential Gearhulk. Against Bant Nexus, it's solid, but you need a mountain of discard to power through their defenses. Instead, you should play two copies of Insult in your sideboard to help the matchup.
Mono-Blue Paradoxical Outcome is a tough matchup. Duress is solid there, but you don't want to flood on them. Overall, Keeping Sai, Master Thopterist and Inspiring Statuary off the battlefield are much more important.
Since the black cards aren't adding much, reducing the splash is a viable option. Unless you're going hard on Wizard's Lightning and want Viashino Pyromancer, Scrapheap Scrounger is still the best two-drop. Even playing 4-6 black sources is probably worth it. Cut is great at the moment, so you'd probably play it regardless of how few black sources you play, but losing out on Ribbons would be sad.
Given how important Bomat Courier is against the non-mirror matches of the format, I don't think I'd play without it. Additionally, the gameplan involving Hazoret the Fervent is much more solid than trying to be more controlling with Rekindling Phoenix and Karn.
Aggression is key for taking down the weirdo archetypes and is the most reliable plan in the mirror. Also, if people are leaning toward Rekindling Phoenix as a mirror breaker and as a way to fight Mono-Green Aggro, Ahn-Crop Crasher's stock rises significantly. We saw a small influx of that card at the Pro Tour, and I'm a big fan. If you want to reduce the black splash and be more aggressive, Crasher is where you want to be.
You can't really go wrong with a red aggressive deck, but finding the correct version could potentially yield huge dividends though.
We played the breakout deck of the tournament, R/B Vengevine.
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Hollow One
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 3 Gravecrawler
- 4 Insolent Neonate
- 4 Stitcher's Supplier
- 4 Street Wraith
- 4 Vengevine
Our list was a little different, featuring a Hollow One package for more early threats. The Magic Online versions contained some potentially powerful but high variance cards like Goblin Bushwhacker that weren't performing well. Instead of trying to do crazy things like turn 2 kills, slowing the deck down and making it more consistent proved to be the better option. Oddly, everyone else who played the deck at the PT still had Bushwhacker, but I expect that to change.
The Humans matchup isn't ideal, but there are some wild options to fight it. Maindeck Leyline of the Voids will help keep your Bridge from Belows around. With any sacrifice outlet, I wouldn't be surprised if that matchup actually becomes good, so that's something I'd try in the future.
Maindecking something like Leyline of the Void might seem extreme, but it's actually solid against a wide variety of decks at the moment. Plus, the deck has a bunch of flex slots where people normally play nonsense like Corpse Churn, so you're not losing out on much. Gaining four additional sideboard slots means you have more than enough space for anti-hate as well.
This is one of those busted decks where you can easily mulligan to four or five and still win because nothing matters except for your key cards. If your hand doesn't have a great hand with Vengevine, Hollow One, or Bridge from Below, send it back. Card advantage doesn't matter.
Honestly, I'd be fine if decks that use the mulligan as a way of finding their broken cards weren't legal in Modern. Ponder and Preordain are banned, but you can mulligan for new openers multiple times, which is a fairly busted tool for card selection (and one that is way too underutilized).
Even though we knew the Vengevine deck was great, it's possible we shouldn't have played it. G/R Valakut was something that looked potentially amazing, and the popularity of R/B Vengevine maybe should have maybe moved the needle. G/R Valakut is one of the few decks in Modern that can afford to maindeck hate cards for Vengevine like Relic of Progenitus and Anger of the Gods. You're not really losing out on anything by playing those cards since they're already strong in the format.
Infect could have been a good choice, but it's flimsy and I don't feel particularly strong with the deck, so I probably won't be playing it in the future regardless.
Through some awkward circumstances, the deck I was working on for #PT25A leaked and spread like wildfire.
Grixis Control is solid and has game against every single deck in the format. That said, if I could do it all over again, I'd make some notable changes. The complete lack of a clock and a sweeper was potentially a problem at times. Awkwardly enough, there was a perfectly good answer to both that I never got around to testing.
Going forward, I'd definitely look to build around Thing in the Ice. Gurmag Angler is fine, especially as a blocker, but Thing in the Ice does everything you could possibly want it to. Baleful Strix tends to be an issue for these sorts of finishers, but not really for Thing in the Ice. The kicker is that it's even a blue card for Force of Will.
Grinding in Legacy is a combination of fun and frustration. Leading up to the event, I was becoming somewhat sick of that fact. A younger me would have been up for the challenge of eking out small edges and grinding people into dust, but it doesn't seem like I have the patience for it these days. There's absolutely nothing wrong with Grixis Control as an archetype and it's one I highly recommend if you like the strategy.
Being able to tune your deck to fight whatever you expect is powerful, and Grixis has all the answers. You crush Death's Shadow (and Delver in general), are good at beating 20/20s and True-Name Nemesis, but you tend to struggle with combo.
If I could do it all over again, I'd try harder to build a deck with Delver of Secrets and Bomat Courier. Both blue and red have plenty to add, but none of the splashes excite me. Maybe we're supposed to be Price of Progressing people? Had I known that Grixis Control was going to blow up, I could have exploited that. At zero point did I expect it to be the most popular deck.
Thanks to my friend Varo, I considered playing Merfolk for a while too. Ultimately, Chalice of the Void and True-Name Nemesis looked great, but the rest of the Grizzly Bears weren't impressive. Sai, Master Thopterist is another card that I need to build around in the future. The top of my bucket list for basically all formats is all Sai.
Our decks were good, our play was medium, and we probably could have found a better configuration for the comfort of our players. Overall, I think that was our biggest failing.