One of the biggest Pro Tours of all time is over and what an event it was!
While this Pro Tour will be remembered for many things-the novelty of the first mixed format team Pro Tour, the Nexus of Fate debacle, and the poorly thought out Silver Showcase- it's going to be easy to overlook the actual Magic accomplishments. Two things happened this Pro Tour that do not happen in modern Magic anymore.
There were two copies of traditional U/W Control at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, and one of them won the whole tournament. That's insane! Has there ever been a time where such a low-represented deck went on to win the whole event?
Josh Utter-Leyton completely broke Legacy, the unbreakable format, in half with his U/B Death's Shadow deck. We don't know for sure because of the nature of team events, but reports were he almost didn't lose at all. If this had been a non-team event, I wouldn't have been surprised at all if he just steamrolled the entire event.
Aside from these exciting two outliers, the event as a whole also had a bunch of surprises in store for us. Unless of course, you read my predictions article from last week . If you had, you'd have already known all about Nexus of Fate and Vengevine and would have been the smart one to explain it to all of your friends (and maybe buy in on Vengevine before the hype!)
Let's recap those predictions and see how well I did:
Prediction One: Humans Will Be The Most Played Deck In Modern
Humans was already great, and with Militia Bugler filling in the deck's holes, improving bad matchups, and adding a new level of consistency, the deck has been pushed to a whole new level. The deck is powerful, consistent, interactive, and has no truly awful matchups, which is the baseline for what you want to be doing in Modern. Modern hasn't had a "best deck" in a while, but it seems we've finally hit that spot.
16% is quite the share for a Modern format that rarely has any deck hit double digits, and not only was Humans very popular but it also put two copies into the Top 4, further cementing its place at the top of the metagame.
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Kitesail Freebooter
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 4 Meddling Mage
- 3 Militia Bugler
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 3 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
There may be a cute Riders of Gavony here or a Restoration Angel there, but for the most part this is just the deck I played at #SCGINDY. If you have any plans of playing Modern in the near future, make sure you have a plan to beat Humans.
Prediction Two: There Will Be a Proxied Copy of Nexus of Fate on Camera at Some Point During This Pro Tour
When I made this prediction I knew I was taking a pretty big risk. I had a strong hunch that Nexus of Fate would have an impact on the Standard format, but was not completely sold it would do well. Furthermore, the deck not only had to do well but also had to be on camera, and then we actually had to have a player who was making the (smart) choice to play with a judge-approved proxy rather than the actual foil.
They say you miss 100% of the shots you don't take, but damn does it feel good when they go in.
He shoots, he scores!
In reality, the true motive of this prediction was to highlight the absurdity of the Buy-A-Box promo distribution model.
Two days before the Pro Tour, Nicole and I were out to dinner and we decided to swing by a new local Magic store. I had just written last week's prediction article and we were talking about Nexus of Fate, so we figured why not see if they have any copies cheap so we could partake in a little #MTGFinance action.
They had one copy and they wouldn't even sell it to us because of the possible conflict of interest of selling a promo card. Stores can lose their WPN privileges if they hold on to and sell promos they're supposed to be giving out for promotions or FNM and the owner said they didn't want to risk any bad press. We went to another store on the way home and they also had zero copies for sale. This means we went to two fairly large and reputable local Magic stores to buy a copy of an in-print Standard card and couldn't even purchase them.
This is not good.
Printing Magic cards that are legal in Standard and not available in booster packs is just an awful idea. If the Buy-A-Box promos suck, then nobody wants them and if they're Standard staples, you have the fiasco we are currently in now. This is an awful line to have to toe and, furthermore, having Standard legal cards that are only available in foil leads to spectacles like sharpied basic Mountains on camera at your flagship event for 20,000 people to wonder about.
Supporting local stores is awesome; Buy-A-Box promos are a good way to do that, but make it something desirable without messing with the entire fabric of how Standard cards are obtained.
Jim, there were four copies of Delver of Secrets and eight copies of Stoneforge Mystic in the top 4 of the Pro Tour, compared against a big fat zero copies of either Griselbrand or Snapcaster Mage. How can you possibly take partial credit on this one?
Relax and let me explain.
The nature of team events creates results that are extremely volatile. The data that comes out of any team event top 4 or top 8 needs to be taken with a grain of salt, because no records are kept on each individual player's record. We see this time and time again, where a deck may top 8 an SCG Tour® Open team event but actually be very bad.
My Team BCW teammate Brennan DeCandio almost won an Open earlier this year with this U/W Midrange deck and if you were only looking at decklists you may think this deck was actually good - after all it came in second place! However, Brennan went an astounding 1-5 on day two of the tournament, also losing multiple times in Top 8 as his teammates Ross Merriam and Tannon Grace tried their best to drag him over the finish line. I know that narrative because they told me about it, but to an outsider just looking at decklists, it would have gone completely unnoticed.
As such, it's hard to take much stock in top 8 decklists from team events, much less top 4 decklists because the sample size is so small. Normally at mixed Limited/Constructed Pro Tours they at least post the Constructed decks with the best records so you can use that data to construct your conclusions about the format, but for this Pro Tour we have nothing like that.
As such, the only real barometer we have for the format at the Pro Tour is our format breakdowns. In this case, the breakdown strongly favors my prediction. It's very safe to assume that each of these decks plays four copies of the card in question, leaving us with these total card numbers among the top 8 most played decks at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary:
116 copies of Snapcaster Mage.
100 copies of Griselbrand
80 copies of Delver of Secrets
48 copies of Stoneforge Mystic
When you look at it like this, my prediction looks pretty damn smart. In fact, the only real wrench in my prediction was the success of U/B Death's Shadow. I did a guest spot on The Cedric Phillips Podcast alongside Todd Anderson where I spoke of my interest in the deck, I just wish I had factored it into my prediction a little better.
Still, based on the numbers here, I'm calling partial credit on this prediction.
Prediction Four: The Biggest Surprise in the Modern Seat Will Be The Emergence of the R/B Vengevine Deck.
Man we just spoiled all the fun surprises!
- 3 Hangarback Walker
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Goblin Bushwhacker
- 4 Gravecrawler
- 4 Greater Gargadon
- 4 Insolent Neonate
- 4 Stitcher's Supplier
- 4 Vengevine
Modern as a format tends to be very volatile, but it's rare we see an actual new deck pop up; the fact that a new deck was the sixth most played deck at the Pro Tour is pretty wild.
Somewhat similar Vengevine strategies have been seen before on the SCG Tour, but they've always been very inconsistent. For every time they attacked for eight on turn 2, they would sit around and do nothing and Hollow One was the evolution that eventually came from those early shells. However, a new 2019 Core Set card mixed with an old favorite served to give us our new and busted graveyard deck.
Stitcher's Supplier gives the deck everything it wants, really bringing the entire package together and providing the consistency it lacked. Furthermore, it pushes the deck in a direction where it wants to add Bridge from Below and sacrifice outlets, making it less reliant on Vengevine for its explosive starts.
The end result is a deck that's powerful, explosive, and still has a lot of room for growth. There's a ton of variation among the ten copies of the deck played at the Pro Tour, and I imagine it will be some time before the best build is found.
Prediction Five: Mono-Green Aggro Will Be The Best Performing Standard Deck Overall
This was a bad prediction for a number of reasons.
Considering I was already on Nexus of Fate as a potential breakout card, it should have been pretty easy to identify that the deck with a bunch of creatures and little interaction would fare poorly against a deck full of mass removal/Fogs that wants to take a bunch of turns in a row.
Furthermore, I should have been aware how hard it would have been to actually quantify "best performing Standard deck" in a team event. Despite the lack of knowledge of Mono-Green Aggro's actual win percentage, we can safely assume that Bant Nexus, at a supposed ~75% win percentage based on direct reports from the six players that played it, had the best win percentage in the field. This of course is skewed by a very small sample size and the very high quality of players playing the deck, but it is the number nonetheless.
As such, I'm dead in the water on this one.
I'll Take It!
Still, three and a half correct out of five is plenty fine for me! Furthermore, if I hadn't already fought for partial credit on the Legacy prediction I may have even asked for bonus points for the proxied Nexus of Fate, because that's just unreal.
Either way, after the Pro Tour we're left with a ton of excitement in each format.
Nexus of Fate likely overperformed at the Pro Tour because of what an unknown quantity it was, but now the hive mind can work towards beating it. While Bant Nexus dominated Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, it is not Nexus of Fate's final form.
Despite the chaos it was in last week, Legacy almost feels solved as Josh Utter-Leyton's U/B Death's Shadow deck is one of the best decks I've seen in a very long time. I fully expect it to follow in Grixis Shadow's footsteps as the new "best deck" in Legacy going forward.
We'll learn more about Standard tomorrow at #GPOrlando, and then the following weekend at #SCGDFW we'll get to full explore all three formats. I'll be battling at both events and I can't wait to dive right in!