Standard Pro Tour Preview

Posted in Top Decks on October 14, 2016

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

What can we expect to see during the Standard rounds at Pro Tour Kaladesh? As an embedded journalist on one of the Pro Tour testing teams (Team ChannelFireball and associates), I was able to smuggle out some info. This is a wild format, and there are a lot of different decks that might show up.

Let's start with public enemy number one, the consensus best card in Standard, and driving force behind basically every aggro deck (and plenty of others as well).

Smuggler's Copter decks come in various shapes and sizes, with the main things they have in common being Copters (of course) and cheap creatures. They play differently enough that it's worth separating them, and today we are going to take a look at three different builds.

Red-White Vehicles

The first deck is one present in almost every Pro Tour gauntlet, and a deck that will show up at the Pro Tour. Chris VanMeter's Red-White Vehicles won the StarCityGames.com Open in Indianapolis, and as the first Standard tournament-winning deck post-Kaladesh, it sets a baseline for other people to build off of.

Chris VanMeter's Red-White Vehicles

This is the clear level-one Copter deck. It plays cheap creatures, Pilots that improve Vehicles, Smuggler's Copters, a few larger Vehicles, and six removal spells. That's a good recipe, and plays well to the strengths of the good cards in the deck (i.e., Smuggler's Copter).

An aside on Smuggler's Copter:

It may seem like I'm making a big deal of this card, but that's because the card is a big deal. Smuggler's Copter is a hyper-efficient flier that has a beneficial attack/block trigger, and it even dodges sorcery-speed removal. It's so cheap and the crew cost is so low that even a lowly Thraben Inspector can pilot it, making it trivial to attack with on turn three. You even have the option of not attacking with Copter if your opponent leaves mana up, making it very hard to deal with. The combination of great stats, evasion, a powerful ability, and resistance to removal is why everyone is (rightfully) going nuts over this card.

Red-White Vehicles Game Plan: VROOOM!

This deck is pretty simple—play efficient creatures, play Vehicles, and smash. This is an aggressive deck, but it's convenient how many cards generate card advantage and card quality. Thraben Inspector, Veteran Motorist, Depala, and Copter make it much harder to run out of gas, a fate no Vehicle wants to suffer. While I do expect the field to be ready for this deck, it's still a solid choice.

Black-Red Madness

Madness and Smuggler's Copter are a natural pairing, and this black-red deck uses a variety of discard outlets to fuel powerful madness cards in an aggressive shell. It's one of the decks that performed well early in testing, and got a ton of upgrades with the introduction of Kaladesh. The team tried a version for Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, but the last few cards weren't good enough, and the addition of Smuggler's Copter and Unlicensed Disintegration is a huge boon.

Josh Utter-Leyton's Black-Red Madness

The curve on this deck is a lot lower than the red-white deck, and it focuses more on getting the opponent dead than gaining card advantage. It does have some ways to get ahead on cards, one of which is Bomat Courier.

This is a strange little card, but it works very well in this deck. It stacks up cards under it, and the fourteen removal spells help clear the way to keep on attacking. Once you have a couple cards exiled, you can cash in the Courier to draw a bunch, and it even works perfectly with madness. Of note, discarding Bloodhall Priest is a sweet combo, as your hand is empty when the Bloodhall Priest enters the battlefield.

Copter is your best discard outlet, but there are plenty to choose from, and the madness cards let you press your board advantage while seeing lots of new cards and being efficient on mana.

Black-Red Madness Game Plan: Curve out with one-drops and Copter, using removal spells to keep the opponent from stopping you. Unlicensed Disintegration, Fiery Temper, and Incendiary Flow give the deck some reach as well, and burning the opponent out from 6–9 life isn't that difficult.

Grixis Emerge

The last Smuggler's Copter deck I want to talk about (though by no means the last Copter deck we will see in the tournament) is Grixis Emerge. This deck is the most combo-oriented of the Copter decks I'm showcasing, and has the highest highs and the lowest lows, based on how well it draws.

Grixis Emerge

This deck is an amalgam of many combos, and the synergies between cards cross in many directions.

This is the most important card in the deck, which is saying something for a Smuggler's Copter deck. Drawing Amalgam is the highest correlation we've found to winning, as cheating Amalgam out is a huge boost in mana and card advantage. There are a ton of ways to get it into your graveyard, and bringing back Haunted Dead or Scrapheap Scrounger will return it.

Note: Bring back your creature at the end of the opponent's second main phase, so that Amalgam comes back during their end step.

There is a lot of fodder for Elder Deep-Fiend here, and that lets the giant Eldrazi fill two very important roles:

  • It attacks for a lot of damage, giving the deck a threat larger than 3/3.
  • It disrupts the opponent by tapping down lands or creatures. Whether it's pushing back a combo by a turn or removing blockers, adding a way to interact is important.

The rest of the deck consists of ways to discard, Kozilek's Return, and creatures to crew the Copter and get devoured by Scrapheap Scrounger.

Grixis Emerge Game Plan: Dump Prized Amalgam, Haunted Dead, and Scrapheap Scrounger into the graveyard. Recur them and emerge Elder Deep-Fiends, possibly with Kozilek's Return as well.

Aetherworks Marvel Combo

There is more to the format than Smuggler's Copter, though there are a lot of Copters. This next deck goes over the top, and can regularly summon a gigantic Eldrazi on turn four.

Aetherworks Marvel Combo

As the name suggests, this deck is all-in on Aetherworks Marvel. It's got tons of ways to generate energy; lots of ways to scry, draw, and search; and ten huge Eldrazi to summon. Of note, Aetherworks Marvel lets you cast the card, so the cast triggers of the Eldrazi, along with Kozilek's Return, all happen. Ulamog is hungry, and when two of your opponent's permanents disappear, they are going to lose their appetite for the game very quickly.

Aetherworks Marvel Game Plan: Find Aetherworks Marvel. Get six energy. Tap it. That's all this deck does, and games where it doesn't find Marvel tend to go pretty poorly. It's hugely powerful when it works, but certainly can whiff.

Mono-Blue Colossus

This is my favorite deck pre–Pro Tour, and one I hope makes an appearance. Metalwork Colossus is a very sweet card, and a deck that turbos it out is a winner in my book.

Mono-Blue Colossus

Metalwork Colossus is one way to gain a huge mana advantage in this format, and it can come out surprisingly soon. The main combo here is to reduce the cost of Colossus as much as possible and play it, triggering Sanctum of Ugin. That lets you get another Colossus or an Elder Deep-Fiend, and the deck is capable of some pretty sick sequences. Turn five double Colossus plus Deep-Fiend is a realistic draw, and one most opponents will be hard-pressed to beat.

It's also got a suite of Vehicles, powered by Foundry Inspector, and a supporting cast of Glint-Nest Crane and two-drop card draw artifacts. Panharmonicon even makes an appearance, mostly as a way to reduce the cost of Colossus and double-trigger your Prophetic Prisms and Puzzleknots.

Mono-Blue Colossus Game Plan: Play out a bunch of non-creature artifacts and assemble Colossus plus Sanctum of Ugin. Attack with undercosted 10/10s.

There are many more decks that will appear at the Pro Tour (Black-Green Delirium, Green-White Midrange, various Torrential Gearhulk Control decks, Red-Green Energy), but this is a good sampling. I expect various builds of these decks to make their presence known, even if the Colossus deck is a bit of indulgence on my part.

This is going to be an exciting Pro Tour, and despite there being an abundance of smuggling, there's a lot going on in this format.

LSV

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