What We Learned at Pro Tour Amonkhet

Posted in Top Decks on May 19, 2017

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 did we learn at the Pro Tour? Let's just say that I eagerly await Duel Decks: Ulamog vs. Zombies, as there were four copies of Marvel and three copies of Zombies in the Top 8. Those two decks also performed well over the course of the tournament and didn't just fill up the Top 8. Speaking of the Top 8, how did it break down?

  • 4 Temur Aetherworks Marvel
  • 2 Mono-Black Zombies (winner)
  • 1 White-Black Zombies
  • 1 Black-Green Energy Aggro

However, despite these decks falling into these categories, there were three distinct Marvel decks in the Top 8. Let's see what the different elements were.

All three of these Marvel lists have the same basic game plan: generate six energy; cast an Aetherworks Marvel; and hit Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Failing Ulamog, hit something that generates energy and spin the wheel again. They all clog up the ground and air with Rogue Refiner and Whirler Virtuoso and all have a robust game plan when they don't draw Marvel.

Standard Marvel

Marc Tobiasch's Temur Aetherworks Marvel

This deck plays 3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance; 2 Tireless Trackers; and the full amount of Whirler Virtuoso and Rogue Refiner. It's the most common version and is much more focused on presenting midrange threats.

Advantages: This deck has the most aggressive plan B, with a ton of three-mana creatures that threaten the opponent and Chandra to get ahead and deal damage against other midrange or control decks.

Disadvantages: It lacks sweepers against Zombies, and because it has mostly main phase cards, it doesn't adjust to the counter-heavy games that tend to happen in the mirror post-board.

I don't think this is where you want your marvel deck to be positioned. Chandra, Torch of Defiance doesn't seem great to me, and I like what the other two versions of Marvel in the Top 8 were doing more.

Flamecaller Marvel

Martin Müller's Temur Aetherworks Marvel

This deck wasn't all that different from Marc's, but the full four copies of Chandra, Flamecaller do lead to a ton of different possibilities. Otherwise, it plays four of all the energy cards and 3 Ulamogs (likely because Chandra gives you another juicy Marvel hit).

Advantages: Chandra is a great answer to Zombies, and her 0 ability does good work against control/mirrors. She is a legit Marvel hit that you can cast without much issue, which adds a powerful new dimension to the deck. Sometimes, you actually want to hit Chandra over Ulamog, which is impressive.

Disadvantages: Chandra is expensive, which adds more slow cards to a deck that already can be inconsistent. Chandra also doesn't play all that well against counterspells, which are relevant post-board in every blue matchup.

I was very impressed by Chandra. She was consistently great and won plenty of games that looked otherwise unwinnable. Team Genesis seemed very happy with their build of Marvel, and the results seemed to bear that out.

Flash Marvel

Yuuya Watanabe's Temur Aetherworks Marvel

Both Yuuya Watanabe and Eric Froehlich played very similar decklists. Besides the usual suspects, they most notably had 4 Glimmer of Genius, 3–4 Censors, and 1 Torrential Gearhulk. What this does is let the deck play more reactively and have a more consistent mid-to-late game. Glimmer is a very powerful card and not even the worst hit off Marvel, assuming you don't have to impact the board.

Advantages: This deck is very well set up for post-board games. When both players have a bunch of counterspells, the deck with 4 Glimmer and a Gearhulk is going to have a big edge. This deck is already built to play that game, so the sideboard plan is a much more natural fit. Additionally, this deck does a good job against discard, as Glimmer gets you out of most attrition fights.

Disadvantages: This deck is not quite as good as getting ahead on the board or even coming back when far behind. Having fewer creatures and no planeswalkers contributes and makes the deck more susceptible to a game that plays to the board.

I really like this list. The plan of Glimmer and counters seems like the best mirror setup, and from there it isn't too hard to adjust the deck for the expected horde of Zombies. After taking into account the different Marvel lists, here's where I'd start moving forward:

LSV's Aetherworks Marvel

This is an amalgam of the Müller, Froehlich, and Watanabe lists, combining all the aspects I prized from each. You have Torrential Gearhulk and Glimmer of Genius while still playing some Chandras, and the sideboard leans into the counter plan. While Marvel does have a lot of locked slots, there is room to be flexible, and I like where this is aimed.

Zombies

Now for something a little more streamlined. Not only did GerryT win the Pro Tour, both he and Christian Calcano made Top 8 with Mono-Black Zombies alongside Chris Fennell on White-Black Zombies. This deck is about as simple as it gets—Zombies, cards that care about Zombies, and removal. Done.

Gerry Thompson's Mono-Black Zombies

Once again, the game plan here doesn't go much further than "BRAAAAAINNNNNNS." There are a few key points I want to mention:

  • It's almost always correct to activate the draw ability on Cryptbreaker rather than attacking. A card leads to a more robust board state and often even faster wins than the 4-6 damage you give up.
  • Playing lands helps Dread Wanderer and Westvale Abbey, while holding them helps Cryptbreaker. In general, I err on the side of playing them out, maybe saving one in hand once you have five or so.
  • Dark Salvation can target the opponent and be cast for X equals zero. It will then give -N/-N equal to the opponent's Zombie total, which is good in the mirror.
  • Know what the opponent's answers to Westvale Abbey are—Ormendahl is a potent threat these days, and some decks have zero or few answers (such as the mirror, where it's Dark Salvation or bust).
  • Sequencing can be tricky. Knowing when to lead with Mimic or Colossus is important and varies by game. In general, getting Zombie triggers off Colossus is the way to go.

Advantages: Mono-Black Zombies has a better mana base (all lands that enter untapped and no mana problems is real nice) and a much better Vehicles matchup. That's not worth as much as it was going into the Pro Tour, but it isn't nothing.

Disadvantages: Not having access to anything but black mana limits sideboard options, and this deck is mostly on discard spells, more removal, and some recurring 3/2s.

Adding white to the Zombies list gives you access to reach in the form of Wayward Servant and better removal in the form of Anguished Unmaking. Past that, it plays like Mono-Black Zombies with slightly worse mana.

Chris Fennell's White-Black Zombies

Advantages: Anguished Unmaking gives the deck solutions to problematic permanents like Aetherworks Marvel, and Wayward Servant gives the deck a way to win outside the combat step. Additionally, Gideon out of the sideboard is a potent weapon against sweepers.

Disadvantages: This deck has a much worse mana base than Mono-Black Zombies and pays the price in aggro matchups, where lands entering tapped or spells being uncastable is a big deal.

Right now, I'd lean toward white-black. Having a better Marvel matchup is key, and Gideon is one of the best ways to fight an influx of Chandra, Flamecallers.

Everything Else

Aetherworks Marvel and Zombie variants were the big decks coming out of the Pro Tour, and there's a lot of value in figuring out how they tick. Mardu Vehicles got crushed, and even if it adds blue for Ceremonious Rejection, I fear it's still behind Marvel. Black-Green Energy seems like it can be tuned to beat Marvel, but it's going to be tough to beat Zombies. Blue-Red Control theoretically can have game against either, but lost badly at the Pro Tour, so maybe it's just not a good deck. This is way more than a two-deck format, but you need to have a plan for Marvel and Zombies or you are in trouble.

Overall, I'd recommend the Marvel list I posted above. It's where I'm planning on starting after watching the Pro Tour, and it has both the power level needed to crush Standard while being flexible in the face of metagame shifts.

LSV

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