Out of 388 players battling at Pro Tour Dragon's Maze, a whopping 105 have come armed with some variation of Esper (WUB) Control, complete with a lot of Sphinx's Revelations in tow.
But Esper isn't the only deck equipped with the mythic draw spell. Bant Control, the second most popular choice this weekend, is playing the ubiquitous instant, as are UWR Control variants, Azorius Control decks, and a few Maze's End decks.
There is, however, significant variation after that, including a few wrinkles that could come to define not only the tournament, but the format itself.
|Deck Type||# of Players||Percentage|
|Maze's End Fog||14||3.6|
|Maze's End Control||12||3.1|
|Naya Midrange 8||8||2.1|
|Prime Speaker Bant||2||0.5|
|BUG Whispering Madness||1||0.3|
|Chromatic Maze's End||1||0.3|
|Grixis Whispering Madness||1||0.3|
Glossary of Terms
Esper – White, Black, Blue
Naya – White, Green, Red
Bant – Blue, Green, White
Grixis – Blue, Black, Red
Jund – Red, Green, Black
Borzhov – Black, Red, White
UWR – Blue, White, Red
Junk – Black, Green, White
Blitz – Decks with Burning-Tree Emissary
Domri – Heavy creature decks built to take advantage of Domri Rade
Selesnya Bant - An aggressive Selesnya deck with a light Blue splash
Sphinx's Revelation Decks
For one, the choice of finishers in the Esper Control (White-Blue-Black) decks varies. Ætherling, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, and Obzedat, Ghost Council are all taking turns, occasionally helped out by a Jace, Architect of Thought's ultimate stealing...well, something.
A deck that isn't lacking for finishers is Bant Control (White-Blue-Green), which can often be seen sporting Ætherling, but they also often have Advent of the Wurm just for value. The card is that good.
Bant decks also have a wide variety of types. The control decks have most of the typical control elements, often topping out with Angel of Serenity. The Bant Aggro decks usually end their curve at Advent of the Wurm, and Prime Speaker ZeganaBant decks play a ton of creatures while looking to take advantage of the Simic guild leader.
Maze's End has also made its presence known, splitting into two camps. One camp chose to play a simple controlling game with a bunch of removal, card draw, and life gain. The other chose to play Fogs, which are variations on spells that prevent all combat damage. In this case, Riot Control, Ætherize, and Druid's Deliverance all prolong the game until mass removal and Maze's End itself can steal the win. It'll be interesting to see which Maze's End strategy proves more productive as the weekend goes on.
To round out the Sphinx's Revelation decks, there are good number of Blue-White-Red Control decks in the field, many of them looking to finish off games with Boros Reckoners, Assemble the Legion, Ætherling, and Aurelia, the Warleader.
But while many of the pros clearly love their blue cards, plenty of players have aligned themselves with other guilds in the hopes of disrupting or just plain running over the blue mages.
Various Selesnya, Naya (White-Red-Green), Jund (Black-Red-Green), Gruul, Boros, and even Mono-Red players have come gunning for control players' life totals with aggressive strategies aimed at knocking players down before they even get a chance to set up.
The Blitz signifier you see in several of the deck names signals a very aggressive deck that utilizes Burning-Tree Emissary to dump a bunch of small beaters on the table quickly and efficiently. They resemble the Standard Naya Blitz decks and might be the fastest decks in the format.
However, that title might just belong to Mono-Red instead, a 19ish land strategy that can start hitting for damage on turn one, and it never lets up. The Boros Blitz decks are close cousins, often splashing just one or two key white cards. If you see a Temple Garden next to a basic Mountain, you might just be playing against Boros Blitz, strangely enough—the deck needs its Plains to be able to cast Burning-Tree Emissary. The Gruul decks are often pretty similar as well, taking advantage of Domri Rade to keep the gas flowing, plus Ghor-Clan Rampager for even more punch.
The Selesnya Aggro decks are a touch slower, but often a bit bigger. Loxodon Smiters and Call of the Conclave easily outclass anything the Blitz decks have to offer in the early turns, and Advent of the Wurm is about the biggest beating you can imagine for, well, anything.
You might also notice a little notation for a deck we dubbed "Naya Doublestrike." That's a sweet little number that seeks to take advantage of a few double striking creatures and effects to get in a ton of damage in one or two big hits.
Too aggressive for control, too controlling for aggro, midrange decks take the in-between route, usually to take advantage of a number of powerful spells that can win the game on their own.
The three flagship midrange archetypes in Return to Ravnica Block Constructed are Naya, Junk (Black-White-Green), and Borzhov (White-Red-Black), with a smattering of Bant Midrange thrown in.
The Naya Midrange decks rely on several powerful permanents to put the game away, most notably Aurelia, the Warleader, and Assemble the Legion. After that, the usual assortment of Boros Reckoners, Advent of the Wurm, and Loxodon Smiters put more than enough pressure on the opponent, while playing defense pretty well too.
Borzhov decks are essentially Black-Red-White goodstuffs decks, also leaning on Reckoner and Assemble at times, but mixing in the deadly Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Obzedat, Ghost Council, and the disruptive Sin Collector.