Pro Tour Dark Ascension has been an epic event where we have seen some new names etched into the annals of Magic history, along with historic matches from some of the greatest who have ever played the game. Here are five cards that sum up some of the biggest stories of the weekend.
Huntmaster of the Fells
In the months since Jun'ya Iyanaga won the World Championships with Wolf Run ramp, Dark Ascension has created a different competitive environment to work in. Delver decks have only been in the ascension (pun very much intended) in recent weeks and months, and team ChannelFireball (likely championed by known werewolf fan and overall champion Brian Kibler) identified that the new mythic werewolf would be a powerful force in Standard. Whether it comes into play and just generates a wolf, or gets to create mayhem by flipping back and forth, Huntmaster of the Fells is a threat that is able to dominate a board, and is a horrible one to have to Vapor Snag.
Creating tokens has rarely been as efficient as it is now, with Lingering Souls from Dark Ascension. The set may only be a couple of weeks old, but this powerful sorcery has already been put into a variety of different Standard decks, and proven itself to be a force in draft. Be it White-Black Tokens, Esper Control, or the Delver-Spirits deck that was piloted by such masters as Jelger Wiegersma and Jon Finkel, Lingering Souls created more than a few devastating swings of tempo.
One of the hallmark cards of the deck played by Finkel and Wiegersma was Drogskol Captain, the new Spirit lord from Dark Ascension. Every one of the tribal lords from Dark Ascension have proven themselves to be dangerous additions to the Booster Draft format, but comparatively few players were able to realize their potential in Standard. The Delver build from Sam Black and Gerry Thompson that was played by Finkel and Wiegersma in the Top 8 was able to go from zero to hero very fast with the lord, whose hexproof granting is particularly exciting when Phantasmal Image is thrown into the mix, meaning that doubling up on the pump is easier than ever. A whole host of creatures in this version of the deck are spirits (including Moorland Haunt tokens and Dungeon Geists), and with a Captain's help they present quite the clock.
Birthing Pod is a card that has been around for some time now, and it gained a shot in the arm with Dark Ascension in the form of the undying mechanic. When sacrificing creatures is no longer much of a cost, Birthing Pod becomes a terrifyingly potent threat. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite was one of the premium targets for the Pod, and one that Top 8 competitor Lukas Blohon used to wreck all sorts of opponents. It is no coincidence that Constructed master Shouta Yasooka was playing a maindeck Grafdigger's Cage in his Blue-Black Control deck. Birthing Pod is certainly a card to watch out for in coming weeks and months.
Finally we have a card from Scars of Mirrodin that had a colossal impact on the final outcome of this Pro Tour. The cheap spot removal spell was hugely important for Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa in shutting out Jelger Wiegersma in the quarterfinals, meaning that he could never get his Drogskol Captain plan going. That was far from the end of the story for this seemingly innocuous instant though.
The fifth game of Brian Kibler's match against Jon Finkel will go down as a game for the ages. Behind to a swarm of spirits, Kibler played to his outs, attacking where he could and working up toward a series of plays where he achieved metalcraft and fired off a trio of copies of Galvanic Blast to snatch a slot in the finals where virtually nobody had seen the line of play. The lines of reasoning from both players in those final decisive turns will surely be analyzed a great deal over the coming weeks and months, but one thing is clear: without Galvanic Blast, we would surely have had a different Pro Tour Champion this weekend.