The Future Reflected Back

Posted in Top Decks on April 22, 2016

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad is upon us, and the best players in the world have gathered in Madrid, Spain, in hopes of immortalizing themselves with a victory on one of the game's biggest stages. Shadows over Innistrad is the start to a new block, and as a result, the Standard format is going to shift around in a big way. With $250,000 in prize money up for grabs, players will be tackling the new format and bringing their best in pursuit of cash, Pro Points, and seats at the 2016 World Championship.

Shadows over Innistrad has drastically altered the Standard landscape. The absence of mana fixing from Khans of Tarkir will force players to be more frugal with their mana bases. The format has barely been played for a week and we're already seeing new and exciting archetypes climb to the forefront of the Standard metagame.

With tons of new restrictions and powerful card options like Archangel Avacyn, the new Standard format may seem like a whole different world. Today, we'll be taking a look at what we can expect to see in the Standard portion of the Pro Tour.

Emma Handy's White-Blue Humans

The most successful new strategy at the recent StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Baltimore was Humans, a deck that backs up the format's most aggressive creatures with tempo plays like Declaration in Stone. The white-blue version of the deck secured two spots in the Top 8 of the tournament and another two spots in the Top 16; mono-white and green-white versions of the deck also had quite a bit of success. Emma Handy managed a 14th-place finish with the deck and broke down the archetype quite well in her recent column for GatheringMagic, The deck applies very fast pressure with a host of 2-power creatures for one mana that can often lead to starts involving three creatures in play on the second turn. This combination, especially when backed up by a removal spell like Declaration in Stone — or with Kytheon, Hero of Akros in the mix—can lead to some quick runaway wins against decks that are trying to do bigger and more exciting things.

The deck has a lot of powerful interactions that may not be obvious at first glance. Always Watching is great in a deck that aims to swarm the battlefield, giving the strategy a powerful offensive boost while also allowing the player to set up perfect blocks in a format without a ton of non-red instant-speed removal. Always Watching gets especially strong when played with Archangel of Tithes, taxing the opponent in every combat step.

Declaration in Stone may be the most powerful Constructed card in Shadows over Innistrad, and it's definitely strongest in an aggressive shell that punishes the opponent for spending two mana to simply draw an extra card in the earlier turns of the game.

This version of the deck has a pseudo-transformational sideboard that makes the deck match up very well against the piles of Pyroclasm effects that opponents bring in for post-sideboarded games. Humans can overcome the inevitable hate cards by going bigger with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Archangel Avacyn.

Aggressive strategies perform very well at the Pro Tour, and Humans seem to be all the rage. Other versions of the Humans deck also performed very well in the first weekend of Shadows over Innistrad Standard, establishing the archetype well enough that we can expect to see a lot of Kozilek's Return and Radiant Flames playing cleanup out of midrange and control decks this coming weekend.

Jim Davis's Bant Company

Bant Company was already a major player in Standard, and Shadows over Innistrad pushed the deck to new heights with additions such as Duskwatch Recruiter and Tireless Tracker. Jim Davis won the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Baltimore with the deck and created a good write-up about its contents and construction here. Collected Company has a very high raw power level, and cards like Bounding Krasis and Reflector Mage give the deck enough of a tempo advantage to take over the game. Duskwatch Recruiter gives the deck an entirely new angle, essentially allowing the controller to pay three mana to draw a card at will while also allowing the deck to play multiple spells off of four mana despite the incredibly high number of three-mana creatures. Tireless Tracker is often a powerhouse if we're securing a two- or three-for-one opportunity, and it's a great target for Collected Company. Archangel Avacyn provides the deck with a new top end that finishes games quickly and protects the team before flipping over to swing the tides of battle against opposing creature strategies.

Bant Company has a good amount of room to change before the Pro Tour. The deck's core (Bounding Krasis, Reflector Mage, Duskwatch Recruiter, Sylvan Advocate, and Collected Company) will likely remain untouched, but there's a lot of room left for innovation in the remaining slots.

Eric Hymel's White-Black Eldrazi

We all expected enemy color Eldrazi decks to do well in a format where enemy pain lands are an option. White-Black Eldrazi seems to be the best home for this type of strategy—taking full advantage of Knight of the White Orchid seems like exactly where we want to be. The deck plays some of the format's most powerful cards, including Sorin, Grim Nemesis, a planeswalker that threatens to take over the game entirely by itself.

Eldrazi Displacer had a lot of people excited when it first got printed, and our hopes for the card are finally coming to fruition with Shadows over Innistrad joining the mix.

The new Standard will likely feature a lot of large battlefields where the action is stalled while one players tries to engineer a favorable opportunity to start attacking. In these situations, there's no better card than Eldrazi Displacer. If things get to the point where the White-Black Eldrazi player has Eldrazi Displacer out alongside Thought-Knot Seer, then the Eldrazi Displacer can be activated during the opponent's draw step on every turn to ensure that the opponent never finds the answer they're looking for.

Eric Froehlich wrote about the deck for his popular Deck of the Day series on ChannelFireball and discussed its contents at length.

Todd Anderson's Blue-Red Goggles

The deck that had everyone scratching their heads as it rose to the top of the standings in Baltimore was Todd Anderson's Pyromancer's Goggles deck. Pyromancer's Goggles has become a lot more powerful in the new Standard. This deck can maneuver its way through a lot of hoops to clean up the board before completely taking over the game with a copied Magmatic Insight or Tormenting Voice. Drownyard Temple, a card that I was unreasonably amused with, is at its finest here, where it can be discarded for advantage with Tormenting Voice or Magmatic Insight before being returned to the battlefield on the third turn to conveniently ramp us into five mana to cast Pyromancer's Goggles.

The deck can also draw lot of cards with Jori En, Ruin Diver, and the amount of inexpensive removal present means that it matches up well against the format's more aggressive strategies—especially when on the play.

Eric Froehlich also wrote about this deck in his Deck of the Day series, so be sure to check out his take on this powerful new archetype.

The new Standard's surface has barely been scratched. Powerful cards like The Gitrog Monster wait patiently to join the fray as we head into this weekend.

Most of us aren't qualified for the Pro Tour, but we'll be tuning in to the live broadcast on Twitch to watch all the deck techs and feature match action. The new Standard format is sure to introduce exciting archetypes like nothing we've seen before. What type of deck do you expect to emerge victorious this weekend in Spain? Will aggressive Human strategies and tempo-centric Bant Company decks establish their dominance? Or will a new strategy rise above the rest? Be sure to stay glued to all the action as it unfolds this weekend in Madrid, beginning Friday, April 22 at 12 a.m. PT/3 a.m. ET/7a.m. UTC!

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