Pro Tour Snapshot

Posted in Top Decks on October 16, 2015

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).

The four most exciting weeks in Constructed (at least for me) are the four weeks of the Pro Tour. Not only does it mean that a new set is out, but it means that I've been playing a ton of Magic, with the ultimate goal of figuring out what I'm going to play and what everyone else is going to play. As with last Pro Tour, and each one from here on out, I'll spend the week of the Pro Tour talking about the decks I expect to be big. Hopefully, for my sake, this is an accurate estimation, and ideally it gives you a good primer on what the next format is going to look like.

For this Pro Tour, I'm actually more confident than normal about what decks I expect. That doesn't mean I know what deck to play, as that is a trickier decision, but hopefully I can talk about it next week (this column does have a name to live up to, so if we get crushed at the PT, I can't very well call it a Top Deck).

The top two decks going into the Pro Tour are less guesswork than the rest, and just about everyone is going to expect to see plenty of them. I can't imagine anyone showing up with a deck that they think would be a bad matchup against both of these decks, though not everyone who thinks they'll beat these decks actually will.

Dark Jeskai

Dark Jeskai is a product of the mana fixing now available. Given the presence of Sunken Hollow, Prairie Stream, and Smoldering Marsh, there's no reason not to splash black, and these four-color decks have better mana than the prior three-color versions. Polluted Delta can get all four colors of mana, and Flooded Strand/Bloodstained Mire still do a respectable job of getting three each. As it turns out, being able to fetch multicolored lands makes it very easy to play a lot of colors.

The core of Dark Jeskai looks something like this:

4 Mantis Rider

4 Treasure Cruise (or Dig Through Time)

4 Crackling Doom

4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

4 Fiery Impulse

Astute readers will notice that is only 20 cards, and to be honest, less astute ones probably will, too.

Not included in the Deckbuilder’s Toolkit

The other slots are made up of some combo of threats and ways to interact, with a selection of the following cards being the most common:

Soulfire Grand Master

Hangarback Walker

Butcher of the Horde (this one only shows up when Hangarbacks are present)

Dragonmaster Outcast

Jeskai Charm

Murderous Cut

Dragonlord Ojutai

Abbot of Keral Keep


Here's a list that Josh Silvestri wrote an in-depth primer about, and it's certainly representative of the archetype:

Dark Jeskai

Download Arena Decklist

Game plan: Cast Mantis Rider. Kill things. Cast Dig Through Time. Win the game.

Jeskai sits firmly in the middle of the metagame, as it can tailor its game plan to adjust to whatever it's playing against. Most of its cards pull double duty, which is how it can play so many roles. Mantis Rider plays both sides of the court, and Jace and Dig Through Time efficiently find whatever you are missing from a particular draw. Many of the go-to threats gain you life while reducing the opponent to zero, and very few of the cards in Jeskai can't be used multiple ways.

Weaknesses: Jeskai isn't particularly themed, so it runs the risk of drawing cards in the wrong matchup, or cards that don't work together well. The overall power level is high enough that it isn't a huge concern, but Jeskai is very capable of drawing some really awkward hands.

Green-White Megamorph

Green-White Megamorph is the other potential front runner, and has enjoyed the most tournament success over the last few weeks. If Dark Jeskai isn't the biggest deck, this will be.

So many of the slots in GW seem to be locked in that it isn't worth separating out a core, because GW has much less flexibility than Jeskai does. That's not a sign of weakness, just a sign that a two-color deck has fewer options than a four-color one (shocking).

Cedric Phillips's Naya Megamorph

Download Arena Decklist

Even though this isn't the straight green-white version, I legitimately think that Cedric has the best version by far for this Pro Tour. The addition of red for Rending Volley and Radiant Flames solves so many of the deck's problems, and this version seems like a clear upgrade, enough so that I'm using at as the example going forth.

Game plan: Grind out value while pressuring the opponent. Count on resilient threats to finish the game.

Green-White Megamorph is also midrange, though it leans more aggressive than Jeskai. Warden of the First Tree and Deathmist Raptor are more focused on beatdown, and Wingmate Roc certainly rewards attacking. The midrange part comes in when the opponent stops your threats, as all of them are pretty good at surviving any amount of removal the opponent can muster. Den Protector brings back Deathmist Raptor (plus anything else your heart desires in addition), and Gideon provides a steady stream of threats.

This deck is surprisingly good at grinding out long games, and that effect becomes even more pronounced once it sideboards in Evolutionary Leap and Mastery of the Unseen. Being able to attack early and still win late is why this deck is so popular, and why everyone is taking it seriously.

Weaknesses: Giant spells can go over the top of green-white, as these two colors aren't known for their high-quality disruption. The deck is consistent, but the power level isn't quite as high as other decks in the format.

The next two decks aren't as clearly big as the previous ones, but they will certainly be present.

Red Atarka

Oops, I accidentally used pictures from the very first version of this deck, which is now approaching 20 years of age.

Mono red went from being Red Atarka some of the time to being Red Atarka all of the time, as Cinder Glade made splashing green incredibly painless (besides the actual pain you take from sacrificing Wooded Foothills).

Red Atarka

Download Arena Decklist

Game plan: Attack the opponent with small red creatures. Make them into large red creatures with Atarka's Command or Become Immense. Win the game.

The combo in the images above is a huge part of this deck, and one of the reasons why it's so good right now. Become Immense plus Temur Battle Rage can just deal 20 damage to people out of nowhere, and killing on turn four is not an uncommon sight. This deck plays perfectly well without the combo, too, making it a very dangerous combination of power and consistency.

Weaknesses: The more linear the deck, the more it gets hurt by sideboard cards, and red is a prime example of that. Cards like Surge of Righteousness and Radiant Flames punish this deck post-board, and some people even main-deck Flames.

The last deck I want to talk about is similar to Green-White Megamorph, but it felt too wrong having no representatives from the powerful Siege Rhino lobby in an article about Standard.

Abzan Aggro

Abzan Aggro

Download Arena Decklist

The boogeyman from last Standard season is but one of many decks in this one, and not even in one of the top slots. As it turns out, once everyone gets perfect mana and Thoughtseize leaves, Siege Rhino loses a little ground.

Game plan: Attack, kill the opponent's creatures, and cast Siege Rhino. Complain about not having Thoughtseize.

This deck still has plenty of good cards, even without Fleecemane Lion and Thoughtseize. Warden of the First Tree, Hangarback Walker, Anafenza, and Siege Rhino make a great curve, and Den Protector plus Abzan Charm gives the deck plenty of gas. I wouldn't count Abzan Aggro out yet.

Weaknesses: Lack of Thoughtseize.

Jokes aside, losing Thoughtseize does severely limit how well this deck can interact. The deck is still powerful, but no longer does it have a get-out-of-jail-free card, and has to resign itself to losing to cards it would previously have been able to take out without worrying much.

What's the Best Deck?

Seriously, what's the best deck? I have a Pro Tour to play in, and would love to know. I do think all these decks will be popular, in roughly the order I talked about them, but what does well against all these is not immediately apparent. It's always hard playing control at a Pro Tour, so even if some build of Esper is right, figuring out all the flex slots is very difficult. We will have a ton more info in a couple days, and until then, I'd suggest being proactive.




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