What to Expect at the Pro Tour

Posted in Top Decks on February 5, 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 Oath of the Gatewatch promises to be one of the most exciting Magic events in recent memory. The possibilities available with the current Modern card pool are so incredibly vast that, in reality, just about anything is possible. In fact, there are more legally playable cards at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch than there have been at any Pro Tour before. The Constructed rounds of the event will showcase a brand new Modern format that's still quite malleable in the wake of the recent banning of Summer Bloom and Splinter Twin. Today we'll be discussing the trajectory of Modern as we head into the big show!

With two major combo strategies out of the picture, it would make sense that a lot of players are taking a serious look at Urzatron, a deck that aims to assemble Urza's Power Plant, Urza's Mine, and Urza's Tower to play cards such as Karn Liberated, All Is Dust, or Wurmcoil Engine as early as the third turn. Urzatron has traditionally been very strong against midrange strategies like Jund, Abzan, and white-based creature decks. The deck has struggled (and will continue to struggle) against combo decks that present a quick way to win the game. With Amulet Bloom and Splinter Twin out of the picture, a lot of players may think it's time for Urzatron to shine.

Aaron Walters's Urzatron

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Urzatron may be one of the standouts as we enter this weekend, but the strategy is still a huge gamble in a format like Modern where some of the best combo strategies are capable of winning as early as the second or third turn. The fastest combo decks give players the ability to win a lot of quick and easy games without giving the opponent too much of an opportunity to interact—especially if their deck isn't even capable of interacting. The most talked-about combo strategy coming into this weekend is Infect, a deck that gets double efficiency from pump spells such as Groundswell, Might of Old Krosa, and Become Immense while aiming to end the game by poisoning the opponent. Infect has a decent amount of interactivity for a combo deck that can win the game on the third (or, very rarely, the second) turn.

Travis Anderson's Infect

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One of the least talked-about but most successful strategies in Modern is Scapeshift, which now has the added consistency of Bring to Light at its disposal. Bring to Light can play as either Anger of the Gods or Scapeshift in Game 1 for added versatility and consistency. However, Bring to Light gets very exciting when we consider the implications of playing it alongside singletons such as Crumble to Dust or Slaughter Games out of the sideboard. Control decks with combo finishes have been very successful at Modern Pro Tours in the past, and Scapeshift seems like a natural evolution of the deck choice for players with that style of play.

Scapeshift

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Infect isn't the only fast combo deck that we'll be seeing in Atlanta this weekend. Decks like Jund and Abzan may be scared off by Scapeshift, Eldrazi, and Urzatron decks, which all perform well against midrange strategies. The decreased presence of Abrupt Decay, Thoughtseize, and Inquisition of Kozilek opens the door for Pyromancer Ascension Storm strategies to dominate the event. Pyromancer Ascension Storm quickly gets a pair of counters on Pyromancer Ascension, or uses Goblin Electromancer to generate a ton of storm with a small amount of mana, before running back all the spells with Past in Flames to kill unsuspecting opponents on the third turn. This strategy is a favorite among some of the best players in the world, and now seems like a perfect time to resurrect this once-dominant force.

Ascension Storm

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Instant Reanimator decks are all the rage these days. The deck aims to put a huge threat into the graveyard before reanimating it for just two mana with Goryo's Vengeance. If a big threat is in hand or there's pesky graveyard interaction like Scavenging Ooze on the other side of the table, then Through the Breach does a good job of powering a fatty boom-boom through. Goryo's Vengeance combo strategies have experienced a good deal of success lately and may encounter a decent amount of hate from the field at large. These decks are very strong and capable of winning as early as the second turn, but they may encounter a lot of Grafdigger's Cage and Surgical Extraction this weekend.

Tye Copeland's Vengeance Through the Breach

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Aggressive decks such as Affinity and Zoo will be much better positioned than they have been for the last year. Zoo remains under the radar but seems capable of matching the speed of combo opponents while punishing slower opponents who want to win the game with hand disruption. Wild Nacatl remains one of the most powerful cards in the format, and it seems like this could be the breakout weekend for everyone's favorite feline Warrior.

Zan Syed's Zoo

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Affinity has been demolishing Magic Online events leading up to the Pro Tour, and may encounter a lot of post-sideboard hate this weekend. Affinity is the fastest aggro deck in the format and is actually quite resilient against the type of removal we'll usually see out of our opponents' main decks. The major problem with Affinity comes up in Games 2 and 3, when players get to fill their decks with cards like Ancient Grudge and Shatterstorm. The success of Affinity in recent events will likely bring out a lot of those cards, but Affinity's sheer power level may be enough to carry it through to the elimination rounds this weekend.

Chirayu Patel's Affinity

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Burn decks find themselves in an interesting place as we enter the Pro Tour. The lack of Splinter Twin and Amulet Bloom eliminates some less-than-stellar matchups for the deck, but it frees up sideboard space for everyone else, and that means that burn players will likely be facing off against a lot more life gain. The combination of Skullcrack and Atarka's Command means that cards like Obstinate Baloth aren't quite as good as they once were when trying to beat the burn decks, but cards like Kor Firewalker remain just as frustrating for a red mage.

Michael Arrowsmith's Burn

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Merfolk got a lot better with Harbinger of the Tides, and the deck lost two of its bad matchups in Splinter Twin and Amulet Bloom. If there was ever a time for Merfolk to be good in Modern, it would be right now. The deck didn't disappoint at the StarCityGames.com Modern Classic event in Atlanta, and it won't be surprising if it's able to get at least a few players into the elimination rounds this weekend.

Jacob Betts's Merfolk

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Todd Anderson emerged victorious at the StarCityGames.com Modern Classic event, piloting a tempo strategy that takes advantage of Delver of Secrets while playing the game similarly to a popular Legacy strategy. Temur Delver aims to stick an early threat that presents a strong clock before controlling the board with efficient countermagic and removal. This deck represents the future of Modern, in that many strategies like this have been unlocked since they're no longer viewed as simply less powerful versions of Splinter Twin.

Todd Anderson's Temur Delver

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One of the more interesting and most innovative strategies to come out recently is the Modern Eldrazi deck that aims to interact with the opponent while sticking large threats that end games quickly and efficiently. The deck's natural desire to play cards like Relic of Progenitus makes it a strong Game 1 choice against decks that want to be using their graveyards to their advantage, and the disruption-removal-threats plan is always a strong combination.

Mahindra Bheodari's Eldrazi Control

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Jund and Abzan are still real decks. These strategies may struggle if a lot of people show up with Eldrazi Control or Urzatron, but the combination of the best removal and disruption alongside powerful threats and great sideboard options makes both Abzan and Jund permanent fixtures of Modern. It seems likely that Jund will be more popular than Abzan, because it has better ways to interact with opponents' lands in post-sideboard games—which is the most important thing to do in the deck's worst matchups.

Dustin Green's Jund

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