What We Learned at the Pro Tour

Posted in Top Decks on October 21, 2016

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).

There are some big stories coming out of the Pro Tour, and two control decks meeting in the finals (both piloted by Pro Tour Champions, no less) is one of the biggest. Today we are going to focus on the most exciting decks to come out of the Pro Tour and what the strengths and weaknesses of each are.

Let's jump in!

The Last Control Decks Standing

This is surely the breakout card of the Pro Tour, and the fact that two Torrential Gearhulk control decks met in the finals gives us a natural place to start. Here are the two control decks piloted by Shota Yasooka and Carlos Romão, respectively:

Shota Yasooka's Grixis Control

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Carlos Romão's Jeskai Control

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Game plan: I put these decks together because they are quite similar—they are both blue-based decks touching red plus another color, and both heavily rely on the Torrential Gearhulk plus Glimmer of Genius engine.

The plan of these decks is simple—kill or counter everything the opponent plays and win the game with Torrential Gearhulk (sometimes Wandering Fumarole, Thing in the Ice, or Archangel Avacyn).

Key Features:

  • Powerful late game—Torrential Gearhulk ensures these decks don't easily run out of gas and don't lack a kill condition. They can turn on a dime, and go from playing defensively to attacking with 5/6s very quickly.
  • Good card filtering—Anticipate and Glimmer of Genius make the three-color mana bases work and help these decks find the answers they need.
  • Wide range of removal—These blue control decks can answer anything as long as they have enough time to find the answer.

Weaknesses: The main drawback to control decks such as these is that if they draw their answers in the wrong order, they can often get run over. Drawing counters against Red-White Vehicles or removal spells against Aetherworks Marvel is a disaster, and Anticipate can only go so far. These decks also can sometimes run into decks they aren't equipped to deal with at all, and the lack of a proactive game plan makes that more likely.

You Should Play This If: You like being completely reactive and want to have all the answers. Gearhulk Control is a control mage's control deck, and we haven't seen decks this deep on control elements in quite some time.

Red-White Tokens

The token aggressive deck in this Top 8 does more than live up to its name, as Makis Matsoukas finished first in the Swiss with his hyper-aggressive version of Red-White.

Makis Matsoukas's Red-White Tokens

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Game plan: Pressure the opponent with one-drops and Smuggler's Copter, all while setting up a big attack from Reckless Bushwhacker (often paired with Servo Exhibition).

Key Features:

Weaknesses: The cards in this deck are less individually powerful than in other versions of red-white, making its draws more inconsistent and worse in the late game. It's also more vulnerable to sweepers, as it often just has to overextend into Radiant Flames.

You Should Play This If: You like beating down. This is the fastest aggro deck in the format. It's also the best against linear decks like Temur Aetherworks as it has the highest chance of outracing them.

Temur Aetherworks

This is undoubtedly the scariest deck in the format, as it is capable of dropping a turn-four Emrakul, the Promised End or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger thanks to the power of Aetherworks Marvel.

Matthew Nass's Temur Aetherworks

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Game plan: Get to six energy by combining various Puzzleknots, Attune with Aether, or Aether Hub. Play Aetherworks Marvel and flip an Eldrazi. Use Glint-Nest Crane and Kozilek's Return to make sure you don't die in the meantime.

Key Features:

Weaknesses: This is such a one-note deck that disruption in the form of counterspells can be quite difficult to beat. It can shrug of artifact removal and outrace aggro, but cards like Negate and Ceremonious Rejection are challenging.

You Should Play This If: You don't want to interact with your opponent's deck (and you like slamming Emrakul on turn four). This deck is particularly good in a field of red-white and black-green midrange.

Black-Green Delirium

Black-green got aggressive all of a sudden, and Eric Froehlich played the following list to an 8-2 finish at the Pro Tour.

Eric Froehlich's Black-Green Delirium

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Game plan: Attack the opponent with efficient creatures backed by removal spells and pump spells. Use Servant of the Conduit to support a higher curve than most aggro decks.

Key Features:

Weaknesses: Black-green is slightly slower than most of the red-white builds (which is also why it does well in those matchups—you want to be a little bigger in the aggro mirror). That means it's vulnerable to decks like Aetherworks Marvel and may not always be able to pressure control before Torrential Gearhulks start raining down.

You Should Play This If: You liked the black-green deck from last Standard. This deck preys on a field of smaller aggro decks, and can demolish unprepared opponents thanks to Blossoming Defense.

White-Blue Flash

The last deck I want to talk about is the best-performing deck of the Pro Tour if you look at the 8-2 or better lists. That happens to be white-blue midrange, which Joey Manner took to a Top 8 finish.

Joey Manner's White-Blue Flash

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Game plan: Use cheap threats to establish a board presence, then punish the opponent with flash creatures like Spell Queller, Rattlechains, and Archangel Avacyn.

Key Features:

  • It's one of the few decks that utilizes Reflector Mage.
  • Spell Queller and sideboard counters make the deck very good against linear decks like Aetherworks Marvel.
  • The deck is very difficult to play against because it operates at instant speed.

Weaknesses: This deck suffers against slower control decks, as Reflector Mages and removal are largely dead and the amount of pressure blue-white can apply is often not sufficient.

You Should Play This If: You like passing the turn with all your mana up. This deck is also a great choice in a field full of Aetherworks Marvel, and has a robust game against red-white.

What Should You Play This Week?

Whatever deck speaks to you most! As usual, I'm a firm advocate of playing to your strengths, and there's a ton to choose from when looking at these decks. If you want an aggressive deck, a control deck, a combo deck, or a midrange deck, there are decks for you.


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