Standard in the Wake of the Pro Tour

Posted in Event Coverage on October 24, 2015

By Josh Bennett

Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar ended with the crowning of Champion Kazuyuki Takimura and the unleashing of a month's worth of closely-guarded secrets. Here at Grand Prix Quebec City players are finally getting to try out those powerful weapons crafted by the game's best. They also have a sudden wealth of information to draw on. Will they adopt proven strategies or try to attack them in new ways? What can you expect the field to look like? How should you prepare?

These are the questions I put to the 19th-ranked player Reid Duke. His hard work had reaped big dividends at the PT, giving him another Top 20 finish to add to his resume. He's played his fair share of post-PT Grand Prix. I asked him if there was a pattern to the metagames at these events, and if so, how it influenced his preparation for this weekend. “It's been quite predictable. You can anticipate eighty to ninety percent of the field to be playing decks that made the Top 8 at the Pro Tour. Now, given the amount of work that you put in preparing for the Pro Tour – we did two weeks of very intense testing – you really want to draw on that preparation, which probably means sticking with what you played. If your unwinnable matchup came up big in the Top 8 then you might have to switch decks.”

He continued “I'm guessing this weekend's field will be mostly Abzan, the Dark Jeskai deck that Owen and Jon Top 8'd with, White-Green Megamorph and Atarka Red. In particular I'd expect a lot of Jeskai. I've actually moved my dragons to the sideboard of my Esper Control deck because Crackling Doom is so good against them and I don't want that disadvantage in game one.”

I asked him about Silkwrap's emergence as a go-to answer, and if it would face backlash now that it had been put in the spotlight. “If anything, I'd expect Silkwrap to be even more impactful this weekend.”

To get a perspective from the other side of the field, I went to fan-favorite Kar Yung Tom of ManaDeprived.com. He watched the Pro Tour with interest as a signpost for this weekend. “I hadn't played much of the new Standard, so I just tried to play as many of the top-performing decks from the Pro Tour as possible, not just the Top 8 decks, trying to correct for bias from the Limited rounds. My good friend Alexander Hayne assured me that the Atarka Red deck was the real deal, but I couldn't win a match with it. Alright, that's not exactly true, but I doubt my win percentage was above twenty-five percent. In the end, I was having my best results from the Abzan deck and decided to go with that. It helps that I played a lot of Abzan in the old Standard.”

I asked him what it was about Abzan that made it perform so well. “It's just very steady, very consistent. It also has some of the best spells you can be playing right now – Dromoka's Command and Abzan Charm.”

Lastly, I caught up with 6th-Ranked Sam Black, who made a big splash at the Pro Tour with his last-minute brew Bant-Tokens. I wanted to know how much it mattered that his deck was a known quantity. “Well obviously I feel like I'm slightly worse off than I was at the Pro Tour,” he said with a laugh. “Still, the deck is very powerful and very resilient so I'm happy to play it.” I asked him if he had made any changes to his sideboard going from the Pro Tour to this weekend. “I've changed it some, but I don't know how much of that has to do with what I expect from the metagame. You know, I built the deck the night before the Pro Tour, so I have a lot more experience with it than when I first built the sideboard.”

We'll see how things shake out for Day 2. From a turn around the tables the conventional wisdom has held: There are a lot of Mantis Riders and Siege Rhinos in attendance.

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