The rise of Dark Jeskai and the fall of Abzan are the headlines of Standard coming out of Grand Prix Quebec City, but there were many more stories than those. From across the two days of play through the birthday victory Top 8 for Dan Lanthier, these are the top five cards to come out of Quebec.
5) Anafenza, the Foremost
Abzan was back in full force this weekend, riding victory at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar to its popular conclusion. One of the key cards that put it into position was Anafenza, the Foremost. As a three-drop it appeared early enough to stymie aggressive red decks' starts. With its exile clause affecting opponents it turned off the powerful reach of Rally the Ancestors being adding to Top 8 competitor Pascal Maynard's take on the Aristocrats deck, Ojutai's Command to return Jace, Vryn's Prodigy to the battlefield, and filling the graveyard in general with fodder for spells like Become Immense and Dig Through Time to exile in payment.
As a full four-of in Top 8 competitor Nicolas Beland's deck, Anafenza was the foremost way Abzan made things aggravating for every other deck in the format.
4) Zulaport Cutthroat
Aristocrats is real, and Pascal Maynard proved it. Unhappy about this deck at the start of Saturday, Maynard went to work playing Zulaport Cutthroat, Nantuko Husk and a bevvy of synergistic support to fight for Day 2. Narrowly winning the the final round of Day 9 to a near mirror no less Maynard hovered just outside the top standings before snagging his victory, again, in the ultimate round of the day.
Zulaport Cutthroat is how it happens each time. With any sacrifice outlet, cards like Sultai Emissary and Catacomb Sifter become powerhouse effects of life drain and card massaging. Topped off by Rally the Ancestors to return tons of creatures to play in a hurry, Maynard dinged and drained his way to another Top 8 finish.
3) Silumgar's Command
Reid Duke's win-and-in to the Top 8 came off the back of a brutal play: Counter Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and destroy your Jace, Telepath Unbound. Duke's choice of Esper Control was unusual across the entire tournament field, but in Duke's hands it demolished the competiton to a Day 1 undefeated start. While plenty of its tools were on display, the backbreaking power of Silumgar's Command to shatter other control decks proved why Duke's deck choices are always top notch.
2) Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
They might not have won Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar, but the Eldrazi menace have cut a path through the field at Grand Prix Quebec City in the capable hands of Jake Mondello. While getting to the requisite ten mana was tough, once there the hungry titan demolished opponents.
You might think that in a world of Crackling Doom that Ulamog wouldn't be worth it, but Mondello explained that even if they have the answer for the first Ulamog, the Sanctum of Ugin means you always have a second threat. The fact that most decks also relied on fetchlands to fix their mana meant they often had only a single source of a given color in play, which meant the first Ulamog could lock out the removal for the second.
Exiling permanents upon being cast meant formidable countermagic still didn't completely negate the sting of its presence when mana woes weren't an issue, and without a way to say no upfront meant Mondello unleashed its full power upon his quarterfinals opponent Nicolas Beland.
Ulamog just ate the Abzan menace right up.
1) Ojutai's Command
Ojutai's Command was everywhere this weekend. While it played a similar role in Reid Duke's Esper Control list, the bonanza of Dark Jeskai was the deck that made the most of its impressive power. Both finalist Omar Beldon and winner Dan Lanthier made the most of the potent choices it affording.
Beldon countered an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger from Jake Mondello and returned Jace, Vryn's Prodigy to the battlefield, forcing Mondello to fight around the powerful planeswalker that was active immediately on Beldon's next turn. For Lanthier, the counterspell and buyback Jace combo helped fight the Kolaghan's Command subgame of “Who's got more two-for-ones?” his back-to-back Dark Jeskai mirror matches asked as he marched towards victory.