LESSONS LEARNED AFTER THE PRO TOUR

Posted in GRAND PRIX UTRECHT 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on August 9, 2014

By Oliver Gehrmann

"Almost 400 of the best players in the world played Standard last weekend at the Pro Tour. 100 of them either picked Black Devotion or White-Black Control, so black is definitely a color you have to have on the radar this weekend." - this was one of Marijn Lybaert's opening statements for his presentation about the post Pro Tour metagame and it made one thing clear right away: He would cut to the chase.

In the following 30 minutes, Lybaert went over all of the decks that saw a lot of play at Pro Tour M15 and analyzed their respective strengths and weaknesses. In case you hadn't been able to follow all the action from last weekend's event, this was your best shot at getting up to speed in no time.

7 - 3 Decks

While some might argue that even a 5 - 5 record at the Pro Tour is a decent result, Lybaert decided to make the cut at 7 - 3. He then went on and compared the initial numbers of each deck with their representation in the pool of decks that went 7 - 3 or better. One of the things we learned there was that out of 9 players that decided to play the newly invented Rabble Red Deck that weekend, 5 ended up on a 7 - 3 (or better) record. Lybaert concluded that therefore, without question, Rabble Red was the breakout deck of the weekend.

He didn't just talk about winners, though. Mono Blue Devotion lost roughly 5 % of their share, which could be explained with the little change the deck has been going through in the past weeks and months. "It has a big target on its head and people know how to play against it."

When going over the next few lists, Lybaert was quick to point out that all of them featured a number of cards in their respective sideboards to specifically combat the Mono Blue Devotion match-up.

What to play and what not to play

Another deck that didn't do too well was Esper Control. Lybaert commented on the deck's performance the following way: "You better be a Hall of Famer or a future Hall of Famer if you want to play Esper Control."

One interesting highlight of the presentation was Lybaert pointing out that the many other decks added 6 % to their overall share when comparing their initial number to the decks that ended up 7 - 3 and better. That means that this is the time to innovate and try something new rather than sticking with the decks that have been proven time and again that they are a force to be reckoned with.

Lybaert was a much bigger fan of Paulo Vito Damo da Rosa's take on the archetype.

Interestingly enough, Lybaert didn't have a lot of good things to say about the deck that ended up winning the tournament. "How does this deck win?", was an open question that no one felt confident enough to answer. "It looks like an abomination that Cifka must have built", Lybaert joked. "Games will last forever and you will need to know exactly how the deck works to do well with it. If you take an early loss, you will often end up in the time out as well, so keep that in mind, too.

"The only thing I like about this deck - and I don't like a lot about it - is that it plays 26 lands and a lot of card draw. So it is very consistent and it will almost always do what you want it to do."

The most successful Decks

While a 7 - 3 result will get you very close to locking up a seat in the Top 8, some players will aim even higher and go for the most successful decks. Those were Jund Planeswalkers and Jund Monsters at the Pro Tour. They weren't able to improve their numbers a lot when compared to their initial numbers, but they ended up on top of the standings, so we can expect to see them again quite a few times this weekend.

In case you were looking for ways to fight them, Lybaert had the answers for these questions, too. He explained that Jund Planeswalkers is a controlish Green-Black-Red Deck. Apart from the Planeswalkers itself, there isn't a lot to kill your opponent with. The deck is mostly good because the Planeswalkers give you plenty of options. It is a very slow deck and that should give you troubles against G/W Decks.

"The version Yuuki Ichikawa played, however, is much more promising in my opinion. It can generate 2/2s early on and apply enough pressure to pull ahead."

Another thing that Lybaert noted: "Jund Monsters doesn't have any instant removal, so you don't have to fear losing your Mutavaults when you're going up against the deck."

Lybaert then talked about the elephant in the room, Black Devotion and White-Black Midrange. The comment that stood out the most here was that you shouldn't confuse

Caves of Koilos with a dual land. "It will cost you quite a few points of damage that will often matter."

Aggressive Decks

"There will always be an aggressive Red Deck in Standard", Lybaert said. The reason why these builds are currently faring rather well lies in the fact that they have 3 different Spells (Stoke the Flames, Skullcrack and Warleader's Helix) that deal 4 damage each.

This had quite an effect on the way these decks were build. Lybaert was breaking it down the following way: "What's interesting about the current iterations of these decks is that they don't play Chained to the Rocks and Magma Jet. I think it does make sense; you will often have your opponent on 3 life and it will then all be about the next card you're drawing. Draw Warleader's Helix and you win, draw Chained to the Rocks and you lose."

Finally, Lybaert explained the Rabble Red Deck, something many members of the audience had been looking forwarding to. "Obviously, Goblin Rabblemaster is the most important card in the deck", he said. "The deck can have 'unbeatable' starts with Foundry Street Denizen into Burning-Tree Emissary; there might be nothing you can do to win the game if that happens."

The rest of the field

"Genesis Hydra seems very powerful and most of the time, it will hit something good", Lybaert said when he was talking about Green Devotion. "What I don't like about the deck is that it lacks acceleration; with so many expensive cards, it would make sense to play even more cards that generate extra mana. It is a lot of fun to play and its nut draw is just as unbeatable as the one of Rabble Red, though."

Quite a few eyes lit up during these closing remarks, so I wouldn't be too surprised if we would be seeing this deck a bit more often this weekend.

Why is White-Green Aggro doing well? Mostly because of the fact that you're playing 3/3s for 2, 4/4s for 3 and 5/5s for 4. In other words, you're always one step ahead with the deck. "If this deck would have had Brushland, it might have been the best deck in the format. It is very consistent and it does extremely well against U/W. I expect to see it a lot tomorrow. It's fun to play, it's not that hard to play and like I said, it is very consistent."

Last, but certainly not least, Lybaert addressed Naya Aggro. The biggest strength of this deck is that it can play both Ghor-Clan Rampager and Voice of Resurgence together. A card this deck is playing that W/R isn't playing is Brave the Elements. This deck can finish your opponent off with it and that can make all the difference. "If you combine Ajani, Caller of the Pride with Ghor-Clan Rampager or some of the other powerhouses in the deck, you can easily deal 10 and more damage in one turn, so if you play against it and you're sitting on 12 life, don't feel too safe."

"Playing against White-Black Control can be very tiresome...", Lybaert explained.

What deck did Lybaert end up playing? He was running with one of the aggressive Red Decks, even though it wouldn't do too well against the deck that ended up winning the Pro Tour. That meant Lybaert was in for a gamble of sorts; if few other players shared his opinion that the deck wasn't all that good, he might be fighting an uphill battle all weekend. Still, he felt confident that it was the right choice, so we'll be keeping a close eye on him throughout the day.