Each Pro Tour is filled with stories and tales—tall and true—shared between players. The decks and plays that led up to the crowning of a new champion took three days, nineteen rounds, and two Battle for Zendikar drafts to complete.
These are the five cards that best capture what we saw on the road to get there.
5) Battle for Zendikar Dual Lands
The new dual lands—Prairie Stream, Sunken Hollow, Smoldering Marsh, Cinder Glade, Canopy Vista—redefined the mana of Standard. While Khans of Tarkir incentivizes playing wedge mana, the allied lands that join in make adding a color outside of the wedge work easily.
Dark Jeskai, one of the dominant decks of the tournament and the tool of choice for Top 8 contender Jon Finkel, made adding powerful cards like Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Kolaghan's Command possible. With a slew of other decks adding a fourth color and even entire archetypes dedicated to using all five, it is clear the abundance of mana will continue to define Standard.
4) Eldrazi Skyspawner
The draft rounds for Day One and Day Two were filled with interactions and big hits, but the quiet gear that ensured the powerful blue-based decks worked best was Eldrazi Skyspawner.
Top 8 competitor Ricky Chin finished his second draft to complete the Limited portions at 6-0 combined, and Eldrazi Skyspawner featured prominently in his deck on Day Two. The flying 2/1 is an effective early threat, trading with other cards like Mist Intruder and Shadow Glider, but generally attacking early and often. Behind it, the 1/1 Eldrazi Scion token ramps up, blocks in lieu of the flying threat, or simply gets in extra attacks.
3) Become Immense
Think you're safe from an unblocked 1/1 Goblin? That could be the fatal opening when fighting Atarka Red. Eighteenth-ranked Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa took the potent deck to Top 8 on the back of cards like Become Immense.
Working more like a combo deck in the vein of Modern's stalwart Affinity deck, Atarka Red jockeys to push through unblocked creatures and unload a hand full of Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage to knock opponents at even double digit life totals into a lethal fall.
2) Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Rising after the release of Magic Origins, Jace, Vryn's Prodigy was finally out in full force all weekend long. A critical component to several decks, from Esper control to even in some angles of Abzan, Jace was the cornerstone to the dominance of Jeskai decks.
Ryoichi Tamada and Jon Finkel dueled over keeping Jace around in their semifinal feature. Finkel doubled down to get to the Jace, Telepath Unbound side as fast as possible. Once there, flashed back copies of Duress or Fiery Impulse repeatedly stymied Tamada's efforts. On the flip side, Tamada used his Jace late with Jeskai Charm to keep delaying the attack of Tasigur, the Golden Fang while denying Finkel a new card.
Holding out was enough to steal the second game and turn the tide to his eventual victory.
1) Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
The breakout card of Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar was undoubtedly Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Featured in even more decks than the ubiquitous Jace, Vryn's Prodigy across the Top 8, Gideon bolstered and enabled so many decks that it was hard to keep track:
- In Jeskai, it provided a stream of threats while optioning into a finishing attacker or emblem that made the already dangerous Mantis Riders even stronger.
- In Esper, it served a similar function to Elspeth, Sun's Champion in dumping tokens onto the battlefield that were useful on offense or defense. Those tokens got even better when paired with Sorin, Solemn Visitor and other enablers.
- Samuel Black turned the corner with an exciting Bant Tokens deck that used Gideon's creature-making and +1/+1 emblem modes to defeat opponents in convincing fashion.
For the winner Kazuyuki Takimura, it served as a critical piece of his Abzan engine that rolled through the Top 8 eventually defeated fellow Gideon wielder Ryoichi Tamada in the finals. It was Gideons for everyone all weekend long, as the new Planeswalker on the block establishes himself as one of Standard's most prominent centerpieces.