Magic 2015 hasn't been around very long, and this weekend's Pro Tour is the first opportunity for the game's highest level players to tackle the new Standard format. Earlier today, before the Constructed rounds began, I asked players around the room what they expected to see. Now, with a few rounds of Standard in the books, I found some of the best players in the world and asked about their impression of the new Standard format.
I started by asking, "What's does the Standard field look like at this Pro Tour?" and, "What decks were you surprised to see?" I let the conversations go from there.
Former player of the year Brad Nelson (nine Grand Prix Top 8s, two Pro Tour Top 8s) feels that the decks in the current format fall into three categories: Aggressive decks, Black Devotion variants, and Sphinx's Revelation decks. He feels that each of these strategies showed up in relatively even numbers. According to Nelson, this is no surprise, but the real interesting part of the tournament's Standard texture exists in decks' sideboards.
Nelson feels that most strategies hedged greatly against Black Devotion and Sphinx's Revelation decks in their sideboards this weekend. Sideboard options against aggressive strategies aren't very popular. In the past, we've seen Black Devotion strategies include four copies of Pharika's Cure and some number of Drown in Sorrow in their sideboards. This weekend, Nelson is seeing a lot less of that. His general sense of the field is that Drown in Sorrow is virtually non-existent while Pharika's Cure is mostly being eschewed in favor of more versatile cards like Doom Blade or other cards that are also strong against decks like Jund or Red/Green Monsters. As a result, Nelson feels that aggressive strategies are the best positioned decks for this Pro Tour Standard format.
Martin Juza (eighteen Grand Prix Top 8s, Two Pro Tour Top 8s) also feels that Standard is evenly split between Black and White-Black decks, Sphinx's Revelation decks, and more aggressive strategies like Green-White Aggro and Blue Devotion. He isn't surprised by the texture of the Standard format because he and his teammates did a good job testing for the event, mostly thanks to Frank Karsten. Juza believes Standard to be a format where most decks only have small edges on one another. In his opinion, the players that know their decks well will have a better chance of doing well this weekend because it's difficult to break a format that's already so well established.
Hall of Famer Zvi Mowshowitz (nine Grand Prix Top 8s, four Pro Tour Top 8s) was most surprised by how much Red showed up this weekend. In general, he was caught off guard by the amount of "cuteness" going on around the room. Mowshowitz has seen a lot of
decks like Jund, Burn, and Naya Hexproof that weren't huge parts of the expected metagame coming into this event. Also, Mowshowitz was surprised to see how many non-Ætherling creatures showed up in the sideboards of the Sphinx's Revelation decks. Cards like Nightveil Specter, Archangel of Thune, and even Pack Rat have all been unexpected inclusions out of the control decks' sideboards.
These changes, and the use of the sideboard, opens Standard into some interesting territory.