When practicing for a Pro Tour, it's important to have direction. Bashing random decks into one another and recording the results gives players some information, but a lot more progress can be accomplished in a shorter period of time if a player knows what they want their deck to do before the tournament. I sat down with a number of different players and asked them what their particular goals for Standard were coming into Pro Tour Magic 2015.
I started by asking, "Which decks were the most important to test against?"
Christian Calcano took aim at White-Black Midrange, Black Devotion variants, Blue Devotion, and Jund Monsters. His most important goal coming into the event was to beat Blue Devotion. He stated quite plainly that he refused to play a deck that didn't have a strong match-up against the Blue Devotion deck.
Frank Karsten, Brian Kibler, Jon Stern, and Brad Nelson all felt that Black Devotion, Blue Devotion, and White-Blue Control variants were the most important decks to beat this weekend.
(4) Josh Utter-Leyton took aim at beating Black Devotion variants and White-Blue Control decks.
Kenji Tsumura felt that Black Devotion was the deck to beat in the new Standard format.
I continued by asking what particular goals or aspirations each of these players had for the latest Standard format.
Brian Kibler wanted to build a deck filled with synergy, but it wasn't meant to be. Kibler felt that playing for specific combinations of creatures would be a recipe for disaster in a format that's dominated by a deck that plays four copies of Thoughseize and often more than twelve one-for-one removal spells. Generator Servant and Spirit Bonds ended up not being quite good enough for his Standard deck, but it wasn't for lack of trying.
Kenji Tsumura felt that the Standard format was already well-established. As a result, his teammates and he felt that each of them should be playing the deck they have the most experience with. Tsumura told me that this is the last big Standard tournament of the season and that actual experience and number of played hours with a deck are more important that a percentage point or two in a particular match-up.
Actual Standard master and former Player of the Year, Brad Nelson, wanted to identify what everyone else was trying to identify and react accordingly. Nelson found that being on the play offered a big advantage and he needed to find a deck that was capable of breaking serve without folding to Blue Devotion.
Hall of Famer Frank Karsten stated that he and his teammates were exclusively looking for a high win percentage against the expected metagame.
Jon Stern, of Team Face to Face, felt that the Standard format had already been solved for the most part. He and his teammates decided to focus the majority of their time on Limited because that's where players are given their biggest edge at this Pro Tour.
It has become very clear that Black Devotion, Blue Devotion, and White-Blue Control variants have taken over the Standard format. Will these top three decks continue to dominate Standard events? Or will a new champion rise up from obscurity this weekend?