July 31, 2015

Pro Tour Origins Preview

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With every new set comes a Pro Tour, and that Pro Tour tends to usher a new standard of, well, Standard decks. In what is now going to be a recurring feature, I'll take a look at some of the pillars of the format in this preview of the Pro Tour. I'm going to focus on what the big decks are going in, just to have a baseline. And I expect to see some pretty cool things in the actual Pro Tour that don't fit into these categories.


Abzan in Origins

Let's start with the king of the format: Siege Rhino. The reliable Rhino is a cornerstone of both Abzan Control and Abzan Aggro, which are decks I expect to make quite an impact on the Pro Tour and beyond.

jinga's Azban Control (Magic Online Daily Event)

This deck is a familiar sight to anyone who has played Standard since the release of Khans of Tarkir, and uses the classic combination of removal spells plus good threats to win the game. Card advantage comes from Courser of Kruphix, Abzan Charm, Planeswalkers, and Tasigur; along with sweepers like Languish.

The addition of these two Origins cards is big. Nissa does a perfect job of drawing a land early and being a huge threat late, which is exactly what this mana-hungry deck is looking for. She also plays nicely with Languish, which is the Wrath effect Abzan was waiting for. Languish kills most everything except Siege Rhino and Tasigur, so it's no surprise that this deck makes good use of it.

I expect this to be one of the most-played decks at the Pro Tour, if not the most-played. It's been on top for a long time, and is nothing but quality cards that combine well. That level of power and consistency is hard to turn down.


gen_mai's Abzan Aggro (Magic Online Daily Event)

On the flip side, this Abzan deck fully utilizes the "opponent loses 3 life" half of Siege Rhino's ability by pairing it with other aggressive creatures. Abzan Aggro is one of the beefier aggro decks around, as every threat it plays is a big one, which does cost it some speed (but gain it a lot of power). Cards like Warden, Fleecemane, Deathdealer, and Anafenza are able to put the pressure on early while still being relevant late, so this is an aggro deck that doesn't mind the game going a little longer.

This deck didn't pick up many specific cards from Origins, but will still be a major player. The strategy of curving out into Siege Rhino is a good one, and a new set coming out hasn't changed that significantly.


Standard Devotion

Throughout its career in Standard, Nykthos has added a LOT of mana, almost all of it green. Green devotion is the go-to Big Mana deck of the format, and it's picked up some new additions.


Thetezzerator's Mono-Green Devotion (Magic Online Daily Event)

Green devotion is focused on one thing, and one thing only: add as much mana to its mana pool as possible, and use that mana to cast ridiculous creatures. It's got a lot of cards that work toward that goal, and can generate a shockingly large amount of mana in just a few short turns. It is also quite resilient, as the redundant mana creatures and large quantity of threats mean that it can often assemble a couple waves, even against removal or sweepers. Planeswalkers also help, as control decks tend to struggle against Xenagos and his party of Satyrs.

Sword of the Animist is a pretty cute 1-of that many lists are sporting. And even though this list doesn't have any, Nissa is also an interesting addition. The biggest impact for this deck comes in after game one, as Gaea's Revenge gives it a great tool against one of this deck's hardest matchups: Blue-Black Control. Being able to side in an 8-power creature that isn't counterable or targetable is huge (both in size and impact), and as long as there is a mana creature handy to eat a Foul-Tongue Invocation, Gaea's Revenge will do some work. Haste means that it gets a hit in even against a sweeper, and the rest means that it will get that hit in.

This deck is powerful and consistent, and I expect it to cast a lot of giant spells in the Pro Tour. It goes over the top of just about everything else, and sometimes you want to be the one knocking.


Standard Goblins

The Obelisk has sent out a call, and a whole tribe of Goblins answered. Mono-Red Aggro was definitely a deck before Origins, and it picked up a couple cards that pushed it far enough into tribal Goblins that the Obelisk has re-emerged as a centerpiece.


woruyafa's Goblins (Magic Online Daily Event)

The plan here is simple: cast Goblins, attack, and finish the game with burn spells. This deck does a great job at putting on pressure early, flooding the board, and turning unassuming little cards into a massive strike force of threats. It has just enough burn to remove blockers or kill an opponent who thinks they've stabilized, and it's got enough powerful tribal synergy that it isn't unreasonable to win even a slightly longer game.

Origins heavily impacted this deck, and really only needed one card to do so: Goblin Piledriver. While the deck does also feature Goblin Glory Chaser, Piledriver is the nudge the deck needed to go all-in on Goblins. Between Piledriver, Rabblemaster, the various Goblin token cards, and the 1-drops that fill out the curve, this deck has an incredible 27 Goblins, which is why Obelisk has made an appearance. The deck often has to take a turn off to cast Obelisk, but once it does all of its cards are absurd. Dragon Fodder letting you pay two mana for two 3/3 creatures is very hard to beat, and that's not even the best thing the deck can do once Obelisk is down.

There are non-Goblin versions of Mono-Red Aggro, but I like the power level of where Goblins is, and would look to this as the being the premier version of the deck that plays all Mountains and wants to attack.


Control in the New Standard

Control is far from dead, and there are a bunch of different ways to treat your opponent to a hopeless feeling of inevitability (that joy is why we play control, after all). Removal into powerful card draw with counterspells to stop any unexpected threats is one of the oldest tricks in the book.

Hopeof130's Blue-Black Dragons (Magic Online Daily Event)

Silumgar's Scorn is the card that drives this deck, and is the main reason this is built different from the creature-light versions of Blue-Black Control. Having a bunch of Dragons flying around gives the deck more ways to stabilize the board and a path to victory, though Dig Through Time is really the card that puts the nail in the coffin.


WoodlandMages's Blue-Black Control (Magic Online Daily Event)

Another take on blue-black is to give up Silumgar's Scorn and play as few creatures as possible. "Traditional" blue-black is just loaded with counters, removal, and card draw; with victory conditions being a bare afterthought.

This is the card that really puts this version of UB back into center stage. Getting a new 2-mana counterspell is huge, and makes it much less critical to play Dragons + Scorn in order to have a play early. Clash is great on turn two and still very relevant later, and is one of the bigger cards in the set for control decks.

The crocodile rears its ugly head again here (though I guess it would be more accurate to say that it dies a miserable death, if you look at the picture), and Languish does a great job giving every version of blue-black a very relevant play on turn four. No longer is turn five the first time these decks can sweep the board, and every aggro deck has to respect that.


Jim Davis's Blue-Black Control (StarCityGames Open, Richmond)

The last version of blue-black I want to mention is the artifact version. It's a relatively light touch, with just four Hangarback Walkers and four Darksteel Citadels to power Thopter Spy Network and Artificer's Epiphany, but that light touch of artifacts adds a new dimension to the deck.

In particular, Hangarback Walker, Mirrodin Ranger is the kind of threat control decks love. It can finish games when cast for eight to ten mana, even against removal, but it can also be cast on turn two and present a very real threat (or blocker). Once you are playing Walkers, Citadel + Spy Network becomes viable, and all of a sudden your control deck has a new way to stabilize the board and finish the game.


I expect to see all versions present and accounted for at the Pro Tour, as all of them have valid reasons to exist.

There are more decks than just these, by a long shot, but this covers the bases of Control, Midrange, and Aggro, with a couple entries in each category. What does well this weekend will influence the metagame going forward, and regardless of what happens I expect to see every archetype being represented.

LSV



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