Boy oh boy, did we have a hell of a Pro Tour last weekend. Not only was the top 8 completely star-studded – congrats to Gerry T on the win and of course Christian Calcano on his first top 8 – but the decks that made top 8 might have been a real shocker to you if you had only looked at the real life meta game from prior events.
Indeed, SCG Atlanta was the only real Standard event we had before the Pro Tour and was utterly dominated by Mardu Vehicles. Unsurprisingly, SCG ATL did not tell the full tale of Standard. The emergency banning leading to only having 2 days to prepare adequately meant there was little time for innovation. As a result, bringing a Mardu deck from last season meant you were in a lot better shape for that event than the people who chose to bring new archetypes. However, as expected the pros we’re able to not only beat Mardu Vehicles but also able to reduce the deck from its previous “top dog” status.
Now if your reading this I probably don’t need to tell you what the current top dogs in standard are. Temur Marvel and Zombies completely destroyed the event. But how exactly did we get here so quick?
Well first and foremost Temur Marvel was a deck I had my eye on after SCG Atlanta. It seemed obvious that Aetherworks Marvel was bound for a come back with the departure of Felidar Guardian. Great players like fellow MTGCardmarket writer Kevin Jones and Michael Segal had been advocating for the deck since week one, saying it was “low key” Standard’s best deck. Turns out they we’re almost certainly right; good stuff boys! The Marvel lists popping up online prior to the PT greatly resembled the build Yuuya Wantanabe took to a second place finish.
Temur Marvel by Yuuya Wantanabe
Pro Tour Amonkhet – 2nd place
The reason for this is Kentaro Yamamoto (who worked with Yuuya) had his deck posted from a Japanese event which eventually won a MTGO PTQ. This was also why the list CFBICE brought to the event looked almost identical to the Japanese team’s build.
This version is what I’d like to call the perfect level one deck. It was easily anticipated, but nevertheless very powerful and resilient to hate. Still, this build might be a bit behind the bar going forward. Case and point, it’s not configured in a way to have a great Zombies match up.
Team Genesis showed up with what feels like a Level 3 version of Marvel, one that was fine tuned for the meta game. To be completely honest, Michael Majors broke it with the addition of Chandra, Flamecaller. They managed to bring a Temur Marvel deck with a very strong zombies match up. As a result, they put multiple teammates in the top 25 and are now the 2nd highest ranked team on the pro tour. Hats off to you guys team Genesis, especially you Mr. Majors. Here is the list they brought which got Martin Muller his 2nd pro tour top 8.
Temur Marvel by Martin Muller
Pro Tour Amonkhet – 3rd place
Between the playset of Chandra, Flamecallers and main deck Aether Meltdown, it’s clear they anticipated Zombies as a force to be had. Their sideboard Confiscation Coups and Manglehorns were great ways to combat mirror matches (which this build is disadvantaged in). The two Sphinx of the Final Words were a nod that they had anticipated control a lot more likely to be prevalent than how much actually showed up. Those would be the first cards I’d be cutting if I were to play this list going forward.
So If Temur Marvel is arguably the best deck and so versatile, how was Zombies able to rise on top?
Well first and foremost the Marvel deck does have a non 0% fail rate and sometimes the wheels fall apart. Like our most recent PT champ said himself “There’s no fail rate on Grizzly Bears.”
Another big factor that played a role in the success of Zombies was the fact that it was so easily able to pray on Mardu. Even though Mardu didn’t make the top 8 of the event it still represented a large percent of the field. Mardu was the go-to deck for what I like to call your average “RPTQ winner” type player.
What do I mean by that? Well a lot of the people at the Pro Tour either lack results or connections to be able to be apart of a “super team,” so a lot of these people end up testing with their friends or at their LGS. I guarantee you most of these types of players chose to register Mardu since it’s both a safe choice and a strong established archetype. Hell, even Brad Nelson and Owen Turtenwald (two of the game’s best) brought Mardu vVhicles to the event!
Regardless these are the types of people who likely overlooked Zombies. In the most recent episode of the GAM (Gerry Thompson/Michael Majors podcast which I can’t recommend enough) they talk about how Zombies was quite an easy deck to overlook: (1) It’s a tribal deck; (2) It’s mono black; and (3) Plays a bunch of cards that have never seen the light of day before. These are all factors that would both drive people away from the deck and make them overlook it. Gerry even said himself that they weren’t even considering it till the Monday before the event since it looked like a “trashcan beatdown” deck. I imagine a lot of the top teams were saying that for a bit too. But once they started testing, the W’s kept coming and didn’t stop for Mr. Thompson.
Now that the dust has settled it’s safe to say that Zombies is here to stay. The deck has the ability to be as fast as the W/r humans deck, but also is able to grind with the best. Both Cryptbreaker and Diregraf Colossus snowball unbelievably quickly and are some of your best plays both early and late. On top of that the deck has a great ability to rebuild its board (as Zombies normally do) and runs the best removal in the format. I’d anticipate a lot more hate for the Zombies deck now that it’s both a known quantity and a tier one deck. Despite that, I fully expect it to be force in the meta game throughout the entirety of Standard and, possibly, the best deck in the format.
Lastly it’s worth bringing up the resurgence of UW Flash, an old favorite of mine which has been popping up a lot online. Here is a list for reference
This deck is a natural foil to any Aetherworks Marvel strategy. Naturally it has a horrible Zombies match up game one and Mardu isn’t very good either. That is why you see a near transformative sideboard plan. This deck struggles from behind and that board is all about catching it back up in the match up. Of course I have to admit I do love the look of this deck. I am considering it because it might be a great call for this weekend. But I’m more of a “play the best deck” type of guy so I’m not sure I’ll be slinging Spell Quellers this weekend.
Legacy in Louisville
This weekend I have the great pleasure of competing in another team constructed event. Korey Mcduffie and Arya Roohi will be my partners in crime once again. This time I will be sitting in on the Standard seat and Korey will be playing Legacy. Since the banning of Sensei’s Divining Top the format has developed some notable patterns
First up, Grixis Delver is the likely “de facto” best deck. Good ol’ Grixis Delver people. You can build the deck with or without Stifles, and that’s about the main deviation among lists. For reference here is the list legacy master Bob Huang used in an online event.
Grixis Delver by Bob Huang
Second, creature-based combo decks are on the rise. With Miracles gone, both Storm and Elves have risen in popularity online and I expect that to translate in real life. Elves was already a pretty popular deck with Miracles being so dominant. Now that Delver is top dog, Elves is primed for a good comeback.
Third, Stoneforge Mystic is back baby. Naturally if Delver and Elves are on the rise Stonefoge Mystic is a natural foil to both those strategies. I believe the old school “Shaheen blade” variants (as my buddy Ben Friedman calls them) are going to see play again–that or a Deathblade build that may or may not contain Noble Hierarch in it. Here is a list tsmiley has 5-0’d multiple leagues with.
Deathblade by tsmiley
So that’s what I have for you this weekend folks. I’ll be playing Standard and looking for any excuse to play blue cards I can. I might just end up attacking though.
Until next week,
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