Pro Tour Dark Ascension Results – Spread the Sickness with Grant Hislop

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UB Mystical Teachings – A Pauper Video Article by Grant Hislop

 

Whew! Well, that was quite a Pro Tour, wasn’t it?

From Jonny Magic’s return and subsequent Top 4 performance, to an ‘action packed’ Wolf-Run ramp mirror in the final. I watched a fair bit of the coverage over the weekend, and I have to say, while it wasn’t worth them cancelling a Pro Tour for, it was a most welcome addition to the coverage.

Star City Games offers excellent coverage of their Open Series, and GGSlive usually covers the North American GPs, and this video coverage has been truly a boon to Magic. Pretty much the only down-side to this constant barrage of Magic is the arm-chair players, who sit back, and criticise the plays of Top-8’ers, and players like Jon Finkel, who are so far on the next level it very rarely warrants discussion as to whether he’s made the wrong play or not.

To be fair, if that’s the only down-side, I’ll happily take it, as it’s easy enough to filter out what the morons are saying, and just enjoy the coverage for what it is – an entire weekends worth of Magic at the absolutely highest level.

With the Pro Tour in the books, we’ve got a look at how the new standard environment is shaping up, and as I’m going to GP Lille in a couple of weeks, I’m obviously quite interested in this. The purposes of today’s article will be to look at the decks of the Top 16 players in the event, as these are sure to be the decks that people are playing going forward. The breakdown goes as follows:-

6 Delver of Secrets
3 Wolf Run Ramp
2 Humans w/ Delver of Secrets
2 UB Control
Tezzeret Control
1 Birthing Pod
1 UW Humans

Delver’s obviously the most popular strategy, and it seems like the Esper list is most likely to be adopted in the short term, as the interaction between Drogskol Captain and Phantasmal Image seems very powerful in the abstract, and Lingering Souls and companions seem to give you the edge in the mirror.

Esper Delver

4 Darkslick Shores
2 Evolving Wilds
3 Glacial Fortress
5 Island
2 Moorland Haunt
1 Plains
4 Seachrome Coast
1 Swamp
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Drogskol Captain
2 Dungeon Geists
3 Phantasmal Image
4 Snapcaster Mage
1 Divine Offering
4 Gitaxian Probe
1 Gut Shot
4 Lingering Souls
2 Mana Leak
4 Ponder
1 Revoke Existence
4 Vapor Snag

SB

1 Celestial Purge
1 Demystify
1 Dismember
1 Dissipate
1 Divine Offering
2 Dungeon Geists
2 Gut Shot
1 Mana Leak
1 Negate
1 Phantasmal Image
1 Revoke Existence
2 Surgical Extraction

Here we see a move away from Equipment and Countermagic, and into efficient-ish creatures. Delver of Secrets is clearly the best creature in Standard, and this deck seems like the best set-up for him to shine. You’ll notice that there are a bunch of 0/1 mana cantrips in the deck, so as to get through a bunch of cards, and into the meat of the deck. Ponder, particularly will ensure that you’ll hit with your Delver of Secrets far more often than if you were just doing it blind. The move away from Equipments seems surprising at first glance, but in practice, it’s easy enough to see why. With Sword of War and Peace as the weapon of choice in the format, this deck plays out its hand very quickly, so as to minimise the impact of a Sword hit, and would rather just have a bunch of extra guys to swarm around the opponents Sword carrier.

Also, the deck is only running a smattering of MD countermagic, which I’m a fan of. As most of the Delver decks of times past ran a counter-suite, it’s not unreasonable to expect most opponents to play around a Mana Leak anyway. There’s a fair amount of Counters in the board, so it’s possible to turn into something more akin to a traditional Delver deck post-board, if the situation calls for it. Snapcaster Mage proves its value here, allowing the deck to run a whole bunch of 1-of’s in the board, as he’ll let you get the extra value, while not forcing you to devote a large amount of sideboard space for a particular card. Again, the 8 cantrips make it quite likely that you can find one of these cards when you need them. This list is sure to be the starting point for many players in the new environment. Be prepared.

Wolf Run Ramp

Wolf Run is likely to continue to operate out of a more traditional Red/Green shell, given that the finals was contested by a 75 card mirror of this archetype, and was played by Brian Kibler and PV, who’s decks are always popular. My girlfriend thinks Paulo’s hot, but as Matteo Orsini-Jones quite rightly pointed out, she thinks his draft videos are entertaining, so her opinion clearly counts for naught.

4 Copperline Gorge
5 Forest
4 Inkmoth Nexus
2 Kessig Wolf Run
6 Mountain
4 Rootbound Crag
1 Acidic Slime
1 Birds of Paradise
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
2 Inferno Titan
4 Primeval Titan
3 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
4 Galvanic Blast
2 Green Sun’s Zenith
4 Rampant Growth
4 Slagstorm
4 Sphere of the Suns
1 Whipflare

SB

2 Ancient Grudge
1 Autumn’s Veil
2 Beast Within
2 Combust
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter
2 Karn, Liberated
2 Naturalize
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Whipflare

The main change here, from older builds, is the adoption of Huntmaster of the Fells, which shouldn’t really surprise anyone. The card was obviously powerful, and it’s definitely more powerful on Turn 3 than it is on Turn 4, which this deck can usually do.

There’s a small Green Sun’s Zenith package in this deck, but for the most part, it’s going to be fetching up Huntmasters or Primeval Titans, and I’d expect the latter far more than the former.

There’s really not much to talk about here, the strategy’s pretty straightforward, as it always has been. Solid deck, and seems like the place to start for Wolf Run decks for the foreseeable future.

Human Delver

Operating as a hybrid of the traditional Delver of Secrets decks and Wu Humans from the previous format, we’ve got a couple of instances of Human Delver decks. These decks are basically your white weenie decks, in that it’s cheap creatures, without any form of reach, regardless of what colours they actually are. As discussed above, Sword of War and Peace is the weapon of choice, so it’s probably for the best that some of your White Weenies aren’t actually white. That’s racial diversity at its finest here, folks.

4 Glacial Fortress
5 Island
2 Moorland Haunt
5 Plains
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Delver of Secrets
2 Doomed Traveller
2 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Snapcaster Mage
1 Faith’s Shield
3 Gather the Townsfolk
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Mana Leak
1 Midnight Haunting
2 Mortarpod
4 Ponder
1 Revoke Existence
4 Vapor Snag

SB

1 Celestial Purge
2 Divine Offering
1 Dungeon Geists
1 Faith’s Shield
1 Feeling of Dread
2 Gut Shot
1 Mental Misstep
2 Negate
2 Oblivion Ring
1 Ratchet Bomb
1 Timely Reinforcements

Operates in a similar fashion to the Delver of Secrets deck above, but adds a Champion of the Parish engine into the deck, to go more All-In on the one-drops. Delver is a Human, before he becomes a fly, so will certainly trigger the Champion of the Parish, as will Gather the Townsfolk, as discussed Ad Infinitum, and indeed Ad Nauseam throughout spoiler season.

Again, the 8 cantrips in the deck allows us to cheat on lands, and this deck can operate just fine with only 20 lands. It only needs 3 lands to cast every spell in the deck, and to activate the Moorland Haunt, so it should be hitting gas more often than not.

UB Control

This is a deck that’s close to my heart. I played it at Pro Tour Paris, and I’ve played updates of that deck for basically the last 12 months, so I was very happy to see a couple of guys manage to Top 16 with the archetype. As always, it’s difficult to design a control deck in an unknown metagame, so its presence here must be indicative of a powerful deck in a vacuum. I’d expect that, as before, it’s been designed with beating Delver of Secrets decks and Wolf Run Ramp, which seems like a solid enough choice.

4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
2 Ghost Quarter
8 Island
2 Nephalia Drownyard
7 Swamp
2 Consecrated Sphinx
3 Snapcaster Mage
3 Black Sun’s Zenith
1 Blue Sun’s Zenith
2 Curse of Death’s Hold
2 Dissipate
2 Doom Blade
3 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Mana Leak
1 Ratchet Bomb
4 Think Twice
4 Tragic Slip
2 Tribute to Hunger

SB

2 Batterskull
2 Bloodline Keeper
1 Dissipate
2 Flashfreeze
1 Negate
2 Nephalia Drownyard
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Phantasmal Image
1 Ratchet Bomb
1 Steel Sabotage
1 Surgical Extraction

Yup, looks pretty good. Main-deck Delver hate in Curse of Death’s Hold and Ratchet Bomb, with Ramp hate in the side, in more Counters and a Phantasmal Image. It’s interesting to note the move away from Planeswalkers entirely from the previous iterations of the deck. No Liliana of the Veil, presumably due to an anticipated surge of Token decks, but I’m surprised at the absence of Karn, Liberated from the 75, as I’ve often found him the best card in the deck. Could be that Karn is training wheels, and I’m a noob, I suppose?

I’m sure that Consecrated Sphinx is here as a concession to the clock, rather than anything else. On MODO, you can manage your own clock, and there’ll always be a winner, but in paper, people often slow down when playing against control, for whatever reason, and you can find yourself picking up unintentional draws. I’m interested as to why Sphinx was chosen over Grave Titan if this is the case, as Big Daddy Graves closes out the game far faster than Sphinx, with the added bonus of not being Doom Blade-able. Is the meta that Delver-Centric that we need our 6-Drop to fly as well? Seems like Grave Titan is more resilient to the omni-present Vapor Snag as well, but I suppose there is a reason these guys are Top 16’ing Pro Tours, and I’m sitting at home writing about them.

Tezzeret Control

Included purely for illustrative purposes. Shouta Yasooka always plays Tezzeret if he can, and he’s pretty much the only player who can do so to any reasonable amount of success.

4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Inkmoth Nexus
3 Island
9 Swamp
4 Bloodline Keeper
1 Phantasmal Image
2 Spellskite
1 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Batterskull
2 Black Sun’s Zenith
2 Curse of Death’s Hold
2 Despise
1 Doom Blade
1 Go for the Throat
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
3 Liliana of the Veil
4 Ratchet Bomb
2 Sphere of the Suns
3 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
4 Tragic Slip
1 Tumble Magnet

SB

2 Curse of Death’s Hold
3 Distress
1 Doom Blade
3 Flashfreeze
2 Phantasmal Image
3 Phyrexian Crusader

Nice deck. As I said, Shouta always plays Tezzeret. Even before it was printed, he played Tezzeret. When the world ends, all that will be left are cockroaches, and Shouta Yasooka playing Tezzeret in a smoldering crater.

Birthing Pod

I’m a pretty big fan of this archetype too. It’s probably the most difficult deck to play in the format, as you need to have encyclopaedic knowledge of your deck, and the curve, and have to sideboard with that in mind. It’s incredibly powerful when it all goes right, and there are very few decks that can beat a turn 2 Birthing Pod on the play, which this deck seems set up to do pretty well.

4 Copperline Gorge
6 Forest
3 Gavony Township
1 Mountain
1 Plains
4 Razorverge Thicket
2 Rootbound Crag
3 Sunpetal Grove
1 Acidic Slime
3 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Blade Splicer
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Geist-Honored Monk
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
1 Inferno Titan
1 Llanowar Elves
1 Solemn Simulacrum
4 Strangleroot Geist
1 Viridian Emissary
1 Wurmcoil Engine
4 Birthing Pod
2 Mortarpod
2 Oblivion Ring

SB

1 Acidic Slime
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Autumn’s Veil
2 Hero of Bladehold
3 Mental Misstep
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Ray of Revelation
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Tormenter Exarch

I’m really not overly familiar with the Birthing Pod deck, but this one looks awesome fun to play, and pretty powerful to boot. Interesting to note, this is the only appearance of Strangleroot Geist in the Top 16 decks.

I like the sideboarded Swords of Feast and Famine here, presumably as a way to fight control decks, as well as being pretty solid in the mirror.

This deck looks like it can operate reasonably well without a Birthing Pod as well, which has always been something to consider with this archetype. There’s so much artifact hate floating around at the moment, you need to be able to function without the namesake card on the table, and this deck would appear capable of doing so.

Wu Humans

Craig Wescoe’s been championing this archetype for quite some time now, and it’s a good’un. The same problems as usual are here for White Weenie – Objectively bad creatures, no reach etc, but it’s still continuing to put up numbers. As I’ve previously discussed, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben looks nutty in this deck, acting often as a virtual Time Walk against decks which aren’t running as many creatures.

As standard evolves into something far more akin to limited, in terms of creature combat etc, we see abilities like First Strike and Trample gaining in value considerably, and Thalia is definitely a multi-format card. Interesting to see that this is the only deck that makes use of her, but I’d expect that to change as the format matures.

4 Glacial Fortress
1 Island
3 Moorland Haunt
12 Plains
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Doomed Traveller
2 Fiend Hunter
4 Hero of Bladehold
3 Leonin Relic-Warder
3 Mirran Crusader
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 Angelic Destiny
4 Gather the Townsfolk
4 Honor of the Pure
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Sword of War and Peace

SB

1 Angelic Destiny
2 Day of Judgment
1 Dismember
2 Divine Offering
1 Fiend Hunter
2 Geist of Saint Traft
1 Leonin Relic-Warder
2 Mana Leak
1 Mirran Crusader
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Sword of War and Peace

Again, this deck uses the interaction between Champion of the Parish and Gather the Townsfolk to make Champion do a reasonable Tarmogoyf impression here. Interesting to note is the higher curve than that of the hybrid strategy listed above, which has been mitigate to an extent by the inclusion of the 3rd Moorland Haunt.

Ending Thoughts

Again, as always, the people who like this archetype will really like this deck, and those that don’t will hate it. Me? I like winning, and if I thought that this deck was the best opportunity to win, I’d play little white men all day long.

The format’s obviously somewhat defined now, and at least we know what people are likely to be doing. There’s no real BW Tokens deck, which was somewhat anticipated, but Lingering Souls is certainly the real deal.

Stay classy mtgUK

Grant

 

 

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