The ‘Other’ Decks of the Pro Tour – Spread the Sickness by Grant Hislop

Analysing the Modern Ban List – Spread the Sickness with Grant Hislop

The ‘Other‘ Decks of the Pro Tour – Spread the Sickness

I love a Pro Tour.

I was fortunate enough this time around to have a spare Saturday afternoon, with no plans and/or responsibilities, which in my world, is pretty rare. Consequently, I managed to watch a decent amount of the Wizards Event Coverage. Now, while I’m not really the biggest fan of watching other people play games of Magic, I’m prepared to make exceptions for the first Standard Pro Tour of the season, as it’s the one that’s likely to be the most unusual, as well as relevant – Who cares what the sweet Block tech is, am I right?

Master of WavesWhile much has been said about the winning decks, specifically the Mono-Blue Devotion deck that took first through third, Wizards was also kind enough to publish all of the decks with a positive record in the Standard rounds as well. It’s these decks I’m more interested in.

If you remember, at Pro Tour Gatecrash, only one player chose Junk Reanimator to battle with, and that easily ended up being the deck to beat throughout the Summer, which is to say that at this stage, when the format is so new, it’s unlikely that a true picture of Standard for the coming months has been painted.

Pro Tours necessitate flawed deck building, as people aren’t able to be fully aware of what they’re going to have to beat. Now that we know Blue Devotion decks are likely to be the flavour of the week, we know that we’re going to have to play decks like the Supreme Verdict decks to act as a foil.

Personally, I’m of the impression that that deck was good for that one tournament, but due to a lack of options, it’s unlikely to be able to stand against the targeted hate that’s sure to come gunning for it in the coming weeks.

In any case, the purpose of this article is going to be to look at the ‘other’ decks that did well, and see if we can identify any of the future undiscovered gems for the next few weeks.

First up, an archetype close to my heart, and one that seems as though it would fare very well indeed against the slew of aggressive and midrange decks that have come out of Dublin:

Raka Control

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion2 Azorius Guildgate
4 Hallowed Fountain
2 Island
4 Izzet Guildgate
2 Plains
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Steam Vents
4 Temple of Triumph

3 Anger of the Gods
4 Azorius Charm
4 Detention Sphere
3 Dissolve
3 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
4 Jace, Architect of Thought
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
3 Supreme Verdict
2 Syncopate
3 Turn//Burn
2 Warleader’s Helix


1 Aetherling
1 Dissolve
2 Keening Apparition
3 Negate
2 Pithing Needle
4 Precinct Captain
1 Sphinx’s Revelation
1 Supreme Verdict

AetherlingThis deck was played by Juan Carlo Abedo Diaz, a Spanish player, and it looks incredibly similar to the old Raka decks from last season. Mr Diaz has elected to go creatureless in the maindeck, which is a bold decision, though one likely to net positive results if he assumes that the control mirrors will be about Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, and given that Aetherling is pretty terrible against aggressive decks, seems like a good call in any case.

I like that he’s only playing three win conditions in the Maindeck, and that they’re all Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. I’ve been lucky enough to play with Elspeth, and she is absolutely fantastic in most matchups, fitting an excellent point in the curve, and being a fantastic follow up to a Wrath of God effect, of which this deck runs six.

I’m unsure of the intricacies of the argument for Red over Black in the Azorius deck, but for some reason, this deck really resonates with me. I less than three Turn//Burn in the current environment, as it deals with an absurdly high number of creatures, including ones that many spells would miss, and is one of very few that can out and out deal with a Blood Baron of Vizkopa without spending a Wrath or several other cards.

Another interesting thing to note is the complete disregard for Burning Earth. Mr Diaz has constructed his mana base for consistency, and while he’s opted for a pair of Keening Apparitions in the Sideboard to pre-emptively fight Burning Earth, he has no other considerations to the card. I’m left wondering if given the predilection for God’s Equipments that we saw over the course of the day whether Wear//Tear would be better in that slot going forward. I think so. It’s funny to think that Silverchase Fox, a card which saw almost no play previously, would actually be incredibly good in the current Standard environment, given all the Gods people are playing.

Next up on the ‘ooh, that looks interesting’ list is:

Mono-Black Devotion

Gray Merchant of Asphodel4 Mutavault
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
16 Swamp
4 Temple of Silence

4 Desecration Demon
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Lifebane Zombie
2 Pack Rat

2 Devour Flesh
4 Doom Blade
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Thoughtseize
4 Underworld Connections
2 Whip of Erebos


1 Devour Flesh
4 Duress
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
4 Pharika’s Cure
1 Pithing Needle
4 Xathrid Necromancer

This version of the Mono-Black deck was played by Kentarou Yamamoto, a Japanese player, and looks like it’ll herald the return of people who want Mono-Black Control™) to be a thing again. The deck looks like an absolute blast to play, given the cards involved. Just Kill Everything is a reasonable strategy at the moment, and this deck is chock to the brim with cards that do just that. I’d be a little concerned if Blood Baron of Vizkopa crept up in popularity, as outside of Thoughtseize, this deck has no way to interact with it in the seventy-five, unless the opponent feels compelled to sacrifice it to Desecration Demon.

Worth mentioning is everyone’s favourite Limited card from the last year, Pack Rat. Pack Rat puts copies of itself into play, which means that each Pack Rat helps add to your Devotion, making Nykthos better, and powering up your Gray Merchants even further.

Most of the deck is built to use as many Black Mana symbols as possible, but luckily there’s nothing here that really seems out of place. The pieces look like they’ll work very well with each other, and there’s nothing that’s individually terrible. Personally, I’ve never sleeved up a mono-Skulls deck, but I know there are people out there who’d love to do so, and this certainly seems like a reasonable version of the archetype.

Moving on, good old…


Polukranos World Eater7 Forest
4 Golgari Guildgate
4 Overgrown Tomb
9 Swamp

2 Boon Satyr
4 Desecration Demon
3 Elvish Mystic
3 Kalonian Tusker
2 Lifebane Zombie
4 Lotleth Troll
2 Polukranos, World Eater
4 Scavenging Ooze
3 Varolz, the Scar-Striped

3 Abrupt Decay
2 Hero’s Downfall
4 Thoughtseize


2 Boon Satyr
3 Doom Blade
2 Duress
3 Gift of Orzhova
1 Golgari Charm
2 Lifebane Zombie
2 Underworld Connections

This version of the deck was played by Britain’s own Richard Bland, as part of the British-Norwegian collective that’s been working together to mutually beneficial results for the last couple of years. Not to discount the Norwegian input into the deck, but the opportunity to call this deck GB GB is just a little too great for me.

This deck looks like it’s a lot more aggressive than most Rock decks, and in fact, the curve tops out at superstars Desecration Demon and Polukranos, with a smattering of removal to clear the way and discard to keep the opponent honest. I love the interaction between Varolz and Lotleth Troll specifically in this deck, and Scavenging a previously fallen Desecration Demon onto anything else seems a little bit filthy.

Without having played it, I can’t comment fully, but I don’t see that a deck playing three Elvish Mystics can be right. Either you want them in your opening hand or you don’t. Three seems like a bizarre number to run. Four or zero, in my opinion. Perhaps the team was somewhat stymied by the lack of options available, and this was the best choice, but honestly, I think I’d rather run Rakdos Cackler in this slot. That said, the people playing the deck are significantly better at Magic than I am, so listen to me at your peril…

Next up…

Gruul Monsters

Reverent Hunter10 Forest
3 Mountain
2 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
1 Rogue’s Passage
4 Stomping Ground
4 Temple of Abandon

4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Elvish Mystic
2 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Kalonian Hydra
2 Mistcutter Hydra
3 Polukranos, World Eater
4 Reverent Hunter
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Stormbreath Dragon
4 Sylvan Caryatid

3 Domri Rade
2 Xenagos, the Reveller


2 Armed//Dangerous
2 Bramblecrush
3 Flames of the Firebrand
1 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
3 Hammer of Purphoros
2 Mizzium Mortars
3 Nylea’s Disciple

This deck was played by Chris Boozer, and American player, and is included entirely due to his excellent name. It looks like a hybrid of the previously discussed Gruul Monsters deck and Makihito Mihara’s Top Eight Almost Mono Green Devotion deck.

It’s certainly an interesting look at the archetype, and cards like Domri Rade, Stormbreath Dragon and Kalonian Hydra are never going to be bad, per se. This is a very powerful deck, make no mistake about it, as its raw card power is off the charts. I love Ghor-Clan Rampager a lot, and given that so many of the creatures in this deck are already huge, but lacking trample, his value really soars. Not to mention his most important ability, ‘gets drawn by Domri Rade’.

Domri ended last Standard format as one of the linchpin strategies, and I see no reason why that wouldn’t carry on now that there’s less cards available for people to utilise.

Speaking of Domri, next up:

Naya Midrange

Fleecemane Lion3 Forest
1 Mountain
3 Plains
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Stomping Ground
4 Temple Garden
3 Temple of Abandon
1 Temple of Triumph

4 Boros Reckoner
4 Experiment One
4 Fleecemane Lion
3 Ghor-Clan Rampager
4 Loxodon Smiter
3 Soldier of the Pantheon
2 Stormbreath Dragon
4 Voice of Resurgence

2 Advent of the Wurm
4 Domri Rade
1 Mizzium Mortars
2 Selesnya Charm


2 Archangel of Thune
2 Boros Charm
2 Burning Earth
2 Glare of Heresy
2 Mizzium Mortars
3 Unflinching Courage
2 Xenagos, the Reveller

This deck looks beautiful to me. Very reminiscent of last season’s Naya decks, and that’s not a bad thing. Domri Rade does so much here, providing a constant stream of threats, and pretty much every creature in the list has the ability to win the game when left unchecked.

Fleecemane Lion is a beast in this deck, as the ideal curve has a gap at the five slot for Lion to go monstrous. I love this card, as there’s so many tensions involved. Do you monstrous into open mana, or hold off until it’s tapped out? I can’t Doom Blade it while my opponent’s holding mana up, how do I force him to activate it? While it’s no Restoration Angel game, I love little tensions like this in Magic, and the cards that provide them.

Loxodon Smiter lost a decent amount of stock due to Liliana of the Veil rotating, but really, it’s a hard to deal with threat that gets in the way of the aggressive decks indefinitely, and is just much bigger than everything else at that point in the curve.

Experiment One doesn’t really impress me much, but it’s probable that it’s just due to lack of better options. It’s a reasonable play on turn one, and theoretically should survive a Supreme Verdict, but I’d be looking to cut this before any of the other cards in this deck.

Last up for today:

Junk Midrange

Reaper of the Wilds3 Forest
4 Godless Shrine
3 Golgari Guildgate
4 Overgrown Tomb
2 Plains
3 Swamp
4 Temple Garden
3 Temple of Silence

3 Obzedat, Ghost Council
4 Reaper of the Wilds
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Voice of Resurgence

3 Abrupt Decay
2 Doom Blade
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
4 Hero’s Downfall
3 Thoughtseize
2 Underworld Connections
1 Vraska, the Unseen


2 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
3 Centaur Healer
1 Doom Blade
1 Golgari Charm
3 Lifebane Zombie
1 Pithing Needle
1 Thoughtseize
1 Underworld Connections
1 Vraska the Unseen
1 Whip of Erebos

This deck was played by former Pro Tour winner, Jacob Van Lunen, an American player, and it’s lovely. Similar to the mono-Black deck above, this deck really doesn’t want an opponent to have any creatures in play. The most unusual card in the deck is Reaper of the Wilds, which, while obviously solid, wasn’t really on my radar for potential standard play. I guess two activated abilities and a static one are enough when combined with realistically powerful stats to get into Constructed these days… Idiot.

This deck is one that I’d be quite happy to sleeve up as is, as all the cards just seem obvious, and there’s no real weak link. Obviously the removal could be jigged about to fit the metagame, but that’s a concern for week two and onwards, as is, it looks absolutely fine.

The deck’s just a collection of some of the best cards in the colour combination, and while it’s very good, it does tend to make it somewhat difficult to talk about, as to the vast majority of players, it should be obvious why it’s good.

That’ll do for today folks,

Stay classy mtgUK,



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