Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir – Testing Standards by Fabrizio Anteri

Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir – Testing Standards by Fabrizio Anteri

Hello everyone,

I am finally back home after about 5 weeks of testing and playing lots of Magic. People look at me with jealousy in their eyes when I tell them how tiring it is to travel so much. I know traveling is great and exploring new places and countries is one of the best experiences in life, but trust me when I say that spending so much time in planes, airports, trains, buses and taxis can be really exhausting. So I am REALLY happy to be back home and happy to know there won’t be more travelling in the next 3 weeks.

For the Pro Tour, I tested once again with Team Cabin Crew. We met in Prague with over two weeks to prepare for the tournament. I have lots of good stories and moments I spent with friends the past few weeks, but I guess you will find more interesting to hear about our conclusions of the Dragons of Tarkir Standard format. After all there is a Regional Pro Tour Qualifier to play this weekend in London and a GP in Paris in less than three weeks.

The set gave us A LOT of new cards with potential for the new format. We spent a lot of time the first few days brewing new decks, trying to abuse the cards we expected to have the most potential:

[draft]Collected Company
Shorecrasher Elemental
Sidisi, Undead Vizier
Deathmist Raptor
Dragonlord Atarka
Narset Transcendent
Sarkhan Unbroken[/draft]

and others. Some brews didn’t last five games before getting discarded. Others proved to be decent in one or two matchups, but terrible in other matches.

Time passed by and we still didn’t have a clear winner. By that time, SCG decks were coming up, so we had extra information about the format. The first deck that came as favourite between members of the team was Mono-Red Aggro. The deck had explosive hands that no other deck could stop and reasonable chances with average hands. While part of the team kept brewing, others started to settle for Mono-Red.

We were running out of testing days and still had so many decks to test and consider. We had a meeting where we talked about the decks we expected the most in the Pro Tour and we made a cut of the decks we wanted to play based on that. As a result of Mono Red being the most expected deck in the PT, we discarded the decks with bad matchup against it (UBx Control, Abzan Control, Jeskai Tokens).

The decks we had left to work on were Mono-Red (finding the best list for the mirror match was priority for the team, as a result splash for Green was not even considered), GR Devotion (probably the deck with the best match against Mono-Red) and Sidisi Whip (the closest to a Control deck with a decent match against Aggro that we found). With only a couple of days left before the Pro Tour, we did our best to find the right list of each of the decks, but we skipped many matches and many cards for lag of time. That was going to cost a lot for some of us.

Part of the team knew what to play days before the PT, others decided hours before it started – but we all had a good knowledge about the format. This is what we ended up playing and the records we had:

Mono-Red players: 5-5, 1-3, 7-3, 2-6, 2-3. Total record: 17-20

Sidisi Whip players: 5-5, 3-4, 6-3. Total record: 14-12

GR Devotion players: 7-3, 8-1, 7-2. Total record: 22-6

Two members of the team didn’t feel comfortable with any of the decks we decided to play, so they played decks they were more familiar with. Those decks were UB Control and Abzan Control, they went 3-2-1 and 7-3, respectively.

Part of the team didn’t make Day 2 and others dropped before the last round.

I also excluded the intentional draws of the two players who made Top 8.

learn from the past

Once the Pro Tour was over, we had another meeting to conclude our thoughts about the format. We were very happy for putting two players in the Top 8 (congrats again, buds), but not completely happy about our testing process which lead to most of the team to have bad results in Constructed.

– We discarded Atarka’s Command in Mono-Red without even trying it, because we expected the mana base to make the mirror match unwinnable.

– Everyone expected Mono-Red in the Pro Tour and they were prepared for it. As a consequence, our overall performance with this deck was pretty poor.

– We discarded Control decks and alternative builds before time and didn’t hit with the Esper Control that performed really well in the PT.

– We had some wrong results from testing about some decks/matches, because we didn’t enjoy playing the decks or we were losing too much with them, so we started to misplay while testing.

– Lack of organization made us waste a lot of time and we had to rush the last few days, missing important parts of the testing.

Personally, I was happy to pick the same deck my mates used to Top 8 the PT, but unhappy with my Limited results: 0-3 my first official draft on Day 1 and didn’t manage anything better than 2-1 with an insane deck on Day 2. My Limited results during testing were also negative, so I know I must have done something wrong – but I can’t still figure out what it was. My Limited performances in both testing and events were decent enough in previous seasons.

Still, there was a lot of Magic to be played – at GP Krakow.

profound journey

This was an important GP for me, because I was 8 Pro Points short of Gold level for next year. By winning a GP I would achieve that goal – so it affected my deck choice.

Esper Dragons was the first option I considered. It was the best deck of the Pro Tour, after all. I didn’t find the time to test it online, though, and I ended up discarding it. There were two reasons to it. First, I thought its matches against Aggro decks (Abzan Aggro and Mono-Red) were horrible and I didn’t want to play that kind of auto-losing deck. The second reason involved the mirror match. The deck packed many proactive cards as win conditions: 5 Dragons, instead of 1 or 2 Pearl Lake Ancients in previous builds of Esper/UB Control. I thought it would make the result of the mirror less dependent on skill and more on a lucky draw. I didn’t want to put my Gold in hands of fate.

(In hindsight, I was wrong on both of these reasons. The matchup against Aggro is better than I thought and the mirror requires as much skill as any other mirror match, regardless of how many wincons exist in decks.)

Knowing that Esper was going to be popular, I didn’t want to play GR Devotion (a really bad matchup). Abzan Aggro – just not my style of deck.

Finally, I went for Abzan Control. It had a decent match against Control and Devotion decks, a good match against Abzan Aggro, and it was not the end of the world if I had to play against Mono-Red.

After byes, I won my first round against Mardu Midrange. Then I lost to Esper Control in a close match, where I misplayed game 2 trying to play as fast as possible to avoid a draw. Lost the round after to GR Devotion. After casting Thoughtseize on turn 1 or 2 in both games, I felt like my opponent was casting Demonic Tutors in each one of his next draw steps. All the right cards, in the right time, to make my way to victory impossible. Regardless casting Bile Blight on my Siege Rhino after I used it to block his Siege Rhino, my round 7 opponent managed to beat me all the same – and knocked me out of contention. Well, it happens.

Moving forward, I expect Esper Control to keep dominating the format, with a couple of aggressive decks punishing those who overfill their maindecks with better cards for the mirror match. In a few weeks time I am sure someone (hopefully me and hopefully before GP Paris) will find a build that can reliable beat Control without sacrificing all other matches in the metagame.  Once we get there, we’ll have the same rock-paper-scissors metagame we had since Khans until Dragons of Tarkir – where each week presented a new deck crowned the be the best one.

I hope you enjoyed the read and learned something new for the upcoming Standard events.

See you in Paris!

Fabrizio Anteri

Community Question: In your opinion, what is the best card against Control decks in Standard right now and why?

what is the best card against Control decks in Standard right now and why


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