Looking Forward, Part 1 – Top 8 Winning Standard Decks, by Liam Casserly

a woman walks from left to right, she wears a red suit, has yellow flaming hair, from her right hand go fire bullets that orbit around her

Looking Forward, Part 1 – Top 8 Winning Standard Decks

Pro Tour Origins is in the books, Joel Larsson is the Champion. He piloted a Mono-Red deck to the finals and won most of his games in quick time. With the help of a mulligan to 3 by his worthy opponent Mike Sigrist, Joel was able to overcome the new-fangled deck of Red/Blue Artifacts by the slimmest of margins.

What does this mean for you? How will this affect your deckbuilding choices over the next weeks and months?

Well, it’s not an easy thing to predict, but what we do know is that if you bought your Exquisite Firecraft last week you will have saved yourself some money. Cards in decks in the Top 8 will see an increase in price right across the board. Even some of the uncommons from Theros Block will jump a little. Searing Blood might even fetch a whole £1.

Sometimes it is hard to remember what the Pro Tour really is. Sure, it’s the pinnacle of the professional game and every player there is one of the world’s best, but what the viewer sees on the screen does not tell the whole story. The coverage has an agenda. It’s nothing sinister but it is clearly there when compared to the StarCity Games coverage. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the value of narrative in coverage and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a decent underdog story, it’s just that sometimes the obvious bias by WoTC in the Pro Tour coverage means that we, the viewer, don’t get to see a full range of decks.

The Pro Tour is an advert. The reason it happens two weeks after the set comes out is that its primary function is to sell cards… and it does a great job of that. There was loads of shiny new tech on display in many varied decks. It’s great and I love it. Even though I know they are selling me something, it doesn’t take away the quality of the play. Also, it works as I now just have to buy cards.

a big blue scissors with a blue shining blades are destroying stands ans shops on a street

Because the focus of the coverage is on decks playing new cards, we get a slightly shifted view of Standard as a whole. The Top 8 had an eclectic mix of decks with RedDeckWins/UR Thopters/Ensoul Artifact, Green/Red Devotion and Abzan, but looking at the field as a whole is much more helpful. This data trickles out over the next few weeks (although we never get the full picture as WoTC likes to keep a little something back.)

When you look at the decks that make up the field, you see straight away that there is no deck that is 25% of the format. We get this quite a lot of the time. One deck is clearly the best deck and is considered to be good enough in its match ups to warrant playing it, even though a section of the players will metagame against it.

That didn’t happen this time. Green Devotion made up the largest portion of the field with 19%.

Personal Opinion Klaxon… Awooooga! Awoooga!

This deck is the best deck in Standard, and as such it is the big dog that should be handled with care. One week not far from now “the best deck in Standard” will come unstuck. The meta will gang up on it and shift far enough away that suddenly slamming Dragonlord Atarka on turn 5 doesn’t feel like a huge win.

The slight advantage that Green Devotion has in the next few weeks is that it is fairly resilient to the Red Deck. It has a deep sideboard against such strategies and sometimes a 5/5 just wins the game.

A new card for this deck is the new Nissa, Vastwood Seer and her planeswalker version Nissa, Sage Animist. Borderland Ranger has seen Constructed play in the past and one that is strictly better will be around for a while. Gaea’s Revenge has made its way into the sideboard and will help you close out those Control match ups. Expect a few innovations in this deck over the next few weeks.

Red Deck Wins

It won the tour, so it will be everywhere. It’s a decent deck, not the best Red deck we’ve ever seen, but not the worst. It’s pretty much bog Standard. The decks themselves nearly always play the same. It is, however, the meta that enables Red decks to rise to the top.

This deck got loads of new toys. Abbot of Keral Keep looked good when it was spoiled and, unsurprisingly, it looked good at the top tables on the Pro Tour. This will probably rise in value quite a bit. Uncounterable burn spells seem like a great idea. Exquisite Firecraft didn’t set the world on fire when it was spoiled, mostly because it doesn’t look that much different from half the other burn spells we ever seen, but be under no illusion: this is a great card.

In the board at the Tour I saw Molten Vortex. I’m a big fan of this card, I played it in draft. You know that feeling you get during a draft when you start to consider a card for Constructed play? The itch in the back of your mind that says “…is this card actually good?” I wouldn’t say “unbeatable”, but it certainly helps with card advantage which, as any Red mage knows, can be a problem. With Outpost Siege as well, Red can have all the cards it wants.

This deck will suffer from a similar problem to Green Devotion: it’s a known deck. Players will come prepared. Although even pre-armed, sometimes this deck can force through its game plan.

As an aside note to the RDW, there is the Goblins Tribal Deck. It was endlessly talked about when Goblin Piledriver was spoiled. Everyone and their dog saw the implications of Piledriver and Goblin Rabblemaster playing together, so it was thought that the little Aggro deck incorporating all the Goblin token generators would run roughshod over the meta. This hasn’t happened, and I don’t think that it’s very likely to happen at the higher levels of play. It is, however, going to be the scourge of FNM for these few months. If you play a lot of FNM, make sure you have a way to deal with Goblins.

Red/Blue Thopters

This is the artifact deck that they so badly wanted to be called Running with Scissors at the Pro Tour. The new kid on the block, this deck looks like a draft deck. When I first came up against this deck, I thought it was a cool little idea but, ultimately, something that a newer player would want to play. The interaction seemed good, but I thought it would be too inconsistent. A game loss later I started to take it a little more seriously.

The new thopter makers push this over the edge. Sure, this deck lost in the finals, but it’s new enough and has the novelty factor that people will build and play it. A lot of it rotates out in October, so players will want to get their games in with it.

Shrapnel Blast is the all star in the list. Lava Axe for 2 mana is a solid play, the fact that you need an artifact seemed like a drawback for most of its time, but now the deck has reached a critical mass of playable artifacts at the right cost. One of those very cards is Hangerback Walker: the cost is normally two but it can be whatever you need. A card like Ghostfire Blade works pretty well too.

This deck seemed to have the most explosive opening 7 of all the decks I watched. I can’t quite tell if this is the deck to worry about or it was a great bit of meta gaming. If I had to guess, I’d say you need to worry about this deck for a while yet.

Abzan Midrange/Control

It wasn’t everywhere like it has been on previous premier events, but when I saw this deck I thought it looked good. Siege Rhino is an absolutely fantastic Magic card, it’s Lightning Helix on a stick… no, it’s a Lightning Helix up a tree! Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is also very good.

This deck has been vying for top spot since Abzan was a thing. It didn’t get loads of new toys to play with. Languish was a big deal when it was spoiled. A lot of discussion has gone on about how good this card is. Having watched it being played, I think the answer is that it’s quite situational and that sometimes you just wish you had Damnation instead.

That’s it for the Top 8.  Next time let’s have a look at the other decks that put up good numbers over the weekend.

Community Question: What card improved the most over the Pro Tour Weekend?

Thanks for reading,

Liam Casserly

Looking Forward, Part 1 - Top 8 Winning Standard Decks, by Liam Casserly
Pro Tour Origins is in the books, Joel Larsson is the Champion. He piloted a Mono-Red deck to the finals and won most of his games in quick time. With the help of a mulligan to 3 by his worthy opponent Mike Sigrist, Joel was able to overcome the new-fangled deck of Red/Blue Artifacts by the slimmest of margins.

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