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Breaking Down Pro Tour BFZ

Post-Pro Tour Standard Breakdown

The Pro Tour has come and gone, and we are left with dozens of decklists to copy, video archives to watch, and soon, plenty of analysis of the event. This Pro Tour featured a stacked top 8, and the most anti-climactic match of Magic ever, as 10-time PT Top 8 Competitor Paolo Vitor Damo Da Rosa mulliganed a bunch against 15-time PT Top 8 Competitor John Finkel. The quarter final between Ricky Chin and Ryochi Tamada, on the other hand, is probably the best match of broadcast MTG I have ever seen, and should be at the top of your post-PT viewing list.

It can be found here

Today, however, I want to go through what the PT results mean for Standard. I will try to avoid speculating about how likely different decks are to be picked up, and will instead try to look at some of the numbers and theory behind what did well and why. I’m assuming that you, dear reader, are passingly familiar with the deck lists found here. For what it’s worth, one team broke it for this Pro Tour… but it’s not who you think!

I’m going to provide arbitrary letter grades for each deck. This is to give you an idea of how well I think they performed in the field as a whole, and because I want to. So there.

Dark Jeskai – A & Jeskai – B+

It’s Mardu! No, wait, it’s Esper! Or is it Jeskai? Red and White removal was, as I wrote last time, very well positioned to deal with the premier threats in the format in Mantis Rider, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Hangarback Walker. 4 RWxx decks made the top 8. The Pantheon deck looked scarily good, adding Tasigur, The Golden Fang and Kolaghan’s Command to the Dark Jeskai shell, and I think that this should be your starting point. Whilst the best finish went to a pure Jeskai, the loss of Crackling Doom left it vulnerable to Siege Rhino and Gideon, as the final demonstrated.

We shouldn’t read too much into the winning deck, or to the top 8 composition which is partly determined by limited results. Jeskai decks were all over the 21+ point lists, and most played the black cards that bolster the Abzan matchup (pun intended).

The engine of Dragonlord Ojutai and Kolaghan’s Command plus Jace/Soulfire Grand Master did the business, and cannot be underestimated. As predicted, some Mardu and even R/B decks cropped up in the 8-2 and 7-3 lists, though these seem mostly weaker versions of Jeskai.

Abzan – B+

Abzan put two decks in the top 8, and won the whole thing – yet seemed a little underwhelming. It is very beatable by Dark Jeskai (though now that Jeskai is geared for the mirror, maybe less so). Good play, good pairings and a good read on the field (where people were cutting Valorous Stance for Silkwrap) made it good to be a Siege Rhino, and Kazuyuki Takimura reaped the rewards – but if there is a lot of Valorous Stance and Crackling Doom around, the same might not be true in the next few weeks. Shambling Vent did some good work in feature matches, despite looking fairly anaemic on paper.

Atarka Red (and variants) – B

There was, once again, a Red presence both in the top 8 and amongst the high-performing lists – though not at the rate of its Day 1 popularity. In Temur Battlerage, Landfall and Burn versions, the red deck was a known quantity, and finally, people tried to beat it – check out how many Surge of Righteousness featured in sideboards. Between RDW and Jeskai, removal suites were warped in a way that helped Abzan.

Esper/UB – C

Esper and UB decks had a high Day Two conversion rate, but lacked stellar constructed records. 4/49 decks with 21 points or more is a pretty poor result given that they started with over 10% of the field. Many Esper players went for strong mid-game plays like Dragonlords and Planeswalkers, leaving them vulnerable to the powerful end game of the Jeskai’s Commands and GW’s morphs, which are both able to fight attrition battles even against control decks.

Misc – Various

Amongst the high performing decks, there was one Eldrazi ramp deck (B, though deserves a D for starting its curve at 3…), Saito’s aggro brew (B), a Rally the Ancestors combo deck (C+), and some Bring to Light decks (B-). BU and BG Aristocrats made a splash, but quickly faded down the stretch with no top results (D). There are plenty of tier-2 options for those who wish to take the path less travelled, and some could be fine-tuned into very competitive decks.

Green White – A

Green-White was considered by some the most powerful deck going into the weekend, and despite only putting one copy into the top 8 (and none into the semi-finals) I think that the numbers actually back this up. Two players finished the event with 26 points or more, and both played GW.

Autumn Burchett went against the stock list and swapped Gideon for Archangel of Tithes, and was rewarded with the best Constructed record at the PT. I really like the Archangel pick, as it matches up well against creatures with haste (making them pay more) and can make your team of 1/1s and 2/2s unblockable.

Bant Tokens – A+

I said someone broke it, but who?

Sam Black. Again.

His Bant Tokens deck is basically a White deck splashing for random cards that fill the gaps. 3 players took it to an 8-2 record. 4 decks started the PT with ‘Bant Tokens’. Even if we assume that the fourth player was on the same deck, AND that this mystery player went 0-5 with it, Black’s creation would still have an absurd 68% win rate. Using Gideon and Retreat to Emeria as Lingering Souls / Honor of the Pure split cards, this deck put up amazing numbers.

Furthermore, there is lots of scope for playing with the shell – Black said in his deck tech that he wanted to include more Blighted Woodlands and main deck Evolutionary Leap. Den Protector targeting fetch lands feels way better when you have the Retreat in play. Knight of the White Orchid enables turn 4 Wingmate Roc, but also helps you trigger landfall.

This deck seemed perfectly positioned for this weekend, and should be a powerful option going forward. It looks a bit like the GW decks, but goes wider and bigger at the expense of Warden of the First Tree – a creature susceptible to all the removal seeing play. Who would have thought that it would be Ben Stark’s limited record keeping him out of the top 8 (he went 1-5 in limited but 8-2 with Bant)?

Final Thoughts

So, plenty of food for thought. Abzan won out, but I think that is deceptive. A few tweaks to the Jeskai and GW decks can push Siege Rhino out… until they turn back on each other. Atarka Red will be a factor, but now that people know what is coming and have sideboards built to deal with it, it seems vulnerable.

Jeskai and GW went in as the top decks and I think that the results suggest that they held on to that title. But the big story for me is the Bant Tokens deck – though you need to look beyond the headlines to see it.

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