Snack platters of all sorts carefully adorned upon the coffee table, fridge fully stocked with beer and soda, you know exactly what was going on this weekend.
The Big Game
Pro Tour Aether Revolt!
(That’s the big sporting event everyone was watching this past weekend right?)
On Saturday afternoon, as the final rounds rolled by and the top 8 drew nearer, I felt a strange sense of satisfaction and bewilderment. Pro Tour Aether Revolt may have been all the way across the Atlantic while I was plopped down on my couch shoving Fritos into my mouth and guzzling Mountain Dew, but I felt like I was there. I was there in spirit, because my number 1 boo, my bae, was dominating.
My beloved Mardu Vehicles, the decidedly 3rd best option of Kaladesh Standard, was now the big gun of the format. The one-time supposedly Tier 1.5 deck was now putting 6 copies into the Pro Tour Top 8, and all those thousands and thousands and thousands of words I’d written about the archetype finally felt justified. While others durdled with their copies of Anticipate and Glimmer of Genius, Toolcraft Exemplar was busting heads with Scrapheap Scrounger. It felt validating to know the deck I thought was so good was now proving itself on the biggest stage.
Obviously it’s a different metagame with Aether Revolt and that is the main reason why we’ve seen Mardu rise to the top. With Jeskai Copycat being the deck to beat going into the Pro Tour, most teams and pros looked for something that had a great matchup against the top dog without losing any percentage points against the rest of the field. Mardu Vehicles fit that role perfectly, aggressive enough to pressure Saheeli Rai immediately if they chose to cast it on turn 3, fast enough to limit the amount of time Jeskai has to cast card advantage spells, all while presenting hard-to-interact-with threats like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Heart of Kiran. Boasting a positive Copycat match up while still not having any terrible match up across the rest of the field was a winning recipe for Mardu in Dublin.
Speaking of Heart and Gideon, I felt especially proud to see my words ring true as the dynamic duo I outlined in my spoiler article way back in December had a lot to show off this weekend. This powerful interaction that I detailed way back when, was a highlight of this most recent incarnation of Mardu Vehicles, and we can see why the staple 2 of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in the mainboard was bumped up to 3-4 copies in the top 8 lists.
So with Mardu clearly the deck to beat going into this weekend with Grand Prix Pittsburgh, what’s a Spike to do?
Expect to see an uptick in your Mardu matchups and you’d best prepare for the mirror with additional hate.
Release the Gremlins featured multiple copies in both finalists’ sideboards, as well as in fellow Top 8 competitor Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa’s 75. Expect an uptick of this card in both the Mardu mirror or any opposing deck featuring red cards. Answering multiple threats while clogging the board with 2/2 blockers is an easy way to stabilize against Mardu and should be a reoccurring theme of post-board matches in this format. With the uptick in artifact hate, it might also be advantageous to look to non-artifact haymakers when building your Mardu Vehicles sideboard. Chandra, Torch of Defiance has always been a powerful threat post-board for creating a Flametongue Kavu effect. Advancing your board while answering your opponent’s creature is a huge tempo gain and a key factor to this tempo-dependent format. This is one of the main reasons we’ve also seen Skysovereign, Consul Flagship win so many matches.
One of the other big questions going into this weekend is whether or not you need the blue splash anymore. After Pro Tour Kaladesh, I supported the blue splash for Ceremonious Rejection because Aetherworks Marvel was still a big player, and then later Fevered Visions was a key component to beating the slow controlling Ishkanah, Grafwidow-filled B/G Delirium decks. But with neither decks being a significant player in the metagame anymore, you have to wonder what the blue splash is for now? PV mentioned keeping the splash for counter spells in his deck tech article this week because they didn’t know if there was some big Aetherworks deck they missed or potentially an Improvise-based one. With both archetypes failing to make an impact, I think we can sufficiently cut the blue splash and free up some sideboard slots.
For this weekend, I’d like something similar to what PV and the Channel Fireball Ice guys had mainboard, but a manabase and sideboard closer to what Lucas Esper Berthoud and the Dex Army guys had going on.
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar seems like a great way to maximize your Heart of Kiran while being slightly pre-boarded against any control decks trying to overwhelm you with spot removal. Inventor’s Apprentice helps lead to your fastest starts, but can be quickly outclassed in the mirror and fails to crew Heart of Kiran, which is objectively our best card. The lack of the would-be Nerd Ape gives us the room to play the powerful mana sink PV had, Depala, Pilot Exemplar. Depala helps our Hearts out-size our opponents’, while being the perfect size to crew and offers a late game mana sink. I also like PV’s inclusion of Cultivator’s Caravan over Aethersphere Harvester. Caravan helps fix our mana and facilitates casting the powerful Fatal Push. It also ensures our ability to play a slightly bigger game plan post board, with Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. Plus, casting a turn 3 Caravan into an additional one drop is the literal Bee’s Knees. Talk about TEMPO!
Personally, this is the Mardu 75 I’d be sleeving up this weekend if I were looking to go Fast and Furious.
Mardu Vehicles by Austin Mansell
Good luck battling this weekend everyone, and welcome to the fast side of town!
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