Pro Tour Amonkhet has just wrapped up, and boy did we get a few changes. Mardu Vehicles, while still being the most played deck, only got 60% of pilots into day 2, and put no copies at all into the top 8. Additionally, only two players managed to go 6-4 or better with the deck. This is a welcome change to the meta, and disproves the theory that Gideon, Ally of Zendikar would hold the throne until he left Standard.

In the place of Vehicles, we got Mono-Black or B/W Zombies, and Aetherworks Marvel decks. While many are already complaining about the Marvel deck’s unfair route to victory, I am willing to give it a try, at least for a few tournaments. With the meta narrowing down to these two main decks, but with Mardu, B/G Constrictor, and Gearhulk Control decks still being viable, we have a meta to work with.

While many players will show up to Grand Prix Montreal ready to face the cards that come out of stock Marvel and Zombies lists, I’m here to give you some insight into the lesser known options that may show up.

1. Yahenni’s Expertise

Decks this can show up in: Sultai Marvel, B/G Delirium, Zombies.

Hailed as an insane boardwipe when first previewed, Yahenni’s Expertise did not live up to the hype in Standard, or any other format for that matter. However, with the prevalence of Zombie Hordes that have been spotted lately, people will be sure to have this somewhere in their 75. The reason I have this card over other sweepers like Fumigate is because unlike other sweepers, it allows the player casting it to land a follow-up without using any more mana. Expertise into Liliana, the Last Hope seems like a back-breaking play for Zombies or other low-to-the-ground decks to deal with.

How to beat it: The plus side of the equation for this card is that there are more ways to beat it than there are to beat Fumigate. First off, if you land two lords, this card effectively does nothing. The second way to effectively negate this effect is to play sticky threats, such as Scrapheap Scrounger and Dread Wanderer. Because Expertise doesn’t gain it’s controller any life, applying early pressure and then bringing back your threats is a surefire way to beat this card.

Expertise does involve an entire turn’s worth of mana most of the time, so spending mana on your opponents turn with a card like Scrapheap Scrounger can really help to pull you back into the game, and having a removal spell stored up for whatever they play will pull you significantly ahead. Remember that killing their blockers that will die to Expertise if you are playing around them will incentivize them to play it. Use this to either bait it or hold it off until you have an opening.

2. Spell Queller

Decks this can show up in: U/W Flash, U/W Control, Bant Aetherworks

Ah, my old friend. While U/W Flash did not have its resurgence at Pro Tour Amonkhet, it is still a solid choice to combat Aetherworks Marvel, and this may lead some to dust it off (while leaving Reflector Mage and Smuggler’s Copter at home, RIP) for upcoming events. Because of its power against specifically the card Aetherworks Marvel, but also the mirror, Control decks may chose to sideboard it, and while Temur is the consensus best Aetherworks deck, some may chose to go the Bant route, and will play this card if they do.

How to play around it: If you’re playing a Marvel deck, realize early if your best way to win is actually to combo. If not, just make sure to play your copies of Rogue Refiner before your copies of Whirler Virtuoso, as the latter represents much more damage in the long haul (and evasion!). If your plan is to Marvel, then try to wait until your opponent has 4 mana to cast it. This way, they have to chose between Queller-ing it or casting another spell like Glimmer of Genius, which can slow them down significantly. The alternate way to deal with Queller is to not remove their early creatures, and save your Harnessed Lightning for the Queller.

3. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

Decks this can show up in: Mardu Vehicles, Control, Bant Aetherworks, U/W Flash, B/W Zombies

Huh? “The best card in Standard” on a list of unknown cards to play around? While Gideon is definitely an expected card now, it didn’t do well at the Pro Tour, and this may cause many people to underestimate its power. However, Gideon is still a very strong option for all of these decks, and can help turn the corner when clawing back into the game.

How to play around it: The reason Gideon is such a great card is because it pressures you when you are durdling, and it makes tokens when the board is stalled. Either way, the card always dictates the pace of the game and pushes for the win. The way to mitigate this is to dictate the pace of the game yourself. No matter how buff Gideon is, he can’t stand up to a 10/10 indestructible deck-eating machine. If you are playing Aetherworks Marvel, try to combo off as quick as possible, as racing a Gideon with just Rogue Refiner and Whirler Virtuoso won’t turn out well a lot of the time. If you’re playing Zombies on the other hand, try to keep hands with a lot of early pressure, one where you can either kill Gideon as soon as you untap, or just ignore it completely.

More general cards to be aware of:

This weekend I will be attending the Grand Prix in Montreal, and am planning to up my day 2 performance in Richmond with a cash finish, or even better, a Pro Tour qualification. My weapon of choice will likely be Flamecaller Aetherworks, as it seems to be the best-positioned of the Marvel variants. That being said, I’ll be sure to keep all these cards in mind when playing against any decks they could come up with. As always, thanks for reading, and good luck in whatever you have coming up. See ya next week,

Riccardo Monico

Looking for an analysis of what we learned from Pro Tour Amonkhet? This article from Roman Fusco covers the decks that caught his eye this weekend.

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