[This article is getting released a bit earlier so that there’s a little time between publishing and the first draft of the Pro Tour.]
Pro Tour Ixalan is finally here! It’s time for the best in the game to show how they analyze the metagames of draft and Standard. It’s shaping up to be quite a unique Pro Tour, with several Standard tournaments over multiple weeks already in the book. Here are 10 things to watch for at Pro Tour Ixalan, starting with limited:
Someone takes a 2/2 for 2 pack 1, pick 1
I’ve been pretty vocal about thinking this limited format is generally sub-par, but Pro Tours always have the ability to shake up both limited and constructed formats. That being said, I feel pretty confident in this first one. 2 mana creatures are very important in limited, and even more important in this format, where there are a lot of removal spells flying around and where whoever controls the board is king.
Some player invents a new Ixalan limited archtype
We’ve already seen this in this format with Christian Calcano at the World Championships with B/R Auras, but I expect to see it again. It may not be revolutionary, but players will pick up on what cards are underdrafted and the underlying strategies they facilitate. While most cards fit into a singular strategy in this draft format, many cards tend to slip through the cracks at a lot of draft tables, and it’ll be exciting to see if one of the severely underrepresented color combinations gets its moment in the spotlight.
Now onto constructed, where the format is really nicely poised going into this tournament.
Approach of the Second Sun is cast for a third time
I am fairly confident that someone will have absolutely no regard for flavor and cast a third copy of Approach of the Second Sun after their second copy was countered. Control decks will likely be all over the place this weekend, and Approach of the Second Sun has proven itself as a good win condition in these decks. That being said, Approach decks are weak to counter spells, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw that first hand on camera in this tournament.
Someone willingly casts Dhund Operative
Mardu Vehicles is still a part of this Standard format, but it’s been on the decline for a few months, leaving the door open for other archtypes to have their moment in the sun. That being said, players will still likely show up with Heart of Kiran and Scrapheap Scrounger in hand, ready to beat down. Dhund Operative, while not incredibly exciting, fits into this deck very well. The deck is in need of another 3 power 2 mana creature, and if players decide to go away from white, as many have, Dhund Operative is likely the choice they’ll go with to replace Veteran Motorist.
A control deck makes top 8, and players complain
Control is likely the best we’ve seen it over the past few years, with its excellent performance at the World Championships and the subsequent Nationals tournaments across the world. There are even multiple archetypes within this general umbrella, giving players the flexibility in deckbuilding that isn’t usually offered for control decks. Because of this, I believe that a control deck will top 8 this tournament, although will fall short of the trophy. And yes, people will complain. Control decks always get a bad rap with newer players, as they feel that the archetype is only interested in making sure the opponent doesn’t have fun, which is largely misguided.
An aggro deck makes top 8, and players complain
One of the great things about aggro in this Standard format is that there are so many archetypes to choose from! Ramunap Red, Mono-Black, and others have all been putting up good results on MtGO, likely leading to a Pro Tour filled with aggression. Thanks to aggro decks’ ability to punish players for not having incredibly consistent mana bases, I think it’s safe to assume that (at minimum) one aggro deck makes top 8, which gives the top 8 the diversity we love to watch play out.
That being said, people will complain about this one as well. However, it won’t come from beginners, it will come from intermediate players. Aggro tends to be thought of by many players as “brainless” because the game doesn’t last as long and there are generally fewer decision to make. This is absolutely not true. While aggro decks may have fewer decision to make in an average game than a control deck, aggro decks are far more punishing for making the incorrect move. Sure, sometimes you’ll get a free win when you’re the aggro deck and get to curve out beautifully, but playing an aggro deck at a high level is 100% just as difficult as playing a control deck at a high level. Respect the aggro!
Temur Energy variants put multiple copies in top 8
Coming into this tournament, there appears to be a good a mount of diversity in this Standard format. Despite that, Temur Energy is currently top dog, and it’s more than likely to stay there at Pro Tour Ixalan. The deck’s flexibility and good matchups across the board make it a very appealing option for many Pro Tour competitors. It’s likely to put multiple copies in top 8, likely with some well known players piloting the deck into the elimination rounds.
The good news for those watching the Pro Tour is, as we currently stand just hours away from Round 1, there are still so many variants of this one archetype! Temur Energy is the most consistent, 4-Color Energy packs a bigger punch in exchange for a more shaky manabase, and 4-Color Planeswalkers uses planeswalkers to out-value all of its opponents (and only just popped up right before the event). While a deck putting multiple copies in the top 8 of a Pro Tour might usually be considered bad news, I’m pretty excited for this! The combination of Temur’s flexbility and the variety of sub-archetypes that seem viable make sure that the Pro Tour viewing experience is going to be one to remember.
Until next time,
If you’re excited about the new 5-Color Humans deck taking over Modern, read this article from Riccardo Monico, where he looks at the pros and cons of the deck to arrive at a conclusion about its viability in the coming months.
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