Hello everyone!

This weekend brought Pro Tour Ixalan, and with it, basically no changes to Standard. While I wish this wasn’t the case, it is simply a side effect of the Pro Tour being so many weeks after the set’s release. In this article, I’m gonna list a few reasons that having Pro Tours this late sucks, and why.

It comes as no surprise to me that this Pro Tour did not result in any new decks shooting to the top, as has happened most other times. In fact, the winning deck that Seth Manfield piloted is only two cards off in the mainboard of what Andrew Jessup used to win the SCG Open in Dallas on week one of the format! Here are the lists:

Sultai Energy by Seth Manfield at Pro Tour Ixalan – 1st

Creatures (25)
4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
3 Hostage Taker
4 Longtusk Cub
2 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
4 Rogue Refiner
1 The Scarab God
3 Walking Ballista
4 Winding Constrictor

Non-Creature Spells (14)
4 Attune with Aether
4 Blossoming Defense
4 Fatal Push
2 Vraska’s Contempt

Lands (21)
4 Aether Hub
4 Blooming Marsh
4 Botanical Sanctum
2 Fetid Pools
2 Swamp
1 Island
4 Forest

Sideboard (15)
1 The Scarab God
2 Nissa, Steward of Elements
3 Duress
2 Negate
1 Essence Scatter
2 Die Young
3 Deathgorge Scavenger
1 Appetite for the Unnatural

Sultai Energy by Andrew Jessup at SCG Dallas – 1st

Creatures (27)
4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
4 Hostage Taker
4 Longtusk Cub
2 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
4 Rogue Refiner
1 The Scarab God
4 Walking Ballista
4 Winding Constrictor

Non-Creature Spells (12)
4 Attune with Aether
4 Blossoming Defense
4 Fatal Push

Lands (21)
4 Aether Hub
4 Blooming Marsh
4 Botanical Sanctum
2 Fetid Pools
4 Forest
1 Island
2 Swamp

Sideboard (15)
4 Deathgorge Scavenger
4 Duress
2 Negate
1 Spell Pierce
1 The Scarab God
2 Vraska’s Contempt
1 Vraska, Relic Seeker

While the sideboard of Manfield’s deck is certainly more tuned for the meta, the decks remain largely the same. In fact, 43 percent of the Pro Tour meta was taken up by Energy decks. This is not a shocker to anyone, as the MtGO results for the past month have shown Temur to be the best deck. With this information, the pros went into the tournament already knowing what the best deck was. Not only that, they knew essentially the entire metagame, since all of the innovations the format had to offer had already been made by a number of players on MtGO.

If the Pro Tour had occurred two weeks after the set’s release, we certainly would have seen more Token decks do well. This is because even though Tokens isn’t the most popular deck, it is popular enough that people were prepared for it, and were able to jam a few copies of Appetite for the Unnatural in their Temur decks, and not have to worry about it. This was especially helpful for a deck like Temur, which can get outclassed if attacked from an unexpected angle. With so much time to prepare and the tier 2 decks already being determined, nothing was going to blindside these decks, making them even more powerful.

Secondly, late Pro Tours with already set metagames invalidate the skills of some pros. For example, Sam Black and Matt Nass are two of the greatest innovative deckbuilders of this generation, and their work has led to some unexpected and hidden gems in the past few years.

G/W Emeria by Sam Black at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar – 28th

Creatures (14)
4 Hangarback Walker
3 Elvish Visionary
4 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
3 Wingmate Roc

Non-Creature Spells (21)
4 Silkwrap
2 Stasis Snare
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
4 Retreat to Emeria
2 Dispel
1 Planar Outburst
1 Quarantine Field
3 Secure the Wastes

Lands (25)
4 Windswept Heath
4 Flooded Strand
2 Wooded Foothills
1 Blighted Woodland
4 Plains
2 Canopy Vista
4 Forest
2 Lumbering Falls
2 Prairie Stream

Sideboard (15)
4 Surge of Righteousness
1 Negate
2 Valorous Stance
1 Oblivion Sower
2 Erase
3 Den Protector
2 Evolutionary Leap

G/B Aristocrats by Matt Nass at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad – 82nd

Creatures (30)
4 Blisterpod
4 Catacomb Sifter
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Duskwatch Recruiter
2 Liliana, Heretical Healer
4 Loam Dryad
4 Nantuko Husk
4 Zulaport Cutthroat

Non-Creature Spells (7)
4 Collected Company
3 Cryptolith Rite

Lands (23)
8 Forest
4 Hissing Quagmire
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Swamp
3 Westvale Abbey

Sideboard (15)
1 Fleshbag Marauder
2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
2 Tireless Tracker
4 Transgress the Mind
4 Ultimate Price
2 Ulvenwald Mysteries

Both of these decks were amazing innovations that made coverage enjoyable and the metagame interesting afterwards. Several Tokens variants could easily have been one of these decks that no one expected, and made a big wave in the meta. However, because people were prepared for it, the deck was easily beaten and did not put up great results. Having a month-old solved metagame leads to great deckbuilders’ skills going to waste, which overall makes coverage less enjoyable and will cause the tournaments following the Pro Tour to be very similar in terms of what strategies succeed.

 

Sticking with the idea of later Pro Tours making coverage less enjoyable, having a month-old standard format be featured is frankly quite boring. While Temur Energy came off a great season before Ixalan, watching it be played at the highest level for a whole month quickly got boring, and having the Pro Tour be an exact reflection of this also sucked much of the life out of the tournament. I usually never complain when we watch the same matchups over and over, as that is simply how Standard Magic works because of the limited card pool. However, seeing the same things at the Pro Tour as we have seen in the past month just makes it feel like another Grand Prix or SCG Open.

This greatly decreases viewer enjoyment because the Pro Tour is supposed to be an amazing, exciting thing that we only see four times a year. When I turn it on, I want to see what the best players in the world thought was the best solution to a format, not what the obvious solution to a stagnant format was. Take for example Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad. While most tournaments after the Pro Tour were dominated by G/W Tokens, the top 8 was incredibly diverse, and each of the Pro Teams showed their different take on the format, from Team Channel Fireball’s G/B Aristocrats to The Pantheon’s G/R Ramp and B/G Seasons Past decks. Both of the Pantheon’s decks ended up being not very good options going forward, but for that one weekend they made viewing awesome and highlighted the innovations that for me, make watching the Pro Tour worth it.

In conclusion, I think that Wizards should stick to having the Pro Tour be a couple weeks after the release of a set. This should increase the different decks played, increase viewer enjoyment, and could lead to a much more interesting Standard format.

As always, thanks for reading! Let me know what you think of this in the comments, and I’ll see you next week.

Riccardo Monico

Coming into Pro Tour Ixalan, many players were sure of what the tournament would look like, including Spellsnare’s Jonah Gaynor. You can read his article here, where he detailed 7 predictions he had for Magic’s most exciting tournament. What did he get right? What did he get wrong?

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