This weekend marks both the Pro Tour and the start of the next Standard PPTQ season. For some, this means waiting until Friday to pick a list from the Pro Tour. For others, it’s the last week to get those brews polished before the metagame settles and we see which decks are truly good. Since this is going to be a weekend of incomplete information, I’ve got 2 decks I’m considering for this first round of tournaments, unless the early PT results indicate a clear top deck.
This deck has 2 modes of play. The first is of the snowball variety and the one most people are accustomed to. All you want to do is curve early, hit a few times with Copter for good measure, and finish with Cruiser or burn. The deck is very good at closing with the extra burn to back up your Vehicles. The second mode of play is primarily for W/R Vehicles, or any aggressive deck—the kill-all-the-stuff style of play.
Take trades when they come and utilize your 8 instant-speed removal spells to take down Vehicles. Save Disintegration for when the final threat comes out from the W/R Vehicles deck or they simply go all-in on a Copter attack. Key to the City allows you to force through damage and keep Fiery Temper up. Bloodhall Priest off a Key activation is also scary because a 4/4 beats nearly every ground attacker these decks play. It also lets you spew early, because a 4/4 mini-Inferno Titan is going to win the game in short order if you end up hellbent.
The sideboard backs this plan up by focusing on surviving until Kalitas comes online, which should swing the game in your favor. Just bring in extra interaction and large threats while swapping out low-impact 1-drops. Smuggler’s Copter takes a hit, but even then the card is so good that it isn’t worth touching unless you know the artifact removal is coming. Call the Bloodline and Transgress are how you try to extend your threats against removal, though I think Call may be too low impact now. With few accepted control lists, it’s tough to develop a sideboard plan for the grindy matchups.
You play this deck to have the advantage in the aggro mirrors because of the quantity and efficiency of your removal. W/R has nothing on par with Disintegration. Declaration in Stone is their most commonly-played game 1 removal spell and that doesn’t hit the most important threats in the R/B deck, so that’s an edge in game 1.
Consistency, edge in Vehicle mirrors, and a proactive approach against any PT deck that people may pick up on the day of your tournament make R/B a great choice.
The second deck I am considering is the G/B Delirium deck, rebuilt to shave off some of the high-end and focus on surviving until you hit your payoff cards.
The big thing about this version of the deck is that it sets aside the typical delirium end-game by leaning on Ishkanah, Gearhulk, and Westvale Abbey. If you get into a position where the opponent no longer wants to attack, then Traverse into Emrakul are overkill. Finding a Gearhulk or a Westvale to activate is often game over since decks don’t have the late-game resources of the decks from last season. Against the decks that do, you still have that package nestled in the sideboard.
This helps alleviate dead draws, more so now with Smuggler’s Copter providing some early game looting. Noose Constrictor is not a great card by any stretch, but I have yet to find a particularly good alternative. It’s possible Catacomb Sifter or Filigree Familiar is better, but reach is better now than it has been in a long time. Kalitas is also a scary card that’s likely to see more play if even half as much aggro shows up this weekend as did in the first.
Nissa, Vital Force is an underrated gem. She does exactly what this kind of deck wants to do and protects herself in a relevant way. Still, with the number of Vehicles it’s hard to rely on her, or Liliana for that matter, so I kept the number of planeswalkers low. In games 2 and 3, you’ll have a much better idea of what you’re up against and can sculpt your plan accordingly. To the Slaughter is a card with fluctuating value—it’s really good against midrange or W/R decks leaning on Chandra to help keep them afloat post-board. On the other hand, you also risk situations where they sacrifice a 1-drop and you had just cast a horribly inefficient removal spell.
In fact, outside of Grasp of Darkness, I’m not a fan of many of the removal options available. This is why Gnarlwood Dryad has a starting job in the deck—you simply need a way to stay alive and one that can trade up. Typhoid Rats with upside meets that criteria and later in the game can actually be aggressive if you need to attack.
As for more gimmicky decks in development, Temur Aetherworks looks like it could easily be the real deal. Eldritch Evolution without Spell Queller to keep it down is actually a very strong option, and trading a 3-drop into a Verdurous Gearhulk seems pretty real. In fact, a number of my variants on the G/B deck involve Evolution and both Noxious and Verdurous Gearhulk as tutor options. Turning a 2-drop into a Kalitas isn’t bad either.
Without the extra week of Open material to go off of, the meta for this weekend looks to be wide open. There’s a clear enemy going in and tons of other approaches that might be viable. The Pro Tour will tighten everything up, but this should be the last week of truly open play we see before we get a clear view of the metagame.