Emerging Metagame Narratives from Pro Tour Aether Revolt

“There are only two decks in the format, again.” This was the narrative heading into Pro Tour Aether Revolt, but that story changed in a big hurry. We live in an age obsessed with creating narratives. There is an increasingly overwhelming amount of information available, and by nature people desire to compartmentalize and understand the world. They can also oversimplify.

With that in mind, what were the most important stories of Pro Tour Aether Revolt, and where is the format headed next?

Narrative #1: Mardu Vehicles Trampled the PT

The unmistakable overarching narrative from Pro Tour Aether Revolt was the dominance of Mardu Vehicles:

Mardu Vehicles

Lucas Esper Berthoud, 1st place at Pro Tour Aether Revolt

Not only was the finals a Mardu Vehicles mirror but the archetype made up of 6 of the Top 8 decks. Holy schnikes!

It is important to remember that Pro Tour results can sometimes be misleading because 6 of the 16 rounds are Draft. A player can 6-0 in Limited and 6-4 in Standard, and make Top 8 with a Constructed deck that barely had a winning record.

PT Aether Revolt was not an occasion where the Top 8 Standard decks failed to reflect the best performing archetype.

The data paints a clear picture of the dominant performance Mardu put up in Ireland. 16 of the 25 decks that went 8-2 or better were Mardu Vehicles, meaning that 60% of the top echelon of decks had a 0.800+ match win percentage. “Dominance” is the correct way to describe what happened at the Pro Tour.

Narrative #2: Ban Worthy?

“We’re Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart of Kiran Band. We hope you have enjoyed the PT coverage show.”

Heart of Kiran put on quite a show in Dublin. It felt like it was everywhere and looked extremely impressive.

The stats on the card are a great deal for the cost, provided you invest into being able to crew it. Obviously, the Mardu Vehicles deck is built around doing that.

For one reason or another, discussions about cards and metagames have a tendency to devolve into discussions about bannings. The banned list is the MTG version of Godwin’s Law.

There are pieces in play that make the banning conversation an even hotter topic issue than usual. First, the DCI recently banned several cards. Secondly, the DCI changed their banning policy to incorporate an opportunity to ban cards after a PT. Essentially, players have got bannings on the brain.

Going into the event, Saheeli Rai was the speculative candidate for a ban. After all, it had put up dominant performances at the two Opens leading up to the PT.

There are two kinds of banned list discussions:

  1. Speculating about the merits of whether or not a card should be banned.
  2. “The card is literally ruining Magic. For the love of God ban it already.”

The first discussion occurs when people have conversations about Magic. The second occurs when they are contemplating quitting a format.

To Wizards’ credit, I think they did a good job of recognizing player’s frustration with Kaladesh Standard and making bold moves to restore the faith.

The results of one tournament that happened in Europe last weekend cannot possibly have pushed anybody to the edge yet. We need more than a single breakout performance of a deck to justify banning cards. The question then becomes: Where do we go from here?

Narrative #3: Mardu Vehicles is the Perfect Storm

The Pro Tour result makes a lot of sense when you really think about it. The first two weeks of Standard were dominated by Jeskai Copycat. I know the biggest question on a lot of people’s mind going into the event was, what beats Copycat?

Cat Outta Hell.

It just so happens that in a metagame where everybody is focused on beating Jeskai,t Mardu Vehicles has some huge advantages. First and foremost, it is good against Jeskai, which was the expected deck to beat. The threats are cheap and it can easily go underneath. The Vehicles dodge sweepers like Fumigate and Radiant Flames. And the deck has cheap removal to interact with the combo.

It was the predator of the most popular archetype going into the event and it really didn’t have any natural predators of its own. I’m certain that dynamic will shift as we head into this coming weekend. Nobody will be taking Mardu lightly from here on out.

Next weekend is going to be an important weekend for Standard because it will give us a barometer of not only what the new metagame will look like, but whether it can adapt to the rise of Mardu Vehicles.

Narrative #4: Decks That Beat Mardu

Similar to how everybody jumped onto the Mardu bandwagon because it was a great deck that beat Jeskai in Dublin, people will be looking to take the next step in that progression to beat Mardu.

I’m not sure there is a secret deck out there ready to emerge, but there are some fine options.

The second-best-performing deck at the Pro Tour was B/G Constrictor.

B/G Delirium

Jan Ksandr

While there was only one copy of the deck in Top 8, there were multiple copies scattered throughout the 8-2 bracket.

The deck is low to the ground and powerful, and certainly capable of competing with Mardu Vehicles. I also believe that most of these B/G lists were designed and tuned with Jeskai in mind and not Mardu. Perhaps these decks will benefit from a week’s worth of fine tuning and focus against Mardu.

I’m in a Mardu state of mind.

When you put your mind to it, there are plenty of great options for combating Mardu, and I anticipate that they will be heavily played in Pittsburgh next weekend.

Sultai Delirium Control

Jun Ishihara

Last but not least, I wanted to highlight this Sultai Delirium list I found while I was looking through coverage. It went 8-2 in the tournament and looks really impressive.

Spiders and Robots?!

The deck has some serious power on the top end of the curve, but still has lots of nimble removal and permission spells to weather the storm. I could certainly see midrange decks like Sultai Control benefiting from a metagame where Jeskai takes a back seat to the surging popularity of Mardu.

Lastly, I’d like to interject my idea into the PT Aether Revolt narrative. If I have learned anything from the results, it is that Magic is always changing. Jeskai was so dominant going into the event, and the players and deck builders responded to that data and gravitated toward decks that were effective against it.

My advice? Proxy up Mardu Vehicles and play a variety of different decks against it until you know it inside and out. Either beat ’em or join ’em, but don’t play something that is soft to Vehicles for the foreseeable future.

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