The Magic: the Gathering Pro Tour was created almost two decades ago. (For a nice historical recap, see Mark Rosewater's articles here and here.) The basic idea of the Pro Tour was simple: to organize a series of invitation-only tournaments, with big cash prizes, held all over the world, to give players something to aspire to. And a great idea it was.

Winning a Pro Tour is one of the greatest accomplishments a competitive Magic player can achieve, and the same holds for a deck. Over time, most of the Pro Tour winning decks have been powerful, efficient, well-oiled, planeswalker-slaying machines. But there have been some stinkers.

In this article, I will count down my picks for the worst 7 decks that have ever won a Constructed Pro Tour (which includes World Championships, but excludes Limited-only events). My intent is to provide an entertaining history lesson, to give insightful critiques of famous decks, and to share some of my own deckbuilding philosophies. I don't intend to berate the decks' pilots—quite the contrary. Winning a Pro Tour with a bad deck requires a lot of skill! I will berate a few card choices, though.

I based my selection of “bad” decks (as far as you can speak of a “bad” deck when it did win a Pro Tour) on three criteria:

1. The deck simply looks horrendous to me. It includes atrocious cards, it wouldn't be able to stand up to a Theros draft deck, and it is difficult to believe that it actually won a tournament. This will mainly apply to certain decks back from 1996.

2. The deck was not considered a good choice for the format immediately after the Pro Tour. It doesn't match up well against the top strategies, and there were better decks available.

3. The deck lacks consistency, primarily in terms of the mana base. In other words, it contains an insufficient number of lands or colored sources.

Before I begin, I should give credit to Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa for alerting me to the idea, and I would like to thank Kai Budde, Raphael Levy, Jon Finkel, Eric Froehlich, and many other people on social media for their deck suggestions. However, the final choices are mine and reflect my own likes and dislikes. I'm sure that some of the old school players will disagree with my picks, and I encourage them to post their thoughts in the forums. But now, let's get to the decks!

7. Ken Ho - Blue/Green Madness

PT Osaka 2002: Odyssey Block Constructed

[deck]Main Deck
13 Forest
9 Island
1 Tarnished Citadel
4 Basking Rootwalla
3 Werebear
4 Wild Mongrel
4 Aquamoeba
4 Standstill
4 Arrogant Wurm
4 Roar of the Wurm
3 Squirrel Nest
4 Circular Logic
3 Upheaval
Sideboard

4 Aura Graft
3 Moment's Peace
3 Nantuko Blightcutter
2 Persuasion
3 Still Life[/deck]

Ken Ho's Blue/Green Madness deck can start strong with turn 2 Wild Mongrel, turn 3 Arrogant Wurm, and turn 4 Roar of the Wurm. There are certainly some powerful synergies there, and Blue/Green Madness remained a prominent deck in Odyssey Block Constructed after the Pro Tour. The archetype even saw play in Extended. However, I dislike Ken's build of the deck, for two reasons:

First, the mana base sucks. I consider the creation of a stable mana base to be one of the most important parts of deckbuilding, and I don't get very happy if I look at Ken's deck. Sure, 14 green sources is a fine amount—you can consistently cast Wild Mongrel or Werebear on turn 2 with that many green sources. However, to consistently cast Aquamoeba or Standstill on turn 2, 10 blue sources is completely unacceptable. My requirements on mana bases may be more stringent than most (come to think of it, I should write an article about the science and math behind mana bases...), but I would rather play a mono-colored deck with weaker cards than subject myself to color screw all the time. Although Ken Ho was ridiculed for playing Tarnished Citadel, I believe that it was actually one of the best cards in his deck—perhaps he should have played even more.

Second, Ken doesn't have enough discard outlets. Without a discard outlet in play, Arrogant Wurm is a 4/4 for five, Roar of the Wurm is a 6/6 for seven, and Circular Logic is an extremely overpriced Force Spike. Not exactly efficient. Ken only runs eight: 4 Wild Mongrel and 4 Aquamoeba. This means that he will miss one in roughly 1/4 of his games. Notably lacking from Ken's list was Careful Study, which is another excellent discard outlet that could have substantially improved his capability to discard cards for profit.

So, my main message here is that consistency is a key factor in deck design. If Ken had played more blue sources and/or Careful Study, then that would greatly have alleviated my concerns. Nevertheless, Ken chose synergy and power over consistency, and showed that this can still be a viable path by taking down the tournament anyway.

6. Justin Gary - Turbo Oath

PT Houston 2002: Extended

[deck]Main Deck
2 Forest
7 Island
4 Polluted Delta
1 Swamp
4 Treetop Village
2 Underground River
4 Yavimaya Coast
2 Cognivore
4 Accumulated Knowledge
4 Brainstorm
4 Counterspell
3 Fact or Fiction
1 Foil
2 Forbid
3 Force Spike
2 Intuition
1 Krosan Reclamation
2 Living Wish
1 Mana Leak
4 Oath of Druids
3 Pernicious Deed
Sideboard
2 Dust Bowl
3 Engineered Plague
2 Gilded Drake
2 Masticore
2 Naturalize
2 Palinchron
2 Powder Keg[/deck]

Justin Gary's deck is all about Oath of Druids, which can completely invalidate creature strategies. There are some problems with Turbo Oath (for instance, drawing both copies of Cognivore or Oathing up a 0/0 Cognivore), but overall it's a viable deck, and Justin's list was solid. The main reason why I dislike it is that there were much more powerful choices available in Extended back then.

A quick glance at the Top 8 decks of that Pro Tour already reveals this. The reanimation suite of Entomb, Careful Study, Exhume, and Reanimate was legal, along with Vampiric Tutor/Brainstorm for consistency and Duress/Cabal Therapy for disruption. That is such an incredible collection of powerful, efficient spells. Reanimator versions with Hermit Druid could even kill on turn two! In comparison, Justin's Fact of Fictions and Forbids are rather tame. He was trying to play a fair game in an environment filled with unfair decks.

Don't just take my word for it. As Kai Budde said, Reanimator was the best deck in the format. Hence, Justin's deck was not. Turbo Oath never really caught on, either: A couple months later at the Extended Masters, an invite-only tournament for the most accomplished players, no one (except for Justin Gary himself) played Turbo Oath.

So, the main lesson here is that if you choose not to play with some of the most powerful one-mana spells ever printed when they're legal, then your deck looks mediocre. Nevertheless, Justin Gary didn't have to worry as much about Coffin Purge and Diabolic Edict (which everyone was packing to answer Reanimator) and won the trophy in the end.

5. Andre Coimbra - Naya Lightsaber

2009 World Championships: Standard

[deck]Main Deck
4 Arid Mesa
4 Forest
3 Mountain
1 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
4 Plains
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Baneslayer Angel
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Ranger of Eos
1 Scute Mob
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Woolly Thoctar
3 Ajani Vengeant
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Path to Exile
Sideboard
1 Ajani Vengeant
2 Burst Lightning
4 Celestial Purge
4 Goblin Ruinblaster
4 Great Sable Stag[/deck]

Andre Coimbra's Naya Lightsaber deck is the first deck on my list to come from a multi-format event, but it won't be the last. Andre scored a mediocre 4-2 record in the Standard portion of the event and made the Top 8 mainly on the back of good Limited and Extended records. Although he didn't lose a match in the Top 8, there are a lot of things I dislike about his deck.

Let's start with the mana base. 4 Forests as the only untapped green sources for a turn one Noble Hierarch or Wild Nacatl? Four, really? Well, you won’t be casting a lot of turn 1 Nacatls, and even when you do so, there is a big chance that he won’t become bigger than a 2/2. And only 11 red sources? How are you planning to cast your spells, let alone kicker a Goblin Ruinblaster? Why is there no Jungle Shrine? The mana base is just an absolute disaster.

Next up, Bloodbraid Elf. Now, this was a Standard format dominated by Jund decks, and most of the people who built Jund decks went to painstaking efforts to ensure that Bloodbraid Elf would always hit an impactful card even in the late game. In Andre's deck, however, Bloodbraid Elf would hit an inferior 1-drop half of the time. That doesn't give a lot of value.

This deck also didn't contain enough card advantage, which was key in that Standard format. Comparing Andre's deck to Jund, his white cards were simply inferior to the black alternatives. Andre had Wooly Thoctar instead of Sprouting Thrinax, Path to Exile instead of Terminate, Ajani Vengeant instead of Blightning, Ranger of Eos instead of Bituminous Blast, and Baneslayer Angel instead of Broodmate Dragon. In a format that revolved around card advantage, the black spells were all better than the white ones. Beside that, Baneslayer Angel, a five-mana creature, with no comes-in-play ability, seemed particularly bad when everyone was playing Terminate and Maelstrom Pulse.

Nothing in this deck made sense to me. Sorry, I can't come up with a redeeming feature.

4. Alexander Hayne - Miracles

PT Barcelona 2012: Innistrad/Avacyn Restored Block Constructed

[deck]Main Deck
4 Evolving Wilds
13 Island
10 Plains
4 Devastation Tide
1 Dissipate
4 Entreat the Angels
4 Feeling of Dread
4 Temporal Mastery
4 Terminus
4 Think Twice
4 Thought Scour
4 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
Sideboard

1 Angel's Mercy
4 Cathedral Sanctifier
3 Dissipate
3 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Midnight Haunting
2 Snapcaster Mage[/deck]

Alexander Hayne's deck aimed to break the rules of Magic with one-mana Terminus and other miraculous plays. The main problem with this deck was, well, that it just wasn't very good.

The deck suffers from a lot of variance. It could do ridiculously broken things such as chaining several Temporal Mastery into a huge Entreat the Angels before the opponent has a chance to do anything about it. But sometimes you never hit a miracle and die. And sometimes you hit the wrong ones—you might keep on stalling with Devastation Tide, Temporal Mastery, and Feeling of Dread, but never draw an Entreat the Angels (or, even worse, mill all of them with Thought Scour) and just flood out horribly.

When you have a deck that is both powerful and inconsistent, I like to settle its strength by looking at the numbers. And the numbers are not in favor of this deck. Hayne posted an unimpressive 6-3-1 in the Swiss rounds, making the Top 8 mainly on the back of his excellent record in the draft portion. More importantly, Paul Jordan's archetype breakdown showed that Blue/White Miracles won only 42% of its matches during the Pro Tour, which is not a lot. The deck also didn't make much of a splash at the Block Constructed Grand Prix a couple of weeks later.

So, the main lesson here is that just being able to do broken things is not good enough. If a deck is not sufficiently consistent to win more than 50% of its matches, it is not a good choice. Nevertheless, sometimes you run good, hit your miracles, and win the Pro Tour.

3. Michael Loconto - Blue/White Control

Pro Tour Speed Dial 1996: Modified Standard

[deck]Main Deck
4 Adarkar Wastes
4 Island
4 Mishra's Factory
7 Plains
1 Ruins of Trokair
1 Strip Mine
2 Svyelunite Temple
1 Wizards' School
1 Feldon's Cane
2 Fountain of Youth
2 Icy Manipulator
1 Ivory Tower
1 Jayemdae Tome
3 Millstone
1 Zuran Orb
1 Balance
2 Blinking Spirit
4 Disenchant
2 Hallowed Ground
2 Land Tax
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Wrath of God
2 Control Magic
4 Counterspell
1 Deflection
1 Recall
Sideboard
2 Aeolipile
1 Jester's Cap
2 Serrated Arrows
2 Circle of Protection: Red
1 Divine Offering
1 Control Magic
2 Hydroblast
2 Sea Sprite
2 Steal Artifact[/deck]

Michael Loconto's deck from the very first Pro Tour is a classic blue/white control deck. His deck contains four copies of such iconic cards as Wrath of God, Swords to Plowshares, and Counterspell. His primary win condition is Millstone, aiming to run opponents out of their library while side-stepping their creature removal. However, Michael's list is badly tuned.

The first main strike against the deck is that it includes 62 cards. Although there are some rare cases in which it is okay to show up with more than 60 cards (for example, to balance out your mana ratios or to include enough tutor targets) you need to have a very good reason for doing so, as playing more than 60 cards decreases the odds of drawing your best cards. I see none of those reasons in Loconto's deck. (No, worsening opposing Millstones is not a good reason.) And despite going over 60, there are several miserable card choices.

The first card that caught my eye was Wizards' School. Did you have to look up what it did? Yeah, me too. Loconto is not even playing black—it is just there to fix his white and blue mana. Now, I am a big proponent of mana consistency and I am not against playing Unknown Shores in Theros draft, but even my love for mana consistency has its limits. Some drawbacks are simply too big—having to wait until turn 6 to cast Wrath of God is one of them. It goes too far.

But it gets worse. My award for worst card in the deck goes to Fountain of Youth. Life gain cards are generally bad because they don't attack your opponent's creatures and don't provide a win condition. To be worth consideration, life gain cards need to provide a large amount of life for a low mana cost. Fountain of Youth is the exact opposite. And it's not like the deck was sorely lacking for late-game mana sinks. With Jayemdae Tome, Millstone, Icy Manipulator, and the beautiful (I mean clunky) Hallowed Ground plus Mishra's Factory combo, the deck already has more than enough ways to spend excess mana. Besides, if you ever resolve an Ivory Tower, then casting Fountain of Youth is just a losing proposition.

In Loconto's defense, this Pro Tour used a very special format, in which everyone was forced to play at least five cards from every legal expansion. Some of those expansions, such as Homelands, were filled to the brim with bad cards, so Loconto had to include at least a few mediocre ones. But still, there must have been options that were less bad...

Take-away messages from this deck are to trim down to 60 cards and to avoid playing bad cards. Oh, and by the way, if Dark Ritual and Necropotence are legal, you should probably play it, too. I don't see how Loconto's deck beats one of the best card drawing engines of all time. Nevertheless, Loconto took the very first title. Maybe the competition was less than stellar? After all, to qualify for that Pro Tour, you didn't have to prove your worth by winning a qualifier tournament. All you had to do was to call a phone number, at a certain time, on a certain date. The phones at Wizards were inundated with calls from all over the world, and the lucky few who managed to hit the redial button quickly enough were able to compete in the Pro Tour. I think the qualifier tournaments we have today make the Pro Tour a little more prestigious.

2. Tom Chanpheng - White Weenie

1996 World Championships: Standard

[deck]Main Deck
1 Kjeldoran Outpost
4 Mishra's Factory
15 Plains
4 Strip Mine
4 Order of Leitbur
4 Order of the White Shield
2 Phyrexian War Beast
4 Savannah Lions
2 Serra Angel
4 White Knight
1 Armageddon
1 Balance
4 Disenchant
1 Land Tax
1 Lodestone Bauble
1 Reinforcements
1 Reprisal
1 Sleight of Mind
4 Swords to Plowshares
1 Zuran Orb
Sideboard
2 Arenson's Aura
1 Black Vise
4 Divine Offering
1 Energy Storm
1 Exile
1 Kjeldoran Outpost
1 Reprisal
2 Serrated Arrows
1 Sleight of Mind
1 Spirit Link[/deck]

Long before today's White Weenie decks with Soldier of the Pantheon and Precinct Captain came Tom Chanpheng's White Weenie deck with...Savannah Lions and White Knight. Okay, maybe not all that much has changed over the years. But the bizarre thing about Chanpheng's deck was that, due to a deck registration error, it contained a Sleight of Mind with no way to cast it!

Chanpheng forgot to write down 4 Adarkar Wastes on his deck list, and tournament rules forced him to play basic Plains instead, effectively “stranding” the blue cards in his deck. Now that was bad enough by itself, but why did he even want to play Sleight of Mind in the first place? With only 4 Adarkar Wastes, the odds of casting it would already be rather slim, but what was he even planning to do with it? Switch the protection on White Knight to a more convenient color? How is that even worth the card? The applications of Sleight of Mind are so narrow that I can hardly imagine it being better than, say, an extra copy of Armageddon.

You know, strange as it may sound, his deck registration error may have actually improved his deck. With 4 Plains instead of 4 Adarkar Wastes, he might have lost fewer games to self-inflicted damage than he would have won by casting Sleight of Mind. Still, it would've been better to forgo Sleight of Mind in the first place.

The lesson here is simple: always double-check your list before handing it in. Just check it. The judges will thank you, too. Nevertheless, despite a misregistered deck, Chanpheng and his collection of protection from black creatures cut through a field of Necropotence players to win the championship title.

1. Olle Råde - RG Spiders

Pro Tour Columbus 1996: Ice Age/Alliances Constructed

[deck]Main Deck
7 Forest
4 Karplusan Forest
7 Mountain
4 Deadly Insect
4 Fyndhorn Elves
4 Giant Trap Door Spider
1 Gorilla Shaman
2 Orcish Cannoneers
2 Storm Shaman
4 Woolly Spider
2 Giant Growth
4 Incinerate
1 Jokulhaups
2 Lava Burst
2 Lodestone Bauble
3 Pillage
1 Pyroclasm
2 Stormbind
4 Urza's Bauble
Sideboard
1 Anarchy
2 Essence Filter
1 Icy Manipulator
1 Jester's Cap
1 Jokulhaups
1 Monsoon
1 Primitive Justice
2 Pyroblast
2 Pyroclasm
2 Vexing Arcanix
1 Zuran Orb[/deck]

Now this was 1996, so internet Magic and the art of deckbuilding were still in their infancy. But oh boy does this deck look bad.

Let's start with the creature suite. I feel bad for Olle's opponents, as being beat down by Woolly Spider, Giant Trap Door Spider, and Storm Shaman is just a humiliating way to lose. These cards wouldn't even be high picks in Theros draft! And I mean, Deadly Insect, really? Sure, creatures were a lot worse back then, and the spells were actually more powerful than today, but that doesn't excuse the fact that Olle was attacking with horrendously overpriced monsters.

And that land count! 18! In a format where Stone Rains were cast left and right! Sure, Olle did have Fyndhorn Elves, Urza's Bauble, and Lodestone Bauble, all of which let him cheat on the number of lands he played. But even then, 18 lands for a deck with 5-drops and X-spells is not even close to a reasonable amount. I have no idea how Olle managed to beat the odds and win the tournament despite handicapping himself with this mana base.

Further evidence comes from the Auction of Champions during the 2000 Magic Invitational. In that auction, all Constructed decks that had won Pro Tours up till that point were auctioned off, with bids done in terms of opening hand size and opening life totals. In that auction, Olle's much-maligned Spider deck was picked dead last. From what I've heard, it was basically the joke of that tournament.

So, the main lesson here is: lands are good, Spiders are bad. In Olle's defense, his deck does hold another useful piece of advice: evade the prime removal spells in the format. In Ice Age block, that meant evading Pyroclasm and Swords to Plowshares. Olle chose creatures with 3 or more toughness and creatures that couldn't be targeted to do just that, and that may have been a clever metagame call. Even if your threats are bad, if your opponents can't answer them, you will still win. You can see this at work (along with high-tech life total sheets) in the finals video.

Nevertheless, sorry Olle, but if you look at your deck from a modern perspective, then you can't deny that it seems horrendous. I mean... Deadly Insect. [card Sigarda, Host of Herons ]How[/card] [card Uril, the Miststalker]far[/card] [card gigapede]we've[/card] [card kodama of the north tree]come[/card].