For Pro Tour Aether Revolt, our conglomerate of 3 teams of 6 (Massdrop East, Massdrop West, and Mox Box Bowl) arrived in Dublin the Tuesday prior to the event. We had already been playtesting online for over 4 weeks at that point, and most of us wanted to attend either GP San Jose or GP Prague, so it was hard to get all of us together in person before Tuesday.

We had a nice conference room set up, where we got to playtest for 3 days non-stop to solidify our deck choices. I will go further into the decks we considered and tuned in a future article. For now, let’s talk about my actual final choice: Jeskai Saheeli.

This was what all of our testing resolved around. We had a hard time finding any deck that could beat it and we had a bunch of promising decks, but they were all losing in the post-sideboarded games. Mardu Vehicles was the only deck I found that had a positive record all around, except I was losing half my games to my mana. I tried fixing the mana base but didn’t get anywhere close to something satisfying, which made us abandon the deck.

One of our teammates, Paul Dean, had an unconditional love for Gideon, Archangel Avacyn, and Forests. Despite our multiple attempts at G/W decks, Paul didn’t want to give up and brewed a version of it with Toolcraft Exemplar.

We already had somewhat reasonable results with our past green-white lists against Saheeli, mainly because of Gideon. But in some games, you would fall too far behind because the deck was kind of slow. Adding a powerful 1-drop to get under them made a lot of sense.

We played a few games, Paul liked his deck, and it was set. It took some time to convince other people since it was such a unique build and we had very little time left to test, but it worked, and 8 of us ended up playing the deck.

G/W Tokens

This is the 75 I registered for an 8-2 finish. Scott Lipp, Ricky Chin, JC Tao, Paul, Mark Jacobson, Eric Severson, and Tim Wu played very similar lists. The main deck was exactly the same and the sideboard was a little different depending on what people believed was best.

All we knew for a fact was that the deck did not have a good game 1 matchup against Black/Green Winding Constrictor, and so we wanted Declaration in Stone, Ajani, Fumigate, and a 25th land as a sort of transformational sideboard plan to try to go over the top of them.

We knew Authority of the Consuls wasn’t great against traditional Jeskai Saheeli. I played one basically just for the 4c Saheeli matchup because they rely on the combo much more than Jeskai.

Quarantine Field was our “anti-bull****” sideboard card. Some played a Consulate Crackdown. Basically, we didn’t think Colossus, Marvel, or improvise decks would be popular, but there was a chance we missed something, and it seemed worth it to have a few slots dedicated to that possibility.

I’m the only one who liked Tireless Tracker. In fact, I wanted to run it over Rishkar in the main, but eventually convinced myself I’d just make my Walking Ballista a lot worse if I did that. Instead, I ran them in the sideboard and was liking them because our Toolcrafts, as much as they were good against control, didn’t have that many artifacts. If they were removed, Toolcraft wasn’t really a card. I wanted to get extra Clues, and Tracker does that.

Jeskai, G/B Snakes, and Mardu Vehicles

That was the big 3 we expected. It’s safe to say that unless you “broke it,” this was also what everyone else thought was going to be popular among those who haven’t “broken it.” We were confident that there wasn’t going to be any combo/Marvel decks, since Jeskai was keeping all of those away with its ridiculous number of counterspells. That left us believing that there wouldn’t be that much innovation and we should trust in the results we came up with.

That we misjudged Mardu’s ability to play consistent games was costly for everyone on our team that played Jeskai, but rewarding for those on G/W since that matchup was favorable throughout the testing process. Adding Toolcraft Exemplar made it a little worse since we weren’t going as big as before, but it was still favorable.

We expected G/B to be a little less popular than SCG had shown because of its bad matchup against Jeskai.

All in all, we expected tons of Saheeli Rai, mostly Jeskai, but also 4-color versions.

Sideboarding

We didn’t put too much emphasis on how exactly we wanted to sideboard in each matchup because the Pro Tour is always hard to grasp precisely. We have an idea of which archetypes people will bring, but their sideboards and plans can be totally off what we think.

As you will see, only the green-black matchup is precise.

Mardu Vehicles

On the Play

Out

In

On the Draw

Out

In

Jeskai Saheeli

On the Play

Out

In

On the Draw

Out

In

The Rishkars are at their worst here since if you went turn-2 Heart of Kiran and turn-3 Rishkar without having a turn-1 play, you often get hit by Shock or Harnessed Lightning and you can’t even crew in response. At least if Tracker dies in that spot you can get an attack in.

Boarding in Authority of the Consuls on the draw depends on how reliant my opponent was on the combo. I’ve seen people board out a ton of pieces or just play very conservatively. In that case, I would not bring it in. On the draw was the hardest position to play against the combo, because I would find myself burning too much time playing around it. I’d rather spend a mana to play Authority and be able to develop my board than keep Stasis Snare up.

If you see Spell Queller, absolutely keep your 3 Stasis Snare. Consider boarding out the 3rd Rishkar for the Authority.

B/G Snakes

On the Play

Out

In

On the Draw

Out

In

Consider keeping 2 Walking Ballista if you see Glint-Sleeve Siphoner. Toolcraft is mediocre because of their Ballistas. Also, their guys in general are just too big so it’s hard to race or keep your planeswalkers alive, which is why you go bigger with more removal and try to protect your planeswalkers. I board in the Tireless Tracker on the play to not run out of cards, but on the draw I think the game plan pans out better and you don’t need them.

I will be at GP Pittsburgh this weekend. I’m not sure if I will be running it back yet because I expect a surge of black-green to counter the Vehicles menace, but I will certainly explore different builds before putting down my Canopy Vistas!