Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar starts this Friday. I’m not qualified for this one, and certainly don’t deserve qualification, as I made no effort to attend. However, I always have fun building a “what if” deck for the tournament so I can see how my ideas would have stacked up against the metagame. It’s especially exciting any time someone makes it far with a similar strategy.
On the rare occasion that I do make it to the Pro Tour, I want to play an epic and iconic deck to make the tournament experience memorable. I want to remember assembling unique combos, casting unusual cards, and summoning giant monsters. I want to win or lose on my own terms. In other words, I don’t play it safe. I go for epic wins. Brewers gonna brew.
My Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar Brew
For this tournament, there is a lot to be excited about in Standard. There are consistent 5-color mana bases, there is an infinite combo, and there are absurd Dragons. Of course, I would play all of these in the same deck.
When crafting for a big tournament, I give heavy consideration to the meta, so I am a big fan of using Zvi Mowshowitz’s Elephant Method where you make a 75-card deck list and allocate 15 of them to the sideboard. This allows for some unintuitive but effective decisions that put strong and seemingly essential cards in the sideboard, opting for a “vs. everything” main deck.
In my 75, the first thing I know I want is the Oblivion Sower infinite combo. I like all of these cards, but they match up best against slower value decks because they go over the top. So I think I would actually start my Circle of Elders in the sideboard, even though it makes combo’ing much easier. Other ramp options are less vulnerable to removal.
I would be especially excited to play Retreat to Coralhelm at this event. This card ramps as part of our combo, but also scrys heavily in the long game. Another cool thing about this card is that you can use fetchlands to tap down opponents’ creatures during their turn, so it works as removal in an otherwise disruption-sparse deck. It’s extremely versatile.
I’ve noticed that this ramp-y/combo-y plan is vulnerable to flyers plus disruption, so I want to make sure we have some life gain and our own flyers to fight back. We can put the pressure on with Siege Rhino before dipping into an array of Dragons to take over the air.
The good thing about building a 5-color mana base is that you get maximum advantage when using Oblivion Sower to take the opponents’ fetchlands. So I want at least 1 copy of each battleland and at least 1 copy of each basic land. The rest should be filled out with fetchlands and Forests. With this it’s possible to support all 5 colors and still have 18 green mana sources from 24 lands. Thus you should be able to keep most of your opening hands.
Vs. The Meta
For a Pro Tour, it can be hard to figure out what specific decks will populate the meta, but it is easy to divide the environment into general archetype buckets—control, aggro, midrange, and combo. So we should focus on these.
Against the disruptive decks I would rather take a value route in the midgame and embrace the individual card power of our top end. I also want to dodge Radiant Flames which could cause problems. So cards like Hangarback Walker and Evolutionary Leap make for good early plays, and planeswalkers and other value plays should come in to improve our matchup against the control decks.
I am also concerned about the fast Atarka Red aggro decks, especially if they have access to Temur Battle Rage plus pump combos. Jaddi Offshoot actually matches up okay, and Hangarback Walker is stellar, so this card seems like it belongs in the main deck. It’s also going to be nice to have some spot removal like Wild Slash, although we only have so many slots.
When facing value decks, this is where you will most want the infinite combo. Any matchup where the opponent wants to go long without counterspells would give you the chance to get everything together on the board at once. However, pay attention to Dromoka’s Command which can pick off Retreat to Coralhelm. Otherwise, this is the matchup I would be most excited to face.
My pre-tournament 75 looks like this:
With this list I would hope to match up against anything slow, and I’d be concerned about the fast aggro decks and aggro-control decks, although we at least have a plan against these decks, and that’s all we really need.
If I were actually playing in the Pro Tour, I would go to trusted sources and get as much feedback as I can. Today is only Wednesday, and I would expect to make some breakthroughs and revisions for this 75 before the event. It’s not where it needs to be yet, but I’m locked in to the idea and now it’s about maximizing the potential of the strategy.
Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar Brew Fest
If you aren’t invited to Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar, that’s okay. I invite you to brew anyway! Submit your deck in the comments, and bring out the popcorn (or kale smoothies) this weekend to watch things unfold. If your deck comes in late, that’s okay, so long as you comment on that.
Do not worry about price for this tournament. Price is not an issue on the Pro Tour. You get the cards you need at all costs. This kind of tournament can be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, and when you are there, sometimes you don’t know if you’ll ever be back. So go for the gusto with a max budget.
Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar Brew Fest Submission
• Standard Format
• Max Budget
• Deck is Cost Sorted Low to High
• Description is <250 Words
• State “Pre-” or “Post-” Pro Tour Coverage Submission
I’m excited to see what you submit in the comments and how the results stack up against the Pro Tour field. I hope you enjoy participating in the Pro Tour from afar as much as I do, and maybe it will become a ritual for you like it has for me. We don’t need to be qualified to be active in our participation!
Next week, after picking through the results and measuring against the Pro Tour, I will be back with a results article highlighting some of the most innovative brews that were hits or misses at the Pro Tour.
Let’s get to it!