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Pro Tour Gatecrash Preview

It’s the night before Pro Tour Gatecrash, and I realized that perhaps not everyone consumes information about competitive Magic as ravenously as we do here at ChannelFireball. Thus, I’ve thrown together a brief introduction to Standard, Gatecrash Limited, and the current Pro Point race for anyone who plans to check out the coverage. Remember you can watch every feature match live on Wizards’ streaming coverage, and keep up with standings and text coverage on their page.

We’ve got a few new tricks for this Pro Tour as well. We know it’s important to foster the next generation of players chasing the dream, which is why we decided to sponsor Team Panik—a young team captained by Matthias Hunt, with some CFB regulars you may recognize: Matt Nass, Jacob Wilson, Michael Hetrick, and Sam Pardee. Joining them are David Gleicher, Jia Wu, Jesse Hampton, Shahar Shenhar, and Jackie Lee.

If you’re like me, I get frustrated trying to keep up with the standings at the PT. Wizards can’t always update immediately, so if I want to know how a friend is doing—like Luis, for example—I have to check his Twitter (@lsv). Thus, we’re doing coverage all weekend long ourselves for both Team ChannelFireball and Team Panik on their respective pages:

Team ChannelFireball

Team Panik

We’ll be updating the records as we get them and posting notices when any of our players are in a feature match, so if you want to follow any individual player’s progress, this makes it much easier.

Standard

There’s a lot of analysis out there more sophisticated than my own, so make sure to check out Josh Silvestri’s article this week, and Caleb’s enlightening breakdown from yesterday. We’ve got a lot of results this early in the Standard season, and it seems to be the consensus that aggro is ascendant. Here’s a few of the archetypes you might see throughout the weekend:

Boros gained quite a bit from Gatecrash, and a number of players will undoubtedly try to capitalize on that. Boros is expected to be one of the most popular decks in the field:

Boros Aggro

Clayton Gereffi

[deck]Main Deck:
4 Ash Zealot
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Hellrider
3 Lightning Mauler
1 Pyreheart Wolf
4 Rakdos Cackler
1 Stonewright
4 Stromkirk Noble
2 Zealous Conscripts
15 Mountain
4 Clifftop Retreat
4 Sacred Foundry
1 Slayers’ Stronghold
2 Boros Charm
4 Searing Spear
3 Pillar of Flame
Sideboard
4 Reckless Waif
3 Volcanic Strength
2 Boros Charm
2 Skullcrack
3 Mizzium Mortars
1 Pillar of Flame[/deck]

Aggro master Tomoharu Saito threw his weight into the discussion with this brew that has quickly taken over Magic Online:

RG Aggro (Updated)

[deck]Main Deck
10 Mountain
4 Stomping Ground
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Stromkirk Noble
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Ash Zealot
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Flinthoof Boar
4 Lightning Mauler
4 Volcanic Strength
4 Rancor
2 Madcap Skills
4 Pillar of Flame
Sideboard
4 Reckless Waif
4 Mizzium Mortars
1 Madcap Skills
4 Skullcrack
2 Thunderbolt[/deck]

And of course, there are a few variations:

Naya Aggro

boostntofu

[deck]Main Deck
4 Cavern of Souls
3 Clifftop Retreat
2 Forest
2 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Plains
4 Rootbound Crag
1 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
4 Temple Garden
4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Champion of the Parish
3 Frontline Medic
3 Huntmaster of the Fells
4 Mayor of Avabruck
3 Nearheath Pilgrim
3 Restoration Angel
4 Silverblade Paladin
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
3 Searing Spear
3 Selesnya Charm
Sideboard
2 Bonfire of the Damned
3 Boros Charm
2 Fiend Hunter
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Pillar of Flame
1 Ray of Revelation
3 Rest in Peace[/deck]

GW Aggro

RPG

[deck]Main Deck
5 Forest
2 Gavony Township
7 Plains
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden
4 Angel of Jubilation
4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Champion of the Parish
3 Elite Inquisitor
4 Mayor of Avabruck
4 Precinct Captain
4 Silverblade Paladin
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Faith’s Shield
3 Rancor
3 Selesnya Charm
Sideboard
1 Faith’s Shield
2 Fiend Hunter
2 Nevermore
1 Oblivion Ring
2 Pithing Needle
1 Ray of Revelation
2 Rest in Peace
2 Riders of Gavony
2 Rootborn Defenses[/deck]

Naturally, with all this aggro cropping up, midrange with value creatures, life gain, and card advantage, seems like a natural turn to take. I’d expect quite a few midrange decks at the PT, from Jund to Junk to Naya, as a reaction to the popularity of aggro:

Jund

tkgons

[deck]Main Deck:
4 Blood Crypt
2 Cavern of Souls
2 Dragonskull Summit
2 Forest
2 Kessig Wolf Run
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Rootbound Crag
1 Stomping Ground
4 Woodland Cemetery
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
2 Olivia Voldaren
4 Thragtusk
3 Vampire Nighthawk
2 Abrupt Decay
3 Bonfire of the Damned
4 Farseek
2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
3 Liliana of the Veil
2 Pillar of Flame
1 Rakdos Keyrune
2 Rakdos’s Return
1 Staff of Nin
2 Ultimate Price
Sideboard
1 Barter in Blood
1 Bonfire of the Damned
3 Duress
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Ground Seal
1 Liliana of the Veil
2 Pillar of Flame
1 Rakdos’s Return
3 Slaughter Games
1 Vampire Nighthawk[/deck]

Junk Midrange

John Pietrowski

[deck]Main Deck:
3 Deathrite Shaman
4 Lotleth Troll
3 Loxodon Smiter
4 Restoration Angel
4 Thragtusk
2 Vampire Nighthawk
3 Obzedat, Ghost Council
2 Cavern of Souls
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Overgrown Tomb
2 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden
4 Woodland Cemetery
3 Abrupt Decay
4 Ultimate Price
4 Farseek
2 Unburial Rites
Sideboard
1 Deathrite Shaman
3 Rhox Faithmender
3 Blind Obedience
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Liliana of the Veil
1 Sever the Bloodline
2 Terminus[/deck]

Naya Midrange

Cantstoped

[deck]Main Deck:
2 Cavern of Souls
3 Clifftop Retreat
3 Forest
2 Kessig Wolf Run
2 Mountain
4 Rootbound Crag
1 Sacred Foundry
3 Stomping Ground
4 Temple Garden
1 Aurelia, the Warleader
4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
4 Loxodon Smiter
4 Restoration Angel
4 Thragtusk
3 Thundermaw Hellkite
4 Bonfire of the Damned
4 Farseek
2 Garruk Relentless
2 Selesnya Charm
Sideboard
1 Boros Charm
2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
1 Nevermore
2 Oblivion Ring
3 Pillar of Flame
2 Ray of Revelation
2 Rest in Peace
2 Rolling Temblor[/deck]

Ok, so what beats midrange?

[draft]sphinx’s revelation[/draft]

Right:

Esper Control

Chris Marshall

[deck]Main Deck:
3 Augur of Bolas
2 Snapcaster Mage
1 Jace, Memory Adept
1 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
1 Island
1 Plains
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Glacial Fortress
2 Godless Shrine
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Nephalia Drownyard
3 Watery Grave
3 Blind Obedience
1 Detention Sphere
4 Azorius Charm
2 Devour Flesh
1 Dissipate
1 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Sphinx’s Revelation
3 Think Twice
2 Ultimate Price
2 Supreme Verdict
3 Terminus
Sideboard
1 Pithing Needle
1 Detention Sphere
3 Rest in Peace
2 Dispel
1 Feeling of Dread
3 Negate
1 Psychic Spiral
1 Jace, Memory Adept
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Terminus[/deck]

Can we attack aggro and control? Yes:

UWR Flash

JPablo

[deck]Main Deck:
4 Clifftop Retreat
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
2 Island
1 Moorland Haunt
2 Sacred Foundry
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls
4 Augur of Bolas
4 Restoration Angel
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Azorius Charm
1 Counterflux
1 Dissipate
1 Essence Scatter
2 Izzet Charm
1 Mizzium Mortars
3 Pillar of Flame
1 Rewind
1 Runechanter’s Pike
1 Searing Spear
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Syncopate
1 Think Twice
2 Thought Scour
Sideboard
2 Detention Sphere
2 Dispel
3 Izzet Staticaster
1 Negate
3 Purify the Grave
2 Rhox Faithmender
2 Supreme Verdict[/deck]

Finally, there might be a hole in the metagame, as ever, for reanimator to exploit:

Reanimator

YLime

[deck]Main Deck:
2 Forest
2 Gavony Township
4 Overgrown Tomb
2 Plains
3 Sunpetal Grove
1 Swamp
4 Temple Garden
1 Vault of the Archangel
4 Woodland Cemetery
2 Acidic Slime
3 Angel of Serenity
3 Arbor Elf
4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
2 Borderland Ranger
2 Centaur Healer
2 Craterhoof Behemoth
2 Deathrite Shaman
3 Restoration Angel
4 Thragtusk
4 Grisly Salvage
2 Mulch
4 Unburial Rites
Sideboard
2 Abrupt Decay
2 Acidic Slime
1 Angel of Serenity
1 Deathrite Shaman
2 Duress
3 Rhox Faithmender
2 Sever the Bloodline
2 Tribute to Hunger[/deck]

Of course, this being a Pro Tour, expect to see previously unknown archetypes and tweaks on existing archetypes.

Limited

Gatecrash Limited has proven to be incredibly aggressive, and consensus seems to be that Boros is the best color combination, though Simic, Gruul, and Orzhov are all strong enough to 3-0.
Dimir, however, is almost universally maligned. While most pros agree on this point, some insist it’s possible to succeed with it:

Tom Ross falls in the latter camp, and wrote an interesting primer on the topic.

Tom Ross’ top commons in each color/guild:

[draft]mugging
syndic of tithes
slaughterhorn
grisly spectacle
cloudfin raptor
drakewing krasis
skyknight legionnaire
deathcult rogue
pit fight
kingpin’s pet[/draft]

Pro Point Goals

Lastly, we’ve reached a point in the season at which Pro Points have become more scarce, along with the opportunities to accrue them. While every Pro Tour player’s goal is to reach the Top 8, some three-hundred and something players that eventually fall short will need to reassess, and aim their sights at what is attainable—be it a Top 25 to qualify for the next PT, or some number of Pro Points to guarantee their continued presence on the gravy train.

For each of the member’s of Team ChannelFireball and Team Panik (and a few of our writers) with over 10 points, I’ve listed their current Pro Point total, and whether they have one of the relevant levels yet locked (Gold or Platinum). Bear in mind that you are guaranteed 3 points for attending a Pro Tour. So, I’ve already assumed the 3 points for Pro Tour Gatecrash, and if a player is already qualified for Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze, they have an additional 3 points guaranteed.

Between Pro Tour Gatecrash and Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze, the only remaining opportunity to get points is via the 11 Grand Prix in between:

Only five North American GPs left!

Obviously, there’s quite a few points up for grabs yet, but we can still extrapolate where players want to end up if they can’t manage to win the whole thing. For reference, Brian Kibler has been averaging about 2 points per GP. I won’t work based on that average, since it’s a small sample and Kibler is Kibler, but for those doing the math at home, roughly 10 points in GPs will make everyone’s picture quite a bit rosier—so keep that in mind.

As you are probably aware, the new points system is very top-heavy—the PT is the best place to get points by far.
Here are the point payouts for PTs (left) and GPs (right):

Team ChannelFireball

Josh Utter-Leyton – 50 (Locked for Platinum)

With a trip to the lucrative Players Championship, two Grand Prix finals appearances, and a Top 25 performance at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica, Wrapter can afford to relax a little.

Shuhei Nakamura – 49 (Locked for Platinum)

Despite a poor finish at Pro Tour Return to Ravnica, Shuhei is quite safe thanks to wins at Grand Prix Costa Rica and Philadelphia last year, combined with his Players Championship appearance.

David Ochoa – 49 (Locked for Platinum)

Grand Prix Costa Rica and the Players Championship were kind to Web as well—combined with his first Pro Tour Top 8 at PT Return to Ravnica, he’s set.

Martin Juza – 45 (Locked for Platinum)

A win at GP Bochum, the Players Championship, and 3 other GP Top 8s to go with his Top 100 at PT Return to Ravnica have things all sewn up for Martin.

Brian Kibler – 42 (Locked for Gold)

Top 50 Locks Platinum

It’s hardly going out on a limb to call Brian a virtual lock for Platinum. Just by maintaining his rate at Grand Prix, he’ll hit the necessary threshold after only a couple. Otherwise he can get there instantly with a solid performance at either of the next PTs.

Ben Stark – 36 (Locked for Gold)

Top 16 Locks Platinum

A Top 16 is a lofty goal, but a Top 50 and a Top 25 over the next two PTs would do the trick as well. If not, GPs have been fairly kind to BenS in the (very recent) past.

Luis Scott-Vargas – 31 (Locked for Gold)

Top 8 Locks Platinum

The good news is, an average finish of Top 25 over the next two Pro Tours gets Luis there—not so daunting a feat as it sounds for a man with an over 60% win rate on the PT. Nonetheless, I’m sure LSV would appreciate getting it all out of the way now with a Top 8 in Montreal.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa – 27

Top 4 Locks Platinum

Top 50 Locks Gold

A Top 16 with a Top 25 also does the trick, thankfully. Also of note, there’s a Standard Grand Prix in Brazil—Paulo’s odds on his home turf go up, which is saying a lot for a player of his caliber.

Conley Woods – 26

Top 4 Locks Platinum

Top 25 Locks Gold

Here we’re looking at Top 16 + Top 25, or a mere average finish of Top 75 for Gold. Again, GPs help out here, but without a strong performance at PT Gatecrash, they will leap in importance for Conley.

Eric Froehlich – 24

2nd Place Locks Platinum

Top 25 Locks Gold

EFro either has to spike a PT (Top 8 and then some), or go on a very solid run, with say two Top 25s and a couple GP Top 16s. I might be wrong about this, but I don’t think Eric is able to hit the Grand Prix as hard given his schedule, so the former option is the most reasonable.

Team Panik

Shahar Shenhar – 34 (Locked for Gold)

Top 16 Locks Platinum

A Top 25 and a Top 50 gets him 1 point away—I think it’s more than safe to assume he could pick that up via GPs.

Jacob Wilson – 26

Top 4 Locks Platinum

Top 25 Locks Gold

Thanks to a PTQ in Los Angeles, Jacob has the 3 additional points for PT Dragon’s Maze sewn up, which means Gold is certainly within reach—simply two Top 75s will do the trick.

Sam Pardee – 16 (Not yet Q’d for PT Dragon’s Maze)

1st Place Locks Platinum

Top 16 Locks Gold

Ok ok, here the thresholds get a bit silly—if he hits either of these (very high) thresholds, Sam nets an additional 3 points with the qualification those finishes would earn. Sam’s hope really should be for a Top 25—live to fight another day, and see where we stand then.

ChannelFireball Writers

Owen Turtenwald – 28

Top 8 Locks Platinum

Top 75 Locks Gold

Certainly, there’s no way Owen would be happy to settle for Gold at this point—a Top 16 plus a Top 25 also get him to Platinum.

Pat Cox – 27

Top 4 Locks Platinum

Top 50 Locks Gold

Same boat as PV—two good finishes or one excellent finish are required. Pat was Gold last season, so presumably he’ll be happy “merely” keeping his spot on the train (tougher than it’s ever been). Thus, even a Top 75 and a Top 100 get him back to Gold—a very realistic bar.

Paul Rietzl – 27

Top 4 Locks Platinum

Top 50 Locks Gold

I don’t know what TeamSCG is playing, of course, but in a Pro Tour where Boros could be the best deck in Constructed and Limited, I like Paul’s chances.

Hopefully I’ve provided a little insight for enjoying the Pro Tour Gatecrash coverage. I’ll be sitting back, updating the team coverage, and rooting our guys on from here at ChannelFireball Studios. Make sure to get in on the discussion on Twitter with #TeamCFB and #CFBPanik!

Enjoy the Pro Tour!

Andy Cooperfauss
@andycuberfauss

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