Before the Pro Tour, I wrote a short format primer for the coverage team, based on the testing I did with Team ChannelFireball. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what we thought going into the Pro Tour, as well as what we got right and wrong. The key interactions are me calling out the strange little things that came up while playing the decks, and they lean more on the side of things that coverage cares about when watching matches and trying to figure out what players may do in a given game.

Broad Format Predictions

  • Lots of linear decks—more than most Standard formats. This means fewer grindy games, as decks are often racing each other (and often going past each other without interacting much).
  • Smuggler’s Copter slots into and enables a variety of different strategies—the card will be all over, but not all Smuggler’s Copter decks are similar.
  • Control largely seems ill-prepared to face all the different types of threats, and the control cards don’t have a ton of support.

Notable Absences

Post-PT Note

Well, Spell Queller showed up in a big way. The U/W Midrange deck crushed the PT, so even though there weren’t a ton of Spell Quellers in quantity, the good Spell Queller deck had very good results. It looks like the people who figured out how to play it ended up in a great spot. The Temurge and Chandra predictions did end up being pretty close to accurate.

Control also had success, though I’m not sure I’d call it as clear-cut as U/W Midrange. Carlos and Shota doing well individually doesn’t quite speak to the positioning of control as a whole, though it definitely looked good in the matches they played. I’m interested to see where control goes from here.

Deck Breakdowns

Aggro

Red-White Variants

RW Vehicles RW Humans RW Tokens
3 Depala, Pilot Exemplar 2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar 3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
2 Pia Nalaàr 4 Hanweir Garrison 4 Inventor’s Apprentice
4 Selfless Spirit 4 Inventor’s Apprentice 3 Pia Nalaàr
4 Thraben Inspector 3 Pia Nalaàr 4 Reckless Bushwhacker
4 Toolcraft Exemplar 2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar 4 Selfless Spirit
4 Veteran Motorist 4 Thalia’s Lieutenant 4 Thraben Inspector
4 Declaration in Stone 4 Thraben Inspector 4 Toolcraft Exemplar
2 Harnessed Lightning 4 Declaration in Stone 4 Servo Exhibition
3 Fleetwheel Cruiser 4 Harnessed Lightning 4 Harnessed Lightning
2 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship 2 Fleetwheel Cruiser 4 Smuggler’s Copter
4 Smuggler’s Copter 4 Smuggler’s Copter 2 Aether Hub
4 Inspiring Vantage 4 Aether Hub 4 Inspiring Vantage
6 Mountain 1 Hanweir Battlements 5 Mountain
4 Needle Spires 4 Inspiring Vantage 4 Needle Spires
10 Plains 5 Mountain 7 Plains
4 Needle Spires
5 Plains

Overview: Red-White Aggro has 3 main flavors. All of them lean on Smuggler’s Copter, but they vary a little past that. Vehicles is more midrange, with a higher curve. Humans uses Thalia’s Lieutenant, and Tokens is the fastest (but worse against the other aggro decks). Red-White is one of the baseline decks, and very well-known.

Matchups: These decks are trying to race the linear decks. They have little-to-no disruption past a little creature removal, and their sideboard options are limited to things like Fragmentize.

Key Interactions

  • If you crew a Vehicle with Veteran Motorist, the Vehicle will get +1/+1 before it animates, so there’s no window for a 3-damage spell to kill a Smuggler’s Copter.
  • Thraben Inspector is one of the most important cards, counting as a Human, an artifact, and a way to crew Smuggler’s Copter.
  • Declaration in Stone on your own creature can give you an artifact for Exemplar or Apprentice.
  • Pia Nalaar messes with combat significantly. With her in play, there are a lot of different ways to attack (firebreathing plus reducing blocking), so she can lead to surprise wins.

Post-PT Note

We had the R/W Tokens deck that Makis Matsoukas used to finish first after Swiss, but didn’t pull the trigger. In particular, Pat Cox wanted to play it but chose not to because of how well-positioned the Aetherworks Marvel deck seemed.

Red-Green Energy

Overview: The best comparison here is Modern Infect. This deck has a ton of ways to generate energy, creatures that use energy, and pump spells. Electrostatic Pummeler plus Built to Smash or Larger than Life deals tons of trample damage, and the other creatures are pretty large by themselves.

Matchups: This deck has almost zero disruption, with 1-2 Harnessed Lightnings being the extent. It’s purely trying to race.

Key Interactions

  • Casting pump spells before using Pummeler leads to tons of damage.
  • Uncaged Fury offers another way to “double” damage, and really wants to be cast on a trampler.
  • The combat math with this deck is tricky, between double strike, trample, and Pummeler. It may be hard to do on the fly. The deck can do tons of damage out of nowhere, so don’t be surprised if it randomly does 60 in a game it looked like it was losing.
  • Multiple ways to get hexproof, like Blossoming Defense and Bristling Hydra, means the deck is resilient to instant-speed removal spells. Wary opponents will play their removal as sorceries, which then lets R/G not waste pump spells.
  • Can stack up tons of energy, with Pummeler, Hydra, and Cub being the best sinks. Cub especially can snowball very quickly.

Post-PT Note

This deck did more poorly than expected. It may be that the field was prepared enough, or that the deck just wasn’t actually good. I wouldn’t expect a ton of this going forwards.

Black-Green Delirium Aggro

Overview: This deck is slightly more midrange than most aggro decks, with larger creatures on the whole. It’s still fast, and pressures the opponent with a curve all the way up to Verdurous Gearhulk.

Matchups: Slightly slower than other aggro means it’s less likely to outrace combo, but it has better sideboard options (Pick the Brain and Transgress the Mind, sometimes even Emrakul, the Promised End). It’s also got more resilient creatures and the Traverse engine for consistency.

Key Interactions

Post-PT Note

Check out Eric Froehlich’s article for a good take on this deck. Aggro delirium seems like a strong deck moving forward.

Prized Amalgam Decks

RB Madness Grixis Emerge
4 Cryptbreaker 3 Evolving Wilds
4 Haunted Dead 2 Island
2 Insolent Neonate 3 Mountain
4 Prized Amalgam 1 Sanctum of Ugin
4 Scrapheap Scrounger 4 Aether Hub
4 Voldaren Pariah 3 Smoldering Marsh
4 Cathartic Reunion 4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Fiery Temper 2 Sunken Hollow
1 Lightning Axe 1 Swamp
2 Unlicensed Disintegration 4 Minister of Inquiries
4 Smuggler’s Copter 4 Elder Deep-Fiend
4 Foreboding Ruins 4 Haunted Dead
5 Mountain 4 Insolent Neonate
4 Smoldering Marsh 4 Prized Amalgam
10 Swamp 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
1 Wretched Gryff
4 Cathartic Reunion
3 Kozilek’s Return
1 Perpetual Timepiece
4 Smuggler’s Copter

Overview: Discard decks that try and use Smuggler’s Copter to enable all sorts of shenanigans. These decks also pressure the opponent, and use either Voldaren Pariah or Elder Deep-Fiend as their high end.

Matchups: Amalgam decks are capable of very fast draws (anything with multiple Amalgam plus enablers tends to be busted), but don’t generally goldfish as quickly as decks like R/W. They have more removal, and either Deep-Fiend or burn to close out the game.

Key Interactions

Post-PT Note

I’m surprised this deck didn’t fare better, and if Torrential Gearhulk decks get bigger, I’d definitely look at playing Amalgam decks. There aren’t any good graveyard hate cards right now, and Amalgam decks do a fantastic job of beating up removal-heavy control.

Combo

Aetherworks Marvel Combo

Overview: This deck is very single-minded, with the only real plan being to get to 6 energy and cast Aetherworks Marvel. Games where it doesn’t find Marvel are very difficult, as casting Emrakul, the Promised End is a poor backup plan.

Matchups: This is the fastest game-1 deck in the format, with turn-4 Emrakul, the Promised End or Ulamog being largely unbeatable. Kozilek’s Return and Glint-Nest Crane (plus life from Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot) are the ways the deck interacts.

Key Interactions

  • Aetherworks Marvel casts the card, so Eldrazi trigger their cast effects, and Kozilek’s Return triggers from the graveyard when you cast an Eldrazi off Marvel.
  • Missing on Marvel frequently means using it again next turn, as either Puzzleknot basically gets you there.
  • Marvel is legendary, but playing a second generates 2 energy when one is sacrificed.
  • The deck is resilient to discard, but weak to Negate and Ceremonious Rejection. Note that Lost Legacy cannot name Marvel, but may be boarded in to name Emrakul, the Promised End or Ulamog.
  • Sometimes this deck sides into more creatures as a transformational plan.

Post-PT Note

This is the deck that Team ChannelFireball ended up playing (slightly different list than was pictured—check out Matt Nass’ deck from the Top 8 for the updated list). It is definitely a powerful deck, but the field did seem prepared. The team faced way more Negates, Ceremonious Rejections, and particularly Spell Quellers than they expected, and the overall win percentage wasn’t great. You still have to respect Marvel as a deck, but the metagame may be too hostile to it right now.

Metalwork Colossus

Game plan: Play a bunch of noncreature artifacts and cast Colossus for cheap or free, triggering Sanctum of Ugin and getting another Colossus or Elder Deep-Fiend.

Matchups: This is a combo deck, but is quite interactive. Spatial Contortion and the various Vehicles (mostly crewed by Foundry Inspector), plus Glint-Nest Crane, let it play a normal game against aggro. Against control it can recur Colossus, and against combo it needs to sideboard to be fast enough.

Key Interactions

  • Colossus triggers Sanctum no matter what the cost of Colossus is. Turns with multiple free Colossi are common, and the last target is usually Deep-Fiend.
  • Colossus emerges Deep-Fiend well, but another common line is to crew a Vehicle with Colossus and emerge off that.
  • Panharmonicon doubles Puzzleknot, Crane, Prism, and Skysovereign.
  • Crewed Cultivator’s Caravans can’t tap for mana once they are creatures if they were just played, thanks to summoning sickness.
  • Inventors’ Fair is legendary, but so good in the deck that it plays multiple copies. This is another way to get Colossus.
  • Hedron Archive is +2 net mana for Colossus the turn you play it. Colossus math also is key to figuring out the deck’s lines.

Post-PT Notes

I love this deck. It’s not good enough against aggro, but if control becomes a huge part of the field, I like the game plan of stacking up Colossi against control decks.

Post-PT Overview

Our team definitely underrated control. Making good control decks at a Pro Tour is hard, because you need to get the field right and make sure your deck is built for that field. Miss on either and your deck can’t win, whereas a more proactive deck largely just has to be built well to succeed. Torrential Gearhulk is the big story coming out of the Pro Tour, and I’m interested to see how well those decks do now that everyone has more information.