The Boss – Standard After PT Gatecrash

Pro Tour Gatecrash has passed and Standard shaken up once more with new twists on old favorites. The announcement of the 4th Pro Tour’s restoration was music to everyone’s ears.

[card]Boros Reckoner[/card] was the breakout card of the tournament—24 copies appeared in the Top 8. Formidable in both aggro and control builds, the 3/3 for three is a centerpiece of everything from infinite life combo to a 3/3 that’s hard to block or a 3/3 that’s hard to attack into. At the time of writing, [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] is in the $25 to $30 range and don’t expect it to fall any time soon.

History was made, as Melissa DeTora became the first female to reach the Sunday stage of a Pro Tour Top 8. One can only wonder how the gender boundaries of the game might’ve changed had she won. More girls coming to your FNM, ambitious to become the next Melissa D? In a game so male-dominated, it would be a welcome change.

Gerry Thompson and Owen Turtenwald came into Pro Tour Gatecrash as the leaders in lifetime Pro Points among those without a Pro Tour Top 8 appearance. The long overdue achievement is behind them now, as they place another well-deserved highlight on already amazing magic resumés.

Joel Larsson, like his hair, rose to the occasion to finish in 2nd for 20k as the lone non-American in the Top 8. The Swede knows how to play some Magic—expect to see him under the lights again soon.

Tom Martell took it down with the new Aristocrats deck, initially designed by Sam Black. This deck jams as much synergy as possible centered around the “sacrifice a creature” mechanic, which Black boasts is one of the strongest abilities a creature can have.

[card]Main Deck:
4 Blood Crypt
3 Cavern of Souls
1 Clifftop Retreat
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
3 Plains
4 Sacred Foundry
1 Vault of the Archangel
4 Boros Reckoner
4 Cartel Aristocrat
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Doomed Traveler
4 Falkenrath Aristocrat
3 Knight of Infamy
1 Restoration Angel
2 Silverblade Paladin
2 Skirsdag High Priest
2 Zealous Conscripts
2 Lingering Souls
4 Orzhov Charm
Sideboard
2 Blasphemous Act
2 Lingering Souls
1 Mentor of the Meek
2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
2 Rest in Peace
1 Skirsdag High Priest
2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
3 Tragic Slip[/card]

Since the format is chock-full of [card]Boros Reckoner[/card], the ability to “chump-block” with a [card]Doomed Traveler[/card], sacrificing it before damage is dealt to one of the deck’s 8 hungry Aristocrats bypasses the trigger on the Reckoner, much like sacrificing a [card]Sakura-Tribe Elder[/card] after blocks to avoid opposing [card]Umezawa’s Jitte[/card] counters accumulating.

[card]Orzhov Charm[/card] tends to overperform. Its surprising how often you bring back a [card]Doomed Traveler [/card]from the graveyard, and how closely that play mirrors [card]Midnight Haunting[/card]. Taking enemy creatures with [card]Zealous Conscripts[/card] and then sacrificing them is a strong play that’s always been dangerous across formats.

Red-White-Blue midrange was the deck with the most momentum/buzz going into the Pro Tour, and came in many flavors. Many know about [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] + [card]Blasphemous Act[/card] for a quick 13. Most knew about [card]Azorius Charm[/card] (lifelink) + [card]Boros Charm[/card] (indestructible) to create a self-shooting loop and “An Unbounded Amount of Life.” But few employed the strategy, as they felt it was in the “too cute” territory. Joel Larsson disagreed:

[deck]Main Deck:
2 Cavern of Souls
4 Clifftop Retreat
2 Glacial Fortress
2 Hallowed Fountain
1 Island
1 Plains
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls
4 Augur of Bolas
4 Boros Reckoner
3 Restoration Angel
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Azorius Charm
2 Blasphemous Act
4 Boros Charm
2 Izzet Charm
1 Moment of Heroism
2 Pillar of Flame
3 Searing Spear
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
1 Unsummon
Sideboard
4 Geist of Saint Traft
1 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Negate
1 Pillar of Flame
1 Psychic Spiral
2 Supreme Verdict
2 Thundermaw Hellkite
2 Tormod’s Crypt[/deck]

It turns out that this build not only has the opponent constantly respecting the combo, it can burn the opponent out faster than any other! [card]Boros Charm[/card] the face – [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] for another 4 damage is a very real and common play. A few unblocked [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] or [card]Restoration Angel[/card] hits and they’re within range before they know it.

Gerry Thompson avoided the cuteness, and opted to play strictly solid cards. The spicy tech to note is [card]Harvest Pyre[/card], which acts as both a win condition when used on your Boros Reckoner for upwards of 20 damage, while offering removal early on.

[deck]Main Deck:
3 Clifftop Retreat
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
1 Island
2 Mountain
1 Plains
2 Sacred Foundry
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls
4 Augur of Bolas
4 Boros Reckoner
3 Restoration Angel
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Azorius Charm
1 Counterflux
1 Harvest Pyre
2 Mizzium Mortars
1 Rewind
3 Searing Spear
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Think Twice
4 Thought Scour
Sideboard
2 Dispel
2 Essence Scatter
2 Grafdigger’s Cage
3 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Negate
2 Oblivion Ring
1 Planar Cleansing
1 Rhox Faithmender[/deck]

Melissa’s Bant with a red splash for [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] is similar in concept to Reid Dude’s Bant that splashed black for [card]Nephelia Drownyard[/card] and nothing else.

[deck]Main Deck:
4 Breeding Pool
3 Glacial Fortress
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Hinterland Harbor
2 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
2 Sunpetal Grove
3 Temple Garden
3 Augur of Bolas
3 Centaur Healer
4 Restoration Angel
4 Thragtusk
4 Azorius Charm
1 Detention Sphere
2 Dissipate
4 Farseek
4 Sphinx’s Revelation
3 Supreme Verdict
1 Syncopate
2 Think Twice
Sideboard
1 Centaur Healer
1 Detention Sphere
2 Garruk Relentless
1 Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
2 Negate
2 Rest in Peace
3 Rhox Faithmender
1 Supreme Verdict
2 Witchbane Orb[/deck]

[card]Centaur Healer[/card] and [card]Thragtusk[/card] ensure that you live until the mid-/late game where [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] can take over. Once everything is well taken care of, [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] offers the finishing blow, often in one swing. The deck has the ability to side into a super-slow deck that focuses on winning with [card gisela, blade of goldnight]Gisela[/card] and Wolf Run, and using [card]Witchbane Orb[/card] to ward off opposing super-late-game win conditions like [card]Nephalia Drownyard[/card].

Human Reanimator was mostly thought of as a glass cannon—a deck that’s strong, but very vulnerable to hate. Quite a few players didn’t follow the one-hit-wonder mentality and ran their own updated versions, some offering a kill of [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] and [card]Undercity Informer[/card]. It’s now a consensus that [card]Farseek[/card] just isn’t what this deck should be doing on turn 2, since at best it offers a turn 3 [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card] or a quick sideboarded [card]Slaughter Games[/card].

The list Tsu Teung Lam played at PT Gatecrash:

[deck]Main Deck:
1 Blood Crypt
4 Cavern of Souls
1 Clifftop Retreat
1 Godless Shrine
1 Isolated Chapel
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Stomping Ground
2 Sunpetal Grove
3 Temple Garden
4 Woodland Cemetery
4 Angel of Glory’s Rise
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
2 Cartel Aristocrat
4 Fiend Hunter
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
4 Undercity Informer
4 Faithless Looting
3 Grisly Salvage
4 Mulch
4 Unburial Rites[/deck]

Undercity Informer acts as both an enabler and a combo-piece, and thus allows the number of [card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card] to be shaved slightly. [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card] offers an early play the deck lacked. I’ve cast [card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card] on turn 2 just to trade with a [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card], now you can go Burning-Tree Emissary into [card]Mulch[/card], and still be on track while interacting.

The mana is still unreliable, and as perfect as Farseek looked on paper, it didn’t feel right. Concessions do need to be made though, and I’d play with 1-2 [card]Prophetic Prism[/card] to smooth out draws. Early game it’s slightly worse (unless you have a double [card]Cavern of Souls[/card] draw), but late game it is much better. Your hand tends to be all lands anyway, so another draw is better than a fetched shockland. Overall, I like this deck choice going forward, as Human Reanimator is still off everyone’s radar, and [card]Rest in Peace[/card] and [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card]s are dropping from sideboards.

Lastly, Conley Woods, in his typical rogue style, decided to play an off-the-wall brew that was surprisingly good in the metagame.

[deck]Main Deck:
4 Blood Crypt
4 Dragonskull Summit
17 Swamp
4 Crypt Ghast
4 Gloom Surgeon
4 Griselbrand
4 Vampire Nighthawk
2 Dreadbore
3 Liliana of the Veil
4 Mutilate
1 Rakdos’s Return
4 Sign in Blood
1 Staff of Nin
4 Victim of Night
Sideboard
2 Devour Flesh
3 Duress
1 Liliana of the Veil
1 Olivia Voldaren
1 Pithing Needle
1 Rakdos Charm
1 Rakdos’s Return
3 Slaughter Games
2 Underworld Connections[/deck]

The first deck to really make good use of [card]Mutilate[/card], and to have access to the format’s best 2-mana removal spell in [card]Victim of Night[/card]. [card]Crypt Ghast[/card] makes for really big fireballs in the form of [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card].

However, the question remains: If mono-black is good, why hasn’t anyone played it yet? Perhaps Conley is capable of winning with any deck (ham sandwiching). In any case, the deck is powerful and consistent, so keep it in mind for upcoming tournaments. I wouldn’t mind another life gain spell in there somewhere. [card]Tribute to Hunger[/card] instead of [card]Devour Flesh[/card]? Who knows, but the life loss from things like [card]Sign in Blood[/card] and [card]Underworld Connections[/card] (and getting attacked) adds up. Extort is a nice side effect of [card]Crypt Ghast[/card], so maybe that’s enough. [card]Griselbrand[/card] is so much better when you have the freedom to activate him at least once without connecting, so life total is always relevant.

So what’s the next step for Standard? I expect Red-Blue-White to be the deck to beat. Aristocrats is very good, and rewards players who know the interactions, but likely once people learn everything that the deck is capable of it’ll lose part of its strength. Whatever you choose, you need to be prepared to deal with [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] efficiently. The value of [card]Searing Spear[/card] and [card]Ultimate Price[/card] is a bit lower now as players search for better solutions, like [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], [card]Pacifism[/card], and [card]Victim of Night[/card]. Pacifism is particularly nice as it’s likely the pound-for-pound best answer to a resolved [card]Thragtusk[/card] as well. Also, many deck’s rely on their lands to win, which makes [card]Pithing Needle[/card] a touch stronger. I’d run one in the sideboard of any Standard deck right now.

It’ll take awhile to digest the magnitude of all the achievements, fulfilled dreams, and milestones set this weekend. The best [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] deck is still up in air, as is the best “Mono-Red” deck. Mono-black could be the next big thing, or a Humanimator may rise from the dead to win a tournament when guards are down. Red-Blue-White will likely remain on top for at least a month after this. It’s the most powerful “on paper” and actually fairly easy to operate compared to the aggro decks, including Black’s Aristocrats. If I were to play tomorrow I’d run:

[deck]Main Deck:
4 Clifftop Retreat
3 Glacial Fortress
3 Hallowed Fountain
1 Island
1 Plains
1 Mountain
3 Sacred Foundry
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls
4 Augur of Bolas
4 Boros Reckoner
2 Restoration Angel
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Thought Scour
4 Azorius Charm
1 Blasphemous Act
1 Harvest Pyre
3 Boros Charm
1 Counterflux
1 Pillar of Flame
2 Searing Spear
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
1 Dramatic Rescue
1 Mizzium Mortars
Sideboard
4 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Negate
1 Dispel
1 Boros Charm
1 Psychic Spiral
2 Supreme Verdict
2 Thundermaw Hellkite
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Pithing Needle[/deck]

Good luck!

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