Editor’s Note: It was written before Pro Tour 25th Aniversary and we are sorry for the delay.
I am proud that I can show you another article. This time it will be last one for a longer period of time as I (most likely) will not be playing at the Pro Tour next year as I will focus on other things in life and put my player career to a hiatus. I thought about this for a long time and time has come to say goodbye for an undefined period of time and recharge the batteries.
While I knew I will stop to play very soon but I have not stopped yet as the last Pro Tour of the season which is right in front of our eyes and everybody is pretty excited about it. First of all, all teams are allowed to play all 14 rounds without day2 cut and we will have team trios as a whole new format. I will be playing with Marc Tobiasch and Pierre Dagen and we are really looking forward to playing the event and will devote everything to post a solid finish. While we decided a long time ago that Marc will play Legacy, Pierre and I were not sure about which format the two of us will pick up. We ultimately decided that Pierre will play Modern and I am the guy for Standard.
Marc Tobiasch and Pierre Dagen
While Standard sounds pretty boring at first glance in comparison to the older formats but I am pretty excited about the format this time. After playing Pro Tour Dominaria I had a split feeling about the format but “Core Set 2019” (M19) did have a good impact on the format. My colleague Grzegorz Kowalski showcased all the important cards in his article last week, so I will save you the time and will not reference every card again.
I will much rather showcase which 4 decks I am thinking about playing at the Pro Tour. One of them is Red-Black Midrange which still seems to be the best deck overall, but there are already enough good contents about the deck on the internet and I will not show you the repetition.
What’s happened after the Pro Tour Dominaria and M19
As I mentioned before I was not too excited as red was everywhere. I started testing decks to beat red and found a somewhat reliable choice in UB-Midrange but then M19 happened. At first, we were happy that red did not get an immediate upgrade and a lot of exciting cards came up.
The most interesting card for me was 《Nicol Bolas, the Ravager》 as both sides of the card are pretty strong. A 4/4 Flyer that can trade with 《Heart of Kiran》 or 《Steel Leaf Champion》 and cause your opponent to discard a card sounds pretty good to me. But the threat of transforming it is huge and therefore the opponent is under certain pressure to get it off the board as quickly as possible.
At first, I tried to just splash it into my UB-Midrange deck like as I did add white for just playing 《Teferi, Hero of Dominaria》, but then realized that the whole format changed and the old strategy has certain leaks that needed to be solved. The green deck involved and basically out of nowhere a Mono Blue Storm deck popped up. While it is not out of nowhere for me, as Marc was working on the deck since Pro Tour Aether Revolt (Dublin) in 2017, it came to a surprise for most people as the deck finally became good with the addition of 《Sai, Master Thopterist》. So I realized that now we need 《Abrade》 against Mono Blue Storm and 《Magma Spray》 against Green and RB-Aggro/Midrange.
I quickly tuned UB splash Bolas list into full three color Grixis deck which I also piloted at nationals. Here is the reference list that my teammate Immanuel Gerschenson used to a runner-up finish at Austrian Nationals:
4 《Canyon Slough》
4 《Fetid Pools》
3 《Dragonskull Summit》
3 《Drowned Catacomb》
3 《Sulfur Falls》
4 《Aether Hub》
1 《Field of Ruin》
-Land (26)- 4 《Glint-Sleeve Siphoner》
3 《Whirler Virtuoso》
3 《Nicol Bolas, the Ravager》
2 《The Scarab God》
2 《Torrential Gearhulk》
1 《Fatal Push》
3 《Harnessed Lightning》
2 《Supreme Will》
4 《Vraska's Contempt》
1 《Cut // Ribbons》
2 《Arguel's Blood Fast》
2 《Liliana, Death's Majesty》
This is by far not the best list of the deck, but it is basically the Jund deck of the format. You are not very favored against a specific archetype, neither you do not have a very bad Match-up. Every match is tight and you literally have to whirl your way out of some situations. You have a certain arsenal of removal to choose from and configure between main and sideboard. Immanuel chose this suit for the metagame he was expecting but the deck certainly could run more counterspells in form of 《Disallow》, there is the option of running 《Champion of Wits》 to go wider in “mirror-like” match-ups and control.
The big deal with the deck is the inclusion of the most powerful cards from “Kaladesh” Block and “Amonkhet” Block in form of 《Torrential Gearhulk》 and 《The Scarab God》. While this is neither the best 《Gearhulk》 deck, due to the absence of 《Glimmer of Genius》 (which could also be played in the deck) nor the best 《Scarab God》 deck without 《Ravenous Chupacabra》 nor 《Champion of Wits》, it does have an absurd power-level with the cards we can work with. Just imagine a game where you play two removal on your first three turns and then follow it up by 《Nicol Bolas, the Ravager》 into 《Scarab God》 into 《Gearhulk》. This is very hard to answer as all the cards are so powerful on their own and create card advantage just by entering the battlefield.
Another positive aspect of the deck is the easy transformation in post-board games from the energy based theme deck into an all removal control deck or into a super disruptive deck by board-out all removals. The game 1 is usually a hard-fought fight as your deck is spread to beat the field as good as possible, but in post-board games you are suited to be perfectly positioned against the field. The toughest card to beat is 《Vine Mare》 though, as it is tough to block and hits for 5 damage every turn.
I expect a lot of Grixis decks at the Pro Tour but in whichever configuration will be up to the players to decide and I certainly can’t tell what’s the best suit for the tournament.
Mono Green Ghalta
The second deck I want to show you is Mono Green 《Ghalta, Primal Hunger》 that won Austrian National, by former nationals-team representative Marc Muehlboeck:
4 《Blooming Marsh》
4 《Woodland Cemetery》
4 《Hashep Oasis》
-Land (24)- 4 《Llanowar Elves》
4 《Greenbelt Rampager》
4 《Scrapheap Scrounger》
4 《Steel Leaf Champion》
3 《Thrashing Brontodon》
3 《Rhonas the Indomitable》
2 《Vine Mare》
3 《Ghalta, Primal Hunger》
The deck is pretty straight forward and there is hardly anything to tweak around in the Maindeck. What I found interesting was the inclusion of 《Cartouche of Ambition》 in the Sideboard, which won him a lot of games on the back of 《Vine Mare》 or 《Ghalta, Primal Hunger》.
It’s the most linear aggro deck in the format and does a great job at pressuring the opponent with a turn 2 《Heart of Kiran》, 《Rhonas the Indomitable》 or 《Steel Leaf Champion》, while fully refusing to play any maindeck removal. It’s pure muscle with some sort of protection for your Dinosaurs in form of 《Blossoming Defense》. While this deck might not look appealing to a seasoned player, as it gives you significantly less room to maneuver than other decks, its pure strength is the fastest clock in the format with creatures that are hard to deal with.
There is also the option to play the deck with blue or red instead of black. While you lose 《Scrapheap Scrounger》, you get permanent solutions and a wider variety of threats. Other colored versions would rely on 《Servant of the Conduit》 and therefore lose some speed for the other benefits.
Another card that is very much a potent weapon for the deck is 《Thorn Lieutenant》, which shines in a field of red decks as it replaces itself and shows a strong ability in the late game.
Mono Blue Storm
Last but not least we arrived at the deck that got a lot of attention by pros all over the world: Mono Blue Storm.
4 《Zhalfirin Void》
1 《Inventors' Fair》
-Land (18)- 4 《Ornithopter》
3 《Glint-Nest Crane》
3 《Sai, Master Thopterist》
4 《Paradoxical Outcome》
3 《Baral's Expertise》
2 《Commit // Memory》
3 《Mox Amber》
4 《Renegade Map》
4 《Prophetic Prism》
2 《Metalspinner's Puzzleknot》
4 《Inspiring Statuary》
3 《Aetherflux Reservoir》
The true strength of the deck is that your combo enablers also keep you alive and therefore the deck is able to play longer games. 《Aetherflux Reservoir》, 《Baral's Expertise》, 《Sai, Master Thopterist》 and 《Glint-Nest Crane》 all help you to stay alive while you are crafting your combo together. Most Combo decks are streamlined and not able to play a control route until you “have” to go off, this is great at dragging it out. I got hit by 《Ghalta, Primal Hunger》 several times and still had plenty of time to go off later.
For sure the deck has some consistency issues but the breakout will happen at the Pro Tour. This is the list everybody is working with for starters but there are a lot of options to go with to fix the deck to combo faster of put cards into the deck that you can win without 《Aetherflux Reservoir》 like 《The Antiquities War》 or maindeck 《Karn, Scion of Urza》.
Those three decks and RB-Midrange are my potential choices for the PT and I could see 80% of the field playing those 4 archetypes in various configurations but there are other decks like Mono White or UW Control that could make a splash.
Thank you all for reading my articles for Hareruya, it was a pleasure to deliver contents for you and I promise my break won’t be forever. I really appreciated the feedback and support over the course of the last two years and hope it does not stop as I will not leave the Magic scene, just take a step back from Pro Magic.