Pro Tour 25th Anniversary weekend came at us with a level of hype that we haven’t seen in years. Wizards of the Coast pulled out all the stops, bringing us the first ever Team Trios Constructed Pro Tour event. They also brought in some of eSports top names to compete in the Silver Showcase event which benefits a great charity in Child’s Play. There were 14 rounds of Legacy, Modern and Standard to watch the best of the best battle it out for their chance at fame and glory.
At least that’s what they wanted you to think. Tuning in to coverage there were Brainstorms and Dazes and Forces, oh my! On top of that we saw Vengevines and Bedlam Revelers and Humans galore! Did I say that Standard was being played at this tournament? Because THEY said that Standard would be played at this tournament… From watching coverage, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought otherwise, because I definitely never saw a standard match on camera.
Wizards did do a pretty good job of talking about Standard on coverage however, and the highlight of it all was their post-day-1 metagame breakdown where Paul Cheon was able to give us the hot-take that removal is good. We saw an overwhelming majority of the teams at #PT25A register Red-Black aggro as the deck du jour (mmm, that sounds good, I’ll have that…) for several reasons; it provides a fast start, it has the ability to be quite evasive, and removal is good. Add the “Mono-Red” (we suck at naming things…this deck splashes Black for Scrapheap Scrounger) variant to the Goblin Chainwhirler archetype and you’re talking about over 44% of the field registering a red based aggro deck that has been dominating Standard for well over a year now, for the most Premier event that Magic has up it’s sleeve for all of 2018. No wonder they decided to give the powerful cards of days past the limelight this weekend.
Now at this point you are probably thinking to yourself (or for some of you, screaming at your phone…), “Surely Red aggro can’t be the entire story.” Fear not my friends, for we have another 55.8% of the field to talk about. I’ll start with a walk through the Top-4 decks, even though as we’ve established in the past, at Team events the standings are made up and the results don’t matter.
Taking it all down with Blue-White Control, Gregory Orange piloted a masterful finals match against hall of famer Martin Juza. Orange’s deck didn’t come with any extra spice and went all in on the control plan, leveraging the raw power of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria to remove all feeling of hope from opposing mages (as well as all of their permanents). Tried and true, Blue-White Control has been a force in the meta since the release of Dominaria, and there is no reason to have expected otherwise here.
Coming in second place, veteran of the game and three-time Pro Tour Top-8 competitor Martin Juza took the consensus best deck in Red-Black Aggro. Agreeing with 44.2% of his peers in thinking that Goblin Chainwhirler was the path to victory, Juza carved his way to the finals table but ran into an absolutely stifling wall in Teferi and friends (let’s be honest, it’s just Teferi…because that guy is a jerk and no one wants to be his friend). After going down in game 1, Juza used the blistering speed of the Red aggro archetype to steal a win in game 2, but that was all that could be mustered and the day was not Juza’s to be had.
In 3rd and 4th place we have another Red-Black Aggro deck piloted by Carlos Romao and Thomas Van Der Paelt as one of two players to register the “what is old is new again” deck in Blue-White God-Pharaoh’s Gift. But the talk of the tournament (or the LACK of mention is more like it…) was the Turbo Fog deck that 6 players decided to register. Maybe more players WOULD HAVE registered the deck if they could get a hold of one of the key 4-of cards in it. Which for some strange reason is not the namesake of the deck…hhmmmm…is Wizards maybe trying to suppress the popularity of a deck featuring a 4-of card that could have only been obtained by buying a box of M19 a month ago…not from packs, and not from some other continuous method of distribution. Only. Available. One. Time. Over. A. Month. Ago. Taking Turns is an archetype that players try to break in every format available. We did it during Battle for Zendikar Standard when both Temporal Trespass and Part the Waterveil were legal together. Nexus of Fate brings a new wrinkle to the archetype in that it is the first instant speed, unconditional extra turn spell ever printed. Add to that, it completely breaks modern extra turns convention, and rather than exiling itself, it SHUFFLES BACK IN allowing the Planeswalker casting it the chance at taking, literal, infinite turns. Expect there to be backlash from the community and expect Wizards to make a statement regarding Buy-a-Box Promo’s as exclusive printings going forward.
For all of the glitz and glam surrounding this magical weekend, a celebration of 25 years of history and the game that we all love, Standard seemed to be kind of left in the shadows. Maybe this was intentional on Wizard’s part after seeing 3 weeks worth of Magic Online results. Maybe this was just a byproduct of putting on such a massive event, with so many interesting stories, and a chance to showcase fan favorite formats. The Standard meta shaped up to be what we thought it was and we will continue forth at FNM knowing that Red Aggro is still good, Blue-White Control is still oppressive, our new overlord Nicol Bolas will still be there, and luckily not very many people will have a full playset of Nexus of Fate so the “Turbo Fog” deck probably won’t show up. We can still run our Zombies and we can still run our Cats, and we can still have fun, because after all, it’s just a game. and it’s OUR game.
Eric has been an avid Magic fan and player since re-discovering the game in 2012. He is a Red mage at heart but likes to confuse himself with the varying decision trees presented by mid-range and control decks from time to time.
Eric plays mostly casually with his 9-year-old daughter, but manages to get out for every prerelease and a few FNM’s and GP’s every year.