It was quite a great adventure riding the Pro Tour merry-go-round of top performing decks, hype train hyperbole from the r/Spikes forums, Pro’s taking to Twitter, and #mtgfinance buyouts. However, the most interesting thing to come out of the Pro Tour is the newly established meta-game!
In the post-Pro Tour Magic Online decklist dumps from August 9th and August 13th, it seemed like the darlings of the night were continuing strong as several different configurations of both Red-x Aggro and Green-x Stompy appear throughout both postings. We also see multiple configurations of the highly controversial Turbo Fog deck, featuring a full playset of everyone’s favorite new mechanic in Nexus of Fate (you know, the “can’t open it in packs” mechanic). Based on these online results, I was expecting to see a full repeat of the Pro Tour meta at GP Orlando and GP Brussels.
GP Orlando did not disappoint, with 7 different archetypes represented in the top-8 (Nicky-B and Grixis Midrange being the only duplicate), and all but 1 of which were listed in the Pro Tour Day 1 Meta Game Breakdown. Taking it all down was Gabriel Joglar with UW Approach.
Showing off the absolute power of Teferi, and the aggro breaking formula of “gain life, close your eyes, cross your fingers and pray” this deck has been a stalwart of the standard meta since the release of Amonkhet. The one deck to make top-8 that wasn’t highlighted in the Pro Tour breakdown was quietly one of the favorites of the event. Corey Burkhart’s 7th place Blue-Black Midrange deck eschews the red splash and access to Nicol Bolas, the Ravager for a leaner, more efficient mana base and leans on the power of The Scarab God and a host of removal.
Shifting gears and hopping across the pond, GP Brussels was also dominated by decks from the Pro Tour. The variety however, was not quite on par. There were three copies of Esper Control and two copies of Red-Black Aggro, leaving only 3 slots for other archetypes. One of them being Thomas Mechin’s 3rd place Nexus of Fate-wielding Turbo Fog deck. It seems that some people just can’t let the “Great Buy-a-Box Controversy of 2018” die. But the two Sultai-based decks that did not show up at either the Pro Tour or GP Orlando. Alexander Gordon-Brown’s 4th place Sultai Midrange is just another example of a deck leaning hard on the power of the inevitability that The Scarab God has been providing Planeswalkers for over a year.
Meanwhile in 6th place, Nils Gutierrez von Porat went the God-Pharaoh’s Gift route, leaning harder on over-powered artifacts from the Kaladesh block like Verdurous Gearhulk and Walking Ballista. Both decks look like fun, but also feel like they could run into a string of bad draws or bad matchups ultimately keeping them from breaking out as “tier 1” strategies.
Keeping in tradition, I want to leave you with some really out-of-left-field decks that look like a blast to pilot! First up is a White-Black control deck that features 2 copies of Vraska, Relic Seeker. The ONLY green pip in the entire 75 is on Vraska herself! Leveraging the stifling array of removal effects to stall out the format’s aggro decks, then relying on powerful Planeswalkers to close things out in the long game, this deck looks perfect for an FNM.
My favorite rogue list, which comes from the August 13 Magic Online Competitive post, is a take on God-Pharaoh’s Gift that I have yet to see. I don’t know whether to be conservative like WotC and call this “Gearhulk Gift” or go with a more traditional deck name like “12-Hulk”, but either way this looks like a ton of fun to run. Having 3 different methods for binning the high cost artifact creatures in Search for Azcanta, Cathartic Reunion, and Chart a Course allows you to filter your hand for the exact cards you need, and adding on top the ability to “oops” into a win con with Madcap Experiment, this deck gives its pilot a decision point with every turn.
Knowing that the two GP tournaments that occurred simultaneously on two different continents provided completely different results, yet have the same overarching them of “Pro Tour hangover” metas, I think that the coming weekend’s tournaments will give a more clear picture of where our M19 Standard format has settled. In the mean time, dust off your Gearhulks and go “experiment” at FNM!
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.
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