Hello hello hellooo! Here is the second half of my two part article on Battle for Zendikar Standard. We’ve now had two Open Series events and the Pro Tour for the set. This article is about new break out decks, that either didn’t really exist or weren’t hyped up coming into the format. I’m going to start by looking at the results from the first Star City Open of the season.
The tournament was won by Atarka Red, which I mentioned in my article last week. There were a couple of new innovations the primary of which was three copies each of Temur Battle Rage and Become Immense in the list for a 1-2 punch to win games out of nowhere. This proved very effective against decks playing blockers like Fathom Feeder or public enemy #1 Hangarback Walker; where you can just trample through with Battle Rage for game. That however is far from the main story of the tournament, and looking at the rest of the top 8 and top 16 you can see why Atarka Red was an excellent choice… So these new ‘Tango’ lands right, we have fetches for them and fetches fetch basics too right? So what if we ran a bucketload of fetches, basics of each colour and then one of each Tango land? The result: play whatever the heck colours you want, or so it seemed. Three colour decks from last standard just started adding extra colours, and we even saw Five Colour Bring to Light decks doing very well with a lone copy making top 8. Extra Siege Rhinos that can go and search up other stuff are pretty decent.
After that first event a lot of people were moaning about the new Mana Bases, and that how all the decks would just look the same but fortunately that didn’t prove to be true. Last weekend saw the second Open of the format and GW Megamorph took it down. Its not a new deck, but a carry over from last season where Brian Kibler played it in Pro Tour Magic Origins. In fact, it was a Green White Megamorph final match for the Open along with a third copy also in the top 8. The deck is probably what you’d imagine, Deathmist Raptor plus Den Protector with a couple of Hidden Dragonslayers, backed up by Warden of the First Tree, Hangarback Walker, Wingmate Roc, and Nissa Vastwood Seer; relying heavily on Dromokas Command and Valorous Stance for removal. I didn’t mention it earlier but Michael Majors also made the top 8 of the first Open with the deck so it wasn’t necessarily under the radar going into the tournament. In addition to the GW version of the deck Tom Ross made the top 8 with a Bant version of the deck using a ‘kinda free’ splash of blue for cards like Dispel, Lumbering Falls and some sideboard cards.
The other big deck at the tournament, putting two copies into the top 8 was Jeskai Black. Again it was seen being played in the previous SCG, along with decks like Abzan Red, Abzan Blue and other wacky colour combinations thanks to the new lands. The deck has a lot of sweet synergies and powerful cards it can play. Jace Vryns Prodigy is a very important piece to this deck powering up your delve spells and acting as a reusable Snapcaster Mage, Jace has to be answered quickly or he can get out of hand and put you very far ahead. Ojutais Command and Kolaghans Command are also excellent in the deck recurring creatures like Jace and giving you lots of 2 for 1 situations,and then add powerhouses like Mantis Rider and Crackling Doom and the deck is very powerful and ha access to loads of options. We’ve now seen a few different variations of Jeskai but at the minute this is the most popular.
So then, going into the Pro Tour the format looked fairly defined. Bring to light seemed to be a passing trend and the format looked dominated by Esper, Megamorph, Atarka Red and Jeskai Black. Other decks were out there of course, everyone I’ve talked to and their mothers had tried some Aristocrats deck with Zulaport Cutthroat and some of the other new support; not to mention the veer present Abzan decks hanging around. Plus we still had Dragons around and we had seen Eldrazi Ramp decks perform ok in tournaments. Lets take a look at the Top 8 of the tournament…
2 Dark Jeskai
1 Atarka Red
1 GW Megamorph
1 Abzan Aggro
1 Jeskai Tokens
That’s not too bad, and while it doesn’t tell the tale of the tournament, it does give you a reasonable idea of what to expect if you’re going to FNM or a PPTQ any time soon. Abzan Aggro in the hands of Kazayuki Takimura took down the tournament, defeating Ryoichi Tamada’s Jeskai deck in the finals. The Abzan Aggro deck looks pretty much like what you would expect and not a lot has changed since last format so I’m not going to go into much detail about it, just the addition of Gideons and the new lands along with new early removal all star Silkwrap in the sideboard. Silkwrap is so efficient dealing with Jace or Hangarback Walker because exiling stops the Hanagrback making tokens and Ojutai/Kolaghans Command tricks, while it is vulnerable to Dromokas command it doesn’t make a difference vs Walker (most of the time) and decks playing Jace don’t tend to play the card. The ‘new’ deck here is Jeskai Tokens, an old friend we haven’t seen in a while but is now back in the fold. The core of the deck is still the same: Jeskai Ascendancy plus instant/sorcery token producers and Treasure Cruises. Gideon Ally of Zendikar popping back up here again, and four copies of Silkwrap yet again. An interesting point about this deck is that it had fallen out of favour due to how Dromoka’s Command is so good against it, killing the Ascendancy. However with Hangarback Walker being around and Silkwrap being a really good card at the minute you have protection against the Command, plus again if its a Hangarback you exiled with it sacrificing the Silkwrap loses you nothing.
Those are the new decks in the top 8 but again that’s not the whole story of the tournament. So to close off the article I’m going to talk about my favourite cool new decks coming out of the Pro Tour: Bant Tokens. This what boils down to a Retreat to Emeria landfall deck brewed up the night before the Pro Tour designed by Sam Black and played by his team-mates Justin Cohen and Ben Stark who all went 8-2 or better with the deck. These numbers are kinda crazy especially as there was only one other player on the deck at the Tour. The key cards to the deck are Retreat to Emeria and Gideon Ally of Zendikar as your prime token producers backed up by the likes of Hangarback Walker, Secure the Wastes and Wingmate Roc. Retreat is an insanely powerful card it turns out especially with fetch lands and Blighted Woodland. This deck really wants to hit all its land drops which leads it to splashing green for just three Elvish Visionary and a full four Nissa Vastwood Seer; Sam saying that Nissa is just the best card in the deck. A last minute change was also made the morning of the Pro Tour to add blue for a couple of Lumbering Falls and a pair of Dispels in the maindeck. Dispel is a really well positioned card at the minute with all the Instants running around and has become maindeckable even on the splash because it is so efficient against so many cards in the format. It’s especially important here as the deck almost straight up loses to Dromokas Command. Its a really sweet deck and can really kill you out of nowhere with a fetch or two in play. Sam did a great deck tech for Pro Tour coverage you can find here.
And thats it from me again this week. I had a slight delay getting this one out there and seeing as the Pro Tour was fast approaching I decided to wait til then so I could give a better overveiw and have a better grasp on the format. So thanks for being patient and as always thanks for reading!