Pro Tour - Vancouver

August 13, 2015

What’s goin’ on, guys? My name is Jon Delano, and I’m a northeastern grinder from the Albany area. I recently attended Pro Tour Origins and wanted to give insight into the preparation work I did.

Before Origins I had been playing Siege Rhino decks, so my basic instinct was to stick with the Abzan Megamorph list and tune it against what I expected the new meta. Since Languish was spoiled I knew I wanted to play it alongside Siege Rhino, knowing that there are few interactions more powerful in standard. Languish was going to define the new standard. The new decks needed to either go under Languish (which is really hard to do), go bigger than Languish (with Siege Rhino, Tasigur, etc) or ignore Languish (just run out your hand and pray). Midrange decks tend to allow me to play to my strengths by drawing the game out and allowing me to outplay my opponents at critical junctures, so I wanted to stick to a midrange strategy if possible.

The week before the Pro Tour I travelled out to Vancouver and met up with a couple of the people I was going to be testing with. We started with some of the baseline decks we thought might appear at the tournament. Some of the decks we tested were Goblins, Mono-Blue Devotion, Sultai Megamorph, Mono-White Devotion, and various Rally the Ancestors decks. We also fired a couple of 8-mans to get a feel for the draft format. The first day in Vancouver we tested more standard. I tested Abzan control against the gauntlet but it tested merely average.

Abzan Megamorph by Jon Delano
4 Satyr Wayfinder

4 Siege Rhino

4 Den Protector

3 Deathmist Raptor

2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer

2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang

1 Sidisi, Undead Vizier

3 Languish

3 Hero's Downfall

3 Abzan Charm

2 Bile Blight

2 Elspeth, Suns’ Champion

1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

1 Read the Bones

4 Sandsteppe Citadel

4 Temple of Malady

4 Windswept Heath

3 Temple of Silence

3 Forest

2 Plains

2 Caves of Koilos

2 Llanawar Wastes

1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Sideboard:

3 Arashin Cleric

3 Thoughtseize

2 Gaea’s Revenge

2 Mastery of the Unseen

2 Self-Inflicted Wound

1 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes

2 Anafenza, the Foremost

1 Crux of Fate


I played Nissa, Vastwood Seer over Courser of Kruphix in order to play Languish more effectively. The problem with that was that you lose out on a powerful card advantage engine which puts you behind against decks that are trying to go longer and bigger than you with cards like Dig Through Time and Ugin, The Spirit Dragon. Since Abzan felt a little underpowered I looked toward other strategies. Green/Red Devotion felt very powerful.

R/G Devotion by Jon Delano
4 Courser of Kruphix

4 Whisperwood Elemental

4 Sylvan Caryatid

4 Rattleclaw Mystic

4 Elvish Mystic

3 Polukranos, World Eater

3 Dragonlord Atarka

3 Xenagos, the Reveller

3 Genesis Hydra

2 Arbor Colossus

1 Hornet Queen

1 Nylea, God of the Hunt

4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

4 Temple of Abandon

4 Wooded Foothills

1 Rugged Highlands

11 Forest

Sideboard:

4 Nylea’s Disciple

3 Nissa, Worldwaker

2 Gaea’s Revenge

1 Polukranos, World Eater

3 Shaman of Forgotten Ways

2 Seismic Rupture


G/R Devotion is a very proactive strategy that has some unbeatable draws. The problem with the Devotion deck was that it was a “known” deck and I felt that everyone would have a solid plan against it. At a tournament like the Pro Tour, this is a big issue since every percentage point is valuable against players of such skill level. Playing a deck most players are familiar with can be a big liability, especially when it’s a deck as linear and straightforward as G/R Devotion.

One of my testing partners, Mike Derczo, was testing a Mono-white deck that was actually doing well against most of the field. Unlike me, he locked into his deck choice early in the week and ended up playing this list in the tournament.

Mono-White Devotion by Mike Derczo
3 Consul's Lieutenant

3 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit

4 Knight of the White Orchid

4 Hangarback Walker

4 Brimaz, King of Oreskos

4 Archangel of Tithes

1 Heliod, God of the Sun

2 Wingmate Roc

2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion

4 Valorous Stance

2 Spear of Heliod

2 Citadel Siege

20 Plains

3 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx

2 Foundry of the Consuls

Sideboard:

2 Hallowed Moonlight

4 Arashin Cleric

2 Reprisal

2 Hushwing Gryff

2 Tragic Arrogance

2 Mastery of the Unseen

1 Mass Calcify


On our second day of testing, Abzan Rally won the SCG open in Richmond. We had been testing a version of this deck but I was not interested in playing it. With the victory in Richmond I knew playing the mirror match with Rally was a real possibility and I didn’t have enough time to learn how to properly navigate that matchup. At this point, I was also completely off Abzan since the Rally match-up is almost unwinnable unless you devote sideboard slots to unimpressive cards like Hallowed Moonlight. The open also introduced me to Rob Vaughn’s Sultai control list which I was interested in testing.

Sultai Control by Robert Vaughn
4 Satyr Wayfinder

4 Den Protector

3 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy

4 Dig Through Time

4 Hero’s Downfall

2 Sultai Charm

3 Languish

2 Bile Blight

1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

2 Dissolve

3 Disdainful Stroke

1 Murderous Cut

2 Thoughtseize

4 Opulent Palace

3 Temple of Malady

3 Temple of Mystery

1 Temple of Deceit

4 Polluted Delta

2 Island

2 Swamp

1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

2 Llanowar Wastes

2 Yavimaya Coast

1 Haven of the Spirit Dragon

Sideboard:

1 Garruk, Apex Predator

2 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang

1 Thoughtseize

3 Feed the Clan

2 Drown in Sorrow

2 Negate

2 Self-Inflicted Wound


On day three we met up with other members of our testing group who were staying across town and fired several 8-man drafts. Those who weren’t drafting watched and graded those that were. I did decently in the drafts and it reaffirmed my confidence in the limited format. The format is extremely aggressive and if you fall behind it is very hard to catch up. This is partially due to the Renown mechanic. When a creature becomes Renowned, it’s usually because you had no good blocks for it that turn, and your chances of having good blocks for it once it becomes renowned are even lower which can snowball quickly out of control. Because of this, our team prioritized two-drops in testing and would often pick them over more obviously powerful cards because it’s so important to not fall behind in the early turns.

It was the consensus on the team that green was the weakest color in Origins. It lacked the power of the other colors despite its depth of average playables. One thing we also learned in testing was the Sphinx’s Tutelage was actually a fairly powerful card in limited but it often flew under the radar when people were making picks because committing to a Sphinx’s Tutelage deck early seemed too risky for the potential payoff to be worth it.

By Tuesday most of us had locked in our choices for the Standard portion of the Pro Tour. I decided to play Sultai Control because it played like a better Abzan. The deck essentially trades Siege Rhino for Dig Through Time and Jace, which I felt was well-worth it. It had favorable matchups against Devotion strategies and the other midrange/control decks, while also having avenues to victory against the aggressive decks and Rally. Two of my other teammates, Ian Barber and Ben Feingursh also played Sultai. Dan Ward played Rally, and Mike Derczo the Mono-White devotion deck.

The last day before the tournament we learned that the vendors were sold out of Searing Blood. This was not a good sign for me, as Mono-Red is not a good matchup for the Sultai deck. A friend of mine, Rob Betesh, showed us a Blue/Red Thopter deck that he was planning on running that ended up being very similar to the list Mike Sigrist took to the Finals. We worked on finalizing our sideboard slots. I cut one Feed the Clan, which ended up being a mistake. Ben ended up running a Virulent Plague in his board while the rest of us were not, but for the most part myself, Ian and Ben were within two or three cards from the same seventy five.

Sultai Control by Jon Delano
4 Satyr Wayfinder

4 Den Protector

3 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

4 Hero's Downfall

4 Dig Through Time

3 Languish

2 Sultai Charm

2 Dissolve

2 Disdainful Stroke

2 Bile Blight

2 Thoughtseize

1 Murderous Cut

1 Garruk, Apex Predator

1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

4 Opulent Palace

4 Polluted Delta

3 Temple of Malady

3 Temple of Mystery

2 Yavimaya Coast

2 Llanowar Wastes

2 Island

2 Swamp

1 Temple of Deceit

1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

1 Haven of the Spirit Dragon

Sideboard:

2 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

2 Negate

2 Feed the Clan

2 Self-Inflicted Wound

2 Feed the Clan

2 Drown in Sorrow

2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang

1 Silumgar, the Drifting Death


As a side note, when Origins first came out I had tested a U/R Thopter list with local grinder Connor Bryant and determined that it had a terrible matchup against the low-to-the-ground Abzan decks, so I dismissed it as a viable option. In hindsight, it seemed I made a big mistake. Abzan Aggro didn’t really show up to the tournament and the U/R Thopter deck dominated the top tables of the standard portion of the tournament.

The day of the tournament I was feeling good about my 75 and the draft format. As it turned out, I couldn’t have been further off the mark.

I was happy with the deck I drafted:

R/W Draft Deck by Jon Delano
3 Akroan Sergeant

2 Prickleboar

1 Firefiend elemental

1 Cobblebrute

1 Mage-Ring Bully

1 Charging Griffin

1 Topan Freeblade

1 Knight of the Pilgrim’s Road

1 Ampryn Tactician

1 Consul's Lieutenant

2 Titan's Strength

2 Lightning Javelin

1 Chandra's Fury

1 Molten Vortex

1 Act of Treason

1 Dragon Fodder

1 Mighty Leap

1 Suppression Bonds

8 Plains

8 Mountains

1 Rogue’s Passage


It was Red/White Renown with a lot of solid creatures and decent tricks but no legitimate “bombs”, as my packs featured such limited all-stars as double Starfield of Nyx and Flameshadow Conjuring. Unfortunately, Shahar Shenhar was drafting those two colors to my left, which cut me on quality cards pack two. Cliché bad beat story: I ended up playing against unbeatable rares and mulliganning to an 0-3 record. The good news is that I got to test out the new mulligan/scry rule a lot. I was actually pretty disappointed. Even though my deck was not great, I truly felt my deck was good enough to at least 2-1.

Constructed went about as well as limited. Round one I played against Mono-Red, which is one of the worst match-ups. Game one I had him dead on board with a Disdainful Stroke in hand and enough blockers for a dash guy but I was at 2 life, so Wild Slash or Lightning Strike killed me. Naturally he draws for the turn and revealed his card asking “Lightning Strike you?”. Game two I played Tasigur and cast double Feed the Clan for a convincing victory. Game three we were in another situation where I had him dead on board with Sultai Charm and Dissolve in hand at 2 life but with no blockers. Unfortunately I had fetched incorrectly earlier in the game and did not have enough blue sources to cast both my spells. He drew for turn putting him up to two cards in hand and dashed two lethal creatures to kill me. The rest of the matches were not particularly noteworthy except for a draw I picked up in one of the later rounds against Jeskai control. In game three he was at three life with one card in hand and nothing in play, and I had Silumgar, The Drifting Death and Ugin in play with double counter spell in hand when we drew. I won a match against devotion and got run over by more aggressive red decks. I realized quickly that my deck choice was not well-positioned for the tournament and I did not predict such a large presence of aggressive strategies. However, Jace is definitely a busted magic card and I would play Sultai again if I were to play in a less defined metagame.

If I had known that Mono-Red and Bue/Red Thopters were going to be so popular I would have played Abzan aggro with low to the ground creatures and four Anafenza, the Foremost.
Another good choice would have been the Mono-White deck that my teammate Mike Derczo played to a 7-1 record on day one. It had favorable matchups against Thopters and Mono-Red between its low-drop creatures that outclass the creatures in the aggro decks and Archangel of Tithes to make combat even more difficult for them.

Going forward in Standard, I still think I would continue to play Sultai Control. I believe this deck to still be very powerful and can be tuned to fight the new aggressive meta – I just hadn’t adequately prepared for what the field at Vancouver turned out to be. I’m looking forward to trying to qualify for Pro Tour Milwaukee. Thanks for reading. Denny’s?

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