How Revolting... a Pro Tour Analysis and Metagame review!

StuSomers
February 09, 2017
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by Stu Somers

Pro Tour Aether Revolt Review

Hi everyone, and welcome to my first article with Flipside Gaming! I am going to be bringing you weekly articles that are hopefully both entertaining and informative. It has been awhile since I have written, and I'm excited about what this new venture has to offer both you and I!

The Car Ran Over the Cat

Pro Tour Aether Revolt has come and gone and it was exactly how we all thought it would play out: A single deck with a powerful 2-card combo in it dominating the field making it look like there is no hope until the Ban/Restrict announcement in March. Only, it wasn’t Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai doing the dominating but Scrapheap Scrounger and Heart of Kiran doing the dominating. In a performance that was so dominating it had some people mentioning it in the same breath of “Eldrazi Winter” or “Caw-Blade”, Mardu Vehicles completely ran over the field and put 7 out of 8 decks in the top 8 including the eventual winner piloted by Lucas Esper Berthoud:

Mardu VehiclesLucas Esper Berthoud1st Scrapheap Scrounger Inventor's Apprentice Thraben Inspector Toolcraft Exemplar Veteran Motorist Pia Nalaar Thalia, Heretic Cathar Mountain Plains Aether Hub Concealed Courtyard Foreboding Ruins Inspiring Vantage Needle Spires Aethersphere Harvester Shock Unlicensed Disintegration Heart of Kiran Gideon, Ally of Zendikar Cultivator's Caravan Inventor's Apprentice Selfless Spirit Fatal Push Skywhaler's Shot Skysovereign, Consul Flagship Chandra, Torch of Defiance Gideon, Ally of Zendikar Fragmentize Release the Gremlins Needle Spires

 

Going For A Plane Ride

The majority of the decklists in the top 8 ran the Vehicle combination of Heart of Kiran and Aethersphere Harvester, both featuring what I think is the most important keyword in Standard at the moment: Flying. With both Mardu Vehicles and BG Aggro being able to quickly clog up the ground and very hard recession in the amount of Ishkanah, the Grafwidow being played being able to finish off players and planeswalkers in the air has quickly replaced “going-wide” as the go-to way to win. The other key cog in the Mardu Vehicles machine is Scrapheap Scrounger. Prior to the Pro Tour, BG Aggro would have a lot of issues recovering from a wrath effect, allowing the Copy Cat decks to turn the corner and take control over the game and trade one for one removal and reload with the Glimmer of Genius/Torrential Gearhulk engine. By being able to return Scrounger to play at the end of turn you are able to put a continuous clock on the opponent while holding up a removal spell to interrupt their combo if they go for it.

A lot of people felt that watching the SCG Tour that Mardu Vehicles could not handle all the Shock/Grasp of Darkness running around or that Walking Ballista was a death knell for the deck but that could not be further from the truth. The deck requires the opponent to have removal on the spot and if they do not then they are just going to be for a bumpy ride while they try to resolve their Glimmer of Genius or Fumigate a Scrapheap Scrounger that is just going to come back at the end of turn. While Mardu Vehicles was the least played of the top 3 decks to show up in quantity (combining all the BG and Copy Cat variants together), the fact that it dominated the decklists that went 8-2 or better makes me believe this was more than just an overrepresented deck doing well. There is a distinct difference between the abilities of the people on the SCG Tour and those that are on the Pro Tour and that showed this past weekend in a completely different metagame.

 

Cat is out of the Bag

While the deck performed poorly compared to expectations, this Pro Tour was definitely influenced by the Felidar Guardian/Saheeli Rai combo. Deckbuilding was warped to the point that decks shaved on removal spells that are bad against the deck like Shock/Fatal Push that it allowed these aggro decks to roam a lot more freely. Now that being said, I think we are going to see a sharp adjustment period and there are already a lot of decks that are popping up on Magic Online

The Most Important Play in Standard

I just want to talk for a few sentences about what I think the most defining play in Standard is going to be: On the draw, casting your turn 1 Fatal Push on their Turn 2 creature. It might not seem like much, but it has such a profound effect on how the rest of the game plays it that it cannot be understated. There is a strong chance that if they spend their turn 3 removing your creature that they might not get to efficiently use all of their mana in the subsequent turns that it will allow to gain a substantial advantage in both board presences and tempo, and it in today’s game, Tempo is the most important factor. Cards are so good that a game can snowball out of hand very quickly if someone stumbles for the smallest of reasons.

Going for a ride in the Steel City

This coming weekend we have the first major post-Pro Tour event in the form of Grand Prix Pittsburgh (aka GP Stu’s house). I expect to see a lot of Mardu Vehicles and various flavors of Copy Cat throughout the tournament, so the big question is what do we do about that to get an edge? I am not really sure to be honest. I think playing efficient Artifact removal such as Fragmentize or Natural State that allow you to double spell on a key turn is going to be very important. I also do not think it is the time to be reactive, but proactive. Kaladesh and Aether Revolt have a lot of strong combo cards still lurking such as Marvel Aetherworks, Inspiring Sanctuary, and Paradox Engine. A few key disruption spells to buy you the time to activate the Marvel could be the key to next evolution of the format. Let’s not forget, it was just a few weeks ago that Marvel Aetherworks was one of the most messed up cards in Standard. I am leaning towards the Aetherworks version of Copy-Cat but there are still a few days left before the tournament so my opinion might change but the deck does look appealing.

 As for the Grand Prix being in my back yard, if you have any questions about fun things to do in Pittsburgh, or you have gotten lost because the city was built between 2 mountains, 3 rivers, and lot of weird one-way streets with construction, please ping me on twitter, I would be glad to help you out.

 Thanks for reading!

 -Stu Somers

@Ssomers55 on Twitter

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