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Pro Tour Aether Revolt: Day One (Live Updates)


Pro Tour Aether Revolt is under way in Dublin, Ireland featuring Aether Revolt limited and Standard! For the rest of the day we'll have live, round-by-round updates keeping you up on all of the action. Along the way we'll make some guestimates at some sweet new decks, try to figure out which cards are winners (and which are losers) on Magic's biggest stage, and have some random ramblings and thoughts on the event itself. So if you are looking to catch up on all the Pro Tour Aether Revolt action, make sure to check back after each round, or read the entire article later in the day (at a more reasonable hour for North Americans). 

Pre-Constructed (Round 1-3)

Typically I don't really breakdown limited because it doesn't really have an impact on card prices or constructed decks, but this is a good spot to talk a bit about some of the big changes we are seeing in coverage with Pro Tour Aether Revolt. First, when I stumbled out of bed this morning a little after 6 am (which was part way through round two of limited) and jumped over to Twitch, Magic: the Gathering was on the home page. This never happens. 

A few months ago Wizards announced a partnership with Twitch, and it seems that it is already paying off. Being the first thing that pops up when anyone goes to Twitch is a huge deal, and while the viewership wasn't amazing (11,286 as I'm writing this at 7:30 am EST), I'd have to imagine that at least some of these people stumbled onto the stream from the home page coverage. Regardless of the numbers, the fact that Twitch is treating Magic like a "real" game is exciting and should pay off over the long term. 

As for the coverage itself, Wizards added an advantage bar which is designed to give a visual representation of who is winning the game (because life totals can be deceptive). Unfortunately it was updated inconsistently and wasn't always representative of how I viewed the game state. So while I'm happy that they are trying to solve the problem of new players not understanding who is winning the game, the execution was pretty lacking. While I'm not sure it's possible, having some sort of win percentagelike poker does for hands and ESPN does to predict the winner of sports eventswould be ideal and would be much more meaningful and consistent than the advantage bar. 

Finally, the focus of Pro Tour Aether Revolt is pretty clearly the Team Series. While I like the potential of additional storylines, endless filler segments showing pictures of Magic players in team uniforms is getting old pretty fast. It might just be that Wizards has started running these segments during sideboarding/shuffling and not just between rounds, which means they need more filler than ever, but "elevator music with pictures of random Magic people in matching jerseys" isn't a winning formula.

Round 4

Constructed kicks off with boring old GB Delirium versus a spicy Grixis Improvise from Luis Salvatto, which looks suspiciously like a good draft deck with 4x Servo Schematic and 4x Cogworker's Puzzleknot to power out big improvise threats like Herald of Anguish, Bastion Inventor, and Maverick Thopterist. Meanwhile, the GB Delirium deck in the hands of Jelger Wiegersma looks fairly typical with Winding Constructors, Tireless Trackers, and Grim Flayers. In game one, the Grixis Improvise deck does its thing and goes on the beatdown plan with the help of Tezzeret's Touch making Cogworker's Puzzleknot into a 5/5 beater, overcoming a double Tireless Tracker draw from GB Delirium with the help of a surprise Servo blocker from sacrificing Cogworker's Puzzleknot. In game two, the GB deck goes crazy with multiple Winding Constrictors and Salvatto doesn't cast anything except Cogworker's Puzzleknots. In game three, Salvatto draws all Servo Schematics while the GB deck plays a handful of good cards including Grim Flayer, Winding Constrictor, and Walking Ballista, winning the game handily. 

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Since the GB Delirium deck is already known and pretty expensive (with good results from the last two SCG events), let's talk a bit more about the Grixis Improvise deck. From what I can tell, the deck is almost exclusively uncommons and commons with the major exceptions being Spire of Industry and Herald of Anguish. The demon has a super weird price history, starting off pretty expensive, dropping, and then spiking again once the bannings were announced. As a result, it's currently over $30 a playset, which might make it seem like there isn't much room for the mythic to grow. However, if this deck actually becomes a real thing, the fact that all of the other cards in the deck are dirt cheap commons and uncommons means that the demon could be really expensive since something from the deck will spike and there simply aren't any other options. Spire of Industry has a lot of potential as well. It could be Modern playable and should see play in a bunch of different Standard decks, especially if the format eventually moves away from the Copy Cat combo (which is fighting itself in the mirror in the backup featured match). The bigger question is whether the Grixis Improvise deck can actually work. We've seen limited-looking decks take over Pro Tours before (think UR Eldrazi in Modern), but so far it appears the deck is inconsistent, either looking awesome as it casts six-drops on turn three and seven-drops on turn four, or utterly unplayable. Here's our guestimate for the Grixis Improvise list: 

Inter-round Deck Tech with Paul Cheon:

Round 5

Round 5 kicks off with the greatest Magic player off all timeJon Finkelon Mardu Vehicles against Jund Energy in the hands of Martin Juza. The Mardu Vehicles deck looks fairly typical with Heart of Kiran in the Smuggler's Copter slot, while the Jund Energy deck is rather unique, playing not only Heart of Kiran, but also Greenbelt Rampager. In fact, the deck actually looks a lot more like a Jund Midrange deck with some light energy synergies than what we'd typically think of as an energy deck (with Electrostatic Pummelers and such).

The Jund Energy deck is odd all around, featuring multiple vehicles to go along with planeswalkers like Chandra, Torch of Defiance and some energy cards like Voltaic Brawler. The deck is far less dedicated to any single theme than most decks, instead relying on a mixture of of different synergies. This said, there are a couple of big takeaways. 

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First, we haven't really seen Greenbelt Rampager at all in Standard since Aether Revolt released, but here it is in a feature match at the Pro Tour. Maybe the best way to think of Greenbelt Rampager is as a one mana two-drop, which makes it more similar to something like Fleecemane Lion or Watchwolf than a "real" one-drop. This said, it does have three power which is super important in decks featuring Heart of Kiran, since it can crew the mythic vehicle all by itself. It can also do a neat trick where if you have no energy, it can come into play, crew Heart of Kiran, and then bounce back to your hand. This said, Greenbelt Ramaper is already $2, which means it's unlikely to see much of an increase unless this odd Jund list can put multiple players into the top eight.

More importantly, the addition of Heart of Kiran into the Jund Energy list bodes well for the mythic's future. While the vehicle has replaced Smuggler's Copter in some builds, it has nowhere near the dominance of Smuggler's CopterHeart of Kiran is currently a three-of in about 13% of decks, whereas the looter scooter was a four-of in over 60% of decks. At $15 and already the most expensive card in Aether Revolt, it's unlikely that Heart of Kiran gets a huge increase from Pro Tour Aether Revolt. If it can expand into some other archetypes beyond Mardu/Four-Color Vehicles, it may be more likely that it can maintain its current price. 

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On a more disappointing note, while it's still early, so far many of the cards I was hoping to see haven't made an appearance. Cards like Paradox Engine, Inspiring Statuary, and even Aetherflux Reservoir seem like they have a ton of potential, but don't have very obvious homes. My hope was that the pros would figure these cards out, but at least thus far, it seems like this didn't happen. While it's technically possible they show up in the future, the first couple rounds of constructed are usually when Wizards shows us the crazy decks that may or may not work out, and with Round 5 coming to a close, this just hasn't happened. Oh, by the way, here's a guess at the Jund Energy deck: 

The inter-round Deck Tech features Jund Constrictor with Simon Nielsen:

Round 6

In between Rounds 56 we get the day one metagame breakdown which gives us our first look at the Pro Tour Aether Revolt metagame and provides a baseline to judge the success (or failure) of various decks over the weekend. Here's a look at the top decks:

  • The biggest surprise is right at the top of the list: Mardu Vehicles is the most played deck of the tournament. Heading into Pro Tour Aether Revolt, I think most people would have guessed Jeskai Copy Cat with Green-Black decks coming in second. But even without Smuggler's Copter, Mardu Vehicles still comes in first at 22.4% of the format.
  • While Jeskai Copy Cat Control is the second most played deck at 16.9%, but if you add together all of the Copy Cat combo deck variants, you'll see that the combo is still the most popular thing to do with in the format, being found in 24.7% of decks.
  • The same is true of Green-Black. While there are some slight differences between Green-Black Delirium and Green-Black Constrictor, these decks share a lot in common. If we add them together, Green-Black also jumps Mardu Vehicles, coming in at 22.8% of the format. 
  • Another surprise is the lack of Green-White Tokens, which was one of the more popular decks over the first couple weeks of Aether Revolt Standard. The Gideon, Ally of Zendikar / Nissa, Voice of Zendikar deck is eight on the list at only 2.6% of the format, which actually means its tied with the Improvise decks, which were unknown heading into the tournament.
  • While we can't say for sure by looking at the deck names, it seems likely that the Paradox Engine dream is dead. Making matters even worse for lovers of spicy decks, there's only a single Paradoxical Outcome / Aetherflux Reservoir combo deck in the field.
  • While there are a few exceptions, from a more meta perspective, if you are playing control, you are almost certainly playing Jeskai Copy Cat (the next highest ranked control deck, Blue-Red, is only 3.5% of the meta). If you are playing aggro, you are probably playing Mardu Vehicles (with the next most popular aggro deck being Red-Black Aggro at just 2.1% of the field).  
  • The good news is the metagame looks fairly diverse. I ran a Twitter poll setting the over/under on Copy Cat combo at 40%, and last I check more people had taken the over, so coming in at only 25% is a relief. On the other hand, we should expect to see many of the same matchups this weekend at Pro Tour Aether Revolt as the last two weekends on the SCG circuit, with nearly 70% of decks being either Copy Cat combo, Green-Black aggro/midrange, or Mardu Vehicles. 

As far as Round 6 itself, the feature match is Mardu Vehicles vs Green-Black Delirium, and there really isn't much more to say about these decks. Not only would they have been at home the last couple of weeks on the SCG Tour, but Vehicles decks have been popular since the release of Kaladesh, and Green-Black has been popular since Eldritch Moon. It looks like the only new card in the Vehicles deck might be Metallic Rebuke (not counting Heart of Kiran, of course), and the Green-Black decks are built around the combo of Winding Constrictor, Walking Ballista, Rishkar, Peema Renegade, and Verdurous Gearhulk

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Since it's looking like all of the big decks of Pro Tour Aether Revolt are known, we don't have much spicy new tech to break down (which is a bit disappointing, considering how good Aether Revolt looked for brewing). Instead, let's take a minute and talk finance. While there's a long way to go in the tournament, at this point having a couple Mardu Vehicles, a couple Green-Black Delirium/Constrictor decks, and a couple Copy Cat decks in the top eight seems like a reasonable prediction. Typically, making it to the top eight of a Pro Tour has a major impact on the prices of cards, with cards from the newest set often doubling in price. But this time around, I'm not really sure this will be the case. 

Take Rishkar, Peema Renegade for exampleit has already more than doubled up over the past couple weeks thanks to good performances on the SCG Tour. It's hard to believe that it can double up again to $12. This remains true of most of the cards that are filling the top decks at Pro Tour Aether Revolt. Instead of seeing huge spikes from previously unknown cards, it's starting to seem likely that Pro Tour Aether Revolt will instead help already good cards maintain their value and slow the price decline that comes from more supply entering the market. Perhaps there is an argument for Heart of Kiran if Mardu Vehicles sticks near 20% of the meta in day two (or even increases its meta share) and puts two or more players in the top eight, but at this point, it's looking like Pro Tour Aether Revolt will not only have minimal impact on the Standard meta, but on card prices as well. 

Our inter-round Deck Tech is Marvel Saheeli, an all-in combo version of Copy Cat by Josh Utter-Leyton:

Round 7

As we wait for Round 7 to start, we get a pretty interesting deck tech with Josh Utter-Leyton who is playing a Marvel Copy Cat deck. While Aetherworks Marvel is certainly on the losers list for Pro Tour Aether Revolt (which is unsurprising, considering the Emrakul, the Promised End banning), Marvel Copy Cat gives the artifact a glimmer of hope. While the deck hasn't shown up on camera and is the least popular of the Copy Cat builds, it is an interesting deck with every card in the main deck either being a combo piece, a way to protect the combo (like Dispel), or a way to generate energy. Unlike Jeskai Copy Cat which is happy playing the control game and maybe eventually winning with the combo, Marvel Copy Cat is all about setting up the combo as consistently as possible as quickly as possible. Unfortunately at the end of the deck tech we learn that Wrapter is 1-2 with the deck so far and when asked if he would recommend the deck, his endorsement wasn't exactly ringing (he declared it to be "fun," which is Magic player code for "not as competitive as I would like"), so I won't hold my breath that we see the build in the top eight on Sunday. 

As for the feature match, we have Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa on Mardu Vehicles against Jund Constrictor (essentially the GB Constrictor deck with a light red splash for cards like Harnessed Lightning), which is becoming a recurring theme from day one of Pro Tour Aether Revolt. As with previous rounds, there isn't much to say about the decks themselves; it's the tried and true Heart of Kiran vs Winding Constrictor matchup that we are seeing just about every round in the feature match area (the backup feature match is Mardu Vehicles vs. GB Constrictor as well...). So let's take a minute and check in on price movement. 

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The paper world has been quite so far (with many of the biggest changes being speculative picks that have fallen flat including Inspiring Statuary, Paradox Engine, and Tezzeret, the Schemer, none of which have made a single appearance on camera at Pro Tour Aether Revolt). However, we have seen some movement on Magic Online, which often responds quicker and sometimes foreshadows movement in the paper world. Heart of Kiran is the biggest winner, jumping 45% on the back of the resurgence of Mardu Vehicles, which is also supporting Gideon, Ally of Zendikar (up 14%). With decks playing the Copy Cat combo making up nearly 25% of the format, Saheeli Rai is up 15% with the Pro Tour reconfirming that the deck is legitimate. Finally, Walking Ballista is the big gainer from the GB decks, shooting up 12%.

In other news, we found out that Wizards didn't know that Copy Cat was even a thing when they printed Felidar Guardian.

The good news is that Wizards was aware of the combo potential when they printed Felidar Guardian. The bad news is the combo they were aware of involved multiple copies of Felidar Guardian and a clone! While everyone misses things on occasion, this is a pretty significant "miss," regardless of whether or not Copy Cat ends up being broken and the best deck in Standard. It seems like if Wizards knew they were going to print Felidar Guardian, they could have had an intern look at other Standard-legal cards and double check that this "never seen before" effect didn't break anything. Accidentally and unknowingly printing infinite combos into Legacy or even Modern is one thingit's next to impossible for anyone to figure out every interaction in formats that large. But these formats come with safety valves like Force of Will and Path to Exile, so most of the time problems take care of themselves. On the other hand, simply missing Splinter Twin in Standard (especially considering they were designing Aether Revolt just as Splinter Twin was dominating Modern to the point of being banned) is somewhere between laughable and inexcusable. I used to say "Wizards might be bad at a lot of things, but one thing they are really good at is making Magic cards," but these type of design mistakes really shakes my faith in the process. (I know a Pro Tour article is probably not the place for this rant, but literally every feature match and back up feature match for the past three rounds has been GB Constrictor vs Mardu Vehicles, so there isn't much else to talk about). 

Our inter-round Deck Tech is Sam Pardee with Mardu Vehicles:

Round 8 

After watching the same decks for several rounds in a row, we finally get something (sort of) new with Red-Black Aggro, which looks a lot like Mardu Vehicles but without the white cards. Maybe the biggest addition to the deck is Weldfast Engineer, which does a great job of making vehicles like Heart of Kiran and random artifact creatures like Scrapheap Scrounger even more aggressive, while also having enough power to drive any of the vehicles in the deck by itself. After a strange, rule-lawyery judge call gave the Green-Black Constrictor deck game one, the Red-Black Aggro deck fought back to win games two and three, ending the day with a perfect 8-0 record.

Most importantly, Red-Black Aggro is yet another Heart of Kiran deck, and while the first day of Pro Tour Aether Revolt hasn't featured many spicy new decks, it's pretty safe to declare Heart of Kiran the biggest winner of day one. While being an important part of one archetype means cards like Walking Ballista, Verdurous Gearhulk, Saheeli Rai, and Torrential Gearhulk are on the list, none of the other cards have had as much impact across archetypes as Heart of Kiran

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. While we didn't see anything too new or creative on day one of Pro Tour Aether Revolt, it was still a fairly interesting battle of tier one decks. The big question now is which of the big three (Mardu Vehicles, Copy Cat, and GB) will separate themselves moving forward. We'll know a lot more tomorrow when we see the day two metagame, and even more on Sunday with the top eight. I'll be back tomorrow with another round-by-round breakdown. Leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive and at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com. 


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