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Pro Tour Amonkhet: Day One (Live Updates)


Normally Pro Tours that aren't attached to a Standard rotation are fairly tame: the metagame is mostly known, the most played decks are often carry-overs from the previous format and there's only a handful of knew decks that make an appearance. Thanks to the banning of Felidar Guardian, Pro Tour Amonkhet breaks this mold and it actually feels similar to a post-rotation Pro Tour. While Mardu Vehicles is clearly the leader heading into the event, optimism is high: There are a ton of potentially powerful decks floating around from Zombies to New Perspectives Combo, to various Aetherworks Marvel decks, and the rumor from the pros on social media is that at least some of them feel like they broke the format. As a result, it should be an exciting weekend of Magic. 

For the next two days we'll have live, round-by-round updates covering all of the action at Pro Tour Amonkhet, starting with Round 4, the first round of constructed. This includes guestimate decklists, discussions of breakout cards, and general observations about the event! You can follow the event live on Twitch.tv.

Rounds 1–3 (Limited)

There really isn't much sense in breaking down the limited portion of the event, although it is worth noting that Amonkhet limited seems solid and widely liked. While the management of Standard has been rocky lately, Wizards had done a great job over the past couple of years consistently making limited formats than range from good to great, and Amonkhet seems to be near the "great" end of the scale. 

Maybe the most important aspect of the first three rounds is it gives us a chance to talk about coverage, which has been a never ending source of debate in the community. Thankfully the Pro Tour Amonkhet coverage actually looks really good: the booth overlooks the floor which gives a sort of College Gameday feel, and all of the commentators look impeccable. We've certainly come a long way in the past couple of years when t-shirts seemed to be the official uniform of Magic commentators. On the other hand, the commentators themselves start out fairly muted, almost whispering like the are broadcasting The Masters gold tournament or something, which feels weird for what should be a hype-filled e-sports event. I'm not 100% sure why this is. Maybe they are worried about the players hearing them, but they aren't really discussing anything secret. Fortunately, things pick up a bit as the event rolls along.

For the past couple Pro Tours, one of the biggest complaints from viewers was the sometimes severe glare that made it hard to see cards, especially while sleeved. The good news is that Wizards figured out a way to fix the problem: there's pretty much no lights in the play area, so players are literally in the dark. While no light means no glare, some players are apparently having trouble seeing their cards, which obviously isn't ideal.

The other major takeaway from the first few rounds were the advertisements, which mostly focused on the various teams in the team series. While focusing on the players and teams is probably a good idea, it also highlighted some of the flaws with the current team series. There were several slides that featured teams that weren't at the Pro Tour because most (or some) of their players weren't qualified for the event. This defeats the entire idea of the team series — giving the audience a consistent cast of characters to root for and follow. While I don't have a solution, for the team series to succeed, it's worth trying to figure out a way to make sure that most teams stay with us all season long. 

Round 4

We finally kick off constructed with Martin Juza playing Mono-Black Zombies (along with many ChannelFireball Fire players) versus Masashi Oiso on New Perspectives Combo! The rumors of New Perspectives making its way to the Pro Tour had heated up in recent days, and Zombies have been a solid tier two deck since the release of Amonkhet. We already have a rough idea of what these archetypes look like, so the biggest question is whether or not that are any spicy additions that set these builds apart from the known lists. 

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The two-drop slot for Zombies has been the source of much contention over the past few weeks, with everything from Doomed Dissenter to Scrapheap Scrounger to Metallic Mimic showing up in the slot. Based on what we are seeing from Juza, it seems like Metallic Mimic has won the battle and will likely be the default two-drop moving forward. Otherwise, the Zombie list fairly stock.

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As for New Perspectives Combo, the main innovation seems to be the inclusion of Censor in the maindeck over Renewed Faith, which gives the deck a bit more early game interaction and still cycles to support the combo. Otherwise, it's more or less like the build we played on Against the Odds, right down to Approach of the Second Sun as the win condition.

Game one goes quickly to Oiso as the Zombie deck simply isn't fast enough or disruptive enough to put up much of a fight. This isn't surprising  the bigger question is whether New Perspectives Combo can still do its thing after the black deck brings in discard and other disruption from the sideboard, and what sideboard cards the New Perspectives deck has to fight the disruption. In game two, the Zombies manage to put forth a fast clock and Oiso ends up one untapped land off playing New Perspectives on turn five for the win. In game three, the New Perspectives deck is left with a choice of casting a New Perspectives and hoping to string together enough cyclers, or sweeping the board with Fumigate and going off the next turn. Oiso decided to go for it, but runs out of cyclers and end up dying on the back swing, giving the match to Zombies 2-1.

Meanwhile on the the back tables, we find out there are not one, but two Temur Aetherworks decks (from two different teams) along with another Mono-Black Zombies deck, which suggests we'll be seeing a lot of the archetype throughout the weekend. Here's a rough idea of the two main lists from Round 4. 

In between rounds, Patrick Dickmann takes us through his Jund Gods list:

Round 5

As we wait for Round 5, we get our first look at the day one metagame. Take a look and then we'll have some observations. 

First off, how does this metagame compare to the metagame heading into Pro Tour Amonkhet? The elephant in the room, Mardu Vehicles, is pretty much the same, making up 25% of the format heading into the Pro Tour and 26% at the Pro Tour. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on your perspective. While it's good that it didn't increase significantly, for all the "we broke the format" talk coming from the pros, seeing Mardu be just as played as ever is a little disappointing.

More interestingly, the second and third most played decks—Temur Aetherworks and Mono-Black Zombies—are nearly twice as played at the Pro Tour than they were in the tournaments heading into the Pro Tour. This suggests that a lot of pros ended up at a similar conclusion: these two decks are good. In fact, if you add together all of the various colors of Aetherworks Marvel decks, they actually rival Mardu Vehicles as the most played deck at the tournament.

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While Marvel and Zombies are early winners just based on how heavily they are being played, easily the bigger loser on the list is GB Energy/Delirium. Heading into the Pro Tour, GB Delirium was the third most played deck in the format and GB Energy was fifth, but neither seems to be a major part of the format in Nashville (although it is worth noting that the energy builds seem to have surpassed the delirium builds).

As far as surprise decks, there really isn't much to talk about apart from New Perspectives Combo which we discussed last round, and a spicy GB Cryptolith Rites deck that happens to be in the feature match area this round in the hands of Joel Larsson. 

While it wouldn't be fair to describe the Pro Tour Amonkhet games a bland, it's also true that if you were hoping for a huge shakeup, you're probably disappointed. Apart from cementing Zombies as a real deck that will likely stick around and that Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger on turn four is still a good way to win game games, things are more or less as predicted. 

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Let's take a minute to talk about Aetherworks Marvel. We know the card is good, but we still have two things to watch out for over the rest of the weekend. First, is the card too good? Having a metagame percentage near Mardu Vehicles and having a reputation of being broken and unfun means that, while certainly premature, this could be the card that the community is grumbling about by the end of the weekend. Second, what build of Aetherworks Marvel is best? While Temur certainly has the early lead thanks to having so many more day one players than the other builds: Bant, Sultai, and Four-Color Marvel are also represented in the most played archetypes. Remember too that the artifact doesn't rotate this fall. It's still in Standard for about another 18 months, which means its current $7 price tag will likely end up looking pretty cheap by the end of the weekend. Here's my best guess at the Temur Aetherworks build we saw on camera this round (which happened to crush GB Cryptolith Rite in two very quick games thanks to fast Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hungers).

For our inter-round deck tech, we get White-Black Zombies from Donald Smith:

Round 6

Heading into Round 6, Wizards published the entire metagame breakdown, so if you want all of the numbers, make sure to check it out. As for Round 6, we start with the Jund Gods deck that we got a deck tech for a couple of rounds ago against one of our two RW Humans players: Craig Wescoe. Apart from the Gods themselves, there really isn't a whole lot to say about either of these decks. RW Humans has been around forever, and while it has incorporated a few new Humans like Bloodlust Inciter, the gameplan is the same: play one-drops, stick an Always Watching, and beat down. Meanwhile, the Jund Gods deck is realy just Jund Energy with some Gods thrown in as finisher where you might normally see Chandra, Torch of Defiance. As such, let's use Round 6 to check in on some of the the bigger winners and losers from day one thus far. Before we go, here's a guesstimate of Wescoe's RW Human deck.

 

 

Winners

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Even though it was only on camera during the first round (and lost), New Perspectives was bought out, jumping all the way up into the $4 range after being a bulk rare just a few days ago. In this case, I'm not sure it even matters if the deck ends up being good, because people will want to play it because it's different (and cheap, nearly falling into the budget range). While it will probably fall back down over the next few weeks barring a surprise breakout and top eight appearance, for day one of Pro Tour Amonkhet, it clearly tops the winners list. 

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Zombies have been on the rise pretty much since Amonkhet released, and with Pro Tour Amonkhet cementing their status as a top tier archetype, today is no different. Dread Wanderer makes sense. It's a staple in pretty much every build of Zombies, but the other two cards are a bit more interesting. Relentless Dead is a staple in the Mono-Black Zombie builds (which is the most popular Zombie build at the Pro Tour), although it's often left on the sidelines in WB Zombies, which is being played by a minority of players. Meanwhile, Plague Belcher hasn't been on camera at all today, but is still increasing thanks to Zombie hype. 

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We talked about Aetherworks Marvel in depth last round, so we won't go into it again, but based on how many people are playing Marvel decks, it wouldn't be a bit surprising to see Aetherworks Marvel be the biggest winner by the end of the weekend. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is along for the ride, being the go-to finisher in all of the Marvel decks. While Aetherworks Marvel itself sticks around for a while, Ulamog, the Ceasless Hunger does rotate in the fall, so if you aren't planning on playing the deck, you should probably sell them into the Pro Tour spike for maximum value. 

Losers

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What about losers? Well, for one we have pretty much all of the green cards. We haven't seen a single Winding Constrictor or Verdurus Gearhulk on camera all day long, and based on the metagame numbers, this doesn't seem likely to change over the rest of the weekend. While people at FNM will keep playing the deck (because it's not very easy to switch decks for non-pros) and it's probably fine, over the coming weeks, it seems likely that the deck will be trending downwards. 

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Maybe even a bigger bust than the green cards are the blue cards. With the printing of Commit // Memory and Pull from Tomorrow to go along with control all-star Torrential Gearhulk, it seemed like blue/x control was ready for a comeback in Standard. But the archetype hasn't been on camera a single time, and even though we know UR Control is still a part of the meta, none of the other possibilities materialized. While it's true that it sometimes take a while for a control deck to develop, rather than having a late-emerging tier one control deck, it may be more likely that the combination of turn four Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, recursive Zombies, and Heart of Kiran from Mardu Vehicles are just too much for a control deck to handle. 

Our inter-round deck tech is Paul Cheon's Blue-Red Control:

Round 7

As the rounds go by, the field starts to solidify. We begin Round 7 with Temur Aetherworks, which alongside Mardu Vehicles (which hasn't been on camera yet even though its 26% of the format) is likely to end up the villain of the tournament, against WB Zombies. While Mono-Black Zombies is the default, splashing white does give the Zombie deck some interesting options in Wayward Servant (which replaces Relentless Dead) along with some strong removal like Anguished Unmaking (which seems key in the matchup, giving the deck the ability to deal with Aetherworks Marvel). Whether or not this makes the white build better than the mono-black build remains to be seen, but the fact that one of the handful of WB Zombies players is currently in the 6-0 bracket speaks well of the deck.

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Maybe the most interesting aspect of the WB Zombie deck that Team Lingering Souls brought to Pro Tour Amonkhet is that it feels like a Mono-Black Zombie build. This probably sounds strange, so let me explain. In the early days of the Amonkhet format, Mono-Black Zombies was more of a midrange Zombie build looking to go up to five mana Liliana's Mastery (which is still the secret sauce that makes Zombies great), while most of the WB builds skimped on lands and tried to go aggressive, overloading on powerful three-mana plays, but not going much further up the curve. This newest build of Zombies has the best of both worlds: it proudly has all eight lords (four Liliana's Master and four Lord of the Accursed) and 24 lands, while still having access to Wayward Servant, which gives the deck a way to win without attacking. In the end, the Zombie deck absolutely crushes Temur Marvel and takes a 2-0 win.

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All things considered, it seems likely that Zombies will be a major part of the format over the summer, regardless of whether or not any of the Zombies players at Pro Tour Amonkhet make the top eight. It's been on camera a lot and people love the tribe, so people will keep playing it. The only downside is that the deck, at least at this point, is that it's dead at rotation thanks to the loss of Cryptbreaker, Diregraf Colossus, and Dark Salvation. Considering that these are some of the most expensive cards in the deck, if you don't already have copies, buying in now is painful and a fairly short term investment. This said, the deck is a blast to play, so if you have the option, it's worth putting together to try out!

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Meanwhile on the back tables we have Ari Lax playing Four-Color Marvel needing six Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger to dispatch UW Spirits/Flash. If you remember the last time Aetherworks Marvel became a dominate deck, one of the best answers was Spell Queller backed by a fast clock and Negates in the sideboard. With various Marvel decks making up a quarter of the Pro Tour Amonkhet metagame, it might once again be time for UW Flash/Spirits to play the role of spoiler. However, this isn't how things worked out in practice this round, as Ari Lax on Four-Color Marvel takes down White-Blue Spirits in a hard fought three game match.

For our inter-round deck tech, we got a confiration of Craig Wescoe's Red-White Humans list:

Round 8

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We wrap up our last day of coverage with a deck that we called one of the losers a couple rounds agoGB Energyin the 7-0 bracket against an interesting take on Temur Aetherworks featuring three copies of Bounty of the Luxa. While it might not look like it, Bounty of the Luxa is secretly Aetherworks Marvel number five through seven, giving the deck an additional way to cheat big Eldrazi like World Breaker and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger (and sideboard Void Winnower) thanks to the mana it produces. While this tech isn't entirely new (some of the Marvel decks on Magic Online this past week have started playing Bounty of the Luxa), it doesn't seem common at Pro Tour Amonkhet based on the other Marvel decks we've seen. Unfortunately for our Oliver Oks, our Temur Marvel player, he is very good at drawing his Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and ends up falling to GB Energy played by Pierre Dagen 0-2. Since we've reached the end of day one, let's wrap things up with a quick review of what we learned on day one of Pro Tour Amonkhet:

  • Somehow, even though Mardu Vehicles was the most played deck on day one of Pro Tour Amonkhet, we made it through the entire eight rounds without seeing it on camera. Whether this means anything, I have no idea. It could be that the deck is under performing and not at the top tables, or it could simply be that Wizards knows the audience isn't really interested in watching Mardu Vehicles and is making an effort to feature other decks. Both options are good, and if it is the latter, it shows a renewed focus on coverage from Wizards which is much appreciated. Overall, the day one coverage has been solid, and the steps Wizards has taken over the past couple years are starting to pay off.
  • As far as decks we did see on camera, while most of the truly spicy decks came in the first couple of rounds with New Perspectives Combo and GB Cryptolith Rites, the coverage has felt pretty fresh. Even though we've seen a ton of Aetherworks Marvel, we've also seen a ton of different decks and many of the matches have been interesting. 
  • Zombies is for real.
  • Aetherworks Marvel is back.
  • Amonkhet cards we've seen, but maybe didn't expect: Bontu the Glorified, Bounty of the Luxa, Vizier of the Menagerie, New Perspectives.
  • Amonkhet cards we haven't seen, but probably expected: Gideon of the Trials, Liliana, Death's Majesty, Pull from Tomorrow, Plague Belcher.
  • Heading into day two, we have a few big questions: First, as mentioned before, what's the deal with Mardu Vehicles? Second, is Marvel the new best deck (or second best deck, depending on what we learn about Mardu) in Standard? Third, is WB Zombies (which seems to have a lot of players near the top of the standings) or Mono-Black Zombies (which has far more players) the right build moving forward? Fourth, do any of the fringe decks actually make it into day two?

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today! We'll be back again tomorrow to do it all over again for day two of Pro Tour Amonkhet! Until then, what were your observations from day one? What deck are you most excited for? What question do you have to answer on day two? Let me know in the comments, and as always you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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