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Pro Tour Fate Reforged Winners and Losers

Sure, we still have a top eight to go, but while finding out who will actually win the tournament is exciting, we already have a pretty good idea of what cards performed well and what cards were lacking at the big event. I'll have a more data-driven analysis in a couple days once I have time to crunch the numbers, but for now here are my initial, gut reaction winners and losers from #PTFRF. 

Winner: The Infect mechanic, and things that work will with it. 

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While the coverage team is very careful about giving away information about what decks players/teams are playing, before the first draft even started, someone said something like, "Tom Ross had a huge influence on The Pantheon's deck choice." This seemed like a dead giveaway for some aggro/tempo/combo type list:

Hmm, Tom Ross had a huge impact on Pantheon's constructed deck. Infect? Boggles? Geist tempo? #mtgfinance #ptfrf

— Saffron Olive (@SaffronOlive) February 6, 2015 9:10 AM.

After I thought about it for a few more minutes, I realized is was very likely Infect, because I had been losing to Wild Defiance and Inkmoth Nexus in the two-man queues on Magic Online all week.

[Olivia Voldaren] been showing up in Jund lists since the Treasure Cruise bannings. Also looking at Wild Defiance as a bulk target.

— Saffron Olive (@SaffronOlive) February 6, 2015 11:51 AM. 

Once limited finished and round four started, we found out it was indeed Infect that team Pantheon was playing, and thus the buyout of the main deck pieces began. Wild Defiance was bought out, with copies going from $1 to close to $3 very quickly. Inkmoth Nexus is still around $10 in paper, but it has been moving online and I expect the paper copies to follow. Overall the deck is pretty cheap, so I expect a good number of players to try it out as a budget option moving forward. 

Most of the commons and uncommons from the deck were bought out, so while you're likely too late to buy in, it is a good time to look through your bulk and draft leftovers and see what you have that you can sell into the hype. In specific, you're looking for foil Become Immense, Blighted Agent, and Vines of Vastwood, along with any version of Might of Old Krosa. Since I'm not convinced that Infect will be a great choice going forward, both because of the prevalence of Lingering Souls and because it is a difficult deck to play optimally, I'll be looking to sell in the next few weeks. Plus, it seems likely that Infect will be included in Modern Masters 2015, which means foils will flood the market due to the "foil in every pack" print run, so even if the deck is tier one, prices on these foils commons and uncommons will drop this summer anyway. 

Loser: Geist of Saint Traft

Going into the weekend, Geist of Saint Traft was on my short list of potential winners. I watched every round of Modern coverage, and didn't see the spirit in play once. Looking over the Day One metagame isn't very encouraging either. Zoo was the fifth most played deck, and some versions may have been running Geist of Saint Traft (Ari Lax's version got a deck tech, and it had one Geist of Saint Traft in the main), but this is far from a guarantee. It doesn't look like anyone played UWR Tempo (although it's possible that a few Geist of Saint Traft decks were lumped into the UWR Control group, but that was only 2.7% of the field). I still like Giest of Saint Traft over the mid-to-long term and I think he will increase in price over the next six months, but this weekend was rough. Very rough. 

Winner: Verdant Catacombs

While we won't know for sure until the lists are posted, it seems very likely that Verdant Catacombs was the most played fetch at Pro Tour Fate Reforged. Between being a four-of in Infect, Junk, and Jund, nearly 50% of the field is running the fetchland. This is up from 23% in the modern staples rankings. The price has been ticking up online, but so far the paper price hasn't changed  — you can still pick up numerous copies for between $30 and $33. 

Zendikar fetchlands in general have been on a downswing for the past six or eight months for several reasons, and the addition of the Khans of Tarkir fetches to the format makes it a little more difficult for Verdant Catacombs to spike. Sure, having a GB fetchland might be optimal for Infect, but how many percentage points do you lose by playing Windswept Heath or Wooded Foothills for a third of the price? Not many, considering every fetchable land in the deck is a forest. Having Verdant Catacombs matters a little bit more in Junk and Jund, but playing Khans of Tarkir fetches is still reasonable if you're building on a budget (which might be an oxymoron for a Tarmogoyf deck). 

There is also the possibility of a reprint in Modern Masters 2015, so going deep is dangerous, although I'm in the camp that believe fetches are unlikely in Modern Masters 2015. I've picked up a few copies on Magic Online where I expect Verdant Catacombs to climb back towards 20 tickets in the coming week. Despite the increase in play, I'm only a hold on paper copies. 

Loser: Graveyards


Graveyard decks being a loser is more a product of the intense hype surrounding the deck over the past week than anything else. After all the buyouts, good performances on the independent circuit, and discussion, a single player showed up with Dredgevine. While I have no idea how he or she is doing, the safe guess is poorly, since it didnt' show up on camera. The other graveyard deck was Chapin's Esper Delve list, which got a minute of camera time due to his strong performance in the first draft, and then proceeded to Nyxfleece Ram (0/5) his way through five Modern rounds before missing day two. It's not that players didn't consider graveyard strategies — players were stocking their sideboards with Rest in Peace — they apparently just were not good enough. 

Now, one argument I've heard from people is that the metagame isn't developed yet, and cards like Golgari Grave-Troll and Geist of Saint Traft could still be big players in coming months. While I believe this is true, isn't a Modern Pro Tour the most likely time that someone will figure out these strategies? I mean, all of the best Magic players in the world just spent a week or two locked in their houses trying to break Modern, and no one figure out how to make Golgari Grave-Troll (or Magus of the Bazaar) good. Why will next week, when everyone will be focused on Standard and the pros are back to their day jobs, be any better for Dredge? 

This scares me away from most of the big pieces of the deck including Vengevine, Golgari Grave-Troll, Lotleth Troll, Bloodghast, and Gravecrawler. I'm not suggesting a fire sale, but a lack of play translates into a lack of demand, and a lack of demand will eventually lead to lower prices. Maybe someone will still figure it out, but I'm not hopeful. 

Winner: Hive Mind and Amulet of Vigor

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Bloom Titan goes to show that a deck doesn't need to be played by a lot of people to come out of a Pro Tour weekend a winner. Two percent of the field was on the combo deck, which amounts to eight total players, but when one of the eight is Sam Black, quality beats quantity. In fact, both Sam and his friend Justin Cohen were playing win-and-ins for the top eight in Round 16, which is pretty impressive. ChannelFireball increased their price on Hive Mind by 50% today, the spread is low, and foils were bought out a couple days ago. Supply on Amulet of Vigor is dwindling, with only 35 vendors selling near mint copies on TCGPlayer. 

The exciting thing about Bloom Titan is that the general feelings right after the B&R announcement was that the deck was in a bad place; some people even called it unplayable. Since then, Stephen Speck managed to win an SCG Premier IQ, and now we have two very solid performances at the Pro Tour. Reports of the death of Amulet of Vigor and Hive Mind appear to have been greatly exaggerated. While both cards are eligible to be reprinted in Modern Masters 2015, this seem like long shots because the cards are pretty much dead in limited. I'm pretty comfortable investing in either of these cards now, because it's becoming more and more clear that Bloom Titan is for real. 

Loser: Boggles

Remember when Reid Duke surprised everyone at the World Championship by playing Boggles and nearly winning the tournament? Well, those days appear to be over. At this point, if you want to play an all-in aggro deck, it seems like Infect is the way to go. The big numbers from Junk are probably at least part of the reason; Liliana of the Veil is a pretty solid way to beat hexproof creatures suited up with totem armor. Only two players showed up with Boggles, and the deck didn't get any coverage whatsoever. I'm not sure this matters a whole lot financially, but Daybreak Coronet was trending upwards over the past couple weeks, and I expect the demand for the enchantment to die down as players look to other directions. 

Other Winners

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Lingering Souls looked better on camera than any other card at the event. It's good against Infect, good against control, and good in the Junk mirror. Regular versions have been printed into the ground, so there isn't much potential there, but both pack foils and promo foils have some appeal. Part of the reason Lingering Souls looked so good was Gavony Township, which makes all your 1/1 flyers into credible threats while also resetting Kitchen Finks (which showed up on camera more than I expected, as did Noble Hierarch, which probably deserves a place on the winners list). 

Bitterblossom did a great job putting players into day two even though it didn't show up on camera very often. If you count both BW Tokens and Faeries as Bitterblossom decks, a staggering 10 of the 12 players on the enchantment made it to the second day of the competition. Splinter Twin is still good and it put up a solid performance. Eidolon of the Great Revel is one of the main reasons to play Burn, and Ari Lax talked about building his Zoo deck around it. Along with Goblin Guide, it's the best way to push through quick damage in the format. Voice of Resurgence showed up more than I expected given the demise of Birthing Pod, and my opinion is slowly shifting from a hold to a buy on the Dragon's Maze mythic.

Other Losers

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I didn't see a Karn Liberated in play even once over the 10 rounds of Modern. When you combine this with the fact that it put up one of the worst day two percentages, things are not looking good for the Tron deck. I could have listed just about all non-Snapcaster Mage cards from UWR Control, but I restrained myself. Restoration Angel, Celestial Colonnade, and Sphinx's Revelation deserve mentioned because they are not only the big pieces of the deck, but cards I was high on going into the event. Not only did the UWR Control look pretty bad on camera, but it performed poorly by the numbers as well. 

Winner and Losers: Decks

The Mothership published data on the day two metagame today, so even though we don't know which players were on what deck, we can determine which archetypes did the best job of putting players into day two. Out of the decks that made up at least 2% of the field day one, here are the ones that had the highest percentage of players go 4-4 or better on day one. At the same time, since the Pro Tour is a split format, making day two also involves putting up a good record in limited. So while these numbers provide a good overview of what decks performed well and what decks performed poorly, there is also a notable weakness with the methodology.

It's also worth noting that a grand total of 63% of the players at the event made day two, which makes this number a baseline valuable for judging the performance of these decks. 

Deck Percent in Day 2
UR Twin 81 percent
BW Tokens 75 percent
Jund 70 percent
Infect  68 percent
Burn  66 percent
Scapeshift 66 percent
Storm  66 percent
Junk 63 percent
Bloom Titan 63 percent
Grixis Twin 63 percent
Merfolk 63 percent
Affinity 60 percent
Zoo 53 percent
UWR Control 45 percent
RG Tron 42 percent

While it didn't have enough players to break the two percent threshold, it is also interesting that all four of the Faeries players at Pro Tour Fate Reforged made it to day two. 


Anyway, that's all for today. What were your observations of the first two days of the Pro Tour? What winners did I miss? How about losers? Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter @SaffronOlive. I'll be back the beginning of the week with a data-driven analysis of the tournament. Until then, kick back and enjoy what is looking to be a very entertaining top eight. 

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