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Pro Tour Hour of Devastation: Day One (Live Updates)


It's been a while since I've been this excited for a Pro Tour. For the past couple of years we've had a pretty good idea of what cards and decks were best heading into the event. First Collected Company, then Emrakul, the Promised End, then Aetherworks Marvel, then Felidar Guardian. But things are different with Pro Tour Hour of Devastation. All of the obviously broken cards are banned and the format is looking amazingly wide open. While we know some of decks that are likely to show up—Mono-Red Aggro, WU Monument, God-Pharaoh's Gift Reanimator, UR Control—it's not really clear which deck is best. Plus there a ton of other decks in the conversation like Energy, Vehicles and Emerge. As a result, it should be a super exciting weekend of Magic!

Like usual, I'll be doing live round-by-round updates over the course of the night with guesstimate decklists along with all the news about breakout cards and the metagame, along with general thoughts about Pro Tour Hour of Devastation. Of course, this comes with a word of warning: since Pro Tour Hour of Devastation is in Japan, the tournament will be running from 8pm to maybe 5-6am here in New York. While I'll be chugging coffee, I can't promise that I won't get a bit loopy by the end of the night. We'll pick up proper round-by-round coverage in round four when constructed starts, with the first three limited rounds being lumped together. Anyway, let's break down Pro Tour Hour of Devastation!

Rounds 1-3 (Limited)

The limited rounds give us a chance to talk about coverage. When it comes to coverage, the best case scenario is that we don't really have anything to talk about, which means everything goes smoothly, and this seems to mostly be the case with Pro Tour Hour of Devastation. Unlike some past Pro Tours, there were no major glare issues or other large problems. Instead, Pro Tour Hour of Devastation coverage is pretty much the same as Pro Tour Amonkhet, with some small upgrades (with the most noticeable being more variety in the slides shown between rounds). While I think the between round content could still be improved (perhaps with short one or two minutes videos from content producers), there's no doubt that coverage in general has improved a lot over the past couple of years and still seems to be heading in the right direction. It's also worth mentioning that the coverage team keeps getting better and better, with new Wizards employee Paul Cheon being the latest addition to the crew.

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As far as limited itself, the format is pretty entertaining. While the main storyline is the battle for draft master (which is shaping up to be a battle between Martin Juza and Travis Woo), we get to see a good mixture of aggressive decks, more controlling decks, and a Sam Black special (a five-color deck featuring a Masterpiece Wrath of God). Maybe the most interesting moment of limited actually came during the draft, where Kentaro Yamamoto, firmly in green after pack one, opens his second pack and sees Rhonas's Last Standard (widely considered to be a bomb), but instead takes Rampaging Hippo. The pick eventually punished him when in round two Mike Sigrist beat Kentaro down with the 5/4 Snake token that Yamamoto passed to him.

Finally, during the lunch break between limited and constructed we get the results from this year's Pro Tour Hall of Fame voting, with Josh-Utter Leyton and Martin Juza getting enough votes to be inducted at Pro Tour Ixalan in September. Both are very deserving, so congrats to Wrapter and Juza! More disappointingly, Chris Pikula finished with 41%, which would have been enough to get in last year, but thanks to a rule change that went into effect this year upping the requirement to 60% of the vote, leaves him short of the Hall yet again.

Round 4

We finally start constructed with the Peach Garden Oath mirror with William Jensen on GR Pummeler and Reid Duke on a Temur Energy deck that's finishing off the game with Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh. While both decks are mostly known, both are also fairly notable. GR Pummeler has been floating in the second tier of the format, so the fact that a Hall of Famer like Huey Jensen decided to play it for the Pro Tour is a big vote of confidence for the archetype. Meanwhile, the fact that Reid Duke is splashing for Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh in his Temur Energy deck shows just how powerful the new planeswalker can be. 

In game one, Jensen manages to get the combo kill with a massive Electrostatic Pummeler, while Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh is left rotting in Duke's hand. As we wait for game two, we jump to Mono-Black Zombies versus Mono-Red on the back table, with both builds seeming fairly standard from the quick peek we're given. In game two of our main feature match, Duke ramps into a fast Glorybringer. Jensen counters with double Bristling Hydras to stabilize the ground with hexproof threats. Just when things look grim for Duke, we see our first Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh which manages to stabilize the board. Eventually Duke wins in the most Nicol Bols way possible: stealing one of Jensen's Electrostatic Pummelers off of the top of his deck! In game three Jensen takes over with a pair of Tireless Trackers from his sideboard. While Duke has an Abrade for the first copy, the second Tireless Tracker generates a steady stream of card advantage which swings the match in favor of Jensen who takes home the win.

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From a more meta perspective, one of the biggest questions heading into Pro Tour Hour of Devastation is just how much of an impact Hour of Devastation (and Amonkhet block in general) can have on Standard. Kaladesh is extremely powerful, perhaps powerful enough to overshadow Magic's newest block. The first round of Pro Tour Hour of Devastation features two different decks which are essentially Kaladesh block constructed builds. As far as Amonkhet block cards, GR Pummeler plays some Deserts and a couple of Rhonas the Indomitable, while Temur Energy has Glorybringer and Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh. It will be worth watching to see if this Kaladesh block focus is the exception or the norm going forward.

The good news is that both decks are essentially rotation proof, so if you are looking to pick up a Standard decks that will last for the next year rather than just until Ixalan releases in September, you could do worse than GR Pummeler or Temur Energy Bolas. Here's our best guess at the lists!

Our inter-round Deck Tech is Tom Martell's Mono-Black Zombies, featuring 58/60 of the same cards as the Pro Tour Amonkhet winning list piloted by Gerry Thompson. The new addition? 2x Ifnir Deadlands.

Round 5

We kick off round five with Mono-Red Aggro (apparently renamed Ramunap Red after the Deserts) in the hands of Tim Harris against Makihito Mihara on GR Ramp. One of the big questions heading into the Pro Tour was which build of Mono-Red Aggro was best. Thanks to the Deserts, it's pretty easy to go big with the help of some colorless Eldrazi like Thought-Knot Seer, but Harris's build seems to be a lower to the ground Two Tix Red style build. Meanwhile, the GR Ramp deck looks fairly typical, although the addition of Thought-Knot Seer is interesting. Unfortunately for Mihara, Ramunap Red seems like a hard matchup for GR Ramp and Harris wins a quick game one through a Kozilek's Return. In game two, the GR Ramp deck manages to sweep away the board with Kozilek's Return and eventually wins the game with its bigger creatures. In game three, Mihara manages to chain together multiple copies of Hour of Promise to make a board full of Zombies, and closes out the game by exiling some Scrapheap Scroungers with Scavenging Grounds, which is a card to look out for this weekend. While we haven't seen God-Pharaoh's Gift yet, there are several graveyard-focused decks in the format, making Scavenger Grounds a good option for both main decks and sideboards.

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While it's still early, it seems that Mono-Red Aggro (or Ramunap Red, if that's what we are calling it these days) is going to be one of the big winners on day one of Pro Tour Hour of Devastation. This isn't really surprising considering the deck has been putting up strong results heading into the event. Maybe the more interesting question is what this means from a financial perspective. It wasn't that long ago we were playing Two Tix Ted, which has increased 1000% in price and is currently around 20 tix. While many of the key cards in Ramunap Red have already spiked, Earthshaker Khenra is still only about $2.50 a copy and could easily double up this weekend if Ramunap Red puts multiple players into the top eight. We're also seeing a lot of Bomat Couriers, which is still close to bulk and could have room to grow with a good performance this weekend, especially considering it avoids rotation this fall. Last but not least, the Harris build of Ramunap Red is splashing for Scrapheap Scrounger off of four Foreboding Ruins. The recursive artifact was over $4 not too long ago, but is currently near an all-time low of just under $2. If it is widely adopted in Ramunap Red, it could return to near its previous high. 

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Maybe the most disappointing thing so far is we haven't really seen any spice. While we are seeing a lot of variety and some cool decks, we haven't seen anything new. Generally, the first rounds of constructed are when we are most likely to see something off-the-wall (like New Perspectives at Pro Tour Amonkhet), so I'm starting to worry that my dreams of God-Pharaoh's Gift, Panharmonicon, and Fraying Sanity are dying. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for some spice over the next three rounds. Anyway, here's my guesstimate at Ramunap Red and GR Ramp!

For our inter-round deck tech, we get a spicy brew: Mono-Red Imminent Doom by Valentin Mackl:

Round 6

The biggest news of round six isn't the matches themselves, but the release of the day one metagame breakdown. Our disappointment from last round about the lack of spicy new decks seems to be confirmed. Out of the 14 most played decks at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation, the only "new" deck is WU God-Pharaoh's Gift, and this isn't even that new considering it has won multiple PTQs in the past week. So what can we learn from the breakdown, apart from the lack of popular new decks?

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  • As predicted, Ramunap Red is the big winner on day one, taking up nearly 25% of the meta. While there's still a lot of disagreement over the right build of Ramunap Red, it's clear that Red Aggro is one of the best decks in Hour of Devastation Standard.
  • Mono-Black Zombies coming in second at over 11% of the field is actually a surprise. Since the release of Hour of Devastation, the deck has faded from tier one down to tier two, perhaps because the archetype didn't really get many new additions from Hour of Devastation. It seems that this might not matter though, as many pros seem to be running builds that are very similar to the one Gerry Thompson used to win Pro Tour Amonkhet a few months ago.
  • After the top two decks, we have a big group of well known decks filling out the top five, including Mardu Vehicles, GB Constrictor, and UR Control. 
  • If you're rooting for something new (and also popular), your best bet is probably GR Ramp or UW Gifts. While both decks are known, they did spring to life after Hour of Devastation released thanks to new cards like Hour of Promise and God-Pharaoh's Gifts. While we've seen ramp on camera a few times already, we haven't seen either of the UW decks (Monument or Gifts). Whether this means they aren't performing well or simply are victims of variance in the feature match area, it's too early to tell, but if they don't show up soon it will be time to worry. 
  • Thankfully there are a bunch of interesting decks, especially various flavors of God-Pharaoh's Gift, at the bottom of the metagame breakdown, but so far we haven't seen any of these builds on camera.
  • The good news is that the meta looks healthy. While 25% is a big metagame share for Ramunap Red, it's not absurdly high, especially compared to the 40% numbers we were seeing with [[Aetherworks Marvell] and Felidar Guardian. So while Ramunap Red may be the deck to beat, it seems like many different archetypes are viable, which is a good thing. 

As for the games, we start with Thiago Saporito on Mono-Black Zombies against Hall of Famer Ben Rubin on Green-Red Ramp. In game one, Zombies gets a bit stuck on mana and ends up getting run over by World Breaker from GR Ramp. In game two, it's more of the same. Kozilek's Return sweeps away Saporito's Zombies and then a combination of Ulvenwald Hydra, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and World Breaker come down looking to clean up the game. But just when it appears that GR Ramp will take down an easy match win, Rubin draws a bunch of lands in a row and the Zombie horde climbs back into the game and eventually takes it. In game three, Zombies, despite a mulligan to five, gets out of the gate quickly with Lord of the Accursed and Ammit Eternal. Meanwhile, the colorless lands of the GR Ramp deck come back to haunt Rubin who loses with Hour of Devastation in hand, a red source short of sweeping the board.

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Maybe the most interesting aspect of either deck this round was Ammit Eternal in Zombies. One of the biggest challenges of building Zombies is figuring out the three-drop slot that is overloaded with powerful options including Lord of the Accursed, Diregraf Colossus, and even Plague Belcher. Thus far, Ammit Eternal has mostly been the odd-Zombie out, but this may be changing. While we don't have the exact breakdown of the Zombie deck, it seems to be playing a mixture of all the non-Plague Belcher three-drops, which means that there just might be enough room for Ammit Eternal to have an impact, even before rotation this fall.

For our inter-round deck tech, we get newly minted Hall of Famer Josh Utter-Leyton's Temur Ramp/Emerge:

Round 7

In round seven we have more of the same: Mono-Black Zombies from Pierre Dagen against Temur Pummeler from William Jensen. We've already talked about both of these decks, so we won't spend too much time discussing deck lists and individual cards. Instead, let's use this window to check in our the financial world. 

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Overall, the first day of Pro Tour Hour of Devastation has been fairly quite on the finance front. In fact, the biggest gainers of the day are all from the UW God-Pharaoh's Gift deck, a deck we haven't seen on camera once, which suggests people were buying these cards leading into the tournament expecting a big performance. The lack of movement is likely the result of a couple of different factors. First, as we've been talking about, we haven't really seen any new, breakout decks, and it's typically cards from these sleeper decks that shoot up in price on Pro Tour weekends. Second, I wouldn't be surprised to find that the time zone is keeping things in check. Not only is it currently closing in on 5am here in the US, but it's 5am on a work day, which makes it hard for a lot of people to watch. This doesn't mean we won't see some prices changes as the weekend rolls along and the field narrows towards the top eight, but for now things are fairly quiet.

Back to our matches. Game one goes long, but eventually Cryptbreaker takes over the game with its card draw ability. Just when it looks like the Zombie horde will take down the game, Jensen draws Larger than Life to target his Electrostatic Pummeler, giving him a 40/40 to trample over a board full of Zombie tokens. In game two Jensen has a removal heavy hand that deals with all of the Zombie threats and then slams a Bristling Hydra followed by a Rhonas the Indomitable to close out the game.

Speaking of God Pharaoh's Gift, our inter-round deck tech comes to us via Brennan DeCandio:

Round 8

For feature match this round is Ramunap Red versus Ramunap Red, as Sam Black and Seth Manfield (both undefeated) battle it out to be on the top of the standing heading into day two tomorrow. At this point the deck has been pretty well covered, so I'm not sure what else I can say about it, other than it's really good. In game one Manfield starts on triple one-drops, but Black matches him with two one-drops of his own, eventually drawing four cards with Bomat Courier and taking the game. In game two Manfield mulligans to five, but Black keeps a one-lander and has endless difficulty drawing his second land allowing Manfield to close out the game with Hazoret the Fervent and Glorybringer. In game three Mansfield keep a removal heavy hand that deals with all of Black's early creatures and manage to finish things off with Hazoret the Fervent (which is apparently a four-of in many of the Ramunap Red lists) for the second game in a row. I'm barely keeping my eyes open at this point, so let's use this occasion to wrap up what we learned from day one of Pro Tour Hour of Devastation.

  • Mono-Red Aggro (or Ramunap Red) is the deck to beat and it's been heavily represented on coverage. 
  • As far as the meta, while Ramunap Red is the most played deck by far, things feel relatively healthy, especially compared to some of our recent Standard formats. While the coverage has focused on Mono-Red, GR Ramp, and to a lesser extent GR Pummeler, there seems to be a lot of viable decks. While a Mono-Red deck or two making the top eight seems likely, we don't know what to expect for the rest of the field. 
  • The decks we've seen have been pretty tame. Most are known decks that have been a part of the format for a while now, and many of these decks have only undergone slight changes with the release of Hour of Devastation. If you were hoping for breakout decks and lots of spice, Pro Tour Hour of Devastation is pretty lacking. But if you are looking for good, solid builds of a lot of different popular decks, the tournament has you covered. 
  • The finance world is pretty quiet, with most of the buyouts and price movements coming from before the event started. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. What did you think of the first day of Pro Tour Hour of Devastation? What do you think of our new Standard format? What are you hoping to see tomorrow? Let me know in the comments! I'll be back again to break down day two tomorrow. Until then, you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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