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Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch: Day One Wrap Up

Day one of Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch is in the books. While a lot of our predictions came true, for instance Burn and Affinity being the two most played decks, my pessimism about Eldrazi turned out to be unfounded — the tribe was out in force, mostly thanks to a very innovative, mono-colorless build by Team ChannelFireball. Anyway, here is a round-by-round analysis I typed up as I was watching the event. 

Metagame Breakdown

Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch Modern Metagame Breakdown

  • Unsurprisingly, Burn, Affinity and Infect are among the four most played decks at the event, together accounting for 34 percent of the meta.
  • Surprisingly, Eldrazi is tied with Infect for the third most played deck at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, making up eight percent of the field.
  • Tron is much less of a factor than most people assumed when the banning of Splinter Twin was announced, falling outside the top 10. Tron aficionado Ali Aintrazi tweeted during the event that he believed the Twin banning was the worst thing that could happen to the deck.
  • Willy Edel, master of GBx, seemed pessimistic about the chances of his favorite deck at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, but it seems that other people disagree. Abzan is the sixth most played deck, while Jund is the seventh, and if we combined them together, GBx would come in third behind Burn and Affinity making up over 10 percent of the field.
  • One of the biggest surprises is Death's Shadow Aggro, coming in as the 9th most played deck. While it shows up on Magic Online every now and then, it has pretty much no results in paper. 
  • Decks I'm rooting for: Possibility Storm Combo, Extra Turns, Zombie Loam, and Amulet Combo (each played by only one player). 

Round Four

The constructed rounds kick off with a midrange mirror between Christian Calcano on Jund versus Ben Stark on Mardu. Calcano's deck seems fairly stock featuring Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, Liliana of the Veil, discard and removal. Ben Stark's list, while playing a similar midrange game, is built rather low to the ground with fifteen one-drop removal or discard spells designed to power up Abbot of Keral Keep. He also has a bit of spice with both Lingering Souls and Ajani Vengeant in the main deck. 

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Abbot of Keral Keep is clearly the most interesting aspect of the deck. Currently the Magic Origins rare doesn't show up on the list of the 50 most played cards in Modern, and a good showing this weekend could bode well for its future over the long term. It's maintaining $7 on Standard demand alone, and as Kolaghan's Command, Collected Company and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy exemplify, developing into a Modern staple could easily double up the price of the two-drop. At this point, the biggest question is whether the Mardu build is a team deck, or just something Stark is playing.

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On the back tables we learned that Big Z is playing Death's Shadow Zoo, which has been a relatively popular fringe deck on Magic Online over the past couples month. It is clearly powerful and plays more like a combo deck than an aggro deck since you spend a lot of time destroying your own life total to make Death Shadow playable, but it can win games out of nowhere with the help of Temur Battle Rage or Fling effects. Meanwhile, Z's opponent Shouta Yasooka is playing Affinity, the most played deck (along with Burn) here on day one of Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. While most of the list is straightforward, he is running Thought-Knot Seer, our first Eldrazi sighting of the event. 

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While I'm not one to question the deck building prowess of someone like Yasooka, my initial impression of Though-Knot Seer in Affinity is "how do you ever expect to cast it?" Typically the deck only plays 16 lands and relies on Mox Opal and Springleaf Drum to keep the mana flowing. While this by itself makes playing a four-drop ambitious, it is even worse when you consider that Stony Silence is one of the two most played sideboard cards in the entire format, showing up in nearly 25 percent of decks. Once a Stony Silence hits the battlefield, Affinity is basically running on 12 lands. 

On a completely unrelated note, Wizards has improved their coverage massively for the event. The segments between rounds are well done, professional and interesting, which is a breath of fresh air compared to some previous segments which ranged from clunky to borderline embarrassing (the "my wife brings me coffee" segment from the MM2 GP weekend comes to mind). Unfortunately, the on-air voices still lag behind the SCG dream team of Patrick Sullivan and Cedric Phillips, but even in this aspect the Pro Tour coverage has been passable. Overall, the production itself is a very good step forward. 

Round Five

So the cat is out of the bag — Team ChannelFireball is on Eldrazi, and they have three players in the feature match area in Round 5. Not only is ChannelFireball on Eldrazi, but their build is super spicy, running Chalice of the Void and Simian Spirit Guide with a mono-colorless creature base of Endless One, Thought-Knot Seer, Eldrazi Mimic, Matter Reshaper and Reality Smasher. While we don't have the actual list yet, here's my best guess.

The problem with older build of Eldrazi, as we've talked about before, is that it can sometimes struggle with aggressive strategies as well as decks like Burn or Infect. Plus the older versions played a ton of bad cards to make the processor plan work. ChannelFireball managed to cut the chaff, figured out that Chalice of the Void is the solution to the aggro problem, and gets to play a ton of sweet creaturelands thanks to the mono-colorless plan. In fact, I believe the most exciting part of the deck is the manabase.

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The advantage of being truly colorless is that you get to play a bunch of really powerful creaturelands. This gives the CFB Eldrazi deck another line of attack, provides some protection against removal, and gives the deck a way to go long. Better yet, I assume it minimizes the legendary land problem that plagued the Eye of Ugin / Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth build of the deck by playing fewer copies of Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, and possibly Eye of Ugin as well.

The fact that Team ChannelFireball is not only on Eldrazi, but on an extremely unique build of of Eldrazi, is a huge win for the archetype. Considering that Team ChannelFireball contains many of the best players in the world (which makes it more likely that we see an Eldrazi deck on the Sunday stage), I would pick up any pieces for the deck now if you are thinking of playing it over the next couple months. Either that or you'll have to wait until the price — which will likely be inflated after this weekend — comes back down to earth in a few weeks. 

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Meanwhile, Ryoichi Tamada is playing a different take on Eldrazi, opting for colored mana and highlighted by a manabase of painlands. While odds are in favor of the ChannelFireball deck getting most of the hype, the possibility of painlands being playable in Modern is an interesting development and one that could have financial ramifications. As it currently sits, the painlands are only Standard playable, which combined with the two recent printings, helps explain why they are so cheap at the moment. If they actually become Modern playable, they could maintain price after rotation, or even increase over the long term. This is doubly true of the ally members of the cycle that have dodged the reprint bug and have considerably lower supply than the Magic Origins enemy cycle. If you don't have a set from playing Standard, it probably isn't a horrible idea to pick up your copies while they are near bulk. Even if they miss in Modern, they have a lot of potential in Standard once fetches rotate in April.

Round 6

One of the questions I had about the ChannelFireball Eldrazi deck was if it could beat a Blood Moon. Since nearly all of the creatures in the deck require true colorless mana (rather than generic mana) and the deck only plays two basics (in Wastes), it seems possible that the deck could get locked out of the game by an early Blood Moon. Well, Round 6 helps answer this question, as Thiago Saporito (who is playing the Eldrazi deck) runs into Jason Chung on Blue Moon. 

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Match one suggests that Blood Moon, at least when played fairly, might be a turn too slow, as Saporito takes the match easily through a resolved Blood Moon. While I still think that Blood Moon can be good against the deck, it seems like it may require something like Free Win Red to be fast enough. Plus, while it doesn't appear that the Eldrazi build is playing any Expedition Maps, they do have Ghost Quarter which can find Wastes with Blood Moon on the stack. In fact, Saporito does exactly this in game three, essentially casting a Sinkhole on himself in order to have access to the all-important colorless mana. Regardless, the point is that Blood Moon on turn three doesn't seem good enough to beat the deck on its own; while it is fine, it isn't game-breaking, which is a scary thought and a testament to the resilience of the Eldrazi deck. 

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Everyone expected Thought-Knot Seer and Matter Reshaper to be good, or at least decent, so seeing them show up in force at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch isn't all that surprising. What is surprising is just how good Endless One and Eldrazi Mimic are in the deck. On more than one occasion, Endless One has come down as a 7/7, which is huge in Modern. Once you get to x/6 or better (out of Dismember range), you dodge pretty much every popular removal spell in Modern except for Path to Exile. Meanwhile, Eldrazi Mimic often comes down on turn one thanks to Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple, and it occasionally attacks for four damage on turn two with the help of Thought-Knot Seer. Both are already up between 300 and 400 percent on Magic Online, but last time I checked paper prices are unchanged. While I wouldn't recommend going deep on these in-print, Standard legal rares as a financial play, picking up a playset seems like a good idea if you plan on playing the deck in Modern. 

Round 7

While Eldrazi are stealing the spotlight, Death's Shadow Aggro appears to be one of the best performing decks on the first day of Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. Not only is Big Z at 6-0, but Martin Muller, who is featured in Round 7, is 5-1 with the same build. Honestly, I'm not really sure what to make of the deck's long-term prospects. The fact that 14 very good players decided to run it at the Pro Tour is a big vote of confidence in the archetype, but it plays in such a strange and risky way that it's hard to imagine it being a pillar of the format.

The problem with Death's Shadow Aggro is that you are a deck that intentionally fetches for untapped shocklands just because you want to diminish your life total, which often leaves you in a precarious situation where one spell from an opponent can swing the entire game. While it can win the game quickly, it can also lose the game just as quickly, as we saw in the first game of Muller's match where his opponent, Raymond Perez, Jr., was able to throw a bunch of Giant Growths at a Dryad Arbor to take advantage of the 12 damage Muller had dealt to himself to steal the game. If you're not familiar with the archetype, here's an example from Magic Online.

The other take away from Round 7 is Blue Moon. While only four players showed up with the deck, at least one of them — Jason Chung — is performing very well, currently sitting at the King of the Hill table at 6-0. Pia and Kiran Nalaar seems to be the main addition to the deck, but it is unclear if this is in place of Stormbreath Dragon or Thundermaw Hellkite (traditionally the finishers for the deck), or alongside one of them. At this point there is little doubt that Pia and Kiran Nalaar is the best Intro Pack rare printed in recent years, and quite possibly the best Intro Pack rare of all time.

Finally, a quick price update heading into the final round of the day. So far the big winner is Chalice of the Void, with both versions spiking over 100 percent to the $40 range on the back of the ChannelFireball Eldrazi deck. While we haven't seen it on camera, there are rumors that there might be a Descendants' Path build of Eldrazi somewhere at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, which might explain why the recent bulk rare is up to $8.35, increasing over 300 percent in the last 24 hours. Meanwhile on Magic Online, almost all of the spikes are related to two decks: the ChannelFireball Eldrazi build and Death's Shadow Aggro. This includes Chalice of the Void, Eye of Ugin, Mutavault, Death's Shadow and Mishra's Bauble

Round 8

Between rounds six and seven, the coverage team offhandedly mentioned that there was a UR Eldrazi deck that was undefeated. Well, now we know that it is being played by Jiachen Tao, who finally gets a feature match at 7-0. At first glance, UR Eldrazi looks like a very good draft deck, playing things like Eldrazi Skyspawner, Ruination Guide as well as the other, more expected Eldrazi like Thought-Knot Seer, but it was definitely not the type of deck you expect to see playing for an undefeated record in the last round of the first day of a Pro Tour.

While I think the UR build of Eldrazi is really interesting, it is also a bit disappointing. I was really hoping that Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch would show us which Eldrazi build is best and so far we've seen three different builds in the feature match area. The one thing that's clear is that the old builds, looking to ramp into Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Oblivion Sower, are not the way to go. While there isn't an agreement on what colors to play, or how to build the mana base, one thing all the pros seem to agree on is that Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher and to a lesser extent Matter Reshaper are the reasons to play Eldrazi in Modern, not the six-drops and ten-drops. 

Meanwhile, we've also seen several different Collected Company decks make their way through the feature match area, including Bartlomiej Lawandowski who is currently 7-0. An increase in Standard play combined with a strong Modern showing means you probably want to pick up your copies of Collected Company sooner rather than later. While it might decrease a bit at rotation next fall, if it continues to be a real card in Modern, its long-term future is fairly bright. This brings us around to the Magic Origins Clash Pack.

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Right now you can still pick up copies of the Magic Origins Clash Pack for about $25 on, for which you'll get not only a Collected Company (worth $15.95), but a Windswept Heath ($13.28), a Dromoka's Command  ($3.55), a Siege Rhino ($2.29), a Valorous Stance ($1.25) and an Avatar of the Resolute ($1.24). All together these six cards add up to $37.56 in value.

Now, let's say that you want four copies of Collected Company to build Abzan Company in Modern or Bant Company in Standard. If you were to buy them from TCGplayer ,you'd end up paying about $64. Your other option is to buy four copies of the Magic Origins Clash Pack for $100 and sell the other money cards. Based on current buylist prices, you can sell the other money cards for a total of right around $45, meaning you'd get your playset of Collected Company for a $10 discount over buying singles, and even more if you take the time to sell the other cards on eBay, or trade them away instead of buylisting. So, if you need a playset of Collected Company, my advice would be to pick up four copies of the Magic Origins Clash Pack to save yourself some money.

Parting Thoughts

  • Eldrazi are definitely the talk of the tournament, and at this point it would be shocking if at least one Eldrazi deck doesn't make the Top 8 on Sunday. 
  • Other winners include Death's Shadow Aggro and Blue Moon, although there is less of a guarantee that either of these decks make the Top 8 simply because they are being played by far fewer players than the various Eldrazi builds. 
  • I want to take a minute to thank Wizards for not featuring end featuring Burn and Affinity over and over again even though they are the most played decks at the Pro Tour. The same is true of Infect. While each of these decks have been on camera from time to time, they haven't been featured oppressively like they were at Pro Tour Fate Reforged
  • The biggest loser of day one is likely Tron, which was barely a blip on the day one metagame page and hasn't shown up on camera a single time.
  • It's likely that Jund and Abzan are also losers, but it is too early to say for sure. Considering that together they make up a large portion of the meta and have been almost completely absent from the feature match area, it seems likely they are not performing very well. Since only four matches are featured each round, the sample size is too small to make any definite statements.
  • Finally, from a meta perspective, I've been really impressed with the improvements in coverage. While there are still areas that could be better, overall the presentation of Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch is far better than previous Pro Tours, and hopefully a sign of good things to come.


Anyway, that's all for today. Did you get to catch the day one coverage from Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch? What decks and cards did you think were winner? Which were losers? What were the biggest surprises? As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 

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