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Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad: Day One Review


After 18 months of slogging through Siege Rhinos, Rally the Ancestors and Mantis Riders, Khans of Tarkir has finally rotated. Shadows over Innistrad and the new Standard format is a time for relentless optimism. Although the first couple of weeks have been rather bland with white-based Humans decks and various Reflector Mage / Collected Company decks immediately jumping to the top looking very good (or even unbeatable), the good news is that it's the Pro Tour that will set the metagame going forward. Today will be breaking down, round-by-round, the happenings at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, starting with Round 4, the first round of constructed play. Remember to follow @MTGGoldfish on twitter and facebook as we're posting live updates and decklists as they appear on camera.

Round 4

Coverage starts with Brian Kibler versus Thiago Saporito and the fear that we'll see only Collected Company and Humans appears to be overblown. Kibler is playing a Jund Midrange deck (that he claims to have built yesterday, probably between matches of Hearthstone) against a planeswalker heavy build of G/W Tokens featuring Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Westvale Abbey and lots of token generators. Kibler's deck feels very midrange, featuring a ton of removal and a top end of Dragonlord Atarka. Unfortunately game one ends in about two minutes as Kibler beats down with Sylvan Advocate and we don't really get to see much of what's going on. The GW Tokens deck turns it around in games two and three, flooding the board with token producing planeswalkers and punishing Kibler for playing slow cards like Mina and Denn, Wildborn and for stumbling on mana.  

The good news is that the backup feature matches include LSV and Cheon who are playing a Cryptolith Rite build of Green-Black Aristocrats featuring Westvale Abbey. While we didn't get to see the payoff for Cryptolith Rite, it's looking like the build is (one of?) the ChannelFireball team builds, which immediately moves it to the top of the watch list.

Westvale Abbey

The winner of the first round of constructed is clearly Westvale Abbey, which is showing up in multiple archetypes. While I hate to draw the comparison, it wasn't that long ago that we had a colorless land that showed up in basically every deck: Mutavault. It's probably unreasonable to expect a $40 price tag, mostly because not all decks want four copies of Westvale Abbey. This said, $8 could end up being cheap for a colorless land that may be Modern playable. It has trended down over the past couple weeks, and I'm starting to think picking up your playset in the $30 range might be a good idea. 

Cryptolith Rite

Speaking of cards that I expect to spike, when you see two Team ChannelFireball members at 3-0 and playing the same deck, it's usually a good idea to pick up any new rares you see in that deck. Just playing the numbers, the chances of someone playing the Team CFB deck putting up a good showing is fairly high, both because the team features a ton of the best players in the world and because there are a lot of them. In this case, apart from Westvale Abbey, Cryptolith Rites seems like the best bet. It's already been on camera multiple times, and while I haven't really figured out what their deck is doing with it (other than generating a ton of value with Duskwatch Recruiter, which might end up being the most played Shadows over Innistrad card at the Pro Tour), I would be shocked if the odd enchantment doesn't at least double in price (and possible triple into the $10 range) over the weekend. Anyway, here's my way too early guess at the Team ChannelFireball Aristo-Rites deck:

Round 5

Round five starts on Seth Mansfield on Esper Control against one of the greatest of all time in Jon Finkel. Now, for the biggest shock at the tournament so far, Finkel and the rest of Team Pantheon (another team featuring a lot of great players), is playing a Green-Black Control deck build around Seasons Past. I honestly have no idea what is going on in the Pantheon deck; in game one we see a wide array of cards including Duress, Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, Nissa's Renewal, Dark Petition and Languish. It looks like the basic idea is to play a bunch of stuff and eventually Dark Petition for a Seasons Past, which ends up getting back three or four cards, but also the Dark Petition. Since Seasons Past puts itself on the bottom of your library once it resolves, you can simply Dark Petition for it again next turn and keep the loop going while shredding your opponent's hand with Duress and Transgress the Mind, gaining life and thinning your deck with Nissa's Renewal, and wiping your opponent's board with Languish, Ruinous Path and Grasp of Darkness

Mansfield's Esper Control list, on the other hand, looks fairly predictable, but seems to be running a lot of planeswalkers. Over the course of the match we see multiple copies of Sorin, Grim Nemesis along with Narset Transcendent and Jace, Unraveler of Secrets in his hand.

Seasons Past

I mentioned on Twitter that if you had named off all the mythics from Shadows over Innistrad, I would have said Seasons Past was one of the least likely to have a deck named after it at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad. As a new mythic in an exciting new deck, it seems likely that it will end up one of the early winners of the event. This said, I have no idea what to expect from the card over the long term. It looked amazing on camera against the slow control deck, and it seems to have the tools to deal with aggro in wraths and life gain, but is this an actual tier one deck in Standard, or a flash in the pan? One thing that's for sure, if you have a bunch of copies sitting around, you're going to be able to cash them out for a huge profit; but whether Seasons Past is $10 or $3 a couple months from now remains to be seen. I'd lean towards selling into the hype. 

Dark Petition

Last week I wrote about how looking good on camera sells cards. Well, Seasons Past and Dark Petition are a perfect example. We've seen exactly one match with the deck against Esper Control, which I imagine is one of the decks best matchups. A reasonable person would temper expectations and wait to see how the deck fairs against Bant Company, Humans, or Eldrazi Ramp. But Pro Tours are anything but reasonable. All it took was one Dark Petition / Seasons Past loop for both cards to be bought out on Magic Online and mostly bought out in paper. Is the deck good? I have no clue, but it proved it was sweet on camera, and that's all it takes for a buyout to commence. 

In round five we also get a second look at the G/R Eldrazi Ramp deck featuring Pyromancer's Goggles, this time in the hands of Brad Nelson. While at first glance Pyromancer's Goggles looks strange in the deck, but once we get the word that Nelson won the game by 20'ing his opponent by casting Fall of the Titans with Pyromancer's Goggles, its power becomes clear. This said, it's still surprising that multiple Standard decks are running Pyromancer's Goggles in the main deck. The problem with Pyromancer's Goggles is that it's already spiked to $10, and it's hard to imagine it maintaining a price any higher, even with a good showing. While it could spike over the short term, I'd definitely be looking to unload my copies — the aftermath of this Pro Tour will likely be the peak for most Magic Origins and Dragons of Tarkir cards that are rotating in the fall.

Round 6

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Alright, let's set the stage for round six. LSV is 5-0 and playing the innovative Cryptolith Rite Aristocrats deck. Jon Finkel is 5-0 and playing perhaps the most exciting deck in the tournament: the Seasons Past / Dark Petition control deck. They sit down in the feature match, two of the top five or ten best players of all time. The camera zooms in. And... it's Bant Company (one of the most well known decks in the format) versus Esper Dragons (which was cool and new a year ago at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir). Seriously, it feels like we are being trolled by Wizards. Whoever is choosing feature matches should be fired. 

Really, this is inexcusable. While I've been very upfront about my belief that Wizards' Pro Tour coverage has been improving over the past year, some of the decision making is still absurd. This is like CBS having the rights to broadcast the Super Bowl and deciding to show the Puppy Bowl instead. Honestly, I don't have much else to say about round six. Dragonlord Ojutai is good. Archangel Avacyn is good. Bant Company is good. Wizards feature match selection, on the other hand, is horrible.

Sylvan Advocate

This said, I did want to talk about one card. While not nearly as flashy as Seasons Past or Cryptolith Rite, Sylvan Advocate has been on camera a lot at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad. It has clearly evolved to be the premiere two-drop in the format, and it should continue to see heavy play for the next year. While I'm not a big fan of buying expensive rares in hopes of making a profit, it's hard to imagine Sylvan Advocate dropping much from its current $7 price tag, and it could continue to grow over the next few months. If you don't have your copies yet, I'd consider picking them up; you're likely to need them for Standard sooner or later. 

Round 7

It seems that Wizards learned from the near riot from the feature match selection during round six, because we start round seven with LSV on Cryptocrats vs Jeremy Dezani on Abzan Company. We've talked about the Channel Fireball list (also played by at least some of Team Ultra Pro, who tested with Channel Fireball for the event) quite a bit already, so I'm not sure there's much more to say, although it's starting to look like there are no big fatties to cast off of Cryptolith Rites. Instead the enchantment is used almost like Heritage Druid in Elves to allow the GB deck to explode on the board early in the game. During game one, LSV had eight-mana worth of creatures on the battlefield on turn three, and then transformed a lethal Westvale Abbey on turn five, all with just three lands on the battlefield. While the sample size is still small, every time the GB Rites deck has been featured on camera, it has looked very, very strong.

Later in the round we get a peek at an interesting Mardu Control list featuring Nahiri, the Harbinger, Goblin Dark-DwellersLinvala, the Preserver, Chandra, Flamecaller and a ton of removal. This suggests two things: First, it's possible to build a successful control deck in our current Standard format; it just might not be a blue control deck. Second, even though the coverage has focused on other decks, Company decks in general and Bant Company in specific are still among the best decks in the format. Company was featured in at least three of the four feature matches this round, with at least one Company mirror. As such, let's take a minute to thank Wizards for putting Collected Company in the Magic Origins Clash Pack

Collected Company

While there's been a lot of talk about the perceived lack of reprints lately, it's worth pointing out that Wizards did just reprint the best card in Standard (and a Modern staple) in a huge-supply supplemental product. Yes, it's true that Collected Company is still $20, and yes, $80 a playset is still a lot for many players, but on the other hand, could you imagine how much Collected Company would cost without the reprinting? I'd guess at least $40, and maybe even a little bit more than that. It's also worth noting that the extra supply from the Clash Pack also limits any future price increases for the card, so even though Collected Company's the best card in Standard and probably the most important card at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, having a price spike is unlikely. 

The GB Cryptocrats deck ended up splitting with Company decks for the round (although it got a bit unlucky to not be 2-0), but the general consensus from the coverage team seems to be that the Aristocrats build is favored in the matchup, which is definitely a vote of confidence for the staying power of the deck. Being favored over other Company decks is a pretty big deal in our current Standard format. The Mardu Control deck also won, and while we haven't gotten to see it much on camera yet, here's my best guess as to what it might look like: 

Round 8

Round eight starts off with what is becoming the most common matchup (at least in the feature match area) of Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad: GB Cryptocrats versus Bant Company. Ian Duke suggests that a good matchup against Bant Company is one of the reasons that Team CFB / Ultra Pro chose the deck for the event. Once again, Cryptolith Rite looks very good, allowing the GB deck to dump its hand in a manner almost reminiscent of Modern Affinity or Legacy Elves. One of the more underrated aspects of the deck is the ability to use Westvale Abbey in conjunction with Zulaport Cutthroat and a bunch of random creatures to deal 14 damage out of nowhere to close out a game. 

After watching the matchup a few times, Bant Company seems like a massive underdog, which may put a question mark over whether it can remain near the top of the format moving forward. People are going to start playing the Cryptocrats deck — people play the Channel Fireball deck after every Pro Tour. So even if the GB deck doesn't end up being format breaking, the fact that people are going to try may really hurt Bant Company over the next few weeks.

Day One Metagame Breakdown

The top of the meta is no surprise. Bant Company made up nearly a quarter of the day one field (which might explain why it's been in the feature matchup area fairly often) and Mono-White Humans (which hasn't been on camera very much at all) made up another 11 percent. The top decks heading into the event together took up about one-third of the meta. RG Ramp comes in third, and if you count the Pyromancer's Goggles builds and the non-Goggles builds together, they almost overtake Mono-White Humans, coming in at just under 10 percent of the field. After the big three decks, things get scattered with six decks making up between 3.44 and 5.29 percent of the field. The biggest surprises in the field, apart from GB Cryptocrats, is the emergence of removal heavy builds of Mardu and Jund midrange/control. We've seen the Mardu version a little bit on camera, but our only peek at Jund was Kibler in the first round of constructed. Unfortunately we didn't get a very good look at what the deck could do since the Dragonmaster had a lot of mana problems. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. What were some of your take aways from Day One of Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad? What deck are you most excited to try out? Is GB Cryptocrats for real? What about Seasons Past? Do you have any bold predictions for Day Two? Let me know in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.

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