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Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad: Day Two Review

Day one of Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad was awesome. We had great players in the feature match area all day long, the metagame was incredibly diverse, and there were several very exciting new decks built around surprising cards like Cryptolith Rite, Pyromancer's Goggles and Seasons Past. If you're looking for all the cool new decks from yesterday, be sure to check out our Day One Review. This said, day one doesn't really mean that much in the grand scheme of a Pro Tour; it's day two that puts players into the Top 8, and it's the Top 8 that everyone remembers and the results that set the metagame moving forward. So today we'll be breaking down all the happenings from the second day of competition, round-by-round, from Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad! If you want to go directly to the spoilers, be sure to check out the Top 8 Decklists.

Day Two Metagame Breakdown

We'll break down the success or failure of individual decks more in coming days, but it's worth taking a brief look at the day two metagame breakdown right now. Before we do, there are a couple of important things to consider about these numbers. Overall 62 percent of decks made day two at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, so in general, decks with conversion rates over 62 percent can be considered successful and decks with a conversion rate under 62 percent can be considered failures. However, these numbers are complicated by the split format, so we are basically assuming that all players performed equally in limited, which obviously isn't the case in practice. For example, we know that Channel Fireball had multiple players come out of the first draft at 3-0, which means their BG Aristocrats deck needed to do less work in constructed to have a good conversion rate. This said, there are a few things we can take away from this data:

  • At first glance it appears that BG Aristocrats and GW Tokens (the Face-to-Face team deck) were easily the best decks on day one of Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad and it wasn't even close. Putting 90+ percent of players into day two is a remarkable rate and quite an achievement for Face-to-Face and CFB/Ultra Pro.
  • However, if you look a bit deeper at the numbers, a strong argument can be made that Goggles Ramp was actually the best deck on day one. While its conversion rate lags behind GB Aristocrats and GW Tokens slightly (at 80 percent), it put a huge percentage of players into the 6-2 or better bracket, which suggests the deck won a lot of matches. 
  • Speaking of Goggles Ramp, if you are going to play Ramp, this is the build you want to play. It had a conversion rate that was 21 percent better than non-Goggles Ramp, which is a huge difference for very similar decks (although this may be, at least in part, because of the caliber of players on the Goggles build). 
  • Bant Company under performed on day one, but there may be more to its lacking conversion rate than meets the eye; many of the best players in the room are on team decks and it doesn't appear that any of the major teams are playing Bant Company. As such, Bant Company is more likely to be played by unaffiliated players, who are potentially lacking in experience at the Pro Tour level. 
  • Don't play Mardu Control. While the deck looks sweet, it performed horribly. 
  • While it didn't show up on the metagame breakdown, apparently Esper Dragons was incredibly horrible, advancing somewhere around 38 percent of its players. 

Round 12

We start off with two of the most exciting decks in the event: Brad Nelson on Goggles Ramp and Jon Finkel on Seasons Past GB Control. On paper this feels like a nearly unwinnable matchup for the Seasons Past deck, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out in practice. The most exciting part of the matchup is that we get to see more of the super spicy Seasons Past deck. We quickly learn that Finkel's deck includes a single main deck copy of Infinite Obliteration, which not only gives the deck an out to World Breaker, but also provides a really odd alternate win condition since in the late game you can cast it every turn with the Dark Petition / Seasons Past loop and exile all of your opponent's creatures. 

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Apart from being innovative, these two decks are also responsible for most of the biggest price spikes on day one of Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad. Seasons Past was the biggest winner on day one, jumping 316 percent to $9. While it could increase a bit more if Finkel makes the Top 8, the overall numbers on the deck leave much to be desired, and there's a legitimate question as to whether the deck is actually good or if Finkel is just very good at Magic. Pyromancer's Goggles didn't increase a ton, mostly because it had already spiked based on the UR Tempo decks seeing play over the last couple weeks (and noticeably missing from Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad), but it did jump about 50 percent and is currently pushing $15. Finally, Dark Petition jumped about 350% to over $5. I think this is the card that has the best chance of having its price stick over the long term, not so much because I'm convinced the Seasons Past deck is great (we still don't know), but because the card is seeing play in Esper Control as well, and it's legitimately good all the way back to Vintage. Until it ends up getting restricted or banned in older formats, I wouldn't be surprised to see it sticking in the $2-$3 range, double or triple its pre-Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad price. 

Traverse the Ulvenwald

It's starting to seem like the right financial approach for Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad was simply to buy every green rare or mythic from Shadows over Innistrad. Yesterday it was Cryptolith Rite and Seasons Past, and now today we see that Traverse the Ulvenwald is a key piece of the Goggles Ramp deck. Interestingly, this good news for Traverse the Ulvenwald is bad news for Oath of Nissa. Heading into the Pro Tour, there was a major divide among Ramp players as to whether Oath of Nissa or Traverse the Ulvenwald was the right choice for the archetype, but I expect Traverse the Ulvenwald to become the standard moving forward given the performance of the Team EUreka deck at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad

Round 13

Round 13 starts with eight different archetypes in the feature match area, but our main feature is LSV on GB Aristocrats (playing a win and in for Top 8) against Steve Rubin on Green-White Tokens. Since we've talked about the ChannelFireball / Ultra Pro deck ad nauseam over the past day and a half, let's focus on the GW Token build, which was one of the best performing decks on day one despite being mostly absent from the feature match area. 

Maybe the most interesting part of the token deck is that it's overloaded on planeswalkers, with not only Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, but Nissa, Voice of Zendikar as well. Otherwise, the deck appears to be playing all of the most efficient green and white threats in the format, including Archangel AvacynHangarback Walker, and Sylvan Advocate, backed up by Oath of Nissa, Dromoka's Command and Evolutionary Leap

Archangel Avacyn

While Archangel Avacyn is still one of the most powerful cards in Standard, it's becoming clear that it hasn't been all that great at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad. It's been close to non-existent on coverage, and none of the new and exciting decks feature the flip mythic. I'd look towards moving my copies before the price starts to fall. It's not so much that Archangel Avacyn is bad, but to maintain $40, a card has to see an absurd amount of play. Since the Pro Tour field appears to have figured out a way of beating the previous best decks in the format, I expect her trajectory to be down over the next couple months until she ends up somewhere around $20. 

While we haven't gotten a chance to see it on coverage much, there are a handful of players from Team East-West Bowl, including Seth Mansfield, having success with an Esper Control decks that is essentially Esper Superfriends. The deck runs three copies of Narset Transcendent, two Jace, Unraveler of Secrets and Sorin, Grim Nemesis, and a single Ob Nixilis Reignited. While the deck really needs to get more camera time to have much impact on prices, a Top 8 could at least slow the price drop of the Shadows over Innistrad planeswalkers. Here's the list:

Round 14

Round 15 begins with some new decks - Jund Midrange against Grixis Control, which means the full eight copies of Goblin Dark-Dwellers between the two decks - a matchup that Grixis takes down in two quick games. Over the rest of the round we see another diverse set of decks including Abzan Company and Esper Planeswalkers, along with Finkel, LSV and Nelson, who are essentially living in the feature match area at this point. 

While maybe not as obvious as some of the other winners at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, Goblin Dark-Dwellers is proving itself to be a very important card in the new Standard format. Currently at just over $2 in paper and on Magic Online, there's a very real chance it comes out of the weekend in the $5 range, especially if one of these decks makes the Top 8. We've already seen is as a key sideboard card in the Goggles Ramp deck, but sideboard play isn't usually enough to cause big price shifts, so the price future of Goblin Dark-Dwellers really rests in the hands these two decks. 

Last round I mentioned that Archangel Avacyn has to be considered one of the losers of Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, not because she's a bad card, but because all of the most exciting new decks at the event passed up on the powerful flier. Well, the same thing is true of Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, and possibly even more so. The Grixis Control deck featured this round marks the first time we've seen a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy on camera in a long time - possibly the first time in the entire event, although I could be forgetting an earlier appearance. Maybe the most surprising thing is that the most played (and likely best) blue control deck at the event (Team East-West Bowl's Esper Planeswalkers) decided to go with Jace, Unraveler of Secrets over Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. While Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is still a good card, and will still see play in Standard, it's starting to look like his reign as best card in Standard has come to an end, and I expect the long, slow price slide towards fall rotation to begin shortly. Anyway, here's my best guess at the Grixis Control deck featured in round 14:

Round 15

We start off the penultimate round of Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad with Steve Rubin on GW Tokens against Yuuya Wantanabe on Mono-White Humans in a win and in for Top 8. Despite the fact that Mono-White Humans was the second most played deck on day one, this is the first time we've seen the deck on camera since a backup feature match yesterday, which is especially odd because the deck performed well putting 70 percent of its players into day two. This said, there really isn't much financial upside to the deck, both because it's been overshadowed by more exciting decks like GB Aristocrats, Goggles Ramp and Seasons Past Control, but also because most of the rares and mythics in the deck spiked a couple weeks ago when the deck broke out on the SCG circuit. Since Humans is already well known and we've already talked about the GW Tokens deck, let's take this opportunity to talk about some of the hyped cards from Shadows over Innistrad that have not made an appearance at the Pro Tour.

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  • Things are looking bleak for Arlinn Kord. While Jund Midrange showed up among the ten most played decks at the event, from the little bit we've seen it on camera, it doesn't appear that the archetype is playing the flip walker. 
  • Maybe one of the biggest surprises is that Thing in the Ice is nowhere to be found. While not quite on the level of Bant Company or Humans, the UR Goggles deck championed by Todd Anderson on the SCG Tour had been one of the most played decks leading up to Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad. But it didn't really show up at all at the Pro Tour. In fact, the only time we've seen Thing in the Ice on camera is during limited. 
  • Apart from Humans, the tribes of Shadows over Innistrad have been a complete bust. While Spirits and Werewolves weren't really expected to make a showing, I was holding out hope that Zombies or Madness Vampires might. At this point, the most likely outcome is that these tribes sit on the sidelines until the release of Eldrich Moon, when they could make a resurgence if they get more support. The cards are still powerful, there simply aren't enough of them in Standard at this point.

Round 16

Round 16 starts with one of the most convoluted standings in Pro Tour history, with no one being able to intentionally draw in and only two players locked for Top 8 (Finkel and Nelson). This means that even LSV, sitting at 12-1 only a couple hours ago, is potentially in danger of missing the Top 8 all together. Since we've already talked about all of the decks competing for the Top 8, let's take this opportunity to review some of the winners and losers from the first two days of Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad, and then we'll conclude with the Top 8 decks. 

Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad: Winners and Losers

  • Winner: Lovers of rogue decks. There was a legitimate fear heading into the event that we'd be watching endless Bant Company and Human mirrors. Thankfully this didn't happen. Nearly every round of the Pro Tour featured new and exciting decks in the hands of very good players. 
  • Loser: Bant Company players. If you went out and bought Bant Company in response to its performance over the first couples weeks of the format, you have to be pretty disappointed with this weekend. When it's all said and done, Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad revealed that there's not only way of beating Bant Company, but many ways of beating Bant Company. While you can still put a lot of the cards to use in other builds, I wouldn't want to take the deck to a tournament over the next few weeks. 
  • Winner: Green cards. Seasons Past, Duskwatch Recruiter, Cryptolith Rite, Sylvan Advocate and Traverse the Ulvenwald would all rank among the important cards at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad. It's a good time to be a green player. 
  • Loser: Blue cards. While we don't have all of the numbers yet, I expect that when we do we'll find that blue was the least played (and arguably worst) color at Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy didn't show up for the event, and even the control decks are black-green (Seasons Past Control), and the most played blue control deck in the field (Esper Planeswalkers) isn't your typical draw-go counterspell deck, instead looking to tap out every turn for wraths and planeswalkers. 
  • Winner: Coverage in general. Is Wizards coverage as good as SCG coverage? Not yet, but overall the official coverage for Pro Tour has improved significantly over the last year. The new additions to the coverage team have been solid and the in between round features are much better than in the past. Hopefully this trend continues. One downside: the internet was horrible. I'm not sure if it was Twitch, Wizards of the Coast, or the internet connection in Spain, but there were a ton of crashes and stream glitches, to the point where many players had to migrate from Twitch to YouTube just to watch the event. The problem was, a lot of people didn't even realize there was a YouTube stream, a relatively new addition to the Pro Tour coverage.
  • Loser: Magic as an E-Sport. Right now I'm watching Round 16, featuring the Michael Jordan of Magic (LSV) on camera, playing for a Top 8 birth with a new and exciting deck; you'd think this would be the dream scenario for coverage. It hits all the checkmarks for a must-watch match. Well, here's the thing:
Viewers, by Game, During Round 16 PTSOI
Game Viewers (Twitch+Youtube)
Dota 2 244,000
League of Legends 176,000
Counter-Strike 146,000
Hearthstone 69,000
Street Fighter 28,000
Dark Souls III 28,000
Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad 27,000

Hopefully this will improve with the new focus on E-Sports and the new President, but for now these numbers show just how far behind Magic is in the world of streaming. While some of the games ahead of it in views are in the middle of large events, in other cases, like Dark Souls III for example, it's literally just random streamers drawing more viewers than the premiere Magic event. For Magic to succeed in the world of E-Sports, something needs to change — I'm just not sure what. 

Top 8 

Other Decklists


Anyway, that's all for today. Make sure to come back tomorrow for the Top 8; it looks like it will be one of the best of all time! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at

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