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By: ablock, Anthony Block
May 16 2017 12:00pm
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 Pro Tour Amonkhet Thoughts and Going Forward

Another Pro Tour is in the books and this one delivered. With the banning of the cat, decks were let off their restrictive chains and allowed to flourish in front of the camera. The top dog going into the Pro Tour was Mardu, but everyone expected Aetherworks Marvel to make a very strong showing. So after three days of the best players going at it, what have we learned?


Mardu is no longer the best deck.


Aetherworks Marvel has firmly taken away that title away from Mardu Vehicles, placing four decks in the Top 8. Mardu had zero decks represented in the Top 8. As of late, Mardu decks have been shifting toward a more mid-range deck instead of trying to kill you as fast as possible. That doesn’t bode too well when the Marvel player can spin the top as early as turn 4 and land an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Not only that, but a lot of cards that help Marvel activate are inherently good or decent against Mardu’s creatures.

Servant of the Conduit and Rogue Refiner are good blockers early to stall. Woodweaver's Puzzleknot nets you a good amount of life and energy, but a real backbreaker is Whirler Virtuoso. On camera, it felt like whoever cast this card was bound to win. It’s a rough matchup for Mardu and players will need to reevaluate how they build their decks going forward to combat the new menace of Standard.


Zombies are the real deal.


As good as Marvel decks are, Zombie decks are right there with it. The additions of Lord of the Accursed, Dread Wanderer, and Liliana's Mastery have enabled the tribe of brain eaters to go wide and under, killing opponents before they get to enable their game plan.

The Top 8 had two different zombie decks: Gerry Thompson’s Pro-Tour-Winning Mono-Black list, and Chris Fennel’s White-Black list. Mono-Black focuses more on beating down as fast as possible by curving out into a lord on turn 3. White-Black opts out of playing Relentless Dead due to the double black cost and instead plays a more grindy approach with Wayward Servant and having a flexible catch-all answer in Anguished Unmaking. Both decks proved to be tier 1 capable over the weekend and will be contenders for the foreseeable future.


Marvel misses on Ulamog a lot. It sometimes doesn’t matter.


The big payoff for Aetherworks Marvel is being able to cast your Ulamog on turn 4, almost ensuring victory in most circumstances. There were a lot of times, however, that Marvel doesn’t see Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger in the top six cards. Here lies the strength of the deck: often, it doesn’t even matter.

The deck is chock-full of value, that even just one missed activation still nets you a strong advantage. Hitting Rogue Refiner or even just Woodweaver's Puzzleknot sets you up nicely for spinning the wheel one more time next turn. A lot of Marvel lists have alternate heavy hitters as well, such as Torrential Gearhulk and Chandra, Flamecaller. Hitting the six-mana planeswalker is often lights out versus opposing zombie decks, sweeping the board and clearing the way for you to continue getting value from the legendary artifact. The flexibility of the deck and not being entirely dependent on hitting Ulamog with Marvel is why this is a tier-one deck in Standard.


Pros prefer speed over quality in Amonkhet draft


On both Friday and Saturday, I witnessed two things. On Friday, I saw, I believe, a Nef-Crop Entangler Pick 1 Pack 1 over a Baleful Ammit. This immediately confirmed what I already believed: Red-White Exert was the best archetype you could draft. Christian Calcano managed to draft 6 Slither Blade, a card many pros deemed unplayable, and came out just fine. In a format full of 1/4s, 1/5s, 3/4s, and 2/4s, this surprised me a lot. I, among many others, believed this to be a durdlely format, but the pros came out swinging, ending entire matches within 10 minutes at times.


Which leads to what I saw on Saturday. I forget who we were watching, but the player had a slow blue deck. He looked at one pack and saw a Kefnet the Mindful. It looked to be the surefire pick, as his deck was low on power. Instead, he choose Tah-Crop Skirmisher. He already had two of them in his deck, too. I was stunned at the pick, and I have to respect his choice, but it speaks volumes to what these pro players know. That he needs to match the fast, aggressive plays from his opponents with his own low CMC creatures instead of sitting on the powerful, yet slow, mythic.


Going Forward


So what can we expect going forward from the Pro Tour weekend? Well, I would strongly advise boarding to beat both Aetherworks Marvel and Zombie decks. For Marvel, hand disruption and Manglehorn might be good tools to slow down the turn 4 Ulamog. A dedicated control deck with Negate and perhaps Summary Dismissal in the board. The dismissal is usually too slow, but there were plenty of times where Marvel players just hardcast Ulamog, so it should be okay in those situations.

Zombies is tricky, because traditional sweepers are probably the answer, but Zombies can grow big fast thanks to Metallic Mimic, Lord of the Accursed, and Liliana’s Mastery. If they don’t get big, Sweltering Suns and Radiant Flames should be good enough. Also, exiling them is a big thing as well. Magma Spray is a given, but maybe if the popularity of Zombies at your local store swells up, consider running Horribly Awry in blue decks.

That is it for this time, what do you see for Standard as we move away from the Pro Tour? Let us know in the comments and thanks for checking out the article!