We had a scintillating double-header this weekend as this truly excellent Standard format begins to say its goodbyes. On both sides of the Atlantic, players were exploring new angles of attack, with the staggeringly diverse format reflected in the 11 distinct archetypes across the two Top 8s. From old favorites like Mardu Vehicles and Temur Energy to new kids on the block like Green-White Ramp and Mono-White Eldrazi, this weekend was a terrific showcase of a Standard format that—even at this late stage—has a few tricks up its sleeves.
In Turin, Temur Energy was strongly contested by a resurgence in the Vehicles decks of old, but the feature match area remained awash with innovation. Ramp decks made a strong showing right through to the final rounds, though not the Top 8. The tournament was won, however, by the Slovenian superstar Robin Dolar, whose deck choice raised more eyebrows than a plastic surgeon.
— Ondřej Stráský (@OndrejStrasky) September 3, 2017
Blue-Black Control has been the Luke Hemsworth of the Standard format, overshadowed by its better known brothers, Blue-Red and White-Blue. In Dolar’s hands, however, it put together a stunning performance, dispatching Temur Energy and Zombies before toppling Mardu Vehicles in the finals. In DC, however, things went a little bit differently for Mardu.
— Matt Severa (@MattSevera) September 3, 2017
Matt Severa snagged his fourth GP win—and second with Mardu Vehicles—after a 5th-place Swiss finish. He cruised through the Top 8 with only a single game loss, and showed the world that there’s still some fuel left in the tank of this deck.
The age of the Bash Brothers continues, with Corey Baumeister’s utter dominance of the Standard format rocketing him into his third consecutive GP Top 8. This time it was with Mono-White Eldrazi—this deck is powerful and resilient, leveraging Constructed powerhouses such as Archangel Avacyn and Thought-Knot Seer alongside efficient removal such as Spatial Contortion and Stasis Snare.
This deck has incredible depth and can play both sides of the court, with cards like Eldrazi Displacer equally good on offense and defense. Mono-White Eldrazi is also capable of some enormously intricate plays, as Corey clearly demonstrated as he locked up his Top 8 berth. Twitch user riggnarosbl did us all a favor by clipping one of the most incredible highlights of Baumeister’s nigh-unstoppable onslaught. It happened during a Round 15 win-and-in against Ray Huang, covered by Marshall Sutcliffe and the Bash co-Brother himself, Brad Nelson.
Baumeister truly floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee as he puts the finishing touches on this match. After activating Spawning Bed and sacrificing a token to trigger his Archangel Avacyn, his opponent Huang automatically crews his Heart of Kiran against the “tapped out” Baumeister. Fully anticipating this, Baumeister sacrifices his final two tokens to target the Heart with a Spatial Contortion, leaving Huang with an empty battlefield and 6 life against Avacyn, the Purifier. Baumeister secured his place in the Top 8 with some of the most precise, elegant, and high-level Magic you’ll ever see.
Mono-White Eldrazi was touted by some as the “breakout” deck of the tournament, but it wasn’t the only list to make a grand entrance into Standard this weekend. Green-White Ramp put up a strong showing in both Turin and DC, and despite only a single copy making its way into a Top 8, this deck had a resounding impact as the tournaments unfolded. Collins Mullen finished in 2nd place in both the Swiss and the Top 8 after his Ulamogs chomped their way through the opposition.
Spring // Mind, Weirding Wood, and Gift of Paradise get the party started at 3 mana, but Hour of Promise takes it to the next level by finding key lands like Shrine of the Forsaken Gods. This means turn-5 Ulamogs are back on the menu! Additional offerings include World Breaker and Linvala, not to mention enormous Walking Ballistas.
Mullen clearly knew what he wanted to beat—with 8 sweepers in the main deck, this list is ready to go toe-to-toe with the creature-based strategies that have dominated Standard since the Pro Tour. Temur Energy can only fight through so many Fumigates, and Descend upon the Sinful exiles the Zombie hordes for all eternity.
Of note is Mullen’s sideboard plan—with 4 Regal Caracals and 4 Authority of the Consuls, he recognizes the ever-present threat of Ramunap Red, the fun police. Survive the early game, and the late game takes care of itself. Aside from the World Breakers and Oblivion Sowers, this deck can even cast the second half of Spring // Mind with Weirding Wood and Gift of Paradise!
As Ixalan draws nearer on the horizon, we begin to say goodbye to Hour of Devastation Standard, and both GPs Turin and Washington DC showcased the very best of what this format has offered us.
Many players will be sad to see this format depart, as in the wake of the bannings of several oppressive cards, Standard has flourished. We have seen innovation and skill rewarded strongly over the last few weeks of top-level Magic, and this feels like the first unsolved Standard format in a long time. With new archetypes contesting the top tables every week, it would be interesting to see how things would have continued to evolve if we had another month or so with these cards.
Already, people are looking to the post-rotation format and attempting to sketch out decks that will be viable once Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad move out of Standard. Temur Energy and Ramunap Red are widely recognized as decks that don’t lose too much, and both decks also proved to be highly beatable this weekend. This augurs well for a dynamic format to come. If the best decks in a format can still be effectively contested as they were in Turin and DC, we may see this continued cycle of innovation and evolution once Ixalan joins the party.
There’s still work to be done in Standard. Before rotation, many nations around the world will be heading to Nationals! The results of these GPs are bound to strongly influence the way things pan out as wizards around the world contend with each other for a slot at the World Magic Cup. If Ramp is putting up the numbers, is it time to sleeve up Hazoret? Mardu Vehicles has proven its staying power—maybe you should stick with a time-tested deck? Or perhaps you’ve got a techy brew that is ready to crush this ever-changing format?
Good luck to everyone battling in the coming weekends for fame, fortune, and national glory. I’ll be back next week to get across the results from Japan!