Yo #WOTCstaff , I've never come close to watching an entire pro tour before this one. Let's do this again some time.
— Joe Lossett (@oarsman79) August 5, 2018
Same here, Joe, same here. I’ve never been a huge fan of PT coverage, but that’s mostly because I no longer play Limited/Standard seriously. But having all three formats on display was pretty exhilarating. In addition, some of the teams were so unbelievably stacked that it was just cool to follow. Despite that though, I think the “format experts” held their own against the “best pros”, with team HotSauceGames taking down the whole thing. I’m super excited and hope they do another Team Constructed PT, maybe every 5 years or so. I also love that they went ahead and published all 165 decks for each format. That’s a lot of lists, and I have had a good time sifting through them to discover what the brightest minds in the world brought in terms of tech. Let’s take a look at a couple of quick summaries of the numbers. I calculated the conversion rate of most of the Modern/Legacy decks to a Top 35 finish (clean cut for match points).
My friend Tom Smiley also put together a detailed analysis of what each deck’s average match points were for Legacy:
So let’s start with Legacy first. By far, U/B Shadow was the best performing deck of the tournament. Obviously, given it was a team event, there is a lot of uncertainty around how good each individual deck is, but I think it’s safe to say that U/B Shadow was the breakout deck of the tournament. I would certainly rate the deck as tier 1 for now, but it will be interesting to watch the format adapt as I think the U/B Shadow deck does have several notable weaknesses. Furthermore, the best pros in the room were on U/B Shadow, so I think that it’s safe to say that they got a fair amount of help from their teammates. U/B Shadow is an excellent fair and somewhat budget option going forward, and I fully expect it to be one of the most popular decks at GP Richmond. But by needing to go to 8-9 life early in most games, it is a significant disadvantage against decks like Delver, D&T, Elves, and Storm. Furthermore, you can never really overcommit against decks with Swords to Plowshares because their one Swords to Plowshares can cleanly answer multiple Death’s Shadows. It has the tools to win because it plays a lot of free spells, but I think due to its own success it will have to move Snuff Out’s to the sideboard going forward. It is also fairly weak to Chalice, so I am going to test a green splash for Abrupt Decay and will record a video with my take on the deck.
Blue-Black Death’s Shadow
Josh Utter-Leyton, Legacy at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
D&T is the next deck I want to talk about. I believe that it’s one of the best decks right now, and I’m actually pleased that one of the best decks does not need to run Brainstorm. Instead, it is one of the most disruptive decks in Legacy that also happens to have a powerful late game due to Stoneforge Mystic and Recruiter of the Guard/Flickerwisp. But the deck also does have certain weaknesses as was on display during the finals of the PT. Josh Utter-Leyton played a whopping three Dread of Night, and it’s safe to say that it was enough to firmly flip flop the matchup in his favor. It is crazy to note, however, that a D&T master like Allen Wu was able to steal a win under triple Dread of Night, so it’s not the game ender you necessarily expect. Going forward, I expect D&T to be an excellent choice, which means that decks that are good against it, like Elves, should re-emerge as strong options. In order to combat the uptick of Dread of Nights and Death’s Shadow, I would expect D&T to pack some number of Ratchet Bombs.
Death and Taxes
Allen Wu, 1st place in Legacy at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
The next best performing deck was Grixis Delver, which had 6 pilots with distinctly different builds. Although it’s no longer the boogeyman it once was, I strongly believe that Grixis Delver is the best Delver deck remaining and that it should be better than Shadow going forward because it is more versatile and harder to exploit. Two lists focused on Young Pyromancer and ran four copies of the forgotten token generator. Three lists focused on 3-4 Gurmag Angler and played 2-4 Thought Scours. One of those lists even played Hymn to Tourach. Sukenik, who was in contention for most of the weekend, played a list that included four Inquisition of Kozileks and two Bitterblossoms. I think all of the different takes can be successful. Personally, I am a believer that Young Pyromancer is going to be great until people start playing more sweepers again.
Louis Bachaud, Legacy at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
Jonathan Sukenik, Legacy at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
Eldrazi Stompy, B/R Reanimator, and Miracles all fared okay. None of them were particularly good or bad, and I think they are all viable options going forward. I expected Miracles to be tier 1 after the ban, and I think that it has the highest ceiling of the three decks. Time will tell if a great build of Miracles appears, but I would still expect to see a lot of all three decks going forward.
Sneak and Show, R/U/G Delver, Grixis Control, U/W StoneBlade, Eldrazi Post, and Moon Prison all underperformed. I believe that combo decks can only be great in Legacy if they are somewhat unexpected. It’s too easy to build your sideboard to beat Reanimator, Storm, or Sneak and Show if you have that goal in mind. There has rarely been a time when combo decks have been the absolute best deck in Legacy since the start of the decade, and I’m mostly glad of that as they are generally less interactive than their fair counterparts. Of the bunch though, I think Storm is the best combo deck as it is more consistent and slightly more under the radar than the Griselbrand decks at the moment. The Marit Lage Turbo Depths deck struggles with D&T so we can rule it out for now. Lands seems well positioned and I expect it to make a comeback soon.
The Chalice decks can be powerful, but I think they give up too many points against D&T to be tier 1 options going forward. Finally, I find R/U/G, Grixis Control, and U/W StoneBlade to all be underpowered fair decks compared to the other options available. R/U/G Delver’s mostly lives and dies depending on how good Stifle is, and right now there are too many non-blue decks who barely care about the card. Grixis Control is an underpowered Czech Pile, and U/W StoneBlade is an underpowered Miracles. I like Grixis Control a bit more because with Snapcaster/Kolaghan’s Command, you theoretically have a good D&T matchup, but the problem is that it’s difficult to build a clean mana base that also allows you to cast spells like Hymn to Tourach to beat combo. That about wraps up my thoughts on Legacy, so let’s move on to Modern.
B/R Vengevine was the breakout deck of the tournament, and I was thoroughly impressed watching Nagro pilot the deck all weekend. It consistently put a lot of power on to the battlefield in the first couple of turns. This means that cards like Rest in Peace might just be too slow to matter. It seemed a bit more consistent and faster than Hollow One. But I do think that it is much weaker to cards like Surgical Extraction and Leyline of the Void. I think B/R Vengevine will stick around, but I actually think Hollow One will have more staying power.
Jacob Nagro, 7th place in Modern at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
Ben Hull, 1st place in Modern at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
Humans also managed to post an excellent conversion rate despite being the most popular deck. Aether Vial is one of the best cards in Modern, and the disruptive speed of Humans means that it can win pretty much any matchup, good or bad. The addition of Militia Bugler also gave it a lot more power against the weaker grindy matchups like U/W/x Control and Mardu. I expect Humans to be tier 1 for the foreseeable future.
Thiago Saporito, 3rd place at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
KCI, Hollow One, and U/W Control all had reasonable weekends too. KCI has shown itself to be able to win through an astronomical amount of hate, so most ban discussions in Modern revolve around whether anything in the deck has to go. Personally, I think the deck is insane until people decide that they care about putting in the time and effort into figuring out how to beat it. But, if they do, I think that it’s another “fair” deck to have in the room. KCI is very weak to cards like Leyline of the Void, Rest in Peace, and Stony Silence. Furthermore, if you are able to Surgical Extraction a KCI or a Scrap Trawler, you force the deck to find an alternative win condition. I’m against a ban for now, but if KCI remains too big of a problem at the local/GP level, I would ban KCI rather than any other card like Ancient Stirrings or Mox Opal because I believe Modern to be in a healthy spot so I don’t think we need any collateral damage. I still like Hollow One going forward as it is a very fast deck that requires a lot of skill. It is a bit weak to graveyard hate, but you are honestly fine just getting by with Adept/Hollow One and hard casting your Phoenixes. U/W Control was a deck many felt was among the best decks in Modern. It certainly has favorable matchups, and players like Rizzi were able to dominate the weekend by playing the correct sideboard cards. I think it will be good going forward, and I like the fact that a U/W control deck can be a top tier deck in Modern.
Gabriel Nassif, 5th place at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
Benjamin Stark, 2nd place at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
Finally, Storm, Bant Spirits, Green Tron and Mardu had relatively weak weekends. I think Storm and Tron are relatively known quantities at this point and faced enough hate to be relatively poor choices. Both decks are incredibly strong in a vacuum, but Modern is a format where you can beat most linear decks if you dedicate the space. I expected Bant Spirits to fare much better as it is a very powerful deck that plays at instant speed, much like how Faeries used to play. I was very high on the deck prior to the PT, but we will see if I’m wrong about how good it is. Mardu was relatively underplayed and didn’t even manage to do well in a field of Humans, so I’m not exactly sure what happened there. It is very weak against Green Tron, so maybe it just didn’t get the matchups it needed. Of course, given the small sample size, it is even possible that Mardu did fine but was dragged down by its teammates.
So there you have it. There’s my quick analysis of the major decks from Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. I loved watching every minute of it, and I’m excited for changes in both Modern and Legacy going forward. The Deathrite/Probe banning has rejuvenated Legacy, and Supreme Phantom and Militia Bugler have also had major impacts in Modern. I’m totally excited to see what happens next. My next big event will be GP Richmond, so stop by and say hi if you like my content.