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Silvestri Says – From Paris with Love

Pro Tour Paris is in the books, and Standard looks to be quite interesting from a metagame perspective. I don’t think anyone outside of the Caw-Go pilots and possibly Patrick Chapin foresaw what the top eight (both real and virtual) for this tournament would look like. Last week I wrote up a set of five fearless predictions and I think it’d be good to check in and see where I hit and missed.

1. Valakut will be the most played deck in the field by a notable margin (Yes, I’m hedging my bets so I get at least one right, sue me.)

Yep. Less than I had expected though, surprised so many players like UB.

2. Kuldotha Red will have multiple 8-2 or better players

Yep, thank you Timothee Simonot and Petr Brozek.

3. UW will usurp UB control as the king of control

Big yep, not close, Caw-Go was the breakout deck of the tournament.

4. Tezzeret will fail to outperform traditional UB despite generating a lot of buzz

A couple of people were a little premature to assume traditional UB was dead when Chapin made t8 with Tezzeret, but if you go through the actual records, UB had far more decks in the top slots and matched or bettered the record of any single Tez pilot. However there were more UB decks than the total number of Tezzerets playing on day 2. I’d like to call this a win, but I could also see it as a draw due to the sheer number disparity and the fact that I’m not going to do a win percentage breakdown. Call it as you see it.

5. There will be more Primeval Titan and Green Sun’s Zenith in the Top 8 than Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Blooooooown out. I figured this was a long shot, but I didn’t think I’d get the party wiped in the first 12 seconds. Even in the virtual T8 of decks by best record, here’s what it looks like:

Naoki Nakada – Caw-Go (28)
Kentaro Nonaka – Caw-Go (27)
Adam Yurchick – UB Control (27)
Tomas Bilek – Valakut (25) – GSZ! WOO
Ben Stark – Caw-Go (25)
Patrick Chapin – UBR Tez (25)
Shahar Shenhar – RUG Life (25)
Stuart Wright – Valakut (25)

And ninth with 25 points as well: Korey McDuffie – Caw-Go (25)

That leaves me with 8 GSZ and 8 Primeval Titan versus 4 billion Jace TMS. Got me.

Still three-ish out of five isn’t bad (WHO’S GOT THE CHIPS?!?) and I only had access to a fraction of the tech. Not great, but at least I didn’t go 0/5. Well actually I could’ve gone 0/5 and I still would be pretty happy since Nico Bohny got GW Quest into the top eight, though note he went 6-2-2, only needing to play 8 constructed matches since he had a sick 6-0 draft record. As I touched on above, while the top eight is a good snapshot of the metagame, another portion of the breakdown comes from looking over what consisted of the best Standard records.

It also is important to note that both the top eight and top finishers in the Standard section sync up with the concept that Caw-Go was far and away the best deck for the tournament. The additions of Stoneforge Mystic and Sword of Feast and Famine change the dynamic of many matches in Standard and how the deck plays. In many matches involving Stoneforge Mystic, the deck becomes Fish-like and plays like aggro-control rather than traditional UW lists. As seen in some of the feature matches covering the deck, a turn two or three Stoneforge fetching up Sword can lead to a switch in roles. Instead of being the control, instead Caw-Go becomes the aggressor and rapidly applies pressure both with damage and resource control through the discard ability, counters and Tectonic Edge.

Not only does this fundamentally alter how the Valakut match plays out, but UB, the main competition to UW in the control division now have a major concern not previously available. The resolution of a SOFAF is close to a game-ender as it becomes easy to protect the creatures in play, gain a large mana advantage and battle past Grave Titan with ease. Instead of close matches involving a number of tactical battles, the entire game can be boiled down to fighting over that one card at any point in the early or mid game.

Meanwhile while Valakut looked awful if you only go by the T8, we see that two with 25 points and had the third most decks in the ranks of decks that had 18 pts or better. A similar story unfolds with UB Control, a deck which some people were throwing dirt on after a single tournament. Here’s the complete list:

Decks with 18 points or better:
Caw-Go: 17
UB Control: 13
Valakut: 12
WW and WG Quest: 8 (6 WG, 2 WW)
Kuldotha Red: 6
Vampires: 6
Boros: 5
RUG Life: 4
Tezzeret: 3 (2 UB, 1 UBR)
BUG: 2
Steel: 2
Other: 8 (Decks ranged from Infect Rushdown to UW Polymorph to Esper Control)

Caw-Go

Caw-Go was the unanimous winner by TKO, winning Paris, placing with the most people with 18 points or more with less of a metagame share than any other major finisher (except Quest) and getting rave reviews from every person who picked the deck up. I have to say, despite having an early version of the deck, the finalized version looks like the best deck in the field. It really does look like if the metagame slants toward the UB / Valakut populations we saw on day one or varied that Caw-Go is the best deck for the immediate future. Lazy people even saw where to take the deck next with Naoki Nadaka’s sick build. At first I was genuinely confused by many of the choices, but upon looking at the top decks it amazes me how well he metagamed for all of the best versions in the field.

Seriously look at some of those numbers and tell me they didn’t boggle you just a little bit when you took a look. When I was talking with friends about the Pro Tour this weekend I described it as having an obvious Japanese feel from it. I mean who else could come up with such weird numbers where you knew the pilot had damn good reasons for the choices? By cutting out all of the cheap countermagic in the deck, instead the deck can focus on beating up aggro harder with some Journeys and Tumble Magnet. And even then, Nadaka snuck in additional late-game bombs like Sun Titan, Venser, the Sojourner and Elspeth Tirel that the other Caw-Go decks cut out. For this PT it was definitely the right call because people were going to be respecting Spell Pierce and Mana Leak all day while Naoki was too busy next-leveling people and dropping threats on the board. It doesn’t mean his build is necessarily superior for future tournaments, but it gives a great idea of where else the archetype can be taken.

What’s also telling are the numbers of Valakut and UB Control right behind Caw-Go. Instead of being the most popular decks and getting blown out, they put up alright performances in line with how many showed up with them and their absence in the top eight shouldn’t be overhyped. While not as jarring a swap from the Worlds top eight where only six matches are based on Standard play, the draft rounds are still something worth keeping in mind when going through results. The same goes for looking through the 18 points and better list, since a 6-4 isn’t exactly a record worth striving for.

Quest is a solid deck and it’s nice to finally see it getting some pub from somewhere that isn’t one of my articles. I’m very happy to see the GW Quest list with at least decent results and even the aggressive WW version Frank Karsten showed off looks far more interesting than any version of Mono-White Quest I’ve seen to date. As I’ve talked about for the past few months, the control matchup of Quest can be very good and with otherwise OK matches it deserved to be taken a bit more seriously.

There is one thing I disagree with in the lists though, and that’s the usage of Sword of Body and Mind over Sword of Feast and Famine. While I certainly don’t believe SOFAF gives anywhere near the same value in Quest that it does in Caw-Go, I still want it over SOBAM in almost every match. Considering one is better in the Valakut and Vampires matches, it’s pretty much a no-brainer, though maybe someone will write a report and then I’ll have my answer. Additional Stoneforge’s and Bonehoard were also options, but maxing out on ‘Return’ creatures and maximizing the odds of triggering Quest is a perfectly reasonable way to go.

I’m not going to bother commenting on the Boros lists since I have no idea how it plays out against the newest set of lists from Paris. That’s it from the peanut gallery on this one and I’m sure the next week will be filled with stories and elaborate deck breakdowns. I just wanted to give a breakdown of the non-top eight metagame and results and some of the impressions I got from this weekend.

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom

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