4 Lessons from Pro Tour Dominaria

The Result

The much-anticipated Pro Tour Dominaria finally took place over the weekend, with Magic once again returning to the biggest stage to show off one of the most popular Draft formats in recent memory alongside a Standard format that would showcase highly-tuned decks and well-practiced pilots.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, aggressive red strategies—usually accompanied by a light black component—dominated the tournament, with seven Goblin Chainwhirler decks ultimately making the Top 8. Some huge names made it through to Sunday—Owen Turtenwald appeared in his fifth PT Top 8, Thomas Hendriks snagged his second, and PT Aether Revolt Champion Kazuyuki Takimura had another tilt at the title.

Before we reached the finals, however, these Goliaths had been dispatched, and so two Davids joined in battle to decide a champion. Wyatt Darby and Gonçalo Pinto fought it out across four games, with a dramatic topdeck ultimately securing the victory for Darby. Darby impressed the Magic community with his poise, discipline, and unwavering calm, and was rewarded for his masterful play with a Pro Tour title!

The Moments

LSV is sorely tempted by a Navigator’s Compass:

Kenji Tsumura gracefully loses the Inaugural Best Kenji Showdown:

Hour of Glory does what it’s supposed to for the first time in history:

Mum gets a bit confused about the geography of the mid-Atlantic:

Glory is well and truly brought for Wyatt Darby with an incredible PT-winning topdeck:

The Deck

The Top 8 was awash with Goblin Chainwhirlers and Scrapheap Scroungers, but one player kept the faith and headed into Sunday with counterspells at the ready. Ernest Lim had a dream start to Day 1, finishing undefeated, and managed to pull together enough wins to get his Esper deck into the Top 8.

Esper Control

Ernest Lim Pei Jin, Top 8 at PT Dominaria

Typically, control decks in today’s Standard don’t run black, instead leaning heavily on enchantment-based removal such as Seal Away and Cast Out. Lim, however, favored a much stronger black removal suite, which left white as just a splash color. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is just that good, and in this case was paired with another powerhouse 5-drop in The Scarab God.

This deck is a collection of the best removal, card draw, and counterspells in the format, and plays the hard-hitting heavyweights as win conditions. It’s much more proactive than its white-blue cousin—something that becomes apparent when you look at the sideboard. Four Glint-Sleeve Siphoners are relegated to the bench due to the omnipresence of Goblin Chainwhirler, but will get it done in games 2 and 3 once removal has been boarded out.

The Takeaway

Goblin Chainwhirler was the talk of the tournament. The card has proven itself to be a dominant force in Standard, carving out a wide share of the metagame across the weekend. Appearing in seven of the eight Top 8 decks, it’s no secret that PT Dominaria belonged to Chainy-Dubs.


Playing something of a second fiddle to Goblin Chainwhirler, however, was Scrapheap Scrounger. Stats wizard Adam “ajlvi” of the MTG Elo Project pointed out that this was the second time that ol’ Scrappy had put 24 copies into a PT Top 8, placing the card alongside other titans of Magic’s history such as Wasteland and Rishadan Port.

What does this mean for you? You absolutely must have a plan in mind to beat both of these cards. Turning up to a Standard tournament expecting to fade Goblin Chainwhirler or Scrapheap Scrounger is not a winning strategy. Look to find replacements for 1-toughness creatures that you’re running, as they’re a liability in the face of a Chainwhirler. Look to include exile effects such as Seal Away to deal with Scrapheap Scrounger, or the recursive threat will continue to pile on pressure.

With the metagame was heavily skewed by Goblin Chainwhirler, players will be rewarded for playing decks that beat up on the 3/3. While Llanowar Elves has a huge weakness to Chainwhirler, the kind of decks it enables are well-positioned to blank a relatively puny 3/3 for 3. These decks can play 3-mana 3/4s and 5/4s much better! Alternatively, blue-based creatureless strategies minimize the impact of Chainwhirler, and also look to be a good way forward.

This weekend’s GP Copenhagen will give us a good idea of the post-PT metagame, as pilots around the world respond to the latest Standard developments and adjust their approaches accordingly. I’ll be in the booth throughout the tournament, and will be back next week with a recap of everything that took place in Denmark!

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