Tag Archives: Pro Tour

Winners and Losers, PT: SOI Edition

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Trying a new format this week, and although the vast majority of it is going to be focusing on immediate results from the Pro Tour, I definitely think there are some other elements worth mentioning as well. But let’s go ahead and jump on in!

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WINNERS: Green/White Decks. I want to start here because it is both the most obvious and probably the least important. Yes, the finals match was GW Tokens over Bant Company, but those two decks did not feel like the definitive archetypes of the weekend. The Pro Tour had eight very different archetypes represented on Sunday, and I think it is fair to say that any of those decks could have taken first. It’s also worth mentioning that neither of the last two players standing (Rubin and Mengucci) are new to the game, and so it wasn’t the sheer power of their 75 that got them to the end of the tournament. Similarly, Shota Yasooka made Top 8 with Esper Dragons, an archetype that performed SO poorly over the weekend (an estimated ten players registered with it on Friday), that he was the only one to even make DAY 2 with it! This is a good indicator that the format is in a healthy place, where playskill is able to leverage deck selection without devolving into endless mirror matches.

LOSERS: Green/White Decks. There is a lot that can be taken from this weekend and applied to a long-term, nuanced understanding of this environment and the direction of the game as a whole. That does not, however, sound like the vast majority of Magic’s audience. Everybody loves a front-runner, and I expect these white-based aggressive decks to have a big target on their backs moving forward. These are also the types of decks least-equipped to handle that kind of preparation. Expect to hear someone complain about how good these decks are at FNM, as though Lin-Sivvi, Defiant Hero never happened.

WINNER: Hissing Quagmire. I don’t think that Green/Black decks over-performed this weekend. In fact, I think that this is likely one of the best color combinations in the format, especially because it gives access to Languish AND Seasons Past. Languish is a for-sure 4x moving forward, and is therefore able to maintain most if not all of its price gains from this weekend, although Seasons Past is much trickier. I expect Seasons to level off a bit more just because decks really don’t want more than two copies (but four Dark Petitions is correct!), and in my brief time playing with Finkel’s list, it feels much more tuned for a Pro Tour than the format moving forward. The Aristocrats deck, however, has so much raw power that it should have no trouble going ahead, and there are certainly other good decks in that base combination (I’m still VERY MUCH enjoying that Jund deck I posted last week, and it’s possible that an Abzan strategy materializes at some point, combining the BG control shell with Sorin, Grim Nemesis, Declaration in Stone, and Shambling Vent).

LOSERS: Platinum Pros, HOFers. I am not going to pretend that I fully and completely understand the impact of this. I WILL say that this feels like an experiment, and I don’t think that these are changes are permanent. I do feel, however, that WotC is going to have to take a much harder look at how the Hall of Fame is set up and how those benefits are treated going forward. Unlike other “similar” institutions, Magic’s Hall of Fame does not honor retired players who are no longer able to compete, but left an impact on their sport or profession. In this situation, however, Jon Finkel has created a career worthy of HOF induction SINCE he was first inducted!

Magic’s Hall of Fame was conceived at a time when the game was not doing very well, and the idea was partially to try and retain lapsed competitors while giving an air of legitimacy to tournament play and aspirants. Remember, eSports did not exist in any form close to how they do now, and Magic’s player population was about 25% of the number WotC gives out today. Keeping the Hall of Fame program as it was represented a program that was very likely to balloon in cost, while providing little in the form of the benefits it was created to generate. Magic is also no longer on what seemed to be its deathbed, and is not nearly as worried about generating new players as it was just ten years ago. While I hope some sort of balance is able to be struck in terms of compensation for Platinum, I do think some hard changes need to be made with regard to the Hall of Fame.

UPDATE: WotC went ahead and rolled the benefits for Platinum over for next year, which makes more sense.

WINNERS: Modern Players. The removal of Modern from the Pro Tour (again!) was met with very vocal disapproval from a large portion of the community. However, the response from pro tour regulars was much more positive. The truth, ultimately, lies somewhere in the middle. Formats are tricky things, especially when there are serious stakes involved (as is the case with a pro tour). The goal of a small Modern tournament at your store is to get people to buy older cards, play some games, and hope to create repeat customers. Your small tournament is likely to contain a reasonable percentage of players who own one “real” Modern deck, a smaller amount of more serious competitors, and some number of people who just have nothing else going on that Saturday. Modern is a format that benefits from not having a very bright spotlight on it, and the Pro Tour is the brightest light you can put a format under1.

Honestly, this is probably the best thing that could happen to Modern. Modern is, at most, a GP format- rewarding to regulars, while not forcing the focus of the collective best players to break it. I expect that cards will have more organic growth in this scenario, which means that cards that have large price increases will likely have more guaranteed outs (unless anyone knows where I can get full value for this Wheel of Sun and Moon on my desk…). We don’t know for sure yet, but I suspect we will see more Modern GPs moving forward, which is good news also.

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LOSERS: People Who Don’t Like Standard. Yes, Standard is the weakest format in terms of long-term investment. Yes, Standard is not as wide and dynamic as Modern (lol) or Legacy. However, Standard IS the face of Magic, and this last weekend cemented that stance. The good news is that WotC is doing a lot to make Standard a healthier, more robust game. Some people will drag their heels on getting on board, but I expect the people who just complain about Standard regardless will dwindle over time. Your devout “I only play EDH!” players will likely be the last holdouts, but that’s only because they clearly have trouble evaluating what good Magic should be like.

WINNER: Hearthstone. New set launched, and it’s really fun. There were server issues, but if you don’t expect those from Blizzard on Day One at this point, then that’s your fault. Love that they “gave away” so much stuff to players! Hearthstone is awesome, but please stop comparing it to Magic.

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LOSERS: Origins and Dragons of Tarkir. So this is the kind of thing I’m fascinated to see develop as we move into the new Magic life-cycle. A lot of people are treating these sets like they’ve already rotated out, even though we have them for another six months or so. This is especially relevant for Magic Origins, which had a big number of surprise role players at the Pro Tour. Will players buy more lame duck product, or are these cards free to get as expensive as they want in their final lap? Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy actually saw a dip after the weekend, but that has to be THE safest card from the set to own. Dragons is a little different, in that a lot of the cards that allowed for in-block synergy (Morph, Manifest, etc) are gone, which probably hurts the viability of former stars like Deathmist Raptor. What will happen when Battle for Zendikar is in this spot? My expectation is that WotC is now devoting more design time to synergizing blocks not just with their immediate successor, but also the block after that. If that is the case, then these sets are going to take on a very different texture in each phase of their life.

But don’t forget, that change was made during BFZ design.

If, moving forward, sets continue to have dynamic phases, then that is going to go a long way in combating the doldrums of “solved” sets from a finance angle.

Speaking of upcoming sets, let’s close with some tiny bits of information looking ahead.

First, and most speculative, is a point made by Steven and Kevin of the “So Many Insane Plays” Vintage Magic podcast. They discussed the impact of changing converted mana cost rulings on transform cards (a la Duskwatch Recruiter), so that transformed cards now retain the cost of their front side, rather than suddenly counting as 0. Steven touched on this as potentially opening up new design space- maybe WotC will be designing more in that space soon? I can’t imagine they saw Engineered Explosives as keeping Delver of Secrets down in non-rotating formats.

Secondly, here is a clip from Sam Stoddard’s article a couple weeks back on the development of Shadows (part 1). This was a comment from Dave Humpherys on Declaration in Stone.

DH 4/14: We have Rosewater buyoff on this. It can go to WW if we want it to be weaker, less-generic, etc. Rather not go to 3-mana or an enchantment due to Sorin’s card in set and Blood enchantments.

I’m not sure if this means that Blood has a very specific cycle of enchantments or that enchantments are a major theme. There are rumors that the 2016 fall set will take us to Kaladesh (Chandra’s home plane), but that is yet to be confirmed. From what little flavor stuff I read, that would make it seem like artifacts would be more relevant than enchantments, but WotC could also try and pull a reverse Urza’s block.

Finally, this is going to post before the NFL draft starts on Friday night, but I’m calling the Top 8 now:

  1. Goff to Rams
  2. Wentz to Eagles
  3. Tunsil to Chargers
  4. Elliott to Cowboys
  5. Jack to Jaguars (at which point I will yell and throw things)
  6. Ramsey to Ravens (throwing things intensifies)
  7. Buckner to the Ducks Niners
  8. Bosa to the Browns (although I could see them trading down again)

By this point, I have likely broken all of my TVs in a fit of rage. So I guess I’ll find out what else happens the next morning.

Let’s talk promos next time?

Best,

Ross

1Things like Worlds are bigger, but also feature multiple constructed formats and much smaller player pools.

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Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar By the Numbers

Last weekend, we got our first look at the cards played from Battle for Zendikar in Standard and I was definitely surprised by the results. In order to make it more convenient for everyone I’ve created a table that inlcudes all cards found throughout the decks sorted by most played. I’ve even tracked the sideboard cards played, to show the direction that the format is taking.

Here’s a breakdown of the played cards at the Pro Tour by card type:

Land (199) Sorcery (21) Creature (127) Instant (99) Sideboard (120)
25x Flooded Strand 8x Dragon Fodder 16x Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy  Flip 11x Fiery Impulse 11x Disdainful Stroke
20x Wooded Foothills 6x Hordeling Outburst 15x Hangarback Walker 11x Dromoka’s Command 9x Surge of Righteousness
17x Windswept Heath 7x Treasure Cruise 12x Warden of the First Tree 10x Wild Slash 9x Duress
16x Mountain Enchantment (12) 12x Mantis Rider 8x Crackling Doom 9x Arashin Cleric
15x Polluted Delta 8x Silkwrap 10x Den Protector 7x Abzan Charm 6x Roast
15x Bloodstained Mire 4x Jeskai Ascendancy 8x Siege Rhino 6x Ojutai’s Command 5x Transgress the Mind
14x Plains Planeswalker (22) 8x Anafenza, the Foremost 6x Kolaghan’s Command 5x Rending Volley
14x Mystic Monastery 20x Gideon, Ally of Zendikar 7x Wingmate Roc 6x Jeskai Charm 5x Exert Influence
12x Forest 2x Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker 6x Tasigur, the Golden Fang 5x Valorous Stance 4x Wingmate Roc
8x Prairie Stream 4x Zurgo Bellstriker 4x Titan’s Strength 4x Ultimate Price
8x Canopy Vista 4x Soulfire Grand Master 4x Murderous Cut 4x Tragic Arrogance
5x Sunken Hollow 4x Seeker of the Way 4x Dispel 4x Silkwrap
5x Smoldering Marsh 4x Monastery Swiftspear 4x Dig Through Time 4x Radiant Flames
4x Shambling Vent 4x Deathmist Raptor 4x Atarka’s Command 3x Mastery of the Unseen
4x Llanowar Wastes 4x Abbot of Keral Keep 3x Temur Battle Rage 3x Fiery Impulse
4x Island 3x Nissa, Vastwood Seer  Flip 3x Become Immense 3x Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh  Flip
4x Battlefield Forge 2x Lightning Berserker 2x Utter End 2x Whisperwood Elemental
3x Swamp 2x Hidden Dragonslayer 1x Secure the Wastes 2x Valorous Stance
3x Cinder Glade 2x Dragonmaster Outcast 2x Tasigur, the Golden Fang
2x Nomad Outpost 2x Hordeling Outburst
1x Shivan Reef 2x Felidar Cub
2x Evolutionary Leap
2x Dragonmaster Outcast
2x Dispel
2x Den Protector
2x Crackling Doom
1x Sorin, Solemn Visitor
1x Self-Inflicted Wound
1x Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
1x Ruinous Path
1x Radiant Purge
1x Ob Nixilis Reignited
1x Negate
1x Narset Transcendent
1x Lightning Berserker
1x Gideon’s Reproach
1x Boiling Earth
1x Abzan Charm

Quick Stats:

Top Creature — Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy

Top Land  Flooded Strand

Top Instant — Fiery Impulse / Dromoka’s Command

Top Sorcery — Dragon Fodder

Top Enchantment — Silkwrap

Top Planeswalker — Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

Brief Summary:

Abzan took down the Pro Tour, which is shocking to nobody. Key cards from the deck include Warden of the First Tree, Hangarback Walker, Den Protector, Anafenza, the Foremost, and Siege Rhino. Interestingly, even with a Pro Tour win I’m not sure how much Siege Rhino can gain throughout the rest of its Standard life. The Clash Pack printing has devastated the price of the card and I’m not sure if it is going to spike up a large amount simply due to the fact that there are so many other decks out there that aren’t playing Abzan colors, Pro Tour win aside.

Hangarback Walker is the talk of the town, as usual, as noted by its second place listing among the most played cards of the Top 8. I’m sure further breakdowns of the Top 64 and beyond will continue to show the trend, but as we all knew Hangarback Walker is going to continue to shine in Standard due to the fact that it is the strongest colorless option (amongst three and four color decks) that players can choose to include because it does so well against the sorcery speed removal of the format.

Which brings me to Silkwrap, one of the premier answers to Hangarback Walker that is left in the new Standard after Theros block has rotated out. I’m not surprised that copies are bordering on $2 at this point, and keep in mind that it is in Dragons of Tarkir so its shelf life has a farther expiration than Khans and Fate Reforged. I don’t expect Silkwrap to go down in value (unless of course it gets the event deck / clash pack / whatever reprint) so pick up your copies now in order to deal with the Hangarback Walker threat that will be seen over the course of the winter.

Of the most played cards in the Pro Tour Top 8 from BFZ, we have Prairie Stream, Canopy Vista, Sunken Hallow, Smoldering Marsh, and Shambling Vents making a splash in the decks. Outside of lands, the only cards from BFZ to see play in the maindeck of the top decks include Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Dragonmaster Outcast, and Dispel – not a great showing of Battle for Zendikar since two out of those three cards are reprints. Based on these results, expect Gideon spike up to new highs and stay there for a while until the format becomes solved over time as players try and figure out how to make Ingest and Devoid work in Standard. I wouldn’t pick up extra copies of Dragonmaster Outcast since it is a reprint and will continue to drop in price as more BFZ packs are opened over the coming months.

As we continue into the Standard season, I hope that more variety is introduced to the decks. I’m really excited to see what Battle for Zendikar can add to Standard, but it seems like the power level hasn’t quite been figured out yet. Cards like Oblivion Sower seem really powerful in a vacuum but I’m not sure if they are good enough for Standard yet based on the Pro Tour results. As we continue on through Standard there should be opportunity for other cards to shine, like sideboard inclusions Radiant Flames and Exert Influence. Until then however, I would expect aggro decks and Jeskai (whether splashing black or green) to be dominant forces at FNM as more and more players realize that yes, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy (and his insane price) is not going away from Standard anytime soon, unfortunately.

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PROTRADER: Pro Tour Origins and Some Important Numbers

Rumor on the street is that my article last week on credit buylisting was unlocked for everyone to see. Whether or not it was intentional, I’m delighted at the positive feedback I received on it. Due to popular interest, I intend to revisit this topic at a later date. I’m still actively testing my hypothesis—that anyone can turn store credit at one shop into greater store credit at another shop, and so on. Once I have some worthwhile data, I’ll share some steps along my credit journey.

For this week, however, I believe something more timely needs to be discussed. Of course I am referring to Pro Tour Origins, which took place in Vancouver last weekend.

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PROTRADER: My Picks for the Pro Tour Magic Origins Breakout Cards

By Guo Heng

It’s that time of the year again. Pro Tour Magic Origins is taking place at Vancouver this weekend, and here are my predictions for the breakout cards of this weekend.

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