Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar: Top 8 Coverage

Well, here we are.

Many brewers entered the arena looking to put their stamp of originality on the newly minted Battle for Zendkar Standard, but in the end our Top 8 turned out more or less similarly to the one last weekend at the SCG Open in Atlanta.

Though the UB Aristocrats deck from Christian Calcano got many people excited and spiked Liliana, Heretical Healer from $14 to $25 overnight, our Top 8 is a powerhouse of legendary Magic pros and the decks that now firmly define this format:

  1. Owen Turtenwald (Jeskai Black)
  2. Ricky Chin (GW Megamorph)
  3. Paulo Vita Damo Da Rosa (Atarka Red)
  4. Martin Muller (Jeskai Tokens)
  5. Takimura Kazuyuki (Abzan)
  6. Jon Finkel (Jeskai Black)
  7. Ryoichi Tamada (Jeskai)
  8. Paul Dean (Abzan)

Our ladder looks like this:

Ricky Chin (GW Megamorph) vs. Ryoichi Tamada (Jeskai)

Paulo Vita Damo Da Rosa (Atarka Red) vs. Jon Finkel (Jeskai Black)

Martin Muller (Jeskai Tokens) vs. Takimura Kazuyuki (GW Megamorph)

Owen Turtenwald (Jeskai Black) vs. Paul Dean (Abzan)

With some relatively young players facing some of the biggest giants in the game in Finkel, PVD and Owen Turtenwald, I would expect Round 1 to yield winners in Tamada, Muller and Turtenwald, with the Finkel/PVD match being largely dependent on the PVD Atarka Red hand quality since Finkel can be relied on to play out his hand competently.

Almost regardless of which deck ultimately wins, the metagame is now definitively settled on Atarka Red, Jeskai/Dark Jeskai and G/W Megamorph as the Tier 1 decks to beat. This should lead to some modest price appreciation with the already inflated Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, as the two key non-land cards with over 20 copies in the Top 8. With fetchlands dominating all of the mana bases, it’s also likely that fetches will continue to appreciate through the season.

Welcome to a fantastic Top 8. Let’s see how it plays out:

Ricky Chin (GW Megamorph) vs. Ryoichi Tamada (Jeskai)

In Game 1, Ryoichi Tamada puts Gideon, Jace and Silkwrap on the board and demonstrates how easy it is to dominate an opponent that is land poor when you are running the three best cards in the format in the same deck. Game 1 to Tamada.

In Game 2, Chin curves out perfectly with Warden of the First Tree into Hangarback Walker into Deathmist Raptor, but a missed block on an attacking Jace from Tamada sets up a board state with a flipped Jace and a paired Wingmate Roc that turns the game into a solid race. Tamada goes aggressive perhaps a turn too early in the face of a pair of Dromoka’s Command however, and Tamada finds himself tied up at a game a piece.

Game 3 starts out strong with Ricky Chin, but a Mantis Rider and a paired Wingmate Roc leads to a grindy match which ends up being won by Tamada on the back of a Silkwrap removing a massively powered up Warden. Tamada advances with Jeskai to the semis, putting Gideon, Jace and Mantis Rider squarely in the spotlight financially.

Paulo Vita Damo Da Rosa (Atarka Red) vs. Jon Finkel (Jeskai Black)

Here we have one of the best possible Top 8 matches between two Hall of Fame Magic players.

Game 1 demonstrates the occasional fragility of the Atarka Red build as PVD is forced to mulligan into a hand with minimal action, and Finkel easily removes a couple of threats before steamrolling into an early victory.

Game 2 finds PVD forced to mulligan yet again and Finkel puts another quick game away with two Mantis Rider and a total lack of combo action from his opponent. Johnny magic moves on to the semis with Jeskai Black.

Martin Muller (Jeskai Tokens) vs. Takimura Kazuyuki (Abzan)

Unable to find anything but lands to pair with his Jeskai Ascendancy, Muller is forced to chump block a few turns in a row with his early tokens, and falls to a combined attack by Siege Rhino, Anafenza and Den Protector in Game 1.

In Game 2 Muller fails to find synergy and a smart mulligan from Takimura into a more aggressive hand results in a quick win and a trip to the semis.

Owen Turtenwald (Jeskai Black) vs. Paul Dean (Abzan)

Paul Dean gets a chance here to seek revenge against Owen for trying to knock him out of Top 8 contention in the final round Saturday in favor of Reid Duke.

In Game 1 Owen loses his only threat in Mantis Rider and Dean is able to put things away with Gideon and friends in fairly straight forward fashion. In Game 2, Owen keeps a promising hand with two lands and is slowed down enough to be put away by on curve Wingmate Roc and friends, sealing revenge for fellow Canadian Paul Dean.

Our Top 4 decks are two Abzan builds and two Jeskai builds, marking our Tier 1 as a mix of last season and the new JeskaiX options.

Side note: Snapcaster Mage has been announced as the RPTQ Promo, with new art. I would expect this to delay strong gains on the cards until later this spring, and though this art is unlikely to be preferred, this does add thousands of copies to the market.


Ryoichi Tamada (Jeskai) vs. Jon Finkel (Jeskai Black)

In Game 1 Finkel manages to get a flipped Jace, Sarkhan, Dragonspeaker, and Tasigur in play at the same time, and the game goes sideways for Tamada in a hurry. A flurry of Jeskai Charms from Tamada later however, leads to Finkel losing Tasigur to the top of his deck a few times, and a Gideon is able to take out Jace and put Finkel on his heels. Facing down a double Gideon emblem and multiple attackers Finkel finds a way out via a double helping of Mantis Rider to block, live and crack back for the final three. Game 1 Finkel.

In Game 2, back and forth plays lead to a critical Gideon attack alongside his allies, and Tamada takes back a win.

Game 3 sees Finkel lose after being penalized for a mid-game land coming in tapped, allowing Tamada to get in with Sarkhan, Dragonspeaker and put away the match.


Ryoichi Tamada (Jeskai) vs. Takimura Kazuyuki (Abzan)

Well the dust has cleared and the only men left standing are from the land of the rising sun. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a Japanese dominated finals at the Pro Tour, but it’s far from a surprise given the quality of play from these two gentlemen this weekend.

Takimura takes Game 1 fairly easily and puts himself just 2 wins away from a Pro Tour title.

In Game 2 Tamada manages to flood the board with Gideo, Jace and a bevy of allied threats, but carefully chips away at Takimura until a mass attack on the back of Jeskai Charm utterly closes the game in his favor. Game 3 finds Tamada using Jeskai Charm and Disdainful stroke to deal with a 4/4 Walker once via bounce, followed by the counter on the way back to the board. This traps Takimura on four lands, and leaves him wide open for a two quick attacks. Tamada goes to two games.

In Game 4 however, Takimura rallies back, his life suddenly easier with Tamada stuck on one land after a couple of mulligans. Heading into Game 5 Takimura takes a daring mulligan, giving up a hand with one land and early threats to get a hand with guaranteed land support. The next hand had two lands, and he was lucky enough to find a third in time to trade key cards and leave his opponent looking for a top deck. One big attack later and Takimura is our Pro Tour: Battle for Zendikar champion!

In the end it is Abzan in the hands of Tamikura Kazuyuki that takes the tournament in stellar fashion, and we have Siege Rhino on the podium despite the appearance throughout the weekend that it would be the tournament for Jeskai Black and G/W Megamorph to dominate the Top 8.

In the wake of Kazuyuki’s win, we see Gideon driving up towards $40, with the potential to settle anywhere within $5 of that number as the week goes on. Likewise Jace, which was easily the card of the tournament, has regained some lost ground and is pushing $75-80 again after some aggressive buying today. Liliana, Heretical Healer seems to be holding her $23-25 range so far, but could fall back towards $15 since none of her decks made Top 8. All in all, very few cards from Battle for Zendikar other than Gideon and the “battle” lands have made much of an impact at the top tables. Despite a plethora of interesting brews, our expected archetypes are still in the driver’s seat. How the metagame reacts will be interesting as we push deeper into BFZ Standard in the coming weeks.

Also of note, Dromoka’s Command should hold $7-8 as an integral part of both of the viable GW decks in Abzan and GW Megamorph. Wingmate Roc seems like it will command $6-8 in coming weeks, representing a solid gain from the $3 summer lows.

Thanks for sticking with us this weekend! See you next time.

4 thoughts on “Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar: Top 8 Coverage”

  1. Thanks for the coverage. I know you don’t like Liliana Heretical Healer but she’s amazingly fun and the UB Aristocrats deck is one of the cheapest to build because it doesn’t require 4 Jace, 4 Gideon, or 3-4 Ojutai and 80% of it is a draft deck. There’s also the GB Aristocrats version, the Rally Elves deck, etc and Liliana can seemingly be played alongside a bunch of weak “value” cards while Jace works best alongside Ojutai’s command.

    Of note, I either expect to see more Negates or more Treasure Cruise over Digs as Dispel is the new spell du jour. Also Ruinous Path gets better in a world of Dispels although I don’t think that will drive the price. Just commenting for anyone reading and brewing or trying to get the jump on the new meta

  2. Nice article.

    Less talk about the “playing” of the game, there is ENDLESS talk about that, and more talk about the cards. A ton of smaller cards have had unexpected movements , and are were the real money is going to be made, but none of this was discussed.

    1. troy what cards are you talking about? can you be more specific cause “smaller cards” is extremely vague. And obviously James doesn’t think there will be much movement on unknown cards as the staples of the format continue to dominate and the same archetypes are winning each event.

  3. Great article. The price is most strongly dictated by the play at this pro tour which shows the potential value of the cards in standard right now. Disappointed in the lack of bfz cards in top 8 tbh. Saw an interesting version of atarka that won tcg NC running 12 fetches for landfall with scythe leopard, makindi sliderunner and snapping gnarlid as well as 2 red retreats, looks fast imo.

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