The Watchtower: 2/6/17

By: Travis Allen

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Pro Tour Aether Revolt is in the books, and at least we can say that the top 8 and the best performing decks certainly did not look as many of us expected. Mardu Vehicles pretty clearly dominated the format, with six(!) copies in the top 8, and a staggering amount in the “30 to 22 points” list. The conversion rate for day two was 75%, an astoundingly impressive performance given that there were 95 players on the archetype. BG Constrictor was close behind with a 68% conversion rate. Meanwhile Jeskai Copy Cat, the Saheeli Rai combo deck that looked poised to take over the format as of last weekend, had the absolute worst conversion rate of any deck with more than 10 players at 36%. There were some other, more successful Saheeli variants, such as Gerry Thompson’s four color Aetherworks Marvel build, but that doesn’t mean that the archetype as a whole didn’t completely fall flat relative to expectations.

I was fairly certain that we would see Saheeli Rai as a major part of this Pro Tour. I was wrong, as people figured out how to build Mardu Vehicles to prey on it. Yet, I’m not convinced that we won’t find ourselves staring down the barrel of a lot of Saheeli Rai decks in a week or two. Vehicles had an excellent Pro Tour, no doubt, but that type of strategy tends to be less resilient and less able to adapt to a changing metagame than something closer to midrange or control, ala Saheeli or BG Constrictor. Within two weeks the SCG grinders may have settled on a Saheeli list that eats vehicles alive, while the vehicles players struggle to find a list that can keep up.

I’m not promising anything here, but this wouldn’t be the first time that a deck performs exceptionally well at the Pro Tour and then rapidly withdraws from the top tier. I still recall Pro Tour Dark Ascension, in which Jon Finkel and crew showed up with UW Spirits running Dungeon Geist. The deck performed admirably, Dungeon Geists themselves were selling out everywhere on Saturday, but within two weeks the archetype had evaporated in the face of sustained countermeasures. If this is the path Standard finds itself on again, we may yet see Felidar Guardian shipped off to the farm at the next banned and restricted list update in five weeks. Sam Stoddard admitted this past Friday that they didn’t realize what they had released in Standard, and a rapid reversion to Saheeli Rai dominance may cement an already tempting decision.

Rishkar, Peema Renegade

Price Today: $5
Possible Price: $10

This feels a little silly, but bear with me. Rishkar rose in popularity rapidly during prerelease season when the interaction between him and Walking Ballista was taken seriously. Since release, BG with Ballista, Rishkar, and Winding Constrictor has been a pillar of the format. (Of course that’s like three weeks at best, but whatever.)

At Pro Tour Aether Revolt BG was arguably the second-best deck, with a strong conversion rate and the second-most common archetype in the top scoring Standard lists. (Not exactly a close second, but second nonetheless.) Anyways it’s a strong archetype with a lot of flexibility in how it’s built. One thing’s for sure though, the interaction between those three cards is impressive.

Vehicles was far and away the best deck this weekend, right? Well Veteran Motorist is a 3/1, and every other maindeck creature is an X/2. That’s a lot of fodder for Walking Ballista to chew through. BG is also going to have access to plenty of artifact destruction given that it’s in green. All of this is on top of the fact that BG is a solid deck that can battle with Saheeli combo strategies, and whatever else floats to the top.

I’m getting into predicting the ebb and flow of the metagame, which I don’t want to do. I’ll summarize with this: BG was a strong deck two weeks ago, it’s a solid choice today, and it’s definitely going to continue to play a role in the metagame. The core of the deck is Winding Constrictor and Walking Ballista, an uncommon and a $10 rare. Rishkar is a key third piece, and the price is around $5 today. There’s room for growth.

Spire of Industry

Price Today: $4.50
Possible Price: $12

Several weeks ago Sam Black made a comment on Twitter that Mox Opal is better than all the other moxes in any deck that runs it. This is rather obvious on the surface — of course a Mox that makes five colors is ideal, the hard part is getting there — but it’s profound when you consider it. While the original five Moxes are banned everywhere, you can still play with the “best” Mox in both Modern and Legacy! A mana accelerant that provides access to every color of mana is worth jumping through hoops, since it opens the door to so many different tools. You can rely on Opal to cast Spell Pierce, Thoughtseize, and Rest in Peace all within the same game.

Spire of Industry is possibly a better City of Brass/Mana Confluence. It’s ever so slightly more difficult to get any color of mana out of it, since you need to control an artifact. That means no turn one Thoughtseizes here. However, it does tap for a painless colorless, which the other variants don’t. The life saved by not having to pay one every time you tap the land can mean the difference between winning and losing in many games. There’s also the corner cases in which you actively want the colorless mana, such as if you’re in the market for Thought-Knot Seer to go with your artifacts. (And who isn’t?)

Spire of Industry has found a home in Standard in basically all of the Vehicles decks. It plays a vital role in helping cast Unlicensed Disintegration on time, as well as making sure you you can cast multiple spells a turn in the mid game. So long as vehicles are playable, which I expect they will be the entire time they’re legal, Spire of Industry will be a component of at least one Standard deck, and possibly several.

That’s not all though. Spire of Industry is completely playable in Modern Affinity, a deck that rarely doesn’t put an artifact into play on turn one. It’s good in Lantern. It’s good in any deck that plays a moderate amount of artifacts, really. That extends to other formats as well, though demand there is less important as far as the price is concerned.

Spire of Industry is remarkably strong land with a low cost to turn it on. It’s going to be a Standard staple for the next year and a half, and it’s going to show up in plenty of other formats too. I’ll be surprised if this doesn’t push double digits at some point during that span.

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