Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour 2017

(DayC) #1

DayC has a new job (yay!) and finally has a weekend off with some code to write. So, following up from my off topic post last weekend and it being the Pro Tour season, i’ll be posting links and updates regarding the current pro scene in Magic.

3rd - 5th Feb - Pro Tour Dublin

Wizards of the Coast seem to be giving more and more love to this side of the pond with Grand Prix’s in Liverpool and Birmingham but most importantly is this weekend when the Pro Tour visits the city of Dublin! During this event professionals are forced into multiple formats over the course of the weekend to test their capability to adapt and not be one deck wonders.

Day 1 and 2 follow the same format which is 3 rounds of draft followed by 5 rounds of Standard format that you’ll all be used to in Hearthstone. Standard is a min-60 card constructed deck, best of 3 format. Draft is a limited format whereby each player receives 3 booster packs and sits around a table of 7 other people which is called a pod. Each player in the pod opens a pack, picks one and moves it clockwise. They then receive a pack from the player in the opposite direction, pick one and so on and so forth until all cards from all packs have been picked. A min-40 card deck is then created from the picked cards.

16 swiss rounds in total wwith 50 minutes per round. Friday, everyone participates in the first 8 rounds. The field is cut to those with a min of 12 match points and all of those players advance to Saturday. After 16 rounds the top 8 standings advance to Sunday’s single elimination playoffs. Sunday gives us more standard action all day and moves the format to a best of 5 with the round time limit being bumped to 60 mins and the final 90 mins.

Any questions about the game or the tournament just post below and i’ll get to the answer as soon as I can!

The live events take place on Twitch of course. Coverage begins at 9am.

Coverage Page

This gives an overview of all the coverage to date on the event. There is also a twitch playlist that allows you to watch some of the previous matches of the weekend.

Top 8 deck lists

(DayC) #2

We’ve hit Day 3 and that means it’s top 8 time. I’ve updated the op with the top 8 deck lists (cheers @SamHiggy) and as you can see, post-ban, the fast and aggressive strat of Mardu Vehicles is taking over. Jund Energy Aggro is my favourite here but still too early after bans to see control or combo progress this far.

EDIT: Eventually Jund gives into Mardu, deck is too strong right now! Need to do some brewing to deal with that archetype.

(Sam Hignett) #3

At the end of it all, it’s plain to see that Vehicles completely owned this Pro Tour.

Since we recently have the nearly unprecedented standard banning of Copter, Emmy and Reflector some people seem to be jumping on the ban hammer train with their sights set on Heat of Kirin. Whilst I don’t blame them for thinking that this card is straight up busted, with some of the synergies it has (e.g. Toolcraft Exemplar/Pia Nalaar) I personally don’t think that this deck will continue to be as dominant as it was this weekend. It seems to me at least that, before the Pro Tour, Copy Cats was THE deck to beat and one of the best decks to beat it was Vehicles, which is why it has shown up in droves. However there does seem to be a sufficient amount of sideboard tech (Fatal Push, Release the Gremlins, Natural State, Appetite for the Unnatural etc) that could turn this deck into a one game wonder if setup against correctly.

In addition to this, I think that the encouragement of banning problem cards, especially this early into release, sets a bad precedence for wizards to just bust out the ban hammer whenever they design a card poorly, instead of actually forcing Wizards to think about their design space and methodology, especially when it comes to possible synergies and combos (cough cough Copy Cat).

It wasn’t all about Vehicles though, as we can see Black-Green Delirium had a day 2 conversion rate of nearly 75% and Black-Green Constrictor with a conversion rate of 68%. The standout card for me, in addition to Heart of Kirin, has to be Walking Ballista, being a 4 of in both these decks and overall producing huge amounts of value at a flexible cost. When it comes down to Friday Night Magic, I think these decks will be more dangerous than vehicles overall, as they are harder to tech against and the spotlight has been completely taken up by Copy Cat and Vehicles.

Overall it’s been a while since I watched a magic tournament this much, and it was a joy to see so many decks battle it out for top 32 before the menace of Vehicles swept the ground.

(DayC) #4

Well said @SamHiggy outside of the top 8 there was a lot of variation but this is to be expected. Emrakul broke standard, stopped interactivity, was nearly un-killable and banned as a result. Whilst people complained about Heart of Kiran this weekend, they clearly have short term memory loss. Kiran is a great card but it was there to halt the progression of the Saheeli combo.

For anyone reading this with no experience in Magic i’ll try to explain the best way I can. The Saheeli combo is below. It’s a fairly simple 2-way infinite loop, something not present (as far as i’m aware) in HS to date. When Saheeli enters the battlefield she has an ability (-2) that creates a copy of a creature and give it haste (allow it to attack immediately). Felidar Guardian enters and allows you to “flicker” (remove a card on the field from the game and immediately return it) a card from the field. The idea is that you create a token of felider guardian which then enters the field and flickers Saheeli who can then repeat her ability because she is now a new instance of the card.

The result is that an infinite number of 1/4 cats can be created and attack all at once.

This combo was considered “abusive” and people said it “couldn’t be beaten”. Standard was ruined they said. So the pro’s developed a deck based on a technique called “going under” which means that they created a high value aggro deck. This strat saw a lot of play last week and saw a card called Heart of Kiran being played.

This card is fairly self explanatory. It’s a 4/4 for 2 mana with flying (evasion. can’t be intercepted by ground creatures) and vigilance (doesn’t tap when it attacks, means it can block on the opponents turn and attack on yours - nothing like this in HS) meaning it’s incredible value lets you get board presence and hold up instant spells to interrupt the Saheeli combo when they finally manage to play it.

These are the cards people were calling for a ban on. I guarantee you next week we will see new decks to counteract vehicles decks containing Kiran. That’s the way a meta works, it’s the way a healthy meta evolves and Higgy agrees.

The final card that Higgy talks about being a stand out pick is Walking Ballista. This card costs XX meaning that both X values must be identical, it then enters with X +1/+1 counters on it. So if you want it to enter as a 3/3 you must pay 6 mana in total. It then has 2 abilities, 1 to remove a counter and deal 1 targeted damage and one to pay 4 of any colour mana to add a counter.

This of course makes for an incredibly flexible card being able to be played early or late. Grow bigger or shrink and distribute damage. This card will stay in the standard meta for its entirety I believe.

(Gavin Rainey) #5

That going under strat is very interesting.

The depth of this game is incredible

(DayC) #6

Certainly is and generally only works vs combo builds because building that early rush presence without early responses is key. If they start to put up an early wall like G/B constrictor or mirror matches then it becomes much more difficult and grindy. In this case Heart of Kiran is one of the best cards in the set. Not unbeatable but in a mirror match it starts to come down who can get the Kiran out first.

Now Kiran does have it’s downsides (balance, Blizzard take note), firstly as it’s a vehicle type card it requires 1 or more other creatures to “crew” it (tap sideways so they can’t attack or use abilities) to the power of greater than or equal to 3. Not too difficult but still an extra cost to have on top of the 2 mana. To further this, removing your opponent’s creatures renders it utterly useless. Next, it’s Legendary (you can only have 1 on each side of the field at a time, like legendaries in HS except if you summoned more than 1 then the others would die) so it limits the scope of the card. Finally it’s an artifact and there is a lot of artifact removal in this block alongside creature removal so it isn’t hard to get rid of.

I think this is where control comes in, there is some quality hate in this set in the following cards:

Disallow does what blue does best, it counters. Countering something is seen in all of 1 card in core HS but it’s near enough the same thing except this extends to triggered and activated abilities.

Fatal Push is considered a rare uncommon. It’s more valuable than a lot of rare cards and has plenty of scope for 1 mana. Black is representative of what Warlock should stand for in HS, sacrifice in areas whether it be creatures, life, mana but excels in its effects.

Release the Gremlins is super good artifact hate. Expensive and slow but cleans up those nasty Kirans and gives you reasonable board presence so the pay off is reasonable enough to play it.

Unlicensed Disintegration is just a disgusting card. Instant speed so you can play it at any time and has an extra bonus trigger built in.

All of this stuff deals with combos and going under strats. We’re more likely to see control rather than ramp or swarm tactics as there just isn’t many cards supporting those styles of play yet. Eventually we’ll see the rise of mid-range as we normally do.

(DayC) #7

We are live on GP Pittsburgh!

We are all standard all the way this weekend as the community tries to beat out Mardu Vehicles.

(DayC) #8

Mardu Vehicles was beaten by SNEK DEK or G/B Constrictor as it’s more commonly known. A few changes to lists this weekend saw B/G take 5 of the top 8 spots, Mardu Vehicles take 2 and a Copy Cat deck just got in there as well.

Black and Green is easily the strongest colour combination in the format with easy access to both efficient removal and good value creatures. For those wondering “doesn’t this just happen every time a set comes out?” after reading that last sentence then you’d be forgiven for thinking that. Green usually has the best creatures but that’s fine as magic isn’t a tempo based game, it’s the cheap and efficient removal that can interact with your opponent at instant speed (on their turn) that has made the difference this year. Fatal Push, Grasp of Darkness and Unlicensed Disintegration all sit in the black spectrum and work well against the <= 4 cost - 4/4 creatures that are swarming the meta at present.

From what I saw however there were some other builds that took the remainder of the tournament by storm such as the Blue / Red Fevered Emerge deck. When the lists are up i’ll give a short run down on what I think are the most interesting builds in the format at the moment.

(Xenoscythe) #9

mtg boggles my brain.

(DayC) #10

It’s not that hard :slight_smile: I will write a starter guide for those observing that may be interested. The hardest thing is turning up in person to your local games store if you’re not good with people, everything else can be learnt pretty quickly.

(DayC) #11

Grand Prix Utrecht has begun! and we’re off to a familiar start with G/B Constrictor vs Mardu Vehicles. Looks like Drana is seeing some play @SamHiggy, I had a feeling this might happen with all the +1/+1 counters flying around these days.

(Sam Hignett) #12

I’ve always been a bit surprised about how little Dana sees play to be honest. GB just looks so good right now.

(DayC) #13

Dynavolt Tower Storm and Jund Aggro 9-0 on day 1. More new builds coming through, being refined and competing with Mardu Vehicles, G/B Constrictor and Saheeli Guardian.

(DayC) #14

Big changes for Grand Prix’s in 2018!

…starting in 2018, ChannelFireball Events (CFBE) will be Wizards of the Coast’s exclusive global partner to run all

Grand Prix. CFBE is a company newly formed by ChannelFireball and Siteline Productions.

CFBE will be bringing their combined expertise in event production, tournament management, and promotion to be the exclusive organizer of all Grand Prix around the world.

Our goal is to make our Grand Prix Events exciting, memorable experiences for our fans around the globe while continuing to grow the program. Grand Prix are our largest gatherings for players and gamers who want to experience and enjoy Magic in all of its forms—from competitive players seeking to earn prizes and Pro Points and to qualify for the Pro Tour through the main event, all the way to players who come for the fun, friendship, and side events. We know CFBE can deliver on that experience for players everywhere.


(Sam Hignett) #15

If the current situation in standard wasn’t obvious enough from the most recent events, here is the top 8 from GP Barcelona:

Wtih CopyCat/Mardu vehicles rolling over another top 8 it’s clear that standard balance isn’t in a good place. I could write a bunch about how bad the situation is relative to previous standard environments and what the core problems are but I think this article sums it up well:

TL:DR of the article is that even in the Khans/Fate reforged block with the infamous rhino, there was still more standard diversity. Wizards will also try to ban the problem away, but the core problem is wizards company goal of making a good brand rather than a good game.

Well now that we know that there are no immediate bans in standard ( the question is what’s next? There has always been a case in competitive games for not being too quick to ban something, as it could stifle creativity in the game and be a crutch for poor balance choices in the future because of an easy out, but is this the right choice?

Is it possible that natural counters could be found for these decks in order to make the scene more competitive? Or is this just wizards burying their heads in the sand?

Personally i think it’s a bit of a lose/lose for Wizards this time. Another standard banning so soon after the previous one (Which was the first in a long time) would basically be them acknowledging that the REALLY screwed up and then it comes back to the “using banning as a crutch for poor design” argument. But if they didn’t ban something then it’s going to cause people to lose faith in wizards ability to properly balance a format as chaotic as standard.

The prevailing opinion online at the moment seems to be a mix of possible knee-jerk cries (RIP standard) and people being very cautiously optimistic about Wizards reasoning regarding the lack of bans.

I could write loads more on this topic but I think only time will tell how Wizards plans to fix this messy situation.

P.S. Modern seems to be in a healthy place, no bans there. Nice work Wizards.

(DayC) #16

Well @SamHiggy wrote the below:

We had the a ban announcement where nothing was banned and Grand Prix Shizuoka has happened.

6 of the top 8 decks where the Mardu Ballista archetype. Standard has always had its unbalanced eras but the last one this bad involved a meta with Jace, The Mind Sculptor, one of the most powerful cards printed in the history of magic. Now Gideon and Heart of Kiran are taking over.

It’s a right state but this is what happens when you switch from a 3 set to 2 set block, extend the length of one of the worst sets in history by another season to add more cards to the rotation temporarily and switch your design space to make less efficient answers.

Fortunately, lead designer Mark Rosewater has addressed concerns regarding answers and admitted fault. The rest will be addressed with time. Modern still reigns supreme with it’s current diverse and lively meta. Unfortunately having less cards in a rotation doesn’t always mean you have a balanced meta in comparison to those with more.

I’d expect the ban list to change in the next bans and changes announcement.