Last weekend's Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir has made Standard the spotlight of the competitive Magic community. The coverage provided access to all of the decklists with winning records, so there is a lot of data to chew on. As players react to the new information, the Pro Tour metagame and these decklists will heavily impact the global Standard metagame going forward, so it's important to have an understanding of what transpired at the Pro Tour. Today I'll provide a snapshot of the new Standard format by identifying each unique archetype that found success at the Pro Tour, exploring a decklist, and explaining its card choices and strategy.
Atarka Sligh (Rg Aggro)
The ultimate winner of Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir was Martin Dang with a nearly monored aggro deck that splashed into green for Atarka's Command (and a single Become Immense!):
Splashing Atarka's Command was a widespread adoption for successful red decks at the Pro Tour, with 10 of the 16 available Red aggro decks featuring the green card. Unfortunately the official coverage doesn't make a distinction between the archetypes so it's harder to see deeper, but it's a safe assumption that Atarka's Command is the correct configuration moving forward. It was an amazing card on video coverage over the weekend, especially with its ability to pump a team of creatures, where it did tons of damage of even protected a team of tokens from Dragonlord Atarka.
Going Bigger with Monored
A different type of Monored Aggro list was played a pair of Korean players to 7-3 records. It goes a bit bigger with a set of Thunderbreak Regent, similar to a Siege Rhino top end of Abzan Aggro:
Raphael Levy played an even bigger Red deck to a 6-4 finish:
UB(w) Dragon Control
Finishing in second place was Shota Yasooka with UB Dragon Control:
Shota showed his knack for control by innovating a deck that aggressively pushes Silumgar's Scorn's ability to function as a true Counterspell by playing a high dragon count supported by three Icefall Regent. This card hasn't received much attention, but Shota realized its potential. It's a powerful blue tempo play that simultaneously neutralizes an opposing creature and adds a large flying threat to the battlefield. Opposing removal costs two more mana to destroy it, so opponents are unable to gain a large tempo advantage in return. Traditionally, control decks, which by necessity must maintain a neutral or positive board state, can't afford to tap out for expensive, vulnerable threats because this would open up the possibility for the opponent to take advantage with cheap removal along with a threat of their own. Icefall Regent mitigates most of this problem.
With hexproof, Silumgar, the Drifting Death doesn't risk targeted creature removal, so a great addition to the deck. Keep in mind Silumgar's Scorn functions as a Counterspell not only when there is a Dragon in hand, but also when there is a Dragon in play, and this hexproof creature ensures that.
Dragonlord Silumgar is a huge tempo and value play that dominates midrange opponents. It is vulnerable to removal, but many opponents lack the ability to profitably deal with the creature. Thoughtseize helps clear the way, and it's also great later in the game backed up by permission.
Crux of Fate is incredible here because dragons break the parity of the sweeper, allowing Shota to play Dragons with impunity.
A pair of Stratus Dancer in the sideboard is a potent threat against other control decks, a classic sideboard ploy of bringing in cheap creatures when opponents are likely to cut removal spells. Stratus Dancer can just as easily be played on turn two as a pseudo Delver of Secrets as it can be morphed as a 2/2, which can attack while waiting to Ambush an opposing spell and generate tempo and value.
Dragon control was played by others, but Esper versions with Dragonlord Ojutai dominate the builds. These include Top 8 competitor Andrew Ohlschwager:
Esper Dragons was also adopted Team ChannelFireball, whose Josh Utter-Leyton finished 9-1 with their build:
Every Dragon in this deck has Hexproof, giving it a unique strength against creature removal. This deck does employ a pair of Dragonlord Silumgar in the sideboard as a way to attack midrange decks. Two Tasigur, the Golden Fang are a powerful tool against midrange and control alike.
Jeskai Dragon Control
A third variation of Dragon control could be seen farther down the standings. Patrick Dickmann showed off his Standard deck building chops with a Jeskai Dragon control build that combines Dragonlord Ojutai and Thunderbreak Regent:
BR Dragon Control
Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury has her own follower with Levi Barsham earning seven wins with his midrange-focused Rakdos deck:
A pair of Kologhan's Command stands out as a versatile source of card advantage.
Finishing in third place at the Pro Tour was Ondrej Strasky with GR Devotion:
This deck is built around maximizing Dragonlord Atarka, which it accomplishes with a full mana acceleration suite and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. The highlight is a set of See the Unwritten, which can dig for Dragonlord Atarka and effectively cast it at a two mana discount. With so many large creatures, the ferocious ability will often be fulfilled. Creatures include a pair of Surrak, the Hunt Caller, which can give haste to Dragonlord Atarka or anything from See the Unwritten.
A more traditional GR Devotion build also reached Top 8:
A pair of Shaman of the Forgotten ways stands out here as a powerful mana acceleration creature, especially with a set of Genesis Hydra.
Creatureless UB Control
Another option for UB Control is a traditional creatureless build played by Adrian Sullivan to a Top 4 finish:
This deck is a bit peculiar, but Adrian has been developing it all year, so you can be sure the design is sound.
A traditional RG Dragons deck also reached Top 8.
This deck uses its high dragons count to support Draconic Roar as a source of free damage, and Haven of the Spirit Dragon as a source of value later in the game.
Surrak, the Hunt Caller takes a defining role here as something like a Blastoderm / Fervor hybrid. This deck is all about doing incremental, incidental damage with cards like Draconic Roar, so any free haste damage goes a long way in winning the game.
Abzan Control, which was one of the top archetypes before Dragons of Tarkir, saw significant play across teams, and it reached the Top 8 in hands of Marco Cammilluzzi:
This list is as traditional as they come, and it looks just as it did with Fate Reforged. It's a testament to just how strong this archetype was, and still is. Ultimate Price is a great update with so many monocolored creatures seeing play.
Other variations of Abzan Control include the Satyr Wayfinder / Tasigur, the Golden Fang build that Chester Swords used to finish 9-1 in Standard:
Kenji Tsumura finished 8-2 with four maindeck Fleecemane Lion:
There's also the 4 Color build splashing Dragonlord Atarka played by Team TCGplayer, and played within a match of the Top 8 by Seth Manfield:
Abzan Aggro was below the spotlight but quietly a popular and successful archetype at the Pro Tour. While Abzan Aggro was the obvious best home for Dromoka's Command, Surrak, the Hunt Caller was the defining card of the archetype. It provides explosive damage potential with a formidable ability that is always turned on with creatures like Fleecemane Lion or Anafenza, the Foremost.
Brad Nelson finished 9-1 with this list, and his teammate Austin Bursavish finished 8-2:
GW Aggro was another archetype to take advantage of Surrak, the Hunt Caller. Hall of Famer Bram Snepvangers put up an 8-2 finish with his GW Aggro deck:
The main draw of white is Dromoka's Command, but Fleecemane Lion is an important role player. Reverent Hunter takes advantage of the two green in Surrak, the Hunt Caller's mana cost, and of the new Avatar of the Resolute. A full four Collected Company are supported by 23 eligible creatures, so Collected Company will reliably generate 2-for-1 card advantage and a minor tempo advantage equal to a fraction of a mana.
GW Devotion was on the map with an 8-1-1 finish in the hands of Joey Manner:
Maindeck Arbor Colossus is a nod to the Dragon-infested world of the Pro Tour. It stops even Dragonlord Ojutai from attacking.
Craig put up an impressive Top 16 finish with his innovative Bant build that combined a green core with the powerful Dragonlord Ojutai:
This deck contains the powerful recursion engine of four Deathmist Raptor and four Den Protector. Den Protector can return another copy of Den Protector, so this deck quite literally never runs out of gas against removal spells, and it will eventually win every attrition war. It is, however, vulnerable to Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, but Mastery of the Unseen provides a great work around with colorless Manifest Tokens.
RG Bee's Knees
Sam Black earned eight wins with a deck built around abusing four maindeck Hornet Nest with cards like Roast, Setessan Tactics, and Chandra, Pyromaster:
Four Chord of Calling ensure access to Hornet Nest but also a payoff because Insect Tokens can be used to pay for convoke towards creatures like Dragonlord Atarka.
The classic Whip of Erebos deck was present at the PT, with the best finish being 7-3 in the hands of Dan Lanthier:
This deck includes a toolbox of a whopping ten maindeck one-of cards enabled by Sidisi, Undead Vizier. The sideboard expands the toolbox with nine more options.
Willy Edel piloted his take on the archetype, which includes the package of Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector, to six wins:
The highest finishing Jeskai Tokens build was played to 7-3 by Peter Semenov:
This deck features a lot of removal with both Wild Slash and Lightning Strike, and it functions much like a control deck compared to other builds of the archetype. The only nontoken creature is Seeker of the Way. For contrast, here's the 6-4 build of Eric Froehlich, which plays four Goblin Rabblemaster and four more token generators:
Maindeck Disdainful Stroke was surely an excellent choice in a field filled with blue control, green ramp decks, and Abzan Control.
The UW Heroic shell is the perfect home for Dromoka's Command, which can target multiple creatures, add counters to trigger Ordeals, and act as a removal spell. Two players earned seven wins with the archetype:
Control expert Andrew "Gainsay" Cuneo brought his own deck to the table, a Dragonlord Ojutai deck that features everything Azorius has to offer the control player:
Elspeth, Sun's Champion is the finisher of choice, while Secure the Wastes functions something like a Decree of Justice.
A Naya Superfriends planeswalker deck earned seven wins:
This archetype has incorporated Dragonlord Atarkara as a top-end finisher. A full set of Xenagos, the Revelers are perfect for accelerating into the dragon with its +0 ability.
Soulflayer / Chromanticore
This article wouldn't be complete without sharing the Soulflayer / Chromanticore deck piloted by much of Team Pantheon. The best finish was 6-4 in the hands of Zvi Mowshowitz:
This deck includes the powerful Deathmist Raptor / Den Protector engine, which is powered by sets of Satyr Wayfinder, Commune with the Gods, and Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. The graveyard enablers pave the way for Soulflayer, which with the right support can be an undercosted if not outright dominant threat. Not to be content with just hexproof from Sylvan Caryatid, or indestructible from Pharika, God of Affliction, this deck includes a full playset of Chromanticore and a manabase to support casting it.
Given its ultimately poor record, I'm not sure this deck is a great competitive option. The deck seems a bit gimmicky, and the ultimate payout doesn't necessarily seem worth the effort given the ease that opponents can naturally do powerful things, but it's certainly an interesting experiment and something worth exploring.
I am a big fan of Abzan Aggro, which presents a proactive and aggressive game plan against an open field, and is a great home for Dromoka's Command and Surrak, the Hunt Caller. I'm also excited by the UBx Dragon control decks, with which Silumgar's Command have brought about a revival in blue control.
What's your favorite deck of the Pro Tour? Are you surprised a certain archetype didn't appear? What's your choice for the best Standard deck to play this weekend? Share your ideas and any questions in the comments!