Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad was held this past weekend, and the metagame was far more diverse than anyone could have imagined. Before the Pro Tour, with Bant Company and Humans composing the majority of the field, the future was bleak. As it played out, the tournament produced multiple new decks that have redefined the future of Standard, including decks like B/G Company, W/G Tokens, G/R Goggles, and B/G Control. They have destroyed the established order and have changed the way the world sees Shadows over Innistrad Standard.
If you are reading this article, then surely you have read others this week, and you probably follow fellow Magic players on social media. Perhaps you watched the live Pro Tour coverage or viewed the video archive, or maybe you even attended the Pro Tour. Many people are discussing decks from the tournament, but there is not much more to say about them that hasn't already been said, or that wouldn't be better learned by watching them in action or by playing them yourself. Today I aim to go a bit deeper. Rather than just discuss the Pro Tour decklists, I'll glean insight and provide actionable advice that could help you earn an advantage over the competition still operating at the surface level.
In the wake of the Pro Tour, the next step is to figure out where to go from here. A direction can be gleaned by analyzing results and figuring out what they mean for the future of Standard, so we can play the right cards in the right deck and best position ourselves against the post-Pro Tour metagame. Today I'll identify the top eight cards that have increased in value in the metagame relative to their value before the Pro Tour — eight cards that are excellent against the Pro Tour field and will be well-positioned in the near future. These cards do things like break mirror matches, or attack specific decks, or are especially strong given recent trends. Today I'll also share the top eight Standard decks that you haven't seen, decks from around the world and online that are under the radar but full of potential.
Standard's Top 8 Most Improved Cards
Archangel of Tithes looks great after the Pro Tour. It's a headache for W/G Tokens decks that look to win by going wide with a big army of creatures. G/B Company wins by getting in attacking damage whenever it can, and Archangel of Tithes makes that a difficult avenue of victory. They also lack fliers, so it's also a solid clock for closing out the game. Its five toughness means it survives Languish and Grasp of Darkness, so it holds up against control decks, and it's a perfect blocker for Archangel Avacyn.
With artifacts and enchantments everywhere, Conclave Naturalists is a great way to destroy them for value. It's an excellent option for green decks without Collected Company, especially W/G Tokens, because it destroys both Virulent Plague and Pyromancer's Goggles. It could be a great addition to green control decks like Jund or Sultai Control.
An honorable mention goes to Caustic Caterpillar, a Naturalize that can be found by Collected Company, and it can even trigger cards that benefit from a creature dying, so it's an ideal option for Collected Company decks like B/G and Bant.
Standard is trending towards quantity of creatures over quality, and that makes decks exploitable by sweepers like Radiant Flames. It's great versus W/G Tokens, B/G Company, and of course Humans. Dealing three damage means it destroys many important creatures that Kozilek's Return misses, so it's a lot better against Bant Company, particularly their Sylvan Advocates.
An honorable mention goes to to Flaying Tendrils, which is more efficient than Languish against small creatures, so it's even better at stemming the bleeding from Humans, and it's strong against W/G Tokens, where it can remove Hangarback Walker from play. It's great against B/G Company, where its unique ability to exile creatures is very useful.
Minister of Pain is an excellent sweeper available to B/G Company decks. It's a mirror-breaker that clears away things like Zulaport Cutthroat, so it's something I'd want access to. It does work against other decks too, like W/G Tokens and Humans.
It's clear that even if Bant Company isn't the best deck in Standard, Collected Company is still one of the defining pillars of the format, and stopping it is one of the keys to beating B/G Company. Hallowed Moonlight was instrumental in stopping Collected Company last season, and it remains a great option for any white deck.
Standard looks to be slowing down, with aggro's decline making way for control decks and value-based creature decks. Planeswalkers are common, enchantments like Cryptolith Rite are common, and even artifacts like Pyromancer's Goggles are common. There are also plenty of must-kill creatures like Nantuko Husk and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. It's the perfect environment for Anguished Unmaking, which is an ideal solution to a format where a wide variety of permanent types must be answered. It's not efficient against cheap creatures, and the life loss is poor against aggressive decks, but it looks great against the future metagame.
With the return of control, creatures are becoming less common in Standard, and even creature decks play plenty of noncreature spells. Vryn Wingmare is a potent tool for white creature decks against the field, and specifically a perfect sideboard option in Humans against control decks like B/G Control and Esper Dragons.
Noncreature spells are everywhere in Standard, and it means Negate is a premium sideboard card with maindeck potential. The usual issue holding back Negate is creature decks without targets, but control is now common, and the main creature decks in Standard play noncreature spells. Negate targets not only Collected Company, but Cryptolith Rites in B/G Company, as well as the Planeswalkers in W/G Tokens, and even Always Watching in Humans.
An honorable mention goes to Dispel, which I don't recommend in the maindeck but is a great sideboard option against much of the field. Collected Company is everywhere, and in the future Dispel will be an important tool for fighting against Hallowed Moonlight and opposing Dispel.
The Top 8 Standard Decks You Haven't Seen Yet
Crush of Tentacles has been the focus of control decks, but it has potential in an aggressive deck, and perhaps even a combo deck.
The core of this deck is a U/G aggressive creature package that could be mistaken for a Collected Company shell, but it's supplemented by Crush of Tentacles as a board sweeper that ideally produces a 8/8 creature and turns the tide of battle. Surge can be met with any of the cheap creatures, but especially by Sight Beyond SIght, which can cast for free on the following turn thanks to Rebound, allowing a surged Crush of Tentacles as early as turn five.
Crush of Tentacles is more than a gimmick — it's an actual endgame engine with Den Protector. Den Protector will be returned to hand with Crush of Tentacles, so it can be replayed and used to return Crush of Tentacles to be cast again Ad Nauseam.
Sin Prodder was called the next Dark Confidant, but so far it has fallen flat. The problem is that it can't be relied upon to draw cards, but it can be relied upon to Deal Damage. It has a place in a dedicated burn deck as an aggressive creature and burn engine.
This new look at red aggro is centered around burn, specifically Exquisite Firecraft as a big source of damage that functions like a red Ruinous Path in its ability to destroy creatures and Planeswalkers.
Cryptolith Rite was one of the breakout cards of the Pro Tour, and it is shaping up to be one of the most powerful cards from Shadows over Innistrad and one of the best cards in Standard. It has applications in more decks than just B/G Company.
This deck shares a similar approach to B/G Company, but it foregoes creature synergy and Collected Company in favor of more solid individual cards. It's specifically focused on token-generators like Planeswalkers. Pia and Kiran Nalaar is exciting as a way to generate mana when combined with Cryptolith Rite.
Thing in the Ice is a card a lot of players have tried to make work, and it's a card many have given up on too soon. Thing in the Ice is a great way to answer a format that is going wide, and it's one of the few good answers to Ormendahl, Profane Prince in Standard.
This version of the deck builds off of the typical U/R core with the best black disruption in the format, notably a full playset of of Duress. Duress looks great when control is on the rise, and even the creature decks play plenty of great targets. Painful Truths allows the deck to get ahead of cards, and it's not much of a liability when much of the field is control and aggressive decks don't play burn spells.
W/G Tokens won the Pro Tour, and it's one of the best decks going forward, but the deck was admittedly made at zero hour days before the Pro Tour, and it isn't necessarily tuned, so there's definitely room for innovation.
Access to red increases the overall power level, and makes deck better against aggressive decks. W/G Tokens is great against control decks with a lot of removal, so it can afford to shift some focus on beating creature decks like B/G Company and the W/G mirror match, which will become more common in the future. Moving towards more of a control deck, with removal like Planar Outburst, will catch creature opponents by surprise.
If Green Ramp decks aren't appealing, and you prefer Blue Urzatron over Green Urzatron in Modern, this might be the deck for you:
This deck uses Hedron Archive and Eldrazi Scion from Drowner of Hope to ramp into Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Warping Wail works as creature removal or a Counterspell, but it's also a useful ramp spell that helps this deck get a head start over the opponent. The rest of the deck is disruption, including Counterspells Clash of Wills and Void Shatter. A red splash for Kozilek's Return is a necessary inclusion against creature decks; it will clear early threats and then sweep the board when Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is cast.
Most assume that ramp in Standard should be R/G, but B/G has a lot going for it.
Deathcap Cultivator is one card that points towards B/G Ramp being better than initially meets the eye. Hissing Quagmire is an excellent tool that R/G doesn't have: a card that shines as a blocker by acting as a pseudo-removal spell.
The biggest issue for ramp decks is aggressive decks, and Languish fills a hole as a sweeper that catches cards Kozilek's Return doesn't kill until later in the game. Ruinous Path is also great against aggro decks, and ramp can easily cast it with awaken. Ob Nixilis Reignited is additional help against aggro that doubles as a much-needed card drawing engine against control. Grip of Desolation is value, and constraining mana is great against this metagame, but it's not a great card against aggressive decks. I'd like to trim these numbers and fill out numbers of cards like Sylvan Advocate, and I'd test cards like Read the Bones or Dark Petition.
Makihito Mihara is a former world champion, and he's a deckbuilding genius that consistently puts up results with his brews. This deck is from the Pro Tour, but I couldn't help but share. It's below the top eight, so it won't get the attention it deserves:
One of my favorite cards is Mirari. Pyromancer's Goggles functions similarly, except instead of costing mana it makes the spell cheaper, so it's easy for me to imagine how powerful the card can be. The only cost is being in red, and this creatureless and nearly mono-red version takes full advantage by copying an assortment of great spells. It's a well-rounded control deck that is a nightmare for aggressive decks to fight through, and one that can turn into a burn deck against control. The transformational sideboard is a thing of beauty!
What Standard cards do you think have improved after the results of the Pro Tour? What cards are you looking forward to playing this weekend? Have you built or discovered any new decks that might have potential? Share your ideas in the comments, and I'll answer any questions!