For me the days leading up to Pro Tour Kaladesh were tense, filled with the anxiety of choosing what deck to play. The format was relatively new so there weren't too many tournament results to gather information from. The metagame was tough to anticipate, and as it turned out I played the most popular deck, based around Aetherworks Marvel. This is a strategy which I have talked about and was on the radar, but I don't think anyone expected it to be 25% of the Pro Tour metagame.
Most of the Aetherworks Marvel decks were Temur based, though there were some Bant versions as well. The question is: were the Aetherworks Marvel decks successful? There was only one copy to make it to the elimination rounds.
This list is one of the better versions of the Temur Aetherworks archetype. There are a lot of ways to search for the Aetherworks Marvel itself, which is important as the deck often can't do anything without that card in play. Contingency Plan is a card I strongly advocate playing. The card does a few important things for the deck: it digs five cards deep looking for Aetherworks Marvel, but it also puts cards in the graveyard. The deck doesn't care too much about the card disadvantage, since you just need one card to win most games. Once Aetherworks Marvel is in play Contingency Plan allows you to easily stack a big fatty on top of your deck.
Aetherworks Marvel was a great day one deck as it beat up a lot of the players who weren't prepared for it. However, the decks that were ready to beat Aetherworks Marvel rose to the top and that meant there was a higher density of them on day two. Beyond the fact that there were specific decks built to beat the Aetherworks Marvel decks, the deck can also lose to itself pretty easily. When playing Temur Aetherworks there is a fail rate, as sometimes the deck simply doesn't draw the Aetherworks Marvel itself or hit the right cards off it in time. I experienced this firsthand. Moving forward, Aetherworks Marvel decks will have a big target on their head; I actually wouldn't recommend playing Temur Marvelworks right now.
There were four pilots that went 9-1 in Constructed, and each was playing the same archetype! The archetype I'm talking about is white/blue midrange variants with Spell Quellers. I played against Joey Manner during the swiss and not only did he crush me, he continued his rampage all the way into the top eight.
There were not many players piloting this type of deck, but W/U Flash is a great deck and the people playing it all seemed to have successful Constructed results. This version has a lot of the Spirits we have seen before, and while the deck isn't splashing for Collected Company anymore, the power of the deck remains intact. Rattlechains is one of the scariest threats in the format as it can come down at any time, and creatures with flash mean that opponents can't play around countermagic. If the opponent doesn't cast a spell in fear of a counterspell you might just have a flash threat instead.
Any deck with access to white and blue mana should play Spell Queller. This just in, Spell Queller is messed up, especially against Aetherworks Marvel decks. Once a copy of Aetherworks Marvel is exiled with a Spell Queller it can be difficult to kill the Spell Queller to Rescue the spell it has exiled. Spell Queller is at its best against decks that don't have much removal. The Spell Quellers and additional countermagic out of the sideboard are great against any of the combo decks. However, this deck also has plenty of game against other strategies.
While Joey did end up losing to Carlos Romao, Romao actually admitted that the matchup was in Manner's favor; Manner was a bit unlucky to get mana-screwed at critical times. The reason W/U Flash has a reasonable control matchup is the variety of threats it can bring to the table. Many of the creatures can be answered with a one-for-one removal spell, but the deck also has Smuggler's Copter which can be a bit more difficult to answer. When there aren't many actual creatures around, Westvale Abbey can create some extra value, while also making crewing Smuggler's Copter easier.
The real control killer here has to be the Planeswalkers though, more specifically Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Once in play, especially on turn four the control decks pretty much can't beat Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Right now, people aren't playing much removal that can actually kill a Planeswalker. The best way for a control player to answer Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is to counter it, but that isn't really a reliable option. After sideboard Manner has counterspells of his own to try and force through Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. W/U Flash should start seeing much more play, as it was one of the best-performing decks from the Pro Tour.
Control decks ended up stealing the show in the finals of Pro Tour Kaladesh. Carlos Romao went with a white/blue base with a little bit of red.
The signature control card is Torrential Gearhulk, and it's the primary win condition here alongside Archangel Avacyn. Even though a control deck like this is a bit light on threats it is able to draw lots of cards and hold up countermagic, so as to play through spot removal later in the game. Dovin Baan is the Planeswalker Romao has opted to play in the maindeck, and while the card isn't incredibly powerful on its own, the utility it provides is quite important. Romao is playing five sweepers maindeck, and Dovin Baan can plus on an opposing Selfless Spirit to prevent the opponent using it to give their creatures indestructability, which certainly can come up.
With all the sweepers and spot removal, Romao has a positive matchup against aggressive decks while also being able to dominate Aetherworks Marvel, as we saw when he squared off against Matt Nass. The red splash allows Romao to play Harnessed Lightning and Radiant Flames, the most important sweeper in the format. He is playing some maindeck countermagic, and the two Summary Dismissals are good against the emerge decks or any other decks trying to benefit off Eldrazi cast triggers.
Romao's Jeskai Control deck was one of the best decks of the tournament, but in the end Shota Yasooka's Grixis Control deck was the control deck the entire community watched with awe. On paper I like the deck Romao played more than Yasooka's, but watching Yasooka play his deck was truly a delight.
We see both Romao and Yasooka playing four copies of Glimmer of Genius as a way to refuel, and provide instant speed card draw that can be replayed with Torrential Gearhulk. Gimmer of Genius might be the most obvious card draw spell, but Yasooka didn't stop there. This is a man who loves drawing cards, as evidenced by a whopping three maindeck Painful Truths. While sometimes you don't have the necessary time or life vs aggro to cast Painful Truths, there are other matchups where the card really shines, like against other control decks. Rather than Archangel Avacyn, Thing in the Ice as a win condition here, which Yasooka can flip relatively easily. A two-mana investment in a win condition is pretty special.
When Yasooka was asked about his deck he basically said "don't try this at home." It is clear that the deck isn't easy to play and is tuned for him and him alone to pilot. The various singletons and sideboard options can make it difficult to realize exactly what to put in the deck for a specific matchup. The four Galvanic Bombardments help show respect for the fast decks of the format, but Yasooka only has two sweepers in the maindeck, compared to the five Romao has. It is clear that the number of each spell and land in the deck were carefully thought out, and this type of delicate balance is what makes a great control deck.
Torrential Gearhulk has quickly shot up in price in accordance to the shift towards control decks becoming more popular. The control decks are strong right now, but there is one major issue with playing them: the mirror match. Control mirrors aren't easy, as we saw in the finals, and can even come down to decking. Keeping this in mind it is important to have a plan for finishing games in a timely fashion. My advice is to get in a good amount of practice, so as to be able to play a control deck as swiftly as possible.
Control decks were the star of the show, but there were some decks that ended up not performing up to expectations. Temur Aetherworks was one of these decks, and so was B/R Aggro. B/R Aggro was expected to do well, but there was only one copy of the deck in the Top 64.
The deck is a classic combination of removal and good creatures. Unlicensed Disintegration is arguably the best removal spell in the format, and Fiery Temper works great with the madness outlets here. Part of the issue with the deck though is there aren't that many actual creatures, so with seven vehicles it can be hard to crew the vehicles at times. This deck does want to curve out with a one drop into a two drop, and go from there, but when the deck does not curve out sometimes the cards aren't quite powerful enough to compete in the lategame with some of the other decks in the format.
After Inventor's Apprentice there is also Bomat Courier, as a one drop. Bomat Courier being a madness outlet is nice, and Key to the City helps make sure it gets to attack each turn. Then, later in the game sacrificing Bomat Courier to refuel is pretty nice. This is one of those archetypes that feels like it could have done a bit better, but was clearly on the radar in a big way. Unlike W/R Vehicles, B/R Aggro doesn't have access to as many Planeswalkers, which hurts the control matchup. I do like Baumeister's particular list though, as there are a full four Chandra, Torch of Defiance in the sideboard.
Thanks for reading,