Last Wednesday's emergency ban of Felidar Guardian led into the release weekend—the apropos "Draft Weekend" for most of us—of Amonket, and the first Constructed events with the correct format.
With just two days to prep, players largely adapted and updated the previous second-but-now-obvious-first-best deck of the format: Mardu Vehicles. It's the rest of the Amonkhet story that you should look for.
Recent history demonstrates a consistent track of format evolution: The first weekend sees safe, smart, mostly-polished existing decks take the lead. Perhaps Aetherwork Marvel or Saheeli Rai show up, but it's venerable contenders taking the lead. Then, the Pro Tour happens. Any tech players and teams fine, and decks that attack the format from powerful-yet-unexpected angles, and the rough-edged new decks get honed to a truly cutting edge appear.
It's awesome to see the evolution.
The first tournaments—weekend paper and weekly Magic Online alike—are vital to establishing baselines and expectations. Pro Tours encourage every effort to crack new ground. The fallout pits known decks against newcomers, and opens the opportunity for even more to appear once the format "stabilizes" post-Pro Tour.
This wave of top-selling cards is just the start of where the format goes next. Buckle up and find the potential waiting for you.
#10: Plague Belcher
Zombies were coming back with Amonkhet, and one of my previews was built to be a piece of the Standard pie. Plague Belcher gives Zombie decks reach, evasion and an efficient threat—assuming you have something to put -1/-1 counters on. Zac Caudillo piled the Zombies up in a Top 16 pass over the weekend, giving us a draft of what Zombies look like in Standard today.
#9: Cast Out
Cast Out cycles and answers most permanents at instant speed. There are plenty of control tools in Amonkhet, clearly queuing up a decidedly non-aggressive deck as an option. Matthrew Wright also scored a Top 16 finish, putting a playset of the uncommon alongside staples like Torrential Gearhulk and Glimmer of Genius.
Get your Islands ready.
#8: Dread Wanderer
Dread Wanderer looks like a Zombie card, albeit with the sweet new Jackal creature subtype. What it's also is an efficient one-drop that can come back again and again, assuming you put a little set up in place. Caleb Scherer notched a Top 8 with mono-black, putting all of the best aggressive cards together—Scrapheap Scrounger and Walking Ballista are still good in general—with removal to keep the path clear.
#7: Sweltering Suns
Cards like Sweltering Suns are usually harder to use. Anger of the Gods is excellent when it's good, but awful when it's not. Sweltering Suns, slotting in as a sideboard and niche answer in Jeskai Control decks (see Cast Out above), comes with cycling to ensure it's never dead.
As pros will be repeating throughout Amonkhet block: Cycling is not a reason to run a card. But for a control deck looking for answers, a somewhat Wrath of God against aggressive decks is a good enough reason to run it—cycling just makes it even better.
#6: Anointed Procession
Anointed Procession wasn't in any top-performing decks from the weekend. Not Standard. Not Modern. Not, well, anything competitive.
It's also exactly the kind of card you'll need for playing more social and entertaining decks. I covered why it, and many other cards, make Amonkhet good for Commander but that's not all. Parallel Lives is a staple from Innistrad that won't go away since tokens are a beloved trope for "casual" decks. Anointed Procession is the exact same card in white. It's redundancy for token decks with white and green, as well as a new angle for mono-white token options.
This is not a card to sit on: Parallel Lives is as far from bulk and Anointed Procession will be too.
#5: Never // Return
Paper wasn't the only place to battle Standard Amonkhet over the weekend: A Magic Online PTQ fired as well and put more new directions on display. Black-Green Energy was a small player before Amonkhet hit, and it's making a comeback thanks to new tools like Never // Return.
As a sorcery, Never // Return wasn't going to be an answer to Saheeli Rai combo decks. As a general tool to kill Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and obnoxious creatures it's excellent. Good removal can make or break a deck, and Never // Return is closer to useful than not. How useful remains to be seen.
#4: Commit // Memory
Cards like Commit // Memory have shifted in evaluation. The front half of this aftermath card functions like removal or a Counterspell, though it's really just a delay. The back half resets hands, or gasses you up again if you need it.
And, in this case, it also plays nice with Torrential Gearhulk.
@MjDailey As long as at least one half is an instant, you can cast either half.ó Matt Tabak (@TabakRules) April 3, 2017
Whether it's a more controlling angle, or a way to beef up the spell-heavy and newly revived Temur Tower, opportunity to see what Commit // Memory is all about showed up in the Magic Online PTQ. Choose your weapon.
#3: Pull from Tomorrow
Remember Sphinx's Revelation? Underpinning the control deck of the format, it gained like and reloaded hands in the end step throughout its Standard career. Pull from Tomorrow doesn't gain you life, but it does put something you like want into the graveyard. In a format with delirium, aftermath and Zombie cards, that "discard a card" downside just keeps this from being cast for X=2 or 3.
Again, check out the Jeskai Control list with Cast Out above to see it cementing its position in control.
Oh. An early Counterspell that also cycles? While it's "worse" than Miscalculation, it's still a very good card for anyone looking to take control in Standard. Again, cycling along isn't a reason to run a card but nailing Heart of Kiran or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar on the curve is an absolute beating. Later, it conveniently cycles away if needed.
This is another element in any early control deck, and expect this to hang around blue decks for as long as its in Standard.
#1: Cut // Ribbons
Where has all the Mardu Vehicle tech been? Many of the cards that make that deck great are from previous sets. Bluntly put: Vehicles decks didn't want or need new cards, mana massaging with Canyon Slough aside.
Cut // Ribbons is a little different.
Four damage is enough to kill most creatures, though being a sorcery means it isn't quite the best answer. What it leaves behind, however, is far more dangerous. The aftermath side of Cut // Ribbons is effectively a Blaze. A bad Fireball is still a great way to kill opponents late in the game.
Giving one of the known great decks of the format additional reach (Read: Another threat for every deck to deal with.) means the deck everyone had now gets a card that makes it betteróand explains why it took all the way to the end to see the winning Mardu list:
Check out the all the decks from the weekend, both paper and Magic Online PTQ, to see the beginning of the new format.
PS: Temur Marvel won the PTQ. So there's that too. Let's see what the next week of the format does.