I've crunched all the numbers, analyzed all the data, and today I'm going to direct you to exactly which deck you should play from the 30 Regional PTQ results, with advice specifically tailored to your temperament.

Whatever your preference, let me direct you to the best deck for you to play this weekend.

The Three Tried and True Tier 1 Decks

Among the tier 1 decks, Esper has the least amount of variation. Nearly every Esper Dragons deck is identical. Red Aggro is next with 70% of the lists splashing for Atarka's Command and the other 30% being straight red. Abzan has the most variation. Abzan Aggro's most distinct feature is the presence of Rakshasa Deathdealer, though it's also usually the only one to run Anafenza, the Foremost or Warden of the First Tree. Abzan Control runs Elspeth, Sun's Champion maindeck and sometimes Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or Liliana Vess, and it usually runs some number of End Hostilities. Abzan Megamorph's distinct inclusion is Deathmist Raptor alongside Den Protector as the deck's main card advantage engine, though Den Protector is sometimes found by itself in Abzan Control just as a value card.

 

#1 Esper Dragons

There were 50 total copies of Esper Dragons that made the Top 8 across all 30 Regional PTQs. I can guarantee with near certainty you will play against at least one player playing a list that is within 5 cards of the stock Esper list.

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Cheon's list has a small handful of innovations. Splitting the six-drop slot between Dragonlord Silumgar and Silumgar, the Drifting Death offers some options for Haven of the Spirit Dragon. Hero's Downfall ranges from 2 to 4 copies in most lists. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver was tech that originated with Josh Utter-Leyton wanting an extra card for the Bant matchup and Alex Hayne winning GP Krakow with it. It worked out so well that Cheon added a second copy. Perilous Vault is another card that is showing up in sideboards of Esper Dragons that was not present in previous weeks. Overall, I expect this deck to remain relatively stable in form, undergoing only slight changes to adapt to the changing metagame. If your opponent is on Esper Dragons, you should know approximately 70 of their 75 cards. It is one of the three strongest decks in the format right now, alongside Red Aggro and Abzan.

#2 Red Aggro

Of the 48 copies of Red Aggro that made Top 8 across the 30 Regional PTQs, 35 splashed green for Atarka's Command while 13 remained mono red. These two lists are each relatively stable. Some run a singleton Frenzied Goblin while others run an extra Goblin Rabblemaster, Goblin Heelcutter, or Lightning Berserker. One list ran a singleton Titan's Strength while most instead run a singleton Become Immense. One list from Tokyo also ran Dragon Whisperer over Hordeling Outburst and Twin Bolt over Searing Blood.

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#3 Abzan

Of the 66 Abzan decks that made Top 8, 26 were Aggro, 19 were Control, and 11 were Megamorph. The Aggro versions mostly looked like the version Brad Nelson played at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, sometimes with a small handful of tech cards ranging from Whip of Erebos to Sorin, Solemn Visitor to Ajani, Mentor of Heroes to Foul-Tongue Invocation. The Abzan Control decks are mostly adopting 2-3 Den Protectors just for value, without any Deathmist Raptors. In contrast, the newer Abzan Megamorph variety takes the typical Abzan shell and adds Deathmist Raptors, Whisperwood Elemental, and Mastery of the Unseen. It's essentially an updated version of the Abzan Mastery deck I played at Grand Prix Miami, adding two of the most powerful new cards: Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor.

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The Four Tier 2 Decks on the Rise

While Esper Dragons, Red Aggro, and Abzan are the only three archetypes you can for sure expect to face at least once in a tournament, Bant Ojutai is the next most popular deck, placing 15 copies in Top 8's across the 30 Regional PTQs. It's approximately twice as popular as any of the other Tier 2 decks, though only a third as popular as each of the three Tier 1 decks, so maybe the best term to use for classifying it would be the lone Tier 1.5 deck of the format right now. Whatever you want to call it, it was solidly the fourth most common deck to make the elimination rounds this weekend. And much like Esper Dragons, there is not much variation between lists. Nearly everyone is playing at least 70 of the 75 that I played at the Pro Tour or that Sam Pardee played to a Top 8 at Grand Prix Krakow. In other words, you should prepare to face this deck and there is no longer any excuse for being surprised by it.

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The other three Tier 2 decks are: RG Dragons, Sidisi Whip, and GW Collected Company. Between 6 and 7 total copies of each made it to the Top 8 this weekend. Most of the RG Dragons lists look the same, ramping into Goblin Rabblemaster followed by Thunderbreak Regent and Stormbreath Dragon and topped off by Crater's Claws. One list ran Scaleguard Sentinels, but most look like the one listed here. It's a powerful deck that will run you over if you're not prepared for it. Ultimate Price is probably the best card in the format against it.

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Of the 7 Sidisi Whip decks to make Top 8, 2 were the traditional midrange variety but five were based around Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector. The engine is a natural fit for the Sidisi, Brood Tyrant + Satyr Wayfinder shell because both pairs encourage you to play more creatures and both pairs also want cards to be milled into the graveyard. I expect this deck to gain a lot more popularity after this weekend.

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#7 GW Collected Company

The other deck that sort of came out of nowhere as a Tier 2 deck was GW Collected Company. It placed 6 copies in the Top 8, though it was split between the Green-base splashing white and the version that is more of an even split between Green and White. Juan Carlos Adebo Diaz and Daniel Ruiz Martin each made Top 4 in Madrid with the same list, which is very similar to a version I've been having success with in testing. I would not be surprised at all if it had another big showing this weekend.

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The Three Wildest Decks

If you want to play the most finely tuned deck available, then play Esper Dragons, Red Aggro, or Abzan. If you want to play something more cutting edge and on the rise, then play Sultai Megamorph, GW Collected Company, RG Dragons, or Bant Ojutai. If none of these decks are appealing enough for you and you'd rather play something super crazy that is still competitive, I have three decks just for you.

#8 Rally the Ancestors

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Three different Rally the Ancestors decks made it to the Top 8 this weekend. The aim of this deck is to fill up the graveyard for a big Rally the Ancestors. This brings to the battlefield a bunch of creatures with abilities that trigger upon entering the battlefield such as Siege Rhino and Gray Merchant. It also brings back Sidisi, Undead Vizier to tutor for another Rally the Ancestors or whatever else you need to finish off the opponent. Nyx Weaver can likewise get back whatever you want from your graveyard. Mogis's Marauder is also in some lists in order to grant all your regrown creatures haste and intimidate to ensure that you win the game in a single turn. It's truly a Zombie Apocalypse type of deck. All it needs is a capable brain to pilot it. BRAAAAAAINS!!!

#9 Chromantiflayer

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Several members of CFB Pantheon played Chromantiflayer at the Pro Tour. It's not Tier 1 but it's at least competitive enough to qualify Ryan Overturf for the Pro Tour as he made Top 4 with it in Kansas. The goal is to mill a Chromanticore and/or Sagu Mauler into the graveyard and delve it away with Soulflayer. The Backup Plan is to just win with the aforementioned creatures and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. If the Timmy inside you wants nothing more than to bestow a Chromanticore onto a Sagu Mauler, then this is definitely your deck!

#10 Five-Color-Blue Dragon Control

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TCGplayer columnist Michael J Flores is back on the Pro Tour! And to the surprise of exactly no one, he did it by piloting a wacky blue deck filled with card draw, counter-magic, and giant dragons of every color! The basic plan is to out-power all the midrange and control decks in the format, which essentially includes everything except Red Aggro. So for that matchup he has a dedicated sideboard plan that involves bringing in Omenspeaker and Master of Waves, two cards that make it difficult for red decks to attack through for damage with their creatures. If Esper Dragons is too tame for you, why stop at three colors?

What are you going to play?

Now that the metagame is laid out in front of you, which deck are you going to play this weekend? Esper Dragons, Red Aggro, and Abzan have established themselves as the dominant decks of the format, but a handful of Tier 2 decks are on the rise: Bant Ojutai, RG Dragons, Sidisi Megamorph, and GW Collected Company. Which of these seven decks will you take the tournament? Or will you be the player racking up wins in style by Rallying the Ancestors, Soulflaying a Chromanticore, or unleashing every dragon of the color pie? Whatever you decide, remember to have fun!

Craig Wescoe
@Nacatls4Life