Wilson Hunter made a strong run at the Top 8 at Pro Tour Ixalan, picking up eight wins with his Mono-White Vampires deck. Although he ultimately fell short, he gave us all a timely reminder of the power of Oketra's Monument, and gave us cause to dig through the draft chaff box to fish out four copies of Legion Conquistador.
Curving out with Vampire cards can beat down your opponent faster than the Salvatore brothers. The curve starts with one-drops like Duskborne Skymarcher and Legion's Landing, and goes up all the way to the flying anthem effect, Angel of Invention. Adanto Vanguard is a sticky, hard-hitting threat, and Mavren Fein makes it very easy to go wide alongside the Monument itself.
Enchantment interaction is crucial in this deck as it deals with Gods, Planeswalkers, and of course removes big blockers to keep the way clear for all the small things. The sideboard offers plenty of tools to tussle with Temur, most notably the Plague Wind impersonator, Dusk // Dawn. Overall, the pure, unbridled aggression this list offers means you'll be counting up to 20 like it's an episode of Sesame Street!
World Karate Champion Raphael Levy missed his first Pro Tour in a billion squillion years due to the birth of his son, a play which has widely been recognized as characteristically correct. He had planned, however, on getting involved in a bit of a Tour de France - White-Blue Cycling was the list he had intended on bringing along with him. Centered around Drake Haven and various cycling cards in blue and white, this deck is an entirely new take on the format, and powered Raph's friend Eliott Boussaud to an 8-2 finish in Constructed.
There's a lot of talk about this list making appearances at the forthcoming GPs in the lead up to the World Magic Cup. Drake Haven is a powerful win condition that is difficult to interact with, and the consistency offered by a deck with 20 or more cyclers means you won't have too much difficulty enacting your gameplan. The biggest value engine is Abandoned Sarcophagus, letting you cast cards right out of the graveyard.
The deck's weakness against fast aggro is dealt with by the four Sunscourge Champions in the board, and a black splash improves the control matchup with Duress and opens up post-board options like The Scarab God. If you're looking for further coaching then Raph is in a much better position to take you all to cycling class - a full write-up of the deck is already available on TCGPlayer.com.
Seasoned control player Guillaume Matignon made the Top 8 with an Approach of the Second Sun deck – unsurprising, given that he's best mates with Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, and everyone knows that the French Hall of Famer is more of an Island-Tapa than a Wafo-Tapa. In any case, after a stringent preparation process, Matignon snagged his third PT Top 8 – and given that his Worlds win in 2010 essentially counts as a fourth, he may be joining Wafo-Tapa after the ballot next year!
Matignon's Approach deck had a number of important innovations. In the main deck, Harnessed Lightning shored up one of the traditional weaknesses of White-Blue Control – it's very light on early interaction. Secondly, Settle the Wreckage finally had its time to shine, taking people by surprise as an instant-speed Wrath effect. Now that the cat's out of the bag, however, Settle becomes a lot worse - we saw how Manfield was able to play around the card in the quarterfinals due to having Matignon's decklist. It may be time to revert to Fumigate, at least in some number.
There's some spice in the sideboard, too – in a format overrun by Negate, control decks have a much tougher time post-board. The solution? A Negate-proof creature package! Baral is an insanely strong two-drop once all those Fatal Pushes are gone, and your opponent is going to look pretty silly when The Locust God comes down against a hand full of Negates and Spell Pierces. Board out Approach and call down a plague of Locusts – easy game, mate!
Hall of Famer Willy Edel and his crew of Brazilians came to Albuquerque with a spicy one - Green-White Bulk Rares! We haven't seen a deck like this for a long, long time, and there may be a lot of potential for this strategy to develop. Willy himself said that this deck could be improved, but with a 60% win rate there's obviously meat on these bones. Let's have a look and see what's going on here!
This deck is incredibly low to the ground, kicking things off with Legion's Landing and topping off the curve with Oketra the True. In between, it's good, honest, little-kid Magic with cards like Resilient Khenra and Kinjalli's Sunwing – and the go-wide strategy has a huge payoff with Appeal // Authority. Mana flood, a traditional weakness of aggro decks, is mitigated very effectively by cards like Oketra as well as Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter.
So, what's the problem? Well, this deck isn't as fast as Ramunap Red, and doesn't go as big as Temur. Its strengths lie in being an aggro deck that can grind like a champion, and to that end I'd like to see the late game bolstered by things like further life gain and some more evasive threats. Angel of Invention might be a worthy addition, or perhaps Glory-Bound Initiate. We never saw Limited bomb Pride Sovereign make a splash in Standard – given we already have a bunch of Cats, maybe the Lion King could reclaim his crown?
- Riley Knight