I’m writing this after Pro Tour – Avacyn Restored has finished and is in the books. It’s astonishing to me, but an ally-colored control deck using miracles won the whole thing. Going into the event, I was sure that none of those three components would be possible, but here we are. The first look at the format will obviously be to look at the Pro Tour winner’s list:
Miracle Whip by Alexander Hayne
First off, this deck just looks fun. Mostly because it’s different from anything the rest of the format was doing previously, which was all beatdown or removal-based control. This is a different type of control, relying instead on drawing very cheap miracle threats to both control the board and eventually win you the game with a few Entreat the Angels tokens. This deck is obviously stronger than it first appears – it won a Pro Tour, after all – but it takes a lot of finesse to play. Alex Hayne, though new to the Pro Tour, is an extremely talented magician. I expect a lot of people will just digitally sleeve this puppy up without respecting exactly how to budget their draw spells and whether to tap out or hope for an opponent’s-turn miracle.
Another thing that looks crazy is the sideboard. How exactly does it work? What do I take out, and is Angels Mercy really the best answer to hyper aggressive decks that could be found? It’ll take me more than a couple of games to figure out how to board correctly.
Geists by Gaudenis Vidugiris
The deck that impressed me the second-most was, appropriately, the deck that placed second at the Pro Tour. This deck, piloted by various SCG Black Team personae, looks to have all the blowout potential and un-interactivity of the traditional Blue-Red Invisible Stalker decks but without compromising your ability to compete in the long game thanks to the giant threat of soulbond.
It’s surprising to me that this deck doesn’t play Tamiyo, but I guess Garruk gives the deck sufficient push that you don’t need a 5-mana version to get through with your large creatures. To be fair, it’s not actually that surprising; I just love Tamiyo.
One of the cutest interactions in the deck by far is Wolfir Silverheart or Increasing Savagery coupled with Tree of Redemption. Due to how state-based effects work, the Tree switches its current enhanced toughness with your life total, which becomes the Tree’s new base toughness, and then the pump applies to the new toughness. So, in plain English, it’s a very slow and effective life gain engine that gains you a ton of inevitability against the green aggro decks of the format.
This deck will probably see vastly more play than Hayne’s list online, mainly due to the ease with which you can play threats and have them jump you to victory. Invisible Stalker, Spectral Flight, Wolfir Silverheart, GG?
The other two big decks I want to talk about are both GW-based decks from the other two teams at the tournament: ChannelFireball’s GW Humans deck and SCG Blue’s Naya Aggro.
GW by Shuhei Nakamura
Naya by Josh Cho
First off, let’s talk about ChannelFireball. For the first time in two-plus years, they didn’t put a player into the Top 8! However, their players (LSV, Conley, Kibler) are still immensely popular, and their deck will see tons of play online, so prepare for it. The GW deck has some very scary starts with Mayor of Avabruck and Silverblade Paladin as well as Restoration Angel to protect their threats and re-soulbond at a whim. However, the deck has next to no removal; Fiend Hunters and combat is what ChannelFireball was relying on.
…Which is a large part of the reason I favor SCG Blue’s Naya deck over it. I was already Huntmaster of the Fells‘ biggest fan before Avacyn Restored hit the shelf, and Cavern of Souls makes playing a three-color aggro deck with him much more viable. The main addition that impressed me, though, was Bonfire of the Damned. So many times while I was watching PT coverage, I would think, “Well, this Naya deck is just dead in the water; there’s no card that lets him recover from this,” and they would just slam a Bonfire off the top and swing in for lethal. Talk about a blowout.
Now, most reanimator decks in the tournament come in two varieties: standard run-of-the-mill ‘Reanimate my best guy and smash face’ decks using Griselbrand or Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, and the crazier ‘go all-in on humans and reanimate my Angel of Glorys Rise to go over the top’.
Fatty Reanimator by Robert Jurkovic
The first is the easiest to evaluate. It plays a lot like (well, really nothing like) Legacy Reanimator. You cycle through your deck with Mulch and Faithless Looting to dump a nigh-unbeatable fatty in your graveyard, then reanimate it with either half of Unburial Rites. The two fatties in question are Griselbrand, which instantly stabilizes the board against aggro and helps you refill your hand, and Gisela, which provides a comfy clock against aggro and also kind of kills them in two hits.
The thing I like about this deck is how efficient its path to victory is. You use cheap burn spells like Burning Oil and Pillar of Flame to stay alive against the format’s many weenies in the early game. In the mid game, you drop some Huntmasters to pad your life total a little, and maybe add some additional board control if you can afford to not cast spells. All throughout this, you are cycling through your deck finding the two cards that will all but win you the game when they come into play.
Though, like every four-color deck in existence, this deck suffers from inconsistency problems. There will also be those awkward times where you run out of dig and have to settle for reanimating a Huntmaster to add more of a life buffer. But, that’s the price you have to pay for fanciness in Block Constructed.
Glory's Rise Reanimator by Raphael Levy
And in this corner, Raphael Levy* playing his second strange reanimator list in as many Pro Tours! Let’s give Mr. Levy a hand!
This deck takes the main engine of Standard Frites – Mulch, Faithless Looting, Unburial Rites -and pairs it with Angel of Glorys Rise, a win condition coupled with a Patriarchs Bidding naming Humans and a random kick in the gonads to anyone who is still playing Zombies in Block (which is probably no one because of the existence of this deck).
Unlike the first reanimator deck, this one can present an aggressive game while finding its Angel of Glory’s Rise, then reanimating what is essentially an entire army when it finally puts the pieces together. Some versions play Falkenrath Aristocrat for the Fiend Hunter and multiple Glory’s Rise tricks.
(*Ken Yukohiro created a hybrid deck that mixed the two elements of these distinct reanimator decks to make Top 8, so it remains to be seen whether more permutations of reanimator can exist.)
There are still approximately infinite decks coming out of this Pro Tour that I haven’t gone over and I unfortunately don’t have time to write about all of them. Hopefully in the weeks to come, I’ll get to play each and every one of them for you. Avacyn Restored comes out online this week, so my next article will be back to the video format, hopefully with the PT-winning deck, but I’ll likely adapt to whatever the metagame online is at the time.
Hello Goodbye and Good Luck,
Gard on MTGO
@Gardevi on Twitter