The Top 8 of Pro Tour: Paris has been set, and the finals are set to play later today. In the mean time however, we have eight new decklists to analyze and drool over! I've been losing a lot of interest in Standard lately with Extended being the current Constructed PTQ season and Standard feeling a bit stale, but it appears as if Mirrodin Beseiged (and the full force of MTG pros working on the format) have shown that I was wrong. Without further ado, here are some interesting (at least I find them interesting!) lists of the Top 8*:
*All of the following analysis is of the "Top 8 decks," not the best-performing Standard decks of the weekend. Once the best-performing decklists from the Standard portion alone are released, more useful analysis can be done!
Top 10 Nonbasic Lands:
19 Tectonic Edge
16 Celestial Colonnade
16 Glacial Fortress
16 Seachrome Coast
13 Scalding Tarn
10 Arid Mesa
9 Marsh Flats
4 Razorverge Thicket
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Creeping Tar Pit
Top 10 Nonland Maindeck Cards:
24 Squadron Hawk
22 Stoneforge Mystic
18 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
12 Day of Judgment
11 Spell Pierce
10 Mana Leak
9 Mirran Crusader
9 Journey to Nowhere
8 Goblin Guide
8 Steppe Lynx
8 Gideon Jura
Top 10 Combined Maindeck & Sideboard:
28 Squadron Hawk
22 Stoneforge Mystic
19 Tectonic Edge
18 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
16 Celestial Colonnade
16 Glacial Fortress
16 Seachrome Coast
...and so on.
A few interesting points of note:
1. Squadron Hawk is everywhere. Six of the 8 decks played 4 maindeck copies, and a seventh played a full playset in the sideboard. The only deck eschewing the maximum copies of the card in its 75 is Patrick Chapin's Grixis-colored Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas Control.
2. Stoneforge Mystic is the other piece of the "Squadron Hawk package." Stoneforge Mystic has seen cross-format play and has been the staple of White Aggro, but this weekend has shown it to be a force in Blue-based Control strategies as well. The threat of an unending stream of 1/1 flyers, boosted by mostly by Sword of Body and Mind or Sword of Feast and Famine, is too powerful to ignore. In fact, every single deck that played Squadron Hawk also played Stoneforge Mystic (once again, notably absent is Patrick Chapin).
That was in response to Sword of Feast and Famine first being spoiled and of fitting it with Squadron Hawk. I very clearly missed the awesomeness of Sword of Body and Mind as well in that package. Other equipment of note from the tournament was Bonehoard, Sylvok Lifestaff, and Adventuring Gear. Notably absent, except for a single copy, is Extended Stoneforge Mystic staple, Basilisk Collar. With its best friends Inferno Titan and Cunning Sparkmage still in the format, I wonder if this omission is incorrect.
4. Black and Green are almost completely absent. Green shows up in G/W Quest, most notably with Fauna Shaman and Vengevine. Black (and its most notorious new addition, Go for the Throat) can only be found in the single Grixis Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas deck. There were no basic Swamps, no Grave Titans, no Black Sun's Zeniths. There were no Green Sun's Zeniths, no Primeval Titans, and no Vampires.
5. Rather than looking at a Top 8 full of 32 Jace, the Mind Sculptor, we're looking at one with 28 Squadron Hawk. That's not to say the Big Blue Planeswalker was nowhere to be found, but it was present in "just" 18 slots (including 1 in the Sideboard). The real loser of the format would appear to be Jace Beleren, who was nowhere to be seen, with not a single copy of Baby Jace (lol MTV) anywhere to be found in the entire Top 8! Something had to clear out to make room for all of the Squadron Hawks, Stoneforge Mystic and equipment, and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas.
6. On Counterspells: This format has quite a few, but they're very situational. The Top 8 decks played a combined total of 11 Spell Pierce, 10 Mana Leak, 6 Flashfreeze, 6 Stoic Rebuttal, 3 Deprive, and 1 Negate. Hard counters are obviously hard to come by, but players continue to be split on Spell Pierce versus Mana Leak. In my own testing, I've found Spell Pierce to be an upgrade in most situations. It's lost the surprise factor that it had circa Worlds 2010, but with Mana Leak already so hard to use effectively in the Aggro matchups, having a Counterspell effect at U is so valuable (Remember how much more fun Control was to play with when Force Spike was around?).
7. On removal: There isn't much spot removal in the format. Journey to Nowhere (if Jace, the Mind Sculptor's Unsummon is exempted) is the go-to removal spell in the Top 8, and it's a pretty versatile one at that. Gideon Jura is next on the list, followed by Lightning Bolt, Tumble Magnet, Cunning Sparkmage, and others. Again, no Go for the Throat shouldn't be a strike against the card, as it's worth noting that the only artifact creature in the Top 8 is a singleton Wurmcoil Engine. Other removal of note is Oust and Condemn, again cementing White as the top color in the format alongside Blue.
7b. On mass removal: Day of Judgement, Ratchet Bomb, Pyroclasm, and Slagstorm, in that order, both in terms of most-played-to-least-played and most-powerful-to-least-powerful. Slagstorm is a nice effect in theory, and in a Big Red or U/R Control deck, for example, it might be able to supplement Pyroclasm nicely, but Pyroclasm is still going to be the board sweeper of choice for Red for the foreseeable future. The 3- versus 2-damage difference isn't highly relevant in most situations, and costing 1R versus 1RR is extremely relevant with the makeup of Standard Aggro decks today. Midrange decks are noticeably absent from the format, so so-called "Swarm" Aggro is what board sweepers most need to control.
8. Tectonic Edge may be to explain for the lack of expensive spells in the format. Look at every card in the Top 8. Of the entire 480 cards, the only cards costing 5 mana or more are Gideon Jura (8 copies), Baneslayer Angel (6 copies), Argentum Armor (2 copies, though a special case), Sun Titan (2 copies), and a singleton copy each of Wurmcoil Engine, Mindslaver, and Venser the Sojourner.
9. Half of the decks played Baneslayer Angel (obviously including 4 of the 7 playing White), though it was always in 1-of or 2-of spots.
10. On Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas: Here's Patrick Chapin's Top 8 decklist:
What. A. Cool. Deck.
First, the obvious: this is a very land-light deck. 22 lands, 3 of which are Tectonic Edge, would signal a deck that doesn't have much use for mana, but dig a little deeper. At first, 3 lands is the sweet spot, and with 22 lands + 4 Preordain + 2 Mox Opal should play as a deck with closer to 25 or 26 lands than the 22 at first glance. And then you have to consider the rest of the artifact mana acceleration, 4 Everflowing Chalice and 3 Sphere of the Suns, as contributing to a deck that's actually got a deceptively large amount of mana and can be a little loose with its lands (hence the Tectonic Edges, and also note that Prophetic Prism gives quite a lot of flexibility in crafting the mana base.
In all, roughly 35 cards of the deck either make mana or filter mana, and that doesn't include the 4 Preordain to dig for early lands if necessary.
I'm sure the deck just kills with Tezzeret and Creeping Tar Pit (or just Jace, the Mind Sculptor) the majority of the time, but it has a high-end of Wurmcoil Engine or Mindslaver. I think it's noteworthy that this deck is very resilient against Go for the Throat.
The Red splash is for Galvanic Blast, Pyroclasm, and Slagstorm, as well as a Kuldotha Rebirth (to provide 3 quick, cheap blockers against Aggro). Clearly the team behind the deck thought that Disfigure, Infest, and the rest of the Black removal suite was not good enough and/or the Red easy enough to add. Pyroclasm is an extremely effective spell, but I wonder how necessary a splash really is. The deck plays no Swamps, but actually has more Black sources than Red (4 Creeping Tar Pit + 3 Darkslick Shores + 1 Blackcleave Cliffs versus 1 Blackcleave Cliffs + 2 Mountain + 4 Scalding Tarn, or 8 > 7.
I'm very curious to see any other takes on this particular archetype in particular as more decklists are revealed.
Top 8 Bracket and Predictions:
In the Quarterfinals, we have the following:
1. Vincent Lemoine (Boros) versus
8. Shintaro Ishimura (UW Control/)
4. Patrick Chapin (Tezzeret) versus
5. Paul Rietzl (Boros)
2. Nico Bohny (GW Quest) versus
7. Naoki Nakada (UW Control)
3. Ben Stark (UW Control) versus
6. Tom Martell (UW Control)
The 1-8 Matchup features Vincent Lemoine with Boros against Shintaro Ishimura with a very aggressive UW Control.
Vincent Lemoine, PT Paris Top 8
Shintaro Ishimura, PT Paris Top 8
Mirran Crusader is going to be a pretty dud card for both decks unless it can get a [card Sword of Body and Mind]Sword of Something[/card] or [card Sword of Feast and Famine]Something Else[/card] on it as a 4/4 Double striker. Black removal is nowhere to be found and Green is just half of a single deck in the entire Top 8. In this matchup, they'll play a very secondary role to other cards available.
Sideboarding sees Lemoine gain access to Luminarch Ascension, an additional Sword of Feast and Famine, and Koth of the Hammer. I'm unsure if Mark of Mutiny would come in or not, as well as the exact sideboarding plan for either player. These are all clearly just exploring the possible options.
Ishimura gets to add on any of Baneslayer Angels, Celestial Purge, Flashfreeze, Kor Sanctifiers, Ratchet Bomb, Squadron Hawks, and Sea Gate Oracle to replace things like Mirran Crusader, Mana Leak, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
Overall the edge would appear to go to Shintaro Ishimura. Lemoine's plan with Luminarch Ascension would appear to be his go-to against UW Control, but Squadron Hawk and Student of Warfare combine to make that pretty ineffective against the UW deck here. Ishimura plays zero Day of Judgment, but has 4 Oust, 2 Journey to Nowhere, and 3 Ratchet Bomb after boarding. He appears to have enough answers at his disposal to make it to Baneslayer Angel mana.
Prediction: Shintaro Ishimura in 5 games.
Patrick Chapin, PT Paris Top 8
Paul Rietzl, PT Paris Top 8
This is going to be a very difficult matchup for Patrick Chapin.
Postboard, Paul Reitzl gets to replace his relatively ineffective Mirran Crusaders and perhaps Spikeshot Elder to bring in 3 Kor Firewalker and perhaps a Koth of the Hammer. Chapin has access to just 2 Stoic Rebuttal (probably getting boarded out) and 1 Flashfreeze as countermagic here, and no good ways to remove Koth of the Hammer on 4 Loyalty without Metalcraft and Galvanic Blast.
Prediction: Paul Rietzl in 4 games.
Nico Bohny, PT Paris Top 8
Naoki Nakada, PT Paris Top 8
In what might be the most interesting of the Top 8 Quarterfinal matchupss, Naoki Nakada's UW Control faces off against Nico Bohny's GW Quest deck.
It's curious that Bohny only has access to a single Stoneforge Mystic, and with it can get a single Sword of Body and Mind (as well as an unlikely-to-be-relevant Argentum Armor). The key cards for Bohny will obviously be Fauna Shaman and Vengevine, and he doesn't get much to add to that list postboard. Leonin Relic-Warder may come in to protect against Stoneforge Mystic, but that's about it. Bohny may also like to have access to a Baneslayer Angel. Otherwise, all of the postboard help will go to Nakada, who gets to add a pair of Condemn, a Ratchet Bomb, Kor Sanctifiers, and Revoke Existence. Though I'm unsure if he'll board in the whole package of artifact/enchantment removal, it's certainly a possibility.
Naoki Nakada's removal suite of 2 Gideon Jura, 4 Day of Judgment, 2 Journey to Nowhere, and 1 Into the Roil (plus 2 Tumble Magnet and, postboard, 1 Ratchet Bomb) seems pretty insurmountable here for Nico Bohny. However, it'll likely come down to a Quest for the Holy Relic nut draw and/or Vengevine variance to determine who will win this match. That being said, Nakada should have the clear edge.
Prediction: Naoki Nakada in 4 games.
Tom Martell, PT Paris Top 8
Ben Stark, PT Paris Top 8
Notice something? Yeah, they're almost the exact same 75 for a true mirror match. Martell has 2 Elspeth Tirel where Stark has 1 Baneslayer Angel and 1 Negate. It should be an entertaining matchup, though the matchup commentary is a little lacking. I imagine both players will have the same sideboard plan as well. The Caw Go deck both players brought looks pretty well pre-sideboarded for against the Control matchup, featuring 4 Oust and 3 Ratchet Bomb in the sideboard. Sword of Body and Mind will most likely come in for both players, as well as perhaps some combination of Baneslayer Angel and/or Elspeth Tirel. The singleton Negate obviously comes in for Stark. It will be interesting to see how that goes.
Prediction: Flip a coin. Ben Stark in 5 if pressed.
If you're keeping track at home, that would leave the Semifinals as UW Control v Boros and UW Control v UW Control.
If I had to speculate from there, I would bank on Paul Reitzl prevailing with his Boros deck against the winner of Ben Stark & Tom Martell's QF mirror match in the Finals. Anything can happen, though 🙂
Thank you so much for reading. I hope you're watching as I do when the Top 8 is broadcast live today!
Kinarus on MTGO