What a weekend I just had. Cincinnati was a wild time, almost entirely thanks to the fact I was on my first coverage team, working for Wizards of the Coast to produce the written content you see from every event.
It was an interesting and enjoyable experience. Coming into it with a background in journalism, it was both familiar and entirely new at the same time. I may write an entire article about the experience sometime in the future, but suffice it to say I’m excited to have the opportunity to do it again in the future.
But that’s not what we’re here for. Let’s talk some finance. Being on the floor at the Grand Prix I got to experience quite a bit of the event from the floor, from meeting some QS members and writers, including Sigmund (sorry to everyone that I couldn’t hang out longer, I was running around quite a bit).
Return of the King(s)
The format was Standard, and I’ll get the biggest takeaway from this article out of the way off the bat.
Shocklands are back.
I’m not sure anything has generated more talk in the last 12 months than shocks. And, to be honest, they’re probably going to continue to generate that much talk for a while to come.
The major theme of the weekend was that every deck was splashing, either a second or third color. Mono-Black and Mono-Blue Devotion? No more Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Instead, we now have Hallowed Fountain, Blood Crypt and Godless Shrine.
Here’s something that tells you everything you need to know: dealers were paying $7-8 on most shocklands. The TCGMid price is under $10 for most of these, so that’s a pretty insane price. These things continue to move, and I’m leaning more and more to the opinion that there’s not going to be an appreciable drop-off come rotation.
I’ll likely delve more into the issue next week as we look at the coming Modern season, but I wanted to get this out there. If you still have plenty, feel fine holding them. If you want to invest in them for the long term and don’t think rotation will hurt, feel free to get them now. They’ve clearly bottomed out, at least for their time in Standard, so the upside has to outweigh the downside.
There were certainly some boring decks in the Top 8, and ultimately a boring one in Esper Control won. But don’t be fooled by that, we saw a little more variation than usual.
Of these, Return obviously has the most upside because it’s a mythic. With so many control decks running around, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see this move up some (they can be had for under $), but even still I’m not sure how much upside there is for something narrow like this.
Naya Hexproof isn’t exactly a revelation either, even if it does qualify as rogue, but the other aggressive deck in the Top 4 was a spicy Black-Red Aggro deck. It’s got a good matchup against (actual) Mono-Black, and does okay against the control decks as well.
The most likely targets are Pain Seer and Herald of Torment. Neither are likely to truly break through this season, but I could see something featuring these two cards alongside Tormented Hero being pretty strong out of the gates next season. I’m not sure if either will be the next Desecration Demon like everyone wants, but Herald in particular seems extremely low-risk.
Outside the Top 8 sat the really spicy decks. I saw plenty of green and white, including Advent of the Wurm and other brews. Mono-Green Stompy is apparently actually a thing as well, though probably the only card even possibly worth looking at is Nylea, God of the Hunt.
A Merfolk Sighting!
No, there was not a tribal merfolk deck in the room (unfortunately). But there were plenty of Kiora, the Crashing Wave floating around. Several Bant Control decks were all in the top 20, and Kiora proved her worth there even if ultimately they were still just Sphinx's Revelation decks.
I’m pretty confident that Bant isn’t a better control shell than Esper, but it is another home for Courser of Kruphix and shocklands. Maybe even Temple of Mystery is worth looking into, since the power planeswalkers for control next season will be Kiora and Elspeth.
The exciting thing about this deck is that it only plays nine essential maindeck spells that rotate out. Sure, losing Lotleth Troll, Grisly Salvage and Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord hurts quite a bit, but to some extent the latter two are replaceable after a few more sets.
If we’re looking for a place to park trade equity before Journey Into Nyx comes out, this has to be it. This deck is making waves without the advantage of a scryland--the only deck in Standard that has done so.
Again we see Herald of Torment. Nighthowler is a spicy target as well, but nothing tops Shadowborn Demon. Yes, it’s only a two-of, but the other two are in the sideboard and it’s a mythic from M14. Ari Lax, among others, plays this deck well, and I was told over and over that all it was missing to keep it from being Tier 1 was a scryland. I really like this deck moving forward.
I know it’s hard to care about Standard when all we see are Esper mirrors, but there are actually a surprising number of real decks out there, and real targets moving forward. We’re getting closer and closer to Journey into Nyx and a possible shakeup, so act accordingly.
And hopefully it will be you in the Top 8 of the next event I cover.
Thanks for reading,
@Chosler88 on Twitter