Pro Tour Magic Origins is upon us. This weekend, the best Magic players in the world meet in Vancouver to compete in Standard and booster draft. Magic Origins has added dozens of excellent new cards to the Standard cardpool, and they threaten to rewrite the rules of the format. The Standard metagame this evening will look vastly different than it did yesterday, and the Standard decks from the Pro Tour will define the metagame until rotation this fall.
This week, in attempt to predict the Pro Tour’s Standard metagame, I have been playing a lot of Standard on Magic Online, networking, and studying pricing trends. Along the way, I discovered some off-the-radar deck that could have a big impact on the tournament, so today I will explore some potential breakout decks from the Standard portion of Pro Tour Magic Origins.
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound is still very unexplored, but its power is assured. Notable for its low cost, this card offers blue strategies with a proactive, two-mana play that forces the opponent to react, lest it generate an avalanche of card selection and card advantage. I expect a large number of different strategies will incorporate the planeswalker this weekend, from the controlling to the more aggressive, perhaps even with burn spells. The safe money is on Sultai Control, like Robert Vaughan’s SCG Richmond Top 8 deck, as the archetype that best leverages the planeswalker.
Perhaps no card will have a greater impact this weekend than Hangarback Walker. Hangarback Walker is a threatening two-mana play because it can grow bigger as each turn passes, but it’s also a great late-game topdeck because it’s a mana sink with no upper limit. It’s possible that the most successful players this weekend will be those that best take advantage of this powerful new tool.
Hangarback Walker is promising in many different decks, but perhaps no existing archetype is better suited for the card than the UR Ensoul Artifact deck, aka UR Thopters:
This deck craves artifacts, and Hangarback Walker is the perfect fit. It requires a critical mass of artifacts in play to take advantage of its synergies, so Hangarback Walker fuels the deck in many ways. Ensoul Artifact and Shrapnel Blast require artifacts, and either Hangarback Walker or its tokens are great candidates.
Chief of the Foundry is an anthem effect for artifacts, so any Thopter tokens will hit extra hard.
Whirler Rogue may be a bit surprising, but the card is powerful in a format of targeted removal spells, and the unblockable ability is relevant in an aggressive deck. I might also also expect to see Pia and Kira Nalaar in versions skewed towards red mana.
I encountered this GW Hardened Scales deck this week on Magic Online and was wholly impressed, and I expect it to have a breakthrough performance at the Pro Tour:
This deck takes full advantage of Hangarback Walker by abusing its interactions with Hardened Scales and Citadel Siege. Hardened Scales puts an extra +1/1 counter on each creature that would get one, so Hangarback Walker will enter play one +1/+1 larger, and any activations will add two counters rather than one. Citadel Siege adds two +1/+1 counters on a creature, three with Hardened Scales in play, including Hangarback Walker, which will make even more creatures when it dies.
Turning these synergies into a well-polished and effective entity is a big challenge, but this decklist seems to have accomplished that. The rest of the list is filled with aggressive creatures that will gladly accept counters from Citadel Siege, and creatures that have +1/+1 counters themselves to abuse Hardened Scales. Servant of the Scale is particularly interesting because with Hardened Scales it will enter play as a 2/2, and then add three +1/+1 counters when it dies. Managorger Hydra, Den Protector, and even Fleecemane Lion also benefit from Hardened Scales. Avatar of the Resolute has potential to enter play as an exceedingly large creature on the right board state.
Monoblue Devotion has had serious potential since Shorecrasher Elemental was printed, and early innovations with Collected Company were promising, but the deck has fallen flat competitively. Magic Origins may have given the archetype exactly what it needs to compete with two new tools, Harbinger of the Tides and Faerie Miscreant.
Harbinger of the Tides is a two drop, which the deck sorely needed, and a UU at that, meaning it’s great with the devotion cards. Not only is this card great on curve up to a devotion play, it’s great later in the game as a tempo play and source of disruption.
Another addition to the archetype is Faerie Miscreant. This card would be unspectacular, but this archetype requires one-mana blue creatures to work, and current offerings are lackluster. Faerie Miscreant offers some hope of card advantage, but consider the interaction with Collected Company. With Collected Company providing the ability to dig deep into the deck, Faerie Miscreant can potentially draw several extra cards and fuel this deck’s aggression. From an empty board state, Collected Company into two Faerie Miscreant will yield two “Draw a card” triggers. It’s these sort of subtle but powerful additions that can bring a deck from tier two to tier one in the blink of an eye, so this is another archetype I’ll have my eyes on this weekend.
Green midrange may have to reinvent itself in order to find success this weekend. It has plenty of new tools for the job, including Woodland Bellower and Nissa, Vastwood Seer // Nissa, Sage Animist. Look for these cards in green control decks that look to overpower opponents in the attrition war with their loads of card advantage. Here's an early example from MTGO.
It's shaping up to be a very interesting weekend. Hangarback Walker looks like it might be the defining card of the format, especially considering the raw power of the GW deck above. Coverage of Standard will start mid afternoon / early evening depending on where in the country you are, so be sure to tune in and keep up!