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Insider: Adjusting to the Metagame of Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar

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For the dedicated Magic enthusiast, the year is broken up by several significant, paramount moments. The new set release changes everything, the unveiling of a hot new breakout deck changes everything, and the Pro Tour changes everything.

Not every Pro Tour breaks the format with an insane new deck. In fact, most Pro Tours reinforce things people already knew coming into the weekend. What's significant is that after a Pro Tour the various claims being bandied about are firmly cemented as either fact or fiction.

Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar is one of those "cementing things we knew" PTs.

Several Hall of Fame players appeared in the Top 16, alongside others who will certainly be in the Hall of Fame before they are done. A high percentage of the players at the top of the heap were players I would expect to perform, and they were all playing decks I'd expect them to: Jeskai, Abzan, Red, and G/W.

I just got done watching the finals and honestly I don't think the narrative of the event would even change much depending on who won.

Familiar Faces

Various Abzan and Jeskai decks asserted themselves as the format-defining, tier one decks in Standard. Both decks pack a ton of high-powered spells and benefit greatly from an even more consistent manabase thanks to the "Battle" or "Tango" lands.

The strength of these two decks hinges in no small part on the following cards:



Mantis Rider and Siege Rhino are respectively the most powerful three- and four-cost spells in the format. To begin with, their stats are insane for the mana cost. But secondly, even the mere casting of them can turn games around--both deal damage immediately and play defense and offense simultaneously.

I've been preaching these two cards as fantastic pickups since I started writing here on QS. Next month should yield a nice payoff as players scurry to build whichever deck caught their eye. Note that many players wait until after the Pro Tour to invest in a deck because they want their purchase to be rubber-stamped by the pros.

Also, it's worth noting that both of these cards help break through opposing Hangarback Walkers. Hangarback Walker, for its part, is still clinging to a $15 price tag immediately after its reprint. Hold on to those Walkers! They will be expensive at some point in their Modern career.

Gideon

The biggest card of the tournament, without a doubt, was Gideon.


Gideon had crossover success, appearing in both the Jeskai and Abzan decks--and almost always as a four-of. A lot of people are going to need a lot of Gideons...

The card already has a hefty price tag but I expect it to continue to climb as it becomes more difficult to acquire copies. It isn't exactly a surprise that the card turns out to be fantastic. Everybody who has ever cast it in Standard pretty much sang its praises--but this event cements the fact that roughly half the decks will be playing four moving forward.

Gideon will be around for another two years, and it's likely to define the format that entire time. This leads me to believe it's a buy right now despite the high price.

Certainly, if you don't own your playset I would prioritize getting in ASAP, because it will continue to climb for the next three or four weeks (unless it spikes really big this week).

Jace


It would be completely irresponsible of me to talk about Standard finance without dedicating a few paragraphs to Jace, the Mind Sculptor version 2.0.

The card is extremely overpowered and provides a ton of value for little investment. In addition, there are very few cards that answer it efficiently. In short, it creates a massive advantage for a tiny cost.

The card is fantastic in basically every format, which makes it relatively safe to pick up since we can assume we'll be able to play it for years. Even if it drops on rotation, play in Modern, Legacy, and yes, even Vintage will help grow the long-term value.

The card has been treading water in the $70-$80 range. With the success of Jeskai at the Pro Tour, it feels like a foregone conclusion it will creep over $100.

It isn't getting any easier to acquire copies of this extremely high-demand staple. Chances are most people are interested in playing Jace in at least one format! And don't even get me started on how good this card is as a Tiny Leaders Commander... (Well, at least until they ban it).

The combination of Gideon, Mantis Rider, and Jace makes me feel like Jeskai is the new Caw Blade. Super efficient threats, an insane planeswalker and cheap instant-speed interaction. The fact that many of the premier players in the tournament opted for Jeskai leads me to believe it will be a popular choice moving forward.

Dragonmaster Outcast


Dragonmaster already gained some ground over the weekend but I think it will continue to trend up. It's a great card with crossover Modern and casual applications.

Don't underestimate the ability of ridiculously popular cards to rebound to their former value after a reprinting. I'm looking at you, Wurmcoil Engine, Oblivion Stone and Hangarback Walker. Dragonmaster will get back to $10 and stay there before you know it.

Fetchlands


It is also quite clear that the format is defined by the fetchland manabases. Not only do they make it possible to play three or four colors with ease, but they also quickly fill up the graveyard for delve spells.

It is basically impossible to play any constructed format without owning fetchlands. Yes, some decks use other cycles of lands, but generally speaking 95% of constructed Magic decks are fetching in some way, shape or form.

I think it is a foregone conclusion that the Khans fetches will continue to gain value even past the point where they are Standard legal. I'd be looking to pick up as many as possible, and basically anytime I see a fetchland in a trade binder I try to acquire it.

Silkwrap

Another card that has made a huge impact and quickly become an elite-level card in Standard is:


The card is great against Hangarback, Mantis Rider and Jace, and conveniently can be played in both Abzan and Jeskai. If the Pro Tour metagame persists, as we have every indication it will, this card will be in high demand. Look for Silkwrap to reach $1.50 or $2.00 as every local game store struggles to keep it in stock for customers.

I cannot urge you enough to check bulk and draft leftovers for copies of this card, because people will be buying them!

Anafenza


I'm sure this card will have already spiked by the time this article goes live, but it is worth noting that Anafenza had a tremendous tournament at PT BFZ.

The card has insane stats and pumps your other creatures, but it also pwns opposing Hangarback Walkers hard. It is pretty awesome the way it beefs up your Walkers and essentially shuts your opponent's down.

~

My takeaway from this PT is that Abzan and Jeskai will be the format-defining decks of Standard until Khans rotates. I'd be watching Khans cards closely right now and looking to sell as soon as they jump in price. Now's the time to capitalize on these cards, as spikes over the next few months will likely be their last.

Fetchlands, on the other hand, I will hold to reap dividends as Modern continues to grow. The game is growing by leaps and bounds, which basically ensures a neverending stream of players looking to buy into Modern.

The other cool takeaway is that Standard looks pretty awesome and skill-intensive. It says a lot that the top tables were dominated by the best players in the game, playing relatively known commodities.

It isn't like some team concocted a super secret deck that ran wild. Rather the format consisted of established archetypes everyone was prepared for, which the elite players nonetheless managed to leverage using superior play.

Choose your weapon and prepare to continue to Battle for Zendikar as we move into the post-PT metagame.

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