With Aether Revolt in full rotation for Magic: The Gathering (MTG), players have taken several chances to test out play styles and matchups. All their preparation comes to fruition with this year’s Magic: The Gathering‘s Pro Tour Aether Revolt. Wizards (players) from across the globe came to test their builds and skills against one another in Dublin, Ireland.
Over the weekend of February 3rd and 4th, the wizards waged war. But eventually a champion stood – Lucas Esper Berthound. Many congratulations to the Brazilian player taking first place in the Standard finale against Márcio Carvalho. Taking the gold with Mardu Vehicles, a deck we saw a lot of during the Pro Tour. In fact, the deck took up six of the eight slots in the Top 8 bracket. The other two taken up by Jund Aggro (Jundicles) and Green Black Delirium – a new archetype thanks to Winding Constrictor.
Luckily, the breakdown of the Top 8 is rather short because only three decks made it. Naturally, the strategy to bring into this Pro Tour was aggro, taking up a speculative 69 percent of the meta.
Aether Revolt gave us a brand-new combo with Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian, commonly called Cat Combo. But the Pro Tour leaves no room for experimentation, which meant these players weren’t taking any chances.
The deck to beat over the weekend.
Although most players had the mentality of, “If you can’t beat them, join them.”
Fast enough to not have trouble with Cat Combo along with the coverage of quick and efficient removal in Fatal Push, Shock and Unlicensed Disintegration. It’s no wonder why these pros used a tried-and-true deck for the biggest event this year so far.
The early and mid game has some of the most consistency with some of the best “one drops” Standard has seen. Thraben Inspector, which gives you an artifact to beef up Toolcraft Exemplar and Inventor’s Apprentice makes for an explosive early game.
Wrapping up the game and giving this deck its namesake, the powerhouses of vehicles Heart of Kiran and Aethersphere Harvester. The flying beaters have the reach to finish the game, including a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar for a 4 mana anthem.
Like Mardu Vehicles, except instead of taking white, you’ll swap in green to utilize a new resource called ‘energy’ from the Kaladesh set. Along with a very typical green style of gameplay, pump your creatures with +1/+1 counters. It is fast enough to beat Cat Combo and packs the speed and removal against Mardu Vehicles. This deck’s utility lies again in Unlicensed Disintegration, Shock, and Harnessed Lightning to fuel up your energy.
The early and mid game is a lot of setup. But instead of the early artifacts, this focuses on the energy with a card called Greenbelt Rampager. When used along side of Aether Hub, it can be a 3/4 creature on turn two. It’s also cards like Voltaic Brawler to dump energy into dealing heavy damage.
The late game plan is on curve Rishkar, Peema Renegade to pump your board and help you ramp into Heart of Kiran or Verdurous Gearhulk. It also brings to the table Planeswalkers a package of Nissa, Vital Force for 5/5 beaters, graveyard recursion and card advantage. Chandra, Torch of Defiance, the poster card of the set. A 4 mana, four-ability Planeswalker calling back to Jace, the Mind Sculptor – a powerhouse in all formats he’s legal in for MTG. Hopefully, Chandra lives up to the name by giving the options for card draw, damage and mana ramp.
Golgari Aggro or Golgari Delirium
The other breakout deck made possible by Aether Revolt and the printing of Winding Constrictor, a 2/3 body stapled onto the Khans of Tarkir classic Hardened Scales. These cards share the trait of doubling the amount of +1/+1 counters, with the snake giving you extra energy to boot! Different than the other aggro decks, if left unchecked, it can easily get far out of control. Lacking red, the removal package relies heavily on the black aspect with the removal spells Fatal Push and Grasp of Darkness.
However, the early and mid game can be fragile due to its dependency on getting Winding Constrictor and Walking Ballista. And this is all to keep an aggressive control of the board to turn on Delirium for a larger Grim Flayer and Traverse the Ulvenwald for a more efficient creature tutor. Afterward, the deck hopefully curves out to cast Rishkar, Peema Renegade for bigger creatures and more mana.
Finally, the strategy concludes with suddenly massive snakes, constructs and elves. G/B aggro runs Mindwrack Demon taking to the sky against the flying ships and Verdurous Gearhulk to plow through the ground troops. This deck is not without its own Planeswalkers using Nissa, Voice of Zendikar for small 0/1 blockers if needed. Although, her primary strength complements Winding Constrictor for maximum consistency when pumping up your creatures.
Aggro lists will typically contain the same types of cards, Scrapheap Scrounger is a common card in all the Top 8 decks. One thing I did notice – each of these decks had a gold-bordered 2 drop tying it all together. Jund and Voltaic Brawler, Golgari with Winding Constrictor, and Mardu having Veteran Motorist.
Just an excellent example of all the design wizard puts into these sets and archetypes for the players to discover and perfect.
Although personally, I enjoy a much more diverse format with an equal representation of aggro, control and combo. Others have voiced concerns about the meta’s one-sided dominance. An overwhelming archetype snuffs out other potential decks. This Pro Tour is no exception, with a majority of the decks in the top 8 being Mardu aggro.
Hopefully, more decks will eventually compete against these format titans for more exciting games to watch, play and comment on as fans. There were only two tournaments from Star City Games with Aether Revolt in Standard. And even those mostly saw Golgari aggro and Cat Combo. Only time may tell what decks make their way into the meta. Amonkeht will bring us more cards and mechanics to shake things up for Magic: The Gathering.
Stay tuned for more “Decked Out” on EloTalk. Happy casting, Planeswalkers.
All images and cards are properties of Wizards of the Coast