Pro Tour Magic Origins is here! Once again, we are faced with an unsure metagame after the release of a supercharged new set. Which strategies can we expect to do well this weekend, and which will fall flat?
Let’s look at some of the current top strategies of the format and determine how likely they are to succeed at this Pro Tour.
Languish is almost certainly going to be the most impactful card from the core set, and many decks will adapt the card as a way to combat strategies looking to flood the board. The obvious deck to make use of it is Abzan Control, with Siege Rhinos and Tasigurs forcing players to go wide and fall susceptible to the powerful wrath. There is an interesting tension between Languish and the other creatures of the deck, such as Courser of Kruphix and the morph package, so we may see Abzan decks eschewing the early game altogether to enable their own Languish (and avoid losing to an opponent’s copies).
Control is always a popular choice for top players at the Pro Tour, and this format looks primed for a successful blue/black-based control deck to dominate once again. Languish shines here as well, since knocking a full mana off of a board sweeper can be all the difference in the world for a control deck to stabilize against a deck looking to beat down.
I don’t see the current build of devotion doing particularly well in a world full of Languish. The deck relies pretty heavily on swarming the board with mana creatures and devotion enablers to generate its advantage, and that will be tough when every other deck can wipe them out on turn 4. If green ramp strategies want to succeed, they will have to adapt to this brave new world with other means of mana acceleration. Nissa, Vastwood Seer will surely see plenty of play to net card advantage (and mana) even in the face of removal; Explosive Vegetation could be a (fittingly-named) explosive option for decks to reliably get up to seven or more mana without leaning so hard on permanents to get them there. More planeswalkers may be needed to combat wraths, so Xenagos will definitely be crucial for R/G to stand a chance.
Red Deck Wins
Ironically, despite the prevalence of Languish, red decks could pick up in play thanks to the card. RDW traditionally performs very well in a control-heavy metagame, and its Abzan matchup is passable if not favorable. Its biggest problem is the green devotion-style decks that flood the board with big blockers, but those decks may not be popular if people (correctly) fear wraths at this event. The combination of cheap threats and burn spells can punish people expecting a control/midrange-heavy metagame and get underneath them, as Martin Dang proved in Brussels last May.
Jeskai suffers pretty heavily under the new expected metagame. Although its control and devotion matchups are favorable, it has a hard time with Abzan, which is looking to be one of the best choices for the Pro Tour. Much like the devotion decks, it will have to adapt pretty heavily to survive, possibly with less of an emphasis on the Rabblemaster-style ground assault and more of an attention to the tempo angle, with Stratus Dancers and Ashcloud Phoenixes to attack from a different angle than expected and provide resilience against removal.
This is a U/B Control deck at heart, but I don’t think it will be popular at this Pro Tour. The deck’s primary win condition and engine is Dragonlord Ojutai, which unfortunately matches up poorly with Languish and turns on otherwise-dead cards from decks like Abzan. The deck previously had an advantage over straight U/B thanks to Silumgar’s Scorn as a two-mana counter, but Clash of Wills will remove some of that disparity by giving non-dragon decks a solid two-mana play. I don’t expect much Ojutai to succeed, unless PVDDR decides to play it (because he can never lose with that deck).
Heroic has never been a major contender in the format – it occasionally pops up in the top 8 of an SCG event or on Magic Online, but it’s never held a significant percentage of the metagame. It has also been an unpopular deck among pros for basically the entire season, with many big names dismissing the deck as inconsistent and not that powerful. However, it could be a reasonable option for this event. It preys on green decks like Abzan and G/R and attacks from a unique angle that many may not be ready for. It has put three total copies into the top 8’s of the two SCG Opens since ORI’s release, indicating that it may be well-positioned for this Pro Tour. Players would do well to keep this deck in mind when tuning their own.
This is a deck that was mildly popular way back when Khans of Tarkir was the newest set, but hasn’t been around much since. It has always had a good Abzan matchup and a reasonable aggressive matchup, but its control matchup was pretty poor. Some new tools from Origins might change that, however, with cards like Sigil of the Empty Throne and Starfield of Nyx providing card advantage and resilience to sweepers that the deck hasn’t really had before. I could see a well-tuned list doing well at this event.
Any decks you think we missed? What new strategies could emerge to combat the new metagame in Vancouver?