The time has finally come for the first Pro Tour of the new season. With every fall expansion comes a brand new Standard format. Gone are the shock lands. Gone are Supreme Verdict and Sphinx’s Revelation. Incoming are fetch lands, two new planeswalkers, and a slew of three-color spells of insane power. After what felt like a decade of devotion decks dominating the format, would the multi-color slant of Khans of Tarkir turn the format on its head? Let’s find out…

Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir

By the end of the Friday competition the question of whether or not devotion-based decks could survive in a world without Return to Ravnica was answered. The metagame breakdown showed that almost 46% of the decks were of the three-color variety. The top deck, making up an impressive 21.57% of the field, was Jeskai Wins. This was a traditional Jeskai deck similar to, but not nearly as powerful, as its Modern counterpart. The deck is fueled by Dig Through Time which is incredibly powerful.

The next two decks, making up 16.81% and 7.56% of the format respectively were Abzan and Mardu midrange decks. The core of black and white provided some of the best removal in the format with Hero’s Downfall and Thoughtseize along with the new Sorin and of course Elspeth. Abzan decks benefited from running Courser of Kruphix while Mardu decks had access to the new Sarkhan card.

Devotion showed up in the form of green-black (6.44%) and mono-green (4.76%) varieties. Clearly we have entered a brand new age of Standard where things are far more diverse. A total of 45 archetypes appeared on day one, compared to 39 deck flavors at Pro Tour Magic 2015. It’s safe to say that your FNM will look a little different after this Pro Tour.

Changes to FNM and the Regional PTQ Announcement

It turns out that your Friday Night Magic may look very different in the near future. Wizards, in an attempt to help broaden the horizons of entry-level tournaments has decided that virtually every format of Magic other than Vintage Constructed will be fair game at FNM. During Saturday’s coverage, Rich Hagon sat down with Helene Bergeot to discuss these announcements.

There are so many ways to play Magic and that’s what we want to make available.
– Helene Bergeot

FNM grows from three legal formats (Standard, Modern, and Draft) to over two dozen formats. I highly doubt that a lot of these will get sanctioned regularly, but I could be mistaken. It’s clear who that casual players are the target audience here. Wizards wants to get your group of casual Winston Draft die-hards to go down to your local store to play at FNM.

It’s all about the spirit of FNM, which is about having fun playing Magic with friends. And so, in order to celebrate FNM we are disconnecting the promo cards from the winning part of the tournament… Moving forward what will happen is that a store will get a certain number of promo cards simply based on their level.
– Helene Bergeot

If Wizards is truly dedicated to selling FNM to casual players then this is a great start. Casual players are the biggest consumer-base for Magic and it’s good to see that Wizards continues their efforts to support local game stores.

Additionally, Rich and Helene revealed the locations of the new Regional PTQ events. We’re still waiting on more information about the Local PTQ tournaments which will run from December through February. The Regional PTQ events, as I correctly predicted, will be held on April 25th and 26th in 2015. For more information on the new PTQ system as it comes, check out my new site

We wanted to make sure that we would pick some locations that would be accessible to people traveling.

The locations here are not unexpected. A lot of the sites are fantastic and hopefully the tournament organizers step up and turn this weekend into a stellar event. The travel was always the biggest question going into this new structure, but Wizards did a good job of selecting mostly major travel hubs around the world.

Back to the Competition

Day two of the Pro Tour is all about separating the real powerful top-tier decks from the chaff. When the dust settled it became clear that Jeskai and Abzan were the real deal. Here’s the breakdown of the top 8 decks:

  • Jeskai Wins (x3)
  • Blue/Black Control
  • Abzan Midrange (x2)
  • Abzan Aggro
  • Jeskai Ascendancy

For those of you with trouble counting, that’s four Jeskai decks, three Abzan decks, and one Dimir deck. Maybe we spoke too soon about format diversity. That’s not entirely fair though, since the Pro Tour metagame is very different from your local game. The quarterfinals gave us the following match-ups:

  • Jeskai Wins vs Jeskai Ascendancy
  • Abzan Aggro vs Blue/Black Control
  • Abzan Midrange vs Jeskai Wins
  • Abzan Midrange vs Jeskai Wins

Top 8

Abzan Midrange won both of its matchups against Jeskai Wins, propelling Ari Lax and Thiago Saporito into the semifinals. On the other side of the bracket, Jeskai Wins defeated Jeskai Ascendancy and Abzan Aggro defeated Blue/Black Control. This meant a Jeskai vs Abzan matchup featuring Shaun McLaren and Mike Sigrist respectively. Jeskai proved victorious on the back of Goblin Rabblemaster sending McLaren to the finals. Meanwhile, Ari Lax won an intense Abzan Midrange mirror-match after windmill slamming an Elspeth to win the match.

The first game of the McLaren/Lax best-of-finals took a total of five minutes after Lax landed double Siege Rhino to defeat McLaren’s Rabblemaster. Game two featured mulligans by both players before Lax played out Sylvan Caryatid on turn two. McLaren followed up with Mantis Rider on turn three. Lax assembled the power couple by playing Courser of Kruphix but McLaren kept up the pace with Rabblemaster, a few timely burn spells, and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker. McLaren flew over the Coursers for the win and the finals became a best-of-three.

The players kicked off game three in much the same way they played the previous games. Lax hit Caryatid on turn two and then Rhino on turn three. Banishing Light took care of the first Rhino but Lax had a second to follow it with. McLaren was in a tough spot drawing a lot of lands instead of, as LSV pointed out, answers to Siege Rhino. McLaren played out Keranos, but Lax built up his board with Ajani and Sorin sending McLaren to 5 life and winning the pivotal game three. Lax needed just one more win for his first ever Pro Tour top 8.

McLaren opened game four with Phyrexian Revoker naming Sylvan Caryatid, but it met Bile Blight by Lax. For whatever reason, Lax played the game very conservatively. Maybe it was because he never saw double Siege Rhino. McLaren slowly burned down his life total until landing Dig Through Time to put more burn spells in his hand. Of course, Lax ripped Siege Rhino to put himself out of range of McLaren’s burn spells. McLaren dug as far as he could for a way to burn out Ari Lax. He slowly looked at the top card of his deck… and then…

He played Mantis Rider. Which is not a burn spell. Lax had double Abzan Charm. And won.

I have to admit, if I was Shaun McLaren, I may have punched Ari Lax at the end there. Congratulations to Shaun McLaren for having the discipline and self-control to let Ari Lax collect his winnings without a black eye.

Top 25 Rankings

Heading into the Pro Tour this weekend, a few small movements were made in the top rankings due to the Grand Prix tournaments held last weekend in Shanghai and Orlando. Most notably, Ben Stark jumped three spots from 24th into a tie for 21st with Chris Fennell. Tom Martell and Shi Tian Lee also moved up one spot each to 12th and 16th place respectively.

In the meantime, the top spots remained unchanged with 20 points separating (1) Jeremy Dezani from (5) Ivan Floch. However, given his performance this weekend, I would not be shocked if (8) Shaun Mclaren made a strong push to break the top five, despite Floch also finishing in the top 8 of the Pro Tour. Expect a whole lot of movement around the middle of the list after big finishes in the top 16 by (11) Yuuya Watanabe, (16) Shi Tian Lee, and (21) Ben Stark.

The Quick Hits

  • I usually don’t care to share anything like tournament reports or deck tech guides here, but Sam Pardee figured out a Jeskai Ascendancy deck that’s pretty much going to guarantee the card gets banned in Modern [Pardee Time]
  • Heather Lafferty compiled the best of social media leading up to and during Grand Prix Orlando [20 Tweets]
  • Brian Wong is stepping down from his position as co-host of the Limited Resources podcast leaving a big void in the cast [Quiet Speculation]
  • Danny Brown recaps some of the fun and excitement from the top 8 of last week’s MTGO PTQ which bugged out in spectacular fashion [Quiet Speculation]
  • Ant Tessitore breaks down the complexities and confusion around anthropomorphism in Magic’s animal-like races [Gathering Magic]
  • Travis Allen put together a very detailed case study on the financials behind Goblin Rabblemaster [MTG Price]
  • Danny Brown says some nice things about MTGO v4 [Quiet Speculation]
  • Jason Alt says some not nice things about MTGO v4 [Quiet Speculation]
  • Mark Nestico recaps his GP Orlando experience including a very interesting discussion around the sensitive topic of forgetting to reveal your morphed creatures when they are bounced back to your hand [Star City Games]
  • Wizards announced a new Magic strategy board game at the SPIEL gaming convention in Essen [Gathering Magic]

Wallpaper of the Week

Well I was completely wrong about Abzan Ascendancy being the start of a wallpaper cycle. This week we’re treated to Master of Pearls which features a young kung fu master fighting with small pearls. It makes for a very dynamic desktop wallpaper. Let’s hope we see some more high-res large-scale versions of pieces like this.

Grade: B+

The Week Ahead

Hot off the heels of the Pro Tour in Hawaii, we’ll hop back across the water to sunny Los Angeles for the first post-Pro Tour Standard Grand Prix. Shockingly, this is the first time the Grand Prix circuit is traveling to Hollywood since 2009. A five-year absence isn’t too bad when you consider that New York has never hosted a Grand Prix and our last major event was the World Championship in 2007. A guess we can continue to hope and dream, right?

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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