M19 Standard for Pro Tour 25th Anniversary

Pro Tour 25th Anniversary is just around the corner and constructed Team Trios will be the format of choice with M19 Standard playing a major role in the tournament. In this article, I will try to highlight the latest additions while guessing which archetypes could be chosen by the pro players of the event. Let’s break it down!

Hello everyone! I hope you all are as excited as me for Pro Tour 25th Anniversary which is happening next weekend (3-5 August 2018) in Minneapolis. It will be the ultimate Magic celebration wherein the greatest players in the world will battle against each other playing Legacy, Modern, and Standard.

Speaking of Standard, the format is quite interesting right now thanks to M19, since the set has made a greater impact than I expected. Normally, Core sets don't stand out that much until rotation, but this time it’s different. Maybe some legendary dragon has something to say about it...

The Obvious Choice Is Not Always the Best

NEW ADDITIONS: Banefire                                                                   

Mono Red and BR Aggro are still two of the most popular decks in the format and facing PT25A, they are also two of the simplest and most obvious choices.

BR Aggro’s maindeck is practically established. The latest versions tend to swap Lightning Strike in favor of Cut // Ribbons, losing some damage to the face. However, it is important to deal with 4 toughness creatures and later in the game, you can finish off opponents with the Ribbons side.

The only addition from M19 is Banefire for the sideboard against control matchups, since it can't be countered nor prevented when it's played in the late game to end games.

All in all, I expect red decks to be the most played overall during the Pro Tour. Goblin Chainwhirler is still too strong. Also, if you get to curve him out followed by Chandra, Torch of Defiance / Hazoret the Fervent and Glorybringer, you’re probably already on the winning side of the table.

Banefire Goblin Chainwhirler Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Speaking of obvious choices, UW or Esper Control featuring Teferi, Hero of Dominaria was the route of choice for control lovers. This strategy did not significantly improve with M19 and still seems unprepared to beat most of its competitors, partly because the format has lot of options, thus it is hard to be prepared for all of them.

My prediction is we won’t see much of the boldest and baldest planeswalker in Standard at the Pro Tour. He will have to wait for a better time to shine again in Standard.

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Pushing Dragons and Green Monsters

There are two decks that significantly benefit from the arrival of M19: green-based midrange shells and most importantly, Grixis Midrange/Dragons decks. Both get new cards that improve their maindecks.

Let's first check this list from the SCG Tour:

NEW ADDITIONS: Nicol Bolas, the Ravager // Nicol Bolas, the Arisen, Sarkhan, Fireblood

The biggest (in)famous legendary dragon in Magic history is probably the most pushed and format-warping card in M19. It has revitalized the Grixis Energy strategy as well as UB Midrange, splashing red only for this card.

The new incarnation of Bolas has decent stats for its cost: a 4/4 flying body that for four mana can immediately generate card advantage when he enters the battlefield by making opponents discard a card.

Although flipping into his planeswalker side costs seven mana at sorcery speed, once it becomes Nicol Bolas, the Arisen, it can easily end the game in just a few turns. All of Bolas’ abilities are of great value but the reanimate one (-4) is one of his strongest because it can steal opponents’ creatures and planeswalkers from the graveyard!

Subsequently, Grixis Midrange has foreshadowed UW or heavy control decks because all their creatures generate card advantage in some way: Glint-Sleeve Siphoner straight draws you extra cards; Champion of Wits sculpts your hand and has Eternalize; Whirler Virtuoso creates Thopter tokens; Nicol Bolas, the Ravager discards; The Scarab God reanimates creatures; Torrential Gearhulk rebuys Instants...

I sincerely believe that Grixis is very well-positioned in the current metagame and a number of players at the PT will bet on the "Goodstuff" decks, in which the quality of each individual card is superior to the synergies from other decks.

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager // Nicol Bolas, the Arisen

Quick Reminder: There is a red-based version more focused on the dragon theme M19 offers. It's like a BR Midrange Chainwhirler deck that makes its mana a bit worse to splash blue for Bolas.

Indeed, it showcases the power of Sarkhan, Fireblood who is able to loot away useless cards with his first ability, but more importantly ramping five mana dragons on turn 4 with his second one, cheating Glorybringers and Demanding Dragons. The other card that benefits from this "dragon-esque" flavor is Spit Flame, a recurring Instant removal that synergizes with all of the aforementioned cards since it comes back every time you cast a dragon and can be discarded with Sarkhan.

Spit Flame Sarkhan, Foreblood Demanding Dragon

The second strategy I want to mention that includes more cards from M19 is Mono Green Aggro, which I have been testing at the Magic Arena Beta for the past two weeks. It's an awesome and fun deck to play, able to cheat Ghalta, Primal Hunger into play as early as turn 4 thanks to Rhonas the Indomitable and Steel Leaf Champion.

NEW ADDITIONS: Thorn Lieutenant, Vine Mare, Vivien Reid

There are three new high-impact cards we need to talk about. First, Thorn Lieutenant is the turn 2 creature the deck needed since Merfolk Branchwalker was so mediocre and vulnerable to Goblin Chainwhirler. When trading with removal, it leaves a 1/1 Elf Warrior and during the late game, it becomes a mana sink that can be pumped into a 6/7.

Moving on to Vine Mare, we have this four mana Hexproof horse that cannot be blocked by black creatures. It is indeed a real pain against any Grixis or UB Control version as they can neither target it with removal nor block it except with Torrential Gearhulk. Some other versions play it on the maindeck, while others have a 2-2 split for the sideboard. Either way, it is a powerhouse that can be decisive during the Pro Tour when fighting black decks.

Finally, Vivien Reid is a new planeswalker that will likely replace Nissa, Vital Force after rotation. For now, she will stay on the sideboard against grind matchups, generating card advantage with her first ability and being able to destroy any annoying permanents with her -3 ability – even fliers like Nicol Bolas!

Thorn Lieutenant Vine Mare Vivien Reid

My prediction for Mono Green is that it might not be a first pick choice for the Pro Tour but I would love to see the deck performing well before rotation. Additionally, the other green-based deck, BG Energy, is actually in a worse spot and I don't think we will see much of it during the tournament.

The Spicy Corner

NEW ADDITIONS: Sai, Master Thopterist, Fountain of Renewal

It has been a while since combo has become real. Paradoxical Outcome decks are taking over Vintage at the moment but the card has never been competitive enough in Standard until now.

As I have mentioned when I reviewed M19 two weeks ago, there were several blue cards that play around artifacts and Sai, Master Thopterist was most interesting for me.

Thanks to this legendary creature, the deck seems very powerful because Sai gives you enough time to combo off as he creates a small Thopter armada, while we play cheap artifacts to withstand attacks from the opponent.

Fountain of Renewal is the second M19 addition, yet again perfect when facing aggressive decks and another turn 1 artifact to return with Paradoxical Outcome.

The deck can win from different angles: The first and most obvious way is to play Aetherflux Reservoir then chain several Outcomes until you get up to 50 life. You then kill the opponent.

Additionally, some versions run The Antiquities War to search for artifacts with the two first chapters of the Legendary Saga. Then on the third chapter, transform all artifacts into 5/5.

There are also some lists with a more midrange focus, adding Glint-Nest Crane and Karn, Scion of Urza, which have been returning good results in Magic Online lately.

My verdict about Outcome Combo is that despite being a new and difficult strategy to pilot, it is very likely that a number of combo lovers will choose this deck because it is equally difficult to play around it.

Fountain of Renewal Sai, Master Thopterist Paradoxical Outcome


So… this brings us to the end of this article. I am really looking forward to watching Pro Tour 25th Anniversary and seeing if my predictions come true, plus get to know how Standard is going to look until rotation comes in September 2018.

Please let me know in the comments which decks you expect to see next weekend and if there are any that I didn’t get to mention.

Thanks for reading and until next time!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.

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