It’s too quiet in here. There’s orange-yellow spotlights illuminating the lingering smoke from the not-so-effective smoke machines in the far-left corner of the venue. “Snap, shuffle, snap” is all you hear if you’re trying to listen—not at all like the quiet roar of a Grand Prix floor. The room has a stillness similar to something like a corporate convention. One of those places that you’re happy to be at, but purely for business. I’m at Pro Tour Ixalan in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Round 5 just started and players have Standard decks in their hands. I can see Longtusk Cubs and Rogue Refiners on almost every table.
“Snap, snap, shuffle.”
Sometimes you wonder why you spend infinite hours chasing cardboard in loops. Then you watch the best in the world do it. #PTXLN
— Keith @ PT Ixalan (@KeithCapstick) November 3, 2017
The above tweet is a couple of sentences that I believe come close to accurately describing what it’s like to be at the Pro Tour. There’s obviously a lot to be said about what the Standard metagame looks like and how the best players are drafting, but the most impactful thing that I’ve felt this weekend is what it’s like to just watch the best do what they do. Not in the way that they show you on coverage with the lights and the feature matches—but in the trenches.
The communal sense of understanding in a room full of hundreds of players who put their livelihood on the line in the name of a card game is truly indescribable. Everyone is just so unrelentingly on the same page that the matches are carried out in a way that are just so smooth that it’s a joy to watch. The combination of intensity and collective-calm is my biggest takeaway so far.
That all said, they did actually play some games.
I am pleased to report that I haven’t just seen blazing fast two-drop aggro while walking around the tables. It’s certainly true that the best thing to be doing on a large scale is to Swashbuckling, and Mark of the Vampire your way to victory or find yourself in a great tribal deck. But, some of the best drafters on the planet have been breaking that mould to pick up some wins.
In particular I’ve seen a lot of players abusing the pirate creatures that make treasures in order to splash some off-colour bombs. This is something that everyone knew you could do, but seeing it at this level and executed so well gives me hope for the format’s legacy. Additionally, I’ve even seen a few successful B/G and U/W unsupported “good stuff” decks having success.
Well, you should play Hazoret, the Fervent or energy cards in Standard, and that’s final. This PT has certainly solidified what we already suspected about Standard, but has offered some unique insight into deckbuilding in the format. Leading up to the event Magic Online was riddled with top-heavy four-colour decks looking to beat the “Temur” mirror in what looked to be the midrange arms race of the year. What’s happened at the Pro Tour is a little bit of professionals grounding themselves. The joke of the tournament is that “stock Temur” something that looks similar to what William Jensen won World’s with and Kale Thompson won Canadian Nats with, might just be the best deck.
Nonetheless I’ve certainly seen a lot less Glint-Sleeve Siphoners than expected and a lot more quality midrange creature decks, which shows the respect all these teams had for Hazoret Red. What is going to be telling after Day 2 is whether or not someone was able to come up with a Scarab God Temur Deck that also beats Red consistently.