this weekend featuring a plethora of awesome formats, I thought I’d take
the week to give y’all the rundown on what I’d play in each format and why.
With the huge variety of event types, event formats, and special
activities, there’s bound to be something for each and every kind of Magic
player. Personally, I lean toward the competitive side of things, but this
weekend I’ll be doing commentary alongside Cedric Philips and the rest of
the SCG Tour crew, so I’ll be looking down with a bird’s eye view on all
the action as well as cruising the tournament hall looking for cool things
There’s a lot to dig into, so let’s begin!
Love it or hate it, Standard is certainly a format.
Invitational Main Event, there will be a Standard Classic on Sunday, so you
won’t have to worry about Goblin Chainwhirler mucking up all your fun other
than those two events (unless you’re playing on-demand Standard events).
Let’s be real, the Pro Tour didn’t really showcase much besides Teferi,
Hero of Dominaria and aggressive red decks.
But that’s not necessarily Standard’s fault, now is it?
Regardless, Standard is an important part of #SCGCON,
and as such, I’m bottle-necked into thinking about it and relaying to you
any important information I can give you on the subject. So, here’s my big
Standard suggestion. Are you ready? Here it comes.
Play a red deck.
That’s it. Well, that’s not all of it, but you should probably be piloting
a deck with four copies of Goblin Chainwhirler. If anything, Goblin
Chainwhirler helps to alleviate some of the pressure that would normally be
put on an aggressive red strategy. You can’t get under them because Goblin
Chainwhirler just wrecks their battlefield. You can’t really go over them
because they come at you with recurring threats like Scrapheap Scrounger,
as well as hard-hitters like Chandra, Torch of Defiance, Hazoret the
Fervent, and Glorybringer.
I’m sure Brad Nelson will continue to make the argument that U/W Control is
your best bet, and he stuck to his guns at the Pro Tour, piloting an older
take on the archetype and using Approach of the Second Sun as his primary
win condition. And the one match he was on camera, his deck performed
beautifully. I know he was 6-0 in Standard at one point until the wheels
fell off due to a punt, but I’ll let him tell that story. If you glean any
information out of this, just realize that one of the best Standard players
in the world chose to play U/W Control, made a match-losing mistake, and a
guy who was playing in his second Pro Tour took down the whole thing with
So whatever flavor of red you decide to play, just make sure you’re playing
I don’t think Heart of Kiran is very good. It shines against the
early removal of U/W Control thanks to its ability to get around
Seal Away, and is solid in some spots against Fumigate, but overall
I kinda hate it. Corey Baumeister went 8-0 in a recent Magic Online
Championship Monthly Qualifier with a version of R/B Aggro that
didn’t play Heart of Kiran, and the deck just felt good.
Cast your removal spells wisely. Using your mana efficiently isn’t
always as important as making sure you have Chandra’s Defeat to
take down their Chandra, Torch of Defiance or Glorybringer. Abrade
is usually pretty important for taking care of Heart of Kiran or
sideboard Aethersphere Harvesters. And while Unlicensed
Disintegration can deal damage to an opponent if you hold onto it
until you find an artifact, it might just be worth the damage
swings from the opponent to cast it earlier rather than sitting on
your hands. This is even more important if you’re playing Hazoret
the Fervent (which you should be).
Siege-Gang Commander is not that good in the mirror. Just make sure
you have four copies of Glorybringer after sideboard. Flying is a
huge deal when the ground gets mucked up by Goblin Chainwhirler,
Pia Nalaar, Kari Zev, Skyship Raider, and Soul-Scar Mage. If you
already have four copies of Glorybringer after sideboard, you don’t
really need more five-drops.
Be careful how you build your sideboard and be aware of how many
black cards you’re bringing in at a time. Your deck is very light
on the black splash, so having several copies of Duress, Doomfall,
and other similar cards could get you into trouble if you’re unable
to cast them.
- Play a Swamp.
- Don’t play Spire of Industry.
I know what you’re thinking. “Oh Todd, why even bother with Modern? You
only talk about Humans and how good it is. We all know what you’re going to
say.” Well, you’re partially right, but you’re only seeing part of the
The reason I like Humans in Modern is because it’s powerful, proactive,
disruptive, and has a very good clock. Very few other decks in Modern can
boast all these attributes, which is why Humans is such a unique and good
deck. Sure, there are faster decks, and more disruptive decks, but nothing
really matches up here. And above all else, it’s consistent.
There’s a very good reason why Sam Cocchiarella took down SCG Minneapolis
while playing Humans for the first time. If you’re not familiar with Modern
and find yourself playing the Invitational, Humans is probably the deck
you’re most likely to succeed with. With that said, Humans has a gigantic
target on its head at the moment, and as far as I know it only won a single
SCG Regionals last weekend. Modern is still up in the air, even if we do
have something of a current “best deck.” Having a “best deck” in a
particular format just means we need to be cognizant of how we build our
decks, sideboard, and choose our initial strategy in the first place.
I’ve talked at length about the strengths and weaknesses of Humans, so
let’s try something different.
I deferred to my good friend and current ward Gerry Thompson for his take
on Mardu Pyromancer. I feel like this is one of the Modern decks that can
give Humans a headache, though they have a strange way of overcoming all
the removal and beating you down through multiple Young Pyromancer tokens.
Regardless, if you draw the right removal at the right time and can follow
it up with either Lingering Souls or Bedlam Reveler for pressure, you
should be in great shape. You can also cold them entirely via Blood Moon
plus a Kolaghan’s Command for their Aether Vials.
Kill everything your opponent plays without hesitation. If it
attacks, blocks, or taps for mana, it deserves a Lightning Bolt.
You just want to empty your hand to cast Bedlam Reveler, and you
will often need all the mana you can muster after casting Bedlam
Reveler to play catchup.
Don’t play Plains. Even with Blood Moon in your deck, you can cast
Lingering Souls via Manamorphose or after discarding it to
Faithless Looting/Bedlam Reveler.
Try to fetch basic lands early, even if you might end up getting
punished later. You definitely want at least one Swamp on the
battlefield when you cast Blood Moon, and keeping your life total
high is important in a number of matchups.
Against decks like Jund, try to save Dreadbore for Liliana of the
Veil, but don’t be afraid to burn your Dreadbore on a hard-to-kill
creature, like Tarmogoyf. As the game goes longer, the odds they
draw a discard spell to take it from you increases, so just keep
that in mind.
Grixis Delver? I guess?
Honestly, Legacy is pretty silly at the moment. Most decks play Deathrite
Shaman, and the winning list from the Team Grand Prix in Toronto a few
weeks ago didn’t even play Force of Will in the maindeck. This has happened
in the past in the hands of Brian Braun-Duin, when the format becomes much
more “fair” and much less about explosive combo decks. Awkwardly, Magic
Online is swamped with B/R Reanimator at the moment, but that trend hasn’t
quite broken through into live tournaments just yet.
I don’t suggest going into #SCGCON playing a busted, albeit vulnerable,
combo deck. Combo decks tend to have a bad Delver matchup, and especially
so after sideboard if they’re blue-based. Thanks to upgrades like Pyroblast
and Cabal Therapy, along with all the soft counterspells and Force of Will
in the maindeck, fighting through all that hate backed by a fast clock is
quite difficult. But I also don’t think it’s smart to go into an open field
in Legacy without Force of Will. Lucas Siow’s Four-Color Leovold without
Force of Will was a metagame call. In a Team Constructed tournament, I
think it’s safe to say that most of the Legacy players will have a ton of
experience in the format, and that usually means they’re playing a fair
Brainstorm deck of some kind. People on your team are more likely to
convince you to play the “best deck” in the format as opposed to some
At Grand Prix Seattle a few months ago, I chose to play Sneak and Show. For
some reason, I didn’t lose to Grixis Delver, but instead struggled to
defeat players using the Four-Color Leovold deck. Leovold, Emissary of
Trest is particularly annoying to beat with Sneak and Show, since you don’t
have any removal for it. They also have ways to beat a single fat creature
you play, thanks to their maindeck inclusion of both Baleful Strix and
Diabolic Edict. It’s weird, but you can just lose to their ragtag bunch of
threats coupled with a few pieces of disruption, and you aren’t even
guaranteed to win if you assemble Show and Tell plus Large Creature. But
even still, I think Show and Tell is a resilient and powerful combo deck,
so if you want to play a combo deck, I’d suggest just slamming Show and
Just slam your Sneak Attacks and Show and Tells. If your opponent
has the answer, you have a ton of ways to dig for another piece of
the combo. Your easiest way to win is to catch your opponent
off-guard with an early/fast Show and Tell or Sneak Attack. Don’t
play around Daze, Spell Pierce, or Force of Will. Don’t try to wait
until you have one or two ways to protect yourself. Use your cheap
counterspells to snag their discard spells, Brainstorm, etc.
Don’t be afraid to cast Show and Tell with nothing in your hand. If
you’re playing against a blue deck, chances are they’re insanely
afraid of you resolving a Show and Tell. If you have two copies and
nothing else to do, sometimes it’s worth it to run the bluff of
casting Show and Tell with nothing in hand to put onto the
battlefield. If you’re able to successfully bait out a Force of
Will or Spell Pierce, that means they have one less card to fight
you later on when you actually assemble the combo.
Use Show and Tell to put Sneak Attack on the battlefield often. I
use Show and Tell as a bait spell of sorts on occasion when the
card I actually want on the battlefield is Sneak Attack. In some
ways, Show and Tell can act as a Ritual effect, gaining you that
extra mana you need to attack them with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
immediately. Sometimes putting in a big creature isn’t good enough,
because your opponent can just cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor or
something else to kill it before you get to attack.
Don’t sideboard too much, but when you do, don’t be afraid to side
out Force of Will. If your opponent has Force of Will, chances are
you don’t want your own copies.
I don’t have a ton to say about Pauper other than I know what I like and I
will play exactly that.
No bells or whistles. Just good, clean aggression coupled with some
disruption, removal, and card advantage. I love this deck. I love Skred and
Lightning Bolt. I love Ninja of the Deep Hours, even though I get stuck
with it in my hand quite often.
You can play the control role. Don’t be afraid to be defensive.
Even though Delver of Secrets is a fairly aggressive card, you have
the ability to grind people out with Augur of Bolas, Gush, and
Ninja of the Deep Hours.
Kill any creature you see if you don’t have an Augur of Bolas to
keep it in check. This is certainly matchup-dependent, but I would
rarely recommend trying to use Lightning Bolt to burn your opponent
After sideboard, you can transition to a full-blown control deck
quite easily. Swirling Sandstorm is a blowout against nearly all
the creature decks, and hitting threshold isn’t that difficult.
Just be aware of your role in the matchup. If your opponent has a
ton of cheap creatures and wants to attack, chances are you should
be siding out counterspells in favor of cheap removal. And while
Delver of Secrets attacking isn’t exactly the best gameplan for
beating an aggressive deck, I find it difficult to want to trim any
creature in any matchup. You need ways to play Ninja of the Deep
No Banned List Modern
I talked quite a bit about NBL Modern last week, so I’m just going to point
. But honestly, I don’t know what the “best deck” for NBL Modern actually
is. No one does. The format is unexplored territory. Sure, there are some
busted interactions and a few decks that look pretty sweet, but what if
Stoneforge Mystic is just the best thing you can be doing? What if Mental
Misstep isn’t actually good because everyone builds their deck to ignore
it? Or not be completely obliterated by it? The same goes for Chalice of
the Void here.
Even though I didn’t talk about it much last week, I think Colorless
Eldrazi might actually be the best deck, if only because it presents and
insanely fast clock while having access to Chalice of the Void on the first
turn. And while it might not end up being a great call for the NBL
metagame, I’m currently picking it as the strategy I expect to put multiple
copies into the Top 8.
- 4 Simian Spirit Guide
- 2 Spellskite
- 4 Endless One
- 4 Eldrazi Mimic
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Matter Reshaper
If you remember correctly, the maindeck is exactly the same as the one Luis
Scott-Vargas used to Top 4 the Modern Pro Tour where Eldrazi wrecked up the
place. This version of the deck ultimately fell to the U/R Eldrazi deck by
Jiachen Tao, but I think the U/R version was a pure metagame call. It was
better in the Eldrazi “mirrors,” but ultimately worse against the field
(though still extremely busted).
If you’re on the play in the dark and have two copies of Chalice of
the Void, don’t be afraid to cast one of them for X=0. If you end
up battling against Affinity or some other weirdo deck, like
Hypergenesis, it could be the only thing that saves you from
Mulligan most hands without a two-mana land. Unless you know the
matchup, you want explosive starts, and that means having hands
that either play Chalice of the Void for X=1 on the first turn or
one of your lands that help you power out your Eldrazi at lightning
Don’t get discouraged if you lose a round or two. The format is
weird, and you’re bound to play against some stuff you’re not
prepared for. Just hope for the best, make your best judgment
calls, and hope you get some good pairings and/or draws as the
tournament progresses. Even though the NBL Modern Open is bound to
be very large, you can afford two losses on the first day. Just
keep trucking and keep casting your big, dumb Eldrazi.
I dunno y’all. Probably just play something with Paradoxical Outcome and/or
the Time Vault–Voltaic Key combo? Every time I’ve played with or against
Paradoxical Outcome on the Versus Series, the person playing Vault-Key won
very easily. But I’m not a Vintage aficionado, so I’ll just tell you what
deck I’d play.
- 2 Sensei's Divining Top
- 1 Brainstorm
- 1 Vampiric Tutor
- 4 Force of Will
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Balance
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 1 Hurkyl's Recall
- 1 Time Walk
- 1 Ancestral Recall
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Gush
- 1 Time Vault
- 1 Merchant Scroll
- 1 Tinker
- 1 Voltaic Key
- 1 Black Lotus
- 1 Mox Emerald
- 1 Mox Jet
- 1 Mox Pearl
- 1 Mox Ruby
- 1 Mox Sapphire
- 1 Ponder
- 4 Preordain
- 3 Mox Opal
- 1 Gitaxian Probe
- 1 Treasure Cruise
- 1 Dig Through Time
- 4 Paradoxical Outcome
- 1 Fragmentize
The Atog Lord is a true Magic Online grinder, and his version of
Paradoxical Outcome looks pretty sweet. No quick tips here. If you are
coming to #SCGCON to
play Vintage, chances are you know more about the format than I do.
Well, that’s it! That’s all the Constructed formats featured this weekend
And while I won’t be participating in the events themselves, I will be
happily viewing them from the sidelines, and bringing you all the action at twitch.tv/SCGTour. This will be
the first Invitational I haven’t played in like seven years. In some ways,
it feels strange not being knee-deep in the testing process, but I’m
excited for what the future holds. I’d just like to let Cedric Philips know
that I’m excited for the opportunity to show y’all what I can do in the
booth. And after such a positive response from the community after SCG
Baltimore a short while ago, I can’t wait to get back in the booth
alongside Cedric, Matthias Hunt, Ryan Overturf, and yes, even Nick Miller.
See ya in Roanoke this weekend for all the festivities!