5 Ways To Win SCG Indy

What’s the secret to success in Modern? Ari Lax lays out five paths players might take to conquer SCG Indianapolis, from getting one step ahead of the metagame to making seemingly no move at all. Which will prove to be the right combination this weekend?

SCG Indianapolis February 25-26

We are in the middle of a full swing stretch of Modern, just in time to see what the Aether Revolt cards and banned list changes have to say about the format. Luckily for those of you travelling to #SCGINDY this weekend you have plenty of data to sift through between two Grand Prix, a Team Open and Classic at #SCGBALT, and whatever Magic Online lists you can dig through.

After playing one of those Grand Prix last weekend and looking at all of those results, this is what I would be playing to win the event next weekend.

Just Play Last Week’s Good Deck

This style of Death’s Shadow shockingly isn’t a new deck. It actually surfaced pre-Gitaxian Probe ban in the hands of Simon Goertzen. I tried the deck out a bit after its first showing and found myself generally disappointed. The deck shone in a lot of the scenarios you would expect it to, crushing combo and aggro, but it struggled against interactive decks. Only having eight threats is a big cost, and sometimes you just cast Thoughtseize and see Liliana of the Veil, Terminate, and Inquisition of Kozilek and realize they have twice as many answers as you have actual ways to kill them.

Somewhere along the line this issue was solved via Lingering Souls. Now, instead of losing to midrange, the Death’s Shadow deck has a legitimate line to crushing them. As stated by a friend of mine who played Grixis: “I have no idea how this deck beats Lingering Souls.” Similarly, Ranger of Eos is the Traverse the Ulvenwald tutor target you needed to beat massive amounts of removal. Beating the first Death’s Shadow can be difficult, and the second is just impossible to handle.

This deck is not a fluke. Much like Lantern Control, pairing a powerful proactive set of cards with the interactivity of Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize is an easy way to win games. Those cards just handle such a wide variety of opposing decks, and the ones they don’t handle in the longer game can be killed in combat with an early Death’s Shadow. Basically, you beat all the decks Jund beats, and all the decks Jund struggles against, you can beat via a free win mechanism, which is basically the dream in Modern.

Death’s Shadow may have been under the radar and might be worse in the future as people adjust, but it is still a very good deck and I would not fault anyone for just playing the same thing that won last weekend.

Play the Other Great Deck from Last Weekend

Dredge still good. Water still wet. More news at eleven.

Yes, I realize the APAC-region Grand Prix always favor graveyard decks in Modern. They had tons of Living End and “fair Dredge” during the Eye of Ugin era, even if Eye of Ugin did take the trophy home. Yes, I realize casting Golgari Grave-Troll was a legitimate end-game against a number of matchups. Yes I am aware dredging two fewer cards for Golgari Thug has a massive risk of your chain Dredges failing. This is why Dredge and I have had a bad relationship in the past, even if I got to see six cards per “draw.”

Doesn’t matter. The Dredge deck is slightly worse than it was previously and more vulnerable to ways to pick off its early threats, but no one is playing those. They won’t be playing more Anger of the Gods than last weekend. They will be playing more decks that die to Conflagrate. Maybe they have a few more hate cards, but if you sleeve up Dredge, you are doing so fully aware that some hater might ruin your deck.

People will still be sleeping on this deck because Brisbane isn’t in North America. Show them why they are wrong.

One card not in this deck that probably deserves a look is Vengeful Pharaoh. Free hard removal that loops is always good times, especially if it shuts off Temur Battle Rage.

Play Correct and Real Hate Cards

Both Grand Prix this weekend followed a similar trend.

Step one: Gitaxian Probe and Golgari Grave-Troll are banned.

Step two: Aether Revolt introduces three new stack-based combo decks with Sram, Senior Edificer in Puresteel Paladin; Baral, Chief of Compliance in Gifts Storm; and Kari Zev’s Expertise in Goryo’s Vengeance.

Step three: People shifted back to hate cards that punished these new decks aimed at casting multiple spells a turn or with a few crucial core cards.

Step four: Decks exploiting the true core broken engines of Modern crushed unprepared opponents. No Stony Silence, no Rest in Peace? Dead.

This week is the time to show up with your real hate cards.

I chose to highlight Tron because I always love maindeck Relic of Progenitus. The card is such a freeroll and just randomly hoses a ton of threats. This time around, it hits 2/3rds of the Death’s Shadow deck on top of Abzan Company, any Tarmogoyfs, Dredge, Snapcaster Mage, and honestly just everything. I would not be surprised if the third copy or the full four drifted their way into the maindeck for next week. Relic is also a beating against Storm as they are almost always routed through Past in Flames, though you probably want full-on Rest in Peace against the Goryo’s deck, as Breaking//Entering resolving as one spell dodges everything else.

I chose G/W over G/R, as even though Grove of the Burnwillows is really nice against the card Death’s Shadow, Path to Exile is just required against that deck. Pyroclasm or Lightning Bolt won’t cut it. You need to kill a creature that regularly has the stats Big/Big, and slowly reducing that via Grove is merely cute.

G/W also gives you access to Stony Silence. Okay, you can’t really play that in your Expedition Map and Oblivion Stone deck, but that’s not my point. While it wasn’t all over the Top 8 of the events, there was a ton of Affinity floating around the top tables of #GPVAN last weekend. Also, in the “events that happened on the wrong side of the ocean for people to immediately register them” category, Lantern Control won #GPBrisbane. I listed graveyards and artifacts as the threats to beat for a reason. Don’t forget your answers to both.

I also wouldn’t be opposed to just adding Relic of Progenitus to Eldrazi Tron and calling it a day. That deck had a reasonably successful weekend and with some small adjustments can likely shift to the right answers to shore up the new matchups. On top of Relics you probably want some number of Ratchet Bomb or a similar “hard removal” artifact, and Chalice of the Void is likely on its way out. I’m also not sold on maxing out on Walking Ballista anymore as Relic of Progenitus covers most of the Noble Hierarch decks you previously needed the pinger against.

Play the Right Answers

Quick quiz: Which of the above kills the following card?

Well, I can tell you it sure isn’t Lightning Bolt. Red is at a low point on the answer quality scale of Modern. Having zero cards that die to Lightning Bolt was a big selling point of Death’s Shadow this weekend and will continue to be as long as people keep playing that card.

Noncreature permanents are also back in a big way. What could possibly kill those?

G/B/X decks been moving away from their slower, wider answers, but it’s definitely time to put them back in. The copies of Collective Brutality that were replacing them have far fewer chances to shine with fewer copies of Glistener Elf. Also, less Goblin Guide, because Burn currently sucks and everyone else is crushing the deck with Collective Brutality for you. Play your spells that kill real creatures and real threats and accept Burn falling back to merely a close matchup instead of unlosable.

I would like to point out that fellow Team Massdrop member Eric Severson and I played a Maelstrom Pulse in our Abzan Company sideboard this weekend at the suggestion of notable Company expert Brad Rutherford. The card massively overperformed, killing multiples of various permanents and cards like Nahiri, the Harbinger that are just outside of Abrupt Decay range. If you are afraid of Merfolk, it even takes out Master of Waves!

I am suggesting Abzan this weekend over Jund for one specific reason. I’m not sold on Casey’s Voice of Resurgence as the primary early creature, but Abzan has one big thing going for it.

Listen. Engineered Explosives is a fine way to sweep the battlefield that also hits Tarmogoyf or Death’s Shadow. Damnation is too. But really, one of the best ways to beat an opposing Lingering Souls is to just cast your own. If they don’t draw the card, you then just have a Lingering Souls, which is great! How do I know it’s great? I just told you that you needed an answer to it or you die. The same goes for all of your opponents trying to do fair stuff.

Do Something Proactive That You “Just Get”

Listen. All of this metagaming I’m trying to do might honestly amount to nothing. Big Modern events don’t actually have a real “metagame.” I played ten decks in twelve rounds and would be lying if I said my pre-match sideboard plans covered more than half of them. Between sub-variants of similar decks (does my Abzan opponent have Dark Confidant or no?) and people showing up with whatever they want (they just sacrificed Thought-Knot Seer to Eldritch Evolution, so what costs six or less?), you must know the tricks to playing your deck both in-game and in sideboarding. You also need to play a deck that can just beat random things.

Just to show an example of this, if you have been following Modern over the last year or two, Bobby’s name should ring a bell. He was the one that won a StarCityGames.com Open that turned the tide on getting Summer Bloom banned. The Amulet deck lost a lot of its explosive power, but that didn’t stop him from coming within a thin margin of a Grand Prix Top 8. He knows the deck and sideboarding inside and out and always knows exactly what his gameplan should be.

I don’t expect everyone to have the same level of experience and mastery with a deck as this, but start somewhere you want to be. Don’t play midrange because you think it beats X, Y, and Z better than the combo deck you want to play. Of course, don’t play the combo deck if it is actually terrible, but anything reasonable is capable of bringing home a title.

That’s honestly the great part of Modern. Choose your weapon, go to battle. There are always interesting games to be had, and always deep lessons to be learned.

SCG Indianapolis February 25-26