8 Called Shots For This Weekend’s Standard Showdown In Indy

Ben isn’t holding back on this one! Some are riskier than others, but you can always count on Ben to put his chips down when it comes to knowing a Standard metagame! So what’ll it be this weekend at SCG Indy?

Ah, the first Open Weekend of a new Standard format! It’s been a minute,
but these never cease to draw a crowd. And for good reason, too. This is
the tournament where you can brew to your heart’s content, with the highest
possible chance of inadvertently breaking the format and winning it all
with your own creation. This is the tournament where the new Standard
format takes its first baby steps. This is the tournament with the biggest
impact on pointing the format forward for high-level professional events as
well as the SCG Tour and even Magic Arena or Magic Online play.

If you’re inclined to enjoy a recycled meme, then this, chief, is the
proverbial ‘it’.

But what can we expect? Just like at the start of any sports season, we’ve
got no shortage of analysts telling us what to look out for, what stands to
surprise us, and where key players or teams might stumble or fall apart.
This Standard format, in particular, is very reminiscent of this kind of
“new NFL season” speculation, with a few clear favorites rolling over from
the previous season while a ton of new potential teams stand ready to shake
things up. What does it mean for the competitors, as well as the viewing
fans at home? Well, there are a few different spectacles I expect to see at
#SCGINDY. Here they are, in decreasing confidence:

1: Andrew Jessup does not win this Standard Open

Andrew cut his teeth on fresh Standard Opens, grinding the format for a
week and a half straight before coming to a new Standard event and bashing
the rest of the SCG Tour for what he called his “debutante dances.”(Okay,
obviously Andrew has never used the word ‘debutante’ to describe himself,
but the thought of him in a cotillion dress makes me grin.) No, Andrew is
more into crowns than gowns, and right now he’s enjoying a well-deserved
vacation in Cambodia and Thailand, which means that this is anybody’s
tournament to win. Though I will need to get my hands on The Notorious Andy
J tokens ASAP, and I look forward to flicking them at him for distraction
whenever he does decide to return to the online grind.

2: Red Aggro with Light up the Stage will be the deck to beat

I misread it at first. Almost everyone I talked to misread it at first. You
probably misread it at first. This card is better than a red Divination.
It’s kind of close to a red Thoughtcast, and it’s going to be absolutely
bonkers. This is quite a tool to add to the arsenal of an already-powerful
Mono-Red Aggro deck, and it will put both Mono-Red and Rakdos up at the top
of the Standard power rankings from the get-go. If you don’t believe me,
Tom Ross will tell you himself, and he’s no slouch when it comes to
pinpointing the best time to be lighting people on fire.

It would not surprise me to see Light up the Stage take up twenty slots
among the Top 8 decks at SCG Indianapolis. If you want to be among them,
this is the easiest way to get a clear advantage.

3: Control decks will be underrepresented at the top this week

I know, I know. This is an easy prediction to make about a week one
Standard format. Generally speaking, the rule of thumb is that control
decks start off a format a bit behind, then catch up as the threats become
well-known and it becomes easier to prepare for the common decks. Of
course, this wisdom is not necessarily true in a format with the most
powerful Planeswalker for control since Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

However, the more aggressive the format becomes, the worse a card like
Teferi gets, relative to the rest of the field. Rhythm of the Wild, Judith,
the Scourge Diva, and Light up the Stage all mean that there are incredible
payoffs for being aggressive in this Standard format, and the power
combined with the diversity of types of aggressive decks means that it’s
going to be a major uphill battle for control to contain all the different
threats and come out on top.

I don’t see more than one control deck making it to the elimination rounds
of this week’s Open.

4: Wilderness Reclamation will be the scariest card, but ultimately fall
flat due to not being perfected yet

Patrick Chapin believes that Wilderness Reclamation is the biggest
Development mistake since Aetherworks Marvel. When he makes a claim like
that, it behooves the rest of us to pay attention. This is a card that is
essentially “free” the turn you play it, provided you have a bunch of
instant-speed effects to stay afloat. It seems like Wilderness Reclamation
was essentially designed to combo with Nexus of Fate and Azcanta, the
Sunken Ruin. It would be hard to imagine a better card for the Bant Nexus
aficionados among us, and I fully expect to find myself surprised at a
tournament or two this season by some under-the-radar combo deck that makes
use of the insane amount of mana this card offers.

But this week’s Open is unlikely to be that tournament. There simply hasn’t
been enough time to perfect the mix of Fogs, card selection, engine pieces,
and protection. The deck itself is likely soft to a mix of aggression and
hand disruption, which is exactly what Rakdos offers in spades. Once the
answer to Rakdos becomes clear, it will be easier for a metagame ladder to
form where a mana ramp deck can outmuscle the other top dogs. The
hard-to-maximize power of Wilderness Reclamation has been eclipsed by the
obvious and easily exploitable power of Light up the Stage, and I’m with
The Burninator rather than The Innovator this week.

5: Selesnya will surprise this week

Selesnya, most likely employing some number of Angels like Shalai, Voice of
Plenty and Lyra Dawnbringer, will be one of the underrated decks that will
remain competitive in the face of Light up the Stage from Mono-Red. History
of Benalia is still strong, and the wide range of options at the two-drop
slot means that Adanto Vanguard can step back and get replaced by a better
choice for fighting the Goblin Chainwhirlers of the world. Growth-Chamber
Guardian and Thorn Lieutenant both have a shot of making it this week, but
to beat Light up the Stage you will need to slam incredible five-drops to
put the game away.

I expect Trostani Discordant and Lyra Dawnbringer to be the five-drops we
need to defeat a resurgent red deck; just as it has so many times in the
past, Selesnya’s beefy creatures and plentiful lifelink will be the best
choice for answering Rakdos’ newfound aggression.

6: Hydroid Krasis will surprise in a midrange shell

It’s not quite Sphinx’s Revelation, but an X spell with built-in lifegain
and card draw to chain into more copies of itself is a recipe for success
we’ve seen before. Whether it ends up being a part of straight Simic, a
Temur Prime Speaker Vannifar deck, or a Bant ramp strategy, Hydroid Krasis
is going to be a huge body at the top of the curve for stabilizing and
putting the game away against aggro decks, while the cast trigger (rather
than an enters-the-battlefield trigger) means that it will keep the gas
flowing against control decks as long as needed.

Compared to a Sphinx’s Revelation for five, Hydroid Krasis creates a 6/6
flying and trampling creature, gains two less life, and draws two fewer
cards. Compared to a Revelation for three, the Krasis creates a 4/4 instead
of drawing an extra card and gaining an extra life. This is the sweet spot,
at around six to eight mana. Beyond that, both cards get out of hand. Below
that, neither one is particularly impressive. But for purposes of turning
the corner in a game of Standard, at the relevant spot on the mana curve
for such an effect, Hydroid Krasis compares well enough to Sphinx’s
Revelation that more folks should be taking notice.

I expect a handful of copies of Hydroid Krasis to be among the inaugural
Top 8 this weekend, surprising those who dismissed it as a Limited
mana-sink and causing a miniature run on the card as people scramble to
acquire copies of a mythic rare they forgot to pre-order.

7: Dive Down is going to be underrated again

It happened last season. It’s going to happen again. People are going to
get excited about their sweet brews and lose to Enigma Drake with Dive Down
for backup, or Tempest Djinn with Dive Down for backup, or Pteramander with
Dive Down for backup. Again. Dive Down is just a one-mana Time Walk, and
even though the obvious best decks may not play it this week, it will
reassert itself as a big player soon enough in this Standard format.
One-mana spells with as high a potential impact as this one simply don’t

The next time turn 4 rolls around and your opponent tries to remove your
creature only to find themselves facing down an abnormally high-toughness
hexproof goalkeeper, you can pat yourself on the back for remembering to
play this comical slam dunk of a tempo swing. The fact that spectacle cards
mean your opponent needs to connect for damage to keep the threats flowing
means that a Dive Down on Enigma Drake is often just a game-ending wrench
in their sequencing.

I can’t wait for Grixis Drakes, Mono-Blue Sphinx and Djinn, Jeskai Drakes,
Ptemurmander Ptempo, or some other goofy mix of removal, cheap threats, and
Dive Down to sneak in for a big win soon enough in this format. Will it be
this week? I hope so, and if a few brave souls have the guts to try, I
expect it very well might be another tournament for Dive Down to knock some
sense into people.

8: Elfball is the dark horse deck that will get heads turning

Rhythm of the Wild. Beast Whisperer. Incubation Druid. Marwyn, the
Nurturer. Elvish Clancaller. Growth-Chamber Guardian. Growing Rites of
Itlimoc. End-Raze Forerunners. Something is happening here, and it’s not
clear how broken it could be. There is a full-blown over-the-top combo
chain possible with Rhythm of the Wild and Beast Whisperer, and I’m sure
someone out there is eagerly scribbling decklists looking to go nuts on
camera and dominate SCG Indianapolis.

I don’t know if they’ll crack the elimination rounds, but my prediction is
that they get their name and their innovative decklist on the website by
making a respectable run with a powerful core of cards. People will sit up
and take notice, and Elfball may very well become a very solid choice as a
non-obvious combo deck with a lot of viewer appeal for Arena streamers
looking to create memorable experiences for their audiences. Like it or
not, Elves are coming to do some messed up things in the next few months.
This week will give us a tiny taste of the power.

I can’t wait to see what the opening salvos of this Standard format look
like. I’m not typically in the target audience for streamed event coverage,
but this Open is going to be so important for seeding the metagame for this
Standard format that it’s hard to justify missing it.

In fact, I may have forgotten what should have been a “freebie” prediction.
Clearly, I should have remembered this one easy, 100% guaranteed called
shot: I won’t be missing a minute of this coverage, and I don’t think many
serious players will be skipping it either. This format is just too ripe
for something to break, and too many new powerhouses are about to enter

It’s going to be some awfully exciting Magic.