Hello, everyone! I’m new here to StarCityGames.com as far as writing is concerned, but as of late I’ve had a decent amount of success on the SCG Tour! Winning back-to-back Opens in Atlanta and Columbus let me join Gerry Thompson and Tom “The Boss” Ross in the exclusive club of back-to-back winners and gave me the chance to be the first player ever to win three Opens in a row.
From there, I started the very next Standard Open in Richmond as the only undefeated player after the first eight rounds of play, making Cedric Phillips sweat profusely. Earlier that week he had made this post on Twitter:
Tournament of the Weekend:
— Cedric Phillips (@CedricAPhillips) January 26, 2017
Needless to say, I was on track to make good on that bet for quite a while. Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite my way after my 8-1 start, but it’s Magic. Anything can happen.
Aside from the more recent exciting events I’ve been privileged to be a part of, my career consists of three Pro Tour appearances with no terribly memorable finishes. I do however have a regular stream on Twitch I’ve been doing since this past August, when I decided to attend as many SCG Tour events as possible. Playing as much Magic as I can and trying to better my play along with promoting a positive attitude to competitive play have been my mantras for years.
Enough about me. We sit here on the week leading up to one of the most exciting SCG Tour events ever held! This coming weekend will be the first ever Team Open where all three of the showcased formats on the SCG Tour will be equally as important to the outcome of the event as the rest. I’ll be joined on a team by the one and only “The” Tannon Grace and fellow StarCityGames.com writer Todd “Todd Light” Stevens for this! Together we’ll conquer Standard, Modern and Legacy as well as experience what I believe will be the most fun I’ve ever had playing Magic.
So that’s three formats…
I typically have difficulty making sure that I’m ready for one format, let alone three! That’s where the team element comes in. At some point I’ve been finding myself having to let go of the feeling that I need to be in control of all the elements for any given weekend and trust in my fellow teammates. Both Todd Stevens and Tannon Grace have plenty of Magic background under their belt and both are highly skilled in their own right, so luckily I don’t have much to worry about.
That being said, I have to hold up my end of the bargain, since I will be the member on my team playing Standard and boy do I have my work cut out for me.
- 4 Mindwrack Demon
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 4 Grim Flayer
- 4 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 3 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
- 4 Walking Ballista
Now this was basically where the metagame stood before Pro Tour Aether Revolt, where most of the competitive community let out a deep sigh of exasperation after the first round of the Top 8 was over, seeing as we would have nothing but decks that looked like these for the remainder of the day:
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 1 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
- 2 Pia Nalaar
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Toolcraft Exemplar
- 3 Inventor's Apprentice
- 4 Veteran Motorist
The talk of Reddit and the rest of the Internet was about nothing other than Mardu Vehicles after the first round of play. We had a Top 8 dominated by one deck putting six copies into it, not losing to anything but the mirror. This hasn’t happened since the days of the old Extended format where Elves was literally the worst-kept secret, with everyone thinking they had the breakout deck for the event.
So where do we go from here?
There are plenty of different variations of these three decks ranging from a more aggressive version of B/G utilizing more of the energy synergies to Four-Color Saheeli Rai decks that sometimes add Aetherworks Marvel and potentially are greedy enough to incorporate Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Beyond that, we could go all-in on several Metalwork Colossus variants such as this:
Now this is a deck after my own heart. Prior to the Pro Tour I had greatly considered bringing this deck to the Open in Richmond as I believe it has a very good B/G Delirium match up and plenty of game against Saheeli Rai decks as well. Mardu Vehicles wasn’t as prevalent of a force in the metagame at that time and may prove to be a turn or two too fast for this deck to handle. With some additional sweepers in the form of Radiant Flames and potentially Yahenni’s Expertise thrown into the sideboard, it’s a deck that can compete for sure.
Herald of Anguish is a card that still has a lot of room to grow. I’m not sold that this format has been solved with cards like Herald lying around with extremely powerful disruption effects, not to mention a cheap flying threat that can completely dominate combat.
Important things I’ve come to realize from the past three weeks with two Opens, a Pro Tour and a Grand Prix (which I’m currently watching) worth of data to analyze is that you desperately need interaction starting on turn 1. With cards like Toolcraft Exemplar rivaling the power level of Wild Nacatl and explosively powerful two-drop creatures with hyper-synergies like Winding Constrictor, if you’re not matching their power, you need to be answering them.
While at first we didn’t know just how powerful this card would be without being able to easily trigger the revolt mechanic, I believe Fatal Push is going to be the premier removal spell for its entire legality in Standard. Being able to answer Heart of Kiran with the buffs from either Veteran Motorist or Depala, Pilot Exemplar, which Grasp of Darkness cannot, gives it that last little push to warrant my approval.
Ultimately, for Standard I’ll likely be running back a different variation of B/G Delirium with Mardu Vehicles more in mind as I expect to see a spike in their popularity.
- 3 Mindwrack Demon
- 4 Tireless Tracker
- 4 Grim Flayer
- 3 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 2 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
- 4 Walking Ballista
The format has shifted to where Fatal Push is almost required as a four-of in this kind of deck to keep up with the speed of Mardu Vehicles. In conjunction to just maindecking the best value creature in the format, Tireless Tracker, the Clues you get from the “landfall” ability allow Fatal Push to ensure you can take down Felidar Guardian out of the Saheeli Rai combo deck.
Planeswalkers are among Magic’s most powerful card types. With that in mind this deck gets to load up on the best ones Standard has to offer in terms of grinding a long game out or ending the game in short order, depending on the matchup.
Ob Nixilis Reignited truly shines in any sort of mirror match, being both removal and card advantage. It’s not at its best against the Saheeli Rai combo decks because they do just threaten to end the game on the spot at a moment’s notice, but it still has applications if the coast is clear. Liliana much the same way against control is an early, sticky threat and can pick off Veteran Motorist and Toolcraft Exemplar out of Mardu.
That’s about everything I can muster about Standard. Even though the best and brightest brought their A game to the Pro Tour, I can’t help but believe that we’re still missing something hidden in this format. Hopefully in the coming weeks we see something emerge to shake things up. I’d prefer it not do so in the same way the Aetherworks Marvel decks did prior to the release of Aether Revolt, but you never know.
Quick asides for the remaining two formats at the Open in Baltimore:
We’re lucky enough to have had a slew of Regional Championship results for Modern shortly after the most recent banning of Golgari Grave-Troll and Gitaxian Probe. The famous saying of “The more things change, the more things stay the same” certainly applies here. While Dredge and Infect were likely the biggest losers from this banning, it doesn’t mean they were given the complete “axe” such as we’ve seen before with Modern bannings.
The regulars of the format certainly do still exist with Bant Eldrazi, Tron, Grixis Delver, Burn, Affinity and many more doing well across the country, but what gained something from Aether Revolt?
With this deck getting Goblin Electromancer copies five through eight, the likelihood of one surviving goes up exponentially. I’ve tinkered around with Storm before, but even with Gitaxian Probe leaving, it seems like Storm has the staying power and consistency to be a contender moving forward.
As for Legacy, it’s a format where people will play whatever they like. There are defined archetypes, but even after years and years of harsh scrutiny, Magic has too many rocks left unturned to think you’re truly ready for anything. Leovold, Emissary of Trest seems to have been the new hotness to come from the most recent Legacy Grand Prix and I see no reason why my favorite Sultai legendary creature would show any signs of slowing down, especially since it’s paired with Magic’s best one-drop creature, Deathrite Shaman.
That’s it for me today! I hope you all have enjoyed reading and I suggest you do what you can to make your way to what will be perhaps the highlight of my year in Baltimore for the Team Open! Let me know what you think of the decks or any suggestions!