Big Lessons From The Big Formats

Back-to-back Invitational Champion Tom Ross got to see and play a lot of different Magic formats last weekend! Each of his experiences gave him valuable info for the upcoming #SCGNY as well as #SCGRegionals weekend!

SCG Regionals August 6!

#SCGBALT was a tough weekend for me. I walked out of Baltimore with only 3 SCG Points. The grind is real.

This is what I registered for the Standard Open.

Humans! Surprise!

I went 5-4 in the Standard Open with W/R Humans, a legit 3-4 after two byes, losing my last two rounds to not make Day 2.

I started losing to Bant Company when I wasn’t before. My opponents’ cards felt more powerful than ever before. Thalia, Heretic Cathar was involved in all four rounds I lost. Reckless Bushwhacker was embarrassing.

It seems like they got the memo: respect W/R Humans or get run over by it.

I tried some things just to try them. I played with Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Selfless Spirit in W/R Humans in testing before ultimately cutting them. I wanted to give them another shot.

What I Learned

The new toys from Eldritch Moon don’t add much, if anything, to Humans. The deck wants to play three one-drops by turn 2 and hope that’s good enough. The red package is getting progressively worse as now everyone knows what’s coming (piecing together a Needle Spires means Reckless Bushwhacker is in the deck now). Decks that were once pure control, like W/B Control, have moved to W/B Angels, where now Thalia, Heretic Cathar and other good creatures are blocking.

Thalia, Heretic Cathar even prevented me from playing a Battlefield Forge untapped when I desperately needed it.

The only way to move forward with Humans is to… move backwards. Revert to a simple Mono-White version that does what it does.

Eighteen Plains and 23 one-drops. No pain. Always untapped. It’s not pretty but it’ll get the job done.


I brought Infect and Pox with me for Legacy in case the Open didn’t go well. Since I was a few Sinkholes short of where I wanted to be with Pox, I went ahead with Infect.

I label my deck boxes to find what I’m looking for more easily. Of course, it’s not good to sit across from an opponent with a deck box labeled “Infect.” I’m sure 90% of people would already put me on Infect anyway, but I can’t just leave value lying out there. I put my Infect deck in my Pox deck box and was ready to battle.

Not fooling anyone.

It was a seven-round tournament, just short of eight, meaning a 6-1 record was likely needed to Top 8.

I won the first round, then got paired against Ben Friedman. The last time I played Ben was in a Legacy Classic. I was playing Pox in that tournament. Will he fall for my deck box trick? He won the die roll.

“Play or draw?”

“Play,” he says.

Dang, didn’t work.

He was on Grixis Delver and beat me soundly. He later went on the win the tournament, also rather soundly. The player and matchup I didn’t want to face, especially that early in the tournament.

I picked up a couple of wins in Rounds 3 and 4. Then a Storm-playing gentleman ended my possible Top 8 run by beating me in the fifth round. I won the sixth round.

Going into Round 7, it looked like I would fall just short of Top 16 with a win and just outside of Top 32 with a loss. I told my seventh round opponent the logic, and while I got the impression he didn’t fully understand the math I was spewing at him, he trusted my tiebreaker analysis. An intentional draw was in our best interests.

I finished in 25th at 4-2-1 and him in 27th. Had I won I would’ve finished in 17th, or alternatively lost into 37th place.

What I Learned

Legacy isn’t as “Wild West” as it used to be. Infect is great at beating a wide range of decks. It’s also great against unsuspecting opponents. With Grixis Delver quickly becoming the most popular Delver variant, it’s becoming increasingly tougher for Infect to win.

I also haven’t innovated the list really at all since #SCGSTL nearly a year ago. I used to be on top of the Legacy metagame, but with the lowered importance of Legacy events, it’s gotten less and less of my attention to where I’m basically running back the same sleeved list over-and-over.

Card advantage seems to be the missing element to fight against Grixis Delver. They have great options like Forked Bolt, Grim Lavamancer, Young Pyromancer, and Snapcaster Mage. Sylvan Library is basically all Infect has. Maybe a page out of Todd Stevens’s Modern Infect list and trying some Nissa, Voice of Zendikar against the removal-heavy decks?

It’s probably time for me to finally register that Eureka-Tell list I’ve been working on, at least to get the reps in and tune it.


One way or another, my Legacy matches were done in time to watch most of the Modern Classic.

Todd Stevens was playing his take on Infect. Todd Anderson had his Temur Delver deck created the night before out of his “Temur Box.” Jeff Hoogland was playing his latest Chord of Calling variant, this time with Eldritch Evolution. Gerry Thompson rocked a Grixis brew featuring Liliana, the Last Hope.

Nothing out of the ordinary there. What I didn’t expect to see was Soul Sisters and Dredge doing well at the top tables.

I considered playing Soul Sisters in the Modern Classic myself. However, last time I played Soul Sisters, I got wrecked repeatedly by Abzan Company and didn’t want to experience that again. Gaining a “bunch of life” was never as good as “infinite.”

Paul Schultz played a fairly traditional version of Soul Sisters with a bunch of Serra Ascendants, Squadron Hawks, and Honor of the Pure. I wish he ran some Lone Riders to see if they’re good or not. I want to know. I just don’t want to play a tournament with them myself to find out.

I prefer the full four Windbrisk Heights, Horizon Canopy, and Ranger of Eos along with some Thraben Inspectors to grab as my card advantage engines. Paul went with Squadron Hawks along with Mistveil Plains to put dead Birds back on bottom to find again.

Mistveil Plains, you the real MVP.

By running Ghost Quarter, he makes Spectral Procession less attractive. Godless Shrine can be searched up with Flagstones of Trokair, as can the aforementioned Mistveil Plains. Splashing black for mostly just Lingering Souls is rather easy to pull off, though I don’t love shocking myself when I’m trying to get to 30 life. A Swamp is also in there that can be searched up either by Ghost Quartering yourself (on Flagstones of Trokair perhaps?) or through a Path to Exile, whether your opponent’s or your own. All-in-all, enough black sources to be pleasantly comfortable.

I watched Todd Anderson win versus Paul in the 4-0 bracket. Then I got to watch Todd get mangled by the following deck the very next round.

I watched as Bridge from Below forced Todd to Lightning Bolt his own creature just to remove the Bridge(s) Game 1. Then I watched Todd conjure up some exactsies with some key Vapor Snags in Game 2. Justin O’Keefe sat there for a while, befuddled, before scooping up his cards.

It’s like he wasn’t used to losing games.

At 6-0 Justin had to play a 5-0-1 player piloting Jund. Maindeck Scavenging Oozes dragged the match out in two long games before ending in an unintentional draw. An intentional draw in the eighth round locked up his Top 8.

From there he swept the Top 8 without dropping a game.

Me: “What’s that card?”

Justin: ” Shriekhorn ? It’s insane!”

I got to watch Justin O’Keefe pilot his pet Dredge deck for a few rounds. It’s his own personal version that he’d be tweaking ever since Prized Amalgam was spoiled. Shriekhorn and Greater Gargadon are huge innovations. You can read a deeper analysis from Ross Merriam’s Daily Digest of the deck here.

What I Learned

Justin O’Keefe found the right version of Dredge. Vengevine is a distraction that’s too slow and clunky. The ability to get your creatures into the graveyard at instant speed at any time with Greater Gargadon is amazing.

Soul Sisters is pretty decent right now, at least in Classics. Abzan Company used to be rampant and now it’s hardly anywhere to be seen. What changed?

My guess is G/R Tron pushed Abzan Company out. U/G Infect then pushed down the number of G/R Tron players. Now Burn and Zoo are reasonable options. Now Soul Sisters is in a good spot?

U/G Infect is probably just the best thing to play. Todd Stevens and Owen Turtenwald both feel like it’s just the best deck. Todd likes it because it’s the Legacy version on “easy mode.” I don’t like the Modern version as much because there’s “not enough play” to it. Whatever, if it wins, it wins.

All of this will likely change before #SCGNY in Syracuse next weekend. People tend to throw out some feelers in the Classics before Modern Opens and, more importantly, the upcoming Invitational in New Jersey, which is half Modern.

Standard has taken the limelight the past few weeks. The buzz of Pro Tour Eldritch Moon has everyone’s focus. Brewing in Modern has been on the back burner. This will change very soon.

I expect people to be hustling getting their #SCGRegionals decks together on Friday night after seeing glimpses of Day 1 Pro Tour coverage. After that excitement wanes, it’ll be Modern in high gear. At least for me.

I have my own take on Soul Sisters. I have some Nissa, Voice of Zendikar in my Infect sideboard. I’ve already got Justin O’Keefe’s Dredge deck built to test with.

I wonder how good Liliana, the Last Hope is in Dredge….

SCG Regionals August 6!