Crash & Burn

Ten-time SCG Open Top 8 competitor Chris VanMeter shares his thoughts about Standard and Legacy leading in to #SCGINVI in Charlotte this weekend.


Crash and burn.

This phrase describes my experience at Grand Prix Cincinnati perfectly.

Despite an awesome 7-0 start and locking myself for day 2, I promptly went 0-4 and was just about dead as a doorknob.

Of the eight rounds of Magic I played, I faced Mono-Red or R/W Burn six times.


If you recall my article last week, I went through the sideboarding process for the Jund Monsters build that I was planning on using. I also talked about how I was unhappy with Courser of Kruphix and how I felt like being more aggressive was where you wanted to be in a field full of Sphinx’s Revelation and Desecration Demon decks.

Then I played against a bunch of Rakdos Cackler and Boros Charm decks, and my mana base with twelve shock lands looked a little silly.

If the SCG Invitational in Charlotte had been last week, my list would have been a great call, but now I don’t believe that it was for the GP. Regardless of my results, I think that being this aggressive and hoping to avoid as many aggressive decks as possible is a good strategy for an invite-only tournament where you can put the majority of the players on decks like Esper Control and Mono-Black Devotion but isn’t great for an 1800-person Grand Prix where you can put your opponents on literally anything.

I learned quite a bit about the deck and how I want to move forward with it though.

Scavenging Ooze was just as good as I thought it was going to be. Whether it’s in Monsters or not, having all of the removal available with black in your post-board shell makes Scavenging Ooze extremely powerful. Because we have planeswalkers like Domri Rade and Xenagos, the Reveler, and giant monsters like Polukranos, World Eater and Stormbreath Dragon, our opponent’s removal is extremely taxed, which leaves Scavenging Ooze to go unimpeded. In all of the matches against the red decks that I won, I was able to get a midgame Scavenging Ooze down and grow it out of burn range while padding my life total.

With the burn deck continuing to gain popularity, we have to go back to either Courser of Kruphix or straight G/R so we aren’t killing ourselves with our lands. I’m not a huge fan of Courser at the moment, but I think if we were to get rid of Boon Satyr, we could play some number of Courser. We could also just find some other way to combat the burn deck, such as Bow of Nylea or Nylea’s Disciple, but Skullcrack is real and a huge pain in the rear.

I think that we still want Courser of Kruphix but not the full four. The issue that I ran into before was that Courser is this powerful effect that I want most games but not always on turn 3 depending on what I have to cast (Domri Rade; Xenagos, the Reveler; Polukranos, World Eater). I rarely if ever wanted more than one Courser.

I think that one or two copies of Courser of Kruphix is the right number. This will give us access to the powerful effects of this card when they are indeed powerful and will reduce the chance that we get stuck with more than one when we don’t want them.

The life gain is obviously very good against red decks, and the potential to chain together cards with Domri Rade can be powerful against midrange strategies. But against a lot of decks I would much rather just be casting my planeswalkers or jumping the curve with my mana guys (Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid) to play some monsters.

I definitely plan on trying out one or two copies of Courser of Kruphix this week, and since there two slots (previously occupied by Boon Satyr) to work with, we have a few options.

If we go with just one Courser of Kruphix, that leaves us room for another card. Some potential options for this card are the second Courser of Kruphix, the 24th land, another removal spell (Dreadbore, Mizzium Mortars, Ultimate Price, Abrupt Decay), a Disenchant effect like Destructive Revelry; another planeswalker (Chandra, Pyromaster or Garruk, Caller of Beasts); Rakdos’s Return; and Sire of Insanity. I’m sure there are other cards we could consider, but I think this is a pretty stock list to start with.

I don’t really think that we want the 24th land. I’ve been happy with the eight mana accelerants and 23 lands. If we had some number of six-drops in the deck, then I could see wanting the 24th land, but without any I think I’ll stick with 23.

We currently have 25 creatures (with the empty slot), and I would like to have 26, which leads me to want the second Courser of Kruphix or another impactful one-of like Sire of Insanity. Gruul Ragebeast just saw some play in the sideboard of a G/R Monsters list at the SCG Standard Open in Los Angeles this past weekend, which could also be considered. Another removal spell could be good, and I almost swapped the Mizzium Mortars that I played in Cincinnati for an Abrupt Decay in the main.

Adding another planeswalker seems like it could be good. However, we’re already pretty skewed toward being good against control with three copies Xenagos, the Reveler in the main and only four removal spells when a lot of builds play upward of six. I guess we could consider Vraska the Unseen as an option here too.

In addition to the maindeck change I want to make, I also feel like something should be different my sideboard. I really liked having access to a lot of removal post-board, but I would like one or two more instant spell removal spells as opposed to all of the sorcery speed ones. I also want access to a second Sire of Insanity and possibly some copies of Thoughtseize. Bow of Nylea seems pretty sweet out of the sideboard as well since I feel like the burn deck will have a very tough time beating that card and we don’t lose a lot by playing one super high-impact card in our board.

Here’s where I’m going to be starting my work for the Invitational.

I’m pretty excited about the possibility of making sure the coast is clear for Sire of Insanity against Sphinx’s Revelation decks with Thoughtseize. I’ve cut the Garruk, Caller of Beasts that I usually run in the sideboard for another copy of Sire of Insanity since I’m going to be bringing in Sire against the decks where I would usually have Garruk, but Sire has the added bonus of being decent against burn decks too.

I didn’t find room for a Bow of Nylea, and I’m going to play a bunch of games against burn decks this week to see if it’s even needed with Courser of Kruphix back in the deck. My hope is that there just isn’t a ton of Boros Charm in Charlotte.

I’m interested to hear what other people’s opinions are about running fewer than four copies of Courser of Kruphix. I feel like the common thread is to run either the full four or zero, but I don’t think that Courser is a card that usually fits that category.

With the last two Open Series being on the West Coast, I haven’t had a chance to play Legacy in a tournament in a while, and I’m itching to cast Brainstorm again.

Trying to figure out what to play in Legacy for an Invitational is always a fun exercise of trying to guess where people are going to be and adjusting from there. I usually like to start by looking at the Top 8 from the last Legacy Open, but if I tried doing that with the Top 8 from LA this past weekend, my head would explode:

What happened? I suppose since California is close to Washington and Colorado, they might have been a little under the influence?

Moving past the unique decks from LA, I actually think that RUG Delver is pretty well positioned right now. I know what you’re all thinking: "But CVM, the last time you wrote about Delver, you talked about how much you hated RUG Delver and that Stifle was stupid." Well, avid reader, you are correct, but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to eat my words and admit when things change. A lot of times Stifle is a do-nothing, but most times it’s a do-nothing for our opponent, especially when we can snap them off with one in game 1. Most of the time Stifle isn’t even in our deck in the post-board games, but they always have to respect it.

Any deck in Legacy can lose to Stifle, Daze, Wasteland, and Spell Pierce, and RUG Delver is the best shell for that combination of disruption right now.

I’ve lost many games to the ol’ Nimble Mongoose, and with how most games are playing out right now in Legacy, it ends up in a role close to True-Name Nemesis, except it only costs one mana. Nimble Mongoose obviously isn’t on the same level as True-Name Nemesis, but when backed by the plethora of disruption that RUG Delver gets to play, it sure can feel like it sometimes.

That being said, I still don’t see myself jamming into Charlotte with RUG Delver. I do know that I’ll be playing Brainstorm, but that’s all I know at the moment

I still think that Show and Tell is the most busted card in Legacy, and I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t at least consider a deck with Show and Tell in it. I’ve had success with Reanimator as well as Sneak and Show, so those are both in my wheelhouse.

I do like Phimus Pan’s winning BUG Control list from LA, and it’s quite close to the BUG Control decks that Brian Braun-Duin and I were working on around the Indy polar vortex adventure that we took. I would definitely want the fourth Liliana of the Veil, as it is basically the second best card in the deck (Brainstorm numba one duh). I also think that Snapcaster Mage is probably better than Baleful Strix, but I could be wrong.

It does warm my heart to see Marsh Casualties win an Open though.

I expect to see a lot of Stoneforge Mystic decks in Charlotte, so at the very least I’m going to be looking for something that can beat a Squire, which Show and Tell decks are usually pretty good against.

The last couple large events have been an absolute blast for me. I’ve met a lot of awesome people and signed a lot of cards, playmats, and even some dude’s beard. Yes, a beard—it was just as interesting as you can imagine. I love the support and how many people stop to introduce themselves and let me know that they love the Versus video series or how epic my beard is. It really does make all of the travel and sleep deprivation worth it to hear stories of how people are learning so much and getting better from the content that I produce and about how all of their friends are rooting for me every weekend so that I can finally shave this beast off my face.

I’ve actually grown quite attached to it. But summer is coming and it’s gonna be hot. I wouldn’t mind a trim. Maybe this weekend I can slam dunk this Invitational, get another token, and have a nice clean shave.

Wouldn’t that just be sweet?