Brad Nelson revisits the surprises of last weekend’s big event! Then, he tells you the cards that are poised for a huge showing at #SCGATL this weekend!

I have learned many things in the wake of #SCGINDY this past weekend, but none more palpable than people’s love for Crackling Doom. Last week, I put the three mana removal spell in
the “don’t play” pile, and to my surprise a decent proportion of the comments were about how I was wrong. Lo and behold the results came in, and I found
myself on the wrong side of the argument. I just didn’t know it was so easy for decks to splash the way they can in this format. I was wrong, and the
masses were right. What else was I wrong about? Today I’m going to take my Omniscient hat off and let my humbled hair fly.

I’ve never really done well week one of a new format. I don’t know if it’s because I always play it too safe, or that I’m not as good of a deck designer as
I thought. Truth be told, I have been slowly realizing it is probably the latter. Most of my success in Magic has centered around stagnant formats that
allowed me to metagame better than everyone else. The skills I have that allow me to do well in a developed metagame don’t transfer over that well to week
ones of a format. They don’t even help me come time for Pro Tours! Most of my PT success has been with others’ ideas. I’ve helped tune the decks they
played, but I can’t think of a successful Pro Tour where I played my own ideas. It only took me ten years to figure this out, but at least I wasn’t going
to keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

This worked out well when preparing for #SCGINDY this past weekend. I wasn’t too confident with any of the decks I was working on, but bodacious Brian
Braun-Duin had been working on an innovative version of Abzan Aggro. I knew of this deck because he spent most of his time testing the deck at my kitchen
table relentlessly beating me senseless over and over again with every deck I tried to play. I had seen enough and decided to play his deck. This is the
list I decided on.

What made this deck so unique to what I was working on was that it ignored playing any “enter the battlefield tapped” lands. Instead, it ran fourteen
fetchlands, five Battle lands, five basics, and two painlands. 26 lands that all enter the battlefield untapped! After two years of Temples, this sounded
like a dream come true! This deck wasn’t overpowered compared to anything I was playing with, but it was fast enough to feel that way. It got on the board
so quickly that I was never really able to feel like I had a chance on the draw whenever Brian curved into a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

I was actually extremely excited about the event. We tested a ton in the last couple days before the event, and I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on
the deck. I was excited to crush everyone and their super slow tri-land manabases. Energy levels were high, coffee in my system, Rhinos along with dreams
in my horizon, and the fire to burn everything in my path.

Everyone had these manabases… Like everyone! Sure some people had a few tri-lands in their decks, but they also had high fetchland decks with enough
sources to splash. Most of which were free since you always needed a fourth color Battle land to consistently be able to search for every color with
certain fetchlands.

I was getting slaughtered! Not literally, but I never finished three rounds in the tournament unscathed. The fifteen rounds showcased the more boring
series of events for me. Every two wins came with a loss. I never really got any traction, but I never really was out of it either. I was in Top 64 Limbo
all tournament and I didn’t even know it. Most of the decks I lost to were extremely fast, leaving me with almost an hour to think about how much I
underestimated the rest of the field. I thought we were going to absolutely crush people, but in actuality, our deck wasn’t even that good. What was good
was what we saw top 8 the tournament.

By now everyone should be aware of the week one results. We saw a stylish version of Atarka Red double-strike down Michael Majors and his G/W Megamorph
deck in the finals. Past that we had two Esper Dragons decks along with two Jeskai Black decks make an appearance in the top 8. We saw Abzan Control show
just how weak it was to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and Gerry Brought to Light that it is actually possible for him to lose at this game. So what does all
this information tell us?

The format is fast. Like, extremely fast. Players need to get on the board as quickly as possible to be able to deal with the potential damage dealt by
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Monastery Swiftspear. There isn’t much time to set up like there was last season. Even the slightest hiccup can result in a

I was actually surprised to see Esper Dragons do so well in this event given how much the weekend revolved around going first and being aggressive. This
was actually one of the weaknesses of the Abzan deck that we played. When on the play we were able to efficiently curve out and always be on the offensive,
but that was the problem with how the deck was built. The cards that made the deck so powerful on the play were not nearly as good when on the draw. Many
games were lost because I wasn’t able to get anything to stick long enough to effectively use Dromoka’s Command, and my early creatures ended up being so
small due to needing additional mana to become actual threats. If I was falling behind, how did Esper Dragons survive to make the top 8?

Personally I think it was a combination of good lists and good/ matchups. There were quite a lot of clunky decks running around, and many of the Jeskai
decks in the room didn’t get the memo that splashing Crackling Doom was free. This was most likely why these Esper Dragons decks did so well. I’m fairly
confident that this weekend will be much more difficult for the deck, but those that play the deck will be up for the challenge.

Speaking of cards that everyone jumped down my throat about disliking, Jeskai Black goes down as my favorite deck from #SCGINDY. Jeskai has always been a
deck that had powerful cards, but didn’t have enough good removal spells to consistently beat the tide of Siege Rhinos, Den Protectors, and Dragonlord
Ojutais. Often times the deck would be stuck playing a mishmash of removal spells to hopefully draw the right ones at the right time. Now the deck can
easily splash Crackling Doom, which fixes many of the problems the deck had prior to the Battle lands.

I didn’t think much of Mardu going into the weekend, which is why I said that Crackling Doom wasn’t going to be a good card. Little did I know that you
could upgrade Jeskai’s removal suite and make the deck ten times better. Moving forward, I think this deck has a great chance to be a dominant threat in
this format, but only if enough people don’t realize that this deck has found a great way to beat big dumb threats.

There are some ways to attack these Jeskai Black decks that are worth exploring. Michael Majors showed everyone this past weekend that G/W Megamorph was
still a potential threat even with the loss of everyone’s favorite mana accelerant – Elvish Mystic.

Even without a turn 1 mana play, the deck was quick to the board with powerful creatures that helped protect Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and trigger raid for
Wingmate Roc. One of the best ways to attack Jeskai right now is to get on the board faster than Jeskai can, which is exactly what this deck is able to do.
I expect this deck won’t need much innovation to continue putting up good results, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it have some innovations going into
#SCGATL this weekend. Splashing is relatively easy in the deck, which would allow you to either play Shambling Vents or Lumbering Falls.

The only significant problem for G/W Megamorph is the difficulty in beating Atarka Red in the configuration it is currently in.

This is without a doubt the most innovative deck to come out of the weekend. Everyone was prepared for Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage to show up in
G/R Landfall shells, but no one thought the red aggressive deck of the format would be playing this combo. This was why we saw DeMars constantly beat
players whose only defense for the matchup was Arashin Cleric. The more “normal” versions of Atarka Red that players were preparing for would usually fold
the 1/3 lifegain creature, but DeMars was only worried about cheap removal. Arashin Cleric was a mere nuisance, compared to the backbreaking effect
everyone else was hoping for.

I’m not really sure where these results are going to take us going into #SCGATL. All I know are the cards that overperformed and underperformed in my
results and watching others play last weekend. I’m going to wrap up today with my top and bottom 5 cards going into next weekend.

Top 5 Cards To Play At #SCGATL

This card can mostly only go into Jeskai variants, but its power is unquestionable. The loss of Lightning Strike was significant, and even though Fiery
Impulse can’t go to the dome, it can kill a Mantis Rider. Dealing three damage is much different than only two, which makes it a much better removal spell
than Wild Slash. There is an argument that Wild Slash can target players, but that defense only works in fringe corner cases. Most of the time, the card
will target creatures, which makes the one that kills more things a better choice.

In the same vein as Fiery Impulse, Murderous Cut kills things. I understand that that’s obvious, but sometimes the most simple thing is also the best.
Right now we live in a fetchland format, and all decks should be able to utilize them even when they are in the graveyard. From Mantis Rider to
creature-lands to Become Immense, killing creatures at instant speed for a relatively cheap cost is important. I’ve been more and more impressed with this
card as I play this format and see it being a staple for a very long time.

I can’t believe I am saying this, but Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is the best card in Standard. My disbelief comes from the fact that this is exactly what
happened last time we were on Zendikar! This time around, Jace is even better at manipulating the board since he comes down on turn 2 instead of
turn 4!

What sets Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy above the rest is the consistency he provides in the mid-late game. Temples are a thing of the past and now players are
starting to feel the effects of not being able to scry unwanted lands to the bottom of the deck. We again get to see what Magic was like when people missed
their third land drops or flooded at a rather high rate. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy helps smooth this out while also flipping into a planeswalker that lets you
control the game by replaying the cards that flipped the Jace to begin with.

I’m not even going to explain why this card is good. I can’t believe it was printed, and we will begin asking the “Gideon Test” much like we did with Jace,
the Mind Sculptor many years ago when that busted planeswalker was in Standard.

This little two-drop might have gotten a little weaker in this sped-up format, but it is still one of the best cards to be playing right now. Its ability
to give a deck an earlygame threat while also generating card advantage in the lategame sets this apart from most cards. This is also one of the ways for
green decks to fight the attrition battle against those playing Dig Through Time or Treasure Cruise. Just pair this little guy with removal spells to
dispatch opposing threats, and it’s difficult to be in a bad position.

Top 5 Cards To Avoid for #SCGATL

Valorous Stance has always been one of those cards that white decks had to play in concession to the Abzan matchups. It was never really that good anywhere
else, but Siege Rhino was consistently an issue, which made this card worth playing. Those are the days of the past now that Jeskai now gets to splash
Crackling Doom. I would steer clear of playing this card in any of my maindecks since the creatures are smaller now and there are less targets for Valorous
Stance. Plus Siege Rhino is on this list too!

I’m prepared for all the backlash in the world for putting this card on this list.

Siege Rhino is not that good right now. It’s great in Bring to Light decks, but Gerry made me put that card on this list as well! Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
is setting the pace for the format, which makes resolving this creature on the draw a serious liability. Not to mention the fact that the matchups this
card used to be good against are now playing many ways to deal with it. I was just not that impressed with this card this past weekend and will be looking
for any reason to not play Abzan at the Pro Tour.

The card is slow. That’s really the only reason for not liking it right now. Currently this format is lightning quick, which makes it difficult to
construct a sorcery speed deck correctly. I do think this card will be great in the near future, but the format is far too wide open and aggressive for
this card to put up good numbers.

Ruinous Path is bad for the same reason why Bring to Light is. The format is rather quick and has many things happening on the opponent’s turn. It’s too
difficult to try to always play catchup and build a winning board position at the same time. I was pretty high on this card for a while, but slowly
realized that it is impossible to play this card for less than seven mana and be impressed.

Crackling Doom is amazing! No seriously, this removal spell is single handedly going to push this staple out of the format. Don’t believe me? You just wait
to see how well Esper Dragons does this weekend once we see more decks adopt the splash for Crackling Doom!

That’s all I have for this week. It’s time for me to join the rest of my team in what is going to be an exciting time testing for the Pro Tour. Both the
Limited and Constructed formats look amazing as well as complicated. I’m predicting that this Pro Tour is going to be won by someone who earned it every
step of the way. I better have my A game next weekend or you might find me watching the coverage on day two, because this is going to be one hard fought
event. I can’t wait to put my everything into the next week and try to put up a great finish to start this year off right.

I have to help Seth Manfield test for next years’ top 4 again, right?