[Welcome back to Fact or Fiction! Today, SCG Tour commentators Patrick Sullivan and Cedric Phillips give their takes on five statements inspired by their thoughts on SCG Worcester this weekend. Read their responses and vote for the winner at the end!]
1. Grixis Delver is the deck to beat coming into SCG Worcester.
Patrick Sullivan: Fact.In spite of writing this series with some frequency, I’m not always the biggest fan of the format. The answers to a lot of these questions rest somewhere in the middle of “Fact” and “Fiction,” and some nuance is required. Not this time.
If you don’t have a cohesive plan for beating Grixis Delver, I can’t imagine being optimistic about one’s chances this weekend, and if I were playing Grixis Delver, I would spend a lot of equity trying to get an edge in the mirror match. I fully expect it to be above 20% of the Day 2 field, which is astounding for a format with such a massive card pool.
Fortunately, going about beating this deck, or at least improving one’s chances, isn’t as hard as the deck’s pedigree would suggest. Cheap and effective removal, playing a manabase that isn’t vulnerable to Wasteland, and/or attacking Grixis Delver’s sometimes dodgy mana all work to add percentage points, and so multiple approaches are viable. But going into a Legacy tournament right now and shrugging your shoulders about this matchup isn’t an acceptable plan.
Cedric Phillips: Fact. I believe this to be the case solely on its share of the metagame, as I believe it will be around 15-20% of the SCG Worcester metagame. And while there’s no denying that Grixis Delver is a Tier 1 deck in Legacy, I don’t think it’s the best deck in the format; I believe that distinction belongs to Lands.
However, not everyone owns a copy of The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, not everyone can get their hands on four copies of Exploration, and, most importantly, not everyone has played as many games as Jody Keith and Kevin King with this unique strategy.
That’s not to say that Grixis Delver is easy to pilot, as any deck with Brainstorm is incredibly difficult to play optimally, but Lands isn’t a normal Magic deck. It’s obscure in its nature to both play with and play against. If you’re well-versed with Lands like Keith and King are, you get a noticeable advantage on the tournament, and if either of them show up this weekend, I expect to see them in the elimination rounds.
2. Given its success in Team Constructed Opens, Turbo Depths is a better option than Lands for SCG Worcester.
Patrick Sullivan: Fiction. You can want to play this deck for a variety of reasons, but “it’s better than Lands” shouldn’t be one of them. Lands stomps on Delver strategies of all sorts, and if Delver is a large enough portion of the field, that can be a key selling point, even if your combo matchups are suspect. Turbo Depths isn’t awful against Delver decks by any means, but Turbo Depths and Lands have such different matchups (in spite of a lot of similar cards) that I wouldn’t compare them as “either-or” options.
I’m interested to see if there will be adaptation in response to Turbo Depths, however. Unlike Lands, which can grind through interaction with Life from the Loam, it is much harder for Turbo Depths to reassemble after making Marit Lage the first time. It could be a good weekend for cards like Swords to Plowshares or even Seal of Removal. Legacy metagames move slowly, but there are enough copies of Dark Depths floating around that people may try some unorthodox cards.
Cedric Phillips: Fact. While I believe Lands is the better deck, Turbo Depths is the easier deck to play. It’s important to remember that Legacy is an incredibly complicated format with a deep card pool, a lot of different decks, and a lot of weird interactions. One of the best ways to bypass all of those barriers to entry? Make a 20/20 as fast as possible and kill the opponent.
Again, Lands is a deck with a high skill cap, but one of the nice things about Turbo Depths is that it, apparently, has a good matchup against Lands. If players come to SCG Worcester with Lands in hand, which I think is a good decision because I think it’s the best deck in the format, Turbo Depths appears to be a pretty natural counter to it. It’s faster, strangely resilient in the face of what Lands tries to do, and has a lot of “Oops, I win!” draws.
3. If one were to play a combo deck at SCG Worcester, Sneak and Show is the best option.
Patrick Sullivan: Fact. I played this deck a few months ago at a Team Constructed tournament and loved it, in spite of something like a 9-6 personal record. If you are playing with Omniscience, the Lands matchup is an absolute howler – I went 3-0 against that deck and the matches did not feel close at all. I batted around 50% against Delver, and that could have easily been higher with a better list and tighter play. The matchups in which I felt very behind were against things like Counterbalance and Knight of the Reliquary – not exactly the cards getting top billing right now. And with the ubiquity of Deathrite Shaman and people trying to fight Life from the Loam, I put a premium on not needing the graveyard.
I’m short on advice on the actual construction of the deck, but I wouldn’t play a maindeck Mountain and I would want a full playset of Blood Moons in the sideboard. Trying to interact with Delver’s creatures with cards like Pyroclasm felt worse than just trying to shove through a kill, but I don’t mind a little of that in the sideboard. Last, I would want the ability to sideboard into at least three copies of Omniscience, with at least one in the main.
Cedric Phillips: Fiction. Buckle up, kiddos, because this ride is about to get bumpy. If I were to play in SCG Worcester this weekend and I wanted to play a combo deck, I’d 100% play Belcher this weekend.
Yes, that Belcher. The glassiest of cannons Belcher. Why, you ask?
Well, there appear to be a lot of decks without Force of Will running around the format right now. Yes, Grixis Delver has it and so does Four-Color Leovold, but Belcher decks have been beating Force of Will for years, and if they don’t have it…well…you know how that goes…
But more importantly, I actually like Belcher as an option for beating the decks that are trying to beat Grixis Delver. I love the matchup against other combo decks because you’re just faster than they are and I love the matchup against Lands and Turbo Depths.
Yeah, this is a total gamble, but as the cool kids say… “No Gamble, No Future.”
4. Even though the deck no longer has Sensei’s Divining Top, Miracles is still a totally reasonable option for SCG Worcester.
Patrick Sullivan: Fact. I think it’s important not to be influenced by anchoring bias – yes, the deck isn’t nearly as good as it used to be, but that isn’t the point. Terminus, Swords to Plowshares, and a manabase that’s good against Wasteland sounds like an awesome place to be right now. Sensei’s Divining Top provides the deck a lot of power, but what are the matchups where it’s specifically important to have Sensei’s Divining Top / Counterbalance lock ASAP? Storm? Burn? Not exactly talking about the most popular decks. With where the format is right now, grinding with cantrips, card advantage, and a soft-but-flexible Counterbalance lock should be sufficient.
I think Miracles is at its best when the format is a bit on the slower side. In spite of Force of Will and the old lock, I never thought its matchup against the fastest decks was anything to write home about – just too many dead cards in the maindeck, and too hard to put together multiple pieces of interaction in the first turn or two even after sideboarding. The current format is fairly slow, by Legacy’s standards. The card Counterspell is better right now than it usually is. I respect this deck as a viable option.
Cedric Phillips: Fact. For me, this is the most slept-on deck in the format. It’s easy to ignore the fact that Miracles has been good post-Sensei’s Divning Top ban, but the truth is that it has been totally fine and is only getting better. Legacy players are slowly but surely figuring out the best way to build the deck, and as they keep working on it, it keeps putting up more and more relevant results.
Yes, the days of Top / Counterbalance are gone, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Not only is that a horrible play experience for the opponent, it’s a horrible experience for everyone involved that isn’t the person doing it – judges, viewers, commentators. To see that removed from Legacy is a good thing, but to see the deck still be viable without it is an even better thing. I love when decks survive having a key piece banned, and that’s exactly what we’re seeing here. It took a little while for the Legacy crowd to figure it out, but Miracles is back.
5. Instead of trying to think of a fifth question, I should just insert the video of you roasting Ross Merriam from a few years ago because he’s for sure going to read this article.
Patrick Sullivan: N/A. Honestly, this whole thing is kind of played out for me, and I’m sure for Ross as well. Ross is great; he’s better now than I ever was at Magic, and his resume is unquestionably deeper at this point. If this match wasn’t in the Top 8 of a tournament, or wasn’t on camera, this moment would have fallen by the wayside by now. But that’s not what happened, and now it lives on in archives and tweets and memes forever.
I will admit to taking some joy in the poetic nature of the end with me gathering my belongings while Ross remains at the table, cards up and befuddled. Besides being powerful on its own merits, the moment is emblematic of the whole: I’ve moved on to other things, but Ross has to live with it for much longer.
Cedric Phillips. Fact. How could this not be a fact?! What you wonderful people don’t realize is that every time the Utah Jazz do anything even remotely positive, the tweets and texts from Ross just start firing in. Joe Ingles this. Donovan Mitchell that. Throw in the Cavaliers’ inability to ever win in Salt Lake City for some strange reason and this is my attempt at revenge.
Plus, it’s my birthday and I like to troll Ross whenever possible. Danny! Roll the clip!