Getting Wrecked And Big Time Tech: An SCG CON Tale

Owen took on the SCG Tour at SCG Con and came away with plenty to say! He had wins, losses, and fun, and today he wants to give you some nifty tech you may have missed!

Two weekends ago, I played in the Season One Invitational at SCG CON and it
was truly a sight to behold. I’ve been traveling to major tournaments and
casual conventions for the past fifteen years, and I can say with
confidence I’ve never felt a more friendly and welcoming environment. SCG
CON was packed wall to wall with every flavor of Magic player you’ll come
across. I had planned my trip much longer in advance than I usually do
since it was between Grand Prix Las Vegas and Pro Tour Dominaria.

I was lucky enough to spend the weekend with Brad Nelson and his fiancee’,
Amber, in their lovely home. It was fun to relax a little bit and share
some Pro Tour war stories with someone who’s usually a person I avoid
speaking with altogether, not because of personality conflicts but because
he’s on a major competing team. It hurts the social aspect of Magic for me
trying to stay on top anytime I speak to another player, as I might
accidentally blurt out some piece of strategy that they didn’t previously
understand and maybe that will be the nugget of wisdom needed to conquer
Worlds this year.

Fortunately, the Season One Invitational wasn’t at all about concealing
information or maximizing my chances to win the Invitational, and I was
vocal about it. I went because I wanted to have fun. As a result, I played
the same deck I played at the Pro Tour in Standard and B/R Hollow One in
Modern, a pet deck of mine for some time now.

I felt good about R/B Aggro and Hollow Bae as my weapons of choice and I
knew that despite the fact that I hadn’t practiced any Modern in weeks,
that I knew my deck inside and out. Worst case scenario I would be
competitive. In a contest which was dubbed by the media as “Pros Vs. Joes”
I’ll say the amateurs performed admirably. They gave me a run for my money,
and I got zero free wins.

Just as a random aside, I found it funny when I was sitting at the table
about to play Wyatt Darby in Top 4 of Pro Tour Dominaria and the
coverage reporter at the table and Wyatt both joked that it was a battle of
David VS Goliath. I felt compelled to mention that Goliath was known for
two things: being a big, dumb idiot and losing. I liked the analogy from a
perspective that everyone is expecting David to lose and Goliath is the
favorite going in, but past that, it seems to break down.

I rolled into the tournament with my confidence at an all-time high, and
round one I got called for a feature match against Jim Davis. I’ve heard
some especially unfriendly professional players in the past refer to the
SCG Tour as the “minor leagues” of competitive Magic, but when I was in
that packed convention center in the middle of the roped off area with the
bright lights on me, I was nervous. My opponent, a former SCG Tour Players’
Champion and one of the flagship players on the SCG Tour was ice cold and
gave me no room for error at the table. It was a fun match to play and,
ultimately, I had the better hands and the advantage in the matchup before
we shuffled the cards so I was able to win 2-0, but my final score in
Modern was 4-4 so maybe it’s time to put my Hollow Bae down once and for

In Standard, in one match that I wish I had back I kept a questionable hand
and lost, which was a tough pill to swallow since I’ve been such an
advocate for mulliganing aggressively with my take on R/B Aggro. I simply
lost focus. My hand on the draw game three against Esper Control was the

I knew I didn’t like my hand, but I convinced myself that since it was a
sideboard game and my deck contained 4 Glorybringer, 3 Hazoret the Fervent,
2 Rekindling Phoenix, and 3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance that the fourth and
fifth land in my hand each had greater than normal value. I didn’t consider
that Duress as a sideboard card, in general, is substantially weaker
against Esper than it is against U/W Control since often they rely on
creatures like The Scarab God and Torrential Gearhulk. During testing, I
urged the guys on the team that if you ever have a close decision between
mulligan and keep you should lean slightly more towards mulligan for two
reasons: Hazoret and Bomat Courier.

Sometimes a mulligan is outright to your advantage since the smaller your
hand is, the more likely it is that Hazoret can attack immediately. Some of
my best hands are ones where I mulligan to five and play a Hazoret that can
attack immediately on turn four. I also know that Bomat Courier doesn’t
care what my hand looks like when I activate it since all the cards are
lost when I get a new hand. If I had zero cards because I mulliganed to
five or two because I kept my opening hand, it doesn’t matter. Having two
cards like that in your deck changes mulligan decisions a lot since one
rewards you for it and one makes it so it doesn’t matter that you

I think my biggest problem at the Season One Invitational was that I didn’t
have the same competitive edge I normally do. I was still experiencing
burnout from Pro Tour Dominaria, and I wanted to relax and hang
out with some friendly faces. I didn’t get to do as much of that as I would
have liked. The first day was, honestly, a mess. I sideboarded poorly and
played multiple games quite poorly. If people watched my games expecting
exceptional play, they didn’t get it, but I think I’m comfortable with
that. You can call it “The Fire” or being in the zone, but for me, it’s
just hard to turn it on when my heart just isn’t in it. One match I let my
opponent have a full take-back and didn’t escalate a judge ruling I knew I
would win. I felt guilty squabbling over a minor advantage in a game, and I
let my rights as a player be trampled on.

During my preparation for Pro Tour Dominaria, I realized that
sagas trigger at the beginning of your first main phase after the draw
step, which meant that the draw step was now a place for strategic depth in Dominaria Limited. I’ll give you an example:

Both The Eldest Reborn and The Mirari Conjecture target a card in a
graveyard and if there’s no legal target, the ability fails to reach the
stack; but if you were to put a relevant card type in the graveyard before
they must choose a target, then you allow yourself the option to capture
that value through clever play. I had The Mirari Conjecture in a Sealed
MOCS on Magic Online, and I would occasionally run it out early with no
sorcery in my graveyard because I knew on the following turn I intended to
cast Dark Bargain and if I was fortunate, I could use the Dark Bargain to
put a sorcery in the graveyard and be super mana efficient.

I was proud of discovering such a sweet play, so whenever it came up, I
would play the Dark Bargain in my upkeep, but I later realized this is an
error; it’s strictly better to cast it at the end of my draw step. With
this in mind, I could always improve the quality of my card selection sagas
in games where I happen to topdeck Dark Bargain; or with The Eldest Reborn,
I could topdeck instant-speed removal and make a better decision with the
final reanimation ability. I used this knowledge more and more and as time
went on, I had times where I would topdeck Raff Capashen and cast it in my
draw phase so I could also cast Song of Freyalise on the same turn,
allowing me to fast track my way past the first two phases.

When you cast Song in your draw phase, it enters the battlefield triggering
chapter one and following your draw phase, it triggers chapter two, which
means you cast it on your turn and on the following turn you’ll realize the
full effects of chapter three a turn early. I was even doing it in
Constructed where I would destroy an opposing Cast Out with my History of
Benelia hiding under it at the end of my draw step so I could sync it up
with a History of Benalia I cast on a previous turn to make them all faster
and more powerful.

Just as a random aside: I also use the draw phase strategically with a card
like Wasteland or in a situation where I’ve decided the optimal play is to
Magma Spray a Llanowar Elves because in both instances they’re unable to
float mana during my main phase, which can be used on reactive cards. It’s
a subtle interaction, but if I wanted to play a Chandra, Torch of Defiance
before combat and their only available mana is Llanowar Elves it’s
substantially better to kill the Elves in your draw step since the mana
doesn’t float over to the next phase and if this was done at any other time
you couldn’t force through a Chandra -3 in your main phase, which could
have negative consequences on combat.

So why am I telling you about all these odd corner cases that I’ve run into
over the past month?

When I played in the Modern portion of the Season One Invitational, I
wasn’t aware that Mardu Pyromancer played Ensnaring Bridge in the
sideboard. If I was aware of this, I would have sideboarded in Ancient
Grudge and given myself an excellent chance to win my match against Jody
Keith. Instead, I was in rough shape.

This is just a small way for me to illustrate what it means to be
well-prepared for a tournament, knowing almost everything there is to know
about the card interactions and potential as I did for Dominaria
Draft. By contrast, for Modern, I barely knew what was in the contents of
my opponents’ decks. I was underprepared for the Season One Invitational,
and the SCG Tour players taught me a harsh lesson.

In the end, my 4-4 record in Modern felt much less disappointing since I
played two Hollow One mirror matches, which are super random, so I felt
comfortable calling it “4-2 excluding mirrors” and my 6-2 in Standard with
R/B Aggro felt about right. I soft played them a bit, but I still won more
than I lost and I finished 44th for $500.

Every SCG Tour Invitational is an incredible tournament and I can’t wait to
play another one someday. I’ve never seen anything like it and with how
popular SCG CON was, I imagine the next Invitational will only be that much
bigger and that much more fun to play in.