Keep On Truckin’

Chris VanMeter tells you how he finally ended his slump last weekend at #SCGPHL and why he might stick with the same decks at #SCGATL this weekend.

Man do slumps suck.

Previous to this past weekend, I had gone seven weekends in a row without cashing. That means that in both tournaments during the weekend I lost four or more matches per tournament.

Talk about discouraging.

I even work with Magic. I write articles and record videos about the game weekly with the goals to entertain and educate, yet I hadn’t been able to cash in a tournament for who knows how long.

These are all thoughts that constantly went through my head; good thing I know that it doesn’t matter. Losing is a part of Magic. Sometimes you run hotter than the surface of the sun, and sometimes you couldn’t buy a win with a set of Alpha Power Nine. Eventually you pull out of the slump. The worst thing you can do when you’re losing is to stop playing—and that’s what I didn’t do. I just kept playing and playing.

This past weekend I placed eleventh and fifteenth in the SCG Standard and Legacy Opens in Philadelphia, and it feels like a huge weight was lifted off my chest. I didn’t land a Top 8, but I got myself closer to two byes for the Invitational in Indianapolis and $200 isn’t something to scoff at either.

I really liked both of my decks and felt that yet again Brian Braun-Duin made the right call on what to battle with. "What did I play?" you ask. Well, let me tell you!

If you’re interested in this Aristocrats deck for the Open this weekend in Atlanta, be sure to check out the deck tech that I did with Glenn Jones.

I felt like this deck was a perfect call for the weekend even though a similar deck had just won the previous week in Cincinnati. The reason is that we sacrificed some of the speedier draws by removing Champion of the Parish but made up for it by playing the ultra-synergistic Xathrid Necromancer and moving powerhouses Sorin, Lord of Innistrad and Obzedat, Ghost Council to the maindeck.

Cutting Champion of the Parish and playing Xathrid Necromancer over Boros Reckoner, for shame.

Champion of the Parish is awesome—on turn 1 when you have an untapped white source. That’s quite the alignment of the stars. We’d rather have solid cards that we can cast on time. You don’t need Champion of the Parish to make Xathrid Necromancer good since Cartel Aristocrat, Doomed Traveler, and Gather the Townsfolk are more than enough, especially since Xathrid Necromancer also triggers off itself.

Playing Xathrid Necromancer with Gather the Townsfolk and maxing out on Lingering Souls also allows us to play Intangible Virtue in the sideboard, which was by far the best card for me all day. Intangible Virtue does everything for this deck, from turning Lingering Souls into an even bigger threat against control and putting your tokens out of hard cast Bonfire of the Damned range to preemptively counteracting a Curse of Death’s Hold and allowing us to play offense and defense against aggressive decks.

Against Mono-Red Aggro, I was able to trade a Cartel Aristocrat and Xathrid Necromancer for two of his 2/2s, only to follow up with an Intangible Virtue and another spell the following turn and just grind him down with 3/3 vigilance Sam Black tokens.

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad is another card that is very much underrated right now. With B/G and B/W Midrange being so popular at the moment, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad does a good job of putting pressure on them that they aren’t very god at handling while also dealing with the rest of our deck. U/W Control is also gaining popularity, and they have a tough time dealing with a Sorin, Lord of Innistrad too. I was even able to defeat a U/W opponent on Magic Online last week while I was testing the deck for Philly by using Sorin’s ultimate on my own Obzedat, Ghost Council while my opponent was at one life, causing him to have to main phase Sphinx’s Revelation to not die, and then I got to kill him with a Falkenrath Aristocrat and using Slayers’ Stronghold on my Obzedat, Ghost Council.

Zib Zab, Zippity Zoo; Jello Pudding (the immortal words of Todd Anderson).

Slayers’ Stronghold is the last card that drew me to the deck. Sam Pardee had a lot of success previously with an Aristocrats deck using Slayer’s Stronghold; Glenn Jones had taken notice, and we talked a bit about the deck. We ultimately decided on Kibler’s format-smashing G/R Aggro for that PTQ weekend, but the Slayers’ Stronghold had never left my mind.

Turning all of our non-synergistic cards into actual threats in the mid to late game, Slayers’ Stronghold also works very well with Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. The ability to not have to wait a turn to attack with a Vampire and making it a 3/1 with vigilance is awesome. In addition to turning everything into an awesome threat, it plays great on defense, letting our slew of 1/1s trade with X/3s, like Thragtusk and the Beast he pops out. Being able to push through four damage with a Cartel Aristocrat unimpeded every turn is a pretty quick clock for sure.

All in all, I was very happy with the deck and will more than likely play a modified version of it this weekend in Atlanta. The biggest thorn in my side all weekend was Vampire Nighthawk, so we may want a third Orzhov Charm in the sideboard or possibly Ultimate Price, Searing Spear, or Brimstone Volley.

That’s enough about this boring Standard format though—let’s talk Legacy!

In my article last week, I talked about Blood Moon and how it has the format shaking in its nonbasic boots. I knew going into this week that I wanted to play something that met as much of the following criteria as possible.

From the criteria, you can see how excited I was when BBD suggested Sneak and Show. Basic lands, Force of Will, and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn—I was in love.

I’m sure that BBD will probably write in more detail about the deck since he actually placed in the Top 4 with it, but I would like to touch on how well it is positioned right now.

Legacy is and has always been a wide-open format. In a nine-round tournament, you can expect to play against six or seven different archetypes at any given time. This is one of the main reasons why Legacy is a very skill-intensive format. This wide variation in viable decks is one of the key factors that led to cards like Chalice of the Void, Blood Moon, and Trinisphere to be looked at to attack the format. When you don’t know exactly what your opponents will be playing but do know that most of the best cards are either one mana, cheap and efficient, or fueled by dual lands, you can attack the known part of an unknown format.

Sneak and Show is immune to these types of strategies. It can also "kill" you on turn 2 and protect itself.

Redundancy is the key, and as Ross Merriam put it so delicately recently, "With eight copies of each combo piece, how can you lose?!"

You are just about as fast as the other combo decks in the format but have more redundancy, so the times that they brick we don’t, plus it’s dangerous for the other Show and Tell decks to cast Show and Tell against us for fear that we just plop a Griselbrand into play and draw a billion cards.

There is a good chance that I just run Sneak and Show back this weekend in Atlanta, but I do have Chris Andersen trying to talk me into some little green men:

Now that all the boring stuff is done, we can jump into what you really came here for:


Spoiler season is in full swing, and boy do we have some nice ones. Last week BBD and I played with new Theros cards, and I was very surprised by how good Elspeth, Sun’s Champion; Hundred-Handed One; and Heliod, God of the Sun were.

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion was so much better than I thought, and I already thought she was good. Being able to put three creatures into play for +1 loyalty is everything we wished Elspeth Tirel would have been. She pressures our opponents, protects herself, and has an ultimate that threatens to end the game very quickly. Oh, I almost forgot—she also Supreme Verdicts all of your opponents’ Loxodon Smiters, Stormbreath Dragons, and 5/5 trampling Wurm tokens. Needless to say, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is my favorite card in the set so far.

There has already been a lot of talk about how awesome Forge[/author]“]Purphoros, God of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] is, and they’re all right. Purphoros screams "build around me," and all you have to do is play creatures to make him better. As pointed out by many, he also pairs well with Elspeth, Sun’s Champion for a quick six damage to your opponent that leaves you with three creatures. It’s also pretty convenient that Boros Reckoner helps reach the devotion required to turn on both Forge[/author]“]Purphoros, God of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] and Heliod, God of the Sun.

Last week I talked about how excited I was for Sylvan Caryatid, and I want to take some time this week to look at how best we can use this awesome little Plant. Now that Farseek is gone, the only two-mana acceleration that we have access to is Sylvan Caryatid, and to best use it I want to try to figure out what the best things that we can be doing on turn 3 with our four mana are.

Jace, Architect of Thought seems like one of the best things that we can do with four mana on turn 3. Being able to get him into play while our opponent is still building their board allows us to get far ahead of them, especially since we are plus one mana from Sylvan Caryatid and can use that to cast the spells that we are gaining from Jace’s -2 ability.

Desecration Demon is very good on turn 4 and even better on turn 3. Getting the Demon into play quickly makes our opponent have to focus on keeping it in check while we continue to play out the rest of our game.

Xenagos, the Reveler is a new four-mana planeswalker. I really like how he interacts with Sylvan Caryatid since we can play him on turn 3 and make a 2/2 Satyr creature and then follow it up the next turn with a +1 activation and have access to seven mana on turn 4. Xenagos, the Reveler also puts a lot of pressure on control decks and can even protect himself with the 2/2s that he churns out.

Heliod, the Sun God and Forge[/author]“]Purphoros, God of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] both cost four and can come out to play on turn 3 with Sylvan Caryatid. Our little 0/3 Plant isn’t white or red, so it doesn’t add to the devotion of either of those Gods, but just having them in play that early puts a lot of pressure on our opponent to do something.

I also really like how playing a Sylvan Caryatid on turn 2 lets us play the new scry lands and still stay on curve. In addition to the lands, I really like Read the Bones; being able to play something like Read the Bones on turn 4 and still be able to play a two-mana removal spell is something I’m very interested in.

Here is a Sylvan Caryatid deck I’ve been brewing in my head.

The idea behind this deck is to take advantage of the mana acceleration we can get from Sylvan Caryatid with Xenagos, the Reveler and Polukranos, World Eater. When we don’t have Sylvan Caryatid, we can have Young Pyromancer, which lets us take advantage of all the awesome spells we’re playing in the deck, and when we have both Young Pyromancer and Sylvan Caryatid, we get to go into overdrive, playing all of our spells and making a lot of tokens. It’s very possible that we want Forge[/author]“]Purphoros, God of the [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] and possibly Molten Birth, but I’m not sure.

I really like some of the things that Sylvan Caryatid can let us do, and I can’t wait for the rest of the spoilers to see just how good it actually is. You can go RUG for Jace, Architect of Thought or Bant for Heliod, God of Sun. You can even go with a BUG shell and play Jace, Architect of Thought and Read the Bones. There is also the possibility of going with four colors since we can play Gatecreeper Vine alongside Sylvan Caryatid for fixing and protection.

This is still a card too.

Thanks for stopping by this week, and thanks to everyone who stopped me and said "hi" in Philly last weekend. I always love meeting people who have read or watched my content and enjoy it. This week I will be guest-starring on the Glory Seekers podcast with BBD and chatting with Chris Andersen and Rudy Briksza about random Magic: The Gathering things!

I’m also going to be streaming a lot with The Aristocrats in Standard and Elves in Legacy, so come hang out!

See everyone in Hotlanta!

<3 CVM

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