Let’s Talk Last Week’s SCG Tour Winners

Back to back Team Opens has Owen predicting what he’ll see at SCG Philadelphia! Get his thoughts on a few of the formats you’ll see in action this weekend!

SCG Worcester was this past weekend and although I was unable to attend, I
sat home all weekend long with Matthias Hunt and Ryan Overturf on in the
background whenever I could:

  • I had it on the TV as I sat at home grinding away paper testing for
    Pro Tour 25th Anniversary
  • I had it on my laptop in the background as I played a little Magic
  • I even opened Twitch on my phone during a date just to catch a few
    minutes of the games before she returned to the table from the

I’ve always been a fan of the SCG Tour even before I started to work for
this website and the circuit has only improved over time. One thing I love
is that the SCG Tour created the Team Constructed format with Standard,
Modern, and Legacy, the same format as Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. If you’re
a regular to my column, you may notice a trend of me talking about this Pro
Tour a lot and that’s only going to continue. I’m currently in Arlington,
Virginia in a house full of Magic players and our goal is perfecting
teamwork and mastering all three formats. I’m heavily invested in doing
everything in my power to maximize my chances of winning the tournament as
it’s been a lifelong goal to win a Pro Tour, and this is by far my best
chance. Getting second place at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon and Worlds
2015 has only made my ambition grow stronger.

But enough about me, let’s talk some Magic strategy.

The winning configuration from at SCG Worcester was R/B Aggro in Standard,
Jeskai Control in Modern, and Storm in Legacy. I’ve been writing a lot
about R/B Aggro over the past month because it’s almost a pet deck of mine,
and this makes me question if something can be a pet deck if it’s clearly
the best and you only like it because it wins the most. I have no idea the
answer to that questions, so I’ll leave that up to the suits in Renton,
Washington to decide.

Scrolling down a little more on the decklists reveals that three of the top
four slots of the Standard portion of SCG Worcester were occupied by R/B

I’ll never know for sure if these players shared information when building
their decklists, but I’ll assume they didn’t and that the heavy amount of
overlap is purely a coincidence. Starting with Alex Friedrichsen’s list is
easy because he made me melt in my chair when I saw that he was playing the
exact 75 I used to make Top 8 at Pro Tour Dominaria and US
Nationals. I’m really not trying to beat a dead horse here, but people are
putting up insane results repeatedly with the exact same mix of cards that
I did, something that makes it feel like Standard is a solved format. If
you could sit down for your next Standard tournament and enter a cheat code
like up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start, what you’d
receive is a Bomat Courier, Heart of Kiran, Goblin Chainwhirler, Chandra,
Torch of Defiance, and Glorybringer.

Unlike Friedrichsen, Julian John went way off the deep end and changed two whole cards in the maindeck by cutting two copies of Lightning
Strike for a Cut and a third copy of Abrade. This kid clearly likes to live
dangerously, but I’ll rest easy at night thinking to myself that
Friedrichsen outperformed John due to his superior two cards in the
maindeck and Matthew Cotrupe just got lucky to beat Friedrichsen in the
finals. Of course, nobody knows except for the players who had the best
decklist that day and who was the most skilled in the games, but it’s fun
to pretend.

R/B Aggro may well go down in history as one of the most successful
Standard decks of all-time. It’s been dominant for at least a month and
with Core Set 2019 introduced during that time, the results
haven’t changed just yet. That said, Core Set 2019 has given decks
more options in the face of The Chainwhirler, something that has
caused deck composition to change some, but R/B Aggro continues to perform
in the face of hate thus far.

To illustrate, here’s a quick story:

In one of the last tournaments I’ve played in, my opponent had an early
Llanowar Elves that I killed with The Chainwhirler and combined
with their mulligan and a strong hand on my end, I went on to win game one.
In game two, the combo of Soul-Scar Mage and two copies of The Chainwhirler helped to take out a Servant of the Conduit
before an Unlicensed Disintegration killed Shalai, Voice of Plenty.

So what’s special about this story? Nothing. And that’s the point.

Prior to R/B Aggro, it’s been a long time since I sat down for a tournament
match and felt like I had such a lopsided matchup advantage. Back during
the Aetherworks Marvel days, there’s very little one could do strategically
because so much of the game boiled down to who got the luckiest hand or who
won the die roll. R/B Aggro mirror matches do have some elements of
randomness to them, but I strongly believe that the other current Standard
decks that exist are at a noticeable deficit against all flavors of The Chainwhirler and that shows no signs of slowing down.

Jeskai Control has always been a tough deck for me to wrap my head around.
On principal I wouldn’t like to play a deck like this because Modern is a
format where players can win on turn three or turn four, making cards like
Secure the Wastes and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria a liability. I’ve also
learned that to compete with turn three Karn Liberated or turn four Gifts
Ungiven, you’re going to need plenty of counterspells to ensure you
consistently have one in your opening hand.

Maybe I’m out of the loop, but three copies of Logic Knot looks like a lot
to me since they eat away at each other’s resources and that can lead to
the inability to counter a spell you’re interested in countering. I usually
prefer a mix of Mana Leak and Remand, but I can easily see Logic Knot being
optimal in this style of deck. However, the issue I’ve run into with Jeskai
Control in the past is fairly simple:

Counterspells are horrible against these two cards and Jeskai Control tries
to strike a balance between this inherent disadvantage by playing a ton of
creature removal to even it out. If players move towards Eldrazi decks with
Cavern of Souls like we saw last year, Jeskai Control may suffer. This deck
looks like the baseline for beating pure combo and pure creature decks but
struggles against some of the stuff that falls closer to the middle. The
best creature decks and the best combo decks try to strike a balance
between the fastest goldfish hands and some resiliency against hate. It’s
not that I dislike Jeskai Control; quite the opposite in fact, as I just
think it’s an amazing deck choice when the player’s skill edge is

One thing I’m pleased to see is Opt replacing Serum Visions in a deck with
this many instants. I’m always relieved when the game is progressing as it
usually does with an exchange of resources and the opponent reveals
themselves to be on complete air when they to cast a Snapcaster Mage and
Flashback Serum Visions. This is extra sweet since they tap out to do it,
but this awkward situation is completely avoided when you move to Opt as
your cantrip of choice.

In true Magic player fashion, there has been a long debate about which card
to play between Lyra Dawnbringer and Baneslayer Angel. Is being a legend
better than having protection from Demons and Dragons? Honestly, it’s
purely a metagame call, but the rationale is that Cast Down can’t kill Lyra
Dawnbringer and Cast Down has already begun to see a fair amount of play in
Modern. Notably, I had someone play Cast Down against me in the Modern
Grand Prix in Las Vegas last month, but I couldn’t tell you the last time
my opponent controlled a Demon or Dragon.

While I won’t be playing in a live tournament this weekend, I’ll be doing
exactly what I did last weekend: testing for Pro Tour 25th Anniversary with
a house full of Magic players while glued to the coverage of SCG
Philadelphia. Good luck to all competitors and don’t leave home without R/B