Lowry’s Lists: SCG Regionals

With this weekend’s #SCGRegionals right in his own backyard, Anthony Lowry is excited – both for the event and the plethora of great options he’s got brewing up for Standard this weekend!

I haven’t played in a Magic tournament in a while, and I cannot wait to get back into the fray. Additionally, for the first time, a major SCG event is less than an hour from my home, which, for better or for worse, is the most exciting thing for me. No feeling is better than waking up in your own bed to go to a big event, then getting back to your own bed the same day without a long drive.

That doesn’t mean I can lighten up on competing though, and I’m looking to flesh out some ideas.

These are the cards I’m most interested in working with, some of which I want to potentially play together:

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh Nissa, Vastwood Seer Starfield of Nyx Stormbreath Dragon Perilous Vault Pia and Kiran Nalaar

I’ve already written about most of these, but a lot has changed and will be changing with the past two Opens in Chicago and Richmond, and keeping things updated and adjusted is of course very important.

I’m still pretty high on all of these cards, but I’m more interested in trying to push my “jam it all the time” style with them. What makes a lot of these cards very interesting is that they’re pretty semi-modal, meaning that even if they aren’t performing in a way that is optimal you will still get a lot of use out of them. These are the kinds of cards I want to surround myself with when it comes to a supporting cast because it means that I get to put more emphasis on my straightforward power cards. Stormbreath Dragon wants to make sure it gets cast, so having Nissa, Vastwood Seer to bridge that gap early while also being able to take the forefront if the Dragon plan doesn’t work is exactly what I want. Jace is ridiculous when you transform him early, but if he’s just looting over and over, taking a slower route while also feeding your Dig Through Times and Treasure Cruises, that’s strong too – which will, in turn, get you to more Jaces if and when your first Jace dies. If your Starfield of Nyx is just being the fuel your deck needs to power through swaths of removal and countermagic, then you need less and less resources in your hand to do things, which further pushes the potency of what your cards already do.

Additionally, there’s going to be a lot of information that we don’t have because of the Pro Tour. I generally don’t care much for that, as I personally think that actions and reactions are vastly overblown when in the context of SCG Opens, but that’s neither here nor there. In short: I do my thing, I don’t really care much about what goes on around me, and my goals – while probably different from most other players’ – are to maximize what I see myself doing. Because let’s be real, there’s no bigger mistake in Magic than letting other people tell you how to do you.

The first thing I want to work on is a little bit of a hybrid, and a little bit of a power level risk.

This is a good example of how to make very good use of the Magic Origins Planeswalkers’ secondary functions while accepting their primary roles as more of a reward if you get it rather than something you’re actively going to seek. The naysayers of Jace, Vyrn’s Prodigy are pretty quiet now, but Chandra hasn’t proven herself yet despite how powerful she is. Part of this is because the other planeswalkers work into what already exists very easily, so it’s easier for players to be more inclusive of what they know and are used to seeing. Sometimes you have to work a bit harder to make things work, and this is one way of doing it for the Roaring Flame. While it’s fine to use her secondary role of slowly adding up the damage, if you’re going to do that, then make sure the spells you play are built to fulfill both angles while also being complementary to the rest of the deck. You don’t want to jam bad red spells just to support Chandra if they don’t really do much else.

What I like: The efficiency of the spells, coupled with the raw power of Thunderbreak Regent and Stormbreath Dragon. As I said earlier, I want my supporting cast to do a lot of smaller things so that my power cards have as much power outpost as possible. This is a good way of doing just that. Exquisite Firecraft is a pretty efficient removal spell, especially in the face of things like the problematic Whisperwood Elemental and Courser of Kruphix. Roast also helps a lot, but you want to be able to go upstairs as well. Draconic Roar is also one of the best tools against Jace and mana accelerants, which is so important right now. All of this is bundled in a pretty neat and tidy shell that does what it does, and I couldn’t really ask for much more than that.

What I don’t like: The mana. It’s not as bad as Jeskai’s, but it’s still not great. Mana Confluence is especially ugly here since your mana is often strapped and that damage will almost certainly add up. You’re a red-based deck with Silumgar’s Scorn, and I don’t think a card like Clash of Wills helps. Yes, it does solve the mana problem, but it creates an efficiency, diminishing returns, and time-decay problem in so doing.

Continuing the multi-function utility cards, here’s an update to Abzan Constellation:

It just felt weird to not play an Abzan deck without Siege Rhino, but I actually think that it isn’t that much of a sacred cow. There is a real cost to including Rhino in this deck, either the loss to your enchantment count or the loss to your potential interaction slots. If you find that one of those things matters more, then I would have no issue with cutting it. There’s also the question of what exactly you want to be. Do you want to be a Constellation deck that does other things, kind of, sort of? Do you want to be an Abzan deck with a Constellation sub-theme? It’s tough to fit all of that into 75 cards, and this is certainly not the end-all, be-all of solutions, but it’s something that’s certainly worth seriously considering when deciding to build this deck.

What I like: The raw power and consistency of the shell, and how good it is at just grinding games to the ground. Extinguish All Hope is not the best defensive sweeper, but it is one of the best ways of ending the game when Starfield of Nyx is online but needs a way to get through – yet another sub-function that I look for in cards. The sideboard in general is a pretty good spread of tools that help against general opposing game-plans moreso than strict individual matchups, and they are all more minor adjustments than silver bullets. We’re functionally a 75-card maindeck than a sixty card maindeck with a fifteen card sideboard.

What I don’t like: Typical clunkiness that happens with the majority of decks I tend to play. When things don’t go smoothly, you wind up having a boatload of issues with efficient mana usage and sequencing. There’s a good chance that Siege Rhino is just not good enough, and is hurting the enchantment count. There’s also a good chance that Herald of the Pantheon doesn’t really help nearly as much as it seems, and it may be better as more enchantments or interactions. It’s almost impossible to jam all of these cards in addition to Commune with the Gods and Sigil of the Empty Throne unless you wind up cutting it, but cutting it greatly reduces the efficiency of both cards. It’s a high amount of tension that I don’t think can be solved, and that may be the eventual downfall of this deck in general.

Lastly, we have possibly the most ambitious deck of the three, and likely my favorite:

If you’re going to get me to play a control deck, you better believe I’m going to want to play a control deck that wants to hammer it home. None of that Gerard Fabiano school of thought. I’m here to bulldoze that school, steal everyone’s lunch, and eat it in front of them!

The bulldozer, the thief, and the nom nom!

In a nutshell: as long as no one is playing Goblin Piledriver, I am a big fan of this. The previous iterations of this deck didn’t have the angle that Jace, Vyrn’s Prodigy now gives them, and having the ability to get even further through your deck at a much quicker rate is really scary in a draw-go style shell. All you ever want to do is not die and draw cards until you get your first Dragon down, then from there your Jace is just gravy. I don’t even like gravy, and I’d take that any day.

The lesser–discussed addition to this deck is Clash of Wills, taking the spot of Nullify. While I don’t think Clash of Wills is necessarily better, I do think that it’s much easier on the mana. In my experience, the games where you’d have a Spirit Dragon land and one blue source early to go with your Nullify were a little too frequent for my liking, so I’m okay with taking a slight downgrade here if it means I can function a bit better on-curve at every step. The sideboard plan of Master of Waves and Omenspeaker gets much, much worse because of Goblin Piledriver so you are allowed more room for actual cards, and Displacement Wave is a pretty nice way of mitigating the swarm of little red creatures while also killing tokens.

What I like: The top end is hilariously powerful, the countermagic is flush with efficiency, and Crucible of the Spirit Dragon combined with Haven of the Spirit Dragon is a control mirror trump, making sure that you are always ahead on mana. Silumgar’s Scorn is still pretty ridiculous in power level, and Perilous Vault is one of the best tools against Devotion decks. The manabase is actually very good, and with Abzan Aggro – this deck’s worst matchup by far – not being nearly as big a threat as it was, this deck can breathe a bit of fresh air.

What I don’t like: The top end is hilariously heavy, and your mulligans hurt because of how much air you can end up with in the middle stages of the game before you’re really in control. Jace does help with this a lot, but he can easily get ran over before you’re even ready to play. You also tend to do the biggest amount of nothing fairly often, and may be even more reliant on Jace to get off the ground at all.

I’m very excited to get back into the swing of things, and a Regional Championship right in my own backyard seems like an excellent place to start. There’s a good chance I’ll be jamming one of these decks, but I’m certainly interested in many other things that incorporate cards that can do a lot of “odd jobs” around a board state.

What do you have brewing for Regionals this weekend?