Moving On From Chicago

After failing to innovate for #SCGCHI last weekend, Jim Davis looks at some of the most interesting decks from that event as he prepares for #SCGRICH.

The long road and good times of the few days leading up to Chicago had led me to this.

Forest Wooded Foothills Wooded Foothills Wooded Foothills Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx Sylvan Caryatid Sylvan Caryatid

I sat for my first round of SCG Chicago, and drew my first opening hand of the day. This was there to greet me. I felt the soft turf under my feet, and knew that I had done this to myself.

The road into Chicago’s O’Hare airport, where I would be picking up Dan Jessup from his flight, was a long one.

I wondered who could have possibly designed this airport. Each line of cars, wishing to go to their terminal of choice, had to pass through a pair of funneled lanes that would stop at all terminals along the way. It was a disaster.


Back up.

Let me start earlier.

My road trip began on Wednesday.

I packed the car with my luggage, golf clubs, guitar, computer, and Magic cards, and hit the road knowing that my only real destination or responsibility I had was to be in Chicago by Friday at 7:00 pm local time to pick up Dan from the airport. That, and of course to be ready to play Magic by 10:00 am on Saturday.

Over the next three days I would have a great time.

I would hit the casino.


“Bonus round: Guess which hand was mine, and guess which hand won.”

I would play golf.


I would go UFO hunting.


I would eat a Melt.


I would go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Rock on.

Just about the only thing I didn’t do was actually prepare for the event.


I had planned on playing a G/B Collected Company deck designed by Andrew Jessup, but once I started actually playing games at 10:00 pm against Chris Andersen and his G/R Devotion deck, I began to get demoralized. He was playing Whisperwood Elemental when I only had two lands and an Elvish Visionary or Satyr Wayfinder in play, and I was getting ranched.

I decided that with so little time, I was just going to jump on board the G/R Devotion train. I don’t like the deck, and it really is rather boring— both to play and to bring to a new format – but winning is fun and I like to win. Brad and Todd were helpful enough to provide their list, and I was left with two byes to decide if I had made the right choice or not.

Forest Wooded Foothills Wooded Foothills Wooded Foothills Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx Sylvan Caryatid Sylvan Caryatid

I think this is where we came in.

I was on the play for my first match of the day, and I thought to myself “well this is what I signed up for” and kept. G/R Devotion is a deck with a ton of mana in it, and with this hand having five mana on turn four all I really needed to do was draw a threat or two.

This mentality is of course, awful.

I put my tournament life in the hands of a deck I don’t even enjoy playing, and then I expected it to just do the work for me. Justice was served, I drew four lands in my next five draw steps and got absolutely wrecked by a pretty awesome-looking Sultai Control deck.

Demonic Pact Den Protector Void Snare Sultai Charm Dig Through Time Perilous Vault Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

As I sat there, essentially helpless, I had plenty of time to think about how I’d wasted a really great opportunity. The first week of a format is always so awesome, and you can really do some exciting things if you can figure out what works quickly. I had brewed a bit, but not really gotten past the early stages. Now I had front-row seats to one of the many things possible in this new format.

As my opponent flipped Den Protector to return a Void Snare to bounce his Demonic Pact for the third time, I began to feel regret.

My tournament did not last long, but thankfully many others were not afraid to let their creativity run wild.

Mr. Tickal’s deck was by far the best deck in the room, and I think with optimal play this deck makes Top Eight of the tournament four times out of five. I heard numerous stories of critical errors causing match losses, which is sometimes the unfortunate reality of bringing a truly unique and powerful deck to a Week One event. This deck looks very hard to play, and Matt did not have much time to master it.

The list is definitely rough as well, and I am very curious how this deck will affect the format going forward now that the cat is out of the bag. This deck is very powerful against decks that don’t interact well like G/R Devotion and slow, durdly decks like Abzan Control, and both of those decks are huge players right now. If I was on a Pro Tour team and this was our deck, I would be very upset it was spoiled early.

Mono-White Devotion holds the same taboo amongst the five colors as Temur does amongst the five clans.

“Poor Knuckles.”

It’s a pretty solid joke now that no Standard deck can be good and also contain Savage Knuckleblade. Just like every other clan has had its time to shine, each other color has had successful Devotion decks. Blue and black dominated Return to Ravnica Standard, with red sometimes being a player, while Green Devotion is currently the best deck in Standard.

White Devotion has however never had a chance to shine, at least until now.

Jordan’s deck looks reasonably solid, as it makes use of a number of new cards. Archangel of Tithes is clearly insane, and Knight of the White Orchid also makes an appearance. One Kytheon, Hero of Akros is definitely an odd number, but the card I love most is Foundry of the Consuls. While it’s not quite a Mutavault, getting a Lingering Souls worth of value out of a land in the mid- or late-game is amazing, and the deck also does a good job of giving the tokens value.

One thing I would like to see in a deck like this is a very light blue splash.

The synergy between Dragonlord Ojutai and the vigilance effects of Heliod, God of the Sun and Ajani Steadfast is very powerful and could provide the deck with a perfect top-end threat. I don’t love Ephara, God of the Polis, but I can’t imagine a better deck for it. It would also give the deck some countermagic like Negate and Disdainful Stroke to help out the control matchups, as well as Encase in Ice to deal with the deck’s biggest predator in Stormbreath Dragon.

Time will tell if this one is a contender.

The last exciting deck from Chicago is the one that makes me most remorseful of my lack of innovation. Jeff took my old U/W Control shell, and added one of my favorite cards from the new set to it, Thopter Spy Network, along with a mild artifact theme.

Both Thopter Spy Network and Hangarback Walker were cards from the spoiler that excited me, but Jeff took them in a very unexpected direction. While I saw them in some sort of full-blown artifact deck, he saw that you only really need one artifact in play to make Thopter Spy Network and Artificer’s Epiphany work and that Hangarback Walker is a very reasonable card, any further synergies be damned.

This added a whole new angle to the old U/W Control deck, giving it a great early defensive creature and totally revamping the card draw engine.

I don’t think the deck is built perfectly, but I think that the power of the new artifact cards alongside powerful role-players like Clash of Wills and Swift Reckoning could definitely breathe new life into the archetype. U/B Control has been favored over U/W for a while now, and while U/B did gain access to Languish it also has very few good answers for Gaea’s Revenge. U/W Control should have a few tokens around to block it, and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion makes Gaea’s Revenge look like a joke.

The Road Trip Continues

Thankfully, my trip is not over. SCG Richmond is in a few days, and with it comes a chance to vindicate myself for such an awful showing in Chicago. I write this article from a Denny’s somewhere in West Virginia, and I will be stopping at the mecca that is the StarCity Game Center to play some Standard in preparation.

It is pretty doubtful I will be sleeving up Sylvan Caryatid again.

Dig Through Time, however…


If you would like to follow my road trip, and Magic adventures in general, follow me on Twitter! I decided to join the twenty-first century a few months ago and will be tweeting about events, Magic, music, and general tomfoolery like this gem from my trip: