New Jersey Invitational Preview

The New Jersey Invitational brings a new Standard and Modern metagame, a close to the Season Two race, and the debut of a new team on the SCG Tour®!

Season Two of the SCG Tour® comes to a close this weekend at the New Jersey Invitational, leaving three days of Magic to determine which four players will punch their ticket to the Players’ Championship. By Sunday night, more than half of the #SCGPC field will be set, with the top three players from Season Two and the New Jersey Invitational champion joining Jim Davis, Max McVety, Jeff Hoogland, Gerry Thompson, and Andrew Tenjum for the year-end tournament.

This weekend will showcase the Modern and Standard formats, the conclusion of the Season Two race, and the debut of a new team focused on the SCG Tour®.

Formats in Flux

The New Jersey Invitational takes place at a unique time as both Modern and Standard are in interesting positions. Standard is fresh off Pro Tour Eldritch Moon and a double Standard Grand Prix weekend, loaded with plenty of exciting new decks. While the Columbus Invitational was filled with Bant Company to cap off Season One, this weekend will have a wildly diverse Standard metagame.

Emrakul, the Promised End decks of all shapes and sizes dominated the Pro Tour, including Temur Emerge, B/G Delirium, and R/G Ramp. B/W Control (with or without Angels) is the controlling strategy of choice, while aggressive decks like W/R Humans and U/R Thermo-Alchemist continue to put up results. Of course, decks like Grixis Pact, G/U Crush, and Eldrazi strategies have also made their mark amidst the sea of Bant Company.

Modern is more wide-open than it has been in a long time, but the revival of Dredge has many players fearing a new broken archetype. The last two Modern events on the SCG Tour®(the Classic in Baltimore and the Open in Syracuse) have been taken down by Dredge, thanks to its new toys from Shadows over Innistrad. Justin O’Keefe put the degenerate graveyard deck on the map in Baltimore, but Ross Merriam hammered the point home by crushing the Modern Open in Syracuse last weekend. Two copies made the Top 8 at Syracuse in the hands of Merriam and Tom Ross, and both players put the power of the deck on display on camera.

Can Dredge be properly hated out with sideboard cards or is the deck too good? This weekend will provide the answer as the competitors now have two weeks of results to properly instill enough fear for the newest scare to the Modern format. While Dredge has taken home the titles, popular decks like Jund, Infect, Burn, Affinity, G/R Tron, and Scapeshift are still well represented at the top of the metagame.

Season Two Points Race Finish Line

Four slots for the Players’ Championship will be filled this weekend, but three of them will come from the Season Two race. The New Jersey Invitational is the final event of the season, dating back to the Columbus Invitational in mid-June. If the season ended today, Tom Ross, Kevin Jones, and Andrew Jessup would qualify, but there are many SCG Points to be earned in the Invitational and no player is safe. Only fifteen points separate Ross from Jessup, and Todd Stevens looms in fourth, just eight points behind Jessup.

Tom “The Boss” Ross has had an incredible Season Two, including four Open Top 8s, with back-to-back wins coming in Atlanta and Orlando with W/R Humans. The Boss also had a Top 16 in the Standard Open in Columbus and a Classic Top 8 in Worcester to set himself up for his third straight #SCGPC appearance. While Ross holds a decent lead over the next three closest competitors, he can’t be considered a lock, as strong weekends from Jones, Jessup, and Stevens could result in Ross on the outside looking in.

Kevin “The Daddy” Jones has come on strong toward the end of the season, winning the Dallas Modern Open and the Albany Regionals to put him in line for a third Players’ Championship. Team MetaGameGurus.com is looking to qualify all four members for the #SCGPC and Jones is a great position after his late-season success along with a Classic runner-up in Worcester and a ninth-place finish at the Baltimore Standard Open. Team MGG has proven its dominance in Modern, and The Daddy has shown his prowess with Bant Company, leaving Jones in great positon to close out the season.

Andrew Jessup has two runner-up finishes in Modern Opens, losing to Team MGG teammates in both Indianapolis and Dallas, along with two Open Top 32 finishes in Season Two. Jessup’s average finish in the last three Modern Opens is 8.3, adding a finish of 21st in Syracuse last weekend to his pair of runner-ups. Jessup has done plenty of work with Infect in Modern and it is safe to say he will be on the deck this weekend. Jessup also finished tenth in the Orlando Standard Open, leaving his first Players’ Championship berth in his own hands in New Jersey.

Todd Stevens has had quite the season as well, and is the first person threating the top three in the Season Two race. Stevens has two Open Top 8s (including finishing second to Ross in Atlanta), and an Open Top 16 and Top 32, with strong finishes in all three formats. The Texas player has shown a wide range in Modern, with strong performances this year with Naya Company, Bant Eldrazi, and Infect while proving his chops in Standard with Bant Humans, and B/G Delirium. Stevens has Open Top 8s in Standard, Modern, and Legacy this year, so all he is missing from his resume is an Invitational Top 8. The sharpest dressed man on the SCG Tour® could earn his first Players’ Championship slot with a strong weekend in the Garden State.

Ross, Jones, Jessup, and Stevens all have the strongest chances at qualifying for the #SCGPC this weekend, but players all the way down to No. 16 Joshua Dickerson are live if things break their way. With 40 SCG Points going to the runner-up at the Invitational, you can’t count anyone in the Top 16 out. A second-place finish for Dickerson and Jessup missing Day 2 could lead to the Columbus Open winner stealing a spot out of nowhere. Team Cardhoarder could add another player in the Players’ Championship if either Devin Koepke or Chris Andersen can convert at the Invitational. Both players are running hot coming into the event, with Koepke winning the Columbus Open a few weeks back and Andersen making back-to-back Top 4 finishes in Baltimore and Syracuse.

Team Nexus Debuts

A new team focused on playing the SCG Tour® will be unveiled this weekend in New Jersey. Next Ridge Nexus, or Team Nexus for short, will debut with its first event being the New Jersey Invitational. Based out of the Next Ridge Games store in Tampa, FL, this new six-person team will be hitting all the stops for the remainder of the year on the SCG Tour®.

Captained by Brennan DeCandio, Team Nexus brings a team of players from the South, including No. 16 player on the SCG Tour® Bradley Carpenter, No. 28 player Emma Handy, and No. 30 player Aaron Sorrells. Joining them will be Mark Nestico and Tannon Grace. The team started after DeCandio, Carpenter, and Sorrells watched as Team MGG dominated the Dallas Open while at a local tournament. “We were watching the MGG guys crush it and said, ‘Why can’t we do that?'” DeCandio said. “We figured out the roster of our team, got together with Next Ridge Games, and decided we figured the best way to start doing better and winning more was to go out to more events.”

The team has experience across the board, along with promising results from all six. Nestico, the Florida ringer and beloved creative writer for StarCityGames.com. Grace, a Pro Tour veteran with success at the GP and Open level along with a background in playing and broadcasting competitive Hearthstone. Handy, a new writer for StarCityGames.com who’s climbing the Player of the Year leaderboard and referred to as the “the hardest working player on the SCG Tour®” by DeCandio and Grace. Carpenter, the three-time Open Top 8er and lead singer of a pop-punk band. Sorrells, the 15-year-old who has been dubbed the “Prodigy” with an Open Top 8 already on his resume. And DeCandio, the captain with two Open Top 8s and a growing stream presence.

DeCandio said the team is focused on getting to as many events as possible, while improving as much as they can. The team holds meetings online to go over tournament results, report back on their testing, and prepare for upcoming events. They have plans to stream regularly on Twitch to connect with the community and are looking to be as noticeable as teams like Team MGG and Cardhoarder.

“I’ve been around a long time and oddly feel like the new guy, but the team is so welcoming and full of awesome people,” Grace said. “We’ve got an incredible worker in Emma, who is always giving us ton of notes and data on her testing. Aaron, the kid, is keeping us on our toes and will probably be one of the best players on Tour in a couple years. Brad really wants to make the Players’ Championship and hasn’t had the opportunity to get to a lot of events until now. We love our team and we’re ready to go and start winning as much as we can.”