The SCG Tour stop in Cincinnati features the third and final Team Constructed Open of Season One of the SCG Tour. Between Opens, Grand Prix, and a Mythic Championship, major events since the last Team Constructed Open in Baltimore have given us a good idea of what the top decks in Standard, Modern, and Legacy are right now. I’m here today to break down my three top picks per format for this weekend, and why you should consider them.
#1: Simic Nexus
For those who read my content regularly each week, it should be no secret that I am a cheerleader for Nexus of Fate. Now that Ravnica Allegiance Standard is entering its final weeks leading up to the release of War of the Spark, the format has settled into a place where many questions players had about Standard in the first few weeks have been answered. One of those questions: What is the best Nexus of Fate deck?
- 4 Opt
- 4 Search for Azcanta
- 3 Blink of an Eye
- 4 Nexus of Fate
- 4 Root Snare
- 1 Sinister Sabotage
- 4 Chemister's Insight
- 4 Growth Spiral
- 4 Wilderness Reclamation
Mythic Championship Cleveland showcased the final form of Nexus of Fate decks. Many players (myself included) experimented with a slew of different versions of these decks leading up to the Mythic Championship, including Bant versions featuring Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and powerful white sideboard cards, as well as builds utilizing spells like Guild Summit and Gates Ablaze to punish a metagame full of control and midrange decks. Yet arguably the simplest version won out.
The Simic colors still gave the deck everything it needed: card draw, powerful win conditions that help facilitate the push towards the endgame in Hydroid Krasis, and sideboard options like Biogenic Ooze, as well as the deck’s most important pieces: Wilderness Reclamation and Nexus of Fate. One of the deck’s biggest weaknesses is the Mono-Blue Tempo matchup, but Simic Nexus can tune itself to be better off in this matchup by upping the numbers on cards like Kraul Harpooner. This deck is a powerful, proactive option that will punish midrange decks and control decks alike, and is a great choice for the Standard seat.
#2: Mono-Blue Aggro
- 19 Island
- 4 Opt
- 1 Negate
- 3 Spell Pierce
- 1 Entrancing Melody
- 1 Chart a Course
- 4 Dive Down
- 4 Curious Obsession
- 4 Wizard's Retort
- 2 Essence Capture
The Mythic Championship-winning deck has proven itself as one of Standard’s best, giving the format a powerful tempo-oriented deck with tons of play to it. The deck is quite challenging to play and very quick to punish incorrect gameplay choices, yet also rewards players capable of running circles around their opponents by timing their spells properly.
This deck will push your ability to manage all of your resources every turn of the game until its conclusion to the limit. The deck is naturally powerful against decks like Simic Nexus above, and only truly struggles on paper against more aggressive, lower-to-the-ground decks like Azorius or Red Aggro.
#3: Gruul Aggro
- 4 Fanatical Firebrand
- 4 Ghitu Lavarunner
- 3 Goblin Chainwhirler
- 4 Viashino Pyromancer
- 4 Runaway Steam-Kin
This deck makes the list right now more for its metagame position than its raw power level.
It has strong matchups against the monocolored (or nearly so) decks of the format, like Mono-Blue and Mono-White / Azorius Aggro, as well as being fantastic against the Nexus of Fate / Wilderness Reclamation decks. The only truly challenging matchup is Esper Control, where you can steal games from them stumbling. The green splash for Cindervines and Collision // Colossus gives the deck an extra angle of attack out of the sideboard with only minimal stress on the manabase. If you’re looking for something aggressive and powerful, Gruul Aggro will likely be the deck for you.
This will likely be the easiest format to suggest decks for, as the two top dogs of the Modern format are pretty locked into place. They, of course, both utilize Faithless Looting.
#1: Izzet Phoenix
The best deck in Modern will continue to be my #1 suggestion for any Modern format for the foreseeable future, as it should be. Many decks may claim to be favorable against the deck, but none will match the deck’s raw power and consistency on a game-to-game basis.
There is little to say at this point about the specifics of the lists Izzet Phoenix deploys these days except for specifics like the tertiary threats. I am in the minority here, but I have been and continue to be pro-Pteramander over Snapcaster Mage for now. Additionally, I have been a fan of not playing dedicated Burn hate and instead choosing to play a one-mana counterspell for the matchup, like another Dispel or Spell Pierce, to give that slot a little bit more flexibility.
If returning Arclight Phoenixes from the graveyard isn’t you cup of tea, perhaps Prized Amalgams and Bloodghasts may be more your speed:
The other Faithless Looting-based All-Star of Modern still continues to put up incredible results, thanks to being resilient to hate and boasting what can be argued to be the best Game 1 win rate in all of Modern.
Much like with Izzet Phoenix, the 75-card lists are almost set in stone at this point. Numbers of cards like Darkblast and Conflagrate are typically what get adjusted these days, but the rest of the deck is already rock-solid and in little need of change.
If Decks #1 and #2 (more like #1A and #1B) of Modern still don’t interest you, my third choice would be my go-to when I’m lost in Modern:
- 4 Meddling Mage
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 4 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
- 2 Kessig Malcontents
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 3 Kitesail Freebooter
Humans is fast, and the disruptive cards the deck has used for the last couple of years in Modern are the best-positioned they have been in quite some time. I like keeping the maindeck as aggressive as possible with Kessig Malcontents in the flex spot, and in the sideboard, I like having eight cards for the Dredge matchup, six for Izzet Phoenix, and seven for Tron. Tron has picked up a reasonable amount of steam lately in Modern, and it is a matchup I absolutely respect as Humans, which is why I still want three Damping Spheres in the sideboard.
I don’t think Humans possesses the raw power level of Dredge or Izzet Phoenix, but it’s close enough that the well-positioned disruptive elements of the deck leave it as a solid choice in the Modern format right now.
Moving on to our third and final format…
Finally, we look to Legacy. There is a shortage of Legacy experts on the SCG Tour, and those experts are usually masters of a given deck and have been locked in with their deck choice some time before they even planned to register for the tournament. If you happen to be the chosen Legacy player for your team this weekend and are unsure what to play, here is what I would suggest:
#1: Golgari Depths
This deck has a simple and straightforward gameplan: summon Marit Lage as quickly as possible and kill the opponent before they can do anything about it. Unlike Lands, a more prison-style deck with a similar finish involving Dark Depths, this deck does not try very hard to have a Plan B to win games. Thanks to myriad options for creating the mighty 20/20 creature, the deck can circumvent lock pieces more often than not to bring you to victory. This deck is fast, brutal, and efficient, and is a great choice for Legacy players looking for a powerful option for the Legacy seat.
#2: Mono-Red Prison
Chalice of the Void strategies hold a special place in my heart, especially in Legacy. Typically, I am a fan of employing the Eldrazi alongside my Chalices to carry me to victory, but even I know when to acknowledge that the new hotness is just the better option. Legacy as a format has shifted to some extent away from the fair Baleful Strix decks like Grixis Control in favor of combo decks, specifically Thoughtseize– and Duress-centric combo decks like Golgari Depths and Ad Nauseam Tendrils. Mono-Red Prison comes at these decks in force, with multiple lock pieces and blisteringly fast clocks to punish opponents and prevent them from ever recovering before they die to a horde of Goblins. I would definitely recommend this deck for your Legacy seat if you are a fan of preventing your opponents from doing anything.
#3: Izzet Delver
I would not be doing my duty for the Legacy portion of my article without suggesting at least one blue deck. Izzet Delver is the latest and greatest Delver of Secrets deck to grace the Legacy format in light of last year’s Deathrite Shaman ban, and the deck features some fairly new additions like the blue Tombstalker impersonator, Pteramander. This multi-format All-Star slots perfectly into Izzet Delver as an extra beefy threat to help keep constant pressure on your opponents as you disrupt them. This is my top pick for a Brainstorm deck in Legacy this coming weekend.
There are many more than three decks for each format that would serve as great choices for the Team Constructed Open this weekend in Cincinnati, and many decks not on this list will be all over the top tables and Top 8 of this event. However, I hope the suggestions I’ve laid out above give some players who may feel a little lost in one or more of the formats a foundation for a winning team strategy.
Best of luck this weekend!