The Fun And Wonder Of The SCG Invitational

Chris Lansdell will judge you all! He did just that at the #SCGINVI last weekend and he got to see some peculiar things on the floor! See the cool new decks and the oddities he witnessed throughout the weekend!

As I write this I am sitting in…I think it’s Logan Airport in Boston. The SCG Tour® stopped in New Jersey this past weekend for the StarCityGames.com Season Two Invitational and I was in the best seat in the house to watch Liam Lonergan take down a veritable who’s who of the Tour to win the trophy, the token, and the Pro Tour invitation. In a few short days I’ll be off to do it all again at Grand Prix Indianapolis. Both of these tournaments heavily featured Modern, and I saw some cool stuff on the floor this weekend that I am hoping to see repeated in Indianapolis.

To start off this week I have a couple of brews to share from readers. I’ve had these a while now and this is a great time to share them!

Enchanted, I’m Sure

One of my first (some may say only) successful brews was a combo deck in the Urza’s Saga era, after Tolarian Academy got banned. I read an article by Randy Buehler in (I think) The Duelist suggesting that the Academy deck could be somewhat rebuilt with enchantments and Serra’s Sanctum. His version was skewed towards a more affordable build, but I made some tweaks and ended up with a deck that was significantly slower than Academy (as in, my opponent actually got an attack step or two) but killed in much the same way. It was a lot of fun and impressed a fair few people.

This brew left me with a soft spot for both combo decks and Enchantress-style builds. When local player Chris Parsons, who is and forevermore shall be known as Goober even by his mother, sent me this list my eyes instantly widened. Draw some cards you say? Don’t mind if I do!

While it lacks the card-drawing power and lockdown ability of its Legacy namesake, this version is not short on either.

The idea here is twofold: make Riptide Chimera good, and try to break Sigil of the Empty Throne. Both are admirable goals, but I think I can see some ways to improve here that will make us more successful.

First, we’re in four colors. Red is essentially here for Seal of Fire and Chained to the Rocks, although the latter can be circumvented quite easily. Although our cantrip Auras can help us fix mana, I don’t think the benefit of adding red is worth the cost. That frees up seven maindeck slots that we ideally want to fill with cards that meet as many of these criteria as possible:

  • are enchantments;
  • are removal;
  • cantrip;
  • cost one or two mana;
  • protect or recur our other enchantments;
  • like to be bounced.

The first glaring omission is Greater Auramancy. Riptide Chimera provides a great rate and a combo piece, but ultimately it still dies to Abrupt Decay. We’re not likely to want to target our enchantments, so giving them shroud is just a way to make sure our few win conditions stay on the battlefield.

I’d also love to have some way to recur our cards here. Starfield of Nyx was the first card that came to mind, as it can bring back Auras but does not animate them, thereby protecting them from removal. At most I think it’s a one-of, but it certainly gives us another way to outlast our opponent.

The more I think about it, the more I want to keep Chained to the Rocks in the deck. The Mountain requirement can be met with Nylea’s Presence (which conveniently cantrips) and it provides some early removal. I think I want this over Ardent Plea, which is cute but ultimately doesn’t do enough in this deck.

I played a few games with this and it feels a lot like a combo deck. You draw cards until you find Riptide Chimera. Then you draw more cards until you find Ethereal Armor. Then you win. It’s possible we want a single Helm of the Gods in here as well, as it is more resilient and can be played out early. I’m also considering squeezing in Thassa, God of the Sea; Zur the Enchanter; and Auratog. The last, by the way, is purely because I have a foil Auratog.

Amulet You Finish

Have I used that one? I feel like I have used that one. You’ll forgive me when you see the deck, though.

Amulet of Vigor has mostly disappeared from the metagame since its running buddy Summer Bloom got exiled to the land of Birthing Pods and Splinter Twins. There’s no doubt the card is still both powerful and dangerous on its own, and even more so in combination with effects that let us play multiple lands in a turn. The issue is that, without Summer Bloom, those are restricted to Azusa, Lost But Seeking; Mina and Denn, Wildborn; The Gitrog Monster; and Oracle of Mul Daya. The one thing they have in common? They are all creatures. Only Azusa costs less than four mana, and she is also the most fragile of the group.

How can we get around this? Mark Brewster has an idea, but be careful! It’s a Trap.

The list reads like a who’s who of game-ending bombs combined with a bunch of ramp. That’s far from a bad strategy, but I do think Mark has fallen in to the common trap of playing too many win conditions and not enough ways to find them. My first cuts here would be Grave Titan (a fine sideboard option), Terastodon, and Gisela, Blade of Goldnight. Grave Titan would be our only black card and isn’t of high enough impact to make me want it over Hornet Queen, which is on-color. Dipping into black for anything short of Griselbrand isn’t likely to tickle my fancy. Terastodon is the sort of card I never really want to cast even in Cube, despite the powerful effect. Gisela has a powerful ability without doubt but is just too vulnerable for me to see her as a game-winner against many decks.

Fortunately, Eldritch Moon brought with it a card that I think could be perfect in this deck: Eldritch Evolution. Jeff Hoogland has already proven the power of this card in Modern, and this deck seems like a good place to try it. As with the previous Amulet combo deck, winning is significantly easier when we have Primeval Titan.

Where those decks had Summoner’s Pact to find it without fail, we only have Summoning Trap right now. Adding Eldritch Evolution adds a guaranteed way to find our enabler. It also means we might want to make a couple of changes to our creature base, substituting Oracle of Mul Daya for Courser of Kruphix and Obstinate Baloth for Thragtusk. The latter change isn’t entirely necessary, since we can still get Titan by sacrificing Thragtusk, but we might want to lower the curve a little bit where we can. That said, Thragtusk into Hornet Queen into Iona, Shield of Emeria is pretty ludicrous.

I like Explore a lot in this deck as it both digs us deeper and lets us ramp up. Can we fit a Kiora, the Crashing Wave in here somewhere? Perhaps we can make better use of the two Voyaging Satyr slots, given that it will often have low impact? If we could reliably get delirium, I might look at Traverse the Ulvenwald here. Vessel of Nascency is also a possibility.

I really like this deck plan and cannot wait to give it a go. Amulet of Vigor is reasonably priced since the banning of Summer Bloom, so maybe this is the time to dive in!

Tales from the Jersey Floor

Going to events in my role as a floor judge affords me an excellent opportunity to see and hear about some cool decks in action. Since I saw so much this weekend, I have constructed for you a list of things that I think will well and truly rustle your jimmies.

  • There was no Snooki. I was somewhat disappointed. If places in the United States keep belying their TV portrayals I am going to be severely displeased!

  • For the first time in a long time, Jund appears to be making a significant change. Switching up the four-drop threat isn’t really significant, but reducing or cutting Dark Confidant entirely for Grim Flayer is a big deal. When combined with Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Kolaghan’s Command you have arguably improved card selection and a bigger threat that is also not going to kill you.

  • Jeskai Nahiri suffered a lot this weekend. It could be the splash hate on Grafdigger’s Cage, or it could be that people are playing more ways to beat Nahiri, the Harbinger. Either way the Modern format looked really diverse, with only Infect really putting a lot of decks in the X-1 or better bracket.
  • There is however a consistent, powerful, and terrifying Dredge deck. In many ways it mirrors the Legacy version in that it will beat an unprepared opponent almost every time but wilts in the face of sideboard pressure or any of a dozen hate cards. Unlike Legacy Dredge, though, we’re not all-in on the Bridge from Below plan, and the deck can actually grind out wins with Bloodghast, Prized Amalgam, and occasionally Gravecrawler.
  • Elves is a terrifying deck. Liam Lonergan dodged Anger of the Gods until the finals, and then only had to face the threat of it in one game in which Jadine Klomparens was stuck on one land, but it is blisteringly fast and can go very big in a hurry. Liam didn’t even have to run Shaman of the Pack to win, and that card is very good.
  • I am amazed that nobody is running Twelve Moon, which would have four copies of Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon as well as Eldritch Evolution to find Magus on turn 2 from a mana creature. A G/R Eldritch Evolution deck could go several ways and be very good, and it might only be a matter of time before we see it. I also want to play Riftsweeper in this deck, but I am a crazy person, so take that for what it’s worth.

  • I saw not one but two Enduring Ideal decks this weekend. I even saw one of them resolve a Dovescape and then make all the spells into Birds. This pleased me greatly.
  • I got to meet Danny West and Mrs. Mulligan herself (Jennifer Long) this weekend, as well as hang out with some truly special people. There’s a reason I keep flying across the continent to do this.
  • Ruby Tuesday had 25-cent lemonades. They were delicious.
  • There’s still nobody better than StarCityGames.com at putting on a wonderful event.

That’s all we have time for this week, folks. As always, thanks for stopping by the LAB. If you’re going to be in Indianapolis, come find me and say hi! Show me your brews! I love meeting other brewers and theorycrafting with them, but I do also have to actually judge the event at some point.

Until next time…Brew On!