The Pioneer And Modern Decks We’d Play At The Season Two Invitational

It’s crunch time for the Season Two Invitational! Five Star City Games content creators give the lists they’d run at the big event, both Pioneer and Modern. Don’t forget to vote for your picks in the polls!

Welcome to What We'd Play! With the Season Two Invitational at SCG CON Winter this weekend, many are unsure what they’d play in such a high-profile tournament. That’s where we come in and let you know what we’d play and why we’d play it. Hopefully this last-minute advice aids in your decision making! Be sure to vote for who you agree with in the poll at the end!

Shaheen Soorani – Sultai Superfriends (Pioneer) and Simic Whirza (Modern)

I’m leaning toward Esper Control for this one, but I decided to post a deck that I think you all should play. Esper Control is calling me in Pioneer, and I may not be able to resist its siren call, but as for the deck I think you all should play, Sultai Superfriends checks all of the boxes.

This version of control has each of the cheap planeswalkers that I think are very good in Pioneer, along with other removal targets that gives Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy a chance at survival. Tireless Tracker and Courser of Kruphix both progress the control gameplan and the deck is packed with card draw, sweet removal, and enough disruption to make sure your planeswalkers stay intact.

I’m torn between this, the best deck in the format, or playing a little control this weekend. I’m leaning towards Simic Whirza because it is one of the most consistent combo decks I have ever played. It relies on Urza, Lord High Artificer for victory and it delivers as consistently as Krark-Clan Ironworks did last year.

This is the best version of an Urza, Lord High Artificer deck on the market. It uses the power of Oko, Thief of Crowns to generate artifacts, lifegain, and pressure all in one. To top it all off, it turns hate creatures into the famous Elk with no abilities. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is the best deck, but let’s see if I can pull myself away from the Celestial Colonnade.

Todd Anderson – Mono-Green Devotion (Pioneer) and Simic Whirza (Modern)

It’s no secret that Mono-Green Devotion is my deck of choice. I’ve had a lot of success in a short period of time with the archetype, so it only makes sense that I’d stick to my guns. Three cards have been banned from the archetype already, and my guess is that two more are still going to get the axe before it’s all said and done. I’m just glad they stripped a sideboard card instead of something integral, like Jadelight Ranger!

In all seriousness, this is the most powerful and most consistent deck in Pioneer. If you aren’t playing it, you’re a fool or a hipster. You go way over the top of most opponents and your explosive starts are unrivaled. Before the bannings, Mono-Green Devotion felt completely broken. After the bannings, it still feels head over heels the best thing to be doing in this very early format. After my 21-2 record in two PTQs, the archetype has won both Pioneer Challenges on Magic Online, putting six copies into the Top 8 of the most recent event with the eventual winner playing my exact 75.

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx is Tolarian Academy. Once Upon a Time is Green Sun’s Zenith. Nissa, Who Shakes the World is High Tide. We get to do all the fun stuff, so why pick anything else?

I’m not looking forward to the Modern portion of this event, but I will be playing the best deck in the room. Dylan won his most recent PTQ with the Simic Whirza deck that’s been dominating ever since Team Lotus Box put up absurd numbers at SCG Atlanta last month. And while Grixis Death’s Shadow won the event, I think Simic Whirza has much better matchups across the board.

I’d be lying if I said I’d tested this format a bunch and was overly prepared, but the truth of the matter is that I’ve been enthralled with Pioneer and my entire focus has been on learning that format inside and out. I’m just hoping my residual knowledge of Modern can help carry me into the Top 8. And if I’ve learned anything from playing Magic over the last few months, it’s that Oko, Thief of Crowns and 56 other Magic cards can carry anyone to victory.

Kevin Jones – Izzet Emerge (Pioneer) and Azorius Stoneblade (Modern)

This deck looks like every deck I’ve finished 9-5-1 in a SCG Tour Open with; it’s a regular old Daddy’s Mediocrity Masters preconstructed deck, so naturally I’m already locked in after one 4-1 on Magic Online. There’s a ton of powerful stuff happening here and most of it is coming from an angle that the format is rather unprepared for. Kozilek’s Return is a rather ridiculous card that players often break by the end of a Constructed format. It can be tough to include early on if it isn’t obviously good, but Kozilek’s Return cleans up a lot of the mana creatures that have been dominating from the green decks. It also catches you up against the one-drop-heavy Mono-Red Aggro and Atarka Red decks that are often great and logical choices in an early format. Kozilek’s Return is obviously great against a bunch of decks and you can even flash it back on occasion.

Most of Pioneer is operating at sorcery speed, albeit powerfully. Elder Deep-Fiend can be tough to play because of the inherent cost of the emerge ability. Adventure creatures do a fantastic job of mitigating this by giving you a way to ensure the battlefield has been managed a bit so you can tap lands and get a Time Walk out of your Elder Deep-Fiend. I think Izzet Emerge does a great job of targeting the monocolored aggressive decks as well as the green-based ramp and midrange decks that place a high reliance on mana creatures like Gilded Goose and Elvish Mystic. Rekindling Phoenix is very good with Flamewake Phoenix and Stubborn Denial (out of the sideboard) and is actually a pretty difficult card to answer in this format. The sideboard also plays a mix of great color hosers and efficient removal. It’s exciting to be able to have access to Aether Gust, Wild Slash, and Stubborn Denial.

I actually can’t wait to sleeve this one up Friday.

I just can’t quit Stoneforge Mystic and this deck is in a better spot than it was when I played it at SCG Indianapolis. Simic Whirza has eclipsed Jund for the role of de facto fair deck in Modern and the outstanding performance by Team Lotus Box at SCG Atlanta cemented the deck in the top tier of Modern. I expect Simic Whirza to be very popular at the Season Two Invitational, especially amongst the top players.

Azorius Stoneblade has a solid counterspell suite and can function adequately at mostly instant speed. This is one of the decks that can compete with Simic Whirza, especially by leveraging Spell Queller on their key spells. Jund and Golgari Midrange decks were a rough matchup for Azorius Stoneblade but because those decks have gotten pushed out by the slightly less fair Simic Whirza, you’re combating a deck with a lower threat density and zero copies of Kolaghan’s Command or Abrupt Decay. Modern is always presenting a diverse series of decks in a tournament like the Season Two Invitational. Grixis Death’s Shadow has also seen a resurgence lately and having an extra free counterspell to win fights over Path to Exile on their turn or to protect your Stoneforge Mystic so you can set up Sword of Feast and Famine is especially valuable against them.

Lastly, in an event where you’re likely to face several different linear decks, it’s incredibly nice to have access to all of the powerful sideboard cards that white provides. Celestial Purge has gone up in value over the past year or so and Rest in Peace and Timely Reinforcements provide help in polarizing matchups. I’m far from 100% locked, but I would be registering Stoneforge Mystic if decks were due today.

Corey BaumeisterHardened Scales (Pioneer) and Simic Whirza (Modern)

Anytime a new format comes up I usually have two general rules I follow – be powerful and be proactive. Hardened Scales checks these boxes nicely! Both Hardened Scales and Winding Constrictor have had similar problems in the past in that if you didn’t draw these cards, the rest of the cards you put in your deck were usually pretty weak. While this is still true for this shell, you get to play both in the same deck alongside Once Upon a Time. This just leads to a very consistent and powerful deck. If you don’t interact with this deck early and often, the game tends to slip away quite quickly.

When it comes to Modern, there are two things that are dominating right now: Urza, Lord High Artificer and Team Lotus Box. Their creation of Simic Whirza has been absolutely dominating competitive events for about a month now and the thing I love the most about the deck is it plays like a control, combo, and aggro deck all at the same time. The versatility is through the roof! Not to mention you get to play with four copies of Oko, Thief of Crowns, so what could go wrong?

Ari Lax – Simic Aggro (Pioneer) and Eldrazi Tron (Modern)

In Prison Mike we trust.

Susurrus has had a really good year of Magic, starting with championing the Whir Prison deck that was a real banger at the start of the year. Sadly he lost in the finals of the Pioneer Magic Online Players Tour Qualifier this last weekend, but that won’t stop me from copying his list. Well, minus the two Veil of Summer that I swapped for a second Spell Pierce and a Dispel.

The best thing to do in Pioneer right now seems to be finding Elvish Mystic with Once Upon a Time. This deck does that. It then just plays the best three drops on rate and some interaction. It isn’t rocket science – people have been doing this for multiple decades.

That doesn’t mean this list is perfect and I have a few ideas to try. I’m sad this deck doesn’t have Smuggler’s Copter and would consider it over Heart of Kiran. I also wonder if the Hunt the Hunter makes sense in some of the sideboard removal slots since it lets you break mirror parity. Vivien, Arkbow Ranger may also be a more castable, more flexible Sleep.

The deck to beat is Simic Whirza.

I don’t want to play relevant creatures into Oko, Thief of Crowns. I don’t want to play fair. I don’t want to play Burn against Food. I don’t want to play Mono-Green Tron or Storm against Damping Sphere.

I do want to play Karn, the Great Creator.

It might seem like Eldrazi are relevant creatures against Oko, Thief of Crowns, but they aren’t really. Making Thought-Knot Seer an Elk costs you the card on the way out, Reality Smasher already got a hit in, and Matter Reshaper is basically not a real card to begin with. Damping Sphere does things against Eldrazi Tron, but it isn’t crushing the way it is against Mono-Green Tron.

I’m probably just making excuses to not play Simic Whirza, but it’s still early enough before the tournament that I can live with that.