The SCG Invitational In Atlanta And More

Two-time GP winner Gerry Thompson tells you how he did at SCG Invitational: Atlanta this past weekend and why he’s excited that Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle has been unbanned in Modern.

It looks like I was the best performing Standard player at the StarCityGames.com Invitational for the second time in a row, but I didn’t make Top 8. What happened?

I went 7-1 in Standard with Mirran Crusader Delver and 2-4 in Legacy (with two byes) with BUG Death’s Shadow and finished in 22nd place.

You can watch my Legacy deck tech here.

Overall, the Standard deck was fantastic. I knew Delver would be the biggest deck, which makes my choice to play Spectral Flight look awkward. You can’t play Talrand maindeck and expect to beat control, Zombies, or Birthing Pod, so I would likely be playing against Pike Delver or some other iteration like Hero Delver.

Against those, Spectral Flight is the first card you sideboard out, but Mirran Crusader is still a solid brawler. They can’t fight it on the ground profitably so it’s like a mini Geist of Saint Traft. Obviously Vapor Snag is an issue, but I was playing plenty of Mental Missteps and ways to stymie their aggression as well. Vapor Snag is only useful as a tempo tool when they have a board presence, and I was doing my best to prevent them from ever getting one.

Solar Flare was the deck I was afraid of but was willing to concede to. I sideboarded some counterspells to help in that matchup, but they probably should have been Surgical Extractions. It’s much easier to win when they have no Sun Titans, Phantasmal Images, Day of Judgments, or Thragtusks, so I should have gone that route instead. Props to Charles Gindy for suggesting that one, but slops to him for suggesting it after the tournament was over.

As far as Legacy is concerned, I do have some excuses. I was testing and tuning the Death’s Shadow deck for about a month on Magic Online and doing very well. Towards the end, I started experimenting with adding a third color in order to shore up a few things, which is how I ended up on my BUG list.

For a while during testing, I was performing well against the expected archetypes at the SCG Invitational (Show and Tell, RUG Delver, U/W Control, Maverick) but losing to random stuff like Blood Moon that I didn’t expect to play against. Once I added the green, my percentages against the top decks went up, but so did the percentages against the random decks!

It was likely that my deck was not perfectly tuned, but I didn’t think it would matter being off a card or two. In the end, fewer combo decks, Show and Tell specifically, showed up than I expected, which made my choice to play Hymn to Tourach a rather poor one.

Secondly, I probably needed a 20th land. Several of my game losses came at the hands of light mana draws combined with my opponent’s Wastelands. I felt like nineteen land plus Gitaxian Probe / Brainstorm and a low curve meant I’d be fine, and usually it was. However, I could have prevented some of that frustration.

My opponents seemed to have an ability to come back from no hand and no board, which was very impressive. It’s also one of the reasons why I stopped playing Hymn to Tourach decks, as you can’t control your opponent’s draw steps.

An example of that happened when I playing versus Maverick. I won game 1 easily, but games 2 and 3 he peeled some very powerful spells after I shredded his hand to nothing. It seemed unfortunate, but he put those powerful spells in his deck for a reason and I always had the wrong answers.

Here is the perfect example of how my Legacy rounds went: I was down a game to Alex Binek, US World Cup Team Member, playing U/W Control. He was playing well, had a slight matchup advantage, and I had just mulliganed to five on the play. However, a few turns later I had six lands, a Delver of Secrets that was going to transform, two Sylvan Libraries, Liliana of the Veil on four counters, Krosan Grip, Engineered Explosives on top of my library ready for any threat he played, and ten life.

He had five lands, a Sensei’s Divining Top, and no hand.

Four turns later I was basically drawing dead.

I do like the deck, and I’ll continue to work on it. Here’s how the tournament went:

Round 1: *bye*
Round 2: *bye*
Round 3: U/B Control, 0-2
Round 4: Maverick with Geist of Saint Traft, 1-2
Round 5: Four-Color Pod, 2-1
Round 6: B/R Zombies, 2-1
Round 7: U/W Delver with Talrand, 0-2
Round 8: U/W Delver, 2-0
Round 9: RUG Delver, 2-0
Round 10: U/W Control, 0-2
Round 11: RUG Delver, 2-1
Round 12: Goblins, 0-2
Round 13: Solar Flare, 2-1
Round 14: Four-Color Pod, 2-0
Round 15: Bant Pod, 2-0
Round 1: Wolf Run Blue, 2-0

The tournament was full of ups and downs, but I continued my streak of virtual money finishes in SCG Invitationals. I’m glad these tournaments exist, as my life probably wouldn’t be the same without them, so big thanks to StarCityGames.com for stepping up and running them.

To those of you who can’t make it out because they start on Friday: I’m sorry, but you really should find a way to attend. People do it for Pro Tours, and while SCG Invitationals aren’t as hard as Pro Tours, they are still worth going to for the times and EV. Playing in a three-day event is so much more comfortable than having it all mashed up into two days, so I’d like to see them kept as three-day events. If you really want to go, you’ll find a way.

In other news, Valakut was recently unbanned in Modern! I think it’s great that WotC is willing to show they are open to experimenting with the format. Overall, Valakut seems like it will spawn new decks, but will otherwise be a turn 4 or 5 deck in a sea of turn 4 or 5 decks.

A true control deck would be nice to have, but trust me when I say unbanning Ancestral Vision isn’t the answer. I don’t think the ‘counter every spell you cast’ is a fun control strategy for anyone. Jace, the Mind Sculptor seems more reasonable, although we haven’t exactly seen how good Jace, Architect of Thought is in Modern yet.

I’ve been known to Valakut from time to time, so clearly I have some brews in mind. There are the obvious G/R Scapeshift / Primeval Titan variants, but I like my Valakuts to go with Islands.

My love affair with Scapeshift started here:

You can read the accompanying tournament report here. Obviously the format is a little different now, but the shell of that deck could likely be successful. Of course, you could always use the more recent version of the deck to get some ideas too.

It seems like everyone forgets about Wargate. When all the late night speculation was going on, barely anyone mentioned Wargate as a possible tool for Valakut decks to abuse. Thankfully, the Japanese contingent always remembers Wargate, so they gave us plenty of ideas to use.

That’s right—Mihara’s deck was 64 cards. Without shocklands, playing seven Mountains in a deck that would otherwise play 25 or 26 lands wasn’t possible. You’d have to go up to 28 lands to even function properly. In order to not be flooded all the time, Mihara went up to 64 cards.

Yes, I know JWay on Magic Online was actually the first person to do this, but Mihara tweaked and tuned the deck to perfection. Of course, now we have shocklands again, so I doubt we’ll see any 64-card decks. We do have the option of playing with or without Prismatic Omen though.

I’ve linked some other resources you can use to get your brewing juices flowing and to learn a little more about Wargate and Scapeshift at the end of this article.

I like the idea of the deck as a whole, but Modern is still a very fast format. I’d be worried going into Pro Tour Return to Ravnica with a stable but slow combo/control deck. Then again, it is right up my alley…

Here are the two shells I’ve been working on:

The sideboard would likely include life gain (Kitchen Finks), ways to fight hate (Sun Titan / Crucible of Worlds), extra disruption for combo decks (Spell Pierce / Vendilion Clique), ways to fight discard (Leyline of Sanctity / Jace, Architect of Thought), graveyard hate (Relic of Progenitus / Grafdigger’s Cage), a way to fight counterspells (Boseiju, Who Shelters All), and maybe some extra removal.

You could also build the deck in such a way that Scapeshift is an automatic win when you cast it, even without Prismatic Omen. That would require at least seven Mountains in the mana base, but probably more like eight or nine, and more Scapeshifts. That plan worked for Mihara, and it’s probably a good one.

This is slightly off topic, but I’ve been impressed by the use of Snapcaster Mage in spell-based combo decks lately. In my Modern Goryo’s Vengeance deck, I used Noxious Revival to give you redundancy against discard, but Snapcaster Mage does the same thing better if you’re in blue.

At the SCG Invitational, I saw players using Snapcaster Mage in Show and Tell and Reanimator to good effect, so that’s something I’ll likely try in the future. Having redundancy versus discard or counterspells looks like the future as far as combo decks are concerned. Building up to one big spell only to have it discarded or countered is a surefire way to lose. With Snapcaster Mage, you can actually grind them out, even if the body is irrelevant.

You used to have redundancy with Ponder and Preordain, but Serum Visions and Sleight of Hand are a fry cry from those. While Legacy has those available, playing a couple Snapcaster Mages in your Show and Tell deck still isn’t the worst idea.

Anyway, the second version is more traditional:

Of course, you could also run Prismatic Omen for an additional threat, but then you would want the third and fourth Valakuts. Additional fetchlands are also fantastic since they work well with Omen / Valakut. That would likely lead to these changes:

+4 Prismatic Omen
+2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
+1 Scalding Tarn

-2 Peer Through Depths
-2 Rampant Growth
-1 Boseiju, Who Shelters All
-1 Stomping Ground
-1 Island

That would give you a secondary game plan if they are all about fighting your Scapeshifts with discard, Meddling Mage, or Slaughter Games. Prismatic Omen by itself is wonderful because it’s a super cheap threat, is good on offense and defense, and can kill them very quickly. On top of that, your threats are now lands and enchantments, both very difficult to remove permanents.

However, Abrupt Decay is a card that I think changes the face of Modern. No longer are things like Prismatic Omen and Cranial Plating nearly unkillable in game 1. Suddenly Jund (and other decks) have a versatile, cheap answer to things like that. Additionally, it really puts the pressure on Splinter Twin to find a Spellskite or lose.

Abrupt Decay feels like a card that will push some of the random decks out of the format or at least make them easier to beat, so I’m all for it. I’m much better at fighting three or four enemies than twenty, which is evident with my track record in Standard versus Legacy.

Overall, I’m pretty excited for Wargate in Modern, even if it does end up being too slow or not good enough. Jund is the natural enemy, and it’s not getting any better with them having Abrupt Decay. My SCG Invitational record was solid, which I’m happy with, but it was a bumpy road. Taking my first ever sanctioned loss to Cedric Phillips in the Draft Open didn’t make my weekend any better either.

Who cares, though? Scars of Mirrodin is about to rotate, shocklands are back, and there’s a team Grand Prix and Modern Pro Tour coming up.

Back to brewing!


@G3RRYT on Twitter

Wargate Resources

“Aggressive Tendencies and Wargate with _ShipitHolla”
“One Step Ahead of Wargate”
“PTQing in Orlando with Wargate”

‘What guild am I?’ Leave me alone, I’m not done with my research.

*goes back to notebook*