The Top Archetypes For #SCGINVI

Pro Tour Champion Shaun McLaren isn’t just studying #SCGBALT results–he’s working on improving them for this weekend’s #SCGINVI showdown! What does Shaun expect to see succeeding? What does he expect to lose ground?

SCG Invitational in Columbus April 15-17!


More refreshing than water. Sweeter than candy. Worth their weight in gold.


Sprinkle them down like beautiful rose petals. Toss them in the air and shout “Eureka!”. Blend them up and serve them in a delicious smoothie.


#SCGBALT has some sweet decklists. These might be some of the tightest and best-developed first-week decks ever, which makes sense. Information propagates faster than ever and more people are getting great at Magic. Come sit and let us all bask in these decklists’ warm, glowing, warming glow.

Human decks are the baseline aggro decks of the format. They have seemly completely replaced the pure Mono-Red Aggro style of deck for the first time in a long time. There is not a single Atarka Red deck in the Top 64. Of course, there’s always Mono-Red Eldrazi if you’re into that sort of thing, but it just doesn’t feel the same if you aren’t giving or receiving three damage to the face from a burn spell.

Mono-White Humans is going to be a successful archetype if Kellen Pastore’s second-place finish is any indication. The big draw to the deck is its consistency and focused game plan. It can curve out with a slew of one- and two-drops and then beef them up to push through any would-be blockers. This can punish any deck that stumbles with their mana or lacks early-game interaction and sweepers.

Always Watching is an incredibly powerful card. Often adding a slight upgrade to an already great card like Glorious Anthem pushes it into the realm of the truly amazing. Although Always Watching isn’t quite a strict upgrade to Glorious Anthem for the deck (it doesn’t pump the tokens of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar; Westvale Abbey; or Hanweir Militia Captain), it comes close.

Archangel of Tithes is the biggest beneficiary of the vigilance Always Watching gives, since its “can’t attack you” Ghostly Prison effect will apply even as you get to beat down with your Archangel and apply its “can’t block” effect.

The deck has a lot of +1/+1 effects once you throw Consul’s Lieutenant and Thalia’s Lieutenant into the mix. This also provides a lot of extra value if you’re Canadian or British and get to pronounce them as “Leftenant” to tilt your opponents.

Gryff’s Boon is a surprising tech choice that points to how good flying is in this format. The only flying creatures in the Top 8 were Archangel Avacyn, Dragonlord Ojutai, Archangel of Tithes, and Linvala, the Preserver. The skies will be clear in the early game for many matchups. Gryff’s Boon helps push through damage and kill planeswalkers. You’ll have a recurring source of flying no matter how many times they remove your creature if the battlefield stalls in the late-game.

Weaknesses: Languish is the scariest card in the format for this deck. Expect to see more Eerie Interlude; Gideon, Ally of Zendikar; and Archangel of Tithes to combat it going forward.

This version is much more midrange than Mono-White Humans. A slight tweak to the manabase gives you access to Reflector Mage, Dragonlord Ojutai, Ojutai’s Command, and counters.

You’re sacrificing a little bit of consistency and speed for late-game power.

The combo of Always Watching and Dragonlord Ojutai is absolutely bonkers. You get to swing in with a massive 6/5 hexproof that Anticipates every time you connect with your opponent’s skull. This is one of the most exciting combos in the format as there is very little that stops it. The fifth point of toughness is troublesome, since a surprise Archangel Avacyn isn’t big enough to kill it and neither is Languish or a fresh Chandra, Flamecaller.

There are a few things that work, though, like Clip Wings, Planar Outburst, Dragon Hunter reaching up to block, World Breaker, a returned Kozilek’s Return, and sacrifice effects into an otherwise clear battlefield.

U/W Humans was the most-played version of Humans and I expect this to be the version that stays more played, since it’s better at fighting against hate. I also think U/W Humans is the deck to beat going forward.

Reflector Mage is great “removal” against a lot of what the format has to offer. It provides a massive tempo boost in the mirror and gets rid of pesky creatures like Archangel of Tithes. It’s also fantastic at temporarily dealing with problem creatures like Thing in the Ice or World Breaker.

Looking to the future of U/W Humans, I expect to see more Dragonlord Ojutai; Always Watching; Gideon, Ally of Zendikar; and sitting behind Negates after establishing an early battlefield, fighting back against what will presumably be a more hostile environment.

Kevin Jones’s list is almost the same as Jim Davis’s winning version.

Tireless Tracker is perhaps the most exciting tool for green to come from the new set. It has to compete with some amazing green three-drops and still comes out looking fantastic. You thought it was tough finding the right number of Nissa, Vastwood Seer and Den Protector? Now you have to throw Tireless Tracker into the mix as well.

Tireless Tracker is an engine, plain and simple. In the late-game it functions as an excellent mana sink that draws cards and become a massive threat. In the early-game it can generate a bunch of Clues for later and aggressively attack while threatening to pump itself with Clues. Attack with four mana up and two Clues and it can become a 5/4 at a moment’s notice. If your opponent declines to block, feel free to use that mana elsewhere and save your Clues until after you’ve dumped your hand.

Dromoka’s Command is great against Always Watching but still seems a little ambitious in this deck for me. It doesn’t have Hangarback Walker and the creatures are all on the smaller side. I would prefer some hard removal in the maindeck like Declaration in Stone going forward.

Good cards working well together and the best removal in the format.

It just goes to show how powerful Declaration in Stone is that it’s edging out the black removal spells. It’s like Path to Exile and Detention Sphere had a beautiful baby.

Eldrazi Displacer is phenomenal right now. Not only does it have the great blink synergies within the deck, it also neutralizes a lot of threats in the format, including Ormendahl, Profane Prince; a tapped Dragonlord Ojutai; Hangarback Walker; Thing in the Ice; an Archangel Avacyn that’s about to flip; and any and all tokens.

Wasteland Strangler seems like it might pop up in more W/B lists that can support it, especially if Eldrazi Displacer is involved, for its effectiveness against aggro.

This might be the right place to start looking for an answer to midrange and aggro creature decks. It doesn’t seem like control decks had a great start to the format, but B/W might hold the key to their salvation.

The issue with control decks in the format is that the threats are incredibly diverse and powerful while the answers are somewhat lacking. B/W Midrange wants to function as a deck that picks the correct answers while also playing its own threats. Having access to Languish for the Humans matchup is very tempting right now, but it’s still not a “get out of jail free” card against prepared opponents. It needs to be the right setup, paired with a good follow-up or Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, to be truly backbreaking.

Still a solid choice as far as aggro decks go, but might take a back seat to Humans decks since it doesn’t have access to the same quality of removal or quite as powerful synergies. The deck does have some very powerful tempo starts and the late-game house that is Chandra, Flamecaller.

Thopter tokens are looking great right now though. Gumming up the battlefield and pecking away with Thopter tokens and Pia and Kiran Nalaar Shocks is a viable path to victory.

An exciting deck that maximizes the potential of Thing in the Ice and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. The deck is incredibly reliant on its blue two-drops, though, especially Thing in the Ice. It’s almost a necessary catch-up mechanism in most games, since the average deck in the format is just going to be playing creatures and it’s difficult to keep up just playing instants and sorceries.

If you have Thing in the Ice and it’s uncontested, the game is going to be a breeze; if not, it will be an uphill battle.

There are also some especially troublesome creatures like Bounding Krasis and Archangel Avacyn that are good at neutralizing a Thing in the Ice once it flips. The common white removal of Declaration in Stone and Silkwrap are also good against it.

I think U/R Control is going to have difficulty keeping up with opponents prepared for its game-plan now that the cat’s out of the bag (or the Thing’s out of the Ice).

Kozilek’s Return and Chandra, Flamecaller are in a tricky spot. On the one hand, they’re sometimes fantastic, able to clear the battlefield completely and get you back in the game. Other times, they can be completely foiled by an Archangel Avacyn or high-toughness creature.

World Breaker is not the card it once was. Manabases are far less greedy and Declaration in Stone or Reflector Mage is an easy answer.

That said, if the right configuration comes along or the format’s answers line up poorly, a Ramp deck could capitalize on slower midrange decks.

Shadows over Innistrad Going Forward

Where is the Standard format going as we head towards the #SCGINVI? Here are my predictions and suggestions.

Humans will be the most-represented deck again.

If you aren’t playing a Humans deck, have a plan for the Humans deck. If you are, be prepared for the mirror and hate. I also think it will still be a decent choice and be resistant to hate as it continues to be refined, but probably not the best choice as the format evolves.

Blue control will struggle again.

There’s a reason control didn’t make waves. Creatures are really good. Blue spells are not overpowered. I think it will take more time before blue control decks make a deep mark on Standard.

Bant Company will not stay on top.

The deck is powerful, but it does have a target on its back and three-color manabases still come at a cost.

Tempo early, grind late.

There are a bunch of cards that grind games to a halt. Archangel Avacyn punishes over-aggression. Good ground creatures are plentiful in many decks and that leads to battlefield stalls.

But most decks also apply pressure in the early game which can snowball into a win against a stumbling opponent. It seems like the early game is a test to see if your deck puts up a fight, and then you transition into accumulating value while looking for an opening while you assemble your late-game plan.

It’s necessary for every deck to be able to punch through a clogged game state.

Imagine last Standard’s Rally the Ancestors decks against this field. It would destroy the current competition. It’s doing what most decks are doing (playing random creatures that interact) but would also have the best end-game (casting Rally the Ancestors).

Duskwatch Recruiter. Tireless Tracker. Westvale Abbey. Secure the Wastes. Dragonlord Ojutai. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Thing in the Ice. Eldrazi Displacer. Planeswalker value. Almost every deck in the format has a powerful late-game plan.

The best deck in the format might just be the deck that can survive an early onslaught and then follow it up with the most powerful late-game.

There’s still plenty to discover.

This was just the first week.

Who knows? The Invitational this weekend might flip everything we have so far on its head.

What strategy do you think will come out on top in the second week of Standard?

SCG Invitational in Columbus April 15-17!