Up In Flames At SCG DC And Standard For Pro Tour Ixalan

What’s the flip side of “the fire” in competitive Magic? Burnout, and Peter Ingram was feeling it at SCG Washington DC! But there’s always something new to explore, and he turns his eye to the Standard Magic Online PTQ results ahead of Pro Tour Ixalan!

So this past weekend I found myself at SCG Washington DC. Throughout both days I played six rounds of Magic, two Legacy and four Modern, and about twelve hours of Super Mario Odyssey.

Let’s rewind about a week.

Leading up to the tournament, I was excited about the weekend for three reasons: Super Mario Odyssey, Stranger Things Season 2, and Jigsaw. Noticeably, all those things weren’t Magic…


I still wanted to attend the event and was excited to play some Legacy, a format that I wish I had to play more often than once or twice a year. However, once I got in the car to drive the five hours to the tournament, all I wanted to do was just put that car in park and stay home. That is usually never a good sign for a tournament.

Magic is a long and grueling game. To play it at its best, I find that you need to have “the fire.” This weekend I didn’t have that much “fire.” I wanted to do well, but “the fire” just wasn’t there.

What is “the fire?” “The fire” is the will to play Magic at an intense form, to be so deep inside a game of Magic that you forget everything around you as you think through every possible line of play. At least, that is what “the fire” is to me. When playing in a tournament, it is very important to have “the fire,” and I did not.

Another problem that I ran into is that I opted to play Sultai Delver because it is the deck I know the most. I played an older version of the deck that played Dark Confidant over Hymn to Tourach, similar to the list I had been playing previously. I didn’t play Hymn to Tourach because I really dislike playing Bayou in my Daze deck, and playing Bayou is necessary if you play Hymn to Tourach. Why was this a problem?

Sultai Delver just isn’t that good anymore. I realized this while thinking about my deck on the way down to DC. One of the most popular decks in the Legacy format is Four-Color Leovold, or Czech Pile, and that matchup seems horrendous. They are going to out-card advantage you and they play three or four Baleful Strix, the bane of your existence. There wasn’t much I could do about this realization, however, because Legacy cards are super-expensive and Sultai Delver was really the only thing I had cards for. At least Grixis Delver has Young Pyromancer, a card that can go wide against that deck.

So after a quick 0-2 performance with the deck, I went back to my hotel room and played Super Mario Odyssey all day.

That game is so good, I recommend everyone to buy a Nintendo Switch just to play it.

Also, shout-out to Frank Skarren for letting me drive his car this weekend despite him going to GP Phoenix. He’s a true team player and a great friend.

He can play some Magic too.

The Evolution of Standard

All right, enough about that. The past is in the past, and my eyes are set on the future, aka Standard. Pro Tour Ixalan is this upcoming weekend and Grand Prix Atlanta is the following weekend. While I won’t be attending the Pro Tour, I will be attending two Standard Grand Prix in the next month. Standard has evolved over the last month or so, and I don’t think that it is done. One of the newer decks that has started to see play is a B/R Aggro deck. This list took fourth in the online PTQ over the weekend:

This is the latest and greatest in the context of aggro decks for the format. Is this just a better version of Ramunap Red? I’m not sure yet. I have yet to get into the thick of Standard testing, but this will definitely be a deck that I look into.

I’m a bit curious why this deck isn’t playing a few cards, though. The cards I am interested in are Heart of Kiran, Unlicensed Disintegration, and Key to the City. Well, I guess I am most interested in Unlicensed Disintegration and that leads me to want to play more artifacts. Key to the City and Hazoret the Fervent form a super-sweet combo too.

One other card that I would like to play in this proposed shell is Ruin Raider, as it plays well with Heart of Kiran and is a very good source of card advantage. The proposed list would look something like this:

Although this deck has been the breakout deck, Ramunap Red still remains one of the top dogs. Brandon Burton, aka the Burn master, took down the Magic Online PTQ this past weekend with all Mountains. Ramunap Red is the type of deck that doesn’t really have any bad matchups, so it’s always a viable choice. Let’s take a look at his list:

I like a lot of what this deck has evolved to. Harsh Mentor and Rampaging Ferocidon are the latest tools that are in place to counteract Temur Energy, the supposed boogeyman of the format. I would likely cut a Kari Zev, Skyship Raider for another maindeck Harsh Mentor or Ferocidon, but other than that I really like the list. Speaking of the Temur Energy menace that is the so-called “best deck” of the format, here is the list that I have been working on:

I think that the black splash is pretty good right now for the mirror and Vraska, Relic Seeker is a really powerful card. There was a really interesting list that made Top 8 of the Magic Online PTQ that played Glint-Sleeve Siphoner over Longtusk Cub. It also lacked Glorybringer, which, to me, was the biggest problem I had with the deck. Glorybringer is so powerful right now, it’s a huge trump that allows you to provide a fast clock as well as present a constant stream of removal.

The reason that Temur is such a powerhouse in this format is because it has the best tools to adapt to what the metagame shifts to. The ability to play counterspells as well as Vizier of Many Faces, which is one of the unsung heroes as far as sideboard cards go.

There is one final archetype that I would like to talk about for Standard that has also gotten more attention. In fact a version of this archetype came in second and third in the Magic Online PTQ, and that archetype revolves around God-Pharaoh’s Gift. Here is the list that came in second:

I’m curious what this deck would look like without Angel of Invention, as I think playing castable cards is usually more of a winning strategy in these types of decks. Angel has also gotten much worse against Ramunap Red since they are maindecking Rampaging Ferocidon and going up to four post-sideboard. I think this deck definitely has legs and it will be one that I look into for testing. It has a pretty good plan to win the game outside of God-Pharaoh’s Gift as well, which is always good. Decks that have multiple angles of attack usually tend to be some of the strongest decks out there.

There are still many other decks that exist in Standard and it is a very refreshing and fun format to play. I think there is a lot to be gained in play skill and knowing matchups well. If I had to predict what the Top 8 of Pro Tour Ixalan will look like this weekend, I would predict the following:

3 Temur/Sultai Energy

2 Ramunap Red or B/R Aggro

1 Approach Control

1 U/B Control

1 God-Pharaoh’s Gift

Perhaps there will be a breakout deck from the tournament, maybe something tribal-based. I imagine most things are out there now, but it would be really cool to see something new. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tokens did well in the tournament, but I feel like most people will have a plan to deal with that matchup. Another deck that I think could rise again is Mardu Vehicles, mainly because I think it is the best deck capable of sideboarding Solemnity for energy decks.

What are decks do you think will comprise the Top 8 of Pro Tour Ixalan?

One last thing I would like to mention. If you like listening to Magic podcasts, then I have announced a new podcast: The Nut Podcast. There are two episodes thus far, and there will be more to come as soon as this week. (It’s the nut!)