The inaugural tournament of Shadows over Innistrad Standard, in short, did not disappoint. Seven different decks (although some of them based on very similar principles) stormed the #SCGBALT Top 8 and set the stage for a very interesting showdown in Baltimore. There were a great number of decks that were represented going into this past weekend, and while some stood tall and were as powerful as we knew they would be, other possible titans were vanquished before they even got out of the gate.
Next week is the #SCGINVI in Columbus and the format is anything but solved. The best teams going into such a prestigious tournament know better than to show their hands, so what you saw in Baltimore was likely just the Thing beneath the Ice rather than the Horror contained within.
We got puns.
However, we’re lucky because there is a ton of data to mine and certain conclusions we can derive from the #SCGBALT Open. This will allow us to have a list of sorts of the true winners and losers from the weekend so those competing in the Invitational may have the best possible information for their Standard selection.
Winners! Bant Collected Company!
As much as it pains me to report this, Bant Company was a fantastic choice, eventually winning the whole thing in the hands of The Players’ Champion, Jim Davis.
- 1 Hidden Dragonslayer
- 1 Den Protector
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
- 1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
- 4 Bounding Krasis
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 2 Archangel Avacyn
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 4 Duskwatch Recruiter
This list bears a striking resemblance to the one played by Kevin “Daddy” Jones, showing that SoI has added a ton of power to a deck that already had a lot of hype surrounding it before the format debuted.
The amalgamation of flash threats, diversity, consistency, and power make Bant Company a very attractive option moving forward. Consider this the Level Zero deck for your testing gauntlet, because it allows for a ton of play. Getting in reps with it will be important, and understanding its strengths and weaknesses will be the difference-maker in if you can beat it at all this coming weekend. Remember that when a deck wins the first Open of the season, you can bet a lot of people will default to it.
Losers! Other Three-Color Decks
Three non-Bant Company decks were able to crack the Top 32, two of which were Esper Dragons and the third a Jund Midrange. This does not bode well for those of you out there sleeving up something that packs less than the full set of Battle lands and Shadow lands.
At their core, the reason why Esper and Bant decks were able to produce competitive results is because they each had access to the following:
1) Battle lands
2) Shadow lands
While Jund had this, the deck is slightly more at the mercy of mana by not having the ability to play this card:
Evolving Wilds isn’t the only gig in town, and smoothing your draws correlates with making your land drops and having all the necessary colors to cast everything with ease and get to the point where you’re able to cast two or three spells a turn. That’s how victory was earned for these three-color decks, and why you didn’t see much of the Jeskai or Sultai varieties on the map. Either stick to two colors in Columbus or make sure your deck has a way to engineer your draws.
Winners! Green Cards!
With all the hype in the broadcast booth about white creatures which, spoiler alert, are going to be in the “winner’s circle” later in this article, it was easy to overlook how good the green creatures Shadows provided. In particular, Duskwatch Recruiter and Tireless Tracker. The new Bash Brothers of SoI provide an abundance of card advantage to the midrange decks that play them.
We sort of overlooked how good Clues were going to be, almost passing them off as a neat niche card instead of the engine they actually are. The matches where Jim Davis was able to get Tireless Tracker going showed that Clues are going to play a much bigger part in Standard than we may have initially thought, and Tracker is arguably the best way to procure them. It wasn’t just the creatures doing the heavy lifting, because Clip Wings was in almost every sideboard of the green decks as a clean way to deal with Archangel Avacyn and Ormendahl, Profane Prince. It might not be pretty, but it proved to be effective.
Aside from the new, we also have some of the old! I would dare say the best creature this entire weekend was Sylvan Advocate. The aggressive two-drop continued to do the best offensive and defensive work in Standard, and with the prevalence of creature-lands I heard quite a few stories of opponents being finished off by multiple Advocates and giant Lumbering Falls.
Losers! Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
All right, listen.
This isn’t a dig against Jace, because the card is off-the-charts powerful. It just so happens that it was in the winning decklist along with other Bant Company decks, Todd Anderson’s awesome U/R Control list, and Esper Dragons a la Ali Aintrazi. That’s roughly five out of the Top 16. You’d think that would mean it was a pretty sweet weekend of Jace.
But that doesn’t even remotely replicate the success that Jace has had since it has become Standard-legal.
The loss of fetchlands hurts Jace deeply, as does losing delve cards to continue the flow of looting before flipping him. Throughout the weekend we heard the announcers time and time again refer to how slowly Jace was flipping, how few targets its Snapcaster Mage mode had, and even in the winning deck it basically said “flash back target Collected Company.” Jim Davis sat with two Negates in his graveyard at one point and a Jace that was at ten counters, basically making it useless until he drew a proactive card to flash back. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy fared a little better in Esper Dragons, but it’s entirely possible that deck is far weaker than we understood it to be. The draws usually looked clunky and incapable of dealing with whatever Bant Flash was doing due in part to its multiple-pronged attack.
We know Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is going to see play and continue to warrant his $100 price tag, but just how long will it be until you read a Brad Nelson article where he says that he cut Jace from the deck entirely to make room for more Tireless Trackers and Archangel Avacyns?
I can’t wait to read that one.
Winners! W/U Humans!
Our trip back to Innistrad reminded all of us just how impressive the Humans tribe can be. Multiple friends of mine decided to pick up the deck or various iterations of it to great success. Emma Handy commented on Facebook that it may have been the best she’d ever felt about playing a deck going into an Open.
And then there’s my bae.
Brennan DeCandio is one of my best friends and most beloved pals. His heartbreak was real and utterly devastating when he finished in ninth place with his W/U Humans deck. We had spent the week leading up to Baltimore talking about the deck, and once I tested it, I was able to tell him that he was making the right choice.
- 4 Knight of the White Orchid
- 4 Dragon Hunter
- 4 Archangel of Tithes
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 3 Hanweir Militia Captain
Now I’m not just saying this because I love this guy, but after combing through every list, I am almost certain Brennan brought the best one to the table. Consul’s Lieutenant and Kytheon, Hero of Akros are fantastic cards in this deck, but I don’t feel like there there’s any substitute for maindeck Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Stasis Snare in a world full of Archangel Avacyns. It feels like Brennan traded the busted starts for resiliency and staying power. I’m not too wild about the maindeck Dragonlord Ojutais either, since I feel like it’s pulling the deck in two completely different directions.
In short, Bant Company won the event, but W/U Humans may have been the deck of the tournament. It is aggressive in most forms and extremely consistent. G/W had a great event as well, but the Azorius counterpart is almost certainly the future.
Losers! G/R Ramp
The first few weeks of studying Shadows over Innistrad made us all believe that G/R Ramp was going to be the definitive deck in the first week by sheer power level alone. Most of the deck aside from Ugin, the Spirit Dragon ported to the new Standard. A sleeker version focusing more on Chandra, Flamecaller and World Breaker manifested and made us all terrified of gigantic Eldrazi before a tournament even happened.
And then nothing.
Two Ramp decks found their way into the Top 32, the highest of which placed 23rd. This is a far cry from the initial domination we feared and may be more of a harbinger of what the format has in store than the boogeyman. Right now there are aggressive U/W, G/W, and Mono-White (do you notice a theme here?) decks and flash creatures like Archangel Avacyn that are able to wreak havoc on life totals. The fact that most of them are packing various forms of countermagic that keep cards like Explosive Vegetation from resolving are problematic at worst and lethal at best. When Ramp isn’t allowed to ramp, we have a huge problem.
This isn’t even the half of it. The Ramp deck’s ceiling isn’t very high, whereas most of the decks you saw this weekend weren’t refined or in their final form. None of this bodes well for G/R Ramp, but it does for…
Winner! Todd Anderson’s U/R Control Deck!
A special shoutout has to be made to Negate as well, because I honestly feel like it’s one of the best-positioned cards in the format right now.
Todd was very candid when he explained that his deck was fantastic but had a terrible matchup against Ramp. Hilariously he dominated it on camera, but that is neither here nor there. The fluidity and early mastering of U/R that Todd exhibited was probably my favorite part of coverage as he navigated his way through a fledgling format.
Unlike the other decks out there, U/R can turbo-flip a Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy with remarkable efficiency and speed. Chandra gives it reach and closing speed, while Pyromancer’s Goggles create insane spell swings that are very difficult for an opponent to overcome. Thing in the Ice is as good as advertised, if not better, and I would be surprised to not see this deck becoming an early pillar of the metagame going forward.
There you have it! The best and brightest and the dullest and lamest.
While this list isn’t definitive and I’m sure there are things I left off or put on that you don’t agree with, I feel like it’s a great starting point for figuring out just where to land in the first few weeks of SoI Standard as well as pointing you in the right direction for the Invitational in Columbus.
I think we can all agree though, on who the real loser this week is.
The New York Rangers.
My Penguins are coming for you, and not even Jim Davis and his adorable little jersey can save you. You hear that, Jim?