What To Play At #SCGPHILLY

Want to cut to the chase and just hear what a multi-time Open Series and Invitational winner thinks you should play at #SCGPHILLY? Well, here he is! Tom Ross tells you the cards to sleeve and the cards to cut for the current metagame!

Grand Prix Indianapolis was this weekend as well as a Standard Premier IQ at #SCGDFW. A lot has changed since #SCGATL, the last Standard Open, which was
full of Jeskai Black and G/W Megamorph. #PTBFZ took a lot from the Open Series to create the now stock build of Jeskai Black, with three copies of each
Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Kolaghan’s Command, and Ojutai’s Command.

We’ve started to come full circle now, with a resurgence of Abzan Aggro and early strategies like Eldrazi Ramp doing well recently. This weekend will be
more like week one, but with better tuned decks. In general, I say to play what you know, as I think #SCGPHILLY will be pretty wide open with no clear best
deck. All we can do is to be aware of the popular strategies and what’s trending to best prepare for our most common matchups.

These are the decks that I expect to see spike in numbers in the wake of Grand Prix Indianapolis.

Abzan Aggro was as basic of a “week one” deck as there could be at #SCGINDY. It was a great deck pre-rotation and didn’t lose very much while gaining
updates to its manabase with Shambling Vents and Battle lands to go along with the fetchlands. I played it at that tournament along with many others from
Roanoke, though none of us had a strong enough weekend to top 8. Since then, the deck fell off for a while in favor of Atarka Red, G/W Megamorph, and
Jeskai Black.

The deck is strong. Anafenza, the Foremost into Siege Rhino has been the bane of players for nearly a year. I think Abzan has become good again because
Jeskai Black is slowly slipping out of popularity and other good matchups are popping up. Abzan Aggro pressures Eldrazi better than G/W Megamorph and
tokens decks do, and the Siege Rhinos help to get you out of a hole better when the other decks just have Warden of the First Tree or Sorin, Solemn

I had a good finish at #SCGATL with Bant Megamorph and have kinda just been working on it here and there since. I’ve been splitting my focus among
Standard, Modern, and Legacy this past month, so I personally haven’t put in a ton of hours developing the deck. Luckily, I have Brad Nelson, Standard
Master Extraordinaire, on the job, though we still disagree with what the build should look like. For example, I’m a big fan of Stratus Dancer and at least
one Lumbering Falls, while he hates them. Anyways, he had a good weekend at Grand Prix Indianapolis finishing 13th while Valentin Mackl top 8’d with very
close to the same list.

To me, I feel like Bant Megamorph is the best deck, else I wouldn’t keep playing it. It has a good earlygame, midgame, and lategame inevitability with
Deathmist Raptors and planeswalkers. The sideboard plan of counterspells helps immensely when your opponent wants to control you, and the G/W colors offer
the best options against aggressive decks. Gideon, Ally of Zendilar into Wingmate Roc is huge, and one of the biggest tempo combos in Standard to come back

In a world of midrange strategies, the Eldrazi are king. It took a while for the right list to emerge, as initial development of Eldrazi decks felt like
banging your head against a wall because the ramp cards were so weak compared to what we had in the past with Rampant Growth and Farseek. The abundance of
colorless lands were misleading red herrings that caused people to become frustrated early. Since then, Jaddi Offshoot has proven to be the best way to
survive the early turns, and Sanctum of Ugin and Shrine of the Forsaken Gods are the colorless lands that we want.

I recommend running the full four of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, Jaddi Offshoot, Sanctum of Ugin, and Shrine of the Forsaken Gods all maindeck. It looks
easy to shave on an Ulamog, but it’s really the most essential card in your deck, and a card that you’re very happy to have in your opening hand. The deck
wants to chain them together with Sanctum of Ugins, and sometimes you’ll need access to the fourth Ulamog to finish off the game. People will definitely
have an answer to the first couple since their removal is pretty dead otherwise. Your plan for the first is to remove their threats while the second
usually hits a threat and a land. The third all but shuts them out of the game, but not always.

Indestructible doesn’t matter against these cards, and they will often have a stockpile of them when the time comes.

Utter End Abzan Charm Ojutai's Command

Crackling Doom Stasis Snare Quarantine Field Scatter to the Winds

I recommend reading Gerry’s article this week on Esper Tokens. I’m
actually writing this while watching his stream with the deck. This deck is trending highly right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the most played
deck at #SCGPHILLY. It fairs well against G/W Megamorph and Jeskai Black while being a little weak to the extremities of the spectrum like Atarka Red and
Esper Control.

Esper Tokens plays many of the best cards while having a great manabase with an essentially free blue splash for countermagic and Painful Truths. Their
variety of instants makes it hard to play around everything at once and can threaten a sweeper like Languish or Planar Outburst while playing its own
threats/brick walls, like Hangarback Walker and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, that induce people to overcommit. It presents a nice combo with Secure the Wastes
and planeswalkers that double their power in either Gideon’s -4 emblem or the +1 from Sorin, Solemn Visitor. I found the deck to have the tools for most
situations while giving the opponent plenty of rope to hang themselves with a single misstep.

Based on the ebb and flow of Magic metagames, certain cards gain and lose potency based on week-by-week results. These are the cards that I anticipate will
be weak or strong going into this weekend.

Cards to Avoid

First off, I’ve never been a fan of Temur in Standard. I don’t think it’s ever been good or ever will be. Aside from straight Temur, Rattleclaw Mystic
looks like a good accelerant for decks such as Eldrazi Ramp. The problem is that enables the opponent’s removal early, and it doesn’t increase your land
count for Shrine of the Forsaken Gods. Even though they look sluggish, cards like Map the Wastes and Nissa’s Pilgrimage are what you want to be doing

As far as removal goes, there’s little reason to run this when you’re going to have a better option like Stasis Snare or Utter End in Esper or Abzan Charm
in Abzan. Also, in any deck with black, Murderous Cut will be better if your aren’t already highly committed with other delve cards like Dig Through Time.
Awaken has proven to be useful every now and then, but not enough to significantly increase the value of a card. The loss of instant speed from its
predecessor has been a pretty poor tradeoff.

Exile effects are the best way to remove creatures lately, and Valorous Stance doesn’t help that. The destroy mode doesn’t have many targets like it once
did with the higher expectancy of ramp decks and token strategies. Jeskai Black has Tasigurs, which are juicy to hit, but the rest of the deck dodges it. I
think continued play of Valorous Stance is a leftover from the previous Standard format when Siege Rhino and Courser of Kruphix were big deals and it took
a while for people to adjust.

Dragonlord Atarka showed up in Jake Mondello’s G/R Eldrazi Ramp deck, but I don’t think that the red splash was worth that particular payoff card. Ulamog,
the Ceaseless Hunger and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon are really all you want to be doing. Mountain can be an eyesore, and it doesn’t trigger Sanctum of Ugin.
Threats being played currently are pretty resilient too. With an uptick in Dragonlord Silumgars getting sideboarded in, big cards like Dragonlord Atarka
that may just be a seven mana 8/8 are dangerous to count on. Also it dies to everything.

As good as Hangarback Walker once was, the format has gotten very used to it. Silkwraps are everywhere, and Eldrazi decks are popping up that completely
ignore it. In decks with Dromoka’s Command, Hangarback Walker can be a liability, as you can’t get the creature back after they’ve put it under an
enchantment like Stasis Snare, Quarantine Field, or the aforementioned Silkwrap. The search for a better two-drop continues for the G/W decks, and I expect
Hangarback Walker to be in lower numbers in relation to higher numbers of Avatar of the Resolute or Knight of the White Orchid.

Cards to Play

I get the initial fear of your Ultimate Price being dead against a Mantis Rider, Siege Rhino, or Hangarback Walker. Still, it stops you from getting rolled
by card advantage from Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy or Tasigur, the Golden Fang. It hits everything in aggressive decks like Atarka Red, and there aren’t any
matchups where it’s completely dead. I was very surprised to see Ultimate Price drop off the face of Standard after rotation and am still surprised by how
little it’s still seeing play.

I really liked Dispel over the past few weeks, as every deck ran a healthy number of instants. However, now that you might face Eldrazi Ramp, its maindeck
effectiveness is lowered. Esper Tokens has a few instants, most notably Secure the Wastes, but has way more other non-creature spells like enchantments,
planeswalkers, and sorceries that you need to hit. Also, Dispel was pretty sweet when people didn’t expect it game 1 from something like an uncracked
Windswept Heath or Bloodstained Mire, but the populace has gotten wise since then. If I were to run a maindeck single copy of a counterspell right now,
it’d be Negate, while leaving the more narrow Dispel in the sideboard.

The little upgraded Wall of Wood impresses me every time I see it on the battlefield. It blocks the small stuff while gaining life each time a land enters
the battlefield under your control, which can be fetchlands or Nissa’s Pilgrimage or Knight of the White Orchid. Even the controlling decks like Jeskai
Black and Esper Tokens have aggressive elements to them that have to be respected early. I can even see this card coming in for Atarka Red mirrors when on
the draw, but maybe the play too.

While Anafenza, the Foremost and Siege Rhino are great in their own ways, Abzan Charm is the card that most tempts me to play Abzan colors. It does
everything from making combat difficult to converting to card advantage during times that it doesn’t have a target. Of course, the main draw to the card is
its exile mode, giving clean answers to anything from Deathmist Raptor to Mantis Rider to a large Hangarback Walker or attacking Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
While not exactly clean, it does remove an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger that would undoubtedly beat you.

Disdainful Stroke is a key element to slowing down the Eldrazi Ramp deck’s accelerants like Hedron Archive and Explosive Vegetation. Ugin, the Spirit
Dragon is also a nice one to get, and while it does get Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, your plan will often be to get the game over before that hits the
stack. Esper Tokens is another deck rife with big drops, including their big Secure the Wastes. Jeskai Black even has Tasigur, the Golden Fang now on top
of their Ojutai’s Commands and Dig Through Times, and even Atarka Red has Become Immense and sometimes Thunderbreak Regent after sideboard. While I don’t
recommend sideboarding in Disdainful Stroke against them, there are enough four+ casting cost spells in Standard right now that I wouldn’t mind maindecking
it in the right deck. At the very least, you should be packing at least two, and probably three of them in any deck that has access to blue mana.

What to Play at #SCGPHILLY

Don’t play Jeskai Black. It’s a good Day 1 deck, but will get crushed in Day 2 and won’t win the tournament. Esper Tokens is great and has plenty of room
to outplay opponents, so that’s a good choice. Abzan Aggro is well-positioned as well. I think Atarka Red always has a fighting chance but is too highly
respected in terms of sideboard slots dedicated to it to finish with the trophy.

As for myself, I’m playing what my cat, Bijou, plays.