What’s Going To Happen At The SCG Invitational

GerryT’s made some mighty big predictions! But even he isn’t sure about his biggest question for the Invitational Weekend: will he even play? Read on to learn why he might not be in the field … and the decks he has prepared, just in case!

With any large tournament, I like to check myself and my preparation by organizing my thoughts and making predictions. This further reinforces my deck choices and decisions I’ve made leading up to the tournaments. Overall, it’s good practice for checking your work and improving on your thought processes.

Outside of (maybe) one other instance, the only SCG Invitationals I’ve missed are when I was employed by Wizards of the Coast and was literally not allowed to play sanctioned tournaments. I intend to keep that streak going. There’s something special about playing in a dual-format Constructed tournament where you know everyone is bringing their A game.

Succeeding against skilled players who have also been grinding Standard and Modern is incredibly rewarding. Knowing that you completely nailed the metagames for two different formats is also among one of the best feelings because it’s a tall order. So many of my Invitationals have ended feeling like I got one format right but messed up in the other. When you manage to figure out both, you feel incredible. Of course, you still must navigate the games well.

Let’s see how my predictions hold up!

Traditional Jeskai Control Will Fail to Perform in Standard

Yes, this counts even the versions that lean on Niv-Mizzet, Parun.

Did y’all see how much hate there was for Niv at Grand Prix Shizuoka? Man, those folks came prepared and I fully expect the SCG crowd to do the same. It makes me wary of playing a strategy that revolves around Niv and even flying creatures in general. Ben Friedman’s Raptor Hatchling technology doesn’t make me feel any better about the whole situation either.

Treasure Map is still incredible and Niv is a broken card, but none of that makes me happy to see my Niv, ready to be protected by Dive Down, lost to a Plaguecrafter or The Eldest Reborn. Those situations are basically impossible to come back from.

It also doesn’t help that the Drake decks are maindecking Spell Pierce and Search for Azcanta. Plus, the cards that Golgari packs for mirrors sometimes double as things that are good against control. I wouldn’t want to play a deck that’s all-in on Niv, nor would I want to play a true control deck. You’ve been warned.

Tocatli Honor Guard Will Return to Form

Maybe this means Boros Angels, but realistically, it probably means a slightly bigger Boros Aggro deck. One of the things that kept Golgari in check at Grand Prix New Jersey earlier this season was all the maindeck Tocatli Honor Guards, and it’s well past the time when the metagame is supposed to shift back to that.

Obviously, the main issue is that the white decks don’t have the staying power to compete with Jeskai Control, Golgari Midrange, and even the sideboard configurations of Izzet Drakes. White’s power level is low compared to the rest of these strategies and the fact that many people playing Izzet are also trying to splash Deafening Clarion doesn’t help matters.

Sideboarding Tocatli Honor Guard in the sideboard of Jeskai Control would help things, especially when you need some sacrificial fodder for The Eldest Reborn, but it’s not enough to move the needle for me.

The Return of Fair Decks to Modern

We saw this trend happen last weekend at #SCGBALT, although I wouldn’t necessarily say this is a trend in Modern as a whole. SCG Tour events tend to have a crop of top players that rarely play unfair Modern decks and I expect that to continue through the #SCGINVI.

The metagame might be different from what you’d expect given the recent content on the subject, but…

Unfair Decks Will Crush the Modern Portion

Even with a huge sample of Bant Spirits in the room, people will be ready. Decks like Ironworks, Amulet Titan, and the various builds of Arclight Phoenix will litter the Top 8. With the Top 8 of the tournament taking place with the players’ Modern decks, there will certainly be fireworks.

We saw Jeffrey Carr cruise to the finals of SCG Baltimore last weekend with Mono-Red Phoenix and he easily dismantled two control decks in the Top 8 before losing a pseudo-mirror in the finals. If you want something that’s kind of fair, but ultimately completely unfair, you could do worse than sleeve up his burn-heavy version. You start at a deficit against the linear combo decks, but you still have a chance, and you absolutely demolish fair decks.

Bant Spirits Is the Foil to Unfair Decks but Needs to Get into the Winner’s Metagame First

Given that it’s a dual-format event, you might think there’s a way to game that system, but there’s really not. Your 4-0 opponent is coming off a bunch of Modern wins, so there’s no way to reasonably predict what they’ll be playing.

Bant Spirits must get through some potentially tough fair matchups in order to slip into the Top 8, where it will likely face a bevy of good matchups. Granted, the Arclight Phoenix decks are probably not positive for Spirits, but with some Dismembers for Hollow One and Thing in the Ice, I could see Spirits taking it down.

Golgari Decks Will Have the Best Standard Records

This isn’t exactly a bold claim, since Golgari has basically been on top ever since Guilds of Ravnica’s release, but it’s still the truth. Newer lists are preparing for the mirrors, which could lead to those decks cannibalizing each other, but the deck is still so good that it might not matter.

Playing Detection Tower is all but a necessity at this point, even though it costs you percentage points with your manabase. Having to play a Golgari Guildgate to get the extra colored source into the manabase isn’t a great solution because it creates its own set of problems, but it’s a reasonable fix.

Midnight Reaper is probably a card people should be playing more copies of. It’s one of the best things to be doing in mirrors and the aggressive decks have mostly fallen by the wayside. Not being able to go up to four copies post-sideboard is a strange choice.

The Hard Read

My Modern Top 8 prediction:

  • Mono-Green Tron
  • Amulet Titan
  • Bant Spirits
  • Humans
  • Ironworks
  • Izzet Phoenix
  • Izzet Phoenix
  • Jund

Will Pulliam wins with Golgari and Amulet Titan.

I May or May Not Actually Play the Invitational

This is where my story gets weird.

Unfortunately, Todd Anderson is currently sick, which means I’m on deck to fill his slot on the commentary team if he doesn’t get better. Here’s hoping Todd gets better soon, but honestly, I wouldn’t mind casting alongside Cedric.

If I do end up playing, these are the two decks I’m looking at.

This deck was very strong, incredibly fun thanks to Burning Inquiry and Goblin Lore, and still has much to improve upon. Sometimes the random discard takes all your playable spells and leaves you with trash, but it’s best to embrace that aspect because of how powerful Burning Inquiry and Goblin Lore are. For the most part, you’ll hit in the middle and be in a good spot.

Games where you start with a one-drop are far easier than ones that don’t. Given that, plus how strong Monastery Swiftspear is in the deck anyway, I’ve included some extras. Fiery Temper was unreliable and mostly poor, so it finally got the axe. A Flame Jab was added to increase the consistency of Arclight Phoenix and to deal chip damage or remove small creatures. Even though Maximize Velocity was fine at providing a faster clock and helping you double spell to trigger Arclight Phoenix, it was awkward and not entirely necessary. Bedlam Reveler was similarly clunky, so I shaved a copy.

Ancient Grudge was great but wasn’t necessarily worth the splash. I could have used some extra help against small creatures, hence the Abrades and Grim Lavamancers. Additionally, my anti-graveyard hate plan could have used work, so I’ve bolstered it with Hazoret the Fervent and an additional copy of Shrine of Burning Rage. The graveyard hate is completely absent because I mostly don’t expect Dredge, although I could certainly be wrong about that.

Other than that, I wanted a sideboard hate card against linear strategies, and while Eidolon of the Great Revel does a good job of that while also functioning as a good card against control, Damping Sphere might actually be what I want. Granted, it does mess up this deck’s sequencing to some degree, and maybe that’s a deal-breaker, but it’s an Alpine Moon against Tron and Amulet Titan while also hosing Storm and Ironworks, so it’s possibly worth the inclusion. The way my sideboard is set up is basically a hedge, where I have a bunch of fine cards, but nothing spectacular.

And then there’s Standard.

This deck might seem like it’s coming out of left field, especially after all the talking up I gave Niv-Mizzet, but it’s something I’ve had on the back of mind for quite a while now. It was one of my favorite decks early on in Guilds of Ravnica Standard and was one of the decks I really considered for the Pro Tour. Since then, many strong Magic Online players have enjoyed success with it. Honestly, I like my chances against anything, but it’s a deck I’m willing to play because Izzet and Golgari will be a large portion of the metagame.

You have access to a plethora of answers for Niv and Crackling Drake. Additionally, Molderhulk is incredibly difficult to remove. Four maindeck Midnight Reapers give you a huge edge against any deck trying to grind you out, including Golgari and the various control decks in the format.

Unlike other Golgari decks, you don’t particularly care about Carnage Tyrant. There will be no Detection Towers here because Molderhulk trades favorably with them anyway. You don’t go as big as the Golgari “mirrors,” but you also have an engine they can’t really interact with.

The new versions of this deck cut Jadelight Ranger entirely, but I don’t agree with that. No, the mana isn’t easy, but losing Wildgrowth Walker is a huge blow, as are the Jadelights themselves. If anything, I’d rather cut a spell (likely Find) in order to get another Forest into the manabase to help support Jadelight Ranger.

Two of your biggest concerns are creatures: Tocatli Honor Guard and Deathgorge Scavenger. Both can be removed, but not as easily as you might think. Either creature can create a scenario where Necrotic Wound can’t touch it, so you need something more reliable post-sideboard. Thankfully, neither card is widely played in maindecks; otherwise, I would certainly have a tougher time.

Vraska, Golgari Queen is basically the perfect answer to both. Not only is she a clean removal spell that leaves behind a planeswalker, but she also removes enchantments from the Boros side of the equation and functions like an engine in Golgari matchups. Ritual of Soot is another serviceable answer, but if you want something else, you probably have to rely on Cast Down.

If I do play, I feel good about my chances. My only losses in Baltimore involved my opponents having incredible draws and me barely losing. With some additional tweaking, I’d like my spot. Adding Monastery Swiftspear should make all the other matchups easier too. Even though my Standard deck has yet to really be proven, I’m happy with that too. Going 6-2 and 7-1 with my two decks doesn’t seem out of reach.

If nothing else, it’ll be fun!