How Will Theros Beyond Death Shape The Decks Of SCG Richmond?

Five SCG content creators. Three decks each. One must-read article for everyone heading to SCG Richmond this weekend!

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, illustrated by Kieran Yanner

Welcome to What We'd Play! With SCG Richmond this weekend, many are unsure what they’d play in such a high-profile tournament. That’s where we come in and let you know what we’d play and why we’d play it. Hopefully this last-minute advice aids in your decision making! Be sure to vote for what decks you would play at the end!

Dom Harvey – Temur Reclamation (Standard), Five-Color Niv-Mizzet (Pioneer), and Amulet Titan (Modern)

Temur Reclamation has been the most consistent form of self-sabotage in Standard for the past year. With each new iteration of Standard it seems so promising and so well-positioned, only to shipwreck some hapless player who refused to learn their lesson. It’s never as good as it looks.

Right now, though, it looks really good. Theros Beyond Death has patched up the holes in this vessel. Storm’s Wrath is a much-needed sweeper that’s at its best in a combo-control deck like this that forces the opponent to commit to the battlefield before its big finish ends the game. Every part of Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath trigger is valuable here and it doubles as a great backup plan that makes the cards people love to sideboard in against Wilderness Reclamation strategies look downright embarrassing. Supreme Will would have been a staple in previous lists and Thassa’s Intervention is an interesting twist on that choice that scales well with Wilderness Reclamation.

This is a classic example of a deck that is very good in Game 1 when few opponents are prepared to handle it and much weaker when it has to trudge through pressure backed up by the likes of Duress or Negate. Sidestepping this by turning to some large creature is a tried-and-true tactic and Temur has a deep roster now headlined by Uro. Opponents who leave in removal can weaken their draw against a Wilderness Reclamation hand, while anyone who benches their Murderous Riders can be caught off-guard by an aggro-control game from Brazen Borrower and Nightpack Ambusher.

In a fresh and wide-open Standard format, a deck that’s both powerful and flexible is a great place to be. Temur Reclamation ⁠— finally! ⁠— may be just the ticket. 

I’m very glad to have a format where Five-Color Niv-Mizzet is a “safe” choice! This deck went from joke to top dog seemingly overnight but its position is under attack as aggressive decks become more refined. It’s time to stop messing around. Niv-Mizzet Reborn takes over the game if you have time ⁠— you don’t need to fill your deck with expensive, hard-to-cast cards that don’t even do their jobs well (looking at you, Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves). Play efficient and effective interaction that buys time for the best Mulldrifter ever to do its thing. 

The choice of interaction here shows the same focus. Abrupt Decay is the cleanest answer to the cheap threats that dominate the format as well as the all-important Teferi, Time Raveler against Azorius Control and the mirror. Mystical Dispute is a fantastic sideboard card against those decks as well as Izzet Ensoul, Azorius Spirits, and the combo decks like Dimir Inverter or Underworld Breach hovering on the fringes of the format. This list gives up some strength against the mirror to be better against aggro but can claw that back with haymakers like Rakdos’s Return. Notably, I’m going to great lengths to avoid Mana Confluence, which can ruin an otherwise reasonable hand if your opponent is trying to end the game quickly.

The results from the Players Tour and SCG Tour events will show if Five-Color Niv-Mizzet is a serious contender or a flash in the pan that can’t survive when the format settles. For now, it’s hard to turn down a deck that lets you play interactive Magic with the best threats and answers across the color pie.

I was optimistic about Dryad of the Ilysian Grove in Amulet Titan during preview season and the card has outperformed even my high expectations. Between Dryad’s interaction with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and Field of the Dead’s continued reign of terror, Primeval Titan can moonlight as Grave Titan or Inferno Titan when it isn’t winning on the spot.

Battlefields that could previously beat a Primeval Titan now fall to a shower of Valakut triggers and the curve of Dryad into Titan unlocks a new “nut draw” that doesn’t require the namesake Amulet of Vigor. The last few slots in Amulet Titan were always up in the air as players turned to antiques like Coalition Relic or the often mopey Explore. Dryad offers a replacement that fits seamlessly into the main gameplan while adding a new, powerful angle of attack ⁠— winning without Primeval Titan is now very realistic.

The core of the deck remains intact for most matchups so there isn’t much room to sideboard. Pithing Needle is a good catch-all but mainly a nod to creature combo decks with Heliod, Sun-Crowned that match up well against Amulet Titan. Beast Within lets you break serve in the big mana mirrors and covers the most problematic hate cards including Ashiok, Dream Render and Blood Moon (with four basic Forests, two fetchlands, and Once Upon a Time, you have good odds of finding a Forest to unlock your spells even when Blood Moon is shining bright).

Amulet Titan is back on top. Learn to play it or come prepared to beat it. 

Emma Handy – Mono-Red Aggro (Standard), Dimir Inverter (Pioneer), and Amulet Titan (Modern)

It’s Week 1.  You play the red deck.

Aaron Barich posted this on her Twitter earlier this week, and several people have been posting great results with the deck in the time since.  With people trying out all kinds of new things in the early stages of a format, Mono-Red Aggro is just as perfectly positioned as it always is ⁠— and this time, it even has some new toys that diversify the way it’s attacking.

What’s quickly being recognized as the Pioneer equivalent to Splinter Twin isn’t a flash in the pan.  The combo isn’t the fastest one in the format, but the fact that you get to play a Thoughtseize / Fatal Push deck that tops out at Dig Through Time is an incredible disruptive package.

I’ve been erring on the side of disruption rather than turboing out the combo, but the deck’s still evolving at this point and could go in either direction.  The biggest things that the deck needs to be able to combat are Unmoored Ego and early aggression, which the sideboard has different modes of attacking.

The lines with the deck are a little counterintuitive at times, but it isn’t anything that five or ten matches can’t give a reasonable pilot a good feel for.

At this point if it’s a team tournament, it’s gonna be best to just find out what Team AmuLIT is doing and hit submit.  There’s no need to really deviate from what’s stock when the stock list updates every week. And when there’s a line on the people who decide what’s stock….

Corey Baumeister – Esper Hero (Standard), Mono-Black Aggro (Pioneer), and Dimir Whirza (Modern)

Esper Hero has gained a ton from Theros Beyond Death. Being able to close out the game was a huge problem for the deck since we lost Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, but fear no more, Esper players! We’re back thanks to the power of Dream Trawler and Ashiok, Nightmare Muse! Any aggressive matchup feels like a joke thanks to Hero of Precinct One, Oath of Kaya, and Teferi, Time Raveler, and the combination of a ton of lifegain and an army of chump blockers allow you to get to the late-game and cast everyone’s favorite new six-mana Sphinx.

The problem matchup is Simic Ramp. The combination of Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Hydroid Krasis is still pretty terrifying. Narset is something I am considering if I expect a lot of Simic decks, but for now, I am pretty content with the Standard metagame for Esper Hero. 

With Pioneer still being such a wide-open format, I really want to be playing a deck that can pivot against the field. Being able to switch into a deck with seven hand disruption spells or a deck packed full of removal covers just about every deck in Pioneer.

That said, Mono-Black Aggro does have some problems. You really don’t have any slam-dunk matchups and you have to really work for all your wins. But I would rather put myself in a position where I can win any round instead of having to get lucky with pairings. Plus, I’m a sucker for powerful lands in an aggressive shell and Castle Locthwain and Mutavault are both completely obscene Magic cards! 

Modern once was just utterly dominated by Urza, Lord High Artificer. The powerful four-drop is so good that even I was having success with it! Naturally, the first place I decided to start was seeing if there is any more life in this deck after the loss of Mox Opal and Oko, Thief of Crowns. Luckily teammate and good friend Eli Kassis already did the work for me and found an awesome shell to combat the new metagame!

Dimir Urza is really taking a step back on speed and leaning into the control role with a ton of disruption, something I think will be a very good call for a new format. The truly dangerous thing about this deck is, while we’re trying to control the battlefield just about every turn, that doesn’t mean we can’t just combo kill our opponent on Turn 4. The last deck that was able to lean into both of those roles was Splinter Twin and we all know how that deck performed!

Shaheen Soorani – Azorius Control (Standard), Azorius Control (Pioneer), and Amulet Titan (Modern)

Theros Beyond Death Standard is a great format and for good reason.  Aggro, midrange, and control are all viable, making the format healthier than its been in a while.  I find myself editing a deck like this to best fit the flavor of the day on MTG Arena, which accurately represents a live metagame.  Online testing has never been as easy as it is now, and I expect to see a lot of the digital metagame show up big at SCG Richmond this weekend.

Azorius Control is the safest of the control options and each list I find has some key differences based on the expected metagame.  Although my pride pushes me to play a version good against the mirror, the most effective course of action is to be prepared for the aggro wave.  This list looks sharp and is likely what I will be sleeving up for this weekend.

Pioneer, after the bannings, is almost as fun as the current Standard.  Without Veil of Summer interfering with blue spells, it seems silly to me not to play a deck with Dig Through Time, blue disruption, and planeswalkers.  I’m still on the fence between Esper Control and Azorius Control, but I’m leaning toward the latter.

The mana for Azorius Control is sharp, whereas Esper Control has some hiccups.  The sacrifice required to have Fatal Push and Thoughtseize is hefty.  Azorius Control lacks some of that raw power but makes up for it with pure consistency.  Leaning on the power of Azorius Charm, the more consistent control deck wins if its limited removal lines up well enough.

There is little doubt in my mind that Amulet Titan is the most powerful deck in Modern.  There are metagames where it would be an underdog, but in terms of potential, there isn’t a deck I would rather run with blind into a new metagame.  Primeval Titan is the current champion of the format and I would be wary of running a deck without it.

There are remnants of the Urza decks, a resurgence in control, and some nifty new pieces that make Collected Company a threat, but Amulet Titan rewards play skill with explosive results.  There are adept players who can maneuver around the hate, crush the late-game with Field of the Dead, or plop a Turn 3 Primeval Titan effortlessly.  If you have the reps, this is the deck to run this weekend.

Todd Anderson – Jeskai Fires (Standard), Chonky Red (Pioneer), and Dredge (Modern)

Fires of Invention kept up with the previous Standard format pretty easily, and suffered zero bans. If that isn’t a reason to play a deck, I don’t know what is. My experience in Standard is limited, as my focus tends to primarily be on older formats like Pioneer, but I’ve seen this deck do some miraculous stuff. It plays well without Fires of Invention, but having it active just lets you go ballistic with Cavalier of Flame or Kenrith, the Returned King.

Is the format new? Yeah, and it’s also exploitable. This deck in particular is quite vulnerable to counterspells, as some Simic Flash variant will likely give it some hell. But I’m hoping those just don’t show up and we get to prey upon all the midrange strategies. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it’s good and doesn’t get banned, keep playing it.

I’m loving red in Pioneer, and this iteration of Chonky Red takes a lot of theory I’ve been mulling around in my head and puts it on paper. No Goblin Rabblemaster or Torbran, Thane of Red Fell might look strange, but this archetype has gone through so many facelifts that I honestly don’t know that any one card is sacred other than Bonecrusher Giant.

This archetype is starting to take over the format, though the best part is just how customizable it can be. The version that won the most recent Pioneer Showcase was much lower to the ground, featuring Monastery Swiftspear and Abbot of Keral Keep, leaving Glorybringer in the dust. I just can’t quite bring myself to doing that just yet, as Glorybringer is what makes the deck chonky.

If you want to do well in Pioneer, you could do worse than Chonky Red. It’s a bit mopey against some opposing strategies, but it’s versatile and uses nearly all of its mana while having an aggressive slant to close games that your opponent stumbles in. Midrange decks that slant on the aggressive side are some of my favorite, because it plays Magic in the “classic” sense. Slam some creatures, cast some removal, and maybe steal a game or two with a hasty Dragon. Brian Kibler would approve!

Pioneer is all over the place right now, and you can see a lot of concessions being made here in order to help alleviate some of that pressure. For example, Heliod decks are all over the place and can be quite annoying. Rampaging Ferocidon helps immensely by shutting down their ability to gain life, which stops the combo and deals them precious damage for playing some of their smaller creatures. Hopefully we figure out the perfect build soon for the Players Tour.

Ox of Agonas is something else. The first time I saw Dredge do its thing with Ox of Agonas, I was sold. It’s absolutely ridiculous the type of stuff you can do once Ox of Agonas is in the graveyard. Alongside the dredge mechanic, anything that draws and discards for cheap needs to be examined. And while Ox of Agonas needs to be in the graveyard to really get the full value out of it in this archetype, it isn’t that hard to find if you just do your normal gameplan.

After getting hit with ban after ban, it’s a miracle that Dredge is still as good as it is. I’m just waiting for the point in time where they just ban the keyword instead of trying to ban all the stuff around it. Dredge has been a major part of Magic since its inception, and mostly in a negative way. But I think a lot of that is because it’s so powerful. It is tough to interact with the graveyard in the first game.

But like every graveyard deck, your first game will usually be easy, while the rest of your games will be fought against some tough graveyard hate. Nature’s Claim and Assassin’s Trophy handle most of those, though.