I can't believe it's already been a year. Last December brought me many gifts, but none greater than winning the 2014 Players' Championship. Months spent trying to qualify culminating in a victory over fifteen tough adversaries. A month later, the gift kept on giving when Star City Games® announced that I would be qualified yet again to defend the title. Defend it I shall.
Being told I was qualified for the 2015 Players' Championship came with a sigh of relief. Obviously I wanted them to make that decision since it benefits me significantly, but in no way was I expecting it. This “free-roll” allowed me to spend the beginning of 2015 focusing on Grand Prix and Pro Tours which ended in me being Platinum with enough leftover points to get me to Worlds. It's crazy to think all of that is behind me now, and in two days, I will be asked to defend the title I worked so hard to win last year.
As of today, I have now officially spent more consecutive time in Roanoke than ever before. The past three weeks have been filled with testing for this event. I would like to say it didn't completely take over my life, but that would be a lie. I have worked very hard for this event. I'm hoping for the best, but I know anything can happen. This isn't my tournament to lose, but once again, to win.
As of now, all sixteen players have submitted their final lists for three different formats. I can't imagine how difficult it must have been to feel confident doing so for those who had to grind out the past couple months' worth of events. I got to spend three weeks at home working vigorously and still feel like I ran out of time.
During this time I spent a lot of time trying to analyze the competition and figure out exactly what they would bring to the table. Metagaming is my self-proclaimed forte, which made me think that writing about my predictions before the event might be fun. Usually people write about an event afterwards to conceal information, but the #SCGPC is a bit different. We will all be given decklists before every round, and those lists have already been submitted. This means that I can actually write about my predictions without losing any small amounts of equity. Well, if you don't count being wrong and the facade of me actually being good at this kind of stuff. I'm also quite nervous that this article will be too dry for some readers, but should be interesting for anyone anticipating the start of this year's #SCGPC.
So where do we start? The 2015 #SCGPC is a souped-up version of its pervious self. Instead of just being Standard and Legacy, Modern decided to join the party. That means all sixteen players will be wielding three different decks. If you are a mathematician, you can figure out that it equates to 48 individual decks in the field. No one said it was going to be easy.
So let's start with the first format.
Legacy begins with the drawing of pods. Each one will have an Invitational winner, a seasonal points champion, and two end of the year points leaders. They didn't have a place for “person who won last year” so I will be slotted in with the end of the year points leaders.
This structure actually makes metagaming quite interesting. Because of the way pods are broken down, I will have a higher and lower chance to play certain players. For some, they will have a 0% chance to play against certain players if they are a Points Champion or Invitational Champion.
Now this information is only important for actual deck/card selection. I won't be getting into detail about that stuff until next week due to not wanting to reveal any information. Even though decks have already been selected, I don't want people to be preparing for what I bring to the table. Just because they can't change their deck doesn't mean they wouldn't get some extra testing in if they found out I was doing something off the wall in one of the formats. I just wanted to make sure everyone was aware that this does change how we all will be viewing Legacy.
So what do I think everyone is going to play? Let's start with the Invitational winners!
Jacob Wilson - Temur Delver
This prediction is fairly easy. Jacob Wilson has and probably will continue to be the most dominant player of Temur Delver. He has won Opens, crushed Invitationals, and Stifled his way to many trophies. Now metagaming is never a solved game since any player is capable of switching it up at any time, but putting Jacob on this deck might be the easiest called-shot I make today.
Ali Aintrazi - MUD
Ali doesn't play much Legacy, but when he does, he plays Chalice of the Void. This might be one of his best routes to victory since Legacy is a format that benefits those most prepared, which is something Ali doesn't value too highly in doing. I could also see him playing Punishing Abzan or maybe even Lands if he put the time into the deck, but I am going to go with MUD as my call.
Alex Bastecki – Four-Color Delver
Cedric has been saying on coverage that none of us can put Alex Bastecki on decks, and to some capacity, he is correct. Alex's fingerprint on competitive Magic is almost non-existent. That means I have to prepare with the most basic of information, which is that he played Grixis Delver on his path to winning his Invitational. He could very well end up right where he left off, but I expect some Abrupt Decays to find their way into his deck.
Caleb Scherer - Storm
This one is easy. Caleb ended up needing to win this past Invitational to make the #SCGPC, but his storyline before that was crushing Legacy events with Storm to get himself there. I believe there is no way this man will put away his bread and butter after all that it has done for him.
Now, we move on to Season Points Leaders.
Jim Davis - Storm
Jim has a long history of attacking with Goblin Ringleader, but those days are behind him. The last major Legacy event for Jim Davis was #SCGINDY during Season One where he took it down with Sultai Delver. Before that, he was playing a little bit of Storm action. I really want to make my decision on Jim a split between the decks, but I have to make a called shot and Storm is it.
Kevin Jones - Jeskai Stoneblade
This prediction is kind of loose, but I do believe he is going to runback his favorite Legacy card: Stoneforge Mystic. He has been playing this little darling for quite some time, and Kevin is a creature of habit. I could also see him playing other decks, but I'd predict them to be midrange blue decks without Daze.
Danny Jessup - Temur Delver
Danny likes his Delvers, plain and simple. I don't know what else he might have in his wheelhouse, but I am guessing it involves this card. Maybe his younger brother (Andrew) and him have been quietly in a basement teaching him the ways of the Elves, but outside of that deck, I cannot see him playing anything but the infamous Insectile Aberration.
Joe Lossett - ??????
Joe Lossett has a long history of switching it up when it comes to Legacy. For years he has been called “The Brad Nelson of Legacy,” and for good reason. Putting this man on a deck is like reaching for the stars: you put in limitless effort to no avail.
Now what about those pesky end of the year qualifiers?
Jonathan Morawski - Elves
Elves has been picking up some steam as of late, which is great for long-time Elf lover Jonathan Morawski. He has played this deck over the past two years, which makes me think he won't be putting it down.
Ross Merriam - Storm
Ross Merriam has been a long time Elves lover like Jon, but he has changed his tune ever since last year when he got out-metagamed in the #SCGPC. Storm is a great deck, which is exactly why I think he will still play the it. He could end up switching it up and playing Elves, but I don't see him bringing anything but one of these two decks.
Hunter Nance – Four-Color Delver
And yet again we have a lover of the upkeep trigger. Hunter hasn't placed in many Legacy events, but he has a style of play and sticks to it. I would be shocked if he showed up with something that didn't have Daze in it.
Rudy Briksza - Sultai Delver
Rudy loves himself some Shardless Sultai, but knows there is a Storm brewing in this event. Given Shardless Sultai's poor matchup against Storm, I predict Rudy to be on Sultai Delver.
Logan Mize - Grixis Delver
Logan's prized deck Omni-Tell has been ripped of its Dig Through Times. That's not that bad for Logan since he used to play the deck before the powerful delve card was even printed, but I believe he knows when he is beat. This weekend will be filled with Delvers, which will cause him to do the same. How does that saying go again?
As you can see, I excluded Tom Ross and Todd Anderson. That is because I am working with them for this event since I live with one of them and hang out with the other. I can't really “predict” what they are going to play since I already know what decks they are going to be on. I guess you can say I at least got some of the predictions correct!
Let's start over from the top with the Invitational winners again.
Jacob Wilson - Jund
This prediction is a shot in the dark. Modern is a fickle format where anything and everything is both correct and incorrect. Maybe the format is too high variance for us to actually understand it, or maybe I am big stupids for even thinking that's how it goes. All I can say is putting this man on a deck in this format became difficult once Birthing Pod was banned. I could see him playing Grixis Control, W/B Tokens, or some degenerate combo deck. It all depends on how much time he put into this event.
Ali Aintrazi – G/R Tron
The other deck I could put Ali on is Latern Control, but this is a stretch. He's played that deck once, and I think that is enough times for anyone with that deck unless your name is Sam Black. It really takes a certain kind of person to stomach playing more than one event with that abomination. Ali played G/R Tron at the Invitational he won, most likely due to its raw power, and I think he will try to lean on that once again this weekend.
I have no idea.
Caleb Scherer - Affinity
Caleb was the least suspecting player to make it into the #SCGPC. That meant he had to spend countless weeks grinding it out to even have a chance to be here. Leaving him without enough time to properly prepare for this event he will most likely end up on a deck he knows. Affinity and Storm are those two decks, but the latter is a much weaker deck.
Again, we hit up the Points Leaders.
Jim Davis - Grixis Control
This deck has been running around for a while, but Gerry cemented the newest version this past weekend in Vegas. This deck is very powerful against the expected metagame, making me believe he will show up with it.
Kevin Jones - Grixis Control
Kevin can't get away from this style of play. He loves grinding people out with blue midrange decks, which is why he has played this deck for some time now. Given its resurgence, I would find it very unlikely that he changes course at the most important tournament of the season.
Danny Jessup - Grixis Control
Danny is also a fan of Grixis Control and will most likely be playing this deck for the same reasons that I believe Kevin and Jim will be playing the deck. It also might be due to the fact that the deck has been performing rather well as of late and is a good metagame call for a tournament like the Players' Championship since many of the players in this tournament will not be trying to do many degenerate things with Primeval Titan or Griselbrand.
Joe Lossett - G/R Tron
Joe considers this to be his weakest format. With how much effort has to be put into perfecting Miracles and Bring to Light, I see him playing the only deck he knows in Modern.
Now, the rest of the crew.
Jonathan Morawski – U/R Twin
Jon has played Goryo's Vengeance in the past, but this might be a bad choice for the expected metagame. This will most likely cause him to play Twin, which is a deck he has some experience with and that is also decently positioned against all the expected Infect and Tron.
Ross Merriam - Jund
Ross is a smart man. He knows a good deck when he sees it. It took him a while to come around, but finally this man knows his stuff. Jund might not be considered the best choice in an open metagame, but is well-positioned against what he expects to show up at the #SCGPC. He did play U/R Twin in Vegas, but I believe that was more of a metagame call than practice for this weekend.
Hunter Nance - Merfolk
Hunter plays one way. He likes to beat down and does exactly that in Modern. It doesn't matter if Merfolk is a good or bad choice, Hunter likes the fishies and wants all of his opponents to join them.
Rudy Briksza - Zoo
Rudy has been playing this deck for some time, and I see no reason for him to switch off of it. His range is wide so I could see him playing Grixis Control or some variant of Twin, but that is where it ends.
Logan Mize - Abzan Company
This is another easy one. Logan has been playing this deck for a long time now, which makes me believe he will continue this trend.
And now we finally get to my favorite format! Well, it would be if there was more variety. Standard is in a weird place right now. Painful Truths is the latest in the long line of “next best things,” but “ole tried and true” Abzan is still kicking butt. Let's just get all the players that I predict to be playing Abzan Aggro out of the way.
Who knows what this guy is going to play? He played G/R Devotion at the Invitational he won, which makes me think he is a man with good taste who plays the best deck every time. I expect him to do the same this weekend. Who really beats Siege Rhino after all?
That's right. I expect seven people to play Abzan this weekend. You could say that is a bad choice and that the rest of the field is going to metagame against the deck, but Abzan don't care. The deck is proving to be the best deck in the field even if people say it loses to other decks. Take the finals of the Invitational, for example. Esper Dragons is the worst matchup for Abzan, yet it smashed it. Sure Vidianto got pretty unlucky to lose, but his draws did represent the bad side of Esper Dragons. Abzan is a lean deck that beats everyone when they stumble, which is a common occurrence in Standard these days.
The rest of the field is a bit more difficult to figure out.
Jacob Wilson - Jeskai Black
Jacob is an intelligent man. One of, if not the best player in the room. And he knows it. Jeskai Black is a very powerful deck in the right hands, and he knows how to play decks like it. I predict Jacob will want the control to be in his hands, which means he will play a deck leaning away from power and more towards flexibility. He will want his decisions to matter and be in control of his own destiny.
I really can't figure out what deck Jim is going to play, but I would assume it will have Dig Through Time in it. Maybe he plays a deck like Gerry did at the Invitational, which was Jeskai Black with Dig Through Time over Treasure Cruise. He could also show up with Esper Dragons or even old school Esper Control like Shaheen Sorani. The only thing that I know is he will play Dig Through Time.
Ali Antrazi – Four-Color Rally
It's a losing battle to not put Ali on Ramp since he has loved it for some time now, but I really don't think he is going to pull the trigger on that deck. There is so much Abzan, which statistically beats it. That makes me think he will do something else. Given how much time he has had to prepare, I think he will have invested a ton of time into this deck since it doesn't need combat to win and that is one place Ali likes to stay away from.
Kevin Jones - Jeskai Black w/Mantis Rider
The man loves what the man loves.
Danny Jessup - Jeskai Black
Something tells me Danny is going to take this approach. He recently top 8'ed the Open in Vegas with a strange looking Mardu deck, but I don't think he will run that back. I'm guessing the Jace, Vryn's Prodigies will make their way back into the deck.
Joe has a “beat me” mentality when it comes to Magic, and I, for one, love it. Sure we know he is bringing it to the table, but he doesn't care. He is going to do his best to win this event and that means playing the decks he knows best.
So those are all of my predictions that I used to decide on my decks. Please let me know if you would like next week's article to go more in depth with this process and go over exactly why I played the decks and cards I played. Since I've never seen an article this dedicated to a specific thing, I have no idea if it is interesting to anyone outside of the people in this event.
I do know they will get a kick out of it at least!