It is a very busy time for Magic!
Last weekend saw StarCityGames.com® run the largest Team Grand Prix of all time, and if you were one of the dozen or so people not there, you missed quite an event. SCG pulled out all the stops when it came to the event hall, extra stuff going on, dealers, and side events, but the best part was how they revolutionized how Sealed pools are registered. Rather than having over 3,000 players go through a lengthy and tedious deck registration process, somehow the fine folks at SCG were able to provide the entire event with preregistered pools. This saved almost two hours' worth of time and I expect it to become the norm for all future large Sealed Deck events.
Nobody runs a tournament like StarCityGames.com®, and the event was smooth as butter.
I had assembled a very powerful squad for this event, featuring GP and Invitational Top 8er Peter Ingram and my old Pro Tour travel buddy Jason Imperiale. We had all run through numerous Sealed Leagues on Magic Online to prepare for the event and even had time to do a few practice Team Sealed pools.
Unfortunately, despite how nice it was that our Sealed pool was preregistered, it was a bit lacking in a number of areas. We were able to put together three decks that seemed reasonable, headlined by the B/R Devoid deck that I played that seemed to be the best of the bunch:
- 1 Essence Depleter
- 2 Flayer Drone
- 2 Kozilek's Sentinel
- 1 Kozilek's Shrieker
- 1 Kozilek's Translator
- 2 Maw of Kozilek
- 1 Nettle Drone
- 2 Sky Scourer
- 3 Slaughter Drone
- 1 Sludge Crawler
Unfortunately the B/R Devoid deck is often a trap, and even more so in Team Sealed. While our deck looked awesome, it was weak both in the format and in the specifics of Team Sealed. Breaking through is often very difficult in this format, and our deck struggled mightily with all the cheap four-toughness creatures.
Because Team Sealed decks are often so good, most of my opponents also had ample removal to slow me down in the early game. This would often leave me with a few of my weaker synergy cards like Sky Scourer and Swarm Surge and not much else to work with. Many games I was just unable to break through, and if my deck's draw didn't line up very well or I stumbled at all, I was toast.
With Shadows over Innistrad on the horizon and the current Limited format about to become irrelevant, I won't spend too much time on the details, but the important lesson here is how important context is. In a vacuum, the deck we built looks great. It's aggressive, synergistic (23 colorless cards!), and has some great payoff cards. But the issue is that in the context of Oath of the Gatewatch/Battle for Zendikar Team Sealed, this deck is actually going to have a lot of trouble. If we had realized this, perhaps we would have been able to build better decks and wouldn't have been eliminated in Round 8.
One Last Standard Hurrah!
While Oath of the Gatewatch/Battle for Zendikar Limited is now a thing of the past, the current Standard format has one last hurrah this weekend at #SCGINDY.
The last event of a Standard format is one of my favorite events of the season, as everyone sees it as their last chance to try their crazy brew and all sorts of wacky decks come out of the woodwork. Two exciting decks showed up in the most recent Magic Online PTQ, and after taking them both for a spin on my stream, I was quite impressed.
- 4 Hangarback Walker
- 4 Butcher of the Horde
- 3 Goblin Dark-Dwellers
- 2 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
- 1 Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury
- 3 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Magic Online player professordaniel took this odd looking Mardu deck all the way to the finals of the PTQ.
It's got all the usual Mardu stuff, like Crackling Doom, but most surprising is the inclusion of four copies of the oft-forgotten Butcher of the Horde. Most Mardu decks look to either Thunderbreak Regent or Siege Rhino as their four-drop of choice, but the inclusion of Butcher of the Horde instead is actually a brilliant metagame call. Butcher of the Horde lines up very well against both Four-Color Rally and G/R Ramp, and flying in general is just a very powerful ability in the current format. Lots of decks are great at gumming up the ground but are very vulnerable in the skies, and Butcher of the Horde also dodges a reasonable number of the format's removal spells.
Of course, the reason that most players choose Siege Rhino as their four-drop of choice is because it doesn't need any help to be awesome. You cast it, it's great, life is good. Butcher of the Horde asks a bit more, but both Hangarback Walker and Pia and Kiran Nalaar are great grindy cards that play well with the hungry demon.
Butcher of the Horde is great against the non-interactive decks but not so good against the attrition decks, but in a twist of great deckbuilding, both Hangarback Walker and Pia and Kiran Nalaar excel in those matchups. By themselves they aren't great in their respective matchups, but together they help to have each other's backs.
Otherwise, the deck is packed full of the usual powerful Mardu cards: tons of good removal, some reasonable card draw, and some more top-end threats like Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury and Goblin Dark-Dwellers. Mardu also features a wealth of good sideboard options that cover a wide range of the format.
As someone who has made fun of Mardu decks for the clan's entire stay in Standard, I'm actually really impressed by this deck. I played five matches with it on stream, losing only to some questionable play against a Bant Midrange deck. This deck does struggle a bit against Wingmate Roc, but overall I would highly suggest this deck for #SCGINDY this weekend.
- 4 Hedron Crawler
- 4 Dimensional Infiltrator
- 4 Eldrazi Skyspawner
- 3 Icefall Regent
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 2 Ruination Guide
- 3 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Whirler Rogue
And you thought Thought-Knot Seer was only for Modern!
Boy, was I surprised. I cruised to a 4-1 record in my League, losing only to the mirror. This deck works for a lot of the same reasons that the previous Mardu deck works— it's all about the skies (and evasion in general). A bunch of cheap fliers and the very underrated Ghostfire Blade team up with the Thought-Knot Seer / Reality Smasher duo to assemble a very reasonable beatdown force. Many decks in the format are soft to fliers, and something as simple as Ghostfire Blade into Dimensional Infiltrator into "Eldrazi Skyspawner, equip" is very good against many of the format's decks.
The Modern Eldrazi staples provide you with your top end, but the real innovation is Icefall Regent. The deck is lacking in actual removal and sometimes you just need to take something out of the picture. Icefall Regent does this very reasonably while also being a quick evasive clock and provides the deck with a nice mid- to late-game card.
Icefall Regent is a very powerful card that has been mostly held down by the perfect mana and multicolored cards in the format, but I expect it to have a pretty big impact post-rotation.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the deck is how beneficial its manabase is. Most Standard manabases are all about paying life, shuffling, and lands entering the battlefield tapped. Our manabase is all untapped and all upside.
Foundry of the Consuls is absurdly good. At face value, the card is already good, but when you add in all the synergies that two artifact/colorless flying creatures provide the deck, the card goes from awesome to amazing. Tomb of the Spirit Dragon also does wonders for winning races, while the miser's Rogue's Passage can sneak you to a few wins.
The deck is a little heavy with 26 lands, but with the five-drops and all the value you get from the lands, it actually works out rather well. This is another deck with good Four-Color Rally and Ramp matchups that has a lot of game in general, and it's another deck that I would happily recommend for #SCGINDY.
- 3 Catacomb Sifter
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 3 Nantuko Husk
- 4 Rattleclaw Mystic
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 2 Siege Rhino
- 3 Zulaport Cutthroat
- 2 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Our last deck of the deck comes with neither experience nor recommendation but is too amusing not to include. What would happen if you took every non-ramp/non-Atarka Red deck in the format and just shuffled them all together? Magic Online user azureu09 apparently asked the same question and came to this answer. This deck is really beyond words, so just take a look and enjoy.
Week three of Challenge Thursdays on my stream was a smashing success.
After a near-miss in week one, Modern Miracles was once again up for vote, thanks to a new submission from Breanna (@xPhetasium on Twitter). It won the vote and we were off:
While my record with the deck wasn't really what I would have liked (Storm, Lantern Control, and Jeskai Ascendancy all seem unbeatable), the deck was an absolute blast to play. Much careful thinking and planning was required to set your miracles up, and cards like Halimar Depths and Telling Time were very fun.
I had also forgotten that Isochron Scepter was even legal and the card is really good. The only deck that can really interact with it was Jund, and an Isochron Scepter imprinted with Telling Time is like a Sensei's Divining Top on steroids.
I wouldn't play this deck in a large serious event, but if you're looking for something fun to jam in Modern, give it a spin. It's the most fun I've had in Modern in a while.
But enough about last week, it's on to this week's challenge!
Once again, the poll will end at 6:00pm EST which will give me one hour to construct my deck. Tune in at 7:00pm for the start of the stream! I will be playing an entire League with the challenge deck, tweaking it a bit, and then playing another League right after.
How many wins can I get? Cast your vote and tune in to my stream at 7:00pm to see how it goes!