With Pro Tour Eldritch Moon behind us and Modern ahead of us, we're in a spot where everything is out in the open with Standard and things are yet to be discovered in Modern. #SCGNY will give us the biggest Modern tournament since the printing of Eldritch Moon. With a ton of Standard to digest and Modern to speculate on, I present you with a Top 8 list for each.
Top 8 Standard Decks I'd Play Right Now
- 1 Den Protector
- 4 Grim Flayer
- 2 Sylvan Advocate
- 3 Tireless Tracker
- 1 Emrakul, the Promised End
- 2 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
- 2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
I knew that B/G Delirium was going to be a deck after seeing the deck on The SCG Tour® before the Pro Tour. I just didn't know all the right numbers. Sam Pardee and his team sure figured it out, opting for a more controlling build without Gnarlwood Dryad (which I'd consider the third-biggest breakout card from Pro Tour Eldritch Moon behind Emrakul, the Promised End and Liliana, the Last Hope). B/G Delirium looks to compete very well at all stages of the game, starting with a two-drop creature or removal spell and going all the way up to Emrakul, the Promised End. Grim Flayer to set up a stream of removal spells is a recipe for victory with Standard being so creature-heavy. Doesn't seem to have many terrible matchups, which is a quality I like in a deck.
- 3 Pilgrim's Eye
- 3 Elder Deep-Fiend
- 4 Gnarlwood Dryad
- 1 Wretched Gryff
- 3 Emrakul, the Promised End
- 2 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
I played Owen's build of Temur Emerge at the SCG Regionals in North Carolina this past weekend. I built it early the morning of the tournament, right after Top 8 lists were posted from Sydney. I'd never played a game with the deck before. Unsurprisingly I did the deck no justice and fumbled around before dropping from the tournament by mid-afternoon. Even though I wasn't successful, I recognized the raw power of Temur Emerge and would run it back at another event... this time with more playtesting.
- 4 Duskwatch Recruiter
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Selfless Spirit
- 4 Spell Queller
- 4 Sylvan Advocate
- 3 Tireless Tracker
- 2 Archangel Avacyn
- 1 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Gerry Thompson and I were very close to running Bant Company at Regionals. It's the kind of deck that I want to pilot in a tournament eventually. In Opens I always feel like I can do better somehow and brew something that beats the best deck. Perhaps it's a backwards mentality, playing the good deck in the smaller tournaments and my personal concoction in the bigger ones. But hey, it's been working out reasonably so far. Bant Company is a something I might take to the Standard Classic this weekend, for example, if I scrub out of the Open.
- 1 Hangarback Walker
- 1 Bounding Krasis
- 4 Den Protector
- 1 Elvish Visionary
- 4 Noose Constrictor
- 1 Void Grafter
- 1 Emrakul, the Promised End
- 1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
- 2 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
- 2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
This deck looks like a blast! It didn't put up numbers at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, but I don't think it's because the deck is weak. G/U Crush seems like a gimmicky concept that can easily be brushed off. The games take a while to play and it's not very fun for the opponent to suffer through. G/U Crush also came onto the scene a bit late for the Pro Tour players to really integrate into the gauntlets with the attention it fully deserves. As dominating of a performance as Cory Dissinger had, G/U Crush is somehow still flying under the radar.
- 4 Cryptbreaker
- 4 Haunted Dead
- 4 Prized Amalgam
- 4 Relentless Dead
- 4 Voldaren Pariah
- 4 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
B/U Zombies is a deck that I really should've registered in an event by now. I worked long and hard early in the season to make Haunted Dead and Voldaren Pariah work together in builds of Vampires. Zombies looks like a better home, one that I never got around to building myself, and one that looks awesome to play. Discarding two Prized Amalgams to bring back Haunted Dead is just filthy.
The Pro Tour-winning deck likely has some staying power behind it, just like G/W Tokens did. I'd take B/W Control into a tournament if I wanted a shot at beating everyone and a good shot at winning the tournament. They games may go long, and you'll be faced with tons of opportunities to blow it, but B/W Control will give you all the tools you need to maneuver your way to victory.
I wrote last week how the Reckless Bushwhacker package has gotten weaker and the pain damage from Battlefield Forge is becoming more costly the better decks get (which happens when new sets are introduced). Thalia, Heretic Cathar is the last straw when it came to my decision, as having my Battlefield Forge come enter the battlefield tapped lines up perfectly with her being cast turn 3. Typically you want to lead with Plains and sandbag Battlefield Forge as long as you can. Now you have to choose between taking pain damage early to play around Thalia, Heretic Cathar or to conserve your life total. I'd rather not have to deal with such things and dial it back to a smooth Mono-White Humans build.
This deck has gotten me excited and I know I'm not the only one. Thermo-Alchemist kills very quickly when unchecked and can even do some blocking along the way. We saw Max McVety play Thermo-Alchemist in his take on Mono-Red earlier in Columbus. Pedro Carvalho and his team put together that you don't have to be casting red instants and sorceries to get value out of Thermo-Alchemist; counterspells and bounces with Unsubstantiate do the trick too. Oh, and Thing in the Ice and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy are also great in a spell-oriented deck too. A very dangerous deck and my number one choice to take to the next Standard tournament I play.
Top 8 Modern Cards for #SCGNY
Splendid Reclamation hasn't made any waves in Standard, as it shouldn't. Its power increases in older formats with fetchlands. Splendid Reclamation is dangerously close to Replenish, a card that led to the errata of both Parallax Wave and Parallax Tide during its Standard (Type 2?) reign. Replenish was then deemed too good for Extended (the precursor to Modern and Legacy for those who aren't ancient like me) and rightfully banned there.
If it's indeed busted, then there's a chance someone will sweep #SCGNY with the right build.
I'd start here.
The deck plays like a natural beatdown deck with Knight of the Reliquary and assorted green and white creatures that also has a value plan in Collected Company and Eternal Witness. The deck's namesake functions when Retreat to Coralhelm works in tandem with Knight of the Reliquary to create a Splinter Twin-esque combo kill as early as turn 3. The final land to enter the battlefield when the dust settles is Sejiri Steppe to give Knight of the Reliquary protection against would-be blockers.
Thalia, Heretic Cathar showed up in Bant Retreat, and I gotta say, it looked really good when I was casting it. Thalia shuts down fetchland players up to twice. It's sketchy to play a 3/2 for three in a Lightning Bolt format, but when she sticks around, she's a huge pain for any Modern deck to slog through. I like Thalia, Heretic Cathar in the white Aether Vial decks and in various other toolbox decks as well.
Death's Shadow is one of those cards you can't forget about when designing your Modern deck. Along with Naya Zoo and Burn, Death's Shadow decks “keep players honest" with their life totals. Cards like fetchlands and Gitaxian Probe are bad against aggressive decks, yet so good in them. Death's Shadow is powerful and is still being explored in different shells. Todd Stevens considers the best shell a Grixis one that prefers consistency while eschewing the more explosive draws with Steppe Lynx.
Back in my day I used to sacrifice Avalanche Riders with its echo trigger on the stack. Sometimes I'd sacrifice my opponent's land that I took with Annex. Now Greater Gargadon is used in Dredge to power Bridge from Below and to protect creatures from Anger of the Gods. Justin O'Keefe played the full four copies in his take on Modern Dredge. For further analysis on the power of Greater Gargadon in Dredge, check out Todd Anderson's article from yesterday.
The older the formats go back, the higher density of one-toughness creatures you come across. From the accelerant creatures from toolbox decks to the various small critters from Affinity and Infect, the +1 ability on Liliana, the Last Hope looks really good. Just like Liliana of the Veil, the new gal on the block both protects herself and has a powerful and achievable ultimate. The -2 of Liliana, the Last Hope is especially sweet with creatures that act as spells, like Shriekmaw, essentially being an instantly transformed Jace, Telepath Unbound.
There's been tons of buzz around Eldritch Evolution breaking Modern. Allosaurus Riders were extinct from online websites for a few days due to a buyout craze. There were talks of ramping from Tasigur, the Golden Fang to Griselbrand. Other than the Classic at Baltimore and a few stray IQs, there haven't been many live tournaments for Modern since the release of Eldritch Moon. Eldritch Evolution has a lot of eyes on it, including mine. Check out Jeff Hoogland's evolution of Kiki Chord.
- 1 Spellskite
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 2 Eternal Witness
- 1 Noble Hierarch
- 1 Reclamation Sage
- 2 Restoration Angel
- 1 Reveillark
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Selfless Spirit
- 1 Thragtusk
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
- 3 Wall of Omens
- 1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
- 1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
- 1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
- 1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
- 2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Some Modern data gathering states that 42% of “placing” Modern decks include at least one copy of Lightning Bolt. It's format-defining. Your creature had better be something special to walk around with three toughness in this format. It's a reason that one-toughness creatures are good in Modern: they are least don't trade down to the Lightning Bolt. Lightning Bolt is an important part of aggressive decks, control decks, and decks that want to finish games in a timely manner.
Top 8 Standard "Eights"
These are the Standard cards that scream out "Eight" to me when I look at them.
Honorable “Not an Eight” Mention
You see a big fat eight in its casting cost. Bedlam Reveler costs much less, especially in older formats. Could this be the next coming of Treasure Cruise? Who knows, but I do know it's not a card that makes me think “eight” when I see it.
It's no Force of Nature, but Terra Stomper has been around for so long that I consider it one of the “old school” 8/8s. I had one in a Zendikar Draft deck at Grand Prix Minneapolis in 2010. I eventually Top 8ed that event, which permanently reserved a place for Terra Stomper in my heart. Terra Stomper has always been on the cusp of Constructed playability, and I really wish it could've crossed that line. If the control decks are all Grasp of Darkness, Languish, and counterspells, then maybe? Seeing a Terra Stomper attack for eight would make me really happy.
Not heavily played lately, Surrak, the Hunt Caller curves very well with Tireless Tracker or Deathmist Raptor, or even a Lambholt Pacifist. I have eight power on the battlefield? Attack for eight. Surrak, the Hunt Caller is responsible for huge chucks of life totals suddenly being taken out over its tenure in Standard. I personally don't think I've ever beaten an unchecked turn 4 Surrak, the Hunt Caller attacking me, and I probably never will.
When I first looked at Linvala, the Preserver, I saw eight flying power for six mana. Turns out that's exactly what she is. Plus five life tacked on. The eight power and toughness across two bodies is too much to handle for the aggressive decks I like to play. And yes, she's always on for the full amount when cast against my little creature strategies.
It's not often that Shaman of Forgotten Ways gets to use its activated ability. I know that when I'm playing with the card, I'm constantly checking my mana count and my power count, just praying that I get to pull off the cool Biorhythm win. I may have only done it once, but I was checking over my creatures over and over the many other times I was in a similar late-game scenario. No card in Standard has me double-checking my math to add up to eight as much as Shaman of Forgotten Ways.
Not only did Cory Dissinger crush the Swiss of #SCGBALT, he did so with style: Crush of Tentacles loops with Den Protector to soft-lock opponents while he repeatedly gained value from Oath of Nissa and Nissa, Vastwood Seer, among other things. The most memorable part of coverage for me was seeing that same 8/8 Octopus get bounced and then re-enter the battlefield immediately over and over again.
What really reminds me of eight with Distended Mindbender isn't even the eight generic mana it costs. It's when I cast Distended Mindbender, my opponent's hand gets “ate." They really 'ate it when I do that.
I rarely cast Dragonlord Atarka. Every time someone does against me, they demolish my battlefield and I'm left trying to figure out how to get past this Dragon.
“Why is it an 8/8? That's soooo unnecessary.”
Dragonlord Atarka would be a fine Magic card with lower stats. Like, does it really need trample too? I've been wondering since Dragons of Tarkir why it was deemed necessary to plop 8/8 on the card in addition to everything else.
Elder Deep-Fiend has it all. It costs eight. It taps down exactly half of the opponent's permanents when they control eight. Last, but not least, eight tentacles! Elder Deep-Fiend is the biggest “eight” card we've seen since Lorthos, the Tidemaker. We're never topping Lorthos.
See ya l8r!