1. After its breakout win at the Syracuse Open, Ross Merriam's Dredge will be a huge Modern player at #SCGINVI.
Patrick: Fiction. Much love to Ross, who took down the whole thing a week ago with an innovative take on Modern Dredge, but I doubt we'll be seeing a lot of this deck at the Invitational. That's no slight to this list--it's attacking the format from a different angle, and I'm sure numerous opponents were caught with little-to-nothing in their 75 to interact effectively. However, between people's attachment to "their deck" in non-rotating formats and card availability issues at close-to-the-last-minute, it would take something totally, unarguably busted to have people move in droves to a new deck in Modern, and I'm guessing this deck is below that bar.
That said, I this deck will be influential insofar as how it's going to influence sideboards. I expect to see many more copies of cards like Rest in Peace and Nihil Spellbomb than otherwise would have been the case. I think people who were considering graveyard-centric decks like Living End should seriously consider an audible.
Cedric: Fiction. My expectation is that people will try to beat Dredge, not join it. The reason? Dredge is a deck that people not only hate playing against but also hate playing with! Additionally, this take on Dredge is very obscure, especially if you've never played a Dredge deck before. When is the appropriate time to activate Insolent Neonate? When you do take a draw step as opposed to dredging a Stinkweed Imp or Golgari Grave-Troll? And how in the hell do you sideboard with this thing?
Fortunately there are a lot of great sideboard options in Modern like Grafdigger's Cage and Rest in Peace that not only combat Dredge but also have applications in other matchups. And if someone is looking to really bring the pain on Dredge players, Leyline of the Void is at every single player's disposal. Add in some creative options like Ghostly Prison, Jund Charm, and Magus of the Tabernacle (cute Chord of Calling target, isn't it?) and all of a sudden, things seem relatively manageable right?
Look. Just because I expect people to try to beat Dredge doesn't mean that I believe they will be successful at doing so. As someone who played a lot of Dredge in 2010 and even got a ninth-place finish at Grand Prix Oakland that year (stupid tiebreakers!), I learned something very important during that time period: well-tested Dredge players can beat hate cards. And guess what Todd Anderson, Tom Ross, and Ross Merriam are…
So while Grafdigger's Cage, Rest in Peace, and Leyline of the Void are very powerful cards against Modern's newest deck, I expect the few players who choose to play Dredge at the #SCGINVI to be some of the most skilled players in the room and the ones who have the ability to navigate the hate cards accordingly.
2. Delirium-oriented decks will outnumber Bant Company on Day 2.
Patrick: Fact. The secret is out about Grim Flayer and Ishkanah, Grafwidow after the recent Pro Tour, and Ishkanah in particular can fit into a variety of shells and is well-positioned to fight Bant Company. I would guess that Bant Company will outnumber any one particular build of Delirium, but if we define Delirium as "a deck with any Delirium payout, plus the ability to get at least four card types in the graveyard reliably," I expect that to comfortably outnumber the amount of Bant Company on the second day.
Cedric: Fact. While the results of the Columbus and Baltimore Opens were littered with Bant Company, I believe the results of Pro Tour Eldritch Moon and Grand Prix Portland have done enough to show that Delirium decks are a real alternative to the Bant menace. Robert Santana's win at Portland last weekend with Jund Delirium was an impressive one, and the power level of that Delirium deck, along with the B/G version that got Michael Hantz to the Top 8 of Portland, feel like real options to me.
There's also the fact that people are sick of playing with Bant Company.
I know that's a pretty weird thing to say, but that's just the reality of the situation. I covered Columbus and played at Baltimore and Portland and I can say with a high level of certainty that even people who are actually playing the deck to relevant levels of success are tired of playing with it. These Delirium decks look cool, are doing both cool and powerful things, and can be built in numerous different ways to prey on Bant Company.
3. This weekend will finally be the coming out party for the U/R Thermo-Alchemist deck.
Patrick: Fact. There is no shortage of great cards for this type of strategy--cheap threats with evasion or the ability to work outside of combat, great burn, counters that are well-suited to fight the decks of the day--but I thought Bant Company was too oppressive for this sort of thing. Bant just attacks, blocks, bounces, and counters with too great of an efficiency, and there's no card analogous to Collected Company in terms of catching up from losing positions, or cementing winning ones.
If the metagame shifts to decks that spin their tires for the first few turns setting up their graveyard instead of casting Sylvan Advocates and Reflector Mages, that's a good opportunity for this deck to shine. Todd Anderson proved as much last weekend, taking down the Syracuse Standard Classic with his take on the deck, and Fevered Visions seems especially well-suited in a world with clunkier decks and fewer Dromoka's Commands.
I wouldn't limit this to just U/R Thermo-Alchemist. Max McVety had a promising-looking Mono-Red deck Week 1 in Columbus, and that's another deck that can capitalize on the uptick of Delirium and Emerge strategies. I think Delirium and Emerge are both powerful enough that more ponderous Madness-style R/B Aggro decks should be off the table, but decks that hit the ground running and top off with burn, counters, or both should be in a good position this weekend.
Cedric: Fiction. It's hard for me to believe U/R Thermo-Alchemist will come out more than it did at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon when Pedro Carvalho went 9-1 with it or at Syracuse when Todd Anderson won the Standard Classic with it. U/R Thermo-Alchemist is a really intriguing deck, but I feel like the community already knows what the deck is at this point – a deck that is reliant on Fevered Visions. If you can beat Fevered Visions, you can beat the deck.
The trick, of course, is beating the powerful enchantment.
Unfortunately, the de facto best deck in Standard is really good at dealing with enchantments thanks to Dromoka's Command. And while Max Mick may have cut a Dromoka's Command from his maindeck at Grand Prix Portland and Paul Rietzl cut his from his maindeck altogether at the same tournament, I simply don't believe people are willing to make such a bold move at the #SCGINVI this weekend. Furthermore, I expect to see more people playing things like Caustic Caterpillar or Conclave Naturalists because they are such potent Traverse the Ulvenwald targets.
Perhaps U/R Thermo-Alchemist is a more resilient deck than I am giving it credit for, but until Dromoka's Command has fully gone away, I'm not interested in playing a deck that is so reliant on Fevered Visions sticking around.
Take that, Todd Anderson!
4. The Grixis Pact deck featuring Harmless Offering is a legitimate deck choice for someone trying to win the event.
Patrick: Fiction. I'm not a huge fan of judging other people's decisions as "legitimate" or not, but this is not where I'd want to be, even with a recent Top 8 at Grand Prix Portland in the hands of Chris Botelho. The proactive cards are so good in Standard relative to the reactive ones that I'd rather just be tapping out, whether for Collected Company; Emrakul, the Promised End; or Elder Deep-Fiend than try to line up the right reactive cards. I like this deck as a response to Bant Company because Languish and Radiant Flames are so effective there, and if we were talking about the pre-Pro Tour metagame, sign me up. I just think the breadth, depth, and power of the proactive cards is too much to be sitting back on your heels the whole time.
Cedric: Fiction. I just can't buy this one. I really want to buy this one, but I simply can't. Because how could I, in good conscience, just go on a rant about how Dromoka's Command makes Fevered Visions obsolete and then recommend a deck that has to give your opponent an enchantment to win?
Exactly. I can't.
Naturally I love the deck that Chris Botelho made the Top 8 of Grand Prix Portland with, because how can you not. I believe it is everyone's dream to ship a Demonic Pact to their opponent and watch them toss and turn until they finally submit to it. And I can even appreciate protecting yourself from Dromoka's Command with Oath of Chandra and Oath of Jace, but Dromoka's Command says “Target player sacrifices an enchantment” and not “Target opponent sacrifices an enchantment."
Now, for what it's worth, I'm sure Chris and many of his opponents at Grand Prix Portland knew that. And I'm sure Chris was able to overcome that a few times. I'm just not willing to take the Dromoka's Command challenge. But if Delirium decks are more represented than Bant Company on Day 2 of the #SCGINVI -- which I suggested in question number two, if you remember! -- then I also have no interest in taking the Emrakul, the Promised End challenge either.
I'm sure many are willing to give Grixis Pact a try. And I admire your gusto. I just don't have said gusto.
5. A breakout performer will win the #SCGINVI.
Patrick: Fiction. Sorry to be such a downer, but sixteen rounds, two formats, and best-of-five throughout the elimination rounds has a way of revealing all kinds of sins. I would guess we'll have some new faces in the Top 8, as we always do, but if you gave me the option to bet on "twenty names of my choice" or "everybody else" to take down the whole thing, I would rather have the former.
Cedric: Fact. Sure, why not! Modern plays a very large role in the #SCGINVI and that format has always been a brewers' paradise. Plus, I always love to see new people establish themselves in Magic. We got to see Alex Bastecki establish himself at the New Jersey Invitational in 2015 and Dylan Donegan do the exact same at the Seattle Invitational in 2014. And, of course, our most recent #SCGINVI champion, Max McVety, has made quite the name for himself over the past handful of months.
Make no mistake about it, however. There are going to be a lot of established names at the #SCGINVI this weekend battling it out for invitations to the StarCityGames.com® Players' Championship and the Pro Tour who will be very difficult to beat. But I've got a sneaking suspicion that someone we don't know all that well will make an underdog-esque run to the title and a trip to both the Star City Game Center and Honolulu as a result.