#SCGRegionals is one of the most interesting tournaments of the year.
It doesn't have the mystique of a new format Pro Tour, the excitement of a week one Standard SCG Tour®, the importance of an Invitational, or the exciting structure of The Player's Championship, but what it does have is a very odd mixture of new ideas and incomplete information.
#SCGRegionals is usually run on the same weekend as the new set's corresponding Pro Tour, and because Pro Tours start on Friday and regionals starts on Saturday everyone has a partial picture of what the Pro Tour metagame and decks look like. If anything, it's almost like Magic was about twenty years ago, before the "hive mind" and bountiful decklists and information were easily available on the Internet. There are no official lists, only ideas and what players may or may have not seen on coverage. Rumors and incomplete information rule the day until all the final decklists and results are posted on Sunday.
However, Sunday is of course too late for you, the Regionals player, to make much use of.
This leaves anyone playing in #SCGRegionals this weekend with one of three options:
1. Stay the course, working on whatever ideas they have been testing since the Kaladesh spoiler first came out.
2. Pick up one of the decks that had success at #SCGINDY, knowing full well that those decks are both rough versions of what the future format holds and known quantities because of their widespread exposure.
3. Keep a close eye on the Pro Tour coverage, trying to extrapolate as much as possible from what you see of the large pro team's decks, and try to approximate their builds as much as possible with limited information.
If you're in the first group, you probably already know what you are playing. This means your goals are to tune it as much as possible and make sure that you are prepared for any and everything you may end up facing, including possible new Pro Tour brews.
If you're in the second group, you're in a similar spot to the first group but under the scrutiny of everyone who will be attending the event. Your list has been public for a few weeks, and everyone has had the opportunity to find the holes and weaknesses of your deck. You will need to make sure your list has adapted those weaknesses, and properly prepared for potential new threats.
If you're in the third group, you have the most difficult challenge ahead of you with the highest possible payoff. I expect there to be a number of new decks at Pro Tour Kaladesh, and having access to a deck that has been tested for weeks in secrecy and that nobody really understands can often feel like bringing a bazooka to a knife fight. There are two issues, though— actually getting the list correct can be difficult without proper information, and you will have almost no time to practice with the deck.
I did this at the last #SCGRegionals, as because it was in Australia with a major time differential, the Pro Tour lists were available at about 5 AM the morning of the tournament. I threw together Owen Turtenwald's Temur Emerge deck and entered without having ever played a game with the deck or even seeing it in action. This is already a difficult thing to do with any deck, but Temur Emerge would end up one of the most difficult decks to play in Standard in a long time. I did not do well.
A Head Start
The issue with writing before a big event is that you can't afford to give away any information that would tip the hand of the testing you or your team has done. We see this all the time before large events, as most writers here on StarCityGames.com® have produced quality content while also not jeopardizing their ability to do well in an important event.
Thankfully for you, I lost my Top 8 match at the last RPTQ and have no qualms about spilling all the beans that I've got. Did you know you can easily die on turn 4 in Standard to a creature with over thirty power? Have Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger cast on you on turn 4? Face down an army of 10/10s as early as turn 4?
Today we are going to look at five decks you need to be ready for to win your Regionals, as well as cards I expect to break out at Pro Tour Kaladesh.
Our first deck is perhaps the most surprising of the bunch, unless you've played Magic Online the past few days. People were discussing R/G Energy-based beatdown decks as soon as the Kaladesh spoiler was released, but I don't think anyone expected something like this.
Strange things happen when you use the word “double” in Magic. Double strike is often viewed as fairly dangerous, and Infect has shown us how much less ten is than twenty. So when you start doubling up on doublers, things start to get out of hand.
Electrostatic Pummeler is a card I didn't even notice on the spoiler, so it was much to my surprise when someone played it against me on Magic Online and then attacked for 112 damage the following turn. This deck plays out like an odd mix between a beatdown deck and an Infect deck and has some completely spectacular turn 4 kills. Bristling Hydra and Blossoming Defense give it game against removal-heavy decks as well.
Tip: If you are playing against this deck, or any green deck for that matter, it is often a good idea to use your removal spells when your opponent is tapped out, often on your main phase, to play around Blossoming Defense.
This deck is under the radar and at times feels like a Modern deck. Unless you've played Magic Online in the last week, it's likely that you've never seen anything like it before. There's a lot of value in playing a deck people don't really understand yet, especially one capable of killing out of nowhere on turn 4. This is a deck you must be prepared for and could make an excellent last-minute deck. It is also very cheap, which is a nice bonus.
On the one hand, it is fairly clunky and inconsistent. A lot of your cards do essentially nothing but durdle and make Energy, and you really don't have the means to interact with your opponent beyond a few copies of Harnessed Lightning and Kozilek's Return. You are almost completely all in on Aetherworks Marvel, and even if you are able to find one and successfully fire it off on turn 4 or 5, there is a very real chance you will just brick and not hit one of your huge Eldrazi payoff cards.
On the other hand... turn 4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger! Exile your lands! This deck working properly is completely terrifying. Countermagic is not great at the moment and the only clean answer, and if this deck can cast an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger on turn 4 every game, it seems almost impossible to beat. That scares the crap out of me.
While faster decks can race Temur Aetherworks while it tries to set up, any sort of slower midrange or control deck is going to have a problem with putting a clock on it while trying not to get comboed. Casting Emrakul, the Promised End is not unreasonable at all in slower games with this deck, and you must be able to put some sort of clock on this deck to have a chance.
Tip: If you are going to play a midrange or control deck this weekend, have some sort of way to pressure your opponents in your sideboard if you need to win a bit more quickly. Think Hanweir Battlements if you are red or Spell Queller if you are U/W.
This deck terrifies me, and you should be scared too. Be ready.
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Cryptbreaker
- 4 Haunted Dead
- 2 Insolent Neonate
- 4 Prized Amalgam
- 4 Voldaren Pariah
Not every deck is going to be a completely new idea.
One thing was clear after #SCGINDY was over: Smuggler's Copter was where it was at, and every deck in the Top 8 utilized the card. Now we that we are past the format's infancy, however, just playing the best cards is not enough. Before #SCGINDY, not everyone knew they should be playing Smuggler's Copter. Now that this is common knowledge, building the best Smuggler's Copter deck is the next step.
This next deck is an evolution of the aggressive B/R deck I played at #SCGINDY, utilizing Smuggler's Copter to its fullest capacity. Not only are we beating down with a great aggressive flyer while filtering our draws, we are also utilizing madness synergies with Voldaren Pariah and Fiery Temper while also putting cards like Prized Amalgam, Haunted Dead, and Scrapheap Scrounger straight into the graveyard for maximum value.
Tip: If you intend on playing a slower, removal-heavy strategy, you absolutely must have a good answer for recursive threats like Prized Amalgam and Scrapheap Scrounger or a deck like this will eat you alive.
This deck is aggressive and resilient, and a very nice evolution of the Week 1 decks.
I'm not so much advocating this exact decklist, but more so the fact that control and blue spells are not extinct.
I expect Torrential Gearhulk to be the most popular gearhulk in the Top 8 of Pro Tour Kaladesh. Yes, even more popular than Verdurous Gearhulk. I may be wrong, but Torrential Gearhulk is an extremely powerful Magic card. Is this the best shell? I'm not exactly sure, but there are a lot of good things going on here.
Glimmer of Genius is the card draw spell that blue control decks were looking for, and there's a pretty solid array of cheap removal spells and useful planeswalkers to go with it. With enough early removal to handle the cheaper creature decks and counterspells to handle the midrange decks, a well-built blue control deck could be the answer to this format.
Tip: If you are going to play a combo deck or a midrange deck that is leaning on four- and five-mana threats, have a plan for beating counterspells. Note that Duress is no longer legal.
Control will succeed. Do not sleep on it.
Are you ready to deal with an army of 10/10s? Like the Energy Aggro deck, this feels like something more out of Modern than Standard. This deck has some broken draws, as if it can line up enough artifacts and enough Sanctum of Ugin, it can pretty easily produce multiple 10/10s on turn 5. A large portion of the format's removal is useless against such large creatures, and if you aren't able to close quickly enough, they will just come right back.
With inventive card choices like Cultivator's Caravan; Skysovereign, Consul Flagship; and even Panharmonicon, this is a deck with a lot of power and a lot of potential. Decks with this many moving parts are often hard to build, so I don't think we've seen this deck's final form yet.
Andrew Jessup of Team MGG had a version of this deck in our testing with more of a focus of emerge threats in addition to Kozilek's Return. Andrew was also using Herald of Kozilek instead of Foundry Inspector, which is much more durable and better at blocking while serving a similar purpose.
Be ready for this deck, and make sure you have the sideboard tools you need to compete.
Other Breakouts and Busts
These are a lot of potential answers, but more answers are yet to come. One thing I am fairly certain of, though.
Metallurgic Summons and Dynavolt Tower are cards that are currently mostly being slept on (hi, Todd), and I expect both to have good showings at Pro Tour Kaladesh. I've seen and played a few decks online built around each, and while nothing has been completely conclusive, both cards have overperformed. Trying to build around either card this late in the game is probably not a feasible option for #SCGRegionals, but be aware they exist and keep an eye on the Pro Tour coverage for them.
While already somewhat of a bust, Chandra, Torch of Defiance is going to be the biggest bust of Pro Tour Kaladesh. Chandra is not nearly as powerful as she looks at first glance and is going to be a victim of the aggressive format headlined by Smuggler's Copter. Chandra does not interact with Smuggler's Copter well at all and doesn't really do enough in general to be that exciting.
Knowledge Is Power
#SCGRegionals is a very fun and exciting tournament. Running concurrent to the Pro Tour creates a lot of excitement, and very often players are trying new decks and operating on incomplete information.
Whether you decide to play something more established or dive right in to a new deck with no preparation, this overview of some of the newer decks in the format combined with what was learned from #SCGINDY should provide you with a very well-rounded viewpoint of what the metagame is going to look like.
As for what you bring to battle? Only you can make that choice.