Well, why don't you look at that. Another year, and another qualification for StarCityGames.com's ultimate event to cap off the year on the SCG Tour®. It might not have been a long road to qualify, but what the journey lacked in length was made up in tension. Now that the stress has been relieved, I've gotten to take some time to actually prepare for the event I've invested so much of myself into qualifying for. Since my mind has been on this tournament anyway, I thought it would be fun to once again show the world what my predictions are. Who knows if I'll be right or not, but at least now you'll be along for the ride!
At this point all sixteen of us have submitted our decklists to StarCityGames.com® and can no longer change anything. Even though the event starts tomorrow, we are effectively stuck with what we thought was good last night. Hopefully I'm happy with my choices, but that's an issue future Brad's going to have to deal with. Present Brad has all the time in the world to figure it all out, and for the most part is close to finished with testing anyway. All that's left is some changing of the dials, a sideboard card here or there, and a couple more matches to up the confidence levels.
So what goes into metagaming for a small tournament like this? Well, for starters, it's a whole lot different from what you would do for a larger event like an Open or #SCGINVI. Only sixteen players are qualified, and many of them had to spend a lot of time on the SCG Tour®playing events to get themselves there. That's a whole lot of data accumulated to go through if you want to.
Where to Begin
The first thing I do is collect all the tournament results on these players in the past year to figure out trends. I do have to admit that spreadsheets are not my forte, but luckily my friend Corey Jefferson has my back to help me compile all the data. Once organized, it's easy to just put everyone on Level 1 and create a metagame, but the difficult part is trying to go further and figure out who may change decks for this event. For example, there is a very slim chance a player like Joe Lossett will not play Miracles in Legacy, but can the same be said about Jim Davis and Sultai Delver? Sure, he has been playing it all year long, but that trend began last year at the #SCGPC when he switched off Storm to begin his yearlong affair with Delver of Secrets.
It's important to figure out each and every player's range, not only so you don't get locked into preparing for a Level 1 metagame but also to see if everyone has a low chance of playing Deck X. That could open up some holes for exploiting, just like we did with Death and Taxes last year.
So let's kick things off with our reigning Players' Champion, Jim Davis!
Jim's played Sultai Delver all year. On top of that, he's rarely deviated from the same list he played at last year's #SCGPC. It's easy to simply put him on playing this deck again, but one of the things Jim values is metagaming. He's a guru at it, after all. I'm split on my decision for Jim. If he's not on Sultai Delver it could be absolutely anything. Given his prowess in the format, I could see him identifying Reanimator as a decently positioned deck.
Now, this brings up a very interesting struggle when using data to properly metagame. Jim has played Sultai Delver before, so it's reasonable to let that dictate certain deck/card choices. Even if I could see him playing Reanimator, I shouldn't actually use that guess as a reason to play anything specific. It's a blind read and puts me on Level 3, which is not the best place to be; I'm only right if I correctly guess his Level 2 call. It's much safer and overall correct to put him on Sultai Delver as opposed to anything else.
Legacy: Sultai Delver
In Modern, Jim loves to metagame, but right now Grixis Delver is not in a bad place. It's good against Infect, which looks to be the most-played deck out of the sixteen players. Six of his opponents have played the deck in the past. Four have played it in the past month. Even if a few move away from the deck, that means two or three will still play it. Given that likelihood, I could see him sticking to the deck, especially when he hasn't found much success in the format with other decks in the past.
Modern: Grixis Delver
Am I really going to say the man isn't going to deviate from any of his namesakes after calling him a Metagame Guru? Yup! Esper Aggro is a great deck choice for this weekend, and he knows it. Aetherworks Marvel has completely pushed B/G Delirium out of being a reasonable deck choice. On top of the hateful predicted metagame for B/G Delirium, only three of us have ever touched the deck before. That means that a good White-based Smuggler's Copter deck is exactly what you need to fight the predicted metagame of Mardu, W/U Flash, and Aetherworks Marvel. He could end up on Mardu Vehicles himself, but I take this man for a Spell Queller kind of guy.
Standard: Esper Aggro
Next up is Jim's testing partner. This will be Andrew's first Players' Championship, which makes me think we will stay close to the vest when it comes to Legacy and Modern. He's spent plenty of time mastering his two archetypes, and I believe he will feel underprepared if he switched off them. The only way he would do so is if he and Jim have been working on something for a while now, but that's always difficult to do when the metagame isn't solidified.
I'm going to have to put him also on playing Esper Aggro. He did go against the Guru grain by playing Aetherworks at the last #SCGINVI, but I truly believe Esper Aggro is a great deck for the weekend. He will either be too scared to play Aetherworks because of this or eager to dispatch those who want to spin the Aether wheel.
Standard: Esper Aggro
Being a Metagame Guru didn't stop Kevin from looking elsewhere for testing. He ended up working with Brad Carpenter for this event. Look, I do my homework! Kevin will most likely be The Daddy he is and not learn many new tricks, like old men do. He will most likely spend his time with Brad reviewing their metagame predictions to properly evaluate the best strategies or sideboard slots. If Spell Queller weren't so well-positioned, I could see him doing something drastic, but the card's great and The Daddy loves it!
Legacy: Delver Variant
Modern: Grixis Delver
Standard: Esper Aggro or W/U Flash Variant
Now, this is going to be Brad's first run at the Players' Championship. He came out strong this season to get his slot after grinding most the year. I know the man wants it and isn't going to get lazy right here at the end.
I don't have too much data on him in Legacy, but I do know he has played both Infect and Colorless Eldrazi. Now, Infect seems like a deck many players in the field have piloted, which makes me believe some of them will move off this deck. I don't actually know how good it is in an open Legacy metagame, but one thing I'm certain of is its difficulty in the Delver matchup. Last year, six players showed up with some form of Delver, and we could easily see that be the case again. I honestly predict only two to three will show up this time, given how badly it was targeted last year, but that's easy to say coming from someone who doesn't fear the matchup. Bradley would as an Infect player, which makes me believe he will switch back to Colorless Eldrazi.
Legacy: Colorless Eldrazi
Part of me wants to believe he won't be playing Infect in Modern, but logic states the opposite. It's just really hard to not prepare for Infect in Modern when, again, many of the participants have religiously played the archetype. It will still be a deck in the event even if 50% of those who play it bring something else. Given how much Infect Brad has played as of late, and how highly he speaks of it, I just have to put him on it.
Now this brings us to the first tough pick for Standard. It's difficult because the format is in flux at the moment. Many eyes will be on this event to give people a better understanding of the format, but it will most likely be an inbred one. You see, Aetherworks Marvel put on a clinic on how to beat the boogeyman that is B/G Delirium last weekend all around the world. You could see people running that strategy back at the Players' Championship to crush it again. The only problem is that barely anyone in the field has played B/G Delirium at all! I'm also one of those players who has shown time after time to be someone who likes to metagame for tournaments like this. I may have been playing the same decks more than usual, but that doesn't mean you can just put me on playing B/G Delirium. If players don't bring B/G Delirium, then what are they hating out of the metagame with Aetherworks Marvel?
Well, that answer is Mardu Vehicles and Esper Aggro. W/U Flash proved to also be bad last weekend as every Aetherworks Marvel player showed off how the deck could beat the W/U menace. The only decks to stand up to the energized strategy were Esper Aggro and Mardu Vehicles, two decks that have a tough B/G Delirium matchup but a decent Aetherworks one. Now, without much B/G Delirium, Control could also show back up to fight through this specific metagame, but I've yet to find a working list.
All of this makes me believe that most players in the field will either play Mardu Vehicles, Esper Aggro, or Aetherworks Marvel in some variety. A few might brew, but that seems risky given how proactive this format is.
Due to Brad working with Kevin Jones, I highly doubt he will play Aetherworks Marvel, knowing The Daddy will be on a Spell Queller deck. This makes me think he will lean towards going with Kevin Jones and playing the same deck, or possibly playing Mardu Vehicles.
Standard: Esper Aggro/Mardu Vehicles
Andrew will be tough to pin down for this event. I expect him to be a creature of habit, but his tournament results this past year are few and far between while also happening with a variety of decks. I'm just going to have to give this man some cold reads and move on with my life.
Legacy: Shardless Sultai
Standard: Mardu Vehicles
Next up is a man full of energy! He was on a mission at the last #SCGINVI and went above and beyond. Now, will he keep that momentum or rest on his laurels? Only time will tell!
Jacob is known to be a Storm player, but the deck just isn't that good right now. He recently played around with Miracles, and if I know one thing about Miracles, it's that once you learn the deck, you stick with it. I just have to put him on this for the weekend.
Modern: Dredge. It would be stupid for him not to play Dredge at this point.
I've had many debates about Jacob's Standard preferences with Todd Anderson. He believes that Jacob will continue playing Naya Aetherworks, given his amazing finish at the #SCGINVI. I don't. I believe Jacob and the rest of Team Cardhoarder are higher on metagaming in current Standard than they are on Aetherworks Marvel. I think he will switch things up.
You see, you have a lot of power when you know people have to respect your deck choice. For example, I don't think I can play B/G Delirium this weekend, given there are a handful of players who have played Aetherworks Marvel. It's not a matchup I want to lose, since one match loss in Standard ends it all. It would be like losing to an on-the-battlefield trick. Jacob can make players like me exhaust some of my resources in deck selection on hating out Aetherworks and not even play it! He could even show up with B/G Delirium if he has a read that very few players will be on Aetherworks and run the tables on Sunday by playing against Thraben Inspector after Thraben Inspector. Who knows! I just think he will not be on Level 1 for this format.
Now, I don't think anyone will have the guts to play B/G Delirium, even if it will be well-positioned against over 50% of the field. It's just way too risky. I think he will give the beats with one of the format's best decks.
Standard: Mardu Vehicles
Given Max's qualification came from an #SCGINVI win, I have very little data on him. My best guess is this.
Legacy: Grixis Delver
Standard: Mardu Vehicles
The same goes for Invitational winner Liam Lonergan.
Legacy: Reanimator/Sneak and Show, or some other non-combat combo
Standard: Aetherworks Marvel Variant
The man made good on his word. I met Todd Stevens last year at an Open and one of the first things he said to me was that he would be making a run for the 2016 Players' Championship. At the time, I thought it was weird to have that a part of a personal introduction, but the man was all business back then, as he is now. He got himself qualified, just like he said he would!
Todd's played Infect in Legacy before, but I don't think he will continue down this road. For some unknown reason, I want to put him on Colorless Eldrazi. I think that's because he will put away his celestial bodies in Modern to bash face with the interdimensional beings in Modern as well.
Legacy: Colorless Eldrazi
Modern: Bant Eldrazi
I might be trying to get into Todd's mind a little bit too much here, but I honestly believe Todd will continue to lean on power to get the job done. There are a lot of good players in this event, and Todd is a smart enough guy to manipulate his card choices to give himself the best chance to win. I don't think there will be much finesse in his deck choice here, and he will call upon the almighty Eldrazi thrice to make him the Players' Champion.
Standard: Aetherworks Marvel
Ah, Jeff Hoogland. He's one of a kind, and likes it that way. Jeff plays some crazy decks and is known to self-sabotage without even knowing it. He loves his goofy decks and sometimes still wins with them regardless of logic or reason. He does him, and we praise him for it!
It's difficult to put him on anything but Mono-Red Sneak Attack in Legacy. I know he's played many different decks in the past, but he's taken a liking to this one. Since he has to dedicate a lot of time on Standard, given he was also a B/G Delirium guy, I think he might just stay close to home in Legacy and Modern, given he can win with just about anything anyway!
Legacy: Mono-Red Sneak Attack
Modern: Kiki Chord
Jeff's going to be a loose cannon in Standard. And by that, I mean he's probably going to play B/G Delirium. I know I've been saying it will probably end up losing to Aetherworks at some point on Day 2, but Jeff knows that could happen to anyone. I believe he will identify that B/G Delirium will prey on anyone trying to hate out Aetherworks Marvel and that the feared Aetherworks deck might not even be that good of a choice for the event. It's a risky line, but if anyone's going to take it, it would be Jeff Hoogland!
Standard: B/G Delirium
This article's already going long.
Legacy: Miracles. The. End.
Joe loves himself some Tron lands, and right now they don't even seem that bad. There are two to three people who could end up playing Dredge, but also two to three that could play Infect as well. Going white over red has given the deck a better chance to beat Infect, and the deck has a good Dredge matchup already. Last year Joe took a risky line and played Burn, which is something I don't see him doing again. Given his range, I just have to put him on the big-mana deck once again.
Modern: G/W Tron
Again, it's difficult to peg a deck in Standard for Joe. He likes control, can identify a drop in B/G Delirium, and can construct a deck to beat Aetherworks Marvel and Smuggler's Copter. I really do believe he will be on some sort of Torrential Gearhulk deck, and think it will be great. Sadly, I disagree and think control is just bad. It was once great when Aetherworks Marvel decks sucked, but now they don't look half bad and can grind through a bunch of counters with some of their own!
Standard: Jeskai or U/R Control
This will be Caleb's second time back to the Players' Championship. He made a run last year but fell short in the end. I think he will be looking for a better finish this time around and has his eyes on first place to validate his hard-fought year on the SCG Tour®.
He's a creature of habit in Legacy, and it would be wrong of me not to put him on the only deck he plays.
Modern is a different story. He used to play Affinity all the time, and even showed up with it last year when we all expected it. He has a “beat me” mentality, which I respect. The only problem with that in Modern: Affinity is beaten. The format has turned against it, and both Dredge and Infect have the robots covered, so much so that we saw Caleb winning a Classic a few weeks back with Dredge. Will he stay on Dredge? Most likely yes. He might not be able to play Affinity anymore, but that doesn't mean he can't find other degenerate and tiny creatures to throw into combat!
I don't have a lot of data on Caleb in Standard, and the last piece of information doesn't really help. He did play B/G Delirium at one point, but I don't think he wants to fight the losing battle that is Aetherworks Marvel. I put him on targeting the deck more than playing it himself, which makes me believe he will be on Mardu Vehicles. It fits his style nicely.
Standard: Mardu Vehicles
Four of us in Roanoke qualified for the Players' Championship this go-around. Last year there were three of us, which in the end seemed like too many to be working together as is. Four would just be complicated, being 25% of the field. We broke off into two camps, one consisting of me and Todd Anderson, and the other Tom and Gerry. That's why I have to make predictions on them as well!
Gerry loves himself some Shardless Sultai. It's his baby, and when push comes to shove, he plays this deck. I see no reason why things would change.
Legacy: Shardless Sultai
I haven't seen Gerry play Modern in a while, which is why I'm split on a choice for him. Part of me thinks he will bring something off-the-wall, and the other predicts he will play something he knows and likes. So my two options are either U/R Battle Rage or Grixis Control. I'm leaning on the former.
Modern: U/R Battle Rage
All I know for Standard is Gerry won't play B/G Delirium and has had poor results with Mardu Vehicles. I know he likes Spell Queller but didn't like W/U Flash. That makes me think he might go down the Esper Aggro road and play something similar to that. I don't see him trying to win this tournament with Aetherworks Marvel. He's going down countering spells!
Standard: Esper Aggro
The Boss does what the Boss wants. Usually he gets away with it, too! Well, not at the Players' Championship at least. He's been burned by his narrow range a time or two at this event in the past, which is why I think he will deviate a little. In Legacy he does seem rather pigeonholed into playing Infect, but he should predict a hateful metagame given how many others have also played the deck. Last year, people came prepared for the deck but were surprised by his swap to Death and Taxes. Will he make a bold switch again? Can he, without me guiding his decisions in this format? I guess we will wait and see. If he doesn't play Infect, I could see him playing Mono-Black Pox, but only a crazy person would do that.
Tom's love for Infect in Modern has to be dwindling. We already saw him opt out of playing it at the past few Opens, all three times making Top 8. He went back to the old hat for the Invitational but did not do well with it. That means he will most likely play either Dredge or G/W Tron. I think the safer call would be the deck he won the Open, with since there shouldn't be any Blood Moons in the event if he knows Todd Stevens well enough to predict his switch away from W/R Prison.
Modern: G/W Tron
I guess you just have to put Tom on playing Humans? I mean, I didn't think the deck was good last season, but he proved me wrong. With his results, at least. Lately he has continued this trend with W/B Humans, but I still don't even know if the deck's real. I guess he did well with it at the Invitational but lacked the follow-through in the Open the next day. It's honestly impossible to predict he moves off the deck, but if he does, I think he will stay in the white-based aggressive spectrum of decks.
Standard: W/B Humans
By my count, that's fourteen people and 42 deck predictions. Odds are I am wrong on at least 20 of those called shots, but that's how metagaming works. I'll use these as a guiding light but still prepare for some crazy outliers.
I'll also enjoy coming back to this article next week to find out how wrong I probably am.
Regardless, the Players' Championship is this weekend, and I can't wait to be a part of it once more. I hope you are tuning in to see if I can become the first and last Players' Champion! Or, if you are into things like this, see if Jim Davis ruins my chances once more.