#SCGBALT approaches, and its unique format is one that many players have been looking forward to for a long time.
This is an idea both I and many others have been pushing for and I couldn't be more excited that it is finally here. Team events are some of the most fun you can have playing Magic, and nothing is better than dragging two old friends out of retirement to battle! (More on that later.)
Not only do we get to play alongside two friends, but we also get to battle in all three of the major Constructed formats at the same time! Crotchety Old Frankie and his foiled-out, triple-sleeved Miracles deck can sit on one side, while New Player Billy and his netdeck of the Pro Tour-winning Mardu Vehicles deck can sit on the other. Getting to see all three formats in action at the same is a rare sight and is going to be a very awesome experience.
What's even more exciting is how much room Modern and Legacy have had to grow in the last few months. Most of the big events have been focused on Standard with Aether Revolt now legal, but Aether Revolt is one of the most impactful sets for Eternal formats in a long time. Aether Revolt, coupled with the impactful cards from the most recent Commander release like Leovold, Emissary of Trest in Legacy, will have major impact on two formats that don't often change that much.
Today we are going to look at one powerful and off-the-radar deck for each format.
Seat A – Legacy
Legacy is currently awash with fair blue decks. Miracles, Sultai Control, and Delver Decks of every variety did some serious damage at the last Legacy GP in Louisville, with Reid Duke's super-midrange Sultai Control deck coming out on top. In addition, Sultai was by far the most-represented shard at the event, with Underground Seas and Tropical Islands fueling all sorts of decks.
With the addition of Fatal Push to the format, many of these Sultai decks finally get the Lightning Bolt they have always wanted. They no longer need to play Disfigure and no longer need to play Volcanic Island to splash Lightning Bolt in their Deathrite Shaman deck. With Fatal Push now available, all of the Sultai decks improve. This creates an arms race in the mirror, where players are looking for the more powerful, over-the-top style cards to gain an edge. Reid did this in Louisville with True-Name Nemesis, Leovold, Emissary of Trest, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and this sort of plan slows the deck down overall but makes it better in mirror-style matches.
You know what deck is great against Sultai decks and even better when they try to durdle too much?
Webb has been crushing Magic Online with Burn the last few weeks, with multiple 5-0s on record.
Wait a minute, Jim, you're telling me I should sleeve up Mountains and Lava Spikes to play in a Legacy tournament where I can play Jace, the Mind Sculptor; Leovold, Emissary of Trest; or Sensei's Divining Top instead?
Yes, I am.
It's not flashy, but Burn does quite the number on the fair blue decks. Let them durdle around with True-Name Nemesis, Sylvan Library, and Ponder; we're just going to present lethal turn 3 or 4 every game in a consistent fashion that is not reliant on a single card. Force of Will is very mediocre against burn, and the only cards in the Sultai deck that really matter are Deathrite Shaman and Tarmogoyf.
Burn is also very good against any deck trying to win a fair fight. Grixis Control, Shardless Sultai, Aluren... the list goes on and on. Once people start trying to add Baleful Strix to their deck, you know you are in a good spot. Lands is another deck people turn to in order to try to fight the fair decks, and you've got four maindeck Price of Progress to give them the business.
The player in the Legacy seat at SCG Baltimore is likely going to be a Legacy specialist, and most Legacy specialists lean towards fair blue decks or Lands. There will be fewer random combo decks, which also bodes well for Burn.
There are a few things I would change about Webb's list.
Monastery Swiftspear is okay as a Goblin Guide proxy, but you shouldn't be excited about drawing a lot of them, especially with Fatal Push taking a place in the format. Searing Blaze and Sulfuric Vortex are also very powerful, as the ceiling on each card is just so high. Last, any non-Mountain land in the deck has to be viewed with extreme scrutiny, as Fireblast is one of your best cards. The upside of Barbarian Ring does not overcome the downside of not being a Mountain.
Current trends in Legacy, coupled with the unique format of SCG Baltimore, make the time right to light 'em up.
Seat B – Modern
Modern is a format in complete upheaval, with a round of bannings plus a very impactful new release in Aether Revolt causing chaos. Infect and Dredge still exist in weakened forms, all sorts of fair black decks are adopting Fatal Push, and the revolt mechanic in general is having a major impact. Ari Lax did a great job earlier this week of giving a rundown to many of the new and unique decks that have been popping up, but there is one in particular that really stands out.
Andrew Jessup played a very similar deck to the Top 8 of the MOCS recently, but that was in a post-banning, pre-Aether Revolt world. After playing many matches with the deck, he declared it the best deck of this odd in-between format and lamented that Fatal Push would likely take it down a number of notches. While it certainly loses some of its appeal with Fatal Push now legal, the deck is surprisingly resilient to the removal spell.
If the deck looks odd at first glance, that's because it is. Hybridizing the very unfair Death's Shadow deck with a more traditional Jund deck is unexpected because of how different each deck's central strategy is. Death's Shadow was a largely non-interactive deck that looked to kill as quickly as possible with a ton of cheap threats and pump spells. Jund is one of the most interactive and fair decks in the format, looking to interact with its opponent at every stage of the game.
The beautiful thing about this deck is how it manages to shore up each deck's weakness with the other's strengths.
Death's Shadow was a powerful deck, but one that both lacked interaction and was weak to decks that overloaded on removal. The deck had only four Death's Shadow, and without Death's Shadow the deck was basically just a weird Zoo deck with no removal that was heavily reliant on Become Immense plus Temur Battle Rage to close games. The deck was also weak to many sideboard cards like Chalice of the Void and Engineered Explosives, and lacked resilience.
Jund has never been “bad,” but it's often not “good” either. Jund is your stereotypical 50-50 deck; it plays a fair game, tries to disrupt, and wins eventually with its fair threats. It's never doing anything that is going to blow you away, and as such it often struggles against decks that can go over the top of it. Jund's clock is not fast enough to put away big mana decks like Tron or Scapeshift, so even if it is able to disrupt them early, it often can't finish the job.
The Death's Shadow Delirium deck solves both of these issues.
The deck is packed with interaction, with nine targeted discard spells and a bevy of different removal options. The deck can deal with a wide variety of permanents, and the discard spells can tag anything that can't be killed directly. Not many non-Jund decks can claim this amount of interaction, and years of Jund (and Abzan) being a playable deck speak to the power of discard plus removal spells in Modern.
It's not the deck's primary focus, but both Tarmogoyf and Death's Shadow are absolutely monstrous threats in this deck. The deck can easily goldfish on turn 3 or 4, and a few copies of Temur Battle Rage allow it to win games that a normal Jund deck could never dream of winning. The singleton Ghor-Clan Rampager is also brilliant, as it gives you access to a breakthrough card without needing to play a ton of copies of them. It also leads us to the glue that holds the whole deck together:
Traverse the Ulvenwald requires some work, but the payoff of a one-mana tutor is very worth it. This deck doesn't mess around with any sort of stupid toolbox, because it is interested in one thing: putting as many copies of Death's Shadow onto the battlefield as necessary to kill your opponent. Between Traverse the Ulvenwald and Kolaghan's Command, the amount of times you can cast Death's Shadow every game is very high, and it doesn't take many one-mana 7/7s to end a game in a hurry. You also get to have a small toolbox of creatures for your sideboard, which is a nice upside as well.
This deck is great, and after playing it on Magic Online I am convinced that it has legs even with Fatal Push in the format. If you like playing Jund but want to actually kill your opponent, this is the deck for you.
Seat C – Standard
Play a Winding Constrictor deck.
See everyone next week!
Standard is currently awash with all varieties of green and black Winding Constrictor decks, and while Brad Nelson may enjoy trying to figure out the stupid green creature mirror, that's not really my thing. The issue is that the resurgence of Mardu Vehicles and the overall low power level of the card draw spells beyond Glimmer of Genius at the moment is making Control a difficult choice.
So the question becomes, do you want to play G/B or Control?
How about both?
Jun Ishihara ran this Sultai Delirium deck to an 8-2 Constructed record at Pro Tour Aether Revolt, and while it needs to be updated for the post-Pro Tour metagame, it is quite interesting.
Essentially just a U/B Control deck that is splashing green for a delirium engine, the payoff is rather high. Ishkanah, Grafwidow is a fantastic card for keeping Mardu Vehicles in check, and the recursive and redundant elements of Grapple with the Past and Traverse the Ulvenwald give the deck quite the late-game. If you thought being limited to four Torrential Gearhulks was good, how about an almost limitless supply? This deck can grind with the best of them, while also adding elements that help it survive Mardu Vehicles and its relentless onslaught.
The other big payoff for delirium is being able to use To the Slaughter to its full effect. Gideon is still a huge issue for control decks, and a powered-up To the Slaughter is a huge upgrade over the mediocre Ruinous Path.
And four Grim Flayer in the sideboard for the transformative juke?
I know Valentine's Day was two days ago, but I think I'm in love.
The other big gain in the sideboard is access to artifact removal. These cheap removal spells mean the world against a deck like Mardu Vehicles, as you can play the game on your terms instead of theirs. Gaining ground against Mardu Vehicles is the current number one priority for any control deck in Standard, and if you can keep their artifacts and Gideons in check, your removal can do the rest.
This is definitely the deck I am least confident of the three decks we've looked at today, but it's also the one I am most excited about. I get to play all the awesome control cards and Tireless Tracker? Sign me up!
The best part about team events isn't the decks, though; it's the people. I'm happily dragging two old friends and stone-cold ringers out of retirement for this event, and I couldn't be more excited to battle side by side with them once again.
Max Tietze is a former SCG Tour® Invitational champion, with four more Invitational Top 8s under his belt as well as a number of GP Top 8s and good Pro Tour finishes. He's also a phenomenal guitar player. Max has been working as a computer programmer the last few years and now lives in Florida with his lovely wife Dana, their dog Baxter, and their rabbit Merlin.
Jay Imperiale was my Pro Tour travel buddy from back in the day and helped make me the Magic player I am today. Two Pro Tour Top 16s and four GP Top 8s form the bulk of his Magic resume, and he is also a very talented poker player. Jay manages the enormous National Car Rental at LaGuardia Airport and lives out on Long Island with his wife Maggie and their lovely daughter Bae.
Team events seem to bring out all the old Magic veterans, and I'm looking forward to seeing many friends in Baltimore this weekend— both old and new.
I can't wait!