This weekend marks the first Legacy Open of 2017 at #SCGWOR, and it's also going to be the first Open I've missed on the SCG Tour® in over a year and a half. This isn't the best time to pick a SCG Tour® event to miss because I recently took over the top spot on both the seasonal and overall leaderboards. Brennan DeCandio and Jim Davis are right behind me on the seasonal leaderboard, and I know they will be in attendance and are gunning for that top spot. There is a Modern StarCityGames.com® Invitational Qualifier in my home town of Denton, TX that I will be at this weekend instead, and if I do well enough at that, I'll at least be able to pick up a couple points to try to keep pace.
Since I won't be at #SCGWOR this weekend, and since Legacy isn't my strongest suit anyways, I won't write about Legacy this week and instead will be touching on all things under- and overrated!
The Amonkhet Invocation cards are amazing! I've heard plenty of negatives about them when they were first previewed last week, especially on the first day, but I love them. They are incredibly unique with breath-taking art and a gorgeous border. Just like the Kaladesh Inventions, it would be amazing to be able to open one of these in a booster pack, and I sure hope I do during the Prerelease.
It's true many of the cards don't have the same demand that previous Masterpiece Series cards have had, and won't have as high of price, but I'm planning on picking some of these up to be able to collect, even if I don't use them, because they look so nice. The only complaint I've heard about them that is reasonable is the font that was used was a pretty poor choice, and I understand that they were designed to look like Egyptian hieroglyphs, but the implementation of that choice doesn't look ideal. Even still, I think these cards are stunning and I can't wait to see them in person.
To be honest, I've never played with cards with cycling in Constructed before, and my only real experience with the ability is with Decree of Justice in Cube Draft. However, after underrating the value of Clue tokens from Shadow over Innistrad block, I'm expecting the cycling duals to be major players in Standard. They will easily be four-ofs in every on-color Standard deck, and I could even see decks that played extras of these lands for the ability of their lands to cycle, such as a U/B Control deck playing Canyon Slough or Irrigated Farmland. At a $4.99 preorder price across the board, it's a better idea to pick these up now than to wait until after Week 1, when the most popular ones will spike.
I'm expecting Hazoret the Fervent to see plenty of Standard play, and it will be a reason to play red aggro again. When I think of a four-mana, five-power, indestructible attacking creature, I get nightmares of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. We all know how dominant that card is in current Standard, and Hazoret doesn't need to be as powerful as Gideon to still be played in the format. Needing one card or fewer in hand is undeniably a downside, but there are plenty of good discard outlets and reasons to want to get cards out of your hand in the format.
Besides being a red aggro curve-topper, Hazoret could fit nicely into the current B/R Zombies shell, which was already the most underrated deck in Standard in my opinion, but it also has some of the best payoffs for emptying your hand quickly. Prized Amalgam is the perfect card to discard because of its ability to return from the graveyard to the battlefield, and Haunted Dead not only returns Amalgams but also empties our hand at a quick rate. If you really need to, you can hold priority after activating Haunted Dead's ability and activate it again, which can allow you to discard four cards for four mana.
Hazoret the Fervent does match up poorly against a couple of cards. The biggest problem is having Grasp of Darkness in the format for a few more months. Four toughness seems to be a key number in Amonkhet so far and Grasp of Darkness will be a premium removal spell. The other problem is the Saheeli Rai / Felidar Guardian combo, because emptying your hand and not having any protection against the combo is problematic. That combo may or may not be legal when Amonkhet releases, so maybe that won't be a problem.
Flameblade Adept pairs extremely well with Hazoret the Fervent, and I think the two will join forces in multiple archetypes during their time in Standard. This could include a deck in the B/R Zombies shell that I was just mentioning, or it could be in a more aggressive deck, such as G/R with cards like Noose Constrictor, Key to the City, Collective Defiance, and Fling. We haven't had a very good red aggressive deck since Monastery Swiftspear rotated out of the format, and hopefully Flameblade Adept and Hazoret the Fervent can help change that.
I really like this card, but it's probably because I have traditionally enjoyed cards that don't do much when you play them but gain small value over time. Oracle's Vault reminds me of Outpost Siege, which was a card I played a ton of when it was legal, except it is also colorless and therefore can be played in any strategy.
The biggest downside to the card compared to Outpost Siege, besides having the ability to do damage, is having to spend two mana to activate it the first three times you do. This of course means you can also activate it the turn you cast it, but spending more mana to maybe play the card from the top of your library is a big cost. Also, being an artifact is actually a downside right now in my eyes because of the amount of artifact hate in the format; for example, maindeck Natural Obsolescence is pretty common. Even still, Oracle's Vault is a valuable card that will see Standard play, and I'm currently interested in using it in an Eldrazi deck of some sort, most likely Mono-Black Eldrazi.
Glorybringer is currently being compared to Thundermaw Hellkite and Stormbreath Dragon, but although it will be pretty good, it won't be on the same level as the other two Dragons. The best thing Glorybringer has going for it right now is the ability to cleanly answer a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar the turn after Gideon comes down and makes a Knight token, but there are some other popular cards in the format that Glorybringer matches up terribly against.
Archangel Avacyn has the ability to completely blow out Glorybringer, including being able to save the creature that you exerted Glorybringer to deal damage to and then block and kill the Glorybringer. This is certainly the worst-case scenario, and if Avacyn was cast and is already on the battlefield and not transformed, then Glorybringer has the ability to come in and take out the Avacyn, so I'm expecting a game of cat and mouse to be played among the opponents with these five-mana flying creatures.
Heart of Kiran is the biggest problem, though, as you don't want your five-drop to only trade with the most popular two-drop of the format. Glorybringer can't even trade with Heart of Kiran if your opponent has a Veteran Motorist, and that just feels awful. I could see Glorybringer being paired with Always Watching to help make it larger than these two other flying creatures and be able to Exert while not tapping, but overall I think the card is getting too much hype for now.
Aven Mindcensor is a quality card in “hatebears” strategies in Modern, where there are many more reasons for players to search their libraries, but that happens much less in Standard. Attune with Aether and Traverse the Ulvenwald are two of the most heavily played cards that make you search your own library, but both of them may realistically find a target within the top four cards, even if you have an Aven Mindcensor on the battlefield.
Unfortunately for Aven Mindcensor, Walking Ballista is the most commonly played card in the format, and therefore I think it's basically impossible to play a three-mana creature with only one toughness. Look for Aven Mindcensor to stay on the bench for most of its Standard life unless something changes that significantly decreases the number of Walking Ballistas in the format.
Then there's Kefnet the Mindful, whose official translation is not yet available (it's only in Japanese so far).
Now, I could be wrong, but I'm not optimistic on Kefnet's chances of becoming a Standard staple, although its casting cost and power and toughness evoke memories of Thassa, God of the Sea. The fact is that having seven or more cards in hand in the mid- and late-game is extremely difficult, and I think an attacking or blocking Kefnet will be an anomaly. Plus, if you happen to have seven cards, either you were manascrewed and you're getting run over or you have an embarrassment of riches where you could probably win without a Kefnet on the battlefield. This also doesn't even take into consideration the numerous payoffs for discarding cards in the format, and with that, I don't think Kefnet will see much, if any, play in Standard.
Let's Talk Modern Decks
We had three decks win Grand Prix San Antonio this weekend because of the team format structure, but how good are the individual decks you ask? Let's see!
Well, indeed it is. Not only was Jund one of the three decks to win the Grand Prix, it also finished first and third in this past weekend's Magic Online Pro Tour Qualifier. BReal2 entered the Top 8 of that event as the top seed with Jund and won each match of the elimination rounds 2-0, so congrats there!
To be honest, I'm not 100% sure what suddenly changed and made Jund the deck for the weekend. It seems to have a decent Death's Shadow matchup, in theory by being able to out grind the Death's Shadow player, but in practice there is a high risk in flooding out when on 24 lands, compared to eighteen that the Death's Shadow player runs. G/X Tron decks have been on a huge decline recently, and if that holds up, then maybe traditional Jund is the spot to be in Modern, which certainly seemed to be the case last weekend.
I've been championing U/W Control in my last few articles now, and it's no surprise to me to see it win #GPSanAnt. It has plenty of tools to beat Death's Shadow decks, which are the most popular of the format, and the big mana decks like Tron are at an all-time low right now. One thing from Gregory Orange's list here that I absolutely love is having a maindeck Crucible of Worlds to go with the playset of Ghost Quarters.
Spreading Seas is also quietly one of the better cards in Modern right now and is the main reason why Merfolk is strong. I've been attacking manabases with W/R Prison, Eldrazi Tron, and G/W Company over the past couple of months, and I still think it's a strong strategy to have in Modern. If you're someone who likes control decks and wants to play one in Modern, give Gregory Orange's U/W Control a shot. I like all of the card choices in it.
- 4 Arcbound Ravager
- 4 Master of Etherium
- 2 Memnite
- 4 Ornithopter
- 4 Signal Pest
- 4 Steel Overseer
- 4 Vault Skirge
From two decks that won #GPSanAnt to the third, Affinity is my pick for the most overrated deck in Modern. It's currently one of the most-played decks, but I honestly don't think it's very good. The printing of Fatal Push has quietly hurt Affinity quite a bit by adding in an efficient, cheap removal spell into the format, making it more difficult to untap with a turn 1 Steel Overseer.
Affinity has never been a deck that I've recommended to another player to play who was looking for a new Modern deck, whether they were a new player or wanted a change of pace. I think Affinity is a difficult deck to pilot, and that it truly rewards the players who have put in the time and know the deck plus sideboarding inside and out. For a completely estimated example, if I was told that experienced pilots with Affinity have a 20% higher win-rate than newer players with the deck, I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest. So if you're an experienced Affinity pilot who knows the deck well, it's a fine choice, but other than that, I wouldn't recommend it.
Breakfast Before a Tournament
A nice fruit smoothie is the perfect way to start a tournament. It's refreshing and fills you up, but it's not too heavy that it weighs you down when you start playing. Many convention centers have smoothie stands, and although what's on sale isn't as good as a homemade smoothie, it is fast and convenient.
I'm going with bacon and sausage here, but pancakes, waffles, and French toast fit the bill as well. Eating an overly large breakfast the morning of a tournament can make you have a sluggish start to the day that ends in an early crash. I know these meats, especially bacon, are among many people's favorite breakfast foods, but when the goal is to play your best and try to win a tournament, leave the high-calorie foods aside.
That's all I got for underrated versus overrated today. I hope you had a fun time. If you're in the DFW Metroplex this weekend and wanting to play some Modern, I'll be at the StarCityGames.com® Invitational Qualifier in Denton, TX this weekend. The invitations are such an incredible value that I highly recommend trying to qualify for them, and I can't think of a better way than playing my favorite format at one of my favorite local game stores.