The stage is set, and it's time for business! The SCG Season One Invitational is only one week away, and unlike at the last Invitational in Atlanta at the back end of 2016, I've got a lot more riding on it than I did before!
In the past two events I've managed to finish fifteenth and fourteenth, earning twenty Open points. That being said, Todd Stevens has managed to not only make the elimination rounds of both of those events, but actually win one of them! It's a difficult position to be in at times, as I constantly find myself rooting both for and against Todd Stevens, since he's my friend and I couldn't be happier to see him do well, but I also know we're in a heated race where every point counts! Going into this Invitational, it's going to be all or nothing, as everything we've both worked for is on the line and every round is going to be a sweat.
Going into the Invitational, we've been given a gift. For a long time now, Standard has been one of the formats I've least been excited about playing. As I discussed last week, the banning of Aetherworks Marvel has given us a second…maybe third….okay, fourth chance at a healthy format. I for one am ecstatic to dust off some cards that have been sitting on my brewer's shelf for too long.
Let's get the obvious out of the way with the best-performing deck that has been left almost untouched the past year and will likely show up in large numbers next week.
Say hello to Public Enemy Number One going into the Invitational. If you're not ready to fight the aggressive starts of Mardu Vehicles and have a plan for if they transform into a midrange/control deck post-sideboarding, you might as well stay home.
I don't think there's much to be said about this deck that hasn't been said countless times in the past several months. It combines the most aggressive and punishing starts Standard has to offer with the best removal the format has to offer. Aside from Smuggler's Copter, this deck has not had a single card taken away from it and it remains the driving force in the metagame and will continue to do so until Gideon, Ally of Zendikar has left us for good.
Next on the list of things to be ready for is a trio of decks I believe to be right on the heels of Mardu Vehicles in terms of power, with strengths and weaknesses to each of them.
- 4 Bristling Hydra
- 4 Glorybringer
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 3 Whirler Virtuoso
- 3 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 2 Tireless Tracker
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 3 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
- 4 Metallic Mimic
- 4 Cryptbreaker
- 4 Diregraf Colossus
- 4 Dread Wanderer
- 4 Lord of the Accursed
- 4 Relentless Dead
Zombies, Winding Constrictor, and Glorybringer all have been given the window they need to have their time to shine in Standard. I don't believe anyone could fault you if you decide to bring any one of these four decks I've mentioned so far to the Invitational. The format has truly opened up in the past few weeks and Magic Online has certainly showcased that.
So there you have it: play Mardu Vehicles, Zombies, Temur Energy, or B/G Constrictor. That's all I have for you this week! See ya!
Okay, I lied.
We're just scratching the surface here. Those four decks are certainly front-runners for the trophy hunters on Magic Online, but there's way more to the format than that. We as a community shouted at the top of our lungs to have Aetherworks Marvel removed from the format to increase diversity, and I think the Invitational will deliver!
I'm going to start with my pet deck and current version of the Delirium strategy I'm sure every opponent I sit across will put me on as we sit down.
- 1 Noxious Gearhulk
- 1 Walking Ballista
- 4 Grim Flayer
- 1 Manglehorn
- 3 Tireless Tracker
- 1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
- 3 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
If there's a deck I've become known for this year, this is it. My love affair with Delirium is something I can't explain; it's just everything I enjoy about Magic all rolled up into one beautiful Traverse the Ulvenwald package! This is where my head currently is and I'd like to go over some of the notable card choices first.
These two removal spells have been among the biggest draws to playing black mana in your deck.
Right now I'm giving the nod to the versatility Grasp of Darkness over the efficiency of Fatal Push. If you look at the decks I mentioned being the defining pieces to the Standard puzzle, you'll see the inclusion of certain threats that Grasp of Darkness can handle that Fatal Push can't. If you've ever died to an Archange Avacyn or a Glorybringer while staring at a Fatal Push in your hand, you know my pain. We're living in a world where the five drops reign supreme in part due to their immunity to Fatal Push. Not only that, but cards such as Whirler Virtuoso, Tireless Tracker, Thalia, Heretic Cathar, Lord of the Accursed and in certain situations even Torrential Gearhulk all have the upper hand against Fatal Push, where Grasp of Darkness just ends them. Yes, you're giving up some efficiency, but the return you get on what you're putting in can make all the difference.
All of these cards occupy the same slot in a deck like this, and time and time again, whether they should or shouldn't be included in a deck like this varies. Mindwrack Demon has the upside of challenging Gideon, Ally of Zendikar; Heart of Kiran; Glorybringer; and Archangel Avacyn while fueling your Delirium plans. If raw stats are what you're after, then there's almost no better singular creature in the format.
Gonti, Lord of Luxury is infinite. People ask me what the best card in the Delirium or B/G mirror is and I'll often snap off Gonti, Lord of Luxury. With the recursion that Liliana, the Last Hope gives the deck and Gonti, Lord of Luxury being able to effectively draw cards from the opponent's deck that you'd often find in your own deck, you'll be able to grind any opponent to the dust.
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is a metagame call. If you expect a lot of Zombies, then this is the four-drop you're looking for. The significant disadvantage a card like this offers is that with Glorybringer seeing a lot more play, it just gets demolished by Glorybringer's Exert ability, leaving you in a tempo hole I'm not sure anyone can come back from. All in all, I think the Lord of Luxury is the best place to be, with some sideboard assistance from Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet for when the time calls for it.
Even with this deck being what I've played the most over the past year and had the most success with, there might be something better! The state of Standard seems to be highly exploitable since every deck follows a very similar plan of creatures, removal, and planeswalkers, which honestly can be quite boring. I'm in need of something big, metal, and cheap, maybe even free?
I played a Metalwork Colossus deck on release weekend for Kaladesh and it was one of the most fun events I've ever played in because of it. The looks on my opponents' faces as I produced over thirty power on the fifth turn of the game while gunning down their best creature with a Skysovereign, Consul Flagship is something I'll not soon forget.
Since the printing of Metalwork Colossus, I've tried breaking the deck every time a new set comes out. Every time it seems to have fallen prey to the boogeyman, Emrakul, the Promised End or Felidar Guardian or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Now, with its natural enemies having been sent into exile, this deck might be good enough to take an unrespecting tournament field by storm.
The obvious bane of this deck is Dispossess, which can remove every copy of Metalwork Colossus from your library, nearly crippling your entire deck in one blow. While I recognize this weakness, there's also much that can be done about it. I don't believe that bringing in counterspells to fight the issue is the correct line in this fight; simply diversifying your threats is. Herald of Anguish is a devastating threat that attacks the battlefield, the hand, and the life total while remaining invulnerable to the common answers such as Glorybringer.
The long-forgotten stellar sideboard card Kozilek's Return is exactly the hole in the format I'm looking to exploit. I did say that the top several decks were a general mix of creatures, removal, and planeswalkers, and if that's all that's going on, then I want to be the one casting Elder Deep-Fiend and "flashing back" Kozilek's Return at instant speed, wiping problematic cards like Bristling Hydra, Glorybringer, and even my precious Ishkanah, Grafwidow and all her babies. While the deck only plays one copy of Elder Deep-Fiend and that's our only means of utilizing the powerful Devoid instant from our graveyard, between the four Sanctum of Ugins that are triggered typically to chain many Metalwork Colossuses together, we can find the Eldrazi Octopus in a pinch.
Early versions of this deck have included the cost reduction creature Foundry Inspector, but I've found it's more of a liability than a strength. With cards like Magma Spray, Grasp of Darkness, and Harnessed Lightning seeing as much play as they do, I'd rather leave a creature that can end up just being a waste of three mana on the sidelines. I do understand that, if left unchecked, Foundry Inspector can run away with a game like no other card in a Metalwork Colossus deck can; I just don't believe the risk of losing all the tempo you do if they're able to remove said creature for one or two mana is worth the risk.
With six of the deck's lands doubling as super-high-impact threats, it has a very consistent gameplan that few decks are ready for. Sideboarding is still a difficult task for this deck because it's a critical mass deck that requires all of its interlocking pieces to do much of anything. This deck often does only very light sideboarding, and the cards you bring in have to be extremely relevant in the matchup to warrant inclusion.
A deck like this has long since been dismissed, as there have always been better options for a deck that needs things to go somewhat right for it in order to function, but there can certainly be a perfect storm of things that can happen to make any deck right for any given weekend. While I'm not sold on any deck yet, Metalwork Colossus is a deck I'm strongly considering in a sort of Hail Mary attempt to crush the Standard portion of the Invitational.
The SCG Tour® Season One Invitational is just a week away, and there's still much to explore in this thriving Standard format. With the daunting task of overtaking Todd Stevens in the points race, I've got my work cut out for me this time.