[Welcome to another edition of Over/Under! We've challenged Brad Nelson and Ross Merriam to take the "over" or "under" on five numbers heading into the SCG Season Two Invitational. Read their responses and cast your votes!]
Percentage of Invitational Day 2 Standard Decks That Are Temur Energy (or Temur Energy Splashing Black for The Scarab God: 50%
Ross Merriam: Under. I'm expecting Temur Energy to clock in around 35-40% of Day 2, so this line is close. I wouldn't be too surprised to see it eclipse the 50% mark, but there is a large contingent of players, even in the competitive community that comprises the field at an Invitational, that just don't like playing the best deck. They either don't like the style of it, don't feel comfortable piloting the mirror several times over the event, or prefer to defeat rather than join the dark side.
That contingent has suppressed the numbers of all best decks in Magic's history, and as far as I can recall, the only deck that achieved above 50% was Caw-Blade, aka the best Standard deck in the recent history of Magic.
There's also the potential for players who play a non-Temur deck to sneak into Day 2 on the backs of their Modern performances and strong Temur pilots to crash and burn on the backs of their Modern decks. The split format has a way of diversifying the metagame, as the cream of each format doesn't rise to the top as quickly.
Temur is the best deck and is historically dominant, but it has its limits.
Brad Nelson: Under. Given this is a split-format event, it's difficult to put the number that high, even though I know this may very well be the densest field of Temur Energy variants we've yet seen. If there weren't any Modern thrown into the mix, it may have been a tougher decision, but on top of that, many big names on the SCG Tour® love to be original. Take Brennan DeCandio and his "support staff Energy" Grixis Midrange deck he's been sporting lately. It's just too likely the number is below 50%.
Copies of Spirebluff Canal Across the Invitational Standard and Modern Top 8s: 22.5
Ross Merriam: Under. This would be a lot closer if the control decks in Modern played Spirebluff Canal, but they supplement their fetchlands and shocklands with Sulfur Falls. That leaves Storm as the way to get the number up in Modern.
In Standard, Temur Energy decks only play three Spirebluff Canals, not the full set, with some Four-Color lists trimming to two. Taking this into account, we would need five or more Temur decks in the Top 8 alongside two Storm decks, and that just seems like too much to ask for, especially the latter with how diverse Modern is.
Brad Nelson: Under. This would be closer if Blue Moon in Modern played any copies, as I believe that deck will do well this weekend. Outside of that, there really aren't many major decks in Modern that play it outside of U/R Gifts Storm. I predict at least one of this combo deck to Top 8, and five Temur Energy decks in Standard. That yields slightly under 22.5 copies.
Number of Invitational Modern Top 8 Decks That Will Have at Least One of Thoughtseize, Serum Visions, or Path to Exile: 7.5
Ross Merriam: Under. What decks in Modern have none of these cards? Most Tron variants (some G/B lists sideboard Thoughtseize), some Affinity lists (most sideboard Thoughtseize), some Burn lists (most have Path to Exile in the sideboard), Humans, Scapeshift, and most Dredge lists. I'll be as generous as possible and include any lists that have at least one copy of any of the cards in their 75 to include all those that sideboard them, and in doing so, it looks like there's a good chance of having all the Top 8 decks meet the criterion.
This is another very close one, but I'm going to say one of these decks sneaks in, especially Humans, which has become quite popular as of late.
Brad Nelson: Under. These cards will for sure be in full effect this weekend, but big mana may also end up making a comeback this weekend. Mono-Green Tron and Scapeshift seem like great choices, and even Eldrazi Tron continues to be popular even without a great place in the metagame. Since these decks don't run any of these cards, I predict the number to be closer to six decks having one or more of these three Modern Staples.
Odds That the Invitational Top 8 Modern Decks Will Contain Zero Tarmogoyfs and Zero Lightning Bolts: 30%
Ross Merriam: Under. For several years, Tarmogoyf and Lightning Bolt were among the best cards in the format. How the mighty have fallen. Fatal Push now reigns supreme and that makes Tarmogoyf a lot easier to answer than it was before. Honestly, I think we're at a point where the card just isn't that good, so I wouldn't be at all surprised to see zero copies in the Top 8.
But Lightning Bolt is another question. Jeskai Control is among the most successful and popular decks around and Blue Moon with the Through the Breach / Emrakul, the Aeons Torn kill has been gaining steam online. The rise of Spell Queller, Counters Company, and Humans, alongside Storm being a combo deck that relies on cheap creatures, has made Lightning Bolt's stock rebound. Grixis Death's Shadow lists are even starting to incorporate the card in small numbers.
I'm going under on this one solely on the back of Lightning Bolt. You can't keep a good burn spell down for too long.
Brad Nelson: Under. Now, I don't think either of these cards is that well-positioned for the weekend, but decks that need these cards are. U/R Gifts Storm plays Lightning Bolt in the sideboard to deal with annoying creatures, Blue Moon has them in the maindeck to slow down assaults, and even Grixis Death's Shadow may run a single copy because sometimes you just need to feel. Tarmogoyf decks are just always around, so one to two copies tend to sneak their way into Top 8s.
Number of SCG Points Todd Stevens Will Finish the Year With: 243.5
Ross Merriam: Over. Let's just take a minute to appreciate what Todd Stevens has accomplished this year. I first met Todd right after I moved to Roanoke when he stayed with our crew for an Open in Columbus. I honestly didn't know who he was but learned he was dedicated to making a name for himself on the SCG Tour®, flying to nearly every Open from Texas. Since he'd only started a few months prior, I figured it would be a while before he leveled up to start competing consistently.
He made the Top 8 of that Open. Then again the following week. He became a fixture on the Tour that year and this year he's leveled up another time and started dominating it. The guy has made Top 8 in over half the Modern SCG Tour® events he played this year, and that includes a Team Constructed Open where he went 9-0 on Day 1 and his team failed to make Day 2. It's simply ridiculous and more than deserved, given how much work Todd has put in to improve his game and prepare for tournaments.
Todd sits at 224 points right now, so he needs a Top 16 finish to get the over. This is going to be a smaller Invitational than we've seen in a while, so a strong Modern performance can easily carry him through a mediocre Standard finish, and the guy just doesn't lose in Modern. I'm not going to bet against him.
Brad Nelson: Under. The number given means Todd Stevens would finish in the Top 16. Now, I have nothing against Todd Stevens by answering the way I did. It's just difficult to say anyone will make the Top 16 of an event as difficult as this one. I don't even put my own chances of doing this that highly. Things have to go right on top of playing good Magic. I will, however, take this time and platform to congratulate Todd Stevens on his accomplishment.
No matter what you do in life, being the best at it is an incredible feeling, and significant honor. Three years ago, Todd set his mind to qualifying for the Players' Championship, and a year later he did that. After that he set his mind to topping the SCG Tour® leaderboard, and he accomplished that even before the final tournament started.
He did all this without already being a world-class player or a natural savant at his craft. He did it by using self-awareness, dedication, and a positive attitude. He didn't get discouraged when things went poorly, but instead used those moments for personal growth. He learned from every experience and set out to create a foundation to grow from. In the end he accomplished his goals, but also stayed humble and hungry for the next challenge. He's someone you can learn from. He's someone I can learn from.
Odds Ross Merriam Makes Day 2: 0%
Brad Nelson: Push.