2018 on the SCG Tour® kicks off with one of the most popular stops in SCG history. The Midwest never fails to pack the house and bring together some of the strongest players on the SCG Tour®. Modern is the name of the game this weekend, showcasing the most popular and diverse format in Magic.
Modern is a deep format with decks all across the spectrum of archetypes. Combo, control, prison, aggro, big mana/ramp, and midrange are all represented at the top of the format. From U/R Gifts Storm, Counters Company, Lantern Control, Jeskai Control, Grixis Death's Shadow, Humans, Affinity, Jund/Abzan, Tron, and Scapeshift - each archetype has a strong contender (or two) to take down an event. In fact, since October, U/R Gifts
Despite the best decks being known quantities, fringe strategies still show up in great numbers and break through to Top 8s on a regular basis. Decks like Lantern Control and Humans were once considered rogue and have become format regulars. Can decks like U/G Merfolk, U/R Breach, 8-Rack, and G/R Devotion cement themselves in the format as well?
Players to Watch
Teams have been popping up across competitive Magic over the past couple years and 2018 is no different. Team BCW will debut this weekend in Columbus, bringing together five SCG Tour® regulars, including 2017 SCG Tour® Player of the Year Todd Stevens.
Few players have made the progress Stevens has in the last two years, going from an unknown to a two-time Open winner, popular Magic streamer, and the latest SCG Tour® Player of the Year. Stevens put up seven Open Top 8s (four individual, three team) taking down the Charlotte Modern Open in June with Eldrazi Tron and the Team Open in July alongside Tom Ross and Jody Keith. His results came from doing things his own way and doing them in the Modern format where all of his Top 8s came from. What will happen when he combines forces with some of the most successful players on the SCG Tour®?
If Todd Stevens is the Modern specialist on the team, Brennan DeCandio is definitely the Standard master. DeCandio won back-to-back Standard Opens to end 2016 and start 2017 and his four Top 8s in 2017 all came from playing Standard - both Individual and Team events. Just like Stevens, DeCandio isn't afraid to bring a rogue deck to a tournament and often showcases his knowledge of the format with his deckbuilding decisions. With a lack of Standard Opens in the first half of 2018, can DeCandio replicate his success from 2017?
With the Standard and Modern specialists already listed, Legacy is up next with Tannon Grace. Though he has chops in the other formats, Grace's success in 2017 came from handling Legacy responsibilities in Team Opens. Grace made Team Open Top 8s in Louisville with DeCandio and Stevens and in Atlanta with Kevin Jones and Harlan Firer. With four Team Opens and a Legacy Open in the first half of 2018, Grace will have plenty of events in his best format to start the year.
Ross Merriam is a longtime SCG Tour® grinder, piling up 19 Open Top 8s and four wins over the years across all three formats. While Merriam had a light year in 2017, playing just seven Opens (with two Top 8s), he will be at many more this year as part of Team BCW. While Merriam hasn't grouped up with a team before, his analytical mind and methodical play will come in handy. With eight Top 8s in the two-day Open era, Merriam could join Tom Ross, Stevens, and Todd Anderson as the fourth player to reach double-digits since the shift to two-day Opens at the end of 2014.
Rounding out Team BCW is the 2015 Players' Champion and former captain of Team MGG, Jim Davis. Davis is another longtime SCG Tour® player, totaling 13 Open Top 8s (two wins) and three Invitational Top 8s to go alongside his PC win in 2015. Davis will be the most used to a team dynamic after leading Team MGG for a year and half and saw plenty of success come from the organization over that time. While he hasn't teamed with his new squad before, Davis is no stranger to seeing and playing all four of his new teammates over the years.
On top of hitting every SCG Tour® stop, Team BCW will also be hosting challenge events at local game stores the Friday night before Opens, where players can play against the team for prizes, meet the players, and take pictures. Team BCW will be at Comic Town this Friday. Follow the team on Twitter at @Team_BCW to find their challenge events, streaming schedules, giveaways, and more.
Columbus is a perennial Top 3 option in the SCG Tour® food power rankings. Not only is there great food, but many of the choices are a quick walk from the venue. Here are some of my favorites.
The Columbus North Market is hands-down the best option for lunch. Only a couple minutes from the Greater Columbus Convention Center, no matter what type of food you're in the market for you can find it here. Indian, Mexican, Vietnamese, Polish, Italian, the list never ends. The North Market has coffees, teas, donuts, and desserts all available as well with quick enough service to grab something between rounds. My personal favorite is the barbecue stylings of Market & Boar. Get some pork shoulder, brisket, cheesy potatoes, and any other side dish for that matter and you'll be all set. I even grab a bottle of the barbecue sauce to take home.
Another option right across the street from the venue, Barley's used to be the only place I'd consider for dinner on my first trips to Columbus. I've since discovered many delicious options in the area, but will usually make sure I hit Barley's once (and the barcade right above it). Barley's offers some of the best pub food along with handcrafted ales brewed on location. Over the years I've tried most of the menu and have never been disappointed. For my recommendations, check out Mildred's Sauerkraut Balls as an appetizer, The Clevelander for a burger option, or the Pierogi and Sausage dinner entree.
When I first heard of Melt, I wasn't impressed. Who wants to go out to eat a grilled cheese sandwich? Then I took a look at the menu and some friends filled me in on the details. These aren't your usual grilled cheese sandwiches you slap together in the kitchen. Melt finds a way to put your favorite meals between two slices of Texas Toast. Chicken parmesan? Mom's meatloaf? Korean barbecue? Chicken and waffles? All of these and more are on the menu and will leave you full and happy. My favorite is The Dude Abides, which combines homemade meatballs, fried mozzarella wedges, basil marinara, roasted garlic, provolone and romano. It really ties the whole meal together.
You're going to need a quick Uber to get to the Thurman Caf, but it is definitely worth the trip. When I think of the best cheeseburger I've ever had, The Thurman Cafe is always in the discussion. There are other options than burgers, but I don't know anyone who has had the strength to get away from their famous burgers. I recommend the Western Burger and the Hawaiian Burger. They also have an awesome drinks menu, which I've frequented as I often hit up the Thurman Cafe on Sunday nights following the end of the tournament.
Flat Iron is a fantastic bar and diner in the heart of downtown Columbus offering American cuisine. The landmark building is impossible to miss - as is their unique lunch and dinner menus. I tend to gravitate toward their Flatiron Fried Chicken or the Pulled Pork Platter, though I couldn't blame you if favor the steak with a new preparation every day. Flat Iron is also across the street from the venue so it makes a great choice for those tired after a long day of battling.
As usual, live coverage of #SCGCOL starts at 10:30 a.m. ET on Twitch.tv/SCGTour with Round 1. I'll be joined this weekend with Cedric Phillips and Patrick Sullivan calling all the action. Day 2 begins at 10 a.m. on Sunday, starting with Round 10 of the Swiss.