This weekend I'm heading up to Philadelphia for the Team Constructed Open alongside Ross Merriam and Daryl Ayers. I've been looking forward to this event for some time, since I was unable to attend Dallas because it was approximately a billion miles away (and I hate flying). Philly is a decently long drive (about six hours), but I'm much happier traveling by land than by air or sea.
While the food and friends are sure to be a big part of the experience, I'm very much looking forward to getting to play some live Magic in this post-ban Standard. Now, our finalized lineup for formats, decks, etc isn't quite complete, but today I'm going to go over the three decks that I want our team to play in our three formats. I did this before a few months back when my teammates were Tannon Grace and Brennan DeCandio, but now that there's new blood on my squad it's time to reevaluate.
Each teammate on your squad should be assigned the deck and format that best suits their strengths. On my previous team, I suggested that Brennan should play Standard, since he'd had so much success during the Grim Flayer era. Not a lot had changed since those days, as midrange green decks were still top of the heap. But instead of playing the boring ol' Temur Energy, he opted for the Grixis deck that I wrote about some last week. While I still maintain that playing anything but Temur Energy was a mistake, and especially so for someone who was so skilled in the midrange slugfests, Brennan's results in that tournament were more than fine.
On the other hand, I felt like I had to wrangle in Tannon. He always plays Grixis Delver, sure, but he also has an affinity for unplayable cards (Stifle). I had a side bet with myself that he would end up slipping some number of Stifles into his deck (he did), and would ultimately get sideboarded out a lot (because they're bad). Regardless, I accepted my team for who they were, and didn't fight them much on their card or deck choices because, truthfully, they've been playing a lot more Magic than me recently. And when in doubt, trust the people you're teaming with. Above all else, make sure they're comfortable with what they're playing in both deck and format. Tannon just so happens to be extremely comfortable playing Stifle. Which is bad.
Anyway, this go around, my buds are Ross Merriam and Daryl Ayers, two people that I've known for quite some time. Both are solid Magicians, both have their strengths and weaknesses, and it is my job as self-proclaimed Team Captain to help both of them amplify their strengths while nullifying their weaknesses.
Daryl came to me a few months back asking if I wanted to be on his team. As someone who's been looking for a solid Legacy player on my squad for a while (and specifically one that can play Lands), I was more than happy to snap him up. We've been "frienemies" for a long time, but I gotta say he's been growing on me over the last few years. I even went so far as to let him stay in my guest bedroom once (I'm a nice guy, so shut up about it).
But once I had Daryl on the hook, I knew I needed a mark to take the bullet in Modern. I just couldn't do it anymore. And I knew just the person for the job.
In my "expert" opinion, Ross sucks at Standard. He hasn't had a good Standard result in quite some time. In fact, his last four or so Open Top 8s have come in Modern. At one point last week, he offered to take up the Standard reigns, and I had to shut him down by asking him one simple question: When was the last time you did well in a Standard event?
The fact that it took him about thirty seconds to recall that event made me absolutely positive that he shouldn't be touching that format. Maybe I was being a little mean? Sure. But it's Ross. C'mon. Plus, I'm right. And that alone pushes the needle in my favor.
So without further ado, let's get to the decks that each of us should be playing this weekend.
Player: Todd Anderson
Deck: G/B Constrictor
While Mardu Vehicles was all the rage this past weekend in Dallas, I think that G/B Constrictor has the tools to dismantle it quite easily. And if you're aware of their sideboard plan to go bigger, you can sideboard in such a way that counteracts that. Yes, their sweeper effects will do some major damage, but you can counteract that with more vehicles, creatures that gain card advantage, and bombs that can end the game on their own.
I've looked over quite a few different G/B Constrictor lists, but this one is the frontrunner.
- 4 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 1 Ravenous Chupacabra
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 4 Winding Constrictor
I'm going to be spending most of my time before leaving for the tournament working on the sideboard, but the maindeck seems almost perfect. And while I might personally prefer to play more copies of Ravenous Chupacabra, I can definitely see why only one or two could be a better number. It doesn't do much against control, can't hit vehicles, and the body isn't always relevant. And without Rishkar, Peema Renegade to help make the body a bit bigger, cutting down to one or two makes a lot of sense.
The sideboard is where I'm most concerned, as I'm not exactly sure how many of each type of card I need. Do I want a ton of stuff to help beat control? What about artifacts and enchantments? Should I be more worried about aggressive decks, God-Pharaoh's Gift, or other midrange strategies? Only testing will tell.
My gut says that God-Pharaoh's Gift will be around in reasonably high numbers, so having ways to eat their graveyard (Deathgorge Scavenger), hit their hand (Duress), and destroy their marquee artifact (Naturalize) all seem fine. Plus, all three of these cards can be brought in against a variety of matchups. Naturalize is pretty sweet at helping fight Heart of Kiran and a number of other nuisances. Duress is obviously great against control and other spell-heavy decks. And Deathgorge Scavenger can gain you enough life to stay alive against Hazoret decks.
My anti-midrange package is what excites me the most, though. I love me some Gonti, Lord of Luxury (treat yo' self), and I like him even better alongside Liliana, Death's Majesty. Not only do you get to steal one of the best cards out of their top four, but the deathtouch body is hugely relevant for gumming up the ground. And while Liliana, Death's Majesty might not be as busted without Ishkanah, Grafwidow, I think you'll be able to find some ways to make your opponent's life miserable. That's what Liliana does best, after all.
Full disclosure: if I don't do well in testing over the next two days, there is a very good chance that I switch Standard decks. I don't want to make y'all think that I'm lying to you about what deck I'm playing. I might not even end up playing Standard. We're a new team, we have a new Standard format, and I just want us to have as much fun as possible. There's a lot of time left between now and when we leave for Philly, and I'm hoping to use that time wisely.
Player: Ross Merriam
Deck: Some messed up combo thing (hopefully)
Dredge? Elves? Tron? Storm?
Ross is quite good at playing fringe decks, and is also great at finding ways to attack the metagame in just the right spot. Right now, I'd wager that U/R Gifts Storm is a bit too much of a hot button to touch. People have "figured it out," so to speak, or as much as they need to keep you from winning the majority of your post-sideboard games. Elves might be a decent choice, but it's probably weak to Jeskai Control. And it's always a coin flip on whether or not you should play Dredge. It just depends on what you think you'll be playing against.
Should Ross play Humans (vomit)? It has been putting up solid numbers as of late. It has reasonable matchups across the board, a proactive game plan that puts on the beats in a hurry, and disruptive elements that slow down combo decks. As much as I hate the deck in general, I think it's a solid choice for him and our team. I was wrong. Humans is not a horrible deck.
Whatever we decide on, I'm letting Ross take the lead. He's been testing, and I'll trust his gut. And if his gut says Humans, then I'll just take it in stride.
Player: Daryl Ayers
There were early talks in our team discussion about Daryl playing something other than Legacy and something other than Lands. I told them both, flat out, that it was a stupid idea. Daryl is a fantastic Legacy player and an even better Lands pilot. And with decks like Four-Color Whatever and Grixis Merfolk of the Pearl Trident roaming the streets, Lands seems like a great choice.
Of course, Lands can be "hated out" to some degree. And since it has busted out in the last few years, people have become more aware of how to interact with it. Stopping the Marit Lage combo is fine, but you still need to beat Punishing Fire. Stripping the deck of Life from the Loam is the easiest route to victory, but you can still lose to a quick Marit Lage. The deck is phenomenal because it's flexible. If you attack one part of it, they will bury you with the other part. Game 1s against most decks in Legacy will fold to a slew of Wasteland and Ghost Quarter. And if the situation calls for it, stuff like Gamble and Crop Rotation make finding the fast combo a bit easier.
But I trust Daryl, especially so in Legacy. And that's one of the hardest parts of playing in team tournaments: trusting your teammates. If they don't think a deck is good, especially if that's the deck they're used to playing, then you should listen. I haven't always been a good listener. I'm stubborn and I like what I like. But I have to learn to let some of that stuff go for team events because it's important for you and your two friends to find a cohesive balance.
The above scenario is the most likely scenario for our team. If you want Daryl's Lands decklist, I suggest "Google." It hasn't changed much in the last two years, and he has plenty of results. If you want Ross's decklist, I suggest asking him on Friday night on Twitter when he's had a beverage or two. I'm sure he'll oblige, and I won't stop him.
In the unlikely scenario that Daryl ends up thinking Lands is a bad choice, here is an alternative deck/format structure for our team.
Deck: Mardu Vehicles or G/B Constrictor
If Mardu Vehicles, it will most likely be 72/75 from Julian John's #SCGDFW winning list
Deck: Some sort of Primeval Titan deck/Grixis Death's Shadow
Deck: Grixis Delver/Sneak and Show
A Brief Aside on Team Etiquette
Whatever decks/formats we choose, I think we'll end up picking what's right for us. And that's something I can't stress enough. If you plan on attending the event yourself or a future Team Constructed event, just make sure you're all on the same page. These team tournaments can be pretty stressful with long hours and tight games. If someone makes a mistake and it costs your team the match, don't blame them. Just let it go, and put your mind toward the next match. Harping on game-losing mistakes will only lead to more of the same.
Also, if you're doing well with your format/deck and someone on your team is not, please don't go around telling everyone you're "X-0 but my team is X-3" or whatever. It's rude, and it makes everyone around you uncomfortable. Your teammates are a part of your record. You win and lose together. Saying stuff like that only makes the people on your team who are losing feel worse, which often leads to more arguing and more losing.
Don't ask your teammates what to do on your first and second turn. Mulligan decisions are fine, but I'm sick and tired of waiting on people to figure out which lands to play and which two-drop to slam down on the battlefield. If you're going to play in a tournament, at the very least you should know basic sequencing. Holding up two matches is just plain rude. And if you do it too much, you're sure to get an unintentional draw or two. If you can't make up your mind on the first or second turn, how will you ever make up your mind past the fifth one?
Introduce yourself to all of your opponents, not just the person you're playing against. We're all here to have some fun and enjoy spending some time slinging spells with our friends. Let's make some new ones. Team tournaments are some of the most enjoyable experiences on the SCG Tour®, so we should all do our best to make sure everyone around us is having a good time. Even if you're not doing well or your teammates are losing and you're winning, or today just wasn't your team's day, don't sweat it. We're here to win, sure. But more importantly, we're here to have some fun with our friends.
Don't be a jerk.