Here we are… the eve of the biggest SCG Tour® event this year!
Not only is the Season One Invitational taking place, where we'll have the culmination of many players' season and hard work-including myself--but there's also everything else happening at SCG CON! While I'll have my sights focused on the event itself, I'll be wandering around in between rounds for all the happenings that are, well, happening! The countless artists, cosplayers, crazy formats, and more! This is going to be a weekend I won't soon forget.
While everyone should be sure to catch the festivities throughout the weekend and enjoy the lovely city of Roanoke, there are many of you like me who have their eyes on the prize and it's all about the formats we have in front of us. And boy, what a mess of red I'm seeing!
While I could go on and on about Goblin Chainwhirler and how it might be as bad or worse than Rogue Refiner was for the format, I'm not. Standard is in a sort of flux right now where there will likely be a massive overreaction to all the R/B decks that the Pro Tour last weekend showcased, where people will either play the decks that did well or take a swing at beating them. Either way, you've got to be ready for a format filled with Goblin Chainwhirler, Rekindling Phoenix, and Scrapheap Scrounger or you'll soon find yourself scrounging for a bunch of cards on the Modern Banned list to enjoy the No Banned List Modern event on Saturday.
One thing said by a very wise Magic player over the weekend about R/B Aggro deck is that, "the deck has no bad matchups," and I'd have to agree after giving the format some due consideration. My advice for Standard is short and sweet - join them or really, really try and beat them!
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Resilient Khenra
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 4 Steel Leaf Champion
- 4 Territorial Allosaurus
- 4 Thrashing Brontodon
- 2 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
- 2 Rhonas the Indomitable
Now this is a deck that can rumble! Rumble here being a synonym for "fight" which was intended to be punny…
But on a more serious note, this deck has it all and packs a punch few decks can keep pace with. While this take on Mono-Green Aggro is sporting four copies of Llanowar Elves, a card that is indeed vulnerable to Goblin Chainwhirler, those are the only cards that die to that card straight up. That can be a bummer, but hopefully by then the damage has been done and you're far enough ahead from the acceleration to just be beating red mages with giant monsters!
One thing to talk about is the inclusion of Territorial Allosaurus here over a card like Ripjaw Raptor, which is very good at disincentivizing people to even cast their Goblin Chainwhirlers. While that might be true, keep in mind that we're playing a mono-green deck and our options for removal are slim. The fight ability on Territorial Allosaurus comes up a ton since we have so many sources of mana in the deck to begin with, and being able to take down a Glorybringer or finish off a Rekindled Phoenix Egg token left behind can be game-breaking. Not to mention this is still a 5/5 creature for four mana which isn't anything to scoff at, as we've just been spoiled for so long that we forget. The fifth power on Territorial Allosaurus plays a huge role of cost reducing the big main event: Ghalta, Primal Hunger. That's too much for most to handle.
Speaking of giving Mono-Green functional removal, Skysovereign, Consul Flagship does a very nice job clearing off freshly cast Chainwhirlers as well as functioning as a Glorybringer of your own when it comes to gunning down creatures if left unchecked. I'm not sure how many Abrades we'll see floating around with the ability to exile creatures being at a high priority for the format's threats right now, but that can only mean good news for those with a Blossoming Defense handy!
Another direction you could take and not feel completely ashamed of yourself for not just playing one of the flavors of red in Standard is "the slow Approach."
While this might be an overreaction and the first time I think I've ever recommended that casting Approach of the Second Sun be a good idea, it might just be the perfect storm. With people fighting with all these silly creatures against each other, what better way to just ignore what the opponent is doing than tap seven mana twice and win the game?
While there are a ton of flaws to this line, all you need it to be right for is one tournament. Not even a full tournament to be completely honest, just eight rounds! Think of how many times your opponent is going to draw a hand with some creatures and removal spells and ask yourself if that's going to happen say six out of the eight rounds you sit down from an opponent this weekend? Is it really that hard to imagine that you won't get some free wins with a deck like this just because you're playing an anti-metagame deck? For the first time in Standard, I'm considering casting Approach of the Second Sun. While the odds are extremely against that idea coming to fruition, the fact that I'm considering it should say something.
Beyond that, the Standard format is littered with decks that have yet to be explored. Just because people played the hell out of some red cards at the Pro Tour doesn't mean that there isn't still room to explore! Just make sure the creatures in your deck have more than one toughness or that your deck doesn't care if they die or not...like this!
- 4 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 4 Champion of Wits
- 2 Glint-Nest Crane
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 3 Minister of Inquiries
- 1 Vizier of Many Faces
- 2 Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar
Oh wow, have we got some spice here!
When looking over the Dominaria card list, I can assure you that not many players looked at Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar and thought to themselves, "I think this would be a great God-Pharaoh's Gift target," but here we are! Not only does the deck do a lot of self-milling, looting, and exploring, but God-Pharaoh's Gift gives this big trampling threat a nice base stat line of 4/4 to pile all those +1/+1s on top of! Even if you aren't getting this card back from God-Pharaoh's Gift, just hard casting this as a threat after you've done some work on your library can give you an insane threat that will have people without the ability to exile it having a fit.
Another nice thing this deck does is really punish people for tapping out on turn three for a Goblin Chainwhirler if there's a Gate to the Afterlife already on the battlefield. Imagine you played a Llanowar Elves turn one (lucky you!) and when they had to take the turn off playing a Canyon Slough, you were able to resolve a Gate to the Afterlife! Follow that up with Champion of Wits and who the heck cares if they killed your creatures because you kinda wanted them to anyway, you masochistic savage!
The big addition you get from green here is the explore creatures in Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger. Back when Ixalan first debuted I pioneered the Gate to the Afterlife version of this deck in an Esper-colored shell using Seeker's Squire as my explorer of choice. What I would have done to be able to not only play eight copies of that card in my deck, but get one that triggers twice?
Glint-Nest Crane is insane in this deck. With fourteen targets total, you're significantly more likely to consistently hit an artifact than with any other previous version of the deck that I've seen prior, and it was good enough then just putting four non-Gate to the Afterlife cards to the bottom of your deck. I wouldn't be surprised if something like this caught many people off guard since Scavenger Grounds has all but fallen off the face of the earth as it has a natural predator to this deck in The Scarab God.
I can't account for everything in this format. Plain and simple. There's a lot going on and if the Pro Tour taught us anything, it's that it's good to be proactive. While Mountains aren't really my style, I couldn't fault anyone for registering a lot of them this weekend… at least in Standard. You register more than two basic Mountains in a deck in Modern and we're gonna have words!
Speaking of Modern, I've given up. I want to play the cards I like and not have to worry about what's right and what's not, but there's no denying it: If you're not playing Humans, you're probably wrong. It's the most aggressive, disruptive, and resilient deck in the format with game against practically anyone and it's certainly a deck that punishes people who stumble: the perfect recipe for a deck you should register. Other acceptable options in the format include and certainly are limited to the following:
Eldrazi Tron was a fun deck that could help balance the format against Jeskai Control, who had a hell of a time in that match up, but with how devastating the Humans matchup is and how popular that deck is, I'd steer clear if you want to do well.
Goryo's As Foretold is cute and all and certainly can do some nasty things in the early turns of the game, but with its inconsistency and vulnerability to a wide variety of strategies, it makes me think it's best suited for FNM.
G/R Land Destruction? Just no. I get that it won SCG Dallas earlier this year, but we had just gotten Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf back, and people were very confused at the time. This deck is a "No" on a "Please Stop" scale.
Mono-Green Tron has vanished. I'm not sure why, but I'm guessing the cards Meddling Mage and Kitesail Freebooter have something to do with that? I would guess that's the case, but then again, I'd imagine it could be poised for a comeback if you're splasing red for early sweepers like Pyroclasm and Kozilek's Return. It gets around Meddling Mage on the kick back and Auriok Champion since, surprise, it's not red.
As for the rest of the format, this list of what you probably shouldn't play could go on for eons, but what the hell do I know, right? I do "hate" Modern, of course. For those of you who haven't gotten the joke yet, let me set the story straight:
In my opinion - which everyone is entitled to - Modern is Magic's best format.
Also, in my opinion, Modern is Magic's worst competitive format.
I think it's great for FNM, giving players the ability to metagame amongst each other week in and week out and enjoy playing against their friends and occasionally travel to a larger event to play, but to have it under the competitive eye for so long with so much at stake means that other eyes who have to keep the format healthy will wander over to the direction of the competitive scene and sometimes intervene.
I hate when cards get banned.
It's no fun. Suddenly cards lose value and decks you once may have loved are no longer legal. I don't think that we'd have several cards on the banned list today if Modern was kept a more casual format and no, I don't think that the same issues of the format those cards created would exist because that isn't the spirit of the format. I'm glad Modern exists, but oh how I wish it was never a Pro Tour format ever. Maybe one day we'll get the Modern format we deserve where people can register Wistful Selkie.
Maybe one day, Brennan…
By the time this goes live, I'll be in route to Roanoke, Virginia where I'll be joining some of my BCW Teammates for any last-minute prep we have to do and then getting ready to set sail on this wild weekend StarCityGames has in store for everyone planning to attend the first SCG CON. Cheer me on!