Welcome to What We'd Play! With SCG Vegas this weekend, many are unsure what they'd play in such a high-profile tournament, especially one with three formats. That's where we come in and let you know what we'd play and why we'd play it. Hopefully this last-minute advice aids in your decision making! Be sure to vote for who you agree with in the poll at the end!
Todd Anderson – Golgari Midrange (Standard), Izzet Phoenix (Modern), and Sultai Death's Shadow (Legacy)
- 3 Doom Whisperer
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 3 Ravenous Chupacabra
- 2 Seekers' Squire
- 1 Thrashing Brontodon
- 4 Wildgrowth Walker
I've played quite a bit of Standard over the last two months. All I can say is that, even though I love Izzet and Jeskai, the deck that feels the most consistent is Golgari Midrange. My article from earlier this week gave you the option of five different decks and my take on the best version of each. With Standard as open as it has been in a long time, I still think it's right to just tell people to play what they're most comfortable with. But that's not what we're doing today.
This is the Standard deck I'd play this weekend. Golgari Midrange isn't flashy, but you're going to hit your land drops and continually present your opponent with scary threats that are difficult to beat. You get efficient removal, a solid sideboard, and one of the best tools that any deck has for beating aggressive strategies.
We learned quickly that Wildgrowth Walker was key for green-based midrange decks to beat aggressive opponents. If they come at you with one-drop creatures or burn spells, Wildgrowth Walker just swallows them up. And it doesn't hurt that we already want to play Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger.
I like the flexibility of Golgari. I like the power level of Golgari. And as much as I hate to say it, I just really like Golgari.
A lot of people have tried to make Arclight Phoenix a thing in Modern since it was printed in Guilds of Ravnica and few have succeeded. However, I truly believe that now is the time for Arclight Phoenix to shine. And by Arclight Phoenix, I really mean Thing in the Ice.
One of my favorite cards ever printed, Thing in the Ice is a powerful threat that occasionally steals games that would otherwise be thought unwinnable. If your opponent isn't killing Thing in the Ice, they're likely getting smushed for seven damage on the next turn while having their entire side of the battlefield put back in their hand. It's great against a lot of the creature-based decks in Modern, but mostly it's just a solid card against anyone bringing red removal (or no removal) to the table. Four toughness is a lot.
This particular build is splashing black because I'm of the opinion that Collective Brutality is absolutely bonkers in the deck. In fact, when it comes to enabling both Arclight Phoenix and Bedlam Reveler, there aren't many cards I would rank above Collective Brutality. Plus, it lets you just dunk on Burn, which I'm a huge fan of.
Here we're continuing our trend of "adding another color to an existing archetype." Death's Shadow has fallen a bit in popularity as of late, but that was mostly due to the rise of Miracles and Grixis Control. However, if neither deck is seeing much play, Death's Shadow is a fine option. It absolutely destroys combo decks and has solid game no matter what the opponent brings to the table.
The green splash is mostly for Sylvan Library but Berserk is also a nice addition to the deck. If you're looking to do the last few points of damage to your opponent, Berserk is the Temur Battle Rage that Legacy Death's Shadow has been missing. The only real concern is the manabase, as adding a nineteenth land could lead to more flooding. As with any deck, adding an extra color will ultimately come with some hurdles. It's possible that we want an Overgrown Tomb or Breeding Pool in there somewhere.
Ryan Overturf – Izzet Spells (Standard), Grixis Phoenix (Modern), and Izzet Delver (Legacy)
It's possible that I end up making minor changes, though this is the archetype that I'll be sleeving up for Grand Prix Milwaukee this weekend.
I've been playing various Izzet builds in Standard since rotation, and previously I was a fan of something close to Eduardo Sajgalik's Top 8 list from Grand Prix New Jersey, though as I played the format more leading into the Pro Tour and early this week I have found the Crackling Drake plan to be lackluster. The problem is that everybody has a plan for your Drakes now, and the harder you work to shore up your matchup against anti-Drake tools like Lava Coil and Vivien Reid, the more often you draw a blank Maximize Velocity or Dive Down in games where you wish you had a cantrip or some other form of action. I think that Ben Freedman's build from his article Tuesday is consistent and has merit, though personally I haven't had success when I've tried Dive Down.
Instead, what I've decided to do is go as hard as possible on the Arclight Phoenix plan, which is the part of the deck that generates draws that can crush your opponent regardless of what they're doing. I didn't play the Goblin Electromancer builds until very recently, and every time I played a mirror and got to Shock one I felt like I was extremely far ahead, though I have come around on the card as it seems to be good against just about every other deck. Once I started playing Electromancers, drawing Crackling Drakes always just kind of felt like they were taking me off-plan while also being generally inefficient. With this in mind, I tried a League just playing a couple of Murmuring Mystics and zero Drakes with a copy of the unbeatable Niv-Mizzet, Parun in the maindeck, and results so far have been promising.
The sideboard looks a little erratic, with multiple one-of haymaker type cards, though the reason for this is that I'm rarely happy to draw the second copy of Search for Azcanta; Firemind's Research; Ral, Izzet Viceroy; or Niz-Mizzet, Parun. All these cards offer powerful effects in matchups like the mirror and against control decks, with Ral actually being good against basically every deck in Standard, though you rarely want to draw a second copy of any of them, whereas controlling any combination of two of these cards is just backbreaking. The Izzet decks in Standard generally can't afford many blank draw steps and I've been happy with this split and this maindeck configuration for the current metagame. The only one of these cards that I play two of in the 75 is Ral, which I think is currently underrated in these decks. Ral is capable of winning games on his own while also supplementing the "kill all of your opponent's creatures" plan that you employ in multiple matchups. Not to mention the way that he embarrasses opposing Niv-Mizzets.
I've learned some lessons about this deck since my last submission. Thing in the Ice is generally just excellent in Modern right now, and this archetype is worse at leveraging Snapcaster Mage than I had hoped. Nevertheless, Bedlam Reveler is a very suitable replacement, though I do like the 3-1 split on those cards given that this build is very good at finding its Revelers, unlike non-blue Reveler decks. Further, the one-of Kolaghan's Command gives you outs to random Ensnaring Bridges and other nonsense, and once you have the one Command, the one Snapcaster Mage adds a ton of value to the deck with either card recurring the other when the situation calls for it.
I played approximately this list at Regionals, though I've made some minor changes given that I lost two close matches to Burn at that tournament. I was playing twelve fetchlands, which just doesn't make sense since I've moved off Gurmag Angler so I don't need more lands for delve, and black mana isn't hard to generate with Manamorphose. The extra fetches were excessive and Spirebluff Canal is probably just better in this deck than the Bloodstained Mires were.
The appeal of this deck is that you do busted things like bringing back a bunch of Arclight Phoenixes or transforming Thing in the Ice on Turn 3 while also having a ton of ways to disrupt every other deck in Modern. You also get to harness the power of being what I call a "graveyard-adjacent" deck, which means that people will sideboard in graveyard hate against your Bedlam Reveler deck only to lose to Thing in the Ice.
There was a conversation about Bomat Courier in Legacy some months back that mostly resulted in the card showing up as a lackluster slot in Grixis Delver decks. This got me wondering what a shell more tailor-made for Bomat Courier would be.
My hypothesis was that you just end up having better options if you go into three colors, so Izzet would be the best shell. This also gives you the subtler strength of playing several basic lands, which is quite good in this era of Miracles maindecking Back to Basics and Grixis Control sideboarding Blood Moon. Further, I've actually adopted this sideboard Blood Moon plan to beat up on Lands and the Eldrazi decks, given that Price of Progress isn't always good enough to race but Blood Moon does always stop them from playing the game. I also vastly prefer using counterspells and removal spells to disrupt my opponent to casting Lava Spikes, though that's not new information. I came up with this list during the month before Guilds of Ravnica dropped on Magic Online to pass the time and was happy with how the deck felt against the format at large.
The maindeck actually does some cool things that are unique to this build of Delver. It's often the case that, when your opponent points a removal spell at your creatures when you play tempo decks in Legacy, that you just kind of let it happen unless you have a lot of countermagic because something stronger than a removal spell, like a Jace the Mind Sculptor, is inevitably on the horizon. When you have a Bomat Courier racking up cards, though, you just get to be a bit more aggressive with Spell Pierces and Force of Wills because you'll be able to gas back up when you cash your Bomat Courier in. With Preordains in addition to the usual Ponders and Brainstorms, you can typically find counterspells either under your Courier or by cashing the cantrips it was hiding in.
I tried just playing four Young Pyromancessr initially as this list is really good at casting a bunch of spells, though that configuration was really hurting for True-Name Nemesis to give you a haymaker against removal-heavy decks. The one-ofs are a little goofy, though they offer some good tools. The Forked Bolt is really useful against Death and Taxes and Elves, though it's so underwhelming otherwise that I prefer a Fire // Ice over the second to either cycle or exile to Force of Will. Dead // Gone shows up in sideboards sometimes, with Dead being serviceable against all the decks that Forked Bolt plays against and Gone offering utility against Gurmag Angler and Merit Lage, which are otherwise problematic for this build.
Ari Lax – Jeskai Control (Standard), Azorius Control (Modern), and Storm (Legacy)
As much as I wanted to showcase my Pro Tour Team Series teammate Zach Allen's thirteenth-place list, it's hard to argue with the actual king of control. After a bunch of time spent testing with Adanto Vanguard and March of the Multitudes and doing actual combat math, I want to spend some time doing the exact opposite.
Watching Top 8 competitor Wilson Mok's matches, I was struck by how well Crackling Drake handles some of the issues Jeskai has with aggro. Just forcing your opponent to overcommit into the first or second sweeper is great, and the lifelink with Deafening Clarion really matters. Guillaume Wafo-Tapa's list just has a couple of things I like on top of that. The big one is finding room for Legion Warboss in the sideboard for mirror matches.
The one thing that concerns me is the lack of maindeck Seal Away, or really any answer to Adanto Vanguard. Sure, you can block it with a Crackling Drake, but they have removal and Venerated Loxodons to fire back at you. I get that two-mana removal is pretty bad in Standard, but I might fiddle with the numbers just to have some way to beat that card.
Azorius Control is great in Modern. The format has wrapped around to people playing a bunch of nonsense, and the deck just has a ton of power behind its answers to cleanly wrap that nonsense up.
Dustin has made a lot of smart deck decisions here. I really like the sixth sweeper in Settle the Wreckage, especially as it exiles Arclight Phoenix or assorted Dredge nonsense. With all the graveyard-excluding sweepers, you can actually win a protracted game against Dredge once you bring in Rest in Peace as long as you draw it on Turn 8. Arclight Phoenix also makes me like the Condemn over Oust. I also like trimming down on Search for Azcanta as I become less and less of a fan of waiting for the card investment to be returned on the first Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin activation.
The only changes I would consider are cutting the third Snapcaster Mage and playing Hieroglyphic Illumination over Opt. These choices are obviously linked, as the third Snapcaster Mage needs the cheap cantrip to flashback to be worth playing. Spend some time against the base Golgari decks and take a look at how much the draw two side of that card matters.
If there's any inkling that Tendrils of Agony is good in Legacy, you already know what I'm doing. A few specific trends have given the deck some breathing room to start putting up results.
The first level is that Grixis Delver has been supplanted by Grixis Control and Miracles as the blue decks of choice. Grixis Control with a worse clock than Grixis Delver should be an obviously better matchup, though Hymn to Tourach and other discard spells are still a hassle. Miracles might bring back bad memories, but without Sensei's Divining Top, it's just not the same matchup. They can't hide countermagic, their Counterbalance soft lock is iffy, and often you can catch them with a cantrip-heavy and answer-light hand early.
The second level is that those two larger blue decks have shifted the balance of nonblue decks in your favor. Both Grixis Control and Miracles are resilient to Chalice of the Void, making decks like Mono-Red Prison and Colorless Eldrazi less exciting. All the Ancient Tomb / Chalice of the Void decks were a pain for Storm as they had so many ways to produce a Turn 1 lock piece like Thorn of Amethyst. If you lost the die roll the matchup was a nightmare, and if you won the die roll it was still dicey. The current Chalice of the Void decks are Life from the Loam / Mox Diamond decks that don't have the same lock piece density or speed, and Storm easily rolls over them.
I'm a bit rusty on my card choices for this archetype, so I don't have any suggestions there, but if recent practice is any indication, Storm is just muscle memory. The principles are all the same to the point that Cyrus was able to meme stream a list of mine from 2010 and still win with it.
Emma Handy – Golgari Midrange (Standard), Ironworks (Modern), and Dimir Death's Shadow (Legacy)
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 1 Midnight Reaper
- 3 Ravenous Chupacabra
- 3 Seekers' Squire
- 2 Thrashing Brontodon
- 4 Wildgrowth Walker
This list is effectively a hybrid between the list that Jadine Klomparens, Autumn Burchett, and Aaron Barich all played at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica and the list that I piloted to the elimination rounds of a Classic a few weeks ago.
Many people are under the impression that Golgari failing to make it to the Sunday stage of the Pro Tour means that it's going to fade into the background, and they couldn't be further from correct. In fact, most of Autumn's match points in the Constructed portion of the Pro Tour came from beating up on the various flavors of Legion's Landing that people were attacking with.
The changes to the list that I'd make this weekend basically come down to wanting copies of Llanowar Elves in the maindeck. This is going to come at the cost of some points in the mirror pre-sideboard, with Carnage Tyrant being relegated to the sideboard, but the plan is to use the fast mana from the pointy-eared accelerators in order to get ahead on the battlefield and stabilize against the aggressive strategies that people are likely to bring.
With an uptick in aggressive strategies on the horizon, sinking tempo into cantripping with Adventurous Impulse is a little bit risky, and that's the other card being shaved to make room for mana accelerants. The biggest loss here is that it becomes more difficult to find copies of Wildgrowth Walker when it's such an important part of the matchup. It's a conscious decision to value speed over consistency.
I've said it once and I'll say it again: Ironworks shouldn't be a legal deck.
Ironworks is incredibly resilient, and most of the blanket hate cards that people are playing have shifted away from artifact hate and towards graveyard hate, specifically as a response to Dredge. Dredge is a deck that a single Surgical Extraction doesn't tend to be good against, which makes a deck that can hold all its combo cards before casting a Nature's Claim a particularly attractive choice.
On top of that, after playing with the deck for the first time this past weekend and finding a sideboard plan that allows the deck to absolutely dismantle Humans (something that is traditionally supposed to be favored against linear combo), I'm unconvinced that Ironworks even has unwinnable matchups anymore.
It's about time I put my money where my mouth is, just marry myself to the most busted thing that I can be doing in the format, and Pyrite Spellbomb people to death.
Dimir Death's Shadow is the newest iteration of Temur Delver in Legacy. The key difference is in how much better its threats are.
Don't forget the mana is better.
Also, Daze has more upside.
Also, you get to play Thoughtseizes.
Also, your cards translate better into the late-game.
One of the most important things to capitalize on in Legacy tempo is mana efficiency, and this deck pushes it to the limit by incorporating even more zero-mana ways of interacting than previous decks and effectively cutting every single card that demands more than a single land to be cast. This gives it a higher resilience to other people's Wastelands and is unbelievable as a result.
The biggest shift I'd recommend is looking to incorporate some number of Bitterblossoms in the maindeck in order to beat up on Grixis Control, but Palmer's list is tuned for the faster decks in the format with notable nods to Eldrazi Post in the maindeck. I'd happily sleeve up his exact 75 without testing.