Welcome to What We'd Play! With SCG Baltimore 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!
Ari Lax - Sultai Midrange (Standard), Burn (Modern), and Storm (Legacy)
- 2 Carnage Tyrant
- 3 Hydroid Krasis
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 2 Midnight Reaper
- 2 Ravenous Chupacabra
- 1 Seekers' Squire
- 4 Wildgrowth Walker
The Sultai deck isn't broken, but I'm sure not fixing it. My tipping point between this and starting by trying new stuff was Wyatt Darby specifically saying it was a hard but winnable matchup for his Esper brew that looked well suited for the matchup . Hard but winnable is code for 45%, probably worse if they have tested the matchup.
The literal one change I would consider is swapping out Tendershoot Dryad for Biogenic Ooze, a card that directly scales bigger and faster. I would then play about twenty mirror matches to see if something like Thought Erasure or even the full maniac Unmoored Ego is good there to preemptively handle Hydroid Krasis.
Then I would just make sure I get way more than enough sleep because those Sultai games are going to be miserable and long no matter what I do. Not a big deal. Winning a long and miserable game is way better than losing because you failed to show up with the best deck.
Burn has been extremely successful since the release of spectacle all-stars Light up the Stage and Skewer the Critics. After watching the Rakdos list that won last weekend's Magic Online Modern Challenge play out, here's where I'm at.
Eidolon of the Great Revel is a must have. With only eight real creatures (Grim Lavamancer doesn't count), too much of the Rakdos list was tied up into hitting the exact number of lands and spells you needed over a game. Too few of your cards dealt incremental damage. Eidolon of the Great Revel obnoxiously costs two in your hyper linear spectacle deck, but it's just too powerful to pass up. If I could play eight Goblin Guide I would, but they don't let me.
The other observation was that eight spectacle cards was a bit on the high side. Both Skewer the Critics and Light up the Stage are really powerful, but hands can randomly have too many of each of them to curve out nicely. I opted to skimp on Light up the Stage over Skewer the Critics as it's a worse topdeck, even if it is probably the more powerful card.
The sideboard is basically the same as the one I previously played, only there's room for some Skullcracks instead of Path to Exile. Leyline of the Void is massively better than the Boros version's hate, to the point I think I might have been wrong not just playing it there. You almost have to mulligan for hate against Dredge anyways, so why not go for the maximum punishment? Same with Surgical Extraction, which cleanly answers future Creeping Chills as well.
Storm appears to be great in Legacy now, with the same players just putting up solid showings every event. I believe the reason for this is a drop in really aggressively disruptive Delver of Secrets decks and Chalice of the Void decks since the banning of Deathrite Shaman.
I believe the latest lists have moved the last Duress to the maindeck over Rain of Filth - which is sad because Rain of Filth is awesome and weird - and have started adding a Surgical Extraction or two to the sideboard. Having tested Rakdos Reanimator a fair amount, I'm sure the second part is a reasonable concession to make, but I'm unsure I expect to play that matchup enough to care.
If you don't have your built in Tendrils of Agony muscle memory ready to go, I would advise playing Arclight Phoenix or Dark Depths. Arclight Phoenix definitely has the most untapped potential, with both a Modern-esque Izzet list and a Dark Ritual + Buried Alive list showing up at recent events. Both of those Arclight Phoenix options sound awesome, but so does making a 20/20 token, so you can't go wrong with any of these.
Shaheen Soorani - Esper Control (Standard), Izzet Phoenix (Modern), and Grixis Control (Legacy)
Writing extensively about certain decks, and then not playing them, is truly a sin. Say what you will, but I always practice what I preach. Esper Control has a few rough matchups out there, but it has the tools necessary to defeat them if you tune it correctly. This list is where I want to be against a field of control, Wilderness Reclamation, and most midrange decks. I wouldn't change much in that situation, but I would tweak a few things if Esper Midrange kicks up in popularity.
Esper Midrange and Sultai Midrange play out very differently. Thought Erasure is one of the backbreaking cards that Esper Midrange deploys in the first game, making the easy Kaya's Wrath on turn 4 or 5 not occur in some situations. Negate is a card that can help against lategame attacks from Sultai Midrange, but isn't as effective against the cheaper noncreature spells of Esper Midrange. I don't think that there will be a flood of Esper Midrange this weekend, but if you have that sixth sense kicking in, swap out Negate for Syncopate and keep the party going.
I still believe that Izzet Phoenix is the best deck in Modern. After Eli added some Blood Moon action to the traditional tempo deck, the difficult matchups with combo decks got that much easier. Blood Moon is a card I suggested to get added a while back, before Ross Merriam won his tournament without its help. I still thought it was correct then, but it's even more important to add it now.
Amulet Titan is the real deal in Modern with the removal of Ironworks. Ironworks was a bad matchup, but that isn't the reason Amulet Titan is the most powerful combo deck left standing. The main reason for its inevitable boost in popularity is all the Ironworks players need a home to go to. Combo attracts a certain type of player. It also may be right behind Izzet Phoenix as the best deck, which brings in an entire new population. That all said, Blood Moon is a card I would be sure to include this weekend.
We all know Kenji is one of the greatest players of all-time, but that isn't the sole reason he landed a Top 8 spot at GP Shizuoka. Grixis Control is the embodiment of powerful, cheap answers with glorious card advantage built in. Cards like Hymn to Tourach, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Baleful Strix, and Kolaghan's Command lure me to the most viable control deck in Legacy.
Every part of me wants Esper Stoneblade to be the go-to control deck of the format, but it's simply not going to happen. The deck that allowed me to enjoy many high finishes on the SCG Tour® is no longer capable of churning out those wins. The format became more competitive, adapted, and now has settled to make life difficult to one of my favorite cards--still banned in Modern for some bizarre reason.
Regardless, this Grixis Control deck takes better care of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and is joined by a much faster clock, removal that works as reach, and hand disruption that hits combo decks hard. This is where you want to be.
Emma Handy - Azorius Aggro (Standard), Dredge (Modern), and Burn (Legacy)
- 4 Benalish Marshal
- 4 Dauntless Bodyguard
- 3 Deputy of Detention
- 1 Healer's Hawk
- 4 Hunted Witness
- 4 Snubhorn Sentry
- 4 Tocatli Honor Guard
- 2 Venerated Loxodon
Max Magnuson and Andrew Elenbogen were so close to single-handedly crushing last week's tournament.
As attention has shifted towards Magic Arena and the metagame there, people are paying more and more attention to the ways to beat Mono-Red Aggro decks and less attention to the ways to beat white decks. There are multiple ways to beat aggro, and it takes different tools to beat Lightning Strike instead of Benalish Marshal.
The thing that ended up giving the aggressive white strategies fits last weekend were the Wildgrowth Walkers and Ravenous Chupacabras of last format, adapting to the new tools available to people by splashing Hydroid Krasis and Hostage Taker. The biggest update to this list is cutting Tithe Taker for a stronger hate card against those strategies in the maindeck in Tocatli Honor Guard and adding another sticky permanent to the sideboard to fight those strategies in Dovin, Grand Arbiter.
The biggest thing that was holding these decks back last weekend were fears of Root Snare-fueled Nexus of Fate decks, and with those being all but completely held back last weekend, Azorius Aggro is going to run rampant if people aren't packing the tools to hold it back.
The runner up of the most recent #SCGINVI, Evan Whitehouse, knows a thing or two about Dredge. It's what got him to the finals of the aforementioned tournament and something he's made more than one deep run with throughout his career. Oh, it also was two of the four winners of our #SCGINVI Cube Qualifiers. Oh, it was also what won the Modern Classic last weekend.
This deck is the real deal, and with so much hate having been dedicated to Ironworks as of late, people haven't quite readjusted to a world in which Dredge can kick your teeth in. Speaking of Ironworks, with its namesake card being gone, many of the slower fair decks that Ironworks preyed on are going to see an uptick in popularity. In other words, Dredge's most popular bad matchup left the format, and several of its best matchups are going to become more popular in the short term.
In short: It's a great time to be flipping cards off the top of your library into your graveyard.
(P.S. Evan even posted his sideboard guide on Twitter. Play this deck. No excuses.)
Burn baby, burn.
The best decks in the format are all decks that Price of Progress preys upon, and it's time to remind people of that fact. Light Up the Stage existing is something that works as a cantrip in this version of the deck, increasing spell density while also not forcing us to play as many copies of the cards that can end up being clunky in multiples.
On top of that, Skewer the Critics is just Lightning Bolt number X in the deck, which pushes the deck's consistency over the top of where it was before, reducing the number of awkward "drew too many two-drops" situations that the deck can lose to from time to time. The other side effect that this change has is that it reduces the odds of "getting got" by Stoneforge Mystic into Batterskull but that much more.
Linear combo isn't particularly great in Legacy right now, and with the surge of fair decks in the format, Burn is reasonably positioned to make a resurgence.
Oh, need I mention that Death's Shadow is one of the format's premier tempo decks? I've heard that Burn tends to be favored against decks that don't really start until they've paid half their life. Your mileage may vary.