Testing for an SCG Invitational is always more difficult than it seems. Two formats mean double the amount of potential mistakes to make in metagaming and deck selection. Let's take a look at the decklists I plan to bring into battle and see how well I can predict what will happen in the tournament!
Called Shot #1: Mono-White Aggro will perform well, but not many people will play it.
I should play Mono-White Aggro, but I'm probably going to play Esper Midrange. Mono-White Aggro is secretly incredible at the moment, but for some reason, not many people are playing it. Mythic Invitational competitor Edoardo Annunziata has been crushing Arena with the deck and KanyeBest started doing the same. If you want a deck that is great against basically all the decks people are playing, you should try this.
- 4 Adanto Vanguard
- 4 Benalish Marshal
- 4 Dauntless Bodyguard
- 4 Law-Rune Enforcer
- 4 Skymarcher Aspirant
- 4 Snubhorn Sentry
- 4 Venerated Loxodon
- 20 Plains
The biggest issues are the Mono-Red Aggro and Esper Midrange matchups, which are both very popular. Thankfully, Mono-Red is trending down (and will likely occupy the loser's bracket), but Esper Midrange is about to skyrocket in popularity thanks to Ben Friedman's win at Grand Prix Kansas City.
It might seem silly to register a deck that's not great against two of the three most popular decks, but I don't think that's as clean-cut as it seems. Esper has a very difficult time beating Mono-White in Game 1 and relies heavily on its sweepers in the sideboard games. Ben even advocated cutting his Cry of the Carnariums, which leaves them with a scant three copies of Kaya's Wrath, which is not enough.
As far as the Mono-Red matchup is concerned, it's always been close. Don't let Runaway Steam-Kin live, don't get blown out by Goblin Chainwhirler, and don't let Experimental Frenzy run rampant, and you should be fine. Granted, that's the plan for most decks against Mono-Red, but Mono-White doesn't have the tools necessary to do that in Game 1. Post-sideboard, you have the tools, but they have good ways to break up your synergy.
I would change very little from Edoardo's list. The list I've been grinding with on MTG Arena has a Gideon Blackblade and a Tomik, Distinguished Advokist maindeck over a Conclave Tribunal and a Dauntless Bodyguard. There's also another Tomik and Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants in the sideboard over the Unbreakable Formation and third Gideon. Tomik is great against the various green decks, but especially because it shuts off Nissa, Who Shakes the World's ability to generate blockers.
Called Shot #2: Esper Midrange is going to win the tournament.
One thing you can bet on is that Esper Midrange will make Top 8 of #SCGINVI. The Top 8 happens to be best-of-five with our Standard decks, which is exactly where Esper wants to be. You can lose games to mana issues, falling behind early, and stumbling in general, but Esper has even or favorable matchups almost across the board. In a best-of-five setting, Esper becomes a huge favorite.
My brain says I should play Mono-White Aggro. Instead, I'm going to do something that will give me equity in a different way – I'm going to play the best deck with a twist.
It's not often that you get to catch people off-guard these days. Information is free-flowing and individual card choices rarely dramatically alter the way your opponents have to play against you. This is one of the situations where we actually have a chance to do something meaningful with our card choices and it will matter a ton in the expected matchups.
Gruul is on the rise, and while I like the planeswalker-based version, it seems like the Skarrgan Hellkite versions will be more prevalent. Those decks are primarily creature-based and have a very difficult time beating a Kaya's Wrath, especially when they assume all your copies are in the sideboard.
I'm hoping Kaya's Wrath will lead to some incredible Game 1 wins where no other card could save me, but we'll see. If nothing else, I'm playing the best deck and things can only go so wrong.
Called Shot #3: Mono-Red Aggro will get smashed.
With Gruul on the rise and most green decks adopting Ripjaw Raptor, Mono-Red is finally in a lot of trouble. Thankfully, those cards walk right into Kaya's Wrath. Realistically, though, people have finally adapted to fight Mono-Red and this tournament will show that.
Called Shot #4: Green Command the Dreadhorde decks will do poorly.
Look, none of the creatures surrounding the planeswalkers are all that great. Hero of Precinct One is excellent when you build your entire deck around it, but that comes with costs, such as not playing Narset, Parter of Veils. Esper uses Hero as a card that will get value most of the time but recognizes that it will be bad at times. It also sideboards it out in the vast majority of matchups.
The explore creatures are medium and will continue to be medium in the face of cards like Teferi, Time Raveler and Narset, Parter of Veils. To top it off, there are some brave souls out there with four- or five-color manabases, which doesn't bode well for their success in the Standard portion.
Called Shot #5: Izzet Phoenix will do poorly, but only because of being built poorly.
Drake Sasser was the only Phoenix player to make Top 8 at SCG Louisville, and that's because he was the only player I saw with Gut Shot and Finale of Promise in his deck. Team Lotus Box registered 24 cantrips, 3 Noxious Revivals, and zero ways to beat a Humans deck, and their Day 2 record showed it.
Don't play Noxious Revival.
One of the real issues for all Phoenix decks is the fact that Narset, Parter of Veils is difficult to beat and catching on rapidly. The saving grace for Phoenix players is that decks with Narset aren't very tuned.
I might make an extreme call and decide to not worry about big mana. Dredge, Izzet Phoenix, Humans, and Azorius Control are all I really want to be able to beat. Maybe I run into a Mono-Green Tron or Amulet Bloom player, but I'm getting the feeling that most people are getting off those decks. By losing the Moons in my sideboard, I could shore up the Dredge and Azorius Control matchups.
Called Shot #6: Dredge will do well, although it probably shouldn't.
Look, Dredge won the last tournament. It keeps doing well online. It's win percentage is absurd. Please start trying to beat it again.
(So that I can cut my graveyard hate.)
Called Shot #7: Eldrazi Tron will put one player into the Top 8.
Karn, the Great Creator might be incredible in Vintage and Legacy where there's mana acceleration and a distinct lack of threats, but that isn't Modern at the moment. People need to stop splashing Karn packages into everything, at least until the metagame becomes a place where Karn is great. Given that Arclight Phoenix and Champion of the Parish exist, we may never get there.
However, there are some decks where Karn is great, and Eldrazi Tron is among them. You have creatures to block, removal spells, and the occasional Tron draw that makes the mana costs on your cards seem irrelevant. The trick is to not be tempted by creating an all-purpose Karn-sideboard and removing your ability to sideboard against anyone effectively.
You should have seven cards maximum to Karn for. Anything past that is superfluous because you don't need the perfect Karn target for every single corner case. Show some restraint and you will be rewarded. Honestly, having Crucible of Worlds, Walking Ballista, Mycosynth Lattice, and Tormod's Crypt probably covers you against 80% of the situations in Modern. The Torpor Orb is certainly a luxury and could be replaced. Relic of Progenitus is technically a tutorable card, but it's one that I plan on sideboarding in.
Other than Karn, Eldrazi Tron benefits from the popularity of Dredge, Humans, and Izzet Phoenix, as it has the tools to defeat each of those handily. Obviously there are some sketchy matchups up there, and this isn't the best or most powerful deck you could ever play, but it has game against everyone. Chalice of the Void and Walking Ballista are incredible in their respective matchups.
Given a field like an SCG Invitational, I'd be more than happy to recommend Eldrazi Tron.
In multi-format tournaments, players tend to lean toward playing the "best deck" in at least one of the formats because of how little time you have to prepare. People tend to overly metagame for the "good" decks too. This allows lineups with two unconventional choices to put up a good finish. In this case, Mono-White Aggro and Eldrazi Tron would be two excellent choices and are the two decks I think I should be playing.
That said, I suppose I'm going to do what I did in the past, which is register the best blue decks in each format.