This past weekend was quite the weekend for Magic. There were two Standard Grand Prix, and a Modern SCG Open weekend, all of which were positioned to influence the SCG Invitational this weekend. An event I will be attending and participating in. An event that I’m very excited for. An event I’m hoping to at least day 2. That’s one of my check boxes in my to do list this year that’s still unchecked.
For those of you who are following my year, you know there’s a second check box as well. Winning a PPTQ. Did I mention that I played in a PPTQ this past weekend? Nothing much, just a small five rounder cutting to top 4. I beat a Pro Tour Champion at this event. I made the elimination rounds yet again. I made the finals yet again. That check box is still unchecked.
Before delving into some of the results of the weekend and the direction in which I’m moving for the Invitational, I just want to touch on dealing with frustration. I absolutely understand that Magic is a game of variance. Less than a year ago, I was in game three of a PPTQ finals playing the Splinter Twin mirror. My opponent was on three life, I had a Keranos out, and for three straight turns I ripped lands off the Keranos ability and the extra draws off those lands were counterspells. I lost that match.
This isn’t a “woe is me” moment, this is me understanding that in a room full of competitive Magic players with hopes of being on the Pro Tour, only one of these people will win any given event. Sometimes it’s a variance thing. Sometimes it’s a playskill and experience thing. Sometimes you get to the finals and just sit across the table from a horrid matchup that is so far out in left field it can’t find its car to even go home. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in a Magic tournament. Sometimes it’s not your day. I know my time will come, I finally believe that I’m good enough. I finally truly believe that I’ve levelled up to be good enough. It was a tough mental hurdle to get over, and now we just need the result to qualify that statement. I’ll be a bit upset if I can’t tick off that check box by the end of the year, but there’s still plenty of year left to go.
So, let’s look at the SCG Open won by Ross Merriam. It has finally arrived. After all of the hype, all of the different builds, all of the new cards, Dredge is finally a good Modern deck. Good job Wizards, you ruined everything this year. Dredge put 4 decks into the top 32 of the Modern open. That’s quite the conversion rate for 5 dredge decks being played on day 2. Pretty good. It’s also the deck that I’ve lost to in elimination rounds in my last two PPTQs. I’m not leaving home this weekend without cards for this stupid matchup. Stupid sideboard cards for a stupid matchup with stupid cards. Stupid Wizards.
Dredge was definitely the breakout deck of the weekend in Modern. As I said its day 2 to top 32 conversion rate was very good. Another takeaway from the even though is the direction Modern seems to be taking to more fair strategies. Jund was the most played deck on day 2, followed by Jeskai Control. Dredge came in third, but after that, you have the Abzan Company deck, which I believe plays more like a midrange value deck most of the time than a combo deck anyway, and that was followed by Bant Eldrazi.
I know that typically for bigger events like the Invitational, people tend to lean more toward midrange strategies, and with this Open being so close in proximity to the Invitational this weekend, I imagine this is the reason we see all of these midrange decks and fewer things like Infect, Death’s Shadow, or more random, combo-y decks.
I have posited that Bant Eldrazi is probably the best deck for this weekend, and if I had access to testing it, I would be inclined to play it. Bant Eldrazi has a positive matchup in general vs the midrangy decks like Jund and Jeskai. Since you also have White, which is the best color for sideboard cards in Modern giving you access to cards like Rest in Peace and Stony Silence, and you have Ancient Stirrings to find Artifacts from your sideboard like Grafdigger’s Cage, Pithing Needle, and Engineered Explosives, it’s probably one of the best positioned deck in Modern for this weekend. Mark my words when I die in a fireball of sadness on day 1, and Bant Eldrazi makes the top eight.
At Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, Bant Company was deck zero. It was the deck every other deck was trying to beat. If you couldn’t beat Bant Company, there was no real reason to even play Standard at the Pro Tour. I’m not sure if you folks remember, but there were two Bant Company decks in that Pro Tour’s top eight, even after everyone said Bant Company was played by 10% less of the field than predicted, even after everyone had the deck to beat it.
A lot of people expected Bant Company to still be played, it’s still a really good deck. But did they expect it to be so dominant and so popular even after the Pro Tour showcased all these ways to beat it that it would take 6 of the top 8 slots at GP Rimini? That it would put three copies into the top eight of GP Portland? On the same weekend, a weekend after the Pro Tour? Bant Company is the real deal, it will continue to be the real deal.
There were some other sweet decks though. Jund won the Portland GP, there was a Grixis Cat Pact deck in the top eight in Portland (which I imagine would make for a good Magic parody of Portlandia. I wouldn’t expect the ol’ Cat Pact combo deck to show up anywhere else), the U/R Spells deck showed up to play in Rimini.
There weren’t too many innovations in the Bant decks though. A lot of them were copies and pastes of the deck LSV took to the top 4 of the Pro Tour. I would say that the biggest innovation found within the inbred Bant decks was in Paul Reitzl’s top eight list from Portland. He played 4 non-creature, non-land spells. Those were Collected Companies. No Dromoka’s Commands, no Ojutai’s Commands, not even Declaration in Stone made it into Paul’s maindeck.
On the Invitational
At this point, my decks are locked in. I’m playing the best cards in both formats. I’ll be playing Jund in Modern, and Bant in Standard. For those of you who have been following me, you know that I’m all about playing the best deck in the format. My finals appearances in PPTQs reflect what the best deck in the format can do. Abzan Midrange in Siege Rhino Standard, Splinter Twin in Modern, Jund in Modern, and (arguably) Bant Company in G/W Tokens Standard have propelled me to the Finals of four PPTQs. I also can’t make decisions, and since I like to win, I prefer to just play what the consensus best deck is.
That’s why I’m a bit worried about Modern. As mentioned, I kind of want to play Bant Eldrazi at the Invitational. But thinking about it now, I think Jund might have the best first four rounds of the Invitational. I’m sure I’ll run into your typical Modern decks, your Junds, Affinities, Infects, but I’m also sure that I’ll play against some silly combo decks and some rogue archetypes that some local IQ heroes want to win with. I think being able to Jund people out is a great way to deal with this, where Bant Eldrazi might be a better tool for day 2 and the top eight, where you can kind of expect the good decks to percolate to the top. The decks Bant Eldrazi wants to play against.
In Standard though, there is no doubt in my mind that Bant Company is the best deck. I feel that even in a room filled with hate, I’m 50% at worst against almost every deck in the format. I just have to rely on my playskill to outplay my opponents.
For a minute, I was looking at playing one of the Delirium decks, but if you don’t have the proper setup, Ishkanah becomes a lot worse when she doesn’t make spider tokens, and Languish isn’t the best spell in a room full of Spell Quellers.
The only things I have to figure out are my sideboard slots.
So for Jund, lately, I’ve been just playing a bunch of one ofs in the sideboard. I actually have 14 unique cards in the sideboard, the 2 of being Kitchen Finks (which is my second girlfriend in Modern, don’t tell Liliana, or my wife). Lately, I’ve been impressed with the following cards, and I’m pretty sure they’ll be staying in my sideboard for this weekend:
The following cards are most likely going to be cut for this weekend:
Golgari Charm is sort of the best of the worst I feel like. Most of the time, the -1/-1 effect is not as great as I’d want it to be. That’s one thing I’ve noticed, killing your own Dark Confidants is generally not a great strategy, that card is busted. The other modes are pretty neat though. I’ve had both come up in corner cases recently, Golgari Charm though feels most of the time like a Naturalize, so maybe I can find another card there.
Jund Charm I just wanted to try because instant speed answers to Infect, Snapcaster Mage, and Dredge seem really good. But three mana is quite a lot. It’s not great on the draw against most decks, and the color requirement is quite painful. I think Jund Charm will turn into a second Anger of the Gods. Still a decent card against Infect and Dredge, but worse when you want two counters.
The following are cards I think I want to play this weekend:
Right now, I feel like Tron and Scapeshift just aren’t played, and I would rather have better cards in my sideboard for random matchups. However, I’m pretty sure I need to be prepared for these decks in an open, competitive tournament like this Invitational, so I want some Fulminator Mages. Likewise, with Dredge’s success last weekend, I want to be prepared for it, so I want more graveyard hate here.
As for Bant, I’m still working there. I know I want some number of Summary Dismissal in my sideboard, as well as Subjugator Angel and Tamiyo, Field Researcher. I will be playing the mirror match, as well as Kozilek’s Return decks. I know I’m also playing Clash of Wills. Being able to counter any spell is important in this format, what with all the Lilianas and big stupid creatures running around.
I’m going into this event, my first invitational, with an open mind. I really want to day 2, that’s as poor as I’m willing to accept. Of course winning would be elation, and cashing would be great, but I know that the competition here will be of a higher level in general. Worst case, I try to day 2 the Modern Open on Saturday.
If anyone is going and wants to say hi, feel free to hunt me down. I’ll be wearing a white New Jersey Devils cap. See you at the Invitational!
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