Standard Gauntlet for the SCG Invitational

Finally, we no longer have to deal with the potential threat of the game ending on turn 4 in standard. Splinter Twin combo and Aetherworks Marvel are gone and we are about to enter a great standard format filled with all sorts of potential new archetypes. This SCG Invitational is going to be a bit of a different tournament than normal because it will be the only major event in a particular format. The prerelease for hour of Devastation is actually the week after the invitational adding many new powerful cards to the format and again shaking it up giving old decks new tools and creating new decks. Based on Magic online results since the banning of marvel, 4 top decks have emerged to be the leaders of standard, but there is also a complete tier 2 list of decks that are right up there in power level to compete at the top. These are the 4 main decks you can look forward to playing against in the standard portion of the invitational or any local events that you might be playing in:

MONO-BLACK ZOMBIES Featured by Gerry Thompson on 2017-06-15 (Standard)

This deck won the last pro tour and will certainly be a force in the new standard. It’s incredibly strong game one but can be beaten with a solid sideboard plan due to how linear the deck is. A key to beating this deck is to have removal spells that exile and board wipes. I would expect to play against this deck multiple times this weekend.

This is an updated list of the deck I won the SCG Classic in Baltimore with, Negates are no longer needed in the main and maybe not at all. This deck is super solid against pretty much everything outside of Mardu Vehicles which has been the deck I have lost to the most playing this.

This deck is also very solid and will be very popular, maybe number one in popularity although I do believe it is the weakest option of the big 4 decks. It’s weakest without drawing Snake and is an easier deck for opponents to play against

Mardu vehicles is extremely strong, but is somewhat weak to zombies, especially in game one. Although it gets significantly better post board. It’s capable of fast nut draws and contains all of the remaining cards that people thought should be banned in standard, Gideon and Heart of Kiran.

These will be the 4 main decks for the Invitational and other standard events this week. I do not think any one of these will be more than 20% of the metagame though, and standard will be extremely diverse and fun. Week one formats like this are always the most fun to play in. A very important tip this weekend is to play a deck that is proactive with cheap interaction and strong threats. Playing decks like U/R control or B/G delirium control will most likely be fatal to whatever tournament you are playing in, because your answers will not line up in ways to combat the diverse field full of midrange aggro decks that you will end up facing.

Here are some other tier two options that I believe are completely viable for this weekend.

I’ve yet to play any games with this deck, but I do believe it to be the fifth option behind the 4 decks posted above due to the success the deck has had on magic online. In theory it seems powerful in going over the top of the midrange agro decks in current standard.

Mono white is capable of extremely powerful and fun things, and has proven itself on magic online the past few weeks. I would not be surprised at all to play against this deck at any event you go to.

Right now for the standard portion of the Invitational I am leaning towards playing Temur Energy in standard because of how well it lines up verses everything that isn’t Mardu and I will be working on that matchup all week. Baral’s Expertise being added to the deck has greatly improved many matchups as well as the sideboard Aethersphere Harvesters. The energy mechanic is another aspect that other decks do not have access to and is extremely powerful as it was the surrounding core of the two recent decks to be banned, 4 color Saheeli and Temur Marvel. I believe zombies is the second best choice followed by Mardu and then G/B with Metalwork Colossus closing the gap as it gets more and more tuned. Another deck that I believe will emerge at some point as a tier deck will be a B/W midrange deck that plays gifted Aetherborn. It’s too early in the format to post a list I’m confident in, I believe it’s too early to know how many of each card to play in the deck because it is reactive and not proactive.

Hour of devastation is closing in and many of the decks that I listed above will remain as strong choices getting new upgrades such as Abrade and Eternal Ammit, I believe Nicol Bolas is the best card for standard spoiled so far followed by Ateral Ammit to improve Mardu, maybe zombies and maybe G/B and then Abrade as a clean answer to so many threats in the standard format.
Standard is destined for greatness now that the toxic cards are now gone. Good luck to all playing this amazing format this weekend.

Matt Tumavitch

Weekly Ward S2 E24 – The Daddy Strikes Back

Dan & Kevin talk about Peach Garden Oath dominance, what’s good going into the SCG Invitational, and things get a little personal during the final hour.

Weekly Ward Season 2 Ep. 14 – Life’s Legacy

This week on the Weekly Ward. Dan Ward and Kevin Jones talk about recent Legacy tournament along with the recent GP winners and their decks. They go over the new spoilers in Amonkhet and talk about whats broken and whats not in this weeks episode!

Monastery Mentor in Standard

Andrea Biaggi

Monastery Mentor - Fate Reforged

Monastery Mentor – Fate Reforged

“Speak little. Do much.”

This is by far my favorite card in Magic: The Gathering. Almost every day I think about how to use Monastery Mentor in a deck.

To make a Mentor deck work you need to have few card types for having a successful Mentor deck.

Here are few decklists that are in consideration for me to play at the SCG Invitational in Las Vegas.

Pros: The match ups vs midrange and control are pretty good.
Cons: Needs 4 mana to function properly. The lack of cheap removal makes the match up vs aggro decks really hard.

Pros: Lot of strong cards, good match up vs aggro decks.
Cons: Being mainly white for Monastery Mentor and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar makes the mana base sub optimal. I encountered several losses due to mana issues.

Pros: Really powerful when it works. Really good against aggressive and midrange decks.
Cons: Suffers against removal heavy decks. Relying on the combo to win makes this deck really volatile and draw dependent.

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Pros: Consistent and no mana issues.
Cons: Not powerful enough in a landscape populated by 3 or 4 color decks with more powerful spells.

Pros: Really powerful, consistent and good match ups against most of the field.
Cons: Grindy and slow to win.

Andrea – Karn’s Blueprints

Kevin Jones foresees BFZ cards from SCG Indy

Kevin Jones Banner

Greetings, fellow Mantis Riders! I’m writing this on a Tuesday and the results for the inaugural standard events with Battle for Zendikar (order some here) are in the books. I’m nothing if not arrogant so on Friday I decided to write down five predictions I had for this past weekends SCG Indianapolis open and the new standard format. Today I pulled out my list so we can explore how I did and the implications of what we learned Saturday and Sunday. So let’s hop to it!

Prediction number 1:
75% (6 of the 8) of the top 8 decks will be known archetypes from the previous format (red, Abzan, Jeskai, Esper, etc).

Verdict: I was basically right! Here’s the top 8 decks
2 Black Jeskai
2 Esper Dragons
1 Five color Bring to Light
1 Atarka Red
1 Green White Megamorph
1 Abzan Control

Five of the eight decks are actually the new versions of old decks from the previous format. Two decks are an old archetype splashing a 4th color, made possible by the awesome mana in this new format. One deck, Gerry Thompson’s 5 color bring to light, is completely new. I expected that the three color decks would incorporate splashes. The fourth color allows for a fetch/dual manabase and makes the mana better than three color tri-land pain land mana bases. Jeskai incorporating Butcher of the Horde and Crackling Doom is a pretty intuitive leap for people to make. GW Megamorph is the deck Michael Majors piloted to second place in the open. GW Aggro was a deck in the previous format, albeit an underplayed one. It usually played four copies of Collected Company and Mastery of the Unseen for lifegain and inevitability. This deck is fairly similar but it naturally wanted to include Hangarback Walker and thus elected to eschew Collected Company and the restrictive applications it has on deck building. I completely agree with this decision since I think Hangarback Walker is great in this deck and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is a better payoff at four mana than Company anyway. I also would shy away from Company because it’s slow against Atarka Red and bad against counterspells and I think Silumgar’s Scorn and Atarka’s Command are two of the pillars of the new format. So that’s an example of very effective and efficient forecasting of the metagame. Some readers will astutely pick up on the fact that the four drop Collected Company is replaced with another four drop in Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. The difference is that Gideon attacks from another angle, actually multiple other angles. It’s a planeswalker that poses a difficult to kill threat, a steady stream of tokens when at parity, and lastly, an immediate and unkillable Glorious Anthem. The last mode is the one least often used in the Jeskai builds I’ve been playing Gideon in. However, it’s arguably the most potent mode in Majors’ GW deck. Your wingmates dodge Languish, your [/card]Den Protector[/card]s become harder to block, and you can deploy additional Hangarback Walkers to the field for the low cost of free99! Now that’s some value if I do say so myself. Now, despite the impressive deckbuilding and theorycrafting evident in Michael’s deck and his process, I have several predictions left to assess. One prediction came true so far, on to the next one!

Prediction number 2: Over ten copies of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in the top 8 of SCG Indy.

Verdict: I was right again! 11 copies cracked the top 8. 4 in Brad Caroenter’s Abzan Control deck, 4 in Majors’ GW deck, and 3 in Adam Varner’s Jeskai Black deck (ohhh yeahhh Jeskai). I thought that players would hesitate to play 4 copies since the card is fairly hard to kill for a 4 mana Planeswalker. But evidently, the fact that you can immediately cash in your active Gideon for an emblem before casting a redundant copy means it is one of the few walkers that isn’t bad in multiples. Gideon is very powerful and will help define the format for the foreseeable future, likely his whole tenure in standard. I expected four decks with three copies, maybe one with two, leaving us at around 11-12 copies. We got 11 copies from 3 decks (4,4,3) which is similar to what I expected to have happen. 2 for 2 on predictions, if I was as good at softball as I am at guessing obscure facts about formats I might have some non magic related hardware on the mantle. But alas, moving on.

Prediction number 3: 0 Eldrazi ramp decks in the top 8 of scg Indy.

Verdict: Right again! He’s on fire! I couldn’t write that without hearing it in the announcer voice from NBA Hangtime, the classic N64 game from the late 90s. But anyway, this prediction was one of the safest ones. I was almost positive ramp would either underperform, be virtually unplayed, or both. Everyone was accustomed to ramp decks being creature based like the devotion decks from the previous format. I think the new ramp decks are likely built around Nissa’s Pilgrimage and Hedron Archive. They seek to ramp aggressively and land Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon as quickly as possible. In a format likely to be defined by Valorous Stance, Abzan Charm, and Crackling Doom the payoff isn’t quite high enough on the other expensive creatures. Though Oblivion Sower is really sweet I’m not sure he can carry an archetype that some believe is intentionally under supported with only one set legal from the block so far. It’s better for everyone if the format shakes up and evolves as the new set releases this winter. So consequently, making the Eldrazi deck good in the first set isn’t as valuable a quantity with regards to the format as making it good upon release of the second set is. It forces everyone to reevaluate all the cards again in a different subjective context. Which will change all the other other cards’ values because they were best against strategies that falter in the face of effective and powerful ramp decks. Just an example but it can happen pretty easily and I think wizards is absolutely intentional about the order in which certain cards are released. Some real life context is last winter, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon’s release in Fate Reforged added a powerful weapon for control decks and ramp decks. I also don’t think Whip of Erebos and Jeskai Ascendancy/Hordeling Outburst would’ve faced off in top four of worlds if Ugin was legal at the time. Ugin ended up being one of the most unbeatable cards for Jeskai tokens as well as Whip decks. But, those decks were great, that match was great, and I, for one, an glad we get to explore every stage of a format’s development. And on to the next prediction!

Prediction number 4: Monastery Mentor and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker will both show up in a top 8 deck from the open.

Verdict: Wrong!!! Well, you can’t be perfect I guess. I thought both of these cards stood to gain a ton of stock from the rotation. Sarkhan is a Stormbreath Dragon a lot of the time that can be a removal spell in a pinch. A five drop threat that is immune to Ojutai’s Command and Valorous Stance as well as most damage based removal is very well positioned in the theoretical new metagame. One of the Jeskai decks topped out at Dragonlord Ojutai and the other didn’t go past four mana besides Dig. So maybe everyone anticipated a room full of Crackling Doom and Abzan Charm. But even then you’re not much better off with Ojutai and could even theoretically fare worse. Sarkhan is also very good against Gideon as well. Kills it immediately when you’re on the play. I still think this one is well positioned, be ready for it to show up again. As for Monastery Mentor, the card gained a ton from the rotation of several top tier two mana removal spells. Also, the format seems to be defined by larger powerful creatures (Rhinos, Anafenza, and Dragons) several of which are multicolored. Which means even though Ultimate Price didn’t rotate yet it’s inclusion into main decks is a slight liability. You could see a copy or two of Ultimate Price in lists but all it takes is one unchecked turn with a live Mentor to mount a scarily large advantage. It’s less likely your opponents will have price early if they even have it at all. So I feel like this card will rarely instantly die as it has in the past. It technically dies to Wild Slash and Fiery Impulse but it’s fairly easy to save your own copy of the same type of card for a prowess trigger in a pinch. The reason this card is constantly underplayed is there’s a fairly low floor for the card if you can’t guarantee to have a stream of spells. It’s just a 2/2 which won’t cut it. For these reasons you can’t just slot it into any white deck. There needs to be some attempt at synergy. Jeskai would be a great fit for both of these cards and while scouring lists I found Michael Bernat’s 21st place black Jeskai list from the Indy open that included two copies of Monastery Mentor and one copy of Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker. Hats off to you for the finish, Michael. If only you could’ve cracked the top 8 and made me look like a true seer. One more prediction to go!

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Prediction number 5: Thunderbreak Regent will be overplayed and underperform.

Verdict: half and half on this one. If you’re asking how someone can be both right and wrong I’ll explain. My actual guess about the format was that the Draconic Roar/Thunderbreak deck that has been good in the past is just very poorly positioned. Whether it’s Mardu, Jeskai, or RB it still feels like roar doesn’t actually kill many creatures that matter that don’t already die to Wild Slash or Ultimate Price (Mantis Rider too powerful). The incremental damage from roar and regent triggers should be good when everyone is taking additional damage from their mana. And it is, but Thunderbreak just lines up poorly against the best current removal, especially crackling doom. It’s just too easy to build the dragons decks which is why I thought they would be overplayed. It’s also too likely that your dragon will die to a spell way cheaper than the amount of mana you invested in it. That’s why I think they’ll underperform. Ojutai and Silumgar, the Drifting Death are the only exceptions. Their hexproof allows you to minimize the chances of losing a 5/6 mana investment to a 2/3 mana spell. Now, the way in which I was proven wrong is interesting. The winning Atarka red list played Hangarback Walker and Thunderbreak Regent in the sideboard. He would board in Hangarback and Regent to combat sweepers like Radiant Flames and to have a reasonable amount if threats that can win the game on their own. I’m a huge fan of sideboard plans like this. Invalidating your opponents’ best cards is the goal of sideboarding in general. So I was wrong because the card won the tournament but there was exactly one Regent/Roar deck in top 32. The 31st place Jeskai Dragons deck. Let’s call it a push. 3.5/5 isn’t too bad.

That’s all I’ve got this week. If you enjoyed this one you’re in luck because I’ll be writing a weekly article about constructed. Usually standard but I might throw an eternal format in there from time to time. I’ve started a podcast of sorts where I ramble to myself while driving. You might ultimately be able to find that here, provided it isn’t rife with abject vulgarity and weirdness. Thanks for hanging out, see everyone next week! If you need anything for upcoming tournaments, use coupon code KEVINJONES for 5% off your order here.