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Predicting the Player's Championship Metagame


It’s Done

It’s 11:30 p.m on Wednesday and after countless hours of testing over the last few weeks, I just submitted my three decklists for this year’s SCG Player’s Championship.

Preparing for event has been unlike my preparation for any other. Due to the event being comprised of only 16 players, the expected metagame is essentially its’ own entity, independent from metagame that one would expect in an open field. Because of this, identifying what I expect my fellow competitors to bring to the table is crucial component for my success. Accurately predicting the metagame allows me to pick archetypes and make card choices best suited for the tournament. So today I’m going to breakdown the metagame I expect at the event.

Brad Nelson

Death's Shadow
Standard: For the past few years, Brad Nelson has arguably held the title of best Standard player in the world. Regardless of the state of the format, Brad seems to put up great finishes with unparalleled consistency. Brad’s consistency can likely be attributed to his deck choices. His lists are always well tuned and they’re almost always midrange decks. Sometimes his lists are more skewed toward being more aggressive or more controlling, but they can basically always be categorized as midrange decks. Taking this into account, it makes sense for Brad to show up with Delirium. He’s had previous success with deck, and it’s the epitome of consistency. I don’t expect his list to resemble to stock Delirium lists in the slightest, though. I expect Brad will warp his deck in a way to give him a good Marvel matchup. This may mean moving toward the more aggressive version of the deck or possibly dipping into another color.

Modern: Brad had always had a tendency to lean toward midrange strategies in Modern as well. Midrange strategies in Modern are not nearly as dominant as they are in Standard though, and this resulted in him piloting Death's Shadow Zoo in his last few Modern events. So he can likely be expected to bring Death's Shadow or G/B/X to the tournament. I expect him to bring Jund because he’s working with Todd Anderson for this event, and he will likely aim to leverage skill as much as he can.

Legacy: This format was once cited as Brad’s Achilles’ heel, but he’s gotten in a lot of reps with a variety of decks since that point. His choice will almost certainly boil down to Death and Taxes and Sneak and Show though. I expect this to be an easy decision for him and show up to the event with Sneak and Show. Kentaro Yamamoto (Syrup19) 5-0’d a Legacy League with his take on Sneak and Show a few weeks prior to taking down Grand Prix Chiba. When I first saw his list, I immediately recognized it as very strong metagame choice and taking down the Grand Prix with it confirmed my hunch. I expect Brad has recognized this as well and will show up to the PC with Sneak and Show for a 2nd time.

Todd Anderson

Standard: I expect Todd to show up with Brad’s 75 in Standard. Todd put a respectable 17th place finish at the Atlanta Invitational, but his poor 3-4-1 record in the Standard portion didn’t do much to aid his finish. After making a bad metagame decision in the last event, he will likely place his faith in his testing partner to make the right call for the metagame.

Modern: I can’t picture Todd showing up with anything but Jund. He has been championing the archetype since the release of Grim Flayer and is fresh off 8-0 finish in the Modern portion of the Invitational. The deck is consistent and almost impossible to be a poor choice as long as it’s tuned relatively well for the field.

Legacy: I can’t really put Todd on anything in Legacy. It’s possible he shows up with Sneak and Show as well, but I doubt this will be case. Todd’s range in Legacy is practically limitless. He can and has played pretty much everything.

Joe Lossett

Electrostatic Pummeler
Standard: I believe Joe will be showing up with Electrostatic Pummeler. Not to insult Joe, but for almost no explicable reason he seemed to be doing all of his testing on his personal MTGO account (Oarsman). I played against Joe several times throughout my testing process and he was playing the Pummeler deck each time, so I don’t have any reason to believe he will be showing up with anything else.

Modern: This one is pretty tricky. Joe really hasn’t played anything besides Tron in the past year or two and he’s had a lot of success with deck, so it should be easy to put him on Tron. This would likely be true if Infect wasn’t the most popular deck of choice among competitors in this event. With that being said, I think Joe will still register Tron but a fairly warped version of it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a set of Fogs in Joe’s 60.

Legacy: This one is not very tricky. Joe will be playing Miracles. He made the mistake of playing something else in the inaugural Player’s Championship, but I can’t see him making it again. Joe is almost undoubtedly one of the best Miracles players in the world. I love playing the Elves vs Miracles, and I’m proud to boast a pretty high win percentage in what should be a bad matchup, but I’ve only managed to take a game off him in three matches. We’ve played some pretty long and insane games, but I can never seem to close them out like I can against other players. This is likely due to the fact that it’s pretty rare for him to make a mistake while piloting the deck.

Caleb Scherer

Standard: I believe Caleb is testing with Joe for this event. This leads me to believe he will be on a Pummeler as well. If he isn’t testing with Lossett, I expect him to play U/W Flash. Possibly the version featuring Toolcraft Exemplar that my teammates played at the Invitational.

Modern: Caleb won the most recent Modern Classic piloting Dredge, an archetype he has been playing on and off for the past few months, and I expect him to be playing it here. While it is possible to hate Dredge out, it takes a lot of sideboard slots to do so. Likely too many for anyone to realistically allocate to one matchup because of how diverse this Modern field despite being such a small amount of players.

Legacy: Storm. Next!

Gerry Thompson

Standard: Gerry is pretty well known for his absurdly wide range. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where he’s going to end up. With that being said, I expect him to sleeve up some Key to the Cities. It’s a card he’s particularly fond of, and it seems like it could be strong way to attack a midrange dense field. This would likely leave Gerry playing either R/B Aggro or Mardu Vehicles. He played R/B at GP Denver and Michael Majors played the deck to a 7-1 finish at the Invitational, so I could easily see him running it back, but I think he is more likely to play Mardu than R/B.

Edit: I’m in my room looking at the league lists from today when I stumbled across this. I didn’t have this information before submitting my list, so it’s not really part of my metagame prediction. While it almost certainly isn’t, the reason I think this may be someone competing in the Player’s Championship is the fact that it looks like a conscious decision was made to give up a lot of game against aggro decks in order to beat midrange decks. Assuming my fellow competitors predictions were similar to mine, this could be a very good call for the event. And of all the players in the event, I think the most likely candidate to be the person behind this list is Gerry. It’s probably not him, just saying I wouldn’t be surprised if it was

Modern: Again, it’s pretty difficult to determine where he’s going to end up. It almost certainly won’t be an unfair deck, but there’s a lot of possible options amongst fair decks. The most likely being Grixis, Jund, and Abzan. I don’t think he’s going to be Junding, so it’s a tossup between Abzan and Grixis. I think Abzan is possibility because I’ve heard him recommend it on several occasions when someone says they don’t know what to play in Modern. This likely means he thinks it’s one of the safest choices in the format, and the tournament structure compels competitors into picking safe decks for the Legacy and Modern portions. Grixis may be the more likely of the two though just as the result of his affinity for the archetype. Even if he were to bring Grixis though, it’s difficult to determine what his list will look like. It could feature Ancestral Vision and Cryptic Command à la Corey Burkhart, or he could default to his version with Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and discard spells.

Legacy: What I said about Todd x 10. Gerry really has played everything in this format, but the decks I expect the most are Shardless BUG, some Delver concoction absent Delver of Secrets, or Miracles.

Andrew Tenjum

Spell Queller
Standard: He has played some form of R/W Vehicles in every tournament, and I expect him to continue this trend. After the original Marvel decks gained popularity after the PT, he won an online PTQ splashing Blue for Spell Queller and counterspells, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do something like this again. Assuming he’s testing with Jacob Baugh, it’s possible he plays a version of Baugh’s take on Aetherworks from the Invitational.

Modern: His deck of choice for most of this year has been Abzan Company, but that’s not exactly the best positioned deck at the moment. His team seems to like the R/G Valakut a lot, but I’ve never thought the deck was anything more than fine and it doesn’t seems to fit his style. He’s played a lot of Grixis Twin as well and while he obviously can’t play that, but I could easily see him on something like Corey Burkhart’s Grixis control deck. All things considered, he’s probably just going to be Junding people.

Legacy: I’ve never seen him touch anything that wasn’t a fair Blue deck, and there is really no reason to believe he would do anything different here. The most likely candidates are Shardless BUG and Grixis Delver, but I think Grixis Delver is significantly more likely option out of the two. I’m pretty sure Noah has converted 90% of his teammates into Grixis Delver pilots.

Jeff Hoogland

Standard: Hoogland is normally known for his midrange brews in Standard, but this isn’t exactly the easiest format to do that. The pillars of the format being Gideon and Emrakul put a pretty real strain on innovation in midrange decks. His list will almost certainly have to feature Blue, so I expect him to show up with some variation of U/W.

Modern: He has played a lot of different of different strategies to success in this format, but I expect him to be on his trusty Chord deck. If I expected him to allocate more of testing time to Modern, I could easily see him showing up with something else, but considering that this likely the format he’s most confident in and it’s much less important than Standard it seems foolish to put too much time into testing it. He’s probably going to focus more in the other formats and play a deck he knows he can win with. I would be surprised if he doesn’t show up with Kiki-Chord.

Legacy: He plays the format one way, all in. I think these decks are lot better than people give them credit for and Hoogland is pretty experienced in playing them at this point. I’m not positive on what he’s going to settle on, but I expect he will be attempting to do some pretty busted things as fast as possible.

Tom Ross

Inventor's Apprentice
Standard: I expect the reigning SCG player of the Year to continue doing what earned him that title, beating down his opponents in Standard. Tom is certainly more than capable of playing other decks at a very high level, but he really has no reason to. Aggro decks are positioned pretty well at the moment, and whatever version of beats he settles on he’s going to play it exceptionally well. I don’t believe he’s testing with Gerry, but I’m not positive he isn’t. If he does test with Gerry I expect his deck to include Inventor's Apprentice and Key to the CIty. If he Doesn’t test with Gerry, I expect his deck to include Town Gossipmonger and Thalia's Lieutenant.

Modern: I don’t know if it’s even worth trying to figure this one out. I’m almost certain it won’t be Infect, but it could be basically anything else.

Legacy: Tom’s decision will likely come down to Infect and Death and Taxes. If this were a very important tournament with an open field, I think Tom would bring Infect. But when the majority of the room could easily show up with Delver, I think Death and Taxes is better choice and what Tom is going to be playing in this event.

Todd Stevens

Standard: Todd Stevens announced that he was done with his testing days before the deadline. This leads me to believe he’s going to be showing up with his stock decklists. If this is the case, he will playing Marvel in Standard. There are several viable variations on the archetype at this point, but I’m going to guess B/G Marvel. He was playing the deck before the Invitational, and the consensus seems to be that B/G has a solid matchup in the mirror.

Modern: Again, if he is sticking with his stock decks there’s only two real possibilities. He will likely be playing Bant Eldrazi or R/W Prison (I’m open to different suggestions. but I refuse to call it Sun and Moon). He’s been putting up solid results with his R/W deck recently, but expect him to bring Eldrazi to the tournament. The R/W deck is powerful, but loses a lot of equity when people know you’re playing it, and when you’re playing against good players.

Legacy: I’m not positive in saying this, but I think this is the format Todd has played the least by far. So taking that into consideration, I can’t see him switching off of a deck he is comfortable with and has put up solid finishes with. Todd Stevens will be playing Infect.

Kevin Jones

Toolcraft Exemplar
Standard: Kevin Jones is my teammate and a great friend of mine, but we didn’t test together for this event. The main reason we decided to test in different groups was the fact that three players is actually a decent amount of the field, so breaking up into smaller groups seemed better. The reason me and Jim decided to test together was the fact that Kevin was likely just going to play the decks he wanted to regardless of what results our testing yielded. Kevin really is a great player, but he plays the Game 1 way. He plays Blue decks. So taking that into consideration, Kevin will be playing the Toolcraft Exemplar version of U/W he played in the Invitational.

Modern: I think I’ve heard Grixis Delver referred to as Daddy Delver more than it’s an actual name in the past month. Months ago, Kevin said he wasn’t sure about playing it in the PC because it’s a deck that is nearly reliant on outplaying your opponent, but I can’t imagine him showing up with anything else at this point.

Legacy: Kevin is testing with Brad Carpenter for this event, and I expect them both to be playing the deck Brad played in the last Legacy Open. Kevin will likely be showing up with Ben Friedman’s take on Four-Color Delver.

Brad Carpenter

Standard: As I mentioned, Brad is testing with Kevin for the event. So this would leave me to believe that Brad is playing the Esper version of U/W as well. That as well as the fact that he 5-0’d a league with his personal account and it got posted a few days ago. Last place place for this tournament is $500 and making another count costs $10. I don’t really get it. In Brad’s defense though, apparently I was the only person who knew his account name. But still come on.

Modern: Surprisingly, I don’t think it will be Infect. After I cooled down a bit with deck, Brad picked up my slack and made sure people continued to realize how good the deck is throughout Season 3. So it seems weird for me to say I think he’s going to switch, but I think this is an easy call to make from my position. Infect is losing traction in the actual metagame because of how hard it’s being targeted. So in a field where half the players have registered Infect this year, it’s a scary choice because it certainly has a target on it. With that being said, I have no idea what he’s playing instead. I’m assuming just a generic fair deck.

Legacy: I mentioned this when discussing Kevin, but I don’t have a reason to believe Brad isn’t playing Four-Color Delver. If he’s not playing Delver, it will be Eldrazi.

Jacob Baugh

Surgical Extraction
Standard: Winning the last tournament in two of the formats puts Jacob in weird spot. He either has to change decks to throw people off or just run it back. I think the latter option is the more likely of the two. So that leaves him on Naya Marvel in Standard. I’m sure it won’t be the same 75, but I don’t expect it to be tremendously different either.

Modern: After winning with Dredge, he has the same decision here. I think this is much easier call to make though if you analyze his list attentively. At the Invitational, he transitioned his sideboard plan to feature several discard spells. This was a reaction to people moving more toward spell based answers to Dredge like Surgical Extraction and Ravenous Trap. This is telling that Baugh would rather adjust to hate cards rather than migrate to a different strategy.

Legacy: This is first year I’ve become familiar with Jacob, but there has also been notably less Legacy played on the tour this year. So I'm not entirely sure of his range on the format, but it seems pretty wide. Based on his results and what I’ve seen him play, I expect him to be on either Storm or Miracles with Storm being the more likely option.

Max McVety

Standard: McVety doesn’t have a ton of results to go off of, at least not in comparison to the rest of the field. From what I can tell though, he’s a pretty big proponent of aggressive decks. This leads me to believe McVety will be on Mardu Vehicles. I think it’s the best aggro deck in the format by a significant enough margin that it’s by far the most likely place for him to end up.

Modern: Similarly, I don’t really have anything to go off of here. The only decks I know he’s played in this format are Infect and Burn. He played Infect at the Invitational he won, and he played Burn in an Open like two years ago. So I guess he’s on Infect.

Legacy: There’s even less information here. He played Infect at the one Legacy Open he attended this year. This could have easily been him phoning it because he knows people wouldn't know what to put him on here, or it could be his pet deck that he plays all the time. It’s far from a lock, but I guess I’m going with Infect.

Liam Lonergan

Standard: He top 8’d an IQ with G/R Monsters once. This isn’t a dig at Liam at all. He won an Invitational where he beat a lot of good players in fairly dominating fashion, so I’m sure he’s capable of playing some solid Magic. There just isn’t really anything to go base any predictions off of besides his Invitational win. There he played Bant Company because it was just the best deck. If he follows the same pattern, he can be expected to bring Marvel this time around.

Modern: His Invitational win came off the back of his Modern deck, Elves. I think the field won't be too hostile toward the deck, so I’m can’t see him not running it back.

Legacy: I really don’t know. I don’t know how much Legacy he’s played but if it’s none, it will almost certainly just be a combo deck. You could get cute and guess Elves, but as someone who has played the deck a lot I can’t see this being a reasonable decision. The deck is very hard to play well, and it seems pretty tough to get through this field with it unless you're pretty experienced. This isn’t me bragging or anything (maybe a little), it’s just my opinion on the matter.

Jim Davis (What other people would expect)

Standard: Esper Aggro

Modern: Grixis Delver

Legacy: BUG Delver

Andrew Jessup (What other people would expect)

Standard: Marvel

Modern: Infect

Legacy: Elves

The Player’s Championship will have come and gone by the time this goes up, so you guys should be able to compare and see how accurate my predictions were. You may also notice that I just played the decks people probably expected me to. I really didn’t plan to, but I was never opposed to playing them either. I think there’s a pretty real possibility that I tested more than anyone else competing in the tournament, and I played pretty much everything. I tested a lot of Loam and Aluren in Legacy, Bant Eldrazi, Grixis Control, Grixis Delver, Burn, R/W Prison, Death's Shadow, U/R Battle Rage in Modern, and literally every deck in Standard. There were countless decks I would have been comfortable playing, but the decks I was winning the most with by far were my standbys. It was to the point that it felt like it would be a mistake to play anything else even if the decks might have a target on them. It feels weird to have tested so much and to just play the decks I would have if I didn’t test at all, but I don’t really regret doing so. My testing really aided me in developing a comprehensive understanding of the formats and tuning my lists precisely.

Hopefully, I had a good read on the field and my choices paid off.

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