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SCG Cincinnati Team Constructed

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Hey everyone!

I'm teaming with Stu Parnes and Brian Demars this weekend at SCG Cincinnati. The format is Team Constructed, which happens to be one of my favorite. In preparation I have been following Standard, Modern, and Legacy. You can say I've had my hands full.

Today, I want to talk about the three decks we plan to register.

Let's get to it!

Modern

Stu is our Modern player. He plays all of the Constructed formats, but Modern is what he likes to think about the most. Why fight the tide? Since SCG has changed most of their opens to be Modern just about everyone is familiar with at least one deck.

I've been doing very well with Bant Company lately and Stu has been helping me optimize the list.

Here's what we will likely register:


Voice of Resurgence
There have been some subtle differences in the past couple weeks because I've been playing a lot of Modern.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor is great, but I went down to two copies. This is because I kept bringing in the second Walking Ballista which also happens to be a 4-drop that is a Collected Company miss. I can only have so many spells that fit this criteria. It's a way to interact against creature decks such as Counters Company, Elves, and Affinity. The Ballista is also a threat against control decks they must answer it or risk dying quickly. I was even boarding it in against Tron because it's a redundant threat that can abuse infinite Green mana. It occupies a similar spot on the curve as Jace because I can ramp it out on turn three.

The more I play with Voice of Resurgence the more I'm happy drawing it. It's basically Kitchen Finks for two mana. The opponent must play their threats into your Spell Quellers; this lets your end of turn Chord of Callings translate into more wins. I found Voice of Resurgence to be better against Burn than Kitchen Finks because my hand always had Spell Queller and Collected Company to cast in the mid game. I needed more impactful 2-drops that don't line up poorly against end of turn Searing Blaze off of a fetchland.

I made room for additional Voice of Resurgence by cutting down to a single Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. This is because they are both good against fair decks and I didn't like hitting a second copy of a legend with Collected Company.

I added a Vendilion Clique to the sideboard primarily to combat Tron and Valakut. Expensive creatures like Ulamog and Primeval Titan can be difficult to interact with as Spell Queller and Negate miss. It teams up with the singleton Meddling Mage for maximum value.

Bant Company is great in SCG Opens because most players aren't familiar with this deck quite yet. They know the general idea, but there's a crazy amount of tricks in the deck. I feel confident with Stu piloting this deck. Team events are about trusting your teammates, but I can also help with tough decisions because we both know Bant Company. Modern is a narrow format where discussing a deck can only be productive if both people have insight about a particular strategy.

I like the deck against control, midrange, and combo. Aggressive decks that draw their small amount of disruption is what scares me. Decks like Affinity and Hollow One can flood the board while holding up Galvanic Blast or Lightning Bolt to shut off my combo.

Legacy

Deathrite Shaman
The Legacy seat is the complete opposite of Modern. Most players don't play the format because the general population is priced out of the format. It's also hard to switch decks because each strategy has a set of cards worth at least $150 each. Mox Diamond, Lion's Eye Diamond, City of Traitors, blue duals, and don't even get me started on The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale.

There is a theory that the Legacy player on each team knows their deck the best. This is because each team can find a "Legacy expert." I don't find this happens in practice because there aren't many Legacy experts and most people just want to team with their friends. It's conceivable that I can find myself a Legacy expert to team with, but chemistry is more important to me. Most players want to win less than me, so I think they will make a similar call and just team with their friends that may have to go outside of their comfort zone with Legacy.

I volunteered myself as the Legacy player on our team. This is because I was familiar with debatably the best deck in the format, Grixis Delver. I had tested the mirror with some local players and I feel good about the matchup. This is important as the best teams will likely have Grixis Delver as their Legacy seat. Grixis Delver dominated the last SCG Legacy Open and was also the most played deck in the last Team Constructed Open. There hasn't been a deck that simultaneously beats Grixis Delver while remaining competitive against the other big decks, so I feel good about my chances with the best Deathrite Shaman shell.

Since I focus a lot on Constructed formats, the worst part of me playing Legacy is being in the C seat. I'm ideally in the middle to give input in both Brian and Stu's matches. I typically play faster and can finish rounds ahead of Brian so I can swing my chair over when I'm done to help with Game 3.

Here's the list I plan to register:


I'm going to play Stifle in the maindeck because everyone will expect Spell Pierce instead. Most players that have had success with Grixis Delver lately play the exact same maindeck as the list is mainly solved. I get some surprise value with Stifle.

Stifle also combos well with Wasteland. There isn't a correct decision on when to fetch a land because playing around Stifle means a potential dual is on the battlefield to get destroyed by Wasteland. These types of combos are detrimental, but I don't see them too often. My favorite example of this is Cryptic Command and Mistbind Clique in Faeries. If you play your spells on main phase two in order to play around Cryptic Command counterspell + tap opponent's creatures then Mistbind Clique can come down to ambush and tap lands instead.

I am going to play three Surgical Extraction in the board because Lands, Reanimator, Dredge, and Storm are examples of decks where I want an early Deathrite Shaman to exile cards in their graveyard. A turn one Deathrite is asking a lot of my deck which means the average list is underweight on graveyard hate.

Standard

The Scarab God
This leaves us with Brian Demars on Standard. There aren't many Standard experts these days so Brian is being a champ and going out of his comfort zone and pick up the new format. He's a Silver Pro this year which bans him from PPTQs. Standard is the current PPTQ season which means the primary purpose to play the format is gone.

Standard is still a fresh format after the banning of Attune with Aether, Rogue Refiner, Ramunap Ruins, and Rampaging Ferocidon. I've been scouring Magic Online League 5-0 decklists in search of trends.

It seems each aggressive deck had a sticky 2-drop threat that could be eternalized in the late game. The midrange decks are focused on The Scarab God and Rekindling Phoenix. These creatures also return from the graveyard so they demand expensive exiling removal such as Vraska's Contempt, Cast Out, Thopter Arrest, and Ixalan's Binding. Pure control decks exist such as ub Scarab God and wu Approach, too. Rounding out the format are some decks that attack from an untraditional angle: Tokens and God-Pharaoh's Gift.

Stu played Grixis Energy to a PPTQ Top 8 finish last weekend to get a feel for the format since he is sitting in the middle with Modern. I took advice from various articles read over the week from Brad Nelson and Owen Turtenwald on how to build the deck. Andrew Funkhouser won the SCG Classic with Brad's 75 from a recent article and I also got to pick his brain. These are three strong players so it makes sense to let them pave the way for the testing process.

Owen began by going door to door preaching the good news: four Scarab God is the truth. Brad quickly followed suit. Owen was on 27-28 lands while brad started with 26 and a Search for Azcanta. The following week featured Brad discussing the 27th land, Field of Ruin, instead of the powerful Blue enchantment. Brad also went down to three Scarab God which made me unsure of the correct number as it was replaced with another haymaker in Torrential Gearhulk.

The primary reason to play the PPTQ was to form our own opinions on some of the areas where these Standard veterans had some disagreements. Do we want 26 or 27 lands? Is there diminishing returns on The Scarab God? Is Doomfall as good as I think it is? Is Torrential Gearhulk worth it?

Here's what Stu used to top 8 the PPTQ:


Doomfall
Overall Grixis Energy looked like the strongest and most consistent deck in the room. Players were trying to attack from different angles in hopes of winning Game 1 and getting one after sideboard where they are less favored. This feels a lot like how Temur Energy used to operate before it was banned so I might as well get on board the next gravy train.

Hour of Glory was in place of the fourth Vraska's Contempt due to card availability issues. The God clause never came up and no games were lost due to it not being able to exile a planeswalker. I wouldn't play it over the Contempt in the future, but it wasn't that much worse.

Doomfall was as good as advertised. It exiled the scary midrange creatures and took away interaction for The Scarab God. I wouldn't take it out even against aggressive decks because everyone moves toward a midrange strategy after sideboard. The battlefield is clear thanks to Chandra, Harnessed Lightning and Magma Spray so the creature removal mode was rarely awkward.

Torrential Gearhulk was very weak as a curve-topper. If Stu wasn't facing a creature deck Glimmer of Genius was the only good instant to cast from the graveyard. It was also mediocre to ramp into with Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Gonti would have been better than gearhulk because it's cheaper and I can steal more powerful spells to cast.

The Scarab God was amazing. It doesn't matter if you have two in hand because it is that powerful. Everyone was ready with a creature exiling spell which made the redundant copies that much better.

It felt like twenty-seven lands was too many. Field of Ruin can destroy Search for Azcanta, but I would rather play the powerful enchantment myself. Since most of the removal exiles creatures I would like to dump a Whirler Virtuoso or Glint-Sleeve Siphoner in the graveyard for the Scarab God.

There was a lot of complexity to the sideboard.

Arguel's Blood Fast
Arguel's Blood Fast was great against any opponent not trying to attack the life total. Think Sylvan Library against midrange and control in Legacy. I wouldn't play with less than two, but three is too many.

Chandra's Defeat felt mediocre. There aren't a ton of great targets against the Aggro Red decks because they can play Black or artifact creatures. The rg midrange decks have mostly Green creatures and Glorybringer isn't amazing in the matchup.

Jace's Defeat was good in the mirror. The mirror is very dynamic so you can't just throw in a bunch of Negates and a Nicol Bolas into your deck and call it good. The Blue defeat counters Negate, Whirler Virtuoso, The Scarab God, Torrential Gearhulk and sideboard Nicol Bolas. It's powerful in a wide range of battlefield scenarios.

Most control decks side in creatures to be more resilient against Negate and Duress. For this reason the third Duress felt like overkill as there will be some points in the game that are topdeck wars. Doomfall can already act as a hand disruption spell, too.

Fiery Cannonade teams up with Chandra's mana ability to blow out tokens decks. It's an important sideboard card because token decks don't care as much about your primary interaction in Magma Spray and Harnessed Lightning.

After these thoughts from Stu's PPTQ top 8 here is what we are likely going to register for the Standard seat:


The Glimmer of Genius felt powerful even when it wasn't being cast from the graveyard with Torrential Gearhulk. This version has a lot of fat while reducing the mana curve.

Consign // Oblivion wasn't in Stu's list, but it would have been impressive in post board games. White decks interact with Scarab God using Cast Out, Thopter Arrest, and Ixalan's Binding. Grixis can't destroy enchantments, but this is close. In a stalemate enchantment removal can be bounced just long enough to free The Scarab God to make two 4/4 Zombie tokens that likely win the game.

A bounce spell can save The Scarab God from spell-based removal. This is a page taken from limited Magic, but it works. I can also save a Whirler Virtuoso or Glint-Sleeve Siphoner from a removal spell to generate more energy. While this is normally not an exciting line Oblivion flashes back as a Mind Rot. That's a lot of value.

I like this card against Mono Red, too. The timely bounce spell can add a second card to the opponent's hand to prevent Hazoret the Fervent from attacking. It can also bounce Hazoret and then Mind Rot can kill the god. Bounce against Red is also nice when teaming up with the Doomfalls that are still in the deck.

Summary

I feel confident my teammates and I are going to do well at the Team Constructed Open this weekend. All three of us have powerful decks and we can help each other in difficult game states.

Team Constructed is my favorite so regardless of our outcome we will have a lot of fun. I hope to do RIW Hobbies proud this weekend.

Thanks for reading!

-- Kyle


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