SCG Invitational Deck Dive

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By Byron King
@DoneTheMath
 
There aren’t a lot of Standard events to look forward to over the Christmas lull.  The SCG invitational is split between Standard and Modern, so there is some limited Standard information to gather.  Most importantly, SCG posts the Standard decks that go 7-1 or better get posted on their own.  Let’s take a look.

Selesnya Tokens
A Standard deck, by Zachary Kiihne
Top 8 SCG Invitational

Maindeck:
4 Adanto Vanguard
4 Venerated Loxodon
3 Emmara, Soul of the Accord
3 Trostani Discordant

4 Conclave Tribunal
4 History of Benalia
4 March of the Multitudes
3 Legion’s Landing
2 Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
4 Flower
4 Saproling Migration

4 Forest
9 Plains
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden

Sideboard:
3 Knight of Autumn
2 Baffling End
2 Ixalan’s Binding
1 The Immortal Sun
2 Lyra Dawnbringer
2 Shalai, Voice of Plenty
2 Vivien Reid
1 Citywide Bust

Selesnya tokens haven’t really been seen since the first week of the format.  At that point, Golgari was establishing dominance, and Find//Finality was a huge beating for this deck.  The format has settled at this point, with Golgari stuff, Niv-Mizzet.dec, and Boros face smash as the most popular decks.  Boros has a huge problem with a pile of 1/1 lifelinking tokens and anything that goes just a little bit bigger.  Izzet doesn’t have great cards to sweep the board, unless you touch white for Deafening Clarion.  Golgari still has Find//Finality, but The Immortal Sun is a newer trump card against Golgari’s value engine.  Selesnya seems like it was a good metagame call for the weekend, but I’m not sure that will be the case after this performance.

 

Golgari Midrange
A Standard deck, by Evan Whitehouse
Top 8 SCG Invitational

Maindeck:
3 Carnage Tyrant
2 Druid of the Cowl
4 Jadelight Ranger
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Merfolk Branchwalker
2 Midnight Reaper
3 Ravenous Chupacabra
3 Wildgrowth Walker

1 Assassin’s Trophy
3 Vraska’s Contempt
1 Karn, Scion of Urza
3 Vivien Reid
3 Find

8 Forest
4 Swamp
1 Detection Tower
3 Memorial to Folly
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Woodland Cemetery

Sideboard:
2 Midnight Reaper
2 Plaguecrafter
1 Thrashing Brontodon
1 The Eldest Reborn
1 Assassin’s Trophy
1 Cast Down
4 Duress
3 Golden Demise

Golgari has shifted in the last few weeks, moving towards Carnage Tyrant over Vraska, Relic Seeker.  This is a response to the various Izzet decks, where the expensive planeswalkers can be hard to resolve.  That doesn’t stop the inclusion of Vivien Reid, which is a split card between Plummet/Naturalize/and card draw.  The Carnage Tyrant adoption has lasted long enough that Golgari is looking to Detection Tower as an answer in the mirror.

Three copies of Golden Demise in the sideboard help a lot if you expect a rise in Selesnya Tokens in the next couple weeks.

 

Jeskai Nexus
A Standard deck, by Gerard Fabiano
Top 8 SCG Invitational

Maindeck:
2 Treasure Map
2 Seal Away
2 Chemister’s Insight
1 Justice Strike
1 Negate
4 Nexus of Fate
4 Opt
3 Revitalize
1 Settle the Wreckage
2 Spell Pierce
2 Search for Azcanta
2 Karn, Scion of Urza
1 Ral, Izzet Viceroy
4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
4 Deafening Clarion

5 Island
1 Plains
3 Clifftop Retreat
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls

Sideboard:
3 Legion Warboss
1 Ixalan’s Binding
1 Invoke the Divine
1 Justice Strike
2 Negate
2 Shivan Fire
2 Lyra Dawnbringer
1 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
1 Cleansing Nova
1 Star of Extinction

This take on Jeskai confuses me, as it bucks the common trend of playing a pile of Niv-Mizzet, Parun.  This deck harkens back to the days of Nexus of Fate turbo fog, using Teferi’s ultimate as a win condition.  I haven’t gotten to try this deck yet, but it certainly looks like it had success.  The split between Treasure Map and Search for Azcanta seems odd, since you probably want to max out on one.  Search was certainly the preferred card in the old days of Nexus of Fate, and I don’t think Treasure Map has gained much.  Having a single burst of mana isn’t as useful if you don’t want to deploy and protect a Niv-Mizzet.  Rampant Growth seems better than Dark Ritual if you want your games to last as long as possible.  I’ve got similar concerns about Spell Pierce over additional copies of Negate or Disdainful Stroke.

Don’t pick up this deck if you aren’t a fast player.  Niv-Mizzet brings games to a close rapidly, while this deck can easily take 10 minutes to win from a dominant position.

 

Izzet Drakes
A Standard deck, by Ben Ragan
10th Place SCG Invitational

Maindeck:
4 Crackling Drake
4 Enigma Drake
2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun

3 Dive Down
4 Opt
4 Shock
3 Spell Pierce
2 Search for Azcanta
1 Beacon Bolt
4 Chart a Course
4 Discovery
3 Lava Coil

7 Island
6 Mountain
1 Drowned Catacomb
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls

Sideboard:
1 Treasure Map
2 Rekindling Phoenix
2 Disdainful Stroke
2 Shivan Fire
1 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
2 Ral, Izzet Viceroy
1 Beacon Bolt
3 Entrancing Melody
1 Lava Coil

For the last week or so, the Izzet drake decks have been moving away from Arclight Phenix and towards Niv-Mizzet, Parun and Dive Down.  Nothing particularly exciting here, though three copies of Entrancing Melody does seem like a lot.

 

Golgari Midrange
A Standard deck, by Carter Newman
13th place SCG Invitational

Maindeck:
2 Carnage Tyrant
2 Doom Whisperer
4 Jadelight Ranger
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Merfolk Branchwalker
1 Midnight Reaper
1 Plaguecrafter
2 Ravenous Chupacabra
2 Seekers’ Squire
4 Wildgrowth Walker

2 Cast Down
3 Vraska’s Contempt
3 Vivien Reid
3 Find

8 Forest
7 Swamp
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Woodland Cemetery

Sideboard:
1 Carnage Tyrant
2 Deathgorge Scavenger
2 Midnight Reaper
2 Thrashing Brontodon
1 Cast Down
1 Vraska, Relic Seeker
4 Duress
2 Golden Demise

Very similar to the previous Golgari deck.  I like the Assassin’s Trophy in the previous deck as an extra answer to planeswalkers and artifacts/enchantments.  This deck is clearly tuned more against aggressive decks, with the 4th Wildgrowth Walker, Doom Whisperers, and Seekers’ Squires.  The last Golgari deck had more Carnage Tyrants, Midnight Reapers, and Ravenous Chupacabras against Izzet/Jeskai control decks.

If you choose to play Golgari, make sure you are constantly changing your deck up against the expected field.  If you know your local FNM is infested with the Boros aggro decks from Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica, I’d start from this list instead of the Top 8 one.

 

Boros Aggro
A Standard deck, by Ross Merriam
16th place SCG Invitational

Maindeck:
4 Adanto Vanguard
4 Benalish Marshal
4 Dauntless Bodyguard
2 Hunted Witness
4 Skymarcher Aspirant
4 Snubhorn Sentry
4 Venerated Loxodon

4 Conclave Tribunal
4 History of Benalia
2 Pride of Conquerors
4 Legion’s Landing

13 Plains
3 Clifftop Retreat
4 Sacred Foundry

Sideboard:
4 Tocatli Honor Guard
1 Baffling End
3 Experimental Frenzy
2 Response
3 Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
1 Banefire
1 Clifftop Retreat

If you like smashing face, there are worse places to start at.  There are a few choices you can make with the creature suite in the main deck, and Ross has chosen resilience when possible.  Snubhorn Sentry and Hunted Witness make appearances over Healer’s Hawk and Ajani’s Pridemate.

The sideboard seems completely loaded against control decks, with only Response//Resurgence and Baffling End for the mirror.

I assume Experimental Frenzy is not coming in against Golgari, since Ajani and Tocatli already make up a lot of cards.  I’m concerned that the aggressive curve will suffer if you board in more than seven or eight cards.

 

Mono-Red Aggro
A Standard deck, by Michael Ostroski
28th place SCG Invitational

Maindeck:
4 Fanatical Firebrand
4 Ghitu Lavarunner
4 Goblin Chainwhirler
4 Runaway Steam-Kin
4 Viashino Pyromancer
3 The Flame of Keld

4 Lightning Strike
4 Risk Factor
4 Shock
4 Wizard’s Lightning

21 Mountain

Sideboard:
3 Dire Fleet Daredevil
2 Rekindling Phoenix
2 Fiery Cannonade
2 Vance’s Blasting Cannons
3 Fight with Fire
2 Lava Coil
1 Mountain

If you want to beat the snot out of Boros and still have time to hang out with friends between rounds, Mono Red is your deck.  This is a The Flame of Keld deck instead of an Experimental Frenzy deck, and I’m not sure I like this better.  There really isn’t another red card this deck wants to play, so there is about one more land than I’d like in the maindeck.  I’d rather just go up to 22 lands and play Experimental Frenzy.

It might be better to call this a Risk Factor deck.  The card draw function of Risk Factor plays much better with The Flame of Keld than Experimental Frenzy.  This deck has less explosiveness than the Experimental Frenzy deck, but it can deal significantly more damage outside of combat.  If you expect the board to get clogged up (think Selesnya and some Golgari decks), this might be a good way to look.

 

Boros Aggro
A Standard deck, by Austin Clark
31st Place SCG Invitational

Maindeck:
4 Adanto Vanguard
4 Benalish Marshal
4 Dauntless Bodyguard
4 Hunted Witness
4 Rustwing Falcon
2 Skymarcher Aspirant
4 Venerated Loxodon

4 Conclave Tribunal
4 History of Benalia
1 Pride of Conquerors
1 Response
4 Legion’s Landing

13 Plains
3 Clifftop Retreat
4 Sacred Foundry

Sideboard:
4 Tocatli Honor Guard
3 Baffling End
2 Experimental Frenzy
2 Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
2 Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
1 Banefire
1 Clifftop Retreat

Similar to the Boros deck above, this list maxes out on Hunted Witness and Rustwing Falcon over Snubhorn Sentry and the full set of Skymarcher Aspirants.  Maxing out on creatures that have more than one toughness looks to combat Goblin Chainwhirler.

The maindeck Response looks out of place.  Resurgence is a nice dream, but five mana is a monstrous ask when you only have 19 lands in the deck.  You certainly want access to  a card that beats Lyra Dawnbringer, but that makes Response//Resurgence a sideboard card.  A second Pride of the Conquerors seems much more reliable maindeck option.

 

Golgari Midrange
A Standard deck, by Paul Muller
33rd place SCG Invitational

Maindeck:
3 Carnage Tyrant
2 Druid of the Cowl
4 Jadelight Ranger
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Merfolk Branchwalker
1 Midnight Reaper
1 Plaguecrafter
2 Ravenous Chupacabra
3 Wildgrowth Walker

1 Assassin’s Trophy
1 Cast Down
3 Vraska’s Contempt
2 Karn, Scion of Urza
3 Vivien Reid
3 Find

8 Forest
5 Swamp
1 Detection Tower
1 Memorial to Folly
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Woodland Cemetery

Sideboard:
1 Midnight Reaper
1 Plaguecrafter
2 Thrashing Brontodon
2 The Eldest Reborn
1 Assassin’s Trophy
1 Cast Down
1 Vraska’s Contempt
4 Duress
2 Golden Demise

This deck has a lot of similarities to the Top 8 deck.  There is -1 Midnight Reaper and -1 Chupacabra for +1 Plaguecrafter and +1 Karn, Scion of Urza.  This deck is still mostly tuned against control, with the same number of answers for various drakes and Niv-Mizzet, Paurn.  I think I like the Plaguecrafter over the third Chupacabra, provided you can dodge Hunted Witness and friends.

I’d really like to see at least one more Golden Demise in the sideboard.  I don’t think this deck respects Boros and Selensya decks nearly enough.

 

Golgari Midrange
A Standard deck, by James Johnston
46th place SCG Invitational

Maindeck:
3 Carnage Tyrant
4 Jadelight Ranger
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Merfolk Branchwalker
2 Midnight Reaper
3 Ravenous Chupacabra
2 Seekers’ Squire
4 Wildgrowth Walker

1 Assassin’s Trophy
1 Cast Down
3 Vraska’s Contempt
1 The Immortal Sun
2 Vivien Reid
2 Find

8 Forest
5 Swamp
1 Detection Tower
2 Memorial to Folly
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Woodland Cemetery

Sideboard:
2 Deathgorge Scavenger
1 Midnight Reaper
2 Plaguecrafter
1 Thrashing Brontodon
1 The Eldest Reborn
1 Assassin’s Trophy
2 Cast Down
1 Vraska’s Contempt
4 Duress

I’m not exactly sure what to do with this deck.  It’s got the anti-aggro plan with the full Explore package.  It’s also got the strange nombo of The Immortal Sun and Vivien Reid.  I’m not exactly sure what this deck is doing with The Immortal Sun in the maindeck, unless they really wanted to save sideboard slots.  The Immortal Sun is really only going to be good in the mirror, where I would want to build the deck around it more.

Zero copies of Golden Demise is inexcusable.  There is probably a little too much respect for Mono Red in this sideboard too.

Deathgorge Scavenger is in an interesting place against Izzet.  It can demolish their graveyard to neuter the drakes.  However, the Izzet decks can probably fill the graveyard faster than Scavenger can empty it.  Deathgorge Scavenger is also an X/2 against a deck packed with Shock, Lava Coil, and cantrips.  Deathgorge Scavenger is still good against Mono Red.

 

Izzet Drakes
Ian Hoffman
65th Place SCG Invitational

Maindeck:
4 Arclight Phoenix
3 Crackling Drake
4 Goblin Electromancer
2 Murmuring Mystic

4 Opt
4 Radical Idea
4 Shock
1 Beacon Bolt
4 Chart a Course
1 Entrancing Melody
4 Lava Coil
4 Tormenting Voice

7 Island

6 Mountain
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls

Sideboard:
1 Crackling Drake
1 Disdainful Stroke
2 Dive Down
2 Negate
2 Shivan Fire
2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun
1 Ral, Izzet Viceroy
1 Beacon Bolt
2 Entrancing Melody
1 River’s Rebuke

This deck harkens back to the older drake decks, with a playset of Arclight Phoenix.  Murmuring Mystic was a tech card in that deck, since it dodges Lava Coil and helps Izzet’s problem with decks that go too wide.  The Arclight Phoenixs are excellent against Golgari and still decent against control.  As the various Izzet and Jeskai decks adopt more drakes and Niv-Mizzets, a recursive three power threat gets weaker.  Golgari has almost no answers to Phoenix, unless they sideboard Deathgorge Scavenger.

I like the singleton River’s Rebuke in the sideboard.  Sleep might be a more mana efficient card for the same effect though.

 

Big Red
A Standard deck, by Andrew Watts
68th place SCG Invitational

Maindeck:
4 Dire Fleet Daredevil
4 Goblin Chainwhirler
3 Legion Warboss
4 Rekindling Phoenix
4 Siege-Gang Commander

3 Treasure Map
2 Lightning Strike
4 Shock
3 Banefire
4 Lava Coil

23 Mountain
2 Arch of Orazca

Sideboard:
2 Sorcerous Spyglass
2 Karn, Scion of Urza
3 Fight with Fire
1 Hijack
2 Pirate’s Pillage
3 Star of Extinction

I’m not really sure why the Big Red deck has become popular, since I’m not sure who it is good against.  Rekindling Phoenix is strong against Golgari, but they have already adopted sufficient Vraska’s Contempts to combat it.  Creature removal into Siege-Gang Commander is strong against the Boros deck, so I guess that’s a thing.  Overall, this feels like a Mono Red deck that gives up the ability to rush to a win in game one.  The sideboard looks like three Star of Extinction and a bunch of filler, since the deck has already fit a lot of the sideboard into the maindeck.

Red has several powerful aggressive cards in Experimental Frenzy, The Flame of Keld, and Risk Factor.  Skipping all of those for Rekindling Phoenix, particularly in a world flooded with Lava Coil, seems wrong to me.

 

Big Red
A Standard deck, Chris Song
72nd place SCG Invitational

Maindeck:
4 Dire Fleet Daredevil

4 Goblin Chainwhirler
1 Goblin Cratermaker

3 Legion Warboss
4 Rekindling Phoenix
4 Siege-Gang Commander

4 Treasure Map
2 Shivan Fire
2 Shock
3 Banefire
4 Lava Coil

24 Mountain
1 Arch of Orazca

Sideboard:
2 Sorcerous Spyglass
2 Fiery Cannonade
1 Shivan Fire
2 Karn, Scion of Urza
1 Banefire
3 Fight with Fire

3 Star of Extinction
1 Arch of Orazca

Cosmetic changes from the previous deck.  I’m still not sure what the appeal is here.

 

Mono-Blue Aggro
A Standard deck, Ted Felicetti
74th Place SCG Invitational

Maindeck:
4 Merfolk Trickster

4 Mist-Cloaked Herald
4 Siren Stormtamer
3 Surge Mare
4 Tempest Djinn
3 Warkite Marauder

4 Curious Obsession
2 Anticipate
1 Blink of an Eye
4 Dive Down
3 Spell Pierce
4 Wizard’s Retort

20 Island

Sideboard:
4 Exclusion Mage
2 Deep Freeze
3 Essence Scatter
1 Negate
1 Syncopate
1 Jace, Cunning Castaway
1 Quasiduplicate
2 Sleep

Lastly, we have Curious Obsession.dec.  It’s been a few weeks since Nassif piloted this deck to a 2nd place GP finish, and we haven’t seen any results from it since then.

I like this deck more in a world with less drakes.  The suite of Shock and Lava Coil is particularly dangerous for this deck, and the red removal spells are much cheaper than the black spells.  This tempo deck has an extra turn or two to set up protection against Golgari, since their removal all costs two or more mana.

If you expect a significant number of Shocks, stay away from this deck.

 

Overall, this deck dump does a good job of covering the current Standard format.  We got some Golgari, some Izzet drakes, some Boros aggro, some Mono Red, and a smattering of other decks.  There weren’t any Jeskai control decks in the vein of Adrian Sullivan’s GP winning deck, but there was Gerard Fabiano’s Nexus of Fate deck.

If you are looking for a deck for Standard, you’ve got plenty to pick from.  Golgari will always be a safe choice, but you’ll want to change up a few cards every week.  Boros decks are all fairly stock, but you have a few options for how explosive or resilient you want your creatures to be.  There are a bunch of ways to build your Izzet and Jeskai decks, just figure out what you want to be good against.  There are some other decks you can try, but I wouldn’t recommend them beyond some fun Magic Arena time.

Good luck in your next Standard adventure!

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