The three main formats of Constructed Magic are in a pretty good place right now.
I know, I know: Zombies and Marvel. But neither one of those decks is unbeatable, and neither of them is likely to suddenly be 50 percent of the meta at your next tournament.
Also, Ulamog rotates in less than five months. How’s that for seeing the glass as half full?
Setting aside Standard for a moment, Modern and Legacy have both been given a boost by the updates to the Banned and Restricted list. Getting rid of Gitaxian Probe and Golgari Grave-Troll (and printing Fatal Push) in Modern slowed down the format enough that midrange decks can breathe a little. Banning Sensei’s Divining Top means creature decks can actually be played again in Legacy.
In other words, all three formats collectively feel more open, with more room for creativity, than they have in a few years. Which means that if there’s a Team Constructed event (Hi there, SCG Louisville) coming up, then you have more choices than you might have had six months or a year ago.
With that in mind, here’s what I’d play at SCG Louisville.
What I’d play: Chris Fennell’s B/W Zombies list from the Pro Tour.
Why I’d play it: The mono-black Zombies list that Gerry Thompson won the Pro Tour with is as mean as a sleep-deprived rattlesnake, but the B/W list strikes me as a much better choice for a field full of Gerry’s list and Aetherworks Marvel decks.
First, you get Wayward Servant, which is really good against aggro decks because of its ability to keep gaining you chunks of life. You also still get to run the big hitters from the mono-black deck, including Dread Wanderer, which recurs itself to gain life, and Cryptbreaker, which creates Zombie tokens to gain life.
Adding white to the main deck also allows for Anguished Unmaking, which is pretty good right now. Sure, it costs three mana and three life, but it cleanly gets rid of Ulamog, Gideon, Aetherworks Marvel, Heart of Kiran and Diregraf Colossus. There aren’t a whole lot of cards in Standard that can say that, especially at instant speed, which means it finds a home here.
Playing white also opens up sideboard options such as Declaration in Stone and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Declaration’s exile effect matters against a lot of things — ranging from Scrapheap Scrounger to Ulamog — and Gideon is, well, Gideon. If you really need that card explained to you at this point, let somebody else have the Standard seat.
What I’d change: I would find room for some number of Flaying Tendrils. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Listen, you idiot, Flaying Tendrils gets rid of a bunch of your stuff, too.”
You’re not wrong. But you’re also not completely right. While Tendrils does kill most of the B/W deck, it exiles Cryptbreaker, Dread Wanderer, Relentless Dead and Scrapheap Scrounger. That makes it worth running out of the board, especially when you’re bringing in Gideon, because being able to wipe the board with Flaying Tendrils and then bash with Gideon is just mean. So, I would probably do -1 Scrapheap Scrounger and -1 Transgress the Mind to put two Flaying Tendrils in the board.
Aside from that, the deck is as solid as you would expect a deck that went 9-1 at the Pro Tour to be. Chris said it best himself: It wins the mirror and it does not lose to a resolved Aetherworks Marvel. Seems like a solid choice.
What I’d play: Eldrazi Tron, such as Caleb Spicer’s CTQ-winning deck from last weekend.
Why I’d play it: Because it combines the late-game ridiculousness of Tron with the early-game ridiculousness of Bant Eldrazi, and it doesn’t even cost you any incidental damage from your manabase.
Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher are still flat-out busted when you can drop them a turn or two ahead of curve, and this deck can do that with either Eldrazi Temple or by assembling Tron. Sure, turn 3 Reality Smasher isn’t quite as gamebreaking as turn 3 Karn, but it’s still pretty ridiculous, especially when it can be backed up the next turn with Karn. Or Ugin. Or a colorless, one-sided sweeper that gets discounted by a mana with each Eldrazi Temple that is in play.
If that isn’t enough, Tron decks can abuse Batterskull like none other in Modern, and the “smaller” Eldrazi here make it pretty easy to all of a sudden be smacking your opponent with a 9/9 trampling, vigilant, lifelinking Reality Smasher. Or you can just cast Batterskull a turn or two early and enjoy your 4/4 with lifelink and vigilance.
This doesn’t even get into what Endbringer can do in this deck. Even if you never find the Basilisk Collar to turn it into a killing machine, you can still ping your opponent/small creatures like crazy. Or draw extra cards. Or just swing with your 5/5. Or swing with the 5/5, then untap it on your opponent’s turn to block, and/or ping something, and/or draw a card.
What I’d change: Depending on the build, it’s not necessarily a “change,” but I’d absolutely run four Chalice of the Void. Chalice is really, really good in Modern pretty much all the time, but especially now that Storm is apparently trying to be a thing again.
Also, it’s not that tricky in a Tron deck to be casting Chalice for X=3 on turn 3. It’s not necessarily critical to be able to do that, but one of the (small) downsides to Chalice is how hard it is to keep up with the curve of the spells your opponents want to cast.
When it comes to the creature base, you obviously want the Eldrazi package, but I do wonder about Sundering Titan as a possible one-of. In the worst-case scenario, it’s an 8/10 that blows up a land or two. In the best case, it’s a game-ending turn 4 play.
What I’d play: Sneak and Show
Why I’d play it: Full disclosure: It’s my Legacy deck of choice, so there is some bias here driven by my love of doing completely unfair things.
But, it’s a good choice, even with Miracles getting nuked. You lose a good match-up, but you potentially lose a terrible match-up if there’s a big drop-off in Death and Taxes.
There will probably be a big upswing in creature decks, which is juuuuuuuuuust fine for a deck that revolves around slamming a Griselbrand or Emrakul into play in the first few turns. And if everybody decides that they want to start playing Lands, well, then, enjoy your byes.
There’s another factor here as well: More than any other format — even Vintage — Legacy rewards knowing your deck and having an understanding of what might happen during any given match-up. So when it comes down to it, this is the one seat of this hypothetical table where what I would play isn’t necessarily a recommendation for you to do the same if you’re truly comfortable with something else.
What I’d change: My build of choice, as you can see above, has the Wish sideboard, which still strikes me as a good plan. Blood Moon has gone from good to ridiculously good, so if you can, run at least three in the board.
The biggest potential change here is Boseiju, which was huge against Miracles. Most other blue decks now are going to be running Wasteland, so it’s not nearly as critical, especially because you don’t really have worry about your opponent having a Counterspell on a stick in play. (Now, if it turns out that somebody figured out that Scroll Rack or Soothsaying actually is a good replacement for Top, then I never recommended you take out Boseiju. Let’s just say I’m not too worried about that.)
So, I would sub out Boseiju for an additional Kozilek’s Return. I would also consider a third Kozilek’s Return based on just how many creature decks you expect. Either way, board in 1-2 against creature decks and leave one in the board to give you a Wish target.
The great thing about Team Constructed — and WOTC, if you’re listening, please replace Team Unified (Format) with Standard/Modern/Legacy for forever and ever — is that you can run optimized versions of decks instead of having to cannibalize decks or run decks you might not ordinarily choose.
This helps in the deck selection process, because you can simply say “what about Decks X or Y” and set about making a decision on which is the best choice instead of figuring out how to divvy up your fetchlands or whatever. Your opponents will also have the ability to run optimized lists, so expect a slightly better caliber of competition overall.
But regardless, Team Constructed is a blast, so even if you’re not going to SCG Louisville, don’t pass up the chance to play the format when it comes to your neck of the woods. You won’t regret it.
Casey Laughman is editor of Nerd Rage Gaming. Email comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.