A couple weekends ago, I had the chance to team up with NRG Championship Series Regulars Justin Kessel and Justin Blackford to form “Team Justin” for the SCG Tour Team Constructed Open in Louisville.
After competing on the Championship Series with Kessel and Blackford for around a year, this was the first opportunity I had to work with them. While the tournament ultimately didn’t go our way, the effort that everyone put into this tournament was unlike any other event I had played in.
As for who played what deck, this was the easy part. Kessel has been having a fair amount of success with Bant Eldrazi over the last six months, including a Top 8 appearance at the January CT earlier this year. So between that and my strong desire to not play Modern right now, we selected Kessel as our Modern player.
Blackford is a name you might not recognize as much as he plays mostly Legacy, but he knows his way around a Mother of Runes pretty darn well, so we quickly came to the choice to have him play Legacy. So by process of elimination that left me as the Standard player, which I actually was perfectly fine with.
In the wake of Pro Tour Amonkhet, Standard looked pretty bleak, with the field being completely overrun by Aetherworks Marvel despite Zombies winning the whole thing in the hands of Gerry Thompson. This left people feeling rather uninterested in the idea of playing Standard. Much like the last Standard format, dominated by four-color Saheeli, people just didn’t enjoy the fact that the game could just end on turn 4.
I, however, couldn’t have been more excited to tackle the beast that is Aetherworks Marvel. Due to the week leading into the event being finals week for me, I didn’t have as much time to get inventive, so instead of finding a different archetype that crushed Aetherworks Marvel, I simply played the mirror until I had the perfect plan. Over the course of the week, I logged close to 60 matches on Magic Online.
I had started out on a list very similar to Yuuya Watanabe’s second place list from the Pro Tour, but felt that if you didn’t hit Marvel or got Ulamog stranded in your hand, having Glimmer of Genius didn’t feel very effective against Zombies. I then tried Martin Muller’s Top 4 list from the PT with some small changes.
Temur Marvel, by Martin Muller, Top 4, Pro Tour Amonkhet
The four main deck Chandra, Flamecaller were absolutely fantastic as they gave you more proactive threats to hit off of Aetherworks Marvel. This card alone is what made me feel good about my Mono-Black Zombies matchup. This version of Temur Marvel felt very strong against the rest of the field in the main deck and devoted a large number of sideboard slots to the mirror. This was the philosophy I went with as well when finalizing my list:
Temur Marvel, by Justin Brickman
I had really felt good about Muller’s main deck configuration so I decided to leave it as it was. Aether Meltdown was a card I was not to sure of how necessary it would be with the diminishing presence of Mardu Vehicles, but after still playing against Mardu and U/W flash a fair number of times online I decided to keep them. Looking back I would likely cut them for Magma Spray, as most of the time I was using Meltdown to answer a Scrapheap Scrounger or Relentless Dead.
At the beginning of the day I had set the over/under for number of mirrors I’d play at 4.5 and was quickly yelled at by Kent Ketter and Mat Bimonte for making the line anything less than 6.5. Over the course of the seven rounds my team played, I played five mirrors (four Temur, one Bant) and had a 4-1 record.
The thing about the mirror is that it becomes a game of chicken in not wanting to expose your Marvel too early, so that it gets answered before an activation. You also want to try to sneak it in under a Negate. This plan usually works in the favor of versions that play Glimmer of Genius; however, I took the opportunity to play a more midrange game rather than a control game, constantly putting my opponent to the test with threat after threat.
Post board I had two World Breakers as extra hits off of Marvel — or another threat that can be cast relatively easily. Moving forward I would probably play the fourth Ulamog and play some number of Shrine of the Forsaken Gods in my main deck over a few of the extra basics. I would also play a Void Winnower. Void Winnower is an interesting card in the mirror, as it shuts off all of the relevant spells out of your opponent’s deck and makes them have to block with actual creatures since thopters can’t block with this in play. This mid-range approach is my preference to the mirror as it generally is more proactive and makes any Marvels in the post-board games as effective as possible.
My other two matches were against B/W Zombies, which I lost to never hitting Ulamog and Gideon being able to answer a Chandra after only getting to activate her once. That’s the thing about the Marvel decks; sometimes you just don’t draw Aetherworks Marvel or hit an Ulamog.
In Modern, Kessel has had a good amount of success with Bant Eldrazi. After both of us putting up very mediocre results in a string of CTQs, we decided it was time to hang up the deck for a while. However, Modern is a format of playing what you know, and Kessel knows Eldrazi pretty well so the next natural transition was to trade in his colored spells for Tron lands.
Eldrazi Tron, by Justin Kessel
This version of Eldrazi trades in spells and potentially better sideboard cards for better mana. After playing Bant Eldrazi, I felt like the biggest downfall of the deck was the mana. If you didn’t have Eldrazi Temple, it felt like you were playing a Standard deck. The fact that you get to maximize the ability to have Tron lands but have your deck be able to function without it made this deck an appealing choice for the weekend.
We also believed that Chalice of the Void was well positioned this weekend due to the large number of Abzan Company decks and Death’s Shadow decks that were the talk of the tournament. Unfortunately this is where our pairings started to punish us quite a bit, as Kessel ended up playing against Merfolk and two Tron Mirrors (one G/B, one Eldrazi).
In Legacy, the best way to approach the format is by picking a deck and mastering it. With this philosophy in mind, Blackford ran with stock Death and Taxes. Early on in testing we were talking about playing a Force of Will deck to deal with an unpredicted metagame, as you could play against just about anything with the banning of Sensei’s Divining Top. Ultimately we decided that sticking to what you know best is better than trying to metagame an unknown field. In hindsight, this decision cost us. Our Legacy pairings were:
1 Belcher deck
2 R/W taxes
2 B/R Reanimator
1 Esper Stoneblade and
1 Grixis Delver.
These matchup percentages range from 50/50 to stone unwinnable, but this is Legacy, and these things happen.
When we got paired against Emma Handy, Jadine Klomparens and Jake Humphries, I knew the match was going to be difficult, but I wasn’t prepared to hear “Hey, we’re down a match” 20 seconds into the round. I looked over to see Emma just Belching away against a Non- Force of Will deck as Belcher normally does.
All in all, team formats are great and even when the tournament isn’t going your way it’s great because you’re getting to play Magic alongside your friends all day. 10/10 would play again!
Justin Brickman is an SCG Tour grinder from suburban Chicago who began playing Magic during Innistrad block. His Magic accomplishments include an SCG Regionals Top 16 and a Super Sunday Series Top 4. He can be reached on Twitter @BrickerclawMyr.