What if I told you there was a high-level Modern Magic tournament in my literal backyard, and I didn’t even go? To my surprise/dismay I woke up late last Saturday morning, threw on some soft pants, tossed some bacon on the burner and cranked up the SCG stream to find…
“Welcome boys and girls, to the Star City Games Open in Charlotte, North Carolina”
Last time the SCG boys came to town, my buddy Joseph Herrera took one for the home team, piloting Jund all the way to the finals and taking down the trophy, defeating notorious SCG grinders looking to come into our house and steal our glory all along the way. I didn’t go to Charlotte, but some awesome players did, and this week I’m going to do something I often try to avoid: tournament results and decklist analysis, complete with relevant information! Pick yourself up off the floor, and hold on to your seat. It’s gonna get wild!
Brian’s list is as stock as they come, but with Jund that’s often more than enough. Jund functions as an exercise in value; most of its cards are included because they either react favorably with the current metagame in an irreplaceable way or are simply just the best option at that spot on the curve. Lightning Bolt, Tarmogoyf, Terminate, Dark Confidant and friends are for the most part ubiquitous, and it's rare to see any deviation from the standard formula. There's just not much to be gained by wildly deviating from the norm. I’m surprised to see Jund continually performing well in Charlotte specifically, though. The old “local metagame” theory of years past is all but disproven at this point, but I know for a fact Charlotte is packed with R/G Tron players as far as the eye can see. Take it from a local: the “local metagame” doesn’t exist (and probably hasn’t for a while). Five years ago, maybe, but we live in the digital age. Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram rule the land, and everyone knows everything (except how to keep selfies and duck-faces to themselves) and prepares accordingly.
This list is so boring I find myself actually excited to see a one-of Painful Truths in the board. Is this how far we’ve fallen!? Seriously, though, Painful Truths is slowly creeping into Modern and is probably here to stay. Jund can offset the lifeloss with Scavenging Ooze, Obstinate Baloth, Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells, or Thragtusk (not seen above) and I’ve been trying out two Painful Truths (one MB, one SB) in my Grixis Control 75 alongside Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound and Tribute to Hunger. Sure, it’s as grindy as can be, but that seems to be where we’re at these days. Make sure you have a plan for Burn and Affinity, and Painful Truths can really beat up everything else. Ok, I spent two paragraphs on the winning list. Obligation fulfilled, lets move on to the good stuff!
Bob’s back from the grave(yard) with his signature Goryo's Vengeance list. You know, the one that he and Zach Jesse (RIP) took Charlotte by Flusterstorm with last June at GP Charlotte. This time, Huang made it all the way to finals, and I’m hoping this strong finish will sponsor a comeback of sorts for the flash-in-the-pan combo deck.
Bob cut a Noxious Revival, a Manamorphose, a Night's Whisper, two Tormenting Voice, and a land from his/Jesse’s GP Charlotte list in favor of a playset of Serum Visions and two Izzet Charm. This obviously butchers the manabase beyond recognition, but overall improves the velocity of the deck and with that its consistency. The more cards you see, the more likely you are to see the cards you need to win. Serum Visions is just an excellent card for anyone looking to combo (or midrange, or draw cards, or play Magic…).
The sideboard has shifted significantly from the old Charlotte list, but most of that has to do with the move away from Blood Moon. If you remember, back in June Blood Moon was everywhere to fight the Tron and Amulet Bloom decks running around, and the B/R Goryo's Vengeance list was able to leverage a full playset in the board to fight the big mana menaces. Currently, Blood Moon isn’t that great, and Bob can’t afford to play it with the blue splash anyways. Blood Moon often exists in the format as just a mere threat, and often its existence serves to keep decks that die to it out of the field. This creates a situation where Blood Moon is a necessary and powerful card, but doesn't show up in numbers indicative of its power as decks that lose to it either aren't played or built to make Blood Moon poor, which is where the format is right now. Assuming this deck is here to stay, expect a spectrum of B/R Blood Moon versions and the greedier lists with the blue splash we see here in the future.
Are we at the point where Josh Cho needs re-introduction? A household name on the SCG circuit when I first was getting into the game, Josh was running the tables back when Squadron Hawks and Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration were all the rage. Here he is with a brew, of all things! Maybe I don’t know his range, but I always had typecast him as being on the best deck, especially as he always kept beating me with “best decks” at every other SCG Open I went to. Maybe some Josh Cho fanboys/girls out there can enlighten me.
Anyways, here we see some Gideon, Ally of Zendikar goodness alongside Sorin, Solemn Visitor. I took a lot of heat when I cut Sorin, Solemn Visitor from the deck in favor of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in my B/W Video Series a while back, but here Cho is favoring the 2-1 Gideon split. I’m going to default to my normal stance (pilot knows best) and say that I think he’s on to something. In the abstract, Gideon seems like the individually more powerful card, but you can’t deny the impact Sorin, Solemn Visitor can have when we have literally any board presence.
26 lands feels like one too many to me, but he’s got the dual Shambling Vents and a Vault of the Archangel as “spell-lands” in case of flooding. Playing an extra land over one too few is always a better habit to be in, and I wouldn’t change a card until I played at least a few matches with the deck (another good habit to have). In true Jeff Hoogland fashion, I LOVE the one-of Worship in the board. Speaking of…
What, no Worship!? That’s it, I’m out of here.
Jeff kept the exact same maindeck from his runner-up Cincinnati list, swapping only a Stony Silence, Obstinate Baloth and Slaughter Games for a Burrenton Forge-Tender, extra Fulminator Mage and Magus of the Moon in the board. Take that, haters! Two Top-8’s in a row with the same 60 really speaks to the staying power of the deck (or at least Hoogland’s proficiency with the archetype) so hopefully we’ll finally see this deck pick up some steam. I’ve been watching from the sidelines hoping to see more Kiki Chord and Goryo's Vengeance in the mix, and it looks like we might finally get there.
This deck is Birthing Pod reincarnated, and naturally is just plain sweet. Where the Abzan Company lists look to play sub-par cards like Viscera Seer and hope to get there with Thoughtseize after board, Kiki Chord instead just looks to grind with solid value creatures and gain advantage the fair way (if you consider Restoration Angel blinking Pia and Kiran Nalaar actually fair). The Lightning Helix board plan against Burn and Zoo is solid, but we’re built to beat up on those decks anyway. The Twin matchup seems fine, but it can’t be great. A playset of Path to Exile helps, but with the limited experience I have with this deck I’d hesitate to call it even.
This deck just tickles my value itch in every possible way (yes, that way too) and I love all the interactions I can see, and there’s definitely many that I don’t. If there was ever a format where a deck like this could succeed, this is the one (as Jeff has been politely reminding us). If this is your style of deck, pick it up NOW.
Outside of the Top 8 we see local NC poster-child Ali Aintrazi in 10th with his trustworthy Tron, and another good buddy from the local shop named Dalton Ozmun in 17th with Junk. Besides that, we see a lot of Infect in the Top 32, suggesting a midrange field that’s soft to the combo-aggression it represents, but only one copy in the Top 16 in the hands of Tom Ross. Analytical minds can infer that Infect was the “obvious next-level choice” for the event, and it beat up on the Day One field but lost to those prepared for it and was ultimately pushed out of the Top 8. Take a look at the archetypes and sideboards of the Top 8 lists and you’ll see a collection of cards curated to specifically punish Infect: Lingering Souls, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, and Sudden Shock. While the “local metagame” narrative might be dead, the “beat the deck that beats the field” narrative still holds true. Which brings us to the now. Which deck beats the field next week, and which deck are you going to play?
Thanks for reading!
The_Architect on MTGO