SCGcon Baltimore Winner’s Report
Well, this is an article I didn’t expect to be writing! This past weekend, Adam Sensenig (Pioneer), Chase Martin (Legacy), and I (Modern), became SCGcon Baltimore Team 25K Champions. The experience was surreal and is still settling in but I’m extremely excited to discuss how my team prepared for the tournament and the choices we made that led to us winning the event.
Prior to the event, I was deeply entrenched in grinding local RCQ’s, chasing my qualification for the Regional Championship at Dreamhack Atlanta. After a bunch of close calls and tough tournaments, mainly in the Pioneer format, I was feeling a little lost. Frankly, I was quite worried as we inched closer to SCG Baltimore. My teammate Adam seemed to be at a similar point with Modern and our time to prepare and practice was dwindling.
Feeling like a competent pilot in Modern with both Burn and Murktide, I suggested a change of pace and offered the Pioneer seat to Adam. He was willing to learn a new deck in less than two week’s time, so the question became: What Pioneer deck was best for our team and this event?
I’ll start by discussing the Pioneer deck choice first, then onto Modern, and rounding things out with Legacy. Then, I’ll wrap up this article with some insight into the overall team strategy we decided on, which was the main contributing factor to our success.
Pioneer - Bant Humans
Adam had been playing a version of Red/Black sacrifice that he enjoyed, but we were worried about rounds going too long and wanted to avoid that possibility. Instead, I urged Adam to take a more aggressive strategy. My most successful tournaments had been on Humans. While I believed Mono White to be the stronger overall Humans strategy, Bant is a much simpler deck to play and has incredible rebuild power with Collected Company, Extraction Specialist, and Charming Prince. We expected a lot of our Pioneer opponents to be playing Red/Black Midrange or Blue/Red Phoenix.
Extraction Specialist proved to be an important card throughout the weekend and was showcased nicely in Adam’s game 3 in the Finals. Our Bant list came directly from the most recent Max McVety article with two land changes so that we could more reliably cast our spells.
3 Botanical Sanctum
4 Branchloft Pathway
3 Hengegate Pathway
2 Mana Confluence
4 Secluded Courtyard
4 Temple Garden
3 Unclaimed Territory
4 Experiment One
4 Hopeful Initiate
1 Thraben Inspector
3 Charming Prince
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Werewolf Pack Leader
4 Thalia’s Lieutenant
4 Reflector Mage
3 Extraction Specialist
3 Adeline, Resplendent Cathar
4 Collected Company
4 Portable Hole
2 Elite Spellbinder
1 Extraction Specialist
2 Rest in Peace
2 Fateful Absence
1 Reidane, God of the Worthy
2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
1 Toski, Bearer of Secrets
Bant was a wonderful choice on the weekend. Being resilient to and having good interaction post-board is a scary mix and proved to give Adam the edge in a lot of matches. Other than the interaction pieces, Thalia, Heretic Cathar seemed to be the most impactful sideboard card, causing potential blockers to enter tapped and keeping up the tempo to allow the last bit of damage through in a grindy post-board game. I highly recommend this list for interactive metagames. Adam had a good Mono-Green record on the weekend but that match up seems a lot closer and may be the reason Mono White is beating out the other versions of Humans. All in all, Adam played extremely well despite only 6 hours of gameplay prior to the tournament.
Modern - Burn
This was my seat and I had limited choices when it came to the decks I had practiced and that were available to me. 4 Color Control is extremely popular and a dominant strategy in Modern. While I could’ve accessed the cards for the deck, I did not feel confident to learn it with only two weeks of prep time. With that deck out of consideration, it was important to me to have a good plan against it while remaining competitive against the rest of the expected metagame.
Murktide is one of my favorite decks in Modern to play but has a pretty tough 4 Color match up and demands extremely tight play over what I knew could be an exhaustingly long tournament. Considering this, Burn became my clear choice. This is the deck that I have played the most in Modern by a large margin and is one of the only match ups I hear 4 Color players complain about.
4 Bloodstained Mire
1 Arid Mesa
1 Scalding Tarn
2 Sacred Foundry
4 Sunbaked Canyon
4 Inspiring Vantage
4 Goblin Guide
4 Monastery Swiftspear
4 Eidolon of the Great Revel
4 Lava Spike
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Rift Bolt
4 Skewer the Critics
4 Searing Blaze
4 Boros Charm
3 Lightning Helix
4 Roiling Vortex
4 Path to Exile
3 Kor Firewalker
2 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Smash to Smithereens
During the first day, I struggled against my 4 Color opponents. On Day 2, I kept many more seven card hands pushing me to a 3-4 record against 4 Color. Many of those games were winnable, especially if I had a twentieth land in my deck. In the future, I’ll be cutting a Lightning Helix for a Fiery Islet. The rest of my matchups were great and I only lost one match in Day 2 to a 60 card Omnath/Scapeshift deck that seemed like a really tough matchup for Burn.
This deck felt great against Murktide, better than I made it look against 4 Color, and has a great sideboard plan for cascade strategies and creature combo decks. The sideboard is low on Smash to Smithereens as Chalice of the Void is out of favor in the metagame as well as Hammer decks as a general strategy. This thinking also led me to cut Deflecting Palm. This card is quite narrow, only being great against Hammer and the mirror. Burn players should not have this in post-board games against Murktide.
Trimming on these cards allowed me to play more broad interaction in Path to Exile. Path can be Burn’s only one-for-one out to Murktide Regent and bigger Ledger Shredders while still helping a lot in the creature combo matchups like Hammer and Yawgmoth.
With the above choices, I felt I had a great matchup spread for the expected metagame. Having some open spots in the sideboard, I decided to shore up the mirror match and Kor Firewalker felt like the clear choice. Tormod’s Crypt was the graveyard hate card of choice as the main graveyard combo is Living End. I only needed to keep them off of their graveyard for one combo turn in most games to win.
Roiling Vortex was an extremely powerful card and came in about half the time. Damage every turn ensured the game would end quickly. Cascade decks struggle with it in play as their deck is filled with pitch spells and cascade itself triggers it. 4 Color decks are taxed for casting their elementals for free (which did happen one time in this tournament) and the ability shut off Ross Merriam’s combo in the Finals, had he found it. Burn also needed the anti-lifegain in the sideboard with Omnath being omnipresent.
Burn seems like a great choice for Modern going forward, especially if the number of Chalice of the Voids and lifegain cards stay as low as they are at the moment.
Legacy - Blue/Black Reanimator
I personally have very little experience with Legacy gameplay but players in touch with Legacy seem to agree that Blue/Red Delver is the best strategy. I have recently seen some promising results and impressions from other blue decks (like the one Harlan played this weekend). The GW Depths deck is also doing well, but that seems to be a response to Blue/Red Delver as the dominant deck in the metagame.
Playing in Legacy tournaments can be a game of what cards can be accessed, but the trick there is leveraging the support of your community. Chase is quite in touch with and contributes to his community regularly and so, Ethan Wallace came to the rescue, lending Chase the dual lands he needed to lock in his deck choice.
Chase played what he believed to be the best deck for the weekend, landing on Reanimator. He shied away from red in favor of consistent mana when boarding in Show and Tell and Carpet of Flowers. Careful Study is functionally Faithless Looting when ending the game quickly. Carpet was great against the blue decks and really complimented the Show and Tell plan postboard.
2 Bloodstained Mire
2 Marsh Flats
2 Polluted Delta
3 Underground Sea
2 Verdant Catacombs
4 Archon of Cruelty
1 Serra's Emissary
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
4 Lotus Petal
4 Animate Dead
4 Dark Ritual
4 Careful Study
1 Bane of Progress
4 Carpet of Flowers
4 Show and Tell
This deck did ridiculously powerful things all weekend - I definitely want to share some anecdotes.
Things Chase Beat
- Multiple opponents with Endurance
- Multiple opponents with Force of Will + Surgical Extraction
- Turn 1 Grafdigger’s Cage + Force of Will
- Turn 0 Leyline + Chalice on 1
- Double Force of Will in Game 1 of Semi-Finals
Carpet of Flowers Shenanigans
- 3 Carpets in play; make 9 Black mana to cast Griselbrand; pay for two Dazes so the Griselbrand resolves
- 2 Carpets in play; make 4 White mana; pitch cast Unmask to take Force of Will; use mana from lands + floating mana to cast Serra’s Emissary
Chase and his deck performed extremely well and obtained an impressive 12-3 record on the weekend.
Team Events and Deck Selection
Team events suggest a different approach for deck selection than single player tournaments. When you’re the only person responsible for winning across a whole tournament, it is important to play the deck that gives you the best chance to win every single match, especially when trying to compete through playoff rounds and secure something like a qualification.
A team tournament completely changes the equation though. In any given round, our team only needed to win 4 of a potential 9 games. Compare this to the alternative: In a singles tournament, each round requires the player to win 2 out of a potential 3 in every match. Therefore, it could be more effective to have every team member play a deck that can reliably secure a 6-2 record. If your team’s losses line up well, there’s a good chance to secure Day 2.
We leaned into this idea by choosing three decks that were very aggressive. While each deck is subject to more variance than a midrange or control strategy, when successful, they force your opponent to have a very specific set of interaction to stay competitive in the game. The theory was that an inherent variance increase from our aggressive deck choices would be mitigated by the need to only win 4 games out of 9. Our deck selection and team theory gave us some wiggle room in losing to variance, while allowing us to exploit the other side of that variance coin. 4 out of 9 is much easier to do this with than 2 out of 3.
As I mentioned, this event experience was surreal. Adam and I had not competed in the second day of a Magic competition before Sunday. We locked Day 2 at 6-0 and finished Day 1 with only one loss. We lost round one of Day 2 and won every match afterwards to be able to draw into the second seed of Top 6 and lock up the round one bye. You know how the rest went, and if you didn’t catch it, I recommend watching AnzidMTG’s VOD of their coverage on Twitch. The Finals were against Harlan Firer, Ross Merriam, and Dan Jessup and came down to a riveting game 3 between Adam and Dan.
Previously, I have expressed that watching friends win can be more pleasurable than winning. But winning alongside them is truly the best of all. I would be remiss not to mention the strong sense of mutual respect that my team functioned under. We kept each other timely, composed, and encouraged while never losing sight of each individual match in front of us. My weekend would’ve been wonderful, regardless of outcomes, because of the teammates that I’m also privileged to call my friends. The end result though, made it truly unforgettable.
About Cameron Lantz - An avid player since Khans of Tarkir, Cameron has spent a lot of time with the Modern format. That passion pivoted over to the Pioneer format at its inception. There’s no deck strategy she doesn’t enjoy but her preferred way to engage with the game is in tuning lists to a competitive metagame. Cameron is Owl Central Games’ main writer focused on the Pioneer format - you can find her on twitter @SometimesIscry or at our FNM event in Central PA.
Near PA? Come meet Cameron and Adam at our Pioneer RCQ and Super $2K at our PA Game Center, September 24th. Since they’ve already qualified and can’t compete, they’ll be doing tournament coverage for Owl Central Games on Twitch.
To see the Owl Central Games event calendar visit our Events page
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