I guess I have some explaining to do.
Reid Duke won the SCG Invitational in Los Angeles with a Bant Control deck remarkably similar to the one he had been doing so well with already, and that I recently called a bad deck. Well, I was clearly mostly wrong, but my reasoning was sound.
BR Zombies is significant part of the field and a rather poor matchup, but it’s not as if Reid’s version can’t ever beat it. In an event like the Invitational (and with a bye) you only have to expect to play against BR a few times. If you can get away with just one loss, then playing a deck that has an advantage against the rest of the field is a pretty good call.
Reid did end up 1-2 against Zombies, but managed to 3-0-1 the rest of his Standard matches.
All this being the case, I still think it’s safe to say that Reid won the Invitational and not specifically Bant Control. He could have played 4 Sphinx’s Revelation, 1 Elixir of Immortality, and 55 lands and had a similar result, which is why I still don’t think the deck will see much additional play.
Moving on, I was toying with the idea of playing my own Bant Control list, but stumbled onto something I couldn’t get away from—Desperate Ravings. I wasn’t really a fan of the various UWR decks until I discovered it.
Why is it that I crave discarding cards at random? It could be because I am a degenerate at heart, but I think it’s just because the card provides a very powerful effect. Sometimes you’ll discard a good card, but other times you’ll find more lands, discard excess lands, or discard a card you can flashback. It also lets you keep looser hands without much remorse, such as 5 lands, Ravings, Pillar of Flame.
After playing with a few versions and brewing with fellow Raver Erik Brown, I settled on this list for the Invitational:
The key difference in this version (besides Desperate Ravings) is the focus on Geist of Saint Traft—whether it be through Runechanter’s Pike, Restoration Angel, or burn. I have been a pretty big fan of Geist here, but by itself it’s easy to stop. Huntmaster of the Fells and Thragtusk pose the most problems, which is why this version doubles up on Runechanter’s Pike. Geist-Pike is a difficult combination to beat.
This change made the deck more aggro-oriented than previous incarnations, thus favoring Searing Spear over Azorius Charm. I was torn between playing Burning Oil or just more Searing Spear. Since burning people out is relevant, I ended up with a 3/1 split. I would definitely rather play Burning Oil in the more controlling versions.
Post-board, the deck is capable of switching roles. The plan is to cut (in general) Pikes, Geists, and Dissipates in favor of Izzet Staticasters, Drogskol Reavers, Supreme Verdicts, and additional Sphinx’s Revelation. This considerably improves matchups where we aren’t the aggro deck, such as Naya, RB Aggro, and GW, and in fact contributed to three of my five wins at the Invitational.
The Reavers with [card cavern of souls]Cavern[/card] were initially Jace, Memory Adept which serve as another plan against control, but with this version that felt worse than having the big-guy plan. Angel of Serenity was up for consideration, but the prohibitive cost and weakness to Selesnya Charm made me switch.
My results with the deck were:
UWR (Christian Valenti), loss
GW Aggro, win
Omnidoor Thragfire, win
Flooding Reanimator, win
BR Aggro, win
Dark Naya, loss
I should’ve had an advantage against Christian since he didn’t have Geists, but he did have Syncopate for my Geists and I boarded slightly wrong, because I didn’t have a grasp on the version he was playing. Both of these factors contributed to my loss. Christian also had his own Desperate Ravings which led me to believe his version of the deck might be worth taking a look at. Soon I’ll probably be playing a more controlling version closer to his, with my own touch.
Christian Valenti’s UWR
As it turns out, Legacy is where I was considerably underprepared. I had some ideas about how I was going to change UW Miracles to adapt to the format, but I wasn’t able to test them. Some of them were actually fine, though ultimately I made the deck weaker.
This is what I played:
I made a few changes to account for the popularity of BUG and Goblins by trimming a Counterbalance and adding the fourth [card jace, the mind sculptor]Jace[/card], but I also made a judgment call on how many “dead cards” I wanted to have in my deck. With various dead cards in different matchups, I felt that the deck needed to minimize the live ones, thus you see 3 Terminus and no Entreat the Angels.
I undervalued how important Entreat the Angels is, especially now that the Counterbalance lock is weaker. The inclusion of the Stoneforge Mystic package, which in reality didn’t detract from the amount of “dead cards” in the deck, gave me enough reason to cut Entreat but it turns out it’s a much worse win condition past turn 2. Well, this deck spends a lot of time past turn 2 and it needs to have a “real” win condition, because without one I wasn’t able to close out a lot of games.
There were a lot of things I changed that I did like. The maindeck Relic of Progenitus was an idea to help against Deathrite Shaman, while having applications elsewhere. I also added Trinket Mage to make use of Relic and the other target, Engineered Explosives. These were all reasonable additions.
I wanted to play 23 lands this time, after missing a few too many land drops in Las Vegas. The deck really wants to be able to play lands and do nothing for the first few turns. If I have to cast Brainstorm early to find lands then something is wrong. I also went all the way down to 2 nonbasic lands. Unless you play 3 colors, you really don’t need them. Occasionally they can lead to an awkward situation, but it’s not nearly as awkward as getting Wasted. Though, once Entreat is back, all-basics plan gets a little worse.
The sideboard was a bit of a mess, as it usually is. There was a lot of thought put into each card but it still seems very scattered. That could just be because my grasp on the format is dwindling.
Coming into the event, I knew I wanted something for BUG and I felt that Geist of Saint Traft was that card. It’s difficult to gauge how good it really is, because they usually have Liliana and sometimes they have Tarmogoyf, but it can change the dynamic of the matchup. It did end up winning me the one game against BUG that I drew it, and a few other games as well.
I ended up with these results:
For a cool 3-4-1 record.
This is surely not a good representation of the field, but I’ve started feeling bad about playing a Force of Will deck. I definitely need to reevaluate the format if I want to start winning in it again.
Despite what felt like a pretty weak performance, I managed to walk away with a Top 64 finish and a lot of good times.
Speaking of those:
Brenden Hickey is a pretty crazy guy. Sometimes you’ll see him doing coverage for SCG, other times you’ll see him in his bee costume, but this time you have the pleasure of seeing him in a fully fledged giraffe outfit. Somehow I wasn’t able to don the costume over the course of the weekend, but if you were there you might have seen one Noah Koessel wearing it during the Standard Open.
I’m sure most readers are familiar with the credit card game, but for those who aren’t: it’s credit card roulette and the last card standing pays for all participants. It sounds pretty degenerate, I know, but it’s all in good fun.
This game was for four entries to Disneyland. You might notice that I am absent from this picture and the three participants are all pretty happy:
After the Invitational I was exhausted. I didn’t feel strongly about Legacy, so I didn’t go to the event site on Sunday. Instead I found out that a television show called “Money From Strangers” was filming nearby. Suffice it to say I was happy about participating in the show. The result was a ruined pair of pants but at least I get to be on TV! Look for that in the springtime.
I don’t normally plug my Facebook or Instagram pages, but there are loads of other awesome pictures to be found there, so subscribe to both of them if you want to see them, and more in the future!
Standard is now mostly irrelevant, but I’m going to continue working on UWR in the hopes that it will still be good come Watery Grave and Stomping Ground. Currently I know very little about the Modern format, but it’s about to become a lot more relevant so I’ll be devoting a lot more time to it. Look forward to a lot more on it from me.
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