This past weekend, we were left without a single Grand Prix or SCG Open to watch. However, SCG did put on one of the most exciting tournaments of the calendar year, the SCG Players’ Championship. In this exclusive, invitation-only, yearly tournament, 16 of the top competitors on the SCG Tour compete for the grand prize of $20,000. The Players’ Championship is special for many reasons, but perhaps none bigger than the fact that it features Standard, Modern, and Legacy all in one tournament. After two full days of competition, Joe Lossett took home the trophy after he defeated Caleb Scherer across multiple formats. Since the Players’ Championship is a very limited and contained tournament, large assumptions about the state of any format can’t be drawn, but interesting and innovative deck choices and builds can change how we think about a format moving forward. Let’s start with Standard, the format that can see its metagame shift dramatically from a string of interesting results and innovations.
Out of the 16 players in the tournament, 6 elected to play a variant of Aetherworks Marvel, the deck that has been on a big upswing since several changes to the archetype allowed it to be better equipped to deal with the hate it might face in the format. Slightly surprisingly, there were no copies of traditional powerhouses U/W Flash and B/G Delirium. Instead, players opted for out-of-favor variations of the deck that could better combat Aetherworks Marvel. U/W Flash players turned to W/U Humans or Esper Aggro, while B/G Delirium players opted for an aggressive version of the deck that hasn’t been seen for several weeks at the top tables. To round out the decks that were registered at the Players’ Championship, 2 players opted to play G/R Energy, while Vehicles put one copy in the tournament and Jeff Hoogland and Andrew Tenjum, ever the contrarians, opted to play U/R Control and Jeskai Midrange respectively.
What can we learn from the results of this tournament? Firstly, it’s clear that players knew that Aetherworks Marvel was going to be a popular choice coming into the tournament, and it had a big effect on their deck choices. U/W Flash and B/G Delirium were nowhere to be seen. Instead, players opted for unconventional versions of the deck that were aimed at better combatting Aetherworks variants. If you believe that a tournament you are attending will be dominated by the powerful 4-mana artifact, it might be a good idea to adjust your tier 1 deck to deal with it. If there’s anything to take away from the Standard portion of this tournament, it’s that Aetherworks Marvel, whether that be Naya or Temur, is the “level 1” deck of this format. All metagame decisions and deck choices must be made with this knowledge.
In Modern, the common theme of the format for the past few months has been the remarkable diversity that tournaments have been witnessing. It’s entirely possible that there are a few dozen archetypes that are each viable in Modern in its current state. This tournament, despite the low number of teams participating, would prove no different. In the 24-player tournament, 11 archetypes were represented. The only archetypes to be represented more than once are: Grixis Delver, Death’s Shadow Zoo, Infect, Dredge, and Tron (if you count G/W and G/B as the same archetype). Despite it putting up a tournament-high 3 copies registered, Grixis Delver should not be considered the “best” or “most popular” deck in the format because Kevin Jones and Jim Davis, who are two of the few players to have prior success with the deck, both participated in the tournament. The common theme of the Modern portion of this tournament is players playing archetypes they have experiences success with before.
In a format this wide open, players are able to play archetypes that suit their skill set the best. Any of the decks played this weekend, even those without recent success, like B/W Tokens and Eldrazi, are viable choices in this format. I’ve said this in several weekend recaps before, but in Modern it’s important to play what you know and know what you play.
It greatly pains me to say this, but Legacy is undoubtedly the least important portion of the Players’ Championship, for viewers at least. 12 archetypes were represented in the 16 decks registered, with Elves, Lands, 4-Color Delver, and Sneak & Show being the only decks to have multiple players playing it. Joe Lossett, who would end up being the champion of the weekend, was the only player playing Miracles, arguably the most popular and most powerful deck of the format, while Jeff Hoogland brought Aluren to play, despite the deck being more or less extinct in the format for the better part of a decade.
Any of the decks that were played this weekend, perhaps besides Aluren, I would recommend players picking up if they are new to Legacy or a veteran of the format. They have each been big players in the format for the past few years, and it’s unlikely that that will change any time soon, especially with the increasing scarcity of meaningful Legacy events during 2017. While in Modern I believe that you should play what you know and know what you play, in Legacy I would advise you to play what you love and love what you play. Most any archetype can spike a Legacy tournament, but if you’re not having fun, what’s the point of the format?
Next week is Magic’s unofficial Christmas break, and the week after is New Years, so there will be no Weekend Recap next Monday or the week after, but I’ll be back Monday, January 7, to talk about Grand Prix Louisville, which will showcase Legacy.
Until next time.
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