The SCG Open over the weekend in Columbus proved to be an exciting tournament with the release of Aether Revolt. With Smuggler’s Copter, Emrakul, the Promised End, and Reflector Mage out of the picture, the stage was set for the new innovations Standard had to offer. “Copycat”, the Saheeli Rai + Felidar Guardian Splinter Twin-like combo, was the frontrunner for the weekend, and although the deck did not win the event, it put up a good showing in both a Jeskai and Four-Color build.
The winner of the tournament however was not Saheeli Rai and her cats, but B/G Delirium in the hands of Brennan DeCandio.
DeCandio’s deck was a mix of cards both from the B/G Delirium deck with Emrakul and the G/B Aggro deck Brad Nelson and Todd Anderson piloted in December’s invitational. Going with a build centered around +1/+1 counter synergies, DeCandio piloted the deck into the finals, defeating both Jeskai Saheeli and G/W Tokens on his way to the finals. DeCandio was not the only one to pick up on the +1/+1 counter synergies available with cards like Walking Balista, Rishkar, Peema Renegade, and Winding Constrictor, the most unassuming card in the deck. Similar versions of the same strategy put three decks into the Top 8, with seven total in all of the Top 64. It’s generally a good sign for a deck’s future in a format when it puts up 3 of the top 4 decks, despite it not being considered the deck to beat prior to the tournament.
Here’s how the Top 8 and Top 64 shaped up:
25 Saheeli Rai
8 G/W Tokens
6 Mardu Vehicles
15 “Other” (various control/aggressive/midrange decks)
Although B/G Delirium put 3 copies into the top 4 of the tournament, the self-fulfilling prophecy of a two-card infinite combo was fulfilled. What’s interesting to me about the Saheeli decks was that the Four-Color version put up almost as many copies as the Jeskai Version. People were prepared to face grindy mirror matches and got some extra reach with cards such as Rogue Refiner and Oath of Nissa. One version of the deck, played by Eli Kassis even included a copy of Authority of the Consuls main deck! That’s some serious preparation, but you have to expect a large portion of the field to be playing a deck that was so hyped and expected for an event of this caliber.
What’s also interesting of note here is the number of copies of creatures that can be copied by Saheeli. Kassis packed a whopping four Rogue Refiner and two Cloudblazer in his list, reasonable cards on their own but super powerful when your deck has a card that’s able to make a hasty copy. This build plays like a midrange deck and is capable of grinding out your opponents through card advantage while having the two-card combo always looming.
Some versions of the deck played as a more traditional control deck, such as Todd Stevens’ list.
Because you can’t expect all your games to be won by Saheeli Rai + Felidar Guardian, Torrential Gearhulk is fantastic as a backup win condition and an excellent way to turn the game around when your combo deck leans heavier on the control side than other builds.
While there is no one correct build that seems to be found of the deck, it’s proven to a big player in week 1, putting the most copies into the top 64 and will definitely be on the top of everyone’s list of things to watch out for at the Pro Tour.
The last deck of interest that’s made a resurgence with the disappearance of Smuggler’s Copter is G/W Tokens. The best finish for this deck was Hunter Nance, who bowed out in the semifinals.
This was another deck on everyone’s radar for the event. With Copter, Emrakul, and Reflector Mage getting the boot, U/W Flash, Aetherworks Marvel, and traditional B/G Delirium lost favor. G/W has always been a powerful combination of cards and was a big player back in Shadows over Innistrad Standard, when Hangarback Walker and Secure the Wastes were legal. The deck has made somewhat of a resurgence, still relying on powerful planeswalkers in Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, but with Heart of Kiran putting on more pressure.
Hunter Nance was definitely prepared this weekend, packing 2 Authority of the Consuls and 3 Stasis Snare for the inevitable infinite cats. The deck has a similar build to those from last year, with Heart of Kiran and Verdurous Gearhulk being the new powerful additions. Being able to +1 Nissa, then -1 to crew Heart and attack and block is a powerful combo, and is a threatening strategy when it’s backed up by cards like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Verdurous Gearhulk. The death of Smuggler’s Copter gave way for Nissa, Voice of Zendikar to be a contender in Standard again and this deck is quite powerful, but time will tell if it can put up to the Saheeli and B/G Delirium decks.
Looking ahead to the Pro Tour
With Pro Tour Aether Revolt just two weeks away, it’ll be interesting to see what decks will end up making most of the metagame, and if any new decks will show up to the party. Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian are headlining Standard, but other powerful decks are showing to be contenders as well. Will Saheeli combo end up being the new norm? Will B/G Delirium come out on top again? Only time will tell, but we’ll just have to wait for the Pro Tour for that.
To battle Saheeli/Felidar, many players turned to aggressive strategies, like the Vehicles decks of Kaladesh Standard. This article from Austin Mansell covers all you need to know about the powerful aggressive deck in this format.
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