For the first time in a while, I had time this weekend to sit down and watch the StarCity Games Modern Open on Twitch. I have to say, it was awesome. The coverage was excellent, Matthias Hunt and Ryan Overturf have a solid understanding of the format, good conversational banter, and are capable of both dissecting lines of play and making the SCG Tour, teams, and individual players feel important.

While Wizards have always highlighted the importance of individual cards and powerful strategies, the SCG Coverage team made me care about the players. This is important because, look, I’m invested in Magic and don’t need convincing about the validity of certain cards and strategies or the way in which recent sets “shake up” a metagame. I enjoy articles that focus on deck construction, individual card choices, and sideboarding strategy but when it comes to me sitting down and watching hours of coverage, I need a little more. I thought, for example, Hunt and Overturf did an excellent job talking about the eventual winner of the tournament, Kevin Jones. From watching a few hours of coverage I learned that Jones chose to play a deck he was comfortable with rather than one agreed upon by his team, that he nearly skipped the tournament after missing his flight, that he hasn’t taken down an open in two years despite strong finishes, that he’s an avid reader of mystery novels and used to play competitive tennis. The personal touches at the end maybe a bit shallow, but work towards creating a narrative of a whole human being; someone who has a life outside of competitive Magic. I appreciate that.

Since I’m not in the business of Magic coverage, I will go ahead and shift my focus in breaking down the top 32 decks of the tournament.

The top 32 —

Name of Deck | # in top 32

Jund | 6
Infect | 4
Jeskai | 2
Burn | 2
Bant Eldrazi | 2
Kiki Chord | 2
Grixis Delver | 1
Zoo | 1
Living End | 1
Abzan Company | 1
Eldrazi Taxes | 1
Merfolk | 1
4 C Control | 1
Blue Moon | 1
GR Tron | 1
GW Hex | 1
Abzan | 1
Mono Blue Tron |1

What we have here is 18 unique archetypes with the most represented deck, Jund, comprising 18.7% of the top 32 (with only a single copy in the top eight). These results continue to speak to the health and diversity of Modern as a format. While Jund is the most represented deck by a fair margin, it is certainly not oppressive by any stretch. Jund contains the best generic answers available in Modern but hasn’t done anything patently unfair since the days of Deathrite Shaman into Liliana/Bloodbraid Elf into Liliana. When decks like Jund are bad—Eldrazi Winter or Treasure Cruise being legal—it tends to suggest that something is wrong with the format. The presence of Jund as a tier one strategy has shown so far to be a good barometer of format health and diversity.

In my humble opinion, the sweetest list to crack the top 32 was Eric Liu’s 4C Control deck coming in at 12th place:

4C Control - Eric Liu - SCG Dallas

Creatures (9)
Snapcaster Mage
Jace, Vryn’S Prodigy
Tasigur, The Golden Fang
Lands (22)
Arid Mesa
Blood Crypt
Creeping Tar Pit
Hallowed Fountain
Polluted Delta
Sacred Foundry
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents
Sulfur Falls
Watery Grave

Spells (29)
Kolaghan’s Command
Lightning Bolt
Path To Exile
Spell Snare
Thought Scour
Anger Of The Gods
Inquisition Of Kozilek
Serum Visions
Timely Reinforcements

Sideboard (15)
Soulfire Grand Master
Curse Of Death’S Hold
Lightning Helix
Anger Of The Gods
Crumble To Dust
Lingering Souls
Slaughter Games

Liu’s deck is essentially a Grixis list splashing for Path to Exile/Timely Reinforcements in the main and Lingering Souls/Soulfire Grand Master/Lighting Helix in the side. While Liu only plays two copies of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, this looks to be one of the best shells for him available.

Liu shaved down the countermagic, down to two copies of Remand, and one copy each of Negate and Spell Snare, in favor of Path to Exile. This plays better with a flipped Jace and has some equity against persist creatures/Dredge in ways that Terminate does not. In the grindy games, having access to Lingering Souls is fantastic and helps tighten up a close match-up with Jund post board. While I imagine this deck gets punished by a resolved Blood Moon, it doesn’t look to be much worse off than a regular Grixis List. Jones’ Grixis Delver list for example played twenty total lands with four basic lands and ten fetches to get them if playing around Blood Moon. Liu has 22 lands with four basics and nine fetch lands.

While Liu’s deck may have been the most innovative, the biggest story of the tournament was the dominance of Team Metagame Gurus. While I don’t find myself cheering for Jim Davis, both because of his views on women in magic and his glacial pace of play, his team has had a monstrous run. Four of the five members made top eight with Jones and Andrew Jessup playing the finals in their hideous yellow jerseys. Think about that again, out of 996 players, four made the top eight piloting three different decks. The final placement of the team is both a testament to the team playtesting structure and the individual skill levels of each player. It can be easy to chalk up various aspects of Magic to variance—bad match-ups and bad draws—but when I see a run like this I am reminded that the most important aspect to Magic is skill.

Ultimately, SCG Dallas was an excellent representation of Modern as a diverse and skill intensive format and a good show of SCG’s ability to weave narratives into their coverage. Congrats to Kevin Jones who put on an absolute clinic on piloting Grixis Delver and the rest of Metagame Gurus who have demonstrated their dominance of the SCG tour as of late.

In terms of Magic, Shawn Massak is a Modern enthusiast, with a penchant for tier two decks, counterspells, and pre Eighth Edition frames. In terms of life, Shawn lives in Brighton, MA where he works as an employment coordinator for people with disabilities, plays guitar in an indie-pop band, and spends his free time reading comics, complaining about pro-wrestling, and wishing his apartment allowed dogs as pets.

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