As the Star City Games Season 1 comes to an end, we are left with one final tournament: the Invitational at SCGCON this weekend in scenic Roanoke, Virginia. The Invitational is a mixed format event, with this weekend featuring Standard and Modern. These style events are my favorite ones, because focusing on multiple formats puts your tournament preparation skills to the test.

Let’s look at that process, how to attack each format, and my potential deck choices.


My primary goal for Standard is beating three decks: Mono Red, Superfriends, and Dreadhorde. All three archetypes have been popular lately and seem poised for success this weekend. Red is starting to fall out of favor as opponents prepare for the matchup, but the card Experimental Frenzy can steal games.

Superfriends variants like Jeskai and Esper leverage planeswalkers alongside other diverse sources of incremental advantage. The archetype stands up to aggression thanks to Saheeli pumping out tokens when you cast removal spells. And then there’s the Dreadhorde variants, which seem to be head-and-shoulders more powerful than other decks. Still, the deck can stumble and lose to itself.

With that metagame target in mind, I narrowed my Standard deck choice to two archetypes. First off, Mono Red!

Standard Mono Red

Creatures (22)
Fanatical Firebrand
Ghitu Lavarunner
Goblin Chainwhirler
Runaway Steam-Kin
Viashino Pyromancer
Chandra, Fire Artisan

Spells (18)
Experimental Frenzy
Lightning Strike
Wizard’s Lightning
Light Up the Stage
Lands (20)
20 Mountain

Sideboard (15)
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Legion Warboss
Rekindling Phoenix
Experimental Frenzy
Tibalt, Rakish Instigator
Lava Coil

I know I was just saying that I think this deck goes into the weekend with a big target on its back. It may still be a good choice to sneak under the the midrange decks. Red’s best draws revolvie around Runaway Steam-Kin and Experimental Frenzy. You can win against anything with those two cards going full force, though the planeswalker decks are more difficult in general.

My second potential choice also features red mana, but this one adds some green too. Yes, I’m talking about Gruul.

Standard Gruul Midrange

Creatures (28)
Llanowar Elves
Growth-Chamber Guardian
Paradise Druid
Gruul Spellbreaker
Legion Warboss
Rekindling Phoenix
Skarrgan Hellkite

Spells (9)
Lightning Strike
Domri, Anarch of Bolas
The Immortal Sun
Lands (23)
Stomping Ground
Rootbound Crag

Sideboard (15)
The Immortal Sun
Lava Coil
Vivien Reid
Chandra, Fire Artisan
Sarkhan the Masterless
Sorcerous Spyglass
Thrashing Brontodon

Gruul Midrange has a few things going for it. A solid matchup against the Superfriends decks is a good start. Many of Gruul’s threats have haste, which is where you want to be when you need to get a troublesome planeswalker off the board. The deck also goes over the top of Mono Red: you play a bunch of 4/4s, 5/5s, and 6/6s that outclass the small red creatures while also outracing Mono Red before Experimental Frenzy can take over.

Command the Dreadhorde is tough to beat, but Gruul deals enough damage to limit the functionality of that card. Just be sure to keep their life total low when facing Dreadhorde decks.


The Modern metagame poses more difficult challenges and a wide variety of possible archetypes. Even so, there are three archetypes to focus on going into the Invitational: Izzet Phoenix, Dredge, and Humans. These have been on the top of the charts and will be in the hands of some of the big grinders. Playing a deck that folds to these would not be ideal for the Invitational, but modern is wild and unpredictable.

Here’s one deck I am considering:

Modern Mono-Green Tron

Creatures (6)
Walking Ballista
Wurmcoil Engine
World Breaker
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Spells (35)
Karn Liberated
Karn, the Great Creator
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Chromatic Sphere
Chromatic Star
Expedition Map
Oblivion Stone
Relic of Progenitus
Ancient Stirrings
Sylvan Scrying
Lands (19)
Blast Zone
Ghost Quarter
Sanctum of Ugin
Urza’s Mine
Urza’s Power Plant
Urza’s Tower

Sideboard (15)
Crucible of Worlds
Ensnaring Bridge
Grafdigger’s Cage
Liquimetal Coating
Mycosynth Lattice
Welding Jar
Phyrexian Metamorph
Thought-Knot Seer
Nature’s Claim

Yes, I am considering Tron. Karn, the Great Creator gives the deck big game against these top decks, as my fellow writers have said. It fetches up sideboard silver bullets like Grafdigger’s Cage, plus the prison combo with Mycosynth Lattice. Tron is already favored against Humans, but Karn brings Ensnaring Bridge to the table. Blast Zone really help push the match up for you too.

I haven’t been able to test this deck as much as I want, so thats why I am hesitant to register it. But Tron looks well-positioned and has a reputation for being easy to play. On the other end of that spectrum, there’s my second choice:

Modern Azorius Control

Creatures (4)
Snapcaster Mage
Vendilion Clique

Spells (31)
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Narset, Parter of Veils
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Teferi, Time Raveler
Detention Sphere
Cryptic Command
Dovin’s Veto
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Logic Knot
Path to Exile
Spell Snare
Surgical Extraction
Serum Visions
Supreme Verdict
Wrath of God
Lands (25)
Blast Zone
Celestial Colonnade
Field of Ruin
Flooded Strand
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Scalding Tarn

Sideboard (15)
Cataclysmic Gearhulk
Restoration Angel
Spell Queller
Rest in Peace
Stony Silence
Celestial Purge
Ceremonious Rejection
Disdainful Stroke
Dovin’s Veto
Surgical Extraction
Lyra Dawnbringer
Timely Reinforcements

I am a big fan of this deck right now, and especially moving forward with Modern Horizons after this weekend. The deck plays a lot of one-mana exile effects and hard-to-remove permanents to help against Phoenix and Dredge. The diversity of wraths helps against Meddling Mage in the Humans matchup.

Narset, Parter of Veils and Teferi, Time Raveler really fight Phoenix and other control decks effectively. And for that broad, scary Modern metagame, you have the best sideboard cards in the format thanks to playing white mana. Normally control decks are risky to play without much testing, but the archetype suits my preferences and I will be comfortable navigating the games.

Wish me luck this weekend, and tune in to see which decks I choose to play!

Zack is a SCG grinder with one ultimate goal: getting to the Players Championship. Based out of NYC, you can find him in other cities every weekend trying to hit that goal. When he isn’t traveling he streams. Follow his journey on Twitter!

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