Jim Davis – 2017: Wow What a Year

Team BCW member, Jim Davis, reflects on 2017.

2017 has been the craziest and most life-changing year of my life, both with regards to Magic as well as my personal life.

While I did finish third in the Player of the Year race on the SCG Tour and play in my first Pro Tour in a few years, overall it was a pretty disappointing year as far as tournament results go. I only had two SCG Tour top 8s despite playing a ton of events all year and had uninspiring finishes at both Invitationals and the Pro Tour. I did make a ton of top 16s and 32s, but while those pay the bills and keep me on the leaderboard they don’t feel great when I’ve also had two byes all year.

There were disappointing finishes as well as life-changing milestones in 2017 for me, so let’s look at the 2017 headlines as well as the lessons learned along the way.

Playing Control Decks in Standard Again

While I’m definitely known as a “control player,” I like to think I have a pretty wide range overall. Still, I am at my most comfortable playing any sort of hard control deck and 2017 offered me a number of opportunities to do just that.

UB Control:

  • 4 Disallow
  • 2 Fatal Push
  • 4 Torrential Gearhulk
  • 4 Glimmer of Genius
  • 1 Essence Extraction
  • 4 Choked Estuary
  • 1 Confirm Suspicions
  • 1 Jace, Unraveler of Secrets
  • 1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
  • 2 Submerged Boneyard
  • 1 Void Shatter
  • 4 Sunken Hollow
  • 2 Horribly Awry
  • 1 Blighted Fen
  • 2 Ruinous Path
  • 3 Murder
  • 4 Grasp of Darkness
  • 3 Negate
  • 8 Swamp
  • 8 Island


  • 2 Fatal Push
  • 2 Ceremonious Rejection
  • 2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
  • 1 Sphinx of the Final Word
  • 1 Blighted Cataract
  • 1 Ruinous Path
  • 2 Dead Weight
  • 3 Dispel
  • 1 Negate

I ran UB Control at the first few opens of the year to a number of close calls, but ultimately some suboptimal play ended up keeping me out of top 8. The deck was quite good pre-Pro Tour Aether Revolt, where I was in for a rude awakening. Apparently Mardu Vehicles wasn’t actually bad and people just weren’t building it right! After 3-0ing my first Pro Tour draft in a few years I was feeling great going into the constructed rounds… until I ran afoul of Mardu Vehicles and some other unexpected decks to lose four rounds in a row.

There’s a fine line between comfort and stubbornness, something I’ve been working on all year.

I’d like to say that playing UB Control at Pro Tour Aether Revolt was just due to me being stubborn, but it was also due to a poor metagame read as well. Still, as my former Team MGG teammates would often remind me I do tend to be stubborn about deck selection, favoring decks that I’m either comfortable with or I think give me an edge rather than playing the safer choice. I certainly can’t disagree with them, but it’s both a strength and a weakness.

While it didn’t work out for Pro Tour Aether Revolt, my choice to go with the more comfortable option at #SCGDAL a few months ago ended up paying off quite well.

UW Approach:

  • 2 Settle the Wreckage
  • 2 Search for Azcanta
  • 2 Farm
  • 4 Ipnu Rivulet
  • 2 Supreme Will
  • 2 Desert of the Mindful
  • 4 Censor
  • 4 Irrigated Farmland
  • 4 Cast Out
  • 3 Approach of the Second Sun
  • 1 Disallow
  • 3 Fumigate
  • 3 Aether Meltdown
  • 4 Glimmer of Genius
  • 1 Essence Scatter
  • 4 Glacial Fortress
  • 6 Plains
  • 5 Island
  • 4 Opt


  • 1 Scavenger Grounds
  • 1 Jace’s Defeat
  • 2 Regal Caracal
  • 3 Torrential Gearhulk
  • 4 Authority of the Consuls
  • 4 Negate

The rest of Team MGG all played the Sultai Energy deck that Andrew Jessup won the event with (and would go on to win the Pro Tour), but while I knew I was deviating to play something a little more comfortable to me I also thought UW Approach was actually quite good. It was certainly good, but it was also a very good week one Standard deck that preyed on the unprepared.

Lesson Learned: Being able to take risks is great, as is having the bravery to do so in important spots, but it’s very important to have the wisdom to know when you’re being stubborn.

Finding Some Footing in Modern

Modern has been a tough nut for me to crack for a while, and at the start of 2017 I shared the same sentiment that many ‘higher level’ players had on the format – I hated it. I thought it was non-interactive and frustrating, there were too many linear strategies for a sideboard to handle, and it felt like a crapshoot. Metagaming felt impossible; where I was able to gain edges in Standard by finding a deck that attacked the expected metagame well, in Modern I would just play against outlandish matchups and nobody would play what I expected them to.

Thankfully this year I feel I have overcome this very common shortcoming.

So what’s the secret? Find something you like, preferably that’s proactive and powerful, and take it to the ends of the earth. Just look at the players this year who have done extremely well in Modern on the SCG Tour; Todd Stevens with Eldrazi Tron, Caleb Scherer with Storm, Jonathan Rosum with Jeskai, Dan Jessup with Grixis Death’s Shadow, and so on. Metagaming is an illusion in Modern because people just play what they like/can afford, so just focus on what you are doing.

Over 2017 I’ve basically played two Modern decks; Dredge for the first half of the year and GB Tron for the second half of the year.


  • 4 Cathartic Reunion
  • 2 Collective Brutality
  • 4 Prized Amalgam
  • 4 Insolent Neonate
  • 4 Faithless Looting
  • 4 Copperline Gorge
  • 4 Bloodghast
  • 4 Scalding Tarn
  • 2 Dakmor Salvage
  • 4 Narcomoeba
  • 3 Conflagrate
  • 2 Blood Crypt
  • 1 Steam Vents
  • 2 Stomping Ground
  • 3 Golgari Thug
  • 4 Life from the Loam
  • 4 Stinkweed Imp
  • 3 Wooded Foothills
  • 2 Mountain


  • 2 Collective Brutality
  • 1 Vengeful Pharaoh
  • 1 Bojuka Bog
  • 3 Maelstrom Pulse
  • 2 Thoughtseize
  • 2 Lightning Axe
  • 1 Ancient Grudge
  • 1 Ghost Quarter
  • 2 Engineered Explosives

GB Tron:

  • 1 Walking Ballista
  • 3 Fatal Push
  • 1 Blooming Marsh
  • 1 Sanctum of Ugin
  • 1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
  • 2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
  • 4 Karn Liberated
  • 3 Wurmcoil Engine
  • 4 Ancient Stirrings
  • 4 Expedition Map
  • 1 World Breaker
  • 3 Relic of Progenitus
  • 4 Chromatic Star
  • 3 Oblivion Stone
  • 4 Sylvan Scrying
  • 3 Llanowar Wastes
  • 4 Chromatic Sphere
  • 4 Urza’s Tower
  • 4 Urza’s Power Plant
  • 4 Urza’s Mine
  • 2 Snow-Covered Forest


  • 4 Collective Brutality
  • 3 Thragtusk
  • 2 Nature’s Claim
  • 2 Thoughtseize
  • 2 Seal of Primordium
  • 1 Ghost Quarter
  • 1 Snow-Covered Swamp

They’re both powerful, proactive decks that seek to execute their plan to the fullest. They’re odd to play and odd to play against because they break so many of Magic’s fundamental rules, but that’s where the repetition comes in. By playing the same Modern deck week in and week out you can learn all the nuances of how to properly sequence your deck, as well as what kinds of hands are okay and what it is capable of.

You also learn how your deck fits into the overall picture of the metagame. There are so many possible matchups in Modern that having a plan for each one of them is a very difficult thing to do. Because it is so difficult, this is one of the areas where you can gain the biggest edge in the format. It’s not like Standard where a good player can just pick up a good deck and win a tournament without playing it before. There are many more moving parts than just creatures and removal spells, which makes knowledge of your deck, your opponent’s deck, and how they interact paramount.

Is Modern perfect? No, but I’m happy to say I’m no longer afraid of it!

Lesson Learned: It’s very easy to complain about difficult problems, especially when people you respect share your grievances. It’s much harder to try and solve those problems in spite of them.

Travelling to a Pro Tour Again

While my UB Control deck didn’t fare so well at Pro Tour Aether Revolt, it was great to break out my passport and travel halfway across the world for a Pro Tour again. I played most of the Pro Tours from 2006-2009, but in recent years my focus has been much more fixated on the SCG Tour.

There’s just something really special about stepping off of an airplane and into another culture.

I covered my Pro Tour pretty in depth in my article that came after it, but it was certainly a memorable and enjoyable experience despite the mediocre finish.

Lesson Learned: Pro Tours are really fun! Not everything needs to be looked at from an expected value perspective, and there’s a lot of non-monetary value in just travelling to attend a Pro Tour at an exciting location!

Becoming a Family Man

They say “when it rains, it pours” and 2017 was quite the year for me on the home front.

Nicole, John and I bought a house earlier this year!

Nicole and I got engaged on Christmas Eve!

That’s some year, and I couldn’t be more excited for our future in our new home. I’m so thankful that Nicole and John are so positively involved in everything I do, from Nicole joining me to battle at events, to John joining my stream for The John and Jim Show, to playing Magic at home together, and to them just being generally supportive whether I’m home or travelling. Finding a balance between work and home life is tough, but made much easier when you’re with people who support you to the fullest.

Lesson Learned: Try to surround yourself with people who support things you love, and try to support whatever it is the people around you love.

Biting Off More Than I Could Chew

It’s been a great two years and I’m very proud of all we accomplished, but 2017 will be my last year with TeamMGG. I love everyone involved with the team and wish them all the best in 2018.

While Team MGG was one of the most exciting things I’ve been involved in over the last two years, it came at a cost. When Frank Pendl and Rick Meditz first approached me and asked me to captain the team, I was honored and happy to join them in making it a successful endeavor. It was big, bold, and ambitious, and I’m extremely proud of all we accomplished. It is also a ton of work. With Frank and Rick having fulltime jobs as well as families, at the start of 2017 I offered to take on some of the managerial responsibilities of the team.

This was a mistake on my part.

I put a lot of work into Team MGG in 2017, often to the detriment of myself. My focus constantly remained split between what was best for the team’s success as an entity as well as my own personal success, both in playing actual events and in my own Magic endeavors (writing articles, streaming, coaching, etc.). By trying to do everything well, I ended up doing a mediocre job on both fronts. My results suffered, my stream and other work suffered, and I wasn’t accomplishing everything I wanted to with the team.

Team Metagame Gurus

I love all those guys, which is part of the reason I tried so hard to do it all, but the reality is that I needed to pick one – be a player or be a manager. Frank and Rick decided to pursue the idea of fielding Pro Tour Team Series teams and have my full support, but I needed to step away and focus my own livelihood and results.

Lesson Learned: You can’t do everything, even if you want to. Figure out what is most important and put all your effort towards it.

Moving On To Something New

2017 has certainly been one for the record books.  Perhaps the most exciting thing about 2017 however is how much I’m looking forward to 2018. Aside from the boring stuff like moving into a new house and getting married, I’m very excited for all that Magic has in store. And how could I not be when I get to battle alongside these handsome fellows!

Team BCW

I’ve been working alongside BCW Supplies for the last two years with Team MGG, so when they told me they were putting together their own team to battle on the SCG Tour I was intrigued. Having already made the choice to step aside from my player/manager role on Team MGG, the allure of getting to just focus on playing and my own livelihood was very appealing. Once I saw the rest of the lineup and knew that Rick Kivett and the rest of BCW Supplies would be behind it full force it was an easy sell.

I’ve battled alongside and hung out with Ross, Tannon, Todd, and Brennan a lot over the last few years, and now I’m very proud to join them on Team BCW. I couldn’t be more excited for 2018, both for what we will accomplish as a team and for what I’ve got in store for my own streaming and coaching endeavors. I’m also looking forward to getting back to improving as a player. I haven’t put much focus on my game since 2015, where I was hell-bent on redeeming myself for a disastrous first Player’s Championship. Success in Magic is always a moving target, and I look forward to returning my focus towards improving as both a player, a coach, and an entertainer.

2018 is going to awesome!