Latest Modern Tech, August 2017

© 2017 photo credit: magic.wizards.com/en/events/coverage/

As some of you may be aware, this weekend had a tasty Modern Grand Prix double header with events in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Birmingham, England. That means a double amount of data to look at! Today I’ll be focusing on fresh new technology that may or may not become industry standard moving forward.

For reference, here are the 16 decks in the two top 8’s combined:

3 Grixis Shadow
3 B/G(x) Midrange
2 TitanShift
2 Bant Knightfall
2 Abzan Company
1 Jeskai Control
1 G/X Tron
1 Burn
1 Lantern Control

Full overview of all 16 decklists:

I’ve taken the freedom to put all black-green based Midrange decks in the same category as well as not taken the human subtheme of one of the Bant decks into account. Now let’s dig down to look at some of the sweet new tech these players brought to the tournament.

Danilo Ramos Mopesto‘s Grixis Shadow list has quite a few interesting things going on. He has a total of three(!) copies of Liliana of the Veil in his 75, which is not something we see every day. It has applications against a bunch of decks with the Mirror Match and various combo decks being the most obvious. While she is not the best card you can have against any deck, she will improve the highest amount of matchups. A very important feature in a gigantic format like Modern where you will almost always have dead cards in your main deck.

His sweeper of choice for his sideboard is this little gem. On the surface you’re looking at an instant speed Pyroclasm at the cost of one more mana, but there’s more than meets the eye to it. Kozilek’s Return being colorless means you can deal with pesky Etched Champions. The downside to this card vs. Anger of the Gods or Flaying Tendrils is definitely the uptick in Collected Company decks where exiling the creatures can be super important.

Joao Lelis not only won the Brazilian Grand Prix; he also played a long forgotten card in his sideboard as a three-of. Flashfreeze is a flexible counterspell that can deal with Collected Company, Chord of Calling, Anger of the Gods and Primeval Titan, and countering creatures is something Negate is incapable of.

Flashfreeze competes with Unified Will for this slot, but it looks like he found it more important to have an answer to opposing copies of Collected Company and Chord of Calling in the pseudo mirror – where Unified Will isn’t reliable – than having the more flexible counterspell in other matchups.


The jury is still out on whether Hour of Promise is an upgrade to TitanShift or those precious slots are better used on various interaction depending on the metagame. Vitor Grassato decided it was a good weekend for a super threat dense list and played three copies of Hour of Promise on top of 4 Scapeshift, 4 Primeval Titan and 2 Summoner’s Pact.

This setup is very good at overloading various control and Midrange strategies, but can struggle against fast decks like Death’s Shadow and Burn. His sideboard tries to make up for that with a bunch of different tools to fight aggressive strategies. Also note the three Prismatic Omen in his main deck. I don’t like drawing copy number two, but the first one drawn is obviously very potent in combination with Hour of Promise. I like two copies in a list like this.

While these cards are format staples in other decks for obvious reasons, the inclusion of black in oldfashioned Tron is just what the doctor ordered (or what the metagame forces you do to if you want to be competitive, I suppose). Having a playset of Collective Brutality helps out against bad matchups like Burn and Storm while the Fatal Push are great at buying time vs. Death’s Shadow in particular. Even though the black splash is seen before, I wanted to talk about it since regular Tron has fallen out of favor recently. This great finish by Rafael Costa Zaghi could mount a comeback for Tron in the metagame percentages.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how Modern needs better reactive spells, and that actual Counterspell would improve the format quite a bit. Jean Sato took matter into his own hands and played three Logic Knot in his Jeskai Control deck.

While not being actual Counterspell, Logic Knot does a good impression while dealing with everything from Thought-Knot Seer, Primeval Titan and Ad Nauseam to Gifts Ungiven, Karn Liberated and the last lethal Burn spell. The importance of having a catch-all like Logic Knot can’t be overstated, and I’m very curious to explore my options going forward.

I will be looking at Thought Scour to make sure I can play the full playset of Logic Knot. Who would’ve thought that a classic effect like Counterspell would be of so much value in the 2017 Modern landscape.

This is just an improved Viridian Shaman on paper, but I wanted to credit Ivan de Castro Sanchez for finding it. I doubt this card has made a lot of Grand Prix top 8’s before. It fits perfectly in his human-themed Collected Company deck with its creature type and converted manacost and will do the job against Affinity.

While Sin Collector has seen play on and off in Abzan Company all the way back to the days of Birthing Pod, playing more than one is very rare. Oscar Christensen chose to run three copies and zero Thoughtseize in his sideboard to combat pesky instants and sorceries for games two and three. He can hit them off Collected Company, they have a 2/1 body attached for value, and both the stats and not costing life vs. Burn is relevant. If the combo decks become faster in the future, you can always go back to Thoughtseize again.

This card was pretty good back in Standard, but was quickly relegated to only seeing play in Vintage Cube Draft. Loïc Le Briand had different plans for it and replaced his Eidolon of the Great Revel with this smoking hot artifact! My guess is that he found the Eidolon subpar when being on the draw and even on the play in too many matchups and wanted to find a replacement. Mirror Match, fast Affinity draws, delve creatures and Eldrazi Tron are just a few of the bad situations you can encounter with Eidolon in your deck these days. While the Shrine is a bad top deck in the lategame, casting it on turn two can be very backbreaking for a lot of decks – kind of like Eidolon used to be. I imagine resolving this on turn two vs. Death’s Shadow will not end happily for the non-Burn player, as long as you keep an eye out for Kolaghan’s Command.

Simon Nielsen and his testing group went deep in the tank on this one. The TitanShift deck has steadily grown in popularity and the need for an edge in the mirror has also increased. Crumble to Dust used to be the go-to in these metagame situations, also offering some much needed disruption vs. Tron, but when the TitanShift doesn’t draw – or can afford to sandbag his Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle Crumble to Dust can be very lackluster. Witchbane Orb will most like catch your opponent off guard and relegate them to a fair deck trying to win via the attack step only. This a huge advantage in the mirror match, and you can usually win the game with a Scapeshift or a lot of Valakut triggers thanks to Primeval Titan. Furthermore, it also improves the bad Storm matchup and can give valuable percentages vs. Burn.

I chose only to focus on the two top 8’s, but I’m sure much more sweet technology is hidden if you go deep on the 16 or 32 best finishing decklists from these events.

What’s your favorite tech from the weekend? Let me know in the comments!

Winning #MKMS Prague Modern

Fade-in to Game 2 of the finals of the Modern event.
Tomasz Sodomirski is playing Dredge vs. Anders Thiesen on Titanshift and has just resolved the Driven part of Driven // Despair.

“What’s that?”, I Inquire. “Your death” Sodomirski explains, suppressing a tone of triumph. He dredges a handful of times, pondering “Do you have Anger of the Gods?” After much consideration, he reaches a conclusion: “You don’t have Anger”
*Freeze frame*

*record scratch*
Me, as narrator: “I did have Anger of the Gods
*Fade-out*

If you had told me I would win one of the tournaments in Prague while going 4-3 drop in the other, I would not have predicted the actual outcome of my weekend.

I went to Prague primarily to play Legacy and practice Modern since I’m heading to GP Birmingham soon. I was there to compete in Legacy and see how I would fare in Modern. But as we know it didn’t quite go that way.

I had 0 experience with competitive Modern so I just blatantly stole Andreas’s Titanshift list he won a Modern Challenge with. He has enjoyed a bunch of recent success lately so I blindly trusted his list, which I’ll do again another time.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a 3rd Roast so I replaced it with an Engineered Explosives, don’t copy the list without reversing the change. It was just a reasonable card I had on me as I was building the deck 5 minutes before the player’s meeting. For reference, the list I played:

RG Titanshift by Anders Thiesen

Creatures (10)
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Primeval Titan
Sakura-Tribe Elder

Spells (23)
Explore
Farseek
Lightning Bolt
Prismatic Omen
Roast
Scapeshift
Search for Tomorrow
Summoner’s Pact
Sweltering Suns
Lands (27)
Bloodstained Mire
Cinder Glade
Forest
Mountain
Sheltered Thicket
Stomping Ground
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills

Sideboard (15)
Obstinate Baloth
Grafdigger’s Cage
Relic of Progenitus
Nature’s Claim
Anger of the Gods
Thragtusk
Engineered Explosives
Reclamation Sage

Andreas can probably explain all the card choices with much more confidence than I can, so I’ll just tell a few stories from my trip involving the cards.
For example, the one-off Prismatic Omen came in very handy as my Round 1 opponent’s first play was a Glimpse the Unthinkable on turn 2, without the Omen I would never have had enough mountains in my deck to kill him.

Round 2 I played against Tomas Mar who unfortunately was taught an expensive lesson about the Modern format by the judges last round. He had chosen to register Grixis Delver with 3 Gitaxian Probes without knowing the card was banned. Those were replaced by 3 basic lands which had an effect on his Delvers ability to transform. The low amount of pressure meant I had plenty of time to go completely over the top.

That’s basically all the interesting stuff that happened in the swiss. I lost Round 3 to EldraziTron and then just stomped on a lot of Abzan midrange. I had a sweet sequence vs one of them where he had Thoughtseize’d me and seen one of the Obstinate Baloths. He passes with 3 mana open and I play the Baloth, he plays Liliana of the Veil and ticks it down, I pass with 5 open. He ticks Liliana up and my hand is Baloth, Primeval Titan, and the 6th Land. I put in the Baloth and untap to kill him with Titan.

After 8 rounds I’m 7-1 and I thought I might be able to draw in. Turns out I’m not even in the top 8 and I have to play. I’m even paired down…. VS. Abzan! ScapeSkill saves the day!

On to top 8!

The quarter final is covered here.

I was pretty lucky that Justin forgot to exile the 4th Valakut with his Surgical, making sure my topdecked Prime Time was good enough.

My semi final vs. Tomas Cunderlik was not covered, but I lost Game 1 to him playing a turn 3 Geist of Saint Traft into him keeping up countermagic until I died.

Games 2 and 3 I had cut all the removal, even the sweepers for more creatures so when he tapped out for Geist I could play a bigger creature that he had to tap out again to handle and I could untap and kill him with Scapeshift.

Not a fair fight

The final is covered here.

I was honestly not sure if Conflagrate could split the damage as they described and I did not want to remind Tomasz of the possibility so I choose to play as if it couldn’t to leave me a chance to win the race. It worked out.. and I had some lovely pictures taken went back to the hotel, and got a cap to find my friends at a restaurant 5 minutes before the Kitchen closed, had a lovely burger, went to bed and slept 5-6 hours and played medium in the Legacy event to drop out and 4-3 (after a Round 1 no show from my opponent! ☹)

So that was a bit opposite of what I expected, but overall I’m happy with the weekend, hopefully I can repeat it in Birmingham this coming weekend at the GP.

Thx for reading and I look forward to scapeshifting some more.

<3 Thiesen

How to beat Ramunap Red (… and zombies)

This weekend, the Pro Tour finally happened and Standard is alive again. The top 8 contained 6 Ramunap red decks, and red was the talk of the weekend.

It’s a very powerful deck with some very fast draws and at the same time a lot of staying power between Hazoret, the Fervent and Ramunap Ruins. If you think you can just play a truckload of cheap/mass removal and be safe, you have another thing coming. So is this the new caw blade? First of all, we need to look deeper than just the decks in the top 8.

This has always been overvalued, because remember the Swiss includes 6 rounds of draft. We also have to keep in mind that basically all the top pros/teams brought Bomat Courier and friends to the table and it was almost 25% of the starting metagame so you should expect to see some copies doing well.

I prefer to look at the decklists published on the coverage page sorted by standard record. That reveals the following: 1 Ramunap Red went 10-0. 2 Zombies and 1 Ramunap Red went 9-1. 1 Ramunap Red and 1 BG Constrictor went 8-1-1. At 8-2 were 6 Ramunap Red, 2 BG Constrictor, 2 Zombies, 1 Four Color Vehicles and 1 Temur Energy. Going down 7-3 there were 12 Ramunap Red, 13 Zombies and 7 BG Constrictor with a few copies of assorted other decks.

Any of these could have been in the top 8 depending on their limited records. Considering that there were more than twice as many red decks as zombies and almost three times as many red decks as constrictor, you could argue that Ramunap Red actually did worse than the other two. Additionally, there was a Standard PTQ on MTGO on Saturday with a top 8 of 3 Zombies, 2 Constrictor, 2 RG Ramp and zero(!) Ramunap Red decks. What I take from all of this is that Ramunap Red is very beatable.

It will continue to show up in the coming tournaments because a lot of people will just copy a list from the pt top 8, especially the winning one, but the decks you should really Metagame against right now are zombies and BG Constrictor. Luckily, all three decks have a comparable game plan: cheap aggressive creatures backed up by resilient, hard-hitting top end threats. First of all we need cheap removal; these decks hit the board early and hard and if you take too much damage from their cheap creatures, you will be hard pressed to keep up answers to their late game.

Second, you need a way to take over the game, once you’ve dealt with their early onslaught. You need to close the game out fast or it could slip away to their top decked Hazoret, Dark Salvation or Verdurous Gearhulk. Lastly, you need to be prepared for their sideboard plans. All of them pack extra punch and Resillience in the board, mostly in the form of Planeswalkers like Ob Nixilis Reignited, Liliana, the Last Hope and extra copies of Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Don’t just board in a bunch of extra Fatal Pushes and Sweltering Suns, lest you risk losing to one of these.

My current way to deal with these 3 decks is BR Midrange. It started just after Hour of Devastation came out, when I saw this list 5-0 a league:

BR Midrange

Creatures (9)
Glorybringer
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Spells (25)
Abrade
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Doomfall
Fatal Push
Hour of Glory
Liliana, Death’s Majesty
Liliana, the Last Hope
Live Fast
Magma Spray
Never // Return
Lands (26)
Aether Hub
Canyon Slough
Endless Sands
Evolving Wilds
Foreboding Ruins
Mountain
Smoldering Marsh
Swamp

I took it for a spin and liked a lot of it, but there were a few problems; there was too much of a gap between the early removal and the late game.

You often needed to be able to play 5-6 removal spells in the first 4 turns to have enough room for your 5 drops to take over. And then other games you needed to draw much less removal and more big threats because they had a slower start and answers to your first 2 threats. It was basically the classic non-blue control deck problem where you needed to draw the right half of your deck without any card selection.

I knew I wanted 4 Liliana for sure because it was both removal and threat at a cheap cost but other than that I wasn’t too sure. Then last week, Paul Rietzl 5-0’d a league with a similar deck that also top 8’ed the MTGO PTQ the weekend prior:

BR Midrange - 5:o Standard League by Paul Rietzl

Creatures (12)
Demon of Dark Schemes
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
Glorybringer
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Spells (22)
Abrade
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Collective Brutality
Doomfall
Harnessed Lightning
Liliana, the Last Hope
Live Fast
Ruinous Path
Lands (26)
Aether Hub
Blighted Fen
Canyon Slough
Foreboding Ruins
Mountain
Smoldering Marsh
Swamp

The key for me is the 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner.

It might look out of place in a control deck but it helps keep the cards flowing and at two mana, it will rarely be stuck in your hand, and you can play it and a removal spell on the same turn in the midgame. It also puts the opponent in an awkward spot for sideboarding because if they board out their removal, they could just flat out lose to it but if they keep removal in for it, they lessen their chances of enacting their own game plan because of a card you might not draw.

It even presents them with a dilemma in-game when you play it turn two because they have to spend mana to kill it in which case it did the same for you as a removal spell; keeping one of their threats off the board.

Along with the 4 Lilianas you have strong proactive early plays that are good against both aggro and control meaning the losses to ‘drawing the wrong half of your deck’ become much less frequent. I was not satisfied with the removal suite though; nothing at 1 mana and 6 at 2 is just not going to cut it against Ramunap red.

I also think you need ways to deal with Hazoret in a deck like this and Doomfall won’t hit it when you don’t have enough cheap removal to keep their small stuff off the board. I want some Grasp of Darkness instead of Harnessed Lightning and some combination of Fatal Push and Magma Spray. Spray is very good in the metagame but Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is a big part of our plan and push is much better against gb so I think 3 Fatal Push, 1 Magma Spray will be good for now.

You want more against Ramunap red and zombies but that’s what sideboards are for. I’ll give my current list before discussing further:

BR Midrange by Anders Gotfredsen

Creatures (11)
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
Glorybringer
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Spells (23)
Abrade
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Doomfall
Fatal Push
Grasp of Darkness
Liliana, the Last Hope
Live Fast
Magma Spray
Ruinous Path
Lands (26)
Aether Hub
Canyon Slough
Evolving Wilds
Foreboding Ruins
Mountain
Smoldering Marsh
Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Chandra’s Defeat
Magma Spray
Never // Return
Ob Nixilis Reignited
Lost Legacy
Dispossess
Transgress the Mind
Dreamstealer
Sweltering Suns
Chandra, Flamecaller

Against the current “big 3”, the plan is pretty straightforward; keep the board clear for the first few turns, stick a planeswalker or Kalitas and snowball the advantage from them.

If you have Liliana for turn 3, let one or two of their one toughness creatures live. If you have Kalitas, try to conserve your removal until he hits the board. It’s not easy knowing when you should play him turn 4 and when you should wait until you can leave up a removal spell the same turn.

Some of the red decks play Collective Defiance but people almost always copy the winning list (especially when it’s someone as well known as PV) so I would default to running it out turn 4 for now. Zombies have both Grasp of Darkness and Dark Salvation so here I would lean towards having removal the same turn as I play Kalitas.

Of course some games you see their hand with turn 3 Doomfall and the choice will be easy.

Doomfall is an interesting card for standard. I didn’t even consider it for constructed when I first saw it but it has the same kind of flexibility that makes Supreme Will good; it has an “answer” mode and a mode for when you don’t need to deal with something they have played.

The big difference of course is that Doomfall is a sorcery, and sorcery hurts a modal card much more than a one dimensional card. Specifically, exiling Hazoret after it has attacked you once is unpleasant. Unfortunately, discard spells tend to be sorcery so we’ll have to make do. It is bad against Ramunap Red and servicable against Zombies and good against Constrictor but I think you need it main to not auto lose game 1 to decks like ramp and control.

Just having a few makes a big difference when you’re playing Goblin Dark-Dwellers, and as long as it’s not completely dead in any matchup, I think you can get away with it.

The thing I’m most uncertain of is the mix of 5-drops. Goblin Dark-Dwellers is both a good card and a personal favourite of mine, which I fear makes me a bit biased.

The problem is that a lot of the time your first opportunity to play is on an empty board and it happens that you don’t have Live Fast in the yard and either no Doomfall or the opponent has no cards in hand. Glorybringer is often fine to jam on an empty board, though it is true that removal can answer it cleanly compared to the goblins.

There are also situations where the opponent has 2 or more creatures and you can’t really afford to exert it to kill one of them leaving you tapped out and defenseless, where goblins can both kill a creature and stay back to block.

What Glorybringer excels at, which I initially underrated, is end games, and while the goblins are also hard to block, 4 flying haste power is a big deal. Hopefully further testing will give me a clearer indication of which way to lean (if any).

I think we should have the aggressive decks covered by now so let me finish with the two other decks I would expect to face: UR(x) control and RG Ramp. Both are going to be very tough game 1 (maybe you should even move the Doomfalls out of the main and just concede game 1 to be even more sure to crush aggro.

But you still have a shot against control since they have a lot of useless removal, so maybe they are fine). Against control, hope to draw as little removal as possible outside of the stuff that kills Torrential Gearhulk; it is possible to just run them out of wincons. You have value creatures, discard and planeswalkers so you can come out on top if you pace your spells properly. Try to hold on to your discard until you can play it and a threat the same turn to overwhelm their mana.

Post board we get even more discard and a new favorite of mine; Dreamstealer. This is a nightmare for them. They have to spend a removal spell on it the first time around and when it comes back they can’t even block it with gearhulk so it’s a guaranteed two for one and if they don’t kill either half, they pretty much just lose on the spot. I haven’t played against ramp yet but it looks rough.

You only have 3 Doomfall that really do anything game 1 and unless you can snipe their only Hour of Promise, it don’t know how you win game 1. You get to bring in more discard along with a Lost Legacy, but it’s probably not enough to make it a good matchup overall. Ramp might pick up in popularity now and I will consider adding another Lost Legacy to the board in that case.

I really like this deck as it has a lot of play to it and a lot of room for innovation to the list. I just saw someone has 5-0’d a league with 4 Gifted Aetherborn instead of the siphoners. If I keep facing all aggro decks, that is a change very much worth considering. Give it a try if you like grinding, and let me know any ideas you have for the deck.

Support the Team: Buy the cheapest Hours of Devastation Boosters at Games-Island.eu

It’s a miracle: Back-to-Back Victory

© 2017 photo credit: magiccardmarket.eu

Editorial Note: “It’s a miracle: Back-to-Back Victory” is a guest entry by Johannes Gutbrod. Read more about Johannes in “Meet the Pros: Johannes Gutbrod, Legacy”. Johannes Gutbrod is not affiliated with Snapcardster.com

After Show-and-Telling in Frankfurt I was testing a lot of different archetypes but mostly various miracle variants. In may I began testing an UWB MentorMiracles deck. It was the Ovino list from my good friend Claudio Bonanni, which I thought had more potential as he seemed to think himself.

After months of testing we both came to the conclusion that the red splash is superior to the black one at the moment. Blood Moon is a hell of a card and helps with the harder MU’s like Eldrazi, Czech Pile or Lands. Pyroclasm is great against Delver, Elves and Death and Taxes and Pyroblasts are still superior to Discard effects in the control mirror.

We figured if we could somehow fix the combo matchups (we upped the number of Ethersworn Canonist), the UWR-variant would be better in every regard.

In the last weeks we settled on a quite stock list, but were still differing in 4-6 cards in the 75. This is the 75 I registered for the Legacy Main Event:

Not Quite Miracles by Johannes Gutbrod

Creatures (7)
Snapcaster Mage
Monastery Mentor

Spells (33)
Brainstorm
Ponder
Portent
Counterspell
Flusterstorm
Daze
Force of Will
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Swords to Plowshares
Terminus
Engineered Explosives
Predict
Lands (20)
Tundra
Volcanic Island
Scalding Tarn
Flooded Strand
Arid Mesa
Island
Plains
Mountain

Sideboard (15)
Flusterstorm
Pyroblast
Blood Moon
Surgical Extraction
Ethersworn Canonist
Vendilion Clique
Pyroclasm
Wear // Tear
Relic of Progenitus

The Relic of Progenitus was a late addition as I wanted another card for Grixis/ Grixis Control and still have the same amount of graveyard-hate. We were 295 players, and here is the part you all came for:

Round 1: Deathblade 1:2
G1: My opponents overextends and Force of Wills two Terminus, of which I force back to resolve the second one. I try to fetch for a Dual to make him use his Wasteland and turn on my Daze for a potential True-Name Nemesis. He does so but finds another land with his last draw slams True-Name Nemesis and I don’t find an answer in four turns.
G2: Opponent keeps one land.
G3: Double Lingering Souls are quite good in this matchup…

Round 2: OmniSneak 2:1
G1: I’m still trying to figure out what my opponent is on until he plays a Boseiju, Who Shelters All turn three. I think I’m pretty much dead, as my hand is slow. Next turn I can resolve a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and manage to lock him out with Portent + Jace while countering all his cantrips aggressively.
G2: Got combo’d out.
G3: Ethersworn Canonist rides to a close victory.

Round 3: Grixis Control 2:1
G1: Hymn to Tourach and early beatz bring me into Lightning Bolt range, and when I finally stabilize it is too late.
G2/ G3: My superior control cards (Predict!) take those games.

Round 4: Czech Pile 2:0
G1: We play draw-go for a while until I find a window to resolve my Jace, the Mind Sculptor. He fights back quite well with several Snapcaster Mages and Kolaghan’s Command, but in the end Monastery Mentor joins the party and he gets monk’d out.
G2: Blood Moon is a fair magic card, no?! 😉

Round 5: SneakShow 2:0
G1/ G2: These games were similar to my first match against OmniSneak. In the first game Jace, the Mind Sculptor drew me a lot of cards as well.

Round 6: Elves 2:1
G1: Can’t find a Terminus in time before I get run over.
G2: Is a long fight, involving Pyroclasm, Nissa, Vital Force and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The blue planeswalker helps me establishing control in the end.
G3: We go to time. My opponent kindly scoops, as a draw in this stage of the tournament is pretty bad for both of us. Thanks again!

Round 7: Lands 2:0
G1/ G2: I aggressively counter Gamble to prevent Life from the Loam-shenanigans and win with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. It helped that he didn’t find Punishing Fire in game one as well (I fatesealed him out in the end).

Round 8: Goblins 2:1
G1: My opponent is seemingly nervous and mulls a hand that’s good against miracles but bad against the rest of the format as he fortunately doesn’t know what I’m playing. He ends up going to 4 cards, though.
G2: Aether Vial on four and several Goblin Ringleaders find too much gas for me to handle.
G3: This one is really close, I can Force of Will a crucial Tarfire targeting my Mentor. Next turn I resolve Jace, the Mind Sculptor and keep my army back to defend him. He taps out for Goblin Ringleader and I have the window to prowess my army and slam Pyroclasm to extinguish his board and swing for the win.

Round 9: TurboDepths 2:0
The draw could leave me at a potential ninth place, so I decide to choose my fate myself and play it out.
G1: I play Monastery Mentor, Swords to Plowshare on Marit Lage and beat him slowly down while he bricks and gets Portented out of the game.
G2: Instead of cantripping I decide to leave my mana open, even if he just has a forest. He tries to play Crop Rotation, I have Flusterstorm and the game is basically over as he can’t cast any spells.

After the dust settles I’m 8:1, and second place in the final standings.

Quarters: Elves 2:1
G1: I fail to find cantrips and die with all the good stuff in hand.
G2/ G3: Mass removal, Jace, the Mind Sculptor and a hail-mary Terminus for his Progenitus.

Semis: UnexpectedMiracles 2:0 (these matches are covered on the MkM-site as well)
G1: My hand is very blueish, and I resolve Predicts and Snapcaster Mages while countering his.
G2: I manage to tap him out with an end-of-turn Vendilion Clique and mainphase Monastery Mentor, so that my hand with Daze + Ponder can go completely out of hand. Later I manage to fateseal a crucial Terminus to the bottom and make my way to the finals.

Finals: RUG Lands 2:1
G1: The game lasts for forty minutes and in the end I have just 8 cards left in my library. The game is basically Life from the Loam vs. Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Unfortunately after 14 hours of Legacy I miss a trigger of The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, that might have enabled another sequence and could have won. Happens!
G2: Relic of Progenitus takes away a lot of goodies and Jace, the Mind Sculptor fateseals him out of the game.
G3: I can clear away his first turn Chalice of the Void on one with Engineered Explosives and play my hand with a lot of cantrips. I hold my Blood Moon for a long time until he finally taps under three mana. Then I cast the enchantment and he scoops them up. Props to his beautiful foiled out lands deck though.

Hope you enjoyed the read, see you all in Hamburg!

Johannes Gutbrod

Spicing up BUG in Legacy

There was a time where I played Legacy every week and enjoyed it every time as if it was my first (or maybe last). Battling six rounds vs. an assorted bunch of old combinations of cards for the low price of spending one hour each way with public transportation and getting to bed way too late was a bargain I gladly accepted week after week. While times have certainly changed, I still enjoy firing up a Legacy Challenge on Magic Online or participating in Danish Legacy Masters. Today I want to share a sweet deck with you guys that I enjoy playing quite a bit.

NO BUG

A friend of mine posted a BUG Midrange deck in our forums which had Green Sun’s Zenith and a few bullets in it apart from the usual BUG stuff like Deathrite Shaman, Force of Will etc. The Green Sun’s Zeniths quickly made me remember the time where “NO RUG” was a deck in Legacy and google’d my way to Reid Duke’s decklist from 2013. Check out this deck tech he did with StarCityGames.

Long story short, I suggested that he added Natural Order + Progenitus to the deck and made a better version of “NO RUG” anno 2017. You maintain the high card quality of the Sultai shard while also adding a proactive “I-win-button” for the low, low price of 2GG and a green creature. It wasn’t long before I purchased the cards I was missing from the deck my self and got into some leagues with this sweet pile of cards. Let me walk you through some card choices that aren’t too self explanatory.

NO BUG by Andreas Petersen

Creatures (13)
Deathrite Shaman
Dryad Arbor
Leovold, Emissary of Trest
Progenitus
Scavenging Ooze
Tarmogoyf
Vendilion Clique

Spells (29)
Brainstorm
Daze
Fatal Push
Force of Will
Green Sun’s Zenith
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Natural Order
Ponder
Thoughtseize
Lands (18)
Forest
Island
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Tropical Island
Underground Sea
Verdant Catacombs

Sideboard (15)
Surgical Extraction
Duress
Flusterstorm
Engineered Plague
Marsh Casualties
Sylvan Library
Reclamation Sage
Ruric Thar, The Unbowed
Null Rod
Thoughtseize

Dryad Arbor: The first copy is mandatory, but the second copy is good when your first one gets killed and you want to search up another one with a Zenith X = 0 or fetch one on your opponents endstep. It can be a really bad draw sometimes, but I think the pros outweigh the cons easily.


Green fetches are prefered to Polluted Delta because they find Dryad Arbor. This will definitely not come up every game, but it can be relevant for this deck.

These two basic lands are included for a few reasons. It gives you the option to beat a Blood Moon. Forest + Deathrite Shaman can cast Natural Order, and Island helps you dig for these cards. They can also help vs. Wasteland + Life from the Loam and be the difference between life and death when facing Price of Progress.

We obviously want a lot of blue mana sources in our Daze, Vendilion Clique and cantrip heavy deck, but the nod towards Underground Sea is because of the double black mana card in our sideboard.

Free countermagic is great when you’re trying to resolve key four-mana spells. With different kinds of mana acceleration, you can often make good use of Daze even on the draw. As an added bonus, Daze helps maintain an acceptable blue count for Force of Will. Thoughtseize rounds out the disruption suite as the most flexible one available. Information about your opponent’s hand can be just as valuable as taking their best card, and Thoughtseize does that for one black mana and 2 life.

These powerful three-drops do a lot of nice things for the deck. Vendilion Clique can clear the way for Natural Order, get rid of Progenitus from your hand, disrupt combo decks and beat down in the air if the ground is stalled out. Leovold is a swiss army knife that is always good value when cast. Leaving dead cantrips in your opponents hand and forcing them to give you extra cards if they want to interact with your battlefield or hand is just filthy.

This little one card combo can win the game early and in brutal fashion. Giving your solid Midrange deck another path to victory is super powerful and should catch a few people off guard in any given tournament. Casting this on turn three with Force of Will backup is the best thing this deck can do. I don’t want to play the full playset because two of them can be very punishing to draw, and this deck is perfectly capable of winning without it.

Tarmogoyf is mostly a beatdown creature vs. combo and Grixis/Blue Red Delver with only Lighting Bolts as removal, while Scavenging Ooze can save the day vs. graveyard decks or do serious work in a Deathrite Shaman mirror match. Shutting down opposing Snapcaster Mages and disrupting Life from the Loam can also be useful.

Sideboard

 

My anti-combo package include a few counterspells, discard spells and a Natural Order target to swap with Progenitus vs. Storm. I wanted these slots to be relevant against as many combo and control decks as possible and really like this setup where they each shine in different matchups.


Sylvan Library is the absolute most impactful thing you can be doing on turn two versus the various control decks in the format, whether it’s Neo Miracles, Grixis Control or a pseudo BUG mirror. With the package of 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor, 2 Leovold, Emmisary of Trest and 2 Sylvan Library, I feel comfortable against every controlling deck out there.


This card does a lot of things and has become a staple in many BUG sideboards. From combatting Aether Vial/equipment decks to shutting down all of Storm’s artifact accelerants, this card is really flexible and will be brought in in a lot of matchups. It also disrupts Grindstone, Goblin Charbelcher and the occational Affinity opponent.


BUG has already built-in graveyard hate in Deathrite Shaman, but the two copies of Surgical Extraction will come in handy vs. Reanimator strategies and combo decks where you will try and hit a key card with either a discard spell or countermagic. It can potentially buy you enough time vs. Dredge for Progenitus to finish the job.


Adding even more flexibility to your Green Sun’s Zenith can be very valuable in a big format like Legacy. I expect Blood Moon, Chalice of the Void and Umezawa’s Jitte to be the cards I target the most with Reclamation Sage‘s ability.

Dealing with various X/1’s has never been more important in Legacy, with the most popular ones being True-Name Nemesis, Elves, Young Pyromancer with tokens and various creatures out of Death and Taxes. I also sideboard in some number vs. Storm to deal with Empty the Warrens. Dread of Night is too narrow, and Golgari Charm kills my own Dryad Arbor and Vendilion Clique.

If you like the BUG colors like I do and want to add a little spice to it, I suggest you try out this deck at your next Legacy tournament.

What did You Bring to Class?

Today I will be playing a variation of the archetype in Legacy known as Show and Tell from the name sake card.

The premise is simple: resolve Show and Tell, each player gets to put a creature, land, enchantment or artifact from their hand into play. In your hand is either Griselbrand, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn or Omniscience. In your opponent’s hand, hopefully nothing more exciting than a Tarmogoyf or a Scalding Tarn.

As an auxiliary plan you can attempt to resolve the enchantment Sneak Attack which, when paired with either Griselbrand or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn will very often win the game.

In short, this is an “A + B” type combo deck (with the exception of Omniscience requiring a “C”). We are looking to pair up card A (Show and Tell or Sneak Attack) with card B (Griselbrand or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn).

The deck plays a lot of mana accelaration in the form of “Sol Lands” (lands that tap for two generic mana – named after Sol Ring), Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors as well as Lotus Petals.

The rest of the deck is cantrips and counterspells alongside some tutor like cards in Intuition and Cunning Wish.

OmniSneak by Martin Nielsen

 Creatures (6)
Griselbrand
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Spells (32)
Misdirection
Force of Will
Flusterstorm
Spell Pierce
Sneak Attack
Show and Tell
Omniscience
Cunning Wish
Brainstorm
Ponder
Preordain
Intuition
Impulse
Lands (22)
Ancient Tomb
City of Traitors
Island
Mountain
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Flooded Strand
Scalding Tarn
Volcanic Island
Lotus Petal

Sideboard (15)
Flusterstorm
Intuition
Rushing River
Boseiju Who Shelters All
Firemind’s Foresight
Surgical Extraction
Through the Breach
Kozilek’s Return
Pyroclasm
Blood Moon
Sudden Shock
Pyroblast
Release the Ants

The reasons to play this version of the deck over the pure Sneak and Show version is to be more flexible through the card Cunning Wish as well as to have a much, much better matchup against what is arguably the Sneak and Show deck’s worst matchup from among the established decks in Legacy, Death and Taxes. The reason D&T is so strong vs the Sneak and Show deck is that it is basically playing a post-board game of magic from game one.

Phyrexian Revoker and Karakas are mighty powerful answers to both Sneak Attack and an Omniscience-less Show and Tell. The primary reason why this version is better vs Death and Taxes is exactly because of the card Omniscience. They have a Karakas in play? You Show and Tell Omniscience into play and hard cast an Emrakul you can ignore the Karakas because of Emrakul’s time walk ability when cast.

Where storm feels more like performing surgery, playing with Show and Tell often feels like using a battering ram. It’s a blunt instrument that is incredibly powerful but perhaps a bit less sophisticated. You will have fine-to-great matchups against most non-blue fair decks like Jund, Eldrazi and the aforementioned Death and Taxes and be decently positioned versus slower blue decks like Stoneblade / True-Name Nemesis decks and the likes.

Storm is probably a slight favorite against you but it isn’t by much. The Delver decks is honestly what I feel I have the most problems against. I’ve found it preferable to board out the Omniscience/Cunning Wish package in favor of removal. Most Delver decks will fold to any of your creatures entering the battlefield either via Show and Tell or Sneak Attack and a lot of the time if you can remove their first threat they will take a long time to kill you during which you can setup to execute your combo.

So strap in and enjoy the ride. I find it to be a fun deck and one that can always spike a tournament.

 

If you like what you saw be sure to check out my youtube channel.

 

Modern PPTQ PrimeTime: 1st with Titanshift

Welcome back to my blog here on Snapcardster. I was actually planning on writing about my favorite Modern deck at the moment even before I won a PPTQ this weekend playing the deck. I guess sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too!

Prologue.

I have a long history of playing this card and doing rather well in premier events. In 2015 I managed to qualify for Pro Tour Origins playing a Temur version of the deck (http://www.mtgtop8.com/event?e=9367&d=253664&f=MO) and one year later I found myself in the finals of the Danish World Magic Cup Qualifier with a sweet four-color version featuring a playset of Bring to Light. Unfortunately, a timely Slaughter Games ended my undefeated run through the tournament.

What I really loved about the blue version of Scapeshift is the way you play out like a control deck and finish the game with just one spell. I talked to a friend about this topic numerous times, and we both agreed that it all boils down to whether Remand is good or bad in the metagame. Back then it was very good with numerous midrange decks, blue decks, Tron and mirror matches to be expected at a tournament. But now when people are playing Death’s Shadow, Aether Vial decks, Burn, Affinity and have Cavern of Souls in their decks, Remand is just not great anymore. So I wanted to keep the strengths of the archetype and get rid of the weaknesses and ended up working on a Red/Green version instead. You kill faster, can still ignore most board states and are very threat dense to overpower decks with discard spells and counter magic.

After a lot of testing, I ended up not playing the deck at Grand Prix Copenhagen because of a bad Death’s Shadow matchup and no good solution to that on my radar. I tested a white splash for Nahiri, the Harbinger and Path to Exile and a black splash for Fatal Push and Abrupt Decay, but lost too many percentages to the rest of the field. After getting some inspiration from Danish Gold Pro Simon Nielsen about how to hedge a little in deckbuilding without giving up too much against all other decks, I finally arrived at this list:

#1 PPTQ: RG TitanShift by Andreas Petersen

Lands (27)
Arid Mesa
Cinder Glade
Forest
Mountain
Scalding Tarn
Sheltered Thicket
Stomping Ground
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills

Spells (23)
Explore
Farseek
Lightning Bolt
Roast
Scapeshift
Search for Tomorrow
Summoner’s Pact
Sweltering Suns

Creatures (10)
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Primeval Titan
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Sideboard (15)
Roast
Chameleon Colossus
Obstinate Baloth
Nature’s Claim
Reclamation Sage
Grafdigger’s Cage
Anger of the Gods


People like Chandra, Torch of Defiance in this slot, but I can’t see why. It’s a very good turn 3 play on an empty board, but in my testing that happens very rarely. In most games I get to kill a small creature and lose my Chandra. I was still interested in having some quality four-mana plays that could help me bridge the gap between ramp spells and end game, being both a decent proactive threat and with the ability to buy some time. Three chump blockers to buy turns vs. Death’s Shadow while also being able to block fliers and Etched Champion equipped with Cranial Plating vs. Affinity was all I needed out of my four-drop. Being a good defensive card with the ability to pressure Midrange and Control decks are a lot of good quality in one card.


I play 15(!) ramp spells in this deck to maximize the amount of games I win on turn four. Having three ramp spells and a Scapeshift is not unrealistic at all, and by playing 15 instead of 11 I’m maximising my chances. Rather than playing answers to prolong the game, I like just racing my opponent most of the time.


This is a small upgrade from Amonkhet to Anger of the Gods. When your opponent is not playing a creature deck, you have the ability to cycle this sweeper. Given that those decks tend to be a little slow, you should have the time more often than not.


I took a page out of Simon Nielsen’s playbook and added one Roast in the main deck and one in the sideboard to combat undercosted black creatures. I cut one Lightning Bolt from the main deck and haven’t missed it at all. You become a little worse vs. Burn, Affinity and Thalia, but you gain valuable percentage points vs. Death’s Shadow which I would expect to face on the top tables at any premier tournaments.


In my sideboard I decided to cut two Thragtusk for Chameleon Colossus. My plan vs. Midrange and Control is to sideboard out six red removal spells for six big creatures, so that plan got a little worse with this swap. I also lose two lifegain creatures vs. Burn, so maybe this change is not improving the deck overall. Anyway, the Colossus can blank an opposing Shadow, Angler or Tasigur while having the ability to swing for lethal if they don’t have a Snapcaster Mage to block. However, with Esper Shadow being more and more popular, getting my Colossus Path to Exile‘d when I think I’m keeping his huge Death’s Shadow in check is a bad feeling. I’m not sold on these slots going forward.

I’m not going to write about all my matches from the event, because they were rather unexciting. Instead I will give you my gameplan and mindset going into these matches and how I think you maximize your chance of beating these decks.

Round 1: Abzan Midrange
As long as you get to ramp a time or two, you have great topdecks to win the game. He will need a combination of discard spells, Tarmogoyf and Liliana of the Veil to beat you. People seem to have left Fulminator Mage at home these days, so this is probably your best matchup in all of Modern.

Round 2: Esper Shadow
This matchup is extremely hard as they can combine cheap disruption with a fast clock. With the tweaks I did, I have a chance of drawing my key cards and buy myself time to cast a Primeval Titan which should be game over most of the time. I would prefer not to play against this archetype.

Round 3: Amulet Titan
It was very cool seeing my opponent do well with this deck. With an Amulet of Vigor combined with Azusa, Lost but Seeking, this deck can still go absolutely nuts and win out of nowhere. However, the games where the deck fails to resolve or gets its Amulet killed, I’m much more sceptical. We got to play five games vs. each other (this round and the semis), and Amulet (or the fact that it died or wasn’t drawn) was the deciding factor in all of them.

Round 4: Big Naya Zoo
What seems to be a very straight forward matchup is actually quite tricky for one simple fact. Do they have Blood Moon or not in the sideboard? Do I blindly sideboard in my Reclamation Sage and Nature’s Claim? Since I won game one, I neglected to, but I can definitely see myself bringing in at least the Reclamation Sage to hedge a little. I think it’s very important to think about these things even though I won the match without seeing the Blood Moon. I think I would’ve sideboarded differently if I lost game one.

Round 5: Blue Steel
This is a cute deck that can snowball you out of the game if you don’t have either a Lightning Bolt or sweeper early on. His one drops are not very effective against my deck, and his overall card quality isn’t the best, so if I manage to remove a creature or two in the beginning while progressing my own game plan, I feel favoured in the matchup.

Round 6: Mono W Hatebears
First of all, this matchup isn’t as bad as it looks. When you lose to it, it will look like a complete massacre, but in reality that only happens once in awhile. They will need three or four pieces of the following to reliably blow you out: Æther Vial, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Leonin Arbiter, Ghost Quarter, Tectonic Edge, and even then you can still overcome that. Drawing a Lightning Bolt with some ramp spells and a Scapeshift will win you the game more often than not. Sometimes Sweltering Suns is a three-for-one he will not come back from. The Hatebears deck is very good at punishing you when you miss land drops, so of course there will be those games as well.

Quarterfinals: Elves
You are not able to race in this matchup unless he has a slow hand, so the main plan is to either kill a lord with Lightning Bolt or sweep his board with Sweltering Suns or Anger of the Gods. It’s always tricky when you need a combination of removal spells, lands, ramp AND Scapeshift or Primeval Titan. With four sweepers and two Grafdigger’s Cage to shut down Collected Company, I really like games two and three vs. Elves.

Semifinals: Amulet Titan
(same guy)

Finals: Esper Shadow
(same guy)

The future is bright for R/G TitanShift. I haven’t decided if I’m going to Grand Prix Birmingham next month yet, but I will definitely play the deck if I am. I will check online decklists every day to see if Fulminator Mage plus Surgical Extraction is making a comeback, and I will ponder about a better balance of having game vs. Death’s Shadow and maintaining great matchups overall. Chameleon Colossus, I’m looking at you

Really? Control in modern?

I’m taking a break from standard this week so I have some time to get the new cards online and get some decks tested, but let me just say that I hadn’t seen the card Hour of Devastation until this week so that explains my color choices in the last article.

Now, you don’t really need white since devastation is just a better and cheaper revelation. For this week, I will talk about how I got my love of uw transferred to modern. I had been looking for a deck to play Sphinx’s Revelation in since it rotated out of standard, and when the eldrazi took over modern previous winter, the opportunity finally came. Supreme Verdict was an absolute beast in that format and while uw eldrazi was the best deck at the time uw control at least had a good eldrazi matchup.

After Eye of Ugin was banned modern became wide open again which, as we all know, is a poor sign for control mages. I briefly reconnected with the deck while preparing for the WMC but we didn’t spend that much time on it. Then came GP Copenhagen in late May with GP Las Vegas soon after and I took the opportunity to continue working on the deck. I have GP Birmingham coming up so I have been playing the deck a lot the last couple of months and while I’m no modern master (I didn’t even like the last Modern Masters set) I think I’ve gained a lot of insight into the deck that could be valuable to share.

The first question to answer is if you want to play Ancestral Vision or not. For a while, I thought it was about whether you wanted to be better against creature decks or combo decks since ancestral usually leads away from Wall of Omens and lots of planeswalkers, but now I think it’s just about card flow and consistency. Ancestral Vision is obviously a powerful card but oftentimes drawing three cards on turn 5 is just not as necessary as seeing an extra card or two on turns 3 and 4. You see, the real reason uw can be successful in modern is because of Supreme Verdict and white sideboard cards. You would think that modern having so many different archetypes that you can all realistically run into during a large tournament would make it impossible for control to succeed, but for the most part modern is all creature decks and decks that fold to various hate pieces backed by a counterspell and/or a verdict. This is quite a statement and should be looked into a bit more thoroughly. Let’s look at the decks presented in Reid Duke’s recent article on the modern metagame (https://www.channelfireball.com/articles/the-state-of-modern-july-2017/) and how uw stacks up against them. First, my current decklist:

UW Control by Anders Gotfredsen

Creatures (2)
Snapcaster Mage

Spells (33)
Path to Exile
Serum Visions
Spreading Seas
Wall of Omens
Blessed Alliance
Negate
Gideon of the Trials
Detention Sphere
Cryptic Command
Supreme Verdict
Jace, Architect of Thought
Leyline of Sanctity
Gideon Jura
Sphinx's Revelation
Lands (25)
Island
Plains
Celestial Colonnade
Flooded Strand
Hallowed Fountain
Tectonic Edge
Mystic Gate

Sideboard (15)
Leyline of Sanctity
Stony Silence
Spell Queller
Vendilion Clique
Rest in Peace
Dispel
Blessed Alliance
Jace, Architect of Thought
Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Grafdigger's Cage
Celestial Purge
Timely Reinforcements

At least one kid must dream of a
boogeyman that looks like this

Death’s Shadow:

The consensus best deck relies on its namesake and a few more 1 mana black threats backed by discard, Lilianas and cheap counters. They often can’t play out more than one threat at a time because of verdict and that means that pretty much all of our spells buy us at least one turn. The goal is to get to a point where you either run them out of threats or can remove their current one at the end of their turn so you can untap and say go with Cryptic Command up and a clear board (as is often the goal when you play a deck with Cryptic Command). Outside of that general plan we have some jokers like Gideon of the Trials (who is, ironically, still in the deck on a trial basis) and Spreading Seas.

Gideon shines here as, since they often only have one big guy in play, he can bubble it and force them to extend into verdict. He is also great at pressuring Liliana of the Veil and Liliana, the Last Hope varieties, and they pretty much can’t remove him without combat damage. Spreading Seas has gotten worse since most shadow players started including blue but it can still be quite useful to keep them from turn 3 Liliana and sometimes off black mana altogether. The matchup has gotten a bit harder compared to when it was Jund and the color swap is actually a big reason for cutting Ancestral Vision. Turn 1 suspend used to be pretty much gg but when they have the possibility of countering it turn 5 it can completely destroy the plan you had for the game.  On the bright side, some people have continued switching colors to include Lingering Souls. That seems like a bad thing for a control deck but it really just makes them slower and slow is good. Verdict is already often just a 1-for-1 so killing 2 or 4 tokens isn’t that much of a downgrade and if they just have 2 in play you can easily just take 2 damage for some turns. 

Maybe not format breaking anymore, but still quite gross

Eldrazi Tron:  I think I would actually rather play against the pre ban uw eldrazi deck than this since tron lands powering out Karn, Liberated and huge Walking Ballistas is pretty annoying. Chalice of the Void can also be a bitch but without ancestral, but at least you no longer actually get spells countered and you can stock up spells to cast when you finally draw a Detention Sphere. And now if they remove the sphere the chalices do nothing. You will lose some games to their nut draws, but so will every other deck in the format; there’s a reason it’s number two on the list. Verdict is sick here and so is Blessed Alliance. I used to have two Ceremonious Rejection in the board for this and regular tron and they are still in consideration. I saw Corey Burkhart had a Dismember in his list as another way of getting around chalice and I will give it a try at some point. Losing 4 life isn’t typically in a control decks best interests, though.

Are the rest of the creatures in modern finally catching up to the Lhurgoyf?

BGx: Liliana of the Veil is your main concern here as verdict deals with the rest of their deck. Often in the midgame, they will play a discard spell and take your verdict if you have one and then extend the board to kill you quickly. In this spot, it’s super important to have 4 verdicts so you have a good shot at finding one to stay in the game. Of course you can also just start the game with a Leyline of Sanctity in play and it’ll be smooth sailing. One interesting thing we realized in GP Las Vegas is that Abzan cannot beat a Rest in Peace on the board. Their threats are Grim Flayer, Tarmogoyf, Lingering Souls and Scavenging Ooze (sometimes a Siege Rhino will sneak in as well but that is manageable to put it mildly) and it’s pretty intuitive for them to board out Abrupt Decay. All these matchups usually go the same way; either you win easily or the games are very close and interesting (and often winnable), can’t ask for more in a matchup. 

Collected Company:  The infinite combo with Kitchen Finks and Viscera Seer have added another infinite combo and it’s a doozy. I can’t figure out if this is a good matchup but I know it was bad when I played Ancestral Vision. Supreme Verdict should be lights out since it is more creature based than any of the previous decks but Kitchen Finks, Eternal Witness and especially Selfless Spirit give them a lot of counterplay to it. I try to always save a Path to Exile for the spirit and after board Rest in Peace helps out against the other two while Grafdigger’s Cage handles finks along with Collected Company and Chord of Calling. Wall and the extra planeswalkers are definitely better here than vision was but I’m not sure if it’s enough to turn it around. Also note that this is the first matchup where Leyline of Sanctity isn’t good. The elves and humans company decks have far less resilience in the face of verdict and play out pretty much as you’d expect a creature deck against a control deck to do. 

A noncreature spell you’re happy to see; it means creatures en masse

Hatebears:  Maybe I was a bit too brash above saying you’re happy to see Aether Vial. If they play it turn one, there is a good chance I’ll Detention Sphere it turn 3 if I can, since it takes a lot of the oomph out of Supreme Verdict. Nevertheless, the rest of the deck is all creatures and aside from vial they have very little counterplay to verdict. They basically have to keep you from casting it with Leonin Arbiter and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben. The black versions have discard spells to help out, but it’s still a fine and fairly straightforward matchup. Note that Ancestral Vision is a big liability against the black versions since Wasteland Strangler can eat it from suspense. 

Affinity is easy, isn’t it?

Affinity:  Great matchup! If you have a Path to Exile and a verdict they can’t win. There is only one Stony Silence in the board because you simply don’t need help here. Spreading Seas takes out their womanlands (#feminism #landswithher) and verdict handles the rest. Remember to board in Celestial Purge for Blood Moon and Ghirapur Aether Grid. 

Valakut, meet Leyline of Sanctity

Scapeshift:  It took 7 spots before we got to a deck where Supreme Verdict isn’t good. While Leyline of Sanctity is good against some of the other decks on the list, this is why there is one in the maindeck. It has picked up a lot online recently and it can be very hard to win without leyline. They have turn 4 Primeval Titan more often than you Cryptic Command for it (especially when you factor in that you can’t counter their turn 4 titan if they’re on the play) and killing the titan after it has found 2 Valakuts still means that almost all their cards deal you 6. Spreading Seas helps but if they play turn 4 titan it’s rare that you can kill it and seas both Valakuts. If you have leyline, everything changes. Now their deck is a 2 mana 1/1 and a 6 mana 6/6 also known as complete crap. Post board they get a Reclamation Sage and maybe some Nature’s Claims that you have to be aware of along with some more random creatures like Obstinate Baloth that shouldn’t cause any problems. 

There’s always that one guy…

Burn:  I hate this deck so very much and I can’t wait to cast Oketra’s Last Mercy against it. Right now I’m relying on 2 Timely Reinforcements and to a lesser extent 2 Blessed Alliance and it’s not something I look forward to. I don’t think the matchup is unfavored beyond 40-60 but it’s just never comfortable. You struggle and struggle to stay alive and then at some point they either scoop or draw enough burn to kill you. And of course there are games where you just get demolished by turn 3, and games where they can’t remove you leyline. 

Control:  I can’t say too much about this specific mirror match since a lot of the times I face it online, my opponent concedes the match after or during game I don’t get it, why would you pick a grindy control deck if you don’t want to play grindy games? There are a lot of different control decks out there, some with more planeswalkers, some with Ancestral Vision, some with more creatures, some with Esper Charm (that card is a beating against us), but overall I would say be patient and try to keep making land drops. It’s often the first player who taps out in his turn that loses. And play quickly!

Keeping players honest since 1994

Blood Moon decks:  We’re already scraping the bottom of the barrel here but it is important to know if a Blood Moon could be coming when you’re fetching in the early turns. There are 10 basics so it’s not that good against us but if you fetch two Hallowed Fountains without thinking about it you can still lose. The rest of the decks are usually on the slower side and Cryptic Command can take the day against them. 

You don’t want to face this guy

Dedicated Combo:  Well, at least we have a sideboard, right… Storm is the most prevalent right now, which is good because path and verdict still have some use there. Ad Nauseam; not so much, and the chances of you being able to cast more counterspells than they have Pact of Negation are slim. Stony Silence is good but the other hate pieces don’t do anything. Gideon of the Trials can help but I would still hate to face this matchup. Let’s focus on storm as it’s the only one I’ve actually face since Vegas (I guess discard spells and one mana 8/8’s are not what Ad Nauseam excels against). Martin Müller recently told me that you should wait on your removal spell for their electromancer until in response to Gifts Ungiven, and you probably should more often than you do now. If they go for it on turn 3, path in response to gifts is likely to mess them up but they often won’t against 3 open mana from a blue deck. If they stick an electromancer, the most likely way to lose is to double Grapeshot, but even without their spells being cheaper, Gifts Ungiven end of turn can get them enough spells to go off. Again, leyline is lights out game one, and game two you get an extra along with 3 graveyard “removal” spells. Don’t give them an opening for Echoing Truth and keep some number of Jaces/verdicts to deal with Empty the Warrens and you’ll be fine. 

Other: The other decks I feel are worth mentioning are Dredge, Living End and Lantern. Dredge is near impossible game 1 and post board you rely on the 3 graveyard hate pieces. It matters a lot here that Golgari Grave-Troll is gone since they are a lot less explosive so you don’t have to have the hate turn 2; turn 4-5 followed by a verdict can be fine. Living End is a bit strange because on the one hand, you have more verdicts than they have Living Ends but they can kill turn 4 on the play and they have 8 land destruction spells to keep you from 4 mana. Remember that not only does Grafdigger’s Cage not stop Living End, it also doesn’t prevent cascade (which I may or may not have learned the hard way recently). Finally, we have Lantern, and it’s a slaughter. I don’t know how you’re supposed to ever beat them since you give them so much time that they can overcome whatever disruption you throw their way. They can quickly start controlling your draw step but at that point you’re probably dead no matter what you draw. If you really want to beat it, I guess you can play more Stony Silence but I don’t think it’s worth the slots and you’re probably still a huge underdog. 

Almost forgot, you’ll always face a regular tron player. This one is all about Spreading Seas and Tectonic Edge trying to buy you time to get enough lands in play that you can counter their big spells and not be devastated by the cast trigger on Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. As with eldrazi tron you will lose some games to their nut draws, but have a favorable matchup overall. 

Right now, I am leaning towards no Ancestral Vision, but I plan on trying a list with one or two in it. Other than that, I am quite pleased with the list and am mostly looking at minor tweaks as I get more games in with slightly different cards. Go now and enjoy making your opponents feel miserable and helpless, the way Magic was intended.

What can we get banned next?

Welcome back, I hope you enjoyed the Grand Prix Las Vegas either on stream or in person, it was a great celebration of all things Magic, and I hope they do more events like it. While I didn’t get any of the results I was hoping for, it was still an awesome week filled with gambling, drinking, great food and great friends. What more could you ask for?

Now that I’m back, it’s time to head back into standard. The format is a lame duck as far as I know with no more competitive events before Hour of Devastation but the format has already been explored quite a bit after the latest banning. Since I don’t think Hour of Devastation has any cards that will spawn a standard dominating deck, it can be useful look at this metagame and maybe find some new cards that can be part of a deck that can exploit it. The big dog right now seems to be temur energy and it’s not going anywhere, but it is very beatable if you want to. It’s just a bunch of good creatures, some Harnessed Lightnings and some Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Just be careful not to rely on just tons of spot removal, since Rogue Refiner and Tireless Tracker will have you for breakfast. You have to have counterspells if you want to outgrind these cards.

The real glue of both Saheeli and Marvel decks

This would point us in the direction of a control deck but beware, because the scourge of control decks is still lurking out there:

Lands (24)
Aether Hub
Concealed Courtyard
Inspiring Vantage
Irrigated Farmland
Needle Spires
Plains
Spire of Industry
Spirebluff Canal

Spells (16)
Aethersphere Harvester
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Harnessed Lightning
Heart of Kiran
Metallic Rebuke
Unlicensed Disintegration

Creatures (20)
Scrapheap Scrounger
Spell Queller
Thraben Inspector
Toolcraft Exemplar
Veteran Motorist
Sideboard (15)
Anguished Unmaking
Ceremonious Rejection
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Cut // Ribbons
Fumigate
Metallic Rebuke
Nahiri, the Harbinger
Needle Spires
Release the Gremlins

This list just finished 7-1 in the standard portion of the StarCityGames Invitational in the hands of Corey Guild, and it is a nightmare to be reactive against. 1-drops, resilient 2-drops, a must answer 4-drop and even counterspells?! The only upside is that it isn’t that widely played because it doesn’t match up that favorably against temur and bg energy, and because the manabase causes some inconsistency (I hope. If that manabase doesn’t get you in trouble, then no one would ever play anything but 5 color decks).

Last of our targets we have gb energy and/or delirium. Aggro decks built around Winding Constrictor with the ability to grind with cards like Tireless Tracker, Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Ob Nixilis Reignited. That is actually the theme of all these decks; they are capable of some very aggressive starts but have enough resiliency and raw power that they can win long games as well. At first, I focused too much on the grindy aspects and thought I could go over the top with a gw delirium deck that had Fumigate, Descend upon the Sinful and Ishkanah, Grafwidow to buy time and then Ulvenwald Hydra into Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger to finish. The problem was, as you might have sensed, that I would often be dead before I could cast my sweeper. I still haven’t given up on the idea but I think a third color is needed to shore up the early game.

The reason I mention the gw deck despite it’s lack of success is that there are multiple upgrades coming next week: Hour of Promise and Hour of Revelation. Hour of Promise gives you turn 6 Ulamog by itself since it can fetch 2 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods. If you play either mono green or just one support color, chances are you can play some deserts to not only enable Hour of Promise but also some of the strong colorless cards from Oath of the Gatewatch. Hour of Revelation is a strict upgrade over Planar Cleansing and one of the problems I frequently faced was pressure from creatures, planeswalkers and/or vehicles at the same time.

The downside is that you can’t rely on having permanents in play so stuff like Corrupted Grafstone and Cast Out will probably have to hit the bench. That sounds like it’s worth it to me though and I think Hour of Revelation will be a big player in standard. It may actually prove my initial statement, that the new set won’t push new decks into the top tier, wrong.

 

There has already been some uw control decks popping up here and there including from Gabriel Nassif (https://www.channelfireball.com/articles/control-is-viable-in-standard-and-it-crushes-energy-decks/). He has been playing uw in modern for a while now and seems to be forcing it a bit so we shouldn’t necessarily take his word for it. More importantly, uw is getting another new card that could quietly be the most important card in the set: Supreme Will. Mana Leak and Impulse would both be very playable in Standard and I’m not sure that paying one more mana to get to choose between them is noticeably worse (in an aggro/tempo deck Mana Leak would be much better but in a purely reactive deck Supreme Will could be better). A lot of the shard and wedge charms were very good in standard despite only two of the modes being used the vast majority of the time so having it be mono colored and having only two useable modes is a fine deal, especially when one of the modes is straight up card selection. I’m thinking a list along these lines:

(35)
Supreme Will
Hour of Revelation
Censor
Essence Scatter
Negate
Glimmer of Genius
Torrential Gearhulk
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Disallow
Fumigate
Immolating Glare
Blessed Alliance
Kefnet the Mindful

While I would love for this deck to be great, there is a glaring hole; the early removal. With Supreme Will decreasing the need for double blue on turn 3, maybe we could test the limits of our mana?

(60)
Supreme Will
Hour of Revelation
Harnessed Lightning
Censor
Magma Spray
Glimmer of Genius
Torrential Gearhulk
Fumigate
Kozilek's Return
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Disallow
Kefnet the Mindful
Essence Scatter
Negate
Irrigated Farmland
Inspiring Vantage
Spirebluff Canal
Aether Hub
Mountain
Island
Plains

This manabase is on the surface quite a ways off from Frank Karsten’s recommendations but with so much cycling and card selection I’m willing to give it a try. I’m more worried about how we’re actually going to win the game. You have sweepers that kill your own gearhulks but I imagine that will possible to plan around, it’s more about how reliably Kefnet can win the game; Hour of Glory might see play but probably not too much and you should be able to counter the one copy they might have. It does suck that he is a win condition that does pretty much stone nothing until he starts winning the game, although if you play him turn 3 on the draw, your opponent can’t really play a planeswalker so there is that. I look forward to trying it out.

If a god can’t win the game, then what is even the point of gods?

One last point is the cool things you can do with your sideboard; Spell Queller has been a staple in uw control sideboards for a while but now we also get Nimble Obstructionist allowing us to be really annoying for any slower deck when they have to decide how much removal to keep in. Maybe we even go up to include a couple of Archangel Avacyn. Other than that I have really been impressed with Shielded Aether-Thief in the Marvel sideboard and while we don’t produce near as much energy here, we also have far less ways to spend it. We can round out with some cheap counterspells and maybe a few extra sweepers.

I always hope uw control will be great in the new format and this time is no different. Will Supreme Will and Hour of Revelation be enough to finally get there? Am I insane for not having any Pull from Tomorrow in the lists? Should there be planeswalkers even despite Hour of Revelation? Let me know what you think in the comments.