GP Birmingham *3rd*

Last weekend was GP Birmingham and if you know me or followed coverage, you’ll know that I didn’t get 3rd. 56th doesn’t sound very cool though and I did travel with Oscar Christensen who got 3rd so I think this is on the acceptable side of clickbait.

If you came to read about his deck and card choices, I am sorry that I’m not him, but it didn’t seem like there was a lot to it: He considered swapping black for blue to replace some cards that you can get with Collected Company and Chord of Calling for some counterspells that you can’t. Then he correctly stopped considering that and voila. I already knew this, so a long time ago I chucked out the Companys and the Chords, the creatures and the mana and focused more on the counterspells aspect of the deck. Here is what I registered:

UW Control by Anders Gotfredsen

Creatures (3)
Snapcaster Mage
Jace, Architect of Thought

Spells (36)
Serum Visions
Path to Exile
Negate
Spreading Seas
Wall of Omens
Blessed Alliance
Shadow of Doubt
Runed Halo
Gideon of the Trials
Detention Sphere
Cryptic Command
Supreme Verdict
Gideon Jura
Sphinx's Revelation
Celestial Colonnade
Lands (21)
Flooded Strand
Ghost Quarter
Tectonic Edge
Hallowed Fountain
Mystic Gate
Plains
Island

Sideboard (15)
Surgical Extraction
Rest in Peace
Grafdigger's Cage
Timely Reinforcements
Dispel
Negate
Supreme Verdict
Blessed Alliance
Leyline of Sanctity
Jace, Architect of Thought
Celestial Purge
Stony Silence
Vendilion Clique

Since last time, one Wall of Omens became a Shadow of Doubt because I didn’t do that much blocking with the Wall and I just love the off chance of destroying someones first or second land drop. It is very rare but it’s so worth it when it finally happens. I’m not sure it’s correct to play it but the cost is so low compared to a Wall that doesn’t block in a lot of matchups and has to be played at sorcery speed.

The main deck Leyline of Sanctity became a Runed Halo after discussing it with my friend Usama, but I am starting to lean back towards Leyline. His point was that Halo isn’t dead against decks that don’t target you but there are some decks that target you with different cards, mostly discard spells and Liliana of the Veil, and Thought-Knot Seer and Walking Ballista.

Yes, you can name Death’s Shadow in that match up but the rest of the deck is pretty much all cards that kill Death’s Shadow and you kind of have to keep it in hand until they play something so you don’t name a creature they might not draw for the whole game. I would rather have my hand be safe from interference.

For Eldrazi Tron, I’m more concerned with the abilities of these two creatures than their body and playing Halo on turn 2 naming TKS might be a waste of time and here you cannot wait until they have played it so you have to guess. The bigger draw for me is to have one of each for the purpose of beating Echoing Truth.

I think both Ad Nauseam and Storm have picked up a bit in popularity and positioning and a lot of post board games come down to Echoing Truth. I would try having Halo in the board and Leyline main. Then a Supreme Verdict turned into a Gideon of the Trials.

Little Gids has been very impressive and is pretty much great in all matchups. Against creature decks, he forces them to overextend into verdict and against combo he ranges from a quick clock to changing how the matchup plays out (Ad Nauseam). I was very happy with two and recommend it going forward.

In the sideboard, I cut Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and the Spell Quellers to make room for the fourth verdict, a Negate, and a Surgical Extraction. The quellers have been fine but they have become so stock now that some people will leave in removal for them and the game is so much harder to plan out when there is a chance of them playing whatever spell is under it at any time. Negate might not come with a clock but I prefer the guarantee that their spell is gone.

I was sad to cut Elspeth but the fact is that she doesn’t feel needed anymore. She is best against grindy decks but I liked her against Death’s Shadow because it was game over if you got to play her. That was Jund Shadow, and Stubborn Denial is bad news for a 6 mana non-creature spell. I haven’t faced a lot of BGx decks lately and the only match up left then is Eldrazi Tron. If I feel like I need more help there, I’ll probably play a Ceremonious Rejection instead.

The tournament itself was the first time it has seemed like people agreed Death’s Shadow is the best deck in Modern; I played it 3 times on day one losing once. Gideon of the Trials was an absolute beast here, keeping their big threat under wraps, pressuring Liliana and killing them in two turns usually. I also beat Storm, Valakut and Ad Nauseam on day one before losing the last round to Abzan Midrange. I had a tricky decision in game 3 that might have cost me the game and I feel is worth discussing in depth:

It’s my turn and I have a Jace on 3 loyalty, 2 Plains, 3 Island, a Ghost Quarter and 2 Spreading Seas on his lands. I draw a Celestial Colonnade, my only card in hand. He has 4 Lingering Souls tokens, a Liliana of the Veil on 6, 2 Tectonic Edge, 2 Swamp and an Overgrown Tomb, though due to my Spreading Seas he only has one Swamp for colored mana. Only his Tectonic Edges are untapped.

I minus Jace and get a Detention Sphere. Now I reason that if I use the Sphere to remove the tokens, a Liliana ultimate doesn’t really do that much; he has to put Jace with one or two lands and I’ll still be able to cast spells. If I take out the Liliana, I have to find verdict or another sphere in the next 4 turns before I die to the spirits. I decide that the tokens are a more pressing threat but he has Dismember for the complete blowout. I think he makes a bad split with Liliana as I’m allowed to keep both Plains, Ghost Quarter and both Spreading Seas, but I don’t draw anything for his tokens before I die.

When I tell the story to Oscar, he asks if it wasn’t better to just plus Jace, something I hadn’t even considered. If I do that, what can he really to with Liliana? I think the best split he can make will be Jace, Island and the two Spreading Seas in one pile, in which case I can keep them and play a Colonnade next turn. I think I’m favored from here and his best play is to tick up Liliana again. This means I should consider playing the Colonnade instead of just discarding it and if I do it only makes a Liliana split tougher for him.

So I still assume he will plus Liliana and I have effectively bought myself an extra turn. It is a very complicated exercise guessing how your opponent will use his Liliana but I am still a bit disappointed that I didn’t even consider ticking up Jace. I don’t mind not playing around Dismember and my opponent said that he wouldn’t have either. 8-1 would have been a lot more fun than 7-2 though.

On day 2, I beat a couple more Death’s Shadow players but lost round 12 to Dredge, putting me out of contention. I didn’t really have expectations of top 8 beforehand so it didn’t bother me that much. I was more upset that people keep playing Dredge. It is not fun magic but I still played it at the World Magic Cup because it was the best deck. With Golgari Grave-Troll gone, the deck is not tier 1 anymore and then I just see no reason to waste your day playing it. I beat Valakut again in round 13 and something I don’t remember in round 14 setting up a barn burner for an extra pro point and 250$ against my WMC teammate Asger Lundblad on Living End.

I lost game 1 on the draw because I played turn 2 Spreading Seas instead of keeping Negate up. He then brought back 2 6/4’s a 3/4 and a 4/4 and I died before I could verdict. It was just an autopilot play, especially since I had a second Seas in hand. You almost always just run out the Seas to slow your opponent down but of course, I should have recognized that eot cycle two creatures into third land and cascade spell was highly likely. Game 2 he mulliganed to 5 and I drew all 4 Spreading Seas to keep him from doing basically anything. Game 3 I had all basics to turn his Fulminator Mage into a Gray Ogre but a well timed Beast Within into cascade spell with Refraction Trap backup got him a bunch of creatures in play and I didn’t have verdict.

I felt pretty bummed out losing because of that first game but the sting immediately disappeared when I heard a familiar voice from behind me and learned that Oscar had faced an Ad Nauseam player who just did nothing for 2 games, putting Oscar in the top 8. Of course, he won a lot of money and qualified for the pro tour, but more importantly, it meant free dinner for me and our third travel buddy, Christoforos Lampadarios!!! My other WMC teammate Simon Nielsen making top 8 as well was icing on an already delicious cake, although as I’m sure he will understand, it’s hard to be as excited when it didn’t result in a free meal for me.

The day continued to please as we had dinner and team drafted against Team Sur (angry in Danish) consisting of Christoffer Larsen, Michael Bonde and Thomas Enevoldsen. I got to do one of the most satisfying things you can experience in magic which is to nut draw Christoffer in limited with some ridiculous rare (or rares). In my case it was turn 4 Crypt of the Eternals, Crested Sunmare game 1 and turn 5 Crypt of the Eternals, Crested Sunmare in game 3 to clinch the draft. Stuff like that is what keeps us coming back to this great game.

Now the pressure is on me and Christoforos to own the RPTQ this weekend so we can join Oscar in Albuquerque, so I am already back to full on Standard mode. I’ll be back soon with an article on it and hopefully some videos. Until then, don’t play Dredge in Modern and don’t play Mono Red in Standard, thank you, and thanks for reading.

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!

Reborn in Vegas!

I believe an introduction is in order first and foremost.

I’m Anders Thiesen, a Legacy enthusiast from Denmark. I’m 23 years old and I’ve top 8’d both European Legacy Championships, once to the quarters and this year all the way to the finals, where I lost to Thomas Mechin. I play almost exclusively legacy, and until some months ago exclusively Miracles. It was a busted deck, they banned the best card in the deck and it is still viable! I love legacy and I love competing …

So, as a complete fool I went to GP Vegas, just to play the Legacy GP!

After some stupidity, I arrive in fabulous hot Las Vegas meeting up with my roommates Daniel Larsen, Daniel Lind and Hans Jacob “HJ_Kaiser” Goddik. There’s a week until the GP starts so our hotel room is quickly transformed into a testing central, we have two laptops, good wi-fi, several paper decks as well as a 24/7 hotel restaurant and a gas station that sells beverages and snacks just across the road.

Testing went great and it felt like we had a good mix of drinks by the pool, sightseeing and actual testing. Hans Jacob and I play the mtgo legacy challenge on Sunday to satisfactory but not impressive results, after a few more days of testing I settle on a list:

Not Quite Miracles by Anders Thiesen

Lands (20)
Island
Flooded Strand
Scalding Tarn
Tundra
Arid Mesa
Karakas
Plains

Creatures (3)
Snapcaster Mage

Spells (37)
Swords to Plowshares
Unexpectedly Absent
Force of Will
Counterspell
Predict
Brainstorm
Flusterstorm
Ponder
Portent
Terminus
Entreat the Angels
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Sideboard (15)
Vendilion Clique
Surgical Extraction
Flusterstorm
Leyline of Sanctity
Monastary Mentor

The reasons I like this list are many: The mana is sturdy against Wasteland (we can even afford a Karakas!) Absent is a deceptively powerful card and Entreat is still busted along with Terminus and Predict.

The main deck Flusterstorm has been pulling a lot of weight and I basically find myself wanting for more all the time! The sideboard is very clean, Mentor is great against decks, when they have cut their removal or where you need more of a clock and can tap 3 mana on your own turn.

Leyline of Sanctity is great against discard, basically working as a fair Counterbalance. Catching an unprepared storm opponent is gravy and having it in your opener versus burn is dessert, the rest of the slots should be self-explanatory.

Terminus. Still busted.

The key to the deck is realising how busted Terminus and Predict are and building a shell to sustain them.

I bring the list to some single-elimination trials to the following results: 0-1, 1-1, 0-1 and I very nearly go home with zero confidence when another dane who is crashing in our hotel room, Kjartan Uldahl, persuade me to join one last trial, which I 5-0 to get my 2 byes. Knowing I can play my deck and sleep in tomorrow I go back to my hotel room.

I show up for Round 3 with a full tank of confidence only to get paired versus the shittiest, most boring deck known to Magic Eldrazi Post. The sideboard mentor steals one game, but I can’t beat cheaty lands like Cloudpost and Eye of Ugin and I succumb to some Eldrazi Titan. *Yawn*

Yeah… That wasn’t how I planned it out, but a few delver opponents later I find myself at 4-1 and paired against a fellow dane playing Elves. Terminus manage to beat my own misplays and I advance to 5-1, where another elves opponent wait for me, he admitted to not having tested the match-up and he also succumb to the power of Terminus.

This selfie was 18-2 after 5 Rounds of play! (From left Hans Jacob, myself, Daniel Larsen, Daniel Lind, with the 2 Daniels being 5-0, that was unfortunately all the wins they would get in the GP)

At 6-1 I get paired versus 4c Loam. The secret to this match-up is you have to know that your opponent’s deck doesn’t do anything against you, they play some haymakers but all your answers match-up very well against them. If they don’t lead on turn 1 Mox Diamond you are very favored. This was also true here and I just used Jace to draw most of my library before winning in both games.

At 7-1 I get paired versus UW Stoneblade, it was very grindy and I misassigned my role at some point in game 1 leading me to lose a 25 minute game, then winning a 20 minute game, this plus sideboarding meant we had 2 minutes to shuffle up and play game 3 and we decide to not even try and I end day 1 at 7-1-1.

I meet up with Lawrence Harmon and Ethan Gaieski for dinner. They introduce me to Kevin “Daddy” Jones who is one of the most crazy human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure of having dinner with, and I mean this in the best way possible. It was a great night and at 1 AM I’m Uber’ed back to my hotel. Seriously when you go to GPs make some friends, bonding over magic is great!

Being the the draw bracket, my day 2 is mostly Stoneblade and Miracles (I actually played the mirror 3 times on day 2!) but I win my first 3 rounds to find myself at 10-1-1 paired vs Sam Roukas of Eternal Extravaganza fame. Sam is very skilled and he ended my top 8 dreams. Fun fact: we both needed a bathroom break and we were deck checked leading to a 15 min time extension and we finished with ~10 min on the round clock, before several of the tables near us. Much to the relief of the judges.

Alright. No top 8, but I can still cash. I recognise my round 14 opponents name on the pairing sheet. Scott Lipp. “Isn’t he some kind of pro?”

So… a pro with a draw at a legacy GP, I’m thinking delver as that is the legacy deck that plays the most like “normal” magic. Never has I been so wrong..

Wow. Scott Lipp had managed to get a draw with GB Turbo depths, my game 1 hand was quickly Duress’d and Thoughtseized to bits and I didn’t cast a meaningful spell that game. Game 2 I keep 3 Swords to Plowshares, he duresses one before surgicalling them, I blind Predict in response in the hope of hitting a Flusterstorm so I can counter the surgical, I mill absent and draw a land. He puts the combo on the board before surgicalling my absents, and we shake hands. That was all my white reactive cards surgicalled, oh well… gg Scott… gg…

In Round 15 I’m paired versus Todd Stevens who had picked up Miracles the night before and I win 2 quick games to finish, 4-2 on my first GP day 2 and 11-3-1 total, good for a 67th place offering a grand total of 0 cash and my first 2 pro points. At least this event lit my competitive flame and I look forward to playing more high level magic with MKM Prague and GP Birmingham (modern) coming up.

I was initially disappointed in my performance as I felt I could have had a better record/result with tighter play and a bit of luck, but here a month after I’ve come to terms with my record and feel satisfied, but hungry for more. I wouldn’t change anything given the things we knew before the GP, but with the downfall of slow combo decks the 3 cliques might serve better as something else.

Thanks for reading

<3 Thiesen

 

P.S: I’m on twitch. Follow me on Twitch to join me when I’m streaming 🙂

Grand Prix Las Vegas Modern Analysis

Three Grand Prix were held this weekend in Las Vegas, and today I will talk about what happened in the Modern portion.

With 3,264 (!!!) participants and Modern in a balanced place compared to the eras of Eldrazis, blue delve cards, Grave-Trolls and Probes, the stage was set for an epic tournament. Keeping in mind that you needed a record of 13-2 or even better because of the size of this tournament, here are the top 8 decks that survied the swiss portion:

3 Affinity
1 Mono White Hatebears
1 Green/White Hatebears
1 Burn
1 Blue/Black Turns
1 Eldrazi Tron

If you showed me this list prior to the tournament, I would simply have laughed at you and told you how bad positioned Affinity is, how great Death’s Shadow is and how underpowered Leonin Arbiter decks are in a world of combo decks.


Good as usual or good again?

Let’s start by addressing the three copies of Affinity in the top 8. Every time a single deck puts three copies into any top 8 in Modern specifically, it’s bound to draw attention. I’ve heard a bunch of chatter from good players about how all the focus would be on Death’s Shadow variants this weekend, and that people would prioritize other cards than Stony Silence and artifact removal spells for their sideboards, and it makes a lot of sense that Affinity was able to capitalize on that. In the end of today’s article, I talk to the champion, Mani Davoudi, about how he experienced his triumph and weekend in general.


The hero we deserve?

Hatebear strategies have always been tier 2 in Modern unless played by Craig Wescoe, but maybe this has changed without me noticing it. Flooding the board with resilient and disruptive creatures certainly is a great strategy vs. Death’s Shadow. Packing a card like Mirran Crusader really underlines that fact that Lighting Bolt is seeing next to no play at the moment. Back in the day, you could never play with three drops that died to Lightning Bolt, so this is a very metagame specific choice.


Lucky or good?

Going forward, this is not something I would recommend to anyone. Daniel Wong did a great job piloting this deck all the way to the quarter finals, even tuning his deck to have a chance vs. Death’s Shadow with the black splash and Chalice of the Void in the sideboard, but the strategy is too clunky and fragile in a world of fast clocks backed up by discard spells. Hats off to him – his pet deck got him a Pro Tour invite and some dollars on top of it!

Top 8 decklists: http://magic.wizards.com/en/events/coverage/gplv17-modern/top-8-decklists-2017-06-18
In the top 32 we see a lot of familiar faces that you can usually expect to do well at any Modern tournament, but I want to talk about a few of the more unorthodox decks among the top finishers.

In 12th place, also going 13-2 and qualifying to the Pro Tour, Warren Woodward piloted a very interesting Black/White midrange deck focused around planeswalkers and powerful synergies with Smallpox. Smallpox is symmetric on the surface, but is a devastating card when it takes a land, creature and card in hand from the opposition while you sacrifice a Bloodghast and Flagstones of Trokair while discarding a Lingering Souls or another Bloodghast from your hand. Liliana of the Veil is also very lopsided in this deck for the same reasons. Combine the fact that Lingering Souls was very well positioned this weekend this the black skeleton of pointed discard spells and cheap removal, and he made a recipe for success that paid off.

Since Faeries added both Bitterblossom and Ancestral Vision to their arsenal, it has been lurking around the bush and preparing its attack on the metagame. Faeries has a good game plan vs. combo decks, control decks and is also decent against Death’s Shadow variants, partly thanks to Spellstutter Sprite. The setup with Liliana of the Veil combined with counterspells is rarely seen, but I imagine the powerlevel and versatility of Liliana was hard to turn down for Yuta Takahashi. Somewhat recent printings of 4 Collective Brutality and 3 Ceremonious Rejection in his sideboard are there to shore up Burn, Tron and Affinity – three matchups Faeries has struggled with traditionally – which makes a lot of sense to me.

Lastly, a copy of Big Zoo made it into the top 32 in the hands of Robert Maes. Robert plays the expected manadorks, beef and a few silverbullets and 4 Collected Company and some removal spells in a pretty straight forward list. With the three copies of Seal of Fire, a Shock-type card used to boost up his own Tarmogoyf and kill opposing small creatures, he is rather spell heavy compared to other Company decks, which makes room for 26 creatures. In the sideboard he tries to solve some unfair matchups that his deck naturally struggles against with cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Stony Silence, Tormod’s Crypt, Eidolon of Retoric and Blood Moon. What I dislike about this archetype is that it feels too fair and puts too much pressure on finding your sideboard cards in games 2 and 3, and mulliganning away perfectly servicable hands in search of those will probably happen a bit too often to my taste.

Check all decklists from 9-32th here: http://magic.wizards.com/en/events/coverage/gplv17/9-32-decklists-2017-06-18

As promised, here is an interview with the Grand Prix Las Vegas Champion 2017, Mani Davoudi!

Hello Mani and huge congratulations on your accomplishment this weekend, and thank you very much for taking time to sit down with me.
Hey Andreas, thank you very much and no problem!

When I met you back in Vancouver in 2015 for Pro Tour Origins, you seemed like a Limited specialist at heart. Did I completely misjudge you, and you’re actually just a Modern Master waiting for the perfect moment to strike?
No, your read was right. After GP Vegas 2015 where I had a 9-0 start before crashing in day 2, I decided it was time for a break from competitive magic and devoting all my efforts to qualifying for the pro tour. A natural part of playing less magic was when I did play, it would usually be limited as it was easier to play on magic online without keeping up with the format. I certainly wouldn’t consider myself a modern master by any means, but I have played a fair bit of affinity over the years and consider myself proficient with the deck.

With Death’s Shadow being the number one deck in Modern right now, even though by a very small margin, did this matter when you picked your deck for the event? Talk a little about the Affinity vs. Grixis Death’s Shadow matchup.
Regarding Death’s Shadow and whether it affected my deck choice, I would say it did indirectly. When the week started, I was not intending in playing this Grand Prix. After 0-3 and dropping from the Limited Grand Prix, I was feeling a little disappointed about my quick exit. I joined Gerry Thompson and Sam Black in the middle of a conversation they were having about Death’s Shadow and what the right deck choice for the weekend was. Sam mentioned he thought Affinity was well positioned, and Gerry agreed. This caught my interest, seeing as it was the only deck I had any experience with, and after a little consideration and effort put into tracking down a copy of the deck to borrow, I was registered for the GP.
As for the matchup, I wouldn’t be able to tell you. In theory and from speaking to others, the matchup seems to be in affinitys favour but I had not played it heading into the GP, and I did not face it a single time in the tournament itself.

You took a fairly stock version of Affinity all the way to the 1st place in this 3500 people tournament. Rank these three factors for you winning the whole tournament and explain why: Affinity was under the radar this weekend. You played great. Variance.
1. Variance. Over the course of the weekend, I played very few decks packing great hate for affinity/bad matchups, I played no “professional” players, and I drew quite well. The fact that I won the finals on a mulligan to 4 speaks for itself.
2. Affinity was under the radar. I felt like overall people were not quite ready for affinity, and had shifted their sideboard priorities to deal with other matchups.
3. I played great. While I do think I managed to keep it together and avoid making egregious mistakes, I’m not sure if I played great. I would say I played better than my opponents in most of my matches.

You only had one loss the whole weekend. Tell us a few words about that match if you remember.
In round 13 of the tournament, I finally played against the only other undefeated player, Theau Mery on mono white hatebears. It was not a very interesting match, as I had a great affinity draw game 1 that resulted in a turn 2 or 3 concession, and then he played turn 2 Stony Silence in both post board games. Unfortunately that’s the nature of the matchup, and I’m glad I got the better end of it when I got my rematch in the finals.

For the readers who didn’t hear your winning interview, walk us through that mulligan to four(!!!) in the deciding game.
In game 2 of the finals, Theau immediately kept his 7 card hand on the play. This made me believe that the chances of him having a Stony Silence were very high. On my end, both my 7 and 6 card hands had no mana sources and were unkeepable. My 5 card hand was Mox Opal, Ornithopter, Spring Leaf Drum, Cranial Plating, and Steel Overseer. I briefly considered keeping the hand as it had explosive potential with a lucky scry, but ultimately I decided that if my read of Stony Silence was correct, I could not win with that hand and was better off trying to find my wear/tear on a mulligan to 4. As it turned out, he DID have the Stony Silence, but had kept a one lander and missed his second land for a few turns, allowing me to get a Cranial Plating on an Etched Champion steal the game.

Thank you so much for stopping by and best of luck at the Pro Tour. You did it, buddy!
Thanks for having me! People can follow me on twitter or twitch @Zapgaze. I’d also like to thank Sam Black for (inadvertently) inspiring me to play, Stephen Barnett for getting the deck together for me at 5 in the morning, and all of my friends for their amazing support.

GP Vegas Modern with Esper Shadow

Taking Esper Death’s Shadow to GP Vegas

Welcome back everyone. Today we’re going to talk about Modern, specifically the deck I’ll be bringing to Grand Prix Las Vegas this weekend – Esper Shadow. Even though you will be experiencing today’s content through the lens of a Shadow, I’m 100% positive that you will either learn something or maybe even help me out with some tricks in some of the matchups. Sound off in the comments!

Why play Death’s Shadow?

Esper Shadows crucial cardsEsper Shadows crucial cards

This bundle of black cards make up the core of the best shell in Modern. Ideally, you want to start every game with a discard spell to pick off your opponent’s most important card and gain some vital information, so you can plan out your turns correctly. Not until now that Gitaxian Probe is gone, people truly value the information alongside the disruption they get from Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize. With the ability to shred your opponent’s hand, kill their creatures for one black mana, play undercosted fatties and have one mana Negate in Stubborn Denial at your disposal, we have ourselves a monster.

Why Esper?

Spirits. Shadows best friends

The answer is this little gem. When you have a shell as powerful as Black/Blue Death’s Shadow, I like to think about my bad matchups and try improving them. In this case, the bad matchups are what I call “shard decks” – three color either Midrange or Control decks. Examples of this could be Jund with Terminate, Fatal Push, Abrupt Decay and Liliana of the Veil or Jeskai Control with Path to Exile, Snapcaster Mage and Nahiri, the Harbinger. While you can still catch these decks off guard because your gameplan is so proactive and fast, I decided to focus on these matchups when chosing my splash color. Lingering Souls lets me beat opposing draws with a lot of spot removal while also providing value when milled with Thought Scour. White is also conveniently a great sideboard color which is just icing on the cake.

I guess this is where I have to admit that nostalgia also has a little to do with it. Back in 2015 when Twin dominated Modern, I helped develop an Esper tempo deck that yielded me great results both in paper and online. If only we had figured out to put Street Wraith and Death’s Shadow in this deck, I think world domination wouldn’t be too much to ask for. Check out this piece on me and the deck if you’re interested.
http://series.magiccardmarket.eu/2015/12/20/deck-feature-andreas-petersens-esper-delve/

This is my decklist for Grand Prix Las Vegas:
Esper Shadow Decklist on MTGO

I will now walk you through 10 of the most popular matchups in Modern. I don’t like putting percentages on any matchups, since so much can change between builds, players and sideboard cards, so you have to settle for general strategy tips.

Matchups

Grixis Shadow
This is a mirror match except you have Lingering Souls and Path to Exile vs. their Lightning Bolt, Kolaghan’s Command and Terminate. Remember you only have 2 Path to Exile (with 3 Snapcaster Mage) as removal for opposing delve creatures, so Thoughtseize‘ing them away can be a priority. Stranding a Lightning Bolt in your opponent’s hand can be key, as well as stabilizing the board – and later win with – flying spirits.

Affinity
In this matchup you need to either kill everything or be fast. Discard/kill their payoff cards and beat them down with a black fatty while keeping their Signal Pest, Vault Skirge and creature lands back with Lingering Souls is your main goal. After sideboard you get Stony Silence, Ceremonious Rejection and Flaying Tendrils to help you achieve victory.

Burn
Burn can be very tricky to play against. You will need to decide quickly whether you will fetch basics and preserve your life total or play into his strategy and win with a quick Shadow or two. On the flipside, your opponent might help your clock by pointing burn spells at you too early. This takes a lot of practice on both sides. Remember Searing Blaze can never kill a Death’s Shadow. Collective Brutality, Stubborn Denial and the basic Plains join the party in the place of Street Wraith post-sideboard.

Dredge
Winning the die roll is super important vs. Dredge, because snatching his Faithless Looting or Insolent Neonate can be the difference between life and death. Even though Stubborn Denial is at its best when you’re on the play, it can even counter Cathartic Reunion on the draw and swing the game in your favor. After sideboard, graveyard hate and Flaying Tendrils helps out.

Counters/Abzan Company
Your deck is well set up to never lose to their combo, but them going wide and activating Gavony Township is the real threat. Try your best to make sure to kill their mana creature early and never let Collected Company resolve while you keep attacking. Flaying Tendrils is great out of the sideboard because it keeps Kitchen Finks and Voice of Resurgence from coming back and disables flexibility from Eternal Witness.

R/G Titan Shift
This a classic racing matchup where you have better tools than the opposition. Your life total doesn’t really matter until they resolve a Primeval Titan or Scapeshift anyway, so the plan is to kill them before this happens. With a good clock, Stubborn Denial, Thoughtseize and Snapcaster Mage for extra copies, we are in good shape. Because they will be looking to buy some time by blocking with Sakura-Tribe Elder, Fatal Push is acceptable even after sideboard. They might also have Tireless Tracker as a target.

BG/x Midrange
Having talked a little about this matchup further up, it’s all about how to beat their large amount of removal. You can either try and pick their removal with discard spells and/or counter them with Stubborn Denial or try and grind them out with Lingering Souls and Snapcaster Mage. Both plans are doable, but it’s all about the context. With your diverse threats, you hope that your opponent draws Fatal Push when you have a Gurmag Angler and Liliana of the Veil when you have Lingering Souls.

Ad Nauseam
Similar to the Titan Shift matchup, Ad Nauseam will not be interacting with you a whole lot. Furthermore, they’re weak to a fast clock backed up by discard spells and cheap counter magic. They will try and buy time with Phyrexian Unlife, and sometimes you will find it hard to evaluate whether you should counter that or not. Waiting let’s them use Pact of Negation as backup to Ad Nauseam, but they could also easily use the enchantment as bait and have another white combo piece in their hand. Hopefully you know about their hand and can make the right decision. Stony Silence shuts off Pentad Prism and Lotus Bloom for games two and three.

Bant Eldrazi
You will not win a long game vs. Bant Eldrazi, so you want to be aggressive with your lifetotal and get down to business, as Drowner of Hope and Eldrazi Displacer will spell doom for you in the lategame. Thoughtseize, Fatal Push and Path to Exile away their threats while beating down.

UW/x Control
This version can either be the Felidar Guardian/Saheeli Rai version or the straight Blue/White with Supreme Verdict. These decks will need to draw at least one copy of Path to Exile to be able to kill a big Shadow or delve creature in the early turns, so take advantage of that if you can. Supreme Verdict can be a beating, but with Lingering Souls we can realistically rebuild after one. Playing vs. the combo is pretty frustrating because you need to have a few removal spells in your deck after sideboard, and they don’t really advance your own game plan unless you get him off guard trying to combo.

Thank you for stopping by this week. Wish me luck on my magical trip in the desert!

Standard

Why Standard is not (that) bad at all.

Editorial Note: 13. June 2017. Aetherworks Marvel is out.

Hi folks. My name is Anders and I’m here to talk about standard, and before you close this tab let me tell you that it is not as messed up as the internet mob will have you believe. Let’s take a look at what people say is wrong with standard:

1: Turn 4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is unbeatable. This is true, but there are two things to consider; it doesn’t happen that often but it is of course not a good thing for magic when it does; and there are ways to stop it from happening, mainly censor and negate. I have played Marvel since the Pro Tour and it is very rare in the mirror to face a 10/10 library eater on turn 4. And the games without turn 4 Ulamog are great games of magic. It is very similar to the copycat mirror but I think actually more fun because turn 3 Saheeli on the play was much harder to stop and put the opponent in a terrible spot. Now you at least have Censor which does great work in slowing things down and letting both players play magic.

2: Marvel decks are pushing everything else out of the format. That’s just not true. There were 3 GP’s last weekend and 8 of the 24 top 8 decks were Marvel with only one in each non-american GP. The top 8’s featured several different archetypes beyond Marvel with UW flash winning Manila and GB constrictor winning Amsterdam against UR control in the finals.

3: Playing Aetherworks Marvel is a lottery, takes the skill out of playing. In the case of turn 4 Ulamog, yes very little skill is involved, but plenty of decks have nut draws where the deck basically plays itself. Turn 2 Constrictor, turn 3 Rishkar isn’t that hard of a line to see and that has won plenty of games. As soon as we leave nutdraw territory though, Marvel is quite intricate to play, especially the mirror and UR. I played it in Grand Prix Amsterdam myself and lost at least two rounds because I missed a tricky line of play. Stuff like when to leave up and play around Censor, how to manage your energy reserve, and even when to hardcast Ulamog can be difficult. Against UR control for example you should not play Ulamog into a counterspell unless they have 2 threats in play to remove. Against RG Energy aggro I won a game because I Harnessed Lightninged their turn 2 Longtusk Cub and spent 0 energy. I’m not saying these are top pro plays but they are not exactly intuitive either.

This standard is all fine This standard format is all fine

Now, I am not going to tell you that I don’t think Marvel is the best deck but you can easily choose another archetype and be successful. Since I don’t think Marvel will be banned it makes sense to talk about the deck to help you learn how to play it. First, let’s find a list to play and I don’t see a better starting point than Brad Nelson’s winning list from Grand Prix Omaha:

Temur Aetherworks by Brad Nelson

Creatures (8)
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Rogue Refiner

Spells (52)
Chandra, Flamecaller
Attune with Aether
Censor
Dissenter’s Deliverance
Glimmer of Genius
Harnessed Lightning
Negate
Aetherworks Marvel
Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot
Aether Hub
Botanical Sanctum
Cinder Glade
Forest
Island
Lumbering Falls
Mountain
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
Spirebluff Canal
Sideboard: (15)
Negate
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
Aether Meltdown
Confiscation Coup
Dispel
Radiant Flames
Tireless Tracker
Ulvenwald Hydra

What a masterpiece! I love how streamlined the maindeck is for maximizing Marvel. Most other people were fiddling around with Whirler Virtuosos, Gearhulks, maindeck Tireless Tracker and such. I even shaved a Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot. Paul Dean and Brad Nelson realized that game one is about Marvel -> Ulamog against basically everything but UR control. After sideboard, most everyone will have ways to deal with Marvel so they just went straight for hardcasting Ulamog with a third Shrine of the Forsaken Gods and Ulvenwald Hydra. Getting a guaranteed 2 mana towards Ulamog along with the biggest creature on the battlefield is great in the mirror and not getting hit by Negate is great against the way most blue decks are set up against Marvel.

It also seems great against Spell Queller decks. I played a single Oblivion Sower in the main to help hardcast Ulamog and I’m not sure which I like better. Hydra is better if you can count on it resolving, but I like Sower better against UR and if more people play Disallow in the mirror (I had one in the board and a few of my mirror opponents did as well). My choice for next week would be a split with Hydra main and Sower in the board. I would assume that most Marvel lists will contain Hydra for the next few weeks so would like 2 Disallows after board.

I’m not that high on Confiscation Coup and I’m not sure about Dispel vs. Negate. Dispel is almost only for forcing through your own stuff and countering things like Chandra, Torch of Defiance in the mirror can be paramount. I’d go for just one Dispel for now. Tireless Tracker is in a weird spot right now. It’s obviously a great value machine to have in play but Censor means it’s not a guaranteed two for one on turn four and if your opponent untaps and plays Marvel you can be in big trouble. It’s still great against UR, and also on the play against stuff like UW since you can run it out on turn 3 and they have almost no way of removing it.

The last contentious spots for me are Dissenter’s Deliverance, Radiant Flames and Chandra, Flamecaller. We have seen Manglehorn and Sweltering Sun’s take their place in other lists but I like Brad and Paul’s choices more. Deliverance can be played main unlike Manglehorn, freeing up sideboard space without subtracting too much from your game 1 plan. I had cut Deliverance because I wanted to deal with Marvel on the stack but Deliverance is a great card against Vehicles and they did well enough last weekend to expect it for the foreseeable future.

Sweltering Sun’s could also be in the main (although cycling 3 is obviously harder to find time for) and it can be hit off Marvel. On the other hand, with all these Shrine of the Forsaken Gods (and I would like another Island for Disallow) double red is not trivial, and if you need a sweeper, you most likely need it early. More importantly, Zombies have taken massive beatings since the Pro Tour and they are pretty much the reason for running 3 mana sweepers so there’s actually an argument for cutting them. Big Chandra also loses a lot of luster with the decline of zombies. I’ve talked to several players who cited the 0 ability as a great way to turn dead Ulamogs into real cards but hardcasting Ulamog is becoming a larger and larger part of the game plan and in the mirror you often can’t afford to discard copies of him. She is still a powerful card and good at pressuring planeswalkers so I’m looking to play one for now. Here is the list I would play if I was playing this weekend:

Temur Aetherworks by Anders Gotfredsen

Creatures (8)
Rogue Refiner
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Spells (52)
Attune with Aether
Censor
Dissenter’s Deliverance
Glimmer of Genius
Harnessed Lightning
Negate
Aetherworks Marvel
Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot
Ulvenwald Hydra
Chandra, Flamecaller
Aether Hub
Botanical Sanctum
Cinder Glade
Forest
Island
Mountain
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
Spirebluff Canal
Sideboard: (15)
Negate
Disallow
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
Shielded Aether-Thief
Dispel
Tireless Tracker
Oblivion Sower
Baral’s Expertise
Whirler Virtuoso

Whirler Virtuoso has made it back into the deck, this time in the board. I have replaced Radiant Flames with it because it has more utility against Vehicles and GB, both of which appear to be on the rise. They are joined by Baral’s Expertise which is the best card I could think of against GB and maybe there should be another one somewhere. Their creatures can get out of range of your sweepers pretty easily and Expertise doesn’t care how many counters are on them. Virtuoso also doesn’t care and both are great at buying time which is what the matchup is about to me.

Lastly, I’m playing Shielded Aether-Thief instead of Aether Meltdown. The only situation where Meltdown seems better is against flyers, notably Heart of Kiran, but we are already playing 3 Dissenter’s Deliverance and Aether-Thief has much higher upside. It is a lot better when you also have 3 damage sweepers but I still prefer it to the enchantment.

Today’s article has two main takeaways.

1: Standard isn’t all bad.

It has some bad aspects, but so do all other formats. There is diversity and a lot of great gameplay so no need to ban anything.

2: Be careful assuming that a metagame is solved.

Brad Nelson has done well in established metagames many times before by adding subtle twists to existing tier 1 decks. Maybe your Naya Planeswalker brew doesn’t have what it takes to compete but taking a successful deck and tweaking it to beat the metagame you’re expecting is a recipe for success. If you have a good reason for thinking a certain card of combination of cards are good in a popular matchup, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger just because no one else has done it yet.

Next week is GP’s Vegas which is sure to be completely awesome, wish me luck and good luck to everyone else going. I love to discuss magic so please comment with your opinions on any of the stuff I have talked about.

Thomas Enevoldsen in Strasbourg

The healthiest constructed format in Magic

Hello everybody and welcome to the very first article from my hand here at Snapcardster.com. My name is Andreas, and I am a 29-year old MTG junkie residing in Copenhagen, Denmark. In the future I will be posting weekly content about everything from Pauper to Vintage, tournament results from Grand Prix or Magic Online tournaments, my own preparation for upcoming events, metagame analysis, player interviews and much, much more. If you want me to address a subject, don’t hesitate to write me a message on Facebook. Don’t be shy now!

Since I know many of you love Legacy, I thought a great place to kick things off would be talking about this weekend’s Legacy Challenge. For those who don’t know, “Challenges” are weekly tournaments on Magic Online with 7-8 rounds and top 8 with great prize payout. Why I like these tournaments in particular is the fact that they attract a lot of pros and/or format specialists, and the competition is therefor always top notch.

Legacy Challenge June 4, 2017
Read more at magic.wizards.com

2 Death and Taxes
1 Four Color Control
1 Elves
1 Blue/Black Shadow
1 Esper Deathblade
1 Blue/Red Delver
1 Grixis Delver

As you can see, the event was won by a spicy version of Death and Taxes in the hands of “Scabs” – the online handle of Thomas Enevoldsen – the Godfather of the deck. He and his partner in crime, gold pro Michael Bonde, put the deck on the map back in 2013 where they finished 1st and 3rd respectively at Grand Prix Strasbourg. More on that deck and Thomas’ success with it towards the end of the article.

Death and Taxes by Thomas 'Scabs' Enevoldsen (1st Place) Legacy Challenge #10664481 on 06/04/2017

Creature (26)
Containment Priest
Eldrazi Displacer
Flickerwisp
Mother of Runes
Palace Jailer
Phyrexian Revoker
Stoneforge Mystic
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Vryn Wingmare

Instant (4)
Swords to Plowshares

Artifact (7)
Aether Vial
Batterskull
Sword of Fire and Ice
Umezawa’s Jitte

Land (23)
Ancient Tomb
Eiganjo Castle
Karakas
Plains
Rishadan Port
Wasteland
Sideboard (15)
Palace Jailer
Chalice of the Void
Council’s Judgment
Dismember
Ethersworn Canonist
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Pithing Needle
Relic of Progenitus
Rest in Peace

R.I.PI want to talk a brief moment about the banning of Sensei’s Divining Top. Just have a look at that top 8 and let it sink in. There is no way that this much diversity would’ve found its way into the top 8 of a Legacy tournament just a few months ago. If this trend continues, I think it’s safe to say that Wizards made a brilliant move by banning the Top.

Ironically, if you take a look further down the list from the eight best decks, Miracles has found a way back to being relevant thanks to a forgotten card, Portent. Portent is no Sensei’s Divining Top, but it lets you set up Terminus and Entreat the Angels to some extent. With the engine of Snapcaster + Predict for card advantage and Jace, the Mind Sculptor in a bigger roll than before, Miracles 2.0 is happening. It will be very interesting to see if the deck can actually compete over time, or it’s just the stubborn Miracles players who refuse to take no for an answer right now and will eventually quit.

Legacy Format DiversityThe diversity is REAL this time.

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