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!

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

Hidden Gems in Modern

Today I want to talk about some cards that see too little play in my opinion. Sometimes people are very rigid in their deckbuilding and are too afraid to innovate. Or maybe they need to see a certain card make four or five top 8’s before they try it out them selves. Tons of things factor in when it comes to deckbuilding, and Magic players are usually on the safe side of things. So losen up the tight belt, ride along and live a little – at least with me in this article!

Can be played in: Blue/White Control, Blue Moon, Ad Nauseam

I played Standard back when Force Spike was legal and enjoy the threat of Daze in Legacy. Do you play your best threat every turn to optimize your potential or do you respect the Force Spike effect? A lot of interesting gameplay comes up with a card like this in the format.

It’s a normal strategy to sideboard out Daze on the draw in Legacy, but the opponent will always have to respect it to some degree. In Legacy you can pitch Daze to Force of Will or Brainstorm it back with a fetchland, while the Force Spike sometimes didn’t have a use besides being cast in early 2000’s Standard.

The point I’m getting at is that Censor has cycling for the cheap cost of one blue mana, so if you can’t counter your opponents threat on curve, you can easily cash it in for another card. Countering opposing turn two plays on the play and turn 3 plays on the draw is likely the most frequent use of Censor. Liliana of the Veil, Thought-Knot Seer and Karn Liberated come to mind, but even something like four-mana planeswalkers, Primeval Titan and Gifts Ungiven are realistic targets. And if they have mana to spare, just draw your card and move on.

It would likely replace Mana Leak – a card that is useful to cast in more scenarios, but also lose value in long games or against weary opponents. In Ad Nauseam Censor will act as a cantrip that maybe 20% of the time is able to counter something from the opponent. Liliana of the Veil and Thought-Knot Seer are your best targets, but Collected Company and Chord of Calling are pretty nice to prevent from happening in that matchup. It also gives you the ability to beat Abrupt Decay with your Laboratory Maniac kill, as you can cycle in response.

Can be played in: Bant Eldrazi, Eldrazi Tron, Blue Tron

The die roll is really important in Modern and Magic in general, and a bunch of games will be determined by it throughout any given tournament. Did I get to suspend my Ancestral Vision before my opponent snatched it with an Inquisition of Kozilek?

Did I get to play my Anger of the Gods before my opponent untapped with Steel Overseer?

Did I play first and won the TitanShift mirror because I was one turn faster? I’m sure you get the picture. With Gemstone Caverns in your deck (you should play 1-2 copies if you play it), you’re basically trying to flip the script whenever you’re on the draw. With you drawing an extra card for the turn opposed to your opponent who actually won the die roll, you have more resources to work with and the exile clause is less damaging. From here you can go turn one Chalice of the Void, turn two Thought-Knot Seer if you have an Eldrazi Temple or hold up Remand turn before depending on which of the decks you’re playing.

The reason why I only included decks with a lot of colorless cards in them is that the flipside of Gemstone Caverns is if you actually win the dieroll (or draw into it on a later turn), then the land must be acceptable to draw. I’m always excited when I win the die roll vs. these decks, but if they all of a sudden have a Gemstone Caverns, I’m back to being nervous again.

Can be played in: Blue/White Control

This card has definitely seen the most play out of the three, but I feel it should be seeing way more play right now. The double white cost limits it to only a few decks with Blue/White Control being the only true tier 1 deck, so I’ll focus on that today. In a deck also playing Cryptic Command, it’s very important that your manabase can support both double white and triple blue.

The easy fix is Mystic Gate which lets you filter both ways. Mystic Gate is not very good with a lot of combined copies of Tectonic Edge and Ghost Quarter, however, so you shouldn’t play more than four colorless lands if you include two Mystic Gate. Now that we established the means to play Runed Halo, let’s dive into its utility in the format. I like Runed Halo out of the sideboard, but depending on your number of available slots between the main deck and sideboard, I could also see my self playing a copy or two in my starting 60.

It’s particularly good against decks with a low number of threats on the table like Death’s Shadow, Bogles and Eldrazi variants. Ironically, these are also the decks that have a difficult time getting rid of the enchantment. Eidolon of the Great Revel vs. Burn, Walking Ballista vs. Eldrazi Tron, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle vs. TitanShift and Conflagrate vs. Dredge are other strong cards to name.

Remember, the default mode on this card is naming a creature on your opponents side of the board, and not only do you shut down that creature, but you also shut down all future copies of that card that your opponent draws. Of course it will be lackluster vs. various Collected Company decks, Affinity and Control matchups, but its overall utility warrants at least a few sideboard slots in my book.

I actually like this topic a lot, so I would be interested in hearing your candidates for “hidden gems” in Modern! Let me know in the comments 🙂

RE: Legacy at the ProTour

Wizards dropped the mother of all bombs on us Wednesday. I am super excited about this! If you haven’t already read the announcement, go do that right now!

Don’t worry I’ll wait right here…

You got it? There’s a lot to take in so if you need a breather, I don’t blame you.
A lot of changes and announcements, but I’ll go over the one I’m the most excited about: There will be a Team trios Constructed Pro Tour In Minneapolis the 3-5 of August 2018!

This is huge, for the first time in modern PT history players will tap duals and cast brainstorms at the games’ most prolific stage. To give you an idea about how excited I am about this: I am writing this piece on my phone during downtime at work. I want to get this excitement down on digital paper as fast as possible.

So how does this work?

At the actual PT players will form teams of 3 with one player playing matches of standard, one player playing matches of modern and one player playing matches of legacy. If a team wins the majority of matches in a round, they get the 3 points, like in team sealed.

That’s all very well, but if you’re anything like me you’re asking ”How do I qualify?”
Luckily Wizards has told us a bit about that:

”Be Part of a Top-Finishing Team in the Pro Tour Team Series after Pro Tour Dominaria”

Teams that place in the top 16 of the PT team series are invited to compete in this since it’s the last PT of the 2017-18 season. However if a player uses this invite they can only format trios within their PT team series team.

”Top 4 a Team Grand Prix from January 6 until May 27, 2018”

This one is pretty straight forward, but there is a bit of a nugget for us here. Wizards is upping the number of team GPs in this period. Including GPs in the Team Constructed format of the PT. I really look forward to this, I can’t wait to play legacy alongside some of my non-legacy friends!

At each of these team GPs there will be a team PTQ awarding the winning team an invite for the team PT, providing even more opportunities to Q with your friends.

”Finish in the Top 2 of a Regional Pro Tour Qualifier for Pro Tour 25th Anniversary”

These will be team events, but the article is a bit unclear as to which kind of team events. It mentions a special round of team events with a yet to be announced team format, and it mentions the ordinary round of RPTQs with team unified standard. Hopefully the special round will let us qualify without having to play standard.
But wait! Team RPTQs?! How do those work?
If a player is qualified for an RPTQ they can bring two eligible, but unqualified friends as part of their team. Eligible meaning not yet qualified for the PT in question.
Sadly during writing this article I did some research:

It looks like we won’t have many legacy avenues to this PT. Better hope you have some friends willing to carry you at the RPTQ.

”Pro Club Status, Top Pro Tour Dominaria Finishers, and Hall of Fame”

The good old grinder slots nothing out of the ordinary here.
In the end all qualified players can form trios as they want. (The exception being players who are only qualified via the team series)

So… how do I feel about all this?

What does this do for legacy?
I’m pretty excited about this, but I have some reservations.
First of all, not having some or all of the RPTQs being Team Constructed instead of team unified standard feels pretty horrible as a legacy player, same about not having any of the GP day 2 PTQs being Team Constructed is a horrendous decision. Let us play Team Constructed to qualify for this!

Secondly, I hope we won’t see any ”Pro Tour bans” like we did in modern when it was a PT format. Other than that I just want to thank and congratulate StarCityGames.com for bringing this format to the big stage and thanks Wizards for showing they haven’t completely forgotten about us legacy players. Besides the mistakes this is a huge opportunity to showcase legacy.

~ Thiesen <3

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.

Thinking Creatively to Improve Modern

Thinking Creatively to Improve Modern

Today I’ll talk about how to improve my favorite format. Now don’t get me wrong, Modern is in a good state at the moment, but I always look to improve even functional things. I’m not settling for a good format. I want the best format!

So far, we’ve known two ways of adjusting the format: bannings and unbannings. While I think we should definitely continue to look into both of these options every three months, I have a third suggestion later on in the article.

Would banning one or more cards improve Modern?

I actually applaud the DCI on each and every change they made in Modern, from the unbannings of Wild Nacatl, Bitterblossom and Ancestral Vision to the bannings of Birthing Pod, Splinter Twin, Summer Bloom, Gitaxian Probe and Eye of Ugin. They bring out the ban hammer when a deck is too dominant, kills too fast on a consistent basis and when a card is making similar archetypes irrelevant and just inferior. When they unban cards, they try to breath life into tier 3 archetypes and make even more cards playable. This is why there are 20+ playable archetypes in Modern today, and why it’s the most popular constructed format by far.


Living on the edge

Death’s Shadow, or maybe Street Wraith if you just want to make the archetype worse instead of killing it, has been flirting with the DCI ban hammer for quite some time. At first it made people do some crazy things like playing with Condemn and Engineered Explosives in their main deck, which reminded me of the Affinity times in Standard where artifact removal were present in main decks because Affinity was such a big part of the metagame. However, time has showed that Modern players are smart and started playing archetypes that actually matchup up well with Death’s Shadow instead of playing narrow cards that only really shine vs. said matchup. The result is a super healthy metagame where Death’s Shadow is just a good deck. Big thumbs up to the DCI for letting the players figure it out and being patient. No bannings needed.

Would unbanning one or more cards improve Modern?

http://magic.wizards.com/en/game-info/gameplay/rules-and-formats/banned-restricted

Looking at the banned cards for Modern and considering setting one or more free, my criteria is that it should improve or create one or more decks. Therefor unbanning a card like Umezawa’s Jitte or Punishing Fire is not an option, as both of them will kill off creature-based decks and not create any new decks. Splinter Twin got banned because it made non-Splinter Twin blue decks irrelevant in the format, so that’s off the table as well. I want an even bigger format with even more good options. If I want to play a relatively small and defined format with 5-6 decks to metagame for, I will play Standard or Vintage. Modern is the king of diversity!


Time for a comeback?

One of the options is unbanning Bloodbraid Elf. The card is obviously great and would boost Jund Midrange back to tier 1 status, but this is not a bad thing at all. Abzan Midrange, Abzan Delirium and Jund Midrange alongside the various Death’s Shadow variants can easily co-exist in a healthy metagame. If the number of decks with Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize increases, we will most likely see decks like Tron, Eldrazi (Bant or Tron version) and R/G Valakut rise in popularity, all decks which are somewhat weak to combo, and that would make a very interesting rock/paper/scissors metagame with the usual suspects of Burn, Collected Company decks, Affinity and Control on the side. I would be super excited if Bloodbraid Elf gets reintroduced to the format. Please sound off in the comments if you want to make the case for Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Green Sun’s Zenith or something else (if you’re a crazy person).

The natural step

Wizards already introduced this method themselves, so this is not super innovative on my part. With the various Commander and Conspiracy releases, they’ve made it possible to inject cards into Legacy and Vintage without those cards having to pass Standard first, and this is the greatest idea ever! From Leovold, Emmisary of Trest to Dack Fayden to True-Name Nemesis, I love the concept and see no reason why they shouldn’t implement it on Modern also. It could be via event decks or a “Masters” set (they need a new name for this obviously) and we could get some new (old) toys to play around with in Modern. Let me list a few favorites of mine off the top of my head. I’m sure there are many more!


I’ve wanted to boost control in Modern for a long time, and Ancestral Vision clearly wasn’t quite enough. Having access to Fact or Fiction with its best buddy Snapcaster Mage (Snapcardster, pun intended) could push control right back into tier 1 status where it belongs. It still costs 4 mana in a world of proactive decks, but being very good against black-based decks will make it relevant.


Good ol’ Counterspell. The answers in Modern are kind of narrow, and this is a huge reason why building a successful control deck is so hard. Having access to Counterspell would definitely make heavy blue decks more viable, but I’m unsure if Counterspell and Fact or Fiction are a bit too much.


This is a bit more controversial, but I decided to include it anyway. The red part of this card will shine vs. mana and utility creatures, while the blue part will buy you time targeting a land in the early game and a big creature in the late game. This might be too flexible for a cantrip card because stealing a turn from Tron while cantripping is a very powerful thing to do.


Cunning Wish would boost Ad Nauseam‘s consistency in a new metagame where you’re being attacked even more by discard spells. Having both combo pieces, Angel’s Grace and Ad Nauseam, plus some generic bullets like a 4th Pact of Negation and Echoing Truth in your sideboard, will make the deck stay relevant in 2018. The card is too slow to play in Control, so this is solely a combo consistency card.


Oh yeah, that’s right! Sylvan Library is a card selection/advantage engine that comes with a serious cost, especially in a format of shocklands instead of painless duals. However, when blue gets buffed with a card like Fact or Fiction, having some green tools to fight on the card advantage axis in a matchup where lifetotals aren’t super important, is very natural. I think Sylvan Library would be a great card in Midrange and Control matchups without being too good.


P. Diddy is also kind of controversial, but I think it’s fine in the end because of its speed or lack there of. It has obvious synergy with ramp cards and planeswalkers in big mana strategies and could potentially spawn a new deck that needed a good universal answer to opposing board state decks that is not embarrasing to maindeck. I don’t think the presence of Pernicious Deed makes people stop playing with non land permanents.


Maybe a two drop that puts you firmly in the driver seat when you untap with it is too good for Modern. Wrong! We already have Dark Confidant and Steel Overseer that do exactly that, and those cards are super well balanced and fair. I would be interested in seeing what role (if any) Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary would play in Modern. The upside of untapping with him will be too huge to pass up for the average green brewer.

That’s it for today, but since this subject is so deep, I only scratched the surface. Which cards do you want to see get injected in Modern? Let me know in the comments below!

July 2017 Modern Data

Two premier events were played this past weekend on Magic Online, and today I will dissect the results for you guys. On Sunday, the top 250 digital magic players battled in the Magic Online Championship Series in eight rounds of Modern. Since you needed a record of 6-2 to quality for the playoff event, I have included all decks with that record or better. On Monday it was PTQ time with nine rounds of swiss before the top 8. I’ve chosen to include decks with a 7-2 or better record from this tournament even though not all of the players with two losses made ind into the top 8. I feel like I’ve talked about Death’s Shadow variants for a month in a row, so today I will focus on some of the other sweet archetypes in Modern. Here are the hard numbers in the two tournaments combined:

7 Grixis Death’s Shadow
7 Affinity
6 Titan Shift
3 Tron
3 Dredge
3 Storm
4 Other Death’s Shadow
2 Eldrazi Tron
2 G/W Humans
2 Lantern Control
2 Burn
2 U/W Control
1 Bant Eldrazi
1 Amulet Titan
1 KCI Combo
1 Counters Company
1 Faeries
1 Slivers
1 Bogles
1 B/W Midrange
1 B/G Midrange

Which archetypes underperformed?

Where were you last night?

BG/x Midrange decks were at an all time low this weekend. Only former player of the year, Jeremy Dezani, and loyal archetype afficionado slash streamer Jaberwocki decided to sleeve up the best planeswalker in Modern and convert that into a result. Whether this is a financial matter, has to do with the superiority of Death’s Shadow variants or something third, it’s a talk for another day.

Not quite good enough.

Control decks also disappointed me a lot. In a metagame defined by Death’s Shadow and Affinity, you’d think that Control could exist and succeed relatively easy. The problem for various Control decks is not beating 4-5 different decks; the problem is beating 15 different decks. Holding a Negate when you play vs. aggressive creatures or a Supreme Verdict vs. spell combo is a very difficult problem to solve without Brainstorm to filter dead draws in certain matchups, which every Legacy Control mage know all about. My article next week tries to solve the problem for Control decks in Modern, and no, it’s not Brainstorm.

Which archetypes over-performed?

The boys are back in town!

 

 

This weekend marked the official return for “oldschool” Tron, which has been on a long hiatus thanks to people playing Eldrazi Tron instead and overall bad positioning in the format. Two out of the three pilots made some adjustments to combat Death’s Shadow by adding either white or black to their deck to support Fatal Push or Path to Exile and Blessed Alliance. Having a cheap way of removing a Shadow while ramping to your 6+ mana cards seems like a great choice for the archetype moving forward. If this deck gets back to its old metagame share, I would expect Fulminator Mage to see more play in people’s sideboards and Ghost Quarter decks to pick up steam.


Go big or go home.
 

Titan Shift matches up terribly against Death’s Shadow and still had a very nice weekend. Why? Other than matching up poorly vs. Death’s Shadow, it’s also very bad against spell-based combo like Storm and Ad Nauseam. The good thing is that main deck Relic of Progenitus solves the Storm matchup and that Death’s Shadow has made Ad Nauseam almost extinct as this point. People realized that boardstate decks are good vs. Death’s Shadow, so Titan Shift is now left with positive matchups like Affinity, Eldrazi decks and Collected Company variants. It also dismantles most Midrange and Control decks quite handily, because you’re so threat dense, you don’t need to resolve a big spell and the natural Valakut triggers will grind down your opponent. I like Pia and Kiran Nalar in the four mana slot instead of Chandra. Three chump blockers is valuable in a lot of matchups, Shadow variants and Affinity in particular. The thopters even fly and can block a huge Etched Champion to buy you a vital turn.

Titan Shift players should be worried about the comeback of Tron. Last time the two decks were top decks at the same time, the opposition adapted by having access to 4 Fulminator Mage combined with Surgical Extraction in their sideboards. If Tron fails to keep the engine running, I like Titan Shift leading up to Grand Prix Birmingham next month.

To the bench you go!

https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/690492#online
https://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/691338#online
 
MTGO user WilliamRegal took Burn to great finishes in both events as the lone wolf this weekend. Looking at his deck list, the first thing you see is that he cut the Eidolon of the Great Revel and chose to play black instead of green as his splash color. I suspect that he removed the Eidolon’s from the deck entirely because he didn’t want to sideboard them out vs. various creature decks all day, as they’re quite bad vs. Affinity, Humans and Eldrazi – especially on the draw. I’m quite surprised not to see them in his sideboard, since Storm is still a deck. I like how, after Affinity’s homecoming party at Las Vegas, he specifically prepared for Affinity by sideboarding Stony Silence, Wear // Tear and Smash to Smithereens. I highly doubt that he lost a match against the robots all weekend.

The black splash adds a few tools to the R/W core of burn. Bump in the Night is another Lava Spike that gets around Worship as a nice little bonus. With Fatal Push running rampant, it makes sense to only play the haste creatures and a few Lavamancers to try and strand removal spells in the opponent’s hand, even though creatures are your only repeated source of damage. Topdecking a burn spell is much better than topdecking a Wild Nacatl when you’re trying to finish off your opponent. Hidden gem Rain of Gore teams up with Skullcrack to try and combat pesky lifegain.

Even though I’m pretty excited for Modern moving forward, next week I have some suggestions on improving the format even more.

Editorial Note: What is your experience with modern? Let us know in the comments!

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.