Meet the Pros: Andrea Mengucci

Hello Andrea and thank you for taking your time with me today! With the Pro Tour coming up, a lot of attention is on Standard. Looking at Standard from the outside these past few years has not been a pretty sight. What is the state of Standard right now in your opinion?

Standard is in a good place right now. It has quite few tier 1 decks, and they represent all the strategies of Magic:

  • Aggro: Mono Red
  • Midrange: Temur
  • Control: Blue/Black Control, Blue/White Approach
  • Combo: Gift

Those are all good decks that can be qualified as tier 1, so the format is definitely healthy. It isn’t Modern or Legacy where you have tons of different decks, but it has never been in the history of Standard. So I feel like this Standard is good and it is what it should always be.

A few months ago Wizards of the Coast announced Modern’s return to the Pro Tour in 2018. What was your first reaction to this?

I’m a little bit biased about the Modern Pro Tour because I hate Modern. It’s my least favorite format and I never play it – in fact last time I played it was World Magic Cup 2016. So I’m pretty sad about it and won’t test a lot of Constructed for the event, since the format is super stagnant and you can play any deck and go 10-0 or 0-10. But I can easily see Modern lovers standing up and shouting at me now, and I’ll be fine with that.

Everyone who follows you on social media and appreciates the great job you’re doing at ChannelFireball knows your passion for Legacy. Now all of a sudden you get to play your favorite format on the Pro Tour in 2018. Tell us why Legacy means so much to you.

I’m obviously very happy to show my Italian black bordered dual lands at the Pro Tour stage! But I don’t want this to be a thing that happens every Pro Tour or even once a year. The Pro Tour is good for innovations. You get an edge by inventing new decks in Standard and having a better strategy in Draft, but with stagnant formats like Modern and Legacy this goes away and that skill is less rewarded.

It seems like team tournaments will be a higher focus in competitive Magic moving forward. To me it is natural because you usually test as a group and root for your friends anyway. Do you feel the same way or would you rather play on your own all the time?

I really dislike where Grand Prix are going. I dislike that you have to be in a team of people to go to Grand Prix nowadays. What if you are good, but live in a environment where there are only bad players? You can just never spike.

For me Magic is an individual game, not soccer or basketball. It’s designed to be played 1 vs 1. It’s okay if sometimes you play 3 vs 3 because it’s more fun, but I feel like the 2018 Grand Prix schedule has way too many Team Grand Prix that punishes those who want to break through.

Lastly I want to hear about your personal expectations for the season. I know you’re representing Italy at the World Magic Cup. When we talk again at the end at the season, which accomplishments do you hope to tell me about?

I hope we’ll do well at Pro Tour Albuquerque, though it’ll be hard since Standard and Draft are already solved so variance will be huge once again and same for the World Magic Cup. I also have four Grand Prix coming up, so I hope to get my first top 8 in one of those, since it’s getting pretty late and I still haven’t achieved that goal in my Magic career.

To wrap up this interview, feel free to share your Twitter, thank your mom or give a shout out to sponsors. Thank you again for this interview!

Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Channel Fireball where I make two videos per week (Legacy and Vintage) and where I write one article per week (generic topic).

Also if you want to have daily tweets about Magic follow me on Twitter.

Beating Modern #4

Welcome back to the fourth and last edition of “Beating Modern“. The decks are becoming more and more fringe, which is why I’m rounding off the series today. It sure has been a pleasure with a project like this, and I will gladly take suggestions for a similar one in the future!


Black/White Eldrazi Taxes

Aether Vial

This deck is trying to borrow the blueprint from Death and Taxes in Legacy, using resource denial and respectable beats to win the game. In a deck with only 4 Aether Vial and 4 Path to Exile as non-creature spells, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is a great hatebear, and Leonin Arbiter lets the deck abuse Ghost Quarter while also disrupting opposing fetch lands and various tutors. With an active Aether Vial on three, Flickerwisp can do a lot of tricks which I will tough on later. Wasteland Stranger synergizes with Tidehollow Sculler, Flickerwisp and Path to Exile and can do nasty things to you if you are creature-based. The double team of Tidehollow Sculler and Thought-Knot Seer combined with Thalia makes sure that piloting a spell-based combo deck against Eldrazi Taxes can be bad news. In the later turns, Eldrazi Taxes wants to abuse Eldrazi Displacer for either recycling all of their enter the battlefield triggers or clearing opposing blockers.

When playing against this deck and your opponent plays his Tidehollow Sculler and takes your best card, it is very important that you don’t think to your self “no worries, I will just get my card back in a few turns when I draw a removal spell” because Wasteland Strangler can return the exiled card to your graveyard for good.

Another key to getting an edge in the matchup is understanding Flickerwisp. You should pay attention to your opponents body language to try and get information. Furthermore, if you plan on pointing a removal spell on your one of your opponent’s creatures with the fear of Flickerwisp lurking, play it on his upkeep to minimize his chances of having it (compared to the attack step), so the Flickerwisp and the targeted creature at least can not attack you that turn. In some scenarios you want your opponent to commit a big attack, and thus you should wait to set up the trap. Consider all of these options when facing Vial on three.

Maybe the most important thing I can tell you is to use your fetch lands early and often. Get them out of the way, so Leonin Arbiter does not disrupt you more than necessary. This can also mean that shocking your self without having a play is often correct, so you have two open mana in case Leonin Arbiter + Ghost Quarter happen.

The deck is super resilient, and there aren’t really any good sideboard cards in particular except various mass removal spells.

Good Sideboard Cards


Ad Nauseam

Ad Nauseam

This is a non-interactive combo deck that tried to win the game with either Angel’s Grace or Phyrexian Unlife combined with Ad Nauseam to draw their whole deck and finish off the opponent with Lightning Storm or Laboratory Maniac. It utilizes Lotus Bloom and Pentad Prism as acceleration and a smattering of cantrips to find its’ combo pieces. Throw in a free counterspell in Pact of Negation, and you have a deck that forces the opponent to have very specific cards at a certain time or just lose the game. Let’s see how we can exploit some of the deck’s weaknesses.

Ad Nauseam once was a very bad choice when Infect was a top dog in Modern because of Angel’s Grace and Phyrexian Unlife‘s inability to combat poison-based damage. Now, their enemy number one is Grixis Death’s Shadow because of their fast clock and big pile of disruption. The nature of the deck dictates that timely discard spells and cheap counter magic are great ways to beat it. However, you also need to establish a relevant clock unless you want the Ad Nauseam player to claw back into the game. This also means that Black/Green Midrange is a great strategy for beating Ad Nauseam thanks to discard spells and Tarmogoyf.

Consistency issues are also a real concern, so expect to win a game here and there where they just don’t find their copy of Ad Nauseam. This problem should improve with Opt available to them as cantrips 9-12.

Most versions will play Leyline of Sanctity in the sideboard, so make sure that all your eggs in the basket are not discard spells, or you could find your self in a lot of trouble before the game even begins.

Speaking of Leyline of Sanctity, because of Laboratory Maniac, that card does little to nothing against Ad Nauseam. Neither does getting infinite life or dropping a Pithing Needle or Phyrexian Revoker naming “Lightning Storm“. Note that the Laboratory Maniac kill is a bit more mana intensive, since they need to filter red mana from Simian Spirit Guide into colored mana for their Pentad Prisms, and then play Laboratory Maniac and Serum Visions to win the game. In this scenario, cards like Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile on the Maniac do nothing because they have drawn their whole deck and will have Pact of Negation available.

Good Sideboard Cards

Dispel

Rule of Law


Green/X Tron

Karn Liberated

The old version of Tron has fallen a bit out of favour lately, but it’s still a relevant deck to prepare for when entering a huge Modern event like Danish Modern Masters. Modern is a beautiful format with a lot of appeal to players who don’t necessarily play Magic every week, because they can pull out their trusty pet deck from the closet and still be competitive. Tron is a perfect example of this and should not be underestimated.

Tron is a simple deck that aims to have one of each Urza land in play to get a mana advantage over its’ opponent and keep playing big threats until the game is over. The industry standard these days are a playset of Karn Liberated and a split of Wurmcoil Engine, World Breaker; Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. The split of threats offers flexibility and covers the most angles for the deck. Karn is your best play from turn three Tron, Wurmcoil Engine provides lifegain and laughs in the face of non-Path to Exile removal, while Ugin will sweep the board and Ulamog will end the game a majority of the time. Instead of focusing on dealing with the threats of the deck, I suggest we attack the manabase.

Some decks have Ghost Quarter or Spreading Seas in their deck already and that adds valuable percentages to your game ones vs. Tron. Note that a good Tron player can play around Tectonic Edge by only sitting on the three Urza lands, and that a Ghost Quarter on the battlefield can “counter” your Crumble to Dust. There is nothing you can do about these things – this is just a friendly reminder of situations that will come up.

Aside from attacking the lands themselves, Tron can be beaten if your deck is resilient to their threats. Take Splinter Twin back in the day as an example. Splinter Twin didn’t care too much about neither Karn Liberated nor Wurmcoil Engine and thus was heavily favoured against Tron. Decks with Path to Exile and a lot of creatures, like Humans, can somewhat ignore the same two, but will lose the game to Ugin and Oblivion Stone when the opponent hits eight mana. The best strategy against Tron is presenting a fast kill, ideally disrupting them in the process. Grixis Death’s Shadow is very good at establishing a clock with Thoughtseize or Stubborn Denial backup, and that should do the trick most of the time. Affinity and Burn also have great Tron matchups because of their speed and tools like creature lands and anti-lifegain cards.

Keep in mind that almost 1/3 of their deck are artifacts with activated abilities, so Stony Silence is a great addition to your anti-Tron arsenal.

Good Sideboard Cards

Stony SilenceFulminator MageCrumble to Dust


That does it for my Beating Modern series unless I come up with three more relevant decks one of the following days. I will make sure that next week’s article will also be relevant for Modern!

Beating Modern #3

Editorial Note: Make sure to check out Beating Modern #1 and Beating Modern #2. They are great. Trust me.

Welcome back to yet another batch of basic guides to beating the usual suspects of Modern. I’m really enjoying writing these overall matchup blueprints, but I enjoy getting your input even more. Maybe you have played the deck for three years and my testing is useless compared to your expertise. Great, then contribute in the comments here, on facebook, reddit or where ever you are reading this. Let us get better together!


BG/x Midrange

Black and Green-based Midrange decks with one mana discard spells, Tarmogoyf and Liliana of the Veil fall under this category. Even though their threatbase and removal suite will differ and depend on their splash color (if any), playing against these different versions of the archetype feels very similar. Ideally, their objective is to grind both players down on resources so their superior card quality can take over the game. They use cheap discard and cheap removal spells to make sure the game doesn’t get out of hand quickly, so turns 1-2 it is very difficult to get an edge there.

Collected Company is a very good example of what BG/x Midrange is weak to. Cards they can’t use Inquisition of Kozilek, Abrupt Decay or other 1-for-1 removal spells to deal with. Four-mana planeswalkers, Reality Smasher and Gurmag Angler are other good examples, while – if you are playing Affinity – your best threat against them is Etched Champion.

They lean hard on Liliana of the Veil to get pairity in cards and keep the board clean, so cards that match up well against her are at a premium. Lingering Souls, Kitchen Finks, Voice of Resurgence and Matter Reshaper come to mind when thinking about main deck cards, and Obstinate Baloth can blow the BG/x player out after sideboard.

This archetype has traditionally been weak to “big mana” decks like Tron and Scapeshift strategies, and that is still true today. Ramp your lands onto the battlefield and trust that your deck with much higher top end will draw better than your BG/x opponent. Any respectable BG/x sideboard will contain Fulminator Mage, sometimes combined with Surgical Extraction or some main deck Ghost Quarters, so they will also come prepared.

Good Sideboard Cards


Abzan Company

Abzan Company is a creature combo deck that tries to assemble either Vizier of Remedies + Devoted Druid + Duskwatch Recruiter and finish the game with Walking Ballista or Rhonas the Indomitable or the old infinite life combo of Viscera Seer, Kitchen Finks and Vizier of Remedies. The only non-creature spells in the deck are Collected Company and Chord of Calling, and combatting those is how you get the upper hand in the matchup.

The deck also plays a couple of Gavony Township, and these serve as a great plan B when they can’t assemble their combo. Keep in mind that if you are playing a fair deck, a long game against Abzan Company will most likely result in Gavony Township taking over the game.

When they lead on Noble Hierarch or Birds of Paradise, you should always kill it with Fatal Push and Lightning Bolt, and the same goes for Devoted Druid on turn two, but later on managing your removal spells can be tricky. Having one ready at instant speed means you can break up their infinite combo and leave them with a 2/1 vanilla creature and Duskwatch Recruiter which ability is somewhat expensive to use. Also note that the Devoted Druid will be summoning sick, so you always have time to remove it from the board before they combo.

Grafdigger’s Cage is fantastic because it stops persist from Kitchen Finks plus all of their eight green search spells. Anger of the Gods is another great card that will deal with most board states and the Kitchen Finks completely.

Good Sideboard Cards


Blue/White Control

(written by U/W Control pilot Anders Gotfredsen)

U/W Control has pretty much always been a major deck in Magic all the way back to Brian Weissman’s ‘The Deck’ from 1996. Back then it was all about staying alive and eventually kill your opponent with whatever slow – but resilient – win condition was available. With Modern having so many different strategies, staying alive indefinitely against everything is an impossible task, but the win conditions have also gotten more powerful, and counterspells and board sweepers are still great against most decks.

The main plan revolves around planeswalkers, mainly Gideon of the Trials, Jace, Architect of Thought and Gideon Jura which they keep alive with Supreme Verdict, Cryptic Command and cheap interaction like Path to Exile, Mana Leak and Snapcaster Mage. The deck is very good at dealing with conventional creature strategies because if you play one creature at a time, Path to Exile or either Gideon buy them a turn, but if you play more than one, Supreme Verdict can get you.

The way to beat U/W is by not just playing creatures and attack with them. This means you want creatures that provide value even if they are killed right away (these often come as a Collected Company which is also great against U/W) or non-creature threats like planeswalkers or Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. U/W Control can also be quite weak to Tron decks, because even though they have Spreading Seas and Tectonic Edge, they don’t close out the game fast enough to stop the big Eldrazi from being cast. Lantern Control also has a great U/W matchup because it sidesteps the whole creature damage plan and have inevitability for the long game they will surely reach.

Generally, U/W isn’t a deck that has it’s own game plan that you should aim to disrupt; they want to stop you from enacting your game plan and so you beat them by having a plan that they’re not prepared for.

Good Sideboard Cards:

If you want more Modern action, tune in to my twitch channel and follow me on twitter!

Beating Modern #2

With just a few weeks until the Danish Modern Masters event that I talked about last time, three new decks must be planned for in order for us to succeed! And by “us” I mean you guys, because unfortunately I’m not allowed to play the event, as it is also a Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier.

#1stWorldProblems


TitanShift

Primeval Titan

This Red/Green ramp deck is put into the world to beat up on Midrange and Control decks in particular. Your ability to either jam threat after threat or put your self in a position where a lot of your top decks are lethal makes it a nightmare to be the Thoughtseize-yielding opponent unless you draw multiples. Most of the time it relies on Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle to get the job done, but a lot of the newer versions will have a respectable midrange plan as backup, should anything happen to your Valakut.

Since TitanShift needs 6+ lands and a “big” spell to win the game, we need to exploit this. This can be done quite a few ways with the most realistic ones being Spell Snare or Inquisition of Kozilek for his early ramp. Even using a Mana Leak or Logic Knot on a ramp spell can buy you a lot of time, so don’t hang on to it to counter a Primeval Titan or Scapeshift if he puts a Farseek on the stack early and you have the mana available. This also means that they mulligan worse than other decks and is punished much harder by missing land drops.

Of course land destruction like Fulminator Mage and Tectonic Edge are effective against this deck, but that’s like lifegain vs. Burn, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time explaining that. What I can say is that destroying a Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and then exiling the remaining three with Surgical Extraction is something I foresee people turning to again. Fulminator Mage is great against other matchups like Control and Tron, and Surgical Extraction will always help you out for various graveyard-oriented matchups over the course of any given Modern tournament.

Sideboard Options

Disdainful StrokeRuned HaloAven Mindcensor


Eldrazi Tron

Eldrazi Temple

For a lot of months I was convinced that Eldrazi Tron was a bad version of regular Tron and a bad version of Bant Eldrazi, but things have changed. I now understand that the mash-up of these two archetypes makes the deck both resilient and unpredictable for opponents. Cards like Fulminator Mage and Crumble to Dust are slamdunk allstars against regular Tron, but against this deck you can easily find your self behind on board when you cast these land destruction spells. Don’t pay 3-4 mana for killing a land when you can cast Spreading Seas or activate Ghost Quarter instead. Bringing in Fulminator Mage can of course be correct depending on your 75, but I felt like this comparison would make my point clear.

Eldrazi Tron is looking to turn off a high percentage of your deck with Chalice of the Void and then spend the rest of the game casting monsters with relevant abilities. Thought-Knot Seer will take your best card, Reality Smasher will finish you off quickly and Walking Ballista will either eat your board of small creatures or deal the final points of damage to the dome.

A lot of games playing against Eldrazi Tron are decided by your “ability” to draw the right answer at the right time. You want Spell Snare or Abrupt Decay when Chalice of the Void goes on the stack, you want Fatal Push and a fetch land when they have a Thought-Knot Seer and you want Liliana of the Veil when their only threat is Reality Smasher. Easier said than done, but it’s the name of the game and why Eldrazi Tron is a good strategy in Modern.

Ironically, a strategy like TitanShift is very good against Eldrazi Tron because you don’t care about your converted mana cost 1 spells, their clock is not super fast and they can do little to nothing about your big green spells.

Sideboard Options

Ceremonious RejectionStony Silence


Gifts Storm

Grapeshot

Storm got a much needed boost when Baral, Chief of Compliance was printed. Aside from making Commander players’ lives miserable, Baral is the redundancy the Storm deck needed next to Goblin Electromancer to be top tier again. These 7-8 creatures play a huge roll in the outcome of your matchup against Storm, so kill them at all costs – even removing one with a Path to Exile on turn two is the correct play. The land they search up is of course not optimal, but neither is them untapping with the creature in play. There are some scenarios where you want your opponent to invest a Ritual before you kill their creature, but be very careful with experimenting with this, as it could easily cost you the game.

The easiest path to victory for Storm is resolving a Gifts Ungiven, playing some Rituals and then Past in Flames to do it all over and get the lethal Grapeshot after replaying all the Rituals and Gifts Ungiven, and there for attacking the graveyard is very effective. Rest in Peace and Grafdigger’s Cage come to mind. However, Storm players will sideboard with this in mind, and they have very good tools for it. Empty the Warrens offers you a victory condition that doesn’t care about the grayeyard, while Blood Moon – sometimes powered out turn two with the help of a Ritual – will make tricolered decks sad. The difficult part about beating Storm is that they ask so much of you in sideboarded games. If you want to beat it playing a non-combo deck, you must get lucky or fulfill these criteria:

Kill the bear.
Attack the graveyard.
Don’t lose to Empty the Warrens.
Prepare for Blood Moon by fetching basics if you can afford to.

Sideboard Options

Engineered ExplosivesDispelRule of Law

As I mentioned last time, I enjoy your input quite a bit, so please contribute to the knowledge pool in the comments!

Beating Modern #1

Hello and welcome back, this time for the first piece of an article series about Modern! Three at a time, I will be running through the most popular Modern decks out there and tell you how to beat them in your next Modern tournament. Feel free to add more tips and tricks in the comments! Also, you can skip the prologue and go straight to the matchup guides if you live outside of Germany and the Nordic countries.

Prologue

This article series is brought to you by Snapcardster and a Danish union called “Eternal Magic Kbh“. The union started out many years ago with the intentions to play a lot of Legacy and make great tournaments for the mature audience who were not very interested in Standard. Once or twice a year, around 100 players gathered in Copenhagen to play in “Danish Legacy Masters“, and the events were always a huge success. A few years ago, Modern was added as a supported format as a reaction to the high demand and broad audience of the format. Because of the support from the state, these tournaments have way better prizes than normal tournaments at your local game store.

Because I love watching the Danish tournament scene grow, and I am privileged to be a part of Snapcardster, I had to use this amazing platform to recommend this tournament to anyone within a reasonable reach of Copenhagen. I know many players from Germany, Sweden and Norway have previously visited this tournament and always had a great time – sometimes even brought back the crown and made some friendly rivalries along the way.

You can find the event information about “Danish Modern Masters”, which is also a PPTQ, here.


Grixis Death’s Shadow

This deck is a tempo deck most of the time, but don’t underestimate its’ ability to grind with the best of them using Kolaghan’s Command and Snapcaster Mage – especially together. Its’ low land count make it possible to gain virtual card advantage over a long game of Magic where the opponent will naturally draw more lands, assuming they play more than 18-19. Also expect to face both versions of Liliana after the new planeswalker rule is in effect.

You want targeted removal spells and lots of it to beat it, preferably paired with Snapcaster Mage. Fatal Push, Engineered Explosives and Abrupt Decay do nothing against the delve creatures, and Death’s Shadow can live through Dismember some percentage of the time, while Path to Exile and Terminate do the job against all of their threats.

Death’s Shadow is weak to heavy boardstate decks like Abzan Company, Affinity and Humans because of their ability to race and deal a lot of damage out of nowhere. Similarly, if you are playing Burn, don’t Lava Spike them for three every turn. Instead you should aim to do large chunks of damage in a few turns to limit the number of big attacks from Death’s Shadow. Some games Death’s Shadow will take advantage of the small damage you are dealing them and stop the last lethal burn spell with a timely Stubborn Denial or two. Don’t play into their lifeloss plan at their pace.


Sideboard Options


Affinity

Affinity is an aggressive deck looking to win the game via the combat step. Most of their cards are not very impressive on their own, but synergize very well. You will be taking advantage of that in your quest to beat them.

The deck is composed of bad cards and payoff cards, with the payoff cards being: Cranial Plating, Arcbound Ravager, Steel Overseer, Master of Etherium and to some extent Etched Champion and Signal Pest. If you manage to deal with these, you will win the game most of the time. Don’t Spell Snare a Vault Skirge, don’t Fatal Push a Memnite, and don’t Thoughtseize a Galvanic Blast.

Arcbound Ravager is a very complicated card to play against. Just like the Affinity player, you have to do exact math and be aware of each and every modular option at their disposal. I like killing the Ravager early to make them make a decision about additional +1/+1 counters, and some people like having the removal spell at the ready when your opponent goes all in. Find your style and stick to it.

The eight creature lands of the deck represent a very effective angle of attack, so always pay close attention to which Nexus they are sitting on. You can die from poison out of nowhere from either Ravager’s modular or the double black costed activated ability on Cranial Plating, and the Blinkmoth Nexus can pump even Inkmoth.

Keep an eye out for Blood Moon out of their sideboard if you happen to play a deck that is weak to it.


Sideboard Options


Burn

A very linear deck with one simple goal: reduce your opponent’s life total to 0 as fast as possible using hasty creatures and direct burn spells. While dedicated lifegain, Kitchen Finks and Lightning Helix for instance, is great for obvious reasons, let us talk about other ways to get an edge in the matchup.

First of all, your mana base is super important. Some decks can afford to run a lot of basics and fastlands (Spirebluff Canal and its’ friends), and this is a great start to beating Burn – actually forcing them to do the full twenty damage to you. You need to watch out though, because sometimes fetching a basic instead of shockland will cost you tempo and there for indirectly life in the long run. That brings me to the next point.

You need to establish a clock against Burn and not give them too many draw steps to find enough gas to finish you off. Delve creatures, Tarmogoyf, Master of Etherium, Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher are all great at pressuring their life total at a fast pace.

Because Burn needs a critical mass of relevant cards, one-for-one answers are good against it. Spell Snare‘ing an Eidolon of the Great Revel, Fatal Push‘ing a Goblin Guide or Inquisition of Kozilek‘ing away a Boros Charm are all great plays that improve your odds of beating it. The more you trade spells one for one with the deck, the more firmly you put your self in the driver seat.

Sideboard Options

Please share all the inside information you have about the above decks. Sharing knowledge is power! Thank you all for reading, and I’ll see you next time where I cover three more decks you can be sure to face in your next Modern event!

If you want more Modern action, tune in to my twitch channel and follow me on twitter!

Counterspell in Modern

Let’s start off with a quote from a previous article of mine to underline that I am a man of my word.

It is definitely no secret that I enjoy playing Control decks, but it is also no secret that I have never actually pulled the trigger in a premier event before. After a long period of TitanShift as my weapon of choice, I decided it was time to try out interacting with my opponent again. I entered a 295 players Modern PTQ on Magic Online and fought my way to a 6-1 record having two win and in matches for a top 8 spot. Unfortunately the wheels fell off in the end, but I still have a good feeling about this deck.

The Butterfly Effect
The starting point was realizing I wanted to play the full four Logic Knot and that I needed a playset of Thought Scour to make that happen. Having played a bunch of Esper Shadow and my love for the card Lingering Souls in mind, adding those in were a no-brainer. Let us have a look at the deck card for card.

These cheap blue cantrips are necessary for a strategy like this. Serum Visions lets you keep more opening hands, keeps the engine running and finds more gas in the lategame.

Thought Scour enables Logic Knot and combos with Lingering Souls and Snapcaster Mage. Playing eight cantrips also enables you to play one or two fewer lands than you otherwise would have.

Not much to say here. Snapcaster Mage is incredible with one mana spells, and in the late game you have plenty of expensive spells to seal the deal with.

This card will do wonders vs. a bunch of different decks. Affinity has trouble dealing with a swarm of opposing fliers, Liliana of the Veil looks embarrasing and having four chump blockers against Death’s Shadow will buy you the time you need to find an answer. This little flashback card is a resilient threat against Midrange and Control decks, but it’s week to Combo decks.

This card is usually somewhere between blank and insanely clutch, so it’s not my favorite in the list. However, having a flexible answer to gamebreaking two-drops like Goblin Electromancer, Cranial Plating and Snapcaster Mage in your arsenal is very important. Also just countering a ramp spell out of TitanShift or any creature out of Abzan Company has value.

It is so satisfying to see actual catch all counterspells on this list. In a format as diverse as Modern, it can’t be overstated. Logic Knot should be Counterspell 90% of the time, and Cryptic Command will put you over the top if you survive into the lategame. Getting to apply flying combat damage with Lingering Souls while tapping down your opponent’s creatures a few turns is a very normal way to end a game with this deck.

I decided I wanted six one-mana removal spells and I chose a split between Fatal Push and Path to Exile. Fatal Push is best on the first few turns, while the drawback of Path to Exile decreases as the game goes on and also gives you valuable answers to threats like Reality Smasher, Voice of Resurgence, Kitchen Finks, delve creatures and Wurmcoil Engine.

Oh boy, I am not sure I can contain my self talking about this card. What if you could play one card that improved Burn, Abzan Company, Control and Combo matchups? The versatility of Collective Brutality is off the charts, and I am super happy that I have four of them in my 75.

I went with the white creature land because of some double white costed cards in my sideboard. For the record, I think Creeping Tar Pit is a better card, mostly because of its activation cost and the presence of Fatal Push in the first game of a match, but color requirements beats slightly better stats.

Sideboard
I really like white as a sideboard colour partly thanks to this card. It does work against Affinity, Ad Nauseam and Tron strategies. Cross over sideboard cards are key in Modern.

I talk about the versatility of Runed Halo in my “Hidden Gems in Modern” here.

Cheap counter magic will help you win the inevitable counter war in blue matchups, answer burn spells effectively in combination with Snapcaster Mage, say “no” to your opponents’ Collected Company and do work vs. the spell based Combo decks, Storm and Ad Nauseam.

This deck is very slow, and closing out a game vs. Combo can be a serious concern. Adding a disruptive clock for these matchups is tailor made. Vendilion Clique is playable against any deck, so it’s an easy swap if you have dead cards in unorthodox matchups.

 More versatile disruption for Control and Combo matchups when your removal spells are less than ideal. With a configuration of 4 Logic Knot, 4 Cryptic Command, 2 Spell Snare, 2 Dispel, 4 Collective Brutality, 3 Esper Charm, 2 Thoughtseize plus Snapcaster Mages to replay any of these, all Combo matchups are very good after sideboard.

The sweeper effect of this card is great vs. every aggro deck out there, and the uncounterable clause will improve Merfolk and Death’s Shadow drastically. Forcing your opponent to play the guessing game is super strong. Do you rely on spot removal and Snapcaster Mage only, or do we run Supreme Verdict? Supreme Verdict is a blowout waiting to happen.

Esper Control by Andreas Petersen

Creatures (4)
Snapcaster Mage

Spells (33)
Serum Visions
Thought Scour
Esper Charm
Cryptic Command
Logic Knot
Spell Snare
Collective Brutality
Lingering Souls
Fatal Push
Path to Exile
Lands (23)
Polluted Delta
Flooded Strand
Marsh Flats
Hallowed Fountain
Godless Shrine
Watery Grave
Island
Swamp
Plains
Celestial Colonnade
Drowned Catacombs
Glacial Fortress

Sideboard (15)
Stony Silence
Vendilion Clique
Dispel
Collective Brutality
Runed Halo
Thoughtseize
Supreme Verdict

Quick Notes on Popular Matchups

Grixis Shadow
In a matchup like this, they will try and grind you out and plan for a longer game. The bad news for them is that we’re very well equipped for such a battle, and thus this is a favorable matchup for Esper Control. Remember to keep a land in hand for a lategame Kolaghan’s Command.

TitanShift
The trick here is to actually close out the game once you have disrupted your opponent. Your interaction stack quite well together, and a lot of games will snowball out of control once you start answering their ramp spells with either counterspells or discard spells, with Esper Charm putting them in an awkward spot. You have eight hard counters and Snapcaster Mage to beat their top decks once they are hellbent. You are slightly below 50% for game one, but after sideboard you are very favoured.

Storm
The games are super complicated, and experience and courage will take you a long way. All of your cards are live, so if you play your disruption correctly, you should be ahead as long as you manage to put them on a clock. Turn two Ambush Viper is not embarrasing. Watch out for Blood Moon and Empty the Warrens in the sideboarded games.

Burn
Minimize the creature damage they start out the game with, establish a clock and close out the game with hard counters. Collective Brutality is your get-out-of-jail card and will win you the game if cast in multiples. I managed to resolve four in the PTQ, and it wasn’t pretty.

Affinity
Lingering Souls and Cryptic Command is your winning ingredients once you handle their initial assault. You get to cut some clunky cards and add game winning haymakers for games two and three.

BG/x Midrange
Esper Charm, Cryptic Command and Lingering Souls are bad news for this Liliana of the Veil-fueled archetype. The match will be a grind, and you will come out on top most of the time. On the one hand, you can easily afford to take some hits from a Tarmogoyf, but Dark Confidant needs to hit the bin on the spot.

U/W Control
You have the upper hand because Lingering Souls and Logic Knot line up well against their planeswalkers, and Esper Charm is a lot easier to cast and resolve than Sphinx’s Revelation. The black discard spells give you another dimension of disruption that they don’t have, and you should be able to ignore their mana disruption most games.

Dredge
This matchup is unwinnable, and on purpose I decided to not include any hate cards in the sideboard. Playing Control in Modern, you have to be able to make these choices and accept a loss to a certain deck.

Abzan/Bant Company
You want to try and hinder their mana development early on and counter Collected Company at any cost. Note that Collective Brutality can both kill a creature and snag a copy of Collected Company or Chord of Calling from their hand on turn two before they get the chance to play either. Dispel and Supreme Verdict out of the sideboard solidify this as a positive matchup.

Black/White Eldrazi Taxes
Unless you get caught by Leonin Arbiter and Ghost Quarter, you have a very good time playing against this deck. Their clock is not super scary, so you have time to grind them down with Esper Charm, Cryptic Command and Snapcaster Mage. In the tournament I beat my opponent that went turn two Thought-Knot Seer, turn three Thought-Knot Seer without breaking a sweat.

Eldrazi Tron
The difficult thing about a matchup like this is that they have very diverse threats, which is never a good thing for control decks. Sometimes your disruption will line up perfectly with their threats, and sometimes you look silly with your Fatal Push against their double Reality Smasher. Stony Silence is also hit or miss, so expect a lot of variance in your games.

Make sure to follow Andreas Petersen on his twitch channel and on twitter!

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!

Make sure to follow Andreas Petersen on his twitch channel and on twitter!

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 🙂

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