Vintage is Coming! Season 2.

Last time, I shared my thoughts about the restrictions of Monastery Mentor and Thorn of Amethyst and listed a few decks that I expect to break out as a result. Today I’ll address the unrestriction of Yawgmoth’s Bargain and list a few more decks you can expect to play, or consider playing your self, in the new environment!

Having played Vintage for 14 years, I have definitely resolved and faced my share of Yawgmoth’s Bargain. At a healthy life total, you can expect to win the game on the spot, especially since we now have Mox Opal to start your black mana chain should you already have made your land drop in addition to Mox Jet, Black Lotus and Lotus Petal, so this card obviously has potential. It does come with a few downsides.

You need Dark Ritual to power out Yawgmoth’s Bargain, and Dark Ritual gets hit by Mental Misstep – a card that will increase its impact on the format after MUD and Eldrazi got weakened and killed respectively by the restriction of Thorn of Amethyst. Furthermore, it could be very difficult to support Dark Ritual and Mox Opal in the same deck.

The second problem is the lifetotal aspect of it. In different formats, a strength of Storm decks has always been its ability to win the game the turn before you lose the game in the hands of opposing creatures. In Legacy and Modern you win with Past in Flames in these situations. I imagine this Storm deck will also feature tutors and Yawgmoth’s Will for a similar effect, but my gut feeling tells me that a diverse threat base of Mind’s Desire, Timetwister, Wheel of Fortune, Necropotence, singleton Yawgmoth’s Bargain and Dark Petition in addition to the restricted tutors is a better way to go than maxing out on Bargains.

The third issue is the straight up comparison to Paradoxical Outcome. It costs less mana, it doesn’t care about your life total, and it makes it easier for your deck to support Force of Will. It should be fairly obvious that Paradoxical Outcome-based decks are the new sheriff in town, and this could cause an uptick in Null Rod and Stony Silence. Should this happen, then relying on Dark Ritual and Cabal Ritual could be the way to go in Storm decks, and multiple Yawgmoth’s Bargains could become interesting. For now, I’m sticking to Paradoxical Outcome as my engine. If I was a betting man, this card would be at the top of my list of cards that should be on Wizards’ radar.


More New/Old Decks

Oath of Druids is in a strange spot. The biggest perk of playing this strategy before was preying on MUD decks, which will go down in the metagame percentages without a doubt after Thorn of Amethyst was restricted. It was also quite ambitious to justify playing Oath as long as quadruple Monastery Mentor was allowed, but that has changed now. The power of getting to summon a turn two Griselbrand or Emrakul, the Aeon’s Torn can’t be ignored, so people will look into different controlling builds of Oath in the weeks to come. The deck can splash black for tutors and Abrupt Decay or red for Pyroblast and Ancient Grudge if the metagame calls for it – or both because of Forbidden Orchard. While the land will sometimes give your opponent a relevant clock when you don’t draw an Oath, Forbidden Orchard is also a rainbow land that enables playing four colors.
For those of you who would be interesting in combining the speed of Oath of Druids with the power of Paradoxical Outcome, check out this deck that piloted to a top 4 finish a few weeks ago in the Vintage Challenge.

This card has definately seen play these past few months, but only as a win condition in Paradoxical Outcome-fueled decks. I think we will see classic Grixis Control decks pop up with this little combo as a finisher next to TinkerBlightsteel Colossus. Getting to run all the good cards in Magic and splash Pyroblast and Dack Fayden should be every Magic player’s dream. Time Vault + Voltaic Key is a powerful win condition because it can trump any boardstate from your opponent. You can go different routes within the Grixis shard with Goblin Welder/Thirst for Knowledge package, a Thoughtcast/Tezzeret well-oiled machine or the more streamlined way of life with “just good, restricted cards“. Being able to either control a long game or steal a quick one is a very good attribute in Vintage, and I believe we will see the power of Time Vault soon enough. If Oath and Time Vault both become major players in the metagame, Abrupt Decay looks deliciously well positioned.

Another archetype that has been horribly underpowered compared to Mentor is Blue/Red Delver. You have all the restricted blue cards at your disposal, you have the ability to pressure your opponent starting from turn one, and your support color is the best sideboard color in the format. Because of your low curve, you can use Wasteland and Strip Mine in combination with Null Rod to level the playing field vs. the heavy hitters of the format that need more mana to function.

A threat base of Delver of Secrets, Harsh Mentor or Young Pyromancer depending on your style and Snapcaster Mages combined with Lightning Bolt can put the game out of reach quickly with little to no time for the opponent to recover. You also have a solid amount of stack control with 4 Force of Will, 4 Mental Misstep and a few more cheap counterspells like Spell Pierce, Flusterstorm or Pyroblast, so you’re well setup vs. the unfair strategies in the format.

Once the format gets under way and I have access to more data from the Magic Online Leagues, I will go in depth with different decks and let you know about it. Until then, follow me on Twitter or on my Twitch channel and watch me take on the format later this week!

Vintage is Coming!

This Monday the Vintage format was hit by two more restrictions following the dominance of Monastery Mentor-powered blue decks and Mishra’s Workshop-based aggressive prison decks for quite some time. While it simply can’t be argued that these two archetypes needed to be cooled down, I want to talk about my solution for it and what I think about Vintage moving forward with the introductions of Leagues on Magic Online and these restrictions in mind. Let’s go!

First things first. If you google search for “ecobaronen mtgo”, you will see that I have a lot of good finishes with various versions of Mentor decks in Vintage. I’m not mentioning this to show off, but simply to underline that I’m not biased in this statement:

Monastery Mentor was the best victory condition for blue decks – NOT close – and it made all other blue decks simply a worse choice and therefor killed diversity little by little. Wizards made the mistake of chopping off its arms (Gitaxian Probe and Gush) once, but now finally went for the head. For these reasons it had to go.

Later in the article I will touch on which decks and cards are suddently playable again as a reaction to this restriction.

Wizards’ own statistics showed that four Thorn of Amethyst were played in 40% of all top 8 decks in the Vintage Challenges over the last year, and of course action should be taken towards this deck.

The only problem I have with this is, while you managed to make MUD worse, you also managed to kill White Eldrazi for no reason at all.

Here’s my White Eldrazi deck I played this spring in a proxy tournament and went 7-2 on the day (4-2 in the main event finishing 9th, then 3-0’ing a side event):

White Eldrazi by Andreas Petersen

Creatures (25)
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Containment Priest
Phyrexian Revoker
Eldrazi Displacer
Thought-Knot Seer
Reality Smasher
Lodestone Golem

Spells (12)
Thorn of Amethyst
Chalice of the Void
Black Lotus
Mana Crypt
Mox Emerald
Mox Pearl
Mox Ruby
Mox Jet
Mox Sapphire
Lands (23)
Wasteland
Strip Mine
Cavern of Souls
Eldrazi Temple
Ancient Tomb
Plains
Karakas

In a creature-based deck like Eldrazi, Thorn of Amethyst and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben are your eight cards that disrupt your opponent and not your self. While MUD is also very creature heavy, as Wizards stated in their article, you have the difference in 4 Mishra’s Workshop and Foundry Inspector to get mana advantage. With a playset of this old land, Sphere of Resistance and Thorn of Amethyst are so close to the same power level in MUD, while they are completely different in the Eldrazi list and the difference between a top 5 deck and an unplayable one unfortunately. Because I love diversity not only in the blue decks, but also in the disrupting and taxing archetypes, I feel like restricting Thorn instead of Sphere was a mistake.

A Look Ahead

With new restrictions and Competitive Leagues coming to Magic Online, the future looks bright for Vintage. While I can’t provide thoroughly thought out deck lists before we have an established metagame, I can give my best predictions about what to expect and what you should look into in the format now.

BUG is back! I expect Black/Blue/Green decks with Deathrite Shaman and Leovold to become a serious player now. These colors give access to the restricted blue and black cards, a one mana planeswalker, Abrupt Decay for Time Vault and Oath of Druids and a very powerful hatebear in Leovold. Leovold stops Paradoxical Outcome and prevents your opponent from chaining draw spells and cantrips.

I like the fact that this deck can afford to play Null Rod because of Deathrite Shaman for acceleration and will expect it to run a singleton Crucible of Worlds or Ramunap Excavator, maybe with a small Green Sun’s Zenith package, to replay Wasteland or Strip Mine. BUG is a potent combination of card quality and disruption.

With a defined metagame, you can build your Blue/White Standstill deck and prey on a lot of decks at the same time. You want a lot of cheap answers in the form of Swords to Plowshares, Mental Misstep and one mana counterspells to make sure you can play your unrestricted Ancestral Recall on turn 2.

From there you are looking to snowball your advantage with Mana Drain and more of the same cheap interaction. If you’re lucky enough to be chaining Standstills, you’re doing it right! The deck will most likely play some Snapcaster Mages and Jace, the Mind Sculptor for flexibility and card advantage and finish the game off with Emrakul, the Promised End. Like the BUG deck, only the on-color Moxen will be included, so Stony Silence to combat Paradoxical Outcome and Time Vault is a main deck option. I will be testing Spell Queller out of the sideboard for when my opponent sideboards out their removal spells, so watch out!

It’s finally little brother’s time to shine! Like Neymar Jr. leaving to Paris to get some time in the spotlight instead of being in Messi’s shadows, Young Pyromancer is ready to take over after Mentor was sacked.

Being awarded free 1/1’s for playing Magic is still very powerful, and I expect Grixis and Jeskai versions (the latter can even play singleton Mentor) to pop up.
Black lets you play tutors and card draw like Night’s Whisper or Painful Truths, and white adds Swords to Plowshares, Monastery Mentor and better sideboard options. Young Pyromancer is a turn one play a higher percentage of the time than Mentor was, so be prepared to fight the war on the stack earlier.
With a Mox, a normal play pattern in blue mirrors will be turn two Young Pyromancer with Flusterstorm backup. I’m super excited that this style of deck is still viable in Vintage and not too good anymore.

Next time I’ll be writing about three more new (old) decks, the unrestriction of Yawgmoth’s Bargain and the state of combo in general. In the meantime follow me on Twitter and tune in to my Twitch Channel and look out for Vintage action in the future. As soon as the Leagues are in place, I will be spending a lot of time playing in them.

Thanks for reading!

The Fun Police

This week I’ve chosen to play a Legacy League with one of my favorite decks besides Storm which is Death and Taxes. This deck originated as mono-white creature deck that will often play the control role with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Rishadan Port and the likes but with the ability to switch on the beats too utilizing Stoneforge Mystic. Through the years several splashes have been attempted.


Black for Discard, Dark Confidant and Tidehollow Sculler; green for Gaddock Teeg, Qasali Pridemage and Scavenging Ooze; even blue for Meddling Mage, Vendilion Clique and the likes.

But the most persistent splash has been red with Magus of the Moon plus effective sideboard options which has proven to have legs to stand on. However, the mono-white version still seems like the most popular over all and it’s the one I have the most experience with so that is what I decided to play.

Death and Taxes by Martin Nielsen

Creatures (31)
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Serra Avenger
Recruiter of the Guard
Flickerwisp
Mirran Crusader
Sanctum Prelate
Mother of Runes
Ethersworn Canonist
Spirit of the Labyrinth
Stoneforge Mystic
Phyrexian Revoker
Swords to Plowshares

Spells (7)
Batterskull
Sword of Fire and Ice
Umezawa’s Jitte
Aether Vial
Lands (22)
Wasteland
Rishadan Port
Cavern of Souls
Horizon Canopy
Karakas
Plains

Sideboard (15)
Path to Exile
Sunlance
Containment Priest
Disenchant
Ethersworn Canonist
Holy Light
Council’s Judgment
Sanctum Prelate
Mindbreak Trap
Faerie Macabre
Grafdigger’s Cage
Rest in Peace

This deck relies upon Legacy being Legacy which is to say it relies on your opponent playing decks that try and maximize efficiency by playing a bunch of 1CMC spells and not very many lands. Thalia is a great foil to 1CMC spells effectively doubling their casting cost. Ponder is a lot less impressive at 1U. The deck also utilizes Aether Vial to tremendous effect.

An Aether Vial on 3 suddenly turns Flickerwisp from a rather arduous 3 mana 3/1 into an instant speed uncounterable Swiss army knife saving your permanents from removal, revoming lands from your opponent for their entire turn and resetting your own Batterskull but to name a few.

This deck wants to play against other “fair” decks with blue. It has ways to beat other decks too, but this is where it shines the most in my opinion. Where it can struggle is against the ultra fast combo decks of the format. The faster they are, the worse it normally is for D&T. Among the tier one decks Elves seems to be just about the worst matchup for D&T. This is not because Elves is super fast combo.

It is fast, for sure, but not compared to stuff like Goblin Charbelcher, Tin Fins or even Storm. The real problem lies in the fact that Thalia, Guardian of Thraben – normally your go-to creature against all combo – is practically useless here since the vast majority of their deck are creatures. Combine that with the fact that they can produce enormous amounts of mana through Gaea’s Cradle and Heritage Druid and you’ve got a recipe for a very difficult game 1.

How Hard? Pretty Hard!

This deck is NOT easy to play. I noticed, last year, when Recruiter of the Guard and Sanctum Prelate had just been printed that there was a lot of talk about how the deck had gotten a huge boost and how it was now well positioned in the format. A lot of people picked up the deck. Not that many did well with it. Eventually its popularity waned and after Miracles was banned out of the format a lot of people were saying that D&T was no longer that great a choice. Not long after it won GP Las Vegas.

Now all of this is somewhat anecdotal but I believe this deck rewards dedication more than the average Legacy deck. Bear with me:

When you pick up something like Storm – which a lot of people have a preconceived notion about as being “really hard to be good with” – then there is a learning curve. The first few months you will get egg on your face a few times.

Sit and count for a minute while looking at your hand, then your graveyard, then your hand. Then going for it only to realize, halfway through your Past in Flames, that you shouldn’t have flashbacked Gitaxian Probe before Infernal Tutor as it drew you a land that you can’t cast and now you’re no longer hellbent… Oops!

But after a few months those types of situations will mostly be a thing of the past and you will start to get a lot of stuff ingrained on your spine like muscle memory. You will start to have lines of play memorized so you don’t have to spend 1 minute to work out the deterministic kill in front of your eyes but rather just 5-10 seconds. Play the deck some more and you will become more and more comfortable playing around different types of hate. At this point in your career as a Storm pilot let’s say you have maximized the deck to around 80%.

From here, the last 20 % will come only with years of playing. But even if you don’t have that in your locker, you are now a firm pilot being able to perform well with the deck.

It is my contention that, if repeating the same effort with Death and Taxes, you will be more likely to hit around 50% maximization. I don’t personally feel like I’ve ever moved much beyond that. Because that would like take a few years of really dedicating myself to the deck to get near something like 70-80% let alone full potential.

Look, this isn’t rocket science. But when the same very few people continue to do well with the deck then I don’t think it’s to do with them being savants or members of Mensa. I mean they might well be, but I think the deck will reward most people if they only dedicate themselves as much as these archetype experts. The only problem is, it will take longer to reach the summit with this deck than with many other decks in Legacy.

That is my contention, like I said, but you don’t have to agree with it. If you do or if you don’t I would love to chat about it so feel free to leave a comment below.

If you like these videos be sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel.

What did You Bring to Class?

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

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

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

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

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

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

OmniSneak by Martin Nielsen

 Creatures (6)
Griselbrand
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

“The Grass is Greener” – 5:0 Legacy League

Today I’m playing a Legacy League with my favorite Legacy deck ANT (Ad Nauseam / Tendrils of Agony). My focus this time around has been to lapse back to the days of old and add green to the deck once again. ANT is, at it’s heart a Grixis deck, but even that is a bit of a stretch as the deck runs only between 1 and 3 red cards making it heavily focused on UB with a very small red splash.

5:0 Legacy League with ANT by Martin Nielsen

Spells (45)
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Lotus Petal
Chrome Mox
Dark Ritual
Cabal Ritual
Duress
Cabal Therapy
Infernal Tutor
Grim Tutor
Past in Flames
Ad Nauseam
Tendrils of Agony
Empty the Warrens
Brainstorm
Ponder
Gitaxian Probe
Preordain
Lands (15)
Scalding Tarn
Polluted Delta
Island
Swamp
Tropical Island
Badlands
Volcanic Island
Underground Sea

Sideboard (15)
Abrupt Decay
Massacre.
Tormod’s Crypt
Surgical Extraction
Xantid Swarm
Hurkyl’s Recall
Chain of Vapor
Tendrils of Agony

Back when Sensei’s Divining Top was still unbanned we were basically forced to splash green as a fourth color in order to have a clean answer to Counterbalance in Abrupt Decay. With Sensei’s Top – and by effect Counterbalance – out of the format many storm pilots rejoiced at finally being free from the “shackles” of having to splash green and have foregone the fourth color entirely. I tried this too, replacing my main deck Tropical Island with a second Island and freeing up sideboard slots being able to manage my removal needs through blue bounce spells like Chain of Vapor and Hurkyl’s Recall which we were running anyways.

This should be great, right? We become more robust versus Wastelands and we get more sideboard space. Well sure but something happened that I wasn’t counting on: Miracles somehow survived. Like in a horror movie where the monster has been burnt, drowned and blown up but somehow still comes back for one final scare. Whether or not the New Miracles deck will turn out to have staying power is a discussion for another time but for the time being it is seeing a fair amount of play. The deck doesn’t run Counterbalance but I still believe we need Abrupt Decay.

This is because they run Ethersworn Canonist. Ethersworn Canonist is a very different card in a deck like Death and Taxes, where you might be used to seeing it, than it is in any blue deck. A blue deck with Canonist is able to sit on a counter spell like Force of Will, Counterspell or Flusterstorm and if they have a resolved Canonist it is VERY difficult to resolve a Chain of Vapor, Massacre or basically any answer that isn’t uncounterable. It is especially bad in a deck like miracles because they run so much counter magic. Other blue decks that have previously run Canonist but where it is not AS scary is something like Esper/Deathblade decks. These decks often run less counter magic and instead rely more on discard so it is more feasible to resolve a removal spell against them.

So this leaves us with a few options. We can stay in Grixis and run stuff like Rending Volley or Sudden Shock. I considered this but I eventually opted for a relapse into green and Abrupt Decay. Basically my thinking went like this:

Firstly I don’t think having the second Island be a Tropical Island is a very big cost. This is something that is pretty hard to quantify but having access to ONE Island and ONE Swamp feels like 90 % in terms of being resilient vs Wasteland. Having the second Island is nice but honestly I never felt like it made me significantly better off. Having said that I didn’t stick with the 2x Island setup for a prolonged period so I could change my mind, I suppose.

Secondly I really prefer Abrupt Decay to the the red answer spells I discussed before. Those spells can only answer hatebears whereas Decay is also an answer to Chalice of the Void (and it’s lesser played Artifact brethren Thorn of Amethyst and Sphere of Resistance). We already run some number of Hurkyl’s Recall, but this is a way to consolidate removal and, in time, we might want to completely eschew the recalls if Eldrazi stays suppressed.

Lastly having green allows us to play other interesting cards like Xantid Swarm, Carpet of Flowers and others. In this league I decided to run a few Xantid Swarms, mainly to bring in versus Show and Tell and Infect and the likes but also to bring in vs New Miracles. I would usually not bring in Swarm in the old days vs Miracles because they would always keep in answers like plowshares and terminus in some numbers. I also was planning to grind vs them where Swarm is a card that doesn’t want to grind but instead wants to completely avoid any back-and-forth on the combo turn. Without access to our own Sensei’s Divining Top and with New Miracles playing 4 Predicts I don’t have confidence in the Grind plan and I also don’t think Swarm is on anyone’s radar with the whole “Storm gets to NOT run green at last” narrative.

So there you have it. I hope you enjoy these videos and I will return later this month with some more Legacy videos.

ANT

Martin Nielsen with ANT vs Shardless BUG

ANT is the most robust storm combo deck in Legacy. Sacrificing speed for resilience. It is still very fast and will often be able to find a kill by turns 2 or 3 while turn 1 kills are rare.

While the name draws focus onto the card Ad Nauseam, ANT is perhaps better described as a Past in Flames combo deck.

This list runs two Past in Flames as having the card in your hand on your combo turn is often great as it gives you flexibility on what to tutor for if you also have an Infernal Tutor.

Ad Nauseam Tendrils by Martin Nielsen

Spells (60)
x Infernal Tutor
x Ad Nauseam
x Past in Flames
x Empty the Warrens
x Tendrils of Agony
x Dark Ritual
x Cabal Ritual
x Preordain
x Ponder
x Brainstorm
x Gitaxian Probe
x Cabal Therapy
x Duress
x Lotus Petal
x Lion’s Eye Diamond
x Chrome Mox
x Badlands
x Volcanic Island
x Tropical Island
x Underground Sea
x Island
x Swamp
x Scalding Tarn
x Polluted Delta
Sideboard (15)
x Abrupt Decay
x Xantid Swarm
x Krosan Grip
x Carpet of Flowers
x Tendrils of Agony
x Massacre
x Flusterstorm
x Chain of Vapor
x Sensei’s Divining Top

 

This list also runs Empty the Warrens in the main deck. I have long been a proponent of this setup. Empty the Warrens is faster than Ad Nauseam (costing one mana fewer meaning hands with a Dark Ritual, a Lion’s Eye Diamond and an Infernal Tutor – and a Land) can go off and make at least 8 goblins (make that 10 or 12 if you are able to mix in a Gitaxian Probe or two) where we would not be able to get to Ad Nauseam mana.

In this list though I wanted to also have access to Ad Nauseam. This is questionable I will concede.

Looking at the sideboard you will notice that this list was built back in the miracles era. As such there was a massive dedication toward what was know as the Grinding Station approach – google that and you will find an article by Jonathan Alexander. Extra copies of Tendrils of Agony are excellent against many decks including greedy delver decks that run Gitaxian Probe and Surgical Extractions after board as well as almost any slow blue deck.

GP Vegas Modern with Esper Shadow

Taking Esper Death’s Shadow to GP Vegas

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

Why play Death’s Shadow?

Esper Shadows crucial cardsEsper Shadows crucial cards

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

Why Esper?

Spirits. Shadows best friends

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

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

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

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

Matchups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for stopping by this week. Wish me luck on my magical trip in the desert! In the meantime, tune in to my twitch channel and follow me on twitter. See you there 😉

Thomas Enevoldsen in Strasbourg

The healthiest constructed format in Magic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instant (4)
Swords to Plowshares

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

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

 

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

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

 

Legacy Format DiversityThe diversity is REAL this time.

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