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.

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.

Hour of Devastation? Blue 5 mana sweeper

Last week, I told you about the BR Midrange deck I was trying to combat Ramunap Red with. Today I’ll tell you why I’m not playing the deck anymore. I know you’re thinking “if last week was wrong, why should I believe what you’re saying today?” It turns out, the deck has a good matchup against Ramunap Red which was why I chose it, but it also turns out that the red menace is quite beatable. Playing a deck that is almost entirely designed to beat one deck can be fine if that deck is a huge part of the metagame, but I played against it only once or twice per ten matches.

The other 8-9 I played against everything from Zombies (good matchup) to RG Ramp (close to unbeatable). The BR deck is great against linear creature strategies but struggles pretty much everywhere else and everywhere else is currently too big a place for me to be comfortable playing it.

In essence, it comes down to the old adage of threats being better than answers in an open metagame. Make no mistake, this is a very open metagame despite Ramunap Red dominating the Pro Tour. It’s not like right after a rotation where you don’t know what decks people will bring, it’s just that the decks you can expect to face are vastly different. I still wouldn’t want to bring a deck that gets crushed by Ramunap Red, and it’s still the deck I would expect to be most popular at an event, but there is so much else going on in Standard right now. What I want is to find the next God-Pharao’s Gift deck; a deck that has a more powerful game plan than anyone else. The reason I don’t choose the actual God-Pharaos Gift deck is that people are ready now with Scavenger Grounds and Abrades and then the deck can easily fall apart. If you’re looking for the most powerful card in Standard, there is really only one answer:

 

“Now, if only we could get to 10 mana”

 

The problem, of course, is that Ramunap Red isn’t really in the business of giving you time to cast this bad boy. But if we spend all our slots on ramp and cheap cards that buy us time, maybe we can get there. This is what the RG Ramp deck does and I am currently trying out different builds. Hour of Promise is as real a card as they come and Kozilek’s Return is in a great spot right now. My main issue with the deck is consistency; If you don’t draw Hour of Promise, 10 mana is a lot, and if you don’t draw Ulamog, you’re often just buying time to die a few turns later. Here is my current list, mostly courtesy of Gabriel Nassif’s stream:

 

Another problem which, I guess, is an extension of the first one, is that you’re quite threat light and in a way linear, so people can beat you if they want to. Lost Legacy is obviously great against you but even Transgress the Mind and Doomfall can poke a big hole in our plans. Luckily no one seems to be playing Lost Legacy at the moment. I have felt pretty good playing Ulamog decks against control because control decks in standard are so reactive that you can run rings around them by diversifying your threats post board. Game 1 they are going to have a ton of dead cards and I don’t expect they will be able to answer all our big eldrazi. Not that I would expect to face dedicated control decks in this metagame but I bring it up for completeness.

 

So how do we combat our inconsistency issues while maintaining our powerful game plan. I looked to some rares and mythics, you might not even realize are still in Standard. Here is how I planned to crush (spoiler alert) my opponents:

Creatures (11)
Greenwarden of Murasa
Jaddi Offshoot
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Walking Ballista

Spells (24)
Censor
Crush of Tentacles
Gift of Paradise
Haze of Pollen
Hour of Promise
Nissa’s Renewal
Weirding Wood
Lands (25)
Botanical Sanctum
Forest
Island
Lumbering Falls
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods

 

“Now, if only we could get to 10 mana”

 

Before Magic Origins rotated out, Steve Rubin played a UG Crush deck at Worlds and it was sweet! It ramped and then looped Crush of Tentacles with Den Protector. We might not have Nissa’s Pilgrimage anymore but there are still plenty of good ramp options. Greenwarden of Murasa is a poor replacement for Den Protector but it will have to do. We also get a new toy with Walking Ballista which combos with Crush in two ways; you can play it for zero to surge Crush if you only have 5 mana, and when you have a lot of mana you can play a big Ballista and then use all but one counter from it and get it back into your hand. We also get repeated lifegain with Gift of Paradise and repeated clues with Weirding Wood. It can be annoying to have to ramp your mana back up again after each Crush though. The rest of the cards, like Haze of Pollen and Jaddi Offshoot try to buy us enough time to get a bunch of mana in play.

 

After a couple of leagues and some brew talk with second year(!) gold pro Simon Nielsen, a couple of things became clear: Permeating Mass is probably better than Jaddi Offshoot. Spring // Mind is better than Weirding Wood and I’m frankly embarrassed that I forgot that card existed. Kozilek’s Return might be too important to the ramp strategy to forgo. Hour of Promise is likely better than Nissa’s Renewal since without renewal we can trim basics for deserts. Even without any other delirium payoff, Traverse the Ulvenwald makes perfect sense in the deck. Simon made the next draft:

Creatures (15)
Champion of Wits
Permeating Mass
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Walking Ballista
World Breaker

Spells (21)
Crush of Tentacles
Gift of Paradise
Hour of Promise
Kozilek’s Return
Spring // Mind
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Warping Wail
Lands (24)
Botanical Sanctum
Evolving Wilds
Forest
Hashep Oasis
Island
Lumbering Falls
Mountain
Sanctum of Ugin
Scavenger Grounds
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
Wastes

 

 

At this point, I think we were trying to do too many things; delirium, Kozilek’s Return, Crush of Tentacles. For example, Simon didn’t think Crush was good enough and I agree that now it just looks like a ramp deck that randomly has a few copies. I think you have to focus more and I still wanted to explore blue before just conceding that RG Ramp is just a better direction. I played some more with straight UG versions but the results were still very varied. There is of course some implied inconsistency by having a deck with such a span in converted mana cost but I had more problems with drawing low impact cards in the late game, than I had with not getting off the ground. Here is how I plan to fix it without completely surrendering the early game. If this doesn’t work I’ll look elsewhere, since I’m playing the RPTQ on August 20 and I need something by then that I know works.

Creatures (11)
Champion of Wits
Greenwarden of Murasa
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Walking Ballista

Spells (27)
Censor
Crush of Tentacles
Dissenter’s Deliverance
Gift of Paradise
Hour of Promise
Part the Waterveil
Spring // Mind
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Lands (22)
Botanical Sanctum
Forest
Hashep Oasis
Island
Sanctum of Ugin
Scavenger Grounds
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods

Sideboard (15)
Permeating Mass
Tireless Tracker
Pulse of Murasa
Negate
Summary Dismissal
Dispel

I also should mention the sideboard as another reason I wanted blue instead of red. The RG Ramp lists I’ve seen have pretty much no way to win the mirror with any consistency. I’ve seen plenty that basically only contained one Void Winnower and that is in no way guaranteed to win you the matchup. Ramp is already heavily dependent on its draws to line up and the mirror just seems like a complete die roll.

With blue we get access to a bunch of countermagic that can lock down opposing ramp decks, and they are also great against control. With UR and UW Control starting to put up some numbers that should become relevant. Actually, some of the UW lists look like appealing places to go if this doesn’t pan out. But I haven’t given up on 8/8 octopuses yet, and I hope you haven’t either. If you have any suggestions for cards I might have forgotten about or just ideas or comments on the deck, let me know in the comments.

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!

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 🙂