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 #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!

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