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 at: https://www.youtube.com/c/MartinNielsen_nevilshute

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!

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 🙂

How to beat Ramunap Red (… and zombies)

This weekend, the Pro Tour finally happened and Standard is alive again. The top 8 contained 6 Ramunap red decks, and red was the talk of the weekend.

It’s a very powerful deck with some very fast draws and at the same time a lot of staying power between Hazoret, the Fervent and Ramunap Ruins. If you think you can just play a truckload of cheap/mass removal and be safe, you have another thing coming. So is this the new caw blade? First of all, we need to look deeper than just the decks in the top 8.

This has always been overvalued, because remember the Swiss includes 6 rounds of draft. We also have to keep in mind that basically all the top pros/teams brought Bomat Courier and friends to the table and it was almost 25% of the starting metagame so you should expect to see some copies doing well.

I prefer to look at the decklists published on the coverage page sorted by standard record. That reveals the following: 1 Ramunap Red went 10-0. 2 Zombies and 1 Ramunap Red went 9-1. 1 Ramunap Red and 1 BG Constrictor went 8-1-1. At 8-2 were 6 Ramunap Red, 2 BG Constrictor, 2 Zombies, 1 Four Color Vehicles and 1 Temur Energy. Going down 7-3 there were 12 Ramunap Red, 13 Zombies and 7 BG Constrictor with a few copies of assorted other decks.

Any of these could have been in the top 8 depending on their limited records. Considering that there were more than twice as many red decks as zombies and almost three times as many red decks as constrictor, you could argue that Ramunap Red actually did worse than the other two. Additionally, there was a Standard PTQ on MTGO on Saturday with a top 8 of 3 Zombies, 2 Constrictor, 2 RG Ramp and zero(!) Ramunap Red decks. What I take from all of this is that Ramunap Red is very beatable.

It will continue to show up in the coming tournaments because a lot of people will just copy a list from the pt top 8, especially the winning one, but the decks you should really Metagame against right now are zombies and BG Constrictor. Luckily, all three decks have a comparable game plan: cheap aggressive creatures backed up by resilient, hard-hitting top end threats. First of all we need cheap removal; these decks hit the board early and hard and if you take too much damage from their cheap creatures, you will be hard pressed to keep up answers to their late game.

Second, you need a way to take over the game, once you’ve dealt with their early onslaught. You need to close the game out fast or it could slip away to their top decked Hazoret, Dark Salvation or Verdurous Gearhulk. Lastly, you need to be prepared for their sideboard plans. All of them pack extra punch and Resillience in the board, mostly in the form of Planeswalkers like Ob Nixilis Reignited, Liliana, the Last Hope and extra copies of Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Don’t just board in a bunch of extra Fatal Pushes and Sweltering Suns, lest you risk losing to one of these.

My current way to deal with these 3 decks is BR Midrange. It started just after Hour of Devastation came out, when I saw this list 5-0 a league:

BR Midrange

Creatures (9)
Glorybringer
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Gonti, Lord of Luxury
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Spells (25)
Abrade
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Doomfall
Fatal Push
Hour of Glory
Liliana, Death’s Majesty
Liliana, the Last Hope
Live Fast
Magma Spray
Never // Return
Lands (26)
Aether Hub
Canyon Slough
Endless Sands
Evolving Wilds
Foreboding Ruins
Mountain
Smoldering Marsh
Swamp

I took it for a spin and liked a lot of it, but there were a few problems; there was too much of a gap between the early removal and the late game.

You often needed to be able to play 5-6 removal spells in the first 4 turns to have enough room for your 5 drops to take over. And then other games you needed to draw much less removal and more big threats because they had a slower start and answers to your first 2 threats. It was basically the classic non-blue control deck problem where you needed to draw the right half of your deck without any card selection.

I knew I wanted 4 Liliana for sure because it was both removal and threat at a cheap cost but other than that I wasn’t too sure. Then last week, Paul Rietzl 5-0’d a league with a similar deck that also top 8’ed the MTGO PTQ the weekend prior:

BR Midrange - 5:o Standard League by Paul Rietzl

Creatures (12)
Demon of Dark Schemes
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
Glorybringer
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Spells (22)
Abrade
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Collective Brutality
Doomfall
Harnessed Lightning
Liliana, the Last Hope
Live Fast
Ruinous Path
Lands (26)
Aether Hub
Blighted Fen
Canyon Slough
Foreboding Ruins
Mountain
Smoldering Marsh
Swamp

The key for me is the 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner.

It might look out of place in a control deck but it helps keep the cards flowing and at two mana, it will rarely be stuck in your hand, and you can play it and a removal spell on the same turn in the midgame. It also puts the opponent in an awkward spot for sideboarding because if they board out their removal, they could just flat out lose to it but if they keep removal in for it, they lessen their chances of enacting their own game plan because of a card you might not draw.

It even presents them with a dilemma in-game when you play it turn two because they have to spend mana to kill it in which case it did the same for you as a removal spell; keeping one of their threats off the board.

Along with the 4 Lilianas you have strong proactive early plays that are good against both aggro and control meaning the losses to ‘drawing the wrong half of your deck’ become much less frequent. I was not satisfied with the removal suite though; nothing at 1 mana and 6 at 2 is just not going to cut it against Ramunap red.

I also think you need ways to deal with Hazoret in a deck like this and Doomfall won’t hit it when you don’t have enough cheap removal to keep their small stuff off the board. I want some Grasp of Darkness instead of Harnessed Lightning and some combination of Fatal Push and Magma Spray. Spray is very good in the metagame but Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is a big part of our plan and push is much better against gb so I think 3 Fatal Push, 1 Magma Spray will be good for now.

You want more against Ramunap red and zombies but that’s what sideboards are for. I’ll give my current list before discussing further:

BR Midrange by Anders Gotfredsen

Creatures (11)
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
Glorybringer
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Spells (23)
Abrade
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Doomfall
Fatal Push
Grasp of Darkness
Liliana, the Last Hope
Live Fast
Magma Spray
Ruinous Path
Lands (26)
Aether Hub
Canyon Slough
Evolving Wilds
Foreboding Ruins
Mountain
Smoldering Marsh
Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Chandra’s Defeat
Magma Spray
Never // Return
Ob Nixilis Reignited
Lost Legacy
Dispossess
Transgress the Mind
Dreamstealer
Sweltering Suns
Chandra, Flamecaller

Against the current “big 3”, the plan is pretty straightforward; keep the board clear for the first few turns, stick a planeswalker or Kalitas and snowball the advantage from them.

If you have Liliana for turn 3, let one or two of their one toughness creatures live. If you have Kalitas, try to conserve your removal until he hits the board. It’s not easy knowing when you should play him turn 4 and when you should wait until you can leave up a removal spell the same turn.

Some of the red decks play Collective Defiance but people almost always copy the winning list (especially when it’s someone as well known as PV) so I would default to running it out turn 4 for now. Zombies have both Grasp of Darkness and Dark Salvation so here I would lean towards having removal the same turn as I play Kalitas.

Of course some games you see their hand with turn 3 Doomfall and the choice will be easy.

Doomfall is an interesting card for standard. I didn’t even consider it for constructed when I first saw it but it has the same kind of flexibility that makes Supreme Will good; it has an “answer” mode and a mode for when you don’t need to deal with something they have played.

The big difference of course is that Doomfall is a sorcery, and sorcery hurts a modal card much more than a one dimensional card. Specifically, exiling Hazoret after it has attacked you once is unpleasant. Unfortunately, discard spells tend to be sorcery so we’ll have to make do. It is bad against Ramunap Red and servicable against Zombies and good against Constrictor but I think you need it main to not auto lose game 1 to decks like ramp and control.

Just having a few makes a big difference when you’re playing Goblin Dark-Dwellers, and as long as it’s not completely dead in any matchup, I think you can get away with it.

The thing I’m most uncertain of is the mix of 5-drops. Goblin Dark-Dwellers is both a good card and a personal favourite of mine, which I fear makes me a bit biased.

The problem is that a lot of the time your first opportunity to play is on an empty board and it happens that you don’t have Live Fast in the yard and either no Doomfall or the opponent has no cards in hand. Glorybringer is often fine to jam on an empty board, though it is true that removal can answer it cleanly compared to the goblins.

There are also situations where the opponent has 2 or more creatures and you can’t really afford to exert it to kill one of them leaving you tapped out and defenseless, where goblins can both kill a creature and stay back to block.

What Glorybringer excels at, which I initially underrated, is end games, and while the goblins are also hard to block, 4 flying haste power is a big deal. Hopefully further testing will give me a clearer indication of which way to lean (if any).

I think we should have the aggressive decks covered by now so let me finish with the two other decks I would expect to face: UR(x) control and RG Ramp. Both are going to be very tough game 1 (maybe you should even move the Doomfalls out of the main and just concede game 1 to be even more sure to crush aggro.

But you still have a shot against control since they have a lot of useless removal, so maybe they are fine). Against control, hope to draw as little removal as possible outside of the stuff that kills Torrential Gearhulk; it is possible to just run them out of wincons. You have value creatures, discard and planeswalkers so you can come out on top if you pace your spells properly. Try to hold on to your discard until you can play it and a threat the same turn to overwhelm their mana.

Post board we get even more discard and a new favorite of mine; Dreamstealer. This is a nightmare for them. They have to spend a removal spell on it the first time around and when it comes back they can’t even block it with gearhulk so it’s a guaranteed two for one and if they don’t kill either half, they pretty much just lose on the spot. I haven’t played against ramp yet but it looks rough.

You only have 3 Doomfall that really do anything game 1 and unless you can snipe their only Hour of Promise, it don’t know how you win game 1. You get to bring in more discard along with a Lost Legacy, but it’s probably not enough to make it a good matchup overall. Ramp might pick up in popularity now and I will consider adding another Lost Legacy to the board in that case.

I really like this deck as it has a lot of play to it and a lot of room for innovation to the list. I just saw someone has 5-0’d a league with 4 Gifted Aetherborn instead of the siphoners. If I keep facing all aggro decks, that is a change very much worth considering. Give it a try if you like grinding, and let me know any ideas you have for the deck.

Support the Team: Buy the cheapest Hours of Devastation Boosters at Games-Island.eu

It’s a miracle: Back-to-Back Victory

© 2017 photo credit: magiccardmarket.eu

Editorial Note: “It’s a miracle: Back-to-Back Victory” is a guest entry by Johannes Gutbrod. Read more about Johannes in “Meet the Pros: Johannes Gutbrod, Legacy”. Johannes Gutbrod is not affiliated with Snapcardster.com

After Show-and-Telling in Frankfurt I was testing a lot of different archetypes but mostly various miracle variants. In may I began testing an UWB MentorMiracles deck. It was the Ovino list from my good friend Claudio Bonanni, which I thought had more potential as he seemed to think himself.

After months of testing we both came to the conclusion that the red splash is superior to the black one at the moment. Blood Moon is a hell of a card and helps with the harder MU’s like Eldrazi, Czech Pile or Lands. Pyroclasm is great against Delver, Elves and Death and Taxes and Pyroblasts are still superior to Discard effects in the control mirror.

We figured if we could somehow fix the combo matchups (we upped the number of Ethersworn Canonist), the UWR-variant would be better in every regard.

In the last weeks we settled on a quite stock list, but were still differing in 4-6 cards in the 75. This is the 75 I registered for the Legacy Main Event:

Not Quite Miracles by Johannes Gutbrod

Creatures (7)
Snapcaster Mage
Monastery Mentor

Spells (33)
Brainstorm
Ponder
Portent
Counterspell
Flusterstorm
Daze
Force of Will
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Swords to Plowshares
Terminus
Engineered Explosives
Predict
Lands (20)
Tundra
Volcanic Island
Scalding Tarn
Flooded Strand
Arid Mesa
Island
Plains
Mountain

Sideboard (15)
Flusterstorm
Pyroblast
Blood Moon
Surgical Extraction
Ethersworn Canonist
Vendilion Clique
Pyroclasm
Wear // Tear
Relic of Progenitus

The Relic of Progenitus was a late addition as I wanted another card for Grixis/ Grixis Control and still have the same amount of graveyard-hate. We were 295 players, and here is the part you all came for:

Round 1: Deathblade 1:2
G1: My opponents overextends and Force of Wills two Terminus, of which I force back to resolve the second one. I try to fetch for a Dual to make him use his Wasteland and turn on my Daze for a potential True-Name Nemesis. He does so but finds another land with his last draw slams True-Name Nemesis and I don’t find an answer in four turns.
G2: Opponent keeps one land.
G3: Double Lingering Souls are quite good in this matchup…

Round 2: OmniSneak 2:1
G1: I’m still trying to figure out what my opponent is on until he plays a Boseiju, Who Shelters All turn three. I think I’m pretty much dead, as my hand is slow. Next turn I can resolve a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and manage to lock him out with Portent + Jace while countering all his cantrips aggressively.
G2: Got combo’d out.
G3: Ethersworn Canonist rides to a close victory.

Round 3: Grixis Control 2:1
G1: Hymn to Tourach and early beatz bring me into Lightning Bolt range, and when I finally stabilize it is too late.
G2/ G3: My superior control cards (Predict!) take those games.

Round 4: Czech Pile 2:0
G1: We play draw-go for a while until I find a window to resolve my Jace, the Mind Sculptor. He fights back quite well with several Snapcaster Mages and Kolaghan’s Command, but in the end Monastery Mentor joins the party and he gets monk’d out.
G2: Blood Moon is a fair magic card, no?! 😉

Round 5: SneakShow 2:0
G1/ G2: These games were similar to my first match against OmniSneak. In the first game Jace, the Mind Sculptor drew me a lot of cards as well.

Round 6: Elves 2:1
G1: Can’t find a Terminus in time before I get run over.
G2: Is a long fight, involving Pyroclasm, Nissa, Vital Force and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The blue planeswalker helps me establishing control in the end.
G3: We go to time. My opponent kindly scoops, as a draw in this stage of the tournament is pretty bad for both of us. Thanks again!

Round 7: Lands 2:0
G1/ G2: I aggressively counter Gamble to prevent Life from the Loam-shenanigans and win with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. It helped that he didn’t find Punishing Fire in game one as well (I fatesealed him out in the end).

Round 8: Goblins 2:1
G1: My opponent is seemingly nervous and mulls a hand that’s good against miracles but bad against the rest of the format as he fortunately doesn’t know what I’m playing. He ends up going to 4 cards, though.
G2: Aether Vial on four and several Goblin Ringleaders find too much gas for me to handle.
G3: This one is really close, I can Force of Will a crucial Tarfire targeting my Mentor. Next turn I resolve Jace, the Mind Sculptor and keep my army back to defend him. He taps out for Goblin Ringleader and I have the window to prowess my army and slam Pyroclasm to extinguish his board and swing for the win.

Round 9: TurboDepths 2:0
The draw could leave me at a potential ninth place, so I decide to choose my fate myself and play it out.
G1: I play Monastery Mentor, Swords to Plowshare on Marit Lage and beat him slowly down while he bricks and gets Portented out of the game.
G2: Instead of cantripping I decide to leave my mana open, even if he just has a forest. He tries to play Crop Rotation, I have Flusterstorm and the game is basically over as he can’t cast any spells.

After the dust settles I’m 8:1, and second place in the final standings.

Quarters: Elves 2:1
G1: I fail to find cantrips and die with all the good stuff in hand.
G2/ G3: Mass removal, Jace, the Mind Sculptor and a hail-mary Terminus for his Progenitus.

Semis: UnexpectedMiracles 2:0 (these matches are covered on the MkM-site as well)
G1: My hand is very blueish, and I resolve Predicts and Snapcaster Mages while countering his.
G2: I manage to tap him out with an end-of-turn Vendilion Clique and mainphase Monastery Mentor, so that my hand with Daze + Ponder can go completely out of hand. Later I manage to fateseal a crucial Terminus to the bottom and make my way to the finals.

Finals: RUG Lands 2:1
G1: The game lasts for forty minutes and in the end I have just 8 cards left in my library. The game is basically Life from the Loam vs. Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Unfortunately after 14 hours of Legacy I miss a trigger of The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, that might have enabled another sequence and could have won. Happens!
G2: Relic of Progenitus takes away a lot of goodies and Jace, the Mind Sculptor fateseals him out of the game.
G3: I can clear away his first turn Chalice of the Void on one with Engineered Explosives and play my hand with a lot of cantrips. I hold my Blood Moon for a long time until he finally taps under three mana. Then I cast the enchantment and he scoops them up. Props to his beautiful foiled out lands deck though.

Hope you enjoyed the read, see you all in Hamburg!

Johannes Gutbrod

Meet the Pros: Johannes Gutbrod, Legacy

© 2017 photo credit: magiccardmarket.eu

Editorial Note: Read more about Gutbrod’s performance at MKMSeries Prague – It’s a miracle: Back-to-Back Victory

Hello Johannes and congratulations for taking down the Legacy portion of the Magic Card Market Series this weekend! Thank you for stopping by today. Please give the readers a quick introduction of yourself as a Magic player.

Hello guys, thanks for having me 🙂
I’m a 25 year old student and Legacy enthusiast from Nürnberg (Germany). I only play this format, as I enjoy it the most. I organize Legacy tournaments, playtest a lot with friends and try to play all the big European tournaments.

I like to learn new interactions in this format and I’m a person who analyses his own gameplay and tries to find mistakes in there in order to get better and to develop my skill further.

I know you played a fair share of Miracles in the past, and at this event you brought a new version of the deck. Talk a little about the card choices. Monastery Mentor + Daze package opposed to going harder on the Snapcaster Mage + Predict engine with multiple copies of Unexpectedly Absent.

First of all this version can win games much faster than its controllish cousin. Monastery Mentor and Daze can swing games in two or three turns. But that’s rarely the case.

What I like about this version is that it can switch roles so effectively. Often it’s correct to keep a Daze, even when it seems counterintuitive to protect a crucial spell later on when your opponent will never expect it, or taps out. Daze is a safety net for many problematic cards in the format as well (Show and Tell, True-Name Nemesis, Planeswalkers…).

I’m curious about the strengths and weaknesses of the deck. Obviously the Miracles plan has become less consistent after Sensei’s Divining Top got banned, so the deck has lost some overall powerlevel. How does your version make up for that?

I don’t even think that the deck lost as much powerlevel as most people think. Counterbalance was weak in a lot of matchups and with more Predicts and Mentors previously harder matchups like Eldrazi got way better.

Moreover the bluecount is higher than before. And Portent, although being weaker than Sensei’s Divining Top, is another shuffle effect (important e.g. under Blood Moon) and enables locking out the opponent in topdeck mode.

But I think the deck got even harder to play than before… so to anyone picking this deck: You have to practice a lot and try to overthink your gameplay in order to become better!

I heard you lost round 1 of this tournament, but you still managed to come out on top. Take us through your mindset as the rounds went by and you kept racking up wins.

Honestly speaking, in the minutes after the loss I was quite tilted, as I expected much more from myself. So I went out to grasp some fresh air and tried to refocus, thinking that if I will lose no one would care but if I will make it to the top it would truly be a miracle.

I try to think of these situations as learning experiences not just regarding legacy but regarding life as a whole. As I was coming closer and closer to my goal I became more focused and concentrated, trying to block out my surroundings and just think about the next turn(s).

What is your opinion about the health of Legacy right now? On the surface it seems very balanced and like you can play a lot of different decks without being horribly behind like in the Top era.

I agree 100% with your statement. I’ve never thought that you could play that many different decks competitively without one dominating the others. I love to see new decks popping up, be it Marcus Ewaldhs Blue Moon deck, or Tomas Vlceks NicFit.

Legacy was announced as 1/3 of the formats for an upcoming Pro Tour next season. In my opinion, it’s a brilliant move by Wizards of the Coast to motivate Legacy specialists to try and qualify to try their skills versus the absolute elite. What’s your take on this in general and on a personal level?

In general I like the renowned interest in the best magic format. Many people will have a look into this format which they might have never tried before. This will help the community as more tournaments would get organized/ articles get written and so on.

For me personally it is a long wished but very high goal to play Legacy at the ProTour. Although qualifying seems to be really hard and I’m not looking forward to playing Standard to do so, haha. On the other hand I can’t wait to play at GP Birmingham!

Thanks a lot for your time. Hope to see you outplaying platinum pros on the biggest stage next year!

Spicing up BUG in Legacy

There was a time where I played Legacy every week and enjoyed it every time as if it was my first (or maybe last). Battling six rounds vs. an assorted bunch of old combinations of cards for the low price of spending one hour each way with public transportation and getting to bed way too late was a bargain I gladly accepted week after week. While times have certainly changed, I still enjoy firing up a Legacy Challenge on Magic Online or participating in Danish Legacy Masters. Today I want to share a sweet deck with you guys that I enjoy playing quite a bit.

NO BUG

A friend of mine posted a BUG Midrange deck in our forums which had Green Sun’s Zenith and a few bullets in it apart from the usual BUG stuff like Deathrite Shaman, Force of Will etc. The Green Sun’s Zeniths quickly made me remember the time where “NO RUG” was a deck in Legacy and google’d my way to Reid Duke’s decklist from 2013. Check out this deck tech he did with StarCityGames.

Long story short, I suggested that he added Natural Order + Progenitus to the deck and made a better version of “NO RUG” anno 2017. You maintain the high card quality of the Sultai shard while also adding a proactive “I-win-button” for the low, low price of 2GG and a green creature. It wasn’t long before I purchased the cards I was missing from the deck my self and got into some leagues with this sweet pile of cards. Let me walk you through some card choices that aren’t too self explanatory.

NO BUG by Andreas Petersen

Creatures (13)
Deathrite Shaman
Dryad Arbor
Leovold, Emissary of Trest
Progenitus
Scavenging Ooze
Tarmogoyf
Vendilion Clique

Spells (29)
Brainstorm
Daze
Fatal Push
Force of Will
Green Sun’s Zenith
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Natural Order
Ponder
Thoughtseize
Lands (18)
Forest
Island
Misty Rainforest
Polluted Delta
Tropical Island
Underground Sea
Verdant Catacombs

Sideboard (15)
Surgical Extraction
Duress
Flusterstorm
Engineered Plague
Marsh Casualties
Sylvan Library
Reclamation Sage
Ruric Thar, The Unbowed
Null Rod
Thoughtseize

Dryad Arbor: The first copy is mandatory, but the second copy is good when your first one gets killed and you want to search up another one with a Zenith X = 0 or fetch one on your opponents endstep. It can be a really bad draw sometimes, but I think the pros outweigh the cons easily.


Green fetches are prefered to Polluted Delta because they find Dryad Arbor. This will definitely not come up every game, but it can be relevant for this deck.

These two basic lands are included for a few reasons. It gives you the option to beat a Blood Moon. Forest + Deathrite Shaman can cast Natural Order, and Island helps you dig for these cards. They can also help vs. Wasteland + Life from the Loam and be the difference between life and death when facing Price of Progress.

We obviously want a lot of blue mana sources in our Daze, Vendilion Clique and cantrip heavy deck, but the nod towards Underground Sea is because of the double black mana card in our sideboard.

Free countermagic is great when you’re trying to resolve key four-mana spells. With different kinds of mana acceleration, you can often make good use of Daze even on the draw. As an added bonus, Daze helps maintain an acceptable blue count for Force of Will. Thoughtseize rounds out the disruption suite as the most flexible one available. Information about your opponent’s hand can be just as valuable as taking their best card, and Thoughtseize does that for one black mana and 2 life.

These powerful three-drops do a lot of nice things for the deck. Vendilion Clique can clear the way for Natural Order, get rid of Progenitus from your hand, disrupt combo decks and beat down in the air if the ground is stalled out. Leovold is a swiss army knife that is always good value when cast. Leaving dead cantrips in your opponents hand and forcing them to give you extra cards if they want to interact with your battlefield or hand is just filthy.

This little one card combo can win the game early and in brutal fashion. Giving your solid Midrange deck another path to victory is super powerful and should catch a few people off guard in any given tournament. Casting this on turn three with Force of Will backup is the best thing this deck can do. I don’t want to play the full playset because two of them can be very punishing to draw, and this deck is perfectly capable of winning without it.

Tarmogoyf is mostly a beatdown creature vs. combo and Grixis/Blue Red Delver with only Lighting Bolts as removal, while Scavenging Ooze can save the day vs. graveyard decks or do serious work in a Deathrite Shaman mirror match. Shutting down opposing Snapcaster Mages and disrupting Life from the Loam can also be useful.

Sideboard

 

My anti-combo package include a few counterspells, discard spells and a Natural Order target to swap with Progenitus vs. Storm. I wanted these slots to be relevant against as many combo and control decks as possible and really like this setup where they each shine in different matchups.


Sylvan Library is the absolute most impactful thing you can be doing on turn two versus the various control decks in the format, whether it’s Neo Miracles, Grixis Control or a pseudo BUG mirror. With the package of 2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor, 2 Leovold, Emmisary of Trest and 2 Sylvan Library, I feel comfortable against every controlling deck out there.


This card does a lot of things and has become a staple in many BUG sideboards. From combatting Aether Vial/equipment decks to shutting down all of Storm’s artifact accelerants, this card is really flexible and will be brought in in a lot of matchups. It also disrupts Grindstone, Goblin Charbelcher and the occational Affinity opponent.


BUG has already built-in graveyard hate in Deathrite Shaman, but the two copies of Surgical Extraction will come in handy vs. Reanimator strategies and combo decks where you will try and hit a key card with either a discard spell or countermagic. It can potentially buy you enough time vs. Dredge for Progenitus to finish the job.


Adding even more flexibility to your Green Sun’s Zenith can be very valuable in a big format like Legacy. I expect Blood Moon, Chalice of the Void and Umezawa’s Jitte to be the cards I target the most with Reclamation Sage‘s ability.

Dealing with various X/1’s has never been more important in Legacy, with the most popular ones being True-Name Nemesis, Elves, Young Pyromancer with tokens and various creatures out of Death and Taxes. I also sideboard in some number vs. Storm to deal with Empty the Warrens. Dread of Night is too narrow, and Golgari Charm kills my own Dryad Arbor and Vendilion Clique.

If you like the BUG colors like I do and want to add a little spice to it, I suggest you try out this deck at your next Legacy tournament.