Beating Modern #2

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

#1stWorldProblems


TitanShift

Primeval Titan

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

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

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

Sideboard Options

Disdainful StrokeRuned HaloAven Mindcensor


Eldrazi Tron

Eldrazi Temple

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

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

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

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

Sideboard Options

Ceremonious RejectionStony Silence


Gifts Storm

Grapeshot

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

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

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

Sideboard Options

Engineered ExplosivesDispelRule of Law

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

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

Modern PPTQ PrimeTime: 1st with Titanshift

Welcome back to my blog here on Snapcardster. I was actually planning on writing about my favorite Modern deck at the moment even before I won a PPTQ this weekend playing the deck. I guess sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too!

Prologue.

I have a long history of playing this card and doing rather well in premier events. In 2015 I managed to qualify for Pro Tour Origins playing a Temur version of the deck (http://www.mtgtop8.com/event?e=9367&d=253664&f=MO) and one year later I found myself in the finals of the Danish World Magic Cup Qualifier with a sweet four-color version featuring a playset of Bring to Light. Unfortunately, a timely Slaughter Games ended my undefeated run through the tournament.

What I really loved about the blue version of Scapeshift is the way you play out like a control deck and finish the game with just one spell. I talked to a friend about this topic numerous times, and we both agreed that it all boils down to whether Remand is good or bad in the metagame. Back then it was very good with numerous midrange decks, blue decks, Tron and mirror matches to be expected at a tournament. But now when people are playing Death’s Shadow, Aether Vial decks, Burn, Affinity and have Cavern of Souls in their decks, Remand is just not great anymore. So I wanted to keep the strengths of the archetype and get rid of the weaknesses and ended up working on a Red/Green version instead. You kill faster, can still ignore most board states and are very threat dense to overpower decks with discard spells and counter magic.

After a lot of testing, I ended up not playing the deck at Grand Prix Copenhagen because of a bad Death’s Shadow matchup and no good solution to that on my radar. I tested a white splash for Nahiri, the Harbinger and Path to Exile and a black splash for Fatal Push and Abrupt Decay, but lost too many percentages to the rest of the field. After getting some inspiration from Danish Gold Pro Simon Nielsen about how to hedge a little in deckbuilding without giving up too much against all other decks, I finally arrived at this list:

#1 PPTQ: RG TitanShift by Andreas Petersen

Lands (27)
Arid Mesa
Cinder Glade
Forest
Mountain
Scalding Tarn
Sheltered Thicket
Stomping Ground
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills

Spells (23)
Explore
Farseek
Lightning Bolt
Roast
Scapeshift
Search for Tomorrow
Summoner’s Pact
Sweltering Suns

Creatures (10)
Pia and Kiran Nalaar
Primeval Titan
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Sideboard (15)
Roast
Chameleon Colossus
Obstinate Baloth
Nature’s Claim
Reclamation Sage
Grafdigger’s Cage
Anger of the Gods


People like Chandra, Torch of Defiance in this slot, but I can’t see why. It’s a very good turn 3 play on an empty board, but in my testing that happens very rarely. In most games I get to kill a small creature and lose my Chandra. I was still interested in having some quality four-mana plays that could help me bridge the gap between ramp spells and end game, being both a decent proactive threat and with the ability to buy some time. Three chump blockers to buy turns vs. Death’s Shadow while also being able to block fliers and Etched Champion equipped with Cranial Plating vs. Affinity was all I needed out of my four-drop. Being a good defensive card with the ability to pressure Midrange and Control decks are a lot of good quality in one card.


I play 15(!) ramp spells in this deck to maximize the amount of games I win on turn four. Having three ramp spells and a Scapeshift is not unrealistic at all, and by playing 15 instead of 11 I’m maximising my chances. Rather than playing answers to prolong the game, I like just racing my opponent most of the time.


This is a small upgrade from Amonkhet to Anger of the Gods. When your opponent is not playing a creature deck, you have the ability to cycle this sweeper. Given that those decks tend to be a little slow, you should have the time more often than not.


I took a page out of Simon Nielsen’s playbook and added one Roast in the main deck and one in the sideboard to combat undercosted black creatures. I cut one Lightning Bolt from the main deck and haven’t missed it at all. You become a little worse vs. Burn, Affinity and Thalia, but you gain valuable percentage points vs. Death’s Shadow which I would expect to face on the top tables at any premier tournaments.


In my sideboard I decided to cut two Thragtusk for Chameleon Colossus. My plan vs. Midrange and Control is to sideboard out six red removal spells for six big creatures, so that plan got a little worse with this swap. I also lose two lifegain creatures vs. Burn, so maybe this change is not improving the deck overall. Anyway, the Colossus can blank an opposing Shadow, Angler or Tasigur while having the ability to swing for lethal if they don’t have a Snapcaster Mage to block. However, with Esper Shadow being more and more popular, getting my Colossus Path to Exile‘d when I think I’m keeping his huge Death’s Shadow in check is a bad feeling. I’m not sold on these slots going forward.

I’m not going to write about all my matches from the event, because they were rather unexciting. Instead I will give you my gameplan and mindset going into these matches and how I think you maximize your chance of beating these decks.

Round 1: Abzan Midrange
As long as you get to ramp a time or two, you have great topdecks to win the game. He will need a combination of discard spells, Tarmogoyf and Liliana of the Veil to beat you. People seem to have left Fulminator Mage at home these days, so this is probably your best matchup in all of Modern.

Round 2: Esper Shadow
This matchup is extremely hard as they can combine cheap disruption with a fast clock. With the tweaks I did, I have a chance of drawing my key cards and buy myself time to cast a Primeval Titan which should be game over most of the time. I would prefer not to play against this archetype.

Round 3: Amulet Titan
It was very cool seeing my opponent do well with this deck. With an Amulet of Vigor combined with Azusa, Lost but Seeking, this deck can still go absolutely nuts and win out of nowhere. However, the games where the deck fails to resolve or gets its Amulet killed, I’m much more sceptical. We got to play five games vs. each other (this round and the semis), and Amulet (or the fact that it died or wasn’t drawn) was the deciding factor in all of them.

Round 4: Big Naya Zoo
What seems to be a very straight forward matchup is actually quite tricky for one simple fact. Do they have Blood Moon or not in the sideboard? Do I blindly sideboard in my Reclamation Sage and Nature’s Claim? Since I won game one, I neglected to, but I can definitely see myself bringing in at least the Reclamation Sage to hedge a little. I think it’s very important to think about these things even though I won the match without seeing the Blood Moon. I think I would’ve sideboarded differently if I lost game one.

Round 5: Blue Steel
This is a cute deck that can snowball you out of the game if you don’t have either a Lightning Bolt or sweeper early on. His one drops are not very effective against my deck, and his overall card quality isn’t the best, so if I manage to remove a creature or two in the beginning while progressing my own game plan, I feel favoured in the matchup.

Round 6: Mono W Hatebears
First of all, this matchup isn’t as bad as it looks. When you lose to it, it will look like a complete massacre, but in reality that only happens once in awhile. They will need three or four pieces of the following to reliably blow you out: Æther Vial, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Leonin Arbiter, Ghost Quarter, Tectonic Edge, and even then you can still overcome that. Drawing a Lightning Bolt with some ramp spells and a Scapeshift will win you the game more often than not. Sometimes Sweltering Suns is a three-for-one he will not come back from. The Hatebears deck is very good at punishing you when you miss land drops, so of course there will be those games as well.

Quarterfinals: Elves
You are not able to race in this matchup unless he has a slow hand, so the main plan is to either kill a lord with Lightning Bolt or sweep his board with Sweltering Suns or Anger of the Gods. It’s always tricky when you need a combination of removal spells, lands, ramp AND Scapeshift or Primeval Titan. With four sweepers and two Grafdigger’s Cage to shut down Collected Company, I really like games two and three vs. Elves.

Semifinals: Amulet Titan
(same guy)

Finals: Esper Shadow
(same guy)

The future is bright for R/G TitanShift. I haven’t decided if I’m going to Grand Prix Birmingham next month yet, but I will definitely play the deck if I am. I will check online decklists every day to see if Fulminator Mage plus Surgical Extraction is making a comeback, and I will ponder about a better balance of having game vs. Death’s Shadow and maintaining great matchups overall. Chameleon Colossus, I’m looking at you.

Make sure to follow Andreas Petersen on twitter and  to tune in his twitch channel.