Look ma, I made it to the ProTour!

This article will be about two things; my personal experience of qualifying for my first Pro Tour, and the UB Control deck I used to do it. I will start with the deck since I assume that will be the most interesting to people who don’t know me. Let’s kick things off with the list:

UB Control by Anders Gotfredsen

Spells (28)
Yahenni’s Expertise
Fatal Push
Grasp of Darkness
Censor
Negate
Essence Scatter
 Glimmer of Genius
Supreme Will
Disallow
To the Slaughter

Creatures (6)
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
The Scarab God
Torrential Gearhulk
Lands (26)
Fetid Pools
Sunken Hollow
Aether Hub
Choked Estuary
Island
Swamp

Sideboard (15)
Negate
Dispel
Yahenni's Expertise
Bontu's Last Reckoning
Gifted Aetherborn
Summary Dismissal
To the Slaughter
Never // Return
Liliana, the Last Hope

This was a perfect storm of being both a powerful, consistent deck and a great metagame call, and with the results from GP Denver, that looks to continue being the case. The most common decks are Temur Energy, God-Pharao’s Gift, Mono Red, BG Constrictor, RG Ramp, Zombies and UW Approach. I have no problem facing any of these decks and I’ll go through all of the matchups, but first I have some general notes on the deck:

“Best card in Standard(?)”

This card is the reason to be UB instead of UR or UW. The only cards in the above decks that can deal cleanly with The Scarab God are the white exile removals, Cast Out and Stasis Snare, but they are only in the UW Approach deck which, as I’ll explain later, is close to impossible to lose to (there are of course also counterspells but it’s mostly Censor and Supreme Will, which you can play around).

All other decks need two cards and many of them have no way to keep it from coming back. If you get to untap with it or play it on 9 mana, it will immediately dominate most games, and I often had a Torrential Gearhulk in the graveyard along with a counterspell, which is basically game over for anyone (or they might have Goblin Dark-Dwellers in their yard, which is how I sealed the last game of the RPTQ). Against Mono Red, I actually like it more than Kalitas because you can just slam it on turn 5 and unless they topdeck an Ahn-Crop Crasher (I assume they would have played it sooner if they had it, and then you have probably either countered or grasped it), they are completely brick walled.

Alongside my new favorite insect buddy we have all the run of the mill control options: removal, counterspells, Glimmer of Genius and Torrential Gearhulk. There is nothing groundbreaking about it, which kind of proves my point that the god is what makes this deck the best. Censor and Supreme Will are key for a strategy like this since you can’t be stuck with a bunch of them in hand and not be able to deal with something on the board. You can customize a lot of the spells in the deck but I would be hard pressed to play less than 4 of each of these.

“A sign that you will win this match”

Temur Energy has been the top dog for the last couple of weeks. It won the MOCS two weeks ago, an MTGO PTQ a week ago and this weekend it put 3 copies in the top 4 of GP Denver. It also had 3 or 4 copies in the top 8 of my RPTQ for what it’s worth. In short, you want to be able to beat this deck and UB is great at it. You have Fatal Push for their Longtusk Cub, To the Slaughter for Bristling Hydra and Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Grasp for Glorybringer and everything else. This is of course only needed if they resolve, and all your counterspells are great here.

Then you play The Scarab God and get to enjoy all of the delicious ETB triggers from their creatures. Be aware that some Temur decks splash for The Scarab God (and Nicol Bolas) themselves so try and save an Essence Scatter or Disallow for it. Bontu’s Last Reckoning, Never // Return and To the Slaughter Negate come in from the board for Kalitas, Expertise and a counterspell (not completely sure which one, maybe since we are bringing in two potential answers to Chandra).

Try to line up your answers as listed above and try to save the hard counters for last. For example, if you have the choice between Fatal Push and Essence Scatter for their cub, use push. If you have the choice between Disallow and To the Slaughter for their hydra, use To the Slaughter. Be aware of Confiscation Coup on your god post board.

“A sign that you will win this match”

Next is God-Pharao’s Gift. Currently the most popular version is UR but all them share important traits: crappy creatures and then some number of 3 and 7 mana artifacts that can actually beat you. Luckily we are packed with counterspells for them and if you kill Minister of Inquiries they can have a hard time filling their yard to activate Gate to the Afterlife. You should at the very least be able to slow them down and The Scarab God is game over when you untap with it in play.

They have Dispel after board but they need to draw both Dispel, Gate/Refurbish/Gift and some ways to fill their graveyard to beat just a single counterspell from you and their are in a real hurry before we get to five mana. This is about as easy a matchup as you can get in Standard.

“A sign that you will win this match”

Hyper Aggro has traditionally been the bane of control decks and I will say that this is the matchup where I am least certain about my opinion, but I will go out on a limb and say that it’s a fine matchup. You have cheap removal, cheap counters, removal that can kill a resolved Hazoret the Fervent and threats that can close the game out fast. As I mentioned above, The Scarab God is still great here (noticing a trend?) and you get to bring in Gifted Aetherborn, Liliana, Never // Return and an extra Expertise, while lowering your curve a bit (I like to cut one Gearhulk, one Glimmer, To the Slaughter, Disallows and Supreme Wills for the rest). I’m torn on the expertise because your main concern is keeping your life total high and so you can’t really afford to just take hits from their creatures to set it up.

Let’s say they play Falkenrath Gorger turn 1. Do you Fatal Push it if you also have expertise in hand? I think you have to. Then they play Kari Zev, Skyship Raider. Do you grasp it? Again, I think you have to. Then they play Earthshaker Khenra or Ahn-Crop Crasher.

Now your expertise can kill one creature. If you say go and they play another haste creature, do you counter it or take 5 damage? Maybe this is getting too specific but my point is that I don’t really like a 4 mana sorcery speed removal spell when I’m trying to keep the board clear and have mana open on their turn to counter Chandra, Hazoret and Glorybringer. It can still give you a chance in the games where you stumble a bit so I think two is an appropriate number. Again, I’m not sure it’s a great matchup but I just keep beating it over and over again on Magic Online so, running the risk of being too results oriented, that’s what I’m going with.

“A sign that you will win this match”

This is a Midrange and so plays out similarly to Temur except BG is more straightforward and they rely more on synergy which is good for the all removal and counterspells deck. I guess you can lose if they somehow resolve Dispossess and Lost Legacy but that should be rare. Maybe turn 3 Nissa on the play if you have neither Negate nor Censor but it’s still a pretty slow clock if you can keep Winding Constrictor off the table. Negate, Never, To the Slaughter and Reckoning replace Kalitas, Expertise, a Disallow and a Censor for game 2.

“A sign that you will win this match”

You can lose game 1 to ramp if they get to play Ulamogs before you get enough lands into play to be able to afford losing two of them but after board you get an extra Negate and 3 Summary Dismissal along with a To the Slaughter and Never to replace your useless Fatal Pushes and upgrade two Grasps. So not only can you counter a lot of their ramp, when they finally get to 7 or 10 mana, you have clean answers to their top end. They bring in Tireless Tracker and Thought-Knot Seer but they still fight on the same axis and your counter magic has that axis on lockdown.

“A sign that you will have a fair fight this match”

This is a close one. They have a lot of recurring threats and threats that produce more than one creature and after board they get a few more along with Transgress the Mind. Game 1 is usually pretty easy as they tend to draw a couple of removal spells that don’t do anything until it’s too late but try and make sure that Diregraf Colossus doesn’t get to make a token and that Liliana’s Mastery doesn’t resolve. I bring in all 3 sweepers, Liliana and Never for To the Slaughter, 2 Disallow, a Censor and a Supreme Will. As with the other matchups where I shave counterspells, I’m not 100 percent sure about which ones are actually correct to cut and it also depends on your opponents play. If they always play around Censor, trim those, if they play very aggressively you can trim Supreme Will instead since Censor will often be as good and you might not have time to spend 3 mana for card selection.

“Ask your opponent to just concede so you can go get lunch. He’s not winning”

I said the Gift deck was about the easiest matchup in Standard, well this is the easiest matchup I can remember ever playing in any format. You have all the time in the world and as soon as you’ve drawn 3 of your 4 Negate/Disallow along with enough lands to pay for Supreme Wills and Censors you can’t lose game 1. My opponent in the RPTQ even had a Sphinx of the Final Word main but when he played that and then Approach on 14 mana I could respond with To the Slaughter and Negate which is one of the better feelings I’ve gotten from a play.

It was even more satisfying because I had replaced the maindeck Never//Return with To the Slaughter specifically because I kept facing UW players online who had Sphinx main. Post board they get some hard counters but so do you along with 4 more answers to Sphinx. They probably also bring in a couple of Linvala, the Preserver and/or Regal Caracal and maybe Torrential Gearhulk but you still have Essence Scatter along with all the other counter magic and they just aren’t able to compete in the slightest as long as you don’t draw all spells or all lands.

As you can see from this walkthrough, the current Standard metagame doesn’t really contain any problems for UB; I might not be certain of how good the Mono Red matchup is but I’m sure it’s nowhere near as bad as it is for UR Control (I haven’t played against UR Control with this deck but you are very similar and so I would assume it to be quite even).

I guess Mardu Vehicles is still a deck and that might be problematic but I haven’t faced it at all and from what I hear it’s bad against Temur Energy so I wouldn’t expect to face it anytime soon. Unless something changes drastically, I will bring this to Nationals and I wholeheartedly recommend you do the same. If, by some chance, this deck picks up in popularity, I will figure out the mirror before then and write another article.

Now it’s time for me to get a little sentimental because this past Sunday was a culmination of 6 or so years of trying to get on the Pro Tour. In fact, the last 3 years it has pretty much been the only thing on my mind. Almost every day when I came home from work, I would fire up Magic Online and play until I went to bed. Work, Magic, sleep, repeat. Even at work, I would constantly be thinking about Magic.

I have had a lot of close calls; 1 GP win and in, 10 or so PTQ top 8’s along with a bunch of good GP performances in the first 9-12 rounds only to get crushed in the last rounds. When you have that many near misses, you can’t really blame it on just bad luck anymore. I have enough insight to know that I am theoretically good enough to compete on the Pro Tour, but when the matches got important I would crumble under the pressure.

I qualified for the World Magic Cup twice but failed to make enough of the opportunity to get on the Pro Tour. Both years Denmark top 8’ed the WMC, I lost in the finals of one of the WMCQ’s. Many times, I have contemplated giving up and just do a regular 9 to 5 job and be “normal”, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. About a year ago, I decided to dedicate myself even more and go to all the European GP’s. Around Christmas, when my results kept being #mediocre, I tried to focus not so much on winning but more on just enjoying the competition, the game and the awesome people I have met on the GP circuit.

Brad Nelson and other great players have written articles telling you some variant of “don’t focus on the results” and I have really tried to take that to heart. Make no mistake; I think this game is a lot of fun and I have made a lot of friends that I would love to hang out with outside of Magic, but it can be hard to justify spending that much time and money on something “just” for fun.

So a couple of months ago I began seeing a sports psychologist to deal with the root of the issue: If you present me with a situation, I will usually be able to tell you what the correct play is but when matches become important, my thought process goes awry and I mess up. I am not sure how much of this qualification I owe to my shrink, and I know I have a long ways to go, but I know I’m making progress, so maybe in a year or two, it will just be my strategic ability that limits my performance.

And when I sat down for my top 8 match in the RPTQ I could feel a difference in my mentality; I didn’t like the matchup (BR Control with Scorpion Gods and tons of discard. I wouldn’t expect to face it though) but at least this time, I wouldn’t just be throwing the match (You might think that I didn’t literally throw matches away but the one of Lasse Nørgaard and Martin Dang who sat behind me for the WMCQ Final against Christoffer Larsen will testify that it is true).

I lost game 1 but game 2 he got mana screwed and game 3 he mulliganed into a poor hand and didn’t draw out of it. I have heard myths of winning important matches like this (Oscar Christensen won his win and in at GP Birmingham against an Ad Nauseam player who just did nothing for two games in a row), and always lamented the fact that it didn’t happen to me. Now I’ll have to find something else to complain about, I just hope it won’t be that I got terribly unlucky and scrubbed out of my first Pro Tour. Jinx.

It was so heartwarming to see so many people congratulate me on Facebook and Messenger, and I feel so fortunate to have so many people care in the slightest about how I do. I am a social person and while I try not to chase recognition, of course it’s great when you get it, but ultimately, I started this chase for me; because I want to make me proud. I can finally say that I am proud of my Magic career, but I am not good at settling and I already have a new goal: Become a mainstay on the Pro Tour, and/or make top 8 of one. I’ll get back to you in 20 years or so, probably. Until then, my best piece of advice is to be honest about what weaknesses are keeping you from achieving whatever goals you have for yourself, and do whatever it takes to remedy them.

Next week I’ll be back to tell you about my adventures in Metz and AKH-HOU Limited. Thanks for reading.

RE: Legacy at the ProTour

Wizards dropped the mother of all bombs on us Wednesday. I am super excited about this! If you haven’t already read the announcement, go do that right now!

Don’t worry I’ll wait right here…

You got it? There’s a lot to take in so if you need a breather, I don’t blame you.
A lot of changes and announcements, but I’ll go over the one I’m the most excited about: There will be a Team trios Constructed Pro Tour In Minneapolis the 3-5 of August 2018!

This is huge, for the first time in modern PT history players will tap duals and cast brainstorms at the games’ most prolific stage. To give you an idea about how excited I am about this: I am writing this piece on my phone during downtime at work. I want to get this excitement down on digital paper as fast as possible.

So how does this work?

At the actual PT players will form teams of 3 with one player playing matches of standard, one player playing matches of modern and one player playing matches of legacy. If a team wins the majority of matches in a round, they get the 3 points, like in team sealed.

That’s all very well, but if you’re anything like me you’re asking ”How do I qualify?”
Luckily Wizards has told us a bit about that:

”Be Part of a Top-Finishing Team in the Pro Tour Team Series after Pro Tour Dominaria”

Teams that place in the top 16 of the PT team series are invited to compete in this since it’s the last PT of the 2017-18 season. However if a player uses this invite they can only format trios within their PT team series team.

”Top 4 a Team Grand Prix from January 6 until May 27, 2018”

This one is pretty straight forward, but there is a bit of a nugget for us here. Wizards is upping the number of team GPs in this period. Including GPs in the Team Constructed format of the PT. I really look forward to this, I can’t wait to play legacy alongside some of my non-legacy friends!

At each of these team GPs there will be a team PTQ awarding the winning team an invite for the team PT, providing even more opportunities to Q with your friends.

”Finish in the Top 2 of a Regional Pro Tour Qualifier for Pro Tour 25th Anniversary”

These will be team events, but the article is a bit unclear as to which kind of team events. It mentions a special round of team events with a yet to be announced team format, and it mentions the ordinary round of RPTQs with team unified standard. Hopefully the special round will let us qualify without having to play standard.
But wait! Team RPTQs?! How do those work?
If a player is qualified for an RPTQ they can bring two eligible, but unqualified friends as part of their team. Eligible meaning not yet qualified for the PT in question.
Sadly during writing this article I did some research:

It looks like we won’t have many legacy avenues to this PT. Better hope you have some friends willing to carry you at the RPTQ.

”Pro Club Status, Top Pro Tour Dominaria Finishers, and Hall of Fame”

The good old grinder slots nothing out of the ordinary here.
In the end all qualified players can form trios as they want. (The exception being players who are only qualified via the team series)

So… how do I feel about all this?

What does this do for legacy?
I’m pretty excited about this, but I have some reservations.
First of all, not having some or all of the RPTQs being Team Constructed instead of team unified standard feels pretty horrible as a legacy player, same about not having any of the GP day 2 PTQs being Team Constructed is a horrendous decision. Let us play Team Constructed to qualify for this!

Secondly, I hope we won’t see any ”Pro Tour bans” like we did in modern when it was a PT format. Other than that I just want to thank and congratulate StarCityGames.com for bringing this format to the big stage and thanks Wizards for showing they haven’t completely forgotten about us legacy players. Besides the mistakes this is a huge opportunity to showcase legacy.

~ Thiesen <3

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.