To say that I lacked motivation to test Modern would be a bit of an understatement. I just can't seem to enjoy the format at all. It has disappointed me thus far, and every time they ban another card, I just get cranky. It seems that rather than unbanning a reasonable card like Ancestral Vision, they instead ban a card in whatever the best deck is. Honestly, a banned list that includes both Bloodbraid Elf and Wild Nacatl can't really be taken seriously at all.
I could quite happily ramble on for an entire article about all the things I think they did wrong with Modern and all the things I think should be changed. However, I can't imagine that it would be an enthralling read or that it would achieve much. Instead, I'm going to write about the deck that I built and played in a Modern PTQ at Games Laboratory in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago. I think that the deck is amazing and that you should all play it.
Before I give you the list, I'm going to talk a little about its origin. Although I lacked the motivation, I did put in the hours in order to get familiar with the format. I played just about every deck. As soon as I gave up on one, I simply abandoned it and moved on to another. The two decks that I spent the longest on were U/W/R Geist and U/W/R Control. These are lists similar to the ones I was using.
Both of these decks were fine. That being said, they weren't quite what I was looking for. The Geist of Saint Traft deck felt like it was really lacking in a couple of areas. Geist is a great card, and the deck is full of ways to protect it. However, without Geist, the deck really lacks its otherwise offensive punch. Sometimes, you just don't draw it, and sometimes, especially post-board, they will kill it. Then you are left with a bunch of burn spells and cheap counters, and you just have to cross your fingers and hope that your Celestial Colonnades and burn get there.
The control deck was also lacking a little, mainly due to the great diversity of the format. There are just so many very powerful and focused decks which require different types of answers. Given that the deck plans to answer everything and then eventually beat you up with a Colonnade, the sheer variety of decks I came across was just a little too much. The deck was very good at dealing with aggro decks but wasn't great against Tron and Gifts. The more I tried to change this, the more I sacrificed what it was actually doing well.
I felt that the Geist deck needed more cards to make it a real deck when it wasn't winning with Geist. On the other hand, I felt that the control deck needed the ability to threaten the decks that had a better late game. It was at this point that I simply mashed the two together, and this is the list that I took to second place at the PTQ:
This deck can absolutely crush you with an early Geist. It can also burn you out with Snapcaster Mages, but this will not always be your go-to plan. Cryptic Command is an amazing card, and it is made even better when you have enough cheap removal to get to turn 4 with a mostly empty board. It plays well with instant speed threats like Vendilion Clique and Restoration Angel and also with Sphinx's Revelation. Flashing back Cryptic Commands with your Snapcasters will generate a lot of value or tempo depending on what you need at the time. I decided that I wanted four of these bad boys in my Geist deck, which was the breakthrough that I needed. The rest of the changes came naturally and easily.
With four Cryptics and four Snapcasters, you really want to hit every one of your land drops. This is made even easier by having so many of your lands function as spells. Both Tectonic Edge and Celestial Colonnade are very well placed at the moment, and being able to play a lot of each makes it easy to play so many lands without really feeling like you are getting flooded.
Once the deck started to move in this direction, I began to want Sphinx's Revelations more and more. The U/W/R Control deck had no real win conditions. By casting a Revelation, flashing it back, and then getting some more value with your Cryptics and Electrolyzes, you will be able to get so far ahead on cards that it doesn't really matter what you kill your opponent with. Once I added Revelation to my Geist deck, I realized that I didn't really need the extra threats. Aven Mindcensor and Thundermaw Hellkite are good cards, but they don't play well in a threat-light deck. In the games you plan to win the late game, they are just unnecessary.
Cryptic Command and Sphinx's Revelation also give you access to a semi-transformational sideboard. Being able to take out your Geists against aggro or against decks sporting Liliana of the Veil allows you to become a straight-up control deck. Sweepers, removal, and card advantage simply become your whole deck. The Geist deck could never do this. It had to hope that its semi-aggressive strategy was right against their draw.
Against control, you can take out all the Lightning Bolts and Lightning Helixes, replacing them with permission, another land, and another Revelation. The previous U/W/R Geist deck couldn't do this either. You had to be the beatdown because their long game was better than yours. For this reason, it was almost always wrong to cut all of the Bolts, no matter how ineffective they often were.
I was very happy with how my deck was performing against decks that were not amazing matchups for the previous iteration U/W/R Geist. It turned out that I was also doing well against the decks that U/W/R Control struggled with. Against Tron and Gifts, the Vendilion Cliques and Geists really showed their worth. U/W/R Control couldn't apply enough pressure in these matchups, which meant that they were eventually able to pull ahead. With a Geist or a Clique, however, you are able to establish a real clock and protect it.
Although Modern is an incredibly diverse format, I still want to talk about some of the sideboarding plans as a way to demonstrate how I change the deck in each key matchup.
If you have an early Geist and it survives, you are usually able to keep them off Tron or counter their threats for long enough to get there. On the other hand, if you don't have an early Geist, you have a lot of ways to interact with their mana and a lot of permission for their threats. You will need either a Geist or a Sowing Salt, but this happens most of the time.
This one gets pretty grindy, and their discard means that you won't always dictate how the game goes. Dark Confidant and Liliana of the Veil are their scariest threats, so keeping hands that are weak to them is not advisable.
This matchup is really good. After sideboarding, you have access to a variety of cheap answers, which will replace your slower card advantage and tempo cards.
After sideboarding, this matchup is a joke. You have so many cheap spells that can interact favorably until the point at which your sweepers and card advantage can put it away.
This one is pretty straightforward. Your terrible removal spells turn into cards that actually interact with them.
I was thrilled with how well my deck performed. It felt streamlined and powerful, and there wasn't a matchup that I was worried about. I am quite disappointed that I couldn't turn it into another Pro Tour invite, but on the other hand, I am thrilled for Wilfy Horig, who once again earned the chance to attend a PT. He is a great player, and I'm sure the Little Druid will do Melbourne proud.
I hope that you have enjoyed reading about my Modern deck. I urge you to give it a go, as I am confident it will surpass your expectations. As always, I look forward to reading your comments and feedback.
Sledgesliver on Magic Online