I'm currently in Las Vegas testing for Pro Tour Dragon's Maze. I have 38 Pro Points, need 45 for Platinum, and need roughly 50 to have a shot at an invite to the World Championship. With only Grand Prix Portland and the Pro Tour left, I have a solid shot, but I have to work for it.
So that's what I'm doing.
Grand Prix Portland is Modern, so unless you're one of the few going to that tournament or one of the even fewer grinding Modern on Magic Online, you probably don't care about the format. Modern is interesting to me, so I'm going to touch on it briefly.
I'm likely playing U/W Tron again. It has inevitability, velocity, consistency, and is underestimated. It's one of those decks where players will sideboard poorly against you, assuming one card or another is lights out. For example, I've had players keep six land + Stony Silence against me. I've also had players not side in Stony Silence at all. Which one of them is right?
Probably neither. The answer is somewhere in between. On one hand, I have a lot of artifacts, a lot of nonbasics, and a Gifts Ungiven fueled Unburial Rites strategy. If someone sides in Blood Moon, Stony Silence, and Leyline of the Void, are they correct in doing so, or are they just diluting their strategy?
I rarely lose to Blood Moon, Stony Silence, or graveyard hate. The problems arise when they have pressure plus general disruption, like Spell Pierce, Tectonic Edge, and/or Aven Mindcensor. Those cards aren't more powerful against me, but they don't take away from your general strategy.
Against Blood Moon, I can develop my board naturally with Azorius Signet / Talisman of Progress or use Expedition Map to find basic lands. A single mana rock can cast Gifts Ungiven or flashback Unburial Rites, and I typically side in Wurmcoil Engine against decks with Blood Moon. It's not bad against me, but it's not exactly good either.
If they have graveyard hate, I will likely side out the Unburial Rites package, leaving them with dead cards. They will often leave open Rakdos Charm mana, which slows them down further. Of course, Rakdos Charm is one of the few hate cards that has multiple uses, and I certainly have artifacts in my deck they can kill.
Aside from all that, I know U/W Tron well and think I have a good list, so I won't have to spend much time on it. I need to focus on Block Constructed because it's a relatively new format and I usually struggle with those. There are other things, like Domain Zoo and Beck // Call combo, that I'd love to work on, but I just don't have the time.
If there's any interest, I wouldn't mind writing a Modern Bucket List type article. Goryo's Vengeance Reanimator, Beck // Call, Amulet of Vigor, Zur the Enchanter, Nivmagus Elemental, Gifts Control, Domain Zoo, Boom // Bust Zoo, Dredgevine, Hive Mind, Scapeshift, Restore Balance, Living End, Twiddle, and Storm are all decks that I'd like to explore further. I'm just not sure how much people want to read about Modern, so let me know in the comments section!
As for Standard, well...Reanimator won again. I can't help but get caught up in this narrative of Reanimator being the bad guy, but it certainly feels strange when my friend, the bad guy, wins the tournament. I'm happy for you CVM, but playing Reanimator? Grr...
Personally, I don't like playing midrange decks like Reanimator and Jund. Disrupting your opponent, killing their stuff, and then winning with big monsters doesn't excite me. Way back in the day, I switched from U/B Psychatog to G/B Rock the morning of a PTQ because there were a lot of Mono-Red and Mono-Black Aggro decks in the room. These days, I'd attempt to tweak the Psychatog deck.
Now, I did concede in the finals of that PTQ and won a PTQ with Rock two weeks later, but my range has narrowed significantly, which has made me able to enjoy myself during tournaments more often. Is that at the cost of winning? Who knows! All I know is that I played a very good Reanimator list at the WMCQ in DC and did rather poorly.
That said, the deck is obviously very good, with three copies making the Top 8 in New Jersey. Despite the fact that Reanimator has been hated on for months now, it's still on top, and that's incredibly impressive. Jund was the other deck that took three Top 8 slots, which goes to show how well midrange is currently doing.
- 3 Acidic Slime
- 3 Angel of Serenity
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 3 Fiend Hunter
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 2 Sin Collector
- 3 Thragtusk
I fully support Chris's use of Fiend Hunter as a Centaur Healer that can also take care of things like Olivia Voldaren. Sin Collector puts control decks in an awkward spot, especially with Restoration Angel. Previously, our hands were safe, but that's not the case anymore. This is going to be a very large problem moving forward.
Other than that, his deck is closer to Jund than an all-in Reanimator deck. His fatties are a scant three Angel of Serenitys, as you never want your want to be bogged down with uncastables.
In 9th place, we have this list:
- 4 Angel of Serenity
- 2 Arbor Elf
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 2 Craterhoof Behemoth
- 2 Sire of Insanity
- 4 Somberwald Sage
- 4 Thragtusk
Unfortunately, it looks like Amin was all set to intentionally draw into Top 8 before Owen Turtenwald elected to play in an attempt to lock up the top seed. That opened up the 8th seed to Sigrist at 8-2, a record that normally wouldn't make Top 8.
Even though we didn't get to see him battle in the Top 8, we get to see Amin's deck, which looks pretty cool. Not only is he bringing back Brad Nelson's Somberwald Sage technology, but he's using it to cast Sire of Insanity.
I'd like to see some Faithless Lootings in that list, but I understand that the mana is tight.
And then there's the other midrange deck:
I like Owen's/Reid's/Huey's list, but that removal suite is not for anyone who likes consistency. Maindeck Ground Seals are basically a necessity at this point. With Liliana of the Veil losing some of its efficacy, I can understand the removal of Arbor Elf. Granted, the two-of Arbor Elf may have been sketchy to begin with. The return of Rakdos Keyrune is something I can get behind.
They played Cavern of Souls with some Sire of Insanitys, which I definitely agree with. The singleton Rakdos's Return is interesting. I could see the desire for a late game Fireball effect, but Bonfire of the Damned gives you that reach as well. Being able to scale Rakdos's Return is obviously nice, but I think that Sire gets the job done better. Of course, if they're sitting on a handful of answers to Sire, Rakdos's Return is the card you want.
No basic lands isn't incredibly ballsy or anything, but it's something I'd like to exploit. Control decks might want to Ghost Quarter your Kessig Wolf Runs anyway, so there's very little reason to not play a basic. I understand that Ghost Quarter isn't exactly a widely played card, but it should be played more than zero.
Their sideboard is kind of wild, but I like it. The only thing that concerns me is no real trump in the midrange mirrors aside from Deadbridge Chant. If Jund and Reanimator are going to be popular, why not play another big card or at least a fourth Olivia Voldaren?
The other copies of Jund in the Top 8 closely resembled my list from a couple weeks ago. Nice job, guys! I hope the deck was good for you.
Of the remaining Top 8 decks, Bant Hexproof was probably the most "normal."
It's hard to say whether Fencing Ace is necessary in Hexproof or not. On one hand, he hits hard, and if they don't have removal, they are likely dead. On the other hand, the whole point of the deck is to make your opponent's removal useless, so why even bother with the Ace?
Voice of Resurgence is a step in the right direction and I'm still advocating Ascended Lawmage, but who's to say that Alex didn't make Top 8 on the back of his powerful double strikers? In his fantastic article, Alex commented that Aces stole multiple games, so that probably means they're worth it.
I've said before that the key to Bant Hexproof's success is someone building a good sideboard for it. Unfortunately, Alex's sideboard doesn't look to be it. It's a mishmash of situationally good spells, which has been the case for most Bant Hexproof sideboards so far. That's not to say that it's bad; it's just not something revolutionary, which is what I think Bant Hexproof needs right now.
The last deck is certainly the strangest:
William's deck looks like an update to Joel Larsson's Pro Tour Gatecrash deck, which despite finishing second overall never really took off. He uses Geist of Saint Traft alongside Boros Reckoner to play an aggro control game. Absent are some counterspells, but that's normal as Joel only ran two Izzet Charms. Turn // Burn and Ral Zarek are the Dragon's Maze cards that fueled his 3rd place finish.
Overall, the deck has a lot of two-drops, not many lands, and Think Twices that don't seem like they fit the archetype very well. Then again, Joel had success with three Sphinx's Revelations in a similar deck. I would definitely like to see Thought Scour in there though. It fills holes on your curve, gives you options with Snapcaster Mage, and allows you to make your land drops.
What's not to love?
The next deck is my favorite:
Costa skimped on the anti-aggro components of the deck, like Unflinching Courage, and lost to aggro twice. The things I don't like in his list are four Snapcaster Mages, three Unsummons, and only three Thought Scours. Adding a Ghost Quarter with only 25 lands is also a little sketchy.
Silklash Spider out of the board is pretty awesome. Psychic Spiral seems unnecessary. Dissipate should likely be a more specific counterspell, such as Negate. Some amount of life gain would be nice. Trostani, Selesnya's Voice is fantastic but slow. As I said earlier, I would play some copies of Unflinching Courage.
The last deck I want to talk about is another Brad Nelson darling, Peddle to the Metal:
- 4 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 4 Izzet Staticaster
- 2 Lobber Crew
- 4 Nightshade Peddler
- 2 Sire of Insanity
- 3 Thragtusk
- 2 Thundermaw Hellkite
- 3 Olivia Voldaren
This deck is wild! I miss the Tracker's Instincts / Deathrite Shaman synergies, but you can't really play Tracker's Instincts with Turn // Burn and Ral Zarek in the deck. Both of those go a long way toward making Izzet Staticaster playable against the majority of archetypes in the format. Additionally, Sire of Insanity helps patch up the control matchups. I know Brad was working on the deck, so hopefully he'll chime in sometime soon.
If I were playing Standard tomorrow, I would prepare for these decks, in order:
1) G/B/W Reanimator
3) The Aristocrats: Act 2
4) Flash variants
5) Naya Blitz
6) Bant Hexproof
For the most part, Flash, Blitz, and The Aristocrats underperformed, but don't count them out. The format isn't entirely Jund and Reanimator quite yet. As a Flash player, I can't help but notice that the other five decks on the list are challenging matchups. That isn't to say that they aren't winnable, but it doesn't look like there are any "easy" matchups left. Just something you should keep in mind if you're trying to pick up Flash for next weekend.
Bant Hexproof and Naya Blitz are the easiest targets, as they are the most linear strategies of the bunch. I wouldn't count out The Aristocrats, even though it gained little from Dragon's Maze. It has a lot of staying power and is another deck where Sin Collector fits right in.
As for beating Reanimator and Jund? Any of the other decks in the list can beat them, but I don't have any great answers.
I'm stoked to be playing Modern this weekend and even more stoked to be playing in another Pro Tour the following weekend. That will easily be the biggest tournament of my life, as I need a worthy finish to make Platinum.
Wish me luck!
@G3RRYT on Twitter