The stage was set. I had put in the work. Picked the brain of people I admired. It really felt like old times with the new school twist. Having AJ Sacher on stream with me to go over different builds and options and thoughts for U/R Twin was great. He may have been in and out of the game in the last year or so, but he's still as sharp as ever. Asking Gerry his thoughts on different aspects of the deck so that I could compare and use them to mold my own really helped. I even had BBD on stream with me while we battled and hashed out what we were going to play.
Needless to say I felt more prepared for the Modern Open in Baltimore than I had felt for any single tournament in quite a while.
Friday night I got sick. Like really sick. Runny nose, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, you know, all that good stuff. I was pretty sure it was the flu when I had bouts of freezing chills and sweaty hot flashes. Nyquil helped me sleep Friday night, but Saturday morning I felt even worse.
Here I was, laying in bed four hours away from home in a hotel room split three ways, the morning of a tournament that I worked quite hard at being prepared for, and I felt like death.
Every part of me wanted to just fight through it and play. Get up and shower, shove a bunch of pills down my throat, wear a Purell necklace, and just go play Magic. I needed this event, but that thought was the exact thing that I needed to snap myself back into perspective.
For me, Magic isn't just about performing well at an event. It isn't about results, it's about growing as a person, player, and professional. The last part is unique to me.
I needed much more than just playing in this one Modern Open. I had a job at StarCityGames that I needed to be able to perform. I was leaving for GP Miami on Wednesday so that we could battle in the Live BBD vs CVM the following Friday. I needed to continue to work on packing/shipping my Kickstarter backer rewards. I needed my health.
I stayed in that hotel bed the entire day. Sleeping most of it, watching coverage for some of it. Thankfully, BBD was able to just use cards from my deck that he was missing.
I just rested, and it was 100% the correct decision.
Missing out on seeing and greeting people was worse than not playing in the event really, but I did make it a point to stop by on Sunday before we left (especially since I had some stuff that I brought with me from the office that I had to drop off for customers - sorry for forgetting to send that stuff in on Saturday, totally my fault!).
After it was all said and done, BBD ended up missing day two with our list and finished 6-3. I felt like we had a pretty good list, but to be honest, the format is so wide open and there are so many variations of Twin that you can play I'm not even sure where the best place to be is.
I'm also not surprised to see Gerard do well in another tournament with a unique Sultai Control deck. Gerard has this ability to see ways to exploit the different formats using only Sultai cards and has been on quite a tear lately. I wouldn't be surprised to see this one pick up in popularity just like how his Standard version did, recently winning the Standard Grand Prix in Memphis in the hands of Jack Fogle.
Which brings us to where I want to go next: Standard.
Grand Prix Miami is also Standard, and I really do love the format right now. The cards are all extremely powerful, and games can be swingy, but I feel that if you are properly able to predict where the majority of the metagame is going to be and build your deck accordingly, you can get an edge.
It also doesn't hurt that I am working with Brad Nelson and Co. for this event. I mean, have you seen his results in Standard Grand Prix?
In Memphis we saw a resurgence of Abzan Control, which I thought we were also going to see as we moved into the Standard Premier IQ in Baltimore, but that wasn't the case. While there was one Abzan Midrange deck that made the Top 8, it was far from the normal Abzan Control deck. There was a bit of an Abzan Aggro comeback, but I'm not surprised to see Andy Boswell do well with that deck, since he has been playing it for some time now.
What was interesting for me was to see R/W Aggro win the event but not follow after Ben Starks' list from Memphis. Going up to four Outpost Siege and leaning on Soulfire Grand Master and Wild Slash was something that I assumed everyone was going to adopt, but Andrew Skorik's first place list from Baltimore is a throwback to when I was championing the deck.
- 2 Ashcloud Phoenix
- 4 Goblin Rabblemaster
- 4 Seeker of the Way
- 1 Soulfire Grand Master
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
- 2 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
This R/W deck is just plain ole' meat and potatoes, which I think was perfect for last week. If everyone is going to be moving their Stormbreath Dragons to the sideboard, then bringing them back into the main can end up being pretty sweet, especially if we are still on Brimaz, King of Oreskos to tax their Stoke the Flames.
The main reason that I got off R/W Aggro was that I felt the mirror was too much of a coin flip, and even though there are two versions, I still feel that way. I think that the version with more Wild Slashes will be favored over a version with less, since all things being equal, the earlygame interaction is what counts. I think that there may even be a way to hybridize the two strategies.
Here we have the same lategame staying power of Soulfire Grand Master combined with our burn spells (including three copies of Wild Slash), and we have upped the Outpost Siege count to three while still keeping access to Stormbreath Dragon. I think we could even go to four Outpost Siege and down to three Stormbreath Dragon, but I tend to lean on the four Dragon side because, well, it's Stormbreath Dragon.
The sideboard for these R/W decks usually all have a handful of the same cards. Arc Lightning, Glare of Heresy, Scouring Sands, and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker tend to show up in anywhere from one to three copies, while cards like Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Anger of the Gods, End Hostilities, and other burn spells tend to be in the zero to two range.
I'm honestly not sure what the best plan is, but I do know what strategy we want to try and employ against the different archetypes and what cards are good there.
VS R/W Aggro
In the mirror, cards like Arc Lightning and Glare of Heresy are both good, since they are cheap interaction spells that allow us to handle earlygame cards. I like going more controlling and cutting Goblin Rabblemaster on the draw and trying to have as many interactive spells as possible, while I think that being as aggressive as possible on the play is where we want to be. Not everyone is going to have something like Anger of the Gods, and they might even sideboard incorrectly. Outpost Siege is very powerful in the mirror, and I was even going so far as trying out bringing in an Erase to fight it-- since Erase also hits Chained to the Rocks it isn't technically dead.
A lot of people like Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker in the mirror since it hits Stormbreath Dragon and can put on pressure similar to Stormbreath, but I always had varied results with it. One could possibly be correct on the play.
Here are the cards that I like on the play/draw in the mirror:
VS Sultai Control/U/B Control
Sultai and U/B Control felt like the worst matchups. They are certainly winnable, but the plethora of Bile Blight and Drown in Sorrow alongside Dig Through Time and Sultai Charm (out of Sultai Control) just made the games feel miserable. You have to be as aggressive as possible and just jam threat after threat and hope they ran out of answers.
Here are the cards that I like against them:
This matchup is one that I regret not having access to any Ashcloud Phoenix in the maindeck. It could be that we want some in our sideboard, but they would primarily be for the control decks. Mastery of the Unseen is a powerhouse and can win games all on its own against these decks. Be wary of Sultai Charm though.
VS Abzan Control
Outpost Siege is such a house here. They really only have one or two Utter End as ways to handle it and have to hope that things just spiral out of control quickly with Siege Rhinos if you happen to get one online. As always, any deck with Siege Rhino can just win by casting them over and over, but with Chained to the Rocks and the ability to double up Lightning Strike and Wild Slash to kill one, we can punch through it. It's also important to realize that Soulfire Grand Master giving our burn spells lifelink can be relevant in game 1s, letting us race the Rhinos sometimes rather than having to be super defensive against them.
Cards I like against Abzan Control:
Planeswalkers and the two-mana interactive cards are where we want to be postboard here. Again, another match where Ashcloud Phoenix is good. Granted, they do have access to Abzan Charm, but I still like Ashcloud Phoenix since they have to have the charm or will die in a couple attacks. Just like against the Sultai and U/B Control decks, Mastery of the Unseen is great here too.
VS Jeskai Aggro
This matchup can be rough, since Mantis Rider can help get in enough damage to burn us out before we can stabilize. Soulfire Grand Master definitely helps with this, but it's something to be aware of. We are also down to three Lightning Strikes, which makes Mantis Rider seem even better. Much like in the mirror, I like being aggressive on the play and defensive on the draw.
Having Scouring Sands isn't as important, since they are likely not on Hordeling Outburst because they have Mantis Rider. It may be worthwhile to be on a super controlling plan postboard with Elspeth, Sun's Champion as our end game.
VS Jeskai Tokens
This deck has fallen out of favor recently with the introduction of Outpost Siege. With a card advantage engine that we don't have to play a third color to get, it's easy to dismiss the deck, but I wouldn't count out Treasure Cruise.
The match dynamic is similar to the mirror, but I think that we have to keep in our Rabblemasters even when on the draw. Here are the cards I like:
It can be tough, but we have draws that can easily steamroll here. One of the reasons that I like keeping in Goblin Rabblemaster even on the draw is to give us those chances that they just have nothing and we can run away with the game.
VS Green-based Devotion
This match is all about controlling their early mana, which is great since we are up to three Wild Slash in the main. Goblin Rabblemaster combined with a couple removal spells can be enough to run away with the game here a lot of the time. Hornet Queen is by far their best card against us, so be aware of that.
Here are the cards I like postboard:
Hornet Queen can be extremely difficult to beat, so we may want to consider something like Anger of the Gods, especially on the draw. Outpost Siege can help push through damage against the Queen though, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
There are still a few more decks that you may see: Heroic strategies, Whip decks, and G/R Aggro are also decks that have seen play before, but I think those decks will be covered by sideboard cards for the popular decks that I listed out above.
I'm not sure what sideboard I would go with, but at least now we can see what types of strategies we would want to implement in each matchup, and that would let us build one.
Before I go, in case you happened to miss the sign off from the BBD vs CVM last week, we're doing something a little unique for our deck selection for the live VS Video this Friday from Grand Prix Miami. Every week we have fans requesting and submitting decklists and ideas for us to play in our VS video, so we figured this time we would let our fans pick what we're playing - with a bit of a twist!
If you would like for us to play your deck for the VS video live in Miami, just follow these four easy steps:
- Be there early.
- Have your physical deck with you.
- Write it out on a decklist sheet and submit that.
- Cross your fingers!
We will be picking two decks randomly from the submitted decklists and will be playing your physical copies of the deck in the live BBD vs CVM at Grand Prix Miami!
As of this writing, I'm not sure what I'm playing, but that's what a fourteen-hour car ride is for right?
With all the snow lately, I really can't wait to lay in the sand on Miami Beach.