While most Magic players were getting ready for the holidays, I was busy battling in the #SCGPC. My experience testing for a similar tournament in the Magic Online Championship helped me to some degree, but I definitely could have done better in my deck selection.
Honestly, I thought I played pretty well. There were some spots where I had a bunch of tough decisions and think I navigated them all right, but there were some spots where I think I legitimately played great.
Still, I got crushed.
My read on Standard was a bunch of Aetherworks Marvel and some aggressive white decks trying to beat Aetherworks. I was mostly spot on, although some players took it a step further, likely because Standard was perceived to be the most important of the three formats.
I also attempted to next-level, but only did so adequately. My plan was to go under all the other white aggro decks while still packing disruption for the Aetherworks decks.
- 4 Expedition Envoy
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 3 Spell Queller
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Town Gossipmonger
- 2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
My deck had a bunch of problems, such as weak Thalia's Lieutenants, too many three-drops, not enough two-drops, and a potentially heinous sideboard. I knew that going in and was hoping that my “Fish” deck could carry me through.
Some of those flaws came to fruition in my match against Jacob Baugh. Realistically, I win Game 1 if I'm on the play or draw a singular Reflector Mage or Declaration in Stone for Sigarda, Heron's Grace in a timely manner. Game 3 is probably easy, despite my mulligan to five, if I draw a third land. My nut draw in Game 2 was wasted on his awful draw.
I have never missed Knight of the White Orchid so much.
Come back to me.
Joe's deck was probably a better version of mine for the field, although I might have had the edge against him specifically.
The Brad/Todd weapon of choice wasn't unexpected exactly, as I assumed it would have a poor matchup against the more aggressive Vehicles decks. Given that, I assumed I'd be fine as well. According to Brad, that wasn't the case. He spent a bunch of time testing our potential Top 8 matchup, apparently unaware that I was incapable of winning matches.
What a fish.
The deck I played isn't a “real” deck and was only something I was willing to sleeve up under the most extreme of circumstances. Barring a random influx of new Humans in Aether Revolt, I think we can safely ignore my deck choice in this one.
I don't think anyone could have beaten my Modern deck, so I'm pretty proud of this one. It's boring ole Burn, but I think I did a good job metagaming and basically everyone ended up weak to it.
A couple of other players told me they considered Burn, but that's nonsense. If they did, they would have seen that it was clearly the choice. Brad mentioned that Burn is a “bad deck,” even if it's favored against the field. Considering we're talking about Modern, that argument is incredibly invalid.
In a vacuum, Burn is one of the most consistent archetypes you can imagine. Each of its cards does the same thing, so you can't really have a bad draw. Obviously there is some disparity in draws, like when you draw all Goblin Guides and Lightning Bolts compared to drawing Searing Blazes against a creatureless deck. Regardless, the deck does its thing and it does it well. It might not be the most dynamic deck, and there's a stigma attached to playing a “brainless” deck, but ultimately that doesn't matter if you still get three match points.
I could try to dispel the stigma of Burn and other various Modern decks, but it's pointless. There is no shortage of decks that are easy to win with on the back of brute force but are difficult to master to the point of getting an additional edge. Anyone can pick up and play Burn, but not everyone can play it well.
Anyway, I went with R/W Burn over Naya with Wild Nacatls for a few reasons. One of the easiest ways to lose with Burn is to draw too few creatures and not have that consistent damage output. Then again, you also want to have enough direct damage to close games once they stabilize.
There's a fine line between having too many creatures and too few. I think R/W with Grim Lavamancer hits that mark. In a metagame with more Lightning Bolts, more threats (and/or Mutagenic Growths) are probably necessary. As is, I thought I could skate by on the bare minimum and I'm glad I did. More threats would have been redundant.
Inspiring Vantage is a nice pickup from Kaladesh. It allows you to do a couple of things, namely play more white cards in your maindeck and sideboard without having to fetch an untapped Sacred Foundry. While that doesn't matter most of the time, it comes up enough for me to point it out. Hell, I was willing to sleeve up a Clifftop Retreat.
Kor Firewalker has never been easier to cast, even though I didn't take advantage of it. Cards like Rest in Peace, Stony Silence, and Wear // Tear are easily castable if you want them. For this tournament, I didn't, but I could see that being the case in the future.
Destructive Revelry was my safety blanket, and one I wished I could have brought myself to cut. I don't think I could handle losing to Todd Stevens and his Leyline of Sanctity / Chalice of the Void deck, so in went the Stomping Ground. The opportunity cost might seem low, but it's not something I would advise doing unless you felt it was absolutely necessary.
The split on Relic of Progenitus and Ravenous Trap was more about the other decks in the field than the Dredge matchup specifically. Relic is great against Tarmogoyf and Tasigur, the Golden Fang, but it also forces Dredge to sideboard in some anti-hate. I mean, they could let the Relic stick around, but that plan doesn't seem great for them either. And if they want to sideboard in Thoughtseize to nab my Ravenous Traps? Great.
I almost played a maindeck Mutagenic Growth for the information war. Each player had access to their opponent's decklist at the start of the match, which meant that I got to play some mind games!
It might seem like your opponent having your decklist is a disadvantage, but clearly someone has to be advantaged in that fight. If they played “straight up,” I'd win the battle. As is the case in a lot of spots, I like to hedge. I won't alter my decklist significantly one way or the other, but I will strongly lean toward a card or combination of cards that is difficult to play around.
Honestly, in a field of good players, I'm more than happy to have some spice in my decks and show it to them. If they make a conscious effort to play around it, it's all the better for me. Realistically, they should only play around it if it's free, but that doesn't mean they will. Some people can't resist the urge to play around one copy of something like Daze or Mutagenic Growth. If they walk into it, it's too embarrassing.
Regardless of how it plays out, it's strictly worse to make things easy on them (assuming the cards you're playing are relatively close on power level). It's a small edge, but one I'm happy to gain.
I think I found my Modern deck for the foreseeable future, so at least something good came of it. Modern moves quickly, though, so who knows.
Despite saying I wouldn't ever play it again, I ran back my Grixis Control deck from Grand Prix Columbus. There were more than a few brews up my sleeve, but I wasn't confident enough to pull the trigger in any of them.
Delver seemed like an easy default deck for many of the competitors, and others felt the same way. They each showed up with technology for the mirror. I did them one better and played the deck that dominates them.
True-Name Nemesis and more removal is a reasonable answer for the mirrors, but I can beat removal with Painful Truths. While I kind of glossed over answers for True-Name Nemesis, I still had game with Diabolic Edict and Ensnaring Bridge. Again, hedging is key. Toxic Deluge isn't something I wanted against the expected field, but I still felt all right against a curveball or two.
Naturally, I ended up in the bracket with Elves and a pair of Lands decks, which was probably the most unfavorable one. Many people consoled me about the “unlucky” pod, as if I were dead from the get. They're kind of missing the point.
Not only is Lands a fine matchup, but I also had an additional Surgical Extraction in my sideboard just for that matchup. Following Grand Prix Columbus, I felt I had an even better understanding of the matchup.
Drawing an early Surgical Extraction is key, hence the emphasis with an additional copy. Ideally you'd like to tag their Life from the Loams, but you can kind of keep those in check with Deathrite Shamans. Sometimes it's right to go after the Punishing Fires or even the Dark Depths.
Young Pyromancer is one of the best threats against them, especially if you can afford to save a Wasteland for Dark Depths or The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale. You get to attack around 20/20s, go through Maze of Ith, and mostly ignore Punishing Fire.
Even though I lost twice, I could have won any number of the games if things broke a little differently. Then again, instead of fighting these uphill battles with a control deck in Legacy, I could look for something a little more proactive. So far, that plan has served me well in Modern.
I like Eldrazi well enough, but it's just as bad against Lands as everything else. Given how I felt at the end of Grand Prix Columbus, I should be looking to play Miracles. It's still a control deck, but it also has a phenomenal way to lock out Lands.
These small, invitation-only tournaments are a lot of fun and I wish more of them existed. With the #SCGPC as we know it gone after this year, it's unlikely that I'll ever get to play in something similar again. It makes me sad because we could all use a little variety in our lives.
I will say that I'm not sad to see the structure of the tournament go. There were several times where people had to tell me what was happening next and when I was done. Maybe I'm just dumb, but it was unlike anything that I'm familiar with (which, granted, is basically Swiss and nothing else). Let's keep it simple next time.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to a new year, new cards, and some more tournaments. Here's hoping we have some new cards next week. I won't be at Grand Prix Louisville, but I'm definitely hitting up Modern at Grand Prix Vancouver and looking to light some people on fire!