What a weekend.
Oh, wait, was I supposed to say "spoiler alert" first?
In case you didn't know, Jody Keith, Tom Ross, and I won #SCGATL and there was never any doubt in my mind what was happening this weekend. Jody Keith is a world-class Legacy player, Tom Ross always kills it with Mono-Red Aggro in Standard, and I'm one of the few Modern specialists out there. It was the perfect combination.
I had a tough choice of what deck to play for the tournament. I've had a ton of success recently with Eldrazi Tron, winning the last Modern Open with it. Then, at the Invitational, I brought Mono-Green Tron to battle with mostly because it had such an amazing Eldrazi Tron matchup and I thought there would be plenty of people on the deck. That didn't quite work out as expected, and I was all ready to go back to Eldrazi Tron this weekend, but in the end I couldn't pass up all of this value.
- 3 Birds of Paradise
- 1 Eternal Witness
- 2 Kitchen Finks
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Ramunap Excavator
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Tireless Tracker
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 2 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
G/W Company is simply my favorite deck to play, so I was playing it on stream last Thursday with Jody Keith watching. He also fell in love with the deck, and he told me to play it at #SCGATL because he just wanted to watch me play it all weekend. I was obviously instantly sold, and when I asked Tom Ross just to make sure, I was surprised to find out that he also thought it was a perfect choice for the weekend.
Metagaming in Team Tournaments
Like usual, Tom wasn't wrong and G/W Company was the perfect choice for the team tournament. In a normal tournament, especially in Modern, you can play against a ton of different decks. Players will have their own pet deck that they are trying to catch people off-guard with or have been playing for years and know the deck inside and out. Team tournaments are a little different, though, because people don't want to play risky "Tier 2" decks that may run into a string of bad matchups, costing their teammates the tournament.
This leads to most players playing something safe where they can try to win two-thirds of their matchups across the board to not let their teammates down. Therefore, a larger percentage of players are playing the "Tier 1" decks that are not only proven but also don't have any truly awful matchups. Because of the variance of the matchups you face in Modern compared with the other two formats, teams are incentivized to have their stronger players playing either Standard or Legacy. Then, if your weakest player is playing Modern, you want them to be playing the best deck in the format that your other two teammates can help them with, since they are sitting in the middle.
If there would be few high-variance combo decks in the metagame, G/W Company was the perfect choice to battle against the other midrange style decks that people would be bringing to the table. Now, this theory is more and more true the farther you get in to a tournament, as you are still likely to play against a variety of decks in the early rounds, and I would have struggled on Day 1 if my teammates hadn't picked me up. Although I didn't finish five of the nine matches on Day 1 because Jody and Tom each won their match before mine had ended, I would have likely gone 5-4, definitely not good enough to make Day 2. However, on Day 1 I played against almost exclusively Grixis Death's Shadow or Burn, and G/W Company was the perfect choice then, as I didn't drop a game against either deck on the day.
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 4 Falkenrath Gorger
- 2 Soul-Scar Mage
- 1 Hazoret the Fervent
- 1 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
Tom's deck choice was basically the opposite of mine. Since we knew I might have a rough Day 1, we needed Tom to have a deck that would have a great Day 1. We knew Jody was just going to win all eighteen of his matches, so Tom and I needed to win when the other would lose. Tom played a very low-to-the-ground Mono-Red deck that was fast enough to run over the Day 2 decks that weren't as optimal as those found on Day 2. We sacrificed playing powerful cards in the deck for the speed, and it paid off, with Tom only losing one match on Day 1.
G/W Company Moving Forward
One question that I've been asked over and over again this weekend: "How good is G/W Company?" Honestly, it isn't a Tier 1 deck. It was the perfect choice for the team tournament this weekend, but it's not as good in individual tournaments.
At the end of the day, there are still plenty of combo-centric decks that are extremely difficult to beat and when playing the deck in a fifteen-round tournament, you have to get very lucky with your matchups. For the people who want to pick up a Tier 1 deck that will give them the best chance to win, G/W Company honestly isn't that. That deck is Grixis Death's Shadow, as four of the five Day 2 pilots made the elimination rounds of #SCGATL, only losing to either mirrors or me. However, if you want a deck that is extremely fun and challenging to play and is under the radar, then G/W Company can be for you.
Being under the radar was the biggest reason why G/W Company was a good choice last weekend, as it's not a hard deck to beat if you want to. If it picks up in popularity, then combo decks will bring it back down in short order, and even Grixis Death's Shadow can beat it pretty easily if they want. Even though my record against Grixis Death's Shadow was basically perfect during #SCGATL, it was mostly because the players didn't have any hate for my deck, and I'm not really convinced that G/W Company is a favorite in the matchup. Take Dan Jessup's deck, for example:
The night before the tournament, Dan Jessup, Jim Davis, Tom Ross and I went to a local store for some spellslinging during their Friday Night Magic. Both Jim and Dan played G/W Company for fun during the event, and they knew I was playing during the tournament the next day. Dan had a much better sideboard for my deck than a traditional Grixis Death's Shadow player would have, and I think that his build was most likely a favorite against mine; Grixis Death's Shadow is simply that good. Basically, if Grixis Death's Shadow wants to focus on beating G/W Company, or any individual deck for that matter, it can. Don't have the impression that you can't lose to Grixis Death's Shadow if you play G/W Company, because that simply isn't the case.
Also I mentioned before that G/W Company is extremely fun and challenging to play, and I meant both parts of that statement. It's fun because the deck isn't really built on winning the game; it's just really good at not losing and eventually keeps your opponent from winning by destroying all of their lands. How you get to that point in the game is the challenging part, with every turn having seemingly endless decisions because knowing the top card of you library with Courser of Kruphix on the battlefield gives you so much information. Between fetchlands, Ghost Quarter, Knight of the Reliquary, Collected Company, Horizon Canopy, and Tireless Tracker, there are tons of ways to reset the top of your library, giving you ultimate control over the game. More decisions give you more opportunities to pull farther ahead from your opponent…or to make an error that ends up costing you the game.
Another thing that is extremely important if you want to pilot G/W Company is that you need to know the manabase of every deck in the format so that you know when to be aggressive with your Ghost Quarters. G/W Company is first and foremost a Ghost Quarter deck; it's your best win condition and secretly the best card in Modern, and my deck is built to exploit it, but in order to use it to its full potential, you need to be familiar with each opponent's manabase.
Finally the actual physical deck is very hard to play in paper. You need to shuffle a lot. You can spend individual turns shuffling more than five times. That takes time, and remember how I said your biggest win condition is Ghost Quartering your opponent out of the game? Well, that's not the fastest win condition in the books, and you only have 50 minutes to finish your three games. Add to this a plethora of small life total changes to mark down between fetchlands and Courser of Kruphix, and finishing matches on time is a real challenge. So you not only have tons and tons of decisions to make each turn, but you also don't have the luxury of spending time to figure it out. That's all part of the fun of playing the deck for me, but beware of what you're signing up for if you sleeve up G/W Company.
I wouldn't make any changes to my decklist for now. There weren't any cards that I was disappointed with at the tournament. I've played this deck enough online now that I know what to expect with each individual card in the deck and other options that have been in before, and so, although I'll tweak it again the next time I play it for the metagame at the time, I was happy with the 75 cards I sleeved up this weekend. I knew Ramunap Excavator was going to be an all-star in the deck as soon as I read the card for the first time, and it's increasingly impressive the more I play with it. The only bad part about the card is that it doesn't do much in multiples, but that's a very small nitpick. Part of me wants to find room for a third in the maindeck, but the number of quality three-drops available is pretty ridiculous. I still can't believe I don't have more Tireless Trackers in the deck, but there simply isn't room.
So while I don't have any illusions of believing G/W Company is necessarily a Tier 1 deck that will become a big part of the format, it's still an extremely fun deck to play and I recommend it for anyone who wants to simply enjoy playing Magic, because that's what the game's all about, if you ask me. I built this deck simply because I wanted to play Courser of Kruphix, as it's probably my favorite card ever printed. Do you have a favorite card that simply doesn't have a home right now in Modern? Try building a deck around it! Modern is in such an amazing spot right now that you can honestly play and win with any deck that you want, which is simply incredible.
#SCGNY is right around the corner, and I already can't wait to get back to playing my favorite format. I'm not sure if I'll sleeve up Courser of Kruphix again for the event, as it's not necessarily the strongest deck in the format, but then again, how can I leave so much value on the table?