With GP Atlanta and GP Portland ahead, my focus is essentially solely on Standard. I spoke a lot about my thoughts on Standard last week, so this week I am planning ahead for the Invitational. While the Invitational is half Standard, it is also half Modern, a format that has been eluding me since my return to competitive Magic.
My issue with the format is that I am approaching it from the wrong direction. Modern is such a linear and powerful format that being reactive is quite hard. However, the more interaction you play, the more chances you have at leveraging your play skill against your opponent. Perhaps I am trying to leverage my play skill in a format where the gap you gain from play skill isn't large enough to warrant such.
Also, when it comes to Modern, many players play one deck for a long period of time. When that happens, it becomes harder to get an edge because your opponent will likely know their deck well enough that they will pilot it well. So with this information out there, I want to be proactive and I want to have a way to win the game. The first two decks I can think of are both combo decks, and the first is everyone's favorite: U/R Gifts Storm.
I think there is a good chance that Gifts Storm is the best deck in the format. I've been told that it's not that hard to play, but the issue I have when it comes to this deck is sideboarding. I would recommend playing against a large variety of matchups as you learn, and practice sideboarded games. This will teach you how to sideboard against different decks and also how to play around hate cards.
This issue with this deck is that people aren't hating enough on it. Sure, Relic of Progenitus is a fine card against this strategy, but it's likely not going to be the only thing you need.
Eidolon of Rhetoric and Rule of Law are much better cards against this deck, but they are super-narrow. Pretty much the only decks these cards are good against are U/R Gifts Storm, Living End, and marginally Ad Nauseam. Against Ad Nauseam, it requires the player to have a Phyrexian Unlife on the battlefield and go off at the end of the opponent's turn.
This is the deck that I am leaning towards for the Invitational, as I think it is quite good and I don't think people are really expecting Ad Nauseam to show up. I don't quite understand Godhead of Awe in the sideboard of these decks and I don't think I ever will. Maybe someone can tell me.
I've seen Dragonlord Dromoka in the past and I like that quite a bit. I've also seen some non-Spoils of the Vault lists, and I think that is incorrect as well.
We have gone over two decks that are pretty non-interactive that try to make your opponents force to interact with you. Now I would like to try approaching from another perspective that I think can be quite fruitful in Modern. That approach is… preventing your opponent from playing Magic.
Two decks that are great at doing this are Lantern Control and any Blood Moon strategy. I have played quite a bit of Lantern Control, and while the deck is very challenging to play, it can be very rewarding. I still think that the deck is quite good and there is a real chance that I try to pick it up again and practice for the Invitational.
Having a plan to win the game in Modern is quite important. Although most prison-style decks in Modern are slow, grindy decks that do take quite a bit to win, they usually win with surprising consistency so long as you play well. That is the problem with a deck like Lantern Control: the game isn't over when you lock them out the game and you need to continue the lock throughout the game. One misstep and you will likely lose. That is what happened to me when I played the deck in SCG Syracuse.
When it comes to Lantern Control, there is no place to look but kanister on Magic Online, who recently made the Top 8 of Pro Tour Ixalan! I have yet to play the deck with Whir of Invention in it, but it seems like it would be quite good. Having the ability to tutor up bullet cards at your will is very powerful with a format as diverse as Modern. I am quite looking forward to playing this deck again!
Another deck that I am a bit interested in is a bit of a homebrew. I haven't played with the card Enduring Ideal since I started playing Magic, and it is near and dear to my heart. Let's take a look at a list that I have been working on:
This deck locks the opponent out with Leyline of Sanctity and Ghostly Prison and then advances to casting Enduring Ideal. From there you tutor up Dovescape and Form of the Dragon, and the match is usually over from there. The beauty of this deck is that it can buy itself a lot of time with cards like Ghostly Prison and Blood Moon.
I'm not sure if this deck can get to the point where it is competitively viable, but I do think that R/W Prison decks can win in a variety of ways. I think Enduring Ideal is quite a good way to do it.
For those of you who will be in attendance of Grand Prix Atlanta and were looking for some insight into Standard, I have a bit. I'm not going to surprise you by saying I think you should be playing Ramunap Red or some type of Energy deck. I'm not sure what I am going to play just yet, but this is my list in testing. The deck is great; the only problem I see is the mana, which hasn't been a huge one.
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 3 Whirler Virtuoso
- 2 The Scarab God
I want to register Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Vraska, Relic Seeker in the same deck this weekend. This mana is a tad greedy, but I think that greed may work with the good mana that Attune with Aether and Aether Hub can provide you. I'm not convinced by the sideboard for this deck, so don't take that for certainty. Excluding the manabase that may change, there is a very good chance that I play this in GP Atlanta.
I think the black splash is almost free and certainly worth it. It makes your red matchup slightly worse because you have The Scarab God and Vraska, Relic Seeker in your deck, which aren't any good there, but the ability to have Fatal Push on Turn 1 is a high upside for games you are on the draw in the mirror. The Scarab God has won me many games that I had no business winning, as has Vraska, Relic Seeker.
If Energy doesn't pan out, then it's back to Mountains for me.
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 2 Harsh Mentor
- 4 Rampaging Ferocidon
- 4 Soul-Scar Mage
- 4 Hazoret the Fervent
- 2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider