I'm back in the United States of America, and it's never felt better! Not saying I dislike Europe, but I was there for almost a month. My fiance' and I embarked to the Czech Republic early last month to celebrate Lukas Blohon's wedding, then visited Denmark to hangout with Martin Dang and Christoffer Larsen until finally heading to London to prepare for the Pro Tour. It was a long, fun trip, but I'm happy to finally be back. So much has happened since I left this computer chair!
Let's start out with Grand Prix London. For Pro Tour Ixalan, the team decided to dedicate our live testing time to Standard only. We chose to use Magic Online as our main source of Limited preparation, and that decision cost us greatly. We didn't have great results at Grand Prix Phoenix and even worse Limited percentages at the Pro Tour itself. We realized that not preparing live for Limited was a mistake. Being capable of drafting for more days online does not equate to good testing as the events are leagues. Not playing the decks at the Draft table causes issues when preparing, and sadly we didn't realize this until we had one of the worst Draft match percentages in the room. Luckily, our Standard prowess carried us to a formidable finish.
This time around was going to be different. We met early to only test Limited! We decided to do all of our Modern preparation individually, instead of Limited like last time. Nothing could go wrong with such an intelligent system that's completely foolproof! All that testing was great for Grand Prix London as both Seth Manfield and I made top 8 while Lukas Blohon only had to win his last match to join us. Sadly, Seth had to beat Andrea Mengucci in the last round when Seth already had his spot locked up to try to make room for Lukas. Luckily though, the Italian got it back the very next weekend!
It was a hectic road for me to get that top 8. You would have not believed me if you were tuning in as it seemed like I was always in control of that tournament during the swiss rounds. The reality of it was that I had been very emotional all Sunday as the wins kept accumulating. You see, I was 11-0 a few years ago last time I was in London for a Grand Prix, but then fell on my face to miss my first top 8 ever where I started off 9-0. I usually don't play with my emotions on my sleeves, but I'd be lying if I said that memory wasn't in the back of my head all day. Luckily, I found the wins I needed and made it into my first non-Standard Grand Prix top 8 since 2010.
Yeah, I know…
Next up was the Pro Tour itself, and I was feeling good. I'd prepared with a deck that no one else on the team wanted to play, but I was fine with that. Most also thought it was a bad deck, and again I was fine with that opinion. I decided before leaving Roanoke that I'd respect this deck even if no one else would as my data re-enforced the decision. Here's what I played.
I can't speak to what the masses think of Eldrazi Tron, but the circles I run in don't like it. Enough so that I'm writing this defense for the deck. Eldrazi Tron isn't the most sophisticated deck, and it often looks like it wins and loses by miles. What I mean by this is that the deck either crushes the opposition or does nothing. Sometimes this is true as losses with the deck can look extremely embarrassing, but what matters is not how the deck looks when it's played. What matters is the deck wins more than it doesn't, and all my data proved that this was a formidable choice for the event.
The metagame was relatively what I expected with a few outliers. For instance I wasn't surprised by the Affinity numbers as that deck is often overplayed at the Pro Tour. This is something I realized a few years back, but was skeptical of continuing to believe for this event. Luckily I saw a significant uptick of the deck on Magic Online during the week leading up to the event causes the team to respect the deck. The high numbers of Five-Color Humans was not something I expected. I mean I knew it would get played, but never in a million years think it would be the most played deck in the field! I don't believe this deck to be that good, but can be a good weapon for specific metagames. This would not be one of those times, however. I'll bench my opinion on Five-Color Humans though as I don't want to start another "Ole Branchy" argument right after I get back home to Roanoke.
Welcome home, Brad.
I was saddened to realize that Jeskai (in all forms) wasn't the most played deck. I honestly thought both Jeskai Control and Jeskai Geist would be more played, and was one of the reasons I chose Eldrazi Tron. Those are just such good matchups, and good decks against against small creature strategies. They just have one glaring hole and that's Eldrazi Tron.
In the end I had very middling results at the event. I lost two matches I should have lost, won a few I got lucky in, and gave away two on very close judgment calls. It never feels good to lose games you could have won. Oh, are you expecting a "but"? There isn't one. It never feels good losing games you could have won. In an Open or Grand Prix it's easy to shrug off, but making mistakes like that at the Pro Tour is gut-wrenching. Losing in Constructed always makes me feel bad, but knowing I didn't have to is the worst feeling I have playing this game. Due to my mistakes at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan I'll be forced to file this event away in the ever-growing "What could have been" folder.
Moving forward I'd suggest playing Eldrazi Tron if that's the deck you have the most confidence in. Like I said earlier, I believed this deck to be one of the better choices you can make, and I still stand by it. I will most likely play it in events until the metagame has a significant shift. It may even become one of the best choices if Wizards decides to ban something like Ancient Stirrings as both Tron and Lantern are both bad matchups for Eldrazi Tron.
Here's a small sideboard guide for those interested.
VS Five-Color Humans
I'm not positive this is what should be done, but I've liked this so far. Humans is trying to go wide and hard to the paint so cards like Reality Smasher don't really help out that much. Ratchet Bomb isn't always great, but it does have some "plan b" potential comboing with Hangarback Walker when drawn late. Pretty much you just want to keep the battlefield as contained as possible until Endbringer does what it does best: brings the end.
Out (on the play):
In (on the play):
Out (on the draw):
In (on the draw):
Hangarback Walker doesn't seem great in this matchup, but again, killing it yourself can lead to victories. It's also a good "answer" to Master of Etherium in a pinch. It's not great, but often better than other options. Seriously, the worst part of Eldrazi Tron is that most of the time it's finding the "better option" as the last few slots. Maybe the deck's built poorly, because I say this a lot.
This is one of your better matchups, but it can be lost. I say this, because I lost my first ever match to this stupid deck at the Pro Tour! It's also one of the matches that I think I could have won if I played a little tighter. I drew poorly, but that's no excuse, thanks to my misplays!
Chalice of the Void on two is much better than one, but try to get both onto the battlefield if you have access to two. Otherwise I'd try to take as little early damage as possible, and get a Chalice of the Void with two counters on the battlefield as quickly as possible. Once you start attacking they'll only have 1-2 turns to topdeck.
This is a rough matchup, but sometimes winnable if they slightly stumble. Sometimes you curve out Thought-Knot Seer into Reality Smasher; and other times you Chalice of the Void on one and draw a few Ghost Quarters. Since Jeskai isn't as popular as I originally thought, it might be time to turn one of the Cavern of Souls into the fourth Ghost Quarter to help out in this matchup.
If you love Eldrazi Tron, but Tron is played highly in your area I'd suggest making this manabase change, and then adding two Surgical Extractions to your sideboard to help keep them off Tron forever!
This matchup comes down to how good they draw. Sometimes they just smash you while ripping your hand apart, but sometimes they stumble ever so slightly. Sometimes you topdeck the perfect card on the perfect turn. I consider both of these matchups extremely close, and couldn't tell you with certainty which deck is favored.
VS Jeskai Control
This is an easy matchup. Jeskai Control doesn't play land destruction as it's not utilized well even against Scapeshift and Tron. It also plays a ton of removal to beat decks like Humans and Elves who also play Cavern of Souls. This causes a perfect storm of salt for Jeskai when they play against Eldrazi Tron as they are weak to Chalice of the Void, Cavern of Souls, and giant monsters.
Against Jeskai Tempo I keep in All is Dust, and don't bring in Pithing Needle as they rarely have targets outside of Celestial Colonnade.
VS U/R Gifts Storm
This is another great matchup. Most U/R Gifts Storm opponents bring in the Pieces of the Puzzle package and remove Gifts Ungiven from their deck, but I don't know if that's a good idea. I could be wrong, but it seems like slowing down their deck this way helps Eldrazi Tron more than it hurts it. They usually have to combo off early to win the game, and that's not something they can do without Gifts Ungiven.
VS Counters Company
I normally take out all of my Chalice of the Voids on the draw, but like to keep a few on the play. It's mainly there to help fight Path to Exile and Eternal Witness gameplans they may have. They know it will be more difficult to combo off in sideboard games so they may take a more aggressive approach and try to simply attack their way to a victory. On the draw, this means you may want to keep a few Matter Reshapers in, but never over a card that slows them down or kills Devoted Druid.
That's it for Modern and me for a while. I'll most likely play it again when SCG CON rolls around, but for now I'll get back to my bae: Standard. It looks like a free-for-all right now, and I can't wait to get into the format. By next week I'll have some concrete opinions about the format, but for now I'll close with my opinions of having a Modern Pro Tour.
I really dislike what a Modern Pro Tour did to the conversations being had about the format. From what cards "need" to be banned, all the way to if Modern should be a Pro Tour format to begin with. It just feels that Modern's taking a bunch of heat it doesn't deserve. It seems like the bannings made last time we had a Modern Pro Tour and those made in Standard recently has made our community extremely trigger happy when it comes to getting cards removed from competitive formats.
Modern is in a very healthy place right now. Death's Shadow went from a very ban-worthy card six months ago to just another deck in the format. The format found a way to adapt and did so admirably. Now people are calling for Lantern's head unjustifiably. I won't get into this too much as Ross Merriam did a good job earlier this week , but I do have a few things to say. People say the deck leads to draws, but U/W Control caused most of them at the Pro Tour. In fact, Lantern barely drew in the event, and mirrors are over fairly quickly. Brian Braun-Duin even finished his one match in the mirror in eighteen minutes. The deck isn't slow relative to other culprits, but it does look like it is. Once the lock is in it rarely takes more than five minutes to finish a game if both players are performing actions at a decent pace.
Some say the deck is unfun to play against, but that's subjective enough for me to say it's untrue. I actually enjoy the games as they're unique and challenging in their own way. Sometimes I have decks that can get around the locks and sometimes I get wrecked. Sometimes I crush Goblin Guide and other times die to Lava Spike. That's Modern.
The one argument I can't fight is that Lantern is unenjoyable to watch on coverage. That's most likely true as Magic is generally more fun to play than watch. Should we really be concerning ourselves with that though? Look I get it, Wizards wants to promote the Pro Tour, and one way to do this is getting people to watch the coverage. They work with Twitch, and that company strives for viewership numbers, but changing the game to increase the spectators seems like something I subjectively wouldn't want to see if done sloppily. Banning a deck just because it's not good on camera would be one of those bad reasons.
Lantern may very well get banned eventually, but it deserves respect first. Dedicated hate, cantrips, and more ingenuity should happen before we make that decision. It should warp the landscape and still be on top before we say goodbye, and that's coming from someone who doesn't play it and often loses to it.
I'm personally not excited about Modern becoming a Pro Tour format again. It's just so swingy to me. Maybe that's because I don't understand it as well as some of the masters of the format, but I saw it on both sides of the table this last weekend. In round 6 I sat down against a lovely gentleman playing Counters Company. He won the die roll and had the combo rolled up for turn 3. That never happened as I had Warping Wail on turn 2 for his Devoted Druid, and then a Walking Ballista for three on turn 3 for the next one. Game 2 wasn't much better when I had it all again. He was leveled. We didn't play Magic, and I had unbeatable draws causing the writing to be on the wall right off the bat. I didn't enjoy this moment, and I loving winning matches at the Pro Tour. I love when my opponents mulligan to five. I love drawing the best possible hands over and over again, but this time I didn't. It didn't feel like Magic, and it didn't feel good at Magic's highest level.
Not everyone will get this, but to me I just don't like matchups or draws defining so much when it comes to Pro Tours. Usually a Pro Tour is when a new set comes out, and all the decks aren't really prepared for each other. There's a few decks that will live until rotation and a bunch that won't. Teammates huddle around between rounds discussing how to beat the decks they didn't see coming and people are excited about what they brought. That just didn't happen this past weekend. People just shrugged when they talked about their deck choices.
Now if Modern Pro Tours are good for Magic, bring them on. I'll play them until I fall off the Pro Tour, but I'll still stand by my opinion of loving this format everywhere except for Pro Tours. I didn't like Modern when I started testing for this tournament, but I loved my time preparing for the event. It's sad I feel this way after it's over, but I can't control how I feel.