Welcome to What We'd Play! With SCG Baltimore this weekend, many are unsure what they'd play in such a high profile tournament. That's where we come in and let you know what we'd play and why we'd play it. Hopefully this last minute advice aids in your decision-making! Be sure to vote for who you agree with in the poll at the end!
Cedric Phillips - Bant Spirits
- 4 Drogskol Captain
- 4 Mausoleum Wanderer
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Phantasmal Image
- 1 Rattlechains
- 3 Reflector Mage
- 2 Selfless Spirit
- 4 Spell Queller
- 4 Supreme Phantom
Last time I jumped into this column, I said that it pained me to have to switch from Humans to wannabe Humans but that sometimes you gotta know when to move on. It appears many are starting to finally do just that and realize what I already knew - the lack of a top tier sideboard is finally too much for Humans to overcome.
Yes, I love Sin Collector and a few other weapons that Humans gets to bring to the table, but none of those cards immediately win the game if unanswered like a Modern sideboard card should. If I cast Rest in Peace against Dredge? Their deck fails to function until it's taken care of. If I cast Stony Silence against Hardened Scales? They're playing very inefficient creatures that do little to nothing even against my puny Spirits. Yes, there are plenty of games that an Izzet Staticaster is good in, but rarely does it have the effect of a game-winning Unified Will or flexibility of game-altering Dromoka's Command.
One thing I think we may have forgotten about is how busted Spell Queller is. Upon being previewed, many thought Spell Queller would the best card in Eldritch Moon, and while that title eventually fell to Emrakul, the Promised End, I would argue that that's not really Spell Queller's fault. The card, purely by itself, gives you a great Ironworks matchup and solidifies many others that no other card could.
But the real topper is that Bant Spirits has a good Humans matchup. I fully expect Humans to continue to be a heavily played deck for a few more months before it slides down the Modern metagame totem pole. It's reminiscent of Grixis Death Shadow in 2017, where the deck was absolutely everywhere and then slowly but surely, it ended up being positively nowhere. Remember when we all expected it to dominate GP Las Vegas and it did the direct opposite despite being played by all the best players in the room? I expect the exact same fate for Humans and a large reason for that will be the rise of Bant Spirits, a deck, by the way, that has won two Modern Grand Prixs this year.
Embrace the flying undead, my friends.
Ari Lax - Burn
This is just Emma's list from last week with more graveyard hate. It's also a pretty speculative suggestion.
I got to Burn by trying to figure out what linear deck best exploited the current Modern metagame. Graveyards are off limits because Dredge makes sure they are well contested. Tron and Primeval Titan suffer as the format becomes less congested. Humans and Bant Spirits are good enough that people have lots of removal to cut into more linear creature decks like Elves.
That leaves Mox Opal and Burn and I'm just a little uncertain about my Mox Opal choices. Ironworks is probably the default best one and I might still play it but it's weak to Bant Spirits and some of the graveyard hate from Dredge. I win a lot with Hardened Scales, but it feels more like my opponents choosing not to win. I still need to try some of the reworked Prison decks but can't in good faith endorse them without extensive research.
So Burn it is. The deck is configured well against creatures, naturally beats the Big Mana decks besides Amulet Titan, is fine versus midrange and control, and can show up with graveyard hate. It's probably not the best if everyone moves to Mox Opal, but that's an issue for the Season Two Invitational, not SCG Baltimore.
Abe Stein - Humans
- 4 Champion of the Parish
- 2 Kessig Malcontents
- 4 Mantis Rider
- 4 Mayor of Avabruck
- 4 Meddling Mage
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 4 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Reflector Mage
- 4 Thalia's Lieutenant
- 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Over the last few weeks I've had the pleasure of picking the brain of our newest Select writer, Dylan Hand, about his thoughts and feelings about Humans and I've come to a couple extreme conclusions I'll share with you here.
First is that if you want to put Thalia, Heretic Cathar into your Humans deck, you had better already have a playset of Mayor of Avabruck. Both cards are trying to enable you to leverage your battlefield position or alter the speed of the game by a turn, but Mayor of Avabruck is a full mana cheaper and much better to put onto the battlefield with an Aether Vial.
The second is that Kitesail Freebooter just doesn't cut it anymore. I was a big proponent of the Pirate just for having another flying body in matchups like Bant Spirits or having another disruptive element to combo with Meddling Mage, but with the speed of the format as it is, I had better be actionably killing my opponent. The cleaner cut and linear the decks in Modern get, the easier it is to use a Meddling Mage to shut out the opponent's Plan A without having to peek at their hand in the first place. With enough practice and study, naming correctly on Meddling Mage is less peering into a crystal ball and more along the lines of studying the battlefield.
This build is committed to having the strongest chance at a turn 4 kill uninterrupted. Kessig Malcontents is like the living Temur Battle Rage and as the brief rise of Grixis Death's Shadow showed, that card might be okay. This specific iteration of Humans is likely the best one to be playing in a field full of Aether Vials and decks that come at you with their blinders on, so I'm sticking by it as we grow closer to the Season Two Invitational.
Dylan Hand - Ironworks
Ironworks has proven itself as a serious contender at the highest level of tournament play. It was a very popular choice for Modern players at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary and most recently finished in second place at Grand Prix Atlanta in the hands of platinum pro Piotr Glogowski. The power level of Ancient Stirrings in Modern is undeniable, and with the passing of the Banned and Restricted announcement , I think it's time to focus on playing with the card (along with Faithless Looting) as much as possible while it is still legal.
Regarding the decklist itself, a couple new cards have found their way into the deck that change the way it operates in a big way:
Sai, Master Thopterist gives Ironworks an incredible amount of utility. Not only does it help facilitate easier combo kills due to the mana and card draw it provides but it also gives an excellent alternative win condition that's generally impervious to the hate cards opponents will try to use to stop you, like Stony Silence, Rest in Peace, Leyline of the Void, and Nature's Claim. Spine of Ish Sah, on the other hand, provides a repeatable Vindicate effect that allows you to win in a different way: destroying every one of your opponent's permanents. With a Scrap Trawler and Krark-Clan Ironworks on the battlefield, it quickly becomes trivial to leave your opponent with no battlefield while you attack them for three damage over and over until they concede.
When I first started playing Magic competitively, Amulet Bloom (Amulet Titan with Summer Bloom while it was still legal) was quickly becoming the dominant deck of the Modern format. The deck experienced a strange phenomenon - even though the power level of the deck was known, it took many players a long time to pick up the deck due to the reputation the deck had regarding its complexity. Ironworks seems to be following a very similar trend. The deck is tricky to master but the power level is through the roof. If I were you, I'd join me on getting while the getting's good. This is my frontrunner choice for SCG Baltimore and beyond.
Bryan Gottlieb - Amulet Titan
- 1 Walking Ballista
- 4 Primeval Titan
- 1 Ramunap Excavator
- 1 Reclamation Sage
- 4 Sakura-Tribe Scout
- 4 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
I think I'm in love. Spending the last month getting to know Amulet Titan has been an absolute joy, and I finally feel like I have a Modern deck that I can call my own. If you've never played Amulet Titan before, you're probably hesitant to pick the deck up, fearing an execution barrier, and these fears aren't misplaced. However, everyone must start somewhere! Why not let this weekend be the start of your road to Amulet mastery?
Start with a few great primers on the deck by Edgar Magalhaes (found here ) and Ari Lax (found here ) and then get to goldfishing! Here's a fun homework assignment Edgar gave me earlier this week-can you find the Turn 2 kill?
Find lethal pic.twitter.com/EhH2UCEXLb— Edgar Magalhaes (@EdgarMTG) November 24, 2018
Once you're putting together complicated kills such as this one, the deck unlocks. At this point, I really only fear Blood Moon. However, Mono-Red decks are mostly focused on their Arclight Phoenix shenanigans and the midrange pilots have mostly abandoned Mardu Pyromancer. It seems like it's nothing but sunny days for us Primeval Titan fans presently.
My list makes some controversial changes, but with a ton of games under my belt now, I'm ready to start tinkering. First, I'm playing a 28th land, and after testing Halimar Depths, Temple of Mystery, and basic Forest, I've decided on Academy Ruins. Long games happen more often than you would expect, recursive Walking Ballista, Engineered Explosives, or Tormod's Crypt are trumps in several matchups, and it's always nice to be able to buyback your namesake card.
I like Ramunap Excavator maindeck for similar reasons. At a fairly low cost, you gain a tremendous advantage in the Tron matchup and are far better positioned to play long games against Field of Ruin decks. Plus, you unlock some mindmelting new kills that usually involve crazy stuff like Ghost Quartering your own bounceland.
I made room for these inclusions by killing one of the sacred cows of Amulet Titan - Explore. Explore just never matters. It seems like a card that fits thematically, but the reality is a large percentage of hands simply don't get any better by virtue of having an Explore. As limited as Adventurous Impulse/Oath of Nissa are, they're often far more impactful than Explore, and as such have become the second "cantrip" of choice after Ancient Stirrings. I've gone with Oath of Nissa here, simply to facilitate the sideboard Emrakul, the Promised End. If you're more concerned about Tarmogoyf, you can play Adventurous Impulse, but the impact is fairly minimal either way.
Shaheen Soorani - Izzet Phoenix
I'll be at SCG Baltimore this weekend with the hopes of bringing home the trophy with old faithful, Ironworks. The list above you isn't Ironworks because I don't think that it's necessarily the best option for this weekend. I'm intrigued with these Izzet Phoenix decks that have burst onto the Modern scene due to the amount of synergistic spells that Arclight Phoenix enthusiasts have access to. I don't have the time to put my heart and soul into mastering a new archetype a few days before the event, but I would play this list if I was able to get the reps in.
Izzet Phoenix in Modern has a great deal of flexibility in terms of card slots. This list has a heavy emphasis on burn with some Madness flavor. I would personally up the Thought Scour count, due to the obvious upside. The only other real change I would make would be to the sideboard. I think that Blood Moon has too giant of an impact to not have a role in an Izzet strategy. There are so many decks that are immediately vanquished by a resolved one and the manabase begs for it as an option. You would have to play a few more basics and fetches, which isn't a huge burden at all.
Emma Handy - Ironworks
I'm just gonna keep beating this drum until people listen.
Krark-Clan Ironworks is the best deck in Modern, and when people get over the fact that the deck has a high learning curve, it'll have the numbers to back it up. Despite the deck being difficult to play, it isn't impossible, and there are several different resources for people who are just now picking up the deck for the first time.
The fact that the deck can kill on the third turn of the game and is resilient to most kinds of interaction just puts it on a higher level, fundamentally speaking, than the rest of the field.
I've been testing the deck all week against Jadine Klomparens on Jund, and let me tell you, the number of times you can just win on the fourth or fifth turn through multiple pieces of interaction is staggering.
Put the reps in and you'll be rewarded.
Tom Ross - Mono-White Martyr
I'd absolutely play Mono-White Martyr in Baltimore.
Martyr is a deck that has been doing well on Magic Online over the last year. It does take a while for players to adopt Magic Online decks to real life, but it's been far too long. This is a gem that no one (outside of Jacob Nagro to my knowledge) has been willing to give a spin in at the SCG Tour or a Grand Prix.
You have four Field of Ruin and four Ghost Quarter along with a Crucible of Worlds. That puts a lot of pressure on big mana strategies like Tron or Scapeshift. Those three Surgical Extractions in the sideboard prevent their important land from ever really being in the game. Against your normal creature deck, four Ghostly Prisons shuts them down hard.
There's the amazing opening of Serra Ascendant into a Martyr of Sands for twelve or fifteen, which outright wins the game against aggressive decks. There's a ton of long-game here with Proclamation of Rebirth, Ranger of Eos, Thraben Inspectors, Squadron Hawk, and the utility lands of Mistveil Plains (more Hawks!) and Emeria, the Sky Ruin.
This is what I would play. The critical fault on Mono-White Martyr is that the games can go really long, and there can be a lot of tough decisions for yourself and your opponent. Outside of the Martyr + Serra Ascendant opening your clock isn't very fast. You need to keep up a good pace and make sure your opponent is doing so as well to avoid unintentional draws.