Well this is awkward. You see I was planning on going to Columbus. This was to be an excellent tournament report filled with tales of battle and victory but a wicked illness struck on me Thursday night. I decided I wouldn't be able to play effectively let alone enjoy the tournament if I went to the GP. It was especially unfortunate because I was planning to play a cool U/B Delver brew that Matt Costa showed me. It had a lot going for it and reminded us of old U/B Faeries from seasons past. But Matt unfortunately lost his win-and-in at the tournament and I didn't get to play at all!
Here's the list though for you to peruse and use in your testing for the next Modern tournament.
Pretty sweet I know. But I'm not 100% convinced that this list has what it takes to stand up to those removal-heavy U/W/R Delver builds like Shahar Shenhar's list. For one this deck is not quite as blisteringly fast as those builds and if your Dark Confidant is killed you are just treading water the same as the U/W/R builds. And believe me with the Bolts Helixes and Paths from that deck you will never stick a Confidant. Now don't get me wrong as the slightly slower deck you are advantaged in the semi-mirror but I think there is plenty of room to just get blown out by Geist of Saint Traft or an early Steppe Lynx backed up by burn. Not to mention the potential transformational sideboard out of Shahar's deck into Gifts + Unburial Rites + Iona which is generally pretty good.
Basically what I'm getting at is that this format is starting to show some pillars. On one hand you've got the ultra-fast Zoo deck of the format U/W/R Delver with a bit more resilience to combo due to the Remands it's packing. Then you have Naya (+blue) Pod which is the most complex midrange-combo deck I've ever seen and a true challenge for any clunky deck to beat. You also have Affinity demanding artifact hate in your sideboard and then on the other end of the spectrum you have G/R and blue-based Tron decks requiring land destruction or a way to efficiently interact. If Cranial Plating doesn't get ya Karn certainly will. Throw in a smattering of Jund Merfolk RUG Delver and U/R combo (Storm and Twin) and you've got a pretty fast format that seems like a tough nut to crack.
But here's where to look for a weakness. This is a fairly creature-centric format and the removal is efficient enough to allow a player to go one step slower than everyone else. I think that with the right tuning this U/B Delver deck can fill the same role that U/W Delver does in Standard with enough disruption and aggression to beat the combo and control decks and a sideboard plan that effectively lets you grind out an advantage against the aggressive decks. I'd like to have a third Jace Beleren and I think I want to have access to white for better removal and maybe even Timely Reinforcements (Burn is actually a deck in Modern).
I know that the U/W Restoration Angel / Kitchen Finks decks haven't been able to stand up to U/W/R Delver or Naya Pod but that may be because they're relying on creatures to push an advantage. That doesn't work when one of the pillars of the format has infinite removal and reach and the other is always going to be better at grinding advantage from creatures. By having one-for-one trades involving real removal spells followed by a source of card advantage like Jace Beleren or even Vedalken Shackles players can find their edge over these creature decks and put themselves in a good spot for the format. Add enough cards for interaction with the unfair decks (Tron Storm and Affinity) and you're ready to go!
One more word before I stop talking about the niche format; I want to touch on what I think should be unbanned. Let's be honest here: Modern has no real control deck. And I think that's a shame despite the diversity we saw in the Columbus Day 2 field. I also think that Ancestral Vision is just about the meekest offender on any ban list since Juggernaut was axed from an ancient Extended format. Unbanning Vision would allow control to flourish and it wouldn't ruin anyone else's fun.
After all U/W/R Delver can Remand Ancestral Vision and Affinity can kill you the turn before it resolves. Tron can go over the top of it. I think it's time to take a long look at the ban list and realize that it's okay to unban control cards rather than banning aggro and combo cards. I assume Wizards wants Modern to stick around and right now it seems like Delver and Pod have the format working around them. Unbanning a powerful control card is a step towards allowing more diversity in the format.
Now let's move on to the more relevant formats for our favorite independent tournament circuit. Standard is looking like a pile of creature decks. It's very similar to Modern in that regard except there are no pressures like Affinity Storm combo or Tron to keep us from correctly metagaming for this field. Rather we see a pile of icky green decks with a Delver player here and there holding up the standard of real Magic.
What's the answer to a pile of green decks? Well…
- 4 Blade Splicer
- 3 Phantasmal Image
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 2 Snapcaster Mage
- 1 Sun Titan
- 3 Thundermaw Hellkite
Adam Percy took an idea that I believe I first saw in a Todd Anderson article and ran with it recognizing that the format was only getting softer to sweepers and efficient blue spells. I don't much like the clunky top end of the deck but I see why Adam wanted to play Thundermaw Hellkite; it's a really awesome looking card.
I remember Todd discussing his love for Bonfire of the Damned as a sweeper in midrange blue decks which is great and all but I'm not sold on the card in a midrange/control shell. The beauty of a Day of Judgment is that you get to sandbag it walk them right up into it and play it on your terms. With Bonfire of the Damned save a perfect Ponder you're just playing it when you can grab it. Sure it's the more powerful spell but I don't think you need the drop in consistency just to have it. Not only do you sacrifice on the part of your mana base but you sacrifice whenever you draw it and would rather save it for later. I am going to present two options that I'd consider playing this weekend: one with Bonfire and one without it.
But I can see why people want to embrace the variance so if I were feeling lucky the morning of the tournament I'd pick up this 75:
I honestly don't know which list is better and each one probably needs a couple of tweaks. But for what it's worth I'd be pleased playing either of these 75s at a tournament in the near future. I can't stress enough how simple it is to beat up on Naya Pod and Zombies with such a flexible array of tools that the midrange Ponder decks have at their disposal.
The vast majority of the Zombies and Pod players will walk into your sweepers and Blade Splicer into Restoration Angel will still always allow your powerful blue spells to take over a game unmolested. When you can just sit back and one-for-one your opponents before ending them with a six-drop you know you've hit the jackpot in a matchup. Just ask Shaheen Soorani; he does it at just about every tournament.
Well these midrange decks get to do that against the vast majority of the format and people still seem to want to cast their Thragtusks and Rancors. Let them play with their new toys. Your cards are for the more mature discerning Magician who understands that greatness isn't in every new set; rather it's honed over time.
Speaking of cards for the more mature discerning Magician guess who's back with a vengeance? I promised I wouldn't write any more about Legacy's "Magic's Greatest Hits" deck but I just want to put it out there that now that Esper Stoneblade has won the last two SCG Legacy Opens there are those of you who are probably going to want to know how to beat the menace.
I think that RUG Delver will always be the toughest competitor for Stoneblade and if you want to beat it you should consider shifting your sideboard back towards Sulfur Elemental and Ancient Grudge. Two of each should be sufficient and you are going to get yourself a lot of free wins by blowing out those Esper players who rely too much on their Lingering Souls. You can also run Sulfuric Vortex which is absurd because Stoneblade can't really afford to bring in Disenchant against you but it can't beat a Vortex if you've got any sort of aggressive start.
Merfolk can also certainly beat Esper although you must have an Islandwalk Lord if you're going to beat Stoneforge Mystic. I recommend playing a pair of Dismember in the maindeck of your Merfolk list as well since you are going to need to buy yourself time against a turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic.
One final answer to Stoneblade that you can consider is Zoo. You have to be playing multiple Price of Progress as well as Choke and/or Sulfuric Vortex. You should play Choke if you want to skew more towards Maverick and Vortex is for the more aggressive among you. Basically if you can just keep dropping threats and keep Batterskull off of the table a pair of sandbagged Prices is going to end the game. And Stoneblade will always have trouble with Choke especially when it needs to tap out to deal with an aggressive start from a Zoo or Maverick player.
Of course you always need to be wary. Because the minute your RUG and Maverick lists move too far towards metagaming for Stoneblade and lose the Reanimator hate the big bad 7/7 we've recently defeated is going to come knocking and we're going to repeat the lovely metagame cycle yet again. That's just how Legacy is and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Or you can try Dredge. I haven't seen it too much lately but one of these next two events should see a copy in the Top 8. It's being supplanted by Belcher as the Legacy newbie default deck which is good since Dredge is not a deck for Legacy novices but it also means that fewer Dredgers are in the room so it will naturally Top 8 less frequently.
You heard it here first. Griselbrand is hitting rock bottom now but the upswing will start very soon. No true villain ever leaves without threating to come back more dastardly than ever and we'll see the truth of that over the next month.
Before I go I have one final request. StarCityGames.com please PLEASE PLEASE run a team event for one of your new Classic Series tournaments. People have so much fun being on a team with their friends and I think it provides an excellent learning experience for a newer player to be on a team with more experienced teammates. Competitive players like multiplayer Magic too; we just want to play by the same tournament rules and play for real prizes.
There's nothing quite like team unified Constructed for promoting deckbuilding creativity and I think the Classic Series could be a perfect way to let us show our love for something a little different. If you reading this article are interested in playing in team tournaments let the people at SCG know! I'm sure they would be glad to run a team event as long as they know the interest is there.
Good luck to those of you competing at SCG Open Series: Buffalo and have a great week!