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Worlds Modern Review
by Ari Lax

Modern is probably the most important format to start looking at after Worlds. Not only is it the format with the most room to innovate, but it is the next PTQ season. One of the easiest ways to win a PTQ is to find a strong niche early on and get people before they are prepared. The first place to start is obviously by delving through the lists we have on hand, so let's go!

Before we start looking at any Modern lists from Worlds, keep this in mind: There are a massive number of scoops on Day Three due to the current Pro Club. This means exact match records of decks are going to be non-representative of the deck's actual power. As such, I will not be noting the exact records of these decks and instead will be focusing on what parts of the lists actually make them noteworthy. The overall archetype records shouldn't be quite as skewed by this, as scoops should start averaging out given a larger sample size. For reference, there were just under 100 4-2 or better lists.

Aggro

Affinity

The majority of these lists are the red variety that top 4ed Pro Tour Philadelphia in the hands of Chikara Nakajima, moderatewho incidentally played the archetype here.

Given metagame representation, the deck put up about expected results, which is actually not a good showing given the fact it was a defined list going into a Worlds meta filled with lists that haven't had the same level of tuning associated with them.

Part of this also has to do with the prevalence of Zoo. Traditionally Zoo has had a good Affinity matchup for a few reasons. First of all, Affinity revolves a lot more around a few key trumps while Zoo is just constant card quality. This means Zoo's removal is much more potent, and in general Zoo has better combat options, as Wild Nacatls are lining up against Memnites. The second is that since the early days of this matchup, Zoo has been gifted with a suite of top-notch removal. Path to Exile and Qasali Pridemage were huge swings in this matchup, especially as Pridemage let Zoo interact with the previously untouchable Cranial Plating. Looking to the board, Zoo has even more options, most notably Ancient Grudge. This offers Zoo a very flexible control of the board, both allowing them to run Affinity out of relevant cards and remove blockers to get in for lethal.

That said, this current Affinity list is going to see success as the season goes on. First of all, it is faster than any other aggro deck in the format mostly thanks to the Fling-Atog combination. A big part of the reason it broke the top eight in Philadelphia was it raced toe to toe with the combo decks. You are also much stronger against some of the anti-Zoo cards like Engineered Explosives and Kitchen Finks. As people adapt and Zoo falls from 30% of the metagame, expect Affinity to find a niche. In the past, there has always been a mid-season point where Affinity has a weekend or two where it rightfully smashes a couple unprepared PTQ weekends. I see no reason this trend would not continue.

Final Notes:

-Blood Moon is a great sideboard card here. You lose some marginal value, but your opponent loses their mana base. Watch for this one moving forward.

-Red is not the only option. Here we saw a player choosing white-blue for Thoughtcast, Ethersworn Canonist, Dispatch, and Tempered Steel. Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas is another option, and I'm sure there are several more. The multicolor mana bases aren't as stable, but when half of your deck is colorless spells, it might be worth sacrificing some consistency for power.

Zoo

When I say Zoo, what jumps to mind? Oversized one-drops paired with red burn? The Naya colors white, green, and red?

That might no longer the case. The line between Zoo and the traditionally more controlling Bant decks is getting blurred. The top cards from each are being spliced together. The new reason for this is Snapcaster Mage making blue a much better aggressive option. Tiago's card has shown itself powerful with cheap instants and sorceries, but getting rebuy value on Lightning Bolts and Path to Exiles to push through damage is just as viable as running back a Spell Snare. Beyond that, people are starting to push harder towards the powerful duo of Noble Hierarch and Knight of the Reliquary. You can push early with Nacatls when you have them, but suddenly the deck has a great mid-game trump that breaks the mirror. Blue has also brought other big guys in the form of Lightning Angel and Rhox War Monk as well as counters. If you don't have the same clock as before, you need some kind of interaction to ensure you win the race against combo.

Black is also making an appearance, but on the aggressive side. Dark Confidant made a bit of a showing as a way to rally up more burn, but I'm not sold. People have been trying this splash since Wild Nacatl was printed, and it has never really had success. I'm much more interested in Pat Cox's Kitty Parade, where the black splash provides the almost mono-one-drop list with cheap disruption from Thoughtseize. In testing for Philadelphia, one common trend was that a lot of the combo decks were very weak to that card. I'm not sure if that will hold moving forward, as the combo decks that are showing up appear to be highly redundant (Twin) or have alternative methods of not caring about Thoughtseize (Past in Flames), but if things like Hive Mind and Ad Nauseam with only four copies of their namesake start showing up, expect this approach to be successful.

On the traditional W/G/R side, we see a lot of Punishing Fire-based lists. The mirror trump in these lists is planeswalkers. I expect these to start becoming the industry standard, especially Elspeth, Knight-Errant.

One last list that deserves its own section: Gifts Zoo. Jesse Hampton followed up his top eight from the last Pro Tour with this brew. I've watched lists like this in the past, and Gifts lets you go over the top in midrange mirrors. I'll touch a bit more on this later, but there is potential here.

The overall message I think people should realize here is that you want to choose your direction. Ending up in the middle means you will beat the Zoo decks that are slightly smaller than you but will still lose to the bigger lists as well as lose the edge you had against the rest of the field by having a real plan. Choose a role and play it; don't just mash some Knights on top of Kird Apes and call it a day.

Burn:

I'll leave this brief, as only two Burn decks showed up in the winners, and they were the exact same list.

There were no Hellspark or Spark Elementals to be found in these lists. Expect this to continue. You don't want to turn on the removal they will be packing to deal with Zoo one-drops. Goblin Guide provides enough of an advantage on turn one that it deserves the slot, and Keldon Marauders still gets in for two if killed, but the 3/1s are only worth face value and depreciate in value when drawn late game.

Flames of the Blood Hand was absent from these lists, and I'm unsure why. You are playing Flame Javelin; how often do you expect this card to not go to the face? I would much rather counter a Kitchen Finks trigger.

Control

The Rock

Please don't play this deck. It is the definition of midrange do nothing. Real control will go bigger than you and crush you. I watched a ton of games where the Rock deck ground the game out only for Zoo to rip a Knight and Rock to draw air and die.

If you want to play something like this, play Bloodbraid Elf. It gives you the necessary card advantage to power this attrition game plan while also letting you put down a threat and actively try to end the game. Don't play Sakura-Tribe Elder; play Putrid Leech. Without the blue card advantage, you won't get into late games where you have three relevant cards to their zero. You are looking at one or two random cards to their none, hoping they don't rip out. You need to close, and at the very least your pressure can help you maintain board stability if they do rip a threat and give you time to draw your answer.

Teachings

If you are looking for a start here, things are looking to be heavily U/B based as opposed to domain-based. White is the splash of choice right now for Path to Exile and Esper Charm.

The main thing to notice here is Snapcaster Mage has some odd dis-synergy with how we are used to looking at Mystical Teachings. Snapcaster wants a bunch of cheap, efficient utility spells to let you gain card advantage. Mystical Teachings wants a bunch of situational but powerful effects to allow you to pick and choose the best lines for raw power. A lot of these tutor targets in the past have been expensive cards with swingy effects. These lists are very different, with Teachings being more of a secondary line of redundancy and with Snapcaster Mage allowing you to reach a point where you are casting Cryptic Command every turn for the rest of the game. I'm not sure if this negates the need for traditional endgames like Cruel Ultimatum, but it certainly is a powerful finale. The thing to note here is that you aren't quite as heavy on game-ending threats as before. This means games will take longer and more often just come down to Coral Merfolk and manland beats. Keep this in mind if you plan on going to a PTQ with this deck, and know how to be aggressive with the clock and whether you need to add another Titan or other threat to close with.

Of course, you could just be like the World Champion and just crush people with a traditional list. Mystical Teachings allows for a ton of options, and I expect there to be solid rewards for exploring them.

Gifts

This deck did not put up results, but that likely has more to do with how hard it was to have a good list up and ready. Not only was testing time limited, but the field was fairly unknown. Gifts is a deck that needs very fine tuning to maximize power, so don't count it out based on sheer numbers.

Some notable packages:

-All Sun's Dawn, Snapcaster Mage, and Eternal Witness lets you get any fourth card you want as well as massive value.

-Life from the Loam leads to a bunch of packages. Punishing Fire, Raven's Crime, Grove of the Burnwillows is a nice stack that lets you grind your opponent out while getting access to all four cards. Raven's Crime especially is a great card that gives you a real plan to beat blue decks. You can also set up some Tron and Academy Ruins stacks that Gerry talked about last week in his article if you want to go in that direction.

-There are multiple piles that let you always get a Wrath against Zoo. Consume the Meek was a key part of early lists to enable this alongside Firespout or Engineered Explosives.

-From Jesse Hampton comes something I think might revolutionize the archetype. The pile he ran is Iona and Unburial Rites. No third or fourth card, as Gifts Ungiven specifies what kind of card you are looking for, and you are legally allowed to fail to find. Unburial Rites means Gifts Ungiven becomes Entomb and Mystical Tutor in one card, and Iona isn't the only viable target. Depending on metagame or deck space, you could include any of the Legacy targets. Not only that, but most of these are things you can reasonably cast if you draw them. This will be the new face of midrange control, with the actual combo finish giving you a real source of pressure.

Tempo decks

Despite the loss of its most infamous card, Faeries is not quite dead. Worlds saw both red and green variants of the deck pop up.

The green list looks like a Standard deck from 2007 before Bitterblossom was printed. Just solid tempo cards looking to beat up on some of the slower decks while likely folding to one-drops. I'm not sure the hard Faeries base is necessarily the best execution of this deck, but Mistbind Clique is a powerful card. I would likely try to see if you can get away with fewer Scions and Pestermites in favor of Snapcaster Mages and Tarmogoyfs while still having the ability to cast 4/4 Mana Shorts.

More interesting are the red lists piloted by Alan Comer and Noah Swartz. In addition to Lightning Bolt as the best way to stop an early rush and the ability to sideboard Firespouts, you gain a strong alternative route to victory in Splinter Twin. Not only can you assemble the usual Pestermite combo for infinite damage, but Splinter Twin on a Mistbind Clique only needs any other Faerie in play to lock your opponent off of their mana every upkeep. Even a Spellstutter Sprite can turn into an Isochron Scepter with the right setup. In Standard this last year, we got a brief glimpse at what Splinter Twin could represent when backed by a strong standard game plan in TwinBlade, and I expect TwinFae to present a similar threat. Just beware of Punishing Fire.

Moving away from Faeries, we see a U/W list from Korey McDuffie. If you want to crush Zoo, play this deck. Korey played against six Zoo decks on the day, and his “loss” was a concession. Afterwards, he felt none of the matches were close. I'm sure this list is fairly rough, and there is plenty of room and options to fiddle with moving forward, especially as there may be a bit of space you can sacrifice against Zoo.

Finally, on a spicier note, we have what looks like a Modern Canadian Threshold list from Scott Richards. I have no idea what to think of this deck, as it doesn't have any of the mana denial of the Legacy lists, but this looks like a sick base to move forward with.

Notably absent from all the lists is Vedalken Shackles. I'm not sure whether the issue was too many Qasali Pridemages, Knight of the Reliquaries growing out of range, the card just being slow, or people just not having a good list.

Combo

Twin

Talk about a flop. This was one of the decks I was looking at being the top tier of the format going in, and it bombed: 15% of the metagame to around 6% of the winning decks.

What happened?

First, Twin being vulnerable to creature kill was a huge liability. Not only was Zoo stacked with ways to interact, but all the Zoo hate caused splash damage. Even something that should be trivial like Punishing Fire shuts off Pestermite and Kiki-Jiki (unless you have Minamo for the latter).

Second, Remand got a lot worse, as people went from casting Primeval Titans to Wild Nacatls. The Twiddle triggers also became much less of a Time Walk. Twin was exposed as a turn-four combo deck at this event as opposed to what it was in Philly, the combo deck with the best disruption for the mirror.

Finally, the loss of Preordain and Ponder actually changed how the deck plays. Sleight of Hand and Serum Visions are significantly worse to the extent that you can't reasonably keep most hands that don't have one piece of the combo. Instead of relying on your ability to dig aided by having extra copies of both sides, you are leaning on the redundant pieces and cantrips to fill in the blanks. I'm not sure if everyone playing the deck realized this, and a lot of games were likely lost to getting trapped and keeping bad hands.

A couple notes on the deck:

-Splashing for Village Bell-Ringer is a reasonable way to help combat red removal. Kiki-Jiki still dies to Punishing Fire and Lightning Bolt, but they can no longer burn down your Pestermites.

-Pact of Negation isn't that great in the deck. If you end-step a Twiddle guy, they can fight to kill it then and blank Pact. Dispel is by far the best counter in the deck, and I wouldn't be beyond trying out Negate or something similar.

Ad Nauseam

This deck is much better than it was in Extended at Pro Tour Amsterdam. With seven Angel's Grace effects due to Phyrexian Unlife and eight ramp effects with Pentad Prism, the number of turn-four kills you have is much higher than before. I'm not sure if that's enough, as the deck is relatively disruption light beyond the four Pact of Negations it has to force through a kill, but it's a start. Among other things, you are soft to Qasali Pridemage on your ramp or Unlife, so I'm going to vote no on this one for now. You have easy access to black disruption, which may or may not be a selling point in the future, but almost every U/R deck can play a Watery Grave and Thoughtseize if it wants.

Melira

This deck doubled in number from the field to the top decks. That alone should make it worth trying to start with.

Why did this deck do so well?

4 Kitchen Finks. That isn't necessarily enough to beat Zoo by itself, but it's a good start for a deck that does anything else relevant. Wall of Roots also buys a ton of time. In general your deck is just full of great anti-Zoo cards that just happen to be good with your combo base.

Beyond that, similar to the old-school Project X deck it is based on, Melira actually puts up a good fair fight when it isn't going off. The random dudes are all reasonable beats when backed up by Thoughtseize. Birthing Pod also is a legitimate threat without help, and curving out into Reveillark and Sun Titan is enough to win even if you can't combo out. And unlike traditional Doran and Rock-style decks, you have a way to go over the top with the combo.

Notes:

-Play Dimir House Guard. He tutors up Pod and is a four-drop that lets you start going off.

-Protean Hulk may or may not be real. If you Pod it away, you immediately can go infinite with Kitchen Finks on life, and if you have a Body Double in the deck, you can immediately go for the kill by going Seer plus Double on Hulk into Melira and Redcap.

Pyromancer Ascension

As much as I hate to say this, Pyromancer Ascension is probably one of the better combo decks right now.

Don't get me wrong; I absolutely hate the deck. Any early kills you do have are entirely based around drawing Ascension in your opening hand, and if you don't have it, you have to hope to draw it in time to get there, which is especially limited, as there is essentially a loading time once the enchantment hits the board before you actually go lethal.

That said, Ascension currently is the best disruptive combo deck in the format. You have Lightning Bolt and Punishing Fire as combo pieces as well as room for a bunch of two-mana counters and Cryptic Command. If there was ever a spell to buy time with, that is it.

This deck is the real deal and will only get better as control decks start popping up and Remand gets better.

Storm

Magic's most broken mechanic made only a very light splash at Worlds this year, but it put up minor results. Both of the lists we can see were hybrid Empty the Warrens and Grapeshot lists that relied heavily on the power of Past in Flames. One even featured the alternative plan of Pyromancer Ascension for the long game. Based on feedback from people I know who played the list and some light goldfishing, I'm not entirely sold on the power of the current list, but there are likely routes to explore that are good enough. Pyromancer's Swath and Lotus Bloom still exist, and with Faithless Looting coming out partway through the PTQ season as another cheap card filtering spell that works very well with Past in Flames, this deck likely will have some success. I wouldn't play the deck in the dark, but if someone puts in the time, I wouldn't be shocked to see a “correct” build come out of it.

Flash Hulk

Wait, this deck didn't put up results.

This is just a future note for once the single Dark Ascension card we have right now is released, but this deck is very close to being good enough. With Faithless Looting, Ideas Unbound, and Thirst for Knowledge as discard outlets, Footsteps of the Goryo becomes viable. Faithless Looting also makes Summoner's Pact good with Footsteps, as you can realistically cast them both in the same turn early, unlike Ideas Unbound or Thirst.

Watch for this one. It's not necessarily the hardest deck to disrupt, but it will be fast.

To finish this up, here a list of some spicy cards you may have missed:

Raven's Crime- I know I mentioned this one, but it is a real threat with Loam. From a Rock base you suddenly have a real engine most control decks can't keep up with. Add in Worm Harvest, some Gift Ungiven, maybe some other spice...

Arena- Yet another way for Knight to completely take over a board. This one even can break up the Melira and Twin combos.

Unified Will- This might be the best anti-control or combo counter out of Bant and Zoo decks.

Dreadship Reef and company- Some of the Teachings decks had these, but not enough. This was always a way control and combo decks went long in the past and are likely to deserve at least sideboard consideration.

Burning-Tree Shaman- Stops Twin combo. If they have Pestermite, they can pay one life to do two to you, but if you are playing this guy, you should be able to deal enough damage to them to stop this.

Ignorant Bliss- Counters a Thoughtseize at value.

General Summary of the Format:

You need early action, but in general things aren't that fast. You have time to set up a cool, unstoppable endgame with only moderate early interaction. I would start by finding the biggest endgame or finding the best way to punish people trying to go deep.

This isn't an end-all list of what exists in the format. Even with a smaller card pool, the first Grand Prix last year was dominated by Valakut-based decks that were poorly represented at Worlds with the two hype decks of Five Color and Tempered Steel basically being no shows. This is your gauntlet. Start testing now and start winning early.

As for the stories that follow, I apologize if the in-game ones fall a bit short. Rereading them, I'm starting to think including any gameplay-related ones was a mistake. Bad beats aren't really that unique, as likely everyone who has been playing for a while has that one-in-a-thousand-shot loss just because they have played ten-thousand games. With that semi-appropriate self-deprecation out of the way, here are the top five bad beats I have witnessed playing in almost a decade of competitive Magic:

5. Sorry Doesn't Cut It

This story happened to someone I know who plays casual competitive Magic. He's willing to drive four or five hours for a Grand Prix but has no intentions of doing well and is just there to have fun. His brother plays a lot of Legacy, so he has access to any card he wants, but he doesn't really care about winning.

At Grand Prix Columbus, he ended up playing a red Stax deck. In some unknown bracket, he moved to the last game of the match against a Goblin Charbelcher deck. He established an early lock but failed to draw any threats. The board state eventually reached this point.

Him: Trinisphere, Chalice of the Void on zero, Chalice of the Void on one, and every land in his deck in play (no exaggeration).

His Opponent: Nothing because that's what you get for playing Belcher. Both of his lands are in his graveyard, and he has been drawing and discarding for the last twenty or so turns.

Finally, after what seemed like/actually was forever, a win condition appears. Inferno Titan gets slammed down, immediately threatening lethal because even when half your lands are City of Traitors and Ancient Tomb, having every single one of them in play is probably enough to one shot someone with Inferno Titan.

The Belcher player draws for his last turn, looks up, and says, “I'm sorry.”

Exile Simian Spirit Guide, Simian Spirit Guide, Simian Spirit Guide, Simian Spirit Guide, Elvish Spirit Guide, Elvish Spirit Guide, and Elvish Spirit Guide. Last card in hand? Goblin Charbelcher, target you.

Yes, I do still in fact have enough cards in library.

4. Four Points

This story comes from the days of PTQ past. For various reasons, ranging from lack of cards to the obvious combo love, I was playing Mind's Desire in a format where Dredge and Counter-Top were the two real decks.

I played my way to 4-1 in a seven-round event looking at a win and in to top eight when I found myself not on the pairings. I immediately brought this to the attention of the judges, and once it was found that this was a fat finger mistake as opposed to a dumb player one, I was added back into the event. The catch: Instead of repairing the unstarted round, I would play against the person who had the bye at 0-4-1. I would likely have to play my next round out due to the bad tiebreaks, but this should be a freebie, right?

I sit down, explain the situation, and ask my opponent for the concession. He immediately turns it down. I was frustrated, but I could accept a no scoop. Be real; my opponent hadn't won a match and had been playing against garbage decks all day. Easy game.

Game one my opponent gets down an early Calciderm, and I try to go off against his mono-Plains mana base. He slams an Orim's Chant as soon as I cast Seething Song, and I mana burn (what's that?) for five. I still have a bunch of gas left, as he pulled the trigger early instead of waiting for me to Mind's Desire so he could hit every card I had. Calciderm slams in, and I go for it again on my turn... only to run right into his second Orim's Chant and get mana burned right out of the game.

Let's recap this. Not only does my opponent have maindeck Orim's Chant (which likely means he is playing the Isochron Scepter lock with no way to find either part), but he timed it incorrectly so he needed the second one to not die. If you want to argue that he wanted to get in the damage so Calciderm was lethal, you have to consider 1) he could probably get me for five off the second Chant anyway and 2) what is Calciderm doing in his deck if he doesn't have other threats?

Game two goes more to plan, and after my sideboard Duresses take out his Chants, I easily storm into a game three, which also goes according to plan.

I set up to go off for seven copies of Mind's Desire with a ton of mana open from twelve unused Invasion fetchlands (Geothermal Crevice, for reverence). I flip a few Rituals and a Sins of the Past to let me recast my Mind's Desire for twelve.

I shuffle up and start flipping. After the dust clears, I have hit:

3 Infernal Tutors, the remaining four lands in my deck, and all Rituals. Still in my around twenty-card deck are two more Mind's Desires, four Burning Wishes, some number of Tendrils of Agony, and a couple odd cantrips.

The one card in my hand at this point: the last land in my sixty, as I had decided to not pass the turn back and let him rip an Orim's Chant, as I would die to the Ajani Goldmane token he was about to make. Having already made my land drop for the turn, I am stuck with non-hellbent Infernal Tutors and mana burn to death.

And that is how I lost a win and in match to someone with zero match wins on the day.

He then proceeded to lose the next round to Goblins.

3. He Came to Game

The weekend of Grand Prix Oakland a couple years back, a friend of mine (Kurtis Droge for those who know/care) had driven down to a PTQ in Ohio. He was playing Martyr of Sands for whatever reason and found himself in the semifinals against the Dark Depths deck that had shredded the format up until then. His opponent was a Canadian who had tried to fly into California for the Grand Prix but for whatever reason had found his flight delayed somewhere and opted to find a day long “layover” in Ohio to PTQ as opposed to ending up in Oakland after the Grand Prix started.

Game three of the match, my friend is in a dominating board position. Between Extirpates and Thoughtseizes, he knows his opponent's hand is all blanks, while he has a Tidehollow Sculler in play and a Phyrexian Arena pulling him ahead. He is one land short of slamming down Crovax, Ascendant Hero and locking the game up as basically every card in his opponent's deck immediately dies to that card. The Depths player doesn't even have Jace, the Mind Sculptor to win without creatures.

Then, the following happens:

-His opponent runners fourth land, Sower of Temptation, removal to get through and threaten on-board lethal.

-Kurtis rips six consecutive blanks, with any removal or land being live as well as Martyr of Sands being effectively double Time Walk to draw four cards. On the last turn, he even draws Emeria instead of a land that can make mana that turn.

But the real point of the story isn't that his opponent hit the .5% out.

His opponent is facing Kyle Boggemes in the finals, who, unknown to either, in one week would be taking top eight photos for a Pro Tour. Kyle offers the usual, “Well, I'll take the invite, you take the boxes?” in the hope his opponent isn't going to go to the Pro Tour and gets the unusual response of “Wow, you would do that? Okay, I concede.”

Given that this event paid out the same number of packs to first as to fourth, Kurtis tilted and asked the Dark Depths player why he conceded the finals if he flew out here and didn't expect to win any more product by making the finals. The answer?

“If I win this PTQ, I can't play in more PTQs.”

2. Broken Down and Capsized

Here end the gameplay related stories. This one is rather recent, but it deserves a rebuy.

In a trend that has been unfortunately slipping away from me recently, I had everything planned out for Grand Prix Providence a month in advance. Hotel booked cheap despite Brown's graduation taking up almost all the in-town slots that weekend? Check. Car ready to go with potential backups? Check.

We left Ann Arbor to drive the half an hour to pick people up at RIW Hobbies before the rest of our fourteen-hour trek, and I had a feeling something was going to go poorly. The car we were in was exhibiting a key sign of being on the verge of collapse: weird revving noises when you shouldn't hear them. I offered to return to Ann Arbor and swap for my car, but I was no sirred, with the owner citing the fact he had driven this two hundred miles last weekend, and it was fine.

We ended up getting about exactly that far into our trip before hitting a problem. Everything started merging down to one messy lane of stop-and-go rainy construction traffic in literal nowhere Ohio, and as soon as we got into the single lane area, we stalled out. The standard IT tip of turn it off, turn it back on failed to get things going again, so we had to get out and push. We got the car running again, but it died out immediately upon breaking again. We pushed off to the side and eventually got towed. The other car we drove with was up ahead at the next rest stop, but that was multiple miles further than any of us were willing to walk along the highway at night in the rain. We ended up talking the tow driver into letting us mooch a ride there on the flat bed in the dead car.

Upon arriving at the rest stop, we realized we had another issue. While the car owner opted to not continue on, we had three of us trying to get in the extra two seats in the other car. With me getting the freebie, as I had driven the car before and would surely be driving part of the remainder, that left the other two trying to figure out who would be stuck waiting eight hours for the next Michigan car to drive through and pick them up. I took two cards out of the cube we had on hand and told one of them their plans this weekend would be capsized.

The aforementioned Kurtis Droge took his card, revealing a 1UU instant. “Well, see you guys tomorrow.”

“Hold please, Jon, take your card.” The remaining card was flipped, and Jon's actual Capsize left him stranded.

Epilogue: First of all, Jon has evened the score with Kurtis by defeating him in the finals of a PTQ for Honolulu, but that isn't the good part.

A couple months later in Chicago, Brian David-Marshall was scrambling to find cards for a Modern event. Jon and I ended up finding him what he needed between the two of us, and he properly introduced himself to Jon. Before they could finish, I chimed in with, “This is also the guy who got left in Ohio on the way to Rhode Island.”

On one half of the hand shake, BDM's eye lit up in recognition. On the other, Jon let out a heavy sigh.

1. Icarus

This picks up right where our last number one left off. After some savage run goods, I was on my way to Hawaii for a week in a beach house. I had Patrick's Cruel Control list that had crushed everything in testing and was ready to breeze my way into another easy Pro Tour money finish.

The Flight:

I boarded my connecting flight to Los Angeles Monday afternoon and found myself relaxing, reading some generic airplane book. About an hour and a half in, I started smelling something odd and assumed someone had over-microwaved the first class meal. No big deal, but it kept getting stronger instead of dissipating. Just as people started to talk and ask about it, the captain came on.

“Folks, we have a bit of an issue here. There appears to be an electrical fire somewhere on board, but we aren't quite sure where. It isn't affecting any of our systems right now, but we are going to take her down just to be safe.”

Just the casual everyday usual plane fires.

We ended up missing the main Iowa airport and having to land in Waterloo. To say this was an airport would be misrepresentative of the root of the word, like calling the wooden planks that lead out to the family canoe a sea port. We walked down the emergency stairs they pulled out to the terminal that didn't come close to fitting everyone. To help alleviate this issue, the mayor of the town showed up with free pizza and a bus to the local casino. Being a child and unable to spend time incinerating my money the traditional way, I chilled until a replacement plane was flown in. We ended up missing the last flight out to Hawaii that day, and I spent the night in a hotel at LAX.

The Fall:

Despite getting there with plenty of time to test, this Pro Tour was a disaster. Due to a lack of skill, testing, and luck, I managed to 1-4 Block Constructed with what was probably one or two alternate win conditions off of being the best deck in the room. I was making plays like dropping an irrelevant seventh land that didn't make a second red for Cruel Ultimatum, only for my opponent to rip Bloodbraid Elf into Blightning, forcing me to Traumatic Visions it instead of cycling for a Mountain and then not drawing a red source for seven turns. After a loss in Limited, I dropped with a record of Grizzled Leotau and headed off with some people to the beach.

The Crash into the Sea:

My plan at the beach was to tilt/sulk around until people returned to the house, but eventually the ocean breeze got to me, and I decided I might as well splash around like an idiot. The beach we were at was pretty cool, featuring some fairly solid wave action.

Punt One: Not understanding waves. I live in Michigan, so giant expanses of water aren't a new thing, but the Great Lakes are way different in terms of current. Even the people who were used to these things (i.e. Paulo) were getting demolished.

There are apparently two parts of a wave. When the water goes up the sand, it also comes back down. Waves in Michigan are usually small enough this isn't a big deal, but when there's enough water coming back the other way, it can get complicated to keep on your feet.

Punt Two: Lack of proper attire. I was wearing the baggy shorts I had worn to the event that morning with no swim trunks in sight.

I ended up durdling around in the water for a while, sticking to the shallow side of things and laughing as people got bowled over by the waves further out. I made the executive decision to wade out a bit further and immediately got punished. Not ready for it, the first wave I took above knee height knocked me over. I tried to just float it out back to shore but couldn't get traction and got pulled back into the next wave. This repeated a few times, and between gasps of air, I realized part of the issue was that because I was oriented towards the shore, sand was being pulled back into my pants with the returning water. I found my out, and no matter how bad the line was, the other option involved potentially drowning, so I went ahead with it.

I ended up making it back to shore, give or take a few items. To get rid of the dead weight, I had to take off my pants, and while I had them, my underwear was nowhere to be seen (if you think about the physics, you can answer the question for yourself).

Between the adrenaline and tilt, I don't remember much else from that night besides steak and chocolate chip cookies, but I do very vividly remember sitting there awkwardly on a public beach in Hawaii trying to figure out how to get my pants back on without any awkward flashes occurring.

I am definitely looking forward to a chance at redemption in February.

-Ari Lax

@armlx on Twitter