While many folks were away kicking ass in Providence this weekend (including Evil Tim, whose team effortlessly made day 2 and are drafting away as I write this), I had the chance to spend a whole Saturday playing nothing but Modern Masters Limited. I drafted the set twice at the store, then played a four-man, winner-take-all sealed. In preparation for GP Vegas, I’m going to share exactly what I played and my thoughts on each event—what worked, what didn’t, what cards were awesome to play with, and what cards to watch out for.
Before we dive in, I recommend checking out the latest episode of Limited Resources if you haven’t already. The show goes over all the archetypes of the format, their key cards, and how to play them. Plus, you get to hear two hours of Marshall Sutcliffe’s sultry voice.
Off we go.
Pack one, pick one: Bonesplitter. Was I insane? Maybe a tad bit, but I felt it was justified. Jason Chan calls Bonesplitter “one of the most exciting cards in Magic history,” and he’s not wrong. My pack had exciting cards, sure—Bridge From Below, Rift Bolt, Empty the Warrens, Electrolyze—but they all lead you down a set path, whereas Bonesplitter is a great card and goes in every single deck in the format. The ability to suit up a random dude and turn it into a considerable clock for next to no mana is almost invaluable. Just like in Mirrodin block, I knew this axe would claim many heads, so I snapped it up and never looked back.
From there, I took a pick two Aethersnipe for its formidable body and great tempo hit. Then the Errant Ephemerons and Durkwood Baloths kept coming, so I easily slotted into UG Suspend, the Dinosaurs of this format. Just play a bunch of efficiently-costed dudes (in this case, criminally undercosted since suspend is a very powerful mechanic) and attack. No one wanted the Imperiosaurs, Giant Dustwasps and Penumbra Spiders—which I think is totally wrong especially for that last one—so I snatched them all up.
My deck had impressive creatures that would be hard to contend with given a proper curve-out. However, I was lacking in removal and tempo spells. Dan B., drafting across the table a full three seats to my right, was in mono Blue flyers and took all the Echoing Truths, Aethersnipes, and other little Faeries that he saw. My deck would definitely have liked them, but as it was, I was heavier on the raw power of green and much lighter on the finesse of blue. I crushed my round one opponent with ease, then got tempoed out super hard by Dan and his Kira-protected flyers. In the final round, my deck stalled and died to UW Affinity. It wouldn’t be a Modern event without me getting completely hosed by Affinity. Turn one Court Homunculus into turn two Tidehollow Sculler, taking my Trygon Predator, is pretty brutal.
My takeaway from that draft is that UG is a decent deck that is easy to assemble and requires next to no thinking piloting, but you are very susceptible to combat tricks and other shenanigans, which are going to be all over the place in this format. Remember, the power level of the set is much higher than your average Limited format, with many of these cards being old Constructed staples. And it’s not like they are just in the set all by their lonesome—many of their cohorts from the Constructed decks they appeared in also show up. Might not happen as often in draft, but for sealed (and this is especially true for an event the size and scale of GP Vegas), you’re going to run into Scion of Oona and Cryptic Command in the same deck, and you’re going to face down Arcbound Ravager with Blinkmoth Nexus backup. Hell, you might even eat a Progenitus to the face off of a Tooth and Nail (with a Woodfall Primus for value, why not). These might seem like Magical Christmas Land sealed pools, but seeing as how there will be thousands of sealed pools opened a week and a half from now, anything is possible.
I opened a Kira, and immediately slammed it after the trouncing at the hands of Dan from the previous pod. I decided there and then that I’d be in Ux Skies, with the most obvious choice being UB Faeries.
Sure enough, the cards lined up well enough for me to get a pretty sick Faeries deck, with double Dreamspoiler Witches, triple Latchkey Faerie, and a P3P1 Scion of Oona. I also had some sweet synergies with Marsh Flitter, Auntie’s Snitch, and Murderous Redcap. I was fighting slightly with Garrett, sitting to my right, since he opened a Keiga, but the Faeries pieces were mostly untouched as Garrett went into the Dampen Thought Arcane deck.
This deck ended up being awesome. It was very similar to the tempo/control decks that I love to play in Constructed formats, so I felt quite comfortable despite playing with many of the cards for the first time ever. It feels so good to flash in an unassuming Faerie, nibble your opponent for one damage, then cast Latchkey Faerie for its prowl cost and draw a card. And then there’s Dreamspoiler Witches, which was easily the MVP of the draft. It turned my Peppersmokes into one-mana Electrolyzes. There’s nothing quite like a one-mana three-for-one on your opponent’s turn.
I ended up out-tempoing Jason’s UG Suspend deck in the first round, adding to my suspicion that the archetype is not amazing. Again, when you think of this format less in a Limited context and more as a “Constructed Lite,” it makes more sense. The big, dumb dudes deck will have a hard time against a fully focused tribal deck with heavy synergy. Of course, anyone can suspend a bunch of Errant Ephemerons and just get there off of Air Elementals, but it’s much harder to accomplish against a bunch of Wind Drakes that mess with your combat math while holding up other shenanigans.
In round two, I played Nick on RG Ramp/Tooth and Nail. I didn’t see the Tooth and Nail until game three, when our boards were stalled and Nick hit it for its entwine cost, but by then the match had already gone long, and my Stinkweed Imp, Plumeveil (both of which were boarded in to deal with Nick’s giant monsters), Marsh Flitter and co. had already held off a Jugan and multiple Giant Dustwasps. I was afraid that he’d grab the Progenitus that was going around the table—I opened it in pack two but passed it for, what else, a Bonesplitter—but he didn’t have it. From there, it was a matter of finding a way to deal with the Figure of Destiny before Nick found his sixth Mountain. Nick could not find it in time, and my Erratic Mutation hit a Faerie Mechanist to get rid of the Figure for good. We’d go on to draw that match. Penumbra Spider was a beating the entire three games, there was just no way for my deck to deal with that card in an efficient manner. I managed to alpha past it when I drew the Pestermite I needed, and the anthem effect from Scion was enough, but for the other two games, no dice. That fucker is a steel wall (note, not Steel Wall) at common.
For the final round, I squared off against Austin’s RW Giants. Perhaps counterintuitively, I was the beatdown in this matchup, as my board could get Wrath’d at anytime by a Thundercloud Shaman. I also had to kill any Stinkdrinker Daredevils on sight, else things would escalate very quickly. Luckily, I got some aggressive draws, including the aforementioned Spellstutter into damage into full value Latchkey Faerie. I also found Bonesplitter both games, which made things a race from the very first turn against a deck that didn’t often do things until turn three or four. When you chain Latchkey Faeries against a deck that’s as slow to start as that one, there’s no coming back short of a Wrath.
Takeaways: Faeries is the real deal. Prowl is the real deal. Kira is the real deal. All three of those things plus multiple Bonesplitters is just ridiculous.
After the second pod wrapped up, John Fung, Dan Black and I cabbed it over to Milosz’s place for some late night Modern Masters sealed off of our prize packs (Luis gives out MM packs for his MM drafts, how awesome is that!). To make things interesting, it was winner-take-all. Among the shiny cardboard money were an Elspeth and a
Skrillex Dark Confidant. How’s that for motivation?
My pool this time was UW Affinity. I am become that which I loath. I was initially tempted by UB Faeries again when I open a few Latchkeys, Dreamspoilers, and a Scion. However, the removal wasn’t there. No Peppersmoke, no Drag Down, not even an Erratic Mutation. There was an Executioner’s Capsule, which I ended up splashing for off of a Vivid Meadow, a Swamp, and a Traumatic Visions, but that by itself is not enough removal to make a Faeries deck. Instead, I dropped the rest of black and picked up white, which had a few nice artifacts to combo with my Esperzoa in Court Homunculus and Sanctum Gargoyle. The real draw of white, though, and I missed this the first time going through my pool, was that I had two Cloudgoat Rangers and a Stir the Pride. Go ahead and mouse over those two cards again and read what they do together. I’ll wait.
It’s bonkers, right?
In round one, I took two quick games off of John, also on UW Affinity, though his deck had more traditional robots whereas mine was more UW value guys with some artifacts. I won off of a horrendous mistake from John, having never played with Affinity before. Here’s how it happened.
Him: land, Paradise Mantle, go.
Me: land, go.
Him: land, Arcbound Stinger, go.
Me: land, go.
Him: attack, trade with my Spellstutter, leave stranded in his hand two Frogmites that would’ve both came down that turn had he not swung, along with a Myr Enforcer that would’ve come down a turn later.
I won that game shortly after, the John got an awkward draw in game two and never recovered. We played some more games for fun after, and whomever got the Court Homunculus and Bonesplitter usually won. That, or it was Esperzoa/Faerie Mechanist staredowns.
In the second round, we for some reason decided to have the winners play the losers, so I played against Milosz, who had the third UW Affinity deck. His pool was significantly more bomby, though, with Elspeth, Keiga, and motherfucking Meloku. I did not win the match. Meloku is a must-answer megaton bomb, and I just happened to only have that ExCap in my splash color. I threw away the third game when I blew my Stir the Pride way too early to try and get a win immediately, before Meloku made an impact on the board, but an Erratic Mutation changed the math and left Milosz with enough life to survive, untap with Meloku, and take over. Milosz, however, graciously scooped me into the “final” to play Dan, who I should’ve played in the second round originally had the four of us not been so braindead from exhaustion.
If you thought Meloku was bad, I’d like you to meet Oona, Queen of the Fae. Don’t let that triple hybrid cost fool you, it only means that the card essentially costs six mana from any of your lands if you’re in that color combination. Dan was, plus he was splashing Electrolyze for free off of a Terramorphic Expanse and two Vivid lands. Have you ever been four-for-one’d by Dreamspoiler Witches and Electrolyze? I have. You lose the game on the spot usually, and if you don’t immediately scoop, Oona tends to prompt that concession shortly after.
Why is she a goddamn dragon? Just, why? The mill-and-get-dudes ability is oppressive enough, why couldn’t they leave her as a 2/4 or something? I’m convinced that, short of a Path to Exile or an Erratic Mutation in an all-six-drop deck, there is no beating Oona in the format. Case in point: in game two, I alphaed with two Cloudgoats, the six Kithkin Soldiers, and entwined Stir the Pride. I went up to 37 life while Dan lived at 2. Dan won that game off of Oona making blockers and milling me out. It was demoralizing, to say the least.
Luckily, I got a good hand in game three and filled up my board with Kithkin Soldiers from a Cloudgoat and two Cenn’s Enlistment, and was once again holding Stir the Pride. Dan resolved Oona on curve, but I had been beating down with my dudes that his life total was low enough for me to kill on an alpha the following turn, assuming he didn’t hit a guy off of the mill ability. He didn’t, and enough of my guys got through to seal the deal.
The moral of the story: you don’t beat Meloku, and you definitely don’t beat Oona, short of having an Overrun effect.
All in all, it was a terrific day of Magic. There were initial fears that Modern Masters would just be a cash grab and that the format wouldn’t live up to the hype, but this past Saturday was the most fun I’d had playing Magic in a long while, and I’d be making that statement even if I didn’t end up with a Tarmogoyf and a Bob in my collection (though they certain do help). It might be a little last minute, but if you’re still unsure about going to Vegas for the Grand Prix, stop wavering and just do it. It is serious fun, and it’ll be a unique experience that can only be enhanced by your friends joining you on this once-in-a-lifetime ride.
I’ll never underestimate Primeval Titan ever again.
There was a time when playing anything higher than four mana was tantamount to suicide in Modern. Tapping out any time after turn three or four, depending on whether you were on the play or on the draw, could spell the end. And then they banned a couple of cards, non-Jund midrange strategies became a thing, UWR Geist won back-to-back PTQs and a GP, and suddenly fair decks were the place to be in the format. Combo, for the most part, disappeared. You’d still see the occasional Twin or Pod deck, but that was about it.
Then the PTQ season ended, and players that still had interest in the format went back into the lab. It wouldn’t be long before people realized that some of the more popular archetypes in Modern just can’t do anything about an honest-to-goodness combo deck. Naturally, the metagame eventually began to shift back away from durdly creature battles to more creative things. Summer Bloom/Amulet of Vigor and Goryo’s Vengeance/Fury of the Horde both made brief appearances before the more traditional combo decks began posting results. Gifts control decks playing Kitchen Finks and Sun Titan as an additional package, Melira Pod jammed in Voice of Resurgence to get the upper hand in the Pod debate, all while Finkel said “fuck it, I’m still the best Storm player in the world” and piloted a Seething Song-less Storm deck to the top 16.
And then there’s Scapeshift, or more precisely, Scapeshift with Primeval Titans. I’ve always preferred the Titan-less, Prismatic Omen-less version over the list that came second at GP Portland, because I thought it was better able to find Scapeshift and go off on time. After all, Peer Through Depths does an amazing job of finding you a copy of Scapeshift, or a piece of permission to protect it. What happens in the Primetime version if you can’t find your Titan? Don’t you just lose?
But then I gave it some thought and actually tried the deck out. Prismatic Omen is just a silly card. Scapeshift on only six lands without caring whether your opponent is at 18? I’ll take that. Oh, you mean my Primetime comes with four Lightning Bolts attached? Deal.
I played the following 75 at Tuesday Night Modern last week:
Deck: Scapeshift.dec Counts : 60 main / 15 sideboard Creatures:10 4 Sakura-Tribe Elder 2 Obstinate Baloth 4 Primeval Titan Spells:24 3 Farseek 3 Izzet Charm 3 Prismatic Omen 2 Pyroclasm 3 Remand 2 Firespout 4 Search for Tomorrow 4 Scapeshift Lands:26 2 Breeding Pool 3 Forest 1 Island 3 Misty Rainforest 6 Mountain 2 Scalding Tarn 2 Steam Vents 4 Stomping Ground 3 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle Sideboard:15 1 Relic of Progenitus 2 Ancient Grudge 2 Back to Nature 2 Combust 1 Remand 2 Obstinate Baloth 3 Inferno Titan 2 Wurmcoil Engine
Remember that bit about popular decks in the format not being able to interact with combo? That’s what playing this deck felt like. It is honestly the most resilient combo deck I’ve played in Modern, and the best part is, its key pieces can also disrupt other decks and throw off their game plan.
Case in point: in my third round, I played against Melira Pod, the supposed deck to beat after the recent GP win. Four maindeck Pyroclasm effects and the three copies of Izzet Charm were just brutal. My opponent had turn two Pod on the play, but his chain was disrupted when I removed his mana dork. He was able to set up again and threaten a combo kill, but I casually untapped and played a Titan, fetching for two Valakuts. Combined with the Omen I already had out, I sent four Lightning Bolts distributed evenly to his Viscera Seer, Deathrite Shaman, Kitchen Finks, and Ranger of Eos. All my opponent could do was sacrifice everything in response to scry, then concede when it became evident that no amount of library manipulation would allow him to reassemble his combo on time. All I had to do was turn Primetime sideways on the following turn, and that would be the third Valakut and any other land combining for 18 damage off of Valakut triggers alone.
I also squared off against Richard “THE BEST” Tan playing his signature UWR Durdles deck. The increased threat density over the Peer Through Depths version was helpful in fighting through the seemingly endless suite of countermagic. The Titan-less version has access to Cryptic Command, sure, but since you have to pull the trigger first, you often don’t have the mana to win a drawn-out counter war. In this version, it’s more a matter of making him have it. I literally just kept running out Titans and Baloths into counters and removal until he ran out, then killed him with a Scapeshift. Moreover, with Colonnade being the only real clock in the UWR deck, Richard could not put on much pressure for fear of tapping out. This let me hit a critical mass of lands such that I could either naturally draw into a Titan or a Scapeshift to immediately win, or do it the “slow” way by playing lands and killing him with Valakut triggers.
I must say that, after playing with both versions, that I much prefer the one with Primetime. It’s a different playstyle, much more brute force when compared with the version without. It may not find the actual copies of Scapeshift as consistently, but its added resilience versus both controlling and aggressive strategies gets my seal of approval. The sideboard needs a little work (a few of the giant monsters can go to make room for more disruption and hate), but for the most part, this version of Scapeshift is quickly becoming a deck I feel comfortable enough to play in the most competitive of environments, right up there with my beloved UW.
By the time I discovered my rekindled interest in Standard, it was too late to arrange travel for this past Saturday’s PTQ in Jersey. So, I got some much needed sleep after a long night of Super Turbo and beers in Sunset Park, and woke up around 11:00 am to go play in Game Day at the store. I played the same 75 cards I briefly previewed in last week’s article, and was excited to see how it’d perform in a slightly larger event.
Deck: Grixis Seer Counts : 60 main / 15 sideboard Creatures:13 3 Augur of Bolas 4 Snapcaster Mage 4 Duskmantle Seer 1 Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch 1 Olivia Voldaren Spells:22 1 Pillar of Flame 1 Desperate Ravings 1 Tragic Slip 1 Dimir Charm 2 Dreadbore 1 Essence Scatter 1 Izzet Charm 1 Mizzium Mortars 1 Rakdos's Return 2 Searing Spear 3 Think Twice 1 Turn // Burn 2 Dissipate 1 Forbidden Alchemy 2 Tribute to Hunger 1 Sever the Bloodline Lands:25 2 Blood Crypt 1 Cavern of Souls 1 Desolate Lighthouse 3 Dragonskull Summit 4 Drowned Catacomb 2 Island 4 Steam Vents 3 Sulfur Falls 1 Swamp 4 Watery Grave Sideboard:15 2 Appetite for Brains 1 Pillar of Flame 2 Rakdos Charm 2 Turn // Burn 3 Izzet Staticaster 3 Evil Twin 1 Slaughter Games 1 Psychic Spiral
The short answer, as you can tell from the title of this post, is that it performed admirably.
With the aid of a bye in the first round, I went 4-1 in the Swiss portion to comfortably make Top 8. I defeated Bant Hexproof (making my overall record against these decks 4-0 in sanctioned matches, and further reinforcing my conjecture that the matchup is heavily favored for Grixis), a UR brew, and RG Aggro. My loss in the Swiss rounds came at the hands of THE Kadar Brock, piloting Don King (Domri) Naya. I think the matchup is 50/50 and largely dependent on how much removal I draw versus his large animals. It just so happened that, in game three, Kadar mulled to five and kept Thalia and four taplands, then proceeded to draw and curve out perfectly with Smiter and Resto, while I stared at a hand with Olivia and slow removal that became even more awkward with the Thalia tax.
And therein lies what I believe to be the deck’s weakest point: its removal, while numerous, is sometimes just too slow. Pillar of Flame, Dreadbore, Mizzium Mortars, and Sever the Bloodline all have to be played on your own turn, whereas the instant speed removal either doesn’t always hit what you want (edicts, Dimir Charm), or just straight doesn’t kill the things you want to kill (Izzet Charm, Searing Spear, Tragic Slip). It kind of feels like the four-color Gifts Control decks in Modern: sometimes, you’re just a turn too slow. One-for-one removal becomes really bad when you need to spend whole turns casting them, and it gets even worse if your opponent can resolve multiple creatures per turn.
That same weakness would come back to bite me when, after beating the same RG Aggro deck I beat in the Swiss in the Top 8, I had to face this brew that eventually won the entire tournament. The Golgari deck played cheap threats that threatened to grow really big, really fast, and my removal just couldn’t keep pace. In game two, I was able to tempo my opponent out with a Seer, an Exava, and a whole ton of removal, but was overwhelmed once more in game three by a perfect 1-2-3-4 curve-out. Without Wrath effects and “oops I win” cards like Rites/Angel of Serenity combo, my run in the tournament ended.
Overall, I was very pleased with how the deck performed, and even more pleased that I was able to discern a way to improve the list. Desperate Ravings was awful for me all day. In theory, it’s better than Think Twice since I can get back whatever I pitch to it via Snapcaster Mage, but I just happened to bin a Snappy and a Seer in the same game. Fringe case, perhaps, but I think the card should just be the fourth Think Twice, or more countermagic/removal. A singleton Syncopate in that slot wouldn’t be bad. The random games here and there where I get to Syncopate a Farseek would be beyond savage.
Fellow store regular Mike Simpson was able to take a similar list to the Top 8 of a GPT recently as well. He made a few changes and fit in Talrand, Sky Summoner, which seems like a sweet inclusion if your opponent can’t immediately remove him (much like all of your four-drops). This, along with Evil Tim’s more controlling build from last week, has me convinced that Grixis is quietly the best-kept secret in Standard. If you’re a Standard enthusiast, I highly recommend you try out one of these builds. I have a feeling it’s the way of the future.
It’s been a miraculous month. 30 days ago, I became unemployed for the second time in six months. 10 days ago, I began my third full-time job since getting out of school. How’s that for a turnaround?
It’s all thanks to my second job, really. My former boss referred me to her recruiter, an angel of a woman who got the ball rolling immediately after I met with her. She set me up with an interview the day after our brief chat at Starbucks (or as she put it, “a quick meeting just to make sure I was normal”). From there, I met with six people over a span of three or four hours, and it was the things that I learned at my last job that helped me secure the spot. The day after the interview, my recruiter called me and told me that they loved me, and to be on the lookout for an offer. I nearly died. Free healthcare, 401k, a better job title with a significantly higher salary, and most importantly, the comfort of job security.
It was basically the most roundabout way of getting promoted, ever, and I owe that woman my life for orchestrating it all.
I still have a hard time believing everything happened the way they did, especially after it took four months and a foot in the door to recover from my first layoff. I wrote all that positive, uplifting bullshit in the previous blog post just so I wouldn’t make myself feel worse about the dire straits I was in, I had no real expectation that everything would just naturally fall into place. To be honest, when I got the news that I was being let go, I spent a good minute trying to work out how much time I’d have before I ran out of money and would have to pack up and leave the city I love—all while my former boss and her boss looked on. They must have thought they were going to have to call and ambulance. I distinctly remember coming to the realization that I only had two months before it was all over, and getting lightheaded.
Fast forward to a month later, and all is well with the world. I couldn’t be happier at the new job. The people are great, the work is great, and I managed to hit the ground running. I feel like I’ve finally made it after all my struggles these last two years since leaving school. I’m at a good place in my career despite all the ups and downs, and I have great friends to lift me up when I stumble. There’s not too much else I can wish for at this point.
If there was anything to take away from all of this, it’s that this city—and all of its great people—are worth fighting for. It’s the city I grew up in, and at this point, I consider it my true home, even over Shanghai, the city I was born and raised in for almost ten years. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
For the first time in a long while, I’m enjoying the Standard format again. I found a deck that’s both competitive and fun to tinker with. It’s got consistent draws, and can win both short tempo battles as well as long games. The best part is, it contains neither Thragtusk nor Sphinx’s Revelation. I wrote about it briefly last week after my first outing with it. And now, a week and two events later, I feel comfortable enough to put together a short primer.
Deck: Grixis Seer.dec Counts : 60 main / 15 sideboard Creatures:13 3 Augur of Bolas 4 Snapcaster Mage 4 Duskmantle Seer 1 Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch 1 Olivia Voldaren Spells:22 1 Pillar of Flame 1 Unsummon 1 Desperate Ravings 1 Dimir Charm 2 Dreadbore 1 Essence Scatter 1 Izzet Charm 1 Mizzium Mortars 1 Rakdos's Return 2 Searing Spear 3 Think Twice 1 Turn // Burn 2 Dissipate 1 Forbidden Alchemy 2 Tribute to Hunger 1 Sever the Bloodline Lands:25 2 Blood Crypt 1 Cavern of Souls 1 Desolate Lighthouse 3 Dragonskull Summit 4 Drowned Catacomb 2 Island 4 Steam Vents 3 Sulfur Falls 1 Swamp 4 Watery Grave Sideboard:15 2 Appetite for Brains 1 Pillar of Flame 3 Rakdos Charm 2 Turn // Burn 3 Izzet Staticaster 3 Evil Twin 1 Psychic Spiral
Let’s address the obvious stuff first. No, Exava’s not a placeholder for some other four-drop I don’t have a copy of. She is well positioned against the field in that she can attack through just about everything. Four power of first strike is a handful, it turns out. Being able to almost mindlessly turn sideways against Loxodon Smiter, Restoration Angel, Thragtusk, and many other format staples is quite the desirable trait. She’s also a decent blocker if you ever need her to be, but there aren’t too many scenarios I can think of where you want to leave her leashed.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s discuss how this deck wins. This is very much a “win later” deck. You’ll spend a good amount of time in the early- to mid-game killing off your opponent’s threats with your removal suite and chipping away at their life total with Snapcasters and Augurs, and when they’ve all but run out of gas, you’ll resolve one of your four-drops and set yourself up to win over the next few turns. Duskmantle Seer is your best card (no surprises there), and will be responsible for a significant portion of your wins, but there will be games where you win off of a gigantic Olivia or a ridiculous Rakdos’ Return.
One really important thing to remember is that, despite this being a base-blue deck with a small creature count, you are not a draw-go deck. Since you don’t have Sphinx’s Revelation at your disposal, you lack the inevitability of UWx decks. Oftentimes you’ll need to be proactive and flash in an Ambush Viper to mount some pressure, otherwise your opponent will just durdle until they play a large animal/gain life/play a large animal that gains life. You have the most varied arsenal of removal in the entire format at your disposal, and even though many of them are one-ofs and two-ofs, there is a lot of redundancy to ensure that you always have the answer you need for every situation, or at least close to it. As such, it’s okay if you don’t have that Essence Scatter in hand when they go to resolve that Restoration Angel to ambush your Snapcaster, because you’ve got ways to get rid of that thing, maintain tempo, and sometimes get some value out of it. When you finally do get to resolve Seer, do everything within your power to make sure he stays alive. He draws you cards and domes your opponent for considerable chunks of life. Games can get grindy, but your wins will be rewarding.
The last few notes I have are cards that I’ve tried but have failed to impress.
I played with Delvers for a bit. They’re sometimes amazing, but most of the time they’re just straight terrible. Last week at FNM, I could not buy a keepable hand due to the concessions on the mana base I had to make to fit in those fuckers. In the end, they’re simply not worth it. The other card that was nothing but awkward for me was, surprisingly, Ral Zarek. The +1 didn’t do a whole lot when I didn’t have any creatures to attack with (which I often didn’t), and the two Bolts, while nice, didn’t answer anything I couldn’t already answer with my other spells. The ultimate wasn’t ever a consideration as it was next to impossible to tick him up for all those turns without being disrupted. Other than that, it’s just minor details here and there. I used to run a Devour Flesh rather than the second copy of Tribute to Hunger, but in a lot of matchups, I’d rather have the two or three points of life rather than doing it a turn earlier, since I’m not trying to Geist my opponents out or anything. I might also try and fit in a singleton Runechanter’s Pike to seal games that threaten to get out of hand.
I’ll need more experience with the deck to figure out the other intricacies, but the list shows promise in its current form, and it’s gotten me excited about Standard again, which can’t be all bad.
I played Standard! Again! Me! Standard! Again!
The last time I did, I played the horribly boring UWR Flash, came with a half-assed sideboard, and dropped at 1-2. This time, I played a brew and finished the day with a respectable 3-1. Here’s the list:
Deck: Grixis Seer Counts : 60 main / 15 sideboard Creatures:14 4 Delver of Secrets 3 Augur of Bolas 3 Snapcaster Mage 4 Duskmantle Seer Spells:24 2 Pillar of Flame 1 Tragic Slip 1 Unsummon 2 Desperate Ravings 1 Devour Flesh 1 Dimir Charm 2 Dreadbore 1 Essence Scatter 1 Izzet Charm 1 Mizzium Mortars 1 Rakdos's Return 2 Searing Spear 2 Think Twice 1 Turn // Burn 2 Dissipate 1 Rolling Temblor 1 Tribute to Hunger 1 Sever the Bloodline Lands:22 2 Blood Crypt 1 Cavern of Souls 1 Desolate Lighthouse 2 Dragonskull Summit 3 Drowned Catacomb 4 Island 4 Steam Vents 3 Sulfur Falls 2 Watery Grave Sideboard:15 2 Appetite for Brains 1 Duress 1 Pillar of Flame 1 Devour Flesh 2 Turn // Burn 1 Victim of Night 1 Counterflux 3 Izzet Staticaster 2 Clone 1 Psychic Spiral
This list is based off of the Grixis Seer deck that made the tiniest of splashes on MODO a few weeks back. I happened upon it when I was looking on MTGO Stats for Modern decks with Duskmantle Seer, and thought it looked interesting. After a bit of testing, it felt really threat-light, much like the Flash decks. But unlike the Flash decks, you’re not playing Sphinx’s Revelation and therefore can’t go as long. Short of resolving a Seer and keeping it alive, there was no real way to win.
So I decided to tweak the numbers a little, reduce the land count and trim a few of the less useful instants and sorceries to fit in Delvers. No, there’s no way to set up a flip other than the single copy of Dimir Charm (and even then, it’s a bit of a stretch), but I’m not going to turn down free wins. A blind flip in the early turns can really punish Thragtusk decks (the non-nut hands, at any rate) such that, by the time they resolve one, I’m already so far ahead that it doesn’t matter.
In fact, that’s pretty much what happened all day today. All four of my rounds were against Thragtusk decks—two of them Jund, two of them Junk Reanimator. I went 2-0, 4-0 against the Jund decks, overwhelming Matt and Monique with removal spell after removal spell after removal spell. Turn // Burn was amazing against Thragtusk, Pillar of Flame was suddenly not the worst card in all of Magic when I was staring down a Huntmaster, and Clone out of the board made damn sure that Olivia never stayed alive long enough to steal my Seers. Snapcaster is also ridiculous in this shell, since Jund relies on spending whole turns resolving marquee midrange creatures, allowing for huge tempo swings in my favor when I kill off their stuff at the end of their turn and get a 2/1 out of the deal.
Reanimator was a little more tricky, the threat density in those decks is just too damn high. And since very few of my removal spells exile things, Unburial Rites just makes it so hard for me to keep the path clear for my small creatures. And this isn’t even mentioning the dumb things their creatures can do. In the match that I lost, I got hit by Acidic Slime four times thanks to Restoration Angel, locking me out of black and making things super awkward. I ended up three damage short of taking game three when, despite my best efforts to dig through my deck with Augurs, Seers and draw spells, that crucial Searing Spear never showed up.
As for the other Reanimator match, turns out double blind flip Delver is pretty good.
I was pretty pleased with the deck overall, and already have some ideas with where to make improvements. For instance, I know the mana could be better, I was just too lazy to pull my other Watery Graves out from my Modern decks. Unsummon was a non-factor all day, and the Desperate Ravings should probably just be Think Twices.
All of that is well and good, but I’m honestly not that excited to play Standard again, for no other reason than that Thragtusk decks are JUST. SO. FUCKING. BORING. Reanimator, in particular, seems like a troublesome matchup since I can’t do anything about Cavern of Souls and Acidic Slime. I had hoped that there would be some innovation to the Standard format with Dragon’s Maze, but so far, it’s just been a few select cards here and there added to existing archetypes, as opposed to completely new decks like Grixis. And unfortunately, I don’t foresee there being any innovation until Innistrad block rotates out.
But hey, that’s just me being cranky. I’m like this pretty often. In all likelihood, I’ll find myself playing Standard again next week. This stupid game has a tendency of sucking me back in.
For two of the three Dragon’s Maze drafts I’ve done since the set’s release, I took Putrefy pack-one, pick-one. Unconditional removal is awesome, even if it comes at the price of having to commit to a color combination early on. After all, this format is built to accommodate a bit of greed.
But how greedy is too greedy in this format?
I ended up going BUG in both those drafts. I won one almost effortlessly and went 2-1 in another, losing to wildly inconsistent draws. One of these drafts was a conventional eight-person pod, the other a six-person. I’ll give you one guess as to which was which.
Six-person pods are especially bad in this format, I feel, because the fixing just isn’t there. Not enough cards get opened at the table to support three colors, which just so happens to be the direction the first pack nudges you in. Thus, you’re left praying for a Prophetic Prism or a Verdant Haven in the second pack. And even then, there’s still that uneasy feeling that someone’s just going to put a Madcap Skills on a random dude and kill you.
But that’s Limited, I suppose. All sorts of unforeseen circumstances can arise. In my third, non-BUG DGM draft (also a pod of six), I managed to stay in two colors (it’s relatively easy when you open Advent of the Wurm and Loxodon Smiter and get shipped a Deadbridge Goliath) but still died to a four-color deck when my opponent put a Madcap on a Disciple of the Old Ways. I ended up winning the match, and the pod, but it does seem to suggest that multi-color monstrosities are actually viable with the right draws. For my part, I wouldn’t go into a DGM draft looking to go above three colors (and after these three drafts, I’m definitely aiming for just two colors in smaller pods), but if the right cards show up, anything’s possible.
Another takeaway is that evasion is even more awesome here than in other formats. There are just too many X/4s to even consider pushing through damage on the ground, so I just played a bunch of gatekeepers (oftentimes for no value) to clog up the board and got there with Wind Drake and Friends.
We’re still in the beginning stages of the format, so I don’t want to pass any judgment until I’ve had more exposure. I will say that, thus far, I’ve found it to be enjoyable, if a bit clunky at times.