Daddy’s Home! SCG Players’ Championship Report: Part 2.

KevinJones

When I last left you, my lovely audience, we were discussing the bold legacy choice I made for the Players’ Championship, Merfolk. Today we will go over the modern deck I chose, UR Twin. I’ll give a rundown of the deck choice, the numbers, and a brief recap of the matches. Here we go!

So, I knew early on that I wanted to play UR Twin in the Players’ Champs. I expected some of the field to bring other combo decks which Twin generally fared well against. I also expected the linear aggressive decks, burn and affinity. I also like the match up Twin has against these decks because of the wealth of cheap interaction and a combo finish. The GBx decks aren’t great match ups for Twin but the sideboard plan of Keranos and other hard to kill midrange threats (Jace, Architect of Thought and Pia and Kiran Nalaar) along with the versatile answer engineered explosives provides us should be able to improve the match up enough to grind out some post board games. I expected Abzan to eclipse Jund as the premier GBx midrange deck for this event. It has a better match up against affinity and other midrange decks. Abzan has a worse matchup against Twin, however. The red cards provide additional removal and a better clock. Siege Rhino, while powerful, is essentially too expensive to tap out for in game one without running the risk of dying to the Twin combo. Abzan is hosed even more completely by the post board Blood Moons from Twin. These reasons, along with the fact that I felt super comfortable both with the deck in general, and in the Twin mirror, led me to register UR Twin for the modern portion of the Players’ Champs. Let’s get into some card choices.

4 Serum Visions, 4 Snapcaster Mage, 4 Lightning Bolt, 4 Splinter Twin, 4 Remand, 4 Deceiver Exarch

These are the 4 of, I believe they’re all absolutely essential to building a powerful, flexible twin deck that can be both a combo deck, a tempo deck, and a control deck. They warrant almost no explanation. Just a few tidbits on the 4 ofs.

– 4 Splinter Twin is a must. It’s extremely important to have a twin in the games where you need one. The two copies of Desolate Lighthouse help mitigate the impact of drawing excess Twins when you need interaction. As a straight UR deck you don’t have Tarmogoyf, Restoration Angel, or Tasigur to grind out games with damage. You often need to use the burn tempo plan just to force your opponent to expend a few resources to wither them down and make them susceptible to the Twin combo in the mid to late game. So it’s important to be able to back up your “bluff” if they decide to call it. The power of Splinter Twin decks in modern lies within “the fear”. If your opponents know you don’t have Twin they can make much more powerful plays. Leaving up 3 mana comes at almost no cost to the Twin deck. But it pays huge dividends by taxing one to two of your opponents mana every turn.

– The importance of casting Remand on your own spells cannot be stated enough. It’s the key to winning games against the mirror and other blue decks. Approaching every mirror match with these few goals in mind will put you in a great position to win a staggering percentage of mirrors.

1. Don’t leave yourself dead to their Twin combo.

2. Try to approach interactions with a goal of going up a card and/or putting your opponent down a card.

3. When not targeting your own spells with Remand you should endeavor to target their flashbacked spells with Snapcaster Mage. Your Remands are hard counters that cantrip against flashbacked spells. This strategy is often better than remanding your own spells and allows you to save your precious spell snares for later Snapcasters or their Remands.

The rest of the cards in the list are all important to a deck that tears through cards as reliably as this one does. Here’s the remaining cards and their explanations.

2 Pestermite -The clear cut second best combo creature. 6 blue creatures are the perfect number for tempo based UR Twin decks. This is one of the most important cards in situations where you’re racing your opponents with damage or playing a tempo game. They’re also essential to drawing out your opponents’ lightning bolts in the mirror. I almost said “baiting out” but it’s not baiting because you’re generally okay with Pestermite living or dying. They’re basically forced to kill a Pestermite since 2 points of damage per turn makes all your tempo cards much better. The inevitable trade of a Pestermite for a bolt is great because it lessens the density of direct damage in your opponents deck and lets you play a long game in the mirror where you have less of a need to fight over Snapcaster Mage from your opponent cause your life total is likely higher since they bolted your Pestermite and their deck has less bolts in it.

2 Electrolyze – This card is one of the most subtly important cards in the deck. It’s essential to beating small creature decks like Affinity and Abzan Company. This card also has another important function. It allows you to answer Snapcaster Mage without costing yourself a card. That balances out the inherent 2 for 1 that Snapcaster provides. It’s also the single best answer to an opposing Vendilion Clique. Lastly, you can kill some smaller creatures through Spellskite by targeting the creature and Spellskite. A subsequent bolt lets you finish off the pesky 0/4 without going down too many cards. I prefer to maximize cantrips provided that they aren’t at the expense of essential pieces. That’s why I go with 2 instead of 1.

2 Dispel – One of the strongest pure tempo plays with regards to mana efficiency in the entire modern format. Electrolyze, Remand, Kolaghan’s Command, Cryptic Command, Collected Company, Chord of Calling, and many more. There’s a list of all the ridiculously efficient targets for Dispel. Boros Charm and Atarka’s Command are also great targets for the cheap counter and the second copy main deck helps against burn and with your game one plan of combo killing people. The only deck it’s really weak against is Jund/Abzan which is a fairly rough game one matchup anyway.

2 Spell Snare – We transition seamlessly from a one mana blue counter that is poor against GBx to one that is arguably the best counter in the format against the archetype. UR Twin struggles with Tarmogoyf and to a lesser extent Scavenging Ooze. Ooze disrupts your Snapcaster plans and Goyf is just brutally efficient and so hard to kill. The snares are awesome against the other blue decks as ways to prevent the card advantage of Remand and Snapcaster Mage. Some of the most problematic cards in modern cost 2 and I wouldn’t go below 2 spell snare in this deck.

2 Cryptic Command – With a great mana base like the one UR Twin has you can afford to play 2 Cryptic and it’s an awesome luxury because Cryptic is one of the most powerful blue cards in the format. I love 2 Cryptic Command in this deck as its essential to the control plan you adopt in post board games while also being one of the best cards when your opponent is forced to tap mana.

2 Vendilion Clique – I was previously very high on this card and I’m still pretty impressed with it. But I want more interaction against aggressive decks, particularly affinity, and I would likely play a twisted image over the second clique going forward. The greatest strength of this card is its powerful effect against other blue decks and combo decks. I would probably play the second copy in the sideboard next time.

1 Roast – Destroys most Tarmogoyf’s and the occasional Spellskite or Deceiver Exarch. Nothing spectacular but a solid removal spell. Brian Braun-Duin top 8ed the open this past weekend with a Harvest Pyre in this slot and I highly recommend making the switch to that card since it kills flying creatures and man lands as well as most of the stuff Roast hits.

2 Desolate Lighthouse – This deck needs to be good at tearing through cards to be effective and lighthouse keeps the velocity high. I think the fact that I usually want to draw a copy in the mid to late game means 2 is the right number. I don’t generally feel like I have trouble killing man lands nor am I trying to tempo people off their mana so I would eschew tectonic edge. One Ghost Quarter would be effective against Amulet and Tron decks but it’s only a one of and I would rather double my chances of seeing a Lighthouse when I want one. The rest of the manabase is pretty self explanatory and needs no analysis. Stomping Ground gets the nod over Breeding Pool because I want to be able to fetch both colors needed for my sideboard Ancient Grudges with one land. On to the sideboard choices!

Sideboard Choices

2 Keranos, God of Storms – The best finisher against GBx midrange decks and usually lights out against other blue decks as well. Just an awesome finisher that is super hard to deal with. Essential to the controlling slant your deck takes in sideboarded games as its one of the only ways to surely kill people after taking out combo pieces.

2 Anger of the Gods – Great against Abzan Conpany, Infect, Affinity, and even Burn. I find the double red to be relatively easy to cast and prefer the exile effect to the easier to cast Radiant Flames.

2 Engineered Explosives – Additional hate for affinity and company decks while also being fantastic against GBx strategies. Also, the best possible sideboard card against Bogles and I felt like Boggles was a decent sneaky metagame choice.

2 Ancient Grudge – Likely the best artifact removal in modern. Although I’m going to give Vandalblast a shot in some upcoming testing. Grudge is a 2 for 1 against Affinity and Lantern and that’s exactly what you want in those matchups.

2 Blood Moon – The best hate against Amulet Bloom which is by far the scariest big mana deck. Also totally passable at hating on or slowing down Tron and providing a great way to disrupt any three color midrange deck.

1 Pia and Kiran Nalaar – A super tough threat for the games when your transform into a grindy deck. Provides an advantage even if it dies and is also great against Affinity.

1 Jace, Architect of Thought – Fantastic threat against Jund, Abzan, and Grixis. Also randomly stops Deceiver Exarch from killing you with Twin in the mirror. I’m almost never unhappy to draw this one and could see going up to 2.

1 Spellskite – So useful against so many decks; Affinity, Burn, Bogles, and the mirror. Also an protect your combo when that’s what you want to win with. Not good enough to maindeck because it can often be a dead card and makes their Goyf even bigger when it dies.

1 Negate – Better than a third Dispel because it’s great against the midrange decks and their planeswalkers as well as being awesome against Tron and passable against Amulet as well as good against other blue decks and Burn.

1 Roast – Die, Tarmogoyf, die! Also fine to board in when you expect Spellskite and as an additional removal spell against random creature decks like company and decks with Tasigur.

So, that’s it for the deck choices. I’ll recap my record very briefly since we are already running long here.

Modern record (2-2)

First Round: Ali Aintrazi – Lantern Control. I lost a close 3 game match where I was likely to win with Twin in game 3 and Ali drew a timely Thoughtseize. He was under pressure and dead to the damage plan a few turns later and his Ancient Stirrings yielded a game changing Ensaring Bridge. From there I missed on my Keranos on a few crucial turns and was frustratingly locked out. I was told afterwards that there was a turn I could’ve tapped his Glimmervoid with Pestermite so he couldn’t redirect the Keranos damage to Spellskite but it’s really hard to remember exactly. I thought I played fairly well in this one actually. (0-1, 1-2 in games)

Second Round: Logan Mize – Abzan Company. I lost another close three game match after walking into an Abrupt Decay when I went for the combo in game two. Probably would’ve been able to get the two damage in if I had attacked with my Pestermite instead. He attacked with Qasali Pridemage and it should’ve been a dead giveaway that he drew Decay. I wasn’t thinking and played that turn terribly. I drew the Lightning Bolt that would’ve made the Pestermite attack lethal a turn later. Lost a long game 3 to the sudden death rule because I had to bottom a Cryptic since I couldn’t use it to bounce Snapcaster Mage and flashback Lightning Bolt since he had Decay in hand that I knew about, I believe from Eternal Witness. I could’ve kept the Cryptic in a regular game and maybe could’ve gotten out of it but the sudden death rule meant I could only afford to draw cards worth damage. (0-2, 2-4 in games)

I knew at 0-2 that I would play two matches for my tournament life. Thankfully, they were against players whom I tend to do well when playing. I knew if I beat Ross Merriam I would have the game win tiebreaker and would get an elimination match.

Third Round: Ross Merriam – Naya Burn. These games were both close but I managed to save my counters for crucial turns and his Goblin Guide yielded a Steam Vents on the last turn of game 2. I was able to leave up snare the whole time, shock myself from 3 to 1, and Spell Snare his lethal Atarka’s Command in response to my Splinter Twin. The breakers were in my favor and I would get an elimination match. (1-2, 4-4 in games)

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Elimination Match: Rudy Briksza – Grixis Twin. This was the match I wanted. I’ve known Rudy for years and consider him a friend. And while I know he’s a solid player with a bunch of great finishes and dedication to grinding I also know I have more experience in the Twin mirror and that should pay huge dividends. Game 1 was long and we both drew many Snapcaster Mages. He was too aggressive flashing back spells into open mana and let me maximize my Remands to stem his early attack. Neither of us attempted the combo for many many turns. Eventually, I grinded him down to just a couple cards to my 5-6 cards. I cast Vendilion Clique, he Murderous Cuts it and he reveals Pestermite, 2 Twin, Dispel. I know he’s dead because I have Exarch to play end of turn, Cryptic, Twin, Dispel and 9 mana and I say keep it. In my elation I untapped and forgot to play the Exarch. I draw another Clique and to my dismay he’s drawn more creatures and I can’t combo anymore. A turn later I go for the damage plan end of turn and he has a crucial Clique of his own and elects to leave me with Twin because he can tap my creature in response. He forgets I can untap afterwards and go off and that’s exactly what happens as a win a nail biter where both of us showed how nervous we were. Game 2 I am punished for cracking a fetch on his turn 4 end step cause he has Clique and Dispel for my Remand. I can’t Dispel back cause my fetch is on the stack. I noticed how aggressive he had been and was worried about shocking myself which is why I took the risk. It was probably still wrong and he picked a perfect spot to pinch me and he resolved Pia and Kiran soon after and I never recovered from the flying assault. Game 3 I didn’t have the combo right away but tapped his mana aggressively because I was land light and wanted him tapped low so I could do things. He eventually thoughtseized my Twin and the two Exarchs beat in for 8-10 points while Rudy flooded out. I was able to answer his Pia and Kiran and later he tapped low enough when he cast Keranos that I could elicit a fight over my Snapcaster and get him tapped low enough to Twin my Exarch for the win, although I would’ve also won shortly thereafter with damage. (2-2, 6-5 in games) It was a relief to advance after a stressful modern portion and I was determined to make the most of my opportunity. We will talk about standard next time, thanks for hanging in through this long one, see you all soon!

– Kevin Jones

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