Red White Cars and Equipments

Looking at the spoilers for Kaladesh, I was impressed with all the vehicles. The vehicle that impressed me the most is Smuggler’s Copter. It is an efficient body, it flies and it provides looting when it attacks. Furthermore the crew cost is really low.

Smuggler's Copter - Kaladesh

Smuggler’s Copter – Kaladesh

Other Vehicles, or as I call them Cars, that impressed me as far as statistics and functionality are: Fleetwheel Cruiser, Cultivator’s Caravan and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship.

With low crew costs and cards that synergize with Cars, I came up with this list that has a good amount of success in testing:

I have been unimpressed with Gearshift Ace, the first strike is often not relevant.
I am liking creatures/spells that can generate 2 bodies, because you can Crew 2 Smuggler’s Copters.

Cary Thomas on twitter gave me an idea to brew a sweet deck with equipments.
https://twitter.com/Vronos/status/776846120358117376?lang=en

After some testing and tuning, here is the list:

The list is really fast and powerful. Creatures get easily out of burn range and they hit hard. If the opponent has lots of unconditional removal, the trusty Needle Spires and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar can help the long game.

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Modern after Sword of the Meek and Ancestral Vision unbanning

Andrea Biaggi

New exciting cards have been unbanned in Modern: Sword of the Meek and Ancestral Vision. Also I believe that Thing in the Ice will be a major player in the upcoming modern metagame.

Ancestral Vision is a powerful draw spell, but it has the drawback of taking 4 turns before being available. I can see this card in a shell with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Goblin Dark-Dweller. Jace allows you to discard the extra copies and Dark Dwellers allows you to cast it for free from the graveyard.

Sword of the Meek will see play in control shells (most likely Blue White, with Ancestral Vision) or in Tezzerator decks. You can see my article about Blue-Black Tezzerator here: Blue Black Tezzerator

Thing in the Ice, most likely, will see play in existing decks where several spells and cantrips are cast. I think the best shells are Delver or Monastery Mentor style decks.

I think that Ricochet Trap will be a good sideboard card with Ancestral Vision and blue decks in the metagame. You can redirect Ancestral Vision to yourself to draw 3 card for only one red mana, or get a counterspell out of our blue opponent.

Thing in the Ice + Ancestral Visions

Here are few decks ideas

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Chasm Skulker, another horror was in consideration for this deck as well, but I think that bouncing back the Snapcaster Mages is more valuable.

Sword of the Meek

You can see my previous article about Blue Black Tezzerator here: Blue Black Tezzerator

Sword of the meek can be used in a control shell. I think it will be tried as a win condition in a Blue White deck in the future. But I want to share a Thopter Spy Network list that might help the deck with card draw when your thopters deal damage.

Happy new Modern!!!

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Andrea Biaggi – Karn’s Blueprints

Oath of the Gatewatch and First Week Format Fallacies

KevinJones

“This deck can’t beat ramp!”
“I’m under 50% in game ones against the ramp deck.”
“How’s your ramp matchup?”
“Buy every World Breaker you can with that store credit.”
“Can I borrow two Ugins, 3 Ulamogs, and a Kozilek?”
“Nope! I have 8 Mantis Riders though. One is Russian, one is Spanish, and one is signed by me.”

Soulfire Grand Master

Soulfire Grand Master – Fate Reforged

These are things people have said to me in the past few weeks. Except the last one, I quoted myself there because I’m every bit as unhinged as I am self-indulgent. But anyway, what were those people talking about? The sky is falling, the hunger is ceaseless, the distortion is great. People won’t stop talking about Eldrazi Ramp for Oath of the Gatewatch (singles here)standard. I’m still not sure how much I believe the hype. I want to write an article about the flawed thinking that people have in week one standard formats where they heavily hype new cards without leveling them against what would’ve held the spot previously. Not everything is an upgrade just because it’s new. Sometimes a new card eclipses a previous format or archetype staple. Even in these cases the cards are rarely strictly better than their predecessors and they’re often just better in a different set of situations. Soulfire Grand Master and Seeker of the Way are perfect examples. Seeker was the gold standard in the early format and was essential to the Jeskai strategies that were totally starved for two drops. Once Soulfire saw print many people saw it as a strict upgrade. It’s not. Soulfire is much better if you’re slanted towards the late game and more controlling. Seeker is better if you’re tapping out a bunch and trying to beat down. The deck shifted in identity from an aggressive burn based deck to a card advantage based aggro control deck that capitalizes on all its resources. Overall, Soulfire is a more powerful card than Seeker but that doesn’t always mean it’s the best fit for a specific deck in a given week.

Once a set is spoiled in full we all bust out our sharpies and make some new format standard decks to battle in between rounds at our local events or to use as a gauntlet to gauge the week one metagame. I’ve played with and against so many horrendous decks in this time period. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Play all the bad new cards. Learn that something is bad. Putting a new card in your deck as a 2 of is a waste of time and testing, unless you have tutors or are playing control or something. You have to find out by playing. The best thing that can happen is you draw the new card you’re super hyped about playing and it’s totally insane and wins you the game. That’s awesome, if it keeps happening you might really have something there. The second best thing that can happen is you draw it and it repeatedly does nothing. You’ve now learned that this card isn’t supposed to be there. Maybe it’s not well positioned or it’s just not good enough, either way, back on the shelf and back to the drawing board. This is what happens when I’m testing in a healthy way. It’s a frustrating and draining process but it pays dividends more often than not. What happens to a lot of people is different, however. Some may test similarly, some may not test at all. But they end up doing one of two things:

  1. Jam a bunch of shiny new cards with little logic as to why they’re there or how they work. This is usually a recipe for disaster but might work once in awhile. People who aren’t super dedicated or super invested will do this since they stand to lose less from uninformed decisions.
  2. Test some and get frustrated when the pieces don’t slot into place and then revert back to playing a tier one deck from the old format with no new cards outside of a couple random splashy things or slightly different sideboard cards. This is dangerous as well but less so than the previous fallacy. I think this is what befalls “good” players most in an early format. It might work cause the established good decks are in fact good and play the best cards in the format. You might be missing that edge that a few new cards could’ve provided. Or you might miss the busted open deck that nobody knows about (these exist less and less as technology and the magic hive mind grows even larger and more ubiquitous).

I used good in quotes in the above segment because the best players have a network full of feedback and trust their decisions and usually have the week one bullets that others have missed. Part of being good is a healthy approach to the game and playing scared isn’t healthy at all. It might be safest to play a virtually unchanged list of a previous tier one deck. You won’t miss by much that way. Which is to say that even if you’re not tuned to every nuance of the format you’re still playing a deck you know and know is good. Doing this if you’ve exhausted your other options and believe it’s correct is fine and can be a great decision. Doing this because you’re afraid to lose or look stupid with your new cards is bad. Years ago I wanted to get into poker. I told a great magic and poker player I knew that I had started playing 1/2 hold ’em at the casino and bragged about buying in for table minimum and leaving with between 2 and 4 times my entry the couple times I did it. He said “Don’t buy in for table minimum because you’ll make bad calls for pot odds.” Now I won’t get into this too much cause it’s a magic article and I’m clueless about poker. But when you go to a magic event you’ve likely booked a hotel, sometimes a flight, and (hopefully) preregistered. You’ve also invested time and effort into testing. Don’t make a bad call/play a bad deck cause you’re afraid to lose your investment. Don’t let the money already in the pot convince you that you have to make a certain play. Your time and effort is also an investment that will pay off if done right. It’s not always about the bottom line. We would play a different game if we only did this for the money. Basically, I’m saying that you should make healthy decisions when you approach deck selection. And not to worry if you missed one week. Don’t be afraid to try new things but don’t feel forced to either. The vast majority of the players end up playing way too many or way too few new cards. Week one standard can be really tough.

I enjoyed talking about tournament preparation and that portion of the article was as much for me as it was for you guys. I struggle to find the best choice week one. Those of you out there grinding should remember that your results in each event have no reflection on your value as a person. This took me so very long to learn this lesson. It’s still something that I struggle with and that I see many other players struggle with as well. It might seem ridiculous to say but success and failure in this game is often tied directly to your ability to make correct decisions in stressful situations. It’s easy to internalize failure and quantify defeat as a manifestation of your lack of intelligence or responsibility.  Your method of handling the ups and downs of traveling to play competitive magic almost weekly speaks to your ability to handle adversity and also, to handle success. But I’ll break our little circle up now, enough talking about feelings and stuff, there’s decklists coming!

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Goblin Dark-DwellersI did what everyone should do once the spoiler went up and I built some decks with the new cards. I’m 5 days off from SCG Atlanta as of writing this and I have no clue what I’m playing. I haven’t tested Jeskai Aggro or Dark Jeskai with the new cards yet. I was saving those decks for last cause I know they’ll be at least okay if everything else is a disaster. The cards that will be great in those decks are somewhat obvious. Goblin Dark-Dwellers is nuts and if the deck has a reasonable spell count then this card is gonna be a great fit at the top of the curve. Chandra, Flamecaller is an awesome finisher and should be nice at the top of either version of Jeskai much like Elspeth, Sun’s Champion was last year. Chandra might even get built around herself (hint, hint…). Stormchaser Mage and Reflector Mage aren’t auto includes the same way these cards are but they’re both very good cards. Stormchaser belongs in a dedicated prowess type deck and Reflector Mage could be everything Harbinger of the Tides wished it was in a tempo based Jeskai Aggro deck. I’m sure I’ll explore this soon enough. But first, the brews! I’ll post a few of the decks I’ve been tinkering around with for post Oath standard. Keep in mind, these aren’t my picks for the best deck or what I’m planning on playing. Just some interesting ideas that have some potential for exploration.

This feels like an evolution of the Megamorph strategy that’s even better against creature removal. The sideboard would be stacked with Disdainful strokes and Negates to combat Rally and Eldrazi Ramp. Not sure if this is even a good deck in the current meta but it’s definitely filled with some powerful cards and exciting synergies.

This deck is a totally new strategy. It’s viability hinges on how good Stormchaser Mage is. I think this is the deck to optimize Stormchaser and it’s going to be a strategy that several people will try this weekend. With 8 haste creatures and the Expedites to give Tasigur and Abbot haste this deck keeps the pressure on early. Jori En, Ruin Diver is a powerful engine with so many cheap spells. Casting a few prowess creatures early followed by a few removal spells leads to Jori En plus Tasigur or Murderous Cut on turn 4 regularly. Previous iterations I tested eschewed Tasigur for pump spells or Jace. While being powerful options in their own right, these cards are unable to help close the game and tax their removal like Tasigur can. An Expedite on a third turn Tasigur isn’t unusual at all and can be an unbeatable board presence. The amount of delve spells could be high but Magmatic Insight and fetchlands should help fuel delve. It’s possible this deck wants a third Tasigur as casting him and two other things on turn three is absurd and surprisingly common for this deck. This is a strategy that I keep coming back to in testing so it’s possible I could be battling with Grixis Prowess in Atlanta this weekend. Definitely find myself excited to see how this deck evolves in the metagame.

I went totally off the wall with this one. I think some of the new cards are very good for this deck. This might be terrible but hopefully the counterspells can leave ramp and rally off balance enough to close the door. I suspect those matchups are both dreadful though and consequentially wouldn’t recommend this deck just yet. When the cyclical metagame starts to move away from ramp and rally, likely after they’re hated out from being the best two decks, and creature based midrange decks like Abzan and Jeskai Black return to form is the time to bust out this sweet little number. I hope you enjoyed the new decklists I provided. Hopefully they can spice up your FNM or local testing gauntlet. Of the three lists I posted I think the Grixis Prowess deck is the closest to being a real strategy. That was something new, here’s something older. This deck is good against ramp and rally as well as having a solid Abzan matchup and a good Atarka Red matchup as well. If you expect a lot of Esper Dragons don’t sleeve this one. Otherwise, go crazy. America is awesome.

The new cards ended up in the sideboard of this deck more so than the main. I just want proven powerful aggressive cards for the main deck. The two negates will make sure you can slam the door against Rally the Ancestors and Eldrazi Ramp while providing some needed assistance against Esper Dragons/Control in game one. Also great against Jeskai Black. While there are a ton of powerful new cards there’s no definitive information source for what the new decks and new versions of decks should look like. I’m just hoping that the slightly untuned versions of my opponents decks won’t be able to beat the aggressive tempo based game this deck looks to play.

Well that’s all for this week. Come back next week and see how I did at SCG Atlanta. I can’t wait to see what this first week holds. If you have your own spicy brew or see something this weekend at your local store’s release party, let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading, everyone!

-Kevin Jones

Daddy’s Home! SCG Players’ Championship Report: Part 3

KevinJones

Hello, everyone! This is the article you’ve all been waiting for. This is the article where I scramble to justify putting Mantis Rider in my standard decks and shamelessly encourage you all to follow suit. Today I’ll be bringing you the third part of my SCG Players’ Championship report. We’ll be discussing standard, my deck choice, and the end of the tournament as well as reflecting on the event as a whole. So, let’s go!

If you are just joining us, feel free to catch up by reading part one HERE and part two HERE!

Ever since the release of Battle for Zendikar, I’ve been struggling with standard. I’ve had some very minor successes with Jeskai Black (won two state champs and a few IQs) but I’ve felt lost in the mirror match and with the progression of the deck overall. I had trouble closing games with the version without Mantis Rider and would lose games with multiple riders in hand where I just fell too far behind to get my spells out of my hand. In the mirror match, I would be losing games where I was too aggressive and losing games where I was too controlling. It felt like everything I was doing was wrong and I was dreading the standard portion of the Players’ Champs. I expected a ton of Abzan and Jeskai Black. I couldn’t get my Jeskai Black deck to a spot where I liked both of those match ups and didn’t sacrifice several other match ups in the process. I was ready to give up and play Eldrazi Ramp (funny in hindsight) or Atarka Red and my brother, Derek, jokingly offered his GWu Megamorph deck. He had been doing moderately well with the deck, beating up on most of his Jeskai Black opponents and doing generally well against Abzan. I laughed and declined the offer. While I did think Megamorph was a powerful strategy I didn’t want to abandon Jeskai for the most important tournament of the year. But, I thought, maybe I could have both. I could take the powerful proactive Jeskai cards I liked, Mantis Rider, Seeker of the Way, Jeskai Charm, Treasure Cruise, and Dispel and combine them with the powerful and hard to answer threats that make Megamorph a good deck. I always felt like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar was a great place to be against Jeskai Black. Especially after they decided to remove Mantis Rider from their decks. Wingmate Roc was a natural progression from and compliment to Gideon and I thought it would be a great place to take Jeskai. Thus, old school Jeskai was reborn.

So now that I had a deck, or at least an idea for a deck, I needed to iron out all the card choices in the two days I had before I submitted my list to SCG on Wednesday afternoon. The early deck list submission is super important because I actually ended up doing more testing after I submitted than I did before. I’ll explain my card choices in the following section even though some of them ended up being wrong in hindsight.

Main deck.

4 Mantis Rider, 4 Seeker of the Way, 4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy – These 4 ofs were all slam dunk auto includes and all proactive Jeskai Aggro decks should likely play 4 copies of these cards. Jace might seem like it isn’t as effective in this deck and at a base level that’s true. There’s less spells to flashback for an advantage and there’s less delve spells to fuel with the loot effect as well. Also, Jace has zero power and you often want your two drop to start attacking early on in this deck. Conversely, Jace is a lightning rod for removal. It might be such that your Jace dies immediately. This is okay in many situations because you have increased the chances that one of your other creatures lives or that your Gideon is harder to attack or burn out. I still like 4 Jaces but if the next set yields another playable two drop for this archetype I could see going down to 3 or even 2. Most of the time Jace will flash back a removal spell and soak up some damage and most of their turn which is great since you can make fantastic use of the tempo and value it has provided you. Seeker is the best two drop for an aggressive Jeskai deck, races well, and plays great with Treasure Cruise, Gideon, and Roast. Mantis Rider needs no explanation and is the backbone of all these aggressive Jeskai decks.

3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, 2 Wingmate Roc, 2 Dispel – These 7 cards represent the package that I sought to incorporate into Jeskai to enable me to effectively combat Jeskai Black. I wanted to be threat heavy since my experience with Jeskai Black had resulted in a decent amount of flooding. As these decks moved into cruise/truths instead of dig they became much more likely to flood out. Consequentially, I wanted to present a bunch of tough to deal with threats.

2 Roast, 2 Valorous Stance – These are the best removal spells for trading up if you’re not playing black in your Jeskai deck. Roast can be narrow for different reasons than stance can. I wanted 4 ways to kill a Siege Rhino and wanted to hedge against Jace and Monastery Mentor while simultaneously having the option available to have some added threat protection. In a format defined by Crackling Doom and Abzan Charm you’re not going to be able to reliably protect your threats with stance. However, the instant speed aspect plus occasionally being able to trade an otherwise dead card for a removal spell from your opponents makes stance a totally warranted inclusion. Lastly, without Soulfire Grand Master in your deck, Valorous Stance is way better than Roast against Atarka Red and their Become Immense/Temur Battle Rage combo. I think the 2/2 split is a fine main deck configuration.

3 Fiery Impulse/1 Wild Slash – The aggressive slant to this version of Jeskai is more likely to need some reach to close the game out so the superior removal spell is shaved in favor of one copy that goes upstairs. Slash can also finish off their Gideon which is an effect you’re wanting for since cutting Crackling Doom.

3 Hangarback Walker – This is probably the best way to go wide while also making their removal less effective. I considered Hordeling Outburst but the lack of flying plus my deck’s inherent weakness to Soulfire Grand Master made me go with Hangarback.

2 Jeskai Charm – There should’ve been 3 copies of this card in my deck. It’s just very good at doing several different things the deck wants to do. It’s great for racing, turning a corner, closing a game, or even removing a crucial attacker when you’ve fallen behind. The only downside is charm is a little expensive. 3 mana is slightly too much to pay for any of the one effects on charm, especially when you’re on the back foot. The versatility makes it worth it though. Going forward I think both 2 and 3 copies are fine numbers.

2 Treasure Cruise – The mana base is white centric and doesn’t have the natural wealth of blue sources that other Jeskai decks have had in the past. Also, less cheap answers and more expensive threats makes cruise get the nod over dig for three reasons:

– You’re less likely to be in need of two specific answers and more likely to be in need of just “some action”.
– The lands you’ll naturally draw with cruise will help you deploy two spells in one turn in the midgame.
– You’re only playing one basic island and thus, your blue sources will be other colored sources as well. Cruise costing only one colored mana affords you the luxury of leaving up several different colors of untapped mana. Hopefully this will allow you to play as many combinations of cards you could’ve drawn into as possible.

1 Sarkhan, The Dragonspeaker – The last slot in the main deck became this Sarkhan last minute. Sarkhan is a great card and I believe that it’s generally well positioned more often than not. The plus one and the minus three abilities are both pretty bad against Crackling Doom though. This slot was originally the third Wingmate Roc and I never had a problem turning on raid so the third roc is the best card here, probably.

25 lands – The manabase is pretty self explanatory and the green lands enable the sideboard splash but actually make the mana better even if you weren’t playing green cards at all. The fourth copy of Wooded Foothills was pretty bad in the late game and could get cut for a random Shivan Reef or Battlefield Forge.

Sideboard.

3 Disdainful Stroke – I was really worried that someone would play Esper Dragons and/or Eldrazi Ramp. Also, without Crackling Doom you’re weaker to Siege Rhino and Gideon so these would come in for the Abzan matchup as well.

2 Radiant Flames – Obviously a great sweeper for Atarka Red decks, Landfall decks, and even something like Bant Megamorph if it were to show up.

2 Outpost Siege – Expanding on the theme of hard to deal with permanents for the Jeskai Black matchup. Also great against Esper, Mardu, and warrants consideration in some slower builds of Abzan.

2 [card]Roast – Die, Abzan creatures!

2 Den Protector – As the number of Ojutai’s Commands in Jeskai Black slowly decreases this card, one of the strongest against the deck, becomes less of a liability. The additional body plus the inherent card advantage and the wide range of things you can get with Den Protector makes it a great addition in the grindy matchups. The green splash is completely free since the two green battle lands actually improve your manabase.

2 Arashin Cleric – One of the best sideboard options against the wide angle of attack, token based red decks. Blocks well and let’s you use your life total as a resource to better leverage your spot removal. The lifegain prevents you from needing to cast your removal on their terms. Also, you can induce an Atarka’s command on your turn just to prevent the lifegain. Most people won’t bite on this but presenting them with a way to be punished for using their commands too aggressively will add a new dynamic to the matchup which is generally a good thing for you, being the more interactive deck.

1 Dispel – Cheap way to protect your threats against Jeskai Black and Esper while also being great against red decks. The third Disdanful Stroke and the sideboard Dispel should’ve been two Negates. I grossly underestimated the power of Radiant Flames against my deck.

1 Dromoka’s Command – Well, at least I have one way to counter Radiant Flames. This is versatile against any damage based removal while also being a nice silver bullet if someone randomly tries to play Jeskai Ascendancy.

So that’s it for the deck primer. I’ll briefly recap the three rounds I played with my deck. The day two format was standard and all the matches were single elimination and for at least 1,000 dollars each. It was an honor to play in such an intense and exclusive event. Also a ton of fun. Hopefully I can get back to the event again next year.

Wild Card round (top 12) Vs. Jacob Wilson (Rg Landfall)

I thought Jacob would be on Jeskai Black and was ready for a tough fight. I also thought Abzan and Esper Dragons were in his range for this event. When I saw he was playing landfall I got a bit of a rush. This matchup should be pretty good for my Jeskai deck. My higher seeding put me on the play and that’s a huge boon for Jeskai in the matchup. I knew it would still be hard cause Jacob is obviously very good. While I think Rg Landfall is a smart metagame call as it can go big better than Atarka Red post board and thus has a better Jeskai Black matchup I still think playing a deck that better leverages skill would’ve been right for him. Regardless, I had a good draw and so did he. I almost held up mana instead of playing Mantis Rider on my third turn but I felt like it would be too easy for him to press his advantage without committing if I didn’t get on the board. I chose to chump with my Jace and loot to save the damage from the attacking Scythe Leopard. Jacob said afterwards that he could’ve put me to one if he had gone all in and attacked with den protector as well. He chose not to though and I untapped with impulse, stance, Dispel in hand. When he played Atarka’s command and Become Immense on his Den Protector that I blocked with Mantis Rider I was able to counter the command and kill his Den Protector while also killing the 4/4 Leopard with Valorous Stance. I was able to draw another impulse to kill his Swiftspear and clear his board. From there I won easily with Mantis Rider and the Sarkhan that I was eventually able to cast. Game two I was able to get a two for one out of my Radiant Flames and my attempt to use a second flames to kill his morph almost left me dead since he cast Become Immense and saved it and then flipped his Den Protector and put me to 7 and got back his Become Immense while adding a Snapping Gnarlid to the board. Now I was at 8 and dead to any land after I used a Roast on the Den Protector. I faded the draw step and he decided to use Temur Battle Rage to hit me for 4 with his Gnarlid, leaving me dead to any Atarka’s Command off the top. I got out a Hangarback Walker and killed his Gnarlid. I was able to fade Atarka’s Command again and raid a Wingmate Roc. The next attack gained me 3 life and I drew an Arashin Cleric, going up to 9. One more attack and the game was over. I got pretty lucky to fade any land in game 2 but I wasn’t sure if there were any other options that were better because making him cast Become Immense greatly decreases his options for the Den Protector’s regrowth ability. Also, it means I’m not getting combo killed next turn. Either way, I got through on the back of my efficient removal spells. (2-0)

Quarterfinals (top 8) Caleb Scherer-Abzan Aggro.

I liked this matchup but was growing anxious because I’d been sitting for a few hours between matches. I thought my threats matched up well against his removal and I would also be able to get a card out of my Dispels since he had cuts, charms, and commands. I’ll spare the play by play for this one and instead describe a few interesting turns. I was able to turn the corner in game 1 on turn 5 when I charmed his Anafenza to the top, impulsed his Siege Rhino to trade with my seeker, and got through for 4 with my other seeker. The turn ended with a 1 mana Treasure Cruise that I could’ve saved for prowess triggers but I chose to cast because I wanted to make sure I could cast everything I drew on the next turn. I was able to play a Gideon and Roast his Warden of the First Tree on the next turn, using all my mana. The next turn he had fetched incorrectly and couldn’t cast Abzan Charm and Dromoka’s Command. The charm got hit with a Dispel and he couldn’t recover. I lost a drawn out game two which saw me discard a cruise to Jace on turn 3 when I was hurt by my manabase. The game went long as I was able to cast all my removal and his timely Duress snagged my Gideon. Without the cruise to refill I succumbed to his double Den Protectors and a glut of mana flood. Game three wasn’t the intense back and forth climax everyone was hoping for. I played a Roast on his first creature, a warden. I did this cause my draw was double Mantis Rider and I wanted to increase the chances that the first one hit on an empty board. It did. Then the second rider helped race his Anafenza into Siege Rhino. I played a few blockers on turn 5 and after missing on the draw step he extended the hand. (2-1)

Semifinals – Todd Anderson – Jeskai Black

This was the matchup I was gunning for and I had a great draw of Hangarback Walker into double Mantis Rider with Dispel backup. And I got absolutely destroyed by Monastery Mentor into Duress and a couple more removal spells. Game two I was applying some pressure with some thopters and ripped a Gideon off the top on turn 4. He drew his one Ruinous Path however and a subsequent Radiant Flames killed my tokens. He then drew a bunch of cards, including a mentor and proceeded to make a bunch of tokens and kill my Jaces and then me. So that’s that. The run was over and I was pretty upset. 4,000 dollars is a lot of money to win but I was just thinking about the 4-16,000 I lost by losing that match. 30 seconds later I was over it. The tournament was a great experience and winning some important matches was the confidence boost I needed as I was falling into an apathetic approach to my magic career. This near miss has rekindled my fire and I’ve booked a few flights for the upcoming SCG events in January and February. I think my mental approach has improved as well. I’m getting better at losing and not getting stuck in my own head after losses. So I’m really looking forward to the upcoming grind and I hope to see some of you on the road! Thanks for reading and hanging throughout all three parts of this report!

Feel free to let me know if you think my logic was correct in the comments below! If you have any suggestions of idea’s of Oath of the Gatewatch brews (Order singles here), let me know those too!

-Kevin Jones

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.

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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