I probably sound like a curmudgeon when I say this, but…
Magic Players Lack Imagination
Let’s face it, speculators do, too. Since I don’t really learn anything if I ignore all the times I was wrong, I like to postgame every little prediction I make about the game. At the Avacyn Restored prerelease I was picking up as many copies of Cavern of Souls as I could, going so far as to pay $20 cash for one. This was by far the most exciting card in the set to me (all anyone wanted to talk about was Temporal Mastery) and I saw it hitting Mutavault money due to its Legacy playability coupled with its Standard appeal. Who doesn’t want to fix mana in tribal decks and ward off Mana Leak? I watched Caverns hit $32 on a popular retail website.
I saw a few [card Azorius Guildgate]guildgates[/card] at a TCGPlayer Platinum event in Grand Rapids on Sunday (not as many as I used to see) and was reminded of an argument I saw taking place on Reddit where someone said the guildgates could be playable and a lot of people laughed at him.
I won’t pretend I didn’t side with the naysayers. With the M10 duals, the shocklands and Cavern of Souls, why would G/B Zombies want Golgari Guildgate? What’s so great about a land that always comes into play tapped? Well, after testing it, Gerry T said he’d rather play Golgari Guildgate in zombies than Cavern. I got to be wrong twice.
…But Not All of Them
Usually it takes tech a bit of time to trickle over from Limited to Standard. If you assembled Cunning Sparkmage plus Basilisk Collar in Limited, you were obviously good to go, but that combo was too janky for Standard. Until it wasn’t. The community is gradually learning lessons from Limited quicker, accepting them with fewer arguments and applying more due diligence in the form of testing. As slow as the format is to abandon old, outdated tech –as slow as it ever was– it’s become much quicker at accepting new tech.
Some day in the not too distant past someone said, “I think Izzet Staticaster with Nightshade Peddler is powerful,” and kept sleeving the deck while his friends laughed at him. But unlike in the days of Cunning Sparkmage and Basilisk Collar, when people saw the deck online many of them shrugged and say “yeah, that’s probably a thing.” My buddy Matt Hetzner for one, who saw the deck on Saturday, tested it and took it to Grand Rapids on Sunday.
My first thought was not “what jank,” but rather “I see so many [card Angel of Serenity]Angels[/card] here today, Peddler seems nuts with Thundermaw Hellkite1.” However, that’s also incorrect. My first thought should have been “Let me check that decklist online to see if it already runs Hellkite so I don’t look like a doofus for suggesting the card on Twitter.”
The point is, my heart got in front of my head and I looked like a doofus. But I don’t care! People blurt stuff out like that all the time, but Twitter managed to immortalize my blunder and save it for posterity. I was so excited that I wanted to talk about card interactions before even looking at the entire decklist, and I don’t even play Magic.
1 To be fair, Thundermaw doesn’t need much help. I still see a ton of Angels, and I think Hellkite is nuts right now.
Matt did… OK with the deck. He ruined Team Dreamcrush member Kyle English’s day, which is just as important as a Top 8.
With fewer than 24 hours to test, I am not sure what anyone expected other than to troll people and have fun. When you’re not pinging dudes, you’re a four-card combo deck, the cheapest component of which costs five mana. As much fun as it is to turn every 1U into two life and a wolf or five life and a beast using Deadeye Navigator (all of the fun obviously), the deck probably needs work. Even StaticPeddler is a two card combo that combines to become a bad Sever the Bloodline (albeit reusable and instant-speed). At least Collarmage had Fauna Shaman and Stoneforge Mystic.
I don’t care about the deck specifically. The lesson here is that the community may have laughed at a silly interaction between two cards that only saw Limited play before, but people were playing this one 24 hours after the tech was discovered. Not bad for a community that didn’t think Rakdos Keyrune would ever see constructed play. We compared it to Rakdos Signet when we should have been comparing it to Chimeric Idol. As bad as it feels to be wrong, the community is getting much better at shrugging and saying, “that’s a thing.”
Let’s face it. The format is like two weeks old. A lot of things are “a thing” so go find them. If someone can pair Izzet Staticaster and Nightshade Peddler and have people copy that tech, your idea can only be slightly less cartoony by comparison.
More Decks than Tony Stark’s House
I can’t dwell on anything too long since there was an SCG Open, a Modern GP and a Standard GP. Too much to get through!
Half of the Top 8 were Reanimator Decks. This is good news for someone like me who was banking on this trend and has socked away plenty of cards that play well with this strategy. Craterhoof Behemoth can still be found for around $2, so you should get a bunch of those. Check the four lists carefully, one of them looks a bit different.
R/U/W and U/W made up three of the other Top 8 decks. I like Bant right now, but if angels continue to menace the game, the U/W shell with Thundermaw Hellkite over Thragtusk may be the way to go. Or, screw it. Play four-color. This is a Ravnica set after all.
Did you get a bunch of Sphinx’s Revelation at $3 like I did? Don’t go up for a high five yet. I got sick of waiting and dumped mine for $4 each. D’oh! I felt like a horse’s ass buying them back for $4 and $5, but this card is the real deal, and since $10 seems reasonable for it, a $4 buy-in certainly is.
As a sidebar, a card that I hated (listen to the Brainstorm Brewery episode for the proof) is making waves in Jund: Rakdos’s Return. When your opponent casts [card Sphinxs Revelation]Revelation[/card] for four you start to worry about him grinding out a win and undoing your previous work with the life gain. Bummer. When an opponent casts Rakdos’s Return for four, it may be time to sideboard for game two.
Redirect is a good answer to both, and two blue left up isn’t anything people play around anymore. With Mana Leak gone and Syncopate for one being weak, people play headlong into Redirect. You have room in your board. What? You’ll get with me on Nightshade Peddler but not a card that makes people [card Bonfire of the Damned]Bonfire[/card] themselves?
Ninja Edit- There’s a reason no one is playing Redirect. The language on Sphinx’s Revelation says only the caster can benefit from it and Rakdos’ Return can only be Redirected in multiplayer games, and if you’re playing multiplayer you should just let the Rakdos’ Return hit you because you should learn that you shouldn’t be playing multiplayer. Why did I write bad information in my article? That’s a good question. I didn’t read either card, clearly. As was the case with the Thundermaw decklist, I got excited about potential card interactions. I will take as much grief as anyone wants to give me, but only from people who have never suggested a card interaction that doesn’t quite work and been corrected by someone more astute.
One Naya deck rounded out the Top 8 and made me wonder what will happen once Boros and Gruul both show up. Naya being a deck without those guilds’ contributions makes me excited for the future.
There was a Modern GP in Lyon and I clearly haven’t been following this format much.
If you’d asked me what I thought the top Modern decks were, I would have said Jund, Pod, and Tron. The actual Top 8 was 2x Affinity, 2x Pod, a Bug deck, only one Jund and some manner of U/W deck with Baneslayer Angel! (People may have forgotten she’s the most oppressive angel ever printed; Sorry [card Restoration Angel]Resto[/card], but you don’t make games unwinnable on your own.)
Jund was the winner, but that BUG list might bear a closer look. It looks so much like a Legacy deck it can’t possibly not continue to crush.
My buddy Ryan Forsberg won this event, which isn’t all that surprising to me since I’ve followed his progress over the last 12 months. Anyone who can bear a 45-minute conversation with me about the merits of Gut Shot in the sideboard of Maverick (it was a long 24 hour drive from GP Orlando back to the Midwest) is clearly someone who spends a lot of time thinking about the game. Of the three blue-based midrange decks in the Top 8, his was the only that included red for [card Bonfire of the Damned]Bonfire[/card], [card Pillar of Flame]Pillar[/card] and Thundermaw Hellkite. Suck it, mirror match!
Jund Midrange was also present, but it finished lower than the two Bant Control decks (very different lists) and G/W Humans. G/W Humans seems capable of racing Thragtusk decks, but only barely. But having watched turn one pilgrim, turn two Loxodon Smiter, turn three Rancor on Smiter, bond with Silverblade Paladin, swing for 39, I think it’s a good choice. Especially against a bunch of durdly midrange decks that may keep a three-land, two-planeswalker, 2X hand not knowing what to put you on. If you can kill them before 5 mana, their life total is 20. After that, their life total is 40. Thragtusk does work.
All the Craterhoof Behemoths I keep seeing make me think it may be time to put it back in the Reanimator deck I have been championing. That means putting Avacyn’s Pilgrim back in, too, but Craterhoof is silly and it’s rare to swing with it and not at least threaten lethal. Don’t cut your graveyard hate, folks.
RUG Delver made a big comeback finishing both first and second. Six other decks made up the Top 8, including a recurrence of the Deadguy Ale deck I liked last time around.
In a RUG Delver-infested format, I think Bant Maverick is the way to go. Geist of Saint Traft is safer with exalted triggers which give him a nice shield (despite his not truly attacking alone) and let him live to swing again. And Rhox War Monk is a lovely impediment to Nimble Mongoose, a card that’s otherwise tough to deal with. Or you could be like this guy and not run any of that stuff and just crush your way into Top 8. I hear counterspells are good against Show and Tell.
Apparently a lot is good against it. There were zero in the Top 16.
U/W, on the other hand, put three in the Top 16. It’s also good to see another Top 16 finish from Death and Taxes. Phyrexian Revoker seems to be a mainstay. But no repeat performance from the Tezzerator deck from a few weeks ago.
With so many decks in the Top 16, Legacy continues to be the healthiest format. Pick a deck you like, learn it, and learn to sideboard. That’s the secret to Legacy. The Legacy metagame basically consists of one or two decks that seem to top eight every event for about a year, then are replaced, and a bunch of other decks that are all a one-of in the Top 16 of almost every event because Legacy is a format where pet decks are competitive.
That Does It for Me
I’m out. Join me next week when I’ll hopefully have found something worth looking at on Reddit. Remember when I still did that?