Modern seems to be wide open at the moment. Most of the PTQ top-eights from after the recent bannings contain at least six different decks. There are many options to choose from. Whatever deck type you like to play, there is one that will fit your play style.
Grixis Delver has been my deck choice recently. I feel that the deck is powerful and has answers to every deck in the format. Last week I wrote about the PTQ I went to with the deck and how I felt variance got the best of me. With some experience against high quality players, I felt prepared to win a PTQ with the deck. A couple minor changes helped as well. This is the list I played at the Pittsburgh tournament.
Round 1 –- Affinity
As I was walking over to the pairings for round one, a friend of mine told me my table number. I was a little surprised, but when he sat down next to me I understood why he knew my number. Even though I had to play a friend, neither of us knew what the other was playing so nobody had the game one advantage.
After [card Thoughtseize]Thoughtseizing[/card] him my first turn, I knew he was playing Affinity and that the five damage I just took (fetch, shockland, Thoughtseize) was going to make this game much harder to win. It took me longer than normal to determine which card to take. His six-card mulligan looked like this:
Eventually I settled on the Master because I knew it was the card I’d have a hard time beating. Second turn, I had to flash in a Snapcaster Mage with no spell to flash back because I needed to take as little damage as possible. Sometimes, it’s just fine as an Ambush Viper. I was able to climb out of game one on the back of Electrolyze and then flashing it back with my second Snapcaster Mage. Ending the game at five felt so close to losing but I pulled it off.
Game two was not as close. Again I had Electrolyze, but he sided in Spell Pierce to surprise counter it. I drew an Ancient Grudge which destroyed his Spellskite so I could use the other removal spells in my hand. I stabilized much earlier at ten life and then began attacking him.
I should mention that in both games, I had to make decisions about whether to use my removal on normal creatures or his Inkmoth Nexus’. Managing that aspect of the game is crucial when playing against this deck. Don’t be afraid to get some poison counters but make sure you deal with it. I will happily take five poison before killing an Inkmoth most of the time.
Round 2 –- Naya Pod
Game one, I stripped his hand with Thoughtseize, Snapcaster flashback Thoughtseize. That totaled ten damage to myself but crippled his combo-centered deck. When I used Vendilion Clique to get rid of the Restoration Angel from his hand, I was able to swing for the win in the air easily. He resolved many spells this game but none of them had much impact.
Game two, my hand did not have any threats to put pressure on him. So even though I was able to counter a Birthing Pod and remove a couple key creatures, he just went on the beatdown plan and killed me with Restoration Angels. I was happy with my play this game because I did not give up and I kept trying to find a way to kill him. I didn’t quite get there, but I gave myself outs. If I had drawn the Lightning Bolt I was looking for, I would have been able to deal him exactly lethal on the last possible turn. The fact that it didn’t happen is unfortunate, but at least I played to my outs.
Game three my Inquisition of Kozilek showed me Kitchen Finks, Restoration Angel, and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker as well as four lands. I was stunned that my opponent would keep this hand that did nothing until turn three -- or turn four, since I took the Kitchen Finks. If you are playing Naya Pod, that is an auto-mulligan. Anyway, as you can imagine, I basically did whatever I wanted and eventually killed him.
Round 3 –- Boros Burn
Anytime your opponent leads with Mountain, you can be almost certain they are playing some type of burn deck. The important thing to remember is that no two burn decks are the same. Some are monored and the rest are some combination of red, white, and black. All the games against burn are close calls.
Game one, I was trying to figure out a way to deal with Shrine of Burning Rage, Rift Bolt, and Hellspark Elemental, plus his future draws. I did a decent job keeping my life total high, but after dealing five damage to myself on turn one to get a card out of his hand, had a much harder time staying alive. Cryptic Command did bounce the Shrine to slow him down but I failed to counter it when he played it the second time. There was one play at the end of the game, where I did not counter his end of turn Lightning Bolt, which I think was a mistake. If I counter that spell then he has to rely on the top of his deck to win the game. Losing a game I felt I could win did not feel good but there was no guarantee I would win even if I countered there.
Game two I was able to race with Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration. Because of that early threat, I could play the tempo game and stall him long enough to burn him out with my Lightning Bolt plus Snapcaster Mage to flash it back.
Game three I went all the way down to two life before I stabilized. He had to use two removal spells on Deathrite Shamans but he did not have anything for the third one and I was able to crawl back into the game by gaining two life per turn. Eventually once I was at ten and he had drawn a couple lands in a row, he conceded.
Round 4 –- Grixis Mirror
Game one I had the best hand possible for the mirror. Two Deathrite Shamans, Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration, Lightning Bolt and three lands. On turn two I cast all of my one-drops, putting three creatures in play and killing his Deathrite. When I flipped the Delver with Remand, we both knew it was over and moved on to the next game.
Game two I kept an awkward hand that involved two Creeping Tar Pits, Deathrite, Cryptic Command and a Remand. When he killed the Deathrite, I knew it would take too long to get to four mana. I did not draw anything other than lands and by the time I had four mana, he just countered my Cryptic and kept swinging with his flipped Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration that I had no answer for.
Game three was long and extremely close. We both cast a ton of spells and dealt with each other's threats, but in the end I was two life short of killing him and he finished me off with his unblockable Creeping Tar Pit. Overall, he drew much better than I did but I think the real mistake I made was not mulliganing the awkward hand from game two. If I had done that, I would have had a chance to win that game. This deck works better on six cards than any I’ve played so don’t be afraid to lose a card if you opener won’t work.
Round 5 -– Naya Pod
It surprised me to play this deck a second time in this PTQ, but I think it’s a favorable matchup for my deck so I was happy. The Inquisitions, Thoughtseizes, and Vendilion Cliques do so much work against decks like Pod that revolve around synergy. As long as you have two of these effects, it is relatively easy to win the game.
That's how game one went, but the second was the exact opposite. My mulligan to six contained an aggressive hand with three one-mana creatures. This is the hand I hope for often, but not in this matchup. I decided to keep because I had already mulliganed. It did not work out well for me. He had blockers for my creatures, so I was unable to get in much damage and then he successfully baited me with a Chord of Calling at the end of my turn. The last spell in my hand was the extremely versatile Izzet Charm, so I countered the Chord. He untapped and played Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker to combo me out. If I had thought about the Chord more, I would have realized that Chord for three would not impact the game and I could have saved my spell.
Game three he had many reactive cards, but my tempo advantage was too much. With an early threat, you can use Remand and Cryptic Command to buy you the time you need to kill them quickly. Their mana curve is fairly high so Remand usually stops them from doing anything else on that turn. Even Remanding their end of turn Restoration Angel is fine because they should not be able to beat you on their turn.
Round 6 –- Eggs
Game one against Eggs is miserable, even more so when they are on the play. I kept a fine hand against almost any opponent, but it was not good enough to stop him from killing me on turn three. I slowed him down, but it was not enough.
Game two felt much more winnable. I boarded in Thoughtseize, Dispel, Countersquall, Dissipate and two Surgical Extractions. Even though I wasn’t sure it was right to board out the Cryptic Commands, I ended up cutting them because four mana is a lot in this match. Between my hand disruption and counters, he was not able to do much.
Game three Surgical Extraction won the game for me and my Vendilion Clique cleaned up the mess. I had to play this game in less than eight minutes in order to complete the round. After winning this match, I felt like I could beat any deck. Eggs is such a hard deck to beat and I felt a sense of accomplishment.
Round 7 –- Win-and-In against Gruul
I was pumped about playing in my win-and-in because I felt like I had been playing well all day and my deck seemed strong against the Modern metagame. If I won this round, I could draw into the top eight next round, so there was just a little pressure.
My opponent was basically playing a Standard deck with Tarmogoyfs. That should tell you how strong Burning-Tree Emissary is. Once I cast Inquisition and took his only relevant spell (Flinthoof Boar), I knew I could easily win the game from there.
Then, on his turn three, he topdecked an unexpected card that changed the game: Domri Rade. I just sat for a moment and stared at it. It resolved and of course he drew a card on the first activation. The card? Tarmogoyf, of course. He proceeded to draw an extra card each of the next two turns and then I had to figure out a solution to his planeswalker which was about to ultimate. I did not win this game. I felt like that was the single card he could have drawn in that situation to pull him out of the game. It was the only copy of the card in his deck.
Game two my mulligan could not handle his hand of double Tarmogoyf plus tons of burn and I was quickly overrun by rather large lhurgoyfs. I had outs to this situation, but I did not draw them.
After talking to some friends about this matchup I feel it may be the most difficult one for the deck. The problem is that you have a hard time dealing with Goyf. There are cards to handle it but if you don’t draw them specifically, you lose to the big green monsters. I thought Firespout would be the answer and I had them in the sideboard just for this deck, but it didn’t work out that way. My Firespout killed two or three creatures but left the Goyfs around to kill me.
I need to work out a solution for this deck if I play it again. The answer may be adding a Damnation to the sideboard in place of Firespout but that might not be the right direction. Bringing in Thoughtseize to take care of the problem ahead of time may work, but losing two life against an aggro deck seems risky. There is a lot to think about in terms of this matchup.
Round 8 –- UWR
From my last experience playing against this deck, it feels like a 50-50 matchup. Those stats only matter when you are playing to win. After I lost my win-and-in, I felt pretty demoralized. It was a clean cut to top eight. All the people who were X-1 or better were able to draw and I was out of contention. There were some packs on the line, but that was meaningless to me. Not often do I tilt, but this was one of those times. After he beat me game one, I tried to play a second game, but once the first thing went wrong I just conceded and started my drive home.
So close. That has been the story of the entire last year for me. I traveled to a ton of events last year, far and away more than any other year. Despite the number of events I attended, it wasn’t anywhere close to my best year. All the Grand Prix I attended, I did well and then lost the last round playing for day two. Many PTQs and other similar events I lost the last round playing for top eight. One of these is mine, I just need to keep my head up.
“There's just too much to Modern for one player to take on himself.”
-- Reid Duke
The only way to get into Modern, the only way to understand Modern, and the only way to enjoy Modern...is to go to an event and play. Do it.
Until Next Time,
Unleash the Force on Modern!
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