My journey to Detroit this past weekend started from a strange series of events earlier this year. It all began at GP Pittsburgh.
One of my favorite parts about Magic is trading. I love bringing my binder to events looking for new, interesting, or undervalued cards. Hitting the trade tables is something I try to do as often as I can manage between rounds at whatever event I find myself at. On top of normal trades, I also speculate on cards as well as buy and sell collections.
About a month before GP Pittsburgh, I bought three small collections. Two of the collections I bought from friends because one needed money and the other was no longer playing competitive Magic. The third collection I found on Craigslist and it turned out to be close to the description online. In addition to selling most of those three collections, I wanted to pare down my own collection.
With three collections and a large portion of my cards, moving everything to dealers at GP Pittsburgh seemed like the swiftest way to turn the cards into cash. As you can imagine, that took quite a long time for so many cards.
After speaking with a number of dealers, I found myself at the RIW Hobbies booth. Not only were they willing to buy my cards, they helped me close the hall in order to do so. Even though every other dealer had packed up, they still stayed to look through my boxes of cards. It was this night that lead to them sponsoring me for GP Detroit.
As you can imagine, I was stoked to be sponsored for a GP, but it was a bit more pressure than I expected as well. After doing so well at the last Modern ptq with Grixis Delver, I thought playing that deck was the best decision I could make. I trained hard and tweaked my list for the metagame. Here’s what I ended up playing.
by Mike Lanigan
If you were following my articles from Modern PTQ season, you may notice most of the changes were made to the sideboard. The main deck stayed intact other than some minor changes like a Pillar of Flame.
As far as the sideboard goes, it should be clear that I wanted many cards against two specific aggro decks. Both Affinity and G/W Bogle are extremely fast, quite unforgiving, and easy to hate on if you dedicate enough cards to do so. For as many cards as this Delver deck can see over the course of even a short game, I found five to be the right number of cards to drastically alter the matchup in my favor.
Before extensively testing these matchups, I was only boarding two or three cards, which was largely ineffective. I lost so many games to those two decks in testing, I nearly changed decks a couple days before the event. Instead of bailing on a deck I knew thoroughly inside and out, I steadied my resolve and came up with a new sideboard plan.
Note though that I did not completely remove all my other sideboard plans from the equation. I am bringing in five cards each for those two decks, but the Pillar of Flame and the Rakdos Charm for Affinity also come in for other matchups as well. The same goes for the Spell Pierce and Spellskite, which help against Bogle and other decks as well.
The most important quality about this sideboard is that outside of the six artifact and enchantment hate cards, all of the other choices can be used in a variety of ways. With Modern always in flux, five cards may not always be needed just for one deck and some of the singletons may need to shift as well, but I implore you, do not cut the Counterflux!
I wanted to take a moment to focus on the Counterflux, because otherwise everyone might not know that it was one of the best cards in the sideboard. Against so many decks (Tron, Scapeshift, or UWR) having a hard counter they can't overcome is clutch. That one card won me multiple games where no other card would have. If the game goes long, Snapcaster can also flash it back. Even with only twenty lands, flashing back your three- and four-cost spells does come up from time to time.
Instead of a round-by-round analysis of the event, I want to share something that will hopefully help everyone else as much as it helped me. No matter your finish in any big event, it is important to analyze your play so you can improve and get better. Here are my take-aways from the event.
1. Modern Is Truly Diverse
Wizards has relentlessly patrolled the format for strategies dominating to an unacceptable level. They want an eternal format where diversity is number one. Take a look at my personal data on the subject as well as the full metagame breakdown. If you like stats, you are in for a treat.
My Results for Day One
1 - Bye
2 - Bye
3 - G/R Tron (Loss)
4 - Boros Burn (Win)
5 - Affinity (Win)
6 - Twin (Win)
7 - Melira Pod (Loss)
8 - Kiki Pod (Win)
9 - Living End
Day One Record: 7-2
My Results for Day Two
10 - Merfolk (Loss)
11 - Affinity (Win)
12 - Melira Pod (Loss)
13 - Melira Pod (Loss)
14 - Affinity (Win)
15 - U/W Delver (Win)
Day Two Record: 10-5
From my results you can see I played a different deck every round of Day One. The two Pod decks are the closest I came to playing the same deck twice, but despite sharing some cards, they play out quite differently.
Decks That Made Day 2
Splinter Twin 18
Splinter Bant 9
WUR Twin 7
UR Delver 4
Naya Midrange 3
GW Midrange 3
RG Aggro 2
Eternal Command 2
BUG Delver 1
UBWG Control 1
UB Tezeret 1
Esper Mill 1
Grixis Control 1
Monowhite Vial 1
RUG Delver 1
UB Control 1
WU Control 1
UW Delver 1
Living End 1
Pyromancer Ascension 1
Wow that is a lot of different decks! Even if you start grouping them by similarities, you will still have more diversity than you know what to do with.
Even though the eventual top eight would contain mostly decks resembling the stereotypical Modern Jund deck, the field was the most diverse of any event I’ve ever played in. If you are not prepared to face any deck, you will find yourself falling short in Modern.
My suggestion for succeeding in Modern, or Legacy for that matter, is to play as many different formats as you can. The reason I say that is because familiarity with different decks and archetypes will help tremendously in Modern. Even if you are not exactly sure what deck or specific cards your opponent is playing, you can lean on your prior experiences to make the best play.
2. Make Better Decisions
Throughout the course of the event, as you might imagine, I mulliganed many times. One thought occurred to me that I had never considered. It is possible I am mulliganning too aggressively.
Especially in game two situations, I will throw back a perfectly acceptable hand if I think it cannot defeat the deck I am playing against. On the one hand, if I know I cannot win with my present hand, it seems logical to go to six and see if I can find a hand that will win. Simultaneously, if that is my attitude, I could be putting myself into situations where I am mulliganing the game away.
There were two specific instances at the GP where after the game was over, I reconsidered my mulligan and found it too aggressive. Both were in game three situations against Melira Pod and both resulted in me not being able to interact with my opponent much as they defeated me.
Analyze the hands you mulligan. It is possible you are not mulliganing enough or you are doing it to frequently. This part of the game is one of the most challenging aspects of Magic. Continually try to improve this part of your game.
The second part to making better decisions is paying attention to the board state. This may seem obvious, but in the heat of the game, sometimes we get caught up in our own thing rather than closely examining what our opponents are doing.
Certainly there were many times where I could have made a better play, but only one sticks out in my mind. The first round of day two, I played against Merfolk. This is not a deck I respect or expect to see on day two of a Grand Prix so to say I was surprised would be a vast understatement.
This matchup seems swingy. That is the only word I can think of to describe how one-sided two of our three games were. The third game was going the same way but even though my opponent had a dominant board position, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. But as I grasped for it, I poked myself in the eye.
I was at two life with a Dark Confidant in play facing down two merfolk. I knew I needed to bounce my card drawing machine with Cryptic Command so it wouldn't kill me, but I wasn't sure what the other mode would be.
For some reason, I got it into my head that I was going to counter whatever my opponent played. So, even though he only played an Aether Vial, I still chose to counter it. The problem was that it left me dead on board to his creature I could not block.
There is no way to say that I would have won the game, but I did not have to lose there. All I needed to do was tap his creatures and bounce my Dark Confidant.
3. The Little Things Matter
No matter what deck you are playing, make sure you understand your role in each matchup. When appropriate, switch roles. The ability to do this successfully will help you tremendously, especially in Modern.
Modern is all about dealing damage to yourself through your lands. Managing how much damage you take and which lands you fetch is an essential skill.
Don't concede, play to your outs. Every card and every deck is so powerful in Modern that even in the most dire of board states, there is likely a card you could draw to win the game. Maybe you will need to rely on drawing a specific series of cards to win the game, but whatever the situation, figure out what you need to draw to win the game and play accordingly.
Modern is a great format with tons of amazingly powerful cards. If in some small way, what I learned has helped you, leave me a message below. If you have questions about the deck, I'd be happy to answer them. Good luck with your Modern adventures and I'll be back next week with some sweet Theros Standard brews.
Until Next Time,
Unleash the Force of turn one Delver!
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