Effectively tuning a deck requires multiple avenues of testing. Last week, I wrote about minor tweaks to my iGrow shell implemented during friendly testing sessions. A day after that article was published, the real testing began, as I took the deck to a pair of ~25-player Modern PPTQs.
I made Top 8 in both events and learned a lot in the process. I obviously have great faith in the deck, but I prefer to let results speak for themselves. In today’s article, I break down my games and share some thoughts on each matchup.
PPTQ #1 at Your Friendly Neighborhood Tabletop Shop - Newington, Connecticut
YFNTS actually ran two Modern PPTQs this day, and Matt and I got there early to play in the first one. I bombed 0-2 against Affinity and Abzan Midrange, so I dropped, had a watery coffee from Dunkin, cut a Feed the Clan in the board for a Hurkyl's Recall, and resolved to dodge Rhino decks for the second event. Here’s what I played:
Round 1 vs. Affinity (1-2, lose roll):I get paired with the same guy who stomped me in the morning event. Game one, I mulligan once, Shoal a Signal Pest then drop two Goyfs and a Delver. Double Ravager and an Overseer, combined with a pair ofVault Skirge, outlast me. Game two, my opponent and I both mulligan, and I accidentally draw seven cards – a beautiful hand of Forked Bolt, Tarmogoyf, three lands, Lightning Bolt, and Hurkyl's Recall. I call a judge and am forced to mulligan down to five. After some die rolling, I’m left with everything but the Bolt and a land so I keep. I play a Tarn and pass; my opponent turn-1 Thoughtseizes me, taking Tarmogoyf. I Forked Bolt his Signal Pest, he lands Spellskite , Ornithopters, and Drums. Blinkmoth Nexus starts chipping away as I wait for a threat to cast my Recall. I settle for a Swiftspear. My opponent attacks and pumps with a Blinkmoth, I go to 6 poison, and I cast Recall on the end step. The Glimmervoids already passed the artifact check, so they don’t die, but my opponent still takes back everything but those two lands and the Blinkmoth. I swing with the Swiftspear and pass; my opponent activates Nexus at the end of my second main phase. I Forked Bolt it with my new priority and end up pummeling him with a Young Pyromancer. Game three, I keep an insane opener of two Revelries, Serum Visions, Forked Bolt, Hurkyl's Recall, Young Pyromancer, and Misty Rainforest. The Visions draws me another Visions, and I bottom-bottom two nonland cards. I draw a Lightning Bolt and Visions into a Tarmogoyf, bottom-bottoming again, and never find my second land. I lose to Champion-Plating.
Thoughts: This matchup doesn’t seem so bad to me. I did some testing with a friend after the event and split the games more or less 50/50. As I tweak to beat Elves, Affinity should become even easier to beat (more on these changes below). Otherwise, another Hurkyl's Recall should shore things up.
Round 2 vs. BG Elves (2-1, lose roll): Game one, I land a Young Pyromancer and my opponent has a slow start with Spellskite into Ezuri. I Snag both of them and cast Day's Undoing. Some Elves show up and I go to 3 from double Shaman of the Pack. I have Bolt and Snag to clear out blockers for Pyro, the Elementals, and a new Swiftspear to deal lethal. Game two, my Pyromancer gets Decayed. Delver and Swiftspear can’t compete with three Sentinels and a Heritage Druid, which crank out two Collected Company. Game three, I keep a one-lander and my two Swiftspears deal 20 damage over five turns. I Snapback an Elvish Mystic turn one and find a basic Goblin Mountaineer on turn three, which lets me Forked Bolt two dorks and continue swinging. My opponent starts chumping Swiftspears with Nettle Sentinels but can’t find lands. He eventually resolves Shaman of the Pack, which I Vapor Snag before attacking him to 0.
Thoughts: CoCo strategies, which quickly empty their hands and rely on board advantage to win, are this deck’s biggest predators. Though I walked away with this match, I lost to Elves in the Top 8 the next day. Killing turn-one dorks is frequently correct, though a Probe lets us know for sure; often, opponents keep one-landers and have trouble recovering – or at least, exploding onto the battlefield – if they lose that first Elf.
Round 3 vs. Lazy Twin (2-1, win roll): I get paired with a buddy who runs an Exarch, a Pestermite, and two Splinter Twin in Grixis Control to throw off opponents. Game one, we both mulligan, and double Kolaghan's Command gets me for lethal after I develop a huge board presence at the expense of some life. In game two, a couple of my Goyfs die, while a third survives. I Undoing into lots of Swiftspears and Snags, and my buddy casts Angler. I Snag it and we have a Dispel war, which I lose. I then suicide my team into the Zombie Fish, bringing my opponent to 1 life, and slow-roll a Delver attempting to dodge Snap-Choice of Damnations (sure enough…). Delver and Pyromancer resolve on an empty board and attack the next turn for lethal. Game three, I have Pyromancer/Probe on turn two and another Pyromancer on turn three. My opponent has Cryptic Command, lands, and two Dispel in hand, so I cast Undoing into his three untapped lands and draw a new hand with more Snags and Swiftspears. I Shoal a Bolt and Snag a Snapcaster before attacking for the win.
Thoughts: Life is very important against Grixis Control decks. Establishing an early board presence takes precedence over preserving life total, but when possible, lands should come into play tapped, and Probes should be paid for with mana. Enough Undoings turn the Grixis decks into Burn decks. With that in mind, they have no way of gaining life either, so any frontloaded damage or resolved Bolts put a lot of pressure on them. It doesn’t matter if they stabilize the board so long as we can push enough damage through to “get there” by Undoing into reach.
Round 4 vs. Loam Pox (2-1, lose roll): Game one, I think I’m against Jund and get “had” by a turn two Smallpox, which eats my Delver. My land-heavy hand becomes much better at this stage, and another Smallpox mostly mana-screws my opponent, stranding him on two lands. He eventually resolves Zombie Infestation, which turns the Day's Undoing I cast earlier into a bunch of 2/2s. Swiftspear gets him down to 1, but Golgari Brownscale brings him up to 3. He stabilizes the board with Zombies and Lingering Souls Spirits, and at 1 life myself, I cast Day's Undoing with a Steam Vents up to trade my full hand for, hopefully, a Lightning Bolt. I find it and kill him on his upkeep. Game two, a turn-one Darkblast combines with Zombie Infestation to butcher me. Undoing gets rid of the Darkblast once my opponent runs out of cards, and a pair of Pyromancers generates too many Elementals for the Zombies to do much, but Spirit tokens end up flying into my head as a Vengeful Pharaoh eats my Tarmogoyfs. Game three, I Day's Undoing with Delver and Swiftspear on the board. Delver blind flips off a Destructive Revelry, but dies to Abrupt Decay. A new one blind flips off a Lightning Bolt. I spend most of my cards and have Undoing in hand, but Probe lets me know my opponent has nothing, so I don’t cast it. I Revelry an Inkmoth before it can block Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration and cast Bolt for exactly lethal. My opponent “forgot” that Revelry burns for two; don’t leave home without your Japanese foils!
Thoughts: Zombie Infestation is a real pain. I actually brainstormed some Infestation lists when Day's Undoing was spoiled, but never found anything superb. If opponents don’t draw the enchantment, or if we neutralize it via Pithing Needle or Destructive Revelry, Loam Pox is dead in the water to Day's Undoing. It forces the deck to “start over,” hoping it opens a Looting to re-activate its engines.
Round 5 (Intentional draw)
-Cut to Top 8-
Quarterfinals vs. Burn (2-1, on the draw): I get paired against the player who ate me with Abzan in the morning PPTQ. Game one, I mulligan, and my opponent resolves two Guides and two Eidolons, which my Goyf has trouble dealing with by itself. A Delver doesn’t help and I die to a combat step Atarka's Command. In game two we both mulligan to five cards. My Delver, Pyromancer, and second Delver all eat Shard Volleys. I fetch a shock and resolve Tarmogoyf, then Bolt a Swiftspear, cast another Goyf, and cast Forked Bolt for lethal after a couple attacks. Game three, I mulligan a tricky one-lander containing Threads, Bolt, Swiftspear, Goyf, and two Delvers. I manipulate Guide triggers with Serum Visions to draw four lands off the little guys while killing other threats as they show up. I have Goyf and Feed the Clan in hand all game, and try to play the combo safely. For his part, my opponent was stuck on one land for a few turns. At 6 life, I tap my single green source for Tarmogoyf, realizing I’m dead to two Lightning Bolts by not leaving Feed up. He suspends a Rift Bolt and passes with just a Stomping Ground up. Feed the Clan brings me to 16 on my main phase, and a second Goyf takes it home.
Thoughts: The matchup played out more or less the same as in testing; game one is slightly unfavorable, but post-board, our threats outclass Burn’s while our interaction is cheap and versatile enough to slow them down and kill them. Deep Forest Hermit comes in as a shock-less green source.
Semifinals vs. 4-Color Gifts (2-0, on the draw): I played against this guy at GP: Montreal in a Modern side event with Monkey Grow on my way to a 5-0 finish, so I knew his deck a little. Today, his was the only one I 2-0’d. Game 1, I keep an opener of Swiftspear, land, Sleight of Hand, two Shoal, and two Day's Undoing. My opponent plays tapped lands for his first two turns. I attack with Swiftspear, play Delver, and cast Sleight of Hand; he tries Kitchen Finks on turn three, which I Shoal exiling a Day's Undoing. Delver flips and I cast Day's Undoing after an attack. My opponent’s new hand consists of Panglacial Wurm and six lands; mine is stocked with Pyromancer, Bolts, Snag, and Probes. Game two, I Bolt an Arbor Elf, then cast Young Pyromancer and start cantripping away. My opponent casts a Gifts on turn four but I kill him the next turn with Tarmogoyf, Swiftspear, Pyro, and Elementals.
Thoughts: I guess Gifts beats other midrange strategies and most aggro decks, but it relies too heavily on in-hand card advantage to beat Undoing-fueled tempo. Killing dorks never goes out of style.
Finals vs. Jund (1-2, on the play): Game one, I lead with Delver, then cast Swiftspear, Pyromancer, and Probe. My opponent Kolaghan's Commands the Pyromancer and Decays Delver, but I find another one. He eventually stabilizes with two Scavenging Ooze, Goyf, and Raging Ravine. He taps out to swing with everyone except the Scooze, not knowing I had a Vapor Snag on top of my deck. I take all of the damage, dropping to 3 life. After bouncing the blocker and putting my opponent at 8 life, I have Bolt in hand and alpha strike for 10 damage. Game two, I try to win a Goyf stall the mean way, but get my Threads Decayed. Liliana gradually ticks up and finally ultimates, leaving me with either my lands or two Goyfs. I take the lands and lose to enemy Goyfs. Game three, I misplay royally: my opponent is at 10, and I’m at 15. He taps out on turn three to Maelstrom Pulse my Tarmogoyf, who’s beating him up on an empty board. I know he has Kitchen Finks and Slaughter Pact in hand. I Shoal the Pulse, exiling Day's Undoing, thinking I’ll attack him to 5 and magically draw into reach. Had I let the Goyf die, I could have probably cast Undoing into enough Pyromancers, Swiftspears, Bolts, and Snags to deal 10 points of damage. I had nothing going on in my hand to incentivize me not to let the Goyf die and resolve Undoing instead.
Thoughts: I feel like I lost this match because of my game three misplay, but my loss to Jund the next day convinced me the matchup might need some closer attention (more on that below).
PPTQ #2 at Worlds Apart Games - Amherst, Massachusetts
Round 1 vs. Scapeshift (2-1, lose roll): Game one, my opponent mulligans to four. He keeps a great hand of land, Bolt, Goremand, and Sakura-Tribe Elder, but can’t beat my two Delvers, which blind flip to Serum Visions and Lightning Bolt. I Shoal his Bolt and attack him to 0. Game two, I get my opponent down to 10 life and stare dumbly at my hand of four Lightning Bolt with only a Stomping Ground to give me red mana. I get Scapeshifted two turns later. Game three, I keep a shaky six with Bolt, lands, and an Undoing, figuring I can force-mulligan my opponent after dealing him a little damage and hopefully draw into threats along the way. I draw a couple of Goyfs and start casting them, always expecting to Undoing the next turn. The first one dies to Lightning Bolt, but the second one connects for 3, and I Undoing with only another Undoing in hand to my opponent’s heavy grip of six (apparently, he had lands, Bolt, Dispel, and a Scapeshift left). He untaps and casts Pyroclasm to kill my Tarmogoyf, which I Vapor Snag. Pyroclasm gets Remanded (“for value!”) and Goyf lands again, soon followed by more Lhurgoyf buddies. My opponent taps me with Cryptic a couple times instead of casting Thragtusk, but he eventually sticks a Beast. I Bolt his life during the end step with a Snag in hand and another on top of the deck from Visions. Next turn, I untap, Snag the 5/3 and its token, and swing with three Goyfs for lethal.
-1 Vapor Snag
Thoughts: This matchup ended up being pretty tricky. Scapeshift is a deck that clocks you without ever casting spells; once they get to seven lands, their namesake sorcery ends the game on its own. Day's Undoing only lightly disrupts the deck’s interaction, taking away key cards stacked with Serum Visions and weakening Snapcaster Mage. Its main purpose here is to provide enough gas for us to win before they reach turn seven, since Scapeshift makes its land drops easily after Undoing resolves. I can see Negate in the sideboard if the deck picks up steam, which it could, given its resilience against Undoing strategies. I didn’t expect it at all for this event given how soft it is to the Grixis decks that are ubiquitous in Amherst’s Modern scene.
Round 2 vs. Grixis Twin (2-1, win roll): Game one, I have threats every turn. Swiftspear into Tarmogoyf into Young Pyromancer proves too heavy an assault for my opponent to quell. I Shoal a Exterminate! by exiling another Shoal, but it gets Snapcastered back to kill my Goyf. I Vapor Snag the Snapcaster Mage on the end step and attack for lethal with Elementals. Game two, I get my opponent down to 2 life and he brings me to 5. I build up a sizable board presence and cast Day's Undoing, and he mistakenly shuffles his exile zone (which includes a Lightning Bolt and a Snapcaster Mage) into his deck. We call a judge since we can’t remember the sixth exiled card, and he rules to leave only the cards we know exiled. This seems weird to me, so I appeal the ruling, and the head judge rules that they all be shuffled back into the deck. My opponent draws his seven, which has Bolt-Snap-Bolt. I Shoal one Bolt, but his draw for the turn is another and he kills me. Whatever bad taste that situation left in my mouth I rinsed out in game three, which ended in about five minutes. I keep a hand with two Delvers and a single Island and draw another Delver. I cast one; it gets Bolted. I cast another; it blind flips. I exile the third to Shoal a Lightning Bolt. I find my second land and cast Swiftspear and Tarmogoyf, soon drawing into another Tarmogoyf as my opponent floods while I grip a Dispel.
Thoughts: My opponent told me he was on Twin, and I boarded for Twin, but he may have been on Grixis Control. I never saw an Exarch.
Round 3 vs. Grixis Control (2-1, win roll): Game one, my little dudes race a Gurmag Angler. I let it connect once before Snagging it, then cast Day's Undoing with a single Shoal in hand to my opponent’s four cards. My opponent resolves Angler again to wall my 1/1 Delver, which flips off a Vapor Snag to combine with a Bolt for 7 points of lethal damage. Game two, I die to a turn 3 Vedalken Shackles, getting my opponent to 4 life before he stabilizes with Cryptics and fatties. Game three, I Shoal a Bolt, then misplay by suiciding myYoung Pyromancer into an Ambush Viper-mode Snapcaster Mage that I even knew about. That mistake makes the game an uphill battle; eventually, my opponent stabilizes with two Gurmag Anglers while I’m at 3 life. I cast Day's Undoing out of desperation with a Young Pyromancer and a Swiftspear out, leaving Steam Vents untapped. He Cryptic-taps my team and swings for the kill with the Anglers, but I Snag one and block the other with my new token. I untap and come in for lethal.
Game 2 Sideboard Plan:
Game 3 Sideboard Plan:
Thoughts: In the future, my board plan against Grixis Control is to not board at all. Four Vapor Snag are enough for the fatties, and the reach from Bolt and selection from Sleight really help the matchup. “Spicy” tech like Vedalken Shackles probably doesn’t merit pre-emptive boarding, but if we see more lists adopting these kinds of haymakers, I’ll probably cut the Sleights for Revelries by default.
Round 4 vs. Jund (0-2, win roll): I could draw into the Top 8, but alas, my high seed gets me paired down. Game one, I bring my opponent to 2 life playing the Vapor Snag game on two lands and an Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration. Probe shows me a Liliana of the Veil. I cast Sleight of Hand to find Day's Undoing so I can Shoal it, and see Undoing and Bolt in the top two cards. Then I get really confused and put the Bolt into my hand, and the Liliana resolves and opens the way for a Tarmogoyf to kill me. Game two, Kitchen Finks walls my Young Pyromancer, and Bitterblossom ends up winning my opponent the game as I fail to find another Day's Undoing beyond the first. That Undoing doesn’t get me too far, since I slam double Pyro into Gitaxian Probe to peek at an unstoppableAnger of the Gods.
Thoughts: Despite favorable tests against Jund, I lost to it at both PPTQs this weekend. I think I need more practice against the deck before I discover the best angles of attack.
Round 5 (Intentional draw)
-Cut to Top 8-
Quarterfinals vs. GW Elves (0-2, on the draw): I knew this was a hard matchup going in, as I’d tested against this same opponent for 12 games last week and split them 40/60. Game one, I Snag a dork and cast Delver and Swiftspear. My opponent still casts Company on turn three with two more Companies on the way. Game two, I Forked Bolt some guys and start attacking, but Chord into Heritage Druid with two Sentinels out, followed by Collected Company, generates too much board presence for me to handle.
Thoughts: This matchup was a beating. The good news: I’ve fixed it. I’m currently running a pair of Electrickery in the board, which can kill a turn-1 dork without wasting a Bolt and often 3-for-1’s or better when overloaded. Staticaster looked good on paper but was far too slow in practice. I played 12 post-board games with my GW Elves opponent the next day (six on the play, six on the draw) and won nine of them.
I’m Not That Innocent
I was more excited than anybody for Day's Undoing to enter Modern. If a deck does exist that “breaks” the card, I haven’t found it yet. Undoing feels right at home in a shell like this one, which admittedly seems fair. The effect is big enough that I expect more aggressive decks to start using the card, which should push Modern away from control and midrange strategies, but probably not in the dramatic sweep I originally anticipated. Still, Scott Muir recently made Top 8 at an SCG Premier IQ with Day's Undoing in his Legacy Affinity deck, so I’m inclined to say the card will eventually see increased Modern play as deckbuilders discover the best way to abuse it.
As much as I appreciated iGrow’s explosiveness at the PPTQs, I did miss the invincible feeling of holding Stubborn Denial or Simic Charm with a Hooting Mandrills in play. Monkey Grow beats linear decks and combo decks, while iGrow beats midrange decks and control decks. At this point, I’d advocate players wishing to play one or the other in bigger events, or at a local weekly, to choose the deck best suited to their metagame based on that parameter. (My other go-to Delver build, Counter-Cat, beats aggro decks, but more on that deck in another article!)
All that said, I’m still brand new to iGrow and undoubtedly have more to learn about the deck. My success in painless tuning for Affinity and Elves indicates the deck’s exceptional adaptability, and I’ll continue tweaking the list as Modern evolves.