This weekend I made it down to the Meadowlands Convention Center to compete in the Modern $20k RCQ at SCGCON New Jersey. I played Five-Color Creativity, a deck I've had a fair amount of success with over the last few months and felt was well-positioned for the weekend.
As not to bury the lede, I went 5-3, losing my win-and-in for Day Two during my last match of Day One. While it's not necessarily the result I was hoping for, my losses were extremely close and I believe my hypothesis on deck selection was correct. Let's get into the breakdown:
The Indomitable Creativity deck utilizes an all-Mountain mana base to turn on Dwarven Mine as early as turn four. This creates a 1/1 Dwarf token that can be targeted with Creativity to Polymorph into a game-winning threat like Archon of Cruelty. As Creativity is an X spell, multiple tokens can be targeted to put multiple Archons into play, or to play around targeted removal from the opponent as a means of disrupting the combo. In the face of heavy creature removal, Prismari Command can make a treasure token that can also work with the combo as well as loot to put drawn Archons into the graveyard. From there, Persist gets its time to shine.
This build of Creativity includes a few key changes to adjust to the current metagame, namely a full four copies of Spell Pierce and two copies of Prismatic Ending. Spell Pierce acts as protection against opposing countermagic and combo decks while Ending acts as additional answers to early threats from Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Colossus Hammer decks.
Round One: RW Burn WW
My first-round opponent was a fairly new player and this was his first big tournament so there were a couple of questionable play decisions from him. To his benefit, he was playing one of my worst matchups, RW Burn. Creativity plays 11 fetch lands and five shock lands, so the mana base is already doing a lot of the work for the opponent. On top of that, Burn plays so many Lightning Bolt variants that it almost always will be able to clear out Dwarf tokens before the Creativity combo can resolve.
Fortunately for me, my opponent kept a slower hand in game one and was unfamiliar with the Creativity combo. He fired off burn spells ahead of resolving an Eidolon of the Great Revel, which tapped him out, enabling a Creativity to resolve. In game two, he kept removal up to stop the combo but was stymied by a few well-timed Spell Pierces.
Round Two: BG Yawgmoth WW
Another tough matchup for me. The Yawgmoth, Thran Physician combo deck makes use of Young Wolf and other undying creatures which shake off my Archon triggers. Fortunately for me, my opponent kept two land-light draws with multiple mana dorks that were swiftly answered by Lightning Bolt and Wrenn and Six. Wrenn is an all-star in this matchup, taking out Birds of Paradise and Ignoble Hierarch. Prismatic Ending was also very effective at clearing out Wall of Roots.
A big concern in this matchup is Necromentia out of my opponent's sideboard, which is where Veil of Summer comes into play. Ultimately, my opponent didn't find their hate cards and kept another dork-heavy hand, which was overrun by the combo. Grist the Hunger Tide was able to take out an Archon, but Persist brought it right on back.
Round 3: GW Vizier Druid LWL
I played next to this opponent in a previous round and knew what they were on going into the match. GW Devoted Druid and Vizier of Remedies combo was a blast from the past. I kept a hand in game one with Bolt, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jiki, Creativity, and lands, which seemed like a solid keep, especially with my opponent on a mulligan. Unfortunately, my opponent led with a Giver of Runes which needed to eat the Bolt. I didn't have an answer for the turn two Druid, and they had the full combo on turn three including payoff.
For game two I prioritized a heavier removal draw and we played a much slower game. Leyline Binding removed an indestructible Kaldra Compleat token and my opponent's multiple copies of Burrenton Forge-Tender weren't able to protect against Prismatic Ending.
Our third game played similarly to our second. I had a sequence where I had two Dwarves and a Wrenn on board with Creativity, Persist, and Hallowed Moonlight in hand and six lands available. I had the choice between Creativity for two to play around Solitude, or for one to hold up Moonlight to stop either their combo or Orvar, the All-Form if they had it in their hand. I opted to play around the more likely Solitude. My combo resolved, putting two Archons into play. My opponent Eladamri's Called for Orvar, which was discarded to copy Archon, causing me to sacrifice Wrenn and Six, leaving two of my own Archons in play. Their next turn, they Postmortem Lunged a Stoneforge Mystic back from their graveyard to find Kaldra Compleat and immediately put it into play. When they went to combat, their Orvar token made me sacrifice one of my blockers, putting me to five life with two lethal attackers coming in. It was a very close match that could've gone either way.
Round 4: UR Murktide LL
This was the only match that felt like my deck failed to function. In game one my opponent landed an uncontested Ragavan on the play and Spell Pierced my Wrenn and Six. They snowballed and countered each of my spells while I stumbled on mana.
Game two my lands developed oddly with Ketria Triome into Sacred Foundry to unlock Wrenn and Six, which was countered by a Spell Pierce. I followed up with Teferi, Time Raveler, and bounced their Ledger Shredder. My opponent took this opportunity to resolve Blood Moon. With no castable cards in my hand, after ticking up to three on Teferi, I down-ticked to bounce the Moon before my opponent could find a Bolt or Unholy Heat.
By the time I needed to go for the combo, I still only had Ketria Triome as my only blue or green source in play, preventing me from playing Veil of Summer and Spell Pierce in the same turn. My opponent had double Counterspell to stop me.
Round 5: UR Murktide WLW
A near-immediate redemption! In game one my opponent stumbled on mana and threats. I reached a point where I was able to assemble the combo for x=2 while holding up double Spell Pierce. My opponent was only able to cast a single piece of countermagic, which wasn't enough.
However, in game two my opponent started with a Ragavan on the play. They had Spell Pierce for my removal and used the treasure tokens generated to play a Blood Moon with Pierce backup. I had no outs and scooped to save time.
Game three had us trading off play after play for some time. I had Creativity, Fable, and Teferi in hand and baited with Fable. My opponent let it resolve, but I couldn't tell whether it was to conserve their counter for a better spell or if they didn't have it. The following turn I led on Teferi with four mana up. It managed to land and cleared the way for Creativity into Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.
Round Six: Four-Color Elementals WW
This was perhaps one of my strongest hands of the day. I was able to land a Teferi to lock my opponent out of disrupting me, which I followed up with Prismari Command looting and creating a treasure on turn four, discarding two Archons. Persist brought back the first one, which was swiftly dealt with by Solitude. My second Persist brought back the other Archon, to which my opponent very angrily scooped.
In game two my opponent kept a one-land hand in favor of what I expected was Orvar and Solitude. I used the lack of pressure to deploy a Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and discard Sundering Titan. By this point, I already had Persist in my hand, but with my opponent only on one land, it would've been detrimental for me to bring it back at that time. After they hit their 3rd land, I finally Persisted the Titan and took out all of their mana sources. A few Mirror-Breaker beats later and they relented.
Round 7: GR Hardened Scales WW
I used to live in New Jersey and this opponent was a regular at my old LGS. They were an Affinity connoisseur then and continue to be to this day. Unfortunately, this is possibly their worst matchup and it's not especially close. Creativity plays a whopping twelve removal spells, including a clean two-for-one in Prismari Command in the main deck and the sideboard features multiple copies of Boseiju, Who Endures, Wear // Tear, and Brotherhood's End.
Scales doesn't have much in the way of interaction, so I was able to assemble the combo mostly uncontested and at my leisure in game one.
An interesting sequence happened in game two that I wanted to speak with him about. My hand included Wear // Tear, two Boseiju, and a Brotherhood's End. It was really a pick-your-poison situation for the opponent. Notably, they had an Urza's Saga and Welding Jar in play alongside Walking Ballista and Arcbound Ravager. I opted to use Boseiju on Welding Jar and follow up with Brotherhood's End to destroy all artifacts. My struggle was with whether or not to prioritize using Wear // Tear to get rid of the Saga and Jar first to prevent the tutor effect, but in doing so I'd be risking excessive damage from the combination of Ravager and Ballista. The safest line seemed to be the one I took and my opponent agreed after the match, but it was certainly a difficult decision.
Round 8: Jeskai Grinding Breach WLL
Of course, my final round would be a win-and-in against a friend and former teammate! We discussed his deck before the tournament so I knew what he was playing, a luxury he didn't have going in. This led him to mulligan a hand that might've been keepable with prior knowledge.
He ultimately kept a two-land hand dependent on Urza's Saga, Ragavan, and Springleaf Drum. Unfortunately, Ragavan was removed immediately. I kept him off of doing much thanks to removal and countermagic the entire game and comboed with disruption up.
Unfortunately for me, in our second game, I kept a hand that was heavier on stopping a Grinding Station and Underworld Breach draw than a creature one. I was swiftly dispatched by Saga tokens and Ragavan.
For our last game, I started off from behind with a mulligan to five. We traded off back and forth for a long while and went to time. In turns, I was able to stick an Archon and put my opponent to six life with a Lightning Bolt in hand. On his final turn, his hand was empty and his board was just an Aether Spellbomb with an unhelpful Grinding Station. I had my final turn lined up after his. I expected him to draw an irrelevant card, then bounce Archon back to my hand to force the draw. He didn't know about my Bolt which would put him to exactly zero life and I had the mana to recast Archon. His top card? Underworld Breach. Breach gave him all he needed to combo kill me by looping a zero-mana artifact with Grinding Station until he had no cards left in his deck for him to then cast Thassa's Oracle.
A bit devastating considering I was already planning my victory speech, but at least one of us made it to Day Two.
Not quite the result I wanted, but I had a great time nonetheless. Going forward, I think I'd update my tri lands to Xander's Lounge, Jetmir's Garden, and Ketria Triome. Prioritizing early red and white removal spells alongside Spell Pierce while also having access to green for Wrenn and Six by turn two is a tall order that the current mana base can't easily accomplish. Fetching Jetmir's Garden first, then Steam Vents would alleviate this tension.
I'd also swap out a Veil of Summer and Hallowed Moonlight from my sideboard in favor of Leyline of the Void to combat the rise in graveyard decks. RB Scam has been putting up consistent results across the board, including two top eight slots from this event. That, along with the steady rise of both "fair" and "unfair" Underworld Breach decks and GB Yawgmoth, having a turn zero answer to the graveyard is becoming more appealing.
I'd also like to commend the tournament staff for a great job running such a tight ship and for the implementation of MtgMelee. Sending push notifications for pairings to my phone was a quality-of-life improvement I didn't know I needed. I'm definitely looking forward to the next one.