I'm sure it comes as a surprise to exactly 0 of you guys but I was pretty psyched up about the modern season PTQs coming around and have been testing quite a bit. I can say with absolute certainty that modern is as of right now my favorite format.
I am not a believer in Force of Will as a "metagame check". What I mean by this is both legacy and vintage pretty much require a player to either be a combo deck capable of winning very quickly, be a deck that can stop the combo decks from winning quickly, or be a deck that beats decks that beat combo decks. The key cog in scenario #2 is ussually sited as Force of Will . Pretty much the idea being that since you can force anything if it is too broken you always have the option to counter it, particularly since most of the broken stuff requires a decent amount of set up to break with 1 or two lynchpin spells to string everything together.
Well the problem with that becomes pretty obvious in that there is really only combo decks and then metagame decks that try to beat the combo decks and then meta^2 decks that try to beat those decks. Then arround and arround the drain you spin but I don't particularly like the idea. I can distinctly remember when Force rotated out of standard the first time and even though the counterspells were still outrageously overpowered compared to now, it felt like the game was finally fair. Nothing was quite so frustrating as forcing your opponent to finally tap out to wrath the board or lay a big threat and then having them force your response spell. I'm not arguing that Force of will doesn't take skill, it most certainly does. I think that a properly leveraged force just makes the game less fun.
Anyhow I am way off topic. So I have been testing an abundance of modern decks lately, and love quite a few of them honestly. Here is my little metagame overview
Melira Birthing Pod
Red Deck Wins
Birds with Swords
If you are reading this then you no doubt know that I feal like goblins is an untapped resource and that dredge is still very real. I'm also starting to contemplate a 5 color infect zoo deck.
Well I couldn't help myself. I went to battle with the dredge deck. I figure I've played that deck more than any other and probably more than anybody else. Why not see if it has what it takes to be a big player. So here is the list that I used.
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Enclave Cryptologist
4 Merfolk Looter
4 Golgari Thug
4 Boneyard Wurm
4 Stinkweed Imp
2 Skaab Ruinator
4 Faithless Looting
1 Life From the Loam
2 Gnaw to the Bone
4 City of Brass
2 Gemstone Mine
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Verdant Catacombs
2 Breeding Pool
1 Watery Grave
1 Steam Vents
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Stomping Ground
3 Ancient Grudge
2 Nature's Claim
1 Ray of Revelation
3 Mindbreak Trap
3 Torpor Orb
1 Gnaw to the Bone
1 Jund Charm
I tried endlessly to get Tjaden to talk me out of playing this monstrosity but he just wasn't up to the task. So it was game on!
Round 1 vs Seamus playing Storm
He won the die roll and plays a Gitaxian Probe off a shock. I then play a Faithless Looting discarding a Golgari Thug and a land. He does nothing and passes back. On my turn I dredge the thug getting a Vengevine and a Stinkweed Imp !! WOW! So I play a Bird of Paradise and an Enclave Cryptologist get a vine back and beat in. He misses another land drop so then I dredge the imp revealing another Vengevine . I play my land and go Boneyard Wurm into Golgari Thug to pop #2 into play! Isn't it nice when a plan all comes together?
Game 2 I didn't get nearly as aggressive a start with the only creatures being 2 and 3 costing and only having 3 lands but he was stuck on one land again so 2 attacks from a Splinterfright finished him off.
Round 2 vs Jeff Zandi playing Jund
Game 1 I got a reasonably quick hand and made him play defensive. Then eventually milled all 4 vines into my yard and stomped him in a blaze of glory (actually using the ruinator as one of the triggers too).
Game 2 I got stomped as all the milling in the world couldn't reveal anything helpful at all. (0 Vines, 0 Gnaws)
Game 3 was pretty interesting and I think it was my first play mistake of the day. It came to a point where I had a Skaab Ruinator in play with 4 lands, while he had a Bloodbraid Elf and 2 Dark Confidant s also with 4 lands (it was my turn 5). The life totals were 13-11 in my favor. I chose to attack, which I believe is right, he has 2x confidant so I don't want to play defensive. Now in my graveyard I had a Faithless Looting , a Gnaw to the Bone , and exactly 1 creature ( Vengevine ). I had 2 Stinkweed Imp s and a Golgari Thug in my hand. The line of play that I took was flashing back the looting discarding both imps and not drawing anything I could play. I figured that this line made it irrelevant if he killed ruinator or not since I would dredge an imp and flashback gnaw for enough life that confidants would kill him first. Well he revealed a two cc spell and a land (life is 13-4 now) then used a fecth to get a shock going to 1. Cast a 2nd elf which revealed nothing of consequence (maybe thoughtseize?) and attacked for 10. Then lightning bolted me. FTW.
In retrospect I was thinking I should have just held mana up for the Gnaw, which I think would have won me the game, but I now think the correct play was to just play an Imp, that way he cannot use the bolt to kill the imp and attack with everyone and still kill me. And if the imp dies I can dredge it for big bonuses on the gnaw. Oh well, I've been telling everyone that this was the hardest deck to play out of the lot of them and I'll offer this as further proof. Just so damn many decision trees.
Round 3 vs Korey playing Melira
Game 1 he mulls to 6 and keeps a hand that goes Birds of Paradise into Kitchen Finks but I had flipped into double vines, so he didn't have the time to set up his double birthing pods to combo me out.
Game 2 he went Melira, Sylvok Outcast into Kitchen Finks but then stalled just a bit and I was able to kill melira. When the scores were 10-18 and he played a Mikaeous, the Unhallowed . At which point I brought 4 Vengevine s crashing in on him to put it to 10-12. Unfortunately he had the Chord of Calling for a Viscera Seer that let him gain infinite life here. It was kind of funny/awkward when he called Eric Jones over to ask about how the interaction worked and kept saying that Persist and Undying countered each other and Eric would coyly say, "That's not how it works." But then he would say, "I can't tell you how to play your deck." In response to, "Well how does it work?" Good times.
So game 3 we have a pretty cool situation. I am at 15 with a vengevine, a bird, and a splinterfright (7/7) in play. He is at 16 with a Birthing Pod , Melira, Sylvok Outcast , Kitchen Finks , and Murderous Redcap in play. I have an Ancient Grudge , 3 Faithless Looting , and 2 Vengevine in my yard. So I basically figure out that I have to beat him this turn lest he have a chord of calling or another pod in his hand. I could either try to pull the vines back or go all in on my Splinterfright I figure that I can double flashback faithless with 2 Stinkweed Imp s in my yard so I can effectively mill myself for 25 cards this turn. He had 6 toughness in play and could block the vine so effectively 8 toughness so I needed 16+8 = 24 points of damage so the 'fright had to grow by 13 out of 25 cards. I'll take those odds any day. Well the splinterfright ended up as a 23/23 and got there!
I find it kinda funny how that game went down since I think my very best shot at winning there was Splinterfright and I boarded that card out more than any other at the tournament but it had it's blaze of glory right there for sure.
Round 4 vs Jason playing RDW
The basic tenants of playing this deck against red is "Stall to Gnaw". So in game 1 I start doing my thing as he starts burning me down. I get a Vengevine into play to trade with his Keldon Marauders and then recur it to get in the way of his Goblin Guide until I am at 6 life when I flip a Gnaw to the Bone into the yard and gain 10. After that Vines made quick work of him.
Game 2 he plays a turn 1 Relic of Progenitus and proceeds to bolt me with impunity. On the key turn he has just played a Grim Lavamancer and I have a level 1 Enclave Cryptologist , I have a Golgari Thug , a Vengevine , and 4 other creatures in the graveyard but am at 4 life. I need to make him use the relic since he had played with a land open the whole game. So I play Gnaw to the Bone in my upkeep which he responds to by popping the relic so after that resolves I tap the cryptologist to discard a vengevine to at least get two life out of the deal. I was hoping that I could get back going but on his next turn he slaps down a Leyline of Punishment and makes it jsut a matter of time until I get burned out.
Game 3 he starts with a turn 0 leyline so at least I know the stakes this time. I fill my yard up pretty full and when I am at 9 life I draw a Nature's Claim to kill his leyline and then cast gnaw for 32 with another one in the yard. GG.
Round 5 vs Ryan playing Boros.
I am on the play and get a turn one looting off while he hits turn one Goblin Guide . He gets to attack me down to 13 before I can stick a vine in front of his guide and wait for a bit. Then I gain 34 life off a Gnaw to the Bone and his attack back for 9 wasn't enough as 4 vines came out the next turn.
Game 2 I have an early vine fighting against his turn 1 Steppe Lynx . Once again I am on the trade, trade, trade, gnaw plan. He attacks me down to 4 with most of his board dead and goes for it with Lightning Bolt + Lightning Helix . I cast the Gnaw to the Bone (for 6) that I had been sandbagging and on my turn flash it back so I end up at 8 life. A turn later I flip Gnaw number 2 and go up 24 more.
Round 6 vs Sam playing AggroLoam
Game 1 he has a turn 1 Thoughtseize to steal my Faithless Looting but I land a big Boneyard Wurm that trumps his Countryside Crusher then flip a vine into the yard ftw!
Game 2 I flip 2 vines into the yard on turn 3 and then bring them back while he plays bojuka bog to steal my graveyard. Then he Ghost Quarter s his own bog to play Life from the Loam to get it back /sick tech. I draw a third vine and attack him to 4 as he blocks one with a 6/6 crusher. He goes down to 1 to fetch the lands to play an Obstinate Baloth that moves him back up to 5 then I still have a turn to draw a one drop to get the vine back from the yard before he bogs it but pretty soon thereafter he plays a Seismic Assault to go with his infinite Bojuka Bog s and takes the game.
Game 3 I keep a pretty awesome hand of fetch, mine, looter, thug, imp, vine, ruinator and he mulls to 6. On turn 2 I draw a faithless looting and pop that boy down discarding the thug and imp. On his turn 2 I am met with epic sadness as he plays a Bojuka Bog . My world comes crashing down and I'm pretty confident that i have just been whipped. I played out the rest of the round in ghost fashion. I ask him afterwards how many bogs he's playing he says one. One bog was the only thing stopping the turn 3 ruinator... (he also had 2 Jund Charm s as his only other hate) And thus are the days of our lives. Next he has Pyroclasm for my looter. Anyways he crushed me with 2 crushers from there.
Round 7 vs Zack playing RDW
Game one I never flip a Gnaw or a vine and he crushes me
Game two he knocks me to 12 before the gnaw (16) and conceedes with two more in the yard.
Game 3 I am at 8 when I gnaw for over 40.
Finish in 12th place. but I hate the world because of a turn 2 bog, could have played around it but thought the turn 3 ruinator would beat him. I'm pretty sure his only out for it is Seismic Assault + 3x lands but I probably shouldn't have stacked my eggs quite so close to the fall. Once again infinity decisions wins me some and loses me some. But I feel like I played pretty well all in all but now I have something to look forward to being better at next time.
So after all that talk of modern and all the sick decks, with the foundation of the format laid out at the Pro Tour, lets blow it up and start over!! YAY!?
They announced this morning that modern will officially not be a combo format, they won't stand for it and won't allow it. I think many of the changes are for the better even though I don't think the format was broken before - it is decidedly about interactive magic now, which isn't a bad thing in my estimation. So what's changed?
Blazing Shoal - banned
Cloudpost - banned
Rite of Flame - banned
Preordain - banned
Ponder - banned
Green Sun's Zenith - banned
Effectively they decapitated the infect deck, 12 post is now without mana ramp, combo can no longer win on turn 1, blue combo decks will be much less consistent (also hindering control decks too), and aggro decks can't just run 4 zeniths and a bunch of bullets.
I think this will make the format better because really, any format where Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt are do nothings in half of your matchups is probably a pretty crummy format. At first I was a little taken aback by the list because it seems to go over far, couldn't just one of the blue cards have been axed instead of both? couldn't zenith get it's chance to really dominate? But honestly the only one that I see as silly is the Blazing Shoal ban. That deck was not hard to beat you just had to kill it's creatures. It did run a lot of counters but without Ponder and Preordain allowing it to create the perfect hand i don't think the deck would have consistently won through a removal spell or two.
It's all nothing anyways but I'll actually be glad to see Cryptic Command and Bloodbraid Elf rampaging a format again! I think that people who declare zoo the defacto deck for modern are missing 2 key points. Creature aggro is pretty dang easy to disrupt and you said the same thing a month ago and how did that turn out? Control decks will be much better without Cloudpost fueled Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn walloping you on the head any given moment and they love nothing quite so much as a nice Firespout your zoo board. Matter of fact if I was to build a deck right now to play in modern I think it would probably be UR Faeries. Spellstutter Sprite into Firespout with Magus of the Moon and Cryptic Command . Fun, right?
So without wasting any more time or words, I'm planning on having a modern playtest in between the FNM and the prerelease at Cosmic on Friday, as well as a modern tournament a week from wednesday where you are allowed to have any number of proxies! So bring your decks and your ideas, or you'll have to play with mine.
So for those of you who have been living under a rock, but want to stay there and not find out about the new set don't look further. For those of you who already know well you can skip the link. For those of you who don't, well here is the newest thing from WotC.
So I wanted to know how you feel about double face cards as a first blush emotion. Rate the mechanic for me from 1 (hate it) to 5 (love it). Based on nothing but your initial response.
Boy have I got a treat for you guys today! I've stumbled across a combo idea that I am really fond of and it is totally a Riosian deck! So this one's for you Miguel!
Modern is looking more and more awesome, I think you guys will like this format a lot!
Another day, another dollar, and another batch of modern talking. So yesterday I went through an aggro deck, a combo deck, and a control deck. I liked the way that went and feel like it gave the article a good tempo so lets try it again today!
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