I love Gifts Ungiven. So, apparently, does U.S. National Champion Ali Aintrazi.
I purchased four immediately after it came out and have hung on to the same four copies ever since. I love Gifts Ungiven so much, a chat on Wizard’s fancy new live chat coverage feature turned into me being asked to make Gifts Ungiven piles out of cupcakes. I would pour Gifts Ungiven on my cereal every morning if I could.
So you can imagine my pure, unadulterated, Christmas-morning-like joy when I walked by the U.S.A. team playing last night and Aintrazi was unwrapping some gifts his opponent certainly did not want him to have.
Aintrazi had taken on Modern for the U.S. team with the latest update of the classic UW Gifts Tron, which uses the Urza Tron (Urza’s Tower, Urza’s Mine, and Urza’s Power Plant) to make a ton of mana and Gifts Ungiven to dig up missing Tron pieces or find the late game Mindslaver, Sundering Titan or Batterskull.
I was thrilled to see the Tron pieces return, since Tron was big mana before Cloudpost ever met Vesuva. And with Cloudpost banned from the format, the Urza lands are poised to fill the niche left open by the Loci menace.
Aintrazi said the bannings crippled combo enough to create an opening for control to creep back into the format. He and Shaheen Soorani brewed up the list together, and so far he’s been happy with it.
“I has answers for everything,” Aintrazi said. Gifts Ungiven itself, he said was “pretty slow, but it’s just so powerful in this deck.”
Aintrazi said he had strong matchups against beatdown decks thanks to four Path to Exile and a number of sweepers that included Martial Coup, Engineered Explosives, Hallowed Burial and more.
Besides Gifts Ungiven itself, the deck has a lot of card draw and filtering. Thirst for Knowledge works well with the deck’s plethora of artifacts and pair of Academy Ruins, and Condescend lets Aintrazi protect himself early while filtering through the top of his library.
Finally, the Gifts piles, which are always interesting to see. Aintrazi has chosen to go with Mindslaver, Sundering Titan and two Batterskulls as ways to close the game, plus the two Academy Ruins, Crucible of Worlds and Tolaria West as ways to get exactly what he wants no matter how his opponent chooses.
For example, if he’s missing a piece of the Tron puzzle, he can get Crucible of Worlds, Academy Ruins, Tolaria West and the missing Urza land. From there, any combination of cards given to him will eventually result in the full set of Urza lands making it into play. It can be slow, but the rewards are often worth it.
His sideboard is 11 one-ofs and 4 Timely Reinforcements. The Reinforcements shore up his game against aggressive decks while the one-ofs provide redundant answers to a multitude of the format’s problems.
With such a deep card pool available in Modern, Aintrazi was able to set up a sideboard full of cards with different names that do essentially the same thing. For example, against Splinter Twin he has cards such as Damping Matrix, Torpor Orb and Ghostly Prison that all make comboing virtually impossible while in play. Against storm decks he has Rule of Law and Ethersworn Cannonist.
He even had the spicy Phyrexian Unlife, which can gain him a virtual 10 life or more. One trick Aintrazi pointed out was that if an attack drops him to zero or less, none of the creatures get Infect until after the damage has been dealt. Then he can cast Timely Reinforcements and they have to work again to get him back to zero.
And because they’re all slightly different, they have applications in other matches. For example, against blue-black Faeries yesterday Aintrazi brought in Torpor Orb and Ghostly Prison to gum up Faeries’ ability to play with a bunch of Flash creatures with comes into play abilities.
Aintrazi went on to ride his mana advantage to a win against Faeries (technically they drew, but Aintrazi had his opponent locked under Mindslaver as time was called), then beat Affinity the second round of team play. He said he’s enjoying the deck and could see himself playing it on Saturday with a few tweaks.
And since I'm sure many of you will want a decklist, I'll let you know we're going to hold off on that in case Aintrazi decides to play the deck on Saturday. Look for a list to go up once all is said and done.