Hey all, I’m Steve Pearlman. Professionally, I’m a software engineer, but my real passion is Magic: the Gathering. I’ve been playing on/off for the last 25 years. I’ve had many successful finishes, but nothing quite like ChannelFireball’s MTG Vegas. I prepared for Las Vegas for the past several months and played virtually every single deck. Ultimately, I piloted Four-Color Indomitable Creativity to the finals.
Modern Four Color Creativity by Steve Pearlman
My repertoire of decks included BR/Mardu Lurrus, Creativity, Eldrazi Tron, Hammertime, Mill and UW Control. I played a reasonable amount of Rhinos and Living End as well, but decided against bringing them since people were certainly going to be prepared. In a similar vein. I was also wary about playing Hammertime. Mill treated me well in leagues; however, in every MTGO Challenge and ChannelFireball event I played in, I faced Burn twice and missed Top 8.
After accepting that Hammer and Mill were no longer options, I gravitated toward UW Control. While UW felt great, the potential of unintentional draws due to lack of closing ability, combined with the rise of four-color Omanth Control, made UW a less than appealing option. A few days before the tournament, I boiled down my two choices to: BR Lurrus and Creativity.
Rock decks will always be near and dear to my heart. I preferred BR Lurrus over Jund Sagavan since I wasn’t particularly impressed with Sagavan’s control matchup. Tarmogoyf is not well positioned versus control, and while Wrenn and Six with Urza’s Saga are fantastic, control – and many other decks – have plans for Urza’s Saga
Death’s Shadow variants have their perks, but BR Lurrus seemed a bit better positioned. It has good matchups against slower control decks due to Tourach, Dread Cantor, Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger and Dauthi Voidwalker along with a suite of discard spells. On top of that, the sheer amount of removal allows it to prey on a lot of the aggro decks. It’s a well rounded deck; however, I was a bit concerned about running into other rock decks tuned to win the mirror.
I ran four to five MTGO leagues with Creativity relatively early in the format, including Serra’s Emissary and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn variants. While these versions were certainly powerful, the Taking Turns suite necessary for Velomachus Lorehold made for a lot of clunky draws.
Without Serra’s Emissary, the straight Emrakul plan was sometimes just not enough to ensure that the combo finish would be successful. Wafo-Tapa introduced Fire // Ice to Creativity, and ManaCymbal later went on to win an MTGO challenge with a Serra’s Emissary/Emrakul Creativity deck, which got me to reconsider Creativity’s place in the metagame.
I studied ManaCymbal’s games and was impressed with this iteration of the deck. After making some tweaks, I 5-0ed an MTGO league and started testing with my playgroup.
However, some of the deck’s draws were non-functional; Creativity is sometimes its own worst enemy. In the early rounds at MTG Vegas, there could be a lot of Burn and Tron, which are tough matchups. Additionally, I feared running into UR Murktide and Grixis Dress Down Shadow, as those matchups can be slightly unfavorable. Finally, Cascade can also be tough for Creativity, so I needed to figure out a way to hedge against all of these decks.
The main deck is almost identical to ManaCymbal’s challenge win with some key changes. First, there’s a second Sacred Foundry in lieu of a second Steam Vents. I often found myself wanting to fetch another Sacred Foundry, especially given that my sideboard skews white.
The other change was to cut a Fire // Ice for a Faithful Mending. I wanted to address the Game 1 matchup against Burn, while also attempting to mitigate the deck’s awkwardness. Faithful Mending may look a bit peculiar at first, but the life gain against burn and aggro is crucial, and the ability for a combo-control deck to filter through cards is essential. We’re not in an environment where it’s common to Ice on turn three into a Creativity on turn four against control decks, so cutting a single Fire // Ice seemed acceptable.
I’ve always been unimpressed with Rest in Peace in Creativity. Wrenn and Six is such an important card in nearly every matchup that even against the decks where Rest in Peace shines (Living End, Jund Sagavan, and Yawgmoth), I rarely want to see more than one, and frankly, I’ve won the vast majority of my games against those decks without a Rest in Peace.
I think about Alpine Moon in a similar vein in that I don’t want to see more than one of them, and I think I can win my post-board matchups without it. However, I still want to have access to one. Finally, Wear // Tear has applications against Hammertime and Belcher, and some other decks, but Creativity already has so many tools against those decks that it felt unnecessary to run more than one.
Burn is by far Creativity’s most difficult matchup. Many people run Sunset Revelry and Timely Reinforcements, which on the surface make sense, but their utility against other decks is up for debate. Blossoming Calm, on the other hand, comes in against Burn, Living End (for Grief), Belcher and potentially BR Lurrus. Lightning Helix, along with Supreme Verdict, can come in against many creature-based decks, where Sunset Revelry or Timely Reinforcements are not exactly ideal. Being able to kill Dragon’s Rage Channeler is essential since it is a very problematic card if left unchecked.
Supreme Verdict is an innovation that looks a bit peculiar upon first glance, but served me quite well. The UR Murktide matchup is often extremely draw dependent, and it can be fairly problematic if they land an early, unanswered Murktide Regent.
Additionally, Verdict is great against decks like Grixis Death’s Shadow, Merfolk and Humans, which have proactive plans with disruption. Creativity already has a lot of tools against creature-based strategies, but I wanted to ensure that these decks would have a really tough time dealing with this list, even when it has suboptimal draws. The vast majority of the board is for noncreature decks, so solidifying the creature matchups with four cards seemed worth it.
Finally, we come to the suite of Veil of Summer, Flusterstorm and Dovin’s Veto. I expected many Lurrus discard decks at the tournament, so Veil was an auto-include since it does double duty against discard and counterspells. Flusterstorm and Dovin’s Veto are fantastic against the cascade decks and also great against the control decks. Dovin’s Veto also helps against Green Tron, which is not the best matchup.
I unfortunately did not take detailed notes for each match, so I’ll try to note anything that I do remember, and when I cannot, we’ll discuss some general matchup takeaways.
Round 1: 1-0, 2-1 – Burn
For anyone thinking about playing Creativity, Burn is by far the scariest matchup. They have a quick clock, with disruption for your combo, and sometimes your combo is not enough to guarantee victory. A burn-heavy hand is tough to race, whereas the creatures are a bit easier to handle. While I haven’t played a ton of this matchup, it really seems like you need at least two pieces of hate or an otherwise fantastic draw to stand a chance.
Luck was on my side when my opponent mulled to five against my seven in Game 3. I drew an early Faithful Mending, which helped significantly, but I couldn’t find any other life gain spells or a Creativity. I eventually got down to one life, with a Teferi, Time Raveler in play. My opponent plays Eidolon of the Great Revel and passes. I untap, play Nahiri, the Harbinger, exile the Eidolon and pass. My opponent plays another burn spell, which I counter with Dovin’s Veto, and then another burn spell.
With no answers in hand, and flashing back Faithful Mending leaving me with no mana, I would die to the burn spell. I sacrifice a Clue I had on board in response and draw a Blossoming Calm. After that, I still had the Teferi and a Faithful Mending in my graveyard, so at this point, I had the game locked. I eventually ultimate Nahiri and take the match.
Round 2: 2-0, 2-1 – UW Stoneforge
The general plan against UW Control is to overwhelm them with threats, namely planeswalkers. With this configuration of Creativity, you often win with planeswalkers and Dwarven Mine beats in lieu of Creativity, though if you manage to stick a Teferi, Time Raveler, you can of course instant speed a Creativity at the end of your opponent’s turn.
Dwarven Mine makes it difficult for your opponent to minus Teferi, since you can sacrifice a fetchland at the end of their turn to potentially attack and kill it. Against the Stoneforge Mystic variant of UW, it’s crucial to make sure that they don’t untap with Stoneforge. If they have counters to protect their Stoneforge Mystic, it may be tough to win.
I wasn’t exactly prepared for this deck, and don’t recall how I sideboarded. For traditional UW control, I sideboard the same as I do against Four Color Omanth, which can be seen below.
Round 3: 3-0, 2-1 – Amulet Titan
Round 4: 4-0, 2-1 – Jund Sagavan
My buddy plays a ton of Jund and gave me some sage advice: minimize their board, even if the trades feel suboptimal, and that’s exactly how I’ve been playing this matchup. Early delirious Dragon’s Rage Channelers combined with discard are scary. That being said, if you’re able to navigate to a state where you’re both in top deck mode, Creativity tends to top-deck better than Sagavan. Serra’s Emissary naming instant usually locks the game unless you’re facing lethal creature damage.
Round 5: 5-0, 2-1 – Four Color Omanth Yorion
This matchup is less scary than Kaheera, the Orphanguard version since the likelihood of them drawing Teferi, Solitude and Omnath is lower thanks to Yorion. It can be difficult to find a time to profitably Creativity, and Omnath is a fantastic answer to your planeswalkers. There aren’t many answers in this deck to Omnath, so Remanding it is ideal. Prismatic Ending helps, and it can be bounced by Jace or Teferi, but it’s a difficult balancing act. Utilizing Fire // Ice to be able to land a Teferi and Creativity on your opponent’s next turn is a good path to victory, but easier said than done. Serra’s Emissary is great, but the problem is that they have planeswalkers, Solitude and Verdict to deal with it, so Emissary and Emrakul are far from a lock against this deck.
Round 6: 6-0, 2-1 – Esper Ephemerate Reanimator
Reanimator’s ideal draws are difficult to beat, but Remand, Fire // Ice and the planeswalker suite put in a lot of work. While they have access to Teferi, Time Raveler and Solitude, they typically don’t play any counters main deck, so if you’re able to land a Teferi and protect it, you’ll likely be able to win. Being able to fetch for a Dwarven Mine to sacrifice to Archon of Cruelty’s ability can protect your planeswalkers quite well.
Round 7: 7-0, 2-0 – BR Lurrus
This matchup is similar to Jund Sagavan, but much scarier. BR has access to so many discard spells and a relatively fast clock, which can make it difficult for Creativity to combo. Tourach is by far the MVP of this matchup. Remanding it feels amazing, but if it resolves, it could be lights out for Creativity.
In Game 1, I managed to get a Nahiri to eight loyalty and protect it from an attack with a fetchland to get a Dwarven Mine, which allowed me to ultimate it on my turn to attack with an Emrakul for the win.
Round 8: 8-0, 2-0 BG Yawgmoth
Yawgmoth is all about controlling their mana dorks. Hard Evidence is great at blocking Strangleroot Geist, but if they have access to too much mana, they can easily assemble their combo and win the game. Remand is fairly strong against this deck, especially its namesake, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician. I typically try to Creativity for both Emrakul and Serra’s Emissary in this matchup, where Serra’s Emissary usually names planeswalker to protect your creatures from Grist, the Hunger Tide.
Game 2 was extremely memorable in that my opponent snap kept a seven-card hand, and I ended up having to mulligan down to four cards. They opened with a Thoughtseize, which left me with virtually nothing in hand, but I top-decked a Wrenn and Six, which allowed me to effectively un-mulligan, ping their mana dorks and ride a Creativity to victory.
Round 9: 8-1, 0-2 – Four Omanth Kaheera Control
This match is similar to what I described above for the Yorion version, but it more consistently draws its hate due to only being 60 cards. My opponent played and drew extremely well. In both games, they had four early counters, Wrenn and Six, Teferi, Time Raveler, Solitude and Omnath. There wasn’t much I was able to do. I was in really bad spots in both of the games and determined that I needed to cast Creativity and hope that they didn’t have the answers, but they did.
Round 10: 9-1, 2-0 – RUG Rhinos
While some versions of Creativity tend to struggle a bit against cascade decks, my sideboard was heavily tuned to beat cascade, especially Rhinos. Unfortunately for my opponent, they were not familiar with my deck.
In Game 1, I cast Hard Evidence on turn one. They correctly identified that the 0/3 Crab was likely important for me, but evoked a Fury a bit too early on in the matchup. I had Teferi on turn three, but chose to pass and instead Iced them on their upkeep (I was on the play). Next turn, instead of jamming Teferi, I held up Remand. They cast Shardless Agent, and I remanded the Crashing Footfalls. I had another Remand in hand and then went for my Teferi on turn five. The game ended shortly after that.
Post-board, it’s difficult for them to win due to the sheer amount of cards Creativity boards in. You need to realize that Blood Moon is in fact a threat, but as long as you play around it when able to/required, post-board games are generally good for Creativity.
Round 11:10-1, 2-1 – BG Yawgmoth
Generally the same as my previous match against BG Yawgmoth.
Round 12: 11-1, 2-1 – Feature Match against Jund Sagavan
Generally the same as my previous match against Jund Sagavan.
Round 13: 11-1-1 – Feature Match/Unintentional Draw against 4C Omnath Kaheera
Generally the same as my previous match against Four Color Omnath Kaheera, but I drew a bit better this time. Regardless, neither of us were able to close in Game 3, so we drew.
Round 14: 11-1-2
I had an intentional draw with Joel Lapray to lock my slot in the top 8!
Quarterfinals vs Joel Lapray on Hardened Scales, 12-1-2
1st — Joel Lapray leads the pack with a Hardened Scales Robots list that is playing a WItch's Oven in the Urza's Saga tutor package! pic.twitter.com/Gh85iPBemJ
— ChannelFireball (@ChannelFireball) November 21, 2021
In Game 1, Joel had an 11/11 Walking Ballista with Welding Jar backup. I managed to Creativity into an Emrakul, which was sad since had I gotten the Emissary, the game would have been locked. Joel unfortunately did not see a Crab that I had from Hard Evidence earlier in the game, so he went to attack with his Walking Ballista. I blocked with the crab. Next turn, I attacked with the Emrakul for the win.
After winning Game 1, I was extremely confident going into post-board games, where I would board out Emrakul, which didn’t seem ideal due to Hangarback Walker and all of the modular cards in Hardened Scales. Joel’s sideboard didn’t have much hate against me besides a Path to Exile, whereas I boarded in two Supreme Verdict, a Wear // Tear, Rest in Peace, Alpine Moon and two Lightning Helix.
My strategy here was to keep his board minimized at all costs even trading suboptimally. In Game 2, Joel went relatively wide with Urza’s Saga, but I was able to resolve a Supreme Verdict. He had a Welding Jar to preserve one of his creatures, and ended up having no other options than to go all in on a giant Inkmoth Nexus. I had the Prismari Command to clean up the Nexus, and ended up resolving three planeswalkers to win the match.
Semifinals vs Nathan Steuer on Jund Sagavan, 13-1-2
5th — Nathan Steuer decided to run back the list he played for the Season 2 Magic Online Champions Showcase, with a few changes.
"It's definitely different," he said. pic.twitter.com/XQRJNS66WS
— ChannelFireball (@ChannelFireball) November 21, 2021
I’ve played against Nathan before and was not happy to see that I was playing against him in the semifinals. He’s a fantastic player and while I’m very confident in my Jund Sagavan matchup, I’m not sure I’ve played against an opponent of his caliber on the deck.
I got a bit unlucky in Game 1. I naturally drew the Emrakul, and a turn or two later, Nathan attacked with a Ragavan, which exiled my Serra’s Emissary. Additionally, I couldn’t find a way to get my Emrakul back in my deck, and I just couldn’t stabilize, so I lost.
In Game 2, I had an Alpine Moon on turn 2 naming Urza’s Saga, and unfortunately for Nathan, he ended up drawing three that game, but no answer to the Moon. My draw wasn’t exactly spectacular, but I was patient with a Prismari Command in hand, which eventually allowed me to loot and create a Treasure token so that I could hard cast a Serra’s Emissary and name instant for the win.
Game 3 was scary. Nathan kept seven and I mulled down to five. He had a tiny Tarmogoyf and a non-delirious Dragon’s Rage Channeler. I had the feeling that he had more threats in hand, and I didn’t have what I needed. I tried very hard to sell him on the idea that I had a Supreme Verdict in hand. This way, I wouldn’t need to use anything on his threats, and he wouldn’t apply more pressure to me.
He eventually plays an Engineered Explosives, which made it difficult for me to combo off, but it also means that he can’t progress his board too much because he needs to constantly leave two mana up for the Explosives. I eventually sculpt a hand with Veil of Summer, Prismatic Ending and Creativity, with a Teferi, Time Raveler on board. He goes to attack Teferi, I instant speed Prismatic Ending the Explosives, sacrifice a fetchland to get a Dwarven Mine and cast Creativity to win the match.
Finals vs Edwin Colleran on BR Lurrus, 13-2-2
6th — Edwin Colleran brought a Rakdos deck designed to rip your hand apart, turbo Delirium or escape a Kroxa, and get you dead as fast as possible. pic.twitter.com/jJqkkjYTwD
— ChannelFireball (@ChannelFireball) November 21, 2021
I don’t think we could have asked for a better finals matchup. I’ve played both sides of this matchup before and it’s very scary for each of us, albeit Creativity is a bit unfavored. At any point, Creativity can top-deck and potentially just win the game instantly. There’s so much discard and cheap threats in Edwin’s BR Lurrus deck that Creativity can easily fall behind too quickly and be unable to survive long enough to assemble the combo or build a board with enough planeswalkers to achieve victory.
In Game 1, Edwin was on the play and had a very aggressive hand with two delirious Dragon’s Rage Channelers. I didn’t have the removal and my Crab couldn’t block flyers, so I died fairly quickly.
In Game 2, I had an early Teferi, which delayed things. Eventually Edwin got to four mana and cast a Tourach with kicker, but I had a very timely Veil of Summer, which eventually led me to be able to Creativity for the win.
In Game 3, Edwin made me discard my Creativity on turn one or two, and in typical MTGO fashion, I immediately top-decked another one. Later, Tourach came down, and I didn’t have a Fire // Ice to kill it with the trigger on the stack, or a Remand/Veil of Summer to answer it. I likely should have boarded in at least one, potentially two Blossoming Calms, but I got a bit overconfident. I ended up keeping one card in my hand – Indomitable Creativity. Unfortunately for me, I believe I had four draws to find a land for Creativity or removal or what have you, but I did not. His Tourach was huge and between it and a Dauthi Voidwalker combined with a Lightning Bolt in hand, Edwin had enough to win the game.
#MTGLasVegas Modern Finals begins now!
 Edwin Colleran (Rakdos Aggro) vs  Steve Pearlman (Jeskai Creativity) pic.twitter.com/7nLoc4gbvd
— ChannelFireball (@ChannelFireball) November 21, 2021
After 17 rounds of play, it was hard not to be a bit upset about losing in the finals, but it was an incredible run. Edwin played extremely well, and I was really happy for him. This was a really tough tournament, and winning it is a huge accomplishment. Congratulations Edwin!
As for me, this was my first giant tournament top 8, let alone finals appearance, so I’m as high on Magic and Modern as I’ve ever been. I had a lot of friends there giving me support, which made it even better. Now that I’ve finally broken the seal, I’m excited for what lies ahead. You’ll be hearing from me again!