As many of you know our team is now sponsored by CFB. Somewhere in the fine print of the sponsorship agreement there was some little clause about having to write an article if you Top 16 a PT. Which led to the following conversation:
Me: If I’m reading this correctly if I top 16, I’ll have to write an article.
Jon: Is that a big deal?
Me: Well I don’t really write articles.
Jon: Don’t worry about it, you won’t Top 16.
The December tournament lull meant that I got to start testing Modern on MTGO early. After many games with various decks, the decks I was doing best with were Twin and a GBW Junk deck. However, the GWB deck was a pretty big dog to Pod which is not a great place to be given Pod’s recent dominance at GPs. After some more grinding and a completely uninteresting Born of the Gods spoiler there was nothing left to do but wait for the banned list.
The banned list was obviously a huge shakeup—Jund/Junk decks took a major hit and it looked like Zoo and Fae were about to make huge comebacks. These changes were likely to have huge repercussions throughout the metagame.
On Wednesday a week before the PT, a few minutes before the midnight deadline we finally submitted the brief that we had been working on pretty much non-stop for the last two weeks, which meant a) I could sleep b) I could spend most of Thursday at home with my kid and c) it was time to start thinking about the PT.
On the last point I actually felt reasonably prepared. I had played a lot of Modern with various decks before the bannings, so all that was left to determine was how good Zoo and Fae were and how the changes will affect the metagame.
Thus it was time to head to the CFB Pantheon house in Valencia. Unfortunately the airline industry is run by a super computer that someone spilled Kool-Aid onto, and the most direct route between New York and Valencia involved a layover in Istanbul. Luckily the flight went reasonably well and 7 movies and a short nap later I was waiting for none other than Kai Budde himself to pick me up from the airport.
When we got to the house a draft was about to fire, of which I was randomly selected to sit out, a fact that Jon Finkel couldn’t help but rub it in. So I calmly walked over to him and pretended to spill beer on him, unfortunately the jet lag + my great natural coordination meant that the first thing I did upon arriving at the house was spill beer on Jon.
The rest of the day went reasonably well, except for the fact that the house had decided to kill me. I was minding my own business and observing a game while kneeling on a desk chair so that chest was up against the back rest, when all of the sudden the back rest just flies off, thus causing me to fall and impale myself on the metal rod that a second ago was holding up said back rest.
A few hours later I’m simply walking in the middle of the living room when the fireplace jumps out at me and the metal handle that’s used to open the chimney gets my leg, which a) hurts my leg and b) shatters the glass screen on the fireplace. Then it’s time for bed. Unfortunately, when I lay down on my bed I’m greeted by a loud boom of one of the slats falling out. I figure that trying to fix the bed in the middle of the night is a bad idea so I just stay as still as possible and fall asleep.
At around 5 a.m. I shift a little and BAM goes another slat. A few minutes later there’s another BAM and and at this point the mattress feels like it’s about to fall through the bed. So I get up, take the mattress off, raise the bed so it’s flat against the wall, and slide the mattress where the bed used to be. This is a bad idea, as the mattress hits the bed which then promptly falls on my head. So I grab the bed and move it to the other side of the room and pass out on the mattress. I wake up with blood on my pillow and a scar on my chest and a throbbing leg, but other than that I feel pretty good.
It was time to figure out what on earth I wanted to play.
Fae seems to be much weaker than expected and doesn’t look like it will have an impact on the metagame. Zoo on the other hand was as good as advertised and invalidated most of our brews, causing significant trouble for my front runner: Twin. The fast clock plus infinite removal is a real problem, especially after sideboard when Zoo gets to cut some of its more clunky cards and focus on killing Exarchs and you.
While most of the decks I wanted to play seemed to suck, Jonny Magic was doing what he does best—quietly crushing everyone with Storm. Now normally when someone on the team has a deck that’s crushing everything it’s a no brainer to simply join then. However, this is a bit different.
First, it’s Jonny Magic, and as most of you know he could probably crush everyone with the proverbial ham sandwich. Second, I had previously played Storm at PT Philly, PT Seattle, and some GP I’ve tried very hard to forget and failed to cash at each. Thus on the scale of obviously playing it and never again, Storm was pretty firmly at the “never again” end of the spectrum. That being said, playing [ccProd]Wild Nacatl[/ccProd]s at the PT was less than alluring, so I decided to give Storm another chance.
Two things became apparent very quickly: a) the deck was very good b) I was quite bad with it. Thus if I wanted to play the deck I had to get better. Luckily, Jon seemed more than willing to point out every single misplay I made, thus helping me get better. So for the rest of the week my time was split between helping others test their decks, drafting, and learning to play Storm.
Here is the list we settled on:[ccdeck]3 Island
3 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Shivan Reef
2 Steam Vents
4 Goblin Electromancer
3 Desperate Ravings
4 Desperate Ritual
4 Gitaxian Probe
3 Past in Flames
4 Pyretic Ritual
4 Pyromancer Ascension
4 Serum Visions
4 Sleight of Hand
4 Thought Scour
3 Blood Moon
1 Defense Grid
1 Echoing Truth
3 Empty the Warrens
4 Lightning Bolt
Before I knew it, it was time for the PT. The first draft went ok, I ended up with a decent UW deck that was a few cards short of great. Luckily the overall power level of the draft was not too high and few ginormous [ccProd]Akrosian Skyguard[/ccProd]s, extremely [ccProd]Favored Hoplite[/ccProd]s, and inspired [ccProd]Wind Drake[/ccProd] armies later I was off to an 3-0 start.
First up in Modern were two Merfolk decks. Overall, though I did lose a game in each match, the matchup is quite easy. They’re clock is not that fast and while they have quite a bit of disruption, especially post-sideboard, it’s hard for them to develop and disrupt at the same time, meaning they either have to tap out and die or give you time and then die.
In one of the games, realizing that his counterspells were rather useless if I could resolve a [ccProd]Pyromancer Ascension[/ccProd], my opponent chose to keep [ccProd]Spell Pierce[/ccProd] up for my turn two instead of leading with [ccProd]Aether Vial[/ccProd]. I had the Ascension in hand, but I also had a [ccProd]Gitaxian Probe[/ccProd] and saw that he had Spell Pierce up, but no answer to a [ccProd]Goblin Electromancer[/ccProd], so I simply played the Goblin instead, and a few turn later he was dead.
My Round 6 was against Bogles. This is normally a good matchup as the decks don’t really interact (at least not game 1) and you are faster. Unfortunately, I had one of those draws that just didn’t do anything and died on turn 4 or 5. In game two I brought in [ccProd]Blood Moon[/ccProd], and when his turn 1 was [ccProd]Razorverge Thicket[/ccProd] into a 1/1 hexproof, I simply went Ritual, Blood Moon, go, and he scooped up his cards within a turn or two. Unfortunately, in game 3 he was on the play, and while I very likely had a turn 3 kill he had a turn 2 [ccProd]Rest in Peace[/ccProd] which derailed that plan and left me to die a slow (well not that slow) agonizing death while I dug for my [ccProd]Echoing Truth[/ccProd].
Round 7 was against one of the more aggressive variants of Zoo. Game 1 he killed me on turn 4 and had Bolt for my [ccProd]Electromancer[/ccProd], which stopped me from going off. Game 2 he led with turn one [ccProd]Experiment One[/ccProd], which I met with a [ccProd]Grapeshot[/ccProd], then he went [ccProd]Kird Ape[/ccProd], [ccProd]Loam Lion[/ccProd] on turn 2. When I Probed him on turn 3 his hand was fetchland, [ccProd]Goblin Guide[/ccProd], [ccProd]Boros Charm[/ccProd], [ccProd]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Kird Ape[/ccProd], so I calmly played [ccProd]Blood Moon[/ccProd], figuring his 1/1 Ape and Lion were not going to be much of a threat and I should have 2-3 turn to kill him at my leisure. Instead he ripped a Forest, hit me for a bunch including a +4 from the Rampager. I Bolted a guy or two took some more damage the following turn to go to 2, looked at his hand, and saw that he had no burn spells, so I was able to Grapeshot away all of his guys and set up an almost certain kill the following turn. Unfortunately he drew a [ccProd]Pillar of Flame[/ccProd] and killed me.
Round 8 was against UWR, in the first game his disruption was enough to slow me down long enough for him to kill me with a [ccProd]Vendilion Clique[/ccProd] and a [ccProd]Celestial Colonnade[/ccProd] attack. Game 2 was a really drawn out game where we played draw-go for a really long time until eventually, I Emptied the Warrens for a bunch which he countered with an overloaded [ccProd]Counterflux[/ccProd]. This gave me an opening to stick an Ascension, and he died shortly thereafter.
Unfortunately we were down to 10 minutes for game 3. My turn 2 Ascension met [ccProd]Spell Snare[/ccProd]. This is when I panicked and likely threw the game away. Normally I would have been more patient, but time was running low and I felt like I needed to make something happen, so I tried to Ritual twice into an Empty the Warrens. He had [ccProd]Snapcaster[/ccProd] for Spell Snare for the second Ritual. The following turn I went for it again, this time off a Goblin Electromancer into a Ritual into Empty, but he had an overloaded [ccProd]Counterflux[/ccProd] for the Empty and I was out of gas. A Geist and a Colonnade made short work of me.
Thus, despite an extremely promising start, I finished Day One at 5-3.
The second draft was strange. I opened [ccProd]Felhide Spiritbinder[/ccProd], which I was a bit hesitant to take because Paul Rietzl, a lifelong member of the Boros guild, is passing to me. Nonetheless the rest of the cards in the pack are quite bad so I take the Spiritbinder. The next pack [ccProd]Kragma Butcher[/ccProd] is clearly the best card in the pack. Then third pick I take [ccProd]Rise to the Challenge[/ccProd] over a collection of extremely uninspiring cards and then get passed a [ccProd]Fanatic of Xenagos[/ccProd] 4th. While RG is not really where one wants to be in Theros/Born of the Gods draft, I dislike it less than most and a 4th-pick [ccProd]Fanatic of Xenagos[/ccProd] is a clear sign that it’s open so I move in.
The rest of the draft I spend assembling a collection of mediocre 2/1s such as [ccProd]Reckless Reveler[/ccProd] and some rather situational cards like [ccProd]Shredding Winds[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Scouring Sands[/ccProd] (though generally speaking I like one Scouring Sands in most of my red decks). That being said the cards I’m passing appear to be even worse so I’m not too disappointed with my deck.
First round of the draft I face a GW opponent who pretty much singlehandedly loses both games to [ccProd]Felhide Spiritbinder[/ccProd] + [ccProd]Ordeal of Purphoros[/ccProd]. Some assorted other 2/1 were involved, but the only thing that mattered was the Spiritbinder + Ordeal. It also didn’t hurt that my opponent tapped out for a [ccProd]Noble Quarry[/ccProd], putting himself dead on board to untap Spiritbinder, copy Noble Quarry, attack with the team.
In one of the games I had an interesting decision on turn 2, some variation of which comes up rather often in this format: My opponent lead with a turn 2 [ccProd]Akroan Skyguard[/ccProd] on the play. On my turn 2 I played a Forest giving me access to both red and green mana. My hand was [ccProd]Voyaging Satyr[/ccProd], [ccProd]Felhide Spiritbinder[/ccProd], [ccProd]Scouring Sands[/ccProd], [ccProd]Kragma Butcher[/ccProd], [ccProd]Ordeal of Purphoros[/ccProd], [ccProd]Unravel the Aether[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Nyxborn Rollicker[/ccProd], but no land #3. Do you play Voyaging Satyr allowing you to possibly ramp into Felhide Spiritbinder, or do you play Scouring Sands?
I played the Scouring Sands, but would love to know what everyone else would have done.
Round 2 I played a UW deck and my opponent actually called a judge to check if the [ccProd]Shredding Winds[/ccProd] that took down his [ccProd]Coastline Chimera[/ccProd] was in fact maindeck. Game 2 was particularly interesting, I had gotten some early beats in, but he stopped me when his [ccProd]Artisan of Forms[/ccProd] copied my [ccProd]Nemesis of Mortals[/ccProd] thanks to an [ccProd]Observant Alseid[/ccProd]. Thus for a while we were reduced to staring at each other while we both drew blanks. Finally my opponent drew a [ccProd]Hopeful Eidolon[/ccProd] and gave his Artisan/Nemesis/Alseid combination lifelink and tried to attack. I backed him up to beginning of combat and used a [ccProd]Destructive Revelry[/ccProd] on the Observant Alseid and asked if he still wanted to attack, he did, which allowed me to Unravel the Hopeful Eidolon, take 5 then untap, Shreding Winds his Coastline Chimera, and attack for exactsies.
Round 3, I played a UB deck. Game 2 he defeated me pretty much entirely on the back of [ccProd]Baleful Eidolon[/ccProd] + [ccProd]Servant of Tymaret[/ccProd]. One would think that a 2/4 deathtouch that drained for 1 wouldn’t be that much of a problem, but to my army of 2/1s it felt about as unbeatable as an Elspeth (did I mention the low power level of this draft?). Game 3 I got some beats in partly thanks to a Rise to the Challenge that took down the aforementioned unbeatable 1/3. However, my team was soon stopped by two [ccProd]Returned Centaur[/ccProd]s (did I mention our decks were all gas?). Luckily when he tried to stick me with a [ccProd]Akroan Horse[/ccProd] I stopped him, put the “you get this” trigger on the stack and blew it up with a Destructive Revelry putting him low enough so that my attack was effectively lethal.
At 8-3 it was time for more Modern.
Round 12 I played against RWU again. Game 2 he led with turn 2 Rest in Peace on the play. I Emptied for 6, he had [ccProd]Anger of the Gods[/ccProd], I Emptied for 6 again he had Anger of the Gods again, I was now down to my last Empty in the deck and he was at 16 with a [ccProd]Restoration Angel[/ccProd] in play, while I was at 10. I had exactly enough gas to Empty for 6 again if I chose to do so. The problem was that because he had the Angel he could just block take 5 block take 4 block take 3 block take 2 block take 1 and go to exactly 1, which means I would be down to one Grapeshot as the only live card left in my deck. Unfortunately, each turn I do nothing is another hit from the Angel putting me closer to dead.
I decided to go for it, Emptied for 6, got him down to 1, and then died.
On turn 2 of game 3 I Probe him to reveal that he has kept a one-land Rest in Peace hand, so I Ritual out a Blood Moon on turn 2, he draws a bunch of fetch lands, plays a Lightning Bolt or two and then dies.
Round 13 I had a feature match against Pod. Honestly I don’t remember this match as well as I should, but I feel like I probably punted game one. I’m pretty sure he played a turn 1 [ccProd]Noble Hierarch[/ccProd] into turn 2 [ccProd]Birthing Pod[/ccProd] into turn 3 [ccProd]Kitchen Finks[/ccProd]—Pod Kitchen Finks get [ccProd]Ranger of Eos[/ccProd], search for [ccProd]Viscera Seer[/ccProd] + [ccProd]Noble Hierarch[/ccProd]. So I assumed it was very likely that I was either dead or he was going to have infinite life next turn. In reality, it was only Melira, or land + Finks, or Chord, or 2nd Pod, so perhaps I wasn’t as dead as I thought I was.
Regardless, I went for it, but didn’t get there and had to settle for a Grapeshot’ing his guys and leaving an Ascension in play. However, looking back at that game I’m pretty sure I still had a Ritual left in the ‘yard I could have flashed back. I don’t remember exactly why that ended up being the case, but a) I feel like that can’t be right b) I’m pretty sure that at some point I had 2 mana with a [ccProd]Manamorphose[/ccProd] on top of my deck and an Ascension that was about to turn on, however because I didn’t have the extra red in my pool I couldn’t just flashback a blue spell, turn on my Ascension and draw the Manamorphose that was on top of my deck, cast it, and copy, which likely would have been enough mana/cards to kill go off. Instead I ended up having to pass with an an active Ascension (I honestly don’t remember if I ended up Grapeshot’ing his team which set him back enough to avoid losing or if I just passed and he didn’t have it). Either way on his turn he blew up my Ascension and killed me half a turn before I could go off again.
Game 2 was also very close. This time a Grapeshot + a chump block with an Electromancer left me at exactly 1, buying the turn I needed to go off.
Game 3 I thought I could buy a turn by Grapeshot’ing his team, but he used [ccProd]Chord of Calling[/ccProd] (which I knew about) to get [ccProd]Orzhov Pontiff[/ccProd] saving his team and putting me exactly dead to his attack + [ccProd]Gavony Township[/ccProd] activation. Honestly, I didn’t consider Pontiff as something he could get with Chord, which was clearly a mistake—that being said, given that he had it in his deck, I don’t know if there was anything I could have done to win game 3.
Round 14 I plead against RW Planeswalkers. In game 2, I figured he would have infinite hate, however when I Probed him on turn 2 all I saw was more planeswalkers. I failed to draw a second land and then one of those planeswalkers started keeping my only land tapped, and when I finally drew land #2 they were both boiled away. Eventually the Ajani started doming me, which, with the help of Gideon, was enough to kill me.
Game 3, I Probed him saw that he didn’t have an answer to lots of Goblins, so I made lots of Goblins and turned them sideways for a few turns.
Round 14 I battled against RWU Twin. Both games I got active Ascensions reasonably quickly and killed him. Though in the second game he had a [ccProd]Grafdigger’s Cage[/ccProd] on turn one which slowed me down enough that I couldn’t kill him for a while and even gave him a draw phase where a [ccProd]Splinter Twin[/ccProd] would have been lethal. I actually got two active Ascensions rather quickly, but couldn’t find a blue card to copy for a turn or two. Eventually, I found one which dug me into an [ccProd]Echoing Truth[/ccProd] and after I explained to my opponent why his overloaded [ccProd]Counterflux[/ccProd] couldn’t counter all of the Echoing Truth copies he conceded.
Round 15: ID into Top 16.
Overall, I was reasonably happy with Storm as my deck of choice. Jon tells me that overall—excluding mirrors and IDs—Jon, Kai, Tom, Rich, and I went 30-15 with it, which is pretty good. I feel like at least two of my losses might have been wins with better play. Regardless, since a copy made Top 8, it will probably have a target on its back, and I will likely play something else at GP Richmond.