I remember when I first heard of the Magic Pro Tour in May, 2010 during PT San Juan. I had been playing FNM for a few months, but had no idea that Magic tournaments extended further. I was enchanted by the Pro Tour dream, instantly looking up nearby Pro Tour Qualifiers and Grand Prix Trials. I have never wanted anything as much as I wanted to win a Pro Tour—and my second place finish this past weekend only reinforced my passion. It is great to be a Pro Tour finalist—however, I always dreamt of something slightly different.
To prepare for the Pro Tour I flew into Valencia Saturday morning, six days before the event. My spring break/reading week happened upon the week prior to the Pro Tour so I was able to schedule a nine-day trip without missing a single day of school (the first of many fortunate events). Each day I played or discussed Magic for at least 12 hours.
I believed Melira Pod was the premier deck of the format after the recent bannings. Luckily for me, I had two people on my team who had won recent Grand Prix with Melira Pod—Sam Pardee and Josh McClain. Because I trusted in Sam and Josh to come up with a tuned list, I focused my efforts elsewhere just in case I found something superior. I played a significant amount of games piloting Scapeshift, Jund, BW Tokens, UW Control, Zoo, and UR Splinter Twin.
Even though I found all of these decks inferior to Melira Pod, the work was not fruitless. Simply playing with these decks furthered my understanding of Modern. I watched Sam and Josh play the deck quite a bit to gain a better understanding of things they did that were perhaps not obvious. After talking to them about the deck, my basic takeaway was that Melira Pod is not primarily a combo deck that attempts to set up the combo as rapidly as possible. The way that I prefer to play the deck is as an attrition-based strategy, similar to Jund decks of the past. With mostly efficient value creatures and some disruption, including [ccProd]Abrupt Decay[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] (after sideboard), Melira has many parallels to Jund. Think of [ccProd]Birthing Pod[/ccProd] as a planeswalker with several abilities and aim to primarily disrupt whatever your opponent is doing rather than further your own combo.
In every Limited format I try to find the most extreme aggressive archetype. Keep in mind that my first limited experiences were with Zendikar, the most aggressive and punishing Limited format, so I am still recovering from [ccProd]Vampire Lacerator[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Plated Geopede[/ccProd] induced PTSD. In triple-Theros Limited the best aggressive options were red/white or white/blue heroic, and I was curious how BNG changed the draft format. I discussed all of the Born of the Gods commons and uncommons to see how the colors compared to each other and to find any positive interactions between the two sets. Red is by far the highest and deepest quality color in Born of the Gods. Here is my ranking of the BNG red commons and uncommons:
1. [ccProd]Everflame Eidolon[/ccProd] 2. [ccProd]Akroan Conscriptor[/ccProd] 3. [ccProd]Fall of the Hammer[/ccProd] 4. [ccProd]Bolt of Keranos[/ccProd] 5. [ccProd]Satyr Nyx-Smith[/ccProd] 6. [ccProd]Kragma Butcher[/ccProd] 7. [ccProd]Thunderous Might[/ccProd] 8. [ccProd]Fearsome Temper[/ccProd] 9. [ccProd]Thunder Brute[/ccProd] 10. [ccProd]Pinnacle of Rage[/ccProd] 11. [ccProd]Rise to the Challenge[/ccProd] 12. [ccProd]Searing Blood[/ccProd] 13. [ccProd]Archetype of Aggression[/ccProd] 14. [ccProd]Impetuous Sunchaser[/ccProd] 15. [ccProd]Reckless Reveler[/ccProd] 16. [ccProd]Nyxborn Rollicker[/ccProd] 17. [ccProd]Pharagax Giant[/ccProd] 18. [ccProd]Stormcaller of Keranos[/ccProd] 19. [ccProd]Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass[/ccProd] 20. [ccProd]Lightning Volley[/ccProd] 21. [ccProd]Scouring Sands[/ccProd] 22. [ccProd]Ephiphany Storm[/ccProd]
Regardless if you disagree with a specific ranking, it is obvious that red is extremely deep. The tenth best red card would be one of the top cards in the other colors.
Through many RW aggro drafts, I made a few observations:
• Single-colored cards are preferable to double-colored cards almost always, because of the low land counts of these decks and how critical it is to curve out on time.[[ccProd]Kragma Warcaller[/ccProd] > [ccProd]Archetype of Aggression[/ccProd]] [[ccProd]Oreskos Sun Guide[/ccProd] > [ccProd]Vanguard of Brimaz[/ccProd]]
The main exceptions to this rule of thumb are [ccProd]Wingsteed Rider[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Archetype of Courage[/ccProd], each of whose power is strong enough to compensate for its demanding cost.
• [ccProd]Coordinated Assault[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Dauntless Onslaught[/ccProd] are the two best RW tricks, and with a sufficient number of cheap heroic creatures their stock can potentially rise above premium cards like [ccProd]Lightning Strike[/ccProd]. Tricks that ensure that your creature will survive combat, by granting at least a 2-toughness or first strike bonus, are preferable to cards like [ccProd]Mortal’s Ardor[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Titan’s Strength[/ccProd].
• Ordeals have become the best uncommons in Theros because of the lack of quality, unconditional removal in BNG and the quickened pace of the format. This change in turn increases the value of one-drop creatures like [ccProd]Favored Hoplite[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Akroan Crusader[/ccProd], which were already great cards.
The location of PT Born of the Gods, Valencia was definitely the prettiest I have ever attended. Walking around the site was surreal, it felt as if we were inside a fantastical amusement park. Here is a photo I took of the site from the window of my 22nd floor apartment and then one much closer.
Here is the list Sam, Josh, and I submitted:[ccDeck]4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Godless Shrine
1 Temple Garden
1 Woodland Cemetery
3 Razorverge Thicket
3 Gavony Township
4 Birds of Paradise
3 Noble Hierarch
1 Viscera Seer
1 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
2 Wall of Roots
2 Voice of Resurgence
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Eternal Witness
4 Kitchen Finks
1 Orzhov Pontiff
1 Ranger of Eos
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
2 Murderous Redcap
2 Abrupt Decay
3 Chord of Calling
4 Birthing Pod
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Sin Collector
1 Entomber Exarch
2 Path to Exile
2 Slaughter Pact
1 Obstinate Baloth
1 Harmonic Sliver
1 Kataki, War’s Wage
1 Voice of Resurgence[/ccDeck]
Almost all of our decisions about the deck were based on Zoo being the most popular archetype in the tournament and our biggest competition.
• Adding [ccProd]Shriekmaw[/ccProd] main deck instead of sideboard, primarily to kill [ccProd]Tarmogoyf[/ccProd].
• Adding 2nd [ccProd]Wall of Roots[/ccProd] to block and compensate for the expensive [ccProd]Chord of Calling[/ccProd].
• Cutting the [ccProd]Spike Feeder[/ccProd] + [ccProd]Archangel of Thune[/ccProd] combo—it’s too expensive and not resilient to removal.
• [ccProd]Path to Exile[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Slaughter Pact[/ccProd] as sideboard removal choices instead of [ccProd]Dismember[/ccProd]—they’re cheaper in mana/life and better against [ccProd]Mutagenic Growth[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/ccProd].
The night before the PT, I could not find [ccProd]Entomber Exarch[/ccProd] from the dealer booths or any of my teammates. I ended up asking Josh Utter-Leyton who eventually was able to borrow it from Pat Cox (Thanks!). There’s a tremendous amount of secrecy on the Pro Tour concerning Constructed decks. I feel this aspect of the PT is mostly an annoyance and extremely minor in terms of the advantage it generates—so I was not overly concerned with the fact that many people would know what deck I was playing. The alternative—not playing Entomber Exarch—was not an option. (The Exarch won me at least three matches!)
My first draft pod was quite difficult, and placed me passing directly to two of my teammates.
(In seat order: 1-8)
Jun Young Park
In round one I made a ridiculous error by misclicking. I had two combat tricks in hand, decided what was best and then just pointed to the incorrect creature when I cast the first trick. After losing in such fashion I was extremely frustrated. The Pro Tour is the highest level of competition and only occurs four times a year; after preparing so intensely and feeling excited to finally do well, this mistake was certainly a reality check. There is so little margin for error on the Pro Tour that I knew this round was the only loss I had to spare, and I would need to tighten up for the rest of the tournament.
I won the next six rounds somewhat uneventfully, beating Infect, Zoo, Affinity, and Scapeshift in the first four rounds of Modern.
In the final round of the day I played against Storm. After mulliganing to three in game two I had managed to put my opponent dead on board needing to draw a mana source to win. Even though I was aware that there were several outs this loss left me particularly frustrated. Many of my friends commented that they had never seen me so tilted.
Day 1: 6-2
My two losses on Day One came from a combination of my own foolish mistakes and exceptional variance. Even though I was pretty annoyed, I felt great about my chances to Day Two if I received a little bit of luck and focused more.
My second draft pod once again placed me next to a teammate in a similarly difficult group. I recognized every player, and knew I was not in for a stroll in the park these three rounds.
(Seat order: 1-8)
Arjan van Leeuwen
Fortunately the draft went perfectly and I was extremely happy with my deck. I would rate it an 8/10 only because the majority of the creatures are mediocre. There was an interesting pick in pack three, pick two: [ccProd]Hammer of Purphurous[/ccProd] vs. [ccProd]Akroan Crusader[/ccProd] (I chose Akroan Crusader). Every respectable player I asked about it instantly chose Hammer.
Nevertheless, I stand by my pick. I’ve had the opportunity to play Hammer in many decks. I believe it to be quite poor in aggressive decks with small creatures and low land counts, it is best in slower decks with expensive creatures.
Draft deck list:[ccDeck]12 Mountain
1 Dragon Mantle
2 Titan’s Strength
1 Coordinated Assault
2 Rise to the Challenge
2 Fall of the Hammer
2 Dauntless Onslaught
1 Fearsome Temper
3 Akroan Crusader
1 Impetuous Sunchaser
1 Satyr Rambler
1 Deathbellow Raider
1 Bronze Sable
3 Satyr Nyx-Smith
1 Kragma Warcaller
1 Ill-Tempered Cyclops
1 Pharagax Giant[/ccDeck]
Being the winner of this difficult draft pod was satisfying and certainly a confidence boost. Every round I sideboarded out Pharagax Giant and one Mountain for two Spark Jolt. I chose to do this anticipating that my opponent would board in cheap 1-toughness creatures to combat my aggressive deck, and because I would be on the draw I could afford to have one fewer land. Because this strategy worked out so well I began to think about sideboarding out a land more often. This idea is something that I want to explore more in both Limited and Constructed in the future.
I won the next three rounds of Constructed fairly smoothly, including written and video feature matches in rounds 13 and 14. In rounds 12 and 13 I was fortunate enough to play against Hexproof Boggles both times, which performed quite well in the tournament overall. Having many expendable creatures combined with Spellskite, ways to tutor for it, and Abrupt Decay all in game one makes the matchup extremely favorable.
I considered playing rounds 15 and 16, ultimately deciding that intentionally drawing was in my best interest. Just like that, I had won all of my matches on Day Two and was in the Top 8 of a Pro Tour! Because of my draws I had the opportunity to watch Sam Pardee play for Top 8 in two consecutive rounds. It was very disappointing to see him lose; however, he reacted in a very impressive way. Sam changed his flight from Sunday morning to Monday in order to stay up all night testing my matchups with the rest of my teammates while I slept. I have definitely heard stories of teams testing all night for the Top 8, but to be on the receiving end of such generosity and unity was still pretty astounding.
Day Two: 12-2-2 3rd Place
All of my Top 8 matches were covered in written and video form, so I will discuss how I sideboarded and approached each matchup.
The storm deck is extraordinarily fragile, because of this I hoped to be able to slightly disrupt him while applying an aggressive start. Even if I was unable to disrupt him very much, I felt as though I still had a decent chance to win. I sideboarded assuming that he would bring in two [ccProd]Anger of the Gods[/ccProd], one [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd], for three [ccProd]Faithless Looting[/ccProd].
-1 [ccProd]Reveillark[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Shriekmaw[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Linvala[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Murderous Redcap[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Orzhov Pontiff[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Spellskite[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Wall of Roots[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Gavony Township[/ccProd]
+4 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] +1 [ccProd]Sin Collector[/ccProd] +1 [ccProd]Entomber Exarch[/ccProd] +1 [ccProd]Voice of Resurgence[/ccProd] +1 [ccProd]Scavenging Ooze[/ccProd]
Semifinals: UR Splinter Twin
This is an incredibly favorable matchup, especially given Anssi’s particular deck list, with zero [ccProd]Flame Slash[/ccProd] game one and zero [ccProd]Anger of the Gods[/ccProd] game two. In game one my goal was to get Spellskite and/or Linvala into play and then kill him eventually. I had no clue how Anssi would sideboard, as evidenced by my getting blown out by [ccProd]Blood Moon[/ccProd] game two. I boarded the following way, anticipating many [ccProd]Ancient Grudge[/ccProd]s at a minimum, attempting to disrupt him and play a game of attrition:
-3 [ccProd]Chord of Calling[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Noble Hierarch[/ccProd]/[ccProd]Wall of Roots[/ccProd] (on play/draw)
-1 [ccProd]Melira, Sylvok Outcast[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Viscera Seer[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Ranger of Eos[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Shriekmaw[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Spellskite[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Birthing Pod[/ccProd]
+2 [ccProd]Path to Exile[/ccProd] +1 [ccProd]Scavenging Ooze[/ccProd] +2 [ccProd]Slaughter Pact[/ccProd] +4 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] +1 [ccProd]Voice of Resurgence[/ccProd]
My late game plan of [ccProd]Gavony Township[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Reveillark[/ccProd] plus [ccProd]Eternal Witness[/ccProd] is stronger than UWR’s, even with multiple copies of [ccProd]Sphinx’s Revelation[/ccProd]. Because I was confident in my ability to win a long game I only feared [ccProd]Ajani Vengeant[/ccProd] on an empty board and getting burned out. I anticipated that he would board in two [ccProd]Stony Silence[/ccProd] and considered trimming Birthing Pod; however I felt it would be a superior plan to kill or discard Stony Silence and keep all four Birthing Pod. I sideboarded:
-2 [ccProd]Abrupt Decay[/ccProd] -2 [ccProd]Chord of Calling[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Linvala, Keeper of Silence[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Melira, Sylvok Outcast[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Orzhov Pontiff[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Shriekmaw[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Spellskite[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Wall of Roots[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Entomber Exarch[/ccProd] +1 [ccProd]Harmonic Sliver[/ccProd] +1 [ccProd]Obstinate Baloth[/ccProd] +1 [ccProd]Scavenging Ooze[/ccProd] +1 [ccProd]Sin Collector[/ccProd] +4 [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] +1 [ccProd]Voice of Resurgence[/ccProd]
Going forward I would definitely recommend giving Birthing Pod a try in Modern, as well as RW heroic in draft. Because of the likely increase in popularity of Storm and UWR Control, I would make the following change to the sideboard and leave the main deck unchanged:
-1 [ccProd]Kataki, War’s Wage[/ccProd] -1 [ccProd]Obstinate Baloth[/ccProd]
+1 [ccProd]Ethersworn Canonist[/ccProd] +1 [ccProd]Thrun, the Last Troll[/ccProd]
Providing a complete sideboarding guide for a format like Modern is both impossible and fruitless in my opinion, so I will do my best to give an introduction to my sideboarding approach:
• Decks that have any of the following: Ancient Grudge, Stony Silence, Grafdigger’s Cage
Trim Birthing Pod and Chord of Calling.
• Matchups where you predict that you each will dilute your own strategies to disrupt the other:
Cut Melira, Sylvok Outcast, and potentially Viscera Seer and Ranger of Eos.
• Aggressive Creature decks:
Bring in Path, and Slaughter Pact.
Trim expensive cards including at least some Chord of Calling.
• Combo Decks:
Bring in anything that can potentially be disruptive and focus less on your own combo.
I am looking forward to potentially producing more content for ChannelFireball and competing on Magic’s highest stages for the foreseeable future. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please do not hesitate to comment below.
Thanks for Reading