While I should be home playtesting best-of-one Standard for Mythic Invitational Boston, I cannot control my need to play paper Magic: The Gathering. I love to play Magic and I don’t want to miss any Grand Prix in Europe, since there are fewer this year than usual.
The format was Modern, a format I hadn’t touched in over four months, since there hasn’t been any competitive event in the meantime. Unfortunately, the next tabletop Mythic Championship will be Modern, so I needed to start picking up those cards again.
In my first League on Magic Online with Izzet Phoenix, I got paired twice against Ensnaring Bridge. The card felt overpowered to me, and perfectly positioned in the metagame. The lack of control decks and the abundance of aggro decks were perfect for it.
So I started to look at Whir Prison, where Magic Online Modern master Sussurrus_mtg was winning trophies and Challenges with the deck.
Digging deeper, I found a plethora of content by other writers about the deck, like Jody Keith and Ari Lax, so after watching hours of stream and deck techs, as well as playing 5 Leagues on Magic Online with a strong record, I felt confident in registering the following deck for GP Bilbao.
Andrea Mengucci, 103th place at GP Bilbao
4 Botanical Sanctum 4 Spire of Industry 3 Glimmervoid 4 Tolarian West 1 Tectonic Edge 1 Ipnu Rivulet 1 Academy Ruins 1 Inventors' Fair 2 Island 4 Mox Opal 4 Welding Jar 2 Damping Sphere 4 Chalice of the Void 2 Sorcerous Spyglass 1 Pyrite Spellbomb 4 Ancient Stirrings 1 Crucible of Worlds 1 Witchbane Orb 1 Bottled Cloister 4 Ensnaring Bridge 1 Tormod's Crypt 4 Mishra's Bauble 4 Engineered Explosives 4 Whir of Invention Sideboard 2 Sai, Master Thopterist 4 Spellskite 2 Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas 1 Torpor Orb 1 Ghirapur Aether Grid 2 Sorcerous Spyglass 1 Jester's Cap 1 Tezzeret the Seeker 1 Grafdigger's Cage
If you aren’t familiar with some of these cards I suggest you to take a moment to read them carefully. This deck is obscure to many new players—but I’m sure it’s here to stay, as Luis Deltour showed us by reaching the finals of GP Bilbao with this deck.
The deck wins the game after having established a lock that can vary from deck to deck.
Typically you Ensnaring Bridge + Bottled Cloister your opponents, leaving them unable to attack. Other decks might take other routes to kill you, and this deck offers a tool box of artifacts for every occasion.
But it’s Chalice of the Void that offers the best disruption in the format.
The deck is exceptionally well-built, and if there’s something you don’t get at first, well, it’s probably your fault. For example, you could cut Pyrite Spellbomb, but then you might find yourself cold to a Eidolon of the Great Revel without an answer that you can Whir of Invention for. Or you could get rid of Tormod’s Crypt, or replace it with Grafdigger’s Cage, but then you won’t have a free graveyard-hate card you can tutor up with Tolaria West.
It makes it so your Crucible of Worlds + Tectonic Edge plan comes together, it fetches for Inventors’ Fair to then go get Ensnaring Bridge or anything else you might need at the moment, and it snags Academy Ruins, which is another key piece of this deck to lock them down with recursion.
Once you’ve completely locked them out of the game, with a bunch of Welding Jars or Spellskites as protection, you can them kill them with Ipnu Rivulet + Crucible of Worlds, or Pyrite Spellbomb + Academy Ruins. If you want to take it real slow, put your Welding Jar on top of your deck with Academy Ruins and let them die of natural causes.
Post-sideboard, things will look much different, since you often bring in Sai, Master Thopterist and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas as insurance against Stony Silence and Rest in Peace, which might shut you off of win-conditions even after having established a clock.
There are some matchups (like Titanshift and Izzet Phoenix) that are super hard to lose. The only way you can is to Shatterstorm, and I want to have a Whir target that will prevent me from losing the game if my opponent manages to draw it.
You might think that Jester’s Cap accomplishes the same result, but your opponent might hold Shatterstorm in their hand and wait for you to overcommit or to find the perfect spot.
You might also think that having 3 blue plus 9 mana between lands and artifacts is a tough ask, but it really isn’t once you sideboard in Sai, Master Thopterist. I lost a match against Titanshift after I Whirred for Jester’s Cap, cracked it, and my opponent Shatterstormed me afterwards.
I’ve really hated non-artifact sideboard cards. Both Tezzerets and Ghirapur Aether Grid have been clunky. Not being able to Ancient Stirrings/Whir of Invention for your sideboard cards makes them much worse.
Sai, Master Thopterist is different, since he actively works toward your plan, acting both as an Ensnaring Bridge, a draw engine, and a win condition, and now after adding Darksteel Forge to the sideboard, he will also help you build toward your final goal.
I’m only going to cover two matchups today, but I will cover more next week. In the meantime, I do recommend you to subscribe to Sussurrus_mtg’s channel (the inventor of the deck) or Jody Keith, Grand Prix Memphis Champion, if you want to know more about this deck, because their of this archetype knowledge is far deeper than mine.
Barring games where your deck won’t function properly, you’ll always win game 1. As my video showcased, you only have to be aware of Pyromancer Ascension. So once you’ve established your clock, go get that Engineered Explosives, put it on 2 counters, and then start milling them.
Your first priority will always be to protect yourself from their attackers (Ensnaring Bridge). Once that’s done, you need to land a Chalice on 2 (to stop Abrade or Ancient Grudge) and finally a Darksteel Forge for Shatterstorm. You’ll also have access to Jester’s Cap, which can remove those cards from the main deck. Make sure to take away even a Chandra, Torch of Defiance or a Ral, Izzet Viceroy—any card that can either disrupt your lock or kill you through it. You could decide to keep a Witchbane Orb over a Spyglass to deal with emblems and Hurkyl’s Recall, but you won’t be protected from Chandra, Torch of Defiance’s +1, even though Engineered Explosives could get rid of that one.
Another card you need to be careful of is Blood Moon. Assemble your triple blue with the two Islands and Mox Opal—Tolaria West will help—since you can’t often afford to crack Engineered Explosives for 3 because that will hurt your Ensnaring Bridge too. In a pinch, Welding Jar can regenerate it.
Sai, Master Thopterist is a huge deal because he clocks your opponent and helps you to get that Darksteel Forge out of your deck.
You’re such a massive favorite in game 1 that it shouldn’t be a problem to win either of game 2 or 3.
Grixis Death’s Shadow
Once again, you’re the favorite game 1. You just have to work your way around their sideboard hate in one of the post-board games.
Game 1, your only priority is to resolve an Ensnaring Bridge, since they basically cannot beat it. Post-sideboard they will not only have a bunch of answers—usually Hurkyl’s Recall, which you can stop with both Witchbane Orb and Chalice of the Void on 2—but they will have more countermagic, so it’ll be harder to resolve your key cards.
Make sure to keep land-heavy draws and don’t rely too much on your starting hand. This holds true even against B/G Rock and Jund. Those decks always play many discard spells and the best thing you can do against them is just to topdeck good threats or sit on an Academy Ruins.
Some games you can afford to play around Stubborn Denial by going to get Chalice of the Void with Tolaria West. Some games you cannot afford to hold your Ensnaring Bridge in your hand—you may fear a discard spell and you just have to jam it. Remember in game 1 that it’s a one-card combo, so make sure you play it properly.
They are likely to sideboard in Liliana of the Veil and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, but you won’t need to have access to Sorcerous Spyglass to stop their ultimate, since Witchbane Orb will be good enough there.
I’ll cover more decks and matchups next week. In the meantime, I want to go into discuss two matters:
Faithless Looting Ban
I’ve heard lots of people arguing to ban, yet again, another card in this format. I’m not a fan of this format, because it suffers from a fundamental lack of answers. And every time some unfair card gets printed it creates a problem in the format. This time around, it’s Arclight Phoenix.
And despite the number of Surgical Extractions rising every weekend, the deck still put two to four copies in the Top 8 of this weekend’s GPs with countless more in the Top 16.
But before banning yet another pillar of the format, I would like to wait a few more months and see what changes Modern Horizons brings. It’s a set designed to take care of the weaknesses of the format without having any impact on Standard.
I’m sure Wizards playtested with plenty of Faithless Looting decks in mind (notably Dredge and Izzet Phoenix) and I could see some Containment Priest or “Surgical-on-a-creature” type of card, as well as some free interaction.
Modern isn’t a format with tons of competitive events, so before banning a card and upending a format and lots of people’s wallets, let’s wait until summer and see if R&D manages to balance the format.
How Does Summoner’s Pact Work? And Why Is it So Unfair?
Because of my law degree, I know the principle of “Dura Lex, sed lex” which can be translated as: “If a rule is unfair, it’s still worth a rule,” and this weekend it could be applied to Summoner’s Pact.
The way Summoner’s Pact works is that if your opponent forgets to pay for his Pact the turn after they cast it and you remind them, you get the option to put it on the stack at that moment, and if they have mana untapped they will only get away with a warning.
So you are incentivized to wait for your opponent to tap out to remind them that they haven’t paid for their Summoner’s Pact, put it on the stack, and win the game because of it. Yes, it’s legal to intentionally wait, and yes it works like this.
The ruling on Summoner’s Pact has changed countless times, and this, to me, feels like the most unfair version.
Summoner’s Pact has clearly written text on the card, and in my opinion if you forget to pay for your Pact due to lack of carelessness, you have to pay the highest cost.
Wizards has come a long way in protecting players from getting game losses (a sideboard card in the main deck, etc.) but this to me doesn’t feel like a punishment if it happens—it’s what should happen because it’s what the card does and specifies. It’s on the same level as if you forget to draw your card from Mishra’s Bauble in your upkeep, because that’s what’s written on the card.
You are totally free to remind your opponent that they have to pay for their Pact in their upkeep if your interest is to play a good game of Magic, and don’t want to make your opponent unhappy about the outcome of the game and about the outcome of the tournament in general, but you also have the right to win the game if your opponent makes mistakes and doesn’t play according to what their cards do and say.
I hope Wizards will change policy once again on this matter and make it so that if you forget to pay for your Pact you lose the game, just like the card says.
This Wednesday I’ll fly to Valencia to playtest with Javier Dominguez and Beatriz Grancha for Mythic Invitational Boston, a tournament I’m super excited to compete in and that I cannot wait to play!