The Decks I Tested for Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch

I was obviously disappointed when I figured out a couple groups of players had broken the Modern format and we missed the mark. The very first deck I built with the new cards was actually a step in the right direction, but it didn’t seem like anything special and I didn’t invest too much time in tuning Eldrazi decks:

Mono-Black Eldrazi

For those who watch my stream, you know I spent quite a bit of time getting familiar with Splinter Twin before it got banned and tried to make UWR Control work using the Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy/Stone Rain interaction, among others, to no avail.

It feels a bit weird to discuss Modern decks right now because Eldrazi is so dominant that talking about any other strategy might just be a moot point as far as competitive Magic goes. I mentioned that they should have banned Eye of Ugin just to be safe, even though I didn’t imagine it could be that good.

But I don’t think it’s the end of the world that Eldrazi dominated the PT. That’s what it used to be all about back in the day—that’s the dream for any deck builder. I’m just jealous it wasn’t me this time around.

I do think they need to do something about it fast, like ban Eldrazi Temple or Eye of Ugin if banning Temple isn’t enough. They should also weaken Affinity and Infect (Mox Opal and Glistener Elf seem like good bans).

Anyway, let’s pretend something gets done about Eldrazi. Here is another list that I did okay with online and it didn’t feel terrible, but that I didn’t want to spend too much time on:

Blue/Black Control

Another deck that falls in the “not quite Tier 1 deck” category is my trusty Tezzeret deck. It does have the advantage of running Ensnaring Bridge, so it may have some game against Eldrazi:

Tezzeret Control

I played something similar in the very first Modern Pro Tour and Liliana of the Veil was a great addition. I like to toy with it now and then, but I didn’t spend too much time on it for PT Oath of the Gatewatch since I didn’t feel well positioned. I’m not sure if it has a good matchup against any of the tier 1 decks except maybe Eldrazi, even though you do have some game against most decks.

Building Chord

The deck I spent the most time on was Kiki Chord. I figured I had Affinity as a back-up choice since I’d played it a lot in the past and my team played Infect extensively, so most of my MTGO playtesting was spent tuning the combo deck.

It’s not going to sound very professional, but since I didn’t own any Voice of Resurgence online, I never had them in any of my lists. To be honest, I just didn’t see the point. I didn’t think I needed them against Burn and they seemed quite weak against Affinity, Infect, and other combo decks. I’m guessing they shine against the fair decks (red/blue decks like Grixis) and they probably help against cards like Oblivion Stone, but I was happy to play Wall of Omens and Wall of Roots over them. I know Jeff Hoogland, who must be credited for the original list, likes the Voices as well as cards like Reveillark, but I felt Thragtusk was just a better Chord target when you needed something that was strong on its own (as well as being amazing against Burn).

Wall of Roots was probably the “best” card in the deck and I would recommend playing the full set. I kept second-guessing myself because I didn’t put up many 5-0 results in the Leagues, which was dumb because MTGO doesn’t always pair you against someone with the same record as you.

On a side note, I think I spent too much time playing online when I got together with the rest of Team Pantheon and it’s something I need to keep in check next time. It’s a lot of fun to jam games on MTGO, but it’s not the best use of my time when I could be playing against real life, very tough opponents, and I definitely regret wasting precious time. The proof is, despite having played with that deck more than any other online, I still didn’t know if it was good or not by the end of our testing, partly because the level in Leagues isn’t stellar. If I’m going to spend a lot of time playing on MTGO, I should at least keep track of my win percentage against each matchup and not take into account the “byes” you get here and there when you play against really bad decks, or really bad players.

Here is what I would have registered if I had played Kiki Chord in the PT:

Kiki Chord

You’ll notice I’m playing all the hate cards main deck and no Path to Exile at all. I went through different iterations of the deck during my testing and had 4 Path in almost all of them. I tried some black for Sin Collector but it underperformed a bit (Shriekmaw in the sideboard was okay; I wasn’t a big fan of Orzzhov Pontiff)—I also had a very streamlined version with no hate and 4 of each Wall main deck, four Restoration Angels, and 3 Kiki-Jiki.

In the end, I decided that if I was going to play the deck that I was going to try to hate out the unfair decks game 1, since I felt that was when they were the least prepared for it, thus making that strategy the most efficient. I hoped that my value cards would carry me against fair decks.

Kiki Chord is a real nightmare to tune since you have so many options, but I’ll talk about my experience with the deck, which may help you tune your own version depending on which direction you want to take the deck.

You’ll notice that I have 25 lands and zero copies of Noble Hierarch in my version because I wanted to make my deck a bit more resilient to Bolt decks, as well as cards like Twisted Image or Anger of the Gods. I doubt playing the full set of Hierarchs is correct, but if you’re going to play 2-3 copies, you can go down to 23 lands, cutting a Gavony Township as well as a Verdant Catacomb.

A few Razorverge Thickets and Copperline Gorges are fine, but you don’t want to have too many as they can cost you games. That’s the reason I play Verdant Catacombs on top of the mandatory 4 Foothills/Heath. Catacombs is a source of green turn 1, fixes your mana, and doesn’t come into play tapped later in the game. It’s obviously great with Courser and if you feel like Thicket/Gorge is costing you too many games, you might want to try adding more fetchlands.

I like 1 Fire-Lit Thicket in this version since I only play 1 Kiki-Jiki, but playing a second copy is fine. You can afford to play 2/3 colorless lands and I’ve always liked Township a lot. I know some lists play Ghost Quarter, which is fine too.

The correct number of Eternal Witnesses is exactly 2 if you’re playing a stockish version with 4 main deck Paths, but this version only has 1 because it loses a lot of its value if you can’t regrowth a removal spell consistently.

I was very happy with Courser, even when I only had 23 lands in the deck (you get to shuffle a lot), and I think 2 is the ideal number.

I liked having 4 Restoration Angels and 2 Kiki-Jikis, but something had to go to fit all the hate creatures, and 3/1 is fine, especially if you have a bunch of value creatures like Pia.

Eidolon of Rhetoric is very narrow but I thought there would be a decent amount of combo decks (Storm, Ad Nauseam, Grishoalbrand), which didn’t seem to really be the case. I also thought it might randomly slow down some other decks but I found out that when I had to cast it to accelerate into Chord of Calling, it was a nuisance more than anything else. I still think it’s a fine main-deck card and it’s not the worst blocker against Burn either.

Pia and Kiran Nalaar is very good and it overperformed when I tested the Jund matchup against Reid’s version. I was also very happy with Thragtusk throughout testing. Avalanche Riders and especially Fulminator Mage are usually underwhelming, but they’re part of my hateful game 1 plan and they help a bit against fair decks like Jund or Grixis. They can save you from a Nexus too.

Hoogland’s Lightning Helix sideboard tech is amazing and it makes matchups like Burn or Merfolk even more favorable than they already are if you’re playing with 4 main deck Paths.

The Infect matchup is really hard even with Sparkmage and Melira, Sylvok Outcast main if you don’t have Path. It seemed that way against our version anyway, which had 2 Twisted Images and 1 Dismember main going up to 3 copies of each after sideboard. I never tested Kiki Chord with more than 2 Sparkmage in my 75, but decided I would have access to the full set after sideboard if I played the deck in the PT since I thought Infect was the best deck. The card is also good against Affinity and other green decks, even though I’m not sure you want to board up to 4 in those matchups.

The nice thing about having all the hate bears in the main is that I had a few extra slots for noncreature spells. I decided to go mostly with “super hosers.” Blue decks are tough, so I decided I wanted 2 copies of Choke.

The Qasali Pridemage might seem a bit weak, but it can be nice against something like a topdecked Cranial Plating, and I wanted some insurance against Torpor Orb. It could go, though, if you think no one will have that card in their sideboard. I also decided I liked Harmonic Sliver over Reclamation Sage because of the fact that you get two triggers when you copy it, but I’ll admit it might be a bit too fancy (it goes up in value if you have two copies of it in your 75 though, which I had throughout most of my testing).

The deck is a lot of fun to play but it didn’t do too well in the PT so I’m glad I stuck to what I knew best and played Affinity. For those of you who didn’t read my quick guide, here is what I registered on Friday morning:


The Tournament

My first draft pod wasn’t the easiest but didn’t seem like the toughest either. My first pack was pretty weak and Goblin Freerunner was the clear best card. I second-picked a Stormchaser Mage and got Jwar Isle Avenger third. The solid-but-unexciting Akoum Flameseeker showed up next, and I had what I felt was my first real decision in pack 5: I could pick a second Freerunner and stay in UR or pick up Flayer Drone and potentially move into BR Devoid, which Reid, who had the best win percentage in draft during our testing, considered the best archetype. I decided the power level of the Goblin was high enough to stick with UR. I got a second Stormchaser Mage and my deck looked really good after pack 1. It turned out that I got very few good cards after that and, had I moved into BR, my deck would have been nuts, but my pick was right and most of the people I asked have agreed.

I won my first two games by mana-screwing Matt Severa both times but didn’t win another one, and I went into the Modern rounds with a 1-2 record. The Pantheon actually performed poorly in that draft, only winning 48% of its matches.

I got paired against James Tan playing Bring to Light Scapeshift in round 4 and lost game 1, despite winning the die roll after keeping what was most likely a mulligan. I wasn’t thrilled to lose the pre-board game, but I was able to kill him before he did anything in the next two games as his draws were pretty bad.

Game 1 of round 5 went my way against Burn but I lost game 2 keeping Land, Drum, Signal Pest, and four 2-drops on the draw, which was probably fine. He made a small misplay in game 3 and flooded badly, so I was able to win that match as well.

Round 6 was very satisfying as I beat turn-2 Pyroclasm, turn-3 Anger of the Gods in game 1 and turn-3 Anger of the Gods, turn-4 Shatterstorm, turn-5 Krosan Grip in game 2. I did need to rip on my last turn as he was threatening a lethal Scapeshift with Prismatic Omen and I was a bit short on damage. A Ravager or a Plating would have done it but I instead drew my miser’s Thoughtseize to strip the game-winning sorcery from his hand.

I got paired against Ondrej Strasky in round 7 and game 1 was a beating. He had gotten the scouting report and turn 1 Chaliced for 0 while I was holding 3 Memnites. He was super far ahead in game 2 but got a bit sloppy, which gave me an out. I had to move in with Ravager on Ornithopter, hoped to draw a 0 or 1 cc creature to chump, and hoped he didn’t have a removal spell or a creature to pump his Mimics. I drew Memnite for my turn and after drawing he packed up his cards in slight disbelief.

Unfortunately, I had to mulligan two no-landers in game 3 and he had Chalice for 0 again, which wasn’t the end of the world since my only 0cc spell was a Mox Opal. I managed to draw my last two after I scryed 1 to the bottom. His draw was pretty mediocre and I would have had a shot had I drawn one of my two Ancient Grudges. Once he played a Chalice for 2 it was all over though, and my next draw was actually the artifact removal spell.

He did make my day by telling me I “played so ****ing good” after game 2 and it was great to feel like I still had it for a brief moment.

I was hoping to end the day on a high note but I got paired against Adam Boyd piloting the UR Eldrazi deck. He won the roll, I died on turn 4 in game 1 despite casting all four of my Thoughtcasts. Game 2 was looking bad as well but I managed to stabilize with my second Steel Overseer. My draw in game 3 was a bit slow and my only hope was to draw my one sideboard Whipflare. It wasn’t meant to be and I moved onto Day 2 with only 4 wins and no realistic shot at the Top 8. I’m pretty sure winning the die roll would have changed those losses into wins, especially against Ondrej and I can’t remember the last time I felt like the die roll had been that decisive.

My second draft started off much better and I was happy to first-pick Ruins of Oran-Rief, which is close to being a bomb rare. I second-picked another rare land, Sea Gate Wreckage, out of a pretty weak pack and settled into BR Devoid. The most interesting pick I had was early in pack 2 (either first or second pick) when I had the choice between Inverter of Truth and Oblivion Strike. I would have taken the removal spell early in the draft but I already had a couple Reality Hemorrhage and multiple Slaughter Drones so I thought I’d be able to fill up my graveyard fairly consistently.

I ended up with a great RB deck, picking up an Oblivion Strike as well as a couple Touch of the Voids and a Processor Assault as well as another bomb rare, Akoum Firebird. I slightly misbuilt my deck, maindecking Visions of Brutality over Corpse Churn, which would have provided good synergy with both of my rare creatures.

I got paired against Kai in round 9. He had a solid RG deck with a decent amount of removal but no bombs and we split the first two games. He got in a spot in game 3 where pretty much any draw was a good draw because he had an Embodiment of Insight and five lands, including Blighted Gorge facing my Slaughter Drone. I was hellbent and I drew Processor Assault into Witness the End getting his last 2 draw steps, a 6-drop, and an Outnumber. I drew the Inverter a couple of turns later which he couldn’t beat.

I then faced another PT Champ, Alexander Hayne, and lost game 1 stuck with an unplayable Inverter of Truth in hand and Sea Gate Wreckage in play. Game 2 was looking better, but I made a mistake when I decided to slow play Witness the End when he had three cards in hand. He emptied his hand on the next turn and was hellbent for the rest of the game. I could never recover from the value I had lost by not making him exile 2 cards. I was hoping to sweep my pod after the draft, but I would have had to settle for a 2-1 at best.

I played the third all-star of my pod in round 11, Josh Utter-Leyton. It looked like he had a solid white/black deck, but I drew great game 1 and he drew something like 6 Plains and 0 Swamp in game 2.

If I could have played as well in the last five rounds of Modern as I had on Day 1, I could have gotten the four or five wins I needed to cash the PT.

I got paired against Jund in round 12 and had an explosive start, which was good enough to take game 1. Game 2 was a bit closer and I Thoughtseized the wrong card at one point, but didn’t get punished for it. After the match, he showed me the 3 Stony Silences he was splashing white for, and that I had managed to dodge in game 2 as well as the 2 Damnations he had brought in.

I played against Justin Schneider and his own version of UR Eldrazi in round 13. I finally won the die roll against the Eldrazi deck and we split the first two games. I decided to keep a turn-1 Vault Skirge, Ornithopter, and Thoughtcast hand in game 3, but didn’t draw any action cards until it was too late. I thought that my hand was an easy keep but sometimes you just don’t get there.

I got paired against Burn in round 14 and won the first game as he was stuck on 1 land. I played game 2 horrendously but got rewarded with a great draw in game 3.

Next up was Ryoichi Tamada and his UB version of Eldrazi. Game 1 got to a point where he was at 8 and I was holding a Galvanic Blast. He only had a colorless mana up and I should have Blasted him down to 4 life and sacrificed all my artifacts to Ravager to then make my Vault Skirge a 6/6 and keep him out of range of Dismember (he couldn’t cast Dismember in response without dying). I decided to hedge against Drowner of Hope and only made my Skirge a 4/4, keeping a few artifacts in play. He untapped and Dismembered my Skirge, but I was lucky enough to draw out of it. I messed up and played it too safe as I was in bad shape against Drowner anyway, but it was somewhat of a close call and I might be result oriented.

He didn’t have much of a chance in the second game as he was stuck on 2 mana after I Grudged his Talisman.

I got paired against Brad Nelson and his Infect deck in the last round of the Swiss and won easily despite the matchup being slightly in Infect’s favor. My 10-6 record was good enough for 62nd place, $1,000, and 6 PT points. I felt very fortunate for my Day 2 run despite playing much worse than I did on Day 1.

It was disheartening to watch Owen lose in round 15 against Jason Chung as well as seeing Huey get 9th on tiebreakers, but it was awesome to see LSV back on top, giving us washed-up pros some much needed hope.

Our team still had a solid showing despite missing the best deck in the format. It was no 95% win rate but I think all of our decks (Infect, Affinity, Jeskai and Jund) went 60%+ combined (I was the only playing Affinity and went 7-3), which is respectable.

I had a good time testing with all of Team Pantheon as usual, and I was sad to say goodbye to everyone on Sunday evening as they were hanging out at Buffalo Wild Wings drafting and waiting for the Super Bowl to start.

After Atlanta, I now have 16 PT points halfway through the season and it’s going to be hard to get Platinum as I don’t plan on playing more than two or three GPs, but I feel like the MTGO grind is starting to pay off (on top of streaming being a lot of fun) and I’m excited to see what I can bring to my team and how I can perform in the last two PTs of the season.

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