I tilted pretty hard for this Pro Tour, and decided not to go with the Infect deck that most of the team was on and with which, by the time this article gets published, Tom Ross will probably have won the tournament.
I almost always play the team deck. My teammates are very smart, they are good deckbuilders and play a ton of Magic. Their deck selection is excellent. So why am I playing something else this time?
I was unable to come early to Washington to prepare. Usually I test with the team for about a week and a half which gives me time to get back in fighting shape before the Pro Tour. I hardly ever play anymore outside of these two-week spells of Pantheon testing, and my game is pretty rusty as a result. This time because of work, I could only meet up with the team on the Monday before the tournament and even that was delayed as my flight from Beijing to D.C. was cancelled, causing me to spend 10 hours in an airport in a country that blocks both Facebook and Twitter.
Being unprepared (and pretty jetlagged) meant that I didn’t feel very confident about my playing skills. I did some drafts at the house and had a losing 10-11 record, which isn’t that bad against the best in the world, but isn’t great either. Everyone loved the Infect deck and it looked very good to me too. It is a very hard-to-play deck though and in particular, mulligan decisions are both very important and extremely tough. It is also a style of deck that doesn’t really suit me. I like to trade and that’s the last thing this deck wants to ever do.
In this Modern format I believe there are no real broken decks. Of course some decks are better than others for a given weekend, but the metagame is so diverse that it is often hard to predict what decks you will face over a 10-round tournament. There are more than 15 viable decks to choose from and though some of them might be 55% against the field one tournament while others are 45%, this can switch from week to week when sideboards and deck choices adjust. In a metagame like this I think it’s important to play a deck you’re comfortable with, especially if you don’t have a lot of time to prepare.
I looked at our other decks. Patrick had an interesting Esper delve deck that looked very good if the metagame was a bunch of control and combo decks, but which wasn’t great against beatdown. I looked at Affinity, which is always a solid choice in Modern, but I thought it would have too much of a target on its back as it is easy to sideboard against and everyone would expect it to be one of the better represented decks in the metagame. Reid had a Death Cloud deck, but after playing with that for a bit it seemed just a little underpowered.
So I am playing Twin. This deck is very easy to play. You counter some spells to give yourself time to assemble the combo, then you make 72,684,366 Pestermites or Deciever Exarchs and you attack. It fits my style and we had a good copy as part of our gauntlet. I tested with it for a couple of days and it performed well. I liked almost every matchup I played except for any deck with Abrupt Decay (most notably Abzan). Though I expect Abzan to be one of the most played decks I still don’t think it will be more than 13-15% of the field, so hopefully I can mostly dodge it. If I don’t, it is still not impossible to win.
This is the list I am running:
Main-deck Blood Moon is great against a lot of the decks in the field. It can give you free wins against Tron or Amulet/Titan. It can sometimes catch an Abzan or Zoo player off guard and it is very helpful in shutting down Inkmoth Nexus out of both Affinity and Infect. It’s great playing such a powerful main-deck hate card in a deck with this much library manipulation, as even with just two of them you can play it on turn three in the matchups it’s at its best a surprising amount of the time.
I decided not to go with Tarmogoyfs as I think the combo is powerful enough pre-sideboard that you don’t need a backup plan at that point. After sideboard if the opponent dilutes their deck too much with cards to stop the combo like Torpor Orb and Combust you can then switch to a control deck and leave them with a bunch of dead draws.
Ancient Grudge is best against Affinity but also comes in against any deck that is likely to have Spellskite, Torpor Orb, or where you want to hit Inkmoth Nexus. The extra Blood Moon is there against Tron and Titan. In most other matchups you will want to stick with either 0 or 2. Getting stuck with 2 of them in your hand can be a liability against Abzan for example. Dispel is for any other blue combo or control deck. The Nature’s Claim is your answer to Choke.
Deciding when to go for the full switch to control after sideboarding can be tricky. Against decks where the life gain from Batterskull and Wurmcoil will be very impactful if you get them going, like Burn and Zoo, I always make the switch for game two. If they are more midrange I might wait for game three to see what their deck looks like after sideboarding.
It’s time to play the Pro Tour. Hopefully I pick up some more points in my quest to become National Champion again this year.