Trust the Process: 18th at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan with Blue-White Control

I fired over 140 Leagues of Modern and around 70 Drafts testing for the PT. I guess it paid off.

Things weren’t looking great about a week before flying out to Spain, though. My win rate wasn’t great in Draft, and none of the Modern decks my team or I tested had done especially well in testing. I worked mostly on Blue-White Control, Blue End, White-Green Value Company, and Bant Pile, and while these decks showed promise at the time, none of them ended up with more than a 65% win rate.

To the surprise of no one, I ended up going with the deck I had played the most and enjoyed playing the most: Blue-White. I “soft” locked it in about a week before the PT but was still considering switching to Blue-Red Madcap Moon as Rietzl had been doing well with the deck, but none of my other teammates seemed to believe in it, so by the time I got to Spain the Wednesday just before the PT, my mind was pretty much set.

I was also happy with the way the metagame was shaping up, even though a Modern meta can be hard to predict. Humans (a decent matchup for U/W) seemed to be on the rise, which probably meant people would be wary of registering Storm (a matchup my version of U/W is fairly soft to). I had also been playing against Hollow One and Vengevine decks a lot on MTGO the week leading up to the PT, and while I wasn’t particularly impressed and did not think much of them, it didn’t hurt to have a good matchup against these decks in case they were the real deal (which it looks like they were).

After 150 matches of tuning U/W, here is what I ended up submitting on Thursday night:

Blue-White Control

I was always anti-Vendilion-Clique main deck but decided to give it another shot after seeing Vidianto Wijaya do well with it at GP Santa Clara. I always thought it didn’t make sense to play Clique with a bunch of sweepers and that I would rather just have it in the sideboard for matchups where I take out Supreme Verdict, but my reasoning was flawed. Clique is usually great in matchups where Verdict is a dead card anyway, and against most creature matchups, you’re usually happy to play it on turn 3 to save some damage, make them commit more to the board, and “pave the way” (getting rid of a Collected Company, for example) even if you plan on sweeping the board on turn 4 or 5. I liked it so much this time around that I decided to add a second copy and was really glad I did.

The last card to get the axe from the main was Wall of Omens #2. I really liked how much time it would buy against a deck like Dredge or a card like Kitchen Finks. It gave you an early play against a turn-2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and you could build your own Rampant Growth in matchups where both Path to Exile and Wall were lackluster.

The last card I included in my sideboard was Negate, but I was also considering a second copy of Rest in Peace, a Grafdigger’s Cage, and a Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. I thought Jace would play out very nicely post-board in a lot of matchups but it was untested so I decided to go with the “solid” choice.

Day 1

Things got interesting when both the player to my right and the player two to my left opened Profane Procession in pack 1 of the first Draft. My plan was of course to avoid white or black and to try and pick up a few answers for the broken enchantment. I opened a pretty bad pack, first picking a Storm Fleet Swashbuckler, and followed that up with another couple solid but unexciting red cards. My fourth pack was fairly weak as well and I ended up taking a black card, Forerunner of the Coalition, thinking that I wouldn’t be fighting for the same cards as my neighbors since they would most likely be drafting Vampire while I was on Pirates. The problem with this reasoning is that the best black cards are the removal spells and those don’t really have tribes. I considered switching into blue-red but stuck to my guns and ended up with a solid red-black deck.

I got paired against one of the Profane Procession guys in round 1 and the first game was very close. I drew 4 or 5 more lands than he did, but made up for it with cards like Recover, March of the Drowned, and Dead Eye Tormentor. He didn’t draw the enchantment but a timely Sanctum Seeker rip definitely swung the pendulum in his favor. Game 2 wasn’t as close and I started off the tournament with a loss (a.k.a. bye-bye tiebreakers).

I played against another white-black deck in round 2 (also my second Italian opponent of the tournament). Lots of mistakes were made, mostly on his side, but I ended up returning the favor in the deciding turns of game 3.

I was not happy to sit down and find out that I had to play against Profane Procession guy #2 (and yet another white-black deck) in the 0-2 bracket. Things went my way though as I got to trigger raid on Storm Fleet Arsonist while he was stuck on two lands in game 1 and was able to kill him before he got Profane Procession going in game 3 after he missed his fifth land drop for one too many turns.

Not the most convincing win, but at least I wouldn’t be heading winless into Modern.

I got to play against one of my regular Twitch viewers in round 4, which was kind of cool but also bad because he probably knew what to expect. He was on TitanShift, a close matchup, but he mulliganed and stumbled a bit in game 1 and I took a 1-0 lead. His draw was a bit better in game 2 and he had Summoner’s Pact + Titan on turn 4, but I was ready with Dispel + Remand. I was able to keep every threat at bay and picked up my second win of the tournament. What I didn’t realize was how close I came to losing game 2. He was running a Carnage Tyrant in his sideboard, something I had never seen before out of TitanShift (or in Modern for that matter) and for which I would have had no answer for in game 2 had I not been ready with Dispel on Pact.

I was able to pick up another 2-0 win in round 5 against Green-White Value Company this time. I made a pretty bad mistake in game 1, using Field of Ruin on his Horizon Canopy instead of his Ghost Quarter with Search for Azcanta in play, but the one activation I got out of it was enough to put me ahead.

My small win streak came to an end in round 6. I got paired against Mardu Pyromancer, another 50/50ish matchup, and was never able to turn the corner in either game. I made another bad mistake in game 2 when I forgot to flip Search. The one activation it cost me might have made a difference but I decided not to beat myself up for once.

I was not happy to get paired against EFro in round 7. He was on Humans and we played an extremely close match. I was a bit nervous and even got myself a warning for casting Serum Visions for 1 blue when he had Thalia in play, but I think I played fairly tight overall and even though EFro didn’t make it easy, I came out on top.

I got paired against Eldrazi Tron in the last round of Day 1, probably an unfavorable matchup for my version of U/W, and lost game 1 after I made a questionable play. Game 2 wasn’t looking great—he had Chalice for 1 and 2 in play, but at some point I was able to counter one of his spells and bounce the Chalice for 1 (which he couldn’t replay because of the Chalice for 2). I was actually going to miss that line and counter/draw with Cryptic, but I caught myself at the last second and decided not to punt a second game in a row. Game 3 wasn’t looking great either, but he committed one of the cardinal sins in Modern, “overboarding” Surgical Extraction, which seems especially bad in a matchup where Chalice for 1 is one of your best plays and got punished for it when he drew a second useless copy.

5-3 after Day 1 is not the record you dream of, but given my rough start, I was happy make it to Day 2 with more wins than losses. Out of Team Face-to-Face Games, only EFro didn’t get there, losing his last round, and Corey was looking good at 6-2 after sweeping the Modern portion with his Grixis deck.

As for the Pantheon, Reid and Paul were leading the pack at 7-1.

Day 2

No flip-card shenanigans this time around and my pack was a bit stronger as I first picked a Needletooth Raptor, one of the top uncommons in the set. The only standout card in my second pack was Dire Fleet Neckbreaker, and despite the fact that it doesn’t pair incredibly well with the Dino, I was happy to pick it up given the fact my first pack had 0 black playable cards. The rest of the Draft didn’t go smoothly and I had a lot of tough decisions. My second pack’s first pick, a Forerunner of the Empire, ended up going to waste (I didn’t have enough playable Dinos and too many 1-toughness creatures) and I thought my deck was quite mediocre. Unlike the first Draft though, I didn’t feel like the packs were very strong so I was hoping maybe I could grind my way to some wins.

For the fourth time in as many Limited matches, I got to play against B/W Vamps. Pat Cox, who was on my left, had drafted himself a very strong deck and completely wrecked me with Golden Demise in game 1. I almost came back with Sunbird’s Invocation into Pirate’s Pillage but he was too far ahead at this point. Game 2 wasn’t especially close, and we talked a bit about the Draft after our match. I was wondering how he ended up in black given how hard I had cut it, and he showed me the Twilight Prophet he opened in pack 1. Not the easiest card to get people off.

I got to play against slightly worse decks in the next two rounds and managed to end the second Draft with a positive record.

Given my nutlow breakers, my dreams of Top 8 were long gone, but if I could repeat my Day 1 performance in Modern, I would earn myself a few extra PT points and some cash.

I got paired against Affinity in round 12—a favorable matchup. He mulliganed, and when I 3-for-1’d him with Settle the Wreckage, game 1 was all but over.

Game 2 was absurd as it was short. He kept a 7-card hand and led with Mox Opal, Darksteel Citadel, Signal Pest, and Thoughtseize. I drew, played a fetchland, and said go. He drew, tanked for 30 seconds, and extended the hand. He knew from his discard spell that I was holding 2 Stony Silence as well as lands and a Verdict (he took my Spell Queller) and his only turn-2 play was a Cranial Plating he couldn’t equip (the rest of his hand was all 3ccs: Blood Moon, Etched Champion, and Master of Etherium). I’m guessing he wasn’t exactly 0%, but he decided not to bother, and I was happy to be able to tell the story of how I got a turn-1 “kill” with U/W Control against an opponent who kept his opening seven.

I kept a slow opener in round 13, not sure of what I was facing. He played a turn-1 Bogle and I figured I was toast, but his draw was kind of clunky. We ended up playing a 30-minute game 1 and I eventually came out on top. He got me low in game 2, but I was able to stabilize and for the second time in as many rounds, my opponent scooped despite not being completely drawing dead.

I couldn’t help but crack a smile when I sat down for the next match and faced one of my fellow streamers, Piotr Glogowski, better known as Kanister. No surprise there. Lantern it was. Despite the matchup being abysmal before sideboard, I managed to snatch game 1 on the back of a turn-3 Clique. Game 2 was back and forth, but he eventually locked me up. Instead of scooping right away, I made him play it out. I thought that less time on the clock for game 3 was to my advantage, but this was a very poor strategic decision for two reasons:

  • I’m a decent favorite post-board, especially on the play, so I should maximize the chances that we finish game 3.
  • His deck doesn’t kill that slowly after sideboard when he has access to Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, whereas it might take me a bit of time to finish him off once I have the game locked up.

I ended up paying the price in full as I was one attack step short of killing him in game 3. Kind of a bummer, but entirely my fault.

I got paired against an old Modern PT champion in round 15, Antonio Del Moral Léon. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but wasn’t surprised when he led with some blue and red mana sources. I missed a few land drops and things were looking grim, but when he went for an end-of-turn Through the Breach, Vendilion Clique bailed me out like no other cards could have. I flashed the Faerie into play and Antonio revealed a hand of Emrakul, Through the Breach #2, Through the Breach #3, and some lands. I took the Eldrazi and he proceeded to flood out. His draw was clunky in game 2 as well and I 2-0’d what he said was a pretty good matchup for him (which is probably true as I’ve been struggling against U/R Moon decks in general).

I faced down fellow Hall-of-Famer Tsuyoshi Fujita in the last round and expected him to be on some kind of aggro deck, but it turns out he was on Green-Black Tron, meaning that I would be playing against a tenth different archetype. Game 1 went great as I was able to tap out for a Jace on turn 4 despite being on the draw, a rare occurrence, because he wasn’t threatening Tron yet. I drew enough copies of counterspells and Field of Ruin to keep him at bay and we moved on to the sideboarded games, which I think favor me. Game 2 was very back and forth as we took turns top decking ourselves out of bad spots but he drew slightly better, and it was all going to come down to one last game. I brought back in Gideon of the Trials, a card I’m not a fan of on the draw, and it paid off big time as I was able to slam it on turn 3 and back it up with Spell Queller on his Thought-Knot Seer, a Vendilion Clique, and a couple of counterspells.

I was ecstatic with my finish, going 6-0-1 after starting 5-4, good for an 18th place finish. On top of that, Reid had made it to his third PT Top 8. He was pretty high on Abzan before the tournament and even recommended his list if anyone on the team was still looking for a deck. Looks like his confidence wasn’t misplaced.

As for Blue-White Control, I was happy with my version and wouldn’t change much. I almost considered playing a Wrath of God over a Verdict to hedge against Meddling Mage, and in hindsight, I wish I would have, but I’m not sure you really need to going forward. You might want to consider a second copy of Rest in Peace in the sideboard and I’ll be giving a Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy a try as well. Alex Majlaton, who went 9-1 with U/W, had a Dragonlord Ojutai in his main deck and a lot of people have already asked me about the card, but I’m skeptical. I tried it in a League after coming back from Bilbao, and it was pretty bad, but you know, sample size, etc.

Next up for me is GP Lyon where I hope I’ll get to meet some of you (I’ll be gunslinging on Friday afternoon) and the Team Modern Super League, but most importantly the MOCS in Seattle three weeks from now. I think the format is healthy as is and I’d almost say miraculously well balanced, meaning WotC probably shouldn’t ban or unban anything, but I’ll still have my eyes peeled next Monday.


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