I am writing this the day before Pro Tour Born of the Gods from Valencia. Next week, I am going to be writing a post-tournament report.
Next week I will have a better idea of what happened and what I could have done better in preparation and play, but for now, I have to have unrealistic confidence. That’s the only way to do it. I’m picturing me and my brother Elliott meeting in the finals.
Is it likely? No. But believing that right now can only help me get there. I’ll save all of the doubt and reflection and humility for next week. Right now I’m going to say that I am extremely well prepared and supremely confident.
Bring it on!
Preparing for Born of the Gods/Theros Draft
I feel good about draft. I haven’t actually played very much, but I’ve thought about it, read about it, talked about it, and watched it. That was good enough for Grand Prix Oakland to get me here and it feels good here.
I emphasize thinking and reflecting a lot more than grinding when it comes to draft preparation. It’s definitely useful to get games in, but there are better ways to answer questions and obtain information about the format.
First we have Theros draft. My understanding of the format is that it is skewed toward creating a giant monster through bestow or heroic and giving it evasion or lifelink. Killing the opponent’s giant monster is good too but most of the removal is either really costly or really conditional.
Beyond that, it seems the format is pretty wide open to play the sweet cards you get passed. You can slide under and turn sideways with combat tricks or stall out for high mana cost bombs. You don’t have to create a giant monster, it is just the baseline for the format.
Born of the Gods changes a lot of things. The pack is very “bad” for playables if your strategy is to build a giant monster. Most commons in every color get downgraded.
Since fewer picks will come out of Born of the Gods, there will be fewer playables total, and perhaps fewer throw away picks before committing to a color. With Born of the Gods you might want to commit earlier.
Beyond that there are the new combat tricks and the inspired mechanic. There is a potential for comboing off with [ccProd]Aerie Worshippers[/ccProd], [ccProd]Karametera’s Favor[/ccProd], and [ccProd]Kiora’s Follower[/ccProd], and I am going to look out for it.
As for color evaluations, blue is still pretty good. [ccProd]Retraction Helix[/ccProd] might be the top common. I expect other people will rate this one high too as it is similar to the top blue bounce spells from Theros.
Beyond that, I would love to be red. Red is really good and really deep in Born of the Gods, so I am going to jump on it and commit to it given the chance.
I really hope to get passed [ccProd]Kragma Butcher[/ccProd]:
This guy is seriously undercosted. There are barely any 3s that can get value on it the first attack, and barely any 4s that can get value on it the second attack. It’s a full drop under the curve and it hits HARD.
I hope Kragmaw Butcher is under-evaluated by my tables and I get passed them early and often. I also like [ccProd]Fearsome Temper[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Fall of the Hammer[/ccProd] because of how well they play with the Kragmaw.
If I don’t get the hook-up on red, that’s okay, because I can’t force what isn’t there. I’ll mostly just pick the sweet cards that get passed to me and play from there.
I feel very good going into Modern. My long-term preparation gave me a good idea of the various decks in the format, and my medium-term preparation gave me a good idea of how I could best construct my deck for this tournament.
I knew from the beginning I would play Living End. It’s a great deck and a deck I have a ton of experience with. For a format like Modern, there is a huge incentive to play something you are familiar with.
To get an idea of how the format would shape up, I have kept a close eye on the Magic Online Daily decks. I’ve found that traditionally this is the best (and only, really) public information of how the metagame will shape up and what the stock decks will look like.
As for the metagame, that is important too. We all agreed that [ccProd]Lightning Bolt[/ccProd] would be the most played card. It’s great with [ccProd]Tarmogoyf[/ccProd] and it’s great with [ccProd]Snapcaster[/ccProd]. If possible we’d like our decks to be good against Lightning Bolt and/or play Lightning Bolt.
With Lightning Bolt the premier removal spell and a rise in [ccProd]Lightning Helix[/ccProd] to fight aggressive [ccProd]Wild Nacatl[/ccProd] decks, it seemed like [ccProd]Restoration Angel[/ccProd] had become very good.
I tried Restoration Angel in Living End—it was a great trick that paired with the instant speed [ccProd]Violent Outburst[/ccProd].
Consulting the Daily Events revealed that I wasn’t the only one onto Restoration Angel. Restoration Angel numbers were way up and [ccProd]Vendilion Clique[/ccProd] numbers were way down. This gave me assurance in my turn 3 [ccProd]Fulminator Mage[/ccProd]s and also led the rest of our team to discover how good UWR Twin is.
From there, we branched out. I developed my Living End list while we also developed the UWR Twin team deck. The Twin deck is very good, and I expect the tournament history to show that, but who knows.
As for Living End, and my build, there were a few keys that guided me in completing my deck. For one, I decided that I didn’t want to scoop any matchups. Metagame predictions are so random—what I think is good is not the only thing that will be played and I want to be prepared for “bad” and “uncommon” decks. Why not? It seems to me like the only way to win the tournament is to beat a ton of different decks, so I am going to have to have a coherent plan for everything.
For Living End, I like my green matchups. I’ve always liked my green matchups. I have my [ccProd]Shriekmaw[/ccProd]s and my [ccProd]Living End[/ccProd]. I can move on.
Blue is a bit tricky, but I like that too. I am going to have 2 [ccProd]Beast Within[/ccProd], 2 [ccProd]Simian Spirit Guide[/ccProd], and a [ccProd]Ricochet Trap[/ccProd], and that is going to give me a lot of room to outmaneuver my opponent’s at instant speed.
From there, I wanted to make sure I could matchup with all the combo decks. First of all, there is Scapeshift. I’ve been seeing a lot of it online, and I respect the deck. I think it’s a good deck.
I’ve never won a match against Scapeshift. The combination of [ccProd]Remand[/ccProd]s and [ccProd]Cryptic Command[/ccProd] with a non-creature clock and [ccProd]Sakura-Tribe Elder[/ccProd]s has always beaten any number of Fulminator Mages.
I decided I was going to beat Scapeshift this time around. I am going to play 4 [ccProd]Slaughter Game[/ccProd]s and 2 [ccProd]Simian Spirit Guide[/ccProd]s. That is enough to win me a game for sure, and I am going to bring in Shriekmaws for the final game to fight their Teferis and Titans.
Slaughter Games is going to give me game against other combo decks I would traditionally struggle against—it is going to be great against [ccProd]Amulet of Vigor[/ccProd] combo, against [ccProd]Grapeshot[/ccProd] Storm, and I will be happy to have a couple copies for the mirror match.
I also wanted to fill my 75 with as many bombs as possible, and that meant the full 4 [ccProd]Leyline of the Void[/ccProd]. The card is so crazy good at hosing Melilra Pod, Affinity, the mirror, and Storm. I can’t believe that this card is not stock.
The question is—what happens when you draw Leyline outside of your opening hand?
The answer? You are VERY happy to draw Leyline outside of your opening hand. A turn 3 Living End into turn 4 Leyline into more Living Ends is a recipe for beating Affinity, Melira Pod, and the mirror. A turn 4 Leyline is not very exciting against Storm, but it gives you more of a chance than [ccProd]Faerie Macabre[/ccProd] would have.[ccProd]Faerie Macabre[/ccProd] is a better maindeck card—it is okay against cards like [ccProd]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/ccProd] or [ccProd]Snapcaster Mage[/ccProd]. If I were going to maindeck a card, sure, Faerie Macabre is more flexible. But I am not going to maindeck that effect. Instead I am going to board the full 4 uber-bomb Leyline of the Void.
I am even preparing for Bogles by including a [ccProd]Dryad Arbor[/ccProd] in the board. I want to make sure my [ccProd]Demonic Dread[/ccProd]s are live when I need them to be, and Dryad Arbor does a whole lot with one slot. It’s for more than Bogles, sure, but the point is that I have prepared for even the most obscure matchups.
The one matchup I’m choosing to concede is Burn. It would take too many cards to turn this matchup. Instead I will try to dodge. People traditionally don’t like to play Burn at the Pro Tour, so I don’t expect much of it.
Living End[ccdeck]4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Grove of the Burnwillows
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Blood Crypt
1 Stomping Ground
1 Godless Shrine
3 Living End
4 Demonic Dread
4 Violent Outburst
4 Monstrous Carabid
4 Deadshot Minotaur
4 Street Wraith
4 Pale Recluse
4 Jungle Weaver
4 Fulminator Mage
2 Beast Within
1 Simian Spirit Guide
1 Living End
3 Ingot Chewer
1 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Slaughter Games
4 Leyline of the Void
1 Dryad Arbor
1 Ricochet Trap[/ccdeck]
Is this the best deck to play at the Pro Tour? It’s definitely the best deck for me to play.
The main reason this deck is so good for me is that it liberates me from having to think. I know exactly how I am going to sideboard in each match and that frees up time thinking in match. I have a plan for every single deck, and that frees me from anxiety over what my opponent’s are going to be playing. I am going to have a lot of freedom of thought in my matches.
Playing the Pro Tour
As of writing this, I haven’t played yet. All I’ve done is prepare, and now it’s time to let go and just play it out.
Whatever happens I will still be here next week writing. I am not a man whose self worth is based on standings. If I win, good. If I lose, good. I get to travel for and write about this game that I love playing so much.
I can’t lose.