Over the course of the next two months, there are three Modern Grands Prix in three different continents. First, there’s one in Detroit, then one in Brisbane, Australia, and last (and for me the most relevant) there’s one in Antwerp, Belgium. While in a different country, the GP in Antwerp isn’t more than three hours away from where I live right now, which is about as far from the border as possible; the Netherlands really is a tiny country. With the WMCQs and the few PTQs we get behind us, GP Antwerp is the next big tournament I hope to attend, despite being two months away.
An aside for everybody on the other side of the ocean: count your magical blessings that you can go to a Grand Prix, ManaDeprived Super Series, SCG Open, TCGplayer 5K, etc. every other weekend. I remember from living in New York (which is probably on the higher end of the “blessed” scale when it comes to magic tour everything) that we often had weekends where we could even choose between a 2K here, a PTQ a bit further away, or a GPT in the local store. Here, I get excited about the GPT in the local store a month from now.
Anyway, with all these Modern tournaments coming up, I’ve had Modern on my mind. I haven’t settled on a deck yet, and I’m hoping to do a lot more testing between now and the end of October. That also means I’ll be writing about Modern a lot. I hope you guys like the format as much as I do!
This week, I’ll be looking at some of the URX decks I am considering playing. In the next article, I’ll talk about the Green decks I’m looking at, like Pod decks, Scapeshift and Tron. And if you like reading about Modern, I’ll make sure to keep you all up to date with my testing.
At some point, I had to face the truth: I am not a combo player. It doesn’t matter how much I like a combo deck, how much it tingles my inner-Johnny, how fun it is to solve the puzzle; I do terrible with combo decks. Whereas every extra line I can take with a combo deck is a thrill, every line I can take with a combo deck also adds to the confusion. Even linear combo isn’t easy for me. I never get right when to “go for it.” I play around too many cards to the point where I’ve talked myself into never being able to win. It might just be a lack of practice, but I feel lost when I play these decks. That means I won’t be playing either of these next two decks, despite how good I think they are:
Twin by Robert Berni
Goryo’s Fury by Todd Anderson
The Twin deck interests me mostly because of this sequence:
The Goryo’s Fury deck was one of those cool puzzle decks, and the rumors of potential turn-two kills were enough to make me goldfish some games on my phone (using the DeckedBuilder app, which is great for building and goldfishing decks). I did 30 games, and these were the results:
Turn-two kills: 6
Turn-three kills: 10
Turn-four kills: 9
Turn-five kills: 1
Now, this was without playing around disruption, but the deck has a fair amount of maindeck ways to battle through disruption, with Izzet Charms and Thoughtseize. Plus, if you’re going off on turn two, who needs to play around anything? However, you do have some draws where you fizzle, which was mostly due to my not finding a way to kill my opponent for five or more turns, which I assumed would mean I’d lose against most Modern decks. Six turn-two kills though-that’s 20% of the games I goldfished! A small sample size, sure, but that should not be happening, right? … Right?
For those of you who don’t know how this deck works: you discard an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, or Grislebrand to a Faithless Looting or Izzet Charm (or Thoughtseize if you’re desperate) and reanimate it with a Goryo’s Vengeance (responding to the shuffle-away trigger in case of Emrakul). You attack and use Fury of the Horde to create an extra attack step. In Emrakul’s case, this means death for your opponent immediately; in Grislebrand’s case, you get to draw more cards so you can cast more Furys, resulting in probable eventual death for your opponent.
I generally enjoy playing control decks, and I generally do well with them, but I’m not all that attracted by the major control deck in Modern: UWR. Sphinx’s Revelation, while one of my favorite cards in Standard, just doesn’t seem all that great unless you have more than eight mana available. If we’re looking to cast something for that amount of mana (and we’re not playing Tron or Calciform Pools), why not sling around some Cruel Ultimatums? It did just get some sweet new art in the latest From the Vault: 20 set, so there’s that.
Grixis by Paul Cheon
I’ve watched Paul Cheon stream with this deck, and I liked what I saw. Cheon is probably a (way) better player than I am, but with enough practice, this could be a deck I see myself playing at the Grand Prix. It is a bit more powerful than UWR, as Cruel Ultimatum is completely absurd. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of casting one yet, it’s that awesome feeling of Rakdos’s Returning your opponent for his entire hand, stapled on top of Sphinx’s Revelationing to refill yours, with a sweet, sweet side of Edicting your opponent-for a measly seven mana. And with Snapcaster Mage, you can do it again in another two turns!
Your general game plan with this deck is to keep up with your opponents, using removal and counterspells to keep them off of assembling whatever filthy thing they’re trying to do, while building up to an Ultimatum yourself. The deck has a lot of play to it, but beware: while it has answers to just about anything, it has few of everything. Mystical Teachings counts as extra ways to draw that one copy of whatever instant you need, but it is slow. The fact that you have so much disruption makes it plausible that you’ll have enough time to find whatever you need, however.
Things I want to try in this deck: Mulldrifter; Godo, Bandit Warlord; and Talisman of Dominance.
Despite what I just said, I am also a little worried this deck is too slow to keep up. That’s why I would like to try a Talisman or two. Godo would take the place of the second Batterskull in the sideboard. It still increases your chances of drawing your Batterskull, and is (generally) better if you draw Godo first. It might be that it’s too much worse if you already have a Batterskull or if you let it get destroyed that it’s not worth it, but we’ll see. Mulldrifter is just as a value card to return with Cruel Ultimatum that’s not susceptible to graveyard hate (as in all other cases Snapcaster Mage would do just fine). I wouldn’t mind trying a copy over a Think Twice.
Another option is to stay within the colors for the awesome spells, but instead of using them to buy time to get to your big finish, you use them to prevent your opponent from getting to his.
Grixis Delver by Zac Hill
This deck, while it might need some updating, plays basically all the good cards in the format. It really doesn’t feel fair when you shuffle this up against a random deck. It does have some weaknesses in that it is sometimes short on specific answers in the maindeck and lacks a way to look for them aside from Serum Visions and extra draws from Dark Confidant. This deck is very much a three games deck: you improve quite a bit after sideboarding, while your maindeck is a bit of a hedge against different things with the one Pillar, one Spell Snare, one Electrolyze and one Vendilion Clique.
Your gameplan with this deck is often to land an early threat and start getting damage in where you can while keeping your opponent off balance. Beware though: you are not always the aggressive deck. This deck is one where you’ll have to switch roles depending on your hand and the boardstate fairly often, and it is, therefore, not easy to play. That’s why I’ll only play this deck if I actually get a ton of testing in (also to get the sideboard right, as this list was posted in February this year).
Things I want to try here: more Electrolyze; more Spell Snare; and Liliana of the Veil.Electrolyze and Spell Snare seem very good right now, and Liliana of the Veil is the only format staple this deck isn’t already playing. Geth’s Verdict shows that double black should be castable with this manabase. I could see cutting one of those and a Spell Pierce for a pair of Lovely Lily’s, but I’m not sure what else to shift around yet. I don’t know what Surgical Extraction does right now, and I think I’d rather have Abrupt Decay than Go for the Throat, but that’s about it.
A similar deck that I’ve had my eyes on is another Delver deck, but this time with half the colors:
UR Delver by Jeff Hoogland
(list taken from http://roxiecards.com/modern-ur-delver-primer/)
This deck is a bit more focused than Zac Hill’s Delver, but it’s also less powerful. It’s a bit weak to Tarmogoyf decks and control decks, where Hill’s deck is a bit better. Hoogland’s Delver has it a little easier when it comes to getting some damage in, with all the burn spells it plays. Because of it’s reach, it will more often be the aggressor in the matchup, and because the cards serve a more singular purpose, the deck will be a little easier to play.
This deck also has a big weapon in Blood Moon out of the sideboard, although I’m a bit less high on it than other people. A lot of decks are aware Blood Moon is a card and have basics to fetch because of it. On top of that, it’s still an enchantment that doesn’t influence the board; nor does it replace itself like Spreading Seas does, for example. Spreading Seas also “destroys” an Urzatron piece, or cuts a Jund deck off of a color. It also cycles, though. Despite all that, in the right spots, Blood Moon is straight unbeatable.
Things I want to try: see if the manabase can support Vedalken Shackles.
When You’re Feeling Blue
I wouldn’t fault anybody for playing any of the above decks in a Modern tournament, and if you do, keep your eyes peeled for more in-depth reports on the decks when I get around to testing them. Let me know in the comments if you’re particularly interested in one of them, so I can start with that one.
May the Blood Moon always shine on your Tron opponents,
iLansdaal on Twitter and MTGO