Showdown Recap: March 25-26 – Windsor Standard Open and Modern
Before I get started with the Recap this week, I have a special announcement for you all: we’ve changed (read: improved) the date of the Ultimate Showdown, and finalized the format. The event has been moved to June 11th so as not to conflict with Grand Prix Cleveland, and the format, well, the format is fantastic. Let’s just say that you’ll be playing not only Modern, but also whatever format you qualified in. Check out the Facebook event for the details. This event is an extremely hype 5k featuring a 2k cash first prize, so be sure to check it out!
Without further ado, let’s get to the content! Last weekend saw a lot of action in Canadian Magic. There was not one, but two Facetofacegames.com Tournament Series events, with a Modern Open in Quebec City, and a Standard Open in Windsor. We’ll be talking about the Windsor results here today, and you can find the decklists and results of the Quebec City Open here. Both events had stellar turnouts, and the Quebec City event almost sold out the venue! We’re so excited to continue to grow this series along with all of you over the months and years to come.
The top finishers of our Standard Open proved the naysayers of this format wrong. While there’s clearly a top tier of highly competitive decks with a fairly consensus “best deck”, other strategies continue to perform well. This particular top 8 featured 3 Mardu decks, 3 BGx decks, and one of each UW Flash and 4-colour Saheeli Rai – a surprising amount of Winding Constrictors, considering the deck was written off as dead by many.
Let’s start off by looking at the Mardu Ballista decks. The maindecks are mostly stock, with the eventual winner, Trevor Ravanello, playing a configuration very close to the Owen Turtenwald version of the deck from Grand Prix New Jersey. This evolution of the deck focuses on the strength of Archangel Avacyn, playing 25 lands maindeck to ensure access to the 5-drop, and enabling a midrange sideboard featuring a plethora of planeswalkers. Gregory Tetreault took a more aggressive path with his sideboard, deciding that cards like Nahiri, the Harbinger, played mostly due to it being easy to cast with the deck’s difficult mana, were inferior to the more difficult-to-cast Chandra, Torch of Defiance. As such, his deck runs the full set of Aether Hub – a big risk for a big payoff. Brian Farrenkopf also put up a top 8 finish with the deck, playing Owen’s maindeck with a couple changes in the sideboard. Typically Shock would be a poor sideboard card in a format where the leading aggro deck isn’t particularly soft to it, but the card’s odd strength in the 4c Saheeli Rai matchup makes up for that weakness.
Next up, we’ve got a bunch of Winding Constrictor decks! These decks have faded somewhat in popularity as the format has evolved, due to their matchups worsening against the new midrange-heavy Mardu decks, as well as the increase in removal in the recent builds of 4-colour Saheeli. New builds of BGx have emerged, however, typically focused on powerful Energy strategies, playing Unlicensed Disintegration to push through the powerful planeswalkers of the format. Shawn Dhaliwal brought just that, Ben Stark’s list from the top 8 of Grand Prix New Jersey. This deck is capable of powerful aggressive starts on the back of Longtusk Cub, but has lasting power in Verdurous Gearhulk and Tireless Tracker, and additional advantage in the sideboard in the form of Glint-Sleeve Siphoner. Michael Morgan took a much more interesting approach to the deck, foregoing either the Delirium or the Energy path, and instead going right down the middle. He’s playing a wide variety of the strong creatures available to the deck, but I cannot in good conscience defend either his decision to play more than 60 cards, or the absence of either Attune with Aether or Traverse the Ulvenwald. The land count is simply too low, and the reasoning to play 63 cards is simply not a factor in a format such as this one, where there’s a huge disparity in power level between the cards in your deck. Brandon Emms also took a top finish with a BG deck, playing a more traditional non-red Energy version of the deck, with Aethersphere Harvester and maindeck Siphoners.
Brett Tetley brought the last stock deck of our top 8, or at least a variant of a stock deck, making it to the finals with the Delirium variant of 4-colour Saheeli Rai. This deck takes the Chandra, Torch of Defiance shell of recent weeks and adds Walking Ballista, Traverse the Ulvenwald, and Ishkanah, Grafwidow for additional power against Mardu and additional utility in the mirror. Being able to tutor up a Felidar Guardian is no joke, and additional interaction for the Saheeli Rai combo is nothing to overlook as well. Expect to see this build of the deck remain popular in the last few weeks of this format.
Now, last but not least, we have ourselves some spice. Most of you will remember the UW Flash deck from the early days of Kaladesh Standard – a deck that was unceremoniously dumpstered by the banning of Reflector Mage and Smuggler’s Copter, two of the deck’s most important cards. Mackenzie Scott, however, was not deterred. Her build of Aether Revolt UW Flash eschews the aggressive elements of the deck for a wide variety of instant-speed options, from counterspells to removal to Glimmer of Genius. The combination of flying 2-drops, Archangel Avacyn and Elder Deep-Fiend would give her plenty of edge against the Saheeli Rai decks, but I imagine that this deck would struggle significantly against Mardu, especially given how poorly 2/1s line up to Walking Ballista.
Stick with us after the decklists for the Modern Showdown!
Facetofacegames.com Windsor 2k Standard Open Top 8
Trevor Ravanello – Mardu Ballista – 1st
Brett Tetley – Saheeli Delirium – 2nd
Shawn Dhaliwal – Jund Energy – 3rd
Michael Morgan – BG Midrange – 4th
Gregory Tetreault – Mardu Ballista – 5th
Mackenzie Scott – UW Flash – 6th
Brandon Emms – BG Energy – 7th
Brian Farrenkopf – Mardu Ballista – 8th
54 players showed up to Face to Face Games Toronto this week for a Modern Showdown, and as usual, the field was staggeringly diverse. There are, however, a few metagame trends worth noting. First off was the resurgence of Affinity as the linear aggressive deck of choice. With Infect more or less out of the picture, and Death’s Shadow decks transitioning to a more disruptive midrange state, there was a gap in the format that could be claimed by either Affinity or the weakened Dredge, decks that demand specific sets of answers. This week, two Affinity players made their way to the top 8, with several others in attendance. Brenton Henry and Brandon Cheung finished in 7th and 8th place respectively, and while Brenton’s list was more or less stock for the archetype, Brandon brought some spice with a playset of maindeck Glint-Nest Crane. Not only is it a flier capable of holding Cranial Plating, it helps find copies of the deck’s most important cards. Definitely something to look out for in the future.
Next up we’ve got a full roster of spicy decks to look at. Bill Irons continued to put up good finishes at Modern events with a deck he’s been tweaking for a while, a UW blink deck of sorts. Featuring Aether Vial and an assortment of disruptive or difficult-to-answer creatures, this deck is strongly inspired by Death and Taxes, while not being quite the same thing. Bill brought some innovations to the deck this week, with Trophy Mage able to tutor up both Porcelain Legionnaire and Grafted Wargear, underrated but powerful cards.
Leslie Walderman continued the saga of extremely good Caleb Keung decks in the top 8 of all our Modern events by taking my advice from last week and bringing Torrential Gearhulk Blue Moon to the Showdown. Leslie made some changes to the sideboard, primarily adding the, in his words, embarrassing, Sun Droplet to beat burn, but this is ultimately the same deck from last week. Local sage Nathan Starke writes: “Leslie Walderman maxed out on Cryptic Commands in his Blue Moon deck, a smart move in the current Modern meta. Given the power and popularity of various flavours of Death’s Shadow, this control deck with Lightning Bolt, Electrolyze and Glimmer of Genius is a good place to be.” All sarcasm aside, this deck has struggled with Death’s Shadow ever since it became popular, and while this deck has a bunch of powerful advantages elsewhere in the format, its continued success will rely on the metagame shying away from the one-mana 8/8.
Chris Ha, oh, Chris Ha. For those keeping track at home, this is Chris’s sixth top 8 so far this year, the consistency of which has automatically triggered a DCI investigation (ed: not really). Chris brought his stalwart Abzan deck, taking deckbuilding advice from local genius and deckbox enthusiast Keith Capstick, to a semifinals finish. I’ve spoken at length about the strength and superiority of Dark Confidant builds of BGx decks in Modern, so instead I will use this paragraph to savagely neg Chris. In his quarterfinals match against Skred Red, Chris’s opponent inquired as to the size of a Tarmogoyf on the side of our Abzan hero. Both players determined that it was, in fact, a 2/3. Chris then proceeded to tap all of his mana and then attack the still-2/3 Tarmogoyf into an Eternal Scourge. Later in the match, undeterred by his previous chump attack, Chris proceeded to attack a Shambling Vent into the same 3/3, and proceeded to win the game, and the match, anyways. This information will be submitted to the committee running the investigation (ed: still no). He clearly attempts to use foil cards to blind his opponents, but sometimes it backfires, as the glare prohibits him from seeing the bottom right corner of his own cards. Anyways, Chris’s finish pushes him to first place in the standings.
Speaking of Skred Red, the Drossis family put two players into the top 8. Christopher brought the aforementioned Skred Red deck, playing the powerful Eternal Scourge, which apparently eats Tarmogoyf for breakfast. This deck is the precursor of the recently-popular Sun and Moon archetype, a Blood Moon deck without Chalice of the Void, using the powerful removal spell Skred alongside planeswalkers to establish a lock over the game. Something to note about this deck is that now, unlike previous iterations, the removal spells common in the format are absolutely terrible against it. Lightning Bolt, Fatal Push, and Path to Exile are practically blanks against Pia and Kiran Nalaar, Stormbreath Dragon, and Eternal Scourge. While the deck’s innate power level is lower than what many are used to in Modern, it’s definitely a metagame choice worth keeping an eye on.
Jason Drossis avenged his kin in the semifinals, defeating Chris Ha with a powerful Bant Company deck, splashing red for Kessig Wolf Run to turn on the Knight of the Reliquary/Retreat to Coralhelm combo. In the first game, Chris cast an Inquisition of Kozilek on the draw, facing down a land and a Noble Hierarch. He saw two copies of Kitchen Finks, a Tireless Tracker, and a Courser of Kruphix alongside a second land. Over the course of that game, Tireless Tracker made at least 6 clues. If that isn’t enough to sell you on this strategy, then I don’t know what is.
Jason, however, was stumped in the finals by Toronto mainstay Wilson Wong, known locally for his consistent Modern finishes as well as his uncanny ability to drive to Buffalo in an hour flat. Wilson has been playing Bant Eldrazi for a while now, and his list looks nice and tight. Wilson’s win immediately qualifies him for the Ultimate Showdown, while Brenton and Jason’s finishes also push them over the 50 point threshold. We look forward to seeing all of them in June, competing for the 2k cash first prize!
We’ve got a busy weekend coming up in terms of events! First off, on Saturday, the Facetofacegames.com Tournament Series is stopping in North Bay, Ontario for a Modern Open. On Sunday, we’ve got a pair of exciting events in store (and in-store!) for you: a Standard Showdown and a 1k Modern Masters 2017 Draft Championship! Make sure to preregister for these events, as space is limited! See you there!
Modern Sunday Showdown
Wilson Wong – Bant Eldrazi – 1st
Jason Drossis – Bant Company – 2nd
Leslie Walderman – Blue Moon – 3rd
Chris Ha – Abzan – 4th
Christopher Drossis – Skred Red – 5th
Bill Irons – UW Blink – 6th
Brenton Henry – Affinity – 7th
Brandon Cheung – Affinity – 8th