Welcome to another Showdown Recap, where we take a look at what happened at Face to Face Games Toronto’s weekly Sunday Showdown, a series of 1k events feeding into the Ultimate Showdown 5k Invitational. Today, we’re covering April 30th’s Modern Showdown, the May 7th Facetofacegames.com Toronto 3k Modern Open, and the May 8th Legacy Showdown.
Let’s start off with the Modern Showdown! This event showed off a lot of the new face of Modern, with four Thoughtseize decks in the playoffs, dueling with a slew of more-or-less linear strategies for the top spots.
Two quarterfinalists, Showdown mainstays Jerico Reguirre and Zane Pimiskern, both brought big mana decks to the scrum – Jerico preferring Bant Eldrazi, while Zane registered GW Tron. While ostensibly different, both decks share many traits: they play Path to Exile, which is highly effective against Death’s Shadow, they need to draw combinations of fast mana and expensive spells, and that this makes them weak to Thoughtseize, the current all-star of this format. These decks are powerful, but while the slow pace of the old BGx decks made them inevitable favourite to fight through disruption, this is very different in a metagame where the Thoughtseize decks play one-mana 8/8s.
Peter De Vries put up another consistent finish in the Showdown series with his Modern deck of choice, Merfolk. Merfolk has gained a lot of edges recently due to the effectiveness of Spreading Seas effects against Death’s Shadow decks. Peter not only maindecks the full set, but sideboards four copies of Sea’s Claim to add redundancy to the strategy. Phantasmal Image has also gained a lot of equity as the creature quality of the format has skyrocketed.
Speaking of the boogeyman of the format, Jeremy Rubinoff brought Jund Death’s Shadow to 5th place, a relentlessly powerful and surprisingly consistent deck. While many builds of this strategy are focused on the ability to grind out the opponent with a neverending stream of resilient threats, Jeremy’s Jund build instead is focused on playing a bunch of large creatures early and then punching through with Temur Battle Rage and removal, which would allow him to steal wins against traditionally poor matchups. I also really like his sideboard Bitterblossom!
Alexei Varakin put up another top 4 with his Affinity deck, unsurprisingly powerful in a format where the best deck is intentionally trying to put themselves to a low life total. An artifact-heavy strategy is a risk right now, however, due to the prevalence of Kolaghan’s Command in the Death’s Shadow decks, as well as the high Lingering Souls count both played in those decks and played to beat it.
Our perennial villanous hero, Chris Ha, made it to yet another semifinals finish with his erstwhile Abzan deck. He still refuses to cut his singleton Stirring Wildwood and Gavony Township, presumably due to a lack of foil replacements, but continues to prove me wrong by putting up high finish after high finish with the deck. The prevalence of Death’s Shadow strategies continues to advantage decks like Chris’s, in a dichotomy explained extremely well by wise Toronto seer Keith Capstick in his recent BGx Bible article.
In the end, Jason Drossis was able to take down the finals with an Abzan Midrange deck, defeating x’s Esper Death’s Shadow deck in a tight match. The Esper deck is quite powerful, akin to the old Esper Monastery Mentor decks, but significantly faster, albeit less versatile. It highlights the sheer power level of adding a one-mana 8/8 to any non-controlling strategy by pairing the Horror with the oddly-resilient threats of Snapcaster Mage, Tasigur, the Golden Fang, and Lingering Souls. What this deck excels at is taking the commonly-played Fatal Push and turning its strength at killing Death’s Shadow against it by filling out the rest of the deck with cards that it’s a blank against. Versatile threats and powerful counterspells, Thoughtseizes and Path to Exile? Sign me up. However, Jason also brought Path to Exile to the table, one of the few cards that can tangle with both Death’s Shadow, and Tasigur, the Golden Fang. His Abzan deck plays many of the same cards, but is able to firmly take the control role in the matchup, giving him an advantage in what is essentially a midrange mirror. Personally, I’d like to see a build of this deck without Noble Hierarch, as while it speeds you up somewhat against linear strategies, a non-black-producing mana dork is not at its best in this format’s frequent midrange mirrors.
Jason Drossis – Abzan – 1st
Tomas Hladik – Grixis Death’s Shadow – 2nd
Chris Ha – Abzan – 3rd
Alexei Varakin – Affinity – 4th
Jeremy Rubinoff – Jund Death’s Shadow – 5th
Jerico Reguirre – Bant Eldrazi – 6th
Peter de Vries – Merfolk – 7th
Zane Pimiskern – GW Tron – 8th
Let’s fast forward a week – over 100 players turned out to another Facetofacegames.com Toronto Modern 3k Open, fighting for glory, a trophy, awesome playmats – oh, and over $3000 in prizes. Despite last week’s Thoughtseize and Death’s Shadow dominance, no Rock-style decks were to be found in the playoffs here, and the only maindeck hand disruption was in its most natural home: 8-Rack!
Starting from the bottom, we have Chris Flink, whose Ad Nauseam is as much a part of him as his patch-ridden leather jacket. As he wrote for us in his primer from the other week, Chris was looking to try Gideon of the Trials as a split with Phyrexian Unlife to be able to pressure cards like Liliana of the Veil. Chris is a man of his word, and put up a respectable finish with the new Planeswalker. Check out his great article for more details on his deck!
Zombies might have won the Pro Tour, but Daniel Dove played the OG Tribal deck, Elves, to a 7th place finish here! In the same way that the Zombies deck randomly pushes dozens of points of power onto the board, Elves is known to flood the board with little dorks at an unmatched rate. Daniel’s version plays the light black splash for Shaman of the Pack, a powerful burn spell, as well as a sweet sideboard Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet to crush through Kitchen Finks decks.
Jeremy Brain, our sixth place finisher, unsurprisingly insisted that I call his deck by its submitted name, something arbitrarily, nonsensically, moderately obscene. But it’s an 8-rack deck, so I’ll leave the death metal-lyric deck name stranded as an unread Facebook message. Jeremy’s build is well-tuned for the expected BGx metagame, with maindeck Lingering Souls and sweet sideboard Death’s Shadows. The white splash also gives him access to the colour’s powerful sideboard cards in Rest in Peace and Stony Silence.
Rounding out our quarterfinalists is Matthew Camazola, whose Abzan Company deck features the maindeck Melira, Sylvok Outcast combo alongside the Archangel of Thune/Spike Feeder combo in the sideboard to beat graveyard hate. Access to all these powerful combos in a Chord of Calling deck is very significant in a creature-dominant format, where getting to stall out the board with a full playset of Kitchen Finks that also enable your combo is downright awesome. Matthew also plays maindeck Orzhov Pontiff, an indispensible card as Lingering Souls counts creep up steadily, and Tireless Tracker, the Best Card in History.
Moving on to the top 4, we have yet another Collected Company deck of yet another flavour, with Franco Pascalini’s Bant Retreat to Coralhelm deck. This deck is reminiscent of its Standard cousin, with Spell Quellers and Tireless Trackers galore flooding the board and disrupting the opponent. Much like most other Collected Company decks in Modern, this list features a combo – this time Knight of the Reliquary and Retreat to Coralhelm, which lets you blaze through all the lands in your deck, ending with Kessig Wolf Run to trample through for a ton of damage. Sweet! This deck also has one of the best sideboards in Modern, with access to countermagic as well as white’s best hate cards.
In third place, we have our second Gideon of the Trials deck in Quinn O’Grady’s UW Control. This deck preys on the creature-centric nature of the format by playing a ton of Supreme Verdicts and Cryptic Commands to defend a massive suite of planeswalkers, eventually going well over the top of the rest of the format. I’ve been a big fan of these control decks cutting the traditional counterspell suite of Remand, Mana Leak, and Spell Snare, as threat diversity in Modern is at an all-time high, and so many of these cards are just not as powerful at answering them as they used to be.
Grand Prix Richmond 2014 Champion Brian “Hallowed Fountain and Fire-Lit Thicket in the Same Deck” Liu has been absent from competitive Magic for a while, but decided to remind everyone of his odd mastery of the Modern format by achieving a finals berth at this Open with exactly zero playables in his deck. When you’re as powerful a Planeswalker as Brian, you don’t actually need any cards that do anything (Gideon’s Intervention) to win every match. Brian brought his old faithful, 4-colour Kiki Chord, to rumble, and included tons of spicy technology in his deck for our viewing pleasure. Maindeck Glen Elendra Archmage, his signature card, provides an option for a hard lock against lots of combo decks, while being powerful against control decks as well as Jund strategies. Brian also played the Nahiri, the Harbinger package, adding a different dynamic to the deck – a combo that doesn’t fold to removal. Being able to loot away redundant lands is always great, and tutoring up Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is, unsurprisingly, quite powerful. This is a solid strategy in a strange midrange deck.
Zack Brooks, however, won the entire tournament with, in my humble and definitely-not-biased opinion, the clear favourite for most awesome deck. Blue Moon variants have had a lot of continued success in this tournament series, starting with Caleb Keung’s win with Torrential Gearhulk in February. Zack’s been calling his deck Splinter Twin for a while, thanks to its two-card combo of Through the Breach and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in a blue control shell. Maindeck Blood Moon is at an all-time high strength thanks to the colour-heavy Death’s Shadow decks, and it’s not like Cryptic Command and Snapcaster Mage stopped being sweet.
Facetofacegames.com Toronto Modern Open – May 6th
Zack Brooks – UR Through the Breach – 1st
Brian Liu – Kiki-Chord – 2nd
Quinn O’Grady – UW Control – 3rd
Franco Pascalini – Bant Company – 4th
Matthew Camazola – Melira Company – 5th
Jeremy Brain – 8-Rack – 6th
Daniel Dove – Elves – 7th
Chris Flink – Ad Nauseam – 8th
Last, but not least, we have ourselves a Legacy Showdown! This is our first major Legacy event since the banning of Sensei’s Divining Top, devastating the “best deck”, Miracles. The player response to this was mixed, bordering on positive, but the stellar turnout at this Showdown speaks to the popularity of such a decision.
Jason Drossis and Andrew Gordon both brought Food Chain decks to the table. These decks gained popularity thanks to their viability against Miracles, but Jason and Andrew both proved that the deck has chops against the rest of the format as well! The ability to be a grindy midrange deck with disruptive elements as well as a combo certainly plays well, as a versatile deck like this is sweet in a somewhat unknown metagame. It turns out Leovold, Emissary of Trest and Force of Will are still good!
Peter De Vries (and Jason Drossis, for that matter), recorded back-to-back Showdown top 8 finishes these past two weeks, and Peter even played the same deck in each format! His Legacy Merfolk deck is quite sweet as well, featuring maindeck copies of Vendilion Clique and Venser, Shaper Savant as well as the ever-powerful Chalice of the Void. I’m a big fan of Phyrexian Revoker in the sideboard as well, as even though its primary target, Sensei’s Divining Top, is no longer around, it’s still a very effective piece of disruption.
The rest of our quarterfinalists, Jason Arsenault and Austin Tully, both brought Goblin Charbelcher to the tournament – a surprising beneficiary of the Miracles ban. Storm-style decks like this one struggled a lot against a deck featuring both Counterbalance and Force of Will, but with it gone, a fast-and-furious deck like Belcher suddenly becomes more viable, if still volatile.
Another big winner is Delver of Secrets, hated out by high quantities of Terminus and Swords to Plowshares fighting against Abrupt Decay decks. Kevin Fang brought a Sultai Delver deck reminiscent of the Team America decks of old, featuring a full playset of Hymn to Tourach alongside other powerful disruption like Liliana of the Veil and four Abrupt Decays. Having access to powerful disruption alongside undercosted threats is pretty much the formula that makes Modern Death’s Shadow such a beast, and this deck features the same elements alongside even more disruption and consistency. This is something to look out for in the coming weeks.
Our other semifinalist, Jon Fine, played a black Eldrazi deck, one of the few decks that was able to rumble with Counterbalance. However, Chalice of the Void gains a lot of real estate when Delver of Secrets is viable, and it’s not like turn 2 Thought-Knot Seer into turn 3 Reality Smasher suddenly got bad.
However, it sure looks like Daniel Goetschel had the deck for this tournament, playing his Delver of Secrets to another Showdown win. Powerful cards like Price of Progress and Bedlam Reveler backed up by the consistent blue counterspells and cantrips are very serious. For the same reasons that Chalice of the Void is good, Daniel’s sideboard Eidolon of the Great Revel are tremendous in this Storm combo-heavy new format. I, for one, am excited to see the resurgence of combo and Delver decks in Legacy. Also of note, only one round in this tournament went to time. The Top ban was great!
Daniel Goetschel – UR Delver – 1st
Andrew Gordon – Food Chain – 2nd
Jon Fine – Eldrazi – 3rd
Unfortunately, we lost Jon’s sideboard.
Kevin Fang – Sultai Delver – 4th
Jason Arsenault – Belcher – 5th
Austin Tully – Belcher – 6th
Peter de Vries – Merfolk – 7th
Jason Drossis – Food Chain – 8th