Hello, Dear Reader, and welcome back. I apologize for missing my article last week, there was a bit of a scramble to prepare for the trip to Nebraska and I couldn’t find time to write anything. So, today I want to fill you in on how things went at GP: Lincoln (Hoth). The format for this tournament was Modern, and I LOVE Modern. If Wild Nacatl was legal this would easily be my favorite format, as it is really shaping up to be a more aggressive version of Legacy. Hopefully once Modern has truly taken on its own identity WotC will unban my cat-buddy. So, what DID I play since Nacatl is banned?
1 Kessig Wolf Run (Super-Secret Tech!)
As you can see, Dear Reader, this beast is just dudes, removal, and as few lands as I can get away with playing. I did manage to pack some value into this manabase though. Horizon Canopy is an all-star in the late game when I just need a bit more gas. The man-lands are great for any kind of attrition match. Kessig Wolf Run is my main win condition against Jund. I really only had 2 problems with the mana base all weekend, I took a bit too much damage off my lands, and there was one too many red fetch-lands.
What about the spells, how did they fare, you ask? Grim Lavamancer was unimpressive. He is a good card in this format, but only against certain decks. Those decks are typically other decks with Lavamancer. This means that he is a dead card when they have an active Lavamancer on table. He is often fairly easy to play around, he has summoning sickness, and he dies to literally every removal spell in the format. I will be cutting him from the list soon.
The rest of my creatures were great! Bloodbraid Elf is the best card in the deck now (go figure…) but just edging out Knight of the Reliquary for the title. Bloodbraid is the best possible draw for a stalled board or against decks with counter spells. The value you get off the card is insane, especially with this much removal. That being said, there were a lot of games which simply ended if I got to untap with KotR. Needless to say, there was no opponent all weekend that enjoyed seeing me flip KotR with Bloodbraid on the stack. Cascading into non-creature spells was pretty nice too…
The spells might be my favorite part of the deck. Getting to play the two best 1 mana removal spells AND the best 2 mana removal spell in the format makes the core of this deck very powerful. The versatility of damage based removal makes it very desirable in a format where most opponents start the game at 15. I won easily half my games by casting Lightning Bolt to finish my opponents. Lightning Helix is one of my favorite cards to draw late, as it is often a blowout. My opponents regularly made bad attacks because I was dead on board. Helix can single handedly turn a sure loss into a harrowing victory in these situations. So, those are the cards, what about the matches?
I still have 2 byes at every Grand Prix, so I started off 2-0. Having these free wins is great for an eternal format. Many casual players still come to constructed Grand Prix to see just how good their elephants deck that smashes all their friends really is. Having byes lets you dodge the random decks that aren’t really part of the meta-game but could easily trip you up.
Round 3: (Evil) Ben with Merfolk
Ben was running U/W fish, and that is an insanely good matchup for me. I killed every creature he played game 1. I got stuck on land and died with Ben at 2 in game 2. We had a fairly close game 3, but he was forced into some awkward plays because of mana issues and I took it down.
Also, I have him labeled as Evil Ben here because his friend was sitting next to him and told me that he was Evil. Seemed like a nice enough guy to me, but who am I to argue with experience?
Round 4: Elliot with Caw
Now the pros were in the mix, but I was feeling good after knocking the jitters off with a solid first round of play. This round I got to play a fellow Hoosier who had made the trip with his girlfriend. Elliot was a very nice guy and a punctual player. It is nice to play against other players who clearly announce steps and phases. Our games were tight and clean.
In game 1 I killed every Squadron Hawk I saw and burned Elliot out from 6 life. Game 2 Elliot came out of the games fast and smashed me very quickly (he took 1 point of damage the entire game). Game 3 was a doozie! We took turns with dominant board positions before he slammed down a Sun Titan to gun things up for me. My next play was Bloodbraid Elf cascading into Qasali Pridemage (…and not the Path to Exile that I wanted). Here is where things went wrong for Elliot. He decided to swing with his Sun Titan (which was basically a giant wall that I wouldn’t deal with) instead of his Celestial Colonnade. I double blocked the Titan with BBE and Kitchen Finks and proceeded to beat him down.
Round 5: Ivan Flock with RUG Delver
Ivan is part of the Czech National Team and top 50ed PT Dark Ascension. He was also a really nice guy, and a tight player (as you would expect). That being said, I have no fear of this matchup. I have more removal then they have threats, I just have to use it right. Ivan and I traded games by burning each other out. I double Lightning Bolted him game 1, and he double kicked (!) Burst Lightninged be game 2 (I had a bolt in hand and was tapped out, too).
Game 3 had couple of interesting lines. The first was a dance between my Knight of the Reliquary and his Vedalken Shackles. He had bounced this Knight once with Cryptic Command and had 6 Islands in play for Shackles. I had 4 lands in the graveyard but needed this Knight to win the game. So, I just had to sit on the card until I drew another fetch land, then hope he didn’t rip an island off the top. After I played the Knight he went for it and I cracked my land in response, making the Knight and illegal target.
Game 3 ended because I got him low enough for my 4 burn spells to win through a Deprive. That was a fun match, and I was happy with my play.
Round 6: Hans with Jund
Hans was a nice guy, but these games weren’t close or interesting. This match is 100% attrition, with both of us killing every creature the other plays. It often comes down to who top decks more Bloodbraid Elfs in the late game. My one advantage: Kessig Wolf Run. I run 25 creatures, they can’t possible kill them all. This means Wolf Run WILL kill them eventually. I won this match in 2 games because he didn’t have removal for KotR and I got to untap with it both games.
Round 7: Gerry Thompson with U/W Tron
Gerry is a very nice guy to play against. He and I joked throughout the match and chatted a bit about his SCG content before it. Class Act. All this makes getting completely rolled by him a bit better. He cast turn 3 Gifts Ungiven, turn 4 Unburial Rights Iona, Shield of Emeria (naming white) games 1 and 3. I didn’t have him low enough to burn him out, and I lost. I took the 2nd game with a hoard of creatures over-running a Wurmcoil Engine though, which was fun.
This matchup isn’t too bad, it isn’t great though. And Gerry having a literal nut-draw 2 out of 3 games didn’t help me out.
Round 8: Darin Minard with Jund
Darin is part of our traveling group and I have spent a lot of time with him going to events over the past 6 months. I like Darin, he is a good guy, and easily trolled. But we put our serious faces on and played this one out.
Again, this is a total attrition war and I got an active Wolf Run in game 1 (I also played 3 Bloodbraids) so I took that one. He took game 2 since I drew all the lands in my deck. Game 3 was no different, we both killed every creature we saw, but we were playing pretty quick since time was an issue. This led to a bad removal call on Darins part and a bad attack on my part at the end of the game. Unfortunately neither of us wanted to concede to the other and we took a draw (which is as bad as a loss in day 1 of a GP).
This left a sour taste in both our mouths, but we should have had a plan for determining concessions before the game. Since we didn’t, it worked out poorly for both of us.
6-1-1 Since 7 wins is the cut off for making day 2 I was on my win-and-in round to finish the day.
Round 9: Tanner with Storm
I have no idea how a storm player drew a match, but here we were. Since I am aggro I am pretty obviously at a disadvantage vs combo in game 1. So, I got comboed out on turn 3 in game 1. We both mulliganed to 5 in game 2 and I took it down seeing only Grafdigger’s Cage for hate (I board in 7(!) cards in this matchup). Game 3 he keeps a 1 land hand and misses on lands for the first 3 turns. I see only Grafdigger’s Cage again and he combos off with Empty the Warrens for 18 goblin tokens and wipes my board when he hits his 2nd land on turn 4. WotC really needs to ban that mechanic…
So, I started the day very well, but managed to miss day 2. Those last 3 rounds made the trip a real disappointment, Magic wise. I still had fun with my friends and did some sweet trading over the weekend. I also got my playset of Knight of the Reliquary signed by Brian Kibler. So, the weekend wasn’t a wash, but I feel like I should have made day 2 after that start.
I am glad the current PTQ format is Modern, as I am still in love with the format. I will continue rocking this archetype with some tweeks here and there. This deck definitely has what it takes, I just need to hit the right run to make it happen. Hopefully I will be showing off a picture of my blue envelope in one of these articles soon.
So, Dear Reader, thank you for reading and for your patience. Make sure to let me know what you want me to write about next week. You can contact me directly via twitter (@CapnTopDeck) or through the comments right here. I hope you all run well this weekend at Game Day!
“Do you know how hard it is for a goblin to kill a dragon?!?”