Grand Prix Lisbon a Limited Report (Zac Clark)

GP Lisbon Round One:

Dear Everyone that’s lost a match to me in the last 5months,

I couldn’t have made it this far without you. Thank you for the top decks, the rage quits, the draft signals. Remember that time I took off work on a Friday Night to play FNM and you lost? Well, here’s to hoping its worth it. I’ll try to make it count.

Signed

Zac Clark, Durdle Magus

Looking at my deck I realize the pool was far too varied to make a great deck. I decided to settle for a very good deck. My rares screamed Rakdos splash Blue and my commons said that’s impossible. I decided to not play a solid 3 color deck. And ended up with a pretty strong Selesnya with a splash of Blue for Blustersquall and Voidwelder. I have a good 4 removal cards in white. 5 token creator cards AND the Phantom General. Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage is my “Bomb”. A few combat tricks to make my opponent crazy… And a Slime Molding, which could win the game alone. I’m sad there are no super bombs but you work with what you got here.

GP Lisbon
97 cards, 57 sideboard
Forest
Plains
Island
Transguild Promenade
Azorius Guildgate


17 lands

Keening Apparition
Phantom General
Rubbleback Rhino
Armory Guard
Voidwielder
Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage
Vassal Soul
Seller of Songbirds
Centaur Healer
Centaur’s Herald


14 creatures

Blustersquall
Savage Surge
Arrest
Trostani’s Judgment
Slime Molding
Common Bond
Avenging Arrow
Eyes in the Skies


9 other spells

Sideboard
Nivmagus Elemental
Aerial Predation
Archweaver
Rogue’s Passage
Rootborn Defenses
Thoughtflare
Bellows Lizard
Vandalblast
Trestle Troll
Grisly Salvage
Golgari Longlegs
Gatecreeper Vine
Runewing
Tower Drake
Inspiration
Sewer Shambler
Tenement Crasher
Lobber Crew
Bloodfray Giant
Mind Rot
Terrus Wurm
Dead Reveler
Carnival Hellsteed
Trained Caracal
Mercurial Chemister
Viashino Racketeer
Azorius Charm
Giant Growth
Sphere of Safety
Azorius Arrester
Essence Backlash
Traitorous Instinct
Sluiceway Scorpion
Korozda Guildmage
Isperia’s Skywatch
Chorus of Might
Chronic Flooding
Ogre Jailbreaker
Cancel
Growing Ranks
Thrill-Kill Assassin
Izzet Keyrune
Minotaur Aggressor
Grim Roustabout
Ogre Jailbreaker
Rakdos Cackler
Batterhorn
Dreadbore
Havoc Festival
Launch Party


57 sideboard cards

In the mean, time I’ll take a trip to my pal Harry’s game and see how he’s doing.

(This is a great spot to point out a thing I told Harry that’s very important when playing in other countries.) The guy he was playing had some friends watching the match… Behind Harry. They were speaking to each other in Portugese, Harry asked if they could move from behind him if they were gonna speak in a different language and see his cards. It was all done in a respectful manner and I honestly don’t think anyone was cheating but still it’s important to assert a level of rules awareness when you’re playing on this level. His friends walked away and they continued the match in a very friendly way. Harry eventually took it.

photo-2

Round Two Pedro

My Round Two opponent took his sweet time getting to the seat. We share pleasantries and shuffle up. He wins the roll and is on the play. I’m off to a strong start but he puts out a few creatures and then a Volatile Rig. I block the rig we flip he “wins” the flip and the board wipes… Just my luck. He gets stable first with a Lotleth Troll and then a Daggerdome Imp… We go to game two.

Game Two was a blow out. Turn Two Imp turn Three Lotleth and turn four he drops a Sewer Shambler to the Troll and scavenges to the Imp I’m bleeding out for six and he’s gaining three. It was a rout and pretty hopeless. We shake and I see how Harry’s doing. Also not too well.

I start to think after such a beating that maybe I built a bad deck. I look at my cards and separate the Black/red and blue cards… Then make a 23 card pool just in case. Mentally pulling 3 cards from my main deck (Transguild Promenade, Blustersquall and Voidwielder). If things look bad I might side into this:

Audible GPLisbon
40 cards, 0 sideboard
Swamp
Izzet Guildgate
Island
Mountain
Transguild Promenade


17 lands

Viashino Racketeer
Batterhorn
Thrill-Kill Assassin
Mercurial Chemister
Rakdos Cackler
Grim Roustabout
Voidwielder
Minotaur Aggressor
Ogre Jailbreaker
Sewer Shambler
Carnival Hellsteed
Tenement Crasher
Dead Reveler
Terrus Wurm
Bloodfray Giant
Lobber Crew


17 creatures

Dreadbore
Izzet Keyrune
Traitorous Instinct
Launch Party
Mind Rot
Blustersquall


6 other spells

Sideboard

;

Looking back now I wished I’d used this as my main deck. It’s got some great cards and plenty of gas.

Round 3 Pedro – Bant

Feeling pretty uneasy about my deck I decided to slam a Redbull right in front on my round 3 opponent. Give him a big old “How are ya? Zac Clark, Brooklyn, New York City! Where you hail from?” Pedro hails from Spain. He’s a quiet dude and we don’t talk a whole bunch the first game as he gets mana screwed. And mulls to five. I kept a subpar hand and barely got there.

I decide to play the same deck again. It was a bad keep but it got me there. Maybe it’s not so bad. Game two Pedro takes.

I call a judge while we board for game three. I show him a sheet that reads 7 mountain 7swamp and 2 Island. He balks… So 7 and 7 and 2? Yup! I say with a grin to my opponent. Who remains patient as I shuffle up and recount my side deck. Judge arrived in haste with my requested lands I shuffle and am on the play.

Turn 1 Rakdos Cackler

Turn 2 Grim Roustabout

Turn 3 Dead Reveler

Turn 4 Bloodfray Giant

Turn 5 Voidwielder

It was a blow out. Pedro was confused. I was elated! This deck loved me. I curved out like a boss and it felt great! Pedro took it in stride, and complimented me on a stunning switch. I had shown Harry my tech and he made the same move into a Grixis build I gave him a couple pointers with. Now that I had tasted the beats, I knew I’d play this deck after each game one regardless of its outcome… But I wanted to surprise my opponent so I made sure to sleeve it up and put it in the deck box I kept my tokens in. Art of War: if my opponent knows himself but doesn’t know me then I have the advantage. I’m fast with my hands and can make it look like I’m only moving three cards out of the deck and bringing three cards in. The rest of the tourney no one notices until I play Mountains and Swamps instead of Plains and Forests on game two.

Round 4 Jose Rakdos

Jose confessed that he hadn’t gotten much practice in sealed as he just came back to the game after a hiatus during his 20’s. Sound familiar? I told him that my LGS was literally a mix of kids about to go to college and dudes my age that quit for social life’s sake during college, who wish we hadn’t and there’s very little 20-24 year olds. Just a nature of human society, in trying to be cool we realize (too late) that we can do whatever and still have friends/girlfriends and such. Also we can afford to play now.

I’m hopeful during shuffling and Jose is interested on why I came from so far to play in a GP. Also, a super considerate dude, he asks if I mind chatting while we play. I tell him I don’t. I’m wired out of my gourd on Redbull, multi tasking is not a problem. I tell him my story, how I wanted to take some time off from life and hang out with an old friend show him what traveling abroad is and how I conduct myself for my other job (Travel Writer, not pro Magic player… One day perhaps) I tell him we decided on a time frame and looked for the sealed tourney (because my friend, like him, hasn’t played in a bit) in Europe and we started to save up. Other players around are commenting… “That’s pretty cool, you can just up an take a 8 day vacation and play Magic with your friend under the guise of being a travel writer.”

You’re reading so it must be working, right?

So I take game 1 on the back of Vitu Ghazi Guildmage and Centaur Bros. I think I’m slick so I slide my newly sleeved Grixis deck out careful to not let Jose notice and slide in the Bant deck to its holster.

Game 2 I fumble on mana terribly. Jose thinks that I was splashing black for something, (and Has me on Junk) he hadn’t seen any blue in game 1. He comments on my mana troubles confirming he still didn’t realize I was playing a new deck.

Game 3 was a narrow loss but he saw the meat of my deck after a bit of confusion he gets his Populate engine online and I die to Centaur Bro beats… I’m a little upset but I still like the secret of switching. I’m gonna give it another go, the deck feels just waaaaay better. Jose wishes me luck and we part ways, Harry confirms that he took it and the switch was amazing! I pound a Redbull like a magic healing potion and I’m back to 20 once more.

photo-4

Round 5 Holger

Holger was either German or English and had his English down pat either way. We exchanged deck, rolled, he won and I got a rocking. I got my Centaurs rolling and then made a surprise block with Eyes in the Skies and then played a Phantom General to seal the game. It turns out this deck pretty solid. Maybe I should… Nevermind, I see Holger race to his sideboard and I switch deck as he sides in like 5 cards… I thinking, that’s 1/8th of his deck thats probably useless!

Game 2 Holger doesn’t know what’s going on? “Are you playing a five color deck?” I respond that I’m not, with a smile. I realizes that I switch decks and started to stabilize. I draw blustersquall and have held the island in my hand the whole game just in case. The next turn he over commits his attack and I punish him with the overload during my main phase. He leaves without remembering to sign the sheet, obviously a little upset. I find him and genuinely thank him for a great game and wish him luck in the next round.

Round 6 Lionel

Lionel is about as Irish as they come. We might just be the two loudest dudes at the tourney. He’s on Rakdos and is pretty happy to see me drop an island first in game one. I got off to a slow start and we all know how that goes vs Rakdos. Game one was his. Without question.

I was worried about siding into Rakdos vs Rakdos but I thought I had the better deck. I saw no reason to not race him especially since he wasn’t ready for my tricks. He wasn’t and my Unleashed dudes got him while my Scavenge dudes blocked. Lobber Crew finished him off.

Game 3 was tougher. We got into a stale mate with my Lobber Crew picking him off. I was trying to make my eighth land for a Traitorous Instincts/ Launch Party Combo. He’s at 7 with a Golgair Leglegs and a Tenement Crasher in play and some other blocker. I got a Bloodfray Giant and a Dead Reveler as well a Batterhorn (which killed his Rakdos Keyrune a turn before) and a Lobber crew too. I draw a land play it then do the math… he’s got to block something and I’ll kill both his guys with a blocker held back… LET’S GO! “Traitorous Instinct?” He looks like he just ate all the cat food. I swing in. He blocks the crasher and lets the Bloodfray in… I show him Launch Party. He scoops.

I spend the next few minutes playing therapist, listening to all the cards in his deck he could have drawn… We’ve all been there. I decide to nod and pretend I was worried, shake my head at the right times and such. I like winning… but this is the part of winning I really hate. Where the other guy tells you how he’s better and that it’s his deck and not the choices he made that lost him the game. That’s magic though, I congratulate him on a well played match, but he’s in the loser’s circle and he’s not happy. I pound my final Redbull.

photo-3

Round 7 Dominic

Holy! Only three wins and I’m in! I smell Day 2. Actually, what I smell is this place and all these dudes. I hadn’t noticed until now but damn. It’s no joke in here. I wonder if the loser’s circle smells better? Less is at stake… Maybe but whatever I’m sure I’m actively adding to the overall ripeness. My opponent looks like he’s been in this position before. I decide to be at ease. This is a game and I came to play and meet folks afterall. I introduce myself in a boisterous manner. A few eyes look up. I figure I might get a little something close to intimidation if they hear how far I’ve traveled. No such luck.

It’s Rakdos vs Selesnya again and I’m Fort Knox my man gets in for a couple hits then I stonewall him. And start making dudes. It’s over shortly after.

He desleeves 12 or so cards. Going for a transformation board it looks like. I switch again Rakdos for me. Game 2 he’s caught totally off guard playing Golgari which I think is a bad switch to fight Selesnya, but maybe he made the same mistake I did, and his board had a better deck. Either way it didn’t matter a bluster squall/Alpha strike took it and I give his board tech a nod. He confesses that he never even saw me switch, I’m getting good at that. He was busy sleeving and resleeving though that prolly didn’t help his concentration on me much.

Round 8 Miguel – Izzet

I run out to the mall buy a 1 liter of Coke an get more caffeine in me. I gotta be on my AAA game now. Everyone’s a scrapper in the x-2 bracket. I’m seeing a lot of the same faces and I’m worried that my new opponent may know about my sideboard switheroo. He pounds me first game with any remorse. Creatures plus Pursuit of Flight and my removal comes far too late. On Explosive Impact kills me.

Game Two is a race. I’m Unleashing dudes (as per my sideboard deck) and Dreadboring his blockers. Lobber Crew Finishes him off. I got him on his heels and once again my board was a surprise. I notice he doen’t go to reboar, and he seems a bit frustrated.

Shuffle/Cut He’s on the play.

Game Three I’m winning… Bloodfray Giant is doing early work and his Little guys are getting in here and there. I’m at 10 with a couple blockers so I’m not worried about his explosive impact he’s at 8, Just out of range of my Launch Party, but I’m content to let this play out. “End of you turn, Explosive Impact.” I take it, wow I didn’t expect him to waste it with me able to block his guys, I figure he’d kill my …”UNTAP EXPLOSIVE IMPACT!” Son of a B… and just like that I’m out of the tourney… out of day two at least.

photo-5

And the next match isn’t even important. I can tell you I lost it, but my heart wasn’t in the game at that point. Round 9 in the x-3 bracket is just about the saddest place in the world. Everyone is telling their bad beat stories, and no one wants to listen. Lionel from round 6 asks me how I did in 8. When he hears, he tells me I should have conceded to him. Fat chance. What a totally stupid thing to say. Any how. We wander around the tourney for a bit then head out for dinner and to get some rest. It’s been a long day. Harry comes away 4-5, pretty good considering he just started playing again. Grand Prixs are a long day and winning late in the day becomes more a battle with exhaustion than your opponents life total.

On the day I went 5-4 with one bye in the start. I wasn’t impressed with myself, but I think it was enough to get me close to my second bye next season. The next day I play in a couple standard events and it looks like everyone in Europe is about a week behind the Meta-Shift at 20ss. It’s all ZombieAggro and Bant. I play in two tourney’s and go 1-1 in both. Grand Prix Lisbon was a lot of fun and I can’t wait til Atlantic City. I spend the rest of the day building the deck I end up playing at TNM as I return to the states. Which was a good call, since I 4-0’d.

What did I learn? As Rich Stein would likely ask… I had to give pause and think about the overall here. I played Magic in another country, on another continent. What a privileged life I live! Sure it wasn’t free and I came back broke as a joke, but I had an awesome time. I was worried about the language barrier, as far as I played in the tourney, everyone spoke “Magic”. Keywords like Tap, Target, Kill, Exile, Upkeep were all pretty well understood. I made a bunch of short term friends. An old friend and I enjoyed a past time we hadn’t done together since my first PTQ during Mirage. For the most part it felt like Magic. Everyone was having a good time, especially me, and I tested my Redbull Theory a little farther.

Screen shot 2012-12-07 at 1.13.38 PM

In Summation: I need to pay more attention during Deck Building… Magic is a universal language… Redbull gives you wings, and some people just double EXPLOSIVE IMPACT YOU WHEN YOU’RE AT TEN LIFE.

Back in the States and back at 20 life,

Zac Clark

Modern American Merfolk

american folk

by Zac Clark

Getting into Modern as a new/returning player can be a real drag. There is a barrier to entry the format has that can be off-putting if you haven’t decided to get serious about being a competitive grinder. I’m coming up on one year since I re-mounted this cardboard monkey and the addiction is stronger now than I think it’s ever been. Lucky for me, the side effects have been out and out good things. New friends, steady writing, even a financial back-up plan, have all been great reasons to keep untapping. Like I said, coming back to the game a year ago I was ready to invest in Standard, but going Modern was a little more of a slow build.

One of the first decks I bought was Merfolk. The original decklist was U/W with Paths as the only white cards and just tons of Merfolk Lords and Æther Vial. Surprisingly, the deck had some good match-ups vs. other decks that ran blue. Islandwalk can be a real threat. And as we all know in these tribal decks, “The threat density is too damned high!”

Well, Modern singles prices (not unlike my heating bill this winter) continue to steadily climb. I moved to decks I thought could beat other decks in the meta. But David “Bones” McCoy recently borrowed my Merfolk to try to build a U/R version of the deck. He wasn’t impressed. But this got my wheels turning. I tried to build a Merfolk sideboard that could handle the various weaknesses the deck had.

Problem 1: Affinity

arcbound ravager

It’s a tough race to win in the U/W version. The Paths  just weren’t enough to stop Cranial Plating from killing me after a couple turns.

Vandal Blast makes for a good spot removal card for the bombs like Plating. And though it’s a sorcery we can instant speed removal the carriers with Path to Exile and Lightning Bolts while we build up mana for the blow out.

It’s a race to be sure, but it’s not impossible to win. And ,with four Vandalblast in the board we have a good chance of winning this one.

Problem 2: Jund

liliana of the veil

With BBE banned I had hoped this match-up would fall to the wayside. So much removal and card for card it’s a better deck. Their lack of Islands really hurts us and Tarmogoyf is a hard nut to crack.

tarmogoyf

+2 Path to Exile, +3 Spreading Seas, -2 Phantasmal Image, -2 Merrow Reejerey, -1 Cursecatcher

In comes two more Path to Exile and some Spreading Seas. Jund’s manabase is its real weakness. Keep them off a color, draw and get Islandwalk going. Bobs can be a pain but you have answers for him. You can bring in Rest in Peace to negate Deathrite Shaman, the card they should have banned in modern instead of the marginally less destructive BBE.

It’s gonna be tough, but remember you have direct damage. If you keep that on the low Jund tends to dip low into the life count before establishing dominance. You have the early beats so make him/her the control player.

Problem 3: Eggs

second sunrise

Short of having all your counters available in game one, things looks pretty bleak versus this deck. Your creature removal is trash but post-board you have a lot to work with.

-4 Lightning Bolt, -4 Lightning Helix, +2 Rest in Peace +2 Stony Silence, +2 Counterflux, +2 Vandalblast.

Having two different “You can’t go off til you deal with this” permanents in play is a hard thing to deal with for Eggs. They’ll need two Echoing Truth. Meanwhile you can play your dudes off Æther Vial to keep the pressure up. If the Eggs player gets sloppy killing a spellbomb on your turn (or all his artifacts) usually can get a scoop from them. It’s all about aggressively mulling. Also don’t let them know you have mondo hate.

Generally, they like to cast Silence then go off. Spell Pierce even with their mana available is many times enough to stall the combo. They need every mana they can generate. After Silence is gone and they don’t go off, keep counter mana up. They can’t afford to brick twice. Remember your Cursecatchers, they are easy to forget.

cursecatcher

So good off a Vial!

A final way to shore up the weaknesses in a deck is to buy fetches to add a color. I know it doesn’t make the prohibitive cost of Modern easier to bear, but it does make your early cheapo deck a force in the current meta. As with most things in this game, knowledge of match-ups is important. If you know where and when to take the initiative and make an attack run on the Death Star, you won’t end up repeating a Hoth-sized mistake (to use a Star Wars reference that will make my girlfriend smile).

American Folk

Lands


2 Hallowed Fountain
4 Mutavault
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Steam Vents
1 Island
2 Sacred Foundry
4 Arid Mesa
2 Cavern of Souls

Creatures


4 Silvergill Adept
4 Cursecatcher
4 Master of the Pearl Trident
4 Merrow Reejerey
2 Phantasmal Image
4 Lord of Atlantis

Spells


4 Lightning Bolt
4 Æther Vial
4 Lightning Helix
1 Counterflux
2 Path to Exile
2 Spell Pierce

Sideboard
4 Vandalblast
2 Stony Silence
2 Rest in Peace
3 Spreading Seas
2 Path to Exile
2 Counterflux

Bonus Deck: Esper Drownyard !

nephalia drownyard big

Eventhough I’m not playing Standard right now, I have to say I’m really excited about the format. It’s balanced and—even though it seems like there’s a deck that is very close to taking the mantle of “Best” (I’m looking at you, Jund)—there really is no clear king of the hill.

That said, the deck I like this week is Esper Drownyard. It does all the things Evil Tim likes to do (wrath and draw cards) and it has the added bonus of spot removal and a Geist Control option.

Esper Drownyard

Lands


2 Watery Grave
4 Drowned Catacomb
1 Plains
2 Godless Shrine
4 Nephalia Drownyard
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Glacial Fortress
2 Island
4 Hallowed Fountain

Creatures


2 Restoration Angel
4 Augur of Bolas
2 Snapcaster Mage

Spells


1 Dramatic Rescue
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
4 Supreme Verdict
2 Planar Cleansing
4 Azorius Charm
4 Think Twice
2 Ultimate Price
2 Dissipate
2 Devour Flesh
1 Jace Memory Adept

Sideboard

2 Angel of Serenity
2 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Duress
1 Negate
2 Witchbane Orb
1 Rest in Peace
1 Psychic Spiral
3 Gloom Surgeon
1 Dispel

no dsphere

I like the lack of Detention Sphere here. Replacing it with Planar Cleansing feels great and it gives us a way to deal with other troublesome planeswalkers permanents. I have seen versions running Consuming Aberration as a win con, I’m guessing more for mill than attacking but with 6 main wrath effects (not to mention Snapcasters), I don’t really like him in the deck. Jace, Memory Adept in the main can just outright win games and I’ve grown to like this path to victory. After playing a few rounds with this configuration, I’m convinced that this is where I’m comfortable in Standard. Who wants to grind out a win with creature battles when the deck has a much better objective. Four Nephalia Drownyard means never having to say “Where’s my win con?”

I also like the Snapcaster Mage/Restoration Angel package here. There’s plenty of good targets and Augur of Bolas hits more often thanks to the absence of D-Sphere.

snapcaster mage restoration angel

Like peanut butter and chocolate. Or jelly, depending on preference.

The sideboard is crucial here. There’s a little something for everyone. Gloom Surgeon for the beatdown decks. You have more cards than life, after all. Jace, Memory Adept, Dispel, Negate and Duress for Control—this is sideboarding 101. Witchbane Orb vs UWR flash (thanks a lot, Boros Reckoner), Humanimator and Dark Naya. Angel of Serenity is quite interesting and is probably good versus most midrange decks, since having two gets around your own Supreme Verdicts/Planar Cleansing.

My favorite piece of tech, though, is the one of Psychic Spiral for the mirror. This is a game changer! Now you don’t really care what the other ‘yard player does. The idea here now is to focus on making him counter spells he thinks are important. Then, once you have some Dispel or Negate backup, SLAM IT BACK DOWN HIS/HER THROAT and yell, “Eat my Graveyard, Coppers!” “It was all a ruse!” is another personal favorite. If your Spiral goes to the yard you still have Snapcasters to get it back, though at that point the jig is up and they know your plan.

psychic spiral

Who would of thought?

All in all, this deck has all the early removal, late game takeover, and mid game resets that control is known for. Naturally, having Drownyard within your own manabase is nice since you don’t have to run Farseek and draw it when you need answers. As with all decks that durdle, you’ll need a little practice so you don’t go to time. (Editor’s Note: Especially in certain stores that run 40 minute rounds)

Good luck decking your fellow planeswalker!

Zac Clark, Durdle Magus

G/W Mayor

by Zac Clark

Around 5pm I’m walking down my stairs to check the mail one last time. I’ve got some cards coming in the mail that I need for decks tonight. Curses! Foiled again.

I meet my Jersey pal Paul coming up the stairs. We spent most of yesterday deck-teching RDW’s and GW Aggro. It was an intense day of testing and at times frustrating. Paul and I differ in opinions on cards often. I have to remember that he’s not dealt with the meta over the last 2 months. I’m excited to see him back in the game.

RDWs matches his play style so we built a deck with some fun secret tech. The GW Aggro deck I’m playing is much the same as the one my buddy Matt Jones has been talking up. I’m super ready to play a beat down deck. After weeks of trying to build a rogue deck to match well versus the meta it’s time to play with Rancors and Silverblade Paladins.

Rancor Silverblade Paladin

Thinking is for IDIOTS! Haha!

GW Aggro Mayor

 

4 Cavern of Souls
6 Plains
2 Gavony Township
1 Selesnya Guildgate
1 Forest
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Temple Garden

22 lands

4 Knight of Glory
3 Sublime Archangel
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Mayor of Avabruck
3 Doomed Traveler
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Silverblade Paladin
3 Dryad Militant

28 creatures

1 Selesnya Charm
3 Faith’s Shield
2 Oblivion Ring
4 Rancor

10 other spells

Sideboard
1 Faith’s Shield
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Fiend Hunter
2 Elite Inquisitor
3 Selesnya Charm
2 Purify the Grave
2 Erase
1 Dryad Militant

15 sideboard cards

One last thing before we leave… I switch to my vintage MATT JONES T-Shirt to channel the Obliterator himself. I’ve been listening to Manowar and Rancid’s black album (2000) all day. I AM THE BEATDOWN.

Still a blue mage at heart though, I tell Paul to not tell anyone about my deck choice on the train and that before the tourney I’m testing American Control. I’ve removed the Niv-Mizzet and added Chandras. As I expected, that’s enough to get some heads turning. “What is that card in your hand?” Kadar Brock (local at my LGS) exclaims.

“Justice League of AMERICA!” I laugh as Paul crushes me with his RDW. I play the store’s other Zach in a couple of games of Modern. The only deck I have is Fish. Modern at the Twenty Sided Store is funny because so few of us have decks that I’m a factor in the metagame. I haven’t even been able to play a Modern tourney yet. Still, I enjoy the format and really look forward to playing some soon. Zach rocks Living End. Both decks are kind of hilarious… I cast a bunch of Merfolk lords that all pump each other. Zach cascades to Living End and all these cycled creatures switch from the graveyard to play. We trade games back and forth, basically whoever goes first wins.

“STANDARD PLAYERS! PAIRING FOR ROUND ONE NOW IN THE BACK!”

Here goes nothin.  It’s a full house and space is as tight as the play here.

???

My round one opponent got severely mana-screwed and asked me privately to not mention him in my report.

Suffice it to say I won this match without any opposition. I respect the wishes of this player and although I’m sort of bummed I can’t talk about the match, I’m totally ok with being asked to keep a match off the record. Slightly bummed though, because I was looking forward to talking this cat up. In GP Philly we spent some time between rounds testing our decks and those games he pointed out a play flaw that I used to win in the next round.

That said, even though I like winning, mana-screwed opponents (especially one who I like to play against/consider a classic foil) is one of the worst and most awkward ways to win. I never know what to say. “I’m sorry” seems like I’m being a jerk. It’s shitty for everyone involved. Now if this was some big time tourney or even something with a Top 8 at 20ss I’d be a little happier. I’m slightly somber though as my first run with this deck was null. I have no idea how it really does versus his deck.

Result:

1-0 match 2-0 games

HT Bant Control

I had some time between rounds to scout and to grab a coffee. Right next to my round one, I watch a furious match up between a GW Midrange and a Bant Control deck.

I felt pretty good about my macthup versus control but that Mid Range deck scared the BeJESUS outta me. I wondered who won the match as pairings for round two told me the answer: HT was piloting the Bant list.

The games where tight as I took game one on the back of two Faith’s Shield to stop his tempo plays (Azorious Charm) on my Silverblade Paladin.

The second game got dicey as I got him low then he cast a Thragtusk. Thankfully the next turn I drew a Selesnya Charm to give my double striker Trample and +2/+2, thus sealing HT’s fate. After the game HT was all smiles though. He was telling me how tough FNM was last week. He mentionned that he’d just spent the $400 to complete this Bant deck only to 0-4 with it last week. My heart sank… I know that feeling (F^&% you, American Control!). My advice was to play it a lot and learn the match-ups. Often times piloting the same deck over and over will teach you how to win against the other decks. I’d rather be a good player with a deck that’s a little under on win percentage than a terrible one with the top deck.

Bant is a solid deck and I think it has the interaction that stand to see it as an archetype long into the block. Sphinx’s Revelation goes a long way into this.

Results:

2-0 match 4-0 games

Richard Tan – JUND

Richard and I know each other from being at the shop all the time, but this is a first for us. I’m living high on the Aggro Wagon. Also my low curve and only running two colors means last week’s getting severely mana-screwed 5 games in a row isn’t happening. Things are looking good for me. I’m ready for some hardcore GW aggro on JUND midrange action!

Richard mulls to six. I groan. I like my hand, but I really am sick of my opponents getting manas-crewed. He keeps. I rushed out Champion… he killed it with Pillar then I played a Knight of Glory and followed with a Silverblade… once again Faith’s Shield saved the day as I got in with my dudes and avoided removal.

Faith's Shield

Game two RT mulled to 4. I want to cry, now. He keeps a hand with no land… and ironically almost stabilized vs. me via Huntmaster and Pillar. If that would have happened, I think I’d have lost my mind.

We play a third game for the hell of it and he takes it.

Results:

3-0 match 6-0 games

I look over at Paul he’s 0-2 playing Tim A. They’re on game three. I decide to walk over and see how it looks. Paul’s had a rough day. 1-2 vs. Tony Loman then Jordan Morgan got him in the second. Now I look at Tim’s hand and life. 6 cards 6 life. Supreme Verdict, Land, Sphinx’s Revelation, Sphinx’s Revelation, Tamiyo, Azorious Charm.

Paul’s in for a rude, rude awakening. Tim wipes the board clean, Paul responds by frowning. Paul TOP DECKS… nothing of interest… Tim plays land and Tamiyo. Over the next few turns he Revelations into Revelations (DIRTY!) and Ultimates Tamiyo. I think Paul, had a slight aneurysm when Tim cast Revelations and put it back in his hand. We all shake our heads. Paul eventually scoops. Everyone has a good laugh, including Paul. Tim compliments him on his Archwing Dragon tech, which won him the second game… his deck had few answers for it.

Nick Heppding – CraterRamp (Hoof there it is!)

Looking at the pairings I was relieved to see I’d be playing Nick. It’s been a bit since we faced each other in Standard. (See epic rage quits.) Seriously though, if I had to be on the other side of the table from anyone, I’d like to face a friend in the finals. Especially one that needs the store points as much as I do.

“So I’m gonna need those Deathrite Shamans back now,” I jest

“Ha, split packs, play for points?”

“Seems like a plan.”

I have no idea how his deck works… I could have watched the games he played to see but I was busy chatting and stuff. Game one he goes to 1 life. Rushes out a Craterhoof Behemoth with the help of mana dorks and swings with Lingering Souls tokens and Behemoth for lethal… I am Jack’s total lack of big butt blockers.

Game two looks the same.

I have him the next turn and Whoops! the ground rumbles and I’m dead! Ok now, I know how the deck works. Looked like there was a reanimator package too but he didn’t need it. Theses were fast games. I think I spent more time shuffling and waiting for my opponent to decide to keep/mull tonight than actually play.

THAT’S MY STYLE OF MAGIC!

I play the game fast and put my opponent on the “Are you finished yet? I’d like to attack all out again!” plan. Pretty effective. The deck likely has trouble against midrange but Sublime Archangel and Faith’s Shield have things to say about that.

Final Results

3-1 match 6-2 games

There won’t be a TNM report from me next week. I’ll be going to Lisbon to play in GP Lisbon.

Why?

Well Magic in the USA has just become too much of a scene, bro. I need to see what’s up with these huge Euro GPs. Seriously though, a friend and I are running all around Southern Europe and playing/eating/drinking/being otherwise solid representatives of a nation that could use a little international polish.

If you tune into my other Twitter Feed @Rockertycoon, all the non-magic stuff with be there. I’ll switch over to @HotcBlog on Fri/Sat/Sun for Event coverage and fun pictures. I may have enough down time to post some thoughts and what have you. I’ll be back in time for Early Friday Draft at 20ss. Expect some great stories and maybe I’ll even take down the whole damn Grand Prix like a boss.

Until Then,

If you can’t beat them, build a rogue deck that does!

Grixis Mid Range

by Zac Clark

It’s a creature-based highly interactive format out there, kids!

Rest assured we are a long way off from solving it. The trend in decks seems to be pointing toward control strategies that abuse Thragtusk and Miracles. On the fringe we have Zombies, RDWs, Azorious Aggro and Jund (in no particular order). Following the formula for a format where if all things are equal (and we know they are not) Aggro beats Control beats Midrange beats Aggro, there are a lot of deck building options out there.

I broke down the viable color combos and the only colors that get the shaft right now are WBR (Oros) and WBU (Esper). These combos have no mana fixing (the kind green offers) and only one shockland each (Blood Crypt and Hallowed Fountain, respectively). For now, I’ll stay away from those choices.

I believe that surprise is the biggest ally you have during these early rotation tourneys. Some folks still don’t know what each deck does and plenty of others are waiting to ‘counterspell’ cards you aren’t even playing. If you play a rogue deck you can often get by on skill and surprise if you can pilot your deck well.

I looked around for a color wheel that was underplayed in the last month. After looking at the top 8′s from states and a few TCG Player/SCG events: Grixis Control is the underdog by a wide margin. I’m sure there are plenty of reasons for this but really explaining to you why a deck isn’t performing is about the last thing I want to do.

But hold on a sec!

Grixis (BRU) has really powerful cards, some of the best removal in the format and it’s got blue mana! Blue mana means blue cards, and we all know that blue cards mean… countermagic. I don’t have to tell you that the single most powerful thing you can do in this game is tell your opponent, “NO!” It’s pretty much the greatest interaction any deck can achieve.

 

 

Grixis? Don’t see many creatures here.

 

With that in mind I started working on a midrange deck that can beat control. After a night of tinkering I have this:

Grixis Midrange

1 x Stensia Bloodhall
1 x Swamp
2 x Desolate Lighthouse
4 x Dragonskull Summit
4 x Blood Crypt
4 x Drowned Catacomb
1 x Mountain
2 x Sulfur Falls
4 x Steam Vents
1 x Island

2 x Desecration Demon
3 x Falkenrath Aristocrat
2 x Thundermaw Hellkite
1 x Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius
3 x Snapcaster Mage

2 x Essence Scatter
3 x Rakdos Keyrune
1 x Mizzium Mortars
2 x Sever the Bloodline
2 x Dreadbore
1 x Murder
1 x Rakdos’s Return
4 x Pillar of Flame
3 x Syncopate
1 x Cyclonic Rift
2 x Dissipate
3 x Jace, Architect of Thought

Sideboard
1 x Bonfire of the Damned
2 x Tormod’s Crypt
3 x Slaughter Games
2 x Clone
2 x Ultimate Price
1 x Liliana of the Veil
1 x Witchbane Orb
2 x Jace, Memory Adept
1 x Negate

Lands being a pretty boring mix of tap lands and shocks with a pair of Desolate Lighthouses and a Stensia Bloodhall to get in that extra damage/ draw you into more threats and answers there’s really nothing special going on here.

Creatures

Creatures on the other hand are all pretty interesting.

Let’s start with:

Snapcaster Mage

Snapcaster Mage
This dude hates zombies, he makes all our removal spells come back one more time, and he can recycle our already cast Mizzium Mortars and Cyclonic Rifts and he’s a ‘snap’ blocker in a pinch. He is full on utility and he’s working overtime in this deck. Someone get him a tool belt already!

Falkenrath Aristocrat

Falkenrath Aristocrat
Did I mention that Snapcaster Mage is a Human?

There’s really not much in this format that can disrupt a Flying 4/1 haster with the ability to become indestructible. What’s your Thragtusk have to say about a blood thirsty princess Leia coming at Jace’s  neck after you left him wide open like that? Thragtusk doesn’t say much, he’s pretty shy and from what I hear he can’t look up more that 15 degrees. I’m guessing he never even noticed.

Desecration Demon

Desecration Demon

Totally underrated for his drawback.

This is actually the reason I like this card in this deck. He’s early beats if you’re playing against control. Unanswered he can win you the game in a couple of turns (3×6=18 plus 2 from a Pillar of Flame) your opponent can make him useless as a blocker by sacking on his/her turn (watch out for Gravecrawler/Lingering Souls interactions) but for the most part he’ll be making your opponent waste resources (and likely more than one) to stop taking damage from this demon.

Thundermaw Hellkite

Thundermaw Hellkite

Nothing says lovin’ like following up a four drop haste flyer with a five drop haste flyer, that removes all blockers.

Thundermaw is the real deal! 5/5 to the dome or your opponent’s Planeswalker friends. He’s a no brainer in this format and he’s not gonna be taking a break anytime soon. He’s undercosted, over-abilitied and ready to melt faces.
Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius

One of this bomb is a wonderful way to finish the game.

You’ve read this everywhere – untapping with this card … blah blah blah … win the game. It’s true in most decks and even truer here. Use that mana to hit your opponent, draw answers to his/her threats, kill his/her threats, smash him/her for five and then draw another card. THAT! MY FRIENDS … IS WHAT THIS GAME IS ALL ABOUT!
Spells
There’s so much to talk about here. What to include, how many, what doesn’t work that well, what is awesome and which spells to only one of. If I were a weaker man, I’d have this deck at over 100 cards. There are sooooooo many great spells in this format and this part of the deck is easily convertible to your local meta but this is what I think will work the best this Tuesday at my LGS.
Meet the Singletons:

Rakdos’s Return

Cyclonic Rift
Mizzium Mortars
Murder

Why just one of these incredibly powerful spells?

First off Rakdos’s Return is borderline situational. While it will always do some damage, it won’t always clear out your opponent’s hand. We never want to start a draw with one of these and definitely not two of them. If we want to do it twice in a game (seems good) we have our friend the Snapcaster Mage to help us out. X=3 is a pretty sweet number to hit early we can even do that on turn four with help from Keyrunes.

Mizzium Mortars
Mortars is underwhelming as well but in the right instance it can save lives.

Swarms, Angels, you name it! Five is the magical toughness to have in this format and Mortars punishes players for thinking otherwise.

Cyclonic Rift was the hardest to cut to one. End-of-turn Rift into Main phase Rakdos’s Return sounds liks the best thing since single- serving cheese in neat little cellophane wrappers. In the end though, I decided that more countermagic over board control would be the way to go. I could be totally wrong though…

Murder
Murder is great as a one of because it just does what it does … straight-up-no-joke kills a creature at instant speed.

Sometimes you need a surprise creature kill card, Murder does the trick without any awkward restrictions. If a creature needs to die now,you have Murder for it. There are plenty of other options for creatures that can afford to be on the table until your next main phase.

What the Deuce?

My two-ofs are a little more useful against all the strategies out there.

Dissipate
Sever the Bloodline
Essence Scatter
Dreadbore

Dissipate

Dissipate is the same solid counterspell it was before, but now with the graveyard being a new place to retrieve threats it’s extra relevant.

Countering Unbrial Rites, Angel of Serentity, Geralf’s Messenger and even Gravecrawler means that they will not be coming back to ruin the card economy you’ve worked so hard to develop. Countering Thragtusk makes him little more than a wasted five mana (knowing that your opponent can’t Rites him back to stay in the game is pretty sweet).

Sever the Bloodline

Sever the Bloodline is wonderful for the same reasons that Mortars is great, plus it exiles the problem and it has flashback.

Effectively countering a late game Rites and making sure your opponent can’t use those creatures with Deathrite Shaman. Sever kills the Angels we were worried about as well effectively nullifying American Tempo decks  if they don’t play other threats (if it does our board has answers).

Essence Scatter
Essence Scatter is really well positioned as only tribal decks (zombies and humans) are using Caverns to effect.

It’s also massive boost in tempo if played at the right time.

It kills Geist of Saint Traft before he becomes a problem. Other targets include but are not limited to: Ash Zealot, Silverblade Paladin, Thragtusk … you know creatures that meaningfully mess up your plan.

Dreadbore
Dreadbore similarly has such a great role in this deck.

Planeswalkers are hard to deal with. Having a way to interact directly with Jace/Tamiyo/Liliana/Vraska is totally clutch. And tempo-wise two mana is pretty cheap for something they spent three to five mana on. Planeswalkers can ruin your day, best be safe!  If your opponent doesn’t rock them, s/he’s prolly got creatures. If you think s/he doesn’t and does and you wasted your Dreadbore on a creature, DON’T PANIC!!! Snapcaster Mage is an all-star.

Third Card’s the Charm

Rakdos Keyrune
Syncopate
Jace, Architect of Thought

Rakdos Keyrune

Rakdos Keyrune, while certainly the best of the cycle has a few great reasons to be played heavily.

The first is that Terminus, Mutilate, Supreme Verdict, Mizzium Mortars and I don’t know other sorcery speed mass removal spells are really being played (mutiliate is a stretch) right now, are all cards. Rakdos Keyrune laughs at these spells. You know what else it laughs at?

Thragtusk

And his little Beast tokens. Having RK on the board renders a lot of creatures worthless to attack into you. Which is just dandy since your opponent now has to cast spells pre-combat to get you to tap out to counter his spells and then attack. It’s not going to win you every game, but by God, it’ll stall out the fast decks and give the control decks nightmares.

Syncopate
Everything I said about Dissipate can be applied here. Only it can happen on turn two. This card punishes your opponent for trying to bait your counter magic with cheaper spells.

Jace, Architect of Thought

Jace, Architect of Thought is simply card advantage against control decks.

Not to mention a Dreadbore can now be used on a creature once you kill his Jace with yours. Jace slows down aggro decks so you can crush them with your flying horde of awesome. And if you get to ultimate him, a free Dracogenius plus whatever else your opponent has stashed away is super sick.

FOUR MORE … CARDS

I had to get an election joke in there somewhere.

Pillar of Flame

Only one card makes it to the four slot. A card that smashes Zombies, mana dorks, hits opponents and planeswalkers from time to time … again. It’s super-relevant because of its attention to the graveyard. Having this plus a Snapcaster in your opener should help you against most aggressive decks. It’s also easily sided out during control match ups, and surprisingly useful versus midrange decks.

The Sideboard

A mix of combo hate (Slaughter Games, Witchbane Orb, Negate) control hate (Jace, Memory Adept, Negate) .

Geist of Saint Traft hate (Clone, Liliana of the Veil).

Graveyard hate (Tormod’s Crypt, Slaughter Games) and something to kill more creature based mono decks (Ultimate Price, Bonfire of the Damned). Like I said: before the meta is pretty healthy and no one deck is ruining the scene. Your sideboard needs to be the most important part of your deck and highly versatile.