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Building Your Deck for Your Metagame

Written by Tim Bachmann on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

Building Your Deck for Your Metagame

Tim Bachmann

Hailing from northeast Pennsylvania, Tim has been playing since Mirrodin, and has been playing competitively since Dragons of Tarkir. With aspirations of playing on the Pro Tour, Tim plays in as many PPTQs and GPs as he can.

Last week, I talked about how deck construction is one of the ways you can lose a match of Magic. This comes from not having a decklist that is built particularly to beat a certain deck. I ended up going 3-2 drop in that Modern event, playing a Ben Friedman list of Bant Eldrazi. For reference, here is the list that I played:

This decklist was built with the really fast creature based strategies and Blood Moon in mind. Having the Dismember and the Engineered Explosives in the maindeck is a hedge against decks like Affinity, Merfolk, and more specifically, Death’s Shadow Aggro, while also being decent against Infect. The two Talisman of Progress instead of lands or Birds of Paradise allows you to hit colorless on turn 2 to beat Blood Moon, while also holding mana up for either a Path, Dismember, Stubborn Denial, or Engineered Explosives on 1. Also moving to 4 Eldrazi Skyspawners is a hedge against Blood Moon and land destruction strategies taking out your colorless sources.

The reasons behind the card choices in this list were reasonable, so I thought it would be a fine choice to sleeve up for this event while I bop around to different Modern decks having various levels of success, but most of those levels were below successful.

The event didn’t go very well for me. I ended up beating Infect, Grixis Control, Mono Blue Delver, but losing to Tron and Blue White Control, dropping before the final Swiss round started. I was very upset with myself for choosing Bant Eldrazi, as it felt very underwhelming, and I was upset with myself because I had thought I had played poorly, leading to my losses.

While the latter may be true, I made the mistake of being upset with the entire Bant Eldrazi archetype rather than at myself for sleeving up the wrong 75 cards for the event. I spent the following week coming up with ideas on how to make my Bant Eldrazi deck stronger against the very heavy presence of midrange and control decks that is prevalent in the area. We essentially decided that while Ben Friedman was able to top 4 an RPTQ with his list, it was not the correct list for me to do well with in my metagame.

A week later, this past Saturday, I played in another Modern event at the same store. Instead of a 1k, this event paid out in Tarmogoyfs, with eight Tarmogoyfs being split out among the top 4. The prize was essential a Tarmogoyf 1k. With no time to get another deck, we ran back Bant Eldrazi, but I switched up the decklist from the week previous. This is what I played.

This event went much better. I was undefeated in the swiss, and battled to the finals, which I then you know, lost in three games. Typical Tim Bachmann performance. It was good enough for two Tarmogoyfs though, so that made my $25 entry fee well worth it. We beat Jund, Burn, and Jeskai Nahiri in swiss, and after double drawing into top eight, we beat Jeskai Nahiri and Burn, losing to Burn in the finals.

So as you can see, I played against zero decks that the previous list was good against, or at least built to beat. This was one of those moves you make when you become more familiar with a deck. You start to become familiar with why certain cards are in the deck, and what changes you want to make to beat whichever decks you expect to play against.

Since the metagame at the store I was playing at was expected to be more midrangy decks, and fewer all in creature combo decks, I shaved the Engineered Explosives from the maindeck, but still had them in the sideboard since they help against unfavorable matchups like Merfolk and Elves, which I knew there might be some number of at the event.

Also in my experience playing with the Talisman of Progress, they are weak to both discard spells, things like Spell Snare, and Kolaghan’s Command, all cards that are prevalent in metagames with high numbers of Abzan, Jund, and Grixis decks. So instead of all of these reactive cards, and cards that are weak to strategies and cards that might be dead against us in the first place, I decided to make the deck more threat dense, and added the three Matter Reshapers. I also added two Spellskites as a hedge against the creature combo decks, as well as being good against the removal laden decks I expected to face.

In the sideboard, I removed the Eternal Witness, as I never really ever cast it before, and it was easy to hit with a discard spell. Instead, I put the World Breaker in the sideboard for the grindier matchups, as it just really allows you to house them. I shaved a Blessed Alliance, but added a fourth counterspell to help against things like Valakut or other combo decks, or things like Tron, and I replaced a Rest in Peace with a Relic of Progenitus. The thought there was that I wanted another piece of graveyard hate that I could hit with Ancient Stirrings, but was better against Kolaghan’s Command (you draw a card off it, making Kolaghan’s Command worse). Relic is also a slam dunk against Grixis, as well as Dredge and other graveyard strategies, obviously.

So this is what I went with, and it was great. I wasn’t drawing dead cards too often, unless I was flooding out, and I enacted my proactive gameplan in every game 1, which is difficult to do when you’re drawing Engineered Explosives, Talismans, or Dismember. Matter Reshaper over performed on the day, and I think it’s a card the deck actually needs in some number. It allows you to have a higher density of low mana cost creatures which allows you to gum up the early turns while you find mana to cast your bigger boys, and almost always nets you a card. This was a misconception I had with the card, that having it Path to Exiled was bad, but it’s actually just the same as having it die and reveal a basic land off the trigger, so really it’s only bad against Anger of the Gods.

I ended up losing in the finals to Burn in three games, where he drew all his gas, and I petered out with mana flood. Maybe I should have mulliganed more aggressively, but at that point, the goyfs had been split and we were really only playing for an invite to a local invitational tournament.

So what are your takeaways from this article if you play any non-Bant Eldrazi deck? If you have cards in your list, make sure you know what they are in your list for, and the role you’re supposed to take in each matchup, and how you can execute your gameplan. Just because some pro wins an event with a certain decklist doesn’t mean it’s the correct 75 for you to run. Also, don’t be afraid to innovate! I was over here looking at Bant Eldrazi decklists that have been doing well recently, and they almost all have Talismans and Engineered Explosives in the maindeck, and that’s fine, but be sure that those are the types of cards that will perform well in the metagame that you will be competing in, or you’ll just get rocked!

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