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Compulsive Research: Building a Better Geist

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

Compulsive Research 700x235

Those of you reading this likely know that Jason and I have been working on a modern UWR Geist build for Modern over on The Arcane Laboratory series. Jason has been playing the deck since Modern became a format, and I have been loving the deck for sometime, but obviously I am torn since Tarmogoyf and Liliana and I all have a timeshare in the Savage Lands together. It was only recently that Modern Master and past stream guest Larry Swasey jumped on board with the team testing, and the deck really started to take some shape. Some of you might remember that Larry built the UWR deck towards the end of MTGO Modern PTQ season which sent both he and Brandon Large to the Pro Tour in back to back tournaments over the weekend.

For reference:

This deck crushed all of the competition in a field which admittedly was slightly different than today, but the concept is the same; stick a Geist of Saint Traft, then attack a couple of times, and burn them out. In a field which is more accustomed to RUW decks being more controlling or combo oriented, this version seeks to accomplish one thing only; getting your opponent dead. Larry’s influence on the deck list has resulted in a much more focused and proactive game plan rife with cards that cantrip and provide you with either more turns, or greatly reduce the number of turns which the opponent has to stop you. I was trying to setup a menage a bros for the stream, with both Jason and Larry joining me, but instead Jason’s work obligations got in the way. That left me with Larry to help co pilot the following list:

The Deck was a lean, mean machine. There are a few cards difference from this list to the one that Jason played on his stream, but over all, I was very pleased with the deck. Although the stream unfortunately fell victim to the internet gremlins and cannot be reviewed for you this week, I do recall we went something like 4-2 with the deck. I felt like the matches in which our opponent had Liliana were catastrophic for us, as that card is always at best 2 cards for us to get rid of it, and is the single most powerful thing against our strategy. The rest of the cards in the decks that she is played in however, are reasonably fine for us to handle. Similarly, decks which out resource us in tremendous fashion can be difficult to race with. Examples of them are Blue based Tron decks and sometimes Scapeshift can draw in an absurd fashion. Cards that over performed for us were Electrolyze, and Vendilion Clique. Being a Jund player with the benefit of infinite discard effects which allow me consistent information about the opposing hand contents, the effect the Clique can have is tremendous in this deck. Not only is it a disruptive effect against combo matches, it also can be used to pluck the narrow answers which are needed to deal with our biggest threats out of the opposition’s grip, effectively giving us more turns to beat down. The fact that it’s a evasive 3 power flyer with flash is completely absurd. Electrolyze as a card is one of those necessary cantrips, but the flexibility to divide the damage has become far more relevant with the changes which we have made to the list to date.

Cards which really underwhelmed me were Izzet Charm and Cryptic Command. Initial builds of this deck which Jason started out with had 3 Cryptics in it, which felt really powerful initially, since the card is so versatile and can often bring you back from the brink of death, or give you the extra turn needed to finish the opponent off. The downside however, is that in this list, we are really looking to end the game by turn 5 or 6, and taking a turn off to do nothing or cast Dismiss seemed like a terrible use of mana. Izzet Charm felt like exactly the card that you wanted in most matches on turn 2, but felt like a complete waste of space later when 2 damage to a creature only or a Spell Pierce are just not what you need. Having Colonnade at our disposal means that extra lands are always welcome, so similarly, the looting is also rarely relevant. Relic of Progenitus ended up being a really bad answer to a problem that I didn’t really feel existed. Storm and Living End are real decks in the format when you consider the field of a Grand Prix, but for smaller local metagames, they can be absent most of the time. We have better things to do with our time in most cases.

After this week, we ended up testing a bunch of different card configurations, including Restoration Angel and Serum Visions. Visions seemed like a good card, since it would allow us to continue to draw better gas in most situations, but in execution, diluted the threat density and interaction opportunities in such a way that the deck felt slower than we wanted it to be. Restoration Angel on the other hand, overperformed in every way possible. I found myself winning far more game ones with Angels in the deck, especially in the games where normally attacks with Geist would be a terrible proposition. We are now able to aggressively attack into blockers with the meager 2/2 just to get the 4 points of Holy Glory down the pipeline, knowing that it’s “Resto to the rescue”. These things brought us to the following list which I ended up taking to a GPT on the weekend.

So what do you think about this mean machine?

The main changes to the deck were the removal of the situational reactive spells, and the addition of some amazing proactive threats which would prove to be tremendous assets during further testing. Here are the items of note:

– No Cryptic Command. All of my opponents played around my having this card, especially when I shock myself for 2 on turn 4 to ensure 3 Blue mana. Not having it meant that I was free to gain extra turns during turns 4 through 6 to cast instants during my opponent’s end steps. There is no better way to get free turns than not actually having to cast a spell for it.

– 3 Restoration Angels. This card has lived up to every ounce of hype it has been receiving over the last month. It is almost unkillable outside of combat to all non Jund decks, and serves to reset Snapcasters, save Geist of St Traft, re-blink Cliques, and is a great spell to cast instead of the Cryptic Command that you have been bluffing the whole time. Huge evasive threat. Lots of fringe benefit.

Sword of Fire and Ice. We wanted another card which could be used as a threat should some games go longer. It has more than proven itself against non Abrupt Decay decks, as it protects Cliques from Bolts, and allows you to either throw extra damage to the face, or control dorks. Oh, and I hear drawing cards is pretty good.

Moorland Haunt. This card was something Larry liked early, but the creature count before angels making the cut just didn’t seem high enough. Now that we brought a little company, the Haunt has been really proving it’s worth.

– 2 Batterskull. Baneslayer was dying too often. Period.

I sleeved up this list for the GPT, and was ready to burn some people out. The deck actually used 1 Celestial Purge and 1 Combust over the 2 Rest in Peace, but I saw 2 Storm decks and a Living End player, all of which I expected to see at some point based on their known pedigree of skill. I saw a large void of Jund or Twin decks, so these felt like the right cuts to make for that tournament. The event was 5 rounds, so I sat down against my first round opponent who won the roll (this becomes a common theme), and opened with Temple of Enlightenment. Knowing that I was going to go down to a huge Lightning Storm in my future, I felt fine playing out the turn 2 naked Snapcaster Mage. Ultimately, I could not push through his double Bloom draw and he got me quickly. I sideboarded out my Paths, and brought in 2 Wear // Tear and 2 Counterflux. I knew this was a race, and as long as I held on to Counterflux, I would be able to win. I did just that in the next two games.

Round 2 I was facing off against a RUW Control opponent with an entirely foiled out deck. You know that you must take these players seriously, because anyone that takes that amount of time to foil out a deck likely plays it a lot. I did my scouting after my games, so I had a chance to watch this player in a UWR mirror the round before. I did note that he played extremely conservatively, and I was hoping to be able to take good advantage of that in our games. Game one was a great example of that. I was able to stick turn 5 Geist of St Traft, with 2 mana up, with my remand in hand to protect him against the Anger of the Gods from my opponent’s main deck. I played Eiganjo Castle on my follow up and Geist got him dead. Game 2 was a longer affair, and I fell to a bit of flood, while The Clique beat me down for a change. Game 3 ended up going to turns, and I was able to finish my opponent off for exact damage on turn 5 with a spirit token wearing a Batterskull. For this match, I brought in Counterflux, Batterskulls and Keranos, cutting 4 Remands, and a helix.

Round 3 was against eventual winner, Stefan Soto with Melira Pod. I win game one in traditional fashion, as Geist, Resto, and all the removal was able to get there. Game 2 is a grindy affair, but his podded into Thrun was enough eventually. Game 3 I ended up stuffing 2 Pod activations with Aven Mindcensor, and got there with Colonnade beatdown and burn spells. The board plan for this one is suspect currently, but basically involves us turning into a board control deck, relying on our disruption to prevail. I cut all the Geists and the Remands for 2 each of Anger of the Gods, Engineered Explosives, Aven Mindcensors, and Batterskulls.

Round 4 I sat across from GW Vial, and Game one went exactly as I thought it would; Geist, burn, and Resto. Textbook. I treated the board plan in this one the same as I would Pod, since the decks both rely on cheating creatures into play, but brought in 2 Wear // Tear instead of Mindcensors. I lose game 2 to Thrun, and then game 3 goes to time.

Going into the last round paired with the other undefeated player who was on storm, we both draw into top seeds of the top 8.

I end up playing with the 7th seed, who is on UB Tezzeret. I think that this might be ok for me, as we have a lot post board to deal with his artifacts, and he probably is pretty soft to Geist and fliers. I sit down feeling good about it, and as we are sitting down, I notice a Liliana of the Veil on the face up bottom of his deck. Not a good sign. We are chatting before the match begins, and I am casually asking about his tournament so far, at which point he mentioned that he almost lost to decking at one game, but his 2 Black Sun’s Zeniths kept him from dying. This was going to get worse before it gets better I’m sure. I get to play first for the first time all day due to the seeding rules, and end up getting hit with a turn one Inquisition of Kozilek, followed by a Grafdigger’s Cage, and wellspring after wellspring into Trading Post, into Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas. I end up seeing a total of 6 spells in the entire game, and eventually fall to a recurring Spine of Ish Shah and 2 5/5 Darksteel Citadels. Game 2, I take out the 4 Remands and 2 Helix, add in 2 Engineered Explosives, 2 Batterskulls, and 2 Wear // Tear. This is a picture of the entire deck contents which I saw during that game:

Sometimes, you just aren’t meant to get there.

I landed turn 3 Geist on the play with Castle for the following turn, and was promptly met by Liliana on the opposing turn 3. I proceeded to draw what you see above, and eventually fell to double Wurmcoil Engine and a Tezzeret Ultimate for 12.

Overall, I really loved the deck. I loved it so much actually, that I’m going to run it back again tonight, but this time, the list that I took with me to the GPT. I might have a guest, I might not. We will see where the chips fall. Thanks to everyone that nominated me for the MTGO Community Cup, it really means a lot to me. I hope now that the committee will decide that I’m worthy to represent you all.

PS. Don’t ever forget… Geist of St Traft is secretly a red card….

Tune in for the run back. 930PM EST.

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