This week has been a really long one.
I streamed some Modern UW Control last week, and had a really tough time with the deck. I had a hellacious week at work, recorded a super long (and amazing) podcast with special guest Tom Martell, and that’s not even to Friday. I was exhausted by Friday afternoon, and I still had an early AM JOU Prerelease on Saturday, and then a huge party at my place that afternoon to celebrate my 35th birthday. I of course didn’t prepare for the fact that I would be up until 5am Sunday morning as sleep eluded me at every turn despite my over exhaustion. So as I sit down now to write my article, I realize a major tragedy has occurred; my stream did not save from Monday.
This has happened in the past, and I have determined now how to solve the problem moving forward for good, but I guess in the wake of the whirlwind that is my life right now, I missed something and here we are. Thankfully, I am not to leave you so unsatisfied by skipping a week, as I have much to discuss with you my loyal readers, so relax, get comfortable, and let’s recount the week’s lessons shall we? Let’s talk first about the deck that we piloted on stream for those that didn’t see it live.
(Lesson #1 – WATCH THE STREAM LIVE EACH WEEK)
Modern UW Control – Shaheen Soorani
This list is based off of Shaheen’s top 16 list from GP Richmond 2014. The major change really was the addition of a second Repeal over the second Jace Beleren, but unfortunately, 1 Jace Beleren is still too many. It’s entirely possible that it should just be the 4th Serum Visions to ensure that you maintain a smooth velocity for your card draw and land drops. I have often said that the reason to play White cards in Modern is the volume of powerful sideboard cards that you gain access to, as many of these cards are so powerful that casting them can often mean the end of your opponent. Examples of this are cards such as Stony Silence and Rest in Peace. This is a true control deck for the modern format. There is more countermagic in this list than most of the other UWR variants, and plenty of versatile, unconditional removal spells along with Snapcaster Mage for regular recycling of said spells. As far as the threats go, there are the usual full set of Celestial Colonnade, but Shaheen opted to include two copies each of the 2nd and 3rd (4th?) best planeswalkers in Magic’s history as the closers; Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Gideon Jura. The ever valuable Vendilion Clique also rounds out the threat base, as the information, versatility and evasion provided is right at home here. Running a stable 2 color mana base with only 2 fetchlands permits the addition of a full 4 Tectonic Edge, which do a great job of holding off utility lands, as well as manlands. I was very impressed with the 3 copies of Meddling Mage in the sideboard of this list. They often put in a lot of work not only in pressuring the life totals of your opponents, but also providing a much needed cushion of support for your permission and control tools by preemptively removing potential threats from the equation. More than once did I find myself casting Vendilion Clique on the opponent’s end step only to shut out the problem cards during my turn with a Meddling Mage with counter protection. You don’t just need to rely on information in hand either, as having access to both Cryptic Command and Repeal can create scenarios in which you bounce a threat, and then leave the threat stranded in the opposition’s hand with a “timely” Meddling Mage. It’s often tempting to run the Mages out early, but I found that the more and more I played with them, they are almost like Brainstorms or Ponders in that the longer you wait to cast them the more value that they can end up having.
LESSON #2 – PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
This deck was remarkably powerful, although it is remarkably difficult to play correctly. I spoke earlier about the value of the versatility that the cards provide you over the course of the game, but said versatility is a double edged sword. I found myself often in Mexican Counterspell Standoffs, where we would basically stare at each other, and dare the other to cast a spell first. I was often getting pulled into the wrong fights, and a such, giving up all potential advantages I might have had, potentially costing me the entire game in the process. I suggest that you look closely at developing two more very important things if you are interested in playing this deck at a major tournament; deck and format familiarity. There are about twice as many choices to make with this deck than most of the others that I have been playing lately in modern. I don’t often play control in Modern, so the subtle nuances about control-centric strategy like counter spell wars, Vendilion Clique timing and card selections appear to end up lost on me upon execution in game. This often leads to slow crushing defeats to my own decisions, as they end up rapidly eroding any card or information advantage which I need to win the game. I have a reasonable handle on the format in general, and understand clearly the goal of each deck, and I understand the tools that those decks have to execute that goal, so I expected to do alright with the deck. I quickly found out however, that this information alone will not let you cruise to the winner’s circle. Each wrong decision that I made during the game led me to another bad choice, and inevitably, I was in an unwinnable position. I was very impressed with the deck. It has all the tools it needs to win against any deck, but the pilot needs to know how to use them to good effect to see the desired results. If you are looking to pick this up for GP Boston, start now, and play the hell out of it. Your successful results will thank you for it.
I DID mention a Prerelease didn’t I?
I attended the Early morning Prerelease event at Legends Warehouse in Vaughan, ON with my son Alex, and was joined by a number of fellow degenerates; @MattyStudios from the Heavy Meta Podcast, ManaDeprived.com ‘s Limited Video producer @FlamingSheepMTG, and some awesome community folks Jacky Tang and Bruce Lee. I don’t often enjoy playing limited Magic, but the Prereleases are always a good time, and if I had to pick between Sealed or Draft, I will take Sealed every time. I’ve found that the decks which I have actually enjoyed and found success with are grindy control decks with excellent late game, most of them end up as some combination of Black, Green and Blue cards. Initially I was looking forward to selecting the Black Prerelease pack, because it had the best removal available, especially at the rare slot. The Black Promo seemed very strong and aggressively costed, but when I saw the full spoiler and realized that Hubris was a common card, I quickly audibled to Blue. I ended up opening a pretty strong pool, and was able to quickly rule out the Red and Black cards, since most of my rares were in Blue Green and White. I found myself in a real tough spot however because when I laid out the options in front of me, I was stuck. I knew that I would be playing base Blue, since the bulk of my rares were there, but I had very strong options in both White and Green. After some gracious counsel from Brian (@FlamingSheepMTG), we determined that the Green would play into the deck’s perceived desire to go long and win the game with huge bombs, so this is what I decided on:
JOU Prerelease Sealed Deck
I almost played the White cards over the Green. Here’s what they looked like:
I know that for those of you that like the more aggressive builds, these white cards seem insane. To be completely honest with you? I agree with you. That said, as I spoke about earlier, I really feel more comfortable playing the control or aggro-control role in the format, so after careful consideration, the green made the cut.
LESSON #3 – PLAY WHAT YOU KNOW
I ended up going 3-1 at the event, by beating White Based Esper Flyers, White/green with two copies of the white Promo creature, Reap what is Sown, Nessian Asp along with Reprisal, and a Wb grindy deck with Silent Sentinel, Akroan Mastiff, and both Scholar of Athreos and Underworld Coinsmith. My loss of course was to Matty with his BW Heroic deck which contained Coinsmith, Brain Maggot, Fabled Hero, Phalanx Leader, double Favored Hoplite, Silence the Believers, and Ajani’s Presence. We took it to three games, but ultimately, I couldn’t keep up with his impressive forces. I was very happy with my play through the day. I really didn’t get too many people coming up and saying hi, which was kind of a drag, but it did let me focus on the games at hand, and just playing the best magic I could. I really liked the format after consideration. There were much fewer “Voltron” Moments than I expected, and removal helped to keep the pace pretty balanced. Constellation is a very good mechanic, and will shine in the limited format for certain.
Some notable conclusions after playing the day with my deck
– The best creatures in my deck in order were Riptide Chimera, Fleetfeather Cockatrice, Sigiled Starfish, and Hypnotic Siren. I did not lose a game in which I resolved either of the first two on this list.
– The Seeded Boosters make the decks a lot better. By extension, the decks feel balanced, and with the card weighting more towards JOU, they are slower. Hyper Aggressive strategies seemed much less prevalent during the event.
– The new Bestow cycles which can ideally target your opponent’s creatures add an excellent angle to the mechanic which was missing before. These cards are better than advertised.
– Worst thing to happen was connecting with a Hunter’s Prowess boosted flyer for 7 damage, and drawing 6 lands and a font.
– Best play of the day: I was in Round 4 game 1, I’m at 9, and my opponent is at 6. I was stalled with my opponent holding me off with an Akroan Mastiff, a Dawnbringer Charioteers with Pin to the Earth on it, and a Guardians of Meletis with a Fleetfeather Sandals on it (calling flavor police!!!) and was slowly being drained to death by a Scholar of Athreos. I had his Silent Sentinel stolen with the Siren, a Riptide Chimera, a Vaporkin, a Sigiled Starfish(who was working overtime) and an Oakheart Dryads. I had been bouncing the Pin to the Earth each turn with the Chimera trigger, and replaying it, but still could not break through. I end up drawing the Crystalline Nautilus and tank. I count my mana, and realize that I can bestow the Nautilus, and play the Pin to the Earth on the target, getting one of the offenders off the board. I’m tanking for at least 3 actual minutes trying to determine which card I needed to deal with and how much time I had in each situation, when I finally find the actual right play; I Pin the Charioteers again, and then bestow the Nautilus to the Opponent’s Scholar of Athreos. This then triggers the Oakheart Dryads which targets the Scholar on resolution, killing it due to the Nautilus clause, returning said Nautilus to my side as a 4/4, ready to get bounced back to my hand during my upkeep by the Chimera, ready to slay another helpless victim. The opponent draws, and then concedes in the face of the certain defeat. “You’re pretty good. How long have you been playing?”
– Opponent during sideboarding. *DING!!*
Tune in tonight when I have LegitMTG’s own @TylerTheFro on the show, and we see how quickly we can get Goryo’s Vengeance banned in Modern!! 930PM EST
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