Embracing Modern

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

Embracing Modern

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.

For those of you following my articles lately, they’ve mostly been tournament reports, which I love writing. Almost all of my articles lately have also touched on Modern in some shape or form. Yes, I’ve been one of those whiny Twin players. “Wah, my deck got banned, I’ll never have fun in this format again. Waaaaaaaaah. This deck is awful, that deck isn’t powerful, I hate Modern so much waaaaah.”

I’ll be the first to admit that while Twin was the most fun deck I think I’ve ever played, due to its intricate sideboard plan (jam your 15 into your sixty and decide how you want to mess with your opponent. Do I leave Blood Moon in this game? How many Exarchs/Twins do I leave in? Etc.) and the Faeries style of play, backed with my favorite supplementary color in Magic (red, Lightning Bolt for president), the deck certainly needed to be banned. However, that left a big gaping hole in my heart. While the deck was arguably oppressive, and very difficult to play against, it was a fun, interactive deck that allowed play skill and planning to be rewarded for those honed enough with the deck.

I said it back then and I’ll say it again, despite what sort of tournament results Corey Burkhart is able to deliver, Twin was the premier control deck of Modern, and outside of that, even to this day, Shaun McLaren be damned, control decks in Modern will struggle to exist.

The argument for the Black/Green decks of Jund and Abzan being the control decks of the format is probably the closest thing at least at the top tiers. Certainly a skilled player can win any event with almost any deck, but playing a blue based control deck, despite what recent results may convey, is not the place people looking to win consistently should be setting their gaze. But even in the arena of Jund and Abzan, the Rise of the [Bant] Eldrazi as the premier midrange strategy makes playing these Rock descendants that much more difficult.

So if midrange decks are on the outside looking in, what is a player who enjoys interactive Magic with a lot of decisions to do? In my journey to finding my deck, I’ve tried almost all of the mainstays of the format. It started out with Infect.

The deck was explosive and fast. I was killing nerds on turn 2! If Wizards didn’t want me winning on turn four, then I’d spit right in their face and win on turn 2! That’d show them! But as time went on, I found more and more things I disliked about the deck. What I thought would be my Modern analog to the Legacy Grixis Delver deck that I loved so much, just putting a creature out there and protecting it, turned into a mana hungry combo deck with really bad creatures and an auto-loss to Burn. Playing against midrange decks wasn’t fun, and sure, while playing tightly would offer reward, more often than not, I felt like I was just losing and being miserable. I had no desire to play the deck any longer, no desire to improve with it. Every game felt more and more difficult to win. It was blasted into the abyss.

The next deck that I was slowly building while playing Infect to mediocre finishes was Jund. Back to Lightning Bolt, and back to playing Tarmogoyf since the last time I played actual Magic before my long hiatus, when I last sold my Tarmogoyf at $20 apiece. Surely that was their peak, and they wouldn’t get any higher! (Kappa)

Back to my roots, it seemed. I was a big fan of The Rock with Spiritmonger back in the old Extended days. We were brothers, destined to smack people and kill creatures to become an unstoppable monster. I did well with this deck. It helped me day 2 my first Invitational, it took me to a 50 person PPTQ top 4, and a PPTQ finals. However, more and more things cropped up again with this deck, more issues that deemed the deck inherently flawed to me. It was 55/45 against the field (mostly). However if your cards didn’t like up correctly, or if you drew the wrong half of your deck, or you didn’t have the correct sideboard cards, or your opponent drew the right thing after tearing their hand to shreds, you probably lost. This was frustrating.

While I had a great job with Bob and the Goyf gang, cards like Abrupt Decay constantly infuriated me. Where Deceiver Exarch could stop anything for a turn, Abrupt Decay couldn’t touch most things. Tasigurs and Inkmoth Nexuses just walked right into my face. All while losing to random things my sideboard didn’t prepare me for.

All of these things, along with the fact that the overall metagame seemed to become more and more hostile toward Jund, with the uprising of Abzan, Bant Eldrazi, Dredge, and Valakut decks, made me want to ditch my BMW because it kept crashing into stupid Ford Pintos on the freeway. I was off of it.

The next deck that I tried was actually a deck that I enjoyed very much for the most part. Death’s Shadow Aggro. This deck had all of the things I wanted from Infect, without most of the drawbacks. The games were super-fast but very intricate, the creatures were of a higher quality than Infect, the combo could attack through creatures, the sideboard plan of being transformative into a sort of “Mini-Jund” was an exciting prospect to me. It seemed to be clicking. It allowed me to finish in another PPTQ top four of about 40 people. But it also let me down. I ended up 0-2 dropping the PPTQ on the following weekend. Half due to my lack of preparation for the event, but also half due to poor matchups. When a lot of your area consists of midrange-y, grindy decks, the last deck you want to be playing is a deck with a poor matchup against these decks. That was the case with Death’s Shadow.

A deck with Jund and Abzan being its worst matchups is not a deck I am truly interested in playing. Modern players who played against Twin without ever playing Twin, as well as unpracticed Twin players would argue that Twin had a poor Jund matchup. People who actually played the matchup know it was a lot closer to 50/50 than random forum and Reddit rants led people to believe.

While taking these decks to events, I tried a myriad of options at the local game store. Breach Titan, Jeskai Nahiri, Bant Eldrazi, they all felt like they didn’t interact, or they failed to win more than they should. I didn’t know what deck to stick on. Everyone was suggesting I just pick whatever deck, and just commit to it. But while I play Magic because I enjoy winning, I enjoy winning with strategies that I find fun. I don’t want to play 15 rounds in a GP with a deck I’m not having fun playing.

Longtime confidant and blog mystery man Joe told me to try Dredge. Ok, sure. The deck seemed very powerful, but I lost a few times to a Rest in Peace, or maindeck Relic of Progenitus, and wanted to quit Modern forever. Then I started reading more about the deck, and how to play it better than just throwing my library into my graveyard. I was beating Rest in Peaces. I was beating Scavenging Oozes. I was discarding my hand to deal 9 points of burn to my opponent. I was finally living life.

This is the deck. At least for the time being. It actually has a ton of play and a lot of decision points. Right up my alley. I feel like I’m playing Twin again. A very difficult deck to play against, while maintaining many avenues to victory. Facing your opponent with a Conflagrate can win you games, just as well as flooding the board with recurring threats and flashing back a Rally the Peasants or Unearthing a Scourge Devil. Heck I even made a 12/12 Golgari Grave-Troll.

I’m really having a blast with this deck. It’s interactive, it’s explosive, it can play a short game as well as a grindy, long game, and not only that, it’s VERY affordable. Both online and in paper. What more could you ask for? While having to play around hate cards means you can’t just vomit your hand onto the battlefield every game, there are tools to beat the hate.

Through all of the decks I’ve tried, this is the one I’m both having the most fun with, and haven’t put down completely after about a week. I’m not bored with it yet, and I’m not too upset when I lose, because, to be fair, I am doing something unfair, and the deck can be beat if people want to beat it.

I hope this was helpful to some of you lost souls out there in Modern land. I never thought I’d be considered a Dredge player. I didn’t think it was ever the sort of deck I’d enjoy. But if you haven’t tried it, please do. At least before some piece of it may get banned, however unlikely that is at this point.

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