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Modern Mastery: Battle of the Byes

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

Last week, we were quickly approaching two major events: GP Chicago and my first Grand Prix Trial. I was rapidly tuning my maindeck, and even trying out various land and creature configurations in the Tournament Practice room on MTGO. After a few ventures into the Kitchen Finks and Treetop Village realms, I determined that the impact the extra lands entering the battlefield tapped have on the speed of the deck made it impossible to run Treetop Village as a playset. This final discovery and further discussions with Maksym Gryn and Lucas Siow basically cemented my main 60:

I adjusted the numbers on the discard spells as a matter of preference because they are mostly interchangeable, with the life loss from Thoughtseize basically being the reason for the switch. I also cut down on the number of Raging Ravines because I really wanted to make our mana that much faster. I also wanted to make sure we were hitting BBB with more regularity, so I brought back the filter lands to help. I changed one Terminate to an Abrupt Decay because it was mostly a push either way but the flexibility of Abrupt Decay and the BG cost was a nice alternative. I like to keep my opponents respecting both cards.

Sideboard splits

Our sideboard also has a number of ways to deal with manlands, and a healthy requirement for both black and green mana. I guess I should just show it to you before talking further about it? Here it is:

2 Leyline of the Void
2 Grave Pact
3 Fulminator Mage
3 Ancient Grudge
3 Kitchen Finks
2 Extirpate

I was seriously stuck on whether I should run Fulminator Mage or Kitchen Finks. Maksym seemed to feel that Finks are a critical tool for battling the Jund mirror, and they play very well with our Grave Pact plan postboard for that match. I have been looking for an effective way to gain life for the monored matches, and Finks seemed to accomplish this.

I wanted to start this week with diversified graveyard hate also, so I went with a split on the Leyline of the Void/Extirpate for this purpose. This allows me to continually attack that resource from a variety of angles, with the goal of keeping my opponent from being able to effectively counteract my attacks. I’m not so sure that running only two Leylines is correct, but I wanted to make the attempt so I could determine it decisively. (Spoiler: it isn’t.)

Fulminator Mage is decent against the mirror match, and is an excellent way to cut the legs out from under GR Tron, which is one of our worst matchups. Coincidentally, Fulminator Mage also does a great job of killing Inkmoth Nexus, which is a major threat that many decks in the format are running. Jund’s natural lack of flyers makes dealing with Nexus troublesome if we are short removal, or the opponent has a pump spell, such as we have seen in the UG Infect deck. Grave Pact proved its worth last week, and also has kind interactions with all of our bench creatures, so it got the nod.


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With a plan in hand, we were able to find an honest to goodness Modern Daily Event this week! I cheerfully entered the fray.

It’s Modern Time

Round 1 — UG Infect

This is a matchup that we have become intimately familiar with, and I was feeling good about our chances. Tight play and accurate threat assessment are crucial to winning against Infect. In Game 1, we had one of the best opening hands ever. Deathrite Shaman, Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf and Geralf’s Messenger were all in play by the end of Turn 3. We kept the pressure on, and inevitably got there.

Game 2 also had an excellent opening hand with mana, threats and removal. I made a mistake off the first play, casting Lightning Bolt on a Birds of Paradise instead of waiting for another more relevant card like Noble Hierarch or an infector. As it turns out, that mistake cost me the game once the opponent pushed out a stream of threats that inevitably overwhelmed us. We bought a turn in Game 3 with some mind games, playing in such a way that would allow us to win if our opponent over-respected our potential tricks. It actually is quite entertaining. I suggest you pay attention to the game chat in Game 3.

Round 2 — RU Storm

Not even a Turn 2 Liliana of the Veil could protect us against this menace, as we got stormed out in short order. In Game 2 we saw the opponent make 12 goblin tokens on Turn 2 after I played a Turn 1 Deathrite Shaman poised to answer the Goblin horde with my trusty Maelstrom Pulse … if I could draw another land. I ate 11 to the face after bricking on the land, but then the power of the stream summoned a land before the Horde could deal lethal damage. Shortly thereafter we landed a Tarmogoyf, and after destroying a land inhibiting the opponent’s mana production while pumping the Tarmogoyf, we were on to Game 3. We promptly performed mulligans to four without finding a single Leyline of the Void. We lost.

Staring down an 0-2 record, I was not optimistic about the current sideboard plan. I wanted to turn our luck around with some time in the Tournament Practice room, but alas, apparently no measure of financial influence could net me a victory this night. Once again, I found myself Down With The Sickness.

Round 3 — Soul Sisters

This was an extremely long and grind affair against one of, if not the, most obnoxious deck to play against online. They don’t actually win the game through any measure of disruption; they win by clocking the opponent out. This is exactly what happened to us. I will not subject you to the terrible play-by-play. It is frustrating. I felt the lack of sweeper distinctly, as I had been feeling all night.

Match 4 was a bye, ending our night at 0-X. It seemed as though it was time to back to the drawing board.

Making changes

After polling the Stream, I dropped Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth from the maindeck and added a single Treetop Village. It helps cast Kitchen Finks and one more manland was going to be fine. I also brought in Jund Charm to the sideboard over Leyline of the Void. Not playing enough copies of Leyline basically invalidates their presence entirely. This was an easy cut. I still couldn’t decide though on Mages or Finks. I had a bunch of cards that might make the board, but ultimately, I was going to have to decide at the Grand Prix Trial what cards would make the cut based on what I could scope out of the tournament meta.

I decided to jam a bunch of games on Friday night before the Grand Prix Trial. With GP Chicago happening the following day, I thought I would be able to play some good challengers. After losing to Storm three consecutive times, I decided on a new sideboard plan:

3 Leyline of the Void
2 Grave Pact
1 Fulminator Mage
3 Ancient Grudge
2 Kitchen Finks
1 Extirpate
1 Surgical Extraction
2 Jund Charm

I wanted to run a heavier suite of graveyard removal, and I felt three Leylines would give me a good chance to find one in my opener. Not wanting to be without Fulminator Mage entirely because of its additional value against Inkmoth Nexus, I just split the numbers with the Kitchen Finks to make space. I was loving Jund Charm and what it was bringing to our matches, both as a sweeper at instant speed, and as a graveyard hate card. It made my Storm sideboard plan look like this:

+3 Leyline of the Void; +2 Jund Charm; +1 Extirpate; +1 Surgical Extraction
-2 Terminate; -3 Geralf’s Messenger; -1 Bloodbraid Elf; -1 Lightning Bolt

I keep the Lightning Bolts in for this match because the Storm decks currently are running Goblin Electromancer, which needs to die on sight for fear of allowing Storm to go off a turn early.

The Search for Byes

With my list finalized, I ended up happy to go to my Grand Prix Trials. Upon arriving, I found that it was only going to have 16 players, none of whom I had really ever heard of before. The outlook was promising. A quick survey of the room showed me the following decks:

Jund — 3
RUW Delver — 2
UG Infect — 2
Teachings — 1
Naya Pod Goodstuff — 1
RB Burn — 1
Blue Affinity — 1
Storm — 1
GW Little Kid — 1
UW Angels — 1
Unknown — 2

Literally everything was here. Except for Eggs and Tron. I was feeling VERY good about my sideboard choices at this point, and settled in for four rounds with a cut to Top 8.

Round 1 — UWR Delver (Jason)

I took this match in two games. Both were quick, the second even moreso, when my Jund Charm wasn’t Remanded to clear his board of Steppe Lynx and Delvers. Yes. He had the Remand in hand. He had mana up. No. He didn’t cast it. Yes. It killed him not to.

-4 Dark Confidant; -1 Geralf’s Messenger, +2 Jund Charm, +2 Kitchen Finks, +1 Ancient Grudge (I saw an Isochron Scepter)

Round 2 — UG Infect (Jeff)

This was going to be one of the tight matches for sure. Jeff was clearly one of the better players in the room with a deck that could easily punish us for bad plays or draws. Game 1 was a quick start with Turn 1 Deathrite Shaman, Turn 2 Liliana of the Veil. Jeff could not recover from the feast on his hand. Game 2 we got demolished. No notes other than $#@*!!! Game 3 saw Tarmogoyfs getting it done backed up by infinite removal.

-3 Geralf’s Messenger, -4 Deathrite Shaman, +3 Ancient Grudge, +1 Fulminator Mage, +2 Jund Charm, +1 Extirpate

Round 3 — Jund (Mike V.)

Mike is a fan of the show, and a stream watcher. It was awesome to hang with him because he was an intelligent player and nice guy. His deck was more like the winning List from GP Lyon, opting to run Blightning in the maindeck instead of any three-drop creatures. I lost Game 1 in spectacular fashion when he sticks the first Liliana, leading inevitably to my demise. I battled back with a sea of dudes in Game 2, getting in for 12 on one attack. I discarded the wrong cards to Blighting in Game 3, which caused me to eat two Tarmogoyfs to the face until I stopped moving.

-3 Liliana of the Veil, -2 Thoughtseize, +2 Grave Pact, +2 Kitchen Finks, +1 Fulminator Mage

Round 4 — UR Storm (Andrew)

Game 1 had the right amount of discard with the right mix of threats. My first-turn discard spell hit Gitaxian Probe, his only cantrip, and was enough to slow down and grind out with dudes. I got work in with Deathrite Shaman and Dark Confidant in Game 2, but lack of hand disruption resulted in my quick demise. I saw my late sideboard addition, Leyline of the Void, in Game 3 along with double discard spells and a Lightning Bolt. I found myself down to 10 off Dark Confidant before Andrew succumbed to the futility of the Void.

-2 Terminate, -3 Geralf’s Messenger, -1 Bloodbraid Elf, -1 Lightning Bolt, +3 Leyline of the Void, +2 Jund Charm, +1 Extirpate, +1 Surgical Extraction

Top 8 — UG Infect (Taylor)

I got the job done in Game 1 despite a mulligan on the play. Basically Jund did the Jund thing. I was forced to mulligan to five on the draw in Game 2, and had to settle for a hand that got overwhelmed. Tyler mulliganed to five in Game 3, and I was able to snatch victory from the warm embrace of variance.

-3 Geralf’s Messenger, -4 Deathrite Shaman, +3 Ancient Grudge, +1 Fulminator Mage, +2 Jund Charm, +1 Extirpate

Top 4 — Jund (Mike V.)

This was going to be my chance at revenge. We won Game 1 after Mike mulliganed to six. This was a close one, with my life total at 10 when I won. We had a long and drawn out Game 2, with me resolving both Grave Pacts while he ultimated Liliana to force a functional game restart. Mike inevitably found Tarmogyfs and beat my face in, winning with seven life remaining.

Game 3 was much more ideal. Turn 1 Deathrite Shaman, Turn 2 Geralf’s Messenger is a beating, especially while on the play. Mike attempted to counter with Kitchen Finks, but after Messenger ate it, and Shaman exiled it with Persist on the stack, it wasn’t looking good. Tarmogoyf joined in the fun for us, and I was able to finish Mike off after he stabilized the board by casting a new Messenger and killing it with Maelstrom Pulse. A hardy handshake and we were on to the finals.

-3 Liliana of the Veil, -2 Thoughtseize, +2 Grave Pact, +2 Kitchen Finks, +1 Fulminator Mage

Finals — Blue Affinity (Mike)

Mike was the only undefeated player left in the room, and also was the only one who actually wanted the bye as much as I did. This is an uneventful report, unfortunately. Game 1 we lost with Mike at 18 life. Game 2 we drew one of our seven sideboard cards for this match (Ancient Grudge) before proceeding to peel lands off the top from Turns 3 to 7. Variance is an ugly and cruel mistress, and she gave our villain all the necessary time to soundly eject us from our dream of winning.

-3 Geralf’s Messenger, -4 Dark Confidant, +3 Ancient Grudge, +2 Kitchen Finks, +2 Jund Charm.

All things considered, I played the best Magic I could, and only really made one or two mistakes in the course of the tournament. I was very happy with the sideboard, and would likely play it again almost exactly. Apparently the hot new tech from Channel Fireball, however, is the addition of white mana to Jund for Lingering Souls. So maybe we will have something new to tinker with after all.

Tune in at 9 p.m. tonight for Maksym Gryn, fresh off of his Day 2 at Grand Prix Chicago, ready to copilot and counsel us on some deck choices. See you soon!

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