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Modern Mastery: Knowing the Numbers

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

We are in the throes of a stagnant format, on the verge of change both from the unbanning of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and the pending release of Return to Ravnica. I expect the format will change radically in short order, and after discussing this with The Management, we decided to let the set release settle in before we make a decision about what direction to head with our deck.

Because of this, I scoured the internet to find some spicy RUG Delver lists in hopes of expanding my experiences with the strategy as a whole. I found some really good analysis of the Modern MTGO format on the Mothership of all places. I’m sure most of you saw the Armada Wurm preview article by Jacob Van Lunen, but I’m sure none of you paid attention after seeing the most phallic card in Magic history.

Making adjustments

After reading about the RUG Delver list in the article, I decided there were two cards mentioned I wanted to try out: Burst Lightning and Remand. I opted to cut one Deprive for a Remand and then mirrored the land count from the inspirational list, cutting an Arid Mesa for the Burst Lightning. I have been flooded in a number of games and felt cutting the land would not be a detriment because the curve is so low. It’s extremely interesting how changing one or two cards can make such a difference in how games play out, especially within a deck that sees so many cards in a game.

I tried to get into the Modern Daily Event this week, but it did not want to fire the same day the MTGO Cube reopened … who knew? But I did get a copilot on board — notable MTGBridge alumni and Brazilian Blowout recipient Jack Grannan (@spelljackg), who also has a natural affinity for durdling around with control decks. This could not have made for a better pairing. Since we missed out on the daily, we took our master list into the two-person queues.

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Our first opponent came to battle with RU Storm. We could have won this match except for some poor math on my part. It resulted in an unnecessary shockland providing our opponent a window to have a very precise set of spells to spell our demise. We had lethal on board. I made a careless error, and they had “exactsies.” It happens.

Lesson learned: Sometimes, your life total matters against a combo deck

Our second opponent had something spicy in store: Merfolk. This is not a deck I had seen much outside Legacy. Thankfully, I had some idea what to expect. Aether Vial, a million lords, and awkward answers to our solutions. This promised to be a horrendous matchup for us on paper. In Game 1, our opponent put on a clinic titled “How to humiliate someone online.” We ended up losing our last game where once again, we forced our opponent to have the exact card needed to survive. In this case, it was a Cursecatcher in hand with a Vial on 1 the turn we cast Firespout to blow out a full boat of fish. He had it, we lost.

Lesson learned: You can’t beat everything, so sometimes, you just have to do your best. Make them have it.

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The third opponent battled with RB Burn, which also seemed basically unwinnable for us on paper. Thankfully, we hit the lottery in Game 1 with Mana Leak, Serum Visions, Tarmogoyf and Vendilion Clique, Tarmogoyf with Electrolyze, Burst Lightning and Snapcaster Mage. Game 2 was a much longer affair, where we were able to demonstrate the power of Huntmaster of the Fells. We faced the burn deck with only three life remaining, but were able to pull it off after learning our lesson about being premature with our shocklands earlier that night. Much of the commentary was a great example of strong reasoning, and I suggest watching it before giving us your opinion.

Lesson learned: Making mistakes is OK, so long as you can learn from them and apply this education fruitfully.

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Our last opponent was a Boros pilot, and despite going to three games, we lost to the clock. This saddens me because we were in a great position to take the win if we had about 10 more minutes. Electrolyze was amazing, and having the extra burn spell in Burst Lightning really added a nice warm feeling in this matchup. Firespout out of the board was a wonderful card, while the opponent bringing in Relic of Progenitus kept our Tarmogoyfs very small. Grim Lavamancer also ended up being a pain and forced some awkward combat steps. I felt a little unfavored in the match, but ultimately we had a great shot.

Lesson learned: Be mindful of the clock. If there was no discussion about play decisions, this would be less of an issue. But good habits are important to develop.

Next steps

Overall I was very pleased with the games this week. The deck felt well positioned and well built. I would definitely cut the Remand and go back to either the Deprive or the fourth Mana Leak. This list is not fast enough to take advantage of the tempo gained through a Remand. UWR Delver seems ideally suited for the card, because cards like Geist of Saint Traft can severely punish an opponent much faster than a lone Delver of Secrets. I really liked the Burst Lightning and it will remain in the list.

I may be looking to move the Grim Lavamancer out and instead put in the second Vendilion Clique. Having additional ways to gain information about the opponent’s cards while providing a suitable clock — all at instant speed — has turned out to be very relevant every time it’s cast. The land count was great, and never felt too light, so that also will remain unchanged. I will make some changes to the sideboard because Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle will be legal in Modern tonight, so we need to be prepared. The last change I saw in a Modern Daily list was the addition of two Bonfire of the Damned, which intrigues me greatly.

Make sure you stop by tonight at 9 p.m. EST to see what craziness we can get into this time!

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