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Modern Mastery: Return to Reality

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

This was an amazing weekend for the Modern format. Pro Tour Return to Ravnica is in the books, and it was full of excitement. If you have not been through the coverage for this event, I suggest you do that first.

Time for testing

Now that we are all on the same page, let’s look at this week’s matches and then to the future together. MTGO was updated with Return To Ravnica cards, and we added a few to our list to see how they would play.

Abrupt Decay was a card I wanted to try because it was going to be amazing in matchups against the Snapcaster decks in the format like UWR Delver, RUG Delver and straight UW. It also could provide the deck more flexibility in the removal department because there should be a wider variety of targets than there would be for Terminate. I changed a filterland around to make casting this a little easier, cutting a Graven Cairns for another Twilight Mire. I also cut a maindeck Blightning for a maindeck Thoughtseize to increase the first turn frequency of a targeted discard spell and to make another sideboard slot available.

Several changes were made to the sideboard that should be of excellent use in the upcoming matches. I cut the Grim Lavamancers for Forked Bolt, which has actually been excellent for battling the small fast creature decks even when on the draw. Huntmaster of the Fells is an excellent card in its own right, but I have been discovering that Jund mirrors often come down to wanting Bloodbraid Elf in topdeck wars. Huntmaster not only gains life, which is very relevant for burn matchups, but also acts as Bloodbraid Elf Nos. 5 and 6 for the mirror. There is another Abrupt Decay in the sideboard to bring in versus the Snapcaster decks, as well as extra uncounterable removal against some combo decks. I also wanted to try Rakdos Charm, but it likely will get cut for narrower cards.

I go through a lot of these changes on a card-by-card basis in the first 15 minutes of the video.

Watch live video from Legit MTG on TwitchTV

Learning by experience

We had to create our own Modern Daily event this week, but that is perfectly OK.

Round 1 versus Mono Black Control
Took this by running really hot with my draws.

Round 2 versus Jund Burn
Highlight of this deck was the effective use of Deathrite Shaman by my opponent. It was a pain to work around, and inevitably resulted in my timely demise. This actually was a scary deck that had me guessing each round.I ended up making a big mistake with my first land drop in Round 1 by playing a fetchland first turn when I had two Blackcleave Cliffs in my hand. By not leading with the Blackcleaves, I was forced to follow up with a sequence of lands that resulted in my inability to play Bloodbraid Elf on Turn 4. This cost us the game. Having a Deathrite Shaman in play made the fetch simply ramp for my opponent anyway.

Round 3 versus UW Aggro  with Blade Splicer
This was a three-game match, which showcased the power of Forked Bolt extremely well, and taught me a valuable lesson that I clearly forgot from last Standard season. ALWAYS KILL THE BLADE SPLICER. It was as frustrating as it sounds.

Round 4 versus UWR Delver with Gifts Ungiven sideboarded
We won the first game but our opponent caught us off guard with a Turn 4 Iona, Shield of Emeria in Game 2. We stuck a timely Grafdigger’s Cage in Game 3 and followed up his Geist of St. Traft with Liliana Of The Veil, which we ultimated and inevitably won. Upon closer inspection, I could have waited one more turn to use the ability, which would have allowed me to keep her on the board and continue my onslaught on his resources.

Overall a 3-1 record is not embarrassing. I played fairly well, and I find myself making fewer mistakes each week. This deck just seems to play more closely to my strengths because plans generally are only one or two turns ahead instead of a more complex plan of four to six turns ahead. I’m getting old and could never have the focus required to go 20-1 at a Pro Tour with one of the most complex combo decks in Magic.

And the Pro Tour winner is…

Pro Tour RTR is in the books, and Stanislav Cifka is the champion. He amassed a dominating 20-1 record during the tournament, losing only in his last round of the Swiss. Stanislav demonstrated superior skill and focus by going 6-0 in his two drafts and making sport of nearly every other opponent he faced. Second Breakfast, as it’s being called, is an “Eggs” deck designed to play and replay cantripping artifacts and Lotus Blooms to draw your deck, generate infinite mana and kill with one of many repeatable ways.

Some of these kill conditions have been building a storm count and casting a lethal Grapeshot, recycling the two points of direct damage caused by a Pyrite SpellBomb, or boring your opponent into concession. Laboratory Maniac has also been used as a win condition by some Eggs aficionados.

Congratulations Stanislav. Your hard fought victory was well earned.

Looking at the decks in the Top 8, it is very clear there are some very powerful cards that have changed decks in the format extremely well. Take David Ochoa’s list as an example of innovation.

This is very close to where we ended up because David has opted for Geralf’s Messenger over Kitchen Finks as well. Things get very interesting when you consider the primary addition: Deathrite Shaman. This is clearly the breakout card from the tournament.

Deathrite Shaman actually does all of the things you want to be doing in this list. It can offset the “enter the battlefield tapped” liability of Geralf’s Messenger by allowing you to cast it a turn earlier if someone uses a fetchland before Turn 3. Shaman also can gain life just like if Kitchen Finks made the list. The Shaman can also just go upstairs to the dome of the opponent, even under a Leyline Of Sanctity. All three are very valuable things found in a single creature.

Team Channel Fireball wasn’t the only one to come to Shaman as the stones. Check out the deck by Yuuya Watanabe, also on Jund, but this time on Kitchen Finks instead of Geralf’s Messenger:

Both manabases are fetch heavy in order to ensure that a Turn 1 Deathrite Shaman eating fetchlands is exactly where you want to be. The other amazing card that showed up was Victim of Night.

One more deck as food for thought. Cedric Phillips went live on the Friday of the Pro Tour, and laid this on his faithful stream followers:

Pretty simple right? Wait … is that Leyline of the Void? What is this? Legacy? I was ecstatic to hear about this tech. Go check out his stream from that day at twitch.tv/ceddyp.

Lots to do this week. Lots of testing and playing. Lots of The OMG to finish! Check us out this week on Saturday (not Wednesday!) at 9 p.m. EST. Please hit me up on Twitter (@mrscottymac) or leave comments below if there are things you would like to hear about in the show.

We will be taking a little bit of time and discussing these decklists live on the stream this week, so come join in the discussion. More testing is necessary, but I have been very impressed with the general lack of Treetop Villages. Abrupt Decay is also on the chopping block because not being able to kill manlands is a major concern.

Modern is shaping up to be quite an exciting format full of high variance, powerful decks (Jund) and boring decks for genius people (eggs). There’s something for everyone, just like the stream show!

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