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Modern Mentor: Week of April 27, 2015

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

I tried to come up with some crafty thing that explained my absence from posting about the Modern format.  After all, there was a Modern Grand Prix, there’s been a plethora of Modern Premier IQ’s, and I’ve been playing a lot of Modern both in paper and online.  Dragons of Tarkir has introduced plenty of new cards to the format, and the format is as healthy as it has been.

So what’s my deal?

Why hasn’t there been some hot, fresh out the kitchen Modern Mentor article the past few weeks?  Well, honestly, I’m kind of at a writer’s block point with the format.  I could write for days on the social issues surrounding the community, but those types of articles are a dime a dozen, and no one really cares what a random guy from Columbus, Ohio thinks about the Patrick Chapin incident, or some of the cheating scandals out of the Pro Tour.  The big breakout decks of the past month, including Jeff Hoogland’s “Dragon Fae” list, have had a primer written about them by their pilots/creators, and these articles include much better insight into card choices and deck building philosophy than I could ever provide.  For example, check out Hoogland’s list here.

It’s also particularly frustrating when the top 8 of an SCG Premier IQ is 2 copies of Abzan, 2 copies of Twin, 2 copies of Affinity, a list I’ve already written about in the Esper Tokens list, and one lone fairies list.  Yeah, I could write about individual card choices in each of these lists, but honestly, there isn’t much of a difference between the lists give or take a few cards and give or take a few numbers.  The lists do pretty much the same thing and are of the same shell.  It’s pretty tough to write week in and week about the same lists.

Enough whining out of me, however.  I’m going to try and be more creative with some writing, and hopefully we find some good stuff to talk about here.  Thankfully, the Premier IQ in Cleveland, Ohio this weekend gave us access to some pretty good lists to dissect.  Nicholas Montaquila took 8th place in the IQ with this “G/W Trap” list:

This list centers on the card that is the namesake of the deck, Summoning Trap.

Yes, the ideal play with the card is to get one of your cheap creature spells countered, but this deck has no real issue casting this card as early as turn four.  A turn one Birds of Paradise, turn two Lotus Cobra means you can be generating an insane amount of mana turn three with your fetch lands.  Fun tip to remember, a fetch land with landfall means you will be generating two mana of any color PLUS the mana that the land itself taps for (each fetch land equals 3 mana!!).  This means that you can have six mana on turn three and cast either this Summoning Trap or a big fatty like Primeval Titan.

This breakdown of how a game can go shows that the real MVP of this list are the mana accelerants like Nest Invader, Lotus Cobra, and Knight of the Reliquary.  Powering out an early Summoning Trap is insane.  Your turn three play was Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.  Your opponent cast a Lingering Souls.

A quick glance at the list shows the disgusting things that this Summoning Trap can bring into play.  Reveal an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, your opponent has to do something about it immediately or their just dead.  Reveal a Primeval Titan?  The madness can just continue with a Knight of the Reliquary and/or Lotus Cobra.

One of the things that these “flash in a pan” combo decks typically suffer from is that if their combo doesn’t work, then they’re just stone dead (hence the “flash in a pan” moniker”).  This list isn’t completely different, but it does have some longevity that may go unnoticed.  Obviously Dryad Arbor, Mutavault, and Stirring Wildwood provide some sense of later game reach simply because they’re lands.  4 ofs of all win conditions and combo pieces make it so that your late game draws are always live, and Lingering Souls makes turning your Windbrisk Heights into an effective way to end the game if you top deck it late.  One of the worst things about playing ANY deck is that a late game land draw means you’re dead.  With this deck, however, late game land draws mean you can steal the game out of nowhere.  You can even find these value lands, both the man lands and the Hideaway lands, with your Knight of the Reliquary!  This deck has amazing synergy that goes far beyond just the first and obvious combo.


This list has quite the interesting sideboard that we can talk about.  The complete playset of Obstinate Baloth and two copies of Wall of Reverence shows that this pilot was very concerned about the burn decks that may be running around the room.  While this deck can theoretically play Emrakul, the Aeons Torn on turn three and kill you turn four, the burn deck could simply have you dead by turn four if they are on the play.  These expensive, yet easily castable spells (thanks Landfall!), make getting these “fatties” onto the table extremely easy.  How does burn beat an Obstinate Baloth on turn three, and how in the hell does it beat a Wall of Reverence that will go unchecked?

Some of the sideboard slots don’t need mentioning, but I’ll go over them for the sake of being thorough.  Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is insane against storm, other combo decks that aren’t creature or land based, control decks like UWR or 4 color, and tempo decks like Delver variants.  Creeping Corrosion kills artifacts so that’s pretty good against Affinity (maybe, I don’t know), and Path to Exile is pretty good against Twin and creature decks.

When do you play this deck?

Choosing to sleeve up and play a deck like this is a risky venture.  Why not just play the deck you know?  Obviously Abzan is just a good choice week in and week out.  Twin can always just dominate a tournament, and Burn is never a poor choice.  How do you make the switch from playing “old faithful” and trying out a new, seemingly wonky combo deck like this one we’ve studied today?

First, a lot of choosing a deck like this comes down to testing.  As I’ve written in my last article, you have to test the crap out of the decks you’re potentially playing and gathering real, concrete data on those decks.  If I had to guess correctly, Nicholas Montaquila beat the breaks off this deck in testing.  It probably defeated, or at least could battle against, every gauntlet deck he had established.  The ones he couldn’t reliably defeat, or thought he was an underdog against, he developed his sideboard plan around.  In fact, as I sit here writing this article, some of my testing teammates are telling me that Montaquila, or “Monty”, won a Modern PTQ a few seasons ago with this list.  It’s certainly a deck that he knows well and pilots efficiently.  So first lesson is this: you have to test a random deck you think you’re going to bring to a tournament.

As to this deck specifically: If you like playing combo and enjoy a deck that can steal a game from an unprepared opponent, this deck may be for you.  This deck was a “thing” in its standard format, but it hasn’t really crept up into Modern just yet.  If you’re thinking opponents would be underprepared for this type strategy, it could be strong.  While this deck is resilient to Thoughtseize and counter spells like Mana Leak and Dispel because of sheer redundancy, if you get behind early, you could find yourself drawing big fatties with no way to put them into play.  All of the combo pieces are pretty resilient on them staying in play, so hard removal like Abrupt Decay and Path to Exile are still effective against this type of deck.

This is the type of list I’d have fun sleeving up at a weekly Modern event at your LGS and seeing if you enjoy it.  I would by no means walk onto the floor of a major, competitive tournament with this list and play it with only a few games of testing.  You have to understand your weaker matchups, how to play in those games to hedge properly, and how to successfully navigate all lines of play given any situation.  Yes, this is true for all decks, but less so for more linear strategies like burn, tron, or twin.  These multi-line combo decks require some serious testing to pilot efficiently.

Until Next Time…

As always, you can find me on twitter with both Magic and non-Magic related thoughts @imjorman, over at my podcast’s twitter @atyourendstep, on http://www.twitch.tv/imjorman streaming random constructed events, and at practically every Magic: The Gathering tournament within a few hours of Columbus, Ohio.  Until next time!

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